Toughie 259

Toughie No 259 by Elgar

All the fun of the pair

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BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ***

There’s usually a sense of dread on seeing a clue-set littered with “See x” and numerical references, and a pre-solve reading of these made me fear the worst; I think there were just two answers spotted. As it turned out, this was a fairly relaxing solve, not too difficult and – very strangely – quite muted in terms of Elgar’s usual LOL clues.

As I start the write-up there are a number of clues whose wordplay I only tried to work out after solving, not always with success. Part of Elgar’s unique brilliance is his libertarian playfulness, and he gets away with stuff that other setters probably wouldn’t.

My favourite clues are shown in blue text.


4a Colonisation’s home for animals and fish (8)
{SETTLING} A gentle start. “Colonisation” is the definition, the answer made up of the name of a badger’s burrow, plus the name of a fish (like ide, this one has only ever been caught from the banks of the river Crossword).

8a Avoiding dad’s circumspection liking chocolate decoration (6)
{ROCOCO} Highly unusual use of “circumspection” here to suggest something placed around something else. “Liking chocolate” could be PRO COCOA, but we have to “avoid” a short word for “dad” which is on the perimeter.

9a Slade restricted me, and I make my point (8)
{FLETCHER} A double definition, where Slade is the name of a prison and a person making a point refers to someone who makes arrows.

10a Animal in volcano chap from Warsaw’s got back (8)
{ANTELOPE} This is a container and reversal clue. Inside the name of a volcano (in Sicily) is the nationality of someone from e.g. Warsaw – then all of this has to be reversed.

11a See 3d

12a It should make everything clear about showy adornments (8)
{REFINERY} “About” in a clue can be confusing as it can mean several things; an anagram, a reversal, a container, or any one of C, CA or RE. It’s this last one we want here, followed by “adornments” in the sense of showy clothing.

13a Char’s doing this hip connection (8)
{INFUSING} Tricky little charade where none of the components mean quite what they appear to. The “char” bit I’m not sure of; it refers to tea, but my Chambers only has it as meaning “tea” rather than someone actually making it. “Hip” means trendy/fashionable, and “connection” should be read as “the connecting/melding of something”.

16a Travel ID (4,4)
{CALL SIGN} Clever (if slightly oblique) little cryptic definition which has nothing to do with passports but everything to do with individual letters as used by e.g. aircraft pilots.

19a In Rising Sun, late, one’s offensive (8)
{UPSETTER} “In rising” leads to UP, followed by a word which suggests what the sun might be called as it sets (as opposed to a riser).

21a Posed outside back-street in France for artist (6)
{SEURAT} The French artist in question was at the forefront of Neo-impressionism and the clue paints a nice picture too. “Posed” is SAT, and this is placed around a reversal of the French version of “street”. “Back-street” is a typical Hendersonian liberty with grammar, but we wouldn’t have him any other way.

23a Serbia, no other ranks (8)
{BARONIES} A straightforward anagram of SERBIA NO, using the occasionally disputed anagram indicator “other”.

24a This is one way to go to school — what a shame to have to accept it (4,4)
{WORD GAME} Even with all the cross-checking letters in place I really struggled with this, and it was only after a frantic dictionary rummage that I found GAM, which is a collective noun for a group (school) of whales. In front of this is an abbreviation for “road” (way), and place these inside WOE (what a shame). “To have to accept it” is the slightly off-kilter container indicator.

25a & 15d Forced out of Kent naked, claim fare home to the Lakes (6,4,4)
{KENDAL MINT CAKE} An anagram of (“forced out of” – nice!) KENT NAKED CLAIM leads to the brilliant definition “fare home to the Lakes” which we have to read as “fare (type of food) which is home to (has its home in) the Lake District”.

26a Dignitary in service long ago (8)
{MAYORESS} After finally deciding “in” had to be a container indicator, it still took a few moments to work out that a word for “long ago” (as in, days of —) had to be placed inside a word for a church service. I’d started by thinking it was “dignitary” inside “service” = “long ago”.


1d & 5d Partying drunk of eighteen wants to visit theatre (2,5,3,5)
{GO UNDER THE KNIFE} Anagram (partying) of DRUNK OF EIGHTEEN. The definition is “to visit theatre” in the hospital sense. At first I wondered what “wants” was doing, but it sort of works when you read it as the anagram being the “requirement” (want) of the answer.

2d Novelist recalling Ronaldo, for one, in diary (4,5)
{GORE VIDAL} Really liked this one. While noted for his scoring ability, Cristiano Ronaldo is also an infamous practitioner of gamesmanship – OK, he’s A DIVER. Put this inside a word for a diary/record of events and reverse (recall) all of this to find the novelist. Great clue, although I’m betting Elgar originally tried to put the reversal of DIVER in GOAL. “Novelist recalling Ronaldo as goalkeeper?”

3d & 11a Oriental’s one on his own, twisting in gathering of Rolling Stones (2,4,2,4)
{NO MORE NO LESS} Very tricky wordplay here. Oriental = E, and “one on his own” is a LONER. Put these two into what, according to the saying, a rolling stone gathers, and you get the answer… except, as far as I can see, there’s no definition in the clue?

4d Survival, assembling 6 and 18? (6,2,7)
{SAFETY IN NUMBERS} The definition “survival, assembling” is really imaginative – it refers to people being/feeling safer in a large group. The 6 and 18 bits hint at two types of anaesthetic, to tie in with a cryptic reading of “something which numbs”.

5d See 1d

6d & 22d Waves out of the pub to the station? (5,5)
{LOCAL RADIO} This one is hard to categorise as there’s a crossover of identical meanings. “Waves out of the pub” is referring to radio waves that might emanate from a pub (LOCAL). The more common definition is given in “station” (i.e. radio station).

7d Comedy actor otherwise engaged by Walkabout Inn? (7)
{NIELSEN} “Otherwise” is ELSE, which is placed inside an anagram of “Inn”. I like the “walkabout” anagram indicator.

14d Number 10 (with tiny variation) during function (5-4)
{SIXTY-NINE} Big smile moment as it brought back memories from earlier this year when Elgar showed me his “Sexy… innit?” clue. This far cleaner interpretation reduces the answer to the less specific “number”. Wordplay consists of X (10) and an anagram of TINY, inside a word for a mathematical function.

15d See 25a

17d Moaned about a medical condition (7)
{ADENOMA} For a less-than-common word answer Elgar kindly gives us a straightforward anagram of MOANED plus the letter A.

18d & 20a Sleepy agent remains after this widespread time off (7,6)
{GENERAL STRIKE} Ouch! This is one of those clues where you can only understand the wordplay by using the answer. We’re playing with the word SLEEPY – there’s something you can do to it so that what you’re left with is just SPY (agent). What you have to do is strike out the name of a general (LEE).

20d See 18d

22d See 6d

As usual, Elgar adds the unexpected to the mix – especially in the case of 4dn and 18/20dn. You spend ages trying to work out what he’s playing at, and really kick yourself when you spot it.

Until next week, then… or, if you buy tomorrow’s Independent, I”ll see you there!



  1. Posted November 27, 2009 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Elgar sent me his original clue for 14d a couple of months ago and I told him then it would never be published in this paper – maybe Private Eye …. or here:

    “Kinky, innit? Sex….y! (5-4)”

  2. Libellule
    Posted November 27, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this, but it took me most of the day. Had most of it sorted by lunchtime, but got stuck on four or five clues. So I put it aside and concentrated on other things. Later when I picked it up everything fell into place. The Elgar clue referred to above by Dave would be allowed in Private Eye. I have seen far worse :-)
    2d has to be the best clue for me. But then I never have been a football fan. Roll on the Wales Australia game tomorrow.

    • mary
      Posted November 27, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      come on Wales :)

      • Libellule
        Posted November 27, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        Followed by France New Zealand on FR2 – ahhhh bliss.

  3. Prolixic
    Posted November 27, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Only three stars! I think that Elgar’s little teaser has taken more time to solve than the remainder of this week’s Toughies put together. Got there in the end with the exception of 24a for which your blog was worth every penny – many thanks!

    Thank you to Elgar for the mind expanding substance of this crossword, loved many of the clues but 9a brought the biggest smile to my lips so I shall plump for that as my favourite.

    The alternative clue for 14d is one of the funniest I have read in a long time – shame it could not be used.

    • Posted November 27, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      I’d hate to do a puzzle that Anax regards as difficult !!

      I happen to know that he solved this one in less time than it takes me to go to the village shop and back. I think his mind and Elgar’s are in the same part of the stratosphere.

  4. Toby
    Posted November 27, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Anax, with regard to your clue for 4a, the Ide is not that rare – I have regularly caught them when in France I often find much more obscure items in the Telegraph crossword!!

  5. gnomethang
    Posted November 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that was a bit too tough for me!
    I didn’t have too long to spend today but was staring at little over 40% before I came on the blog.
    Loved 14d and 25/15. I’m not too impressed with the 4d stuff nor the definition in 24a

  6. anniec
    Posted November 27, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    I remain stunned and amazed at your ability to work most of these clues out unaided – but I learn something new every day there is a Toughie!

    • gazza
      Posted November 27, 2009 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      Hi anniec – welcome to the blog.

    • Peter Biddlecombe
      Posted November 28, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      You need to remember that at least some of the unaided solvers have been doing this for decades!

  7. Peter Biddlecombe
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    It sounds as if Anax found this a bit easier than I did – it was a bit of a struggle, with 8 and 24 last in – the latter after writing a pretty long list of ?O?D words to ponder, and failing to include WORD! I got there after first thinking that “This is one” might give an answer like CLUE.

    Now for your Indie puzzle with the 8 15-letter answers…

    • Posted November 28, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      8a – not an unaided solve for me. I got the answer but couldn’t see why until Big Dave came to the rescue. I’d also asked him for help with explaining 4d and 18/20d but, as is so often the case, saw how they worked only moments after sending the email.