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Toughie 1604

Toughie No 1604 by Warbler

Hints and tips by Kitty

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****


Warmest greetings, my crosswordland friends.  I hope that today finds you happy and content.

I’d never actually solved a Warbler before, and there is something delightful about being introduced to a setter when in the blogging hot seat.  I’m also very happy to have the opportunity to show the lads how things are done – when was the last time we had a pairing of a female setter with a female reviewer here?

I very much enjoyed this puzzle, finding it easy-going in the top half but much more of a challenge in the bottom. It all kept me nicely amused.

The definitions are underlined in the clues below.  The answers are hidden under the here come the girls! 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.



1a    A new parent, shattered, arranged to return before dinner (12)
ANTEPRANDIAL: As an aperitif, take the A from the clue, N(ew) and an anagram of PARENT then follow with the reversal (to return) of a word meaning arranged or set.  I’m more used to this word with a different prefix

9a    Lie back following blow (4)
BIFF: A lie or untruth reversed (back) and then F(ollowing).  A very pleasing surface, I thought

10a    Make smooth start to your search in maze (9)
HONEYCOMB: A four letter word meaning polish or make smooth, the first letter of your and a verb meaning to search.  (It’s also the name of a confection I have a sweet spot for, though that stuff is actually made from syrup and hasn’t been anywhere near a bee)

12a    Enlist operator to be at centre of check (4,2)
ROPE IN: The abbreviation for operator inside (to be at centre of) check or curb

13a    Lover boy‘s house in Florence next to river running west (8)
CASANOVA: The Italian word for house then another backwards element (running west): this time a river (or one of several rivers: the one I’m familiar with runs through Bristol)

15a    Irritating job for a seamstress? (10)
NEEDLEWORK: This is something a seamstress does.  Split (6,4) it could imply a job of causing irritation

16a    Forbid to go back inside remote valley (4)
VETO: It’s hidden, backwards (to go back) inside the clue

18a    Cut top off fodder plant (4)
ETCH: A plant used as fodder (VETCH) with its top off, i.e. without its initial letter, becomes carve or engrave

20a    Tired about absence of throne, like some in high places? (4-6)
SNOW-CAPPED: Tired or drained of energy outside (about) a two word phrase which could mean lacking the convenience referred to in a tongue-in-cheek way as a throne

23a    Nematodes or maggot-eating fish (8)
EELWORMS: Some long fish outside (eating) a maggot or insect larva.  I  passed on illustrating this one

24a    Disguise bloke let out (6)
MANTLE: A guy or chap and then an anagram (out) of LET

26a    Have time for coffee before midday (9)
ELEVENSES: A cryptic definition of some late morning refreshment named after the time it’s traditionally enjoyed

27a    Brief comment on website is quaint (4)
TWEE: It’s brief because it’s missing its last letter.  The website in question is indicated below

28a    Pools perturbed celebrant touring English church (6,6)
TREBLE CHANCE: An anagram (perturbed) of CELEBRANT around (touring) E(nglish) and an abbreviation for church.  The pools are football pools (not something I know much about)



2d    Note if Rolls gets makeover that’s basic (2-6)
NO-FRILLS: First we have the single letter abbreviation for Note, and then IF ROLLS is anagrammed (gets makeover)

3d    Imitate nymph (4)
ECHO: The first definition is a verb, the second a mountain nymph from Greek mythology

4d    Hired mob going wild tear down 19 around end of November (4-1-5)
RENT-A-CROWD: An anagram (going wild) of TEAR DOWN together with the abbreviation for the answer to 19d. Insert the final letter (end) of November into the mix to finish.  This is a group of people who are paid to attend an event to increase attendance figures, and the term is derived from a fictional company from Michael Wharton’s columns in the Telegraph

5d    Refuse vote against state (6)
NAYSAY: A vote against and then to state

6d    Haematite obtained from robust seaweed (4,3)
IRON ORE: Robust or strong and then a dialect name for a seaweed (not one I was familiar with)

7d    City supporter aimlessly scribbles crosses (12)
LABRADOODLES: A Californian city, then crosswordland’s top support followed by scribbles which may seem aimless but can be instrumental in unlocking creativity or helping one focus (bonus points if you can find evidence to support these assertions: I’m sure it’s out there but have run out of time to seek it)

8d    Spot politician entering tall building (6)
PIMPLE: An honourable member inside a large building

11d    George IV, perhaps, runs in furiously preening, etc (6,6)
PRINCE REGENT: R(uns) inside an anagram (furiously) of PREENING ETC

14d    With penetrating warble, Greek character so sounds like Ellington (5,5)
SWING MUSIC: W(ith) inserted into (penetrating) warble or make melodious sounds, then my favourite Greek letter, and finally an annotation meaning intentionally so

17d    Like rock when surrounded by sea (8)
BASALTIC: Place a short word meaning when inside a sea of the Atlantic Ocean

19d    Pass on third part of thesis to Trinity say (7)
COLLEGE: A mountain pass, the cricketing on side, and then the third letter of thesis

21d    Being quietly different creates a fuss (6)
POTHER: The musical abbreviation for quietly followed by a word meaning different or alternative

22d    We contributed to vote for old Tory MP (6)
POWELL: WE from the clue placed inside (contributed to) vote or election.  I made things hard for myself by putting Letwin in here, but he’s still incumbent

25d    Bones discovered after force leaves pit (4)
OSSA: A word for pit or depression, especially an anatomical one, without F(orce)


Thanks to Warbler for the fun.  My favourite clue is 9a, simply because it made me grin like a loon.*  Which clue(s) tickled your funny bone?

*Bonus pic: a couple of loons:


25 comments on “Toughie 1604

  1. I’ve only got as far as blogging half a Warbler so I’m very jealous of Kitty getting to do a whole one.

    A very enjoyable Warbler as usual, although this one was more in the ‘Toughie’ spectrum than previous Warbler puzzles. Thank you to both ladies for their parts in my Tuesday entertainment.

  2. Thanks to Warbler for the entertaining puzzle and to Kitty for the equally entertaining blog. Like CS I thought that Warbler had raised her game quite a bit in the Toughie stakes. My favourite was 20a – I thought that it might be having a sly dig at Prince Charles’s long wait to ascend the throne.

    1. 20a: yes, perhaps! I didn’t notice that. It was already my favourite, all the more so now

  3. Thanks Kitty,

    haha – trust you to find surface innuendo! I also laughed at your favourite greek letter.

    Phew, had to work my way gradually clockwise to get a checker for 19d (pass on third part of thesis..), so I could then finally work out the parsing of 4d (hired mob going wild..). Annoying to have tear(=rent) in the clue as a mislead.

    wasn’t keen on using maggot=worm as part of a clue where the def and answer also mean worms (23a).

    In 6d the only seaweed I could see for ages was NORI, since we had that recently. I then had to look up the rest of the answer to understand the parsing.

    I really liked 20a (tired about absence of throne), 14d (with penetrating warble – which I might have spotted sooner, given our compiler), 27a (brief comment), and more.

    I was also used to the other prefix in 1a – brb has subtly different definitions? (pre = before meal, esp dinner; ante = before dinner).

    Many thanks Warbler, most enjoyable, and thanks kitty, great blog, horse made me laugh too.

    1. I had the same thought about 23a.

      Being a scientist, I expect you can answer this variant of the old joke:
      Two cats are on a slide. Which goes down fastest?

  4. Thanks to Warbler and to Kitty for the review and hints. I sometimes despair with Toughies. Even though I didn’t feel it was very difficult, I still couldn’t get anywhere near it. Needed 13 hints to finish. When I read the explanations, I was surprised at the answers. Just can’t get on the setter’s wavelength.

  5. I do like a Warbler puzzle and today is no exception. I did find it a tad trickier than her usual toughie level having only put in 4 answers in the first read through. However I secured a firm toehold in the NW corner and then all started to fall into place. I have too many favourites to choose just the one, so I’ll leave well alone.

    Thanks to Warbler for the really enjoyable fun puzzle and to Kitty for an equally enjoyable review. ‘I’m new to toughies’ – really? BTW – I want to see what a ‘loon’ looks like grinning – you can show me on Saturday.

  6. I have to save the pleasure for later, since my usual morning solving slot was taken up with sorting out the damage done by Microsoft arbitrarily installing Windows 10 on my computer without permission and without warning. Hopefully I’ll be back later.

  7. Been out for most of the day so only got round to starting this a little while ago. Must admit, I’m finding it rather trickier than I would normally expect from Warbler!

  8. Found this a bit of an unexciting slog despite finishing it without recourse to Kitty’s excellent hints. My favourite clue? 7d.

  9. Yes – definitely trickier!
    The beginning of 1a had me fooled – must remember that one.
    Had to look up the worm, the seaweed and the root word for 25d.
    Needless to say – missed the cricket reference in the parsing of 19d. Can someone explain to me why the ‘in’ side is referred to as ‘leg’? Is it because the batsman stands with his leg in the way or because he scores by ‘legging it’ down the pitch?

    Top clues for me were 20a&7d (a friend of mine has the most delightful 7d named Riley and – yes – he does lead the life of same!).
    Thanks to Warbler, even though you did catch me out a few times with this one, and thanks to Kitty for doing a brilliant job on the review. Well done on the appropriate pic for 15a, the reminder of my favourite bear at 26a and the lovely bonus picture. I’ve never been lucky enough to see a Gt. Northern diver in full Summer plumage.

  10. It’s the ‘on’ (not ‘in’) side that’s referred to as the leg side, because the batsman’s legs are ‘on’ that side as he stands in his normal stance facing the bowler.

    1. Still not getting there, Physicist. The batsman’s legs are ‘on’ which side of what?
      Sorry – know I’m being a pain, but I just don’t understand.

  11. We thought this one was trickier than previous Warbler puzzles and certainly loads of fun. We always have a pleased feeling when we note that she is the setter and have never been disappointed. 20a took some time and is our outright favourite. For some time we had the checking letter A in place and were trying to fit LAV around this so we were obviously thinking in the right direction.
    Thanks Warbler and thanks Kitty for another excellent blog.

  12. I have less and less time to do the crosswords and have to solve a few clues at a time.
    This took all day but progress was smooth.
    The NE corner was last as I guessed 6d but couldn’t relate it to the blood bit.
    Got the dog thing in 7d from the parsing and checked the BRB for confirmation even though I remember seeing it before.
    Wasn’t too keen on the ” at centre of check” in 13a as it is not really the middle.
    Thanks to Warbler and to Kitty for the great review.

  13. Much fun, and a couple of new words. I managed to pull 28A out of the dim and distant recesses of my brain! Must be 50 years since I’ve seen a Pools coupon. I like 18A because it was the last one in and took me ages to twig, but my standouts are 6D and 17D. I’m very partial to geologic clues. Thanks Warbler and Kitty.

  14. Easily the cleverest and trickiest Warbler Toughie I can remember, including several words and phrases which are rarely seen in crosswords, and no cliches or boring clues. 7 down and 20 across were highly amusing, and 14 down was also ingeniously constructed.

  15. I make this right (to the minute) on the 2/3* boundary for difficulty, and say 3.5* for enjoyment. I loved 14d, and the picture of the loons, which remind me of a week spent in a cabin beside a lake in the Algonquin Provincial Park years ago. The evening silence being broken by the cry of a loon will live long in my memory. Thanks to Warbler, and Kitty.

  16. This had to wait until quite late. We found it a slow one to get into, with the first four clues taking a third of our solve time, but then the remainder came down like dominos. Favourite clues were 7d and 20a.

    We didn’t understand the role of ‘Have’ in 26a and think the clue is more succinct without it.

    Thanks to Kitty for the comments and the ratings, which we agree with. Thank you to Warbler for a very nice puzzle.

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