Toughie 1436 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1436

Toughie No 1436 by Elkamere

Thank you for the Music

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

At last I get to blog an Elkamere puzzle – I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ve always admired Elkamere’s knack of using hidden and misleading definitions that are nonetheless tight and accurate – so much more satisfying than loose synonyms. And today is no exception. I got about half way through before things slowed down quite a bit, but unravelling each clue thereafter was still a delight. Since this took me longer than most toughies, I’ll give it **** for difficulty and also **** for enjoyment, which was further enhanced when I counted 9 answers belonging to a theme; I may have missed some…

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 On one’s back — position unsuitable for this? (10)
RESISTANCE*: A two-letter preposition mean on, or with reference to, a reversal of “I’s” (one’s back), and a position (that you might take in an argument, for example). The whole clue is the definition. When the whole clue is the definition and the whole clue is also wordplay, we call this an &lit (and literally so) or an “all-in-one” clue. When the definition takes up less than the full clue, as is the case here, we call it a semi&lit. &lit and semi&lit clues are considered particularly elegant constructions.

6a Hollow sculpture with no middle (4)
CAVE*: Sculpture is a verb here. Take a word meaning sculpture and remove the central letter to get an underground hollow.

10a With no purpose, rejected Queen’s speech? (5)
MIAOW: The abbreviation for W(ith), the letter that looks like a numeral meaning no or none, plus a 3-letter word meaning purpose or goal, all reversed (rejected)

ARVE Error: need id and provider

11a Baton charge put people down again (5,4)
RELAY RACE: A verb meaning to put down again, then as the object of that verb a 4-letter word meaning people or nation will give a sporting event that could be defined cryptically as Baton charge.

12a Eminent urologist denied time off (8)
GLORIOUS*: Anagram (denied) of UROLOGIST, without the letter T (time off)

13a After this, uniform colour has run (5)
TANGO: Think NATO alphabet. A three-letter brownish colour plus a two-letter word meaning run or working or leave.

ARVE Error: need id and provider

15a Gag, say, initially performed in silence (3-4)
LEG PULL: an abbreviation meaning say, as in for instance, the first letter (initially) of P(erformed) all inside a 4-letter word meaning silence, or a period of calm

17a Reader of a book in European language (7)
ACROBAT: A from the clue, then the abbreviation for B(ook) inside (in) a European language from the former Yugoslavia. This will give you a reader, but perhaps not the kind you first thought of.

19a Begin with body cavity (7)
ENTERON: A 5-letter verb meaning to begin or to go into, followed by a 2-letter preposition that can mean with or sitting atop. A new word for me

21a Mostly heavy boxes full of toxic metal (7)
THALLIC: A five-letter word meaning heavy, dense or viscous without the last letter (mostly), all round (boxes) a 3-letter word meaning full, entire, or comprising every individual. The answer refers to a specific toxic metal.

22a By the end of this, produce wheels (5)
TIMES: The last letter (the end of ) (thi)S, plus a verb meaning to produce or send out, all reversed (wheels)

24a Say what Spooner would say is a handicap (4,4)
WEAK SPOT: How Spooner might say “say what” (using a different word for say). I can’t imagine this going down well with our Spooner critics

27a Chandelier for which soldier supervised support? (9)
GIRANDOLE: A charade (i.e., a word built from components) of a two-letter abbreviation of an American soldier, plus a 3-letter verb meaning supervised or managed, plus the kind of financial support you might get when unemployed. Another new word for me

28a Nirvana will need intro for single after problems with missing piano (5)
BLISS*: The first letter (intro) of S(ingle) follows a 5-letter word for problems or unforeseen irregularities from which we remove the P (missing P(iano))

ARVE Error: need id and provider

29a First things you find in the occasional yard sale? (4)
TOYS: An all-in-one (&lit), where the whole clue is wordplay and the whole clue is also the definition. Take the first letters of (first things you find in) the last 4 words in the clue.

30a Chance one has to tackle new over (10)
UNINTENDED*: Chance here is an adjective, as in a chance meeting. A 4-letter word for one, or a single thing, contains (has to tackle) the abbreviation for N(ew), plus a word meaning over or finished.

ARVE Error: need id and provider


1d Caper from pungent sandwiches (4)
ROMP: Hidden word (sandwiches) in from pungent. I think using “from” is a clever mislead, suggesting the wordplay is somehow in “pungent sandwiches”

2d Sailor enthralled by subtle glow in the dark (9)
STARLIGHT*: The three-letter word for sailor surrounded by (enthralled by) a word for subtle or flimsy gives this night-time source of illumination

ARVE Error: need id and provider

3d You wouldn’t drink water from this small jug (5)
SEWER: Abbreviation for S(mall) plus another word for jug

4d Great sport, admits my fan (3-4)
AIR-COOL: Fan is a verb here. A two letter representation of great or excellent, a two-letter abbreviation for a sport but this time not the union kind, all around (admits) an interjection (making me think of Jean-Luc!) synonymous to “My!”

5d Elects to play a keyboard (7)
CELESTA: Anagram (to play) of ELECTS plus A from the clue.

7d One’s return for encore (5)
AGAIN: A single-letter indefinite article that means one, plus a 4-letter word meaning return or profit.

8d Not looking away once, yet failing to work (3,7)
EYE CONTACT: Anagram (failing) of ONCE YET plus a 3-letter word meaning work (though paradoxically it can also mean play, or perform)

9d This year’s mad panic (8)
HYSTERIA*: Anagram (mad) of THIS YEAR

ARVE Error: need id and provider

14d General point in what’s seen as ‘Best wishes on your retirement‘ (5,5)
SLEEP TIGHT: A 3-letter US general plus 2-letter abbreviation for P(oin)T, all inside (in) “what’s seen”, in general or a tourist attraction perhaps. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

16d Permit oddly put in with action of 1A? (8)
UPRISING*: The odd letters of Permit inside (put in) a present participle that can mean with (or taking drugs, maybe)

ARVE Error: need id and provider

18d With raised platform unlocked, rook that is occupying it (9)
BALCONIED: A 4-letter word for unlocked or hairless has inside it (occupying it): a 3-letter verb meaning to rook or cheat plus the abbreviation for that is.

20d Labour result the end of Gordon Brown, possibly, with euro being divisive (7)
NEWBORN*: The last letter of (Gordo)N, plus an anagram (possibly) of BROWN, into which the abbreviation for E(uro) is inserted (being divisive) gives a Labour result that is cause for celebration.

ARVE Error: need id and provider

21d Bound to return one in German market (5,2)
TRADE IN: Market is a verb here. A reversal (to return) of a 4-letter verb meaning bound or move quickly, followed by the German word for one.

23d English church in the writer’s quarter (5)
MERCY*: Abbreviation for E(nglish) and the abbreviation for the Roman Catholic church are contained within (in) a 2-letter personal possessive pronoun from the writer’s point of view. Apparently, the answer carries the meaning quarter when it is granted to an antagonist, perhaps from sending to quarters, according to brb.

ARVE Error: need id and provider

25d It’s regularly scabbarded (5)
SABRE: And another semi&lit. Take the odd letters (regularly) from scabbarded

26d Was milking shed hard to leave after you texted? (4)
USED: Remove the letter h (hard to leave) from shed and place the result after the letter you might use when you are texting “you” (you texted). This is the kind of accurate but disguised definition Elkamere does so well.

Have you worked out the theme? I didn’t find it trivial – I went on a hunch, knowing Elkamere is a musician and does this sort of thing more often. My favourite clues are the all-in-ones (or semi-all-in-ones) 1a, 25d, 29a. I also liked 26a (“milking shed”), 12a (“eminent urologist”), and 20d (“Labour result”). Please leave a comment telling us which clues you liked and how you enjoyed the puzzle.

[Apologies for the delay in publication – this was due to a power cut at BD Towers.  BD]

46 comments on “Toughie 1436

  1. I’m with you all the way on this one Dutch (albeit I don’t like Spoonerisms). Normally I find him easier in the guise of ‘Elkamere’ than in the Sunday Times Prize Crossword – however this was very much a Dean Mayer production. He has the knack of hiding definitions in plain sight and is miserly with his wordplay – I always have to read the clue out loud, one word at a time, several times over before it finally clicks.

    Thanks to Elkamere for the puzzle and Dutch for his review (which I will read now)

    My favourite is 12a. Have a good weekend all.

  2. The top half went in quite nicely but it was a totally different story for the bottom half.
    Needed the hints for 27a and 23d. 24a and 18d. And the two 21s. That’s all.
    Liked 14d specially as we had the bedbugs yesterday.
    Loved the electronic reader of 17a and the letter that comes before U of 13a.
    Mind you the Queen’s speech of 10a was rather good and so was the lurker in 1d.
    The fact that I couldn’t finish it didn’t spoil my enjoyment.
    Thanks to Dutch for using the word interjection in the review.
    Thanks also to Elkamere for a real toughie.

  3. Thanks to Elkamere for the usual high quality puzzle (with the possible exception of 24a) and to Dutch for the excellent review. My favourite was 17a.
    I didn’t spot a theme and, having been told that there is one, I’m still none the wiser as to what it is. So, well done to Dutch for finding it.

  4. Add me to the people who can’t see a theme.

    A lovely proper Friday Toughie, thank you Elkamere – I did all but 5 before I had to start work and then fought the others on and off until the final penny clanged loudly on the floor. Like Gazza, my favourite was 24a and I didn’t think the Spoonerism was that bad – at least both ‘versions’ make sense.

    Thanks to Elkamere for a 5*/5* puzzle and to Dutch for the blog even if he has confused us all with his theme.

      1. Thank you. I had heard of the main subject but not the 9 examples. I’d have to have no 2 son for that and he is in Cambodia

  5. correction to my attampt at clarifying a semi&lit in 1a: it should read when the WORDPLAY takes up less than the whole clue. So much for trying to help those confused by jargon, apologies.

  6. Dutch.
    You must be a real fan to know all these titles. Are they from the same album?

    1. no. not from same album, nor am I a real fan, I hadn’t heard any of this before. Not bad, though.

        1. Thanks – like I said at the end of the blog, just had a hunch….

          makes you wonder how much we miss….

  7. Thanks to Blogger and Setter ..

    … but can anyone explain how “denied” in 12a is an anagram indicator?

    Don’t all shout at once … must be obvious!

    But not to me!

      1. As always … gazza is right !

        But Dutch did seem to have a different interpretation.

        Thanks to both!

    1. Yes sorry – Gazza’s parsing is right – denied is the time deleter and off is the anagram indicator

  8. Absolute pleasure from start to finish. Took us a long time but the answers came steadily with perseverance. We got the answer to 10a quite quickly as we had the first and last letters, sorting out the wordplay took much longer and gets our vote for best clue, although there were many other contenders. Did not, and still can’t see any theme, but from the comments above, it probably would not make sense to us anyway.
    Many thanks Elkamere and Dutch.

  9. Eventually got a grand total of 13 answers and, looking at the review, doubt I’d have got more than another handful if I’d stayed up all night! No reflection on the puzzle – more a question of complex wordplay coupled with a few unknown words and my lack of skill.

    Loved 14d (and the cartoon!) and think it would have remained favourite even had I completed the grid.

    Thanks to Elkamere for the master class and also to Dutch for an equally masterful review. Remarkably clever of you to pick up on the theme – I’d like to bet there aren’t too many other folk (on or off the blog) who made the connection without being told to look for it.

  10. We were enjoying this Elkamere puzzle, so had to take it to the pub tonight to finish it. Sam our tatty lurcher was as helpful as usual. Janet will not give up on a Spooner clue – she loves them, but can be very slow at geting them. Thanks to Dutch for the explanations – what we would call ‘a question mark (or occasionally an exclamation mark) clue’ Dutch has told us it is a ‘&lit’ – how do we prononce this?

  11. A 5* corker. Even on top form this would have scuppered me; as it is l needed 8 hints to complete. 17a is brilliant. Many thanks to Elkamere, and to Dutch for helping me fill the gaping holes in the grid.

    1. In crosswordland, Queen can mean may things (ER, R, bee etc). In this instance the queen is a cat, hence’ miaow’. Hope that helps

          1. Not in any of my LBB’s, looks like i’ll have to get a BRB. Thanks.
            P.s. not in Chambers online either. Must be in the VBRB.

            1. it is in my chambers app: queen = adult female cat (vs the male, tom) – it gets used from time to time in crosswords, one to watch out for

  12. ***** both for difficulty and enjoyment for me; finished it just before midnight ! 10a, 20d, 23d and 13a were among many favourites, and it was good to see variations on the automatic assumptions, e.g. the sport in 4d is RL (Rugby League) rather than the usual RU, whilst the church in 23d is RC rather than the familiar CH or CE. An excellent challenge for a Friday Toughie.

  13. With time restraints from paid work in full force today, this was a question of pick up/put down all day. I ended up with 3 unsolved and several (fortunately correct) bung-ins that I didn’t have a hope in Hades of parsing. It seems to me that the experienced setters can get away with stuff that Rookies are taken to task for. Throwing in an American Civil War general (whom I’m sure did not sleep tight on his enforced “retirement’) without any indicator as to nationality would cause a storm in the Rookie Corner. Re 6A ( one of my unsolved ones), silly me for thinking that sculpt and not sculpture is a verb.

    I found the top half generally easier than the bottom. There were some clues I liked, and for once I liked the spoonerism. If I had to choose, I would say 20 down was the best of the bunch.

  14. Personally I hate spoonerisms and this did nothing to dissuade me ,but otherwise very enjoyable and for me time consuming .Thanks Dutch great review and Elkamere for the usual difficult challenge .Personal favourite 23 D .

  15. I did not get a chance to comment yesterday but this was such a good puzzle I think it deserves praise albeit late.

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  16. I always like Elkamere’s originality. He doesn’t just plod along the well-trodden paths
    For 14d I would have preferred the clue to read ‘Best wishes on your retirement’ without its first part
    A pleasure to solve, thanks, Elkamere – and Dutch

  17. Thanks Dutch!
    Yes, a theme close to my heart. On a bass guitar forum there was a thread about ‘basslines you need in your repertoire’ and this was mentioned several times – had to plug in and give it a go:

    1. Thank you so much Elkamere for dropping in – this site really loves it when setters say hello.

      I expect you’ve mastered the bassline.

      Snowgoose beckons.

      1. in case it isn’t obvious, perhaps i should spell out to our readership that this clip is elkamere playing the bass line of one of the songs in theme

        1. That was an amazing piece of bass playing – Mr. Mayer is obviously a man of many talents!

          1. Thanks Jane – nice of you to say so, although to be honest I’d say it isn’t as amazing as it is relentless, which was the word used a few times on the bass forum. If you fluff a note there isn’t a chance to ‘wing it’ into the next bit.
            For the record, the theme answers are 1a, 6a, 12a, 28a, 30a, 2d, 9d, 16d, 20d and 23d – ten in all.

  18. The Spoonerism was even worse than usual. Oh that the man had never been born!

    Not having ever heard of “Muse” the theme passed me by. Why is he? she? it? them? worthy of an Elkamere puzzle?

    1. Do I gather Anax and Elkamere are the same person?

      Regarding the music(?) I’d say “hysteria” is an understatement!! To each his own.

      1. The same, yes.
        As for Muse, yes of course – that applies almost certainly to every type of music (and every type of everything). Even as a fan I’d say Matt Bellamy’s voice is difficult to take in large doses, but for me the band is all about Chris Wolstenholme’s bass playing. There’s a YouTube video of Hysteria from a gig they did in Rome and the crowd reaction when he starts the bassline is the sort of thing we amateur bassists can only fantasise about.

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