Toughie 1281 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1281

Toughie No 1281 by Elgar

Chaos is come again

Hints and tips by Fred and Ginger

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

Greetings from the Locarno Ballroom, Rhyl. Your terpsichorean twosome are running a Teach Granny to Dance session.  Fred’s really proud of Ginger’s endeavours in the recent Times Crossword Championship, though he suspects she’s struck Notabilis off her Christmas Card list!

Anyway, in between dancing sessions we tackled today’s Elgar and it is a lot tougher than most Toughies seem to be at the moment, though Elgar isn’t in full Toughie mood. Very enjoyable and no detectable theme, although a couple of pairs of answers are connected.

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.

Across Hints by Fred

1a & 9a                 For auditor to check its box, diamonds pass dealer here? (6,6)
TICKET OFFICE   We start with a phrase that refers to somewhere you’d buy a pass.    If something agrees you may be said to check its box, and a homophone of this provides the main body of the answer, plus an American slang word for diamonds.

4a           Pedal around quiet branch (8)
OFFSHOOT  Here’s Elgar at his most devious.   The word pedal does not refer to bicycles, but its Latin meaning, i.e. belonging to one of the extremities of the body (no, not that one, Mrs!)  Place this around what you’d say when telling someone to shut up and you get a word for a branch or sub-part of something.

9a           See 1a

10a         Of use in plot, is it heard from The Laughing Cavalier? (5,3)
DUTCH HOE  Something you’d use in a garden is a homophone for what you would hear out of the lips of the Laughing Cavalier, think about where he and the artist come from.

Laughing Cavalier

11a         Look out to the west, I’m alarmed by women in the area (4,5)
KEEP WATCH A phrase that means to look out is found by taking the noise or sound you make when alarmed, reverse it (to the west) and add the word for an area with W (women) inside.

13a         In education, soldiers present and correct (5)
EMEND  Inside the abbreviation for education goes the generic name for soldiers to give a word that means to correct.

14a         Parker may need to verify credentials of messenger, with talk going about and getting spread (3,3,7)
PAY AND DISPLAY  A two-letter word meaning to verify credentials of, the messenger that carries our genes, and a verb meaning to talk in a stupid, noisy way,  are all reversed (going about) and then  followed with a verb meaning to spread out, and then split 3, 3, 7.

Pay and Display

17a         Having the edge on, say, Iago ’s house and home, joining excursion (3-10)
OUT-VILLAINING  A Shakespearean word is needed here, for someone who is worse than Iago in Othello.  Inside the word for a trip goes the name of an (Italian) house plus what you are if you are at home.   Ginger chose the apt  subtitle for today’s review which is  a quotation she remembers from her English A-level studies of said play.

21a         Fleece stolen most recently from back row (3-2)
SET-TO  Thanks to my glamorous chum who worked out that you need to remove the outside letters (fleece)from an informal way of saying that something is the most recently stolen, and then reverse (from back) the result to give something that means a row or dispute.

23a         See 22 Down

24a         Height’s the attraction of the Tower of Pisa — people on them will have to go (3,5)
HIT LISTS  The name for what an assassin may carry to remind him who to bump off.  The abbreviation for height, plus the thing that makes the Leaning Tower of Pisa attractive to tourists.

25a & 27a To make things worse, one’s following subjects around the Sunshine State (3,3,6)
FAN THE FLAMES  An expression that means to make a situation worse is found by taking the name for an enthusiast and adding something that means topics or subjects and inserting the abbreviation for the Sunshine State in the USA.

26a         Facial hair this man’s put inside urn (3,5)
THE ASHES Inside an abbreviation for facial hair goes round HE (this man) to give the name of a famous sporting urn.

The Ashes

27a         See 25a

Down Hints by Ginger

1d           Russian vehicle going up a gear, stretched by run out (6)
TROIKA  A reversal of A (from the clue) and some gear or equipment, which is then stretched by having the cricketing abbreviation for run out inserted.


2d           One may plunge away, sealing leak up in company time (6,3)
COFFEE POT   An  informal word meaning to urinate (leak being another such) is inserted into a  word meaning away, and then all reversed (up in a down clue) between the abbreviation for company and the abbreviation for time.

coffee pot

3d           How you may regard mum or dad’s bet (4,3)
EACH WAY  A type of bet (for a win and a place) describes how you may regard or read a palindrome such as mum or dad.

5d & 6d After a fix, John may be stimulated by hit (7,4,7)
FLUSHED WITH SUCCESS   An expression meaning excited and confident after achieving something , could also be used to mean that the working mechanism of a toilet (John being an American informal term for a lavatory) had been  fixed.

7d           In the firing line, Rex Brown, rather yellow (5)
OCHRE  This brownish-yellow colour can be obtained, here anyway, by inserting the abbreviation for Rex into the name of the line darts players stand behind before throwing their ‘arrows’.

8d           Loony stayed with us for periods at regular intervals (8)
TUESDAYS  Some days of the week are an anagram (loony) of STAYED and US.

12d & 18d Jauntily playing the Blues? (Hint: Article 4’s involved) (8,3,7)
TINKLING THE IVORIES  I originally wrote in a similar informal expression meaning to play the piano, which is probably why it took me an age to get the middle word of 14a!   If only I had looked more carefully at the very helpful word play.   As indicated by the brackets around the last four words of the clue, the solver must insert into the informal way of referring to Conservatives (the Blues?), a word for a slight hint or suspicion, the definite article and the Roman numeral  for four .

tinkling the ivories

15d         Lumberjack’s timekeeping under discussion? It shows the necessary power (9)
LOGARITHM   This mathematical operation is used to simplify multiplication and division – the BRB explanation is very long but it does mention the word power!     The solution is a homophone of [sounds like] (under discussion) a lumberjack and the keeping of time in singing or movement, for example.

16d         Tell me the reason for     appeal to the men in white coats (4,4)
HOWS THAT  An expression meaning tell me the reason for is also used by cricketers on the fielding side to appeal to umpires (the men in white coats – which aren’t quite as long as they used to be!) to give the batsman out.

how's that

18d         See 12d

19d         Swapping couples having ailment to confront that’s inclined to be frigid (3,4)
ICE FALL   Moving the last two letters (swapping couples) of two words, the first a general term for an ailment and the second a word meaning confront, and you get a steep broken place in a glacier (that’s inclined to be frigid).

20d         Trojan horse finally gains access to a stable when mounted (6)
AENEAS   The final letter of horse gains access to or is inserted between a reversal of a word meaning sound in mind (stable) and A (from the clue) gives us a Trojan hero whose exploits were told in a famous work by Virgil.

22d & 23a Quite fancy the end together (2,3,3,6)
TO THE NTH DEGREE   An expression meaning to an unlimited extent is an anagram (fancy) of THE END TOGETHER.


Thanks to Elgar for a very nice challenge – if only all Toughies were this brain-stretching!

24 comments on “Toughie 1281

  1. I thought that this was properly tough, but very enjoyable.

    In 19d, I reckon it’s the *last* two letters of “having ailment” and “to confront” that are swapped.

    Many thanks to Elgar and the ever-debonair bloggers.

    1. I’ve amended the hint, thank you.

      Nice to have a comment from you as you don’t seem to have been around for some time.

      1. Sadly, real life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of what one would actually like to be doing. I don’t have time to solve many puzzles at the moment, but I really liked this one and was glad not to have missed it.

  2. Well, I finished except for 20D, but in places it was definitely a case of bung it in and try to work it out after, particularly for 4A, 11A, 12D, and 19D I failed to completely parse on all four counts and in the case of 19D it was partly due to having wall as the second word. Pretty darned pleased to get the two cricket clues, though! A challenge and a half for me, but I did enjoy it. 17A, 24A and 16D are my stand-outs. Many thanks to Elgar and the dancing duo for the much needed hints.

  3. A fine Toughie from the best setter,however I do have to point out that 12/18dn is not the correct expression. Tickling the ivories is the usual slang for playing the piano, tinkling is urinating. In Eric Partridges’ excellent dictionary of slang there is mention of a tinkle-box for a piano, but no reference to tinkling the ivories. But it was a solvable clue so I should probably shut up. Many thanks to Elgar and F+G

  4. Good stuff and plenty hard enough for me, favourites were 4a 16d and 21a thanks to Elgar and to F and G for the dissection.

  5. I must confess that I needed help from F and G to finish today. As it has rained most of the day I haven’t felt guilty sitting here staring at one clue hoping for Devine inspiration. Thanks to all

  6. A day off work so a chance to have a go at an Elgar in a relaxed environment. And also to add a comment here.
    Normally with an Elgar it takes me ages to get the first one but today I was lucky with 4a and 1d coming to mind quickly (although it took a while to realize “pedal” is an adjective in the clue}. The kind grid then yielded 5 consonant first letters and two Os and I was able to work outwards steadily from this good fortune. I needed the blog to explain 21a and 20d although the answers were obvious from the checking letters. The Shakespearean 17a was my final one – I have never heard of the word and know almost nothing about the play.
    This was a puzzle that I really enjoyed and felt a warm glow of satisfaction at completing it. The combination of Elgar’s devious clues and a benevolent grid works nicely for me. And less obscure words than normal!
    Many thanks to setter and bloggers

  7. Well we got there in the end, but it was a long hard slog for us. Sheer bloody-mindedness that we did not want to be beaten, kept us at it. Some very tricky wordplay to work through. Appreciated the challenge.
    Thanks Elgar and the duo.

  8. The mind boggles! I can only stand, open-mouthed and bare-headed, in homage to anyone who can solve this. And this is Elgar in something less than full Toughie flow, if l understand Fred and Ginger’s review aright. If so, l give up.

    1. I agree – I am in complete awe of those who were able to solve this. I could not even get a foothold. Alas, a zero for enjoyment for me.

  9. Huge fun and echo 2Kiwis comment. . 20d was my last in and made a total mess of parsing 11a as trying to do something with a reversal of peek, until the penny dropped with a resounding thud. Thanks to Elgar and Fred and Ginger

  10. Well, I have just finished it! I can’t pretend that I’m exactly over the moon about it, because I needed to cheat for two answers, get hints for half a dozen more and having ‘got’ the remainder I needed to check the blog to see why some of the answers were what I deduced them to be. Very clever stuff, for sure and far more entertaining than most of what’s on the telly this evening. Thank you Elgar for an interesting mental tussle and thanks to both of yous two ‘dancing partners’ for some great explanations.

  11. Best Elgar for a while – well worth the tussle. Definitely five for entertainment – if this is four for difficulty I’d need to set a day or two aside for a fivester.

    I agree with the dodger – ivories get tickled – not tinkled. Tinkling on the piano is possible – it might be said of eg Tony Bennett’s old accompanist and MD Ralph Sharon – playing lightly and delicately. Some folk have conflated the two – it didn’t hold me up.

    Thanks bloggers – I got the right letters in the holes but needed a couple of parsings – not saying which.

    1. If you read my hint, you will see that I originally ‘tickled’ the ivories but that didn’t help solve the across clue. I did find tinkle the ivories in an online dictionary.

  12. I’m sure the true toughie lovers rally enjoyed this but it was a mite two hard for me. Icheated and got the answer for 1&9acroos and managed a couple more,then using hints and inspired guess work some others.But the parsing was beyond me inmost cases.Thanks to Fred and Ginger to try and educate me but I think it will be a long time before I’m up to this standard if ever.

  13. That was so difficult that it brought on a bout of labyrinthitis & I had to retire hors de combat. I may sue. Elgar you have been warned.

  14. What a pleasure to get a decent Toughie for a change. This took me two days off and on but got there in the end. Lots of really witty clues that made me smile. Couldn’t parse 14a – missed the “messenger” bit – but the answer was obvious anyway. Thoroughly enjoyable.

  15. I’ve nagged away at this off and on since yesterday evening, and in the end had to call it quits with 17a and 20d unsolved. I was very pleased to get the rest of it, even if it did take a few sessions of head scratching.

    To those who find these unsolvable, I find that there’s usually a couple of easier clues to give you a foothold. E.g. 13a is standard back pager fare, and I was lucky that 7d just leapt out at me.

    Then I find its a question of working out where the definition is in some clues for which you now have a checker, and build out from there. I often find the wordplay defeats me in several clues, but I can still solve the puzzle.

  16. I had to postpone this puzzle to the weekend, and persistence (almost) paid off – I nearly gave up more than once.

    I should have seen the kind of hoe earlier! I don’t know my hoes.

    20d (the trojan) remained unsolved, and I wasn’t sure of the parsing of 21a (fleece), 2d (coffee pot), and 19d (swapping couples) until I read F&G’s excellent review, so thank you very much for the enlightenment.

    I enjoyed the off-beat nature, very satisfying when you eventually get the answers, though definitely hard work. I’ve never been completely sure whether hard work equals enjoyment

    Thanks Elgar, and thanks again F&G

  17. 28/10/14 Way, way too hard for me. After an hour I had only got one answer and I wasn’t confident about that! I salute all those who solve at this level. Must keep on trying, though. Sh-Shoney.

    1. Keep on keeping on! And keep on commenting, too. Even if you’re a bit late, your comment will be read.

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