Toughie No 121 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie No 121

Toughie No 121 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

I approached this puzzle with some trepidation, bearing in mind the date, wondering what tricks the compiler had in store. Actually it offers a thoroughly entertaining battle with some tricky wordplay and some delightful clues (the best of which is slightly risqué!).


1a  Genial one from Scotland I love on the bottle (6)
{JOVIAL} – a charade of JO (a beloved one in the Scottish vernacular) and a synonym for bottle give us a word meaning genial.

4a  All the men on board (5,3)
{CHESS SET} – a cryptic definition of the King, Queen, Knights, etc. in a board game.

9a/25a  Representation of the ‘a’ in ‘bag’ ‘gam’ or the ‘o’ in ‘pod’ forms 3 and 4 (6,6)
{MIDDLE SCHOOL} – the whole is a definition of what forms 3 and 4 are in an educational establishment. Both the ‘a’ in ‘bag’ ‘gam’ and the ‘o’ in ‘pod’ give us MIDDLE and ‘pod’ is a synonym for a group (or school) or whales or seals. I had problems with this clue because the on-line version had (has?) ‘bag’ instead of ‘gam’ – see my comment below.

10a  Go having bagged silver after entering castle in the Bristol channel (8 )
{CLEAVAGE} – this is my favourite clue of the day (and probably of the week and month as well!). “Go” is LEAVE which includes (having bagged) the chemical symbol for silver, coming after C (entering castle, i.e. the first letter of castle). You need to know what bristol is rhyming slang for (think Bristol City!) to understand that “the Bristol channel” becomes visible when a woman wears a low-cut dress!!

11a  “2000 years minimum in all men undergoing evolution,” one’s admitted (9)
{MILLENNIA} – an anagram (undergoing evolution) of “in all men” plus I (one’s admitted) gets us the plural of a word we all got to know about nine years ago. Because it’s the plural it cannot relate to 1,000 years but to 2,000 or more.

13a  Asian banker’s attempt to leave manufacture and trade (5)
{INDUS} – a word meaning manufacture and trade loses its final TRY (attempt to leave) so that we are left with a river (Asian banker) which rises in Tibet and proceeds through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.

14a  Sentence #1 from novel email reveals scam from Hell (even words missing!) (4,2,7)
{CALL ME ISHMAEL} – the answer is the first sentence of Moby Dick when the narrator tells people to call him by his first name. It’s an anagram (novel) of the odd words only (even words missing!) of “email reveals scam from Hell“. [as with many clues of this type, I got the answer first then justified it from the wordplay].

17a  After which, slug it out? (4,3,6)
{BITE THE BULLET} – nowadays this is a phrase meaning to face up to an unpalatable task. It derives from the days before effective anaesthetics,  when soldiers were given bullets to grip between their teeth to help them endure the pain of surgery, for example, before a bullet (slug) was removed (out).

21a  Choosy eater, perhaps, with goods in transit? (5)
{VEGAN} – “perhaps” is EG and this is inside a type of goods vehicle typified by a Ford Transit. The result is the name of someone who eats no animal products at all.

23a  Confectioner’s relief across street on grass (5,4)
{SWEET SHOP} – another brilliant clue gives us WEE (that’s a relief!) inside (across) ST (street) before (on) a verb meaning to inform the police about someone’s activities. The whole thing is another term for a confectioner’s.

24a  Safe to criticise eternal youth (5,3)
{PETER PAN} – a slang term for a safe and an informal verb meaning to criticise come together to form the name of the boy who never grew up (eternal youth) in Barrie’s play [the compiler is so taken by this character that he’s used again (always the youngster) in 6d!]

25a  See 9a

26a  I’ll decide about you (8 )
{RESOLVER} – someone who decides or determines on a course of action is made up of RE (about) followed by “you”  (that is the person trying to find the solution to this clue!).

27a  Lying down in big crowd at Lord’s? Right to take time out (2,4)
{AT REST} – a big crowd is drawn to Lord’s cricket ground for A TEST match. Include (in) an abbreviation of “right” (e.g. as in Rt. Reverend) without the T (take time out) to produce a phrase meaning lying down.


1d  Judge stand-up performer of few words (a woman) (6)
{JEMIMA} – J (judge) is followed by an artist who does not speak (performer of few words), such as Marcel Marceau, reversed (stand-up), then A to form the name of a woman. There are two well-known females with this name that I am aware of – one is the ex-wife of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan, and the other is the eponymous heroine of a Beatrix Potter book.

2d  That is one health-food shop caught in check (9)
{VIDELICET} – one health-food shop is I DELI and this is inside (caught in) a verb meaning to check or examine thoroughly to form a latin term meaning to wit or namely (that is), which is normally abbreviated to viz.

3d  Medicinal plant brewing hall’s added to ale ingredients (7)
{ALLHEAL} – an anagram (brewing) of “hall” and (ingredients) of  “ale” to form the name of a plant, such as valerian, which is used in herbal medicine and thought to have healing properties.

5d  Grass has very little wait! (4,1,6)
{HALF A MINUTE} – a type of grass found in North Africa is HALFA and this is followed by (has) a word meaning very small to form an injunction meaning “hang on for a short time” (wait!).

6d  Always the youngster is hugged by mum from Madrid (7)
{SPANISH} – J.M. Barrie’s youngster who never grew old makes his second appearance today (surname only this time) with IS and these are surrounded  (hugged) by an admonition to keep quiet (mum) which you might hear if you talk loudly in a library! The whole describes a native of Madrid (or perhaps Barcelona).

7d  Sit here? Yes and no (5)
{STAND} – this is where you may sit if you have a ticket for a sporting event, but the word also means to remain upright.

8d  All but the last of the girls turned up in your part of Greece (8 )
{THESSALY} – “your” is THY and this contains another word for girls minus its last letter (all but the last) backwards (turned up) to produce a region of North-east Greece.

12d  Form of gambling, items taken randomly from man’s beer mug (7,4)
{NUMBERS GAME} – an anagram (items taken randomly from) of “man’s beer mug” gives us the term for an illegal lottery prevalent in poor neighbourhoods in US cities.

15d  Long side of beef used in first class cut (9)
{AITCHBONE} – “first class” is A ONE (A1) and this surrounds (used in) a synonym for to long or yearn and the initial letter (side) of Beef, to form the word for a cut of beef from the rump.

16d  A second row about recording, under 5 at a premium (5,3)
{ABOVE PAR} – there’s some complicated wordplay here – A plus B (second letter) plus a verb meaning to row (in a boat) surround an old type of record (recording, which stood for “extended play”) after (under) the Roman numeral for 5. The whole thing means higher than the standard or at a premium.

18d  Be inclined endlessly to irritate climber (7)
{TENDRIL} – a charade of to be inclined or to behave regularly in a certain way and a synonym for to irritate without its last letter (endlessly) form a part of a plant which curls round any suitable support as it climbs.

19d  Shot dead on cross (4,3)
{LATE CUT} – a cricket shot down to the third-man area is made up of a word for dead (as in “the …… President Eisenhower”) and a synonym for the verb to cross (as in to cross a line).

20d  Physicist who’s taken on add-on for… (6)
{APPLET} – the physicist is Sir Edward Appleton who won a Nobel Prize in 1947. Take off the last two letters (taken on) to get a type of small software component that runs in the context of another program (add-on) in the world of computing.

22d  … one who made his money from PC World openings (5)
{GATES} – we finish with another excellent clue. The PC here is the “Old Bill” (joke!) who made his considerable fortune from computer software (PC World), and “openings” serves as a synonym for both the name of his ubiquitous  operating system and his surname.

I was enjoying this puzzle so much that I was sorry to finish it. There are many delightful clues but heads and shoulders above the rest is 10a. That’s only my opinion of course – if you agree or disagree please leave a comment!

4 comments on “Toughie No 121

  1. Hi Gazza
    9a The a is the middle letter of bag I guess. Keep up the good work! I’ve improved so much since I discoverd this blog!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Ranger.
    It’s possible that there is no more to it than that, but I have a feeling that the compiler did not pick the word ‘bag’ at random, and that, like pod, it is somehow meant to mean ‘school’.

  3. STOP PRESS – I did the review from the puzzle on the “Clued Up” site. Now that I have got the paper, I see that the clue for 9/25a is different. The word which puzzled me so much has changed from ‘bag’ to ‘gam’ (a school of whales).
    Problem solved – but thanks a lot Clued Up!!

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