Toughie 1420 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1420

Toughie No 1420 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Happy Birthday Dad! My father Gerry is visiting me from Holland for a few weeks, and today is his 86th birthday. No doubt he is delighted that I started this special day battling with the Elgar puzzle. [Happy Birthday Gerry from all of us – sorry that we were unable to post this yesterday due to circumstances beyond our control. BD.] I did stare at it for what seemed like an eternity before eventually finding my first one in: a Latin anagram to cheer me up. As usual, the crossing letters then help to sustain progress, and I got there in the end. Well worthy of the Friday toughie slot, I will give this 4* for difficulty and 3* for enjoyment. Why not 5* for difficulty? Well, I just imagine that describes those puzzles where I throw in the towel.

Many thanks for all the comments last week on the extended blog. I was delighted that some people did try the Toughie when they normally don’t. The comments varied, as you might expect, and I came to realise that Big Dave’s website has already evolved rather nicely to please most people. Also, you can use the comments to ask for clarification on anything you don’t quite understand – please do feel free to do this. So, today’s review is a little briefer, allowing me to spend some more time with my Dad.

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    Disrobed squire allows newly-designed bar codes (6,4)
LIQUOR LAWS: anagram (newly-designed) of sQUIRe (disrobed squire) ALLOWS

6a    Main  gateway (4)
ARCH: double definition, for the second there is one in London called Marble

9a    Plants make water to live on board (10)
SPEEDWELLS: a 3-letter word for urinate (make water) plus a 5-letter verb meaning to live or reside, all inside the usual abbreviation for a steamship (on board)

10a    See 3 Down

12a & 24a    Ball used in a con that, if slippery, can run out of play (3,2,1,3,3,4)
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF: This play by Tennessee Williams is constructed from a letter resembling a ball inside an anagram (if slippery) of A CON THAT, plus another word for can, plus the abbreviation for R(un) O(ut) and OF from the clue

15a    Kind of acid container Wonderland girl fully unwrapped (6)
OXALIC: A 3-letter word for container (sometimes used to refer to a tv) plus the Adventures in Wonderland heroine, and once these two words have been joined up then remove the first and last letter (fully unwrapped

16a & 18a    Order English band, one touring America recycling ‘rock-y’ old Queen covers (2,2,1,3,3,2,1,2)
DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO: This is an imperative saying that suggests that you should follow instructions you hear, not see. Are you ready? Start with an English band (from Manchester, involving the Gallagher brothers), add an A (one), add the reverse of (recycling) another word for rocky around (touring) the abbreviation for A(merica), and finally around the outside of all of this (covers) we have the first queen of Carthage whose name is also used by another popular singer.

18a    See 16 Across

19a    Religious dissenter may be insignificant (6)
INSECT: Split (2,4), the answer may describe where a religious dissenter may be, and this 6-footer is often described as insignificant

21a & 2d    After this date, strumpet in mosque gets frisky (8,4,4)
TERMINUS POST QUEM: an anagram (gets frisky) of STRUMPET IN MOSQUE (beware, the answer is in Latin – well it is Elgar!)

24a    See 12 Across

25a    To the West, Shankar had briefly admitted to playing sitar for instrument-maker (10)
STRADIVARI: Shankar is a well-known sitar player (used to play with the Beatles). Take his first name together with a “D” (had briefly), reverse it (to the west), and put it inside an anagram (playing) of SITAR to give this famous family of violin makers.

26a    Without  function (4)
SINE: Two definitions, the Latin for without and a trigonometric function

27a    Flower-fanciers ogre clobbers around nether regions (10)
ORCHIDISTS: Aficionados of a beautiful but tricky to cultivate flower are derived from a 3-letter word for ogre (These feature in a Hobbit box-set I’ve been watching with the kids recently), followed by a 4-letter verb meaning clobbers or whacks which is placed around another word for the underworld.


1d & 17d    One rates claim as low only in washout (4,8)
LOSS ADJUSTER: A 3-letter adjective meaning feeling low, an adverb meaning only or merely, all inside a person who is useless and never wins.

2d    See 21 Across

3d & 10a    Abu’s City associate lost pulsating thriller –- that goes without saying (3,6,3,4)
OLD HABITS DIE HARD: We have the second part of a city name that starts with Abu (Abu’s city associate). Around that (that goes without) we have an anagram (pulsating) of LOST plus a movie thriller starring Bruce Willis with many sequels. (turns out the movie forms the last two words in the answer, with the anagram surrounding the second half of the city name to form the first 2 words)

4d    Keep quiet in bottom bunk? You will! (3,3)
LIE LOW: the answer means to stay out of sight and is also a reference to your position in the bottom bunk

5d    Rules not written about on spending new euro (8)
WALLAROO: This euro has nothing to do with money, it bounces! The legal set of rules we live by and an exam that is not written, all reversed (about), followed by on (from the clue) without the N (spending new).

7d    So treated to review drivability at the outset? (4-6)
ROAD-TESTED: An all-in-one, anagram (to review) of SO TREATED plus the first letter of drivability (at the outset)

8d    Was aiming for a North European still in house (3,2,3,2)
HAD AN EYE TO: We have A from the clue, 4-letter North European (like Hamlet), 3-letter word for still, and all of this inside the 2-letter abbreviation for ho(use).

11d & 22d    Eastwood’s win-loss differential indulges in youth (4,4,4,4)
SOWS ONE’S WILD OATS: An anagram (differential) of EASTWOOD’S WIN-LOSS gives this expression for having an irresponsibly good time when you are young(ish).

13d    Revolutionaries making U-turn go berserk in The Blue Rising (5,5)
YOUNG TURKS: Anagram (berserk) of U-TURN-GO inside the reversal (rising) of a 3-letter word for what is above us (the blue) gives the name of a political reform movement in the early 20th century that favoured replacement of the absolute monarchy of the Ottoman Empire with a constitutional monarchy (yes, I looked that up) – also turns out to be a London record label.

14d    Before noon, possibly, completely lowering milliner’s cap’s peak (10)
MATTERHORN: The name of a famous mountain in Switzerland is created as follows: translate “Before noon, possibly” into “in ****”, where the 4-letter word is a poetic version of the part of the day that comes before noon. Then, use the newly-found “in” as a cryptic containment instruction for the rest of the clue: insert into poetic version for early part of day a word for milliner (often associated with a mad person from Alice’s tea party) from which the first letter has moved to the end (completely lowering cap). I completely missed the all-important “in” first time round, and had to ask BD who in turn had to ask Elgar – might I be forgiven?

17d    See 1 Down

20d    Silverware is what Celtic and Rangers won, capping prominent display (6)
SPLASH: The newspaper has this clue as “is what Celtic often won”. This is the Scottish Premier League for which the abbreviation comes first in the answer (capping). “Silverware is” a certain colour, the word for which also refers to the remains of a fire and a tree.

22d    See 11 Down

23d    Dispatches famous pizzeria boxes up (4)
ZIPS: Hidden backwards in the clue (boxes up)

My joint favourites were the all-in-one (7d) and the Shankar sitar clue (25a) – which were yours?

7 comments on “Toughie 1420

  1. Started by making a few mistakes like bad habits in 3d and putting and instead of not in 16/18, post quod for after that in 21/2 but soon realised .
    14d could have easily been a spooner.
    Many favourites but the first one I got after first reading was 23d! I’ll go for that one.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch.

  2. I found this the usual mixture of LOL [9a] inventive [15a] impeccably constructed [25a] and over-contrived clues [16/18, 14d] that we expect from Elgar. Sometimes less is more!

    Thanks to the booted one and to Dutch for coping with it.

  3. This pangram (I think) took me an age – it didn’t help that I was in the German stream in school (all the Latin I know has mainly come from crosswords) – there was much muttering and Tippex applied in several places but I got there in the end.

    One of those Elgar’s where once you look at the clues again, you’re not entirely sure why the struggle took quite as long as it did. My favourite is 25a. I think if I had known Latin, 21/2 might have had a look in. 5*/4|* for me. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  4. We eventually ended up with a completed grid (at least that is better than we had done with the Thursday toughie). There were several of the clues where we had parsed enough to be sure we had the correct answer but had not fully appreciated all of the subtleties of the wordplay. We had picked that it was a PANGRAM but not in time to be any help with the solving. It was a very satisfying feeling to get there, even if it did take an awfully long time.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  5. Well, I got two answers. That was it. Just two. On that basis, I can’t say I even enjoyed the fight. Judging by the lack of comments, I suspect that I am not alone. I am still struggling mightily with what it must be like to have a mind like Elgar’s that thinks that way.

  6. Greetings from a little corner of beer heaven in the Black Country. Firstly we would like to express our appreciation of the blog and the work that Big Dave and his helpers put into it. We always look at the hints (and occassionaly need them).
    We thoroughly enjoyed this Elgar puzzle although it did stretch us more than a little.

    1. Welcome to the blog, Janet & Gavin. Now that you’ve introduced yourselves I hope that you’ll become regular commenters.

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