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Toughie 626

Toughie No 626 by Elgar

Good Things Come in Threes

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley. Thanks to Big Dave for covering while I had a wonderful week’s holiday in the Lake District last week.  Three days after coming home and unpacking, I had to repack and spend a couple of days back in Calderdale Hospital.   Luckily I managed to escape last night and am now under the care of the District Nursing team for a few days.

We have the return of Elgar today with a fine puzzle that contains lots of things to make you smile, think and bang your head against the wall in equal measure.  Although it’s my least favourite grid in the crossword world (each corner only has one way in, so if you get stuck you are really stuck!).   However there are some great clues that will have you scratching your head and appreciate Elgar’s magical craft.

Black marks to the Telegraph website which has been knackered since midnight.  It’s really becoming annoying – while I was away on holiday with no access to a printer I wanted to solve using the on line facility but couldn’t get in on any day.

Favourite clues are highlighted in blue and we’d love you to 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    Both Mr Universe and Miss World must have this VIP! (8)
{SOMEBODY} We start with a witty cryptic definition clue. The word for a VIP or celebrity can be split into two four-letter words that is a description of what the aforementioned contest winners need to win. The first part is a general, almost slang word for amazing and the second is the contest winner’s most useful asset.

5a    See 21 down

9a    Coming after the event at half ten’s not so restricting (8)
{LATENESS} Here, the definition is “Coming after the event”. Inside a word that means ‘not so’ (indicated by restricted) goes A (at half) + TEN. Nicely misleading clue.

10a    See 26 across

11a    ‘Princess’ taking Ecstasy yet? Laid-back youngster’s initially denied being one? (8)
{TEENAGER} This might cause a bit of tooth-sucking. The name of a famous Shakespearean princess, correct but probably better known as a ‘king’s daughter’ (hence Princess being inside quotation marks) is added to E (Ecstasy) and YET. If you reverse it all and subtract Y (for youngster, initially denied), you’ll get the name of a person of a young age who if laid- back probably denies having this status. Whatever!, as he or she might say.

12a/3d/22a    See her on a merchantable cast? (6,6,6)
{HELENA BONHAM CARTER} Quite a clever clue in several ways (wonder how many my chum knew when setting this!) An anagram (indicated by cast) of HER ON A MERCHANTABLE leads you to the fine British actress pictured below, especially for BD and Elgar. She is highly bankable, appeared in several Merchant Ivory films and is the daughter of a merchant banker!

14a    A “bargain” has nothing in free of foreign bodies (10)
{ASTEROIDAL} A slang word for a bargain, meaning it’s almost been pinched, has inside it a word meaning to free (“will no one ___ me of this turbulent priest?”) and O (nothing) inside that. This gives you a word referring to foreign (extra-terrestrial) bodies.

18a    Worms backward class will cage to make more docile (10)
{TREMATODES} Bet you didn’t know this word! I had heard of Nematodes from the wonderful film “A Touch of Class” where Glenda Jackson described George Segal as one! Inside a word for a class (it’s actually the word with most definitions in the Chambers dictionary!) or a group in a mathematical theory, goes DO (will) + TAMER (more docile). Reverse it all and you get the name of a type of worm, a pretty revolting one that spreads lots of diseases.

22a    See 12 across

23a    Strangely unrecognised, dine out on this? (8)
{SCROUNGE} This sort of clue is known as a subtractive anagram. Basically you have a word or phrase, take away another word, and then jumble it to get your answer. In this clue, the definition is really the whole of the clue. So take DINE away from UNRECOGNISED and rearrange the rest to get a word that means “on the cheap”

24a    See 21 down

25a    The old girl snuggles in under bootless military leader (8)
{BELGRANO} A word for an elderly lady goes inside a word meaning under, minus its last letter (‘bootless’)

26a/10a/1d    Ungulates dispersing after second ceremonial blast (6-3,3,6)
{TWENTY-ONE GUN SALUTE} An unusual clue. It gives you one of the answers to the other clues. Add the numeral location of the answer “second” to an anagram(indicated by dispersing) of UNGULATES gives you a way of commemorating a special event. Nice clue! I did think it referred to the second ceremonial in your life, but I now think not.

27a    Given value from shepherdesses, say, looking the other way? (8)
{ASSESSED} Hidden backwards in the phrase “shepherdesses, say” is a word meaning “given value”, or what I have done to soccer referees……


1d    See 26 across

2d/20d/19d    True to Englishwoman, new groom may fear this plant! (6-2-4,6)
{MOTHER-IN-LAW’S TONGUE) Another cracking clue. An anagram (indicated by ‘new’) of TRUE TO ENGLISHWOMAN gives you the common name of the plant sansevieria, or The Snake Plant. It’s also what a new husband fears from a relative of his betrothed!

3d    See 12 across

4d    I send SOS in trouble and strife (10)
{DISSENSION} A word for strife or conflict is found by unscrambling I SEND SOS IN.

6d    Percival wants something to knock down Round Table colleague (8)
{LANCELOT} A member of King Arthur’s knights can be found by taking the first name of a popular 60’s TV entertainer whose surname is Percival (a regular on That Was The Week That Was) and adding the name for something sold at an auction. Of course Percival was the name of one of the Knights so this clue has a great surface reading as well. Clue writers take note!

7d    Growths of wage structure within Liverpool FC? (8)
{RAGWEEDS} The name for a group of plants is found by taking an anagram (indicated by ‘structure’)of WAGE inside the nickname for the wonderful Liverpool Football Club.

8d    So straight trainee beats trainer to work? (8)
{LINEARLY} A description that means ‘so straight’ is cryptically described when a trainee (L) arrived at work before everyone else (a two word phrase).

13d    Rears of loose horses impede getting across awesome fence – earnest prayers needed! (10)
{BESEECHERS} Another great surface reading. The last letters (rears) of “loose horses impedego inside (indicated by across)the name of a famous Grand National fence. This will give you the name of people who are deeply religious and pray a lot (probably around Grand National time!)

15d    Occupier of soup kitchen beds up with cricketer and a good book (8)
{STOCKPOT} Reverse the name of beds associated with babies and add to it a current England cricketer’s initials (his nickname as well) and OT (part of the Bible – personally I would have thought this was “part of a good book” rather than the whole. Small grumble.

16d    Fantastic repartee where game bird takes seasonal occupation (4,4)
{PEAR TREE} An anagram of REPARTEE produces a growth associated with the first day of a seasonal song.

17d    One regularly in possession of secret tapes got mugged (8)
{GATEPOST} The proverbial location where secrets are told and stored is an anagram of TAPES GOT. Love the definition.

19d    See 2 down

20d    See 2 down

21d/24a/5a    Eves? (6,6,6)

{SECOND PERSON PLURAL} Probably saving the best for last. This was a real “slap the forehead and curse Elgar” moment (I told him so by text!) This is one of those clues like “Gegs” for scrambled eggs, etc. Think of who Eve was in the Bible. If you had two of them you could have this…….

Thanks to Elgar for another breath-taking tour de force.  It’s been a great week of Toughies with all of them cracking puzzles, topped by today’s excellent one.  See you next week.

22 comments on “Toughie 626

  1. No fluffy slippers this week for ‘Vlad the Impaler of Crosswordland’. Great fun, lots of d’oh moments and quite a few chuckles on the way, the film star being just one of them. I was lucky and got the linked clues early one, especially the splendiferous 21, 24, 5. I have so many ‘dots’ indicating ‘liked’ clues that it is easier to say that I didn’t like (mainly because they held out to the end and I needed Gnome’s Law) 18a and 25a – I just couldn’t see where the bootless bit came in. Thanks to Elgar for a terrific start to Friday and to Tilsit for the review.

  2. How to pick a favourite out of this offering? Impossible, like CS i’ve dots all over the place, but If I had to it would be the linked 21 24 & 5.
    Embarassingly I couldn’t fathom why 9a was what it is until I read the hint! D’oh.
    Thanks Elgar and Tilsit

  3. I failed on Belgrano but thought the whole thing was a Belter.
    My idea for the ‘second’ was that a second (class degree) = a 2:1 = Twenty One. I thought at the time this was pushing it even for our beloved setter. in any case my favourite was 12a(etc) closely followed by 2d(etc) then most of the others!. Many thanks to Elgar and Tilsit for the review.

  4. Sorry if this offends but I didn’t like it. It’s a mystery to me, like most of this setter’s offerings. I took 30 minutes to solve 4d and 23a, after which I lost interest in it.

    1. Father Brian, I didn’t like it either – mainly because it was far too tough for me. However, I did persevere with all manner of help before finally resorting to Tilsit’s excellent hints and explanations! Agree with Pommers about too many “3 way linked clues”, I was left with 12 empty lights.

      But, worth the effort once the “Eves” clue(s) was explained!

      When Elgar next appears on a Friday, I think I’ll give it a miss! Not very good for one’s morale! :sad:

  5. Strewth!!!!!!!!!
    That was a TOUGHIE and a half IMHO!
    Finally struggled through with a bit of electronic help but at least I could parse all the answers apart from the twenty-one bit – clever or what?
    Never heard of the worm and will be quite happy if never hear of it again!
    Not keen on so many 3 way linked clues, if you can’t solve just 1 clue you’re left with 3 empty lights.
    Many thanks to Elgar for keeping me occupied for half the morning and thanks to Tilsit for the great review (and the origin of the twenty-one).

  6. I have to say, I enjoyed this puzzle and agree with Tilsit about the solution to 21,24,5. Great penny-drop moment. Using the location of an answer as a definition in 26/10/1d was ultra-sneaky! Ximenes probably spinning in his urn. Thanks to Elgar for the puzzle & Tilsit for the review.

  7. After about two months lurking here, with considerable improvements in my solving ability, I’ve finally completed a toughie unaided (though I did need the second and the cricketer explaining, and a dictionary to confirm 18). Then came here in eager anticipation of a picture of 12a. Happy on both counts. Thanks to all reviewers for my ongoing education.

  8. Typical Elgar torture favourites for me were 1a 17d and the Eves clue thanks to Elgar and to Tilsit for the splendid review.

  9. Stonking stuff from Elgar. Eves was a classic and there are far too many good clues to pick other favourites. My least favourite was 14a if only because the surface reading poor – a minor gripe in a masterpiece. Thanks also to Tisit for the review.

  10. A classic toughie with some really clue-cracking involved. “Eves” was brilliant, the kind of clue you get with almost all the checking letters then realise it couldn’t have been anything else, and wonder if you could have guessed it earlier.

  11. As always I enjoyed the Friday Toughie but my normal gripe still exists … that is, if a word needs an apostrophe then it should say so in the clue .. Mother-in-law’s tongue.

    To cap it all the hyphens are indicated in the clue so why not the apostrophe???

    1. I actually said to my colleague ‘what are those small cubes of bread you find in soup?’ and was foiled because crouton doesn’t have a T at the end :D

          1. Not my choice alas, Mme La concierge (see I’m learning!), but others would provide better clues I am sure. A bit of a turnaround this week I have to say.

  12. Way beyond me I’m afraid, but I was pleased to do as well as I did, second person plural (eves), very clever.

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