Toughie No 129

Toughie No 129 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

Elgar has produced another tour de force with many excellent but tricky clues. I thoroughly enjoyed battling my way through this one.

Across Clues

6a  Expert in spoken language successfully achieved MA (4,6)
{PAST MASTER} – “successfully achieved” is “passed” and in spoken language this can become PAST. What has been achieved is the degree of MASTER of Arts. Put the two words together to get a term for an expert.

8a  Feature of bread, toasted? Not quite (4)
{BROW} – toasted bread is BROWn – take off the last letter (not quite) to get a feature (forehead).

9a  Authoritative point? Annoying alarm’s ringing (9)
{MAGISTRAL} – the point or substance is GIST – surround this (ringing) with an anagram (annoying) of “alarm” to get a word meaning masterly or authoritative.

11a  Clay covering used to protect old instrument (4)
{LUTE} – this old musical instrument is stringed and shaped like half a pear (it was held and plucked a bit like a guitar) – the word also means a protective covering made of clay.

12a  Sick women apparently disinherited? (3)
{ILL} – this is a superb cryptic clue. If you take W (women) out of your WILL then you disinherit them, and what you are left with is a synonym for sick.

13a  Plain language quaintly pleasing Sue (9)
{PROSECUTE} – plain language is PROSE and quaintly pleasing is CUTE – put them together to form another word for sue.

16a  Oriental ready for everyone put in no return (4)
{YUAN} – “ready” here means money – put U (for everyone, a film classification) inside NAY (no) backwards to get the Chinese currency.

17a  Is rated doubtful at Newmarket, up and running? (7)
{ASTRIDE} – an anagram (doubtful) of “is rated” produces a description of a jockey (“up” is on horseback) in a race (running) at a racecourse (e.g. Newmarket).

18a  Reason for Rod Hull’s impromptu solo act – to do impressions? (7)
{EMULATE} – Rod Hull did an act with a puppet called EMU (best remembered now for embarrassing and annoying Michael Parkinson!). If the puppet were LATE for a performance then Rod would have to improvise on his own – put the two words together to get a verb meaning to imitate. [This is a strong candidate for my clue of the day – but there are so many!].

20a  Present-day Roman coin in evidence after thousand-smacker return! (4)
{XMAS} – Present-day is, quite literally, the day that presents are exchanged and Santa Claus arrives! The Roman coin is an AS, which follows (in evidence after) M (thousand, Roman numeral) and X (smacker, i.e. kiss) which are reversed (return).

21a  Who heralds the onset of ceremonial competition for Spooner’s material (4,5)
{RICE PAPER} – competition is RACE and a PIPER is someone who heralds the onset of ceremonial (as on Burns night, for example). Take the two words and, following the custom of the Rev. Spooner, swap their initial vowels to get a material used in oriental painting.

23a  Prince is knave? Not half! (3)
{RAS} – knave is a RASCAL – drop the last three letters (not half) to leave the title of an Abyssinian Prince.

24a  Order (for the benefit of community) antiperspirants – their lack may be manifested thus! (4)
{ASBO} – the order is an AntiSocial Behaviour Order (for the benefit of the community) and a lack of antiperspirants may be manifested “as B.O.”.

25a  Addresses leading to jolly unpleasant shower (9)
{HAILSTORM} – “addresses” is HAILS (archaic greetings used a lot in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) – add (leading) TO and RM (Royal Marine, known colloquially as a jolly) to produce an unpleasant shower of frozen rain pellets.

29a  Opening race leader’s disqualified (4)
{VENT} – race is eVENT – remove the first letter (leader’s disqualified) to leave an opening.

30a  East German resident, back satisfied with frolic, making late inquiry (4,6)
{POST MORTEM} – the word for “east” in German is OST – this is inside (resident) in MET (satisfied) and ROMP (frolic) both reversed (back) to get a latin term meaning “after death” which is used for the examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death (late inquiry).

Down Clues

1d  Old MacDonald’s female branch? (4)
{FARM} – this is what Old MacDonald had, in the words of the children’s song. It is made up of  F (female) and ARM (branch).

2d  Sex-kittens initially follow men only (4)
{STAG} – the first letter (initially) of sex-kittens is followed by TAG (to dog or follow closely) to form a men-only event.

3d  Shortly, what central heating will reveal knocks? (4)
{TAPS} – the answer means “knocks” and C(entral) and H(eating) (shortly) reveal C(old) and H(ot) varieties of TAPS. Thanks to tilsit for revealing the wordplay to me!

4d  Dry recipe? I admitted, I love the food element (7)
{YTTRIUM} – TT (teetotal, dry), R (recipe) and I are all inside (admitted) YUM (an exclamation meaning “I love the food”). The resulting word is one of the rare-earth elements (atomic number 39, if you want to look it up in The Mine!).

5d  In office, superior mums in animated protest? (10)
{POST MASTER} – MAS (mums) are included in an anagram (animated) of “protest” to get the boss (superior) in the type of office where you go to post a parcel.

7d  Where you can see your ups and downs planned (6,3)
{RELIEF MAP} – a cryptic definition of a type of MAP which shows hills and valleys (ups and downs).

8d  Corporation’s the first to make contact with this dive (5-4)
{BELLY FLOP} – a cryptic definition of a type of dive (at a swimming-pool, say) where your BELLY (corporation) is the first part of your anatomy to make contact with the water.

10d  Maybe this shows self-possession, so poses topless (3)
{ITS} – poses is sITS – take off the first letter (topless) to leave the possessive form of “it”.

13d  I don’t know – does hospital drama have to be just about acceptable? (4,6)
{PASS MUSTER} – the traditional answer on Mastermind when the contestant does not know the answer to a question is followed by MUST (as in “must it be?”, “does it have to be?”) and ER (Emergency Room, a medical drama on TV) to form a phrase which originated from troop inspections, meaning to get through or be acceptable.

14d  Source of perfume or repeated riots for dispersal (5-4)
{ORRIS ROOT} – an anagram (for dispersal) of “riots” and “or” twice (repeated) produces a preparation of the fragrant rootstock of the ORRIS (iris), which is used in perfumery.

15d  Tree’s in office of major (9)
{ELDERSHIP} – the tree is the ELDER and “in” is HIP (thanks to BigDave for pointing this out) and the whole is a word meaning the office of an elder (or major, i.e. of full legal age, not a minor).

19d  Here hide figure with hundred and fifty changes (7)
{ECLIPSE} – the figure is an ELLIPSE – change the first L (Roman numeral for fifty) with a C (Roman numeral for a hundred) to get a word meaning the full or partial hiding of one heavenly body by another.

22d  Three hands make it behind (3)
{AFT} – the height of a horse is measured in “hands” and one hand equates to four inches, so three hands will make A FOOT. Use the standard abbreviation for foot to get a nautical term meaning behind.

26d  Well … I’m outstanding! (4)
{SOME} – a charade of SO (well..) and ME (I) forms a word meaning outstanding (as in “he’s some athlete!”).

27d  Fine ingredient of salad dish set off gumbo (4)
{OKRA} – fine is OK and the salad ingredient is RAdish minus the “dish” (dish set off). We end up with a word for lady’s fingers, also known as gumbo.

28d  Unspeakable assembly is fitting? (4)
{MEET} – the Society of Friends (Quakers) hold a MEET (assembly) where the congregation stays silent (unspeakable) until the spirit moves one of them to speak. The unspeakable are those who hunt the uneatable (Wilde) and a MEET is their assembly before they set off. The word also means suitable or fitting. [Thanks to Harry Shipley and BigDave for putting me right on this one!].

There are so many good clues in this one. I particularly liked 12a, 18a, 20a, 24a, 25a, 30a, 7d and 13d, but my “clue of the day”, for giving me a good laugh, is 8d. Do you agree or disagree – let us know via a comment!


  1. bigboab
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    As Big Dave knows, I tend to struggle particularly on the smaller words and today was no exception, I did not get 12a, 23a and 22d. Thanks for your help again and it is nice to see Tilsit back to his best.

  2. Harry Shipley
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    28d I thought this might be a reference to a hunt meet where the unspeakable are in pursuit of the uneatable (Wilde).

    A little bit too clever for full satisfaction.

    Harry Shipley

  3. Posted April 15, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink | Reply


    Like BigBoab I struggled with the small words today.

    15 down: Tree’s in – I think this is Elder’s hip

    28 down: Prepare to kick yourself. The Unspeakable are those in pursuit of the Uneatable (Oscar Wilde) – i.e. huntsmen who gather together at a MEET

  4. Posted April 15, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Harry just beat me there!

  5. gazza
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to both Harry and Big Dave for putting me right on 28d, and to the latter for completing the wordplay on 15d.

  6. nanaglugglug
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 5:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I am humbled – couldn’t do hardly any of todays Toughie – one for the big boys I think!

  7. Posted April 16, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink | Reply

    All the 10-letter answers are P?S? M??T?? phrases. As usual with this kind of stunt, I didn’t notice until after solving.

    I’m a bit biased because Elgar (Enigmatist / Nimrod / Io elsewhere) is an old crossword pal of mine, but this should surely be a model for good Toughie puzzles – the difficulty is achieved by clever but ultimately fair clue-writing, not just by raiding the dictionary for fiendish words.

    The toughie got invented when a friend of the Telegraph editor told him that the DT puzzle was much easier than the Times. The editor then decided he needed his paper to have the “toughest puzzle on Fleet Street”. I’d say this was harder than about 80% of Times puzzles, so it doesn’t quite match that mission, but I think it’s the kind of puzzle the editor’s friend probably wanted.

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