Toughie 1265 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1265

Toughie No 1265 by Elgar

Watch out! Vlad’s back

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

Here’s a puzzle for those who have been complaining that the recent Toughies have not come up to the mark. Although not as ferociously difficult as some of his puzzles, at least Elgar offers value-for-money.

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    American set returning to put heart into Morecambe but boo Blackpool (4,4)
BOOB TUBE: This word that Americans allegedly use for a TV set has a rather different meaning here in the UK (and one that is easier to illustrate!) and is cunningly hidden (put heart into) and reversed (returning) inside the clue

What a pity this was not the definition, but let’s have a picture anyway!

5a    Hot temper witnessed outside Public Library (6)
SPLEEN: a verb meaning witnessed around the abbreviation for P(ublic) L(ibrary)

9a    V is for ‘voice recognition’ (I will go second) (5,3)
AFTER YOU: this sounds (for voice recognition) like where the letter V can be found in the alphabet

10a    Incantation attractive woman cut short (6)
MANTRA: start with a colloquial word for an attractive woman and drop the final letter (cut short)

11a & 12a    Perhaps to the nearest thousand fashionable Tuck-like folk? (2,5,7)
IN ROUND FIGURES: this phrase which describes numbers that are quoted in, say, thousands is a charade of a two-letter word meaning fashionable and two words that describe the physique of people like Friar Tuck

12a    See 11 Across

13a    Description of war: ‘Barbarian and costly’ — prepared to join up, not to have advanced (7-4)
HUNDRED-YEAR: this technically inaccurate description of a war that lasted from 1337 to 1453 is derived from a three-letter barbarian and an adjective meaning costly around (to join up) an adjective meaning prepared or geared up without (not to have) the A(dvanced)

16a    Not in the cabinet, the rest of the MPs (4,7)
BACK BENCHES: a gentle cryptic definition of where those MPs who are not in the cabinet can be found seated

21a & 22a    Weavers giving gratuitous cusses — not tinker! (7,7)
DARNING NEEDLES: a phrase meaning giving gratuitous cusses (7,10) from which the surname of Christopher, the drunken tinker in William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, has been removed

22a    See 21 Across

23a    Raised at sea, not at home? That’s what I hear (6)
AWEIGH: this word which describes as an anchor that has just been raised from the bottom of the sea sounds like (that’s what I hear) a word meaning not at home

24a    Priest leads children through North American wine region (2,6)
LA MANCHA: a Buddhist priest followed by CH(ildren) inside the abbreviations for N(orth) and A(merica) gives a wine region in Spain

25a    First of the women & each respective sibling having left, identical girls carry on being demanding (6)
INSIST: start with a pair of identical girls and drop the initial letters T[he] W[omen] from the beginning and those of E[ach] R[espective] S[ibling] from the end

26a    Spooner’s talked about tall and slim No 1 singer (5,3)
PEGGY LEE: at last, a Spoonerism that has actually been used in the real world! – exchange the initial letters and this singer sounds like a description of someone who is tall and slim followed by a No 1 (thank goodness it was not a No 2!)

ARVE Error: need id and provider


1d    Country‘s extremities on view in mostly excellent film (6)
BRAZIL: two definitions for the price of one! – put the first and last letters of the alphabet inside most of a colloquial word for excellent

2d    What causes naughty up-country pun to be blue-pencilled? (6)
OUTCRY: an anagram (naughty) of U[P]-CO[UN]TRY after the letters of PUN have been removed (blue-pencilled)

3d    ‘Done a little time?’ Criminal comprehends that (7)
THROUGH: the two-letter abbreviation (little) of a period of time inside (comprehends that) a criminal or gangster

4d    Literally great place to boast about bonding, for a change (11)
BROBDINGNAG: this place inhabited by large people that was visited by Gulliver is derived from a verb meaning to boast around an anagram (for a change) of BONDING

6d    Employee of the police force, always superior in station, gets to act all-powerfully (4,3)
PLAY GOD: there has been much debate in Crosswordland recently about the use of the term “lift and separate”; originally used to describe what needs to be done here, it has now taken on the meaning of splitting dreadful one-word constructs into two parts, like “hasten” into “has ten” and “indeed” into “in deed” – lift and separate “employee of police” from “force” then put a slang word for a policeman around (in station) the abbreviation for gravitational force with a poetic word for always above (superior) to said force

7d    Put in something that’s vital? Now you depress me! (5,3)
ENTER KEY: combine a verb meaning to put in with something that is vital and you get a button that is frequently depressed on a computer

8d    Rescue boat: nothing has changed, rat having gone over (5,3)
NOAH’S ARK: this rescue boat is so corny that you can find it on my Usual Suspects page! – O (nothing) and an anagram (changed) of HAS inside (having gone over) a rat or informant

12d    Do without item before ‘la’ shows up? I had ‘hoop’ (11)
FARTHINGALE: a verb meaning to do or progress around (without – ouch!) an item and the reversal (up in a down clue) of LA to get a hooped petticoat, formerly worn under women’s skirts to extend and shape them

14d    A friend enjoyed not entirely ‘swinging’ capital city (3,5)
ABU DHABI: the A from the clue and an Americanism for a friend followed by most of a three-letter word meaning enjoyed and the two-letter word that means “swings both ways”

15d    Having nothing to show for wartime endeavours? (8)
SCARLESS: a weak cryptic definition of an adjective meaning not having been wounded or marked by warfare

17d    Manages to get over being Poet Laureate (7)
BRIDGES: two definitions – the second being an early 20th century (1913-1930) Poet Laureate

18d    Operation ‘Hen Bash’? (7)
SHEBANG: a hen or female followed by a bash or thump

19d    The interior of increasingly cold compound (6)
GLYCOL: hidden inside (interior of) the clue

20d    Leak view on the Web? (6)
ESCAPE: split as (1-5) this could, but doesn’t, indicate a view on the web

Not for the faint-hearted!

33 comments on “Toughie 1265

  1. Hooray from one who has been missing proper toughies for some time now.

    I really enjoyed the fight – although I should have been able to sort out the NW corner far earlier than I did, given the obviousness of the solutions/wordplay when you get them. It took me as long to solve that corner as it did the other three in total.

    Lots of lots of favourites so I won’t upset Kath and list them. The Spooner didn’t make me groan either, which is a nice change for one of them.

    5*/5* from me and a big thank you to Elgar and BD.

  2. I enjoyed this one very much, favourite were 1a 6d and 21&22a thanks to Elgar and to Big Dave for the unravelment.

  3. Wonderful stuff. Many thanks to Elgar , and BD for the explanations to 21/22ac and 6dn – a Wonderbra clue indeed. Favourite has to be 26ac.

  4. I can pretty nearly echo Crypticsues’ sentiments even down to the new corner, a superb toughie! Many thank to Elgar and to DT for a terrific review. I loved 1a and 24a.

  5. I can pretty much echo Crypticsues’ and BigBoabs sentiments too, although my last to parse was 21 22a until the Penny dropped re the Tinker. Thanks to BD and Elgar

  6. Way too hard for me. After what I’d call **** time, I had three answers ! After using the hints for about half the rest, I “finished” it, if that’s a valid description…

    I also had the answer for 16a immediately, but it seemed too simple to be correct , so didn’t put it in :(

  7. We managed to get the whole grid filled correctly but failed to understand all the wordplay for 6d, 21a, and 25a. It had all taken us quite a long time so decided to leave it at that stage. A real challenge for us and we are pleased to get as far as we did.
    Thanks Elgar and BD.

  8. Usual stuff here. In two hours the ‘star” rating has gone down from 4-and-a-bit to 2-and-a-bit; comments have gone up by two, raters have gone up by ten.

    Too many people only too pleased to give negative ratings, but not big enough to say why.

    Over the last week or so (partly as a result of the publication of a tribute puzzle in the FT on Wednesday), I’ve had personal correspondence with a number of other setters, many newer to this game than I am, who are completely brassed off by (let’s face it) unthinking, insensitive so-called solvers who put a puzzle down without thinking about the work that’s gone into writing it..

    Result: stifling of talent.

    If you aren’t going to be constructive, don’t bother even visiting.

    Many thanks to those who did comment constructively on what is after all billed as a “toughie”, your comments are always valuable, and they are always noted.


    1. John

      I think the comments on this site are usually positive and constructive – the other site you alluded to does tend to be inhabited by a large number of crossword loonies with inflated opinions of their own importance.

      As far as the ratings are concerned, I have removed them from the Front Page and the Archive Pages, so now only those who have looked at the review can set a rating. It will be interesting to see what happens in future.

    2. John, perhaps a slightly different perspective.
      We have been regular commenters on this blog for a couple of years now and in all of that time have never clicked on a star rating. It has not seemed to us to be a relevant part of the process and we are surprised to find out that setters put any significance on what is put there.
      We suspect that we are not the only ones who operate in this way.
      We are huge admirers of the skills of the setters and welcome the diversity that different setters bring to our daily dose of pleasure. It saddens us to think that our failure to click on this part of the site has given negative feedback to any of you very special people.
      Kind Regards.

    3. On more than one occasion recently, I have rated a puzzle and then returned to the blog later to find that the rating has disappeared and it shows no votes at all. So the system is a far from accurate reflection of what solvers who remember to click on the stars actually think.

    4. John quite honestly the ratings mean nothing. The comments, as BigBoab , 2Kiwis et al are what matter most. See you in York soon , i’ll get you a pint, I 25a ;)

  9. I was completely stumped ( only 6 answers), but then I often am by Elgar in high gear. C’est la guerre. I had limited time today, but even so I put my failure down to me, not the setter. Like the 2Kiwis, I rarely click on the star ratings and even more rarely do I add my difficulty/enjoyment assessment to my comments because it’s very subjective to my mind. One woman’s meat…

    And like the 2Kiwis, and many others who actually take the time comment, I value the hard work of all the setters. Big Dave’s blog cannot be held responsible for the judgment of the lurkers who take advantage of the review but never reveal themselves.

    And lastly–and as a professional writer I know this to be true–when you put your work into the public domain to be critiqued by others, you have to develop a thick skin. Some days, it seems as if it’s a thankless task. Some days, you hit the jackpot.

  10. Excellent puzzle – again.

    21a-22a kept me staring longer than most, even though obvious when the penny (eventually) dropped.

    Toughen up JH – since John Graham died you are the doyen of cryptics. Surely you don’t need to be told that endlessly. When the Beatles were top of their game they still copped flak from progrockers and oldsters who wanted Glen Miller or skiffle to come back etc. JG ignored the flak on the blogs (much of which was part of the ximconspiracy) – so should you.

    I think in general that blog comments don’t reflect the view of the broader solvership – although I’ve no idea how the latter can be measured.

    BTW (I’m sure I’m not alone in this) – I’ve never clicked the star rating thing – I don’t even know how to – maybe my Firefox set-up hides it – dunno.

  11. star ratings schmar ratings. Some bloke in the Express gave Rooney a 9 against Montenegro, for Gawd’s sake

  12. Thanks guys for the support, as usual some lovely comments here.

    I’m not really “obsessed” about the star rating and I’m big enough and ugly enough (sorry, BD, I’m training up) to take flak where, with reason, it’s given. I’m more worried about newer and gifted younger setters (I can count four in recent weeks) who do note such “star” feedback, and who have been unthinkingly slated on the various blogging boards (NB not necessarily here) for clues that are perfectly sound, if only solvers would stop to think about them for a little longer. It always makes me cross when a blogger/commenter says that a clue is bad just because s/he doesn’t understand it

    Cheers, all – thanks again,


    1. Young Mr Warder took a battering on another site for what I thought was a very inventive Monday Indy puzzle. I cringed at the comments and really felt for him.

      1. Someone once told me that the only opinions that matter are those of people you respect – and certainly, for me, the majority of those commenting on the unmentionable other site do not fit in that category (with the notable exceptions of crypticsue, pommers and a handful of others).

        1. I very rarely comment on that site these days because of some of the other comments. Just restrict myself to puzzles I have really enjoyed.

          1. Greetings from over the pond!

            I can echo the comments of m’learned friends and keep telling young Elgar till I’m blue in the face that most of the bods at the inferior site are self-important twerps, hence my lack of posting there. The danger of encouraging them is manifest.

            Very enjoyable puzzle yesterday tackled in a splendid coffee shop with a three-cheese panini watching the squirrels play in the sunshine outside.

            Sadly back to the humdrum Calder Valley on Monday night, but taking home so many utterly splendid memories of a great trip.

  13. May I add a comment from very much further down the ladder of solvers. I want to improve my skills and often take the opportunity to ‘use’ the Toughies as a training exercise. I fill in whatever I can and then use the hints/answers from this excellent blog to discover whether I was on the right track and, if not, why not.
    I have the most enormous respect for the setters and wish to thank them all for the pain and pleasure their hard work provides. For myself – and I would suspect many others who post comments – the ratings I give offer a reflection of my ability on that particular puzzle, rather than a comment on the standard of the setter.
    I think no-one should lose sight of the fact that we all do these puzzles because we enjoy solving them – surely that’s the most important thing?

    1. I’m probably further down the ladder , “I think no-one should lose sight of the fact that we all do these puzzles because we enjoy solving them – surely that’s the most important thing?”
      too true, you hit the nail on the head

  14. Got back from Paris this evening and decided to have a go at the toughie. Very enjoyable brain teaser. I got 21a because for me giving cuss was darning and the needles I guessed from weavers. Didn’t get the tinker bit. It was the same for 2d which I guessed right also. Had to look up the answers to 26a and I was glad that this spoonerism wasn’t saucy like the one about the athlete and his cunning stunts. Totally lost over 4d. I was looking for some kind of book place but the ending was as surreal as swift’s universe. And to finish 13a was a non starter. Thanks to big Dave for the light. And to Elgar.

  15. Away in Beaumaris for the weekend and computerless , back today to check the blog. A dual effort with Mrs Beaver, thought it was very difficult ,so relieved with the **** rating, managed to complete it but needed the blog for the tinker omission-thanks BD, and also for Peggy’s N0 1! it was enjoyable and satisfying thanks setter.

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