Toughie 274 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 274

Toughie No 274 by Elgar

Christmas cracker!

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

Seasonal Greetings from the snowy Calder Valley!

An absolutely stunning festive puzzle from Elgar today, which not only features a special Christmas favourite as the theme but a rattling good set of clues to boot. Only one clue I have a bit of a grumble about but I can see what our setter is aiming at with it. A couple of new words to me as well, but that’s all part of the fun of solving a Toughie. If you are really, really stuck, there’s a big hint at the very end of the puzzle.

As a chum of Elgar’s I am probably a bit biased, but this shows a compiler at the top of his game and why he is often regarded as a “setter’s setter”. I am already looking forward to his next one which may well be lurking around Clued Up tomorrow. Don’t forget that you can have a free trial this week, so do make sure you get the two special puzzles on the site tomorrow. If for any reason you miss them, I am sure one of the nice bods around these parts may oblige!

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


1a    Ring in to obstruct descent (5)
{STOOP} A simple container and contents clue to start today. O (ring) inside a word meaning to obstruct as in make a dam, and that gives you a word meaning descent.

4a    Treatment of wise old don? (5)
{USAGE} This is probably the clue I would grumble about. Treatment is the definition, with “wise old don?” the indication, and the question mark important asking you to think outside the box. Basically a “wise old don” is not our Giovanni (although he is!), but a “U(niversity) sage. A case of pushing out an envelope a little.

10a    Get to know about article from kid (8)
{LEATHERN} Article (THE) inside LEARN (get to know) gives a description of something made from the skin of a kid (four-legged, not two).

11a    First under the hammer on application (6)
{LOTION} The first under the hammer in an auction is LOT I and add ON to get a topical application.

12a    Stick the man in the middle (6)
{COHERE} The man (HE) is placed inside the word for the middle (of an apple). You’ll then have a word meaning “stick”.

13a    Areas covered by religious officers cutting teeth at the same time, unfortunately (8)
{IMAMATES} This type of clue is a subtractive anagram, often used in puzzles by Azed. Here we have an anagram of AT THE SAME TIME but without the letters of TEETH (“cutting”). The anagram should then refer to an area covered by a Moslem religious leader. Surface reading is a bit weak, really.

14a    Take time to interrupt singly orderly line of hairdressers (7)
{STYLING} Around T for time place an anagram (orderly) of SINGLY to lead you to a line (i.e. a job) practised by hairdressers

16a    Writer’s no mug describing sign (6)
{BECKON} Think of the surname of the author of “the Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men”, remove the first syllable which is a word for a German beer mug. Add ON (describing, about) and you’ll get a word meaning (make a) sign.

17a    Boy’s work turned over on small area, having less than one foot (6)
{APODAL} boy’s work = LAD OP (hmm… about apostrophe) reversed and add it on to A for (small) area. This gives you a word meaning having no feet.

19a    Northerly winds blowing hard, right protection for flier (7)
{ELYTRON} Another subtractive anagram. An anagram of the word NORTHERLY minus (“blowing”) H (hard) and R (right). This forms a word meaning a protective wing formed from a bit of another wing or something similar. No, I hadn’t heard of it either.

21a    Faced mount to get the better of OJ? (8)
[RUSHMORE} You’ll love or hate this one! This refers to Prisoner 2648927 in Lovelock Correctional Center in the USA. “Face mount” is the definition. If you want to get the better of the aforesaid prisoner , or OJ Simpson as he is known, you would have to “rush more”. He holds the record for most rushes in a 14 game season in the US Football records. (He has now been superseded as the season is now 16 games). But it’s a nice clue and one that brought a real smile to the face.

22a    Being into women, cross literary county (6)
{WESSEX} A psychological term for the being is ESSE and this goes inside W (women) and X (cross) to give Thomas Hardy’s fictional area.

23a    Roman battle in which Julius Caesar first appeared? I’m not sure (6)
[ACTIUM} Stand by for a volley of festive four-letter words! “In which Julius Caesar first appeared” is ACT I (of the play!) Um is a way of hesitating, i.e. I’m not sure! Hence you get one of the most famous battles of all.

24a    Shaky’s band enters chart (number 2, heading for number 1) (8)
{ATREMBLE} Back to something a bit complicated. The band is REM and it goes inside table (chart) but switch the first and second letters, as per instruction.

25a    Notably appropriate item hotel guest will need after night out (2,3)
{IN KEY} This is a double definition clue, with one part cryptic. Notably appropriate is the “straight definition, while the remainder is the cryptic definition.

26a    Unjustly take compilers up about the demise of editor (5)
{USURP} A little festive in-joke? Compilers US + R (demise, i.e. last letter of editor) inside UP. “Unjustly take” is the definition.


2d & 3d     5 6, they 22 down confused about following Christ beyond theosophy without a hint of sarcasm (3,4,2,3,1,1,1,1,5)
{THE BOYS OF THE N Y P D CHOIR} Now we start to see the themed clues. A big anagram (confused) of “CHRIST BEYOND THEOSOPHY” minus S (without a hint of sarcasm) and all around F (following).
Solving 22 down, 5 down and 6 down, gives you a summary of the next line of the song after this one, and provides the definition.

5d    Grass may be last of inmates released from prison (7)
[SINGING} The famous prison is SING SING and if you take away an S (the last of “inmates”) you get a word meaning what a (prison) grass does.

6d    Where in Ireland homosexual is able to circumvent a badly-written bylaw (6,3)
[GALWAY BAY} A + an anagram (badly-written) of BYLAW inside GAY (homosexual). This leads you to a famous place in Ireland.

7d    Rustic chap is youth personified (4)
{HEBE} If you were a rustic type and you were saying “chap is” you’d probably say “HE BE”! Hebe was a Greek goddess of youth.

8d & 19d    New arrangement of Messiah BBC reviews at opening of tour? A ‘Fairytale’ start for Shane! (2,3,9,3,4)
{IT WAS CHRISTMAS EVE BABE} An anagram (new arrangement) of MESSIAH BBC REVIEWS AT + T (opening of tour) and A. This gives you the opening line of a famous song made famous by Shane (McGowan) of the Pogues (and a lady.)

9d    “Why do I show off?” refrain (6)
{FOREGO} Refrain is the definition, and the answer to the question “why do I show off?” FOR EGO bolted together to give the answer!

15d    Exploited menials of territorial detachment (4,2,3)
{ISLE OF MAN} Anagram (exploited) of MENIALS OF gives that island in the Irish Sea. Having OF in the anagram sort of weakens the clue for me.

18d    Wife-beater has a belly (6)
{PAUNCH} The most famous wife beater is PUNCH (as in “and Judy”) and placing A inside it gives a word meaning “has a belly”.

19d    See 8d

20d    Dislike river, one providing supply to sewers (7)
{NEEDLER} Like flowers (things that flow), so in Crosswordland SEWERS refers to things that SEW). NEEDLE is used as to dislike ( see Chambers) + R for river. This gives someone who supplies items to people who sew.

22d    Used to be somewhat overpowered (4)
{WERE} A hidden answer. “Used to be” is the definition and the answer is inside “overpowered”

So the sun sets on this rather special puzzle, certainly one of my favourites of the year. Can I wish you all the compliments of the season and thank you for the nice wishes over the past week or so. I love being part of this special community and I know both my fellow bloggers and I all value your contributions and support over the past twelve months (That’s enough schmaltz – get on with the music- Big Dave)

And if you haven’t worked out the theme. Here it is in all its glory, Merry Christmas!

ARVE Error: need id and provider

5 comments on “Toughie 274

  1. Wow, that was a ferocious challenge but huge fun. I started early – 12:15 am – and only got two clues solved before retiring and then had a long lie-in this morning sorting out the rest. It was solving 5d and 6d that unlocked the theme – as soon as the Pogues came to mind, the themed clues fitted into place.

    Many thanks for the puzzle Elgar and very best wishes for a happy Christmas. Thanks for the blog Tilsit and hope that Christmas is restful and that the New Year brings better health.

  2. Still struggling, resorted to the hints for a couple to get me kick started.

    Merry Christmas one and all and thanks for the review!

  3. I visited Mt. Rushmore some years ago during a one-month stay with my niece’s family in Cedar Rapids, IA. But, on that day snowfall was not as light as it is here now. The fog never lifted as long as I was there and so I couldn’t really see the faces.

    in Madras that is Chennai, India

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