Toughie 1556

Toughie No 1556 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Toro

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment **

I did this late last night in a tired and distracted state, which may explain both ratings. As always, a quirky puzzle from Excalibur with a mix of fun and bamboozlement. Apologies for the lack of images but I haven’t been able to upload them today for some reason.

Definitions are underlined. 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.


1a Home ground (6,4)
NATIVE SOIL Cryptic definition of the land of one’s birth

6a Invite me to cover story (4)

9a What the Colosseum was a long while back (5)
ARENA (2,3) phrase meaning a very long period of time, reversed

10a Happening to step on a banana skin, you might …? (9)
BEFALLING Complete the sentence with a (2,6) phrase

12a Tries playing football first, more in need of training (7)
RUSTIER Acronym of a kind of footballing sport + anagram of TRIES

13a I couldn’t agree less (3,2)
NOT SO Double definition: a way of saying that isn’t the case, and comparatively less

15a Hears close to wall is high nest (7)
LISTENS (wal)L + IS + anagram of NEST

17a Marching orders given to child — somebody else’s (7)
STEPSON A marching gait (e.g. goose) + male child

19a Sleet beating into window frame disregarded, was cosy (7)
NESTLED Anagram of SLEET inside (wi)ND(ow)

21a You and I recalled sandy frolics and leisure time, perhaps (7)
SUNDAYS Plural first-person pronoun reversed (technically, you and me not you and I) + anagram of SANDY

22a Interrupt French fantasies for retirement (5)
SEVER Reversal of the French for dreams

24a Punishable offence by men in time of easy contraception (7)
PILLAGE Split (4,3), the solution suggests a time of easy contraception

27a Negotiator takes mere flip through contract (9)
AGREEMENT Anagram of MERE inside a negotiator or intermediary

28a Saying ‘Gadzooks!’, ace relapses (5)
ADAGE An oath like gadzooks! or zounds! + A(ce), all reversed

29a For most of the race, neck and neck (4)
EVEN A word for a race or other sporting contest minus the final letter

30a Going on and on about, resist exploding ‘Shut up!’ (10)
PERSISTENT Enclosed or shut up around an anagram of RESIST


1d He didn’t save a single animal from drowning (4)
NOAH Cryptic definition of the man who saved the animals two by two

2d Wonders if there will be an increase in those commuting (9)
THEORISES An increase or growth in an anagram of THOSE

3d Drug containers European holds one up to get (5)
VIALS A member of a European ethnolinguistic group reversed around Roman numeral one

4d Contends vehicle reversed onto main road a little way over (7)
SUBMITS A passenger transport vehicle, reversed, then a major UK road + an abbreviation for a smaller road, reversed

5d Where schoolchildren are when teacher does (7)
INFORMS Split (2,5), a description of how children are grouped for teaching

7d For the illiterate, it’s not a flaw (5)
TAINT It’s not, in dialectal spoken English

8d Voicing of surprise at the compiler’s excellence (2,8)
MY GOODNESS How Excalibur might refer to her own merit

11d Without switch, this light can go out. Magic? (7)
LANTERN A word that can mean a pre-electric light, or a slide projector when preceded by the word magic

14d ____ shows how fast phoney bullet travels (5,5)
BLANK SPACE Split (6,4), the solution could mean the speed of an empty cartridge fired from a gun

16d Figure American in green rigged to blow up (7)
ENLARGE A Roman numeral or figure + A(merican), all inside an anagram of GREEN

18d Say ‘Consume meal ordered: end of argument‘ (9)
STALEMATE To say or assert around an anagram of MEAL

20d Weaken and cross out ‘seizing power’ (7)
DEPLETE To cross out or erase around P(ower)

21d In private, for instance, recognitions of inferiority (7)
SALUTES Cryptic definition of the gestures with which a soldier greets a superior

23d By quarter past five, urges us to flee separately to make border (5)
VERGE Roman numeral five + a quarter of the compass + URGES minus the separated letters of US

25d Gather from fool’s confession (5)
AMASS Split (2,3), how one might acknowledge that one is a fool

26d Well-groomed, carrying a bag (4)
NEAT A mesh bag around A


Over to you – please rate and comment on this puzzle below.


  1. jean-luc cheval
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Don’t really know what to think.
    Managed the solve but found it lacked in enjoyment.
    Wasn’t keen on “fool’s confession” in 25d, “window frame” in 19a, “one up to get” in 3d and “in private” in 21d.
    Strange to have the same grid (apart from separation in 3 and 11d) as the back page and the same word in the same place.
    Thanks to Excalibur and to Toro.

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted February 23, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      Ps: Forgot to congratulate Toro for underlining the underlined blank space in 14d.

      • Hanni
        Posted February 23, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        Like it!

  2. happy days
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Fresh and witty, as always. I enjoyed every moment of solving. The greatest of fun. Favourites 17a (Marching orders..) 1d (He didn’t save..) and 21d (In private..)

  3. halcyon
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Although exasperated, as always, by some of Excalibur’s clues [1a -cryptic?; 11d – what?] I quite enjoyed solving this. Especially liked 2d [nicely constructed with a lovely Ximenean surface] 7d [ditto] and 21d [a cryptic def that’s both cryptic and amusing].

    Thanks to Excalibur and to Toro for the blog.

  4. Shropshirelad
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I just didn’t seem to be on the right wavelength today with this puzzle. I completed it but it took me an age to do so. Nothing wrong with the clues, probably just me. Anyway, some really good clues to smile about such as 1 & 14d. I didn’t help myself by considering the answer for 17a as ‘forward’ – couldn’t get it out of my head even though I knew it was not going to be correct to have an ‘f’ to end 5d.

    Thanks to Excalibur for the puzzle and Toro for his review.

  5. Expat Chris
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I printed this out yesterday evening and took a quick look, but the end of the day is my worst solving time, so I picked it up again in the wee small hours during yet another bout of wakefulness and worked through it. And I loved it. A couple of very small quibbles, though: For me the very loose “figure” to denote L didn’t sit well, and 26A seemed to be somehow back to front. Favorites include 24A, 28A, 2D, 14D and the lovely 21D. Many thanks to Excalibur and Toro.

  6. Hanni
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Gosh I struggled with this, a lot. But there were a few smiles on way. 1 and 14d are really quite fantastic, 2d is very clever and 21d is rather lovely too.

    Many thanks to Excalibur and to Bufo for a great blog as always and being able to solve this whilst tired and distracted. Certain I could not have.

    • crypticsue
      Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Toro today. Bufo does Thursdays

      • Hanni
        Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:11 pm | Permalink


        Sorry Toro…especially when you were so kind as to not put a snake picture in the other week! :rose:

  7. 2Kiwis
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Our last one in and favourite is 24a, still chuckling about it. We thought it was good fun as we usually do with Excalibur puzzles and seem to have sorted it out with a bit less struggle than Toro reports.
    Thanks Excalibur and Toro.

    • Toro
      Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Good to hear that you two and others found it as enjoyable as usual for an Excalibur – it evidently was just me.
      Re. 24a, I did try to find an image to contradict the notion that it’s only men who ever commit pillage, but I couldn’t! (And I couldn’t get the images to upload anyway.)

      • Jane
        Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        You weren’t trying hard enough, Toro. I found one entitled ‘Hilary has come to pillage and plunder’ – surprised you missed it! :whistle:

      • Hanni
        Posted February 23, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. I found some fairly interesting pics too Toro!

        • Toro
          Posted February 24, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          Sorry – please don’t come after me with horned helmets and axes!

          • Hanni
            Posted February 24, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

            I think you’re safe Toro…not sure I could wield an axe…I do have a riding helmet. Does that count?

  8. Jane
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Well, I found that really hard work and I certainly needed Toro’s help to unravel a few of the parsings.
    On reflection I have no real quibbles apart from possibly 13a and the ‘figure’ in 16d, although my French wasn’t up to 22a without a quick referral to Mr. G.
    Rosettes go to 10a (despite the fact that I don’t enjoy ‘banana skin’ humour) and 5d for being exactly what it says on the tin.

    Thanks to Excalibur – you took me by surprise this time – and to Toro for a difficulty rating that made me feel a little less stupid!

  9. Jon_S
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Three quarters of this felt like one * for difficulty, but then came the SE corner, which pushed things well into **** territory. Favourite clue 24ac.