Toughie 754 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 754

Toughie No 754 by Elgar

Double Trouble!

Hints and tips by Tilsit and Crypticsue

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley! The lovely Crypticsue was at a loose end today and kindly offered to tackle the Downs for me. You simply cannot refuse an offer like that so we have a review that’s in keeping with the theme of the puzzle. The Toughie Tormentor Supreme Elgar is back with a fun puzzle that is packed with an awful lot of thematic material. One of the hallmarks of a great puzzle is that it draws you in and this one did it in style. I personally zipped through the NE and SW corners and then hit a brick in the NW corner. Not helped by only one way in with the design of the grid, I then found it quite tough and needed a prod from my colleague to get in.

Crypticsue writes:- “Greetings from East Kent too! Don’t tell the boss (currently on holiday) that I was at a loose end – I enjoyed this puzzle so much first thing today that I welcomed the chance to have double the fun – I put dots by the clues I like and my newspaper is quite ‘spotty’ today. I was only really held up by parsing 1a but luckily Tilsit came to my rescue. Thanks to him and Elgar too.”

Thanks from me to young Elgar for today’s challenge. Here’s to the next one!

Incidentally we are having a Northern gathering a week tomorrow, 21st April at the Bramsche Bar, on Rochdale Road in Todmorden from noon. If you are in the area, Big Dave and I would love to see you!

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. Favourite clues are highlighted in blue


1a    Murder duet with this big woman in United States (8)
{TITANESS} Probably the toughest clue in the puzzle. This is an appearance by a clue called a compound anagram. Often found in the more advanced cryptics, it makes an appearance here. Probably the most famous comparative anagrams is ELEVEN + TWO = TWELVE + ONE. In other words an anagram of A & B = C and the clue may give you A and C leaving you to work out B.

Basically the clue unwraps as saying An anagram (murder) of DUET + a word meaning a big woman = UNITED STATES.

5a    Two who backed Knight for so long! (3,3)
{PIP PIP} Two members of the backing group who used to feel Glad all over, when put together gives the expression for goodbye used by people like Bertie Wooster.

ARVE Error: need id and provider

9a    Survey one in group of Urban Hymns that was painful to cover (8)
{OVERVIEW} More pop music knowledge. Inside a word uttered when you are in pain goes the name of the band who released the album ‘Urban Hymns’, and inside the group goes I (for one). This will give you a word meaning to survey or inspect or take a longer look at something.

10a    N African pair of half-hearted porters? (6)
{BERBER} The name of a N African tribe is made up of two words (the same one) that means porter in the liquid sense of the word. However, as the clue says ‘half-hearted’ you need to remove one of the ‘e’s’ from each word. With me? I lost it a while back!

12a    Nothing against being human, do this every beat with wit (9)
{OVERREACH} This is rather complicated word sum. O (nothing) + V (against versus) + a word in a famous quote by Pope which equates to what you do when being human, the remainder being ‘….to forgive is divine‘ + a word meaning EVERY. This gives you a word meaning to outdo someone with wit.

13a & 24a    One’s opening criticisms (5-5)
{KNOCK-KNOCK} Two words (both the same) that mean to criticise is an expression that means someone is at the door.

14a    Mythical reason for fertility of Ellis Island (4)
{ISIS} The name of a mythological goddess of fertility is hidden in the location Ellis Island.

16a    Very attractive, that woman putting ring in camera socket (3,4)
{HOT SHOE} The name of a camera accessory is made up of a word meaning attractive, add a pronoun relating to a woman and insert O (for ring).

19a    Develop sufficiently (about 67 per cent) to choose dresses (4,3)
{OPEN OUT}     Two thirds of a word meaning sufficiently goes inside (dresses) a word that means to choose, gives an expression meaning to develop.

21a    Bellow when one’s not allowed on board old ferry (2-2)
{RO-RO} A word meaning to bellow needs to lose A (one) and takes O (old) to give the name of a type of car ferry.

24a    See 13 across

25a    Was reason for trapeze artist’s injury rejected by section cutters? (5,4)
{TENON SAWS} Probably my favourite clue today. If you take the answer to the question “For what reason did the trapeze artist hurt themselves when they fell”, reverse it and add S (section) to give you a type of tool that cuts.

27a    May couples dance? (6)
{CANCAN} The name of a famous dance that was inspired by Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld‘ is made of up two words (the same) meaning able to or may.

28a    Clever at manipulating sausage (8)
{CERVELAT} The name of a foreign sausage is an anagram (manipulating) of CLEVER AT.

29a    Old taxes being trimmed by Hitler’s bodyguard (6)
{SESSES} The name for an old form of tax is the psychological word for ‘being’ (a crosswordese word) inside the initials of the people who used to protect and carry out the orders of Hitler.

30a    Daydream brings reversal of new line in look (4-4)
{STAR-GAZE} A word meaning a new line is reversed inside something that means to look. This leads you to an expression that refers to daydream or behave like Patrick Moore.


1d     Excessively blast over roundabout? (3-3)
{TOO-TOO}    An adverb meaning to an excessive degree – Follow a short blast with O (over) and O (roundabout, circle).

2d     Abstinent native of S America (3-3)
{TEE-TEE}     The name of a small S American creature like a colobus sounds like the abbreviation we use to describe someone abstinent or tea total. The monkey is listed in Chambers under an alternative spelling of four-letters.

3d and 26d:     A Verne trilogy would seal this deal (5-5)
{NEVER-NEVER} This is Elgar at his most mischievous. If you write the surname of the author of Around The World in Eighty Days three times (trilogy), hidden inside is an expression meaning a payment arrangement!

4d     Experiences highs and lows: going North, South used to be East and vice versa (7)
{SEESAWS} Moving up and down, usually on a piece of playground equipment. Going North indicates a reversal of S (South) a word meaning ‘used to be’, followed by E for East, and then the abbreviations for South and East, which are also reversed (vice versa).

6d     Curry, say, with steaming rice containing fish… (3-6)
{ICE-SKATER} Those of us old enough to remember the 1976 Olympics will remember what John Curry was. An anagram (steaming) of RICE with a type of fish inserted, split 3-6.

7d     …lots of piping chips served up? Brother’s tucking in (8)
{PIBROCHS} A form of music for Scottish bagpipes (lots of piping) is derived by inserting the abbreviation for brother into an anagram of CHIPS.

8d     Exotic bird collector in garden spreading fresh peat (8)
{PARAKEET} A type of exotic bird – a garden tool used to collect up leaves (you will need the A as well as the tool) is inserted into (spreading) an anagram (fresh) of PEAT.

11d     I don’t agree there’s much rush, but every second counts (2-2)
{UH-UH} A less emphatic way of saying no is obtained from the alternative letters (every second) of mUcH and rUsH.

15d     Joint women wanted to enter were it not for the sensational reaction (5,4)
{SHOCK WAVE} A reaction following an earthquake or similar tremor – Insert into a preposition meaning were it not, or with the exception of, firstly the joint on a horse’s leg which corresponds to a human ankle and secondly the single letter abbreviation for Women.

17d     Implement hacked off head basically just to get a thrill (3,5)
{FOR KICKS} To do something for an exciting effect. Follow a garden tool with a synonym for being disgusted or weary which has had its first letter removed (hacked off doing double duty here as a definition and an instruction to the solver) and replaced at the end of the word (basically).

18d     Tells, or tells again? There’s a change to construe (8)
{RECOUNTS} A double definition – tells a story or counts votes again – an anagram (change to) CONSTRUE.

20d     See you knot lace article (2-2)
{TA-TA} An informal way of saying see you or farewell – follow an intricate type of lace with an indefinite article.

21d     Releasing BO, robe stank — awfully gross? None more so (7)
{RANKEST} Most offensive or disagreeable – remove BO (releasing BO from R[OB]STANK and then rearrange (awfully) the remaining letters .

22d     Audible followers of so-so children’s character? (3-3)
{LAA-LAA} Take the next note after SO in tonic sol-fa and repeat it twice out loud (audible being the homophone indicator) and if you know those children’s TV characters, the Teletubbies, you should have the answer!

23d     Kcit sets enigmas, fixing unpleasant sucker (6)
{TSETSE} An unpleasant fly that carries malaria is hidden within KciT SETS Enigmas. I would dare to suggest that a certain other setter sets more enigmas than Kcit!!

26 See 3 Down

Neither hob-nailed nor pink and fluffy footwear today, somewhere in between! Crypticsue had lots of favourites but her top clue was 5a.

Thanks to Crypticsue for her help today, and to the Master Torturer for his efforts today. See you next week.

10 comments on “Toughie 754

  1. Once I twigged the theme it became a tad more accessible, favourites 3&26d 6d 15d and 25a thanks to Elgar and to Tilsit / Crypticsue for the joint dissection.

  2. I enjoyed this (and would have finished it quicker had I not spelled 22d as LAH-LAH – I just can’t keep up with with these modern icons). Favourite clues were 5a and 15d. Thanks to Elgar, Tilsit and Spicy Cruet.

    1. Lucky for me a certain Gnome is in a basement (don’t ask) or you would be setting him off on those awful anagrams again. Although I do think Spicy Cruet is the nicest yet :D

  3. This is the sort of puzzle that reminds me of those jazz groups where the members are obviously playing for eachother rather than the audience. Didn’t like it much at all!

    Did about half and then went to try Araucaria in the Grauniad which was like a breath of fresh air! Came back and finished but . . .

    Thanks to Elgar and Tilsit/CS

  4. I enjoyed this very much but like Gazza I had spelled the wee telly tubby wrong. Many thanks to Elgar, Tilsit and Crypticsue.

  5. I did have to resort to Google, eg for 2d and 29a, but didn’t distract from my enjoyment. My fave has to be 25a. Thanks to Elgar, Tilsit and Cryptic Sue, the latter for explaining 8d, d’oh of the day

  6. I normally struggle to complete an Elgar toughie, but this must have been a little more approachable, because apart from a few in the NW, I managed to complete this one without too much of a problem. I failed to parse 1a, although I got the answer.
    Thanks to E,T, and CS.

  7. After a quite sucessful week I was totally at a loss. Still not sure even after all being revealed. Thanks anyway, roll on easy peasy Monday.

  8. I got the most (apart from 4d) without coming here. But don’t think I will ever understand the thinking behind 1a – it’s totally beyond me.

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