Toughie 1125 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1125

Toughie No 1125 by Elgar


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

Greetings from the Calder Valley.  Sorry I have been missing for the past few weeks, I’ve been getting ready for forthcoming surgery which happens next week.  And I return to the sound of the hobnailed boots from the crossword equivalent of Mark Labbett, the Cruciverbal Beast, Elgar.

After the past couple of his puzzles have been benign, I found this a really tough challenge, back to his ferocious best and after some relatively gentle Toughies this week, this was right up there at the top end of the scale. I managed most of the bottom half of the grid, and then really struggled with the remainder.  Some of the phrases used in the puzzle were new to me as well, which didn’t help. But this is where the Toughie lives up to its name, and long may it continue to do so.  Thanks to Jon Delfin in New York and Madame Crypticsue for putting me right about a couple, including 11 – I had that one wrong! There were a couple of answers today which were abbreviations and were shown as (3) which was a little confusing.

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.


8a           Rider of the waves not left in its wake — thrilling! (5-3)
{WATER-SKI}  We start with an anagram type clue.  An accessory for travelling on the oceans is found by making an anagram (thrilling) of ITS WAKE.  Inside this goes the opposite of left, shown by “not left”.

9a           After split, prig withdraws from astonishing offensive (6)
{ODIOUS}  Here you need to find a ten letter word that means astonishing  and remove the letters of PRIG to give something that means offensive or nasty.

10a         With adversary going out for one little man (3)
{RON} Sometimes, you can’t see the wood for the trees!  If you remove a word meaning enemy or adversary from FOR ONE, you get a shortened man’s name.

11a         John will shepherd you back through mountain pass to another tall guy (5-3)
{ALLEY-OOP}  Here’s where I came to grief.    A type of pass in basketball.  Inside a word for a (European) mountain goes a word for a toilet and inside that is an old way of saying you reversed.   I was struggling with this and as it was the last one I put it into one of my search engines and came up with a similar word with a ‘Z’ as the central letter.

12a         Gently influence beloved to fill clubs with beer (6)
{CAJOLE}  A Scottish word that means beloved goes inside C (clubs) and a word meaning beer, and this will lead you to a word that implies to persuade gently.

13a         Engulfing street, time engineer finally takes to suppress oil (9,6)
{WHISTLER’S MOTHER}  The name of a famous painting whose formal name is ‘Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 ‘ is revealed by taking a word for a short time, and the final letter of engineer, inserting ST (street)  and then adding something that means to suppress or stifle.  Here’s an up-to-date version….

Whistlers Mother


15a & 18a             Main job of the Miss World judges, by which success of the show is gauged (7,7)
{VIEWING FIGURES}   A double definition with cryptic leanings in both bits.  What may be seen as the job of a judge in a beauty contest cryptically is the measure of success for any televised show.

21a         Involved in a crash, was obit: ‘A supporter of oversea workers’? (10,5)
{BOATSWAIN’S CHAIR}  A way of supporting someone who needs to work on the masts of a ship is found by making an anagram (involved) of IN A CRASH, WAS OBIT.

Bosun's chair

24a         Layers in such nationalist splits Nehru contrived (3,3)
{HEN RUN}  A location for some domestic animals that produce eggs is shown by unscrambling NEHRU (contrived) and inserting N (nationalist).

25a         An instant credit, a small irritation? (3,5)
{TWO TICKS)  A way of describing a short period of time is cryptically described as a pair of definitions that lead to the same word: one for credit and the other something that can cause you a nasty irritation after it bites you.

26a         Future leader of police investigation dept 601? (3)
{DCI}  This is one of the two abbreviations in the puzzle.  The abbreviated job title for someone who is the second in command of a team of murder investigators is revealed by working out the Roman numeral for 601.

27a         Monroe tragically dead (2,4)
{NO MORE}  An anagram (tragically) of MONROE gives you an expression meaning deceased.

28a         Hammed up, through and through (8)
{OVERDONE}  Something that means hammed up or hackneyed is found by putting together two definitions of the word through!


1d           All fractures may upset top specialist (6)
{WALLAH}   An word that originated in India, I think, for a head honcho is found by putting ALL inside the reverse of something that means May in the sense of a tree.

2d           Having beaten the odds, made once in the image of epic hero (6)
{AENEAS}  The name for a famous hero in the work of Virgil is found by taking the even letters (having beaten the odds!) from MADE ONCE and adding as short word meaning like or in the image of something.

3d           My thinking is forbidden about older whodunnits, but it’s likely (1,8,6)
{ I SHOULDN’T WONDER}  An anagram (about) of OLDER WHODUNNITS .  There are two definitions, the first a literal interpretation of the answer (my thinking is forbidden) and the second a colloquial phrase expressing the opinion that something is likely to happen.

4d & 20d              Novel for a trip into Italy, before first of calls to board? (7,7)
{AIRPORT FICTION}  Hadn’t heard of this phrase   This is an “&lit” clue where the whole thing sort of describes the answer, everything in clue is working to provide the indications.  An anagram (novel) of FOR A TRIP INTO is has I (Italy) and C (first of calls)

5d           Like private office, promoted earning percentage cut (3-12)
{NON-COMMISSIONED}  This generated debate.  My take is a description of someone in the army who is a private and gets promoted becomes this (I think!) type of officer.  Crypticsue’s  take on this is a word meaning a (home) office, reversed (promoted) with inside a way of saying earning a bonus percentage.  What do you think?  Let’s have a debate! You can vote by calling 0981887367463652525525525227900303 – calls will be charged at £198 a second, your home is at risk if you put a tin of petrol in a microwave and turn it on.  Full T&C’s from Big Dave’s Holiday Fund dot com.

6d           A Far Eastern art, it’s seen in one’s inscription of charm (3-5)
{JIU-JITSU}  A Japanese martial art is revealed by taking the name of an African charm inserting I (one) and then inserting ITS.

Jiu jitsu

7d           Sweet, faithful literary hound  master shot (5-3)
{BULLS-EYE}  A triple definition!  A type of sticky sweet is the name of famous Dickensian dog and also the goal of someone who’s an expert marksman.

Bulls eye



14d         Hair extensions not all the rage (3)
{IRE}  Hidden in HAIR EXTENSIONS is a word meaning anger.

16d         Debtor’s decrypted text to revered creditor? (1,4,3)
{I LOVE YOU}  If you are a debtor to someone you would write them this, and if you fancied them, you could express it like this!

17d         The last battle in court worried both sides (8)
{WATERLOO}  Inside a word meaning to court someone is a word meaning worried , plus R and L (both sides).  This gives the name of a famous battle.

19d         Messenger sending up an element of education (3)
{RNA}  One of the body’s ‘messengers’ is found by taking the name of one of the three things seen as a symbol of education and reversing it.

20d         See 4 down

22d         Vigorously, ‘Hear it Doc — no ECT shock treatment!’ (6)
{HAIRDO)  From the phrase “HEAR IT DOC” you remove ECT to get that name of something a treatment for your mane.

23d         Settling with a different currency, finally decide on Germany (2,4)
{IN KIND}    An expression meaning to go over pencil lines in a drawing once you have decided what you want to put followed by the IVR code for Germany.

Apologies for the briefness of the last part, my broadband went down mid- picture post and I’ve had to run round and copy things to disk and then post from the bridge club.  I’ll see you after surgery in a couple of weeks!

39 comments on “Toughie 1125

  1. At last a puzzle in the middle of the paper that fits the Toughie description. Thanks very much to Elgar for enabling me to get my cryptic teeth into something really tricky – lots of favourites but as I am actually supposed to be working now, I don’t suppose I had better list them!!

    Thanks to Tilsit for an interesting morning, and the explanations, and to Gazza for his helpful assistance too.

  2. Usual treat from Elgar, can’t fault it at all. Thanks to Elgar and to Tilsit, more of the same please!

  3. I nearly gave up on this one, but with a little cheating and a surge of inspiration, I managed to complete it.
    Thanks to Elgar for the immense challenge, and to Tilsit for the review.
    Is 13a parsing correct? I thought the first bit might be WHILE (time) R (engineer finally) containing (ST).

  4. Sorry but you have got 3 d wrong! It is, as you say, an anagram of “older whodunnits”.. Just recheck your across clues!
    Incidentally, I do resent the lack of apostrophe in13a.

    1. Apologies for the errors – Tilsit was working to a deadline and then his broadband crashed. I was working to a deadline and wasn’t as accurate in my checking as I should have been. All sorted now.

      Apostrophes and their inclusion or omission have long been the subject of debate in crosswordland.

  5. Finally got there and yes it was tough, I’ve got a different answer to the one shown in the blog for 3d.Thanks to Elgar and to Tilsit for the comments.

  6. My goodness was this not a real toughie? After the gentlest of weeks at last a real brain-basher. Too many favourites to list. Many thanks to Elgar and best wishes to Tilsit.

  7. Last one in for me was also 11a after quite some pondering and will make that my favourite amongst a host of challenges .
    Thanks to Elgar and best wishes for next week to Tilsit .

  8. 21a contains one of my pet hates that I wish crossword compilers would address. If an answer is hyphenated then the clue will indicate as much, but when the answer includes an apostrophe then it is ignored .. 21a should read (9’1,5) .. what do other people think? Is it just me being too pedantic?

    1. I’ve decided not to do Elgar compositions again .. no indication of apostrophes added to by my other pet hate — initials listed as words as per 26a and 19d .. it’s not toughie, it’s wrongie!

      1. All the daily cryptic crosswords (not just the Daily Telegraph) follow the convention of not including apostrophes in clue enumeration. Even if Elgar had included an apostrophe, the editor would have taken it away again.

        1. That’s not always the case, Crypticsue .. if the answer to a clue was D’Artagnan, for instance, it would be clued as (1’8) .. so if it can be included by editors when the apostrophe is at the start of the answer it can also be included at the end.

          1. Thanks to Crypticsue, Gazza and BD for rescuing me. Broadband is still off in my area and likely to be until Monday at the earliest, but have found an old dongle connection that works but has limited download limits.

            Having spoken to several crossword editors today, all are of the opinion that apostrophes are no longer required as a separate indication where it is a possessive i.e. as in 21.

            I don’t ever recall seeing D’Artagnan or similar clued as 1,8 – perhaps m’learned friend could give us some examples.

            The Toughie puzzle is supposed to be the Toughest in Fleet Street, and as someone who enjoys these challenges from those setters at that end of the scale, I hope they continue for a long time. I respect and enjoy most of the other setters in this series, some are a lot easier than others.

            This week has divided into three – Tuesdays and Thursday’s at the benign end of the scale, and were in truth not much harder than the daily puzzle, Wednesday’s was a good challenge as was today’s.

            I would hope that solvers will use the hints and persevere and understand where the setter is coming from and keep trying. We all have our favourite setters, but I’d far rather tackle an Elgar than the vapid anodyne guff thrown up by today’s Guardian for example.

            Perhaps you should address complaints about number indications to the Editors; in most cases the setters are following specific guidelines laid down by Editors. As I said, I think abbreviations should be shown as such but that should not apply to apostrophes.

            1. With respect to you and CS, I lean more towards WhirredPLAY’s stance on this. I felt particularly aggrieved by 3D, which certainly isn’t a possessive!

              I’m also unhappy about indicating a three-letter abbreviation (of which there were two) as 3 rather than 1-1-1. I can see an argument for that if it is an acronym, but these examples weren’t.

              I found this Toughie so difficult that I did what I could and then used this website (thanks, all!) as a learning tool. That’s fine, and I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t expect the enumerations to lie to me, though…

            2. Tilsit, I’m all for Tough puzzles and love the challenges posed by most Toughies (even the supposedly easier ones). I want the Toughies to remain, but they need to be constructed in a non misleading way (except for the deliberate red herrings in any clue). Having no apostrophe, or no indication of acronyms, are not part of the composition of the clue and should not form an additional challenge in determining the answer.

              And why stop at omitting the apostrophe? If the apostrophe is to be ignored, why bother with a hyphen or why bother indicating the answer is two or more words at all. Surely that amounts to the same thing as not indicating there should be an apostrophe?

              1. Like it or not, it’s the current practice of most crossword editors. I put the words to which you were objecting into Crossword Compiler and got the same results for the enumeration as that shown in this puzzle.

                In some puzzles, particularly barred puzzles, you are often told how many words there are in the answer but not the length of any.

                1. Thanks Big Dave. I’m sure it is common practice, but does that mean it is how it should be? By the way, did you try the answer ‘D’Artagnan’ in your Crossword Compiler as well as the ones in this grid?

                  Interestingly, there is a big debate about apostrophes in road signs in the Telegraph at the moment. Knowing the paper as I do after reading it for nigh on 30 years, I suspect the paper would be in favour of correct grammar usage there and in other public places, so I wonder why the crossword editor of the same paper is so dead set against using them?

                  1. Yes, I did try D’Artagnan, and i selected it from a list so that the program knew I meant the name – result was an enumeration of (9). This can however be manually overidden.

                    1. I refer my friends to 3 down in today’s wonderful Times puzzle. No apostrophe indicator.

                      Again, if m’learned friend feels so strongly about it, the Crossword Editor is extremely approachable and will no doubt respond. Why penalise a setter for sticking to the guidelines. I would perhaps ask for the abbreviated answers to be (3, abbr.) rather than (1,1,1), but either would be acceptable to me.

  9. No way, José! This one is way above my pay level. Time to slam dunk the ferret and If you get bandwidth on this, you’ve got maple syrup on your waffle at the get-go!

    Paraphrased from Twenty Twelve & I don’t understand them, much the same as this puzzle.

  10. Wow…………I found this fairly handy……..different strokes I guess………..four stars aside for me……..

  11. Thanks to Elgar and to Tilsit for the review and hints. I managed to solve eight clues, looked up the rest. Most of it incomprehensible.

  12. We were so close to giving up. However, after a cogitative walk along the beach, a lot more perservation and then a sneaky little bit of help from “Onelook” we finally got there. That was hard!
    Thanks Elgar and Tilsit

    1. I gave up as soon as I saw the name of the Compiler!

      Stayed for a little while … just in time to get the “easy” one.

  13. What a fab crossword providing a good few hours enjoyment! A nice variety of devices and a few phrases just on the right side of obscurity. 11a defeated me. 13a provided a delightful penny-drop moment as did 7 and 19d.

    Thanks to Elgar and Tilsit.

  14. Like Jezza I did have to cheat on this to assist in parsing a couple, but hey, why not. Thanks to Elgar and Tilsit et al

  15. A truly excellent puzzle. I struggled through to the end and finally managed to complete it, albeit with the help of aids. Re. 5d. I took it as Def. = ‘Like Private’, then ‘Office’ = Den (Rev) + ‘Earning Percentage’ = Non Commission. Thanks to Elgar and Tilsit for some much needed explanations.

  16. Cor, what a corker! Got there in the end with 13a and finally 1d [lovely clue]. Also rather liked 4/20d even tho I’m not sure what “to board” is doing there except to make the surface fit the solution.

    Agree with CSue re 5d – it’s “office” promoted, containing “earning percentage cut”, with “Like private” as the definition.

    Many thanks to Elgar and to Tilsit.

  17. Just finished it after returning to it periodically during the past couple of days. I had to Google 11 across, although there was an American song called Alley Oop many years ago. I didn’t know 4 and 20 down either, although it’s in the dictionary. Thanks again Elgar for a tremendous challenge, which was nevertheless fair. I appreciate the fact that during the week the puzzles represent a range of varying levels of difficulty; if they were all this tough they would take too much time to solve !

  18. First time I’ve joined the ‘Big Boys’ here and dared to comment.

    We swallow hard when we see that Elgar’s the compiler but feel duty bound to give it a go! Surprisingly, we did better (after almost a week – hence late comment) than we expected before we gave in and consulted Big Dave, but…

    …we’ve fretted and puzzled over the explanation for 19d. RNA we should have got as a messenger, but what’s this about ‘a reversed element of education’? Are we being dense – no penny will drop here.

    Help someone?!

        1. If you think that’s embarrassing you should see some of the stuff I’ve written! Even the bloggers don’t always get it right – eg the erroneous location of a certain European river is referred to from time to time…no names, no pack drill.

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