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Toughie 1650

Toughie No 1650 by Petitjean

Petitjean’s Posthumously Published Puzzle

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

I thought this was a bizarre mixture of the blindingly obvious and the somewhat obscure. I thought it was going to be a doddle when the first few answers went in very quickly but I then struggled to finish it off and writing the review was harder work than usual.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


1a    What a lifer does to keep fit? (1,4,7)
A LONG STRETCH: This term for an extended prison sentence could also be something done by someone as part of a fitness routine

9a    Sounds like Stevenson’s doctor’s situation is intractable (9)
HIDEBOUND: I’m having difficulty deciding what exactly is the definition here. The answer sounds as if Dr Jekyll’s alter ego is a certainty

10a    Me poking fun at myself about wet appearance (5)
MOIRE: A facetious form of ‘me’ + ‘about’ = a fabric with a watered apearance

11a    Seductive woman quietly written off? It should be mulled over (6)
MANTRA: Remove P (quietly) from a woman who takes a mischievous pleasure in attracting and acquiring men. This gives a sacred text

12a    French revolutionary finding love in the long run (8)
MARATHON: The surname of a noted character of the French Revolution + a term of endearment (like love)

13a    Inconclusive accolade for guard which should be rubbed in (6)
DUBBIN: Remove the last letter from the accolade of conferring knighthood. This gives something for softening leather which I used on my hiking boots and football boots long ago

15a    Shop worker offering service to pets in Douglas? (8)
RETAILER: Cats from the Isle of Man are missing a certain part of their anatomy. This word could be applied to someone who replaces the missing part

18a    Trotter’s transport? (8)
HORSEBOX: A cryptic definition for a vehicle that carries an animal that trots

19a    Retro prog rocker perhaps getting to grips with small piano to play this? (6)
POSSUM: A reversal (retro) of a pop musician who concentrates excessively on technical details round (getting to grips with) S (small) + P (piano). The answer is a word that follows “to play” to give a phrase meaning ‘to feign sleep, etc.’

21a    Bumpy rustic bus route (8)
TUBEROUS: An anagram (rustic) of BUS ROUTE

23a    Help at 10 down (6)
ATTEND: AT + 10 + D (down)

26a    Group of Ten together frequently (5)

27a    Small core? Not exactly! (3,6)
ALL COMERS: An anagram (not exactly) of SMALL CORE

28a    They pray corruptly to frame detectives with one internal complaint (12)
HYPERACIDITY: An anagram (corruptly) of THEY PRAY round ‘detectives’ + I (one)


1d    Like OTT actor, hollow-eyed and red-faced (7)
ASHAMED: ‘Like’ + an OTT actor + the first and last letters of EyeD

2d    Unforetold end catching veteran (5)
OLDEN: Hidden in unforetOLD ENd

3d    Crudely darn beige twill (9)
GABERDINE: An anagram (crudely) of DARN BEIGE

4d    Time champagne is uncorked from which bouquet may emanate (4)
TRUG: I don’t know if I’ve got this one right or not but I can’t think of anything better. T (time) + something one is intoxicated by or craves for (e.g. champagne) with the first letter removed (uncorked). The answer is a shallow wooden basket that can be used for carrying flowers

5d    Is it bound to be read if inscribed? (8)
ENDPAPER: A cryptic definition for a leaf pasted to the binding at the beginning or end of a book

6d    Mark / something spotted in the garden? (5)
COMMA: 2 meanings: a punctuation mark/a type of butterfly

7d    Parsons maybe going commando, we’re told (8)
NICHOLAS: The first name of Mr Parsons who presents Just A Minute is a homophone of ‘going commando’

8d    Note enzyme on the rise (6)
TENNER: A bank note is a reversal of a complex of enzymes used to curdle milk

14d    Dab swimming in confinement where dippers dip? (8)
BIRDBATH: An anagram (swimming) of DAB inside ‘confinement’. The dippers are of the feathered variety though I doubt that they often take a dip in one of these

16d    Fishguard road on traffic news? Or one with greater reason (1,8)
A FORTIORI: A homophone (on traffic news) of the designation of the major trunk road linking London and Fishguard + OR + I (one)

17d    Rabble‘s coup plea worked (8)
POPULACE: An anagram (worked) of COUP PLEA

18d    Vacant teenager found in criminal’s souped-up car (3,3)
HOT ROD: The first and last letters of TeenageR inside a criminal

20d    Approach dirty place in reserve (7)
MODESTY: An approach (way of dealing with) + a dirty place

22d    Long-limbed and raw-boned, raced extremely gauchely (5)
RANGY: ‘Raced’ + the first and last letters of GauchilY

24d    In Spain, the old record company will produce looked-up-to Philippines native (5)
ELEMI: The Spanish word for ‘the’ + a former record company = a tree native to the Philippines from which a resin is obtained

25d    Jumper setter’s not keen to have on? (4)
FLEA: A cryptic definition for an insect that jumps that a setter (dog or person) wouldn’t be keen to have on them

The slightly mad hat strikes again.

For those of you who don’t get the printed version, the following was added in a small box under the puzzle (thanks to Crypticsue for passing this on):

“Today’s Toughie was set by John Pidgeon, aka Petitjean, who died on July 19, aged 69.   John’s obituary, which can be read at, remembers a man of many talents, not least of which was his witty and original crossword setting.”


22 comments on “Toughie 1650

  1. Lovely to have another ‘wearing’ of the slightly mad hat. I found this easier to get on with than the inside back pager and I’d give it 3*/4* with my two top ‘clues I smiled at’ being 15a and 14d

  2. PJ’s swansong, and one of his “slightly mad hat” best. Full of witty and original clues as the Editor notes in the paper. It was also significantly tougher [for me] than usual, particularly the top half.

    Standout clues were 10a [me poking fun…] 19a [a signature PJ clue] 27a [beautifully done] 7d [groanworthy but I love it] 16d [Fishguard road] and, pick of the bunch 15a.

    A fitting tribute to a true original.

    Thanks for the blog Bufo but in 4d think Krug with the top off!

  3. A bittersweet joy today – PJ lives on through his crosswords (and everything else he’s done)

    My last one in and favourite was 7d – I didn’t see Parsons (I kept thinking why plural?) until after.

    Plenty that confused me: confinement in 14, champagne in 4d – I found a drug called pink champagne.

    I liked 16d, 15a and 19a and many more

    Very nice – many thanks PJ, I was hoping there might be a few more lying around – but I didn’t see the paper version with editor’s comment

    and thank you Bufo

  4. It was good to get a reminder of Petitjean’s idiosyncratic style – I hope that’s he’s left us a few more puzzles behind. Thanks to Bufo for the write-up – I agree that some of the clues were blindingly obvious (I didn’t write the answer to 23a in for some time since it seemed too simple).
    I think that the champagne to be uncorked in 4d is Krug.

  5. Think 4d refers to decorking a bottle from a (very) expensive champagne house K***.
    Thanks for hints: 18d was impossible for me even after the explanation: 5d almost but very enjoyable for the most part.

  6. A propos 9a Bufo – I think that what PJ may be getting at is that Dr Jekyll has Mr Hyde bound up with his own self. Intractable is the def as you indicate.

    1. Interesting – I read it as Dr Jeckyl’s situation is that he’s bound to be Hyde sometimes (homophone of answer) – which (I think?) is what Bufo said – either way is interesting

      I did try and turn this into an extended definition somehow but I don’t think that works, I agree the answer is nicely defined by intractable.

      1. I thought it meant that Jekyll was inescapably tied/bound to Hyde, in that they were the same person. I suppose that, sadly, we’ll never know what Petitjean intended.

  7. I found it very tough indeed in places, but managed to sort out all the answers except for 4D. I couldn’t parse 16D, though, and had to look up 24D to verify it. My favorites are 9A, 10A, 15A, and 7D. Thanks to Bufo for the review.

    I never rate the puzzles for enjoyment or difficulty, but today I’m giving ***** to the wonderful Petitjean for all the pleasure he’s given us.

  8. So farewell Petitjean,a lovely swan song. I liked the Radio 4 reference in 7 dn,very fitting given John Pidgeon’s many contributions to comedy. He was a terrific boss to all of us who worked under him,it was only after reading his obituary that I realised he was also one of my favourite toughie setters.RIP.

  9. Got the west side and a spattering of the others, but the rest was a bit beyond me to be honest.
    Educational and fascinating all the same.
    Thank You.

  10. This was a lovely puzzle. Since finishing it I’ve struggled with the inside back page which I needed hints to finish. What a pity there will be no more puzzles by this far more amusing mad hatter!

  11. Came to grief on a couple of bits of parsing – didn’t know the pop musician and am ashamed to admit that I didn’t know the meaning of 16d. Needed to look-up 24d but I guess the same would have been true for several other solvers.
    If I could add a third bit of definition to 6d – the Comma butterfly is also quite ‘spotted’ in appearance.

    Pick of the bunch for me were 15a & 7d.
    Like Chris, whilst I don’t attempt to give ratings to puzzles, PJ gets 5* every time for his ‘mad hat’ style of setting – always much enjoyed.
    I do hope that, as Gazza commented, there may be a few more legacies to come from the pen of Mr. Pidgeon.

    1. My apologies, Bufo – I neglected to thank you for the much needed help with parsing!

  12. Pretty much agree with Bufo’s comments. Some easy ones eg 1ac, 1d, 3d,21 ac, 28 ac but some that took me ages eg 10ac, 18ac.
    Also agree that 15 ac was splendid!

    I’m doing too well this week -must be due my come-uppance. Now there’s a word just begging to be in a crossword!


  13. When we printed this one the setter was not named on the website. We had barely started the solve when visitors arrived and we put it aside. By the time we got back to it, the website had been updated so we were able to appreciate the significance of this wonderful puzzle. For 16d we got the answer from the definition and checkers but did not have the GK to make sense of the wordplay. As we were working through it we remembered back to how much pleasure we have had from John’s puzzles over the last couple of years. We will truly miss them. It felt really good to be able to say goodbye by working on the puzzle in this way. Thanks to the DT for publishing it, Petitjean for this and all his other puzzles and Bufo for the review.

  14. I completely agree with Bufo’s comment that this was a mix of very simple and very tricky clues. So definitely a mad hat special for his last offering.

    Quite a few unfamiliar words in this so I found it pretty difficult to finish

    Thanks to setter and Bufo

  15. Bittersweet sums this one up. There were certainly some very tricky bits and I needed to employ various cheats along the way and still consult Bufo at the end of it for some clarification.

    A handful of favourites are 10a, 11a, 15a, 7d and 14d. A bonus pic for that last:

    I’m grateful to PJ for all the fun. Thanks to Bufo for the review and to the commenters for the Krug.

  16. A bit of a struggle, but I expected no less. 3/4* difficulty and about the same for satisfaction. I hadn’t come across 10a, so 8d eluded me until I drew on the hint above. Quite a few top clue contenders, but 20d was my favourite. Thanks, PJ, for this and all your puzzles. And thanks to Bufo for helping me across the finishing line.

  17. In France we have a famous song with lyrics saying: “il y a du Mister Hyde en moi”
    So no problem with that one.
    Didn’t get the Trug in 4d, the Tenner in 8d nor the Possum in 19a.
    Agree that 23a and 26a were a bit of a free gift
    It was a pleasure to tackle one of the last crossword from PJ.
    Thanks also to Bufo for helping me get the last clues.

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