Toughie 1644

Toughie 1644 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Kitty

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *Enjoyment ****


Ah, Tuesdays: the Mondays of the Toughie week.  Today’s Toughie is brought to you once again by your friendly* Kitty.  I hope you are in the pink.

This Excalibur puzzle didn’t put up too much of a fight, nor did it create any major hmms or grrs.  I enjoyed it, even though there were many double definitions in the downs.  Anyway, this is all very accessible, so come and join the party and bring a friend.  All nice people are welcome.

The definitions are underlined in the clues below.  The answers are hidden under the [] boxes.  The exclamation mark is not an imperative – click only if you wish to reveal all.  Do leave a comment telling us how you found it and what you thought.

 *(unless disturbed when sleeping.  Then very grumpy and rather fierce)



1a    Get a glimpse of what’s in store (6-4)
WINDOW-SHOP: Literally to look at the goods on display in a retail outlet, without buying anything


9a    Letter from Catherine Jones? (4) 
ZETA: The Greek letter that is needed to complete the name of this Welsh actress

10a    I heard, for one (5,5)
VOWEL SOUND: The noise of “I” would be an example of the answer, as would that of a “U.”  I was going to include a clip like [this] but then found the following version


11a    Not much left: let it out (6)
LITTLE: An anagram (out) of L(eft) with (LET IT)

12a    Simmering in stewpot, something like salsa to share with partner? (3-4)
TWO-STEP: Salsa here refers to the dance, and we’re looking for another one.  Anagramming (simmering) STEWPOT provides it

15a    Force to continue concealing love (7)
DRAGOON: A phrase (4,2) meaning to continue slowly and tediously contains the letter that denotes love in tennis

16a    Smirks as humorist’s quoted (5)
LEERS: Smirks or stares (usually lecherously).  The answer sounds like (quoted) a humourist known for his nonsense verse (together with the ‘s).  Another Americanism has crept in here


17a    Put about by ‘Nothing doing‘ (2,2)
UP TO: An anagram (about) of PUT followed by the letter for nothing.  What are you doing?

18a    Clear area ahead, no rain (4)
ARID: A synonym for clear preceded by A(rea) (area ahead)

19a    Front-page news, gosh, appearing in second page! (5)
SCOOP: Today’s short word meaning gosh is not my or even cor.  It sits between (appearing in) the abbreviations for second and page

21a    Extent of money and time required by husband (7)
BREADTH: Follow a slang word for money or dough with the abbreviations for time and husband

22a    By setting goal, one helps climbers go places (7)
PERGOLA: A preposition meaning by or by way of, then an anagram (setting, as in positioning or arranging) of GOAL

24a    Read novel – that is love (6)
DEARIE: An anagram (novel) of READ then the abbreviation for that is.  An affectionate (or patronising) form of address like darling.  24a 24a me!

27a    Great change, package tours coming round (10) 
TREMENDOUS: To change in an improving sense, around which is an anagram of TOURS.  I thought coming round is the containment indicator, but can’t quite see how package signifies an anagram, so am wondering if I’ve got my indicators twisted

28a    One day in three-and-a-half days is ample (4)
WIDE: The abbreviation for day inside half of a word for seven days

29a    Gosh! Alarms for fires that are inextinguishable! (5,5)
HELL’S BELLS: The second “gosh!” today, but this time it’s the definition.  These might be fire alarms in a place with sulphurous fiery pits burning eternally.  Installing fire alarms in his kingdom is just the sort of fiendish thing Satan would do to add to the torment of the damned




2d    Senorita promoted to host club (4)
IRON: The first word in the clue when reversed (promoted) contains (to host) this golf club

3d    On the subject of parents’ repressed fears (6)
DREADS: Two letters meaning on the subject of, which are held by some parents (parents repressed)

4d    Good-for-nothing backed police to frame pious person, heartless rogue (7)
WASTREL: An informal term for the police is reversed (backed) and contains (to frame) our usual holy person and the outer letters (heartless) of rogue

5d    Hope your other halves will meet this time (4)
HOUR: The first and second halves of two words in the clue meet together to give this unit of time

6d    Mentioned cyclists – those responsible for traffic on streets (7)
PEDLARS: These street traders sound a bit like some people on pushbikes

7d    A neighbour – or almost (4,4,2)
NEXT DOOR TO: The position of a neighbour or, figuratively, very nearly

8d    Suspect you’ll come up with something creative (4,2,4)
HAVE AN IDEA: Entertain a suspicion or have a brainwave

12d    They mean no, lifts not wanted (6,4)
THUMBS DOWN: This hand gesture expressive negativity.  The phrase could also mean the absence of the opposite, positive, gesture which is used by hitchhikers wanting a ride

13d    Likely as not drunk, crashed disastrously (2,3,5)
ON THE CARDS: Two consecutive anagrams: of NOT (drunk) and CRASHED (disastrously)

14d    Fish  one’s put in a birdcage (5)
PERCH: This is a freshwater fish.  It’s also something a bird sits on.  I’ve chosen birds free of cages for the illustration

15d    Duke hoisted rubbish flag (5)
DROOP: The abbreviation for duke and the reversal (hoisted) of rubbish or pants.  Flag is a verb here

19d    Reach right back, having puffed chest out (7)
STRETCH: Reverse (back) the two letter abbreviation for right; it’s contained in (having … out) an anagram (puffed) of CHEST

20d    Boards to hide rails, made from wood, my dears, to conceal (7)
PELMETS: The rails are curtain rails, though I have no idea why they should need to be hidden.  The wood comes from a deciduous tree of three letters which is contained by (to conceal) dears or lambs (or perhaps even kitties).  Is it just me or is there something inherently comical about this word?

23d    Ax to grind with Barnaby’s brother George? (6)
GRUDGE: The Barnaby in question is a Dickens character.  His brother would be expected to share the same surname as him, and this chap’s name, rendered as a first initial and surname, gives us our grievance.  I’m not sure why the North American spelling of axe is used here

25d    In the pink  water (4)
WELL: Two definitions: in good health and a spring.  The video clip is also partly for 29a


26d    Not keen if weather’s not sunny (4)
DULL: Another pair of definitions. The keen in the first means sharp or astute


Thanks to Excalibur.  I liked quite a lot of this: 10, 16, 28 and 29 across, and of the downs, 5, 8, 12, 13 and 23.  Which parts rang your bell?



  1. beery hiker
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Once again your one star difficulty rating seems a little harsh, but maybe you are more familiar with the setter’s style, I had to think quite a lot in places, particularly to see the last two 10a and 5d, which seem obvious in retrospect and I suppose that is a mark of good setting. Liked 12a too.

    Thanks to Kitty and Excalibur

    • Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I nearly added a comment that people may disagree with the rating, but didn’t in the end. This took me less time than an average back page puzzle (not that I’m ever fast) and contains no obscurities. I think your comment about my difficulty ratings may be a little harsh, Beery! :(

      • beery hiker
        Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I have been thinking about how one’s familiarity with a setter affects the perception of a puzzle, particularly in terms of difficulty. With some of them you can start to second-guess the trickery, and it definitely helps to know a setter’s favourite devices. I’m still pretty unfamiliar with most of the Telegraph setters (at least in their Telegraph guises) so they may seem more difficult to me because of that. You are of course right that there are no obscurities and no difficult wordplay here, so on reflection the rating is fair enough…

        • Posted July 26, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Yes, I’ve thought the same because it does irk me a bit that the average ratings for the back page puzzles (I haven’t studied the Toughie ones) are well below 3*, and I’m sure familiarity with the setter does indeed make a big difference. (That said, I haven’t solved many more Excalibur puzzles than I’ve blogged.) Having to blog in itself also completely messes with difficulty, not to mention enjoyment! Having to give numerical ratings can be a real pain. Anyway, it’s all subjective and I like the discussions. I won’t cry about it. :)

          • Gazza
            Posted July 26, 2016 at 6:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Thanks to Excalibur for the puzzle and to Kitty for the typically entertaining blog. I do agree that the average difficulty ratings for both back-page and Toughie puzzles over the week ought to be near 3* but, as you say, in practice the average, especially for the back-pagers, is considerably below this. However “over the week” is very relevant and, since the Telegraph puzzles are meant to increase in difficulty from Monday to Friday it’s not really feasible for those blogging early in the week to achieve the average by themselves. So don’t worry about it!

  2. crypticsue
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’d classify this in the comfy 1* toughie corner too. Not quite as Yoda-ish as usual, I thought.

    Thanks to Excalibur and Kitty

  3. happy days
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Excalibur clearly lives on Planet Happy. A crossword full of exuberance and humour made me feel happy, too. Favourite clues are19a and 29a but I loved the whole thing

  4. Verlaine
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well I thought this pretty close to one star difficulty too, though maybe one-and-a-half.

    The Americanisms raised an eyebrow here, but not much else struck me particularly. It’s early in the week. Thanks Kitty, thanks Excalibur!

  5. jean-luc cheval
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Really really really enjoyed this.
    Not just because I managed everything without much trouble except 10a and 5d (as beery hiker) but I found the clues delightful.
    Favourite of all is 19d (reach right back).
    Thanks to Excalibur and to Kitty for the review.

  6. LetterboxRoy
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Easier than Excalibur’s last offering – but I don’t like 10a at all so I’m not even going to fill that in.

    Thanks Kitty, for the review. The 7d pic made me laugh nearly as much as the 10a video. Very funny and clever, well done.

    This is similar to the back pager for me today so **/**** with maybe one star docked for 10a, and one star added for the review.

    Thanks to all as ever.

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thought 10a was a bit odd at first but it’s explained quite clearly in the BRB.

  7. dutch
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Gosh. felt like there were a lot of cryptic definitions but there weren’t that many.

    I struggled with 10a and 20d.

    Am also confused about the indicators in 27a – thought package was the containment, but not so sure anymore.

    Favourites were 5d and 13d.

    Didn’t time myself but it felt like back pager time – nothing wrong with that – a delightful puzzle

    Many thanks Excalibur for the fresh air and thanks Kitty as always for a superb review

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 4:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I read ‘package’ as the anagram indicator and ‘coming round’ as the containment. K wasn’t too sure either, but I think it’s right. Package is not the best indicator ever, for sure, but I suppose a package can be one parcel, or a collection of parts… so it kind of works for me.

      • Posted July 26, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Yes, I nearly wrote it up exactly thus with an added question, but then thought why include a possible error? So I just gave the wordplay without indicators and asked you guys about the analysis. I can’t make package work as a containment indicator however I twist interpretations of cryptic grammar, so unless persuaded otherwise I’d go with my original parsing which is the same way round as yours.

  8. Jane
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wouldn’t dream of suggesting a difficulty rating – most Toughies are hard for me – but I’d certainly give this one a copious amount of stars for enjoyment.
    10a took the longest time and, having settled on ‘dreams’ for 3d, I never gave that one another thought.
    Plenty of ticks – 22,28&29a plus 12&13d in particular.

    Many thanks to Excalibur and also to our Tuesday girl for a great review (not too sure about a couple of the music choices but – horses for courses and all that!).

    • Posted July 26, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Surely you liked the clip for 10a, Jane?

      • Jane
        Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I liked the one you decided not to use!

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Re 3d – I also got slightly confused betweens ‘dads’ and ‘dams’, but fears can’t really be dreams unless you are seriously worried. Still, made me think too.

      • Posted July 26, 2016 at 4:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I’m glad I didn’t think of dreams!

      • dutch
        Posted July 26, 2016 at 10:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Im worried about dreams all the time – they’re awful

  9. Shropshirelad
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’d agree with CS in that this was definitely in the ‘comfort’ range. An enjoyable puzzle with, for me, several D’oh! moments. |I believe I try to think too laterally when doing an Excalibur puzzle and send myself down the wrong garden path. Lots of nice clues but no particular one stood out today.

    Thanks to Excalibur for the puzzle and to Kitty for her super review.

  10. Una
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I loved it too, but definitely not a one star difficulty as far as I am concerned.
    I needed the hint for 10a and 23d and one or two others.
    Thanks Kitty for a wonderful review and thanks also to Excalibur.

  11. crypticsue
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Dada tomorrow

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Still struggling with his prize in the Saturday Guardian.
      Might not hear from me for a few days.

  12. Kath
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That was really good fun – crossword and review.
    I was very slow to get 10a and, having put ‘cool’ for 26d, couldn’t do 27a at all. Dim.
    Spent a bit of time trying to justify ‘hells teeth’ for 29a but got there in the end. Dim, again.
    From the 23d answer I have a nasty feeling that having ‘an axe to grind’ is yet another expression that I’ve always misinterpreted.
    Too many clues that I enjoyed to pick out any in particular.
    Thanks to Excalibur and to Kitty.

  13. LabradorsruleOK
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 6:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Took the hint & tried the Toughie for first time in years.
    Needed excellent hints for 10a, 3d & 13d. Annoyed I couldn’t get 3d but didn’t like 10a (I’m a bad loser).
    Thanks to setter, but mainly to Kitty for making me make the effort.

  14. Expat Chris
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    After living in the USA for 30 odd years, I don’t realize I’ve forgotten certain words until the crossword reminds me. Today, it was 20D. I had no idea what the answer was. I’ve not heard it used here, and indeed I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wooden one in my friends’ homes. They’re mostly fabric and called valances. And it never occurred to me that ax was an American spelling! I am clearly fully integrated. I don’t see an Americanism in 16A though and would welcome enlightenment.

    I did enjoy the crossword, with 29A and 12D being my favorites. Thanks Excalibur, and thanks to Kitty for the review.

  15. 2Kiwis
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    With 23d we had the starting G and felt very clever to remember that an AX could be a guitar. Spent ages trying to find wordplay to justify this. Checkers eventually came to our rescue. Plenty here to keep us smiling so much enjoyed.
    Thanks Excalibur and Kitty.

    • dutch
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Did you like the mirror lake pic in last Friday’s toughie?

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted July 26, 2016 at 11:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Yes we have just looked at it and recognise it as Lake Matheson.
        We had not looked at it earlier as we hope to catch up at some stage with all the puzzles we missed last week and have avoided reading the blogs.
        Thanks for pointing it out.

  16. halcyon
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good one, bad one, good one. A return to form [?] which I thought merited maybe 2* for difficulty but then I’m a wordplay sort of person.

    Excalibur demonstrates her mastery [mistressy?] of the tiny anagram at 17a, gives us a genuinely witty cryptic def at 29a, offers a lovely anagram container at 19d and even steps into slightly mad [RIP PJ] territory at 23d. But then she nearly spoils it all at 10a, which was my last in. Am I being dim or Is that really all there is to it – the sound of the letter i?

    Still, on balance, a good one. Thanks Excalibur and thanks to Kitty for the blog.

  17. HoofItYouDonkey
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 10:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Kitty.
    Very enjoyable Toughie as I could actually do most of it.
    Needed a few hints (10a and 22a).
    Thanks to Excalibur.

  18. Salty Dog
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 10:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I made this harder than it should have been by putting in “pushers” for 6d (well, they are called “push-bikes”!). That made 10a pretty impenetrable, and misled me badly over what should have been an easy 11a. I suppose l shouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion that the “traffic” in 10a was in narcotics. What a cynical old Salty Dog I am.

    Anyway, 2*/3* seems about right, and 27a was my favourite clue. Thanks to Excalibur, and to Kitty for her usual sparkling review.

  19. Heno
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Excalibur and to Kitty for the review and hints. I enjoyed this one very much, hooray a Toughie completion. I would agree with 1* difficulty, as I actually managed to finish it :-) Last in was 20d, because it took me so long. For ages I couldn’t think what this clue was about.

  20. Robin Newman
    Posted July 28, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    Had to laugh at the illustration for 7D

    • Posted July 28, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

      If you google “funny topiary” there are a few more good ones.

  21. joe dandy
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi, I think pets are referring to my dears in the form of Teachers pet, but I agree a little ambiguous. St Trinians girls were referred to as My Dears by Miss Jean Brodie.

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