Toughie 1603 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1603

Toughie No 1603 by ProXimal

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *****Enjoyment ****

I find ProXimal one of the more difficult setters and it took me close to 5* time to finish this. Plenty of inventive clueing. Enjoyment increased when I was writing the review, as you’ll see!

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Tool hits article moving left to right (7)
HACKSAW: A word for hits plus an article, then move the letter in the front to the end (moving left to right)

5a    Judge when to dig up shrub (7)
JASMINE: Abbreviation for Judge, 2-letter word meaning when, and a verb meaning to dig up or excavate

9a    Dish that would be identified if lad consumes it (5)
BELLE: This dish is a pretty girl. If the answer is inserted into ‘lad’, you get a word meaning identified or tagged.

10a    Propose reduction in circulation (9)
INTRODUCE: Anagram (in circulation) of REDUCTION

11a    Glanced one Communist in bed guarded by another (10)
RICOCHETED: Roman numeral for one, an Argentinian revolutionary (communist) inside a child’s bed, all inside a 3-letter communist (to me the spelling looks weird, since the T is not pronounced)

12a    Average cut in half about the same (4)
IDEM: Take the first half of an 8-letter word meaning average (in quality), and reverse

14a    One who frequently displays pass with foot behind ball (12)
GLOBETROTTER: This pass would be a travel document. A word for foot (normally used for pigs) follows a word for ball or sphere

18a    Integrated new functioning car seat in buggy (3-9)
NON-SECTARIAN: The abbreviation for new and a 2-letter word meaning functioning or working, followed by an anagram (buggy) of CAR SEAT IN

21a    Brought to the West, Oriental food club (4)
IRON: Reverse (brought to the west) the word for Japanese seaweed used to wrap sushi

22a    One recording a feller in conversation on boat (10)
CATALOGUER: A homophone of a tree-feller (don’t forget the a) follows the short form of a two-hulled sailing boat

25a    Not totally peaceful, capture island region of Africa (9)
SERENGETI: A 6-letter word for peaceful or calm without the last letter, a 3-letter verb meaning capture or obtain, and the abbreviation for island

26a    March is not good time, looking back (5)
TROOP: Nothing to do with months. Reverse a word meaning not good together with the abbreviation for time

27a    Cold guards, beginning to shake, burnt material (7)
CINDERS: The abbreviation for cold, plus a word for bodyguards without the first letter (beginning to shake)


28a    Land of the lush borders set originally around theatre (2,5)
LA SCALA: A (2-2) land populated by drunks or people otherwise divorced from reality (land of the lush) goes around (borders) the first letter of set and the 2-letter abbreviation for about


1d    Stop in popular state capital (6)
HOBART: A 3-letter word for stop or ban goes inside a 3-letter word for popular

2d    This cloth hat with stitching might become a Catholic (6)
CALICO: An anagram (with stitching) of the answer + HAT gives ‘a Catholic’

3d    Depicted horse carrying knight about poorly (10)
STENCILLED: a 5-letter word for horse goes around all of the abbreviation for knight in chess, a 1-letter abbreviation for about, and a word meaning poorly or sick

4d    Wine and punch consumed by partners (5)
WHITE: A word for punch or strike goes in-between bridge partners

5d    14 stone dog (3-6)
JET-SETTER: The definition is the answer to 14a. A stone which is black variety of lignite and a breed of dog

6d    Interference from meddlers? No way! (4)
SNOW: Hidden in the clue (pic is for 6d+4d)

7d    Flood I see engrossing religious devotee (8)
INUNDATE: I from the clue and ‘see’ in a romantic sense go around a female member of a religious order

8d    Unceasingly cruel to oust leader, outflanking 1000 soldiers (8)
EVERMORE: A word for cruel or harsh without its first letter (to oust leader) goes around (outflanking) the Roman numeral for 1000 and a 2-letter abbreviation for soldiers

13d    Native American area lawman recalled has not changed (10)
POCAHONTAS: Reversal of the abbreviation for area + a 3-letter policeman, then an anagram (changed) of HAS NOT

15d    Line dividing improves disheartened shoppers (9)
BETRAYERS: A line or beam along which light or other energy is propagated goes inside (divides) a word for improves without the central T (disheartened)

16d    Last bit of route in grass turned so rocklike (8)
GNEISSIC: Reversal (turned) of the last letter of route inside a 4-letter verb meaning to grass, plus the Latin word for so

17d    Craft on radar, north of country (8)
ANDORRAN: Anagram (craft, as an imperative) of ON RADAR plus the abbreviation for North

19d    Queen draped in two forms of gold before a goddess (6)
AURORA: The one-letter abbreviation for queen (or king) goes between two different 2-letter versions of gold, followed by ‘a’ from the clue

20d    Relative holds up unfinished fruit drink (6)
GRAPPA: A short form of father supports a 5-letter fruit of the vine without its last letter

23d    Magician’s assistant that is involved in a game (5)
ARIEL: I believe the magician in question is Prospero (from The Tempest). The abbreviation for that is goes inside ‘a’ from the clue plus a 2-letter abbreviation for a game (the other one)

24d    Former head, not second-rate (4)
ONCE: Take a 5-letter slang word for head, and remove the initial B (not second rate)

I found it hard to choose a favourite, the clues seem equally good. I did like 4d, 5d, and 20d. Which were your favourites?

30 comments on “Toughie 1603

  1. Gosh that was tricky…I have been around the world as a 14a and a 5d with Disney and got to watch the 19d (yes I know it’s not the definition here) with a glass of 4d and 20d. Also learnt what 16d was. Nope never come across that before.

    Hard to pick a favourite at the moment but I think that is because I have jet lag. And my brain is a bit fried.

    Many thanks to proXimal for one heck of a challage and to Dutch for an outstanding blog.

    I need a lie down.

  2. 6*/3* – This had four separate goes and if I was timing myself in cups of tea, I’d be awash

    I have to say that online solvers who printed off the pdf had a much better chance of spotting the lurker in 6d as the clue goes over two lines in the paper with the lurker at the crucial divide.

    Thanks to Dutch for the much needed explanations and to proXimal for the extreme workout.

    1. At least you spotted the lurker CS! Just realised that I never did and bunged it in, and that I never quite understood 9a either.

      1. I only knew it was a lurker when I read the review – I’m with you on 9a too.

    2. One of the bits of advice Boatman gives is to try and spread a lurker over two lines

  3. Perhaps I’m more on proXimal’s wavelength than others but I didn’t find this too tricky for a Friday Toughie. Thanks to the setter and Dutch for the review. My favourite was 5d. It’s interesting that we had a fairly similar clue (and the same answer) for 7d in Wednesday’s Toughie:
    One will join sister on night out, getting overcome by drink? (8)

  4. I was at a pub quiz recently where the bonus question was to name up to six of the “Official” Disney Princesses. I obviously did the ones that were around in my childhood, so I was ok, but there was outrage when it turned out that the two princesses from Frozen weren’t “official” and didn’t count. Several large men in their forties (hopefully with small daughters, but let’s not assume….) were arguing the point vociferously with the quiz master.

  5. Oww! That hurt! Lots of good stuff, but a little more than I could handle today. Completely missed the theme until right at the end: I never was much for princesses. I needed lots of electronic help to get the grid filled but did manage to parse most of it myself. Just needed Dutch to explain 27a, 28a and the definition of 23d.

    I think my favourite is one of the drink-based clues. But maybe that’s just because I’m now very much in need of a drink or three …

    Many thanks to ProXimal and many more thanks to Dutch.

  6. I just love constructions such as 9a and 2d.
    Found the SE corner really hard but when the penny dropped in 13d (native American) everything came clear.
    Never been keen on “cata” for the boat.
    Didn’t get 16d but now that I know the answer, I think I saw that word before.
    Thanks to Proximal and to Dutch for the review.

          1. Thank goodness for that J-L. Because I have heard of a Hobby Horse and just didn’t want to even ask what on earth a Hobby Cat was :grin:

        1. yes, that’s right. Def 3 in brb. cat = short for catamaran (or catalytic converter)

          a hobie cat is a small catamaran

  7. After a long time and a lot of effort I managed to get it all sorted apart from fully parsing 27a. However I totally missed the theme.
    Thanks ProXimal and Dutch.

  8. After a good backpager, I thought I might have a go, a quick scan at the blog persuades me to go back to yesterday’s!!!

  9. Only just had the chance to look at this one. Think it could be an ‘over the weekend’ job!

    1. OK – so I was stupid enough to stay up into the wee small hours wrestling with this one. Finally defeated by the SW corner as I hadn’t a clue about the word needed at 21a or 16d.
      Learnt a new indicator in both 27a & 2d.
      Couldn’t possibly rate this one for enjoyment – certainly ***** for frustration!
      Favourite was probably 20d.

      Thanks to proXimal for cutting me down to size and much appreciation to Dutch for the very clear decryption. Never occurred to me to look for a theme!

  10. Not there yet, so not looking at the hints and comments. I’m progressing slowly. I’ve done a lot more than I thought I would on first ( and second) read through.

  11. An object lesson in setting a really tough crossword without gimmicks.
    Thanks proXimal and thanks Dutch for spotting a theme and illustrating it.

  12. i had to give up eventually before I turned to drink. After revealing initial letters (which gave me 14A but nothing else) I still had half a dozen unsolved…5A, 6D and 12A in the top right and 21A, 27A and 17D in the bottom left. My biggest mistake was bunging in red setter for 5D with no justification whatsoever, and from that creating a new word (indocture) for 10A, which made that corner impossible. Totally missed the 17D anagram indicator and I’ve never heard of 21A. My latter-day Disney princess knowledge is mostly limited to pictures on the birthday cards I bought for my granddaughter when she was younger, though I was aware of 23D because a friend’s daughter unwisely named her child after the character. Oh, well. I gave it my best shot. Favorite, because it’s the only one I ticked and I love the word, is 16D. Thanks for the mind-bender ProXimal, and thanks and hat’s off to Dutch.

  13. Thanks to proXimal for a great puzzle. It stirred me into looking at, and my first response to, this blog to see if others agreed, ****/***** was spot on. Completing without help was very satisfying. It seemed impossible at first as I like to solve top to bottom, when I really ought to treat puzzles as a whole. It took several smallest-room sessions and one full-on bash while my wife was out!
    I didn’t get the princess theme though.

    1. Well done Joehorn – as mentioned above, I only spotted a theme when I started adding pictures – I thought I was being smug when I added a Disney pic for both Pocahontas and belle, then I realised there were more! Not sure if calico was intentional, but a Disney character nonetheless.

      Enjoy and please let’s hear from you again

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