Double Toughie 100003

Double Toughie No 100003 by Elgar

Watch out, Vlad is back!

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BD Rating – Difficulty *****4Enjoyment *****

No fluffy pink slippers today – Elgar has produced this special double-Toughie for Christmas Day. Doubling the size is bad enough, but the addition of the kind of gimmick usually only found in the more advanced barred puzzles has made this four times as difficult.

Please read the instructions given with the puzzle very carefully before starting. Discovering the theme early on, which I did, helps greatly with the puzzle, as does the Nina around the edges of each of the two halves of the puzzle.

Answers that need to be reversed before entering are followed by “<“. 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.


15a    Go against concluding HM’s lost energy (8)
{INFRINGE} – a word meaning to go against is created from a verb meaning concluding or deducing from which Her Majesty’s cipher is dropped and then E(nergy) is added at the end

16a    Dark-haired beast concealing trap (8)
{BRUNETTE} – an adjective meaning dark-haired when applied to a lady is derived by putting a beast around a trap or snare

17a    Tourist in Cornwall is your compiler thematically entered on time (5)
{EMMET} – this Cornish tourist is constructed from the first person singular objective pronoun (your compiler) with the same word reversed (thematically entered) and T(ime)

18a    Healthy field sport makes Czech ready (6)
{HALERU} – an adjective meaning healthy is followed by a team sport played on a field to get this unit of Czech currency which is 1/100 of a koruna

19a    “The Essence of Honey-eating” indeed! (3)
{YEA<} – hidden inside (the essence of) a hyphenated word in the clue is an alternative way of saying “indeed!”

20a    Desert kings protecting zone during years left? I’m not sure (5,3)
{KYZYL KUM} – this arid desert region in central Asia, extending eastwards from the Aral Sea to the Pamir Mountains (not a lot of people know that!), is built up from a pair of K(ings) around (protecting) Z(one) itself inside (during) Y(ears) and L(eft) and all followed by a word of hesitation (I’m not sure)

22a*    Both sides at University used to be boxing (6)
{WALRUS<} – the first of our thematic answers is created by putting both sides and U(niversity) inside (boxing) a word meaning used to be

23a    Alcohol counter back home blending a little bourbon and water (3,3)
{WET BAR} – an American word for a counter in the home for serving alcoholic drinks is an anagram (blending) of B (a little Bourbon) and WATER

24a    I introduced unusually cool tip for one to get the party going (8)
{POLITICO} – put I inside (introduced) an anagram (unusually) of COOL TIP gives someone to get the party going by forming a group of activists

25a    No Twenty-One — odd number (6-3)
{NINETY-TWO<} – an anagram (odd) of NO TWENTY I (one) gives a different number

29a    American city order that I find surprising! (5)
{OMAHA<} – this American city is a charade of the Order of Merit and a word that indicates finding something surprising

31a    Sport judge fired duo (4)
{JUDO<} – to get this sport start with J(udge) and follow it with an anagram (fired) of DUO

32a    Divides college, processed food for nurturing Poles (7,3)
{CORDONS OFF} – a phrasal verb meaning divides or separates by using a rope is built from C(ollege) followed by an anagram (processed) of FOOD FOR around (nurturing) both Poles

37a    Paint Resistance entering the firing line (5)
{OCHRE} – to get this pale brownish-yellow paint put R(esistance) inside (entering) the firing line used in the game of darts

38a    The original perpetrator of toilet humour? (1,1,6)
{W C FIELDS<} – a cryptic definition of this old comedian whose initials are another name for a toilet

39a    Networker not opening but fixing trademark gas gauge (3,5)
{WET METER} – start with a social networker, drop the initial T (not opening) and then insert Trade Mark to get a gauge in which gas is passed through water in order to be measured

41a    Writer of the revolutionary Exile of Edward series 5-9 (5)
{DEFOE} – this writer is to be found reversed at letter 5-9 of three words in the clue

44a    To the west, my local has good line in secure site for ‘purification’ (5,5)
{LYMPH GLAND} – reverse (to the west in an across clue) MY and follow it with a two-letter abbreviation for a local or inn, G(ood) and L(ine) and then put the lot inside a verb meaning to secure, as in to secure a deal, and the result is a “site” in the body used for purification

45a    One has converted to branch of Islam (4)
{SHIA} – an anagram (converted) of I (one) HAS gives a branch of Islam

46a*    It’s not all that taxing! (5)
{HATTA<} – a thematic answer is hidden inside (it’s not all) the clue – the answer is the name originally used, not the version that is better known today

47a*    Someone tending to get shut in (9)
{CARPENTER<} – put someone tending another person around (to get) a word meaning shut in or repressed to reveal another thematic answer

50a    Perhaps this chap, in pursuit of pleasure, goes to embrace Hughes and Fowler? (8)
{EGGHEADS} – start with an abbreviation of a Latin phrase meaning perhaps then add the third person singular pronoun inside (to embrace) a verb meaning goes in pursuit of pleasure to get a team which includes Chris Hughes and Daphne Fowler, not forgetting Kevin Ashman, Judith Keppel, CJ de Mooi , Barry Simmons and Pat Gibson

54a & 55a*    One out of compassion breaks routine with no right to feel grief at losing one (6,6)
{HUMPTY, DUMPTY<} – Listen very carefully, I shall say this …… – start with a four-letter word meaning compassion, drop the I (one out) and then put what is left inside (breaks) a word meaning routine or boring from which the R has been dropped (with no Right) then add a word meaning to feel grief and again drop the I (losing one) and you should finish up with another thematic answer – now think carefully why the setter has split these two contiguous slots into 54a and 55a rather than just labelling them as 54a, remembering the instructions about answers being entered forward or in reverse!

57a    Lovers captured by Magritte, romantically looking back (8)
{AMORETTI} – these lovers are hidden inside (captured by) and reversed (looking back) two words in the clue

60a    Port and whisky (3)
{RYE<} – a double definition – a Cinque Port and a type of whiskey

61a* Rig with no top received by fence (6)
{HAIGHA} – put (R)IG without the R (with no top) inside (received by) a fence that is hidden inside a ditch so as not to spoil the view to get another original themed answer

62a    Roman Catholic occasion? (5)
{NONCE} – the question mark indicates that there is something out of the ordinary about this clue – split the answer as (3,2) and it could mean Roman Catholic, but it does mean an occasion, particularly when preceded by “for the”

63a    Small, specially-designed phaeton carriage (8)
{STANHOPE} – S(mal) followed by an anagram (specially-designed) of PHAETON gives a different sort of carriage

64a*    Left out contraption with both ends missing (8)
{LUTWIDGE<} – start with L(eft) and follow it with (O)UT and a contraption without the first letter of the first word and the last letter of the second word to get a slightly different thematic answer, this one being the middle name of the real name of the creator of today’s theme


1d    Any other name for Martel (4)
{YANN<} – an anagram (other) of ANY followed by N(ame) gives the first name of the author of the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi

2d    Ashen coloured American cheese, round (4)
{GRAY} – the American spelling of a word meaning ashen coloured when reversed (round) gives a milk cheese from Cornwall, that is wrapped in nettle leaves

3d*    Drink endless egg flips? (3,4)
{RED KING<} – this thematic answer comes from an anagram (flips) of DRINK EG (G) (endless)

4d    Stimulated male shows old glow (4)
{LEAM} – an anagram (stimulated) of MALE gives an archaic word for a glow

5d    Baby’s sensory experiences chaos, originally (5)
{ABYSS} – hidden inside (experiences) the first two words of the clue is the primal chaos

6d    I love refrain penned about godly flower (8)
{ICHOROUS<} – I followed by a refrain around (penned) O (love) gives an adjective meaning about the ethereal juice in the veins of the gods

7d    Gets on with pay deducted (4)
{AGES<} – a word meaning gets on or grows older is derived by dropping (deducted) the W(ith) from pay or earnings

8d*    Scottish banker came before Devonian one — it’s not unknown (10)
{TWEEDLEDEE<} – a river which rises in the Southern Uplands of Scotland is followed by a verb meaning came before or preceded and a Devonian river without one of the mathematical unknowns to get one of a pair of thematic answers

9d & 26d*    Broker crazy for Dr Spooner (11)
{JABBER<, WOCKY} – split this thematic answer as (6,5) and then swap the vowels, Spooner style, and the result is a former Stock Market broker and a word meaning crazy

10d    Endlessly badger online friend to dress and rub with oil (9)
{EMBROCATE} – drop the final letter from a name associated with a badger and then insert it inside (to dress) what might be an online friend, that is a friend or pal preceded by the usual single letter that indicates online, to get a word meaning to rub with oil

11d    Way to gain entry to Ship at Henley (4)
{PATH<} – a way for the use of pedestrians is hidden inside (to gain entry to) the clue

12d*    Out of sorts in hotel (3,4)
{THE LION} – an anagram (out of sorts) of IN HOTEL gives this thematic answer

13d    Informed lecturer to appear in upcoming period (4)
{TOLD<} – a verb meaning informed or notified is derived by putting a L(ecturer) inside a period or full stop which has been reversed (upcoming in a down clue)

14d    It’s old-fashioned grain (4)
{CORN<} – a double definition – something old-fashioned or a grain

21d    The ultimate in jazz, little Italian spot (3)
{ZIT} – the final letter of jazZ is followed by the abbreviation of for Italian vermouth to get a spot or pimple

26d    See 9 down

27d    Company do (5)
{PARTY<} – a double definition – a company and a do or social gathering

28d    Very reduced attack (5)
{ASSAI<} – a musical term meaning very is derived by dropping the final L (reduced) from a verb meaning to attack

30d    Architect who’s off a month sick (10)
{MACKINTOSH} – this very famous Scottish architect is an anagram (off) of A MONTH SICK

33d    Fear losing head and making a mistake (5)
{ERROR<} – drop the initial T (losing head) from a fear to get a mistake

34d*    The woman recording (5)
{SHEEP} – the female third person pronoun is followed by an old four-track record to get this thematic answer

35d    Local plants knockout blow on the ear (5)
{FLORA} – this word for the plants of a particular region sounds like (on the ear) a knockout blow

36d    Not working, extremely destitute, backsliding, in difficulty (2,3,4)
{ON THE DOLE<} – an anagram (working) of NOT is followed by the outside letters (extremely) of DestitutE reversed (backsliding) inside a difficulty to get  an expression that means that someone is registered as unemployed and receiving benefit which fits all four definitions

40d    African fruit mom laced with L-Dopa (4-4)
{DOOM-PALM<} – this African fruit with the taste of gingerbread is an anagram (laced) of MOM with L-DOPA

42d    It’s useful for Thai chef reading Alan Garner series (7)
{GALANGA<} – this aromatic rootstock of certain East Indian plants of the ginger family is used in Thai cooking and is hidden inside the clue

43d    Bill and Jo in time for civil assistant (7)
{ADJOINT<} – a bill or promotion is followed by JO, IN and T(ime) to get a civil officer who assists a French mayor

45d    Adder season? (6)
{SUMMER} –a double definition – someone who adds up and one of the four seasons

48d    Distillate of wood salt (3)
{TAR<} – a double definition – a dark, viscous mixture obtained by destructive distillation of wood and another name for a salt or sailor

49d    Very little time one’s spent needing attention of gardener (5)
{WEEDY<} – a Scottish word meaning very little followed by a period of time without the A (one’s spent) gives an adjective describing a flower bed that is needing the attention of a gardener

51d*    Grand National (4)
{GNAT} – run together abbreviations of G(rand) and NAT(ional) to get this final thematic answer

52d    Femur bone atrophying quite a way up (4)
{HIGH} – drop the initial T (atrophying) from the common name for the femur bone to get an adjective meaning quite a way up

53d    Where to learn what might be singularly thematic on 14 (4)
{UNIS<} – this slang term for institutions of higher learning could, in the singular, be used to prefix 14 down to get a thematic answer that accompanies 12 down

56d    Abridged state game is lost (4)
{TENN.} – the abridged form of a US state is created by dropping the IS (is lost) from a game

57d    Olympian archer aims centrally (4)
{HERA<} – this Olympian goddess is hidden inside (centrally) two of the words in the clue

58d    Pretty-pretty in the end must go (4)
{TWEE<} – this word meaning pretty-pretty is a charade of the initial letter (end) of The and a verb meaning must go (to the loo)

59d    She advises judge to miss excursion (4)
{AUNT<} – this woman to whom one can turn for advice is created by dropping (to miss) the initial J(udge) from an excursion

If you finished this puzzle without help, then well done! I’d like to thank Elgar for occupying my entire Christmas morning!

By the way, the Nina reads {two way – Through the Looking Glass} clockwise around the left-hand half of the grid and {two way – and what Alice found there} anticlockwise around the right-hand half of the grid.


  1. crypticsue
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Well… is difficult to think of words. To describe this as a ‘tour de force’ isn’t really enough. Having lent his impaling boots to some of the other setters, Vlad obviously went out and bought the latest toughest wearing version on the market. I looked at this on and off all day, in between Christmas dinner cooking duties and will admit coming to the computer after about 7 hours to see if the ones I had in were correct, and the right way round, and to get a hint for 61a which I would never have got on my own.

    A splendid Christmas treat – I couldn’t even write a clue and how anyone can plan such a puzzle, write the clues for it, decide to confuse us all with all that backwards and forwards stuff and NINAs and so forth is just mind-blowingly awesome. Thank you and a very merry Christmas to Elgar (and Jane) – a lovely treat for the brain cells, even if they will need Boxing Day to recover.

    I am also in awe of Big Dave – how this only took him a morning to solve and then to write all those hints too. I always knew you were a marvel but you have surpassed yourself today. Thank you to you too.

  2. Qix
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:37 am | Permalink


    This is a spectacular puzzle. It’s very Listener-esque, but in a blocked grid. Ninas, thematic answers and modes of entry, and some pretty fiendish clues – a proper workout.

    Many thanks (and tugged forelocks) to Elgar, and well done to BD for blogging beyond the call of duty.

    Season’s gretting to all!

    • Qix
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:38 am | Permalink

      …or greetings, if you prefer.


  3. crypticsue
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    After I turned the computer off last night, I noticed that there is a Nina in the middle too.

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      I covered that in the hidden text at the bottom of the review!

      • crypticsue
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        I didn’t uncover the bit at the bottom as I had seen the outside Nina – silly me!

  4. pommers
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Phew and double PHEW!!!!!

    Been to our apartment for a couple of days and started to have a go at this, at last. After an hour on Thursday night and an hour over lunch today pommette and I have solved 31 clues, so about 1/3 of the puzzle! Problem is that we don’t know which way round 4 of them go but we will keep persevating for a while yet before resorting to hints and other aids, although I did just look up the African fruit in Wiki! I knew it was an anagram and most likely some sort of palm but didn’t know if it were DOOM or MOOD as I’ve never heard of either

    I may be some time before letting you know how we got on!

    • pommers
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, that’s nearly half the puzzle not 1/3! Better than I thought!

  5. pommers
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    OK, I am now going to bed for a week to give the brain a well deserved rest! 5* Toughies will seen a walk in the park after this one!

    Once the penny finally dropped on the theme (I managed to work out what 8d was) it became a tad easier, but it took a lot of Wiki as 8d is about the only character in the theme that I knew (apart from his brother). And as for the Khazakstan desert . . . ?

    This wasn’t ‘Vlad the Impaler’ – this was his nasty elder brother in a vicious mood!

    But what a ‘tour de force’ of the cruciverbal art, how does Elgar manage to produce a puzzle like this? I doff my baseball cap to him (only hat I’ve got!).

    And thanks for the hints Dave – on Christmas day that really was above and beyond the call of duty.