Toughie 1496

Toughie No 1496 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Artful and inventive clueing at its best and definitely worth a go, in case you are hesitating. This took me a little longer than usual and when the grid was full I was left with a few clues where the parsing needed some more thought. Others didn’t struggle in the same places that I did, so I’ve given this 4* for difficulty even though it had it’s 5* moments for me – but I think a 5* rating gives the wrong message. And 4* for enjoyment, definitely, plenty of fun.

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    Well-informed jail’s own source of monkey business (4,2,2,4)
BANG UP TO DATE: A (4,2) phrasal verb meaning to jail or imprison, a 3-letter word for “own” (as in “on one’s ***”) and a 3-letter Goddess of mischief ( = source of monkey business)

8a    Arid area of Mojave, generally to the west (5)
NEGEV: This Israeli desert is found backwards (to the west) in the clue

9a    Foremost of toymakers admitted new train-set’s ruined (2,7)
IN TATTERS: First letter |(foremost) of toymakers is inside (admitted) an anagram (new) of TRAIN SET

11a    When’s the train due? Sooner
Or later, for Spooner.
And me? (4,5)
TAIL RHYME: The “me” refers to the clue, which has a format that nicely exemplifies the answer that Spooner might offer for “when is the train due? sooner or later”

12a    Sharing PA duties, like Skinner & Baddiel? (5)
COMIC: Split (2-3), the answer might suggest a way of sharing Public Address duties

13a    Hanger-on not extremely happy with closing time (9)
APPENDAGE: Happy without its first and last letters (not extremely) plus a 3-letter word for closing and a 3-letter word for time or era

16a    Like old people on film? (5)
INCAN: Split (2,3), this word describing an old civilisation becomes descriptive of a movie that has been successfully recorded or completed and is ready for release

18a    I take over Very Grand First Ballet (5)
KIROV: I, the Latin abbreviation for take (Recipe) and the abbreviations for o(ver) and V(ery) follow the abbreviation for Grand or a thousand.

19a    Dear me! (9)
ADDRESSEE: a cryptic definition where this exclamation can also be read as the beginning of a letter to oneself, in which case the answer describes “me”

20a    Provoke villain at back of home (5)
INCUR: a 3-letter word for villain or scoundrel follows (at the back of) the usual crossword expression for home

22a    In Hibernian’s face, sharp Hearts get going in the cold (4‑5)
PUSH-START: This refers to a car. A 4-letter Irish word for mouth (Hibernian’s face) and a 4-letter word for sharp or acidic contains (in) the abbreviation for Hearts

25a    Who makes lines most prominent in walks (both directions) weaving through nearly all of Dales? (3-6)
DRY-WALLER: This tradesman is revealed when the two-letter abbreviation for lines or tracks, the first letter (most prominent) in walks, the abbreviations for both directions or hands are “woven into” the first 4 letters (nearly all) of Dales.

26a    Hood is The Poet in Residence! (5)
ODIST: The answer is lurking (in residence!)

27a    Not usually England‘s lay, rendered about the middle of January (4,4,4)
AULD LANG SYNE: Anagram (not usually….rendered) of ENGLAND’S LAY about the middle letter of January


1d    Great Depression in the Seven Stars (3,6)
BIG DIPPER: Three-letter word for great, three-letter word for depression and a three letter word meaning “in the” as in “miles in the hour”. I have learned that the answer is an asterism, accurately described by the definition here, and not a constellation

2d & 14d    The world only dreamed of the judgment on the Flying Dutchman? (5-5,4)
NEVER-NEVER LAND: I really like it when answers that take up more than one grid entry are confined to a single row or column instead of being all over the place.  Dreamworld of Peter Pan fame can also be the judgment on the Flying Dutchman, the legendary ghost ship that can never make port and is doomed to sail the oceans forever (so not van Persie)

3d    Number one stunted Prince missed out – it is to be collected (5)
UNITY: A 4-letter word for stunted or very small from which the abbreviation for Prince is omitted (missed out) – surrounding “it” (is to be collected)

4d    It’s proved rightThey Do It With Mirrors? … (5,4)
TITLE DEED: A document that proves right to possession can also refer to an act described by the name of a book

5d & 24d    … in which Marple eyes OTT verdict with suspicion (9,5)
DETECTIVE STORY: Anagram (with suspicion) of EYES OTT VERDICT

6d    One’s often referred to as ‘jolly’ in this amount of heat (5)
THERM: Split (3,1,1), the answer refers to a Service where one member can be termed a “Jolly”

7d    Its owner obsesses about right food in 60-second date (3-5,4)
[In the online version the enumeration was originally shown, incorrectly, as (9,4) but was corrected after Gazza notified the Crossword Editor.  BD]
ONE-TRACK MIND: A 4-letter word for food especially of the bread kind (e.g. hard **** or soft ****) surrounds the abbreviation for right (about right), and is placed inside another way of saying 60 sec (3,3) followed by the abbreviation for date

10d    Peers, say, after what comes fifth from the top in Debrett’s? (6,6)
SECOND ESTATE: A 5-letter word for say or utter comes after another way of specifying the letter indicated by “fifth from the top” in Debrett’s

14d    See 2 Down

15d    Creation of R Smythe Fitzgerald’s voice only? (1,8)
A CAPPELLA: The name of the pub-loving cartoon-strip character created by R Smythe (using the same Initial – Surname format) followed by the first name of the Queen of Jazz

17d    ____ to catch a deer, ____? (1’3‑1‑4)
C’EST-À-DIRE: The answer is a French expression which in the clue is acting as its own homophone indicator, sounding like the missing part of the expression.

21d    It’s beastly modest, turning up (5)
COYPU: A 3-letter word for modest or shy followed by a reversal (turning) of up

23d    Presumably you don’t know if you do it (5)
SHRUG: a cryptic definition for a gesture that suggests you don’t know or are indifferent

24d    See 5 Down

Hard to pick a favourite with so many tour-de-force clues. I liked the pair with the ellipsis and I thought the Spoonerism was rather special. I think my favourite is the appealing ramble through the Dales (25a). What did you think of the puzzle and which clues stood out for you?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Solved in 3* Toughie time, but I’d up the difficulty level to about 3.75 because of the time it took me to work out how 1a works. Too many clues with * by them so I won’t upset Kath but just say that I enjoyed solving this very much. My disappointment in not having a full-blown hob-nailed boot of a Friday-level toughie means that I’m going to award only 4* for enjoyment, as I was really hoping that there’d be something properly Tough to get my solving teeth into today.

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  2. Hanni
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink


    Total 5* puzzle to end the week. 9a was my last one in. I knew it was an anagram but just couldn’t see which bits even though the clue is clear enough. The answer to 12a seemed straightforward but parsing it wasn’t. I had to write it down a couple of times to see. 8a i had to check was a real place.

    Loved the linked clues of 4 and 5&24d. Think 7d is very clever but clue of the day goes to 27a. Perfection. I laughed out loud when I got it.

    The whole thing put a smile on my face.

    Many thanks to Elgar for an inspired puzzle and to Dutch for a great blog.

    Edit…Meant to add that I’d never heard of an asterism before. Good to know.

  3. Shropshirelad
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Well, if CS didn’t think this was tough enough for a toughie – I doff my cap to you. Personally I found it v difficult albeit v enjoyable apart from 11 & 18a – the former as it’s a Spoonerism and the latter as I thought it a tad clunky. The rest were wonderful and 27a in particular was my favourite. Slainte

    Thanks to Elgar for the very distracting challenge and to Dutch for his brilliant review – I parsed most of 1a but needed your reading for the ‘source of monkey business.

    Anyway, I am sure it is wine o’clock somewhere in the world – so I shall now open a nice bottle of Chenin Blanc. Have a great weekend everyone.

    • dutch
      Posted November 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      definitely wine o’clock – loving November

      • Shropshirelad
        Posted November 6, 2015 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      • Hanni
        Posted November 6, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Wine o’clock starts at 5 tonight. Well for me anyway. Childs fireworks party therefore alcohol is needed. It’s what I call responsible parenting. Open flames, explosives and wine.

        • dutch
          Posted November 6, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          My kids are going with the parents of their friends…

          • Hanni
            Posted November 6, 2015 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            Always a good idea. Unfortunately I couldn’t get out of this one. Home and more wine needed now.

    • crypticsue
      Posted November 6, 2015 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      I did say a Friday Toughie …

  4. the dodger
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I was completely stymied by 17dn. Not helped by getting 16ac wrong-I put injun, thinking the initial j for 17 dn was a good sign of some french saying,but damnit the old stinkmeister got me well and truly. Great fun otherwise,a really tough one in my book,methinks cs is showing off.
    Thanks to Dutch for many explanations and Elgar for the best puzzle of the week.

  5. Barry Dobson
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Still don’t understand 17d. Can someone expand on Dutch’s explanation please. DNF , found it hard but understand the rest now thanks to Dutch. Thanks also to those who helped me yesterday.

    • dutch
      Posted November 6, 2015 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      ok, here’s my understanding: There’s an expression that goes “(3,1,4) to catch a deer”. I have come across this expression more often replacing “deer” with “thief”, but we need “deer” for this clue.

      So first fill in the first blank to complete the expression,

      Then you can fill in the second blank with the answer (1’3-1-4) which is a french expression, a homophone of the first blank, and doubles as a homophone indicator. That is assuming this type of clue is asking you to insert the answer into one of the blanks.

      Alternatively, you could fill in the second blank with the english translation (2,2,5) of the French answer, which would then act as (1) an indicator that what has appeared thus far in the clue is an expression (2) a homophone indicator, and (3) the definition for the grid entry

      I worry that I haven’t clarified a damn thing.

      For what it;s worth, it was the enumeration that gave me the answer as well as seeing “a deer” in the clue

  6. Sheffieldsy
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Hello all, virgin blogger, long-time reader here (Vancouverbc will know who I am). Found this a less than enjoyable puzzle, even though we (me and Mrs Sheffieldsy ) could see the reason for every answer over a very pleasant xxxxxxover a pub lunch, with the back-pager done first. Can anybody explain the reason for the italicised words in 13a, 19a, 27a (twice) and 4d? Beats me totally. Overall found this 5*/3*. Thanks to Dutch for the explanations.

    • crypticsue
      Posted November 6, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog. I’ve removed the time you took to solve the puzzle (it is OK to say ‘over a pub lunch’ but we try not to give actual solving times as it may put people who took longer off).

      • Sheffieldsy
        Posted November 6, 2015 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        Duly noted, thank you CS.

    • dutch
      Posted November 6, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      My thoughts on the italics
      4d book title, not obvious as such otherwise
      19a essential I think to emphasise the definition
      27a adds to cheeky surface of the all-in-one. the first more effective than the second, I thought. ok, this is normally sung much earlier in January….
      13a I took this as adding to surface and another hint at the definition

      Did the italics appear ok in the online version?

      And welcome!

      • Sheffieldsy
        Posted November 6, 2015 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Dutch. Agree with your explanations, after some thought, but the fact that there were so many had me thinking there was some link between them all (a Nina or Easter Egg in the clues). Overall, it feels that italicisation was overused here. FYI, we did the print version so cannot comment on the online version.

        • dutch
          Posted November 6, 2015 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          I also tried to find an overall connection – didn’t get anywhere

  7. halcyon
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    The usual mix of clever and too clever by half. Personal favourites were 1a [loved the split between the 3 elements of the wordplay] 1d [nice and easy to provide a start] 7d [very neat container in a container] and especially 10d [clever use of the 2 Es]. 11a and the overly complex 25a left me cold. As for 17d has anyone ever come across such an English saying? Thief maybe but deer??

    Thanks to Elgar for the challenge [not least to my blood pressure] and to Dutch for making sense of it.

  8. Barry Dobson
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Dutch, understand now. I have heard of the expression with thief but not deer before.

    • dutch
      Posted November 6, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Googling it gets you into horrible hunting sites

      • Barry Dobson
        Posted November 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        What is your English translation 2,2,5? I know “that is to say”

        • dutch
          Posted November 6, 2015 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

          I was thinking so to speak – I knew I was in trouble when I added that enumeration! Your translation is just as good of course, more literal

  9. Expat Chris
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    What can I say? I got halfway through, not without some difficulty, and threw in the towel. Elgar’s boots may not have been hob-nailed enough for CS, but they certainly trampled all over my confidence.

  10. Salty Dog
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I got everything except 11a (which l still don’t get, even with the hint, and anyway l absolutely abhor Spooner and all his works). 4.5*/3* to my mind; l recognise the very clever cluing but find it a bit forced to really enjoy it. I liked 13a, though. Thanks to Elgar, and to Dutch.

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:01 am | Permalink

      Hi SD,
      You need to look at the definition of a “tail rhyme” to understand.
      If it were a poem:
      Or Later
      For Spooner
      And me
      Me would be the tail rhyme.
      As for the spooner itself: Rail Time for when the train is due.
      Hope that makes sense.

  11. jean-luc cheval
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    The SE corner was the last to yield.
    22a, 26a and 23d took a while and first thought 17d was “c’est la vie”.
    Well we had a wrong enumeration in 7d (which didn’t really bother me) so I thought nothing of it.
    I then was trying to get Ovid somehow in 26a but nothing made sense anymore.
    Had to go back to the drawing board and soon(ish) completed the grid.
    25a was also very hard to get as I was desperately looking for a river running through most of the Yorkshire Dales.
    Found one called the Lune. How romantic.
    I love the way Elgar tells stories in his clues.
    Have to say that 17d was very clever indeed and nominate it as my favourite.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch for the wonderful review.

    • Hanni
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:26 am | Permalink

      Gosh…Tales From Ovid. Long time since I’ve thought of that.

      The Lune is wonderful.

  12. Lesley
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Have just done this one this morning, Was really daunted on first read through – only got one answer. Needed hint for 16a (should have got it after previous day), didn’t get 18a, 10d or 17d even with hints. Guessed at 11a, not in my dictionary. Needed hint to justify 3d. Guessed 4d – never heard of it, neither had I heard of characters in 12a. Maybe I should get out more! Very annoyed not to get 17d – excellent clue. Thanks guys

  13. Jane
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Guessing you’ll still get this Dutch, despite the late posting.
    Failed miserably with this one – computer is in ‘hospital’ and my trusty old Vista is on its last legs and won’t connect to Mr. Google unless given a day to think about it! I certainly need his help with Elgar.
    Searched through all the comments and can’t find anything about your session with Dean – how did it go? Any pics or video clips to share?
    Thanks for all your hard work on the review – I’ve pieced everything together now and learnt a few lessons.

    • dutch
      Posted November 8, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      hi Jane thanks for your post – btw bloggers should always get all the postings, they come by email as well. hope you get your computer back healthy, does come in handy with elgar. I had never completed an elgar when i started blogging, now i finish them albeit with a few question marks.

      unfortunately no videos still – it went ok I hope, there were quite a few others this time. Dean has now given me some nice songs to learn so i guess he hasn’t given up on me yet! I had a minor car accident earlier in the day which had put me in a frustrated mood – my car had only just returned from the bodyshop from a previous dent!