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Toughie 290

Toughie No 290 by Elgar

An A to Z of Stifled Giggles

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BD Rating – Difficulty ** Enjoyment ****

Seeing as Elgar and I evidently share precisely the same brain I just flew through this one with barely a pause, but that’s not always a good thing, you know. You miss things. You miss subtleties. You put in answers and don’t really understand why they’re right.

This pangrammatic Friday frolic was bursting with good moments although it’s a case of fingers crossed that by the time I reach some of the clues I’ll have twigged what was going on (although, in all honesty, 10a isn’t far away and that’s the first piece of puzzledom).

Favourite clues are shown in blue.

Leave a comment telling us what you thought. I don’t expect to see responses in the hundred but it would be nice to get well into double figures! You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


1a    In earnest, praying for special pun to be concocted (10)

{SUPPLIANCE} An easy anagram to start with, although the answer (a form of earnest praying) may not be familiar. The anagram fodder is SPECIAL PUN.

6a    The situation with Status Quo, pop group with no lead… (2,2)

{AS IS} For this you need to know nothing about Status Quo apart from what the name actually means, but you do need to know the name of a bunch of Manc lads who split up recently. Remove the first letter of their name for the answer.

9a    …tailor Ravel composition to be covered by front-man for 22 (10)

{STARVELING} Our tailor is a character from the bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – he is a tailor called Robin. Arrange the letters of RAVEL and put them inside the stage name of Gordon Sumner, front man for the rock group at 22d.

10a    I’m surprised this was the essence of the guarantee! (4)

{ODSO} Apart from this word being an expression of surprise I don’t understand this one yet. [It seems that this guarantee is the one made by a godparent – see comments below from John McKie (Myops) and Peter B.  BD]

12a    Desert to adjust sexuality? (4)

{GOBI} While the surface reading is a bit odd the wordplay is a lovely idea. To adjust sexuality could mean to “become bisexual” – reduce that to much shorter interpretation for the answer, one of the world’s great deserts.

13a    Here see organisation’s foremost British criminal ideally put away (3,6)

{OLD BAILEY} A very imaginative semi-&Lit clue where we have to rearrange (put away) O (first letter of Organisation), B (British) and IDEALLY. This type of clue is called semi-&Lit because, although it doesn’t have a direct definition of the answer, it uses some form of wording – in this instance “Here” – to indicate it.

15a    Where soldiers rest, each one on 4? (8)

{QUARTERS} You’ll need to get 4d to understand how “each one on 4?” refers to, perhaps, two hands and two feet.

16a    Pin’s not so straight (6)

{SKEWER} The type of pin we’re looking for is typically used in cooking. Something that isn’t straight is SKEW, so something even less straight is —.

18a    Busy couple boarding rescue vessel (2,4)

{AT WORK} A couple is TWO, which is placed inside (is “boarding”) the vehicle built by Noah.

20a    Go from B to A? After doing uey, taxi loads shabby trunk (4,4)

{TURN BACK} A new word for me, but thankfully in the clue rather than the answer. A “uey” is a colloquial form of U-turn and here it indicates a reversal of CAB, placed inside an anagram (shabby) of TRUNK.

23a    Sponge wash all over poor Ross (5,4)

{SWISS ROLL} “Sponge” has nothing to do with washing – it’s a sweet thing we want. The answer consists of SWILL (wash) around an anagram of ROSS.

24a    Whetstone — original location for castle (4)

{HONE} This was one I worked out after solving and it’s a little devil! The wordplay “original location for castle” is a reference to chess and a square (H1) from which one of the castles starts the game.

26a    Top of finger chipped off — black! (4)

{INKY} The suggestion of severe frostbite is a deception here. To get the answer, remove the first letter of what we sometimes call the little finger.

27a    Scripture’s word of action when in affluent area? (5,5)

{RIVER BASIN} A pleasing charade of RI (Religious Instruction = scripture), a part of speech which some might call a “doing word”, AS (when) and IN. An “affluent” area is one into which an “affluent” (a stream) flows.

28a    Meeting place held back by loved ones (4)

{NODE} For those who have struggled so far this should be a relief, an easy-to-spot reversal hidden inside “loved ones”.

29a    This compiler with makeover is able to supplement the team ‘statesman’ (3,7)

{NEW MEXICAN} This is a cleverly constructed double charade; you need to string together NEW ME (this compiler with makeover), and then use CAN (is able) after (i.e. it’s supplementing) XI (eleven, as in a team).


1d    Message in bottle heading for ocean? Nothing to write home about! (2-2)

{SO-SO} What sort of cry for help might be a message in a bottle? Get that, and add to it O (the first letter, or heading, of “ocean”).

2d    Not hear aeolian harp playing – and you’ll not see its player! (7)

{PIANOLA} This musical instrument plays itself. To find it we use a subtraction anagram, arranging the letters of AEOLIAN HARP but removing the letters of HEAR.

3d    Zero financial accrual for Bond girl, say? (4,8)

{LOVE INTEREST} In tennis “love” means “zero”; add a word for “financial accrual” to find a romantic female lead in films.

4d    The Beatles, Abba and The Who were a means for comparison (3,5)

{ALL FOURS} The groups mentioned have in common the number of people in them. The means for comparison is a legal term – “— —– with” means analogous or comparable.

5d    Country has article in store (6)

{CANADA} I really struggled to understand this – thanks to BD for the nudge I needed. I’d spotted that the article could be A or AN but couldn’t see the rest. The reason is that the store in question is C&A which if I remember rightly went bust some time ago, and I probably wouldn’t have also twigged that the ampersand had to be written as AND.

7d    Things will always go wrong with its principles (4,3)

{SOD’S LAW} Not a hugely sophisticated cryptic definition but I do like the way it suggests that it’s the principles that will always go wrong. We should read it is a set of principles that dictates things will always go wrong.

8d    With no means to draw very thin line for Spooner? (5-5)

{STONY BROKE} “With no means to draw” is an excellent deception – for “draw” read “draw money”. For the wordplay, think of Spooner interpreting a very thin line, or a bony stroke.

11d    Turn off telly to knit surprise jumper (4-2-3-3)

{JACK-IN-THE-BOX} Delightful implied double meaning, although “to knit” feels a bit extraneous. The answer is an old toy from which a sort of doll jumps out, surprisingly!

14d    Bars confirming identity (6,4)

{EQUALS SIGN} Nothing to do with pubs! Think maths, and the symbol, consisting of two bars, which show that two things are the same.

17d    No smile brighter than this blinder! (4,4)

{FULL BEAM} I had a moment of silliness here where I started the answer with its valid alternative HIGH (I wonder if anyone also tried MAIN – which would have been wrong as it’s sort of “next one down”). A smile is, of course, a BEAM.

19d    Bright spark with his ‘sounds-like’ joke (4-3)

{WHIZ-KID} Another one that threw me just a bit as I was looking for more homophone than there actually is. The construction is W (with), a sequence of letters that sounds like HIS and a word meaning to joke/pull one’s leg.

21d    I can’t remember being this (7)

{AMNESIC} A pretty straightforward cryptic definition – the answer is someone with memory loss.

22d    They keep order of Valpolicella (6)

{POLICE} I’ve never been a great fan of “of” as a hidden indicator but there’s lots of precedent for its use so I can’t complain. The answer is hidden in Valpolicella.

25d    Party to organise? At first pub welcomes it (2,2)
{IN ON} A testing one to finish. The definition is “party to” (nice!) and we take O (the first letter of “organise”) and place it inside a word for a pub.

At the time of writing I’m running slightly late and want to get this posted in time to sort out picture clues, so there’s one clue I haven’t parsed yet. Feel free to jump in and help me out.

21 comments on “Toughie 290

  1. A fabulous puzzle from Elgar – I prefer them like this to some of the more convoluted ones.

    I had FULL MOON at 17d which threw me for a while – I still think it’s a better answer.

  2. Failed on a few at the bottom but found it enjoyable.
    12a and 13a were very enjoyable as was 11d.
    Probably just out of my league – ODSO was one I searched for and like you am still none the wiser!

    Thanks for the review!

  3. It’s flattering when the setter asks, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Is a godparent a guarantor for a child’s welfare?

  4. Some clever stuff here, and a bit of come-uppance for me as I thought I was getting to grips with the toughie this week…didn’t finish it, and needed your review for the reasoning behind quite a few I did get – thanks.

    Can’t help with 10a – never heard of the word itself and the guarantee bit is beyond me – an acronym for a phrase relating to guarantees perhaps? Google doesn’t help if it is.

    I got 24a but only by elimination, and totally missed the chess reference – annoying as I did consider the castle as a chess piece when first looking at the clue. A minor quibble – whetstone as a verb participle? Would not SHARPEN have been better? Otherwise this may have been my favourite – as it is I think 8d is best for me – but then I’m a fan of the Reverend. I do wish it were true that he was an ornithologist (A bird watcher – spoonerise it!)

  5. Not as tough as some Elgar’s – part two of my solve at the dentist’s today though I decided to borrow the receptionist’s pen for this one. ODSO baffled me but must be from (g)ODSO(n) – the Chambers def of godparent has “some one who, at baptism, guarantees a child’s religious education or who (loosely) undertakes to bring up the child in the event of the death of its parents”. I guess the “loosely” is because there’s no such promise in a baptism service.

    1. You and John McKie look to be spot on with this. I used crossword software to check possible words/phrases with the answer in the middle and, of course GODSON came up first, but I struggled to justify it. Your interpretations do point to it being correct, albeit with a bit of “reading something extra into the dictionary def”.

  6. As a matter of interest, I have noticed a few clues that are Spoonerisms recently (in the last month) and cant remember many before that.
    Is it all you lot, Anax, who look around the papers and get a feel for a theme?. Likewise I have noticed a few Styes recently – is that a case of trying to think of a better/different one?. I am guessing that words like that turn up as a result of checking letter constraints.

    1. I actually try to avoid Spoonerisms, and the only reason for that is I just haven’t been able to think of an original way to indicate that wordplay is based on it. One could use something like “initially confused” for a pukka one like MOOD FALL for FOOD MALL, or “initially confused we hear” for a homophonic one like BITE RACK for RIGHT BACK – and an example like BONY STROKE for STONY BROKE would need something else because it’s more than just single letters being swapped – and, as you can see, it’s already starting to get complicated! “Initially confused” is, I think, already old hat – and I can’t really think of anything sufficiently different that would come across as imaginative.

      As for STYE (and other “not that one again” answers) – your second suggestion is likely to be the right one. Most setters have, in the backs of their minds, a list of done-to-death answers which they’ll try to avoid unless the grid forces them into place.

  7. Sheer genius from Elgar today. Must have been an easier one as I actually completed some clues on the first run through. Elgar’s next challenge must be to come up with a crossword that Anax cannot use to time the boiing of an egg – it would probably take the rest of us until the end of the year to solve though!

    In relation to 5d, C&A were still going strong on the continent last time I was there. They pulled out of the UK market some 10 or 11 years’ ago when they went out of fashion. The old NE expression for C&A was that it stood for Coats ‘N ‘Ats though in reality I think that the initials were from the forenames of the founders of the company Charles and Augustus (though my memory may be playing me up on this one).

    Favourite clues were 12a and 14d.

    1. Wikipedia has “The company was founded by brothers Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer in 1841 as a Dutch textile company, taking its name from their initials.”

      1. My brother was heavily involved in the scaling down and ultimate closure of the company in the UK as a senior manager.

        He blamed their collapse on German merchandisers completely misunderstanding the British market.

        He works for John Lewis now!

        That said. I just did not see the company in the answer.

  8. Thank you for 5D! Gazed at that for while.

    I post the DT daily somewhere else. A question. How do you know who the compilers are?


    1. Welcome to the blog Hereward

      The Toughie setters are given in the newspaper and, although this is not available on CluedUp, a kind commuter usually emails that day’s name to me from his mobile. There are other ways – Myops, for example, usually includes some Scottish words in his puzzles; MynoT ran a series themed on vowels; Elgar’s are usually very difficult – I could go on!

      For the dailies, the answer is that we don’t actually know, but there are certain patterns that only occasionall vary and the main setters have their own inimitable styles.

      Monday – Rufus (Roger Squires)
      Tuesday – Ray T (see below), Shamus and others
      Wednesday (used to be Thursday) Jay
      Thursday – various
      Friday – Giovanni (Don Manley)
      Saturday – Cephas
      Sunday – Virgilius (Brian Greer)

      Ray T has told us that to recognise his puzzles look at that day’s Quick crossword. If all the clues and all the answers are single-word then it is probably one of his. All of the daily setters named above have left comments on the blog.

  9. Couldn’t complete this one! Helen and I struggled for about two hours (having completed the other DT one in record (for us) time).
    14d, 10a and 27a were the killers. Had the “verb” and “s” in 27a and guessed “River” but couldn’t think why or what the final word was.

    Certainly not heard of “ODSO” .

    Favourites were “Old Bailey” and “Stony Broke”.

    Back to the drawing board!

  10. Just discovered this site, fantastic work, was tearing my hair out with about four clues remaining.

    One predantic comment,

    “15a Where soldiers rest, each one on 4? (8)

    { } You’ll need to get 4d to understand how “each one on 4?” refers to, perhaps, two hands and two feet”

    I dont think the 4 in the clue is a reference to the 4d answer, clue15a stands on its own.

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