Toughie 1684 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1684

Toughie 1684 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Kitty

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***


Happy October, crossword chums.  I hope you are warm and dry.  I found this puzzle quite tricky and something of a curate’s egg, so will be interested to hear what you made of it.

The definitions are underlined in the clues below, and you’ll find the answers inside 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.



5a    Wet, spoils holiday – gutted (6)
MARSHY: Wet of land.  Spoils or impairs followed by the outer letters only (gutted) of holiday

8a    Hooligan rebuked is unlikely to brush it (8)
TEARAWAY: An unrepentant person is perhaps unlikely when scolded to brush a **** **** (the answer split (4,4) ).  I had a blind spot with parsing this one last night, but this morning looked at it with clear eyes

9a    Cold, irrational desire (7)
CRAVING: The abbreviation for cold plus irrational or deranged gives a strong desire or longing

10a    Mitty’s wife running off, leaving change (5)
ALTER: Take the first name of a famous literary fantasist from James Thurber’s short story and remove his w(ife).  Since Mr Mitty is mentioned in this song, it’s an opportunity to include something especially for the Ian Dury fans among us:


  ARVE Error: need id and provider


11a    Yellow, like tattered old book (9)
SPINELESS: Yellow as in cowardly or scaredy-cat.  A tattered old book may be this, but may not be, so I’d have preferred to see a question mark

13a    Ship bearing Queen’s flag (8)
STREAMER: This is a ship (the one useful in crosswordland because of its handy abbreviation) containing (bearing) an abbreviation for Queen

14a    Mum said twice it’s a missile (6)
DUMDUM: A homophone of speechless or silent repeated (said twice) is a soft-nosed expanding bullet

17a    Wood is fine as a frame (3)
OAK: Two letters meaning fine outside A from the clue (as a frame).  I’m not sure what type of tree features in this picture, but couldn’t resist

19a    Taking top off, start to write (3)
PEN: Removing the first letter of (taking top off) a verb meaning start or launch gives to commit to paper

20a    Run taken during long innings, showing fibre (6)
STRAND: The innings was new to me: it’s the partnership of any two batsmen at the wicket, the period of time of the partnership, or the runs made during it.  So now I know.  Stick the cricketing abbreviation for run inside that to get a fibre

23a    One keeps saying  it’s dangerous (8)
REPEATER: Two definitions: one who says something which they have said previously, or a firearm

26a    Well-bred. That’s the main attraction (3-6)
TOP-DRAWER: An adjective meaning of the highest level, especially of society.  If you are stuck, as I was initially, to see the second part of the wordplay the attraction is the first four letters of the second word, so with the first word meaning main, the answer reads as the chief one who attracts

  ARVE Error: need id and provider


28a    Hoaxing with smart animal traps (5)
DOING: Smart or fashionable, which an animal that is not a cat surrounds (traps)

29a    Off-colour wine’s imbibed – it requires little effort to get up (7)
HILLOCK: Unwell inside some German wine (wine (ha)s imbibed)

30a    Blue fuzz having given way to feathers? (8)
DOWNCAST: Split (4,4) the answer could mean that soft fluff has been shed, perhaps to be replaced with plumage


  ARVE Error: need id and provider


31a    Stopped and inspected, inserting key (6)
CEASED: Inspected, as a shady character might do to a joint, with a musical key inserted



1d    Speaks, when he and I have left, about their homeless (6)
STRAYS: A word meaning speaks, around (about) the letters remaining in t he i r, after he and I have been removed (when he and I have left).  There are some grammatical contortions required, and I can’t quite make this work for me with “about” preceding “their”

2d    By introducing odd treat, it makes poultry grow faster (7)
BATTERY: BY from the clue including (introducing) an anagram (odd) of treat.  I’d take issue with the definition (high density of production is not the same as high speed of same) but I don’t want to think about the horrible practice.  Instead I shall just illustrate the surface

3d    Came to their senses in time to quash terrible war (3,6)
SAW REASON: The time we need is a part of the year.  Not a month, but somewhat longer.  Inside this (to quash) is an anagram (terrible) of WAR

4d    Farewell (one’s going in to get bag) (6)
VALISE: An old word for farewell (vale), which I have only met before in crosswords, with the Roman numeral one and the ‘s from the clue inside (going in)

5d    Rain pouring through caused to get saturated (8)
MARINADE: Put an anagram (pouring) of RAIN inside (through) caused or brought about.  Get saturated with something saucy ready to get heated

6d    Not a show to enjoy (5)
REVEL: Show or disclose without A (not a)

7d    Gives loud cry, lifting hearts and going in (5,3)
HANDS OUT: A loud cry or yell with the abbreviation for hearts brought to the front (lifted, in a down clue) and the AND from the clue inserted (going in)

12d    Characters not even attending party act curiously (3)
PRY: The odd letters (not even attending, i.e. the even letters aren’t present) of party

15d    Awfully red on being found in nude, unexpectedly in raw! (9)
UNDERDONE: The jumbled letters (awfully) of RED, then ON all inside an anagram (unexpectedly) of NUDE

16d    Never could have I meant, fooling about, to upset heart (2,2,4)
AT NO TIME: An anagram (fooling about) of I MEANT containing the reversal (upset) of TO (which is its heart)

18d    Lent is early (8)
ADVANCED: A double definition: loaned and ahead of its time

21d    Why one’s mad to be single again? (3)
IRE: Bring together the letter denoting one (single) with a prefix meaning again

22d    I lost a staggering figure – that’s accepted, uncomplaining (7)
STOICAL: An anagram (staggering) of I LOST A with one of the letters which is also a Roman numeral included (accepted)

24d    English owner renovated previously (3,3)
ERE NOW: E(nglish) with an anagram (renovated) of OWNER

25d    Rectifies end of laser sight, with ‘South’ correctly placed (6)
RIGHTS: The final letter (end) of laser and then sight with the S(outh) moved south (correctly placed!)

27d    Idiots lost, playing against Germany (5)
DOLTS: An anagram (playing) of LOST after (against) the IVR code for Germany


Thanks to Excalibur.  I think my favourite is the simple but effective 5a but I hope it isn’t prescient, for next week’s blog will be coming to you from a mystery location, a strange and foreign land.  Which clues like did you?


23 comments on “Toughie 1684

  1. Excalibur is one of my favourite setters so I was surprised and in some ways not that delighted to find this was at the very gentle end of her normal spectrum. Probably just one of those unusual days where everything clicks. Still, an enjoyable puzzle and an entertaining review by Kitty are more than enough reasons to be cheerful.

      1. I’m sure Einstein could have come up a witty reply to this but I’m not one of those clever b******s

          1. I’m not sure about that, although I’m not a blinking thicky. Just ask Joyce and Vicki.

  2. Very enjoyable, if a little tricky. Maybe I’m missing something, but neither 1d or 8a quite add up for me. Not sure about 28a & 30a, either.

    Lots of good, varied clues, though. I liked 25d in particular.

    Thanks to all as ever.

  3. Bubbling with humour, Excalibur always brings sunlight into the dark cavern that is Toughieland. I loved such a lot of the clues. I thought the slickest was 5a, the most original 8a and my favourite, because it’s funny, 21d. One of my favourite setters, too, Jeroboam. Thanks to Excalibur and to Kitty (lovely pics)

  4. I found this quite tricky too – admittedly my time was a bit limited today thanks to an unusually difficult Guardian puzzle, but I didn’t manage to finish it in my lunch break. Enjoyed what I have done so far.

    Thanks to Kitty and Excalibur

  5. A return to Yoda-land. An enjoyable puzzle, though you can’t help but wonder if the contortions are necessary.

    Then you get a perfectly normal clue like 13a and it takes a while, because you’ve started looking at everything inside-out….

    Many thanks Excalibur and thanks Kitty for a lovely review as always

  6. Thank you, Kitty, for sorting out the 4,4 possibility of 8a and the significance of ‘again’ in 21d – both of which had passed me by.
    In company with others it would seem, I enjoy Excalibur’s puzzles and this was no exception. Greatly enhanced by the excellent pictorial review, of course! Loved the Kitty clips, particularly those of the fiendishly clever Marley and the patient baby-sitter. Also laughed out loud at the pic for 11a and the test paper in 13a.

    Top three for surfaces were 30a plus 3d&27d. Speaking of surfaces – try saying the 16a clue out loud without automatically reversing ‘have’ and ‘I’ – not easy!

    Thanks to Excalibur for a fun puzzle and to our Girl Tuesday for the icing on the cake.

  7. Wife has read that my favourite clue is 21d “Why one’s mad to be single again” and is cross. I hereby publicly declare, my love, that it’s nothing personal. Just an amusing clue

  8. I’m never keen on these cornered grids and had trouble getting a foothold in each and every one of them.
    Last one was SW and needed to check with Kitty the parsing of 8a and 4d.
    Loved the 3 letter clues.
    Thanks to Excalibur and to Kitty for the naughty review.
    Ps: Had a great time in Aix. Felt like a summer day.

  9. An enjoyable three pinter 😀 1d didn’t really work for us in the parsing department. Thanks to the sloggers and betters.
    G: more beer to celebrate?
    J: any excuse…

  10. Yes, fair enough puzzle I thought. Not too hard not too easy. I did pencil in several solutions lightly at first as I thought they were a bit doubtful and had to wait for some checking letters to press down on the pencil and make them permanent!

  11. My first ever complete solve of the Toughie. Pleasure tempered by the fact that I did it waiting in A&E for too many hours. Only distraction being looking at my watch thinking “How long?” Staff were marvellous just a system creaking at the seams because of idiots like me getting infected fingers. It seemed a long time but the woman next to me had been there for well over 8 hours.
    Thanks to setter & Kitty for hints. I found those machines you showed for 27d don’t give change by the way

    1. Congratulations and commiserations, Labradorsrule. Well done! I’d shake your hand, but …

      Those machines award you a higher score the more money you put in. A higher score means a win. :yes:

      1. Thanks Kitty sort of a Pyrrhic victory I guess.
        I’m beginning to worry that you reviewers possess some strange power: how did you know it was my right hand??

        1. I knew you were going to ask that ;).

          (Or a lucky guess, with probably slightly better than a 50% chance since I think people are more likely to injure their right hand.)

  12. Surprised myself to complete without hints which were very entertaining ,although I idid need said hints for some clarifications.

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