Toughie 957 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 957

Toughie No 957 by Elgar

If I had a hammer!

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

As we all know by now, having reached no 957 in the series, while some days the Toughies can be on the fluffy side, when you see Elgar’s name at the top of the page there is no doubt  that it will definitely be one of the ‘most devious cryptic puzzles ever’.

 Chambers defines ‘hammer’ (amongst other things) as a verb meaning ‘to contrive or think out by intellectual labour’ which certainly fits the solving process today.  It is a proper hob-nailed, impaler of an Elgar, one of those cryptics where the more complicated clues blind you to the really straightforward stuff (with at least five d’oh moments), but the solving process is helped once you realise that it is a  pangram.

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1a   Primate taking years off heckler with nuclear fission (6)
{BONOBO }   The chimpanzee (primate) considered to be a human being’s closest animal relative.  An  N  (nuclear) is the ‘fission’ or split between the two hyphenated words used informally to refer to someone who jeers or heckles, which should have the Y (years off) removed from the end.   One of those clues solved from the definition/checking letters and then you work out why!!

4a   Giver of terrible hammering entitled man to claim very nearly six counties (8)
{MJOLLNIRHaving found a relevant definition of hammer, one might have been forgiven for trying to fit Elgar in here!  However,  Thor (the god of thunder) is responsible for the terrible hammering,  the solution being  an alternative spelling for his hammer!!   The wordplay is actually quite clear – insert between the two letters of a title prefixed to a man’s name, almost all of an adverb meaning very  nearly,  and the abbreviation for one of the parts of the United Kingdom (as the clue says it is also known as the six counties!)


9a   King of the nursery’s wrapping up item (6)
{COUPLE}  Insert (wrapping) UP from the clue into the famous jolly old king of nursery rhyme fame.

10a   Series of unique characters rue joining Mensa for another spell (8)
{USERNAME}  An anagram, or another spell, of RUE and MENSA.

11a   (Issued quarterly) copy@hotmail circulating, given priority (9)
{PHOTOSTAT}     If you haven’t met an Elgar ‘email address’ clue before then you need to know that  the “(issued quarterly)” bit of the clue refers to the fact that you have to split up and rearrange  the four parts of the email address.  A type of copy or facsimile is obtained by ‘circulating’  a synonym for mail round HOT (from the clue) before finishing with  AT (@) (the ‘mail’ and the ‘hot’ being given priority over the @).    If you have met one of his email clues before then the ‘issued quarterly’ just causes extra grief, especially to the poor blogger  trying to find out if there is a quarterly publication of the same name as the solution!

13a   Sextet given shocking treatment outside bar (5)
{EVICT}  Insert the Roman numeral for six into the abbreviation for ElectroConvulsive Therapy.

14a   Jiminy’s heart drops, tries repeatedly to run it up? (1,7,5)
{A CRICKET SCORE}    In the film Pinocchio, Jiminy was A [particular type of insect]  So A [Jiminy] S and another word for heart or middle, split 1, 7, 5;   the definition being examples of ways to  build a good *****.

cricket score

17a   In fuzzy broadcast, 15 found it wonderful! (5,3,5)
{OOHED AND AAHED}  Not quite a  homophone of 15d (hence the ‘fuzzy’ broadcast)  produces the noises we might have made if we found something wonderful.

21a   Even Jack’s in, we hear! (5)
{QUITS}  Misleading capital time.    Jacks in is another way of saying resigning from your  job.   The solution is another way of saying this,  and it can also mean to declare oneself even with another.

23a   Tin god starting over on a Latin craft course (4,5)
{SUEZ CANAL}   A reversal  (over) of the greatest of the ancient Greek Gods, a synonym for a tin, A (from the clue) and the abbreviation for Latin.

Suez Canal

24a   Inspector used to dig? (8)
{EXAMINERD’oh!!    Split 2, 1, 5 and this inspector/tester would mean that you were someone who used to dig!

25a   Goodbye to Japan, say? No penny charged (2,1,3)
(ON A RAP)  A slang expression meaning charged with a crime.   Remove SAY (say? No) from the Japanese word for goodbye, add a P (penny) on the end, and split 2, 1, 3.

26a   This even better clue might be awarded just a second! (3,5)
{TWO TICKS}  Some solvers put dots by clues they like, others  might use a mark usually used to show that something was dealt with or correct.    A really good clue might get twice the number of the latter marks, which then  gives  an expression we could use to say ‘give us a second’,’ in a moment’.

27a  Coordinates arty dance music (6)
{ZYDECO}  Two of the coordinates on a graph followed by an art movement  produces Louisianan accordion- based dance music with French, Caribbean and blues influences.



1d   Muscle records overwritten by pen (6)
{BICEPS}  A brand name of a particular type of ballpoint pen, followed by the abbreviation for those 45 rpm records which had two songs on each side, rather than the usual one.

Flexing Biceps

2d   ‘I’ve trouble networking,’ author scrawled with pen (9)
{NEUROPATH}  Someone whose nervous system (network)  is in disorder – an anagram (scrawled) of AUTHOR  and PEN.

3d   On the square is rising socialist Prime Minister (7)
{BALFOUR}  This Prime Minister was  actually a Conservative!   A reversal of the abbreviation used to refer to a socialist followed by  the number of sides in a square.

5d   One’s only identity, nevertheless (4,3,4)
{JUST THE SAME}  If you look up identity in the dictionary, you will find that in addition to it referring to being an individual it can also refer to a collective identity.   So another way of saying only, followed by what we all are really (two words),  produces  an expression meaning  nevertheless, for all that.

6d   Sizable vessel, the Bounty? (7)
{LARGESS}   The second clue with a misleading capital.   Both bounty and the solution mean the bestowal  of gifts, although split the solution  5, 2, and you get confirmation that the Bounty was indeed a sizeable steamship.

7d   Subduing a force in a disorganised mess (5)
{NAAFI}   A mess or service canteen is obtained by inserting (or subduing) A (from the clue) and the abbreviation for Force in an anagram  (disorganized) of IN A .  How many other people also wasted  time trying to ‘disorganise’ mess?!

8d   New idea ______ had for degeneration? (8)
{ROENTGEN}  The name of the person who developed X ray technology which can be used to fight degeneration of various parts of the body is an anagram (new) of DEGENERATION, once the letters of IDEA have been removed.


12d   To name some lurker, browser, troll and router shot kneecap to pieces (11)
{TECHNOSPEAK}  The clue contains several examples of jargon used in modern  technology,  in particular in connection with the  internet – the term for this jargon collectively is an anagram (to pieces)of SHOT KNEECAP.

15d   9 playing up earned furious battle in Belgium (9)
{OUDENARDE}  A reversal of a 9a followed by an anagram (furious) of EARNED produces a key battle in the War of Spanish Succession in September 1708.    Once you solve this, you should then understand the homophonic  link with 17a!!

16d   Clubs seeking win (8)
{CONQUEST}  The act of winning or acquiring by force.    Split 1, 2, 5, then you have the abbreviation for Clubs (in a game of cards)  in the act of seeking.

18d   Colourful shirt — and twice turned up worn by king (7)
{DASHIKI}  A colourful African shirt.    If you look at the clue it has a long —.   Follow the word that describes this character  with I and I (twice)  (I, of course, looks like a   ‘turned up’  —  !) between which should be  inserted the abbreviation for King in a game of chess.


19d   Overuse    a place in east London (7)
{HACKNEY}  A verb meaning to use to excess or make commonplace has the same name as a borough in East London.

20d   ‘Softly, softly’ lion’s caged, under a Syrian city (6)
{ALEPPO}   A from the clue followed by the constellation whose sign is the lion, into which should be inserted two of the letters used to indicate softly (piano)  in musical notation.

22d   The compiler owned up over state (5)
{IDAHO}  How the compiler might refer to himself in conversation, followed by a reversal of a word meaning owned, and finished with the cricketing abbreviation for Over.

Whilst appreciating that Elgar isn’t everyone’s cup of tea,  his puzzles do provide that extra special brain-stretching needed from time to time  by  people like me who suffer from  a long term serious addiction to the cryptic, just to keep us on our toes.     I hope we don’t have to wait too long for another one.


33 comments on “Toughie 957

  1. I spent an age on 4a before finally having to resort to Google, other than that I made steady progress. Really enjoyed todays offering with the stand-out for me being 17a thanks to Elgar and to CrypticSue for the in-depth review.

  2. What an absolute pleasure. First time I have finished an Elgar puzzle on the same day of publication. Many thanks to setter and CS for clarification.

  3. Fabulous! I actually finished an Elgar before 3pm, unheard of! Many thanks to Elgar for a totally amazing puzzle (a pangram I think) and to Crypticsue for a very enjoyable review.

  4. Top stuff as ever and I needed some help from CS to finish. The usual excellent devilry!. Many thanks to Elgar and to Sue for the excellent review.

  5. Finished it before the hints were published but with a lot of electronic help. Did anyone do all the puzzle without paper or electronic assistance?
    Thanks to Elgar and Sue.

    1. Mike, a very good question!

      My answer is NO! My electronic friend’s batteries are now on VERY LOW!

      What about the Bloggers? Do they manage without help?

      1. my answer is no as well! 4a spelling threw me…with Elgar the complication is working out which word in the clue is the meaning…the misdirection is sometimes superb…

        thanks (as always) to setter and crypticsue

    2. I’m proud to say that I completed it without electronic assistance, but I did use the BRB for confirmation of half-remembered words, and ( after a bit of hunting) for 27a. Thanks to Elgar for an excellent work-out, and to CS for further elucidation of some word-play.

    3. Solved from my head and then checked that there was such a thing as a boo-boy (1a) and that my vague remembering of Thor’s hammer was correct. I also had to check the battle as strangely enough,battles of the War of Spanish Succession don’t feature that highly in my knowledge banks. The music and the shirt appear quite often in general knowledge puzzles, quizzes etc. As for the primates, when they appear on a nature programme, they are the ones whose constant ‘amorous’ activites would definitely offend someone of a delicate disposition – look them up – that’s why I didn’t illustrate that clue! :D

    4. I have a crypticsue on the end of a phone (if required!!) and an Interwebs.
      When I see a puzzle of this difficulty I have no trouble reaching for an electrnic aide or so (Chambers not crypticsue!).
      In theory I understood about 9f% of this from the clues but in practice I could solve about 75% without checking words and stuff.
      I don’t mind this as it makes me improve and laugh at Elgar’s wordplay.
      I’ll say it again – we need puzzles like this to stretch us and the same applies for difficult back pagers.

  6. Not only has Elgar got his hob nailed boots on but I think they’ve been reworked Rosa Klebb style!

    I doff my Fedora to CS in not only being able to solve the blighter but also in being able to explain all of the answers so well.

    I’ve said it before but without this blog there’s an awful lot of us would still be complimenting ourselves on getting the pun in the Quickie!

  7. I know my place ;-) ! This crossword was so far beyond my comprehension that even with the hints it was well out of my league. I can only admire those of you who can fathom it all out. My brain hurts, lol.

  8. A joy to solve and lovely to see His Nibs back where he belongs in the Friday Toughie spot.

    Ferociously tough but a pleasure when you see how devius he has been and how he tries to mislead.

  9. With regard to using help to solve an Elgar …


    Does the setter also use some help in compiling such a crossword? Hmm?

    1. I didn’t know the first, had heard of the second but as to the third, I’m a great fan of the late Clifton Chenier, the King of Zydeco.

      1. Thanks for sharing that BD – as a fan of all things ‘accordion’ it was well recieved here. End of the month sees me enjoying more of the instrument at a three day music fest on the Isle of Mull.

    2. I needed more help with the “inside the back page” today Franco in terms of unknown words. 27a is a good back up in scrabble!

  10. Elgar is so far above my pay grade! I took a look this morning, managed 2 answers in an hour and gave up. I may wait until this evening and see if a stiff drink helps.

    I am in total awe of anyone who’s finished this, with or without electronic help. That goes double for Crypticsue. If all goes badly, as I supect it will, I shall go the the review and make good use of the explanations to help me get an insight into the setter’s devious mind. I’m nothing if not stubborn.

  11. The other Kiwi said “you’re on your own with Elgar” so it was a solo flight. Needed electronic help with the last couple but did get them all. Did not spot the longer line in 18d so had not fully parsed it. The one that gave me most grief to parse was 11a. Could not work out the significance of the bit in brackets and the clue seemed to parse perfectly well without it. It also seemed to break the rule that the definition is always at the very beginning or very end of a clue, so thanks for the explanation Sue. It all took me an awfully long time but was done in one sitting. Really, really enjoyable.
    Thanks Elgar and CS.

  12. Loved it, although tackling my Nemesis Bannsider in the “I” first addled my brain somewhat. Needed Cryptic sues help with parsing of 11a and a investigoogling with 4a necessary. Cap Doffed Cryptic Sue and many thanks to Elgar.

  13. Only managed 3/4 (21) before losing patience with the solver and resorting to hints .Took a while to parse 18d even after reading hint !
    Thanks for the hints and review .

      1. Far be it from me to answer on behalf of Joe 90, but … surely just a satirical reference to the recent Elgar-gate / Pommers-gate scandal.

        Someone on the other page today mentioned “Cross Words” rather than Crosswords! A wise man!

  14. I still don’t understand the significance of the bracketed bit in 11a. As KiwiColin said the clue appears to be complete without it. I wondered whether it is referring to some text in the corners (quarters) of the grid but can’t find anything.
    Thanks to Elgar for the brainstretcher and to CS for the comprehensive explanations.

    1. I am given to understand that the bracketed bit is just to tell us to split up the bits of the email address into four. As I indicated in my hint, totally unnecessary and extra confusing for the blogger who was confused enough to start with!

      1. “Issued quarterly” is pretty cryptic, but I think that the clue is much better with it. Otherwise there is {definition{fodder1}{fodder2){fodder3) {inclusion indicator} {primacy indicator}}, with not even a space between the first four components. “Issued quarterly” is in parentheses to make it clear that it isn’t part of the definition.

        This wasn’t my favourite clue of the puzzle, but, for me, the “bracketed bit” improved it a great deal.

  15. Not so much hobnailed boots as football boots, with diligently sharpened metal studs wielded by Eric Cantona’s less subtle karate black-belt cousin who’d had a particularly bad day.

    This is a proper Toughie, challenging and enjoyable, with plenty of “coppers in dives”.

    The internet connection here stopped working for about an hour this morning, which compounded the problem, but thanks to Elgar for the entertainment, and congrats to CS who has done a tricky blogging job with all of her usual aplomb.

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