Toughie 2064 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2064

Toughie No 2064 by Chalicea

Hints and tips by Kitty

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


What a lovely surprise to find that Chalicea has joined the Toughie team.  Welcome!  And welcome to you all too.

This puzzle took me about as long as I’d expect on a Tuesday and I really enjoyed it.

Definitions are underlined in the clues below and indicators are italicised when quoted in the hints.  You’ll find the answers inside the buttons.  The exclamation mark is not an imperative — click only if you wish to reveal all.

As usual you may click on pictures to enlarge them or uncover hidden extras.



1a    Second female that’s angry about being drunk (7)
SMASHED:  An abbreviation for second followed by a female pronoun surrounded by (that’s … about) an adjective meaning angry

5a    Wrap up  type of vacation (7)
PACKAGE:  Two definitions, verb and noun respectively

9a    In PE learn about constantly growing (9)
PERENNIAL:  An anagram (… about) of IN PE LEARN

10a   Obscures depressions, it’s said (5)
VEILS:  This sounds like (… it’s said) a poetic word for some geological hollows

11a   Some silly dispute about poem (5)
IDYLL:  A pictorial poem is hidden in some of the clue, reversed (about)

12a   Soldiers travelling under their own steam? That’s green! (9)
RECYCLING:  The abbreviation for the soldiers known as Sappers plus a word for using a self-powered mode of transport

13a   It’s high time to face second-rate student taken in by conman abroad (4,5)
MONT BLANC:  Single letters for time, second-rate, and a student are contained within (taken in by) an anagram (… abroad) of CONMAN

16a   On the rebound, cuts trips (5)
SPINS:  The reversal (on the rebound) of a word meaning cuts with scissors gives us some short car trips

17a   Mistake removing restraint, finally, from rogue (5)
ERROR:  Removing the final letter of restraint from a rascal produces this misteak

18a   Fatal lapse: sadly it’s normal (6,3)
MORTAL SIN:  An anagram (sadly) of IT’S NORMAL

20a   Eventful order to bank concerning principal in debt (9)
CHEQUERED:  A charade of an order to a bank, on or concerning (2), and the first letter of (principal in) debt

23a   Revolutionary somewhat choosy assuming authority (3-2)
SAY-SO:  Our second reverse lurker: this authority is part of the clue (somewhat …), backwards (revolutionary …)

25a   Excuse a politician succeeded by Independent (5)
ALIBI:  A from the clue plus abbreviations for a party politician and Independent

26a   Promise to join criminal at brothel (9)
BETROTHAL:  An anagram (criminal) of AT BROTHEL

27a   Scent‘s distinctive nature (7)
ESSENCE:  Two definitions: an aromatic extract, or the nature or character of something

28a   Scatter south, protecting especially tyrannical rulers (7)
DESPOTS:  Scatter or speckle (3) and S(outh) containing (protecting) the abbreviation for especially



1d    Plausible argument seen in very good letter by NCO (7)
SOPHISM:  Join together very good (2), a letter (one of those Greek ones), and the abbreviation for Sergeant-Major (an example of an NCO)

2d    Impressive display of American river fish (5)
ARRAY:  Abbreviations for American and for river, plus a flat-bodied fish

3d    English following height and length restriction for bicycle part (9)
HANDLEBAR:  Following the letters standing for height and length — keeping the AND from the clue between them — goes an abbreviation for English.  Then just add a restriction to get a handy part of a bike

4d    Relatively ironic left-winger turns up embracing royal institution (5)
DRIER:  A left-winger returns (turns up, in a down clue) containing (embracing) the initials for the Royal InstitutionSince “royal institution” is not capitalised in the clue, I thought this must be two separate abbreviations, but while the first is in Collins (but not Chambers or the ODE) I can’t find the second anywhere (Chambers has only Institute)

5d    Panda‘s cold after freeze set in in the Arctic? (6,3)
POLICE CAR:  Not the panda featured below, but a particular type of vehicle.  C(old) goes after freeze (3), and this is all put inside (set in) “in the arctic”

6d    About four in charge of city (5)
CIVIC:  String together a Latin-derived abbreviation for about or roughly, the Roman numerals for four, and the abbreviation for in charge

7d    Misconstrued sci-fi idea sours (9)
ACIDIFIES:  An anagram (misconstrued) of SCI-FI IDEA

8d    Standards dean occasionally ratifies (7)
ENSIGNS:  Start with alternate letters (… occasionally) of dean and add a word meaning ratifies by autographing

14d   Dubiously reinsures places encouraging growth (9)
NURSERIES:  An anagram (dubiously …) of REINSURES

15d   Officer guarding British with energy, deserving esteem (9)
ADMIRABLE:  A naval officer containing B(ritish) and followed by E(nergy)

16d   Photos of torpid moments, then passionate, on board ship (9)
SNAPSHOTS:  Some short sleeps then a word for passionate, all inside (on board) the usual two-letter abbreviation for a type of ship

17d   Enclosure of disorderly clan welcomed by First Lady (7)
ENCLAVE:  An anagram (disorderly …) of CLAN inside (welcomed by) the first woman in the bible

19d   Nitwit son improvises (7)
NOODLES:  Take an informal term for a nitwit and add the abbreviation for S(on)

21d   Single state of edible bulb originally useful for nothing (5)
UNION:  An edible bulb with the first letter (… originally) of useful used in place of (for) O (nothing)

22d   Old-fashioned father consuming interminable Earl Grey? (5)
DATED:  A father containing (consuming) a drink of which Earl Grey is an example without its last letter (interminable …)

24d   Boorish lout‘s joyful cry (5)
YAHOO:  Two definitions.  The boorish lout comes from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, a class of humanoid creatures with the understanding and passions of brutes.  (They were ruled by a race of intelligent horses, the Houyhnhnms, which have also appeared in crosswords causing fun and games with spelling.)   


Thanks Chalicea.  26a made me smile, but my favourite clue has to be the cool 5d.  Which clues brought you joy?


These hints and tips are for anyone who might find them of use (and who doesn’t need help now and then?).  The asides and illustrations are to add a personal perspective and some colour.  The comments section is — or should be — for everyone.  Please do ask if you need anything clarified, have any suggestions as to how the blogs could be improved, or have anything else you’d like to say.


22 comments on “Toughie 2064

  1. Nothing too difficult here but a varied enough set of devices to make it a pleasant solve. 1d was last in and not fully parsed.

    Thanks to Kitty and Chalicea

  2. Nice to see one of our NTSPP setters putting in an appearance in the Telegraph Toughie slot, and what an enjoyable offering it was too. I found it nicely challenging without any obscurities but not too tough.

    My only query relates to 1d where I struggled to get “very good” to translate to the first two letters. My BRB however says they are indeed synonymous but I would be so grateful if someone could produce a sentence which demonstrates this.

    13a with its beautifully disguised definition was my favourite.

    Many thanks to Chalicea and to Kitty.

    1. “So” replacing “very good” in a sentence? I thought I’d leave that as an exercise for the reader, RD!

      (No, I can’t think of any examples either.)

  3. A very pleasant puzzle with lots of smiles. Favourite was 13a
    I parsed 1d slightly differently: Greek letter inside OS for outstanding, all inside the SM
    With many thanks to Chalicea and Kitty – had not realised previously that clicking on the photos might give an alternative surprise

      1. Agreed Kitty, but it is a Toughie cryptic so I had parsed it as

        Seen in very good (is) letter by (as in was sired by in horse breeding terms, therefore previously was inside) NCO

  4. I’ve not encountered Chalicea before, but recognised her name from a comment posted (after mine!) on Friday’s Toughie (2063).

    This unusually went together pretty easily for me: favourite was also 13a, not least because I’ve always wanted one of their pens.

  5. Like others I found this a very enjoyable solve on the gentler side of the toughie spectrum – which was ideal for me. I also appreciated not having to search Google endlessly for strange and wonderful things I hadn’t met before. Many thanks, and welcome, to Chalicea, and to Kitty.

  6. How nice and gentle was that (two pints max) for a Tuesday, no quibbles except the parsing of 1d. Many thanks to Chalicea and Kitty.

  7. Welcome to Toughieland, Chalicea, and thank you for a most enjoyable debut offering.

    Like others, I struggled to parse 1d, not helped in my case by being unfamiliar with the required answer. I also had to check 19d as I didn’t know that definition.

    Up on the podium, for different reasons, are 12&13a plus 3d but all those are eclipsed by 5d which I loved – even before I looked at Kitty’s wonderful panda clip.

    Many thanks, Chalicea, and thanks to our Girl Tuesday for both the blog and the usual brilliant accompaniments.

  8. For 1d we settled for the following: Very good was SO PI and inside this (with a slightly Yodaish construction) the letter H and then the sergeant major. It worked for us but no doubt the setter will call in to set us straight with what she meant.
    We thought the puzzle really good fun and just the right difficulty for a Tuesday Toughie.
    Thanks Chalicea and Kitty.

    1. That seems very plausible. I did wonder about SO PI, but didn’t think of H for the letter. Clueing a single letter of the answer by just “letter” seems rather cheeky to me though!

  9. Welcome to Chalicea and thanks to her for the puzzle and to Kitty for the blog. Reading the comments I see that 1d has thrown up three possible explanations as to the parsing. Being a disciple of Occam I favour Kitty’s original parsing, especially since the “so = very good” is supported by the BRB (even though I can’t come up with an example of such a use).
    I didn’t know that that the 19d verb means improvises. My favourite was 3d.

  10. Thoroughly enjoyable, and yes it took me longer than the back pager. :-) Any problems were entirely of my own making – at 21d in particular where I tried all kinds of answers, none of which fitted with 27ac, before I finally decided to look at the wordplay properly. I’ve solved a few of Chalicea’s Inquisitors now which have all been lots of fun, glad to see her in the Toughie spot. A welcome change of pace.

  11. What a fine welcome! Kitty, I was delighted to see that you were blogging my first Toughie and 5d has become my own favourite clue now because of your enchanting pandas. (I quite like a ‘naughty’ clue and 26ac was a favourite before.) However, I am still smiling at the ‘Finnish flag’.

    Indeed, your interpretation of 1d was the intended one and I agree with comments that “so = very good” stretches plausibility, but Chambers gives it and ultimately that is what matters. That clue was the result of a late editorial tweak of an even worse one of mine. My in-house vetter and tester re-solved the crossword this morning and that was the clue he liked the least.

    This first Toughie has been on the drawing board for months with pages of editorial coaching and tweaks since the Toughie is a rather different beast from the 900 or so crosswords I already have in print (yes, I am not quite a newbie – have been setting blocked cryptics for about ten years including the weekly one in the Farmers Guardian and one for the local press but my more regular appearances are in the Listener, EV, IQ, Magpie, Crossword, 1Across and the annual 3D calendar where I am Curmudgeon and the competition clue judge).

    Rick, an intriguing comment! I have been advised of fairly strict rules about choice of vocabulary which must all be within the educated person’s lexicon, about maintaining a variety of devices, and about the tolerated range of abbreviations (roughly the Times set) and, from Toughie solving, know that we can expect to manage a Tuesday Toughie but may well struggle with a Thursday (like Artix’s tough one a week ago) or that wonderful Friday 12/8 – No 2063 – by Elgar. I believe (but will happily be corrected) that we are intended to range from about ‘back page’ difficulty to ‘much harder’. I am certainly not allowed ‘Stripey horse (5)’ but I do know of the hours the editor puts in shaping his setters’ clues to produce a fine range of styles and difficulty so thanks to him as well as Kitty.

    1. Chalicea, thanks very much for popping in and thanks again for a very enjoyable crossword. You offer some interesting insights too on the editorial process – all to keep the solvers satisfied!

    2. Thanks Chalicea for the insight into the process.. My comment was not meant to be disparaging, I enjoyed the puzzle and would have applauded it had it appeared in, say, the non-Ray T Thursday back page slot. Sadly I think it might have caused a few of the usual suspects to go into meltdown if it had!
      My issue is with editorial policy rather than individual setters. If as you say the Toughie is meant to range from about back page difficulty to Elgar then I think that is misguided. There are already seven back pagers each week, differing in style certainly, but not much in difficulty from my perspective. The Toughie, for me, should be a chance to ramp up the difficulty level; after all we only get four of them (more’s the pity). I don’t mean to Elgar levels every day but I think there should be clear blue water between them.
      If not then perhaps it’s me that needs to make a change because the extra I pay each month just to get those four puzzles looks like poor value at the moment.

    3. Thanks very much Chalicea, especially for going to the trouble of giving us the setter’s-eye view. Most interesting.

  12. Thanks to Chalicea and to Kitty for the review and hints. A very enjoyable puzzle on debut. I found it quite hard, but I managed to get there in the end. Took me quite a while to get the last few answers. Last in was 1a, penultimate was 2d. 26a made me laugh, but my favourite was 13a. Was 3*/4* for me.

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