Toughie 370

Toughie No 370 by Elgar

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

If any of you are about to pick your jaws off the floor after seeing a 2-star difficulty rating, let me just say that from time to time it’s possible to be on the setter’s wavelength from clue 1, and for the answers to flood in with barely a pause. It’s quite rare, but it happens. That was certainly the case here, with nine across answers entered almost without thinking, which of course was an ideal start for filling several downs as well. To be honest I could have reduced the rating to 1 star, but while the answers went in quickly there were occasions when unravelling the wordplay wasn’t straightforward, and as I write this I’m still thinking about 24a and 28a.

Easy as the puzzle is, there are some cracking clues as you’d expect from Elgar, 4d being the pick of the bunch, and the odd bit of signature naughtiness. Another Elgar trademark is the occasional strangeness of surface reading – perhaps a few more than usual in this puzzle.

As ever, my favourite clues are in blue.

Please 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    Certainly not a club competition: all theoretically may play — here? (4,8)
{OPEN SANDWICH} The very clever definition here is Certainly not a club (think food) and the two words of the answer call on mild sporting knowledge; a naughtily placed colon interrupts the first bit, competition: all theoretically may play and here takes that reference and applies it to an appropriate golf club.

9a    Beginners to find unsafe jags in mountain (4)
{FUJI} Beginners to is a first-letters give-away, so take the initials of the four words which follow it and you’ll see this:

10a    Goes out without novel that’s in red woolly drawer? (6,3)
{ESKIMO DOG} Moving into toughie mode now! Goes out points to an anagram of GOES and without is a container indicator, so that anagram has to be placed around the name of a famous novel by Rudyard Kipling and also an abbreviation for “overdrawn” (in red in the clue). Woolly drawer is another example of Elgar’s skill with the twisted definition.

12a    Twisted cinema killer and jewel thief (3,3)
{ICE MAN} Talking of twisted, in this clue it’s an anagram indicator applied to CINEMA. The answer is given two definitions, probably because the first word can mean both to kill (usually referring to a contract killing) and diamonds, hence the jewel reference.

13a    See 2d

15a    Following charge, see lake antelope on plateaux (10)
{TABLELANDS} A nice little word sum (charade) is used here. First we have charge, as in perhaps a mini “account” you might set up while at a restaurant, then an abbreviation for lake, and finally (in plural form) some elk-like antelope.

16a    Healing ointment used in tribal medicine (4)
{BALM} If you’ve struggled up to now (except perhaps for 9a) this will be a welcome relief, an easy hidden answer in tribal medicine.

18a    Theatrical pitching place (4)
{CAMP} A double definition now, theatrical meaning, er, affectedly limp-wristed, and pitching place meaning somewhere where tents are set up.

20a    Inappropriate income revised — and covered by criminal bung (10)
{UNBECOMING} This clue uses two anagrams, the second appearing outside the first. Start with a jumble of INCOME (revised) and around this place a jumble of BUNG (criminal) to find a word meaning inappropriate.

23a    Deceased — or not? With the same dimensions! (2,6)
{NO LONGER} Unusually this clue offers a second possible definition in or not? which, while feasible, could easily be dropped in favour of just deceased. The last bit is an implied further meaning which can be read as having the same length.

24a    European capital’s low hills — panoramic? (6)
{SKOPJE} This is a bit naughty but typically picturesque from Elgar. The European capital is that of Macedonia. As for the low hills – think of South Africa and one of those old Dutch words. Now then… this bit is plural, but to turn it into the answer we have to take the S and place it at the front instead. In some panoramic photography you get a pasted-together picture that shows everything over 360°, so you start at one point and can keep rotating. Get the idea? Good old Elgar!

26a    With skill updated loco in a rush (9)
{RETRAINED} This one’s pretty easy although it’s tempting to miss the definition with skill updated by mentally tagging loco to the end of it. Instead, take a version of what a loco might be (minor quibble – for me, loco is the engine at the front while this word means the loco and whatever it’s pulling) and place it inside a word for rush as in a type of long grass.

27a    Mountains out of time, sadly (4)
{ALAS} Although this fell quickly there was a moment when I’d seen the hidden MESA and tried to stretch its definition slightly to justify mountains. Instead, think of a range of mountains in North Africa and remove the T (time) for a word meaning sadly.

28a    Equine establishment in position, so turn left (6,6)
{LIVERY STABLE} Very tricky! When you look at the answer there are all sorts of wordplay possibilities, so I found spotting the right one pretty hard and needed some help from BD. We start with LIE (position) and inside that we place a word meaning so (as in, I found this so difficult), a word for turn (as in a try, attempt) and the abbreviation for left.


2d & 13a    Film showing tackle to many spectators? (8,2,6)
{PRIVATES ON PARADE} I won’t say anything about this raucous bit of implied double meaning – I just hope the picture doesn’t quite show what’s going on!

Oh crikey, it does. More tea, vicar?

3d    Fellow who’s drunk 1 litre (4)
{NOEL} This deceptively clever little clue uses an anagram (drunk) of ONE (shown as just 1) and an abbreviation for litre to give a male name.

4d    ‘Flabby’ takes it in, embracing tip from doctor (6,4)
{ATKINS DIET} Clue of the day, no question! As well as making reference to the surface reading, ‘Flabby’ also works as an anagram indicator for TAKES IT IN, and this is placed around the first letter of (tip from) DOCTOR. This is a true &Lit or all-in-one clue, where there is nothing at all beyond the wordplay components which, by themselves, serve to give an approximate definition of the answer.

5d    Disciplinary fellow grips the writer lower (6)
{DEMEAN} The disciplinary fellow here is the resident fellow of a college who has responsibility for administration and disciplinary matters. Place this around (so it grips) ME (the writer) to give a word meaning to lower or reduce the value of (a person).

6d    Fashionable Miss Hunter Jones, intrepid adventurer (7)
{INDIANA} It seems you may have a bit of a choice in stitching together the parts of this clue. We start with a 2-letter word meaning fashionable – hip, trendy – and add a particular girl’s name. Now, there was a character called — Hunter in Falcon Crest, although I’d say that was a bit obscure for even a Toughie puzzle. Even so, that would leave Jones, intrepid adventurer as a good definition of the answer, but I think it’s better to read it as Hunter Jones, intrepid adventurer.

7d    One cherishing street criminal in secret (6-6)
{HUGGER-MUGGER} With only one or two cross-checking letters you’d probably get this straightaway; one cherishing might be one who hugs, and a street criminal might be one who mugs. You see where this is going, don’t you?

8d    Gorgeous East European’s taken in on the way to London (6)
{SUPERB} I’ve given this the blue jobbie simply because I really like the way Elgar has defined and incorporated one little bit of the wordplay. For the answer, meaning gorgeous (as in great, smashing, wonderful) take a particular East European national and place it around a 2-letter word which is used when people describe a journey to London. It seems that regardless of their point of origin they’re always going — to London.

11d    Pill, say, purser must take (5,7)
{BIRTH CONTROL} Took me a while to work out how this hangs together, but I think we might just have say doing a double job. The answer is a type of pill, but for that definition I’d probably add say because it’s “definition by example”. However we also need say to serve as a homophone indicator for the second part of the clue; a purser (on a ship) would take responsibility for cabins, stewards etc, and another word for a cabin sounds like the first word of the answer.

14d    In Rule 10, note offence to revolutionise game (4,6)
{LAWN TENNIS} Good construction here, and it’s hard to spot quickly even if you see the relevant bits. For the game of the answer, start with a 3-letter word meaning rule (as in statute) and TEN (10) – inside those, place the single-letter abbreviation for note. Finally, add a word meaning offence (an evil, or wrongdoing) but reverse it.

17d    See 19d

19d & 17d    Wicked explosive second batch at 6 o’clock’s gone off (7,8)
{MOLOTOV COCKTAIL} A slightly dodgy surface reading but the wordplay construction sparkles here. We start with another superb definition in which the wicked of wicked explosive should be read as “having a wick”. For the wordplay, start with MO (second – as in “in a second”), a 3-letter word for batch and a crafty (if slightly indirect) anagram based on at 6 o’clock; better to write this out as AT VI OCLOCK.

21d    Like working actor — out of touch? (2,4)
{IN PLAY} This is an interesting implied double definition clue. Like working actor is the implied bit – a working actor would be one who is part of a current production – but out of touch? serves as the proper definition; we just need to think about what touch means. Rugby fans will know!

22d    Not just public entertainment, visiting Madame La Guillotine? (6)
{UNFAIR} Another crafty definition in not justjust meaning right, equable. Visiting Madame La Guillotine is a novel way of telling us to remove (i.e. behead) the first letter of a place of public entertainment.

25d    The notion of hide-and-seek? (4)
{IDEA} And we end with another easy hidden answer in hide-and-seek.

Another fun outing from Elgar!


  1. mary
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    tried this and can only do 4! think i’ll have a go with the blog :)

  2. Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A cracking puzzle from Elgar – thanks very much!.
    Given my golfing bent I plumped for 1a as my favourites but all the blues were up there for me. I had some trouble along the way as I blithely typed in yer MESA. I was also daft on Clued up and didnt spot the enumeration for 2/13 and the other combo.
    Only question regarding 11d – One might argue ‘The Pill’ is well enough known (particularly with a capital) to not require a def by example?. That might get Elgar off the hook!.
    Thanks for the review!

    • BillyBusker
      Posted June 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Regarding 11dn, ”say” doesn’t mean for example re the Pill, but means ”sounds like” berth for birth. Berth which a purser controls!!

      • Posted June 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Correct BillyB – we were going with that but that means that we were worried that there was no indication of a definition by example for the Pill.

        • BillyBusker
          Posted June 15, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Yes, Gnomey, but your original argument was that The Pill is well enough known as Birth Control to not need the ”say” to be part of the definition. As it is, I’m sure Elgar meant the ”say” to be part of the wordplay.

          • Posted June 16, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink | Reply

            Um, you’ve confused me now. I originally solved the clue just as you said – say meaning sounds like the thing that the purser must deal with. Only afterwards did the question of double duty come up (for me at least!).

            • BillyBusker
              Posted June 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

              Cheers Gnomey. I think we’re on the same wavelength, i.e. confused!! Why do we go to these extraordinary lengths to cudgel our brains?

  3. Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I loved this, but surely 3d is an indirect anagram. Where do you draw the line?

    Also, with regard o 17d/19d, Schuchi mentions in a comment on her site:

    “An interesting trivia/tip about the Times crossword: They follow a tradition that a number written in numerals always refers to another clue number in the puzzle and not to its Roman representation.”

    Obviously that does not apply to the Telegraph.

    • Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Absolutely. I think there have been several instances in Tele puzzles where solvers have needed to convert digits to words (and vice versa) before incorporating them in wordplay. It’s a big no-no on the Times but OK in the Tele; I may be wrong, but I think even the Guardian allows it – Elgar can tell us.

      Gnomey; I think you’re right too as regards 11d, and I certainly have no beef with the clue. It’s all a question of whether “Pill” is suitable for “The Pill” as the def, and whether we’re ready to accept the definition by example. If the answer was PILL (or perhaps better THE PILL) then the answer at 11d would be perfectly OK as a definition – when it’s the other way around it could be argued that the setter is on slightly shakier ground.

  4. mary
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    ok i give up absolutely :)

  5. BigBoab
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    An enjoyable romp for a Friday, thanks Elgar and thanks Anax for a cracking review.

  6. Elgar
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Guardian/FT/Telegraph: oh yes
    Indy maybe, depends on the context, I would think.
    Times: oh no,no, no, no, no.

    I’m sticking by my Araucarian traditions!

    Thank you for the blog, Anax. See you soon.

  7. Digby
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    POETS Day, so I needed a litlle help (24A) to get finished in time. Cracking puzzle, and great review(s) so my thanks to all the team. Have a nice weekend!

  8. gazza
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thoroughly entertaining. My favourite clue was 6d, where I thought that Miss Hunter was a reference to Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt.

    • Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Duh! I missed that – well spotted.

  9. Prolixic
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Elgar does not disappoint. A highly entertaining crossword from him today. Lots of great clues but will select 2/13d and 11d as my favourites. Many thanks to Elgar and to Anax for the notes.

  10. Posted June 11, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I should have figured the reasoning behind 24a – My god-daughter and her bro are Dutch so I know a few words. Kop = head and if you add a -je suffix to most Dutch words you get the diminutive or baby word. Hence Kopjes are little hills.

    • Posted June 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

      …and my knowledge came thanks to reading Wilbur Smith novels in my early 20s. I was introduced to them by my girlfriend and every time a new Wilbie appeared we had a mini-sweepstake – on which page would he first use the word SPOOR? Our little sweepstake “pot” went from page 1 to about 15, which was generally enough.

  11. Nubian
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A brilliant puzzle that was a joy to complete,2 & 13 was the killer clue. I laughed all day and the picture in the blog is a gem.
    Thanks Elgar and Anax

  12. woffy
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Another utter waste of newsprint. If I can’t even get started then there must be loads of others in the same position.

    • Nubian
      Posted June 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Give it another try Woffy, you sound like me 12 months ago, I kid you not. This toughie is a blast and if you don’t do any others, try this one.
      We are all on your side.

  13. Posted June 11, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Very enjoyable. But I got 28a, 19/17 24a and 8d from the definitions only – missed the wordplay.

    Thought 22a was an excellent way of saying ‘remove the first letter’, but 24a ?????? How do you get ‘put the last letter first’ from ‘panoramic’? Would be difficult enough with a common word, but how many people got ‘kopjes’ first, and then convertthis to ‘Skopje’?

    Hard to believe that Anax and the regular bloggers got some of these weird wordplays, but missed Hunter=Diana

  14. Posted June 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Roger – that’s how it goes. The KOPJES wordplay was tough to work out and, ultimately, I was intrigued to discover how it worked. The Hunter=Diana reference was missed because I’d already spotted an interpretation that looked feasible/acceptable, which doesn’t change the fact that it’s something I should have noticed.

  15. Pommers
    Posted June 13, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Anax – thought you said this was easy! Just taken my wife and I over 2 hours to complete, but we got there in the end!
    The Kopjes was a good clue but I thought the hardest – the “panoramic” reference reminded me of those old school photos taken with a panoramic lens where, if you were quick enough you could be on one end and run round the back and be on the other end by the time the camera had panned!
    One thing – I see from your bio you lived and went to school in Sale. So did I. Do we know eachother? Don’t know your age but I’m 57. Maybe we went to school together (I went to Woodbourne Rd and MGS).

    • Posted June 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ah, I’m about 10 years your junior. Also, went to Sale Boys’ Grammar – the only thing that spoiled the place for me was that it was empty when they demolished it.

      • Pommers
        Posted June 13, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

        My uncle went to school there and has similar sentiments! Anywa, thanks for the blog, as usual it was top notch.
        Really liked 4d – once the penny dropped!

  16. Posted June 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Tried last night in a scan of recent toughies – the cluedup version so had no idea of the setter [Why oh why, CluedUp people, is this information still not provided?], though 2/13 suggested a group including Elgar. I didn’t find it as easy as Anax – not timed, but there were two “stuck” periods and only 9 answers written in after my first look through the clues. Strictly, “Sandwich” is a location rather than an actual golf club, but that only matters for the blog explanation (the Sandwich club used for Opens in the last few decades is Royal St Georges). Plenty of entertainment though 24A’s wordplay was a mystery to me, and I also missed “berth” in 11D. I’ll never be happy with loco=train, even if Brian Greer uses it on a Sunday!

    I wouldn’t count the translation of 1 to ‘one’ in 3D as an indirect anagram, just the kind of conversion like cold=>C which is sometimes needed to get anagram fodder in many puzzles including the Times. If the clue was “Fellow who’s drunk single litre” I would be complaining, because “single” can suggest many things other than “one”. (So, I suppose, can 1, but ONE has to be, er, number one on the list.)

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