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Toughie 550

Toughie No 550

The Really Good Friday!

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley and thanks to Big Dave for helping me out at short notice last Friday. It’s that time of the month! Elgar’s here to brighten your Good Friday and he’s produced a stunning challenge that contains lots to make you think with a big smile on your face.

Putting my nerd hat on, if there was such a thing as my favourite blocked crossword grid, this is it. I don’t think I’ve seen it in the Telegraph before, but it’s one that is often used in The Graun and was regularly used by my favourite compiler Bunthorne, who used the long answers to hide his trademark big anagrams.

We have a big anagram here today by Elgar and it’s one I haven’t seen used before in a puzzle.

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. Favourite clues are highlighted in blue. Have a great weekend!


8a    A single composer (actually more than one) needs something to play back (8)
{BACHELOR} We start today with a word sum. Take the name of a famous family of composers and add to it the reversal (back) of something played by an actor. This will reveal a word meaning one who is single.

9a    It’s tipped in the object of an old Irish joke, and it doesn’t happen very often! (6)
{RARITY} There’s a famous old shaggy dog story from Ireland, which is repeated below. The subject of the joke has IT inside to give a word meaning something that does not happen frequently.

10a    Asexual trumpeter goes to clubs (6)
{AGAMIC} If I were to have a slight grumble about the puzzle, it’s with this clue. We have an unusual word that is clued by a word sum involving another unusual word. I hadn’t heard of either and had to resort to my on-line solver to get the answer, which I think is a bit unfair.  Here we have a word for the Trumpeter Bird to which C (short for Clubs, as in the card game bridge) is added.

11a    Condition — alien has it brought into the light, wanting to go back (5,3)
{PETIT MAL} Take the name of a famous big-screen alien and add IT, placing it inside a word for a light reversed. This will give you a type of epileptic fit.

12a    Capital brekkie visitors have (4)
{KIEV} Hidden in “brekKIE Visitors” is a European capital.

13a    Drunk has crash on big road, getting masses confused (10)
{MISHMASHES} A “big road” is a way of describing the M1 (or MI here) and then take a word for car accidents, as pronounced by a drunk or Sean Connery (Legal corner: Mr Connery is not known as an alcoholic). This gives you a word meaning confused mixtures.

15a    Illustrations describe, from right to left, summons for dinner and drinks (7)
{EGGNOGS} Something used to summon visitors to dinner in a hotel or old house, is reversed and goes inside an abbreviation meaning examples (illustrations). This gives you the name of drinks that seem to be largely out of fashion nowadays (thank goodness!)

16a    In one, one applies for University … that’s senseless! (7)
{INANITY} – IN is followed by a word meaning one or togetherness in which the U(niversity) is replaced by A (one) to get a word meaning senselessness

18a    Own 2 and 6 (4-1-5)
{HALF-A-CROWN} You’ll either love this or hate it! What is now 12½p in decimal currency used to be call this. And OWN is literally 50% of the (1-5)!

19a    Applause for producer (4)
{HAND} A double definition. A word for a round of applause means the same as a maker of things.

20a    What cheats do like fleecing top man? (4,4)
{SKIN GAME} An expression for chicanery is found by taking a word meaning like or similar and inserting the name of a ruler (top man).

22a    Put one’s shirt and underwear on (6)
{INVEST} If you are wearing some underwear you are said to be this two word expression (2,4) which when joined together produces a word meaning to put money into a business, or back.

23a    What a tracker-dog follows, going back in time (6)
{ASCENT} Something that a bloodhound will follow gives a six-letter word meaning to go back in time.

24a    Stupid relation from Japan? (8)
{ORIENTAL} I feel proper silly! I spent ages trying to solve this clue (I entered it from checking letters) only to realise it’s an anagram of “relation” that produces a word meaning someone from Japan, or the Far East.


1d    Force into show presented by Rowan, Martin and John, when pinching top of saucy bird (8,7)
{LAUGHING JACKASS} Think of a famous show of the sixties hosted by Rowan and Martin, and add the colloquial name given to someone called John, insert G (force) and add AS (when) around S (top of saucy) to get this Australian kingfisher

2d,6d,5d and 17d    Words from Omar Sharif notwithstanding, men grieving over me vow to get out of order (3,6,6,6,3,6,4,5,2)
{THE MOVING FINGER WRITES AND HAVING WRIT MOVES ON} A quote from The Rubaiyat of Omar (Khayyam) by Edward Fitzgerald can be found by unscrambling the words of SHARIF NOTWITHSTANDING MEN GRIEVING OVER ME VOW.

3d    Evil spirits behind this need three kings anticipating Birth to eat (5,5)
{BLACK MAGIC} A lovely clue. If you need three kings, as in (of Orient) you are said to be this. Place this phrase inside BC (anticipating Birth!) and you get something that is orchestrated by evil spirits

4d    Make offer for old puzzle (7)
{PROPOSE} A Latin word meaning “for” or “on behalf of” is added to the old name for a puzzle to reveal a word meaning to make an offer.

5d    See 2 down

6d    See 2 down

7d    It’s time to make love — bonkers left at 22:16 hours (midweek) (2,10,3)
{ST VALENTINE’S DAY} Another laugh-out loud clue! An anagram (indicated by bonkers) of L + AT + INVEST + (WED) NESDAY [Two thirds i.e. 16 hours of Wednesday!] Please address all abuse to Elgar, Behind the washroom pipes at Victoria Station!

14d    Holding group up to begin with, Malingering Git is making complaint (10)
{MENINGITIS} A number (here defined by group) is reversed (up) and goes inside M (to begin with, i.e. the first letter of Malingering) add GIT IS to get the name of a serious illness.

17d    See 2 down

21d    A male voice, all things considered — get her out! (4)
{ALTO}    A word meaning “all things considered needs to lose GET HER from the end of it, to leave you with a word for a singing voice.

Thanks to Elgar for a stunning, amazing puzzle! Back next week, hopefully!

The joke: A man goes into a pet shop and asks for something unusual. The owner shows him a rabbit-like animal, and says, “This is a Rary. They only move about by rolling around, and to get one started you have to give it sort of a pat, but they’re clean.” So the man buys the Rary, but after it’s been home for a while, it starts rolling about uncontrollably and breaking his things. The shop owner won’t take it back, so he drives 100 km out of town to a tall cliff, intending to give it a push off. He meets someone there, and after hearing the story, the fellow remarks, “That’s a long way to tip a Rary!”

[Other versions of this joke exist, but most are a lot longer than this one! – BD]

25 comments on “Toughie 550

  1. Just finished it – record time for me in a Toughie, I think.

    Thought it was an enjoyable challenge but not very hard – I think because I got the big anagram second or third clue in that made it a lot lot easier. Normally I find the Toughie properly tough and the rest of the world (on here anyway) always finds it much easier, so it’s nice to be in the minority the other way around.

    Liked 8a, 18a (first in), 3d.

    Thank you to Elgar and to Tilsit for the review which explained some wordplay I hadn’t quite understood.


  2. The epitome of what a Toughie should be. Superbly entertaining, lots of laughing out loud, including at my favourite joke, the perfect level of toughness etc etc. I loved it – although I did groan a lot especially when I finally got the longest anagram in the world. Thanks very much to Elgar for the wonderful brain teasing entertainment and to Tilsit for the explanations.

  3. Stunner.

    Some absolutely brilliant clues, a few laughs, and tremendous fun.

    I wouldn’t cancel half a line of this!

    ★★★★★ all the way.

  4. Superb bank-holiday fare from Elgar. Thanks to him and to Tilsit for the review. I didn’t think that this was among the very toughest that Elgar can provide, possibly because the enumeration (plus Omar) for the 41-character anagram made it fairly obvious if you knew the quotation. Of the many laugh-out-loud clues my favourites were 18a, 1d and 7d.

  5. Mercurial Elgar at his fiendish best, favourite clues for me were 18 and 20a and thanks to Tilsit for his comments especially the deciphering at 7d.

  6. Quite an easy solve, but I struggled with the wordplay on a couple:

    9a) never heard the Irish joke, so couldn’t see where “rary” came from

    13a) assumed this was an anagram of M1 and MASSES, with two Hs from… nowhere

    A lot of the clues had one easy bit, and one not so easy, e.g.

    1d) Rowan and Martin – easy, but John – could be anything

    23a) What a tracker dog follows – obvious, but I’ve never heard of this meaning going back in time

    So, on balance, a pretty good and enjoyable crossword.

    1. 13a had me lost for quite a while, what with three anagram indicators in the clue, all there only to mislead! MI + [has crash]* or MI + [drunk has]* or ???? + [MASSES]* or none of the above?

  7. [Possible correction – 14d makes no mention of reversal of the number, clued by ‘group’]

    Wow! That was very tough for me, presumably because I didn’t get the enormous anagram of 2d etc. and needed a lot of checking letters before my PinC saw it. I was solving upside down, and didn’t get round to trying to identify and solve the anagram. Only had about 4 clues in place for a long time then came back and made a little progress.

    I very much need the blog, so thanks Tilsit. Only vaguely recall a version of the object of the Irish joke (that also got tipped) so that didn’t go in for ages. Perhaps if I’d thought of googling it I’d have understood.

    Didn’t parse 16a, 18a (brilliant) or 3d (excellent) fully but just moved on to try and crack the crossword. Used Onelook to solve then understand 10a, but I sort of expect one clue so obscure in wordplay and solution in an Elgar Toughie.

    I didn’t twig (or look up in Chambers) the opposite of the more common ‘descent,’ as in family trees, for a long time, so hesitated to enter 23a in the grid until we had some checking.

    Like Tilsit I felt daft for missing 24a for so long. Once solved it looked like an old chestnut, yet remained unsolved for quite a while. Also thought 21d was lovely, what with “get her out”.

    As for 7d, another one I didn’t get round to unravelling, but which helped me solve the crossing words having guessed the answer. When I had enough I entered it. But OMG! Don’t know if I’d have ever unravelled it given the indirect anagram alone (midweek=WEDNESDAY is more than the usual common abbreviation in the anagram fodder) without the further indirection of a very oblique way of asking for only two-thirds of Wednesday). It makes soldier = sol-dier = Icarus (another of Elgar’s) look like chicken feed! Thank goodness the definition was gettable.

    Certainly one of those where reading the blog is enlightening. Thanks again to Tilsit and also of course to Elgar who provided as much entertainment as exasperation!

    In Elgar’s previous Toughie 541 comments he (as John H) said “See you in the Times on Easter Saturday!”. Then he said: “Oh, I’ve got it wrong again – all these Bank Holidays! For “Easter” please read “St George’s”.” At the time I glanced at Apr 23 on my calendar, but it only dawned on me earlier this week that they’re one and the same! I’d be interested to see how tomorrow’s Times crossword is. I dare say there won’t be anything quite like 7 down!

    Happy Easter one and all.

    1. 7d The (Wed)NESDAY isn’t part of the anagram (and is not therefore indirect). It provides the last six letters of the answer.

  8. Great fun, and very clever / witty. For me there were too many clues where the answer was pretty obvious from the checking letters (e.g. 7d) but the wordplay was over-complicated and contrived. Maybe that’s inevitable with a quality Toughie, but it does seem a bit back-to-front. Thanks to Tilsit & Elgar.

  9. Really enjoyable. The juxtoposition of Omar and Sharif was inspired. I was thinking Lawrence and Zhivago before getting “moving” and then it all fell into place. I think this was a crossword in which one made inspired guesses and then twisted the clues to fit.

    Shall we imitate Omar and sit under a tree with bread and wine?

    Happy Easter everyone.

  10. great crossword – thanks ,luckily got the long clues( 2d&7d ) but only ‘cos they fitted ,not by spotting the anagrams .
    loved 3d 18a
    Agree that 10a involves two v.obscure words which I certainly had to look up.
    All round great enjoyment .

  11. And there was I thinking Bird was a saxophonist, not a trumpeter!
    Very enjoyable clues. As well as those mentioned above, I particularly liked liked INVEST.
    The long anagram held out almost to the end for me, not being very familiar with the quotation. Eventually _R_T suggested WRIT, and I remembered it – I’m afraid to say from a thematic Listener crossword or somesuch, rather than the original. I do find with long anagrams I usually wait to try to guess from the checking letters, rather than trying to work them out.

    1. Hi Michod – your comment had to be moderated because you’re not using your normal handle. Both should work from now on.

  12. I’m not usually a fan of long anagrams that take up nigh on 30% of the available squares, but this worked well as there were enough cross-checking letters to get the solution fairly early on.

    I’m glad Tilset explained 7d. The answer was obvious but not the wordplay.

    Thanks to Elgar and to Tilsit for the review.

  13. Thanks to Elgar for a very clever and quite funny toughie which wasn’t overtaxing, thanks to Tilsit for a superb review.

  14. I didn’t find this as difficult as I thought I would – mainly because the long answer went in almost without thinking. It is at times like these I question the point of really long anagram clues (unless they’re of the “Old vicarage Grantchester” vintage. Does anyone ever, ever solve them and then put the answer in?
    I do agree with Digby’s comments on this one, but nonetheless it is impossible to do an Elgar puzzle without a sense of great admiration

  15. I thought this was a cracker and I feel quite chuffed to have solved it.
    For some time I had solved only 12a and was just staring at it the rest blankly. I recognised that 2d etc was an anagram and a quote from Omar Khayyam but I didn’t know it. Wikipedia sorted that out. All of those letters certainly helped and I was off and running.
    I also had to look up 1d, 10a and 11a (I’d solved it but never heard of the condition). That left 18a and I was scratching my head wondering what it had to do with the long anagram. Then I said the clue out loud and the words ‘two and six’ had me giggling out loud. I’m just about old enough to remember these coins unfortunately.
    I’d never heard the use of 23a as ‘going back in time’ and although I’d solved it I had to visit Chambers for confirmation.

    7d. Hmm! I can’t say I solved this as such. I have the answer because it’s obvious and there’s enough anagram going on to confirm. However, even with the hint above I can’t glean where the rest comes from.

    This is the first time I have ever managed to complete a Friday Toughie without looking at the answers. Mind you when I’d finished there were dictionaries, thesauruses ( is that the correct plural?) and electronic aids all over the place and I’ve still got steam coming off the top of my head. I think I need to lie down in a darkened room!

    1. For 7d the first 9 letters of the answer are an anagram (bonkers) of L(eft) AT and INVEST (i.e. the answer to 22a). Then add two-thirds (indicated by 16 hours out of the 24 hours in a day) of (wed)NESDAY (midweek).

  16. Failed miserably on this offering from Elgar. As soon as I see the name I am defeated!

    One of the few I solved was 9a – Rarity.

    Does anyone remember a TV play in the 60’s (that went on for hours) to finally end with the line: “It’s a long way to tip a Rary”.

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