Toughie 1624 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1624

Toughie 1624 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Kitty

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***


Greetings, crossword chums!  This was another mystery solve for me, but it didn’t take long to work out the setter: few are so distinctive.  Quirkiness and – how shall I put this? – a particular way with cryptic grammar made this both more fun than usual and more infuriating … not always in a good way.  I did enjoy having something a bit different to play with and on writing the review was tempted to up my rating on that front.

I can’t decide whether this was particularly tough for a Tuesday or whether I was just slow (par for the course on most days).  You will tell me!  It took me a while to get going but then I made steady progress until the end where a little beavering away got me to the finish.  My last in was 12a because I was not looking for that clue type and I was blinded by the two vowel checkers.

The definitions are underlined in the clues below.  The answers are hidden under the There will be cake boxes.  The exclamation mark is not an imperative – click only if you wish to reveal the answer.

Do leave a comment telling us how you found it and what you thought.



1a    One’s not given credit for helping the economy (4,8)
CASH CUSTOMER: This person participating in an economic transaction is not given credit, for he or she is paying ready money

9a    Sent back, my love, with dicky heart, recovered (7)
RALLIED: The reversal (set back) of my love or darling, containing (with … heart) unwell

10a    Taker of mermaid pictures? (7)
SNAPPER: A taker of quick photos who might share an environment with mermaids, and hence take pictures of them if they were real

11a    It’s pointless carrying a bag (4)
NAIL: Nothing or zero containing (carrying) A from the clue.  Bag as in catch or secure

12a    Spilled half of overpriced drink (5)
CIDER: An anagram (spilled) of half of overpRICED

13a    Backward? That’s a joke! Deranged! (4)
GAGA: Taken from behind (backward), the A from the clue and a joke or wisecrack

  ARVE Error: need id and provider

16a    Was in animal hospital? Nonsense (7)
HOGWASH: WAS from the clue inside a pig and the abbreviation for hospital.  I really did spend a shameful amount of time trying to wrap a vet around the outside of this

17a    Call about run to work out daily (7)
DIURNAL: Call on the telephone outside (about) an anagram (to work out) of RUN

18a    A Parisian character’s right to strip? (7)
UNCOVER: A charade of a French indefinite article, a character or chap and R(ight)

21a    Predatory animal and potential victim in metal (7)
WOLFRAM: A predatory pack animal and another (a male domestic ruminant) who might fall prey to it together form a metal otherwise known as tungsten

23a    Those people that will turn lad into lady! (4)
THEY: Split the solution (3,1) to see what is added to “lad” to form “lady”

24a    Run round a part of Europe (5)
SPAIN: A run such as one might take in a car around the A from the clue gives the part of Europe that is home to our very own pommers and pomette

25a    What makes one cross when dealing with a tot (4)
PLUS: The cross symbol which one would make to indicate addition (when dealing with a tot)

28a    Keeps in welling tears, gulping (7)
RETAINS: An anagram (welling) of TEARS containing (gulping) the IN from the clue.  I think I can just about make the cryptic grammar work if I stand on my head and fiddle with the punctuation

29a    Twit returns with herbal extract (7)
PASSAGE: A three letter twit or fool is reversed (returns) and followed by a herb used in stuffing.  I can’t see the required sense of herbal meaning herb in the dictionary

30a    Question answered by a friend? (3,4,5)
WHO GOES THERE: This is a question called by a sentry as a challenge; a friendly passer-by would be expected to give an answer, where an enemy may remain silent



1d    Christening little boy – stick around (7)
CALLING: A short version of a boy’s name (little boy) with adhere or clasp outside it

2d    Piece of paper cow took to be flower (4)
SLIP: Precede this word by “cow” to give a flower


3d    Like a rogue, did set out to be in the money (7)
CADDISH: An anagram (set out) of DID inside (to be in) the money seen in 1a

4d    Hang on. Puss is prowling close by (7)
SUSPEND: An anagram (prowling) of PUSS and then a word meaning close or finish

5d    Get round prohibition to have small port (4)
OBAN: The round letter and a prohibition when put together give a small town in Scotland

6d    Make clear it’s out of the ordinary (7)
EXPLAIN: Two letters meaning out of or from and then ordinary or simple

7d    Hot stuff, oo-la-la! (6,7)
FRENCH MUSTARD: This is a hot condiment; the “oo-la-la!” indicates the part of the name which one might assume describes its country of origin – in fact, it was invented by Colman’s in 1936 and is particular to the UK

8d    Epitaph for gunman who was always way off target? (7,6)
GREATLY MISSED: A common sentiment expressed in epitaphs could also describe what someone who was not a good aim would do: largely, he wouldn’t hit.  I’ve had enough of gunmen for the foreseeable future

14d    Cut and run – watch out for trap (5)
CARVE: The abbreviation for run(s) inside (trap) the Latin for beware or watch out.  I am a bit scared of opening this discussion but am genuinely interested in whether you think the cryptic grammar here is ok (or, of course, I may have mis-parsed which has been known to happen)

15d    One thus may want hair of the dog – lethargically hollowed out (5)
CURLY: A dog and then the outer letters (hollowed out) of lethargically

19d    Teach capers, having captured male animal (7)
CHEETAH: An anagram of TEACH (capers) containing (having captured) a masculine pronoun

20d    Dealing with, I send in quick reply (7)
RIPOSTE: The two letters that mean dealing with or regarding contain I (from the clue) and send by snail mail (or electronically, as you may give your comments below)

21d    Dog and cat, domesticated (7)
WHIPPET: This dog is made up of a cat (-o’-nine-tails) and tame

22d    Were we to be freed from contract, or let go (7)
RELEASE: Remove the WE (to be freed) from the first word of the clue and add a rental contract

26d    Band taking nothing from drummer (4)
RING: The drummer of the Fab Four without the circular letter signifying nothing

27d    Land in the drink (4)
ISLE: An area of land surrounded by the drink – that is, the sea


Thanks to Excalibur for the animaltastic puzzle.  There were lots of elements of this I liked (the lad turning into lady, the prowling puss and the hair of the dog, to name but a few), but once again I find myself unable to choose a favourite clue.  Can you?


27 comments on “Toughie 1624

  1. Fun fun fun. Everything a crossword should be. Entertaining, with just the right amount of mental challenge, I loved so many of the clues but will give the gold medal to 7d (Hot stuff, oo-la-la). Thanks Excalibur. Come back very soon. And thanks Kitty. The animal pictures were delightful

  2. When I started this I didn’t know who the compiler was, but this soon became apparent. Got there, though I was particularly keen to see Kitty’s explanation of mermaid pictures, for I felt I must be seriously missing something – seems I wasn’t!

    i wonder whether the herb could mean herbal as in herb green, herb cheese, herb tea, etc? I guess you need to read “run [with, as in using] ‘watch out’ for trap” – Yoda-like perhaps, such are the constructions for this setter.

    I liked 12a (overpriced drink) and 23a (‘those people’ I’m not about to go meet, with unbelievable admiration for those who know it’s right for them).

    I thought 7d and 25a a little weak but I certainly enjoyed the puzzle over all – took me a while to get started but things speeded up with checkers.

    Many thanks Excalibur and thank you Kitty for another wonderful blog

  3. I think my solving experience was similar to yours Kitty – everything here seems pretty straightforward in retrospect but I struggled with the wavelength, with 27d last in (in my spreadsheet of the Guardian solutions since 1999, that is the second most common solution after EXTRA, so it is probably a tribute to the setter than it took me so long to see). It probably didn’t help doing this immediately after something very different in the Guardian.

    Thanks to Kitty and Excalibur

  4. Like Kitty, 12a was my last one in and I was also slow to get 23a.
    Still not sure about herbal = sage and didn’t know the 21a metal although the wordplay made it easy enough to get the answer.
    I think 28a just about works but the ‘for’ in 14d seems a bit doubtful although obviously enhances the surface read.

    Plenty of potentials for the podium but I’ll give the nod to 23&30a plus 8d.

    Thanks to Excalibur and to our Girl Tuesday for a beautifully illustrated blog. Particularly liked the combo for 4d and the cosy twosome at 21d.
    By the way, Kitty, you may want to revisit the hint for 26d.

  5. I really thought that Excalibur was moving away from Yodaland with her last few puzzles but she’s returned with a vengeance today with 28a, 14d and 20d being the worst examples. Like dutch I thought that there must be something more to 7a, but apparently not.
    Thanks to Excalibur and to Kitty for the very entertaining blog. My pick of the clues is 6d.
    (I did wonder whether row 12 was meant to be a Nina (4,4) introducing us to a new variety of sweet snack).

    1. Agree with everything said above (except that there us no way that I ever spot a Nina or potential Nina)

      6d is also my favourite.

      Ta to all.

  6. Have been out for the majority of the day so haven’t quite got to this – in the words of that famous American General………

    1. Yep – pretty much what you can expect from an Excalibur puzzle. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge in deciphering her clues and, as Gazza has already said, her last couple of puzzles have been moving away from the green Jedi Master’s grammar – but we’re definitely back in Star Wars territory here.

      I had a lot of fun completing the puzzle but I didn’t help myself in the SE corner (last to fall) by misspelling the last word in 30a – no wonder I couldn’t get 22d to fit D’oh! I’ll go for 21a as my favourite as I just love the word.

      Thanks to Excalibur for the fun and the challenge and to Kitty for her excellent review – you must have been in seventh heaven with the animal theme :smile:

  7. With ref. to 14d to ‘keep cave’ comes from the Latin ‘cavere’ which means to keep watch. Often used in books such as Billy Bunter and Tom Brown’s School Days when boys where up to no good and someone was posted to keep a lookout for any prowling Teacher!

  8. Having the memory of a goldfish when it comes to setters, I really thought the DT was introducing us to someone new and found the experience most enjoyable.
    In fact, I can’t remember either the last time I had so much fun.
    Found that the surface was very witty in most clues.
    SE corner was a great deal harder than the rest.
    Agree with the first comment that 7d is not that hot. Rather sickly sweet. Dijon mustard is the one.
    Too many favourites to mention.
    Thanks to Excalibur and to Kitty for the review.

  9. This was certainly something a bit different to what I’m used to – a lot looser than the puzzles I normally tackle,
    though done with enough exuberance that I didn’t really mind.

    27dn was actually my favourite. You can’t fault a nice simple cryptic def.

  10. Finally done, with 15D the last one in. Not sure what to make of this. I enjoyed crossing the finishing line but parts of the journey were over rough ground. 30A was my favorite. Thanks Excalibur and Kitty.

  11. That was good fun. Like others we started off rather slowly and then picked up speed once a few checkers were in place. We rather liked 15d, it seems this nickname for someone follicularly challenged (which we did know), originated in Aus but looks like it is also known in UK.
    Thanks Excalibur and Kitty.

    1. Just had to check what you were talking about. As I often do when I smell something odd in a comment.
      Curly seems to be Aussie slang for bald.
      Didn’t know what.
      I thought the clue was only about curly hair.

      1. When I looked at the clue and saw that it was going to end in ‘LY’ , I was so looking for it to be ‘Baldy’. I then put my ex serviceman’s head on and thought – ‘of course, it’s curly’. We used to call follically (sic)challenged friends either ‘slaphead’ or ‘curly’. I also seem to remember that a bald member of the Harlem Globetrotters was called ‘curly’.

        Edit – there was

        1. This language gets me mad.
          Same word for something and its opposite.
          No wonder we can’t trust you.

          1. Guess that ‘curly’ for ‘bald’ works OK from a country that calls people with ginger hair ‘Blue’. That one is in BRB.

    2. Looks like we have just tried inventing a new word. Follicly challenged seems to be the phrase we were looking for and we can find that with Google although not in BRB. :smile:

      1. Maybe foliculously might work better. If any one manages to pronounce it properly.

    3. While blogging I am watching that Brokenwood again on TV. When we buy a foreign programme, we want our money’s worth.
      Just heard the inspector say:
      Behind every great woman, there’s a man who picks up the pieces or words to that effect.
      Made me laugh.

        1. Sorry Kitty.
          I was so surprised I had to say it. Googled it and it was there.

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