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Toughie 1217

Toughie No 1217 by Elgar

For the man without whom…*

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

It has been six weeks since we had a visit from Vlad the Impaler and he makes a welcome return with a right proper Toughie.  Took a while to get going – I had a couple of clues solved and then stared at the grid for longer than it took me to solve Tuesday’s ‘Toughie’!.  Once I got on to Elgar’s ‘wavelength’ it slowly but surely all fell into place.  Lots of clever sneakiness in the clues and so,  even if  I incur the wrath of the “favourites police”, I’m going to go ahead and admit that I have five favourites today.

Thank you once again to Elgar – I hope we don’t have to wait so long for the next one.

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           Status checks, for Spooner is forming an impression of The Times (4-6)
{DATE STAMPS}   Start with a status or condition and follow it with a word meaning checks in the sense of stifles or deadens.   The inclusion of Reverend Spooner in the clue indicates that we should swap the first two letters of the first word with the first letter of the second word  to produce an impression of ‘times’  quite often put on letters received or official documents.

date stamp (2)


6a           See 10

9a           Zip by mine entrance for plant (2-3)
{OX-EYE}   Zip is slang for nothing or zero, so the letter that looks like a zero should be followed by the letter used in multiplication sums  to mean ‘by’ or ‘times’  and a mine entrance (a new definition for me so thank you BRB)  to get a type of daisy.

ox eye

10, 2 & 6               ‘Dark Enthronee’ dispensed with shining? That’s novel (9,3,4,4)
{HENDERSON THE RAIN KING}   I will admit that, once I had several checking letters and the name of the author in 23/15, I did investigoogle to make sure I had solved the anagram correctly.  An anagram of DARK ENTHRONEE and SHINING produces a novel by 23/15.   Nice reference to the Impaler in the wording of the clue and interesting to note our setter’s new title  in the solution! 

12a         Great enjoyment that’s sweet, healthy — and hourly? (1,5,2,1,4)
{A WHALE OF A TIME}  The first two letters are an informal way of saying ‘that’s sweet’*, followed by a word meaning healthy, and then an expression meaning relating to a measure such as an hour.  *Not a definition found in the BRB but it is fairly well recognised as an informal interjection meaning ‘that’s sweet’.

a whale of a time

14a         Done  getting past first of perils — and fire projected? (3-5)
{PAN-FRIED}   Cooked in a particular way (done) –  The ‘first’ of Perils followed by an anagram (projected) of AND FIRE.  A reference to a saying connected with certain cooking equipment and a fire.

15a         See 23 Down

17a         Coolness shown by a lead actor making entrance (6)
{APLOMB}   A (from the clue) followed by the chemical symbol for lead,  into which is inserted the surname of the actor especially remembered as the long suffering Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films.

Herbert Lom

19a         Grandma, on suffering reverse,   stifles pong — unlike us (3-5)
{NON-HUMAN}   A reversal (suffering reverse) of both  an informal way of referring to one’s grandma and ON (from the clue)  into which is inserted a slang term for a strong, unpleasant smell (stifles pong).

21a         Framed by dodgy FBI mugshot, lag does time, initially writing book (9,4)
{HUMBOLDTS GIFT}  Another book by the author in 23/15.   An anagram (dodgy) of FBI MUGSHOT which ‘frames’ the initial letters of Lag Does Time.  Although it is necessary to investigoogle to make sure that you have both book titles correct, the anagrams are fairly straightforward once you have a few checking letters so I won’t grump too much.

24a         Failure to notice   the supervisor’s remit concerning great deal (9)
{OVERSIGHT}  A preposition meaning on the subject of (concerning) and an informal term for a great deal combine to give us a word with two definitions:  a failure to notice something;  or supervision – the supervisor’s remit.

25a         Give backing to unsubstantial southern Republic (5)
{SYRIA}   S (southern) followed by the reversal (back) of another way of saying unsubstantial or weightless.

26a         Crown removed, old 6’s gone berserk (4)
{NUTS}   Remove the ‘crown’ or first letter from a way of saying belonging to  the old King,  (old 6’s ) probably best known for an apocryphal story about turning back the waves of the sea.

27a         No brainer, so moving to get nearer club (10)
{UNCEREBRAL}   An anagram (moving to get) of NEARER CLUB produces an adjective meaning not involving much deep thinking.


1d           We set off: destination is our native Dublin? (4)
{DION}   The Christian name of a former England footballer with the surname Dublin is also the initial letters (we set off)  of Destination Is Our Native.  My last one in – it took me ages to spot the obvious!

2d           See 10

3d           Barker on box introduces Mod broadcast, engulfed by leggy birds — heavenly bodies! (8,5)
{SHEPHERD MOONS}  Bodies on the edge of planetary belts.   Probably the most famous Blue Peter pet (barker on box – wonderful definition!) followed by some leggy birds into which is inserted an anagram (broadcast) of MOD.

4d           One’s inclination is to intercept  Greek with basic weakness (8)
{ACHILLES}   Insert an inclination or slope into the name given to a playing card with only one ‘spot’  and an S (one’S)  to get the young Greek demigod who was invulnerable in all of his body apart from his heel.  (Another great definition).


5d           Part of joint on floor, a little bit left (5)
{PINKO}  Someone with slightly left-wing political leanings –   the projecting part of a dovetail  joint followed by a verb meaning to ‘floor’ as when a boxer is rendered unconscious on the floor.

7d           Yet to declare act as teacher? (7)
{INSTILL}   Split 2, 5, this verb meaning to gradually impart knowledge might be used to say that a cricket team was continuing to bat and had yet to declare.

8d           In pub, it’s drunk disguised in green wig (6,4)
{GINGER WINE]   An anagram (disguised) of IN GREEN WIG.

ginger wine

11d         Practise contraception?   Apparently, politicians do, when asked (5,3,5)
{EVADE THE ISSUE}   What politicians tend to do when asked a leading  question could be a description of the point of the use of contraception.

13d         End of descent after climbing Mont Blanc et al proven to arrest onset of dementia (10)
{SPLASHDOWN }  A reversal (after climbing) of the geographical features of which Mont Blanc is an example,  followed by a verb meaning proven,  into which is inserted the first letter (arrest onset) of Dementia.


16d         Sweet compiler, better than the rest, perishing early (8)
{NOISETTE}  A chocolate made from hazelnuts –   Split 2, 1, 5 it could be  an expression fans of Elgar might use to say that he is the top crossword complier with its last letter removed.


18d         Composer left warning sign before end of street (7)
{LAMBERT}   The abbreviation for Left, a warning light or sign and the final letter of streeT.   Not sure which composer Elgar is referring to – an investigoogle brings up several names.

20d         With more experience, engaged in thwarting crime (diamonds stolen) (7)
{MATURER}   Take a terrible  crime, remove  the D (diamonds stolen) and insert a preposition meaning engaged in.

22d         Day I drink and eat! (3,2)
{DIG IN}   The abbreviation for Day, I (from the clue) and a particular alcoholic drink.

23d & 15a Writer who’s terribly blue, with skin of pale yellow (4,6)
{SAUL BELLOW}  Insert an anagram (terribly) of BLUE into a description of skin that is an unhealthy  pale yellowish colour.


*A message from Elgar reads:

 “The puzzle is to the memory of my dad, DION LAMBERT HENDERSON, who died on March 25 2014.  It was he who got me into crosswords; it was he who first wrote to then-editor Val Gilbert with samples of my puzzles, pre-Araucaria, when I was 11.”  

12 comments on “Toughie 1217

  1. Great to have Elgar back – thanks to him for a real challenge and to CS for the review. My favourite must be 3d because I spent ages trying to parse it with ‘Barker on box’ being RON(nie) before the Blue Peter penny dropped.

  2. Good stuff with lots to admire, favourites were 3d 11d and 17a. What a lovely tribute to John’s dad. thanks to Elgar and to CS for the dissection.

  3. Such fun! Bravo Elgar, many thanks to CS for the explanations,and I agree with Pegasus that this is a wonderful tribute to Elgars father.So next time we find ourselves cursing the impaler we know who was responsible for starting it all.

  4. Brilliant toughie and a wonderful tribute, many thanks to Elgar and to CS for the usual superb review.

  5. Smashing puzzle and a delightful tribute which obviously I was unaware of when solving ,so the odd curse rescinded .
    Thanks Elgar and CS

  6. We had the time available yesterday to devote to this puzzle and feel very pleased that we managed to complete and parse everything. Needed a bit of investigoogling with titles once we had found the author but see we were not alone in this. Truly moved to read that it was a tribute to setters father. Very challenging and very satisfying.
    Thanks Elgar and CS.

  7. What a surprise that Elgar has been awarded full marks today.

    But the surface readings are atrocious! All his clues look like “cryptic crossword clues”

    I just do not understand why this compiler is so revered.

    Unfortunately, not my cuppa … but “chacun a son goût”

  8. Definitely *****/***** for me; this took ages to solve; my favourite was 16 down. My last one in was 1 down. I’m glad we don’t have an Elgar puzzle like this one every week, though, as they take so long to work out !

  9. Oh, well….10 answers is better than no answers, I suppose. On that basis, I can’t say I enjoyed this, but hats off to CS and those stalwarts who managed to see it through.

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