Toughie 100001

Toughie No 100001 by Elgar

Christmas Streamer

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

This is a marvellous piece of crossword construction by a superbly entertaining setter. As we’ve come to expect there is a smattering of rule bending but we wouldn’t have it any other way, and the rewards are spectacularly good. With so many answers contributing to the message it’s inevitable that a couple of obscurities have crept in, but that didn’t spoil the fun for me.

The message itself takes up no less than 12 grid entries – in order, 20d, 12a, 28a, 15d, 10a, 1a, 17d, 5a, 21a, 30a, 16a and 9a – a mighty achievement and you’ll see how these placings pretty much forced everything else into place. The message forms the first lines of a poem by George R Sims.

My favourite clues are shown in blue – how do they compare with yours? 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.

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.


1a    (see 10) ‘…Spooner’s daring charge as winter nudist?…’ (see 17) (4,4)
{COLD BARE} “Daring” is BOLD, and a “charge” as a responsibility is a CARE – give these the Spoonerism treatment for part of the message answer which could be cryptically defined as what a winter nudist might be.

5a    (see 17) ‘…hopeful or cheerful? Second option’s correct…’ (see 21 across) (6)
{BRIGHT} Elgar has chosen two synonyms to define the answer. The answer exploits a letter that can mean a second option (think Plan…) and a word for “correct”.

9a    (see 16) ‘…accompanied by Bush, say, getting out of Holy Land’ (3,5)
{AND HOLLY} An anagram of HOLY LAND gives us part of the message whose two words could be clued as “accompanied by Bush, say”..

10a    (see 15) ‘…stand there centrally with article…’ (see 1 across) (3,3)
{AND THE} “Stand there centrally” is a nice way of telling us to look for the middle grouping of letters for our answer. “With article” confirms it.

12a    (see 20) ‘…its charms all around…’ (see 28) (9)
{CHRISTMAS} This is a nice easy one, a straightforward anagram of ITS CHARMS which leads us to a pleasing – if very moderately oblique – &Lit clue.

13a    No broader women lost to wit (2,3)
{ID EST} Perhaps the only quibble here, where the wordplay uses WIDEST minus the abbreviation for “women”. WIDEST = “no broader” is a bit loose grammatically.

14a    Hands over exchange here (4)
{SWAP} Lovely, tidy piece if direct wordplay in which a word for “hands” (in the animal kingdom) are reversed – the indicator is “over”.

Here's another interpretation

16a    (see 30) ‘…coloured for gene mutation…’ (see 9) (2,5)
{OF GREEN} Another anagram, this time “mutation” asking us to rearrange FOR GENE. The answer phrase could mean “coloured”.

19a    Winners in 2006 final — German no 1 leaves Grasshoppers side to get first-class belting? (7)
{AZZURRI} Elgar was pretty much forced into placing this answer and its letters are unpleasant to deal with, so the wordplay takes some sorting out. “Final” refers to the final letter of the alphabet. “Grasshoppers” refers to ZURICH but we have to remove from that a German reading of “number 1”. Then we have “side”, leading to R (right), and all of this is placed inside a two-letter abbreviation meaning first-class, excellent. The answer is a nickname for the Italian national soccer team.

21a    (see 5) ‘…in the company of stand-up, hard to follow…’ (see 30) (4)
{WITH} String together a word for a funny person (sometimes a stand-up comedian) and the letter H (hard).

24a    Ghoulish giant manservant who botches in leaving mischievous child nailed to line (5)
{LURCH} A mischievous child is an URCHIN – remove IN from this and attach (nail) it to the abbreviation for “line”.

25a    Without the will, run off road between California and Nevada? (9)
{INTESTATE} One of those easily identifiable crossword abbreviations helps to unravel this – the word “run(s)” in a clue usually points to cricket, and in this case we remove that from a type of road; an American one – Elgar uses “between California and Nevada” as an example of where such a road might run.

27a    Pictures by Ben King (6)
{ARTHUR} Nice piece of misdirection where Ben King appears to be a person’s name, where actually it refers to two people. “Ben” is the first part of the eponymous name of a film, and this appears after a word for “pictures” (or paintings) to give us the name of a mythical King.

28a    (see 12) ‘…always cunningly hinted edging — this is 359th —– year…’ (see 15) (3,2,3)
{DAY IN THE} An archaic word for “always” is AY, which is placed in an anagram of HINTED (“cunningly” is the indicator) to form a phrase which can fill the gap in the string of text at the end of the clue.

29a    Work of art bearing the name ‘Leonardo’ on the reverse? (6)
{ENAMEL} This is a bit naughty – not entirely sure it works. The unusually defined “work of art” (the answer is something that may be applied as a coating – sometimes artistically, but not necessarily so) is hidden in “the name Leonardo”. In the clue we have the suggestion that the answer is somehow serving as the “hider”, with “on the reverse?” suggesting it’s the other way round, but it feels like a bit of a stretch.

30a    (see 21) ‘…fish new boy’s caught from decks…’ (see 16) (8)
{GARLANDS} There are several fish which seem almost exclusive to crosswords – ide, ling and gar are no doubt familiar to people with piscine interests but for most of us we only know those names because of their frequent occurrences in crossword grids. In this case we want GAR and the abbreviation for “new” placed inside (caught by) a synonym for “boy’s”.


1d    Opportunity to voice mantras (6)
{CHANCE} Puzzle purists may bridle at this homophone of CHANTS (mantras) – is it really the same sound as the answer?

2d    Young man’s years in St Lucia resort (6)
{LADERA} This took me ages but, apparently, the St Lucia resort in question is regarded as “the best holiday resort in the world”. The young man in the first part of the wordplay is the same one as used as part of 30a, and “years” refers to a number of years typically noted for a particular style.

3d    Chemist’s footwear (5)
{BOOTS} This double definition clue should take all of five seconds to spot! Think of a major High Street retailer.

4d    Boned herring — substandard — one from shopping arcade’s filling up (7)
{ROLLMOP} This answer was placed a long time before I worked out the wordplay, one of those instances where the checking letters made nothing else possible. “Substandard” is POOR, and this is filled by a word for a shopping arcade but with the letter A (one) removed, and the whole of this is reversed.

6d    Charging weakling for keeping nag in order (7,2)
{RUNNING AT} Sometimes I use the wrong references when it comes to searching for possible answers, and my Crosswordman wildcard searching elicited zilch for this so it took some time to see the answer even though I knew it involved an anagram of either NAG or NAG IN. Eventually I was able to choose the latter, and place this inside RUNT (a weakling).

7d    At present in Greece, one infers (8)
{GATHERER} One of the things which can make the Toughie tough is that setters are given much more freedom to use abbreviations which are sanctioned by dictionaries (as opposed to in common use) so you need to be wary. Here we have GR (Greece) placed around AT and a word meaning “present”, as in attending.

8d    Sentimentally pretty sound of bell on social network (8)
{TWEETING} Cute little charade using words for “sentimentally pretty” and “sound of bell” to give the cleverly defined “on social network”, as in actively using the “I haven’t got anything to say but I’ll say it anyway” service provided by Twitter. That innocuous word “on” is vital for the reading.

11d    Order cut halves of snakes to be repaired (4)
{ASBO} To find the answer (a trophy for chavs) take the word BOAS, cut it in half and “re-pair” those two halves. Clever stuff!

15d    (see 28) ‘…what Beadle overlooked chores inversely…’ (see 10) (9)
{WORKHOUSE} “Chores” can be a definition for HOUSEWORK, but “inversely” suggests we should take the two syllables of this and switch them around. My dictionaries don’t directly state that a beadle would overlook the answer in question, but he is defined as (among other things) a person given responsibility over minor offenders so I suppose the definition can be seen that way.

17d    (see 1 across) ‘…everyone’s in Hertfordshire town: partition is pluralised…’ (see 5) (5,3)
{WALLS ARE} ALL’S (everyone’s) is placed inside WARE, a town in Hertfordshire. Overseas solvers are unlikely to be familiar with that, but the extra definitions “partition” and the pluralised form of “is” will be helpful.

18d    Empress’s artillerymen turning up in spots in Central America (8)
{CZARITSA} Because this answer has a number of alternative spellings it was initially tough to latch onto the right one and I needed full understanding of the wordplay to make it all fit properly. The “artillerymen” are the Royal Artillery, or RA, which is reversed and placed inside ZITS (spots) – this in turn is inside the abbreviation for Central America.

20d    ‘The end of inflammation confirmed…’ (see 12) (2,2)
{IT IS} It doesn’t look like a double meaning but that’s what it is. Oops – just given you the answer.

21d    Some power generated by an ace potter (7)
{WATTANA} For me, the best clue of the puzzle, certainly for smoothness. The whole surface suggests something to do with snooker and in fact that’s precisely what we’re looking for, the name of a snooker player from Thailand. The wordplay consists of a unit of electrical power, plus AN and A (ace).

22d    Not unknown for her lover to kiss Cleopatra’s head: it’s part of the territory (6)
{CANTON} This is a clue playing with itself. The second part of the wordplay refers to Cleopatra’s lover, minus the Y (unknown) at the end of his name, and this is placed after the first letter of Cleopatra.

23d    See an orderly pursuing a classical hero (6)
{AENEAS} Devious anagram indicator here (orderly – not entirely happy with that) tells us to arrange the letters of SEE AN, then place this after A. A bit of classical Greek mythology is needed to get the answer.

26d    Silent film extract (5)
{STILL} And a lovely double definition to finish where we have to separate the parts as “silent / film extract” rather than the suggested “silent film / extract”.

Top stuff from a master setter!


  1. gnomethang
    Posted December 25, 2009 at 1:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for the review and a Merry Christmas anax.

    I failed on 11 at the death but certainly missed the wordplay on many of the clues (19a phew!)

    great fun working put the theme!

    • gnomethang
      Posted December 25, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Forgot to agree with 21d as favourite but really liked 22d and 17d as well

  2. Posted December 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Another enjoyable puzzle from Elgar that captured the spirit of the day.

  3. Prolixic
    Posted December 25, 2009 at 10:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow. I’m sure that there must be something in the Human Rights leglislation about two Elgar’s in a row – cruel and unusual punishment comes to mind – only joking, this was another corker from Elgar. Got there in the end by retiring from the fray of Christmas for an hour or so while the boys played on their new console. 19a defeated me and I thought that the extra words “on the reverse” in 29a were a bit of a liberty! Otherwise, a tremendous workout, for which many thanks are due to Elgar. There were many fantastic clues but like others, I think 22d deserves a special mention. Off now to the workhouse to carry on with the washing up.

  4. Tilly
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well that certainly got my brain working again after Christmas! And nice to see soccer and snooker included for a change. It began to fall into place for me when i got 16a, 9a then 30a. That took me back to a TV programme as I seem to recall that this message has some connection with Morecambe and Wise (or some other comedians?) who used this or a variation of this, in their programme. Can anyone help me out with this, please?

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