Toughie 1661

Toughie No 1661 by Dada

Aussie Rules

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

There are some good laughs here and I enjoyed it a lot. I only had two hold-ups – a) I didn’t know the 19a word but with three checking letters it became obvious, and b) I was reluctant to write in the 4d author because for some reason I thought his name was ten rather than nine letters long – a quick Google revealed my mistake. Thanks to Dada for the enjoyment.

Please leave a comment telling us how you fared and what you thought of it.

Across Clues

1a British gong collected by US subject — that’s tragic! (7)
MACBETH – a US school subject (one letter shorter than the word we use) contains a gong of the sort recently handed out by our outgoing PM to lots of his cronies.

5a Part of a plane that’s mine put on tip (7)
COCKPIT – append a coalmine to a verb to tip or tilt.

9a Genteel setting where Aussie boxer punches fellow combatants (3,4)
TEA ROOM – the short form of an Australian native pugilist goes inside a group of fellow players.
boxing roo

10a Graduate pocketing noble cut as cafe worker (7)
BARISTA – an arts graduate contains an informal term for a noble without his final O.

11a Tree complete with pole, if not fencing? (9)
BUTTERNUT – an adjective meaning complete or total and a geographic pole are contained inside a conjunction meaning ‘if not’ or ‘except that’.

12a Man down under put on game (5)
SPORT – triple definition, the first the way a man may be addressed in the Antipodes (not Bruce!) and the second a verb to wear.

13a Where life is known to exist, it’s terminal (5)
EARTH – double definition, the second an electrical connection.

15a Defined by layabout, earning big money for starters, online designer (9)
WEBMASTER – the starting letters of three words in the clue are contained inside a layabout or slacker.

17a Representation showing some light passing through door (9)
PORTRAYAL – a beam of light goes inside a door or gateway.

19a Cupid links stroke with love (5)
PUTTO – this is the representation of a naked child in Renaissance art (new to me). It’s a charade of a stroke on the green and the letter that resembles love.

22a Course it’s stuff and nonsense, ultimately (5)
ROUTE – start with a verb to defeat overwhelmingly (stuff) and add the ultimate letter of nonsense.

23a I suspect it’s designed to cover astronauts, primarily? (9)
SPACESUIT – an all-in-one clue. An anagram (it’s designed) of I SUSPECT contains the primary letter of astronauts.

25a Synthetic fibre — the other clothes soft also (7)
SPANDEX – a word for which ‘the other’ is an informal humorous euphemism contains the abbreviation for soft together with a conjunction meaning also.

26a What one should do with a plan announced to get the axe (7)
HATCHET – split the answer 5,2 and it sounds like what one should do to come up with a plan.

27a Put pressure on to protect British nation (7)
LEBANON – a phrasal verb meaning to pressurise (4,2) contains an abbreviation for British.

28a Training establishment sure to manage after cutback, investor finally being brought in (7)
NURSERY – join together a response meaning ‘sure’ or ok and a verb to manage, then reverse all that and insert the final letter of investor.

Down Clues

1d Cross nurses flap, being volatile (7)
MUTABLE – a cross or hybrid contains a flap or tag. Nice surface.

2d Vesselone under a pint, perhaps? (7)
COASTER – double definition, the second what may be used to protect the surface of a table.

3d Royal composition is rot! (5)
ERODE – with a leap of imagination splitting the answer 2,3 may give us a literary work by her Majesty.

4d Writer requiring pen and good technique (9)
HEMINGWAY – string together a phrasal verb (3,2) to pen or enclose, the abbreviation for good and a technique or manner. I delayed writing the answer in because I’d got it into my head that the writer’s name contained a double letter.

5d Measure once shortened, divided by two (5)
CUBIT – a past participle meaning shortened or reduced with a prefix meaning two inside it.

6d One on the fiddle suits stringed instrument (4-5)
CARD-SHARP – charade of what contain four suits and a stringed instrument.

7d Entry document dismissed, as faint (4,3)
PASS OUT – a document to allow entry is followed by ‘dismissed’ (in cricket).

8d Little to savour, fed nothing, one could make breakfast (7)
TOASTER – a small sample to try contains the letter that resembles nothing.

14d Office supporting uncrowned king in part of north London (9)
HARLESDEN – an office or study follows the name of two British 17th century kings without its first letter (uncrowned). One of these kings was literally uncrowned in that he lost his head.

16d Unadorned feature beneath a cloth canopy (9)
BALDACHIN – string together an adjective meaning unadorned or stark, A and a facial feature.

17d Friend, penning her vacuous article, succeeded in a few words (7)
PHRASAL – a friend contains the outer letters (vacuous) of H[e]R, an indefinite article and the abbreviation for succeeded.

18d Nonsense beginning in rough pub in the centre (7)
RHUBARB – start with the initial letter of rough then insert another word for pub into a centre or core.

20d This water tester I’m disgusted one has broken (7)
TOUGHIE – what one may dip in to test the water contains an expression of disgust and the Roman numeral for one.

21d Touts unfortunately always hang around too long (7)
OUTSTAY – an anagram (unfortunately) of TOUTS followed by a Scottish adverb meaning always.

23d Old German instrument working (5)
SAXON – an informal word for a wind instrument followed by an adverb meaning working or operational.

24d Apple tree surprisingly bearing first of apples! (5)
EATER – an anagram (surprisingly) of TREE containing the first letter of apples.

Lots to enjoy – I’ll list 9a, 1d, 3d and 20d but my favourite is 25a. Which one(s) exercised your chuckle muscles?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The little cupids in 19a have been in other crosswords this week, and I knew them before that, so no problems with 19a for me.

    Thanks to Dada for an enjoyable toughie – 3*/4* for me too

    Thanks to Gazza – my top favourite is 25a too, although the “water tester” in 20d nearly made it into top spot.

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I do love a Dada.
    Getting quite used to his style as I never miss his alter ego in the guardian.
    Getting 4d, 15a and 16d straight away opened up the grid and had to use the BRB once for the cherub in 19a.
    So nice to see a triple def in 12a and top clues are 23a and 20d for my part.
    Thanks to Dada for the super fun and to Gazza for the review.

    • pommers
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

      If you like John Halpern’s puzzles (as I do) he also sets fairly regularly in the FT using the pseudonym MUDD.

      • jean-luc cheval
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Sometimes I wish I had the time to tackle them all. I try the Indy every now and then as I like Knut Alchemi, Hoskins and several others but I have a full time job.
        I should retire in fifteen years time.
        Hope they will still be around.

        • pommers
          Posted August 24, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

          John Halpern is PUNK in the Indy.

  3. Expat Chris
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I enjoyed this too, though I struggled in places. I didn’t know 14D. I checked Google for North London areas and nothing that fitted came up. I needed the hint to parse 1D. 15A, 26A and 20D get my podium places. Thanks Dada and Gazza.

  4. Worworcrossol
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I am trying to teach myself to do toughies, so I welcome the blog and I am always learning, I enjoyed the crossword as always very well clued in my opinion.

    • Gazza
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Welcome to the blog, Worworcrossol.

  5. halcyon
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Very enjoyable, that’s two in a row! My only criticism is “after cutback” as a reversal [rather than end deletion] indicator in 28a. Three favourites in a row at 22/23/25a.

    Thanks to Dada and to Gazza for the blog.

  6. Jane
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Certainly a lot of fun and I’d go along with Gazza’s podium list apart from giving the gold to 9a.
    Two new words for me in 19a & 16d – needed to investigate the pronunciation of the latter.
    Took a while to understand why ‘Harpenden’ didn’t parse……….

    I’m another who expected the author’s name to have ten letters – just goes to show that you invariably see what you expect to see.
    Think I’m rather surprised that Gazza didn’t grimace over the not-quite homophone in 26a!

    Thanks to Dada and also to our shining knight.

    • Gazza
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Harpenden is near St. Albans, not in London. I only know that because I’ve worked for a short period in both places.
      I don’t mind today’s homophone – my main gripe with homophones is that many setters believe that nobody pronounces the letter R at or near the end of words.

      • Jane
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Sorry, Gazza – I guess to us northerners somewhere 25 miles north of London counts as being North London! However, I’ve just looked into the furore that broke out when Boris tried to merge it into the capital.
        As for the homophone – I can’t believe that you would pronounce it with ‘it’ at the end. If so, I’ll have to give your shining armour a quick polish!

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

      My first guess for 14d was Haringdon.
      Apart from the headless (k)ing, the rest of the parsing was definitely not suitable.

      • LetterboxRoy
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I bunged in Hampstead first, thinking ‘king’ was ‘champ’ and a ‘stead’ might be an archaic word for a base/office as in ‘homestead’. 17a soon sorted that one out. If I’m going potty, someone will tell me, won’t they?

        • Jane
          Posted August 24, 2016 at 6:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I rather like your thinking, LbR, but that is coming from the woman who thought of ‘a tit’ instead of ‘at it’ recently!!!

        • LetterboxRoy
          Posted August 24, 2016 at 8:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Inventive minds are a blessing, you can laugh at so much more…

      • LetterboxRoy
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Oh, I see. Just taken the ‘ing’ out… no wonder you had problems making sense of that!! :wacko:

      • Posted August 25, 2016 at 12:27 am | Permalink | Reply


  7. JB
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I,too, was beaten by 14d and finished with Harpenden. Took ages trying, like Jean-luc, to fit in a headless (k)ing.the word play of 15a beat me too. I guessed right but did not know why.
    This was a fun puzzle. 2d made me giggle.
    Thank you Dada and Aussie rules. You must have thought 9a and 12a were just for you!

    • Gazza
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I apologise if I’ve confused you with ‘Aussie Rules’. This is not a brand new blogger but just the subtitle I gave the puzzle because of the Australian flavour.

  8. LetterboxRoy
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good puzzle that took some getting to grips with, very enjoyable.

    I too thought 4d had a double letter in it; I also had ‘p’ & ‘n’ in 14d. Didn’t know 11a was a tree, nor the 16d canopy. We have a statue of Mr William 5d+t in the high street so it somehow sprung to mind.

    Particularly liked 1a, 15a, 23a & 26a. Thanks to Dada, Gazza, and all the rest of you that make the blog what it is.

    • bifield
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 6:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      11a is a type of walnut. Nothing to do with the squash. That had me fooled too.

      • LetterboxRoy
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Glad I wasn’t alone, thank you.

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    As Gazza says in his intro, “some good laughs here” and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We ended up by getting 14d wrong as our Google search only came up with Harpenden that we could not parse. We are prepared to forgive ourselves for not getting that one. 20a gets our vote for top clue. A definition that was well disguised right under our noses and wordplay that made us laugh out loud when we found the water tester.
    Thanks Dada and Gazza.

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 8:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      JLC’s #6 thought made me chuckle, several times. With you about 20d :smile:

  10. Gazza
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Firefly tomorrow.

  11. Sheffieldsy
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We too had Harpenden fitting with all the crossing letters but thankfully didn’t fill it in because we could not parse it. 19a and 16d were new words to us as was 11a as a tree. Liked 5d, 27a and 23a with 20d as a self-referential favourite.

    Found this harder than 3* but very enjoyable so 4*/4*.

    Thanks to Gazza and Dada.

  12. Kath
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 9:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    :phew: and blimey – that’s well and truly finished me off for the rest of the day – how lucky I am that there isn’t much of it left.
    I can’t do a difficulty rating for Toughies but if Gazza gave this one 3* then heaven preserve me from anything more.
    I loved it – lots to laugh at but I did find it really difficult and it’s taken me, on and off, most of the afternoon – too hot to do much else so why not?
    Now – where to start – actually too knackered to even try but, I did know how to spell 4d, I didn’t know 19a but once I stopped trying to make the ‘stroke’ a ‘pat’ I got there, and 14d, to me at least, are the squashes that are taking over most of my veggie patches rather than a tree. We live and learn!
    Lots of wonderful clues – I enjoyed all of them but to mention a few – 26a and 4d. My favourite was 20d – water tester indeed!
    Thanks to Dada for a wonderful crossword and to Gazza for his usual great hints.

  13. Wolfson Bear
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I found this a most enjoyable puzzle. I had never really thought much of Dada puzzles before but this was good fun.I found it a touch harder than I expected but would agree with 3* difficulty and 4* enjoyment.

    Thanks to Dada and Gazza

  14. Jeroboam
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 10:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Two new words for me at 19a and 16d. but the very concise wordplay allowed me to solve them without problem. Being doing the toughie since day 1 so it’s about time I dipped my toe in here and other places on this brilliant blog. I agree with Gazza’s rating for both difficulty and enjoyment.

    • Gazza
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 10:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Welcome to the blog, Jeroboam. Now that you’ve introduced yourself I hope that you’ll become a regular commenter.

      • Posted August 25, 2016 at 6:51 am | Permalink | Reply

        We’ll be seeing Jeroboam in next Monday’s Rookie Corner!

  15. Posted August 25, 2016 at 12:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    A joint effort with Mr Kitty. We very much liked this – which is in fact our favourite: 20d. There are lots of others nipping at its heels. The two less common words were new to us as well.

    Many thanks to Dada and Gazza. No need to tell you which illustration I liked best!

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