Toughie 406 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 406

Toughie No 406

Hints and tips by Bufo

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

Is Big Dave psychic or does he have inside information? Earlier in the week he asked me if I’d blog Friday’s toughie instead of my usual Thursday one and I agreed to. The result is that Big Dave got yesterday’s gentle puzzle and I ended up with today’s anything-but-gentle puzzle. Not that I mind. I enjoy a challenge and there are lots of very nice touches in this puzzle. There are a couple of clues that I haven’t fully understood and I look forward to fellow bloggers coming up with the explanations.

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    One getting lift on trail, resembling the other one? (10)
{IRIDESCENT} This clue is 1 across and so “the other one” is 1 down making the definition “resembling 1 down“. It is given by I (one) + a lift (in a vehicle) + trail (as in tracking an animal)

6a    90-360 degrees would get you here? A little overqualified, perhaps! (4)
{ETON} On the compass, north is 0 degrees (and also 360 degrees). So go from the direction which is 90 degrees to that at 360 degrees to give an educational establishment

9a    1ac 1ac? Tactless! (10)
{INDISCREET} The answer (meaning tactless) is an anagram of the answer to 1 across. The answer to 1 across also acts as the anagram indicator (but I’m not too keen on it)

10a    Those born in the ’60s reading what follows chapter IX of book I (3,1)
{GEN X} The answer is the abbreviated form of a term for “the people who became adults in the early 1990s, considered apathetic or sceptical about traditionally held beliefs and values, esp relating to work and the family” (Chambers). Take the abbreviation for first book of the Bible and follow this with the number that comes after IX.

13a    See 21a

15a    A whiff of Sussex school teacher accepting poor, then very good grade? (3-3)
{SEA AIR} E (a poor grade) and AA (a very good grade) are put in a (male) school teacher to give something that you breathe in that is reputedly good for you. Why Sussex? Is Brighton particularly renowned for this?

16a    Wandering soldier wants to be human at the front (6)
{ERRANT} To *** is human. Put *** before a soldier (an insect) to give a word meaning “wandering”

17a    Man’s in pathetic poncho, wrestling with alligator (15)
{ANTHROPOLOGICAL} The definition is “Man’s” and it is an anagram of PONCHO + ALLIGATOR

18a    I love it, going after 70s music fan (6)
{PUNKAH} Put an exclamation meaning “I love it!” after a 70s style of music (e.g. of the Sex Pistols) to give a fan used in India

20a    Game’s 1-1, after header from Scholes (6)
{SEVENS} The game is a form of rugby. 1-1 are odds (paradoxically) and these are put after the first letter of Scholes

21a    & 13a Very, very tired, a model’s got energised as ‘Model Remodelled’ (4,3,4,3)
{SAME OLD SAME OLD} An idiom defined in Wictionary as “(chiefly US, idiomatic) A familiar, uninteresting, or tedious
situation, activity, narrative, or set of facts” is given by an anagram (got energised) of A MODEL’S followed by an anagram (remodelled) of AS MODEL. Both parts of the answer are the same. Not an idiom with which I am familiar

22a    Top striker giving energy to boot (4)
{ETO’O} Specialist knowledge needed here. E (energy) + a word meaning “to boot” (i.e. “in addition”) gives a professional footballer who plays as a striker for Italian Serie A club Internazionale and is currently captain of the Cameroon national team. He also has two brothers who are strikers. Thanks to Wikipedia for that information. I’d never heard of him.

25a    Just about withdraw coppers: overarching priority (10)
{PRECEDENCE} A 6-letter word meaning “withdraw” with the last letter removed is placed inside a word for coppers (coins) to give a word meaning “priority”

26a    What helps to make sex-kitten snuggly? XXX (4)
{TENS} The answer is represented by XXX and is hidden in “sex-kitten snuggly”

27a    Drunken Ross greedily eats round sponges (5,5)
{SWISS ROLLS} An anagram (drunken) of ROSS goes inside a word meaning “greedily eats” to give thin cakes of sponge rolled up with jam, etc.


1d    One such as Murdoch getting one in the eye (4)
{IRIS} Murdoch is an author whose first name is part of the eye

2d    Daily features suffer here (4)
{INDY} The answer is the abbreviated form of a daily newspaper. Note that ail (trouble) appears in the middle of DAILY

3d    Being heard to dry up? (6)
{ENSEAR} The answer is a Shakespearean word meaning “dry up”. The first three letters is a noun meaning being or existence. The last three letters are what you hear with. But I’m not exactly sure how the clue works. [Gazza wonders whether it is ENS “by ear” (heard)]

4d    Orderly concerned with spores at large, examples being 1ac/9, 6/19, 13ac/21, 15/13dn, 20ac/26, 22/6, 25/8, 1dn/24 and 12/7 (15)
{CORRESPONDENCES} An anagram of CONCERNED + SPORES gives a word for agreements, similarities or harmonies

5d    Sewer at point of origin having progress impeded in E3? (6)
{NEEDLE} I don’t understand how this one works (and the combined brains of Big Dave and Gazza haven’t helped much). The answer is something you sew with (with a point). E3 looks like three occurences of the letter E. Point of origin could conceivably be N (the only compass point in ORIGIN). I’m clutching at straws now. Here’s a chance for someone to make a name for themselves by coming up with the explanation

[Many thanks to Moggy, Prolixic et al for the following explanation – NEE (birth, point of origin) having (around) DLE (‘eld up in Cockney)  BD]

7d    See 12d

8d    Where working cobbler is not receiving any 25 (4,2,4)
{NEXT TO LAST} The cobbler works adjacent to his model of the foot on which shoes are repaired. If you are in this position you are definitely not receiving any 25 across

11d    A couple of travelling spacemen crashing as a result of a fault? (10)
{ESCARPMENT} The answer is given by an anagram (crashing) of TR SPACEMEN, where TR is a couple (of letters) of travelling. The fault is a geological one.

12d    & 7d To prepare for trouble when news is broadcast, cheers Coe doing reverse laps (6,4,3,7)
{BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES} This was originally a nautical expression but is now used generally to mean “to prepare for a crisis”. When news is broadcast (News ** ***) + an expression (4,3,5) meaning “Cheers!” (said when about to drink something) are put inside Mr Coe’s first name reversed.

13d    Some say successful proof reader will range more than once (7)
{SIERRAS} a word (from the Spanish) for mountain ranges sounds like *** ****** (which is what proof readers are paid to do)

14d    D—– sturdy in constitution, but on the pill? (7)
{DRUGGED} D + a word meaning “sturdy in constitution” gives a word meaning “having taken medicine”

19d    One ground-breaking school (6)
{HARROW} The name of a piece of farm equipment used for breaking up soil is also the name of a famous school

20d    Resurgent Man U missing midfield snapper (6)
{SLIDER} Take a nickname (3,6) for Manchester United, reverse it, and then remove the middle three letters. Any thoughts as to why this answer is synonymous with snapper?

23d    Compulsive’s heading off waterway (4)
{ANAL} Remove the first letter from a man-made waterway

24d    Hutton & co getting one in the eye (4)
{LENS} The Hutton is the first professional to captain England at cricket. Pluralise his first name to get part of the eye

Most enjoyable but I’m glad that all toughies are not this tough

38 comments on “Toughie 406

  1. In answer to Bufo’s comment, no I am not psychic! I maintain what I call a “Toughie Ladder” which tells me the number of the last Toughie for each setter. Combine that with the frequency of publication and the perception that Friday is usually the most difficult and you can have a pretty good guess.

    18 May 10 355 Campbell
    16 Jun 10 372 Citrus
    25 Jun 10 378 Myops
    16 Jul 10 390 Micawber
    20 Jul 10 391 Messinae
    22 Jul 10 393 Kcit
    27 Jul 10 395 Giovanni
    28 Jul 10 396 Shamus
    29 Jul 10 397 Warbler
    30 Jul 10 398 Osmosis
    03 Aug 10 399 Cephas
    04 Aug 10 400 Notabilis
    05 Aug 10 401 MynoT
    06 Aug 10 402 Firefly
    10 Aug 10 403 Excalibur
    11 Aug 10 404 Petitjean
    12 Aug 10 405 Busman
    13 Aug 10 406 Elgar

    Looking at this I would guess that Notabilis should reappear inside the next two to three weeks and we are due a Micawber soon.

  2. Could E3 in 5d be linked to the Belgian Cycle Race, I don’t know how, but that is the only E3 I have heard of :)

  3. 5d Could point of origin be ( term referring to maiden name) & progress impeded ( term for when you’re delayed in traffic as someone from E3 ie a cockney would say but then treated according to the term itself )?

  4. Slider is a type of baseball pitch, sometimes called a snapper. Don’t know about the dl element in needle – abbreviation for deadlock?

  5. Re 5d, I’ve tried googling for a Chess move called a Needle (using square E3) unpromisingly. Thought maybe Threadneedle Street (Bank of England), but the postcode is EC2, as you might expect with “City = EC”. The E3 postcode area includes BOW, MILE END, BROMLEY BY BOW, OLD FORD, DEVONS ROAD, THREE MILL and LONDON GASWORKS MUSEUM and is covered by the Tower Hamlets and Newham boroughs. None of these leap out at me. BOW reminds me of the Orange & Lemons song and the Sound of Bow Bells definition of a Cockney, but I’m still not there.

    I’m also at a loss for 20d meaning snapper, unless it’s a poor description of someone who bores you with *****-shows? Doubt it.

    Anyhow, though I only solved it in conjunction with a friend, I found this an inventive and rewarding, but fairly tough puzzle. Some of the reverse cryptic definitions were neat, like 2d, and some of the definitions well hidden, like 18a.
    Thank you Elgar for the crossword, and Bufo for the tips.

  6. Once again don’t know how but could 5d be to do with Threadneedle St in London, is it in E3? could ‘thread’ as a verb be progress, if thread is stopped you are left with needle?? No?

  7. I wonder if 5d is NEE for point of origin (as in birth) with [H]ELD inside impeded as a Cockney might pronounce it?

    1. That’s exactly how I saw it. Didn’t realise it was OK to spell it out but yes nee as in born & (h)eld up – as a cockney would pronounce it & then the eld turned up. Glad someone else agrees.

    2. Yes I think you must be right, but how many of us know Cockneys live in E3 to begin with???

  8. Brilliant puzzle from elgar, thanks Bufo for the review, like yourself and others I finished it without quite understanding some of the answers (5d,20d etc.) A true toughie today.

  9. You know when it says Elgar at the top of the page that you are in for both fun and a good old brain work out. Its taken me about three times as long as usual and I did have to check 3d existed but I thought the whole thing was fantastic. Thank you very much Elgar, I had already had a lovely morning (met Peter Firmin amongst other delights) and this just started off the afternoon a treat. Well done Bufo too, I wouldn’t have wanted to review this one.

  10. Utterly un-doable except for the nerds.

    Complete waste of newsprint. DT should be ashamed to publish when the vast majority of readers cannot even start it.

    1. Oh! woffy don’t be like that. I could’nt do more than 3 without help but I enjoyed it, even if I still have trouble even after the explanations. Keep trying.

        1. Thank you. I have been a reader for some time but this is the first time I have felt the need to respond.

    2. I think it would do no harm for the Telegraph to give some sort of rating to the Toughie as it does to the (Killer) Sudoku and Kakuro. It’s clearly never supposed to be an easy solve or contain only common words, so FAIRLY TOUGH could be the minimum and DIABOLICAL might be typical for Fridays. It might help people to decide to use solving aids when it’s DIABOLICAL, VERY TOUGH or ENCYCLOPAEDIC in use of obscure words.

      I’m not an expert solver and I lack a lot of knowledge in, say, classics and literature that leads me to Collins/Google/Wikipedia to fill in the gaps, but Elgar’s crosswords, like Petitjean’s too for example, can be delightfully amusing and inventive with astonishingly clever thematic elements at times, such as 4d today, but can also be extremely taxing, sometimes needing recourse to solving aids or blogs to check words or parts of solutions.

      I think the clues are all still generally fair, even if not strictly Ximenian, with no recourse to nested levels of crypticness that have always been seen as unfair and well beyond Ximenes’ or Azed’s rules of fairness (e.g. expecting the solver to replace a word with a synonym then use that synonym in an anagram would be grossly unfair).

      I would be disappointed to lose some of these wonderfully inventive and rewarding examples of the cruciverbalist’s art, but wouldn’t want to people off for life by bludgeoning them with excessive difficulty, obscurity or intricacy without sufficient warning. I thought the title Toughie was enough of a description at first, but I’ve got used to the varying levels within them and the personalities of some of the setters., and could see that a further rating might help guide intrepid souls to embark on an easier Toughie first or to use solving aids to help them on their way.

    3. Woffy

      I think your comment is totally out of order and very shortsighted.

      Although I am not up to the standard of being able to do the Toughie on a regular basis I enjoy and admire the skill of the setter in coming up with such inventive clueing. Obviously there are a vast number of loyal DT readers who want (and need) this extra challenge and good for them. Also, good for the DT to set such challenges. The back page fufills most people’s needs but the Toughie is the advanced level and one which we can aspire to.

      Until recently I wasn’t able to do even one clue in the Toughie but with the help of this blog I can often complete one – eg 405. From today’s I will use it as a learning curve and appreciate the artistic quality of the clues.

      I don’t think it is just the nerds who can do these Toughies. Enough said.

    4. Woffy, I object strongly to being called a nerd. I am a 20st. ex cop from Glasgow, I left school at 14yrs with very little education and have dragged myself up by the bootlaces. I take great pride and pleasure in being able to complete a crossword of this calibre, something i would not have been able to do without the assistance of Big Dave, Gazza, Libullele, Anax et al., over the last few years. These men and women are not nerds, they are ordinary people who just happen to enjoy the challenge of puzzles like this, they do not deserve to be labelled as nerds, more power to their combined elbows.

  11. re 20d, I agree with Lonny.
    From Wikipedia – ‘In baseball, a SLIDER (also known as the yakker or the SNAPPER), is a pitch that breaks laterally and down, with a speed between that of a curveball and that of a fastball.’

  12. I thought I was doing quite well to get just over 50% without recourse to the blog. Thanks Bufo!
    Typically Elgar – too clever for my own good!!
    Some lovely clues too – I got the idea for the striker but couldn’t remember his name!
    Thanks to Elgar for the workout!

  13. Forgot to say I enjoyed the “one in the eye” link between the first and last Down clues. Thanks, Elgar.

  14. I found it a tough task, and what’s wrong with that?

    The Toughie advertises itself as being one of the hardest puzzles to solve. This confirmed the advert. There’s a daily puzzle as well, to cater for those who like easier puzzles. There are days when the daily puzzle is harder than the Toughie, but they are generally few and far between.

    I found it a bit tough linking the 4 downs, but can see them all.

    A good day of puzzles with both of the Telegraph’s excellent, along with a stonking Independent.

  15. Well, I’ll stick my neck out and say that, to some extent, I (a non nerd) agree with Woffy. I dread Elgar’s puzzles and have only ever finished one without external help.

    The fact that the experts on this site are still discussing the actual explanations to some of the clues says it all.

    There’s no way I could have finished this puzzle without hints, so therefore very little enjoyment.

  16. It’s all a question of personal choice. Nowhere have I ever seen it written that someone HAS to try and complete the Toughie, or any other puzzle for that matter.

    Go into a cake shop and choose a cake; you might not like your choice and possibly not even finish it. You know that you won’t choose it the next time, but that doesn’t invalidate someone else who chooses that cake and enjoys it! Or is Wossy someone who would stand outside the shop and say ‘Don’t go in there, you’d be a fool to try those cakes because I didn’t like them………..

    Having been out of crosswordland for many weeks, I really enjoyed pushing my brain into gear with this one – thanks Elgar and belated Congratulations. Also thanks to Bufo.

  17. I don’t know why so many on this blog moan about crosswords they can’t complete. Some are hard and some easy but if you can’t finish remember it’s only a game and have another go tomorrow. Read the hints and get to understand and then sit back and admire the setter’s skill in constructing a clue where the (usually) fair wordplay has defeated your best efforts!
    I couldn’t do this particular Toughie but it doesn’t mean I won’t have another go.

      1. Probably feeling guilty about comments I made about Cephas’ puzzle last Saturday but I do mean it about the whingeing.
        Reading some of the comments would lead you to think the setters go out of their way to make things impossible which is clearly not the case.
        I like Mary’s attitude which seems to be to get on with it and use all the aids you need and slowly get better and enjoy more. Nuff said!

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