Toughie 724

Toughie No 724 by Elkamere

And so say all of us

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

If you’ve read the blog in the last week or so you can’t have failed to notice the celebrations around the eightieth birthday of our regular back-page setter, Rufus. Well today is the actual day and Elkamere has produced a superb tribute packed with references to his life and many accomplishments. I’ve tried to point out the references but if I’ve missed any I’m sure you’ll let me know.

Please tell us what you thought of the puzzle and take the time to record your enjoyment factor by clicking on one of the stars below.

Across Clues

1a  Received vehicle identifier, or wheels (5)
{ROGER} – reverse (wheels) the abbreviation for a vehicle registration number followed by OR to get the codeword used in radio transmissions to mean received and understood (and the forename of today’s subject) ..

4a  Landowners almost appear uncomfortable with French art (7)
{SQUIRES} – .. followed by his surname. Start with a verb meaning to wriggle and look embarrassed, then drop the final M (almost) and add what follows tu in the French for “thou art”.

8a  Intimate with Italian poem about Italian poet (10)
{CONFIDANTE} – this is a close female friend or intimate. We just need to put the splits in the right places – the Italian for with / a famous Kipling poem reversed (about) / the most famous Italian poet. Thanks to Prolixic for reminding me that the name of the Italian poet is also one of the other pseudonyms used by Rufus.

9a  Physician always backs court (4)
{YARD} – one of the abbreviations for a physician is followed by an old adverb meaning always, then the whole is reversed (backs) to reveal a court.

10a  Hollow ring found in wood (6)
{GROOVE} – insert a circular letter (ring) in a small group of trees (wood) to make a furrow or long hollow.

11a  One inclined to run on gas, ultimately (5)
{SLOPE} – a verb to run with a long bounding stride follows (on) the ultimate letter of (ga)S.

14a  Splendid couple — more than one spoke (5)
{RADII} – the definition is more than one spoke (of a wheel, say) so what we want is a plural. Start with an informal (mainly North American) adjective meaning splendid and add the Roman numeral for two (couple).

16a  Commemorations which could make you happiest (8)
{EPITAPHS} – an anagram (could make) of HAPPIEST.

17a  Old news about South American Indians televised (2-6)
{ON-SCREEN} – O(ld) and then two N(ew)s surround S(outh) and a tribe of American Indians.

19a  An official horse, some say (5)
{MAYOR} – a local dignitary (official) sounds, to some, like a female horse.

20a  Bear, bee and bird (5)
{BROOK} – this is a verb meaning to bear or tolerate. The consonant that is spelt as bee is followed by a black bird.

21a  River crew heads for eastern shore (6)
{GANGES} – the river that Hindus regard as sacred is formed from a synonym of crew followed by the leading letters (heads) of E(astern) S(hore). This is also the name of the “ship” where Rufus received his initial 6d training.

25a  Some had a wish to subdue once (4)
{ADAW} – hidden (some) in the clue is an old (once) verb meaning to subdue or daunt.

26a  Some Americans make endless Han Solo cracks (10)
{OKLAHOMANS} – an anagram (cracks) of MAK(e) (endless) and HAN SOLO produces Americans from one specific state.

27a  Conversely, English comic actor has new part (1,6)
{E CONTRA} – this is a latin phrase meaning conversely. E(nglish) is followed by an anagram (comic) of ACTOR into which N(ew) is inserted (has .. part).

28a  Manchester Evening News — it’s for clever people (5)
{MENSA} – the organisation for clever people is built from the abbreviation of the Manchester Evening News followed by the abbreviation for “it” or sexual charisma. I’m not sure if Rufus ever set puzzles for this paper (he probably has, because he’s set for nearly all of them) but he’s certainly a member of the clever people’s club.

Down Clues

1d  Starts to rant on our message board (4)
{ROOM} – a verb meaning to board or take lodgings comes from the starting letters of four words in the clue.

2d  I’m essential to running of errands (5)
{GOFER} – a semi-all-in-one. Hidden (essential to) in the clue is a messenger.

3d  Magazine runs article about idiots (about me) (5,5)
{RADIO TIMES} – this is one of the many publications for which Rufus has compiled puzzles. Start with R(uns) and an indefinite article, then add an anagram (about) of IDIOTS containing (about) ME.

4d  Hearty, as soldiers (7)
{SINCERE} – an adjective meaning hearty (as a description of congratulations on a birthday, perhaps) is a synonym of as followed by the abbreviation for the Sappers (soldiers).

5d  Junkie’s plan to completely drop resistance (4)
{USER} – start with a plan or trick (perhaps a magic one as demonstrated by Rufus) then (obeying the split infinitive) drop the R(esistance) from the top to the bottom to make a junkie.

6d  Heading for Ypres front, put soldiers back in service (5,4)
{ROYAL NAVY} – this is the service which Rufus joined as a boy. String together a) the first (heading) letter of Y(pres), b) a word (an abbreviation really) meaning front, c) a verb to put and d) the abbreviation for soldiers (non-officers). Now reverse the lot (back).

7d  Quiet hero rips open sheep (10)
{SHROPSHIRE} – the surface sounds horrific! An injunction to keep quiet is followed by an anagram (open?) of HERO RIPS. This is a breed of domestic sheep and also the county (not Staffordshire!) where our hero lives ..

12d  Part of 7 game — press ahead (10)
{IRONBRIDGE} – .. and this is the name of the town (within 7d) where he lives. A card game is preceded (ahead) by a verb to press.

13d/23d  Midlands newspaper piece about Reading MP among his constituents? (10,4)
{BIRMINGHAM POST} – this is the paper for which Rufus was crossword editor for 22 years.
A small amount or piece goes round R(eading) and an anagram (constituents) of MP AMONG HIS.

15d  Sci-fi hero in house after waving to crowd (6,3)
{DOCTOR WHO} – the abbreviation of house follows (after) an anagram (waving) of TO CROWD to make the eponymous sci-fi hero of a TV programme in which Rufus the actor appeared.

18d  She cooks everything, say, in turn (7)
{NIGELLA} – bring together a synonym for everything, the abbreviation meaning say or for example and IN, then reverse (turn) the lot to make a TV cook. I’m not aware of any link to Rufus here, but if you know better please let me know.

22d  Oceanographer in Vietnam keeps keeling over (5)
{EKMAN} – the wordplay is fairly straightforward here (just as well, since I’d never heard of this Swedish oceanographer). His name is hidden (in) and reversed (keeling over) in the clue.

23d  See 13d

24d  Old Indian coin flipped to no effect? (4)
{ANNA} – it doesn’t make any difference if you reverse this old Indian coin (flipped to no effect?) because it’s a palindrome. It’s also the name of our subject’s wife.

The clues I enjoyed most were 4a, 26a and 18d. Let us know what you liked.


  1. Jezza
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable – and just about the right level for a mid-week Toughie.
    Thanks to Elkamere, and to gazza.

  2. Prolixic
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Superb crossword from Elkamere.

    Among other RFS references, DANTE in 8a is his pseudonym when setting for the FT. Not sure if he ever appeared on screen as a mayor (17a/19a)

    One again many happy returns to Rufus and thanks to Gazza for the review.

    There are also themed crosswords in the FT and the Guardian celebrating today’s event.

    • crypticsue
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      The FT site is playing hard to get and still has yesterday’s puzzle up!

  3. chris
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t get the Rufus connection until reading the blog but the crossword is up to the usual high standard if slightly more accessible than some.
    Too many good clues to pick a favourite.
    Thanks and Happy Birthday to Rufus, to Anax for the new words….(14ac rad short for radical was new to me and 25ac also.)
    And of course to Gazza for filling in the gaps in explanations and the piccie. (politically incorrect tho’ it be!)

  4. Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    A splendid puzzle and a great tribute to a great man!

    Missed the DANTE reference in 8a so thanks for that Prolixic.

    Many thanks to Elkamere and to Gazza for the review.

    Happy Birthday Rufus

  5. crypticsue
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I was convinced I had pressed post comment when I commented a while ago but obviously not.

    A very lovely themed crossword for this special day, thanks Elkamere. Thanks to Gazza for the explanations too.

  6. BigBoab
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Most enjoyable toughie from Elkamere and wonderfully themed, I needed the hints to see why 1a,25a and 22d were what they were if that makes sense, I had the answers but not the reasons. Many thank to Elkamere and to Gazza. Many happy returns to Rufus.

  7. tracker
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    very enjoyable midweek toughie- though not helped by my over-eagerness to put Shropshire Star for 13d-which really had me going when I got to 7d! so extremely messy crossword but got there in the end…….

  8. pegasus
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant offering and great testament to a truly remarkable man, favourites were 4a 8a and 15d thanks to Elkamere and to Gazza for the review.

  9. Posted February 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    A little tenuous perhaps, but 1a may have stood on a 9a when, as a boy sailor in the 6d at HMS 21a, he helped to “Dress the Mast”. Thanks Elkamere and Gazza for a cracking & timely experience.

  10. Werner and Jane
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Hello, Dave

    Could you please tell us what Gazza means by the “surface” of a clue? (Yesterday’s cryptic hints)

    Thank you !

    Jane and Werner

    • gazza
      Posted February 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jane and Werner – welcome to the blog.
      The surface or the “surface reading” is the clue taken as a stand-alone sentence or phrase in English (forgetting temporarily that it’s part of a crossword). Ideally the words should make sense in their own right. In yesterday’s cryptic, for example, the surface of 19a is good (it might relate to a delivery driver’s claim about his productivity) whereas the surface of 18d seems, to me, to be poor – it doesn’t make much sense.
      It’s better if you leave comments on the post that you’re actually discussing – the person who wrote the blog will get your comment even if it’s written days later.

      • gazza
        Posted February 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

        … Look here for a much clearer explanation (with examples).

  11. eXternal
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    A lovely tribute and a good puzzle. Thanks, Elkamere.

  12. Gari
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Gazza for his invaluable help and to Elkamere for his wonderful tribute to a crossword legend. :roll:

  13. Kath
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    As a novice I found this difficult – I know it’s a toughie, and therefore should be, but I only managed about four answers before running to the hints for help! Gazza’s hints are SO clear that I didn’t need to look at any of the answers inside the brackets. Having got all the across answers in place the down clues nearly did themselves although I needed a few explanations. With thanks to Elkamere and Gazza, and happy birthday to Rufus.

  14. Posted February 22, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Good evening everyone. Many thanks to Gazza for a great review and to all for your comments.
    A quick note on the Manchester Evening News. Yes indeed, Roger supplied its double puzzle (cryptic & quick clues) daily for many years and it was my first introduction to cryptics. I had no idea how cryptic clues worked at the time (I was probably 12/13 years old) but because I already had a long-standing interest in crosswords it was clear there was something going on that I needed to understand. Those MEN cryptics, by the way, were anonymous – it would be many years before I knew Roger had set them.
    As well as wishing Roger a very Happy Birthday, I’d also like to thank Phil for his counsel in the editing stages of this. The original puzzle featured many clues which would be meaningless to anyone who didn’t know something about Roger’s life and Phil advised me to replace these with ‘standard’ offerings. Today’s tribute puzzle in the Guardian, by Elgar and a number of other setters, was I thought quite brilliant, but a few 15sq commenters noted that the majority of ‘outsiders’ would be left cold by the references. It’s understandable, but also worth pointing out that a puzzle which is a personal tribute is extremely difficult to pull off if you have to hide all of the thematic material! Historically, crossword setters have always been pretty much hidden from view – the much more public face of cryptic setting has only been possible because of the Internet, but not everyone has the time or inclination to go browsing the web to further a hobby they didn’t need the web for anyway.

  15. Posted February 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    A hugely enjoyable puzzle and a great tribute (amongst others today as noted). Certainly solving the first two across clues made spotting some of the others a bit easier (I actually got the Birmingham Post first then realised and the majority came in quite quickly after that.
    A very Happy Birthday to Rufus (again) and thanks to Anax for the fun and gazza for the review.

  16. andy
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Elkamere Anax that was hugely enjoyable and well done. I agree with the sentiments in your post. I think I have converted some of my pub regulars, the various ways of making a clue for Rufus or Roger Squires had them gobsmacked but when I took them through the process, there seemed to be an enormous amount of lightbulb moments. I was however suitably humbled and embarrassed when a total novice told me how to parse 20a which I just couldn’t see!! Thanks as ever to Gazza and setter

  17. mary
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Too tough for me I’m afraid but I did ‘do’ it alongside the blog, thanks Gazza and Anax

  18. Prolixic
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    The following “key” to the crossword was published on the back page and appears on the Telegraph Puzzles site:

    Key to yesterday’s Toughie 724
    (Spoiler alert: Don’t read this if you are still working on Toughie 724)
    1/4: Roger Squires, the Telegraph’s Monday compiler, celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday.
    8: His pseudonym in the Financial Times is Dante.
    17: Roger made several on‑screen appearances in a variety of television shows, as an actor and magician.
    21: HMS Ganges was the ship on which Roger trained while in the Royal Navy.
    28: Roger is in Mensa. He set the Manchester Evening News puzzle for many years.
    3: Roger’s first published puzzle (in 1963) was in the Radio Times.
    6: He served for many years in the Royal Navy.
    7/12: Roger lives in Ironbridge, Shropshire.
    13/23: He became a regular setter for the Birmingham Post in 1963, and later the crossword editor (in which role he gave our Toughie 724 setter, Elkamere, his first break).
    15: Roger made a number of appearances in Doctor Who.
    24: Anna is Roger’s wife.