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Toughie 541

Toughie No 541 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Bufo

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

We had been reliably informed that tomorrow was to be an Elgar day and Big Dave had offered to let me swap to Friday this week so that I could wrestle with an Elgar puzzle. I had turned down the offer because of time constraints tomorrow so it was a bit of a surprise to see Elgar appear today. This was a typical Elgar puzzle full of his usual inventiveness (or do I mean deviousness?) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I completed the top half fairly quickly but needed to take a break (to do today’s Times puzzle) before managing to complete the bottom half.

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    Penny each for this vegetable? (5-3)
{SPLIT PEA} The second word consists of an abbreviation of penny and a shortened form of each. The first word reflects that the clue reads “penny each” and not “pennyeach”.

6a    Winehouse well-stacked, which produces crime (6)
{BIGAMY} Were Ms Winehouse to be well-stacked she might be known as *** ***

9a    Fight? I’m in for a stint (6)
{SCRIMP} Take a word for fight and replace A by IM to get “to stint”

10a    Zip opening? It doesn’t do itself justice, as it happens (3-5)
{NON-EVENT} Zip is a slang term (originally US) for nothing. Another word for nothing is followed by an opening to give an occasion of no significance

11a    Hard-hearted as the OT with 38 books? (8)
{RUTHLESS} The OT has 39 books. If you remove one particular book then the OT could be said to be this.

12a    If shut, new butcher’s required (6)
{SHUFTI} An anagram (new) of IF SHUT gives an informal term for a butcher’s (hook) or look

13a & 16a    Game is how I won notable material (3,5,2,2,1,11)
{WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE} An anagram (game) of IS HOW I WON NOTABLE MATERIAL give a TV game show in which large amounts of money have been won

19a    Would parenthood make me dote? (6)
{ORPHAN} An anagram of PARENTHOOD with the letters of DOTE removed gives a child deprived of its parents

21a    Find the lady limping onto vessels (4,4)
{MUG’S GAME} Drinking vessels followed by “limping” gives something only fools would take part in, e.g. find the lady or the three-card trick

23a    Place of dubious reputation doing business, one slinging mud inside (5,3)
{OPIUM DEN} I (one) + an anagram (slinging) of MUD goes inside “doing business” to give an establishment where a particular drug is smoked

24a    Low note so advances money (6)
{MOOLAH} Low (what cow’s do) + the note that follows so gives a slang term for money

25a    When passport enters brawl? (6)
{FRIDAY} A day of the week is given by something that proves who you are (e.g. a passport) inside a brawl

26a    Eat-in cooking houses the torture of Luxor? (8)
{EGYPTIAN} An anagram (cooking) of EAT-IN goes round (houses) a slang term for torture to give an adjective meaning “of Luxor?”


2d    Job cabby will do for a score (4-2)
{PICK-UP} 2 meanings: job cabby will do/score (in a sexual way)

3d & 13d    I found his howl disruptive, screening the entrance of Ronnie Barker (5,9)
{IRISH WOLFHOUND} An anagram (disruptive) of I FOUND HIS HOWL goes round R (the first letter of Ronnie) to give a breed of dog (barker)

4d    Go with current SA president cutting spicy food (9)
{PEPPERONI} A word meaning go (energy) + I (current) is cut by a former South American president to give a hard, spicy beef and pork sausage

5d    This with tip of tongue animates doctors (7)
{AMNESIA} An anagram (doctors) of ANIMATES without the T (tip of tongue) gives a condition which might be of interest to doctors (I forget what)

6d    Extra billion paid for by Obama? (5)
{BONUS} A word for extra suggests that a billion (B) might be paid for by the United States

7d & 22d    Pass on, or fail on seance? (4,2,3,5)
{GIVE UP THE GHOST} A phrase meaning “to die” suggests that a séance might have been cut short

8d    The province of Homo sapiens one needs in full, TBA (8)
{MANITOBA} A Canadian province is formed by Homo sapiens + I (one) + TBA with the first word expanded (in full)

14d    So-and-so’s pasty, initially short on filling? (9)
{THINGUMMY} The answer means so-and-so, i.e what-d’you-call-him. It consists of pasty (like glue) preceded by “short on filling”

15d    Unfit to play the childcatcher? (8)
{IMPROPER} A mischievous child + a catcher (using a lasso?) gives “unfit”

17d    One’s suggested egg in one’s order (7)
{NOMINEE} An egg (explosive device) goes inside an anagram (order) of ONE to give someone who has been suggested

18d    Mate’s wearing setter’s ace jumper — it’s astonishing! (6)
{IMPALA} A mate goes inside (wearing) I’M (setter is) A (ace) to give an antelope capable of prodigious leaps

20d    Seabird going wee-wee in Boulogne? (5)
{NODDY} Wee-wee suggests Oui Oui which is the French name for a character in children’s literature who’s name is also an oceanic bird that is unaccustomed to man and therefore easily caught

A most enjoyable puzzle

[Did anyone else notice that Telegraph Puzzles managed to cope with the enumeration of the answers which were split across two sets of lights? BD]

49 comments on “Toughie 541

  1. Really terrific puzzle from Elgar. Tremendous fun to solve. Just great.


  2. 5 star brilliance and I, for one am glad it was a day early as I have a job imposed on me in the office tomorrow morning which means that I will not be able to give my full attention to the important things of life and it would have been very frustrating not to be able to get on with such a superb Toughie.

    Thanks to Elgar for a lovely Toughie with lots of cheeky clues and some great pennydropping moments. Thanks to Bufo for the hints too.

  3. Ditto me’learned friends comments above – an absolute belter. Thanks to CS for the hint on 19a and confirming my un/parsed suspicions at 15 & 20d.
    Many thanks to Bufo for the review and Elgar for the Bobby Dazzler – my money is on Nitabilis fir tomorrow (as it should have been on Big Bycks today!)
    Regarding 6a, I am sure that Elgar is aware that Ms Winehouse was Pneumatcally enhanced some time last year.
    Also : “I have two wives and I think it’s very big o’ me”
    I’ll get me coat……

        1. Your mind was obviously taken up with the thought of that awful woman being pneumatically enhanced :D

  4. Very enjoyable puzzle today that I found slightly more straightforward than some from Elgar.
    Last two in were 19a, and 20d.
    Thanks to Elgar, and to Bufo for the review.

  5. 12a and 24a new words to me (for memory commital). 15d made me chuckle as did bufos hint for 5d. Very enjoyable and dare I say more so for me today than the “other” one. Many thanks to Elgar and to Bufo

  6. Great stuff from Elgar – thanks to him and Bufo. Favourite clues 6a and 14d. I was held up for some time in the SW corner.
    I did notice that the puzzle on-line coped properly with split clues – a great improvement.
    Can anyone explain why 18d has “it’s astonishing!” at the end? – the clue seems to be complete without it.

  7. Wonderful crossword puzzle and a humerous review, can Thursdays get any better? Favourites were 6a and 20d. Thanks Elgar and Bufo.

  8. Super-duper challenge from Elgar. Too many fine clues to mention! ***** for sure. A hard nut to crack but the wordplay is always fair.

    Thanks to setter and Bufo.

  9. As is usual with Elgar you get what it says on the can, superb cluing and very enjoyable, favourites for me were 23a and 14d. Thanks to Elgar and to Bufo for his comments.I think the setter could possibly be Dada tomorrow.

  10. As is usual with Elgar you get what it says on the tin, superb cluing and very enjoyable experience favourites for me were 23a and 14d.Thanks to Elgar and to Bufo for his comments. I wonder whether Dada will make a welcome return tomorrow.?

  11. Very very enjoyable and part of a great day of puzzles, a superb Times, Monk in the Independent and our very own Sunday Telegraph setter as Brendan in the Guardian.

    Really liked the Irish Wolfhound clue among many others.

    Elgar had another fine puzzle in the FT yesterday which sadly the punters at the Other Blog didn’t get. Their problem.

  12. I think Elgar is becoming my favourite setter. 11a was my favourite clue today. Thanks too to Bufo.

  13. Most enjoyable Toughie for a long, long time! Thanks Elgar. Favourite clues too many to mention!

      1. Always check in, boys, just don’t often comment these days. Good to be missed, and thank you as always for this site……what did we do without it?

  14. I was sorely tempted to leave a scathing comment or two just to make Elgar feel at home after his appearances on in the FT and Guardian!!

    However, as ever, Elgar has produced another fun filled impish masterpiece – for which many thanks to him and to Bufo for the review.

    1. I think there are some reasons that Elgar’s work under various pseudonyms often divides people and probably why he draws some harsh criticism (though I’d assume his anonymous Times output is quite balanced and in line with their fairly consistent difficulty and editorial limitations). Part of it may stem from his being one of the country’s top speed-solvers (former Times Champion), with a very wide vocabulary and quick to recognise setters’ ploys. I’m certainly not an advanced solver by a long shot, but I will often get there eventually.

      I think the range of vocabulary in this Toughie wasn’t quite as obscure as Elgar’s usual standard, perhaps aided by multi-clue answers and the lack of Nina to fit in. A few tricky things like egg = mine were still present in the wordplay to the benefit of surface reading and toughness, but not many obscure plants, trees or birds as I sometimes notice in his work.

      On first read-through there weren’t many ‘gimme’ clues to get the solver started, as some otherwise tough setters put in, and that’s pretty typical of Elgar. I think Elgar’s approach also makes definitions very hard to spot, forcing the solver to work through the wordplay in most clues. For those solvers who look at both ends of the clue for a definition and spot the wordplay later, that heuristic isn’t very successful, leading to frustration. If there were no gimmes either, the first few clues have to be solved cold without checking letters, making it potentially very hard to even get started, and I suspect that’s where a lot of the negative comments come from.

      I found however that this puzzle had a nice balance including some humour, but still decidedly tough, and once 2d got us started my PinC and I made reasonable progress for a while. I find Elgar’s work forces me to exercise my wordplay-solving muscles more than most (because I can’t usually see the definition) and it often leads me to feeling rather exhausted.

      I didn’t completely understand everything, so thanks to Bufo for the blog. And thanks to Elgar for a good yet enjoyable mental workout.

  15. Having been shot down in flames by Gazza last time, I’m not sure I should be putting my neck on the block again, but here goes. Bufo, you say in 17dn that ‘mine’ in the solution can be used for ‘egg’ – ‘egg’ being an explosive device. I think I’ve seen egg used as slang for a grenade, but never for a mine. Having checked with Chambers there’s no reference to egg being slang for either. While posting this, can I also ask (nothing to do with this puzzle) what is a Nina? Can’t find that in Chambers either.

    1. There’s no shooting involved here :D
      Chambers (11th edition) has for egg “a bomb or mine (slang)”.
      A Nina is a hidden message in the grid.

      1. To Gazza: Obviously I must update my Chambers 9 to Chambers 11. Thanks for not shooting! To Big Dave: That should answer your question. To Jezza: Thanks for the link. I now know what a Nina is. To you all: Thanks for the responses. Keep up the brilliant work. Billy

    2. BillyBusker

      What do you mean by “having checked with Chambers”?

      If you mean the free online site then it contains only a subset of the definitions in the full 11th edition used by Telegraph setters.

  16. Elgar is way beyond me, but managed more than normal. Thanks to Bufo for many explanations.

    However, I still don’t understand 5d – This with tip of tongue animates doctors (7).
    How is “…with tip of tongue” interpreted as “.. without tip of tongue?

    Also, 19a – Would parenthood make me dote? (6)
    Where is the indicator to remove “dote”?

    1. These are similar clues.

      In the first, the wordplay means ” ‘T’ added to the answer is an anagram of ANIMATES”; the whole clue is the definition.

      In the second, “The answer, added to DOTE is an anagram of PARENTHOOD”; again, the whole clue is the definition.

      1. In the first clue the word “This” refers to the solution; in the second, the word “me” serves the same function.

    1. You’re welcome.

      It had occurred to me over time that was perhaps why your puzzles divide opinion so much. As a slow solver (who enjoys the fun of the wordplay rather than speed) who hunts for definitions early on, it seems to be how I find difficulty tackling your puzzles and especially getting started, but I do enjoy the challenge of the wordplay-first approach and the penny-drop moments. You puzzles certainly consistently delight a constituency of excellent solvers and bloggers who relish such toughness and invention, but they’re hard to get started on for people of my ability, and very hard for people who’ve been at it for less time. I’m also fortunate to solve with a partner. When you can’t make a start, it feels like you’ve been bludgeoned into submission, but its hard to identify what the problem was – just the whole puzzle – which is perhaps why negative comments are so curt and unspecific.

      I wouldn’t take it too personally – there’s an element of Marmite, which also applies even to Rufus, where some solvers comment that he’s too easy and cryptic definitions don’t feel like real clue.

      Then again setters’ style must be fairly subtle as I recall how poorly we all guessed who was who in the last couple of Biggles puzzles (one for Araucaria’s birthday and one before that which including his clueing, where you’d set the grid and split the clues into blocks of four) in the Guardian.

      I also imagine the Times gives a few guidelines like a minimum and maximum number of various clue types to sustain variety and maintain a fairly consistent level. I don’t do the Times very often (lack of time) but I’ll do my best to grab a copy on Easter Saturday and give it a go.

      Thanks so much for being so receptive to the solving community and for joining in.

      1. There were some guidelines set for Daily Telegraph puzzles by Val Gilbert a few years ago, but these are frequently ignored. They included a maximum of six anagrams per puzzle and only one “hidden” per puzzle!

        1. Thanks for the info Dave. I would say that the officially-anonymous Times and Telegraph back-page crosswords are nonetheless the most consistent difficulty of the nationals, though the Telegraph seems to still have a ramp from Monday to Friday difficulty, with a slightly easier Prize Crossword on Saturday. I guess the guidelines have a lot to do with that. Not sure if the Times ramps through the week, but I’d have thought less so. The Indy and the Telegraph Toughie also avoid the easy end pretty much and range from middling to hard, while the Guardian really embraces variety and has a fairly taxing Saturday Prize crossword.

          Personally I’d have thought it would be worth a Saturday Toughie or perhaps a Themed Cryptic too, as many people have the time to spend on something taxing, perhaps a little inventive, and breeze through the Prize Crossword which is usually the first port of call, especially on those occasions it’s actually on the back page! The General Knowledge in Weekend is quite fun but not often that rewarding to research the correct answers, so is often left incomplete by me.

          1. From comments made by Anax from time to time it seems that the guidelines issued by The Times are a lot clearer and more comprehensive – but then the Times editor is a respected setter in his own right!

  17. Oh, I’ve got it wrong again – all these Bank Holidays!

    For “Easter” please read “St George’s”.

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