Toughie 989 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 989

Toughie No 989 by Elgar

When the blue-eyed boy met the naughty girl!

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


It’s been quite a  fluffy week in Toughieland and even Elgar was definitely tending more to the pink-slippered end of the Toughie spectrum (his hob-nailed boots must be at the menders being re-sharpened!).

Fred has been a bit fragile this week, so was grateful for the less than usual mauling from our genial clue-writer.   Ginger was grateful  to have a proper Toughie to stretch her cryptic grey matter.  We wait to learn what others thought in due course.

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 Pentagon’s in regular form, as fever is breaking out all around 25? (4-6)
{FIVE-SQUARE} Double definition time – Insert the Latin word meaning ‘as’ into an anagram (breaking out) of FEVER IS.

6a Lab has denied origins down in Paris (1,3)
{A BAS} The French (as used in Paris) way of saying down is obtained by removing the origins or first letters of Lab and has.

10a Moderately irritated by mozzies, is deserting (5)
{MEZZO} The Italian word used in music to mean moderately is an anagram (irritated by) of MOZZIES once you have removed the I and S (is deserting).

11a Keeping close to Usain, his incredible strength gets man over the line (9)
{SHIPOWNER} A nice cryptic definition. Follow an anagram (incredible) of HIS with a word meaning strength, into which is inserted the ‘close’ or last letter of Usain

12a Scene in which heart’s moved, nursing little baby (7)
{SWEETIE} A synonym for scene or place has its middle two letters transposed (heart’s moved) and then an informal way of saying little or tiny inserted.

13a North American house with rumoured 50 Cent entrée? (7)
{ARAPAHO} A Native American tribe sounds like (rumoured) how someone might say that a ‘singer’ like 50 Cent had entered the house!  [As Qix quite correctly points out, the singer goes ahead of, or is the entrée, to the abbreviation for house, but I quite like the sound of my explanation –   I was thinking along the lines of Westward Ho!]


14a ‘Oops!’ said, maybe, abruptly clumped? (6-1-5)
{BOOMPS A DAISY} A lovely &Lit to give us an expression used to apologise when bumping into someone accidently. An anagram of OOPS SAID and MAYB[e] (abruptly is the instruction to remove the last letter).

18a One repeatedly firing piece of American bread (12)
{PUMPERNICKEL} Someone who fires bullets rapidly and repeatedly plus an American coin (piece of American).



21a Old ____ used it to slash, and copper’s rubbed ____ in wound (7)
{CUTLASS} A short broad sword used by old sailors. The first ‘dash’ is a way of referring to an experienced sailor. This should be reversed (wound here meaning turn) and inserted between the chemical symbol for copper and an S (because the clue says ‘copper’s).



23a Hefty feller, US writer, receives open country kiss (7)
{POLEAXE} Insert some arable grassland (open country) and the single letter we use to denote a kiss, into an American writer of, amongst other things, tales of mystery and the macabre.

24a For me, maybe, Tommy Cooper with side-splitting larks, that’s hysterical (4,5)
{ROCK OPERA} An anagram (that’s hysterical) of COOPER and the middle letters of lARKs (side-splitting being a clever way of telling you that the outside letters are ‘splitting’ or leaving).

25a Not a queen for backing the country? (5)
{NIGER} A reversal of the Latin word for queen, minus the A at the end produces a West African country.

26a Former Aussie rockers cut short by maiden, a cheeky young thing (4)
{MINX} Follow the single letter used to denote a Maiden over in cricket with almost all of the name of an old Australian rock group. Fred feels it worth showing a picture of Ginger at school. [Fred is going to find if he keeps on like this, he will be back to solo dance turns before he knows it!]

Minnie the Minx


27a In Wetherspoon establishment at opening, non-boozer is first to be rejected (10)
{JETTISONED} Insert into the two initials with precede Wetherspoon when referring more formally to the chain of drinking establishments , firstly the initial letter of Establishment (at opening), next the two letters used to say that one doesn’t drink alcohol, IS (from the clue) and, finally, the first number.


1d To keep from sustenance is not that much of a mishap (6)
{FAMISH} Hidden in part (not much) of oF A MISH ap.

2d Councillor of state that’s repeatedly suppressing king (6)
{VIZIER} Two abbreviations each meaning that is (that’s) followed by (suppressing) the abbreviation meaning king in Latin.

3d Senor’s enthralling discussion, bound to lead on to inspiration for one writing words of love song (6,8)
{SMOOTH OPERATOR} The two letter abbreviation for Senor, into which is inserted a debate (discussion), a word meaning bound or jump, and the Muse of Love Poetry (inspiration for one writing words of love). Ginger does like a crossword with a clue where you can sing along as you solve!

  ARVE Error: need id and provider

4d Provincial master in trouble, having broken short bone (9)
{ULSTERMAN} Someone from one of the Provinces of the United Kingdom – Insert an anagram (in trouble) of MASTER into most all of one of the bones of the forearm (short bone) .

5d Take a sweet drink to accompany a yoghurty dish (5)
{RAITA} R (take, as used on prescription forms) A (from the clue) and a sweet alcoholic drink combine to make a yoghurty dish which accompanies a curry.

7d Visit from outer space to wrap reportedly new jersey for blue-eyed boy? (8)
{BENJAMIN} The youngest  of the sons of Jacob , supposedly favoured more by Joseph on his return (blue-eyed boy?)  – How one might land when on a visit from outer space (originally attributed to Star Trek!) into which is inserted the abbreviation for New Jersey (reportedly ‘new jersey’ sounds like New Jersey).

8d Rock solid apprentice reporter initially finding work at New York Times (8)
{SARDONYX} The initial letters of Solid Apprentice Reporter, an adverb meaning work in the sense of activity, the abbreviation for New York and the mathematical symbol used in multiplication sums to mean times.


9d NHS freeloading is criminal but offence is not taken (2,4,8)

15d I refuse to accept edited copy for one seeking favour (9)
{SYCOPHANT} An informal contraction of part of a verb meaning I refuse or I won’t, into which is inserted an anagram (edited) of COPY.

16d Play guitar outside of training college range (8)
{SPECTRUM} Insert into a verb meaning to play the strings of a guitar, firstly the abbreviation used when referring to ‘training’ lessons at school, and secondly the abbreviation for College.

17d Flash inset for notice that’s different typeface? (8)
{EMOTICON} Insert an informal way of saying a flash or very short period of time into an anagram (that’s different) of NOTICE to get one of those different symbols used in place of words, particularly by Kath when she’s exasperated. :roll:

19d Twittering judge’s lead for now restraining golden retriever? (6)
{JARGON} A noun meaning twittering, chatter or gibberish. The first letters (lead) of Judge and Now with the name of the vessel used in the search for the Golden Fleece inserted.

20d Suddenly get angry on gaining access to the kids? (3,3)
{SEE RED} Insert the two letters used, particularly in email subject lines, to mean ‘on, into a word meaning offspring (the kids).

22d Riddle: divide fourth prime by first square and subtract any number (5)
{SIEVE} Insert the first number into the fourth prime number, and then take away the final letter of that number (which just happens to be N, used as an abbreviation for number).


Thanks to Elgar for the Friday entertainment, even if some of the explaining took longer than the solving of the relevant clues! Ginger’s off for a restorative cup of tea while Fred gets on with his OU essay.

34 comments on “Toughie 989

  1. Excellent stuff, very enjoyable.

    In 13ac, I think that the wordplay is HO for house, preceded by (entrée) the alleged homophone of “someone like 50 cent”.

      1. …although if Mr Cent had pronounced it hhimself, it would have an altogether different connotation.

  2. You always know it’s going to be a bugger of a puzzle when the explanations are more than 2 lines and you have to read them twice before the pfennig finally drops. Printed this off to do in the summer (tomorrow afternoon between 2:00 & 5:00).

    Thanks to Elgar & the twinkling twosome.

  3. His sharpened stake has pierced my self confidence and replaced it with humility. Got there eventually. Cannot even begin to think of favourites, however as always a brilliant puzzle. Thank you Fred and Ginger for your review which I certainly needed to explain some of the wordplay and to Elgar for his excellence.

  4. Absolutely superb yet certainly do-able even for those of us less gifted cruciverbalists. Many thanks to Elgar and to our terpsichorean duo for a splendid toughie and review.

  5. Last time I commented on an Elgar I compared him to Mick McManus-the man you love to hate- who promptly died, so who to compare him to today? Piers Morgan? Brian Blessed? The list is endless, however a great puzzle and a much appreciated review from the twinkle-toed twosome.

  6. Excellent fare on offer today even though it took two sittings to complete, favourites for me were 3d 7d 11a and 24a thanks to Elgar and to Fred and Ginger for the comprehensive dissection.

  7. I’m being thick! I do not see how 25a. (Niger) becomes QUA in 1a. OK so 25 is 5 squared, but what about the “d”.

    1. Those three letters come from a Latin word meaning “in the capacity of” (ablative singular feminine form of QUI).

  8. Thanks to Elgar and to the dynamic duo for the review and hints. I managed to get 5d, but the rest of it is a closed book to me. I’m sure that this is a good puzzle, so l’ll persevere with the hints to see if I can learn something. I’m amazed that anyone can solve it, yet alone set it!

  9. I still do not like the explanation for 1a. The answer is there in 25 = five square. Why bother about a Latin insert?

    I enjoyed the rest of the puzzle. Now for the back page. Off to sit in some welcome sunshine to tackle it.

    1. The Latin bit is part of the wordplay; QUA in an anagram of FEVER IS.

      There are two definitions in the clue, one on each side of the wordplay.

  10. I have just wasted an hour or two of my life attempting this. I should have known better!

    I find Elgar’s surface readings to be lacking a certain je ne sais quoi! For me definitely a Toughie (not Fluffy) but more than a little bit Scruffy.

    Thanks to all … from a Bad Loser!

    (I’m desperately searching for the quote that says something like “… a good cryptic crossword clue should never read like a cryptic crossword clue”)

    1. I’m surprised you say that about the surface readings. I think that the surfaces in this puzzle are very good.

      1. A propos surface readings: can anyone explain the function of “For me” in 24a and “reportedly” in 7d?
        But a great puzzle. I particularly enjoyed the neat 12a and the clever 22d.

        Thanks to Elgar and F&G.

        1. I don’t know if it’s possible to put one’s head above the parapet from the naughty step, but I reckon that in 24a, “me” refers to the solution, with “maybe” indicating a definition-by-example. “For (in order to get) me (the solution,) {def-by-example} maybe, {wordplay}” is how I see the construction.

          In 7d, I think that “reportedly” is a sneaky way of avoiding the capitalisation of New Jersey. I’m not entirely convinced by that one, but “visit from outer space” made me smile a lot.

          1. Thanx Qix – I’ll buy the NJ/nj one but for me “for me” seems a tad superfluous!

            1. It’s really just an alternative form of wording. It could have been, “For Tommy, say”. The wording is slightly more complex, but works in exactly the same way “for me”.

              1. OK, it’s partly a matter of personal taste. But Elgar does get stick for writing clues that are needlessly complex and I think that this is one of them. The word play is superb – “side-splitting” is original and witty and the anagrind and fodder are perfectly suited – then “for me” he goes and spoils it with an unnecessarily complex definition. Whatever is wrong with simply “Maybe it’s Tommy…”?
                Sorry folks – angels on pinheads!

  11. Well, if that’s Elgar being fluffy, I won’t bother trying when he’s got his hobnails on! Thanks for the hints, but this was so difficult I was only able to get 7 more answers. I actually solved 16d myself after I had all the checkers, and the rest I had to look up.

  12. Completed half this morning and the rest (mainly lower half ) just now .would never have solved without lots of checking letters .Now to fully understand the wordplay of a few ( I hope) .Favourite 3d .
    Thanks very much for the review and perhaps to Elgar too .

  13. Well, after an awfully long time, that even included a contemplative walk along the beach, we eventually got the whole thing finished. However there were a couple, eg 5d where we had not parsed the word-play completely. Needed to use electronic assistance for the last half dozen or so. A real challenge for us.
    Thanks Elgar and F and G.

        1. Halfway through, with MEZZO and the multiple Js, I thought it would be a double pangram, but it wasn’t quite.

          1. Posting an answer is too much information!!! Some of us are still working on the puzzle.

            1. Apologies.

              I had thought that everyone would have solved it by now, particularly if they were reading the blog, but I shouldn’t have mentioned the answer.

              I’ll be on the naughty step if anyone wants me.

  14. Well, for me this is more roughie than fluffy. I put it to one side after a fruitless hour that yielded four answers. Hopefully, fresh eyes tomorrow may help. Or, since there is apparently a study out that says alcohol is better than coffee for creativity, I might break out the malt.

  15. I will NEVER understand Elgar’s clues, let alone see how anyone ever gets an answer from them. I have learnt an awful lot from this wonderful blog but this is something that I think will just be consigned to the ‘too clever for me’ bit of my brain.
    Oh, and how could I not use it? :roll:
    With thanks to Elgar and Fred and Ginger.

    1. Several of the clues here would be pretty standard back-page fodder. 9d, for example, is very straightforward. Ditto 19d and 20d. 22d, though beautifully constructed, is really simple, especially with the definition separated from the wordplay by a colon.

      Those clues would give plenty of checking letters for the SE quadrant, giving a good start to the puzzle. Sometimes, getting just one clue can be the key to solving the whole puzzle. Get the “low-hanging fruit” first, and the rest becomes much easier.

      Despite what some think, the setter *wants* you to solve the clues. If it weren’t for the challenge involved, there’d be no point in cryptic crosswords.

      1. I do agree with your last sentence. Several years ago, I decided that Elgar wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble if he hadn’t wanted us to solve his crosswords, so I perservated and perservated and look at me now!

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