Toughie 1664

Toughie 1664 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Kitty

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***


Hi everybody, and welcome to the Kittyland menagerie, where Auntie Kitty is 21a.  I bemoan the lack of a collective term for nieces and nephews; my favourite so far is “sibsprogs.” Or perhaps “sibspawn.”  I love them really!

A mixed bag from Excalibur today, with plenty to like.  I think the grid made things much harder than they would otherwise have been: eight double unches and four sections with only two connections to the centre.  No fewer than 14 four-letter words – and, lacking sleep as I am, I may have been tempted to utter a few four-letter words myself.

The definitions are underlined in the clues below, and you’ll find the answers inside the 01100001 01001110 01010011 01010111 01100101 01010010 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    Lead errant fathers to turn over a new leaf (5,6)
START AFRESH: The player of a chief role (or the role itself) followed by an anagram (errant) of FATHERS

9a    What ‘Put a sock in it’ means? Rubbish! (4)
TOSH: Split the answer (2,2) to describe what I would like the monkeys and elephants to do while I write this.  (Actually, they’ve been brilliant today, but why let the facts get in the way of a good moan?)

10a    It may involve the amputation of limbs (4,7)
TREE SURGERY: These limbs are (hopefully) not of people: rather they are boughs.  My brother does this – at very reasonable prices! – and we pray that boughs are indeed the only type of limb that will be amputated.  Many thanks to my nephew for supplying this picture of his dad in action

11a    TipHeyday‘ (4)
PEAK: A double definition if you ignore the quotation marks: top or pinnacle

14a    Shamefaced, formerly admitted having spilled the beans (7)
RELATED: Our usual crossword term for embarrassed with a word for formerly inserted (admitted)

16a    Picks out for union potential  strikers (7)
MATCHES: The first meaning of the answer is selects a possible romantic flame.  The strikers use friction to kick start a chemical reaction which creates a hotter type of flame

18a    Yorkshire city gravestone might have it (5)
RIPON: Split this Harrogate city (3,2): a gravestone might have *** ** it

19a    Fools such as these, embracing sin, could result in deep thoughts (4)
MUGS: If the answer, meaning idiots, is put around (embracing) SIN, the word formed means reflections or ponderings

20a    ‘That ain’t no lady’? Bad English (4)
MALE: A prefix meaning bad or wrong followed by an abbreviation for English

21a    Irritable  with pests (5)
RATTY: This word meaning tetchy or irritable can also mean infested with rodents.  Pests is one of my favourite terms of endearment (yes, really!) for the sibsprogs, and I have already shared this clue with them



23a    Able to hold a dangerous object? (7)
CLEAVER: Able or bright, containing A

24a    Writing with broken heart about pet (7)
HAMSTER: A two letter abbreviation for some writing has an anagram (broken) of HEART around it

25a    As well as hole left to fill (4)
ALSO: AS from the clue, a hole-shaped letter and L(eft) inside (to fill)

30a    Isn’t, for instance, to do with drawing (11)
CONTRACTION: Isn’t is one of these, grammatically speaking.  To do with drawing in

31a    My penny or pound (4)
COOP: My! here isn’t cor! for once, but a similar expression of surprise which I think may be unfamiliar to non-Brits.  Add an abbreviation for penny to get an enclosure for animals, usually chickens

32a    Tired out chaps returning belatedly, mostly – it’s bad (11)
DETRIMENTAL: An anagram (out) of TIRED, then some guys, and then the reversal (returning) of all but the final letter of a word meaning overdue



2d    Removed forcibly by wind, without further ado (4)
TORN: Remove the “ado” from the end of a strong whirlwind


3d    Is sorry to announce hoax (4)
RUES: Regrets sounds like a trick or artifice

4d    Apart from star, dear, twinkling outside (7)
ASUNDER: Our nearest star with an anagram (twinkling) of DEAR around it.  The answer is often preceded by 2d

5d    Fashion of mid-Edwardian era (4)
RAGE: The middle letter of Edwardian and then an era or epoch

6d    Clumsily rib Irishman about being a foreigner (7)
SERBIAN: An anagram (clumsily) of RIB with an Irish masculine name around it

7d    Hence this crossword compiler makes certain (4)
SOME: Hence or therefore and the personal pronoun which would be used by the setter to indicate herself.  One of the definitions of the answer is “(a) certain unknown or unspecified”

8d    Will providing us with a rich inheritance (11)
SHAKESPEARE: A famous Will from history who leaves behind a substantial literary legacy.  A nice use of the proper noun put at the beginning of the sentence to disguise its meaning

12d    Straight away, how one knew dog had fleas (4,7)
FROM SCRATCH: One might infer that a dog is flea-ridden by reason of its rubbing itself with its paws



13d    Losing a friend with fever and disease (6)
PLAGUE: Drop the A from a chum and add a word for fever to get a horrible disease, which may be the result of being 21a

15d    And I engineered run on foreign currency (5)
DINAR: An anagram (engineered) of AND I followed by r(un)

16d    Say something dumb (5)
MOUTH: Go through the motions of saying something without making a sound

17d    They beat Republican in eliminating contests (6)
HEARTS: These are organs of the body which beat: poke a R(epublican) into the earlier stages of a competition

21d    Scold for always turning round (7)
REPROVE: The reversal (turning) of a word meaning always outside (round) a preposition meaning for

22d    Some feet and limb that one finds in marina (7)
YARDARM: A triplet of feet and then a member found higher up the body

26d    Prevent trophies being lifted (4)
STOP: The reversal (being lifted, in a down clue) of trophies or cups (informally)

27d    Excitement as it’s heading towards north side (4)
STIR: Again, we transpose a word: IT’S from the clue (heading towards north).  Next we add an abbreviation for a side

28d    Cracked up in shock (4)
STUN: The third upward-bound one in a row.  Cracked in the sense of crazy or bananas

29d    With ‘goodbye’ over, I dropped drink (4)
SODA: Turn a goodbye of Spanish origin around (yep, we’re upside-down again) and drop the I


Adios amigos!  Thanks to Excalibur.  In a clustery-type crossword, it’s fitting that my picks should all be bunched together: I liked 16a to 21a inclusive.  Which bits stirred you?


  1. beery hiker
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I agree that this was a little tricky in places, though in retrospect I’m not sure why. Last in was 31a mostly because it took me a while to convince myself there wasn’t a better alternative.

    Thanks to Kitty and Excalibur

  2. happy days
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Witty as ever. Can’t think of a better way to spend a coffee break than with Excalibur. I particularly liked the 10a amputation clue, as well as the other seemingly ghoulish 22d “Some feet and limb”. I thought 2d “without further ado” and 16d “Say something dumb” very clever Thanks Excalibur and sleep well tonight, Kitty

    • Posted August 30, 2016 at 8:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

      You’ve reminded me that 2d was another I really liked. My favourites list was compiled in something of a hurry as I was running out of time.

      Yes – quite a few of the clues were rather dark today.

  3. Jeroboam
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I always enjoy Excalibur’s puzzles and this was no different. It’s not that any clue in particular stands out but just that I like the way the setter’s mind works. The problem comes when you can’t get yours to work the same way but luckily that didn’t happen to me today. Thanks Excalibur and Kitty (I have two nieces who are now in their late teens so they have gone from one extreme to another. i.e. from talking nineteen to the dozen to monosyllabic communication brought about by smartphone addiction).

  4. Expat Chris
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oh, well. I interpreted the definition for 3D as hoax so I had ruse as my answer. That led to arms being my first word for 10A so I fell right into the trap. I also had Dame for 20A since a dame ain’t no lady over here. I did rather like 18A, 8D and 16D. Thanks Excalibur and Kitty.

    • Kath
      Posted August 30, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I had dame as well.

  5. Jane
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Have to say there were a few of the 4-letter ones I wasn’t too keen on e.g. 9&20a and I wasn’t overly convinced by the definition at 12d, but most of this was very enjoyable.
    Top two for me were 18a & 8d.

    Thanks to Excalibur and to our Girl Tuesday – loved the cartoons but they seem to have disappeared now!

    • Posted August 30, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Jane – do you mean the cartoons under the big spoiler boxes? When a picture includes the answer or otherwise gives too much away, I’ve taken to doing that. But if that means people might not see them at all, I might have to rethink.

      • Jane
        Posted August 30, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Don’t worry, Kitty – they came back after a few minutes!
        I’ve got a feeling the problem’s at this end – my Internet Explorer isn’t at all happy with the site.

  6. jean-luc cheval
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My thoughts exactly regarding the number of 4 letter words.
    Over a third of the grid in fact but I leave the maths to MP if he’s looking.
    Last one in was the bard in 8d which didn’t satisfy me at all.
    Thought that 30a was brilliant.
    Liked the “some feet” in 22d.
    Thanks to Excalibur and to Kitty.

  7. halcyon
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I often find Excalibur difficult but today’s, after a while getting into her head, fell into place very satisfyingly. Yoda speak refreshingly absent and some nicely constructed and quite fiendish clues. Favourites were 9a [much head scratching here] 30a [v. clever, I loved “to do with”] and 13d [losing a friend – very Excalibur!].

    Thanks to both setter and blogger for the fun.

  8. Nairnsue
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This rolled along quite merrily, although I would have needed a lunch-hour rather than a coffee break in which to do it. Favourite clue, and one of the last to dawn, 8d. Also liked 19 and 30a. Taken with the back page, a most satisfying crossword day. Thanks to all concerned.

  9. crypticsue
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Elkamere tomorrow

    • ShropshireLad
      Posted August 30, 2016 at 10:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

      On a Wednesday? Who are we going to have on Friday?

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted August 31, 2016 at 12:32 am | Permalink | Reply

      short and concise clues…. very promising.

  10. Kath
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I loved it – so many made me laugh which is always what makes for a great crossword, to me anyway.
    I wasn’t too sure about the definition in 12d – the answer doesn’t quite mean straight away or immediately to me but I’m so often wrong about this kind of stuff – whatever, it made me laugh.
    My answer for 20a was wrong (but fitted the checkers and made sense to me) and 19a which was right but for the wrong reasons.
    The others that I thought were great, i.e. made me laugh were 9a, 18a and 21a (however much I hate them).
    24a made me cry – the clue not the answer.
    31a reminded me of the Two Ronnies crossword sketch.
    With thanks to Excalibur and thanks too and well done again to Kitty.

  11. 2Kiwis
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We think that Kitty should be paid extra for the hints for this one. She had 34 of them to write while SL on the other side only had 26 to deal with. We found that the big number of four letter answers, many of them with first letters unchecked, had quite an influence on our solving time which was longer than we often spend on a Tuesday. That sounds a bit like a complaint but it wasn’t meant to be. We did enjoy the solve with lots of clever wordplay to unpick, often to justify a possible answer.
    Thanks Excalibur and Kitty.

    • Posted August 30, 2016 at 8:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It’s ok, Kiwis. I’ve just multiplied the amount that SL was paid by the necessary 131% and have indeed arrived at the amount I received. So all’s fair.

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted August 30, 2016 at 8:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

        That’s very pleasing to hear Kitty. We will stop making plans for how we could divert some of our payment for the blog we will be working on in a few hours into your account then. :smile:

      • ShropshireLad
        Posted August 30, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Yes – I agree that I had the easier solve by having less clues to review. But I have one point to raise – you get paid for doing your blogs?? Nobody told me you get paid for reviewing. What’s the going rate and how much have you all earned over the last 12 months? I’m gutted and will be having serious words with BD when next we meet :whistle:

        • 2Kiwis
          Posted August 30, 2016 at 11:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

          SL If you multiply what you got paid by 131% you get exactly what Kitty got paid which is coincidentally what we and all the other bloggers get paid. BD who puts in thousands of hours of highly skilled expertise to keep the whole thing up and running also receives exactly the same payment.

          • ShropshireLad
            Posted August 30, 2016 at 11:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Hi 2K’s – please tell me you got the irony of my comment.

  12. Salty Dog
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 9:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This took me just into 3* time, perhaps because of the plethora of 4-letter clues (with which I have no problem at all). My last in, after considerable brain-cudgelling, was 8d and its eventual solution was accompanied by a resounding “D’oh!!”. Others I particularly enjoyed were 18a, 24a, 4d and 13d. All in all, great fun, for which many thanks to Excalibur. Thanks to Kitty for the review, too.

  13. ShropshireLad
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 9:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I did enjoy it but it wasn’t up there with her best puzzles. I think that the abundance of 4 letter solutions made it more of a grind than bringing a smile to my face. Having said all that I did like the central ‘cluster’ part of the puzzle and the longer clues which were well set out and made me smile. I’m torn between 9 & 10a and 8d as my favourites so I’ll put them on the podium in no particular order.

    Thanks to Excalibur for the enjoyment and to Kitty for a first class review. Although I was a bit taken aback by the picture for 16d – scary.

  14. hoofityoudonkey
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for a lovely review, Kitty.

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