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Toughie 302

Toughie No 302 by Elgar

Yes, but why?

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

With most crosswords – especially those of the harder variety – you can expect to fill in one or two answers without fully understanding the wordplay. For me this must have been some kind of record; certainly one of the quicker fills I’ve done, but with around half a dozen clues I couldn’t unravel. Until I went back in for a closer look, 10a, 26a, 2d, 3d, 11d, 19d and 23d had me flummoxed and there were a couple I wasn’t absolutely sure I’d got right until I saw the solution grid.

Big Dave came to the rescue with the explanations for some – I’m amazed that he worked them out because some of the clueing liberties taken are close to outrageous. I can’t use that as a reason to mark down the enjoyment; in all honesty my Telegraph solving career is still in its infancy and not all of its wiles are fully ingrained yet. But I didn’t find the clues particularly convincing and some of their surfaces felt almost random.

So, a pretty tough one I think. I’ve shown my favourite clues in blue – let me know which ones floated your barge, or indeed which ones sank your kayak.

You can also add your assessment of the puzzle by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


1a    O My Darling — it may have started! (4,6)
{LOVE LETTER} – A nice easy start for me as it brought to mind an old classic “O con amore? (4,6)” (a Roger Squires clue? I can’t remember for sure). Anyway, for this heartfelt epistle look at the first letter of the clue and think what O would mean if you were playing tennis.

6a    Throw out square seat (4)
{SPEW} – A simple charade in the end, but not that easy to spot. Take the abbreviation for “square” and add a type of seat.

9a    Song dancing nude finds acceptable, unlike lights here (10)
{UNNUMBERED} – A bit of in-house crosswordland referencing here, where you have to know that “lights” means the places in the grid where answers are to be placed. The wordplay has a word for a song inside an anagram (dancing) of NUDE. I wasn’t sure about the positioning of “finds acceptable” for the container indicator, but on second reading it seems fine.

10a    Clay generator applied to both sides (4)
{MARL} – There may be some “How was I supposed to read it like that?” comments on this one. To get our type of clay, we make a charade from MA and two single letters that can represent two sides (as in hands or feet). “Generator” as a definition for MA (i.e. mother) is a novel approach – but do you like it? It took me ages to see it and I did in fact trawl the dictionary to see if it was an abbreviation for something.

13a    Round the bend wearing stockings produced on the premises (2-5)
{IN-HOUSE} – Now this is more like it! Quite a funny surface reading. Around U (the bend), place a phrase that can mean “wearing stockings”.

15a    How to represent as capital (6)
{ATHENS} – If you were to write AS, what would the sequence of letters be? That should be enough to identify this European capital city.

16a    Deposit with university, alternatively (2,4)
{OR ELSE} – The deposit we want is ORE, then the abbreviation for a particular London-based university which I think appeared in another puzzle a few months ago. It’s a university which specialises in economics.

17a    I’m in horse-race on ground (all-weather) (4,4,2,5)
{COME RAIN OR SHINE} – A very nice anagram of I’M IN HORSE RACE ON and “all-weather” ties in nicely. Although “ground” is a good anagram indicator, unfortunately the surface reading isn’t too convincing.

18a    Spread about Ashes finally read here? (6)
{WISDEN} – A very good semi-&Lit clue, this one. A word for “spread” (as in, to make wider) is placed around the last letter of “Ashes”, the result being a cricketing publication. There are those – myself included – who don’t like taking the final letter of an S plural for the sake of maintaining a theme, but “Ashes” isn’t quite a standard plural so I think it’s perfectly OK here.

20a    Money for party veg (6)
{GREENS} – A triple definition which covers “money”, “party” and “veg”. I spent a long time trying to add DO (party) to either “money” or “veg”.

21a    Zero returns in price rigging (7)
{RATLINE} – Super clue, my favourite I think. Take NIL (zero) and reverse it, then place it inside a word for “price” – as in, “the going —“. The lift and separate of “price rigging” is superbly done and very misleading.

22a    Medical man aboard lighter, at the end of the day (4)
{MOON} – This one also had me puzzled for a long time even though I could see the answer. “Aboard” had me thinking about a container, but it’s actually a charade using MO (medical officer/man) and a word meaning “aboard”. The answer is a thing that can provide some light after the sun goes down.

25a    Lugging dry hops with resentment (10)
{GRUDGINGLY} – Good anagram of LUGGING DRY with the “hops” serving as an excellent anagram indicator.

26a    Deoxygenated failure? (2-2)
{NO-NO} – I wasn’t too sure of the definition “failure” for this answer – usually you’d think of something that was regarded as unacceptable. “Deoxygenated” points towards something which, instead of having O (oxygen), er, doesn’t.

27a    Swiftly passes to secure draw (10)
{SWEEPSTAKE} – A fairly easy charade to conclude the Acrosses, although the definitions are just a tad oblique. The clue needs to be split up as “Swiftly passes | to secure | draw”. The “draw” in question is something your office may well have in the run-up to the Grand National.


1d    This could make 10 injure bumpkin (4)
{LOUT} – Thinking caps on, ladies and gentlemen. First we need to look at the answer to 10a and notice it has the letter L in it. That answer could be a word meaning “to injure” (or spoil) if that L was removed (or taken —). If we have taken the L — this answer at 1d means a “bumpkin”.

2d    A requirement for 1130 opening? (4)
{VENT} – This is a bit naughty and, I suspect, bordering on unfair (let me know what you think!). If you look at your watch and it’s 11:30 it may be that your watch is wrong (but that’s another matter) – but, write that time down in words. Hidden in there is your answer. I think “a requirement for” is stretching it as an indication of a hidden answer.

3d    We used to love this track (2,4)
{LE MANS} – Dave and I are both struggling to understand this; we think it may just be a cryptic definition, but not entirely sure why. Anyway, it’s a race circuit (track) famed for its 24-hour events.  [We both missed this one, which has been pointed out to us by two other setters – John “Myops” McKie and Giovanni.  According to Chambers, leman is an archaic word for a a lover, sweetheart or paramour so “we used to love” is lemans.  BD]

4d    Educational growth? (4,2,9)
{TREE OF KNOWLEDGE} – Another cryptic definition – think of “growth” as a thing that grows.

5d    1-1: close to 2, however (4,2)
{EVEN SO} – This bit of cryptic trickery also involves a number being written out. Start with EVENS (which is, I suppose, sort of suggested by 1-1) then the last letter of the written-out version of 2.

7d    He may receive order for oysters, fruit and meat outside World’s End (5,5)
{PEARL DIVER} – Beautiful construction here and a reference to the famous World’s End restaurant where you can pay huge sums of money for tiny portions of food on huge plates. But they’re just divine, darling. “World’s End” points to the letter D, which is placed inside PEAR (fruit) and another item of food which … er, is it really meat?

8d    Self-confessed genius beset rabid animal (10)
{WILDEBEEST} – The famous inmate of Reading Gaol is given an anagram (rabid) of BESET to give us the name of a wild animal.

11d    Who wears the colours green/blue with order to inspire mistress? (5,5)
{FANCY WOMAN} – This is a little monster which is spoilt, I think, by a somewhat wayward insertion indicator in “to inspire”. A person “who wears the colours” is a FAN, and the colour which is a combination of green and blue is CYAN. Place this last component around the abbreviations for “with” and Order of Merit (order).

12d    Badly-directed dumb-show? In time, new critical response? (6-4)
{THUMBS-DOWN} – Clever construction in this one, although the surface reading doesn’t quite hit the spot. An anagram (badly-directed – like that!) of DUMB-SHOW (nice that even the hyphen appears) inside two abbreviations, for “time” and “new”.

13d    Brothers and sisters are working (2,5)
{IN ORDER} – For this implied double meaning, think of brothers and sisters as being of the religious variety and having monastic residence.

14d    What’s brought about by rubber band (7)
{ERASURE} – Marvellous! OK, a little bit of pop culture knowledge is needed, so let’s hope you recognise these chappies:

19d    Managed to look up River Trip Limited (6)
{NARROW} – This one took ages to see and I think the false capitalisation fooled me more than it should have. Start by taking RAN (managed) and reverse it (implied by “to look up”) then add a word which could mean to take a river trip (under one’s own power).

20d    Rock that’s coarse-grained, it’s a pleasure to report (6)
{GNEISS} – One of the few homophones that shouldn’t invoke too much protest, think of a word which sounds like NICE (a pleasure).

23d    Not unintelligent figure in Indian city (4)
{AGRA} – Although there are numerous accepted precedents, this is a type of clue I just don’t like – for me it demands far too much from the solver. You have to start by seeing “figure” and realising this can be DIAGRAM. After that, think of DIM (unintelligent) and remove it.

24d    The sort to help make a pretty penny (4)
{TYPE} – 2d gives us an obliquely indicated hidden answer but this is absolutely straight-down-the-middle, and nicely concealed in “pretty penny”.

The bits that worried me – did they do for you too? Time to let rip, friends…

17 comments on “Toughie 302

  1. Not quite finished this and may not have the time so I will poss just look up (Struggling with last 3)
    Agree with 18a – Superb but 14d and 7d did it for me!.
    Also not a scooby on a few (Le Mans included)
    Thanks for the review!

    1. On the subject of fairness I think the following were pushing it a bit:
      1d, 2d definitely. All else was tough but not undoable (for me!) apart from 3d

      1. I have to say that at the time of writing the review I didn’t know this was by Elgar. Had I known, I’d have been on the lookout for his trademark deviousness and in all honesty I doubt it would have troubled me.

        Elgar’s a great pal and one of the nicest setters around. This puzzle has his signature all over it and I’m disappointed that I didn’t cotton on to it being his work from the outset.

      1. In that case the clues was so cunning you could brush your teeth with it.
        Well done that composer!

  2. Cunning or what! I shall refrain from Blackadder quotes out of deference to those who have been deposed from the chair of cunningness by this evil work of genius. Huge grins as each clue fell into place (other than 3d which baffles me too). It’s odd how different minds work. Some of the first clues to fall for me were 10a and 26a. I agree with the comment on 2d. I originally tried to work on the basis of 1130 being half eleven making VEN but could not then get the T out!

    Favourite clues were 15a, 18a, 22a, 7d and 14d.

    Thanks to Elgar (a – for the pint last Saturday and b – for this puzzle). Thanks for the notes Anax.

  3. Hehe. Just had a text from Elgar – “Two stars? That’s a bit harsh!”

    And he’s absolutely right. If I’d known from the outset it was an Elgar I’d have given it at least 3, possibly 4. I don’t really want to change it now as it would look artificial. But anyway – Elgar; love ya man!

    1. To prevent accusations of bias in the ratings, wouldn’t it be preferable if the Compilers were anonymous?

      1. Welcome to the blog Gilbert

        There’s something to be said either way on that – I prefer to know (or in some cases to confirm what I suspected).

  4. Got there in the end, but initially missed the clever anagram indicator for 25a – struggled with fuggles and nuggets before hopping over to the blog.

  5. LEMAN is an old word for lover. The advantage of being a setter is that you are liable to see ideas that you’ve used yourself in the past!

  6. Enjoyed the puzzle but couldn’t see 1d or 10a (which doesn’t help). Got VENT for “opening” but couldn’t think why – until I logged on here. Favourites 14d and 26a. Lots of very clever but fair clues. Thank you.

  7. Completed 2 toughies this week but this was way beyond my abilities. I did not even finish half and having now seen the answers I don’t think I would ever have got them. One day perhaps.

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