Toughie 698 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 698

Toughie No 698 by Elgar

Value for Money!

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley. After a lovely break in the Lake District (embarrassing photos safely locked away), it’s back to the wordface with this beast of a puzzle from Elgar. Thanks to Jon for stepping in and blogging last Friday’s wonderful Micawber puzzle so brilliantly.

There is a theme running through Elgar’s puzzle today related to a famous film dynasty and a couple of their most famous oeuvres, a musical connection to the films and a further musical theme. Value for money indeed from our esteemed setter. The clues are up to the usual high standard with a couple of Downs that take quite a bit of understanding.

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. As usual, favourite clues are highlighted in blue.


1a    Heads intense bombardment, having taken cannabis back (8)
{TOPKNOTS} We start with a reversal clue. A word for a military bombardment is added to a slang word for cannabis and the whole thing reversed to produce a word that means heads in a hairdressing sense.

5a    Odd snatches of sketch, Cook being dry (5)
{SECCO} The odd letters of “sketch, Cook” give you a wine drinker’s description for a dry wine.

8a    Shall we mismanage releases? (4,2,2)
{LETS GO OF} A phrase that means releases could be restructured to read as in an expression that means “shall we mismanage” or “shall we mess about”

9a    See 3 down

11a    Beat liver troubles that could have been prevented (9)
{AVERTIBLE} An anagram (indicated by ‘troubles’) of BEAT LIVER leads you to a word that means ‘can be prevented’.

12a    One of the 13 17, I’ve had too much to drink in company (5)
{CHICO} A member of the dynasty is found by taking the noise that someone may make who had drunk too much, too quickly and placing it inside the business abbreviation for company.

13a & 17d    Damage by old trains et al, they spent 3 9 at 29 and 27 (4,8)
{MARX BROTHERS} The name of our movie dynasty is found by solving a word sum. DAMAGE (3) + BY (1), as in multiplied by + OLD TRAINS (2) abbreviation for our former national rail company + ET AL (6) the meaning of the abbreviation.

15a    One of the 13 17, one easily-annoyed all-rounder (7)
{GROUCHO} The Christian name of the most famous member of the theme dynasty can be found by taking a description of someone who’s testy (like Oscar in Sesame Street) and adding O (all-rounder).

18a    Rising with the sun, it is one who spent 3 9 at 29 and 27 (7)
{MERCURY} A little sub-theme for the puzzle. The titles of two films that were associated with our dynasty were also connected in a musical sense. Here we have a cryptic definition: Rising (i.e. starting) from the sun, this is the first heavenly body, and also the surname of the lead singer associated with the two themed answers.

20a    Adult backing online celebrity (4)
{NAME} The reversal of a word that means an adult has the abbreviation for online or electronic attached to give something that means ‘celebrity’.

22a    Take another bow on appearing before cup match (5)
{RETIE} If you fasten something again (add another bow , knot) you do this – put a word for on or about before a cup match

23a    See 26 across

26a & 23a    For 2 it’s time to go to 1 down or 3 9 (6-4,5)
{TWENTY-FOUR HOURS} A period of time defined as 3 and 9 appears in the title of a famous song by 2 down which is set in 1 down.

27a    With run in plus hard going it would be where fans would watch sporting event (3,5)
{THE RACES} Another complex one that took me a while to get how this works. The definition is “sporting event”, although that could be part of the indications. This definition if it had R (for run) inside and lost H (for hard) it would give you somewhere that fans could stand to watch an event. Are you still with me? Good. Now just explain it all to me!

28a    So Status Quo getting behind old band? (5)
{OASIS} My favourite clue (of many!) A definition for the status quo of something follows O for Old to give the name of another notable beat combo.

29a    It’s a job for surgeon in makeshift theatre — no time for dramas (3,5)
{THE OPERA} Not sure about this definition, perhaps a little too misleading. A type of stage drama (with music) is found by taking a short name for a surgical procedure inside an anagram of THEATRE minus one of its T’s (no time). Not sure ‘dramas’ covers the definite article needed in the answer.


1d           A woman of the night looking up a port in Oklahoma (5)
{TULSA}  A description for a woman of easy virtue is reversed and gives the name of a port in the US.

2d           Gene type in flux (6)
{PITNEY}  An anagram (flux)  of TYPE IN gives the name of a famous person named Gene who sang a bit.

3d & 9a Add anything to pieces to get a song (5,3,3)
{NIGHT AND DAY}  An anagram (to pieces) of ADD ANYTHING reveals a famous Cole Porter song that is also the title of the biopic about him.

4d           Probably it’s a wrench for ‘handy’ man having nothing left to fight about (7)
{TOOLBOX}   This will probably have some tooth sucking from the cognoscenti.    Here ‘it’s’ actually means  ‘it has’ rather than ‘it is’.  For the rest of it, put O (nothing) and L(eft) inside TO and a word meaning to fight

5d           A shocking report issued on aircraft (5,4)
{SONIC BOOM}  A cryptic definition for a noise emitted from an aircraft like Concorde.

6d           A cut of fish that was ‘outstanding’ in the area for members? (8)
{CODPIECE}   Nudge nudge, wink wink time!  A cryptic way of saying a piece of a fish is also the name of a mediaeval piece of clothing, designed to look after the nether regions.

7d           Axes soldiers following order in operation to capture figure during speech (8)
{OXYMORON}  This took me a whole lot of head scratching.  The axes in most graphs  (X and Y)  go in OM (order of merit), added is OR (soldiers, other ranks) and to this is added ON (in operation) to give the name of a grammatical term.

10d         The composer is somewhat flabbergasted (4)
{BERG}   Hidden in “flabbergasted” is the surname of Alban, a famous composer.

14d         They quickly shot off a letter in Athens, sent both ways containing no news (9)
{AMUSETTES}      Some rapid-fire guns are revealed by solving this word sum.  A + MU (letter from Greece) and then take  sent both forwards and backwards without the Ns (no news).

16d         Cupid’s dart finally penetrating Romeo at livery (8)
{AMORETTO}   An anagram indicated by livery of ROMEO AT has T (dart, finally) inside to reveal the name for a cupid or lothario.

17d         See 13 across

19d         A little horribly affected Scotsman’s scold (4)
{YAFF} Hidden inside (a little) horribly affected is a Scottish word meaning to scold

20d         Lowest-of-the-low ordinal should, in New Hampshire (7)
{NOUGHTH}  The lowest ordinal number is revealed by putting a word meaning “should have” inside NH, the abbreviation for the US state.

21d         Not the last living male to prepare a cheese flan (6)
{QUICHE}  A word that means living in the Biblical context (The ____ and The Dead) loses it’s last letter and to this is added a pronoun meaning male.   This gives you the name of a cheese flan.

24d         One of the 13 17 reviving the Confessor? (5)
{HARPO}  A member of our themed dynasty can be found by reversing the name of a famous American woman named Winfrey  to whom many confess their sins or transgressions.

25d         Fools growing up? Enough said! (5)
{SESSA} A word meaning fools is reversed to give something that means “Enough said!” in Shakespearean times.

Thanks to Elgar for a lovely challenge and I look forward to seeing you next Friday.

44 comments on “Toughie 698

  1. Well, I eventually cracked this one! By that I mean I’ve got all the answers but haven’t a clue how some of them work! I’ll read the blog later with interest but going out for a bike ride now – doctor’s orders!

    Liked 8a!

    Back later.

  2. Really struggling to finish the last two, 2d and 14d, a very enjoyable and tough toughie from Elgar, thanks to him and to Tilsit, I too will check the blog later if I don’t get the final two.

    1. You will kick yourself when you get 2d – its a very clear anagram and links very nicely with 26/23. 14d is gettable from the wordplay although I didn’t realise such a thing existed.

      1. Absolutely right Sue, I am still kicking myself re 2d, I can’t believe I missed it, please put it down to a surfeit of the Amber Liquid over the festivities which has pickled my brain. 14d I have never heard of so I’m not too annoyed that I didn’t get it. Thanks to all of you who pointed me in the right direction ( away from the decanter ), very much appreciated.

    2. 2d look for the anagram in the clue, or if you have 1d and 26a 23a think why the first word of the clue could be important.

      14d, “a” plus a greek letter plus the word sent one way then reversed both times without “n” gives you a type of cannon (they quickly shot off)

        1. I only had as it came up in our local pub quiz some time ago and for some reason it stuck in the mind. Will probably never have reason to use it again!

  3. Sorry to disagree with the * rating for difficulty but for me this was definitely set by Elgar with his new Christmas present pink fluffy slippers on. Although I did have to check that 14d existed and puzzle out the wordplay of another clue, this took me an average to middling time for a Toughie so I would probably award it 2.5 * difficulty. Definitely 5* fun though. Thanks to Elgar for an entertaining themed puzzle and to Tilsit for the explanations.

    1. I still struggle to see the connection between the ansqwer and ..spent 3,9 at 29, 27 – could you enlighten me pse? Got the answer to 19 D but couod not find it in my scots dictionary! Just 20d to go.


      1. The full title of the Queen abums contain the two component parts of 3d 9d that are not in 27a 29a. Probably not explained it very well but hope it helps

        1. Thanks Andy. Just got 20d by a circuituous route – Lowest of the Low is a Canadian pop group and I thought an ordinal – number – song of theirs fitted in NH – then the light dawned from the construct!

    2. Ditto. Having spotted the theme very early on, this was more of a cuddly kitten than a terrifying tiger.

  4. Not quite so Vladish as it could have been but definetely 5* enjoyment. Favourite 28a, and I’m with Tilsit that cannot parse 27a (yet!), still trying. Thanks to Elgar and Tilsit.

  5. Once I got the 60’s song things started gatherig apace, then I ended up just one short but thanks to Andy now complete thanks to Elgar and Tilsit.

    1. I hope i’m not going to be sent to the naughty corner for giving too much away, having spent one day in the darkened room already this week!

      1. The naughty corner is only at weekends for the prize crosswords.

        During the week. all we ask is that you don’t discuss the mechanics of one puzzle in the post for another, as some may intend to tackle that puzzle later.

  6. Great stuff from Elgar – very enjoyable, and not as tough as some of his more opaque puzzles. The thematic clues, once solved, make the rest (and each other) pretty straightforward.

    As Tilsit says, value for money indeed!

  7. 27a – with Run in = add R to the answer, with Hard going = take H out. Your left with TERRACES which is where fans watch! Too clever for its own good IMHO!!!!

    1. I would have got there eventually. In fact no I wouldn’t, perhaps you should volunteer to Blog on Fridays tee hee

      1. No chance!!!!! As for 20d – couldn’t believe it was a real word until I looked it up! And what’s 25d all about?
        Tilsit actually has 27a right in the blog, not sure why he’s asked for it to be explained.

        1. Brush up your Shakespeare!!Taming of the Shrew has the word, in the sense of Be quiet / Shut up. let the world slide: *****.

          1. Yeah, found that by a rather convoluted route but, honestly, how is anyone but a graduate in Eng Lit supposed to know? At least the wordplay was fair as it got me Googling etc for the right answer! Same with the cannon and 19d!

            Actually a very fine puzzle so a belated thanks to Elgar and to Tisit, when his brain has thawed out!

            1. Re 25d: An uncommon word, for sure. It could be a transliteration of the French “c’est ça” or the Spanish “cesa”.

  8. Having been assured by several comments in “the other place” that this was Elgar with his pink fluffy slippers on I thought it might be worth having a go – please could someone warn me next time he’s stomping around in his hob-nailed boots – I’ve managed six answers and have yet to spot the theme! Think it’s time to admit defeat and read the hints. :sad:

    1. Keep persevating Kath, I expect to hear plenty of D’oh moments when you read the hints. 6d in the RayT genre.

    2. I think he’s shared the pink fluffies and the hobnails with Elkamere yesterday – one on each foot!

  9. I think we have two movies by 13+17: Day at the Races (races from r+aches, lose the H); Night at the Opera, somehow cutting the end off operation

    1. I think that you will find that the wordplay for 27a is as outlined by Tilsit.

      The Races (sporting event) turns into terraces if you add R(un) and drop H(ard)

    2. 29a doesn’t actually need the theme to work, although it is alluded to in other themed clues.
      It’s simply OP (job for a surgeon) placed inside an anagram (makeshift) of THEATRE without one of the T’s (no time) to give DRAMAS.
      Is DRAMAS a fair defintition for the answer? It just about works for me but only because it’s a Toughie!

  10. 20d Having worked it out, I couldn’t find “noughth” in Chambers. Am I looking in the wrong place?

  11. I’m not convinced by 7d. All the required bits seem to be there but (as Eric Morecambe might have said) “not necessarily in the right order”.

  12. This is all SO far beyond me ….. :sad: Every time I think that I might have a go at a toughie I’m reminded why I don’t try very often. I’m really not very sure how to progress from someone who, most days, completes the back page puzzle without needing the hints (sometimes, usually Fridays or Sundays I do) to someone who can at least attempt the toughie with some degree of confidence of making a decent attempt at it. Again :sad:

    1. Kath,
      You just have to stick at it – the more Toughies you try the better you’ll get, especially if you use the blog to understand the answers you can’t get.
      The Friday Toughies are almost invariably the trickiest of the week. You should find the ones earlier in the week less difficult.
      If you get to a stage in a puzzle where you’re totally stuck I’d suggest:
      1) Fill in, from the blog, all the answers you haven’t got from the Across clues only (using the hints to understand the wordplay as you go – if you still don’t understand one then ask).
      2) Now have another go at the outstanding Down clues which should now be a bit easier because you’ll have more checking letters in place.

      1. Thanks Gazza, Heno and crypticsue for the encouragement. I’ll carry on “perservating” with toughies on the days that time allows me to.

    2. Kath, I know what you mean, I’ve recently started the Toughies myself, it’s definitely a step up in difficulty, but as Gazza says keep at it. I try not to let a Toughie failure affect my backpage confidence.

    3. Do perservate Kath. Apologies from me – in my ‘fluffy’ Toughie tip yesterday, I should have pointed out that what counts for fluffy in Elgar-world, is tough in everyone elses. :) I do try to give accurate Toughie tips each day when I post on the back page puzzle. I will make sure I make my recommendations clearer in future.

  13. Thanks to Elgar & Tilsit for a great review. What a super puzzle. Way beyond me, but I really enjoyed it. I had to look up 3&9 and 27&29. Then I actually got 13&17, which opened up the puzzle as I’m a big Marx Brothers fan. Favourites were 1d & 18a.

  14. Got the main theme (team?) after 4d. Beautiful puzzle. Re 18a, it does rise with the sun in another way doesn’t it?

    1. Welcome to the blog Shahriar

      If you mean in a mercury thermometer, then yes, but I don’t think that is what the setter had in mind.

      You are a couple of weeks behind – did you see this in another newspaper?

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