Toughie 1656 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1656

Toughie 1656 by Giovanni

Hints and tips by Kitty

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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


Warmest greetings all from warmest Surrey where many people are out enjoying the weather, and so too are a hoard of horrid flying bitey things.  Or maybe they have just all chosen me for their dinner.

I found this very tough.  Usually I prefer this setter in his gentler mode, but if I subtract the negativity which came from the reviewer’s fear, I think I actually enjoyed it much more than usual.  So I shall be liberal with stars on both counts, and you may merrily disagree with me in the comments if you have a different view!

The definitions are underlined in the clues below, and you’ll find the answers inside the I have no idea 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.



1a    Deficiency of blood sugar approaching danger level? That’s false (12)
HYPOCRITICAL: The (shortened version of the) condition of having an abnormally low blood sugar level followed by “at the point of disaster.”  False or insincere; two-faced

8a    One to show man embracing woman (5)
RODIN: We need a man’s name enveloping a woman’s name.  Both short forms, as may be guessed from the length of the clue, but checking letters might be required for help narrowing down the options.  The answer is a sculptor and artist, so one would exhibit him (i.e. his works).  Unless I’m missing something, I’m not sure whether the definition here is tight enough for complete satisfaction   The answer is the sculptor of the famous The Kiss, making the clue a nice all-in-one.  Thanks for the clarification CS and Gazza!

9a    Not half unwell in bed, is ill on account of drinks (9)
COCKTAILS: The second half of a word for unwell inside a bed and followed by “is ill”




11a    What’s very bad about substitute not quite able to play in any position? (9)
VERSATILE: Very bad or despicable around five of the six letters (not quite) of an adjective meaning substitute

12a    Soldier leading his colleagues in historic district (5)
MANOR: A trooper followed by a usual crosswordland collective of soldiers.  This is historically the district over which the court of the lord of the ***** had authority

13a    It’s problematical when article is wedged between back-to-back items of furniture (9)
DEBATABLE: The indefinite article is sandwiched (wedged) between two pieces of furniture, the first being reversed (back to back)

16a    Part protected by water barriers (5)
SEPTA: An abbreviation for part inside (protected by) a large expanse of water.  Partitions separating two chambers in the body

18a    One found guilty of fraud – how low can you get? (5)
NADIR: The lowest point.  Also the surname of the fraudster AsilThanks to Verlaine for identifying the person in question for me

19a    Article in case stuck in tree, not stiff (9)
LITHESOME: Another grammatical article, not the one in 13a, and “in case” all stuck inside a fruit tree

20a    Roman below – when given grant such becomes not at all sweet (5)
INFRA: Latin for below.  Appending grant to the end of this produces a word meaning malodorous

22a    Annoying ringing sound around compound (9)
PESTERING: A sharp ringing or whistling sound around a volatile chemical compound

25a    Acclaiming return of number one Liberal, I celebrate (9)
LIONISING: The reversal (return) of number (abbreviated), one (Roman numeral) and Liberal (abbreviated), after which we turn round the right way again and add the I from the clue and celebrate, perhaps from the rooftops

26a    Huge honour given to some that shouldn’t get honour (5)
OBESE: An honour and then the subtraction of a different honour from SOME (from the clue).  Rather an accurate surface these days

27a    There may be something in here that will have to be got off one’s chest (6,6)
BREAST POCKET: A cryptic definition of a pouch in which you might keep something close to your heart



1d    Foreign city hospital getting exposed in time after being built up (9)
HYDERABAD: The city is the capital of southern India’s Telangana state.  Start with H(ospital) and append a reversal (after being built up) of a five letter word for exposed inside a period of time (the one in which Rome was not built)

2d    With no hesitation indulge a beast of symbolic significance (5)
PANDA: Take a word for indulge or humour and remove from the end of it a two letter hesitation, then add the A from the clue.  The beast is the symbol of a well-known charity, significant for being a high-profile endangered species which prefers eating to breeding

  ARVE Error: need id and provider

3d    Plants needing minimal cold protected by man on island (5)
CACTI: The abbreviation for cold inside a jazz man, followed by the abbreviation for island





4d    Home building material – builder finally brought in a bit more (9)
INCREMENT: Our usual crossword home and a building material containing (brought in) the final letter of builder

5d    Swell cuties – men getting jittery (9)
INTUMESCE: An anagram (getting jittery) of CUTIES MEN.  I think I’ll refrain from illustrating this one …

6d    Strange story featured in a newspaper’s leader (5)
ALIEN: The story is an untruth and it sits between A from the clue and the first letter (leader) of newspaper

7d    It’s coming from above, using divine portal possibly? (12)
PROVIDENTIAL: An anagram (possibly) of DIVINE PORTAL

10d    Instruction for making a ledge taking up a lot of room? (6-6)
SPREAD-EAGLED: A neat reverse clue.  The first word of the answer is an instruction to make an anagram of the second; this process produces A LEDGE


14d    Surprisingly, artier mother embraces the ultimate unknown poetic style (5,4)
TERZA RIMA: This is an anagram of ARTIER followed by a term for mother.  Inside this goes a mathematical unknown – the final one, alphabetically speaking.  The poetic form is first known to be used by Dante in his Divine Comedy, which literally translates from the Italian as “third rhyme” and it’s a three-line stanza using chain rhyme in the pattern A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D:

Ode to the West Wind
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1820)


O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!


The rest can be found here

15d    Writer of song with no commercial value (9)
BALLPOINT: A love song minus the two letters at the end which are short for a commercial.  This is followed by use or purpose, as in “what’s the *****?”

17d    Quickly losing love, this person’s held to be important (9)
PROMINENT: Take a six letter word meaning quickly or at once and remove from the end of it love, or O.  (There is love at the heart of it too, but that is not lost.)  Then insert a pronoun the setter would use to indicate that something belongs to him

21d    Level of defeat (5)
FLOOR: A level of a building or a verb, to beat

23d    Indication to musicians to play last bit of the song (5)
SEGNO: From the Italian for signal, this is a musical marker usually indicating the beginning or end of a repeat, and is an anagram (to play) of the last letter of thE with SONG

24d    IT work (1-4)
E-BOOK: This work is a volume or publication in a digital format


Thanks to Giovanni for the tussle.  My three picks today are all in the middle of the downs: 5d, 10d and 15d.  Which did you think were swell?


21 comments on “Toughie 1656

  1. I found this tough and I did check whether it was ‘him or me’ and apparently I wasn’t alone in finding this tricky.

    My favourite is 8a, not least for the time it took me to see the extremely obvious – and I’ve seen the “man embracing woman” in the ‘marble’ so it really shouldn’t have taken me so long to solve. Kitty – I think what you are missing is the fact that the clue is an &Lit

    Thanks to Giovanni and Kitty too.

  2. I’m not sure whether it was due to over-Olympicating but I found this as tricky a Tuesday Toughie as I can remember (especially the bottom half). Thanks to Giovanni and Kitty for the usual entertaining blog.
    I read 8a as an all-in-one, relating to the answer’s “The Kiss” statue.

  3. I’m with Gazza on this. Bottom half was a real struggle. Typically Giovanni [obscurities and God] but I enjoyed 11a, 13a [the back-to-back furniture] 26a [how very apt] and 23d [where the whole clue might be the def – as in “dal segno”].

    Thanks to the Don and to Kitty for the blog [I think the def in 3d may be the 1st 3 words.]

    1. I originally underlined the first three words of 3d but then changed my mind as “plants needing minimal” didn’t quite feel right as a definition, and I reasoned that the “minimal” could refer to the abbreviation of cold and that “needing” would work as a link word. What do others think?

      1. I think that minimal refers to cold. Giovanni is fond of using, for example, ‘very short’ to mean V even though V is itself an abbreviation for very. So, I think that he’s using ‘minimal cold’ to mean C with ‘plants’ being the definition.

        1. I admit it works either way – but I bow to your knowledge of Giovanni’s verbosity and intentions Gazza!

      2. The online version didn’t include ‘jazz’ in the clue for 3d and I still took the definition to be PLANTS only.

    2. 3d. Yes, it does (just about) work both ways but I reckon K and G have got it right – minimal is a trigger to reduce cold down to C and “needing” is a link word to improve the surface and an instruction which you can expand to read “needing the following wordplay to get the answer”.

  4. Superb crossword and superb review.
    How you managed to find a picture of a kitten in a breast pocket is well beyond my abilities.
    New word for me was 5d and only managed to unravel the anagram once the checkers were in place and 1d was last to yield after a bit of research.
    Loved 8a and 10d.
    Thanks to Giovanni as I only started to understand yesterday’s comments. Never occurred to me that we were to start the toughie week with the Don.
    Thanks to Kitty for the sterling work.

  5. Can’t remember when we last had a ‘tough’ toughie on the start of the toughie week. This took a lot of head scratching as on the first pass I got one answer (26a). On a closer read through the light bulb went on and I got 1a – that gave me the toehold I needed and after a good length of time finally managed to complete it.

    I think I will go with 8a as my favourite of the day as it got me ‘thinking’.

    Thanks to Giovanni for the puzzle and to Kitty for her excellent review – rather you than me :whistle:

    1. I forgot to say that the SW corner was the last to fall as I just couldn’t get ‘flush’ out of my head. D’oh!

  6. Definitely one of those ‘why am I putting myself through this’ type of puzzles.

    Finally cracked the top half after a check to ensure that 5d is a ‘real’ word but the bottom half caused even more problems and I eventually had to refer to Kitty’s excellent hints for 20a & 14d. I didn’t realise that 20a is a stand-alone word and my miserable Latin dictionary only listed ‘inferius’ for below. At least I’d registered that Latin was required, so I gave myself half a mark.
    As for 14d – I’d got the anagram fodder lined up minus the ‘unknown’ but, if you haven’t got a clue about the ‘poetical style’ that still leaves seemingly endless permutations of letters.

    Delighted to have filled the grid and ticks along the way went to 4,10,15&17d.
    Thanks to Giovanni, respect to all those who completed this unaided – and much gratitude to our Tuesday Girl for being there in my moment of need. The illustrations were brilliant!

  7. Really enjoyed this one, much more than I was hoping for on a Tuesday. I started it while distracted (playing Pokemon Go at the same time, if you must know) but soon I realised full concentration would be needed and had to think myself into Giovanni’s shoes to make slow and steady progress. 8ac was actually my favourite I think, mainly because I thought of The Kiss at once!

  8. This was the hardest Tuesday puzzle I have seen so far, and my attempt to solve it in the second half of my lunch break failed with quite a lot of the bottom half empty. Got there in the end and enjoyed the challenge. 14d was the only unfamiliar solution.

    Thanks to Kitty and Giovanni

  9. I occasionally make the mistake of thinking I can handle crosswords. Days like today remind me of reality. On those days I am very grateful to this excellent blog.
    Thanks for a great and much needed review and thanks to the setter for a very clever and upon review, excellent puzzle.

  10. So we were not the only ones to find this a tough challenge. For 23d we did not know the correct answer and had put SEGUE in. This made 27a impossible and at that point, as we were running out of available time, we revealed a letter to get it sorted. And then kicked ourselves! The 18a fraudster was new to us too but we did get that one with Google assistance.
    Thanks Giovanni and Kitty.

  11. Didn’t like this one much, and I usually enjoy a tricky one.
    Sorry G and thanks Kitty – the review is more entertaining than the puzzle. ****/**

  12. I gave up with six to go…seven if you count my incorrect answer of balladist for 15D. I didn’t enjoy it. Much to dislike. There was no fun factor and way too much specialized knowledge.. Giovanni wearing his “cock a snoot at the plebes” hat. Thumbs down from me. Thanks Kitty.

  13. This took three sessions and a night’s sleep to finish and even then we needed Kitty’s hints for three or four. Very tough and reasonably enjoyable but, like Expat Chris, found there was too much esoteric knowledge required. 4*/2.5* as a result.

    10d was favourite clue.

    Thanks to Kitty for a great review and to Giovanni.

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