Toughie 2653 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2653

Toughie No 2653 by Donnybrook

Hints and tips by Big Dave

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

Not a puzzle for the faint-hearted, but a real Toughie – and very enjoyable it was too.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


8a    Port makes singer lose voice quality (4)
BARI: drop (lose) tone (voice quality) from a male singer

9a    Parrot in Andes initially taking exercise (3)
APE: the initial letter of A[ndes] followed by some (physical) exercise

10a    Black rock band to start with zest — without amps! (6)
BASALT: the initial letter (to start with) of B[and] and some zest around (without) A(mps)

11a    Butcher’s chestnut horse should be returned (6)
GANDER: a colloquial word for a “butcher’s” (butcher’s hook / look) is derived by reversing a chestnut horse (3,3)

12a    Queen, first to appear, slowed down for an audience (8)
ADELAIDE: the initial letter (first) of A[ppear] followed by what sounds like (for an audience) a verb meaning slowed down

13a    One supporting Reds on the same train as me? (6,9)
FELLOW TRAVELLER: this person who, though not a party member, holds the same communist views could also be someone on the same train as me

15a    Out of water — area reduced to dust (7)
AGROUND: A(rea) followed by a verb meaning reduced to dust

17a    Books given to staff showing long seat (7)
OTTOMAN: some books of the bible followed by TO from the clue and a verb meaning to staff


20a    Scramble up mountain track, perhaps (11,4)
PUNCTUATION MARK: an anagram (scramble) of UP MOUNTAIN TRACK – note that the definition is “, perhaps”

23a    Tale-teller had last Tudor wife coming round (8)
PARDONER: one of Chaucer’s tale-tellers in The Canterbury Tales is derived by putting the surname of Henry VIII’s sixth wife (the only subsequent male Tudor monarch, Edward VI, was unmarried when he died) around a verb meaning had or deceived

25a    Suddenly others plunged into Italian river (6)
PRESTO: put a word meaning the others inside a two-letter Italian river

26a    Care in relapse required regularly for old hero (6)
AENEAS: the even letters (regularly) of the first three words in the clue

27a    Fuel found with short cut (3)
GAS: most of (short) a cut

28a    Waste carrier avoiding small vessel (4)
EWER: drop S(mall) from a waste carrier or drain


1d    Flask church needed to hold a service (6)
CARAFE: the Church of England around the A from the clue and a military service

2d    Boy served up duck in wine in hot dish (8)
VINDALOO: the reversal of a boy and O (duck) inside a colloquial word for wine

3d    Wearing pelt and cape after pub brawl in town (6-2-7)
BARROW-IN-FURNESS: a word meaning wearing, a pelt and a cape or headland preceded by a three-letter pub and a brawl

4d    What did you say in loo about French place? (2,5)
LE HAVRE: a two-letter exclamation meaning “what did you say” inside a loo or toilet and a two-letter word meaning about

5d    Comment by Mail showing advanced viewpoint? (11,4)
OBSERVATION: a charade of a comment and some mail or letters

6d    Old toast wife leaves in mug? (6)
ASSAIL: drop (leaves) W(ife) from an old toast to get a verb meaning to mug

7d    Most of family group daughter covered (4)
CLAD: most of a (Scottish) family group followed by D(aughter)

14d    Greek goddess banning husband for long time (3)
ERA: drop (banning) the H(usband) from a Greek Goddess

16d    Wildebeest seen in big numbers (3)
GNU: hidden (seen in) inside the clue

18d    Mother worried about me — that indicates resistance! (8)
OHMMETER: an anagram (worried) of MOTHER around ME

19d    Boxes for example, and got ears bashed (7)
STORAGE: an anagram (bashed) of GOT EARS

21d    Partly processed food set in batter? (6)
CUDGEL: some partly processed food followed by a verb meaning to set

22d    Flier blows top, having eaten too much: it’s bad (6)
ROTTEN: drop (blows) the initial letter (top) from a small bird (flier) around an abbreviation meaning too much

24d    State to wobble after leader deposed (4)
AVER: drop (deposed) the initial letter (leader) from a verb meaning to wobble

No Tuesday Floughie today!


40 comments on “Toughie 2653

  1. I needed electronic help for about a fifth of this offering from Donnybrook. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of it. I put “passenger” for the second word in 12a and that held me up for quite a while until I solved 4d. My favourite clue was 2d.

    Many thanks to Donnybrook for the challenge and thanks to Big Dave for the hints.

  2. Always a treat to get an actual Toughie on a Tuesday and Donnybrook certainly exercised the cryptic grey matter this morning. I did have to check the ‘supporting Reds’ meaning of 13a. Slightly disappointed that, after all these years of teasing Gnomethang as to the exact location of the river in 25a, the clue actually tells you where it is

    Thanks to Donnybrook for an excellent brain-stretcher and to BD for the blog

  3. Definitely a head scratcher for the start of the Toughie Week which needed some electronic assistance for final completion – 3.5*/3.5*

    Candidates for favourite – 11a, 25a, 2d, 3d, and 24d – and the winner is – 2d.

    Thanks to NY Doorknob Donnybrook and BD.

  4. That was excellent – nicely challenging and very enjoyable. A lot of the clues needed quite a bit of teasing out but I always felt that the answers were going to yield eventually and that proved to be the case. The smooth surfaces were the icing on the cake.

    There were far too many good clues even to try to pick a short list.

    Many thanks to Donnybrook and to BD.

  5. An excellent puzzle to wake up to. Nicely testing. Thank you Donnybrook and thank you BD

  6. I found this a very comfortable solve until I ground to a halt in the NE corner with four to go. Having completed the grid, I cannot see how or why that small section should have held me up. Nevertheless, this was an inspired puzzle and very rewarding to finish.

    Thanks and congratulations to Donnybrook for a fun challenge and to BD.

  7. Thank you Donnybrook. So many candidates for favourite clues, I’m struggling to pick one. 8a was my last in (hampered by my not having heard of the port), and made me smile when I finally got it. Maybe I’ll go for 19d’s boxes. Or 23a’s tale-teller.

    I was surprised by the comments rating this as tricky. (I mean, I still needed a few revealed letters and looking up a few things to complete it — but I’m at a level where that’s generally true with more crosswords than not.) Maybe I was having so much fun I forgot to notice?

    And thank you to Big Dave for clarifying the parsing on a couple.

  8. I need the hint to solve 23a as I was well wide of the mark. I followed CS’s lead and Googled 13a as I’d never heard of it, I have now and it just had to be the answer. I managed the rest with a bit of electronic help. Favourite was 26a as I knew the Trojan hero. Thanks to Donnybrook and BD for the much needed hint and explanation.

  9. 11a I was convinced that it was MURDER … even though I wasn’t sure that Red Rum was a chestnut.

    Really enjoyable puzzle.

    Thanks to Donnybrook and BD.

    1. I didn’t see your post until after I had submitted mine and so I apologize for being repetitive – I thought I was doing well to know the Red Rum was a horse!

    2. Me too Jepi, which meant I scoured the dictionary for a 1d flask, 6 letters with a ‘u’ in it!.
      Otherwise just a plain old toughie … thanks everyone ;-)

      1. Yes, I was in the ‘murder’ camp and convinced myself that ‘ampule’ would suffice for the flask – my problem then came with the singer/port!
        Enjoyed this one this evening despite not really understanding why 13a was what it had to be.

        Thanks to Donnybrook and to BD for the review.

  10. I enjoyed this very much. I wanted to make 11a ‘MURDER’ (Red Rum backwards), but the flask in 1d was too compelling and I eventually came up with the right butcher’s. I was pleased to able to finish this, but I did need the help of some electronic references in a number of places. Many thanks to Donnybrook and Big Dave.

  11. Struggled with 10a, 21d and failed completely with 23a. By the way that’s the biggest wildebeest pictured in 16d, might be good for mozzarella!

  12. 20a a bit naughty, I thought! I’d untangled the anagram, but needed you to explain how it matched the clue! Thanks a million. Also – I do love your blog!

    1. Ha, I was the opposite: I spotted the definition straight away, but needed Big Dave to explain the wordplay, after I’d completely failed to see it was an anagram!

  13. 13a is a very common phrase for those of us who have studied the political & literary movements of the 1930s, and the phrase appears in novels by Aldous Huxley and many others. It was, in fact, one of my first answers in this wonderful Donnybrook Toughie. I rather breezed through this grid until I got to the SW corner, where 21d held me up forever, and I finally sought electronic help in order to finish. Earlier, 19d’s anagram had produced ‘toerags’, and I knew that couldn’t be right for ‘boxes’. That was before I latched onto the answer for 20a! (There, I think a space or a colon / dash before the comma might have helped a bit in clarifying what the definition was–never mind, just a thought. This is a Toughie after all.) Thanks to BD for the review and to Donnybrook for this terrific Toughie.

    1. I knew the phrase, but hadn’t realized it was red-specific. Possibly all the circumstances I’ve seen it used are that way, but I’d presumed it could be used by somebody of any political persuasion to describe those similarly inclined to themselves. It had to be what it was though, so (like CrypticSue) I was off to a dictionary to be educated.

  14. I, too, ground to a halt in the SW corner and never got either 21d or 23a.
    The rest was more straightforward. I was interested in 13a. Is the term still current?
    Just been watching Alec Guinness as Smiley in Tinker Tailor. Such a treat and the credits rolled so slowly they were legible!

  15. Thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying to solve – many thanks Donnybrook & BD for the blog
    Happy Birthday SL

  16. Thanks to BD for explanation of NE corner which stumped me.
    The rest fell into place apart from 21d which I thought was a snorter.
    Anyway a tougher toughie than Tuesday usual and many thanks to Donnybrook.

  17. Came up short on 6d and 21d but enjoyed the challenge (over a couple of sittings).

    Thanks to Donnybrook and BD.

  18. Didn’t get the port in 8a in this extremely enjoyable crossword.
    The towns in 3d and 4d just jumped at me from the start having only the little ape filled in.
    Thanks for the explanations of Chaucer in 23a as I could only see the cleric and couldn’t reconcile it with a tell-teller.
    Not quite sure what accent is needed to make the homophone in 12a perfect.
    Thanks to Donnybrook and to BD.

      1. That’s funny.
        I thought of that too but the last syllable sounds more like Lied than Laid.
        The other problem is the E as which they pronounce A.
        At the risk of offending our beloved kiwis the E rings like an I so the sentence It’s too wet to get out would be It’s too wit to git out.

      2. I pressed send without finishing.
        So, our Kiwis might pronounce it AD EE LAID which would make sense.

  19. Still don’t see where ‘amps’ comes into 10ac. Apart from that we rated it 2*. Depends on whether you start on the right wavelength, I suppose!

  20. Solved in two sittings, pre and post work. Needless to say the first session proved much easier than the second and I needed a couple of hints to get home in the South West, which was fiendishly difficult.
    A beautifully constructed puzzle, 3d being my favourite clue. 11a and 22d complete the podium.
    Many thanks to Donnybrook and thanks and admiration to BD for explaining it all.

  21. I got stuck with a few clues before dinner, but once I was well fed everything fell into place. Thanks to BD and to Donnybrook for the mental workout.

  22. Thoroughly enjoyable puzzle with the longest head-scratching and stand-out favourite being 20a.
    Jean-Luc is correct that we do pronounce the last syllable of the South Australian capital to rhyme with LAID and assumed that the rest of the world did too.
    Thanks Donnybrook and BD.

      1. Hi bertie,
        I’m not one to rub it in but…..

  23. Very tough indeed but extremely enjoyable. Pretty pleased to get within 3 of an unaided finish – needed the hints for 6d & then for 21d & 23a despite revealing the D checker. Full of clever clues any number of which worthy of a podium spot.
    Thanks Donny & to BD – will now read the review in full to parse a couple of my bung ins

  24. Really enjoyed this puzzle but (like some others) NE corner stumped me. I guessed Adelaide but couldn’t see why.

    Hoped the few clues not done would come to me today, but no.

    Thanks to Donnybrook for a delightful brain-stretcher and to BD for the blog.

  25. Thanks Big Dave et al for blog and comments.

    Sorry I didn’t get in yesterday to say hello, but it was tabloid factory/ automaton/ brainwash day and I couldn’t rouse myself from that trance. Many thanks for the kind comments: I’m glad you enjoyed this one.


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