Toughie 446

Toughie No 446 by Elgar

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+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley and we have probably the toughest Toughie for quite some time to work with today. The sense of pride and achievement in entering the last answer is something I shall remember, for, gentle solver; this was a seriously nasty beast. Indeed I was tempted to give it a lot more stars for difficulty!

As much as I am a long-time admirer (and close friend) of Elgar, I wonder whether this may alienate a few solvers. I sincerely hope not. However I rather suspect that a great many solvers will not crack this or stare at it for a while and give up, which is a great shame for there is much to be admired in the puzzle. The usual fine cluing is here but there is a twist in that due to the theme, several answers are not normal phrases you would find in a dictionary. I don’t propose to explain the gimmick here yet, but instead I am going to post a link which will take you to the Wikipedia page for “Don”. I should point out it is nothing to do with our normal Friday setter, in case you were thinking!

I liked a number of the clues, especially 17 down and 19 down which made me laugh.

So if you want a link to the theme to today’s puzzle, click here:-

As usual, I’d love to hear your comments and you can rate this puzzle with the star system as well.


1a & 23a    Don’s toast due, having no quarrel with Ode to Skylark (3,5,3,4)
{OUR QUEER OLD DEAN} One of our theme’s most celebrated utterances, this clue comprises an anagram of DUE NO QUARREL and ODE, with “to Skylark” being the anagram indicator. The definition is “Don’s toast”. At first, having used the link above, I had “THE” as the first word, which held me up. An alternative link to the utterances ( showed me the correct entry.

5a    See 12a

10a    See 12a

11a    Vegetable hoax with sin covered over (7)
{SKIRRET} This is a container clue, a little jazzed up. Basically our setter is asking us to come up with a word meaning hoax, or a little lampoon and this “covers”, i.e. surrounds a word meaning to sin, but this word is reversed, shown by “over”. The wordplay here is perhaps a little forced, but it does make for an amusing surface reading.

12a, 5a, 25d & 10a    Don’s accusation may duly value chemistry less, so they’re off (on 16)! (3,4,6,3,2,7,8)
(YOU HAVE HISSED ALL MY MYSTERY LECTURES} Another of our subject’s utterances, which when seen in full concludes with the words at 16 down! An anagram, indicated by “off” of MAY DULY VALUE CHEMISTRY LESS SO THEY’RE leads you to this one. These are difficult to decipher as you are always tempted to be searching for the correct version rather than the themed version, if you get my drift.

13a    Reached reduced frequency, zero up till now (8)
{HITHERTO} A word sum. A definition of reached + a scientific unit of frequency, which is curtailed (shortened) + a letter used to signify zero. All this put together gives a word meaning up until now.

15a    All players expressed disapproval over it (5)
{TUTTI} Another word sum. A musical term meaning “all players” is found by taking an expression of disapproval, usually doubled in common speech, and adding IT reversed (“over”)

18a    Thiefspeak: ‘Take up career as a painter’? (5)
{ARGOT} An unusual clue which is a form of charade or pun, I suppose, The definition is “thiefspeak”, i.e. the language used by the criminal fraternity. If you followed the advice in the clue, you would GO into ART, hence….

20a    Pageless exchanger of back or front two pads (8)
{FOREPAWS} Think of a word meaning “one who exchanges” (Noel Edmonds was a multi-coloured one of these in his shop!) and remove a P (for page), then add the word OF and reverse it. This will give you a word for the front two feet of a four-legged animal

23a    See 1a

25a    Youngster’s going through poster in magical rubber (7)
{ALADDIN} A nice clue which loosely could be said to provide an all-in-one definition, although “magical rubber” (geddit?) is the cryptic definition. A word for a young man goes inside a short word for a poster and add the word IN, to get someone who needed genie-us!

26a    Don’s lord remains with nothing against fire in room, and nothing to forgive on leaving (1,7,7)
{A SHOVING LEOPARD}, Remember that our Don was also a clergyman, so you can work out who Don’s lord was, perhaps Psalm 23 might give you a more blatant hint! Here we have a word sum. A word for “remains” + nothing (see above) + An abbreviation for “against” + a five-letter word for a fireplace (a Scottish word) + another “nothing” + a word meaning to forgive without ON, its last two letters.

27a    Titan effort, finally? Finally! (2,4)
{AT LAST} A name for one of the mythological Titans (who shared his name with the surname of someone who offered you the chance to have a body like his!) and add T, the last letter of effort. This gives you a word meaning finally.

28a    What’s to beat the corporation? Any MP scheming on the inside (8)
{TYMPANUM} Another amusing clue. “What’s to beat” is your definition and you should think of percussion. The corporation refers to a part of the body given as a colloquial word in Chambers Thesaurus. Inside this is an anagram (indicated by “scheming”) of ANY MP.

Off to mainline some Wincarnis and a readjustment of the straitjacket. Back in a few with the downs!


1d           Diffuse ratings take this writer apart (6)
{OSMOSE} – (Naval) ratings are Ordinary Seamen and the writer is ME.  Although it says that ratings “take the writer apart”, my thoughts are that that indicates MOSOSE, however I think Elgar is saying that “each rating takes a bit of the writer” hence one OS takes M and the other OS takes E.  I think.  Nurse! More brain medication please!

2d           Scripture group accepts something paranormal, breath of fresh air? (9)
{RESPIRING} – Scripture (RI) and group (RING) has ESP (something paranormal) inside.  I couldn’t see respiring as a noun, so shouldn’t breath be breathe/breathing?

3d           Find two heavenly bodies from Venus together, one losing top! (7)
{UNEARTH} – Two things you could see if you were standing on Venus looking up.  The first needs to lose its first letter and when joined to the other it reveals a word meaning find, or reveal!

4d           Pain suppressed by alien land (5)
{EGYPT} – An old word for pain (think of its adjectival form associated with “tummy”) inside Steven Spielberg’s alien gives a land or country

6d           For safe keeping, it turns out (2,5)
{IN TRUST} – An anagram (shown by out) of IT TURNS gives you a phrase meaning held for safe-keeping.

7d           Astronomer Royal’s heading up country (5)
{SYRIA} – Go through your list of Astronomers Royal, and you will come across an ancient one with the first name George.  Add S as in the clue and reverse him (“heading up”).  That will give you the name of a country in the Middle East.

8d           Characteristic trouble, heady days circumventing Law 1 (8)
{DYSLEXIA} – A cryptic definition, with the wordplay comprising an anagram (heady) of DAYS going around LEX I (Law 1)

9d           ‘Light’ work lifting gold, not having a cent? (4,4)
{VERY POOR} – Take the name for a type of firework / light.  Add  to it a short word for work reversed and another short word for gold.  This gives you a phrase meaning without money.

14d         Lunatic fringe marauding in requiring clarification (8)
{REFINING} – An anagram (lunatic) of FRINGE marauds (surrounds) IN to give you a word meaning making clarification.

16d         Don’s method of banishment from the City shut Northern 24 in wagon (4,5)
{TOWN DRAIN} – Our Don finished his quotation from 12a, 5a, 25d & 10a with a phrase that you arrive at by taking a word meaning shut (as in “the door is this”, meaning just about closed) and add to it the word used by John Constable for his (silage) wagon around N(orthern) and the doctor from 24d

17d         Batty parents obscure the view (8)
{PANORAMA} – Like this very much.  Think of a lady from Last of the Summer Wine called Batty and surround her with the short names for two parents.  That will give you a word much used in crossword puzzles meaning a view.

19d         Noon and midnight — time with the fairies (7)
{TWELVES} – Another witty clue.  I am often away with the fairies.  The time for noon and midnight is found by taking T (time) and adding to it W (with) and a names for some of Santa’s little friends.

21d         Go, saving a little money, to make you a starter (3,4)
{PEA SOUP} – A word meaning go, vigour or vim has A + a very small amount of (old French) money, which leads you to a warming starter for a winter’s banquet.

22d         Garland offered in meeting between Republican & a Democrat (6)
{ANADEM} – The one clue that is a bit of a let down.  A hidden answer but the hidden answer has an ampersand inside which as far as I am aware is not fair.  “Republican & a Democrat”

24d         One graduated screw top sealing brown sauce (5)
{DPHIL} – This threw me for a while as I thought the answer I had was (1,4).  However The Big Red Book told me it can be a five-letter word.  “One graduated” is the definition and the word for a top of something surrounding a famous brand of brown sauce, all reversed (screwed).

25d         See 12a

A really difficult challenge today and big thanks to Elgar for his endeavours.  I hope you will perhaps use a few hints and go back and enjoy the puzzle, but it is a bit of a tough solve.

I leave you with an expert on the theme…….


  1. crypticsue
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Had you been able to join us at the Bree Louise, you would have noticed the wicked glint in Elgar’s eye when he told me that today would be his next Toughie. I probably should have taken more notice of that, and expected the mammoth struggle I had, but I perservated, cogitated and eventually laughed and groaned my way to the end. In my opinion, if you accept that it’s a Friday Toughie, compiled by Elgar and that you will have to solve it over a long period of time, it’s definitely worth the 5* difficulty struggle for the 5* enjoyment when you look back at it once finished. Thanks Elgar for the exhausting morning and Tilsit for the explanations.

  2. moggy
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely loved this. Used wordplay to get answer to 26a & stared at it in incomprehension for several minutes until penny dropped as to mini theme. Once the rest of the themed answers went in puzzle was a pleasure to solve. So many good clues but I especially liked 18a & 24d. Many thanks to Elgar & Tilsit.

  3. bigmacsub
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid I’m in the rebuffed category with this one. It’s not a crossword but an elaborate in-joke.

    • Father Brian
      Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      You and me both, bigmacsub, cleverness for the sake of cleverness. This is fast becoming the province of a small clique to the exclusion of conventional solvers.

      • Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        Welcome to the blog Father Brian

        This is supposed to be “the toughest puzzle in Fleet Street”.

  4. moggy
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps this puzzle favours the ladies – no sporting references.

  5. gazza
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    It took me longer than it should have to work out who Don was, but it was well worth the effort. It’s a brilliant puzzle – my favourite clues (out of many) were 25a and 17d. Thanks to Elgar and Tilsit.

    • Jezza
      Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      25a – Have we seen this clue before? It is very familiar.

      • crypticsue
        Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        It was in a crossword fairly recently – that’s what enabled me to get it this time, I think.

        • Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          It was indeed – 17d Noise suppressed by a boy’s magic rubber (7) in DT 26328

          Guess who reviewed this one – a certain lady blogger!

          • crypticsue
            Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

            You can’t expect me to remember that it was me after the morning spent trying to fathom out Elgar’s Machiavellian mysteries.

  6. Digby
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Almost cracked it, with a little help from Tilsit, for which many thanks. Any hint as to the kind of word I need at 24d – can’t find anything to fit. Though I found this Too Toughie to solve unaided, I can’t agree with bigmacsub or Father Brian. Crosswords should range in difficulty from a level suitable for our beloved CC, all the way to something like this one. You can’t please all the solvers all the time, and all tastes should be catered for.

    • crypticsue
      Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      24d stumped me for a while. A famous sauce with two initials (think picture of Big Ben on a blue label) inside alternative word for the top of its bottle, all reversed. The whole is an abbreviation for a type of postgraduate degree – one could argue that it’s not really a proper word, just an abbreviation, but who am I to argue with the master.

      • Digby
        Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Harumph & Pschaw to that one, methinks!! I think out Great Composer might have billed it as (1,4) to give us half a chance of cracking it. Thanks for the tip Sue.
        Off for a few days R&R in the Peak District, which I definitely need after this one!!

        • Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

          I had this same conversation with Tilsit, but it is shown without a space in Chambers.

          • Digby
            Posted October 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

            Oh well! As long as, when I pick up tomorrow’s paper somewhere in Derbyshire, the back page contains the crossword and not an ad for O2, then all will be well with the world again. Easily pleased!

  7. Jezza
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I was hoping for an Elgar Toughie today! This was too tough for me; unfortunately I could not crack the theme, and with the long answers unsolved, it made it difficult to make any significant ground. I managed about half of this before giving in. I think if I had worked out who the Don was, it would have been a different story.
    Thanks to Elgar, and to Tilsit.

  8. JB
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    This really was impossible. How were we supposed to register that the Don was Dr Spooner? With clues like “Tutti” I was sure the link was opera and, possibly, Don Giovanni….and who has ever heard of a “skirret”? Even the vegetable was obscure!

    I have to say I think this was a joke too far, but, as the rest of the week has been easy, I suppose a really tough toughie was overdue.

  9. maagran
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I failed to identify the Don; thanks to Tilsit for the wiki link. All then became clear and it was an enjoyable puzzle. Maybe I could have got there earlier- I had 16D from the crossing links but could make no sense of it.

    • Posted October 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      I wasted time on 16d trying to fit ?W?D into TRAIN (wagon)

      • Digby
        Posted October 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        But your rationale reaches the correct answer, does it not?

        • Posted October 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          Yes, but when I had the right answer I could see the correct wordplay. SHUT = TO is a construct that I knew well, but chose to forget until that penny-drop moment.

          • Digby
            Posted October 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink


            • Posted October 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

              For the benefit of any one that hadn’t seen it before, when “the door is to” it is shut.

              • crypticsue
                Posted October 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

                My Yorkshire Granny was always telling us to ‘push the door to’. Do you think the expression originated there?

  10. Andy
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I completed almost half then had to give in, brain exploding. A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have even attempted this on first reading, but this blog has helped me enormously in wordplay and surface reading. I definetely disagree with the comments that this is the realm of a small clique. Thanks Tilsit and Elgar

  11. Prolixic
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Great fun and games from Elgar today, for which many thanks. It is good to have the odd puzzle that really pushes you to the limits and back; and this was one of them. When the penny dropped, it was a sweet moment. Thanks too to Titsit for the review. Off now to let my brain recover.

  12. AnnT
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    That took a lot of perseverance, but was well worth the effort. Good fun.

  13. BigBoab
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Totally brilliant, I failed on 1d, but apart from that, hard work, and perseverance eventually paid off. Thanks Elgar for stretching me to the limit and beyond and Tilsit fot a crackink review. ( I still don’t understand 1d)

  14. gazza
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    A naval rating is an Ordinary Seaman (OS), so ratings (i.e. plural) are OSOS. This then has ME (this writer) added (takes), but with the two letters M and E apart rather than together. So you get OS M OS E.

    • BigBoab
      Posted October 26, 2010 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Thanks Gazza, os is a new one to me, I’ve heard of ab and tar etc but not os, explains all, cheers.

  15. ChrisH
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma would be more straightforward than this. Sorry but I’m in the ‘alienated’ category.

    Got a toe-hold (or is that hoe-told) for 1a from the blog which helped me solve about 2/3rds. After that it was a complete impasse. For me, that does not make for an enjoyable puzzle.