Toughie 973 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 973

Toughie No 973 by Elgar

Vlad the Impaler rides again!

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

For those who complained about yesterday’s Toughie being too easy, here is what you wished for (in trumps). This is Elgar at his most devious, and if you solved it without seeking out the handful of easier answers and building out from there then perhaps you ought to be setting rather than solving!

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    Has delinquent trimmed off a little bit of cash in this? (6,9)
{SALAMI TECHNIQUE} – an anagram (off) of HAS and (DE)LINQUE(NT) without some of its outer letters (trimmed) around the A from the clue, a word meaning a little and the initial letter (bit) of Cash gives a fraud involving the deduction of almost indiscernible sums of money from numerous and scattered transactions

9a    Real ivory (7)
{NATURAL} – two definitions – an adjective meaning real or genuine and one of the ivory keys on a piano keyboard

10a    Holding a party to which girls aren’t invited, we’ll realise loss! (7)
{WASTAGE} – WE around (holding) the A from the clue and the kind of party to which girls aren’t invited

11a & 12a    What may hold up top saver’s heading straight at PEP, unfortunately (9,5)
{SPAGHETTI STRAP} – the initial letter (heading) of saver followed by an anagram (unfortunately) of STRAIGHT AT PEP

13a    Encourage one back to look nosily around farm (7)
{PIGGERY} – a three-letter verb meaning to encourage and I (one) reversed (back) with a verb meaning to look nosily around the outside

15a    Mark boundaries of shop with German (7)
{DELIMIT} – a shop selling cooked meats, cheeses etc, followed by the German for with

17a    Backsliding brother of the compiler’s received cut (7)
Newspaper verion – Backsliding brother of Elgar’s received cut (7)
{FORERIB} – the reversal (backsliding) of a four-letter word meaning brother and the OF from the clue around the first person pronoun (the compiler / Elgar) gives a cut of meat

19a    Private number ringing me for something spicy (7)
{PIMENTO} – a private, personal identification number used with credit cards around ME and followed by a preposition meaning for

21a & 23a    Mug, owing — but not the mamma and singer (5,9)
{ROBIN REDBREAST} – a three-letter verb meaning to mug followed by a three word phrase meaning owing or overdrawn without THE (the second word) and finally mamma or bosom – this singer is a bird (the feathered kind)

25a    Kept by European under hat is a Roman coin (7)
{SOLIDUS} – the French (European) for under around (kept by) a hat or cover

26a    French citizen one business is settling in Tyne and Wear? (7)
{NIÇOISE} – I (one), a two-letter abbreviation for a business and the IS from the clue inside (settling in) the area of England where Tyne and Wear can be found

27a    Feature of old market place sadly trails contemporary in growth (11,4)
{WHITECHAPEL CART} – an anagram (sadly) of PLACE follows (trails) a word meaning contemporary or state-of-the-art all inside a growth or lump results in a light two-wheeled barrow


1d    Makes fun of sentences (5,2)
{SENDS UP} – two definitions

2d    Many informal things knocked down area (5)
{LOTSA} – things knocked down at an auction followed by A(rea)

3d    Demonstrate competitive people gathering to get a taste of really strong ale (5,4)
{MARCH BEER} – a verb meaning to demonstrate on foot followed by a competitive gathering of sewers, spellers, etc. and the initial letter (taste) of Really

4d    Mastermind behind epic sport chasing cash receiver up (7)
{TOLSTOY} – a verb meaning to sport or play follows (chasing) the reversal (up) of a long narrow opening which is used to receive a coin

5d    New World resident‘s found wife swinging, strangled by rope (7)
{COWBIRD} – W(ife) and a two-letter word meaning swinging both ways inside (strangled by) a rope

6d    Is leaving official meeting over smells (5)
{NOSES} – reverse (over) an official meeting then drop the IS

7d    Old Beatles number written after Queen proposal to drop intro (9)
{QUARRYMEN} – N(umber after QU(een) and a two-word phrase which constitutes a proposal (5,2) without the initial M (drop intro) – this group, founded by John Lennon, was the forerunner to the Beatles

8d    Rare sense required to stop island getting plant disease (3-4)
{EYE-SPOT} – a three-letter abbreviation for a rare sense inside (to stop) another word for a small island

14d    Soldier capturing a foul-mouthed old patriot (9)
{GARIBALDI} – an American soldier around (capturing) the A from the clue and an adjective meaning foul-mouthed gives an old Italian patriot

16d    Wormlike meandering around Cumbria, finding one Lake after another (9)
{LUMBRICAL} – an anagram (meandering) of CUMBRIA between one L(ake) and another L(ake)

17d    Expected waster of time to get lost during ascent (7)
{FORESAW} – WAS(T)ER OF without (to get lost) the T(ime) and reversed (ascent)

18d    Not the first to check school soup (7)
{BORTSCH} – a verb meaning to check or discontinue without its initial letter (not the first) and followed by SCH(ool)

19d    Dickensian father punished and holding son for transgression (7)
{PODSNAP} – a three-letter word for a father around (for transgression) an anagram (punished) of AND around (holding) S(on) gives a character in Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

20d    A guest of David Dimbleby keeping your secret? (2,3,1,1)
{ON THE Q T} – this could be a guest of David Dimbleby on his weekly show around (keeping) a word meaning your, as in the Irish “your man”

22d    Turned up dull brown colour that’s barely showing? (5)
{NUDIE} – the reversal (turned up) of a dull brown colour is followed by the Latin abbreviation for that is to give a type of film featuring nudity

24d    Inner self held up during cross-examination (5)
{ANIMA} – hidden (during) and reversed (held up) inside the clue

If you’re in the Manchester area tomorrow then you can join me in meeting up with Elgar, Arachne, Tramp, Anax and a whole load of others at The Vine Inn, 42-46 Kennedy Street from midday onwards.

22 comments on “Toughie 973

  1. I loved this offering from the Maestro, admittedly I did need some help from my little electronic friend, I was totally amazed that I completed it before noon. Many thanks to Elgar and to BD for the superb review. My favourites were 1a and 11 &12a. Brilliant!!

  2. Finally got there after what seemed an eternity, I agree with BD ratings fiendishly tough. Favourites for me were 7d 17a 17d and 27a thanks to Elgar for the torture and to Big Dave for the excellent dissection.

  3. I thought I was going to manage this unaided as the NW corner fell without hesitation (except for the hesitation as to what 1a meant – I had 7d straight off so with the checking letters it couldn’t be anything else but what could it mean? Had to wait for Internet access to find out). Then everything slowed down. Eventually managed to conquer the north east (or Tyne and Wear as I’m coming to know it) but then a few in in the South East (or Home Counties) 2 in the South West then nothing. Even had to copy and paste 27a and 19d to see answers (iPad won’t give up answers easily!). Hard work for me but still lots to enjoy. Thanks to Elgar and to BD for the invaluable hints!

  4. Thanks to Elgar and BD, however this was OTT . Have never heard of 1a,11/12a,27a 3d,5d,8d or this obscure Dickensian bloke.
    Come on chaps , don’t give me this “took me four minutes longer than normal” nonsense.
    Roll on Tuesday and a return to sanity.

    1. The main member of the Podsnap family featured in the book is Georgiana Podsnap, but then I did watch the televised adaptation (I hadn’t realised it was 15 years ago).

      I thought that expanding your knowledge was part of the enjoyment in solving crosswords. A crossword that only contains those words which are in everyone’s vocabulary would be pretty dull and uninteresting.

      1. I agree. I love picking up obscure bits of knowledge from solving crosswords and it does get me asking my font of general knowledge (or husband) ‘is there such a thing/river/mountain/town/person/tool as ………….’ – it’s nice to get him involved. The only thing I don’t like seeing is titles of folk songs. There are some things nobody needs to know.

  5. I thought that the cluing was really quite direct for an Elgar Toughie, and, although the puzzle is by no means easy, I reckon that it was less difficult than some of his. No “sol-dier”s here!

    Hugely enjoyable, as Elgar’s stuff always is.

  6. I have to confess Elgar had me beat today. After several weeks of solving Toughies without recourse to your excellent hints, I thought I was ready for anything, but today there were too many clues where I couldn’t sort out the definition from the rest, so didn’t know what I was looking for. Thanks anyway to Elgar for the challenge (whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger), and to BD for the hints.

  7. So far over my head that a more appropriate answer for 4d for me would have been “Telstar”!

  8. This most certainly reached the boundaries of my crossword ability.
    I required a ream of paper, all the books at my disposal, plus lots of investigoogling.

    Many thanks to Elgar for the challenge and BD for the review.

  9. Another cracker from the Jackie Mc Manus of setters, am I right? Wasn’t he the man you love to hate wrestling on the telly back in the old days ? Anyway a fab diversion from my ongoing battle against the proposed wind turbine in front of my house here in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
    many thanks to BD for the numerous explanations I needed today

      1. If we are using the wrestling analogy he is the Alan Dennison of setters,

        Quite simply a cracking challenge and one for those of us who like our puzzles at the nasty end of the scale.

        Thanks to BD and His Nibs.

        Do come to Manchester tomorrow and thank / strangle him.

  10. A wonderfully impaling challenge – some new stuff to learn, some new spellings to search out (that soup has so many different versions requiring Tippex! – and a great Toughie to finish the week.

    I had all but one clue solved before going on a long country walk (round the Stour Valley and finishing with a cream tea at Chilham. As soon as I picked up the paper when I got home I just wrote it in.

    Thanks to the Great Impaler and the Big Dave.

  11. Took me most of the morning to fill in, then all the afternoon to parse!! spent far too long trying to fit “in debt “into 21/23a. Many thanks to Elgar and BD and see you tomorrow in Manchester

  12. Much too tough for me I’m afraid. Gave up with only 7 answers in. Plan to work through the review and see what I have been missing when I get back from early morning golf.

    1. ..and you will be bruised from hitting yourself….well crafted indeed and as Qix says no “Sol-dier” style clue today. Though I think still it is one of my favourite clues (I’d only being doing the Toughie for a few months, the cryptic not much longer, and I couldn’t understand the controversy it caused, ignorance is bliss sometimes)

  13. I’m saving the second half for tomorrow!. That Elgar, he is a tinker, no?
    Thanks to both JH and BD.

  14. Submission regrettably with 5 to go all lower half , a challenge too much for me .
    Thanks for the relief and the explanations .
    First toughie I have had access to or 10 days not a great comeback .
    Congrats to the victors .

  15. I penciled in one answer, Yes, one. Elgar is so far above my pay grade! I am suitably humbled by the setter and anyone who was able to solve this puzzle. But that’s what I like about the DT. There’s something for everyone. Elgar is clearly not for me.

  16. Have to admit did not find this as impossible as some previous Elgar puzzles, in fact found it a quicker solve than Beam earlier in the week. This should convert a few people that thought all his puzzles were insoluble. It is always a pleasure to have a learning experience whilst pursuing a pleasure. Come on Pommers, I reckon you would have appreciated this one. Many thanks to BD for a great review and to Elgar for not totally destroying my self worth.

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