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Toughie 314

Toughie No 314 by Elgar

This is what Fridays are for

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

The last time I reviewed an Elgar puzzle it was a “blind” solve; had no idea who had set it. This time I was forewarned so was on the lookout for his trademark trickery which, naturally, shines through in this mega-tough but highly entertaining (occasionally very naughty) puzzle. 4d, 5d and 12d are sure to raise both giggles among the knowing and temperatures among the sweet and innocent, but it’s all good fun.

It was a tricky solve in most areas, but the SE corner put up most resistance, and (as always seems to be the case with me) a number of answers went in without parsing the wordplay, so I’m hoping those pennies will drop as I write.

Favourite clues are in blue although, because there were a lot of them, I’ll try to narrow it down to my top half dozen or so.

Please do 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.


1a & 27a Musically, they get heated around noon — and Mendelssohn gig could be the reason! (3,4,3,10)
{MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN} If you get this quickly you’ll be given a fair bit of help in other parts of the grid and, even though it looks at first like a full anagram, the part fodder may be enough for you to spot it. Rearranging AND MENDELSSOHN GIG gives all but three letters; the first word of the answer is offered as an anagram indicator.

6a    Second crew’s existence doubly confirmed (4)
{ISIS} A bit of rowing knowledge is needed here, as “second crew” refers to the Oxford team. For “existence doubly confirmed” you have to take a slightly oblique approach and use IS (exists) as your starting point for the doubling up instruction.

9a    One induced a little man to wear hats out east (10)
{MILLIHENRY} A hard one! “One induced” refers to a SI unit of inductance, something which induces a voltage. For wordplay, put HE (little man) into MILLINERY after first removing the E (“out east”).

10a    The fop Burlington Bertie’s home, I’ve heard (4)
{BEAU} Such a straightforward but deceptive homophone. Split the clue after “fop” (which is the definition) and think of the area of London where, according to song, Burlington Bertie lives.

13a    My boss backing some literary satire, I left work saved here? (7)
{DESKTOP} “My boss” is Elgar’s nod to his editor; so take a shortened form of “editor” and reverse it. Next, remove I from SKIT (literary satire) and add the abbreviation of OPUS (work).

15a    I take and answer first part of exam — ‘Southern Nationals’ (6)
{IRAQIS} He’s done well to get smooth wordplay out of this awful selection, although it’s resulted in four components from just six letters in the answer! It begins easily enough with I, then the abbreviation for “recipe” (meaning “take” on medical prescriptions), then the abbreviation for “answer”, then a clever reading of “the first part of exam” – think of Question One – and finally the S (Southern). Phew!

16a    Pedestrian member of Mainwaring’s platoon (6)
{WALKER} An easy double meaning to relieve pressure on the brain cells. The answer means both a pedestrian and this character:

17a    Elderly person has initially accessed it through rigged swing door? (4,7,4)
{GOD’S WAITING ROOM} There’s no definition as such here, so it’s an all-in-one or &Lit clue. It’s tricky, too. The hardest bit is spotting GOM – originally referring to WE Gladstone, this abbreviation (Grand Old Man) is what gives us “elderly person”. “Initially accessed it” makes A(ccessed) and IT, which appears insider an anagram (rigged) of SWING DOOR. Just as difficult is taking “has” as a container indicator, but it’s forgivable for such a cleverly worked clue.

18a    Entry above these birds would provide way out (6)
{EGRETS} Another mega-tough and typically Elgarian treatment. We’re looking the names of some birds as our answer, so what does the rest of the clue refer to? Well, in a dictionary it’s most likely the word (entry) preceding this answer would be EGRESS (a way out).

20a    The poor little boy of Jonathan Selby (6)
{HANSEL} “Of” as a hidden indicator has never been a favourite of mine, but the answer is easy to spot in Jonathan Selby.

21a    Admit us if rowdy? Probably not (7)
{STADIUM} A “rowdy” (anagrammed) version of ADMIT US gives you a place which might actually allow entry to rowdy fans, so long as it doesn’t escalate into blind, ugly violence. Enjoy:

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22a    One given to eat sandwiches then rolls (mutton) (4)
{DEAF} Crikey, this took some unravelling. We begin with A (one), which seems like an easy enough start, but then you have to spot “given to eat” as the definition of something, in this case FED. This bit surrounds (sandwiches) the A and then all of this “rolls”, i.e. it’s turned around. Now you’ll see what “mutton” refers to!

25a    ‘Know It All’ (composer) goes into clubs with topless ‘Smarty Pants’ (6,4)
{CLEVER DICK} The composer here is VERDI who appears inside a combination of C (clubs) and ALECK (Smarty Pants as in Smart Aleck) minus the first letter. Lovely, amusing image.

26a    Jockey’s unseated at start of 4 o’clock in German urban area (4)
{RUHR} Total, total murder, but with R-H- in the grid there could only be one answer (apart from Rahu, which makes no sense at all). The easier of the two wordplay bits is the German UHR, which means “o’clock”, but for the R you have to start with the written-out version of the number 4; and to reduce that to just the R, delve into your literary encyclopedia and find Jockey Fou by Burns. So the FOU bit is removed (unseated) from 4.
[Elgar has confirmed that his intended wordplay is that given by Gazza and Mick H below, namely 4’o’clock in German = (VIE)R UHR less VIE (jockey).  I was disappointed as jockey => vie is a long stretch, and is not in Chambers Thesaurus, Chambers Crossword Dictionary or Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary. BD]

27a    See 1a


1d    Over and over again I confirm my occupation as seamstress (4)
{MIMI} The seamstress of the answer is a character in the Puccini opera La Boheme. If you’re confirming your occupation you might start by saying “I am…”, so take a slightly reduced version of this, double it and then reverse it.

2d    Degas, at his peak The Greatest Artist (4)
{DALI} Absolutely brilliant despite the slight liberty taken by the wordplay. “Degas, at his peak” is sort of telling us to identify the first letter – then add the name of the boxer who was The Greatest.

3d    All dead fruit, I presume (6)
{OLIVES} “All dead” can be taken as a way of saying that nothing lives, and we can read “nothing” as 0. That should be enough to identify this tree produce which I’ll bet you don’t automatically think of as a fruit.

4d    Nick’s missus has climax frequently, it’s said — and guess who’s here! (5,2,3,5)
{SPEAK OF THE DEVIL} “Has” is again used as a container indicator here. “Nick’s missus” would probably be a SHE-DEVIL, and this is placed outside PEAK (climax) OFT (frequently).

5d    Keen, like pretty maids in garden, heading off to secure a little rumpy-pumpy (6)
{NARROW} From the nursery rhyme, there’s the line “And pretty maids all —“. Take the heading (first letter) off, and place this around the first letter of “rumpy-pumpy”.

7d    So UK (or US — OK?), he eats out — here? (10)
{STEAKHOUSE} This is quite an odd one as Elgar offers two interpretations of part of the anagram fodder. We can use SO UK (or US OK) and HE EATS – jumble these up for a type of eaterie.

8d    ‘The City of London’ = cunning ‘undercover’ movement I infiltrated … (6,4)
{SQUARE MILE} Honestly, sometimes I wonder how he gets away with it! That innocuous “=” is very relevant, because = means EQUALS. We have to be “cunning” with this (i.e. make an anagram of it) then place it around REM (rapid eye movement – an ‘undercover’ movement!) and I.

11d    …blame me for extra clause adopting unusual angle (10)
{RINGLEADER} An extra clause is a RIDER, which is placed around an anagram (unusual) of ANGLE, to give a person who represents an organisation or group.

12d    Bishop on top of daughter in the trees? Rubbish (10)
{BALDERDASH} “Bishop” in a clue often points to an abbreviation – typically (as here) B, but also look out for RR (Right Reverend). We then have D (daughter) placed between the names of two types of tree. The answer means rubbish, piffle, nonsense.

13d    Sign on cap of clot I am with — it’s his like (7)
{DIMWITS} Nice construction here, using the letter traditionally appearing on the cap of someone who’s told to go and stand in the corner of the classroom, then I’M, then the abbreviation for WITH, all capped off with ITS. The definition “his like” makes a back reference to the image created by the wordplay.

14d    Greek airline once entertained all the characters here (7)
{PANGRAM} The abbreviation GR (Greek) is placed inside the name of a former airline which went out of business in 1991. With typical Elgar perversity he’s included in the grid an answer which relates to what the finished grid isn’t (although the Saturday puzzle usually is).

19d    Hot German bread with the middle cut out (6)
{STOLEN} A much easier clue now, taking the middle letter away from a type of German bread to leave a word meaning “hot” as in nicked, taken without consent.

20d    Focus on teacher’s rising arrogance (6)
{HUBRIS} The centre of something is its HUB. Add to this the usual title given to a male teacher, but reverse it.

23d    Resolute business organisation (4)
{FIRM} There seems to be a gentle wind-down now with this extremely easy (and most welcome!) double meaning clue.

24d    For cover, e.g. refuse peace, say, and beat another up? (4)
{SKIN} Oh, sorry – did I say easy? On reflection I’m not sure why it took me so long to work this out, but can only put it down to Elgar taking his usual devilish approach. Our answer is a type of cover, coating or film. There’s a 3-letter (4-letter if you pluralise it, which you have to do here) word that can be added to e.g. REFUSE—, PEACE— and another one is BEAT— (how about SPUT—?). After adding these letters, reverse them.

On a first run-through I was left with seven unexplained clues (eventually narrowed down to two – thanks to BD for helping with those), so it’s fair to say this one is on the tough side! Or are you going to tell me it was doddle? Oh, do tell!

16 comments on “Toughie 314

  1. I thought this was brilliant today! Needed help in a few explanations in particular 26a, but finished it, which is more than I can say for yesterday. Favourite clue 2d. Thanks to Elgar for the puzzle, and to Anax for the reasoning behind the answers!!

  2. I’m not going to say it was a doddle, since I had about 10 that went in without knowing fully why (I had enough to be pretty sure!). I figured out most of those and was left with about 4 which you kindly explained.
    I would say that it was a pretty quick (and dirty!) solve for me though. I wrote the last clue in (18a) as I got in the office this morning having knocked off the DT first.
    I struggled with 18a as I actually had Egress in without being sure. I was a bit confused with this and 13d (dimness) until I nailed 17a.
    Absolutely Great puzzle from Elgar, my favourites being 17a, 1/27 and 5d (which is nothing like the first answer I thought of!).
    Cheers to anax for the review and Elgar for the fun of it.

  3. Its a toughie indeed. If I had not instantly got 1a doubt if I would have got many others without the help of so many letters. Only managed a 1/3rd so far but loved 3d.

  4. This one was sheer pleasure, especially after yesterday’s disappointment. Anax get’s to blog most of the best puzzles!

    Tomorrow you can all solve the special puzzle he has written for us. Perhaps we can persuade Elgar to review it.

    • Forget my puzzle – what I hope everyone will enjoy is that Alan Partridge clip; absolutely inspired comedy writing, not a syllable wasted.

  5. Best crossword of the week, for me this is what “toughie” means. I loved it. I struggled for a while with 17a and did not get 22a till I read your hint (thanks for that).Great crossword and a great review. My favourite clue (after I finally worked it out) was 17a.

    • Wow! I think you’re absolutely right Gazza – which means there are two different ways of using the wordplay; never seen that before!

  6. Great puzzle and great write up – Elgar at his evil best! In terms of getting answers into the grid, this was not one of his toughest. In terms of unravelling the wordplay – it was sheer murder in some places – there were five or six that I am very gald you explained!

    Favourites included 1/27a, 2d15a, 22a and 4d

    Many thanks for the review and thanks to Elgar for the puzzle.

  7. Brilliant. Couldn’t finish it without help from above….well Anax actually..
    But preferred it to yesterday’s because of the humour content.
    Thank you to Elgar for overstretching the mind and to Anax for subsequent breakdown…..( or its prevention)

  8. My brain’s aching. Great puzzle & de-brief. Before I lie down with a nice double, single malt, can someone just explain why Keen = Narrow (5d)

    • Because although Chambers doesn’t have narrow under keen it does have keen under narrow…..

  9. Brain-twisting stuff indeed – I gave up on MILLIHENRY, though I saw millinery must be involved.
    The ‘Jockey Fou’ explanation is ingenious, but it’s German you need here, rather than French. The German for 4 O’Clock is VIER UHR, minus VIE (jockey). Interesting, because we’re normally far less ready to assume knowledge of German than e.g. French.
    I loved MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN, CLEVER DICK and SQUARE MILE (though REM is strictly only an undercover movement if you pull the duvet up over your head).

    • Welcome back Mick

      It’s been nearly a year since your last comment!

      I still prefer the Rabbie Burns explanation. I think jockey => vie is a big stretch and neither Chambers Thesaurus nor Mrs Bradford give it.

      • .. but my Oxford Thesaurus gives under the example “jockeying for position”:
        compete, contend, vie, struggle, fight, tussle, scramble, push, jostle.

  10. I’m not even going to look at this one BD. If you’ve given it 5* for difficulty, I kinda guess I wouldn’t like it. Too busy with blogs and avatars, as you might imagine……..

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