Toughie 925 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 925

Toughie No 925 by Elgar

Return of the Prince of Darkness!

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Elgar may have been absent without leave for a while, but he hasn’t been idle. This is a real beast of a puzzle in which it takes ages to work out the reasoning behind the answers. Not for the faint-hearted!

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.


1a    Glass self-catering house — something unique! (8)
{SCHOONER} – S(elf)-C(atering) followed by HO(use) and something unique

6a    Pancake regularly twice tossed into the air? (3-3)
{ACK-ACK} – remove the even letters (regularly tossed) of pAnCaKe and repeat what is left (twice) – the answer, as an adjective, can mean “into the air”

9a    Cry like a wolf, forever being discovered on return (4)
{YAWL} – start with a six-letter word meaning forever and this cry can be found (discovered) reversed (on return) inside

10a    I grin and bear it (smash and grab raid from pirate ship) (10)
{BRIGANTINE} – an anagram (smash) of I G(RI)N (A)N(D) BEAR IT after removing the letters of RAID

11a    A measure of loss in firkin, maybe, about quart River Bar consumed (9)
{BECQUEREL} – start with a container (4,6) of which a firkin is an example (maybe) and replace (consumed) R(iver) BAR with the single-letter Latin abbreviation for about and QU(art)

12a    Touching article written about cardinal (5)
{THREE} – a word meaning touching or “being relevant to” inside (written about) the definite article

14a    Prescription for disease: seaside _______? (6)
{RESORT} – the gap is the answer and describes how to get from (prescription for) DISEASE to SEASIDE

16a    Rough veined leaves (6)
{ENDIVE} – an anagram (rough) of VEINED

19a    Venetian heiress with 12 and a bit acres hiding gold, getting tense (6)
{PORTIA} – Shakespeare’s Venetian heiress is derived from the symbol that represents “the answer to 12 across and a bit” and A(cres) around (hiding) the heraldic term for gold and T(ense)

20a    See 26 Down

22a    Poet and knight occupying Queen’s Square (5)
{DONNE} – the chess notation for knight inside the starting position of the White Queen in chess notation with the numeric part expanded (ouch!)

24a    In state of agitation, Henry’s going after dull tax collector (2,7)
{ST MATTHEW} – inside a four-letter state of agitation put H(enry) after an adjective meaning dull

27a    See 8 Down

28a    Resistance infiltrating expansive place of incarceration (4)
{BRIG} – R(esistance) inside (infiltrating) an adjective meaning expansive or large

29a    In the course of candidacy, an insincere colouring? (6)
{CYANIN} – hidden (in the course of) inside the clue is a plant pigment (colouring)

Newspaper version: New College annually accepted back something reactive from plant (6)
I can only think that the alternative clue is N(ew) C(ollege) around (accepted) IN A Y(ear) (annually) all reversed, but, as has been said, it’s not very friendly

30a    A work by 22, perhaps capricious (8)
{PERVERSE} – the three-letter word meaning a, as in 50p a pound, followed by the work of, for example (perhaps), the answer to 22 across


2d    Persuades x and y? (6)
{COAXES} – split as (2-4) this describes x and y in a graph

3d    Extremely devious lover hasn’t finished engaging in search for fetish (9)
{OBLIQUEST} – L(over) without OVER (hasn’t finished) inside what could be a search for a fetish or charm (3,5)

4d    One entitled to move below when 23’s about (10)
{NOBLEWOMAN} – an anagram (to move) of BELOW inside the answer to 23 down (when 23’s about)

5d    Increase audible output from our star (5)
{RAISE} – sounds like (audible) output from the sun (our star)

6d    Volcanic central part of Canary 20s (4)
{ARAN} – an anagram (volcanic) of the middle letters of (C)ANAR(Y) gives these 20 acrosses off the west coast of Ireland

7d    Other unnamed people impressed by King Henry’s executioner (5)
{KETCH} – a three-letter abbreviation for the rest (other unnamed people) inside (impressed by) K(ing) and H(enry) to get an infamous English executioner employed by King Charles II

8d & 27a    (23) is able to do five other answers (according to 24) (3,5,3,7)
{CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS} – the answer to 23 down followed by “is able to” (3), “to do” (5) and a description (3-7) of five other answers (highlighted in green) – a quote from the Gospel written by 24 across

13d    Loud and lewd, I relish Lear’s nonsense! (10)
{HELLRAISER} – someone, I, who is loud and lewd is an anagram (nonsense) of RELISH LEAR

15d    Hats off to unbelievably impressive flier from Down Under (3)
{TUI} – the initial letters of (hats off) three words in the clue give this New Zealand bird

17d    Bedfordshire town located on the right, round the bend (9)
{DUNSTABLE} – the rightmost letter (on the right) of locateD followed by an adjective meaning round the bend or deranged

18d    Road initially tarmacked in secure manner (8)
{MOTORWAY} – the initial letter of Tarmacked inside a verb meaning to secure a boat and a manner or method

21d    Foremost of intellects in class (6)
{GENIUS} – the initial letter (foremost) of Intellects inside a class of things which have common characteristics

23d    I don’t agree poor Agamemnon’s no sport (2-3)
{NO-MAN} – an anagram (poor) of A(GAME)MNON from which GAME has been removed (no sport)

25d    Dope for better luvvie (5)
{THESP} – split as (3,2) this is dope or information for a better or gambler – a luvvie is an affectionate term for an actor

26d & 20a    (23) one without light’s one restricted (according to 22) (2,2,6)
{IS AN ISLAND} – the answer to 23 down followed by I (one), the French for without (4) and a verb meaning to light or disembark around (restricted) I (one) – probably the most famous quote from 22 across

With a little bit of help from a f(r)iend!

44 comments on “Toughie 925

  1. 29a – the paper has a different clue.

    New College annually accepted back something reactive from plant (6)

  2. didn’t know 7d but the wordplay made it worth a google!

    I agree that making sure the answers were right was hard going but because there were anagrams (not popular with everyone I know) it was possible to solve without getting all the wordplay right!

    great friday entertainment!

  3. As my dad would say “Only fight the battles you know you can win”. And this is one that I’ll admit that I never really stood a chance with.

    Elgar’s showing no mercy or taking any prisoners today is he?

  4. A superb return by Elgar to the middle of the paper – one of those puzzles that definitely lives up to what ‘ it says on the tin’ (well what it says on the puzzles site anyway). I agree with JB that the online version of 29a is so much more user-friendly .

    Thanks to Elgar for an excellent workout for the cryptic grey matter – good job I am only working half days at present as I can now have the proverbial lie down. Thanks to BD too for the explanations – nice to know that the majority of my reasonings were correct.

    Let’s hope we don’t have to wait so long for the next Elgar Toughie.

    1. I recklessly ignored your warning earlier & tried this before admitting defeat somewhere around 1 across.

      In future I suggest a new classification for Elgar and his ilk – “Formidable” rather than the mundane nomenclature of “Toughie”

      1. You should have started somewhere else- the bottom of the puzzle fell into place long,long, long before the NW corner finally submitted.

  5. Too hard for me – now going for a large brandy and then a snooze in the darkened room. I may be some time :grin:

  6. Finally, after three sittings I must wave the white flag two short of completion. Thanks to Elgar and to Big Dave for his thorough dissection.

  7. Can you explain how you connected the answers highlighted in green to St Matthew? I got the answer by a fluke but the backplay escapes me.

  8. Needed a lot of help with this one. 11 across is a new word for me. Filled in most of this with a bit of checking in dictionary but needed to read Big Dave’s excellent hints for some of the word play (still don’t understand the 12 and a bit part of 19 across). Thanks for the help. Favourite clue 2 down – nice and simple!

    1. The answer to 12 across is three. Three and a bit is PI (actually closer to 3.14159).

      BTW pi is a transcendental number, which means that it is not capable of being expressed algebraically, only approximately.

      1. I – due to my ignorance found this a stinker
        I do however disagree with the explanation above
        The (article)
        re (about)
        Combine to give three, a cardinal number.
        As stated pi is a transcendental number.

        1. I think you may be missing the point that this comment string in reply to Vigo is about 19a. The answer to 12a is, as you rightly say, and as BD’s hints also show, made up of ‘the’ and ‘re’ to amke ‘three’. Now in 19a we have a cross-reference to 12a, giving us 3 ‘and a bit’ (from the clue), which is Pi, which is an element of the answer to 19a.

  9. It took over-night cogitation on 25d to work out that the answer was not “twerp” as we had tentatively put in and tried in vain to parse. It all took an awful lot of time and effort (with a little bit of electronic help), but we did get there in the end so feel very chuffed with ourselves. Great pleasure to find 15d nesting in the centre of the grid too.
    Thanks Elgar (the first time we have cracked one of yours) and BD.

  10. The usual mixture from Elgar. Some terrific clues – the lovely &lit at 21d; the fall about laughing /I wish I’d thought of that at 17; and the clever “two masters” = five other answers. But also a couple of shockers. I ain’t convinced there is any such word as 3d. The superlative of “oblique” is “most oblique” methinks. [But otherwise it would be a clever and witty clue!]. And can someone other than Yoda please explain to me how the structure of the clue at 9a justifies the answer?

    But great fun for the most part so many thanks to Vlad and to BD for making sense of nearly all of it!

  11. 5 hints and a few hours on and off to finish this one. At least I’m not in last place on the leaderboard (thanks Red Hat Pete, whoever you are :) )
    Thanks to Elgar, and to BD for the excellent dissection.

  12. Thanks Big Dave’s – I always think of pi as 22/7 rather than in the decimal – I will remember that one!

  13. I’m sorry but I’m being very thick. I still do not see how “two masters” becomes “five answers” and how you chose the relevant five, I expect the answer is obvious but it escapes me.

  14. In 9a, I think the ‘discovered’ should be read as ‘dis-covered’: – take the covers (first and last letters) off the (A)LWAY(s), then reverse it.

  15. Halfway through and then failed – I spotted the Nauticalities in 1a/10a and 7d but I couldnt be sure of the name of the executioner. Some of the rest is pure genius (3 and a bit!) and I laughed and cursed a lot. Nice to se Elgar back in the chair on a Friday and thanks to BD and Fiend.

  16. I will have to disagre with nearly everyone who has posted here. I really thought this puzzle was a load of crap! It was intellectual masturbation at best and otherwise just showing off a giant brain, which most of us don’t have. Personally, I can do without it and I will no longer bother with Elgar/Enigmatist/Nimrod/Io or whatever other names Vlad goes under. Think I’ve said this before but this time I mean it.

    Completely ruined my day after the DT Giovanni, the Grauniad Araucaria and yesterday’s RayT and Orlando puzzles. Those are what I call crosswords.

    If this comment means I have to resign from blogging then so be it – I really do think that some setters are on the verge of setting impossible puzzles and they relish the thought. Fortunately the rest of the DT setters don’t fall into that category.

    Crosswords are supposed to be entertainment, not a torture.

    1. Toughies are supposed to be tough.

      Some Toughies try to achieve that by splitting the word to be clued into many tiny components, resulting in long, unwieldy clues. Some resort to obscure vocabulary (try the Times club monthly puzzles, for example).

      This puzzle is designed to reveal its solution step-by-step. There are some easy clues, and some tricky clues, and a few that are pretty challenging. However, there are themes linking the least obvious of them. This is, unashamedly, not a crossword for the beginner. That is what Toughie crosswords are all about, I reckon. For me, this was nicely judged, and by no means the most difficult Elgar puzzle in this series.

      Some solvers would say exactly what you said about today’s Giovanni. Some solvers would say the same about Monday’s Rufus. Some would say the same about the black-and-white grids with alleged clues attached that pass for cryptic crosswords in other publications.

      You might not have enjoyed this puzzle. Fair enough. Maybe “crap” was bit strong, but I strongly suspect that BD isn’t about to send you to the Spanish equivalent of Coventry for that.

      But it wasn’t impossible. And it is a crossword. And I enjoyed solving it a great deal.

      It won’t have escaped your notice that some bloggers do not admire the work of some setters. And, without a doubt, vice versa.

      One man’s beef is another’s horsemeat, although the difference is not necessarily as great as it might appear.

    2. I wouldn’t go so far as that, pommers, but I agree that anyone who enjoys such puzzles must have masochistic tendencies.

      Personally, I don’t enjoy such suffering! Or, in other words – far too difficult for me!

  17. Tough, That was too much for me. I put in 4 clues but wasn’t that sure, even with the hints I struggled.

  18. Finally finished this mammoth puzzle. Managed about half before needing a few welcome hints. Would not have attempted an Elgar a few months ago. This site should be treated as an educational facility. Huge thanks to BD and all other contributors.

Comments are closed.