DT 26778 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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DT 26778

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 26778

Hints and tips by Big Dave

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I had heard a rumour that Elgar was returning to the back page after a long absence and if this isn’t it I’ll eat my 18 across. Although this is not as beastly as some of his Toughies, most of his usual tricks are to be found here. I know that some are going to find this difficult, but all of the clues can be solved with perseverance.

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    All the cards? One of them is limiting North on board game (4,6)
{DECK TENNIS} – start with a word for a set of 52 playing cards and then add one of those cards and IS from the clue around N(orth) to get a game played on board a ship, not on a piece of cardboard

6a    Heavily strike driver? (4)
{CLUB} – a simple double definition just to prove that there are a few easy clues

9a    Beelzebub’s accepting time of celebration for Welsh listeners (10)
{SAMARITANS} – put another name for Beelzebub and the S from ‘S around (accepting) the date of St David’s Day (time of celebration for Welsh), expressed as MMM D, to get these people who patiently listen to the problems of others

10a    Military ‘supplies’ (in inverted commas) (4)
{AMMO} – these military supplies are hidden and reversed (inverted) inside cOMMAs

12a    Catcall from writer that hurt! (4)
{MEOW} – this catcall is a charade of the objective pronoun for the writer/setter followed by a short word that expresses the feeling “that hurt!”

13a    Distinguishing feature making Spooner cry with laughter? (9)
{BIRTHMARK} – split this distinguishing feature on the body as (5,4) and then swap, in the style of the Reverend Spooner, the initial letters and it could mean to cry with laughter

15a    Bird from Liverpool getting engaged to Marvin (8)
{REDSHANK} – to get this bird combine the nickname of Liverpool FC with the first name of Shadows guitarist Marvin

16a    Well-lit sailor wants to do no work (6)
{ABLAZE} – This adjective meaning very-well-lit is a charade of the usual Crosswordland sailor and a verb meaning to do no work

18a    Showing outward strain, I left book and hat (6)
{TRILBY} – put a verb meaning to strain or attempt outside I L(eft) B(ook) to get a type of hat

Can’t find a picture of the eponymous character in the play based on the book by George du Maurier, so this will have to do!

20a    Cooked hot Latin grub without getting a grip (8)
{FOOTHOLD} – start with an anagram (cooked) of HOT and L(atin) and the put some grub around it (without) to a grip when climbing a rockface

23a    Those starting sprint badly, after all, finish under high pressure (9)
{SANDBLAST} – separate the initial letters of Sprint Badly with a conjunction then add a word meaning after all to get a verb meaning to finish or clean under high pressure

24a    In the company of women, it’s hard (4)
{WITH} – the definition is “in the company of” and it’s derived from a charade of W(omen), IT and H(ard)

26a    Tin chucked by regular debauchee (4)
{ROUE} – drop (chucked) TIN from a word meaning regular or run-of-the-mill to get a debauchee or libertine

27a    Company time engaged in quiet manoeuvring with mum, flirting (10)
{COQUETTISH} – start with CO(mpany) and then add T(ime) inside an anagram (manoeuvring) of QUIET and finish off with mum or quiet to get an adjective meaning flirtatious

28a    Irish county spread (4)
{MAYO} – a double definition – an Irish county and a spread or salad dressing

29a    Fleet Street source of legendary piemeat, herbs or nuts filling roll (10)
{BARBERSHOP} – Sweeney Todd’s workplace, where he killed his victims and passed their bodies to Mrs Lovett to be made into pies, is created by putting an anagram (nuts) of HERBS OR inside (filling) not a pie but a bread roll


1d           Confound ostentation — and blow Mark! (4)
{DASH} – multiple definitions!

2d           Praise 50% of Mr Men in jest (7)
{COMMEND} – a verb meaning to praise is created by putting the first 50% of Mr and then MEN inside a verb meaning to jest

3d, 21d &11d      Unwisely lose the essential element: b—– hot tub — what that wee, airworthy Beth’s showing off! (5,3,4,3,4,3,4,5)
{THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATER} – this phrase meaning to do something stupid as a consequence of doing something else, or as Chambers gives “to get rid of the essential along with the superfluous”, is an anagram (showing off) of B HOT TUB WHAT THAT WEE AIRWORTHY BETH – Chambers gives the last two words as a single word

4d           In love, badly beat Mark! (4,4)
{NOTA BENE} – inside another word for love or nothing put an anagram (badly) of BEAT to get a Latin phrase meaning to mark well or take notice

5d           Send to Coventry, funny region (6)
{IGNORE} – this verb meaning “to send to Coventry” or disregard is an anagram (funny) of REGION

7d           A letter to Greek includes a measure of Latin (7)
{LAMBADA} – insert A from the clue into a Greek letter to get a rhythmic and energetic dance originating in Latin America – Chambers gives “A dance, especially  a slow and stately one” as one of the definitions of measure!

8d           Black-shoed shuffle for group of 19 (10)
{BLOCKHEADS} – an anagram (shuffle) of BLACK-SHOED gives the group led by 19 down

ARVE Error: need id and provider

11d         See 3 down

14d         I’ll stop you from lying about the rust — it’s odd (5,5)
{TRUTH SERUM} – any of various drugs which make subjects under questioning less wary in their replies (don’t you just love some of the definitions on Chambers?) is derived from an anagram () of (about) of THE RUST followed by a word meaning odd or strange

17d         On half a drum with one digit, play ‘The Little General’ (3,5)
{TOM THUMB} – half of a drum played with the hands is followed by a digit on the hand to get the stage name of Charles Sherwood Stratton, the self-styled general of small stature

19d         Victim of rhythm stick could arrange to ruin day (3,4)
{IAN DURY} – this person, accompanied by his group from 8 down, sang Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick – his name is an anagram (arrange) of RUIN DAY

ARVE Error: need id and provider

21d         See 3 down

22d         Aged prophet tucking into South American snack (6)
{SAMOSA} – put this aged prophet from the Old Testament inside the abbreviation of South American to get a tasty Indian snack

25d         A bit much — a pregnant bloke! (4)
{CHAP} – this bloke is hidden inside the clue – another gimme

Very much a love-it or hate-it puzzle – I loved it!

The Quick crossword pun: {Kings} + {crustacean} = {King’s Cross Station}

237 comments on “DT 26778

  1. Found this very hard. Finished it about two hours ago which is not quite as impressive as it seems since it took off and on about 2.5 hours (we are abroad with a helpful time difference). 9A was the last in and until I saw the hints I didn’t really follow the answer. Many thanks to the setter and to BD

  2. I am sorry but if I perservate all day on this I will not solve it, I had done 5 before your hints Dave, If I was an absolute beginner, this would put me off fot good, what is the crossword editor thinking, IMHO this is way too hard for a back page puzzle
    Re 9a, even if it is expressed like that, in reality we still have to put a number in the answer and surely as this is about putting letters into squares and not numbers, how is this allowed?
    I really don’t see how the ‘s’ works in 24a and that’s one of the simple ones
    Having now solved 3, 21 & 11d —— what on earth are all those dashes for! I am now going to do just that and wait for the down clues, I totally give up on this, ‘come back RayT’ all is forgiven :-)
    Oh dear, it’s not just hard, it’s not fun
    Good luck everyone, I am just waiting for the downs
    However…………..out of the few I solved on my own, there were two I really liked – 25d and 5d

    1. The MAR I trick has been used many times before, usually as DEC I.

      Dont forget that ‘S can also mean “has” – W(omen) IT has H(ard)

      1. Thanks for the help Dave, really needed it today, still don’t like 9a though :-( , OK I see 24a now, hadn’t thought of it like that

        1. I detested 9a!!!! – got it only by the fact I couldn’t see it being anything else. That one was too cleaver for me :-) Enjoyed the rest though – However this one was definitely 5*+ I wonder how Mark the Newbie is faring……. I hope this one doesn’t put him off for life!

          1. It would have me, SpikeyM, however we can only encourage him and others (myself included :-) ) by saying this is a ‘one off’ far from the norm for a back page cryptic!

  3. Blimey!!! If you need a ‘slightly mad hat’ for a Petitjean puzzle, I think a large dose of hallucinogenics would be required for this one!
    I did enjoy it though. I made life hard for myself by putting ‘down’ for 28a.
    Thanks to setter, and to BD for the review.

  4. Marvellous fun early this morning solving this great crossword. Not enjoyed one so much for ages.

  5. I agree with Jezza – this one was mind blowing. Enjoyed it all the same. Thanks to big Dave for the hints and tips – how did 9a work – still cannot see it?

  6. Hardest that I can remember in recent times – just about managed to finish it, but still needed hints to explain a couple of the answers.

    Puzzles like this ought to carry a health warning:)

    Thanks (I think) to Elgar and definitely to BD for the explanations.

    1. I was waiting for your comment collywobs :-) , of course, some people will be able to do it, just not us normal, run of the mill, everyday solvers, who are trying to learn, I would compare this to someone like myself who is about grade 5 in flute playing ability suddenly being told to play a grade 8 piece ! Such a shame, I have just rung my brother to see how he got on today and he had finished it about an hour ago, he is not a member of the blog but has been doing these since he was in college, ( over 40 years) he of course had completed it without any need of any kind of hints :-( I try not to ring him re the crosswords until I have finished it, if poss, although it was through him I started them a couple of years ago, I am late starting everything! He is also a grade 8 flotist!!

      1. Yes, I mean some people can’t do it and that includes me. I think that the comment is valid nevertheless. I’m glad that I kept Tuesdays’ which was much nicer

        Mary, did you finish by mainly using Dave’s clues or on your own?

          1. :-) doubtless people will have enjoyed it collywobs but really it should be kept for a ‘toughie’ not a back pager

            1. I agree Mary. On my first look through I could not solve 1 clue. I know that I am a beginner + but I should be able to finish with minimal reference to the hints

  7. Thanks for all the help Dave have finished it now but could never, ever have done it on my own, not even with all my electronic friends, google, books etc. etc. Whew, going to the pub for lunch, I don’t normally drink but I think I’ll have a large brandy!!! Too many to comment on today, so I will leave it at that :-), just a note to the crossword editor, “please don’t do that too often”

      1. Whew, that’s a relief, I appreciate that lots of people will appreciate this Dave but why wasn’t it kept for a ‘toughie’ ?

            1. No quality doesn’t necessarily mean very hard, most of Rufus’ puzzles are what I call real quality ( IMHO) and sometimes they are quite straightforward :-)

  8. That was a real “scratch my head, suck air through my teeth & let’s look at it from another angle” puzzle for me. Two mugs of Yorkshire Gold before I’d done no more than 5 clues then I had no choice but to resort to Big D’s review. Thanks to he & to Elgar for an enjoyable cerebral workout.

    1. BD – Where did the Ys come from? Also my comment doesn’t appear in the “recent comments” box either.
      It’s witchcraft I tell thee.

  9. Wow. I enjoyed this one. Strangely, solving time would indicate only 3* difficulty but several flashes of inspiration helped and a lot of the clues were of “toughie” standard. Definite 5* enjoyment. Weclome back to our Toughie tormentor. I thought that only Petitjean was allowed to wear hob-nailed boots on the back page! For anyone whose brain has recovered from the back page, Giovanni in the Toughie should take about the same length of time!

    1. There was a spoonerism in the crossword the day that I asked what the “Sloggers and Betters” meetings (ie the get togethers and have a massive “**** **”) were. A very nice person (Gnomethang, I think) replied and told me that I would kick myself and that it was the “Bloggers and Setters” meeting. At least I chose the right day to ask what it meant!! All this was some time ago – probably at least a year – or more.

  10. Hmmmmm, not the easiest puzzle I’ve tackled, but quite enjoyable for all that. I thought 29A was very clever indeed and 9A was a real D’Oh moment. Only quibble I have concernes 24A and 21D, I don’t like to see the same word in a crossword grid twice (I do remember a crossword appearing in Viz where all the answers were the same word, but that was quite clever)(and funny). Also, I’ve never seen the word COD used to mean jest (must admit I sort of guessedish at the answer as it couldn’t really be anything else).

    Nice to see the answer to 15A making an appearance, not a very well known bird IMHO.

    1. My friend and I were walking along the coast once and looking at all the various seabirds – She said ‘I wonder what that one with the red legs is?’ You can imagine the embarrassment when I pointed out the obvious 15a :D

  11. The only plus about this puzzle as I see it is that by using your hints Dave we can learn a few things here, problem is if we had another similar Elgar next week I’ld have forgotten it all :-(

    1. But then (talking to myself again) I suppose I used to say that about most puzzles especially Giovanni, just trying to stay positive here :-)

        1. Thats great she has springtime and summer ahead now to fully recuperate, missing you on the blog, though Digby is doing a marvellous job :-)

  12. Just wasted(enjoyably) another 2hours of my life! thought the toughie was on the wrong page.Wanted to put membership(roll) for 29a-was thinking of Sweeny Todd and members(arms and legs) in pies! saw the light with samosa.
    Re Dave,11 above, and spoonerisms-they have been in previous telegraph cross
    words,but i can’t rememer any details.
    In passing ,thought yesterdays toughie was harder than **- well it was for me.

      1. sorry beaver, in wrong place

        In the absence of RayT today – this looks like one of his double-entendres. :wink:

  13. I managed all but the NW corner unaided.

    Proves my suspicion about my fear of the word “Toughie” – if this had been published as a Toughie under the name Elgar – I would have given it a miss!

    Maybe, the Crossword Editor is trying to make us all more appreciative of RayT.

    3, 21 & 11 – far too contrived! What does the surface reading mean?

  14. Well .. is it Friday?? I struggled along with this for a while before several pennies dropped and I got some letters to work with. I still needed plenty of assistance with the hints though, so many thanks to BD. We’ve obviously been spoilt lately, this was definitely tougher than a lot of the Toughies!

  15. Tough but extremely enjoyable. Managed to finish it all except for 26a – drat! I’d give this the same star ratings as BD. Without wishing to upset people all over again – we have many more crosswords on the back page that I would rate as fairly simple (up to **) than we do puzzles like this which I would suggest are at the top end of what should appear on the back page. The setters need to cater for all tastes, not just those who are relative beginners, so I would say that this restores the balance a little – but hey, it’s just my opinion! Many thanks to Elgar, and to BD for enlightening me re 26a.

    1. I agree – there is no harm in throwing in the odd puzzle that is harder than the norm. I would imagine that with some recent comments that the back-page puzzles have become easier over recent years, Phil McNeill probably has a wry grin on his face today. :)

      1. Mary, there’s no point having ratings 1 to 5, if all back page puzzles are from 1 to 3. Or am I missing something?

        1. I know Roland but our ratings are all personal too, something that Dave rates a 5* is much more to me, it’s all relevant to our solving abilities

        1. Pardon? Based upon your comments elsewhere, I find it difficult to believe that you’re agreeing with me Brian. So, have I made an error
          in what I said above, or have you got the wrong end of my stick – so to speak?

              1. No I was agreeing with Mary, it was a simple agreement that didn’t call for a smug comment from you.

  16. I’m with all those who think this crossword way way too hard. I struggled to get six clues early this morning and haven’t got a clue as to the rest. I might take a peek at Big D’s hints but to be honest feel so disillusioned with this one that I will probably just let it pass on by. As has already been said, this could put off someone wanting to get into crosswords for life. Way way way too hard.

  17. Well I struggled mightily with that one from last Tuesday (as most people did) but I finished today’s on the train journey in to work with no trouble at all so I’m genuinely surprised at all the comments here about difficulty, I would have said 2*/3* difficulty wise as opposed to last Tuesday’s (which would have been a 5*) – I agree that it was enjoyable though. Best clue for me was 9A.

  18. I’m a beginner and found this really tough. I’m full of admiration and gratitude that BD can get it done and hinted so fast! I did the south side mostly on my own and was lucky to get the long anagram by guessing “water” at the end of it. But I thought the surface of that clue was annoyingly inelegant. Also, for my taste, too many clues depending on knowing groups and lead singers.

    The good thing was that once I had the hints – and even then it was quite tough (!) – I really enjoyed the cleverness of this, especially the spoonerism. So I’m sure five stars is right both for toughness and enjoyment. I feel I’ve learnt something even if I wouldn’t want something like this every day. I got some of them without knowing why, until the hints. Liked 23a, but I got it by accident, thinking about blast rather than last and nevere seeing s and b!

    Funnily enough my first impression was that it was going to be a doddle becasue I got the first word of 1a straight away. I could go on, but just two things more. You never meet a roue these days except in crosswords, but there are more there now than Paris in the naughty nineties; and around that time, isn’t the book and the hat (18a) the novel by George du Maurier?

    Thanks to all. I enjoyed this but now I’m brain dead!

    1. It’s nice to know that there is at least one novice out there that has the right attitude. One of the main purposes of this blog is to help people to improve their solving skills.

      Si nihil temptes raro cades – If you attempt nothing, you will rarely fail.

      1. I will certainly keep going. I have learnt a lot since I found your site and hope to learn a lot more. A puzzle like this only makes me more determined to succeed.

      2. I think ‘Timendi causa est nescire’ sums it up, ignorance is the cause of fear. I felt very ignorant after attempting this stinker and now very fearful in case the DT sets another.

        1. Hi Brian, surely it’s a case of Neil Desperandum or whatever the right spelling is. Keep perservating. It’ll help raise your solving standard.

    2. I missed what you said about the novel – yes indeed, I was looking for a suitable illustration from the book, but none of them, unsurprisingly, feature the hat.

  19. My first question has to be ‘If this is what he has given us on the back page today, what sort of Toughie are we getting from Vlad tomorrow??’ The only other back page setter that takes as long for me to solve as this one did today is Petitjean, so I am with those who think it should probably be in the middle of the paper. Even the quick puzzle took more thought than usual although I did like the pun. Agree with BD’s ratings. Thanks to him and to Elgar too – you can hide but you can’t hide your clue style!!

  20. Really enjoyed it – got the long multiple clue by writing it out and inspired guesswork, many clues made me smile. Rhythm stick my favourite. Would have said ***** is about right?

  21. On the first read through I wasn’t sure … but then it began to take shape and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can understand how it might be difficult for some but 5* entertainment for me. Gave me lots of ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’! Hope there is enough left of my brain to work this afternoon and leave a space to do the Toughie later. Many thanks to BD and Elgar.

  22. I am suprised reading the comments above as this one flowed easily and I finished it in xx minutes over lunch. Getting the 31 letter anagram helped a lot, of course. The best crossword for me for a while. Thanks to Elgar and Big Dave

    1. We don’t mention times as it can discourage those who take longer to solve than we do. It did flow nicely and was an enjoyable change on the back page but I can see the point of view of those newer to cryptic solving too.

  23. Bloody hell!! :sad: I can’t do this – have been sitting at the kitchen table doing battle for ages – so far the crossword is winning! Done just over half – haven’t looked at hints YET but just wanted to see if it was me or if this is really hard. Will perservate for a bit longer now that I know it’s not me! Back later, unless this beast finishes me off!

  24. I got three before giving up but will blame pressure of work. Didn’t even get Ian Dury and it was staring me in the face, I once did an impersonation of him in a bar revue so no excuses. Came here because I thought the answers would be well worth reading and indeed they were, so I did enjoy it in the end just for seeing how it was all done. Thanks to the write up Big D

    1. well hello you, nice to see you here for a visit, I managed 5 on my own and just blame the difficulty for the rest :-)

  25. Needed the hints a lot today, I did not enjoy it very much. I will keep on trying however, it won’t put me off for long. West country folk don’t give up easily.

  26. Doubly five-starred by Big Dave! I have to agree – quite a stinker but very enjoyable. I loved 9A, 27A and 29A.

    It was a great help to do the 3D-21D-11D spectacular early on; perhaps some of those who do all the across clues first would benefit from tackling this little baby?

  27. Best back pager for a long long time, I loved it, many thanks to Elgar and of course BD for the great review.

  28. Pedants’ Corner!

    3, 21 & 11 – the enumeration in the paper (at least my paper) is:-




    (A few Full Stops instead of commas – if you look closely). But, I got the “Big One” straight away once I got the W from Meo(W).

      1. Who said that? Can’t see your name clearly!

        I noticed it and thought it might have been of some significance! (But, just another proof-reader’s error!)

        1. Luckily, I missed all today’s typos. Yesterday I read quadruped as quadrupled, I think I’m flying blind !!

  29. Thanks BD for the review & explanation as to who is the most likely culprit behind this.Not only did I have to jog in sub-zero temps this morning but I had a rude awakening over breakfast with this back pager. Very enjoyable puzzle though & thanks to the compiler. At least things can only get easier now for the rest of the day.

  30. Never come across Elgar before and if I never come across him again it will be too soon. I wish he would stick to the a toughie!

  31. I’ve been lurking on this site for quite a while but given the controversy today’s puzzle has caused thought I might chip in for once. I’m a 48 year old who first looked at a crossword 18 months ago as a commuter friend was a regular solver.

    18 months on I guess I complete the back page 80% of the time unaided – I definitely didn’t start at that level. The rest I need help from this blog or my friend. Today I completed all but 3 clues (1, 9 & 4) and finished with help from here. Did I feel disappointed I didn’t finish, no I took pleasure I did so well when it is generally acknowledged so hard. It would be very boring if the crossword was solvable every day IMHO, how would I be learning/being stretched? Equally I wouldn’t want something like this every day.

    Clearly there is a broad spectrum of ability on this blog and the wider readership. A diversity of challenge should be good for all.

    Finally my advice in crosswords (and life) is to take more pleasure in the achievements and not despair so much over the failures.

    Maybe I’ll be brave enough to try a toughie next.

    Back to lurking now :-)


    1. Hi Wozza – welcome to the blog.
      That’s an excellent comment – I hope, now that you’ve broken your duck, that we’ll get more from you. I remember when learning to play chess being told that, if I wanted to improve, I had to play against opponents who were better than me. I’m sure the same applies to tackling crosswords – you learn most by tackling those that stretch you.

    2. I think, for what it’s worth, that if you’ve only been doing cryptic crosswords for 18 months and manage to finish 80% most of the time AND did OK with today’s beast then you are doing really well! Why go back to “lurking”? This is a fantastic blog with lots of very helpful people! :smile:

  32. What a crossword!

    Many apologies if this has been raised earlier (I follow this blog on a tiny blackberry screen) but ref 14D shouldn’t the clue read ‘It’ll’ rather than ‘I’ll’ or (not for the first or last time) am I missing something?

  33. Hmmmm! I’ve spent HOURS doing (or failing to do) this!! Eventually ended up with a few that I just gave up on – mainly in the top left corner – and have now read the hints. I can’t remember the last time I needed quite so many of them. Although it was some struggle I’m glad that I kept going even if it means that I’ve done very little else today!! If this had been a “toughie” I would have resorted to the hints much sooner quite happily – all to do with mind set! This makes last week’s Tuesday puzzle seem quite easy – or have I forgotten? Lots of brilliant clues (especially now I understand them) – can’t really pick out any particular ones but 12a and 25d made me laugh. Now I need to lie down for the rest of the day – unfortunately collie has other ideas! With thanks to Elgar and to BD for the very much needed hints.

  34. Thanks to Elgar for the puzzle & to Big Dave for the review & hints. A real brain bender, I was only defeated by 4d, and can take comfort that I didn’t do Latin at school. Most enjoyable, luckily I didn’t read the review first, or it may have put me off :-) Favourites were 24a, 27a & 3d et al.

  35. That was a tricky little rascal and no mistake! Took pommette and I about 4* time over lunch and thoroughly enjoyable it was, unlike the vegetable soup! Welcome back Elgar, but I live in fear of tomorrow’s Toughie!

    Just got back from taking pommette to the airport and popped it to leave a comment. Never seen so many on here by this time of day! Are the number of posts proportional to the difficulty of the puzzle I wonder!

    1. Hi Pommers, well Mary must be getting close to 30 comments on her own, so that may have distorted the numbers a little :) (Sorry Mary – only jesting.)

    2. Pommers – a reply to one of your comments from yesterday. :oops: is colon oops colon (no spaces). All the little faces are up at the top of the page but I can’t remember what they come under – just could be FAQ.

        1. I might have another go at the table of emoticons. At the time I set it up I didn’t know how to show the code without it turning into an emoticon so I turned the whole thing into a picture.

          1. What I would like to know is how do I do these “little faces” and get them to work in an email? Can anyone help?

  36. Wow I’m amazed at all of the negative posts, I have this trouble everyday,LOL. I needed help but only with the NW corner, esp 9A which I don’t think I would have got in a month of Sunday’s!

  37. The rating filled me with trepidation, but I didn’t actually find it that bad! Needed hints to finish off the last couple (got stuck on S Am snacks for 22d, which I’m sure was the intention!) and explain a couple of others (missed the date in 9a), but enjoyed it a lot. It definitely helped when I finally got the long anagram! 12a made me smile, but then I’m a cat-lover, so any reference… :)

    I only have time for one puzzle a day and I don’t consider myself up to Toughie level (yet!), so the odd challenge like this one is most welcome – it’s not like it happens very often. So thanks muchly to Elgar and to BD for the hints.

    The pun in the Quick is excellent today!

  38. Would someone please come round and give me a good kick in the rear?! I have laboured long and hard to eventually reach white flag stage and go to the prompts.

    And which were the only two clues to defeat me? 6A and 16A – what in the name of God’s teeth is wrong with me?

      1. Great stuff. VV good learning experience. Onwards!

        So why ‘Elgar’ – does he have a big moustace or is he from Worcester or . . . ?

        1. His main alias, in the Guardian, is Enigmatist. I’m sure you can work out how he got from there to Elgar. I’m the one who lives in Worcestershire – he lives in North London.

  39. Very hard for a simple squaddie. I was just congratulating myself on finally solving it, then realised I’d got 24A wrong – having entered it in haste!

    Leaving myself completely open to be called a male chauvinist, I’d entered WITS!!

    Many thanks to Elgar for a real test, and as always to this blog for furthering my education.

  40. I can honestly say this is one of the most difficult back-pagers I have ever done and I have been doing them 40 years. I too had to look to see if I had printed out a toughie by mistake. After an hour all I had got in was 5 clues and it took me another 1-1/4 hours to get all but one in with help from my electronic friends, as Mary says. I am surprised no-one mentioned difficulty with 15a. I mean seriously, unless you are a band follower who knows the first name of the Shadow’s guitarist? I don’t mind general knowledge clues if they are well-known knowledge. I guessed at 3d, etc. after I had a few letters. I wouldn’t have been able to solve it from the clue which was all double dutch to me – although I understood BD’s explanation. The dashes confused me. No I didn’t enjoy this one at all. There is such a thing as making a difficult thing too difficult so that one gets discouraged and I don’t always have 2.25 hours to devote to the crossword.

    1. Re 15A, I only know of 3 entities with the name Marvin, Hank Marvin of the Shadows was the obvious (and correct option) but I couldn’t really see Gaye or the Paranoid Android fitting in at all

        1. Nope – watched it on TV years ago but it is not my thing at all. Hope that doesn’t mean I am going to be sent a corner of some sort :D

          1. Read the books – they are great and nothing like to TV programme (or even the Radio series). If you don’t I’ll find some corner to ostracise you in ;-) !

            1. Morning Mary, the book was probably the funniest book I’ve ever read. I guess it may be a bit dated by now (or maybe not, I haven’t read it for about 30 years) but if you’ve never read it, it may be worth getting yourself a copy to check out (if only to confirm that I have a weird sense of humour). In comparison I didn’t find the radio or TV adaptations nearly as good, but like a lot of things IMO it depends which you read/see/hear first.

                1. OK, each to his/her own of course Mary – I remember reading it while lying on a beach somewhere in southern France in 1983. I would have been laughing my socks off if I’d had any on!

        1. Thank you – took me right back. I like the way when you occasionally see them on TV now they still do the same ‘dance’.

  41. Without doubt the best for a very long time. Definitely a 5 star effort.
    Thanks to setter and Big Dave for the hints, always worth reading but not required today.

      1. Well spotted! I added this:

        “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUgoBb8m1eE&rel=0&showinfo=1&w=309&h=250” without the quote marks.

  42. I’m glad it wasn’t only me who found this difficult to start. i was on a bus and felt quite embarrassed that i couldn’t do any, with people looking over my paper. Eventually got going, but a slow start.
    Had never heard of 14d or 19d. i felt it was like a Sesame Street programme, ” brought to you today by the letter B “.
    Thanks for much needed hints to finish off.

    1. i felt it was like a Sesame Street programme, ” brought to you today by the letter B “. Sorry Ann, I don’t know what you mean by that comment. Please explain.

      1. When i watched Sesame Street in the 70’s with my children, each day they featured a particular letter and a number. For instance, if it was B there would be lots of words beginning with B, or with it in. There seemed to be so many B s today, that i was reminded of it.

  43. Phew, I needed a little help with that one, thanks BD and the setter.

    My only slight quibble is that ‘belt’ also fits 6a, which is what I’d in initially, and I hate overwriting clues!!

  44. Got there eventually but completely stuck on 9 across – I thought Beelzebub was LORD OF THE FLIES, not Satan.

  45. Certainly at the top end of “acceptable” difficulty for a back-pager, but a thoroughly fair and enjoyable challenge. Maybe one or 2 per month at this level to compensate for the occasional 1* that we sometimes see. Thankless task being the Puzzles Editor, and it seems that he employs the 80 / 20 rule.

  46. Really enjoyed this and I agree it required some deep thought. A real top notch puzzle from a maestro.

  47. Something for everyone:
    – a bit of music in 19d and 8d
    – the longest anagram in the world (?) in 3d etc
    – a bit of controversy in 9a
    – a bit of (over-)cleverness in 27a and 29a

    Only disappointment was tired old 26a – no-one uses that word any more (except in crosswords)

    But I found it quite tricky, too

    1. I think the longest anagram in the world was set by Rufus!

      Giggling troll follows Clancy, Larry, Billy and Peggy who howl, wrongly disturbing a place in Wales (58)


  48. Last 10 percent was very difficult, thought it was only me until I read the blog. Thanks for putting my brain at ease B Dave and thanks to the Setter, I think !

  49. Much harder than usual.
    I had my daughter and grandchildren for lunch and in view of the continuing freezing weather we had thick pea soup followed by rasps and cream.
    So I started very late on the puzzle but persevated (as Mary says) and eventually finished it.
    It was essential to get the 3,21,11 combination to make progress and while I suspected it was an anagram of the fodder I just put on my thinking cap and eventually got it so I was off!!
    Very many good clues so no list of faves today.

    Sky here has been cloudless steely blue all day with marvellous sunshine. Now it is black with Jupiter dazzling in the SW.
    When I was young I could see its two largest moons with the naked eye – not now!

    1. Hi Derek , funnily enough we had thick split pea soup but followed by straberries & cream for lunch to-day and it was pretending to snow here in Cantabria!!

  50. Phew! Finished it but have to confess it was an A-team effort to-day. Thank goodness for the rhythm stick.It helped me get started and on my way but I don’t think I would have got 3,11,21d had it not been for Mr A..or should I call him Mr T?? He just said the word “throw” and I got the rest of it straight away.Great puzzle though but going through it I was thinking I was going to have to withdraw my comment of 2 weeks ago re Ray T. but then was relieved to find it wasn’t Ray T after all. I had said that maybe I was becoming a Ray T fan. So,for the moment the comment remains. For Newbies ,I have only been doing the Cryptic for just over a year and was finding them very difficult to begin with but it’s truly amazing how quickly you improve if you just keep perservating. I agree with BD that you do need the occasional challenge like to-day’s .BD’s 5* assessment spot on . Thanks to Elgar & BD.

    1. “……..but it’s truly amazing how quickly you improve if you just keep perservating.”

      .. it’s never helped my Golf !

      1. … so why don’t you just go for a nice walk with a dog, preferably a collie, as they add SO much enjoyment to everything you do – forget about the silly game with a ball and lots of different shaped sticks!! :grin:

        1. Off topic Kath but When my current collection of pooches depart to the kennel in the sky I shall definetely be looking to get collies.

  51. Time to reflect. There is little point in a crossword puzzle not challenging you and I am bit surprised by some of the negative comments. Yes it was tough but highly enjoyable as well. It’s no good rattling it off in 10 minutes every day – I have a 90 minute train commute and I need something more than the news to read!

    Best puzzle for ages.

  52. Phew! – Got there in the end but even with work getting in the way I found this tough going. I think that Wozza summed up my sentiments the best.
    Many thanks to the setter and to BD for the review.

  53. Wow, what a corker! It’s taken all day to get this one put to bed and I only managed to finish off the NW corner with the help of BD’s hint for 9a and the second part of 1a (I kicked myself because I had the first word, knew how the second word was supposed to be constructed and had figured out what the definition was referring to – I just couldn’t get “quoits” out of my head).

    Although I’m a relative newbie and know how frustrating it can be to have puzzles that are too hard, I just wanted to add voice to the opinion that a tricky one everyone now and then is to be expected, and as far as I’m concerned, encouraged.

    1d was the last one to go in and it’s possibly my favourite clue. I’m sure it’s the first quadruple definition I’ve seen!

    Many thanks to Elgar (who’ll be keeping an eye out for in the future!) and BD for the hints.

    1. Hear, hear, ABW. You’re not THAT much of a “newbie” – I’ve “seen” you here lots of times. 1a was the one that “got” me – managed the second word but “pack tennis” didn’t seem to exist, damn it, and couldn’t thing of anything else – how stupid of me!!

      1. I was stuck on quoits here too! but I also don’t see that the reading of the clue makes much sense??

  54. I think that everything I was going to comment has already been said, and as Gnomey says Wozza did a pretty good summation. Thanks to BD and Elgar

  55. Have finally had to resort to the hints after only getting one answer! So…..oooo extremely hard today!

  56. We are two relative novices …. this was a stinker but got 75% before resorting to “Big Dave”. Even with the clue we still don’t understand 1d Can someone explain how blow Mark! becomes Dash?

      1. … think I’ll just stick to the swearing – there’s been a fair bit of that around here today so I’ve had LOTS of practice – as if I needed it!! :grin:

    1. If you’re “relative novices” I think you’ve done fantastically well to get that far before resorting to the hints. 1d was a very clever clue – far too clever for me and I’ve been doing these for quite a long time. Keep commenting – this is a great “place”.

  57. Took one look at it after lunch and though ‘not for me’, and later, put it in the bin.

    HOWEVER, given the comments which are always interesting, have reclaimed it, and will have a go at it tomorrow. Thanks to all.

    1. Hi Sarah

      Glad you’ve kept it. A real tricky one but, as BD said in his intro, all clues are gettable with a bit of Mary’s wotsit! There’s a few ‘gimmes’ as well to get you going. On first pass we got 5 acrosses and 3 downs but that was enough checkers to get us moving. Enjoy, it’s the best back pager for some time!

    2. Sarah I second Pommers comment. Elgars crosswords do look a bit daunting, but if you look at the hints as i do when stuck and work backwards the wordplay is impeccable. Marys perservating does pay off I promise!

  58. More Karlheinz Stockhausen than Elgar for me. I cite as Exhibit A: 3d – meaningless gibberish of a surface reading for which I couldn’t be bothered to write down the letters of the anagram. Early Exit. This sort of clueing has a place somewhere else for the ‘anoraks’, but for me doesn’t harmonize with the DT backpage cryptic style as I have known it for some time etc blah blah…….

    1. the_chairman,

      I agree with you entirely about Exhibit: A:

      3d, 21d & 11d – What the hell does the surface reading mean? Obviously an anagram – but who cares?

      Still, some good clues elswhere!

      1. I asked about the surface reading for 3, 21 & 11 earlier: (Comment #16 above). But, no reply? They seem to love Elgar!

            1. the full stops in 3d etc – (5,3,4,3,4,3.4.5) – confused me. I’m guessing this was just a typo? Still got about 1/2 of it does , which for a devil like this one is very good!

  59. Is this a record number of comments for a weekday puzzle? I know Saturday has topped 200 a few times but I don’t remember a weekday this busy.

    1. I agree – this IS a vast number of comments for a weekday – even if you take me, Mary and Franco out it’s still quite a lot!! I think a Ray T (no – I’m NOT turning into Brian and bringing him into every day comments!) puzzle prompted at least as many, if not more, a shortish time ago.

  60. I hope Gazza won’t mind me publishing the email he sent me at 9.00am this morning:

    “There’ll be howls of protest (and a record number of page views?).”

    Right on both counts, Gazza!

    1. I live on the east coast – I heard the “howls of protest” from Carmarthen well before 9:00am!

  61. Wow! But surely it wasn’t THAT hard? A little ‘different’ maybe for those who don’t do the Toughies or Grauniad puzzles but it was really an excellent challenge.
    Agree the surface reading of the long anagram was a bit forced but I think that counts as ‘intellectual masturbation’ on the part of the setter! Agree with Giovanni’s post on the Toughie that the long clues often give an easy answer without having to parse the whole thing. I guessed that one early on from the def and the enumeration (along with about 3 or 4 checkers).
    Have Enigmatist/ Elgar and Paul/Dada been having a sort of on/off competition for the longest anagram over the last year or so? They must know eachother pretty well as they are one half of ‘Biggles’ so a bit of friendly rivalry, at our expense, seems to be believable.

    1. I for one think that without this site I would as Alison did have thrown the paper away. As you say it was an excellent challenge, and others have said it is good to have a good mix of difficulty levels or how would we ever progress. Rufus Cephas Virgilius have me in bloody knots but reading the hints etc you do learn so much, it’s just a wavelength thing IMHO. Now if I just get my head round Osmosis and Notabilis……

      1. Crosswords are an odd thing IMHO. Pommette can do Rufus puzzles ‘falling off a log’ while I struggle a bit, but she can’t get her head around the Weds Jays which I find OK (and do the blog)! I gave one */** a few weeks ago but pommette threw it away in frustration after doing about half! We both love Virgilius puzzles and for me Giovanni as well but pommette struggles with him. We both love the Petitjean and RayT backpagers too but lots of people seem to think they’re OTT like today’s.

        I guess it’s ‘horses for courses’ or a ‘wavelength’ thing as you say but a bit of variation is the spice of life as far as I’m concerned! Sometimes I think the setter is broacasting on FM but I’m receiving on AM but it all adds to the fun!

        Quite like Osmosis but Notabilis on a Friday is a bit beyond me and I wonder how long Elgar’s impaling spikes are going to be tomorrow!

  62. Many, many thanks to all who took the trouble to comment on yesterday’s puzzle. I was a little worried about what sort of feedback it would generate, but was mighty relieved by a generally positive response.

    Re the long anagram: gibberish, maybe – but just an attempt to clue each of the elements of the answer in the anagram letters. And not the record, not by a long chalk. I think I’m right in saying that in a 15×15 grid, that still belongs to TRAILER FOR SALE OR RENT ROOMS TO LET FIFTY CENTS NO PHONE NO POOL NO PETS AIN’T GOT NO CIGARETTES KING OF THE ROAD ROGER MILLER (102 letters), an entry that I challenged the late, great Albie Fiore (Taupi) to beat. Duly he did so in about six days, with the entire opening paragraph of Catch 22(!) but he did not clue it as an anagram.

    Many thanks again, everybody. Today’s Elgar is a piece of cake. Tomorrow’s Nimrod is devilish.

    Best wishes,


    1. Today’s Elgar is a piece of cake

      You forgot to mention that it was a rock cake that had been left to harden in a tin for a week or two with lots of cruchy bits in it.

      1. Exactly. And if he thinks that today’s Elgar is cake-like, how devilish are we going to find the Nimrod tomorrow??

  63. I thought it was a stinker. Didn’t finish – had 4 to do, but we need these to stretch us. It would be boring if we all did it in under half an hour. I wouldn’t want one on a regular basis though! (Well maybe once a month or so). Well done to all who finished it and thanks to BD and Elgar. May we meet again but not too soon. Will look at the hints now to see if I could have finished it!

  64. I suppose I am a newbie (last four months) following the “blog”; nonetheless this one was the toughest yet. All I can say is “flipping heck” plus for the life of me I cannot get 4 down, which is making me feel down.

    1. Welcome to the blog crikey.

      For 4d you need a word meaning love (as in zero). Inside this word you add an anagram of the word beat. The resulting word is NO{TA BE}NE

  65. This was the hardest I’ve come across for ages. Had to log on to get hints for the last few. Funny that so many got stuck on 24a – it was the first one I got, in fact for quite a while one of only two I had! Just shows how everyone’s mind works differently. Quite nice to have a really challenging one occasionally, but wouldn’t want them all this hard. I don’t have the time. Also, would find it too discouraging if could never do it without help.

  66. Only able to get to the computer this morning – in fact I solved all of this without the hints, this all just how your brain and the setter’s works – there are some setters I cannot even start on some days – last one in like others was 9a and I was really pleased to get 27a

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