Toughie 1297

Toughie No 1297 by Elgar

One small step for Elgar …

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

…one giant leap in satisfaction for those of us who like to find a proper Toughie in the middle of the paper.

Solving time would indicate a difficulty rating of about 4.5* but if there was such a thing as a blogging difficulty rating, then that would have scored at least 6* as there are four clues that took an awful lot of muttering and head-scratching before the pennies dropped.  I know there’ll be muttering from the usual suspects, but I really enjoyed myself, and not just because I get to use one of my favourite pictures!

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           Dual identity assumed by poor actor’s prompter (5,4)
IDIOT CARD  An anagram (poor) of ACTOR inserted into two lots (dual identity) of the abbreviation for identity.

10a         Infantryman rolling up full of ‘lubrication’ (5)
POILU  An informal term for a French WWI infantryman is obtained by inserting some lubrication into a reversal (rolling) of UP.


11a         Departs NW Key, like this wordplay: part above the canal (10,5)
DESCENDING COLON    The abbreviation for Departs, the key found at the very  top left of your keyboard (NW Key)  and how you might describe the finish of  ‘this wordplay:’ produces part of the body’s  alimentary canal.  Interestingly, the second word of the solution is a port found just above the entrance to the Panama Canal!

12a         Unceasingly the Barbarian performed out of church (2,3,2)
ON AND ON   Remove the abbreviation for the Church of England from the front of the name of a famous Barbarian and the end of part of  a verb meaning performed .

13a         Writer’s last moving poem is about part-timer (4-3)
SEMI-PRO   An anagram (moving) of POEM IS  plus an R (writeR’s last).

15a         Part of exercise plotting changes (2,3,7-3)
IN THE MELTING-POT   A preposition meaning in (part of) and an exercise on a particular subject, followed by  an anagram (changes) of PLOTTING.

19a         It flies round the edge (7)
LAPWING  A bird (it flies)  – a round of a racetrack and an edge of something.


22a         Basically having a tip cut from number one read on energy (4-3)
PEEP-TOE   Another euphemism for urination (number one) an instruction to turn over a page (read on) and the abbreviation for energy.

peep toe

24a         Why let them in too? Cast of actors continue in dressing room (2,4,3,6)
ON WITH THE MOTLEY   An anagram (cast) of WHY LET THEM IN TOO  – the phrase relates to a type of dress put on by actors preparing for a performance.

26a         It’s locked in by the gates to the upper floor (5)
ETAGE  Hidden and reversed (to the upper)  in thE GATEs is a French word for a floor of a building.

27a         Fine organisation in 1st Avenue building ditch, not peculiar (5,2-2)
FUNNY HA-HA   The abbreviation for Fine, the abbreviation (4)  for  the address of an international organisation having its American offices at 405 1st Avenue, New York, and a type of ditch used in landscaping to create a barrier without disturbing the view.

funny ha ha

1, 12d & 24d  Firm blood-line in doubt? I’ve bad news for you (4,2,3,4)
BIRD OF ILL OMEN   An anagram (in doubt) of FIRM BLOOD LINE.

2d           Go to someone’s falling-off the-wagon party? (6)
ATTEND  –   Split 1, 2, 3, this solution might mean one was celebrating  no longer being teetotal.

3d           Sorry for one ‘Giovanni’ entering state of equality with Elgar (6,2)
PARDON ME   A state of equality (quite often used in golf scores), an example (for one) of a  famous ‘Giovanni’ and how Elgar would refer to himself.

4d           Pop in to line up desirable young man (6)
ADONIS   A reversal (to line up) of an American word for fizzy drink (pop) with IN from the clue inserted.

5d           Aldrin, say, launching ‘BUZZ’ (sic)? (8)
SPACEMAN  Buzz  Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon  is an example (say) of this.   ‘BUZZ’  (sic) is his nickNAME  [in] CAPS and reversing (launching) this gives us the  solution.   The real-life astronaut’s nickname was, of course, used for the name of the  character in the famous animated film series.


6d           One’s other half’s reported boost (6)
FILLIP    A lovely homophone clue (reported)  – how the Queen might refer to her husband (One’s other half!)


7, 14 & 25 When old and new collide, these people are sadly next to go (4, 2,3,4)
TURN OF THE YEAR  How you might say someone was next to go, followed by the pronoun meaning ‘those people’ and an anagram (sadly) of ARE.

9d           Second fiddle varying bars (7)
INSTANT    The clue I stared at for the longest because the solution was obvious but how did the wordplay work?   Looking up ‘varying’ in the thesaurus, all became clear.   If you bar an informal word for a fiddle or swindle from another word for varying, you are left with a short period of time (second).

12 See 1
14 See 7

16d         St Paul, perhaps, given mauling by reptiles (8)
EPISTLER    An anagram (giving mauling by) of REPTILES.

17d         Swimmer cramming OU course not worth a great deal (8)
TUPPENNY   Insert into a type of fish  a  degree course involving three different disciplines, usually associated with Oxford University (the OU in the clue).

18d         Rice dish in which one’s found shard of turkey bone (7)
PATELLA     A Spanish rice dish with the initial letter (shard of) Turkey inserted.


20d         ‘I like that pub!’ (Wife takes part in row) (6)
PHWOAR  The abbreviation for pub found on Ordnance Survey maps, the abbreviation for Wife, and  a noun referring to someone who takes part in rowing a boat.

21d         Escape for one up-and-coming gentleman (3,3)
GET OFF –   A reversal (up and coming) of the abbreviation meaning for example (for one) and an informal term for a gentleman.

23d         Perhaps Peter Pan s growing up … good heavens, no! (6)
EPONYM   The name of something derived from a character in it (such as the book  Peter Pan)  –   a reversal of an interjection meaning ‘good heavens’ and an  emphatic informal way of saying no!

Peter Pan

24 See 1
25 See 7

Before I stagger back to the easier-to-explain world of the day job, I just have time to thank Elgar for providing us with another great Toughie.     By the way,  I have another ‘favourite’ picture which would perfectly illustrate something to do with  ‘hide and seek’ ……..  



  1. Deep Threat
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Well, that was fun. Thanks to Elgar and to CS for explaining 9d: I’d got to the stage of ‘bung it in and wait for the review’!

  2. Qix
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    In 4d, I think the wordplay is reversal of ({synonym for pop} lined by IN) – POP (with) IN to line (it) up – to line as in “to provide a lining for”.

    Very enjoyable puzzle indeed.

  3. Franco
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m still recovering from Enigmatist in the Guardian … might try this one later … or maybe not!

  4. dutch
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    didn’t finish this, and quite glad I looked at the review. I’ll have to look far more carefully for Elgar’s reversal indicators in the future.

    Fun while it lasted,

    many thanks Elgar and CS for the enlightenment

  5. Wolfson bear
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I managed to finish it without hints so am pretty pleased with myself. I certainly did not figure out all the wordplay though! Good fun and thanks to blogger and elgar

  6. 2Kiwis
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Parsing 9d was what defeated us, despite overnight cogitation. Have read the hint and still can’t see the wordplay so we will keep working on it. It took us a very long time and lots of head scratching. 20d and 26a were the last two words to fit into the grid and taunted us for ages.
    Thanks for the challenge Elgar and CS.

    • gazza
      Posted November 21, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      9d is IN(CON)STANT

  7. halcyon
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Phew! Thanks, and much respect, to Crypticsue for explaining how 15a, 22a, 5d and 9d work. Whilst I had the solutions Elgar’s wordplay defeated me.

    However, this was another typical Elgar puzzle mixing quite brilliant and amusing clues [especially 12a, 22a and 6d] with some that just don’t do it for me:-

    26a – since when was “to the upper” an acceptable reversal indicator in an across clue?
    16d – the anagram indicator just doesn’t work in the passive voice – “mauling” would be fine – but then the surface wouldn’t work.
    13a – I don’t think this is a simple anagram – it’s an anagram of “poem is” which contains [is about] “writer’s last” – but the whole construction is backwards. Yoda-speak as BD would say. Other setters [one in particular] get pilloried for this. [By me too!]

    But despite all my moaning I enjoyed it. Thanks Elgar – and thanks again CS.

  8. Salty Dog
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t want other contributors to think that l didn’t even try my hand at this (to me, at least) impossible puzzle. I did, but after getting 4 correct answers and seeing no possibility of any more, l decided to turn it into an educational experience by working through CrypticSue’s hints. I’m not sure I’ll do any better when faced with another such puzzle, but one can only hope. Thank you, Elgar, for reminding me of my intellectual limitations, and thank you CrypticSue for the tutorial.

  9. andy
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Spent far too long having (unparsed) with index card as an answer. 3d wry :). 20d caused much consternation in the after work club as to correct spelling despite my explanation. Cheers to Elgar and Crypticsue

  10. Chris
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Ditto the comments by SD in 8 above – 4 clues and then the brick wall followed by the excellent hints. Well above my level but neverthless I enjoyed both what I did and watching experts at work, so thank you to Elgar and Crypticsue.

  11. Expat Chris
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Way too rich for my blood. I managed six answers then gave in not very gracefully.

  12. AndyB
    Posted November 22, 2014 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Wow! A real stinker in the best sense of the word. It really deserved its 5 * for difficulty.
    Some great clues, especially among the downs: 2d, 20d and 23d. FOI was 1d, LOI was 22a.

    Many thanks to Crypticsue and Elgar (no one does Toughies quite like you).

  13. JollySwagman
    Posted November 22, 2014 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    Having only recently done yesterday’s Enigmatist in the Guardian and Nimrod (which ran over a few days) in last Saturday’s Indy (online today) I thought I might have reached “Peak Henderson” – I normally find the Elgar brand more approachable and more entertaining than the other two – this was no exception – but approachability-wise only just – once the thumb-screws tightened at least. Well worth the effort nonetheless.

    Got letters in all the holes but needed the blog for three parses – precisely which ones is between me and my cruciverbal confessor but quite a bit of overlap with those above.

    Many thanks to S&B.

  14. Outnumbered
    Posted November 23, 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been looking at this on and off since Friday evening, and finally got there with a couple of hints. Very pleased to have got that far!

    Thanks CS for the hints which were very much needed in explaining the wordplay for several answers…