Toughie 782 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 782

Toughie No 782 by Elgar

A Portrait of the Artist

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley (I think!). Thanks to Big Dave for looking after things while I was in hospital and getting poked and prodded last week.

I have returned to another absolutely stunning Toughie from Elgar (or Vlad the Impaler, as Crypticsue is wont to call him!). This one however is rather unusual. I suspect most of you will have solved it without realising that there are FIFTEEN (at least!) themed references in either the answers or the clues. If you get all fifteen then I suspect you are Elgar or (Mrs Elgar!).

I should say that this isn’t an easy puzzle by any stretch of the imagination, and if you finish it without recourse, you have my admiration, and should be taking part in The Times Crossword Championships. I will reveal the theme after the Downs, so as not to spoil it. However if you need a clue, I suggest you consider one of the most famous works by the other notable person with the same name as our setter and look at the subtitle of that work.

Can I also plug the new Prize Crossword that starts tomorrow? The puzzle will be up from 8:00 am and you’ll be able to submit your solution to the associated question (rather than send the full solution) through the site, and once closing date has passed you’ll be able to have a prod at the setter, 50% of whom is fairly well-known to me, (as is the other 50%)!

Answers are contained between the squiggly brackets and can be revealed by highlighting them. As usual, favourite clues are highlighted in blue. 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.


7a    Ambivalent singing from the same hymn sheet? (9)
{EQUIVOCAL} We start today with a double definition, A word that means ambivalent could cryptically be a term for two people singing together at the same time.

8a    Hume’s torn albs it’s essential for Jim to wear (5)
{BASIL} The Christian name of the former Cardinal of Westminster is found by making an anagram (torn) of ALBS and adding I (the essential, i.e. inner bit) from JIM. Rather than get all religious, here are two more with the same name…..

ARVE Error: need id and provider

10a    Behind the scenes? In view, I think (6)
{WITHIN} Inside the phrase VIEW I THINK is a word meaning part of something behind the front façade.

11a    Get comfortably established in ensemble for children’s concerts (8)
{ENSCONCE} Another hidden answer, and one worthy of our Sunday puzzle setter who has produced a few clever ones over the years. Hidden inside CHILDREN’S CONCERTS is a word that means to get entangled with.

12a    Barrier provided by English back stopping Rovers star (6)
{GROYNE} The name for a barrier, especially associated with the seashore, is the name of a famous soccer player named Race who played for Melchester Rovers. This is reversed and place inside an abbreviation for English, also reversed.


14a    Vols contained by taps, always apparently inferior (6)
{CHAVVY} One of the newer words in Chambers relating to the Burberry-wearing underclass in our society is found by taking V twice (Volume x 2) and placing it inside the two abbreviations found on English water taps, plus AY (always).

16a    Keeps coming into contact with cold teas (4)
{CHAS} A word for several teas is found by taking something that means keeps and placing alongside the abbreviation for Cold.

17a    Strike achieved by Phoenician, perhaps, losing energy (5)
{SMITE} The generic name for a person known as a Phoenician or from other parts of the Middle East needs to have an E (energy) removed to give a word meaning strike.

18a    Bearing drink and bag, Australian left harbour (4)
{PORT} Five definitions! A word that means the following: a bearing; a drink beloved of old ladies; a type of Australian canvas bag; a nautical term for left, and a harbour. Phew!

19a    Judge recalled failure to get hold of singular poet (6)
{JONSON} I HAD Motion here for quite some time, although I couldn’t really justify it. J (Judge) takes the reversal of two words (the same short one) that mean negative with S (son) inside.

21a    For prior future appointment? (6)
[ABBACY} Another tough cryptic definition. If you were a leader of a group of monks, you’d be a prior and your promotion prospects would be to rise to this level, and here is it the name for the stewardship rather than the post.

24a    Incognito, female victims see and do wrong after a little time (4,4)
{JANE DOES} I knew all the time I spent watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit on Universal Channel would pay off. The name given to unidentified female victims of crime in the USA is found by taking the short name for a month (the first of the year), and then adding an anagram of SEE & DO.

26a    Path of this is indisputable (6)
{COURSE} A word that means a path, and when placed after the word “of…” gives an expression meaning certainly or indisputably.

27a    Notable ship-launcher only going a fraction of the length (5)
{HELEN} The lady whose face launched a thousand of the aforementioned vessels can be found within the phrase “the length”.

28a    Intimates bent firms deny I’ve done the week’s work so? (2,7)
{MY FRIENDS} A slightly more complex clue. A phrase meaning “intimates” is found by unscrambling (bent) the phrase “firms deny”. The remainder of the clue sort of qualifies it, at the end of the working week it’s time for ….


1d Not just seven-pound molluscs (5)
{SQUID} If you remove a word meaning just or fair from SEVEN and add the reminder to a slang word for a pound coin, you should have the name of a typ of mollusc found in the deep blue sea.

2d Viv from the WI requires junk shop for designer harpsichords (8)
{RICHARDS} Nothing to do with Jam and Jersualem, the WI is the abbreviation of a famous International Cricket Team, and the Viv is one of their star players. If you remove (junk) SHOP from the word HARPSICHORDS and unscramble the remainder you will get Viv’s surname.

Alternatively, he shares the same surname with a nemesis of Elgar’s favourite 8 across. And here she is in full flow:-

ARVE Error: need id and provider

3d Artist who rises for long, infinite encore! (6)
{ROMNEY} Not one of the more famous artists, but if you take a word meaning to long for and what you should for an encore, minus its last letter (infinite), you will get his surname.

4d Duke leads salutation for 16’s ex-partner (4)
{DAVE} The name of the person who formed a duo with 16 (no, I am not going to play you a video by them) is found by taking D (Duke) and adding the Latin word for “Hail!”…..

5d Kerry nerd’s wound up with inappropriate tip from trainspotter (6)
{KATONA} ….nor are you getting a picture of this media whore. The surname of a “famous” person named Kerry is found by taking the word for a geek or nerd, reversing it (wound up) and swapping one end of the word ‘trainspotter’ for the other end. I didn’t really like this clue, to be honest, as I didn’t feel the clue gave me the full indication of what to do, probably the only one in the puzzle.

6d Is bay having no water around a real find? (9)
{DISCOVERY} If you take IS, and add the word for a type of bay and then place a word meaning without water around it, you will get a word that refers to a find.

9d Spirit of tipsy chef throwing wobbly over dressing (6)
{PSYCHE} To get this famous mythical spirit start with ‘tiPSY CHEf’ and remove (throwing ) FIT (wobbly) reversed (over) from the outside (dressing).

13d Live away from the boundaries of Central American land with a would-be duchess (5)
{ELIZA} The first name of the famous Cockney who was trained to move in higher circles in a play by Shaw is revealed by taking the name of the place in the Caribbean that used to be called British Honduras. Remove a word meaning ‘live’ from each end (boundaries) of the word, and add A to form the name.

15d Salts for treating cloth ears! (9)
{CHLORATES} One of my favourite clues! An anagram (treating) of CLOTH EARS gives the name of some chemical salts.

17d Old Rosie the worse for wear round back of tavern (6)
{SENIOR} An anagram (the worse for wear) of ROSIE around N (back of taverN) gives a word meaning old.

18d Cried uncontrollably, getting mistakenly put in the frame (8)
{PICTURED} A sort of double anagram. An anagram of CRIED and then insert a jumble of the word PUT to get a word meaning placed in a frame.

20d The Listener’s influence treated with kid gloves? (6)
{SUEDED} A cryptic definition of a product treated with a type of soft leather (didn’t realise it was a verb!) is a homophone of a word meaning ‘had influence’.

22d Chucked out my word for ‘old hat’? (6)
{BICORN} The name of an old type of hat associated in history is found by taking an expression that means ‘My word!” and what you do if you chuck something out, you place it in the ___. Quite!

23d The main track that comes from the Undertones? (5)
{ASIDE} Clever clue. The part of a record, especially a single, where you’ll find the hit or main track is also the name of a stage whisper.

25d What may augment veg in difficult voyages? (4)
{SOYA} In a similar way to 2 down, if you remove VEG from the word VOYAGES and scramble the rest, you may get a product that can be an alternative to meat in dishes.

Thank you to Elgar for a really stern challenge that took me quite some time to tackle, although I did recognise the theme.

Although you didn’t need to know this to solve the puzzle, the dedication of the ENIGMA VARIATIONS by Edward Elgar is “to all my friends pictured within”, and here John has identified a great many members of his friends with whom he spends many Saturdays tackling crosswords, “The Discovery Group”. So we have in either clue or answer form: JANE (Mrs Elgar); LISA, JIM, VOLS (Volney); CHAS; TIM; JON (two of ’em!); HELEN; RICHARD (X2); DAVE, KATO; LIZ; ROSIE; SUE and SID. Phew!

24 comments on “Toughie 782

  1. I think you will find it was BD called him Vlad first. Another very enjoyable challenge – I would give it 4* difficulty but definitely 5* fun. I am just disappointed that I am not the person in the first part of 20d but a girl can dream. I have so many dots by clues that I liked that I am not going to list them all. Thanks to Elgar for another great Friday treat and to Tilsit for the explanations.

    1. Indeed thanks to Elgar (glad I wasn’t blogging John :-) ) but was nice to meet you albeit briefly Sue and to Dave T thanks for the puzzles at S&B. Good to see the factions getting on and not just them and us.


      1. Welcome to the blog flashling

        For those who don’t know flashling is a blogger on fifteensquared and was at the S&B meet on Wednesday.

  2. Sorry, but as soon as I saw Elgar on a Friday I immediately went and did something else!

    Far too clever for me!

    Maybe one day? Maybe not!

    1. Me too! It was either clean the car prior to driving to the MIL’s in Yorkshire (makes sense to someone) or cut two conifers down. The conifers got it!

  3. Well, managed about 2/3 of this one which isn’t bad for me on a Friday Elgar :grin:

    The bits I’ve got are all great stuff as, no doubt, is the rest. Pommette’s just come home so we’re off to the local for a pre-prandial so I might have another go (or a look at Tilsit’s hints) when we get back.

    Thanks to Elgar and Tilsit

  4. very tough! Taken me all day to get it finished and even now I don’t know why in some cases! Shouldn’t 22d have an ‘E’ on the end?

    1. It can be with an e or without. The ‘without’ is listed first in Chambers

    2. Hey Nanaglugglug, nice to see you back – or have we just missed eachother over the last few weeks? If you finished this one on your own you’re a ‘better man than I gunga din’ :grin: I really got stuck and threw in the towel, which is about normal for me with an Elgar Friday Toughie – I seem to remember that once I did actually complete one but it’s now lost in the mists of time :smile:

  5. Wow! I am with Nanaglugglug re 22d, 14a is too modern for me, but i loved 12a, 27a,& 13d. Many thanks to Elgar and to Tilsit.

  6. Gobsmacked, for me this fell into place really quickly for an Elgar, and much quicker than the Indy Nimrod yesterday.The deviousness of Mr H .. my d’oh of the week has to be 13d. So stoopid not to see it even with 3 checking letters for longer than the rest of the puzzle. Not doing the Times thing tilsit, recognised a few names 24a presumably refers to jetdoc, but nowhere near fifteen despite seeing the theme. 17D is my Clue of the week, having drunk far too much on one occasion of said cider and the clue describes how I ended up!. Thanks to Elgar and Tilsit

  7. I failed with 6.5 to go and resorted to the blog. Lovely stuff – I was looking at it on the train in to work, lunch and on the way home. Cheers Elgar and thanks to Tilsit for the denoument.

  8. Not on form today – see post on the back pager blog about 15d! Couldn’t do this one and now really in a bad mood :sad: Think I’ll go back to watching the telly!

    1. Apologies a mistyping. Should be ABBACY

      Thanks to Myops for pointing out about MY FRI ENDS. Missed it completely!

  9. Bit late in the day and maybe I’m flagging but can anyone explain the homophone in 20d?

    1. Hi Halcyon

      Good job BD’s never asked me to blog a Toughie as I don’t understand this one at all, even with Tilsit’s hint. Got the thick head on today though so it might be quite obvious to everyone else! Gotta be someting about suede and persuade (homophones?) I guess but who knows? Elgar lives in a different world as far as I can see!

          1. When my eldest was very young he often added ‘ded’ to words so the tradition has continued a bit in our house :D

    2. I think it’s meant to be homophones of sway (influence) and did (treated) with the definition being ‘with kid gloves’.

  10. Too many bad surface readings. I’ m sorry to say I didn’t like it at all.

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