Toughie 770 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 770

Toughie No 770 by Elgar

Moonlighting?? – No, Just Dancing on the Sand!

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

Matron has  insisted that young Tilsit remain for another week in Convalescent Corner, which means that I have crept out of the Weekend Retreat for the second time this week, in order to blog my first whole Toughie.  Having sorted out the wordplay (I hope!), I do wonder if perhaps Matron knew what Tilsit was in for with this particular crossword!!

At the bottom of the puzzle in the paper it says ‘All at sea?  See the note under the back-page Cryptic Crossword solution’.   Look there and, if you can read upside down, you learn that tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the 6a whose best-known work is celebrated here.

A proper Friday Toughie, with a lovely theme*, treated with the utmost care and deviousness by our Toughie Tormentor, who obviously changed his footwear several times during the setting process as clues range from the ‘pink and fluffy’ to the ‘full sharpened hobnails’!    I have marked my top favourites in blue.  A word of advice – even if you think you know the theme off by heart, have a copy in front of you as it does help the pennies drop more quickly!

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*6a         Ours wrote as Edward French to the Thunderer (6)
{AUTHOR}  The French word for to followed by the Norse God of Thunder combine in  a synonym for an original  writer of something , Edward being the Christian name of our very original writer of today’s   themed work.

8a           2 to the 5, blowing ‘x’, throbbing heart (3)
{HUB}   Never did a  three-letter word require such  a long explanation so bear with me.   Follow her marriage to 2d,  5d might have referred to him in conversation by the diminutive word (5) by which some ladies (not me I can just imagine the reaction!) refer to their partner.  Blowing ‘x’ instructs you to remove the last two letters of that word  as X here means the symbol used in mathematical calculations to mean ‘times’ or ‘[multiplied] BY’).  Although the final letter of the solution is indeed the middle, or heart, of throbbing, after much head scratching and consultation with  a ‘learned’ friend, I have concluded that, as the solution means a focus of activity or centre of operations, ‘throbbing  heart ‘ is the definition.

10a         ‘Some money’ donated by the customer (4)
{ECUS} Hidden inside thE CUStomer are some old French silver coins.

*10a      Ultimately feline-avian marriage order (6)
{ENJOIN}  A verb meaning to order, direct or impose a command on,  is derived from the last letters (ultimately) of feline and avian followed by a verb meaning to unite, possibly in marriage.   *linked to the theme?  Just look at the clue again!

*12a      Press measures genial dancing on edge of sand  (7)
{LINAGES}  Used in the newspaper world to denote either the number of lines in a piece of printed matter, or measurement  or payment by the line – an anagram (dancing) of GENIAL followed by the first (edge) letter of Sand.  *another link in the clue!

*13a         HG’s ordering inane sow, ‘Sell for one s….’ (8)
{WELLSIAN}  Characteristic of the works  of the author of War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, amongst others.    An anagram (ordering) of INANE SOW but with the letters ONE and S removed and replaced by the letters SELL (SELL for ONE S).

15a         Deeply cut from painful separation, now finding time for wife (6)
{TRENCH}  To cut a deep narrow excavation in the earth –  remove the W from a painful, difficult to bear separation and replace it with a T for time (Time for Wife).

16a         Love to present to mate what may be set in 29 (4)
{OPAL}   A fairly straightforward charade – the single number/letter that represents love or nothing followed by an informal term for a mate or friend.

19a         (Kitchen) party animal wants society of women in shelter (5)
{LEWIE}   To get the surname of the singer of that 1980 hit record  ‘You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties’ ,  insert the abbreviation by which a well-known organization of ladies is known into the sheltered side of something (3).

*20a      Do, re, me, fa, so or la/A, B, C, D, F or G?   Money-carrier hit repeatedly by ‘charmingly sweet’ singer (4)
{NOTE}    So you look at the first part of the wordplay and you know what the lists represent so you write in the answer.   However, this is crafty stuff  – if you know your music (or even your ‘Sound of Music’!)  then you will have noticed that there are items missing from  the two lists.   You can split the solution two ways:  2, 2 showing what is missing from the first list; 3, 1 what is missing from the second.  In our poet’s day,  a £5 example of the solution was much larger and could be used by our themed couple to wrap up their provisions for the journey.  When 2d was  singing ‘charmingly sweetly’ to his beloved, he would have hit many a true musical sound.   Three separate pieces of wordplay for one little four letter word – amazing!

23a         When jamming opening, 29-flllers required (6)
{AGATES} Another example of stones or jewels that could be inserted into a 29a.   Insert a opening or entrance, particularly in a fence or wall, into a conjunction meaning  when.

24a         Strange new fellow’s admitted fixes (8)
{ENGRAFTS}  Fixes or joins onto something already existing.   An anagram (new) of STRANGE plus F (Fellow’s admitted).

*27a      Young contemporaries in school trip to 3 9 took a ___ and ___day (4,3)
{YEAR ONE}  In my school days, we were known as first years, second years and so on.  Nowadays the youngest school pupils are referred in a different way; this, with an ‘and’ in the middle and ‘ day’ at the end indicates the time it took our themed couple to reach their destination.

*26a      Presumably 26 will have to have taken these directions (6)
{ORDERS}   In order to be the Master of Ceremonies in 3, 9, the creature in question must have been ordained and taken these  holy ‘directions’.

*29a      Dial O?(7)
{RING} A double definition – to dial a telephone number ; a circle.

*30a      Over half of lovers’ cargo returned, causing drama (3)
{NOH}   This was my second answer in, helped by the fact that I know someone who studies this  type of drama which appears quite often in crosswords.    Reverse the first three(over half) letters of the five-letter sweet item carried as cargo by the lovers and a Japanese form of drama is revealed.   Having twigged the cargo,  the theme outlined in the down clues was fairly easy to spot.

31a         Getting in Catholic helps out 26 – difficult procedure (6)
{SCHLEP} A Yiddish term for a journey or procedure involving great difficulty.   Insert C (Catholic) into an anagram (out) of HELPS.   The reference to 26 in the clue is that  the solutions of this clue and 26d can both, in addition to the more well-known definitions, also mean  a clumsy, stupid and inept person.



*1d        Dream chippy: queen’s given contents of pie but no crust (6)
{QUINCE}  The surname of the carpenter (chippy) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream –  Follow QU (queen) with the filling of a pie eaten at Christmas minus its first letter (no crust).  Our married couple dined on both the pie filling and slices of this fruit at their wedding feast.

*2, 25 & 5d          Two such dates, they plan to forge alliance(3,3,3,3,8)
{THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT}   An anagram (to forge) of TWO SUCH DATES THEY PLAN gives us the title of the theme of this crossword.

*3 & 9d Destination at sea, when betrothed – strange glow here (3,4,5,3, 4-4, 5)
{THE LAND WHERE THE BONG-TREE GROWS}  The destination of our betrothed couple  – an anagram (at sea) of WHEN BETROTHED STRANGE GLOW HERE.    The reference to a strange glow refers  to another work from our 6a as in The Dong with a Luminous Nose,  he also mentions the 4-4 part of this solution.

*4d        Here writer describes match of a relevant colour (3-5)
{PEA-GREEN}  The colour of the theme-relevant craft –  Insert a verb meaning to match or be compatible with into an article used for writing, and split the result 3-5.

5d           see 2

*7d        Bishop left filling Archbishop’s chamber pot, working tool for dealing with 1 (8,5)
{RUNCIBLE SPOON}  The article used by our couple when eating their wedding feast.   Insert a B (Bishop) and L (left) into the surname of a past Archbishop of Canterbury, and then follow with an S (Archbishop’S).  Add an informal two-letter word for a chamber pot and  a synonym for working(2).   Split the result 8,5 and you have the cutlery invented by our poet, apparently a pickle-fork with several broad prongs and one sharp prong.

9d           See 3

13d         Do courting couple head off to find love? (3)
{WOO}  To court or win the affection of – simply remove the first letter (head off) from a couple and follow the remaining letters with O (love, nothing )

14d         Our author’s run out of the country (3)
{LEA}  Remove the last letter of our author’s surname to reveal open country or meadowland.

*17d      Boy castaway has to scold 29 donor, resident of 3, 9 (5-3)
{PIGGY-WIG} The person who provided the 29, and who lived in 3, 9.   The nickname of one of the shipwrecked boys in Golding’s  Lord of the Flies followed by an informal verb meaning to scold.

18d         Lack of enthusiasm: our writer holds not all of the 17’s heart (8)
{LETHARGY}  Heavy torpor or lack of energy and enthusiasm.  Insert the first two letters (not all) of TH[E]into the surname of our writer,  and follow the result with the middle two letters  (heart) of 17d.

21d         Gone bad (3)
{OFF} At first sight, a  double definition – (a) gone or away; (b) bad or not up to the usual standard.  But could it be an all-in-one?  as the whole clue could be used, for example, when  a foodstuff has become inedible and so is said to be ***.

22d         Measures 29 out of nose, put out of joint (3)
{ENS}  Remove the O (29) from N[O]SE and rearrange (put out of joint) to get units of measurement used by printers.

25d         See 2

*26d      Country hill-dwelling MC in 3 9 (6)
{TURKEY} A double definition – the country and  the fowl which performed the ceremony in 3 9.

Tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edward Lear.  Happy Birthday Mr Lear, I bet you’d have enjoyed this crossword and probably set a few tricky cryptic crosswords of your own if you’d been around today.   To quote Dr Seuss “I like nonsense.  It wakes up the brain cells”.

Although slightly disappointed that there wasn’t room for the Jumblies and their Sieve, I would like to thank Elgar very much for this Friday treat –  a super toughie with great difficulty, several d’oh moments, lots of sighing and groaning out loud, yet  solvable in a  reasonable time, and leaving you with a big smile on your face when you have finished.   I finished in a good time for any Toughie (not just an  Elgar Toughie), but sorting out the wordplay to enable the ‘fat lady to sing’ definitely moves it into 5*+ difficulty territory.  I’m off now to see if Matron might be kind enough to prescribe a few days rest and recovery for me too!   (Oh, and if Simon’s reading this, no moonlighting was involved at all, just a very very early start and most of my lunch hour!)



29 comments on “Toughie 770

  1. “Pure dead brilliant”, a truly wonderful crossword from Elgar which took me back to my childhood. I could not pick a favourite clue as they were all brilliant. Many thanks to Elgar and of course to Crypticsue for a most entertaining review.

  2. Excellent stuff from Elgar (how does he manage to cram all that into one tiny puzzle?). Thanks to him and to CS for a first-rate review.

  3. Brilliant puzzle from Elgar today. If you get a chance, once you’ve solved it, make sure to check out today’s Io in the FT too.

    1. The Io is harder than this one – or am I suffering from post-Elgar blogging disorder? :)

      1. No CSue, I found it much much harder and still struggling as on a couple the “fat lady has not sung”

  4. What a Tour de Force!

    Had to revisit the poem and read it a couple of times but then the pennies all started to drop.

    13a has a theme link in it as well – didn’t they buy the ring for a shilling?

    Brilliant stuff so many thanks to Elgar and also to CS for the great review.

    1. So it does… you have no idea how many times the draft was read and read and then the final version but still….

  5. This is one for the aficionados of Elgar (and Edward Lear). Not much to my liking, I’m afraid.

    However, I’m full of praise for the effort that must have been involved in producing a puzzle like this. (Hopefully it took Elgar more than 1/2 an hour to compose).

    I also take my hat off to CS for the review – especially, the multiple explanations of 20a. (Hopefully it took CS more than 1/2 an hour to solve and then produce such a great review).

    1. We can’t mention solving times but I can say that it took at least 7 times as long to work out the wordplay and type the review than it did to solve the puzzle in the first place.

  6. Not only do I think the puzzle is amazing I also think that the review by CS is a masterpiece in itself. Sterling work both of you.
    Now I wonder if there is any bed spaces in the darkened room in the home for the lost & bewildered…

  7. Even by Elgar’s standards, this was a truly exceptional work of genius. Many thanks to him for the joy of solving it and to CrypticSue for the blog.

  8. Don’t often try the toughie,my regular diet is the back page cryptic. Howeaver had a glance at todays and filled in a couple of easy clues then ‘eureka’ 3 and 9d came in a moment of inspiration-i was in!This is one of the two poems i know by heart so i gradually filled in the ‘themed clues’and with the aid of the available letters solved the puzzle-brilliant.
    Ican only give it****/***** as i can’t do ***** toughie puzzles.

  9. Thought this looked impossible at first glance, but then as the light dawned I sailed away for a very enjoyable solve. What a brilliant puzzle and brilliant blog by CS. Thank you both. More like this please!

  10. I am not the world’s greatest fan of Elgar puzzles, but this was a joy to solve. So thanks to him for a wonderful themed puzzle, and CS for her first Toughie blog.

  11. Stunning, and all above superlatives. How on your Gods earth does Elgar create such elegant anagrams , with clues using alliance and betrothed? All this absolute masterpiece needed was a nina, but I cant find one! Hats off also to the editor, have loved each Toughie this week, Warbler thru Elgar all top quality. 1d was my d’oh of the day. Thanks to Elgar and CSue for the review, and hope Tilsit leaves the company of Matron soon

  12. I had a bad head this morning and stared at this blankly having solved the DT. I was then CHID by crypticsue and looked at it at lunch and was pleased that I did. I’ll borrow BigBoab’s “Pure Dead Brilliant!”
    Thanks to Elgar and to CS, my favourite blogger! (not had much Time for the Times though!)

  13. The quality of the compiler was well matched by the excellence of the reviewer. Pure serendipity that CS should step into Tilsit’s shoes for this masterpiece to which she was so suited.

  14. Still do not understand the wordplay in 18D, 17’s heart is GY, but we already have a G from ELGAR

  15. My colleague and I have been squabbling about the reasoning of 18D in the Toughie 770. I have seen your explanation which I agree works perfectly well but my colleague was trying to use ELGAR as the writer rather than LEAR. Of course only ‘Elgar’ would be able to tell us which was intended since both will work and I have noted in the past that the compilers often like to get their name in to it so it seemed an obvious choice.
    ‘Our writer holds not all of the 17’s heart. If you take the whole phrase ‘the 17’s heart’ you get ‘the gy’. Then if you take less than the whole of that you get ‘thy’ by removing the ‘eg’. Add that to ‘Elgar’ to make up the letters of ‘lethargy’. QED.

    1. Welcome Tom (and colleague) As I haven’t heard from Elgar to the contrary (and believe me, I would have done if I had got any of the hints wrong!), I am going to stick with my original reading of the clue. Put not all of TH[E] into the heart of our writer LE[TH]AR followed by the GY in the middle of pigGYwig

      As you say, setters do like to get their name into a crossword, but this was entirely a celebration of Lear’s birthday, so remain convinced that Lear is the author in the clue.

    2. If your theory was right there would need to be an anagram indiicator present.

      Also, in 14 down, “our author” is definitely Lear.

      Sorry, but no need for Elgar to adjudicate.

      1. Surely the fact that we haven’t heard from him is adjudication in itself.

  16. No problem at all with any of that, I just thought it was an interesting alternative. It is unusual for a themed puzzle to have EVERY clue following the theme. That is why this one is so extra clever; I completely agree with the star rating but it needs an extra one for frustrating.*****

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