Toughie 1549

Toughie No 1549 by MynoT

Strictly for the Birds

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment **

A few years ago MynoT embarked on a series of Toughies where all the answers contained one specific letter of the alphabet. He ran out of steam somewhere around M or N (so we couldn’t find out how he was going to deal with Q) for which most of us were grateful at the time as it was getting a bit predictable. His puzzles since then have been at the easier end of the Toughie spectrum without being wildly exciting and this one conforms to that pattern.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.

Across Clues

1a Starts to read one’s palm in an artistic style (6)
ROCOCO – the starting letters from ‘read’ and ‘one’ followed by a type of palm tree.

4a Heavenly body the result of a hormone? (8)
ASTEROID – A and a class of chemical compounds which include hormones.

9a Is a road fit to lie that’s destructively fabricated? (6)
CANARD – split the answer 3,1,2 and it could be a question asking whether a road is fit to …

10a Old very loud male beginning to expostulate in the wings (3-5)
OFF-STAGE – the abbreviations for old and very loud are followed by an adjective meaning male and the first letter of expostulate.

11a Called in faltering steed to be removed (9)
ESTRANGED – a verb meaning called on the phone goes inside an anagram (faltering) of STEED.

13a Frost broadcast jingle (5)
RHYME – this sounds like a type of frost. My initial reaction was that a jingle is not necessarily this but the BRB has jingle (as a verb) meaning to be full of alliteration.

14a Traveller excitedly grabs ideas with silly fop needing accommodation (4,2,7)
BIRD OF PASSAGE – an anagram (excitedly) of GRABS IDEAS contains another anagram (silly) of FOP.

17a Deviously sack Burke? Done to notch up the first score (5,4,4)
BREAK ONE’S DUCK – where would setters be without recourse to cricket terminology? This is an anagram (deviously) of SACK BURKE DONE.

21a Mark for insertion in Building Act to cover engineers (5)
CARET – an anagram (building) of ACT contains the abbreviation for army engineers.

23a Obtained work on saints to be printed (2,2,5)
GO TO PRESS – string together a verb meaning obtained, the abbreviation for an artistic work, a preposition meaning on or concerning and an abbreviation for saints.

24a Two notes followed by double rest (8)
RESIDUAL – rest here is a noun meaning the remaining part of something. Start with two notes from tonic sol-fa (the second a superseded version of what is now usually called te or ti) and add an adjective meaning double or twofold.

25a Bird one’s seen to bob, or duck (6)
WEAVER – this could describe a person who bobs or ducks.

26a What Arab sports might involve ‘bowl’ and ‘run’? (8)
DISHDASH – this is one of many colloquial names for the ankle-length, usually white, garment worn by men in the Arabian peninsula. It’s a charade of a flat-bottomed bowl and a verb to run or hurry.

27a Not accustomed to see posh nudes cavorting (6)
UNUSED – the letter used to signify posh or upper class is followed by an anagram (cavorting) of NUDES.

Down Clues

1d Rise in some salad (6)
ROCKET – double definition, the second a (revolting as far as I’m concerned) green leafy plant that may be served as part of a salad.

2d Artist‘s studies shown on chart (9)
CONSTABLE – a verb meaning reads or studies followed by a chart or list.

3d One who’ll raid the deck bearing clubs or spades, leading (7)
CORSAIR – a bearing or mien is preceded by the abbreviation for clubs, OR and the abbreviation for spades.

5d Vault sofa despite wavering (4-7)
SAFE-DEPOSIT – an anagram (wavering) of SOFA DESPITE.

6d Makes certain of space on steamship crossing river (7)
ENSURES – a space (in printing) followed by the usual steamship containing the name of a river in North Yorkshire.

7d Row about very variable organ (5)
OVARY – a verb to row or scull contains the abbreviation for very. After that we need one of the algebraic variables.

8d Further hollowed out bank, requiring energy to dig in twice (8)
DEEPENED – a verb to bank or rely with the abbreviation for energy inserted twice.

12d Mirror supporting plot? It sheds light but it’s not clear (6,5)
GROUND GLASS – this is a product which is translucent but not transparent. Another word for a mirror follows a plot of land.

15d Rowling’s kept up European following since days before search engine (3,6)
ASK JEEVES – the reversed initials of the author Ms. Rowling and E(uropean) follow a conjunction meaning since. To finish we need a word for ‘days before’. Apparently the search engine changed its name some years ago and it no longer contains the name of the Wodehouse character.

16d Hidden and preserved by old boys (8)
OBSCURED – a verb meaning preserved or treated food to prevent its decomposition follows the abbreviation for old boys.

18d Girl acted as grasshopper (7)
KATYDID – split the answer 4,3 and we have a girl’s name and acted.

19d Many a ref’s adolescent (7)
UMPTEEN – the abbreviation for a referee or arbitrator followed by an informal word for an adolescent.

20d Employ free codename (4,2)
USER ID – two 3-letter verbs, the first meaning to employ and the second to free or purge.

22d Wines needing pinch of salt in eggs (5)
ROSÉS – insert the first letter (pinch) of salt into fish eggs.

My favourite clue, for the misleading definition, was 26a. Which one(s) exercised your chuckle muscles?



  1. Shropshirelad

    Gosh, I remember that saga well – I think it went on longer than the X Files. But you’re correct in saying that MynoT is at the easier end of the toughie scale, although I’m not complaining as I think it encourages people to be lured to the ‘Dark Side’. It would be interesting to know how many people have become toughie solvers over the past few years.

    Anyway, the puzzle. I quite enjoyed it as there were a few answers I’d never come across and I’ve never heard the term ‘bird of passage’ before. Some really good clues but I must admit I agree with Gazza that 26a was the one I enjoyed most. I see in the news that the French are outlawing their version of the ‘caret’ – will it be time for a revolution JL?

    Thanks to MynoT for the puzzle and to Gazza for his review.

    B****y H**l – I do wish I could find a way to get my name & email to be there when I post.

    • Jane

      Certainly I’ve come across to the dark side on a more regular basis over the past few months as has Hanni and sometimes Kath.
      Not sure how long Expat Chris has been suffering alongside us!

      • Expat Chris

        I don’t remember. Seems like it’s been a couple of years , maybe a bit more. There are certainly more ladies doing the toughie now than there were back then.

    • Miffypops

      I start most but only finish when I have time or when I get excited by the puzzle. I rarely comment as I feel it is best to limit the number of places I am an idiot in.

    • jean-luc cheval

      It would be so stupid to cancel the “accent circonflexe” from some of our words. Take the word “plâtre” for example. It would be the same as if you went from plaster to platter.

    • JonP

      I’ve been solving the toughie for a year or so and been solving cryptics for 2 years. I’m OK with most toughies but I tend not to bother on Fridays as I don’t really have the time to battle with them throughout the day as I’m in full-time employment and also those puzzles are usually a bit beyond my current ability.

      I enjoyed this one from MynoT – thanks to him and Gazza.

  2. Jane

    Enjoyed this one but did have to check on a few definitions – 9&26a plus 18d. Also the second note in 24a.
    Only slight hiccup was putting in the frost rather than the jingle at 13a which left me with very few options for 7d.
    22d made me smile, remembering Hanni’s attempt to recreate same using a mix of red and white wine!
    By the way – there is a Bob-tailed Weaver bird. Not sure whether MynoT had that one in mind.
    No particular favourite although I did rather like the two anagrams at 14&17a.

    Thanks to MynoT for the birdie theme and to Gazza for the whys and wherefores.

  3. Expat Chris

    I enjoyed it. 26A was new to me but not that hard to work out and verify. 15D took a bit of effort to parse and it’s my favorite clue. Thanks to MynoT and Gazza.

  4. halcyon

    Agree with your assessment Gazza and I also thought 26a was the winner for the misleading def. Also thought 10a was nicely put together, as was 15d.

    Thanks to MynoT and Gazza and also to Shropshirelad – I thought it must be my Mac again [!] failing to retain my name and email like it used to.

    • Shropshirelad

      Yes, for whatever reason my ‘Name & Email’ don’t come up automatically as they used to do. It’s only a tad annoying because I now have to remember on my first visit to re-enter them. If I don’t navigate away from the page it remains there even after a ‘refresh’.

      I use a Windows RT tablet which is not compatible with browsers like Safari and Firefox. Anyway, at least I can still access the site which is the most important part – so I’m quite happy.

  5. jean-luc cheval

    A few new words and expressions such as “ground glass”, “bird of passage”, the American locust and “dishdash” which I thought had an “a” at the end but the clueing was fair.
    Nice to see Jeeves again. Is it PG Wodehouse birthday or something?
    Thanks to MynoT and to Gazza for the review.

  6. dutch

    I wasn’t sure the eggs in 22d could have a plural, but my brb app thinks they can. I really liked the misleads in “read one’s palm” in 1a and “arab sports” in 26a, and also “deck” in 3d. I was caught out by the alternative spelling of the note in 24a. Took typical back-page time, but not complaining.

    Many thanks MynoT and Gazza – I don’t remember MynoT going through the alphabet, either I didn’t notice (quite likely) or it was before I started doing toughies

  7. Hanni

    Pleasant solve although I have never heard of 14a or 25a and 26a was only vaguely familiar. I had exactly the same problem as Dutch re 21a and 22d.

    Favourites are 1a and 17a.

    Many thanks to MynoT and to Gazza for a great blog.

  8. Una

    I found the bottom left difficult and needed hints.I liked the anagrams in 14a and 17a and quite a few other clues.
    Thanks to Gazza and MynoT.

  9. Sheffieldsy

    Another fruitful early evening pub visit. This was an enjoyable Toughie solved at a nice pace. Our favourites were 1a for the surface, 15d for the sheer chutzpah of getting that author’s initials into a clue and 26a for the deception.

    We felt it worth 2*/3*

    Thanks to Gazza for the blog and MynoT.

  10. KiwiColin

    26a needed Google confirmation as it was new to me and it took a bit of memory dredging to recall alternative note in 24a. Relatively gentle but I found it a pleasant puzzle to relax with after having put our blog together on the other side.
    Thanks Mynot and Gazza.

  11. Heno

    Thanks to MynoT and to Gazza for the review and hints. I quite enjoyed this, but ran out of steam. Needed 12 hints to finish.

  12. Tstrummer

    Did this after the Australians this morning in between visits to the laundrette. I enjoyed the solve more than the laundry, but one does meet some extraordinary characters in there. Today, an ex-con explaining how he puts his tumble dryer on the landing of his flats in the dead of night to get free electricity from a power point out there. I’m glad I’m not his neighbour.

    I’d never heard of 26a but a quick check in the book of words confirmed my bung-in. Top of the fluffy pile was 15d, with 20d nestling underneath. Many thanks to MynoT and to Gazza for the erudition. 2*/3*

  13. OlgaTheOwl

    I’ve only recently started Toughies, but I’ll be honest and say that without this site I wouldn’t bother – I can usually get maybe half-way through (an improvement on when I started!) but even looking at the answers next day doesn’t help, I need the parsing spelled out for me.

    Thanks, guys, very much for what you do! :heart:

  14. judetheobscure

    In reply to the first post, I’ve been attempting the back pagers for around a year now and just occasionally, either when prompted by a comment on a back page puzzle, or if I’ve completed it quickly and am at a loose end, I’ll have a look at the toughie. I think I must have started this in February(!) but still had two clues left, 1d and 9a, when I rediscovered it today. They fell into place without difficulty so either I’ve got better at solving or a month or more of mulling has proved beneficial as this is my first toughie completely solved :)
    With words/phrases like 14a, 18d, 26a and 12d it definitely has to be at least a 3*. And 5* obviously for enjoyment ;) 3d and 5d my favourites.

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