Toughie 850 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog

Toughie 850 ~ Posted on

Toughie No 850 by Elgar


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

Whodunit??   It was that Elgar, m’Lud, and he was wearing his full Vlad the Impaler outfit, complete with new hob-nailed boots  and a large pointed stake, and he had the scariest wicked glint in his eye….!

There have been mutterings this week about Toughies not being tough.  I suspect there will have been a lot of different mutterings this morning!  Thanks to Elgar for providing a true Toughie –  a tricky set of clues with the added bonus in the paper version of some pretty coloured lights relevant to a Nina connected to 15a.   Extremely tricky to solve – one of those where the fight with the complicated wordplay wears you out so you can’t see the obviously straightforward – and explaining it all has merited a blogging difficulty rating of 8*+.

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1a           Dons briefly accepting Uncle Sam’s background notes (5)
{MUSAK}  Not academics but a football team – so you need the two letters representing the town when the Dons have their home ground, into which is inserted the abbreviation for America (Uncle Sam being the collective nickname for the citizens of that country).

4a           Impress with style…what an entrance in padded trim at Crucible! (3,1,4)
{CUT A DASH} Insert an interjection representing an expression of triumph or pride (what an entrance!) into an informal abbreviated way of referring to the padded lining on the inner side of a snooker table (the Crucible being the home of the World Snooker Championships)

8a           What’s outside and inside this country’s revolutionary weapon (5-3)
{SKEAN DHU} To get the dagger used by a Scotsman when in full national dress, insert AND (from the clue) into an interjection expressing failure to hear (what?) and put the result into a reversal (revolutionary)  of the abbreviation for the United Kingdom’S.

9a           Promise given by moonwalker in term (8)
{BUZZWORD}  A fashionable new term in the jargon of a particular subject.  The nickname of the second person to step onto the surface of the Moon followed by a solemn promise.

11a         Hand round alien verse again (2-5)
{RE-TEACH}  Verse here doesn’t refer to poetry  but is used here as a verb meaning to thoroughly acquaint with, so the solution means to reacquaint.    Insert the usual abbreviation for an alien (the film character or generally) into a verb meaning to hand.

13a         Completely flummoxed Paul with bridging loans (3,4,2)
{ALL ENDS UP} A phrase meaning completely or convincingly.   An anagram (flummoxed) of PAUL into which is inserted a synonym for loans, the result split 3,4,2.

15a         Sleuth’s remaining objectives, who sussed they lie NE and SW of here? (3,3,3,3,3)
{THE HOW AND THE WHY}   What a detective has to ascertain in order to finally solve a crime.   The question in the second half of the clue is directed at us – paper solvers had the benefit of the relevant lights being  coloured  – yellow in the NE corner, pink in the SW – which certainly helped all to become clear.

18a         My work could affect a person’s tastes, as “Cube” by non-cubist (9)
{DIETITIAN} A cryptic definition of someone who is an authority on what you should eat.   A cube or singular dice is followed by  an 16th Century Italian artist who definitely wasn’t a member of the Cubist movement!

21a         Ready for old Dutch medic to seal demise of deceit (7)
{GUILDER}   The currency in Holland before the Euro was introduced.   Take a word meaning cunning or deceit  and seal (or put round the last letter of that word) the abbreviation for doctor.

22a         A terrier’s neckwear (5,3)
{ASCOT TIE}  A from the clue followed by the diminutive way one might refer to a popular short-legged dog from the Highlands, split 5, 3.

24a         One of the Greens who took agent to the cinema? (8)
{BROCCOLI}   The vegetable people some people love to hate also happens to be the surname of the producer of the Bond films.

25a         Not entirely biased, told secret scheme’s essence (8)
{SKELETON}  A scheme reduced to its essential elements.    The first three letters (not entirely) of a four letter adjective meaning biased followed by a phrase meaning told a secret (3, 2).

26a         Physical strength of tungsten demonstrated by function (5)
{SINEW}  Follow a mathematical function with the chemical symbol for tungsten.    I once asked  Mr CS why the symbol for tungsten is what it is rather than what you think it might be.   I dropped off hours before he’d finished!  


1d           I run into sea as a gun onto set? (10)
{MISPRINTED} Insert another way of saying ‘I run’ into the abbreviation for the inland sea surrounded by Europe, Africa etc.    This gives you a term relating to what has happened to get  typos or other errors – penny still not dropped? –  look at ‘a gun onto set’ and compare it with the first four  words of the clue!

2d           Watch the game, say, and muscle in (8)
{SPECTATE}  Insert an abbreviation for the muscle at the top of the chest into a verb meaning to say or express.

3d           Force to try on new anorak and old jumper (8)
{KANGAROO}   Insert into an anagram (new) of ANORAK the initial used to denote the force attracting a body to the centre of the earth, and then finish with O (old).

4d           Not a red card for Arsenal striker? (4)
{CLUB}   A triple definition  (a) a card suit in a pack of playing cards which isn’t red (b) what Arsenal is  (how most people think of them, not how BD might refer to them!)  and (c) a heavy stick used to strike.

5d           Retailer, electronic and non-electronic: Floor 1 (6)
{AMAZON}    An on-line (electronic) retailer of both electronic and non-electronic goods.   Remove the E’s (non-Electronic) from firstly the end of a verb meaning to floor or astound and secondly from the number represented by 1.

6d           A public talk over the airwaves is a source of vexation… (6)
{ANNOYS}   A (from the clue) followed by a homophone (over the airwaves) of loud or disturbing sounds.

7d           …beastly company  tried  to catch it (4)
{HERD}  A   collective term for a collection of animals sounds like (to catch it) a homophone of tried [a court case]

10d         Out of fun, lad in gargantuan take-off (8)
{UNLADING}   The past participle of a verb relating to the  taking off of cargo is hidden in fUN LAD IN Gargantuan.

12d         For honourable death, Dutch spy swallows Turkish spirit (4-4)
{HARA KIRI}  Ceremonial Japanese suicide.   Insert  a Turkish aniseed-flavoured spirit into the second name of a famous female Dutch spy.

14d         Mentioned Telegraph for one to contend with media arrangement (3-3-4)
{PAY-PER-VIEW} A form of access to television programmes using a smart card –   A homophone (mentioned) of what the Telegraph is, a verb meaning to contend in rivalry, and finally the abbreviation for With.

16d         In setting up such a hotel chain set down plants (8)
{HIBISCUS}  Beautiful garden plants – the pink one in our garden is still looking lovely.  A reversal of SUCH (setting up in a down clue) into which is inserted  the name of a hotel chain.

17d         Gradually stop and turn blue (4-4)
{WIND-DOWN}   A synonym for turn in the sense of motion, followed by another way of saying blue or miserable.

19d         Wanting to shoot up drugs, spots cover (6)
{ENCASE}  Reverse (shoot up) the abbreviation for Ecstasy, an S (because it’s drugs plural) and a skin disease (spots).

20d         Enthusiastic about Tyneside chant (6)
{INTONE}   An informal term for being enthusiastic about or interested in followed by the abbreviation for the area of the United Kingdom of which Tyneside is a part.

22d         God that’s no time for a breather? (4)
{ARES}  The Greek god of war.  A (from the clue) followed by the first three letters of a word meaning a stop to recover one’s breath.

23d         Black and blue bonnets, a selected series (4)
{EBON}   Hidden (a selected series) in bluE BONnets is a poetical word meaning black.

I’m off to see if the HR MacMillan Coffee Morning has got any of my lemon cake left as I feel  I deserve a large slice to ward off post-blogging stress disorder.   I am going to add a pair of pink fluffy slippers to the list of things to take to the S&B in October, as it would appear that the naughty (V)lad has lost the ones we gave him last Christmas!

18 responses to “Toughie 850

  1. This one was a tricky proposition without the shaded squares, but not nearly as tricky as it originally seemed.

    As CS said, sometimes the complicated wordplay in one clue can lead you to miss what’s really quite obvious in another one.

    I spent 50% of the time trying to understand what 15a was all about, but there was a nice penny-drop moment when it all fell into place.

    Very enjoyable indeed.

    Thanks to Elgar for another decent challenge, and to CS for the blog.

  2. Two thirds of this went in without a problem, but the rest was a right bugger!
    I got there in the end, finishing up in the NE, and the SW.
    I did not understand the significance of the coloured lights until it was game over!
    Thanks to Elgar for the puzzle, and to CS for the review and explanations.

    • I’d like to say that was my deliberate mistake to see if anyone was reading my prose, but sadly it is one I forgot to correct. :(

  3. I’ve lost the will to live & I don’t expect that there will be any spaces left in the darkened room for those of us who have just had a right shoeing from Vlad…well done CS …sterling work that woman…thank goodness it’s the weekend and all that it entails for the DT cruciverbalist community…

  4. Phew, now that’s what I call a Toughie. Vlad at his maddest and baddest.
    I was stumped in the SW corner until the penny dropped with 22 ac ,leading to 22dn then the nina and it all fell into place.
    Most satisfying many thanks to CS, I had half a dozen clues that were marked with a ?
    Now for a rest.

  5. Thanks to Madame for helping out when I received a summons to my local hospital. Getting decidedly fed up with this at the mo.

    Special thanks to Elgar for helping pass a dreary night waiting for a doctor to check me over.

    If I can get a plug in, tomorrow’s Times Jumbo is no 1000. It should be worth a look.

  6. What a Toughie that was, I conceded defeat about three times but kept comig back for more until finally completing it. Favourites for me were 4a 9a 16d and 22a thanks to Elgar and to CrypticSue for the brilliant dissection.

  7. Had a really long and arduous struggle with this, only to find out from the blog that we had 8a wrong. Had settled for Swein-flu (German spelling of the condition) without fully justifying at the time. There were another couple we had correct without totally understanding, eg 1a and 24a. Had justified the Floor 1 of 5d as a homophone of the usual river indicator with its claim as the world’s biggest. Oh well! Worth a try. Thanks Elgar and CS.

  8. Pure dead brilliant as they say in the cultural capital of the UK (Glasgow). Many thanks to Elgar for giving me indigestion and to Crypticsue for rescuing me.

  9. bloo?? heck, I started this at 7am. I know we don’t do times but suffice to say it’s taken me all day, glancing in and then a darkened room. No verbosity, just, as has been said, pure dead brilliant. Last to parse, and needed CrypticSue was 5d, my fave has to be 1d, brilliant imho. Cheers Elgar and CrypticSue.

  10. A Toughie worthy of the name. I was completely flummoxed by what was going into the shaded area and was trying to fit THE HOW and THE WHY in (without finding any words with a HH in them!). When I finally got a couple of SW and NE clues I managed to sort things out. Many thans to Elgar and to CS for the review.

  11. After countless hours and stabs at this puzzle, I managed to complete all but two of the clues. And that was because, although I so wanted to spell ‘musak’ with an ‘s’, I could only find it spelt with a ‘z’ in all reference books that I consulted (including Mrs B). Now, having revisited the red bible, I realise I overlooked the fact that, informally, it can be spelt with an ‘s’. I have kicked myself, and now have a colourful bruise on my left ankle that I could have prevented had a I paid attention properly to what the red book said. Many thanks to the setter for a real brain-stretcher and to CrypticSue for the review.

  12. Actually, still not quite sure I understand the thinking behind 1d. I understand ‘I sprint’ into Med for misprinted, but thought the other reference about a gun on set might be ‘MI5’ (e.g. a gun-handling agent) on ‘printed’ (set).

    • In “A gun onto set”, each word has exactly one letter misprinted in relation to “I run into sea”.

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