Toughie 810

Toughie 810 by Elgar

Feeling Vlad All Over!

Hints and tips by Crypticsue and Tilsit (aka Ginger and Fred)

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Matron has given permission for Tilsit to return to light duties but, as that is not a description befitting today’s crossword, the double act is back! Richard and Judy are busy, Richard is off round his local Tesco and Judy is checking out Oddbins. So Crypticsue has put one her finest chiffon and Tilsit his top hat and tails (think it’s the right way round).

Once again, Vlad has provided us with a top level toughie with lots of tricky clues, groans and d’oh moments which combine to make a very fine brain stretching. It does have a blog-relevant NINA* which helps no end to round up the ‘stragglers’. We both found this right at the top end of things, and although we don’t talk times as a policy here, quite some time has spent wrestling with this.

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 in blue.


8a    Round here in Nice, a rocker is a reasonable chap (8)
{LOGICIAN} Someone who is particularly good at thinking things through in a reasoned way. Insert the French word for here (Nice being a French city) into an example of a rocking stone.

9a    Anyone out there a solver who’s talked about? (3-3)
{YOO-HOO} – A call made to find out if anyone is there is a homophone of both the person being spoken to and an interrogatory pronoun.

10a    Shilling given to kind QC (4)
{SILK} A Queen’s Counsel is known as this because of the material from which their gown is made. The abbreviation for Shilling and a Scottish word meaning kind or type.

11a    Pick up consumption by virtue of punching idol (5-5)
{HEART-THROB} An idol that many people find attractive – A charade of a verb meaning to pick up sounds followed by the abbreviation for the disease also known as consumption into which has been inserted an abbreviated preposition meaning by virtue of.

12a    Cried recalling autodidactic course at Oxford, for one’s admitted (6)
{YIPPED} Cried with delight. Reverse an abbreviation meaning work done by oneself and insert the abbreviation for a course at Oxford University, covering three subjects.

14a    Getting round? This variety of crustacean’s not cut out for it (3,5)
{SEA ACORN} A type of barnacle is obtained from a compound anagram. Firstly remove the letters CUT (not cut) from cRuStACEAN , add an O (getting round) and then rearrange the letters, splitting the result 3,5.

15a    Housewife’s sixth sense tingling on female poverty (7)
{FEWNESS} Poverty in the sense of hardly any, or small in number. F (female) followed by an anagram (tingling) of SENSE into which is inserted the sixth letter of houseWife.

17a    Very tired, perhaps, cutting back plant (7)
{NIGELLA} The plant Crypticsue always calls Love-in-a-Mist. Reverse both an expression meaning very tired or completely worn out and the abbreviation meaning for example (perhaps).


20a    Haunted by irrational fears, laid-back worker refined drug (8)
{FREEBASE} We don’t personally know anything about this but according to the BRB, the drug is a form of cocaine which has been refined for smoking. Reverse (laid-back) a small insect known for its hard work into an anagram (irrational) of FEARS.

22a    Vulgar ______ cultivation = outrageous labour-saving? (6)
{BONSAI} Remove the letters of VULGAR from LABOUR SAVING and then rearrange (outrageous) the remaining letters to get a miniaturized plant. If you take vulgar to mean low, then vulgar cultivation is a very apt description of the plant in question. This is one of those clues that you see more often in barred puzzles like Azed, where an anagram of a long word or phrase is partially revealed by one word and you have to find the other word. In these clues, both parts need an anagram indicator so they are quite specialised and very rarely seen in a daily puzzle. Here Elgar provides a very good clue with both anagram indicators working well. Often they can make the clue very ‘clunky’.

23a    Top-class compiler returns to meet the lady escorts in dimly-lit area (10)
{USHERETTES} Not the dimly-lit area you first thought you might meet a lady escort …! The single letter which means ‘top class’, followed by the female pronoun (the lady) and then a reversal of a synonym for compiler. Here’s my friend Ginger in one of her early jobs.

24a    China casing tungsten safety catch (4)
{PAWL} Inserting the chemical symbol for tungsten into another word for friend (China being Cockney rhyming slang for mate) produces a type of catch which engages with the teeth of a ratchet.

25a    Get in touch with London University about current capital (6)
{LIAISE} To communicate with someone. Insert into the abbreviation for the London School of Economics, I (a symbol for electrical current) and the letter/number combination which means capital or top quality.

26a    One goes about producing flower arrangement (8)
{PARTERRE} Someone who goes or leaves, plus the two letter abbreviation meaning about , join together to make a formal ornamental flower garden.


1d    Is one waiting around wanting to go Greek? (8)
{IONICISE} I (one) plus an expression meaning to put on hold, into which has been inserted IS (from the clue) combine to make a verb meaning to make or become Ionian, Ionia being a district settled by a major tribe of ancient Greeks.

2d    A little socialist minnow to stab peer (4)
{PINK} Not only a quadruple definition – slightly socialistic/small (a minnow is a small fish)/stab/peer(peep) – but also the missing word from the NINA around the perimeter of the crossword.

3d    Violet Elizabeth’s drunk orange consumable so? (6)
{PITHED} Just William’s tormentor, Violet Elizabeth Bott was known for a particular type of speech impediment. The way she might say she was drunk also describes what should happen to an orange to make it able to be eaten nicely.

4d    Devious man’s divided existence in one body (2,5)
{EN MASSE} Insert into a word meaning existence, an anagram (devious) of MAN, split the result 2,5 and you have an originally French expression meaning all together, in one group or body.

5d    Embarrassed Tory fighting independent holding system (8)
{RYOTWARI} Anyone who solved Elgar’s alter-ego Nimrod’s puzzle in yesterday’s Independent will have a head start on this one. An Indian system of collecting revenues from agricultural land is obtained by firstly making an anagram (embarrassed) of TORY and then adding a state of conflict between armed nations (fighting) and the abbreviation for Independent.

6d    Tragic agent not just brought up to keep pub free of drugs (10)
{SOPHOCLEAN} Relating to the tragic verse of an Athenian poet. With checking letters and the abbreviation for public house and a slang term for being free of drugs, the solution is obvious. But what about the S, O and O, you cry! Thanks to Big Dave for explaining the d’oh moment of the week – take the number by the most famous fictional agent is known, write out the last number as a word and then remove the last four letters (not just). The remaining letter plus the two O’s then need to be reversed (brought up in a down clue).

7d    Respect on cracking time! (6)
{HONOUR} A title of respect given to judges etc. A nice easy clue – simply insert (cracking) ON into a period of time.

13d    Transmission theory accounting for rotary engines keeping in step (10)
{PANGENESIS} The theory put forward by Charles Darwin that every cell shares in the transmission of inherited characteristics. Insert into a step (especially in ballet) an anagram (rotary) of engines.

16d    Trap for fish caught in a group (5,3)
{STAKE NET} A type of fishing net. Insert into a group (3) a verb meaning caught or grasped.

18d    26, say, right to have raised packing freight (4,4)
{LOAN WORD} 26a is a word which has been taken into one’s language from another, generally with a slight adaptation. Insert into a word meaning freight (the amount carried in one go) a reversal (raised) of a verb meaning to have, and then R (right), splitting the result 4,4.

19d    Himmler & co try to seize condemned tapes (7)
{GESTAPO} Another friendly clue – unlike Himmler who was the head of the German secret police, the name of which is easily obtained by inserting an anagram (condemned) of TAPES into a noun meaning try.

21d    Rack of ribs, English, delivered from Paris (6)
{ROSBIF} Another splendid clue. The way the French refer to the English, based on their view that we only ate our favourite Sunday lunch. An anagram (rack) of OF RIBS.

22d    One may be writing about street wine-bar (6)
{BISTRO} A type of writing instrument surrounds (about) the abbreviation for street to give us the name of a wine bar or small restaurant.

24d    Born to be subservient to half of mankind, I am (4)
{PLEB} A nice &Lit. Someone lower born or of a despised class who would be seen to be subservient – follow the last three letters (half) of a word meaning mankind, man and women in general , with the abbreviation for Born.

Thank you to Vlad – could this be one of your toughest challenges yet? (And no, that’s not a suggestion that you make them tougher!!) Crypticsue’s top favourite clue is 21d closely followed by 3d and then 2d.

* We seem to recall that it was Prolixic who first came up with a scale of difficult based the type of footwear worn by Vlad at the time of setting a particular crossword. It has been suggested that the difficulty of today’s puzzle means that the boots have had a nuclear upgrade! The two types are revealed around the perimeter of the puzzle, although you do need the solution to 2d to finally finish off the ‘message’.



Well we must dash, we’re off to the Ritz Hotel for some apple crumble and custard. Yes, Pudding at the Ritz…… Toodle-oo!


  1. Jezza
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    At the time of reading a comment from CS on the other page that there was a NINA, I had solved about half of this one, and was about to give up. That information, and a few free letters taken online enabled me to eventually finish it (definitely no prizes for solving time; possibly the booby prize for last place on the telegraph leaderboard!).
    Thanks to Elgar for a proper mental workout which I appreciate even more so having read the complete review, and to Ginger and Fred. Thanks also to BD for explaining the OOS (6d).

  2. Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    After an hour I had four so I gave up…..and seeing the answers I was right to! Not worth the effort at all.

  3. pommers
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Too much for me I’m afraid – managed just over half before deciding to stop banging the head against the brick wall.

    I doff’s my cap to Ginger and Fred for sorting that lot out!

    Thanks to Elgar.

  4. BigBoab
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Brought down to earth with a bump! I managed just over half of this monster before seeking assistance and even then had to look at the answers of about half a dozen. My total admiration and esteem to those who managed to complete this toughie. Thanks to Elgar for stretching me way beyond my meagre limits and to the super duo for the review and necessary hints.

  5. andy
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Ditto what BigBoab has said. Thanks to Fred Ginger and Elgar for 3d in particular

  6. Father Brian
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Another Friday Incomprehensible, I’m afraid.

  7. William Geddes
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink


    • Posted July 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      It’s not daft – it’s a true Toughie,unlike some of those wimpish puzzles produced by certain setters.

      • pommers
        Posted July 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        Completely agree Dave. Trouble with me and Elgar is I’m defeated before I start because I know what I’m in for (bit like playing Brazil tonight I guess!).

        15a, couldn’t get ESP out of the brain for 6th sense. Got the F at the beginning but that was about it.

        1a, knew it had ICI in it but couldn’t see any further as I didn’t know of that particular rocker.

        Could go on but it would be a bit boring. I’ll keep trying but I’ve only ever completed about 2 Elgars.

        • andy
          Posted July 20, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

          A learning curve, never heard of a sea acorn but do-able from the clue, and google etc. With BBoab in that I couldn’t finish it unaided and resorted to Csue and Tilsit so to do, Elgar at his best, and agree with BD a Toughie should do what it says on the tin. Hope ginger is suitably recovered and rehydrated

          • crypticsue
            Posted July 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            Thank you Andy. A couple of glasses of pink wine did the trick very nicely.

            • andy
              Posted July 20, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

              To CSue, a big hug from Cuthbert and Cynthia

  8. DeePeaBee
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    I tried this with my sister and we gave up after looking at all the clues and comments. We had about 10 to do and, even with the help from Fred and Ginger, couldn’t complete it.

    • Posted July 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      Your comment needed moderation as you have used a different email address.

      While you are free to provide a link to your own non-commercial website I will delete links to advertising sites.

  9. Kevmcc
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the other comments, I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggled and gave up!

  10. spindrift
    Posted July 21, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I’m not advertising but if you like puzzles and wordplay in general then I recommend a book by Barry J Blake called “Secret Language”. Fascinating.

    • Posted July 21, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      This is not the kind of advertising to which I was referring above! The commenter concerned was linking to a site advertising Stress Management products and I object to this site being used for that purpose.

  11. crypticsue
    Posted July 21, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Elgar was commenting on the Graun cryptic blog yesterday about the lack of comments on his Thursday Nimrod in the Indy and on this Toughie. It seems that, relatively speaking, very few people comment on the Friday Toughies, not just the Elgars and I wondered why. Because not so many people have a go at the Friday puzzle because they think they will probably be too tough, they have a go and then get cross because they can’t finish it, or because they can’t think of anything nice to say and their mums told them….!!

    I would be interested to know what others thnk

    • pommers
      Posted July 21, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      I think it’s probably because fewer people have a go on Fridays.

    • Jezza
      Posted July 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I have made a comment in the past that most of Elgar’s puzzles seem like a Sudoku, where you are thrown around the grid with see 2, see 6, see 9, see 4 … etc. Those are the sort of puzzles I do not enjoy, and do not look at. If I do not attempt a puzzle, or I do not like it, I tend not to make a comment. This one was not like that, and for that reason I looked at it, and made a concerted effort to finish it.
      If all his puzzles were like this, I would be a regular contender. I am often beaten by a toughie, but that is all part of the enjoyment.

    • asterix
      Posted July 22, 2012 at 1:00 am | Permalink

      Yes, CS, – Bambi’s Mother Syndrome: “Bambi, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I think that’s partly the reason. Also, many of us feel so beaten we just want to crawl away to die under a rocker.

    • andy
      Posted July 22, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

      I am normally, or is that usually, so in need of cake in the darkened room that after an Elgar / Nimrod I can barely speak let alone type. Doglettes asleep, back to the party downstairs

  12. crypticsue
    Posted July 22, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    If you happen to come across a copy of yesterday’s Times puzzle, you might find our lovely setter in less impaling mode!

  13. asterix
    Posted July 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Btw, Can some kind insider let me know what the ‘BRB’ is? (See Big Dave’s reference at 20a – and I’ve seen it referred to elsewhere on these pages.)
    A compendium or encylopedia?
    (Obviously not the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the British Railway Board or the Banco Regional di Brazilia…:-)
    Have looked in vain in the Crossword Guide, Reference Books, Glossary, and The Mine.

    • gazza
      Posted July 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      It’s the Big Red Book aka Chambers Dictionary.

  14. BillyBusker
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Hello G&F. It’s taken over four weeks to finally crack this one in a joint effort between myself, my mother and two of my sisters (all of us crossword fanatics). Try as we may, though, we can’t make any sense of the explanation for 22 across. Is there any way you could explain it in more simple terms that half-wits such as us might comprehend. Can’t believe there’s no other comment on that particular clue in the above list. Does that mean that everyone else understands it?

    • Posted August 14, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      This type of clue is called a compound anagram, and is found in the occasional Toughie.

      22a Vulgar ______ cultivation = outrageous labour-saving? (6)

      It should be read as “VULGAR + BONSAI (cultivation, the definition) = an anagram (outrageous) of LABOUR-SAVING, so you are being asked to fill in the gap with the answer.

      It boils down to an anagram of LABOUR-SAVING without the letters of VULGAR, but can’t be defined as such because the letters of VULGAR are not present in LABOUR-SAVING in the same order.

      Our policy is to not put the answer in the hints, to enable solvers to have a second chance to work it out for themselves, but sometimes, as here, this is difficult to achieve. It is, however, assumed that anyone reading the comments has completed the puzzle or is having difficulty with one or more of the clues, so always ask if you need further help.

      • BillyBusker
        Posted August 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for going to all that trouble, BD. I do understand why you don’t put the full explanation in the hints. I’m going to print out your further explantion and take it to my mother’s (91-years-young), which will save me having to verbally explain a pretty complex clue. What threw us was the long dash. We didn’t know what it meant, but now I understand it signifies that a word must be inserted, in this case Bonsai. In the first comment Jezza is claiming the booby prize for the longest solving time. He’s way out. It’s taken four of us over four weeks, but we got there eventually and consider it quite an achievement. Thanks again BD and thanks also to everyone’s favourite ‘Impaler’. BillyB.

        • Posted August 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          As you know, we discourage the publishing of solving times, but in your case I think we can make an honourable exception.