Toughie 2072 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2072

Toughie No 2072 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Kitty

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


Hello everybody.  We have today the first of a small stock of Excalibur’s Toughies to be published posthumously.  I never met her but feel immensely privileged to have been able to blog a few of her crosswords, through which a real warmth seemed to shine.  I have a feeling that the best of the remaining puzzles are being kept for last, but this was still a fun solve, with plenty of Excalibur’s trademark quirkiness in evidence.

Definitions are underlined in the clues below and indicators are italicised when quoted in the hints.  You’ll find the answers inside the I sought answers but found only more questions 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    Did it not survive being left in sealed container in a box? (4,6)
DEAD LETTER:  A kind of cryptic definition posed as a question: a literal interpretation of this would be a missive which is not alive.  The answer is a piece of undelivered mail which has been left in an envelope (sealed container) in a post box.  Thanks to Gazza and Physicist for their insight here

9a    Vitamin in dog food? (4)
BONE:  This might be food for a dog.  It might also, if split (1,3), be a fully spelled-out way of writing a particular vitamin.  Aargh — I spent ages trying to put a letter into a dog, and had ignored the correct answer when it came into my head

10a   Created big trouble, Adam and Eve did (6,4)
RAISED CAIN:  Something which Adam and Eve did: brought up their son — arguably not terribly successfully, given what he went on to do, but that’s another story.  No parenting manuals in those days

11a   Nut stuffing for salmon dish (6)
ALMOND:  This nut is part of the contents of (stuffing for) the end of the clue

12a   Lower by half dear newspapers (7)
DEPRESS:  After (by) half of the word “dear” goes a term for newspapers in general

15a   Dream of father and Ireland back together (7)
REVERIE:  Put together the abbreviated form of a religious minister (father) and the reversal of (… back) the Irish name for Ireland

16a   Sees pessimists must be only fifty per cent wrong (5)
SPIES:  An anagram (… wrong) of half of (… must be only fifty percent) PESSImistsIn my experience, pessimists are often wrong.  Things are often far worse …

17a   Animal with unidentified crest (4)
APEX:  A primate and a letter used to denote something unknown or unidentified

18a   Without the heaters, knitted muffs keep them warm (4)
EARS:  Without the letters in “the”, an anagram (… knitted) of heAtERS.  (Or perhaps, the deletion could be hEAteRS, and knitted part of the definition.  Since the muffs aren’t necessarily knitted, I’ve chosen the former interpretation).  For some reason it took me a long time to get away from thinking of muffs for hands

19a   For money swindles, one’s imprisoned (5)
COINS:  To get this form of cash, take a word meaning swindles and insert the Roman one (one’s imprisoned)

21a   Attacks: achieves no result (5,2)
TURNS ON:  The wordplay is in the answer, the first word of which could be interpreted as an instruction to reverse the second to produce the result of “no”

22a   Very good, for instance, to trap build-up of lint (7)
SAINTLY:  For instance (3) here is to contain (to trap) an anagram (build-up) of LINT

24a   Sees a blended netting right to get blots out (6)
ERASES:  An anagram (… blended) of SEES A containing (netting) R(ight)

27a   Air when weather’s dry for a while (3,4,3)
ONE FINE DAY:  A literal description of the title of a song, this one (which I was unfamiliar with):

— but there’s also this one:

28a   Ice  on road, it’s something motorists should avoid (4)
CONE:  Two definitions: an ice cream in a cornet, or a temporary bollard in the road to divert traffic

29a   After ribbons, goes into ‘Ornamental Fabrics‘ (10)
TAPESTRIES:  After some ribbons or bands are some goes or attempts



2d    Turning up, cooked something to eat (4)
EDAM:  This is a favourite semordnilap of mine, having first encountered it as a kitten in What cheese is made backwards?: A word meaning cooked or created, reversed (turning up, in a down clue)

3d    Christmas reindeer for nipper (6)
DASHER:  A double definition: one of Santa’s reindeer, or one who nips or rushes about

4d    Going on and on  without a goal (7)
ENDLESS:  … and another: eternal or with no terminus, or without object

5d    Catch it? I will dodge blame (4)
TRAP:  It without the I (I will dodge) is followed by an informal term for blame or criminal charge

6d    Snare set to catch me, calls again (7)
RENAMES:  An anagram (… set) of SNARE is to contain (to catch) ME (from the clue)

7d    Not running if conditions are wet (6-4)
COLOUR-FAST:  A cryptic definition of dyes or paints etc. (or something coloured with same) which won’t run if moistened

8d    Annoys, coming over underhand for no reason (10)
NEEDLESSLY:  Annoys or irritates preceding (coming over, in a down clue) underhand

12d   Take your time (2,1,7)
DO A STRETCH:  A cryptic definition: serve a prison sentence

13d   Drunk, orders a nip and decides things irrevocably (10)
PREORDAINS:  An anagram (drunk) of ORDERS A NIP

14d   ‘Woo‘ in ‘wood‘ (5)
SPOON:  The wood refers to an old-fashioned golf club; this is also an old-fashioned word meaning to woo or court.  The inverted commas lead the solver to think of a wordplay puzzle, which I did like.  I’d have also liked the clue without them

15d   Checks rules for pronunciation (5)
REINS:  This sounds like (… for pronunciation) rules or governs

19d   Mix with criminal class (7)
CONSORT:  A charade of a criminal and a class or type

20d   Jokes made by girls who are namesakes? (7)
SALLIES:  These witty remarks or retorts could be some girls of a particular name

23d   A hundred per cent courageous? Definitely not! (2,4)
NO FEAR:  Interpreted literally, this informal interjection meaning definitely not, would mean entirely lacking in anxiety

25d   Look for sign of life in nest? (4)
PEEP:  Two definitions: to take a sly look, or a noise like a cheep made by a bird

26d   Leaves in garden, which is wise (4)
SAGE:  Our final double definition.  The garden would be a herb garden


My favourite clues here are 28a and 14d.  Which did you most enjoy?


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.


27 comments on “Toughie 2072

  1. Thanks to the late Excalibur for the puzzle and to Kitty for the blog.
    I thought that 1a was rather weak and didn’t really work in relation to spycraft, so I took the sealed container in a box to be just the locked container inside a red postbox (but I could be way of track).
    The clues which I enjoyed most were 9a, 28a and 19d.

  2. I am not sure why, but I found it really difficult to get on the right wavelength for this one – there is nothing too complex in retrospect but I always struggle with cryptic definitions, and needed a few hints to finish it. In several cases I could see how the wordplay worked but couldn’t think of the right words, and the grid is a little unfriendly. A fine crossword.

    Thanks to Kitty and (if one can thank the deceased) Excalibur

  3. I suggest the anagram required to give the answer at 18a has to be either THEEARS, or EARSTHE, as with just the one indicator, all we need is a single possible word sequence giving the answer and the undisturbed missing bit. It’s one of those! You could argue for TH-EARS-E for example I suppose, but not as convincingly.

    There is a gentleness about Excalibur’s stuff, with the wordplay less violent than it can be in other Toughists, and very enjoyable it is too. I hope we get a few more from this remarkable lady.

  4. I’ve always enjoyed Excalibur’s puzzles and this was no exception – just 5d that I thought was a bit ‘dodgy’.
    Couldn’t see the wood for the trees in 9a – had the correct answer but didn’t spot the 1,3 split – silly girl.

    I was with you on wanting the involvement of hands (or even feet) in 18a, Kitty.

    27a – I well remember The Chiffons and it will not surprise Kitty to learn that I much preferred that clip to the alternative which is unlikely to result in a 27a for anyone!

    Podium spots given to 1a (sorry, Gazza), 10a & 7d.

    Thanks to Excalibur for leaving a few treats for us and to our Girl Tuesday for another fine blog.

  5. 9 across..absolutely brilliant and beat me despite having 50% of the letters and guessing the answer.
    Lovely puzzle and review. Thanks to all.

  6. I really enjoyed this and struggled with my last two – 7d & 9a. (I also pent too long trying to fit a letter in a dog) Agree the grid is not the greatest.

    Honours to the memory of Excalibur and thanks to Kitty for the blog

  7. So we weren’t the only ones to have trouble seeing 9a. A real d’oh moment for us when the penny eventually dropped.
    The pesky four letter answers were as usual the ones that gave us most delay in what was a good fun puzzle.
    Thanks Excalibur (nice to know that we have more to look forward to) and Kitty.

  8. Really enjoyed this

    I got 9a without many probs and just assumed that bone is also a vitamin (like adding hoof and horn as a fertilizer/vitamin(on reflection, hmm) to plants etc). Didn’t even think about B1, doh

    Thanks Kitty and the late great excalibur

  9. Always a bittersweet joy solving a posthumous puzzle. Today I spent more time admiring excalibur’s wordcraft than usual, which i think is me thinking there are only a few more of these to relish.

    I liked loads, even the simple ones like 11a. Like Kitty I dismissed the answer to 9a first time around.

    Many thanks excalibur, and many thanks Kitty. Unlike Jane, i was very happy with two fine days. The second was new to me, and pretty cool.

  10. A superbly crated puzzle from Excalibur, but way above my pay grade. Managed to make a start, but so much was beyond me. Needed 12 hints to finish. Favourite was 9a, which I didn’t get. Hadn’t heard of the song in 27a. Thanks to Kitty for the review and hints. Was 4*/4* for me.

  11. Thank you Kitty for helping me out at the end. I just could not get 5d or 21a. I started doing the crossword in the bath as usual but then had to go out into the garden to look for shooting stars! Too late to puzzle any more so very glad of your help. I did like 10a and I DID know 27a – beautiful aria.

  12. With due respect to the parted I did nt like this at all.
    Countless spurious constructions, weak &’ obscure answers.
    I left it till today to while away early cuppa time in bed, but after doing 2/3 have binned it

    1. Fished it out.
      1,9, 10,27,28 a, 24, 20, 25d Very poor
      11,17,22a, 2,4,6,8,13,15,19 d. Pure back pages
      The rest standard regular weak fare or close to backpage.
      Enjoy 0/*
      I can’t get my head around why this has drawn praise.
      Sorry I nearly always enjoy Toughies a lot and respect well drafted clues that I fail on.
      But this….

  13. Failed on 9a and 7d for which “indoor cart” would have been quite suitable for me.
    Quite a tough start of the week but the next two were much more accessible.
    I’ll try to post my thoughts later.
    Thanks to Excalibur and to Kitty.

  14. To be honest, Kitty, I think it’s the spoon that is the old-fashioned golf club. Woods are still in common use!

    1. A spoon is a type of wood – equivalent to a modern day 5 wood – usually made of hickory.

    2. It already seems a long time since Tuesday, but I’m pretty sure I meant that the “wood” in the clue was clueing an old-fashioned golf club, i,e, a spoon. Then again, I don’t know anything first-hand about golf, so I’d have been going on what I found when looking up the respective words in the brb.

      Edit: I’ve now changed “is” to “refers to” in that hint because I’m a perfectionist.

  15. Very nice clues I thought, and enjoyed Kitty’s blog-just one point, (if this thread is still being followed !) on the blog for 2D-the answer is not actually a palindrome, or am I missing something?

    1. Thanks Robin. Semordnilaps are distinct from palindromes as they read differently backwards. It seems to me that semordnilap really should be the plural, with emordnilap the singular, which is why I playfully wrote “emordnilap”. However, I will bow to popular usage and add the s above, along with a link.

      1. Thanks for reply Kitty-you are correct !
        In my defence Collins gives “A word-phrase-verse or sentence that reads the same backward or forward ” but their entry is “pending investigation” -Oxford does not list the word – Google has the correct definition.
        I shall take off my pedant’s hat now !

        1. Given that the word isn’t in most dictionaries yet, maybe I should stick with my emordnilap for the singular and use it everywhere.

          Since semordnilaps = palidromes backwards, Collins has the most logical definition of all since the only words which are palindromes backwards are palindromes.

          But this is English: what has logic got to do with it? :)

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