Toughie 258 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 258

Toughie No 258 by MynoT

A Night at the Opera

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I bet you were all wondering where Mynot would go next, having completed a series of vowel-inspired puzzles, well now we know he has invited us all to a Night at the Opera, but without the Marx Brothers.

I must admit that when I saw the convoluted clueing on this puzzle I felt like tossing it in the cyber-bin. I persevered with it, and ended up quite enjoying the result. It is very important to latch on to the theme quickly, and an inspired guess at the 1a / 28a coupling, based on just three checking letters was the key for me, even though my first guess of “clue” for 19a proved to be incorrect.

I have just had an email from Tilsit. The last I heard was that he had lost his dongle – sounds like the title of a Charlie Drake song – so he must have now found it!!

Leave a comment telling us what you thought. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


1a See 5 down (6)
{COVENT} – the first part of the location of 5d

5a Old mother beginning to read wrote these verses (8)
{RUBAIYAT} – from O(ld) MA (mother) and R(ead) we have OMAR – now the clue reads Omar (Khayyam) wrote these verses!!

9a Time to torture hen in railway vehicle (10)
{TRACKLAYER} – if it wasn’t for the easier clues, like this one, it would be difficult to get started – T(ime) goes with RACK (torture) and LAYER (hen)

10a Baron whose behaviour’s 8 down, making expressions of impatience (4)
{OCHS} – the Baron from Der Rosenkavalier is also, mainly Scottish, expressions of impatience

11a Black removed top from tart one used at Wimbledon (4,4)
{BALL GIRL} – start with B(lack) and follow it with (C)ALL GIRL – a weakish clue

ARVE Error: need id and provider

12a It’s felt agent accepted gold beforehand (6)
{FEDORA} – this felt hat is built up from FED (Federal Agent, member of the FBI) with OR (gold) before the A (Accepted – one of those 5000+ abbreviations you are supposed to know!)

13a Redecorate bottom of eggshell (2,2)
{DO UP} – I never knew that there was a word for the bottom section of an eggshell, but now I do!

15a Punctual queen is found in 5 down… (8)
{PROMPTER} – a charade of a synonym for punctual followed by the ubiquitous queen gives one of the employees at 5d

18a …clergyman with one jug is sometimes also present (8)
{REVIEWER} – run together REV(erend) I (one) and crosswordland’s favourite jug and you have a member of the audience at 5d who would usually be present on the first night

19a See 5 down (4)
{SITE} – the area or ground occupied or set apart for a building, in this case the building is 5d

21a Drivers having a jolly in French city (6)
{CARMEN} – these drivers (does anyone ever use this word?) are derived by putting RM (Royal Marine / a jolly) inside CAEN (French city) – a pity it wasn’t clued as part of today’s theme

ARVE Error: need id and provider

23a Halévy’s upset about measure that’s celestial (8)
{HEAVENLY} – it’s about time that the Telegraph did one of two things; stop putting accented letters into CluedUp or, preferably, fixed the bug in the software that ignores them – when you have the correct version of the clue, this is an anagram (upset) of HALÉVY around EN (printer’s measure which is the width of the lowercase letter “n”) – by the way Jacques-François-Fromental-Élie Halévy wrote the opera La Juive

25a Refuse brandy in legendary Cornish King’s audience (4)
{MARC} – if ever you see the word brandy in a clue, and the word is four letters long ending in C, then this answer is a gimme – especially if, like me, you had never heard of the legendary King Mark of Cornwall – Marc is cheap brandy made from grapeskins and other refuse from wine-making

Marc Brandy

King Mark of Cornwall

26a ‘Eggspulsions’? (10)
{OVULATIONS} – a sort of cryptic definition of releasing ova from the ovary

27a Remove wrapping from new hand warmer in rubber (8)
{UNMUFFLE} – a word meaning to remove wrapping from is found by putting N(ew) and MUFF (hand warmer) inside ULE (the product obtained from a Central American rubber tree of the same name)

28a See 5 down (6)
{GARDEN} – the second part of the location of 5d


2d Horace, not Henry, could make a sheath (5)
{OCREA} – an anagram o (H)ORACE (not Henry means remove the H which is the symbol for the SI unit of inductance) gives a sheath formed of two stipules united round a stem – did you know that?

3d Typical EU destroyed trees (9)
{EUCALYPTI} – another of those badly needed gimmes, an anagram (destroyed) of TYPICAL EU gives these oil-producing trees

4d Everybody’s having to sit up around composer (6)
{TALLIS} – put ALL (everybody) inside SIT reversed (up) to get the composer Thomas

5d Its 19 across is 1 across, 28 across (5,5,5)
{ROYAL OPERA HOUSE} – solve the three unclued clues and you get the clue for this one! – a chicken-and-egg clue, for want of a better description

6d Bootless Orfeo composed in foreign tongue (8)
{BAREFOOT} – there is enough of a hint in the definition “bootless” to be able to work out that you need an anagram (composed) of ORFEO inside BAT (Chambers defines this as the informal speech of a foreign language) – L’Orfeo (The Legend of Orpheus) is an early opera by Claudio Monteverdi

7d Character seen at 5 down lacking energy to portray this fair girl (5)
{ISOLD} – the character seen at 5d is Tristan’s lover in the well-known opera, drop the final E from her name (lacking energy) and you get the name of the Maid from Brittany with the Fair Hands

8d Repulsive sailor’s bristling (9)
{ABHORRENT} – a word meaning repulsive is a charade of AB (sailor) and HORRENT (an obscure word meaning bristling) – both the answer and the main part of the wordplay are from the same Latin root “horrere” to bristle or shudder

14d Do it thus DC, and old true girl gets profit (4,5)
{OVER AGAIN} – it took me a while to realise that DC is the abbreviation for Da Capo, a musical term meaning to return to the beginning, the wordplay is O(ld) with VERA (veracity being truth) and GAIN (profit)

16d Notice one or get behind (9)
{POSTERIOR} – a fun charade of POSTER (notice) with I (one) and OR

17d Goes away as ballet’s cancelled (5,3)
{SWANS OFF} – a part-cryptic double definition – the ballet that is cancelled is Swan Lake

Swan's Off !!


20d Knife of SAS member’s no good (6)
{PARANG} – this knife has made two previous appearances (DT 25954 and T 218)! – combine PARA(trooper) and NG (No Good) to get it

22d Formerly Portuguese Scotsman gets gold (5)
{MACAU} – this former Portuguese colony is a charade of MAC (archetypal Scotsman) and AU (this reference to gold is the chemical symbol)

24d Rope encountered in fencing? (5)
{LUNGE} – a double definition – a long rope used in horse-training and a sudden thrust in fencing

My favourite, in spite of its non-Ximenean style, was 5 across – which one was yours?

16 comments on “Toughie 258

  1. Now that is what i call really hard – i did it over the phone with my brother, who actually needed my help. we completed all but 5a, 12a, 10a, and though we got 25a i still don’t really understand it, i need to say at this point that without his help i would possibly only soved quarter of it!!! Thanks for the blog Dave much appreciated, it was driving us crazy :)

    1. I didn’t mean that 25a was an easy clue – merely that ?A?C usuallly leads to an answer of talc, laic or Marc brandy so you look at the clue to decide which of these three is required.

      1. thanks dave but am i being more stupid than usual – i don’t see where the refuse comes in???? Duh

  2. I failed on 7d and 10a, (also spelt 5 a wrong which didn’t help). Didn’t like the fact that the cross referenced clues had not a clue between them. I will also go a long way to avoid opera.

  3. Excellent “themed” crossword. Really enjoyed doing this. Look forward to seeing where MynoT goes next :-)

  4. Found this tricky and left myself about 4 to go.
    Liked 14d tremendously!
    I got the 5d first from checking letters then figured the rest out.
    Not sure I would have finished it without this ‘blog.
    Thanks BD!

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen before a puzzle with linked clues which take you round in a circle without ever getting to a definition!
    I liked 5a and also, for its groan factor, 26a.

  6. Fantastic puzzle today. Loved 5a and 26a. It was 15a and 18a that squared the circle on the cluing for 5d et al. I agree with Big Dave that 21a should have been clued as part of the theme as well though maybe that would have been too much of a give away on the theme.

    Many thanks to MynoT and thank your for the hints for sorting out the reason on one or two clues as to why I had the right answer!

  7. Once I`d taken a punt on 5d and 1a I enjoyed the themed link( Does help having a music teacher for a wife ).Totally bemused by NE corner so thanks for the tips Dave.
    Personal favourite 21a

  8. Good Grief!! Thanks Dave, if we were in the pub I’d buy you a stiff drink – need one after doing that! Couldn’t possibly have done it without you today – especially as Hotlips had had a look at 1a and 5d earlier on in the day whilst I was at work, then looked absolutely brilliant when he miraculously ‘came up with the answers!

  9. Couldn’t get 5A, and wasn’t sure enough that there was no other “remove an E” opera heroine that I wasn’t writing 7D in until 5A confirmed it. Isolde and the fair hands girl are of course exactly the same person – a bit like chopping the R off PETER to get PETE.

Comments are closed.