Toughie 1600

Toughie No 1600 by Giovanni

Hints and tips by Kitty

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***


Welcome all to the start of a new Toughie week.  A little drop of rain has (along with many of its bigger friends) come to my part of the world, but it will make the flowers grow.  (Can you guess which song is stuck in my head?)  I hope you are experiencing metaphorical sunshine whatever the physical weather.

As I did last week, I have left the ratings untouched while I find my feet and work out where to set the levels, but I can tell you that I have had more trouble with this one than any before.  Enjoyment correspondingly suffered.  I’ll be interested to find out if this was just me: perhaps it was just “the wrong kind of tough.”

The definitions are underlined in the clues below.  The answers are hidden under the good things come to those who wait boxes.  If they are not hidden for you, make sure that the address at the top of your browser starts with http:// and not https://

Do leave a comment below telling us how you found it and what you thought.  I’m not completely sure about some of my hints, so your input is (as ever) most welcome.



1a Presumably wanting pounds set aside for schemes (10)
PROGRAMMES: An alternative spelling of some metric weights (presumably wanting pounds?) placed after (set aside) for, or in favour of.  Not the most auspicious start: please help me understand the first part of this clue!
Split the answer (3,7) to suggest that one is in favour of the metric system, and therefore wanting imperial measures set aside or scrapped.  Thanks to Gazza for answering my plea and coming to the rescue

9a Socialist hit back wanting favourable sign at the polls (4)
MARX: Hit or strike reversed (back) and the sign made in the box of the chosen candidate when casting one’s vote

10a Rule books of old one doctor rejected when hugged by sweetheart (4,2,4)
LORD IT OVER: The abbreviation for the earlier part of the bible, the Roman numeral for one and a doctor’s title, all reversed and placed inside (hugged by) a five letter sweetheart

11a Noble philosopher surprisingly let off (6)
ARISTO: Take an ancient Greek philosopher, pupil of Plato, and remove from the end (off) the letters of LET, which are not in order (surprisingly)

12a Maiden taking chaps into bed brings criticism (7)
COMMENT: The cricketing abbreviation for maiden and some guys inside a child’s bed.  The choice of definition amused me, for reasons perhaps best left for the section below

15a Social event – female exuded oiliness (7)
UNCTION: A social event with F(emale) removed (exuded) produces an ointment

16a Something saucy – it is lacking in seriousness (5)
GRAVY: A word meaning seriousness is lacking its IT.  I’m sure we’ve seen a similar clue recently, but it still made me smile


17a Put in suitcase  four suits (4)
PACK: Two definitions, the second referring to playing cards

18a Weapon giving power to US President once (4)
PIKE: P(ower) and the nickname of the 34th US president together give a long pointy weapon

19a Row across river – you’ll see fish (5)
SPRAT: The row is an argument, but a relatively trivial one; it lies outside (across) the abbreviation for R(iver)

21a Pope’s pronouncement gets a church bearing fruit (7)
BULLACE: A papal edict, the A from the clue and a church.  The answer is a wild plum I was hitherto unfamiliar with

22a Westward journey beset by trees in French city (7)
LIMOGES: The reversal (westward) of journey (as a verb) inside (beset by) some citrus trees

24a Insensitive person, soldier at front of a covered arcade (6)
LOGGIA: Someone who is insensitive in the sense of unresponsive, an American soldier and the A from the clue

27a A fine speaker? One may be boring (10)
PERFORATOR: The first word here clues the first three letters (follow them with “head” to make sense of things).  Follow with F(ine) and a speaker

28a Second drunkard to fall back and roll around (4)
TOSS: S(econd) and a three letter drunkard all reversed.  Roll around as a ship may do at sea


29a Actress, see, keeping time of holy observance before sin (5,5)
ELLEN TERRY: The most common see or diocese in crosswordland containing (keeping) a time of religious fasting and a three letter verb for sin



2d Foundation‘s heartless automaton (4)
ROOT: An automaton without its middle letter

3d Blooming animal out at midday going the wrong way (6)
GODDAM: Take one of the animals which goes out, like Englishmen, in the midday sun, and reverse it (going the wrong way) to produce a mild oath


4d Object when the French revolutionary leads Parliament (7)
ALTHING: A French word for the is reversed (revolutionary) and is in front of (leads) an object or article.  This is the Icelandic parliament, which was new to me

5d Way in which number is cut by 99% – that’s progress (4)
MOVE: Take a word meaning way or manner (MODE) and replace the third letter of it with one that represents a different Roman numeral: one that is just 1% as big as the first (cut by 99%).  A big thanks to ShropshireLad for that one

6d Unhealthily thin son getting terribly wan in expression of pain (7)
SCRAWNY: Start with S(on) and then put an anagram (terribly) of WAN inside a sound of distress

7d Observed heading north on cruise maybe and celebrating in song (10)
WASSAILING: Reverse (heading north) a word meaning observed and then add one meaning riding in a wind-powered vessel.  The celebrating in song refers to the yuletide tradition of people going door-to-door, singing and offering a drink.  Alternatively, the ancient custom of the same name of visiting orchards in cider-producing regions of England, reciting incantations and singing to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year.  That second was one I hadn’t heard of, but something tickles me about the idea of singing to the cider trees


8d Those interpreting second book of scripture – Bible-bashers, say? (10)
EXPOUNDERS: The second book of the bible (shortened form) and bashers or thumpers

12d A bit icy, pal – awkward for a gardener to show skill (10)
CAPABILITY: An anagram (awkward) of A BIT ICY PAL.  The gardener is the landscape architect given this nickname

13d This person’s suffering penning diary, one scientist beset by mouldy items? (10)
MYCOLOGIST: How the setter would refer to something belonging to him followed by a four letter word for suffering or penalty around (penning) a diary or record and the Roman number one.  The scientist studies fungi

14d Figure of speech used by reporter in write-up (5)
TROPE: The figure of speech is included (used by) backwards (in write-up) the remaining word in the clue

15d Some of Iris’s superior meat (5)
UVEAL: The single letter which is used to mean superior and calf meat.  I can’t manage to match the part of speech of the definition with the answer  Thanks to Dutch for pointing out that the definition includes the ‘s

19d Tricky situation – I caught a beastly disease (7)
SCRAPIE: A perilous situation or predicament with I inside (caught).  The disease affects the central nervous system of sheep

20d Restrict diet now if it’s bad (3,4)
TIE DOWN: If the letters in DIET NOW are bad, or anagrammed, we can find a phrase meaning forcibly restrict

23d Eight special days bringing a victory at end of month (6)
OCTAVE: The eight special days beginning with the day of a church festival.  Formed of a month of the year, the A from the clue, and the end of the Second World War in Europe

25d River in painting on wall but not ceiling (4)
URAL: This river in Russia/Kazakhstan is a wall painting without its first letter (ceiling, in a down clue)

26d Rowdy person born in the late Forties? Not Giovanni (4)
BOOR: A baby of the post-war generation without the personal pronoun the setter would use to refer to himself


Thanks to Giovanni for the puzzle, and to ShropshireLad, Gazza and Dutch for their help.  The clues I noted as favourites are all simpler ones with pleasing surfaces and answers.  Namely, 16a, 14d, 20d and 25d, with the top spot going to 28a purely because it made me smirk.  Though it defeated me, I was impressed by 5d.  Which clue(s) did you favour?



  1. Gazza
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to G and K.
    In 1a if you’re in favour of the metric system then presumably you want the imperial system set aside or scrapped.

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Aha! Thanks Gazza. I shall make the update. :)

  2. davelawes
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Ta to you both, I found the phrasing hard work- and 1 across is still not very clear to me
    Btw , I had 15 d as ormea, it took me ages to work out it wasn’t .i certainly didn’t sail through this one.

  3. dutch
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks Kitty

    I was thinking the gardener was completely gratuitous. And I missed the midday sun reference in 3d, so thanks for those. There were a lot of clues with interesting wordplay, like 5d, 16a, 17a, 11a, 25d, etc.

    In 15d the part of speech works, I too almost missed the all-important ’s.

    I didn’t understand “favourable” in 9a, thinking the vote can be both ways. Nice surface in 12a (Maiden taking chaps into bed brings criticism).

    A new fruit, another new parliament and I didn’t know the actress, but all clear from wordplay. I didn’t know the 10a expression which held me up, and it took me ages to parse 26d – the split between rowdy (as a noun) and person is very clever; I was staring at the abbreviation ‘B’ for born.

    Many thanks Giovanni

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Dutch. I shall make further updates.

      With 12d I wasn’t sure whether I should extend the underlining to include the gardener – would that work as a cryptic definition? I don’t feel I’ve fully got a handle on that one.

      • dutch
        Posted May 10, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

        From what you have said, I think it works a second definition – on its own it would have been hard clue (maybe that’s why it’s in there as an extra) – so yes, maybe it deserves it’s own little underline. I don’t think it’s cryptic, no pun, just GK

        seeing just “rowdy” as the definition 26d took me ages…

  4. Mike in amble
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Had to spend all morning at the garage for car to repaired but that gave time to finish a very enjoyable toughie. Thanks Kitty and Giovanni.

  5. halcyon
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Giovanni sets blasphemous crossword shock horror! 3d was my last in [because I had “look it over” pencilled in for 10a despite it not fitting the clue very well] so a big penny drop moment and an excellent clue. Found this tougher than his usual but very enjoyable. Couldn’t remember if the Icelandic Parliament began with an A or an E in English so that didn’t help either.

    Favourites – 11a [surprisingly let off] 12a [perfect] and 26d [another chuckle].

    Thanks to Giovanni and to Kitty for the blog.

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      3d surprised me as well!

    • dutch
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

      and me – I thought it had to be wrong

    • Kath
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      and me – I’d ruled it out because of who the setter was.

  6. Heno
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Giovanni and to Kitty for the review and hints. After a couple of modest successes in Toughieland, I thought I would give this a good try. Alas it was almost impenetrable, and I needed 20 hints to finish. I just couldn’t get on the setter’s wavelength. Better luck tomorrow I hope.

  7. jean-luc cheval
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Quite tough for the start of the week.
    Needed the hints for 26d.
    The gardener in 12d is probably Capability Brown.
    Big laugh at 3d and 15a.
    5d was very clever.
    Didn’t know 25d was a river as well and the parliament was also new to me.
    Thanks to the Don and to Kitty for the help.

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I may have missed many things today, Jean-Luc, but I did get Capability Brown!

      • jean-luc cheval
        Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Sorry. I know.
        I realised after posting.
        Missed your hint when I checked the review.

  8. Gazza
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good news – it’s Micawber tomorrow.

  9. Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thought we ought to say hello today being as we managed to finish before we had had too much ale. Some reasonably straightforward clues which gave a foothold into the devious ones. Very enjoyable 😊. Thanks and regards to all.

  10. Kath
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It’s been raining all day so I had a go – :phew: – that was a Toughie.
    I gave up what was obviously an unequal struggle with four left to go, all up at the top.
    I’ve never heard of, or I’ve forgotten, the 29a actress and I really haven’t ever heard of the 4d parliament.
    I ruled out 3d because of who the setter is so never got that.
    I needed the hints to explain quite a few of my answers – just not up to a Giovanni Toughie – I struggle enough with his Friday back pager.
    For reasons which I don’t think I’ll put here 26d made me laugh.
    My favourite was 12a.
    Thanks to Giovanni and thanks and, yet again, admiration and thanks to Kitty for her heroism.

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Kath. I felt far more stupid than heroic today, I can tell you. I hope that cold is beating a retreat.

    • dutch
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 9:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It’s accepting the risk of feeling stupid that makes it heroic

  11. Shropshirelad
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Late getting to this today – problems with my mate and an old senile cat. A good level of toughness once you sorted out which hat Mr Manley was wearing – or should that be ‘hats’? Anyway, I enjoyed it. I did take a second glance when 3d revealed itself and that was heading for the podium, but I shall plump for 5d as my favourite.

    Thanks to the Don for the puzzle and to Kitty for an excellent review – well done. Now, off to try and calm down my dear old cat (Jane, she may not last until your visit :cry: we’ll see what the Vet says tomorrow).

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oh, your poor cat, SL. :cry: Give her soothing strokles from me. I hope she gets to fall off the footstool a few more times.

    • Jane
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oh dear, SL – I do hope your fears are unfounded. I was so looking forward to meeting the ‘other’ lady in your life.

    • Hanni
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Sorry to hear that SL.

  12. Jane
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    By the time I’d reached the seventh ‘unknown’ I’d got rather fractious which is a shame because in retrospect there were some clues I really liked – 1&16a plus 3d in particular. Somehow I can well believe that DG would actually use 3d as his expletive of choice but conversely, I can’t envisage him finding the slang expression at 11a acceptable.
    Thought that the surface read of 17a could possibly have been improved by reversing the order of the two definitions?
    Thanks to SL for the explanation of 5d – it was definitely a bung in for me.

    Kitty – your review was by far and away the most enjoyable part of today’s Toughie experience for me. Thank you for the orchestra and Noel Coward in particular.
    Thanks to Giovanni for continuing to astound me with your word power and knowledge.

    • dutch
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

      17a – well done Jane! looking forward to your crossword.

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Jane. I wondered what people would make of the 28a video. Apologies in advance to Expat Chris, as my sources tell me it won’t play in the US.

      Fractious is a good description of my mood today. Not the fault of the crossword, but I can’t say it helped!

      I agree with you and Dutch about 17a. :good:

    • halcyon
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 7:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      17a -Yes – no brainer really – missed that.

  13. 2Kiwis
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A few new words to expand our vocabulary, all with straightforward wordplay, and all the clues beautifully crafted. Just what we have come to expect and appreciate in a Giovanni Toughie. Sorting the clever wordplay for 5d was the last bit for us and 3d takes the prize for favourite.
    Thanks Giovanni and Kitty.

  14. Hanni
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A couple of new definitions inc 15d. But as always the Don’s clues are always fair,.

    For the sheer audacity of it I will say that 3d gets the favourite vote.

    Ta to Giovanni and Kitty.

    Quiz time soon.

  15. Una
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Some new words,4 d and 15d and 24a .
    Pretty difficult and I would never have got 10a, 28 a , 26d, and 11a without the hints.
    I like 3d very much, as well as 15a and 6d, among others.
    Thanks Giovanni and Kitty.

  16. Jon_S
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 10:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Tough indeed, but perfectly fair and enjoyable, as we expect from the Don. Lots of new words, an obscure French city (to be fair most are to me), and an ancient actress, I was sometimes surprised to find were actually real.

  17. Expat Chris
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink | Reply

    Late again, but here I am at last, having struggled with and finally given up on the NW corner and 11A. I made very heavy weather of the puzzle altogether, not helped by having explainers for 8D for far too long, but as each stubborn clue opened up I wondered why it had taken me so long. For once, I guessed the setter….those obscure words and biblical references. Being one myself (not the answer, I hasten to add!) I liked 26D the best. Thanks Giovanni and well done Kitty! This was a bear to solve let alone blog.

    • Posted May 11, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Chris. Let’s just say that one of the reasons I left the ratings untouched was because I don’t like giving a low enjoyment rating! I hope your bruises aren’t giving you too much pain and that you’re healing up.

  18. Werm
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Sorry to be a grumpy old man but one gripe. How can 26d work if you don’t know the setter? There is no mention of that info when you print it out on line
    Thank you for a real tough challenge and for the review ( I do not envy you :-) )

    • Posted May 12, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink | Reply

      I queried this very point with the Puzzles Editor in the early days of the blog, and he replied that it would never happen on his watch – well it looks like he wasn’t watching!

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