Toughie 1516

Toughie No 1516 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Today your mission is 16a (and there are more than first meets the eye). This brilliant puzzle by Elgar allowed me to get off to a good start but it did take me quite a while to finish, not helped by having had quite a few beers last night with Snape, who very kindly came to visit from Liverpool. Hence 5* for difficulty (well, it is Elgar). The 5* for enjoyment comes partly from the crafty individual clues, but mainly from the slow realisation on completion that you are staring at a masterpiece. I am well impressed by the clever construction of this puzzle.

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.


7a    What perhaps turns off smart ‘square’ posh girl on rebound? (3,4)
LEG SPIN: Reversal (on the rebound) of a 3-letter verb meaning to smart, the abbreviation for square and a posh way of saying girl

10a    Not initially pious parliamentarian, one taken to a venue for godly sports (7)
OLYMPIA: A 4-letter word for pious without the initial letter, our usual parliamentarian, plus the letter that looks like one and A from the clue

11a    Really challenge Dave to tell us three examples of one (7)
CHANNEL: Really, Challenge and Dave are three examples of the solution

12a    An easy thing to follow repairing halves of each item knocked down? (7)
CHEAPIE: A 3-letter word for an easy thing follows the two halves of “each” that have been put back together (differently, of course)

13a/15a    Ready for a Yuletide snack? Two that may help you to … (9,5)
CHOCOLATE MONEY: Ready here refers to cash, and you can eat this kind at Christmas. This gives you two words that will help you… (next clue – i.e., help you to accomplish your mission today)

15a    See 13

16a    … puzzle title: ‘X’, ‘black’ and ‘shoe’ also do it, and … (4,3,3,5)
TICK ALL THE BOXES: An impressive all-in-one. Anagram (puzzle) of TITLE+X+BLACK+SHOE. And these four bits of anagram fodder will help you accomplish the answer (also do it). I am gobsmacked by the cleverness of this clue

21a/23a    … two more that may appear before three in 16 using line (2,3,9)
ON THE TELEPHONE: Two more (21a and 23a) to help you in your mission (can appear before three letters in 16)

23a    See 21 Across

25a    Tired and emotional, carrying on later in the day (7)
TONIGHT: Another word meaning “tired and emotional” (a euphemism for drunk) surrounds ON from the clue

26a    Counter serving of cappuccino is purged of mystic powers (7)
PSIONIC: A lurker – hiding backwards (counter serving of) in cappuccino is purged

27a    Little beast’s personal garden city? (3,4)
NEW TOWN: A 4-letter little beast and a 3-letter pronoun meaning personal

28a    In need, injure naturalist (7)
LAMARCK: A 3-letter verb meaning injure or damage goes inside a word meaning need or want


1d    Ominous creature or two to help you 16 (5,3)
BLACK CAT: The answer provides two more words in your search (well, one you may have already)

2d    Plant a duck, love, in different sports (4)
ANIL: A from the clue, and what duck and love can represent in two different sports

3d    Shifty, shifty clue about old husband undergoing divorce? (6)
LOUCHE: Anagram (shifty) of CLUE goes around the abbreviations for old and husband (separately)

4d    College miscreant curmudgeonly rejects new ground (6)
LYCEUM: Anagram (miscreant) of CURMUDGEONLY rejecting an anagram (new) of GROUND

5d    ‘Perfume.’ (Reply to Mr Borden’s question ‘What’s that, Lizzie?’) (8)
OPOPANAX: Split (1,3,2,2) this is how Lizzie Borden might have answered her father’s question

6d    Flower of Scotland without something sweet and showing no spirit (6)
TAMELY: A 3-letter Scottish river goes outside (without) another word for honey

8d    One or more dropping by the coast on third of summer tours (5)
GUANO: Reversal (tours) of ON from the clue and the third month of summer gives you a by-product of seafowl

9d    Options Papa offers disobedient opener who might have helped 16 (7)
PANDORA: Split (1,3,2,1) the answer provides options that when combined will generate Papa

14d    This may bore women left supporting amateur (3)
AWL: The abbreviations of women and left support (underneath in a down clue) the abbreviation for amateur

17d    Separate copper colour with a touch of orange (3,2,3)
CUT IN TWO: Chemical symbol for copper, a word for colour or shade, and the first letter (a touch) of Orange

18d    Odyssean character with alien ships (3)
HAL: Another lurker, carried by (ships) with alien. Odyssean refers to 2001: A Space Odyssey (the character, being a computer, is a cheeky 1-letter shift of IBM)

19d    Religious ceremony: on vacation, miss it, having got up after breakfast? (7)
BAPTISM: Remove the inner letters (on vacation) from miss, add it from the clue, reverse that (having got up) and put it after something you might have for breakfast (often with bacon in it)

20d    A teatime treat or two to help you 16? (8)
SEEDCAKE: The answer provides two more words for your collection

21d    Pleasure trip  that puts the private on parade? (6)
OUTING: Double definition, the second is a cryptic reference to making public

22d    Perhaps call to table raised spirits in me? (6)
EGGNOG: The 2-letter Latin abbreviation that means perhaps, or for instance, followed by the reversal (raised) of one way of calling people to the table

23d    Heavily laden with metal got arrested on journey north (6)
TOTING: a 3-letter metal goes inside (got arrested) a reversal of GOT from the clue

24d    He has depressing experience, being robbed of diamonds (5)
OWNER: A 6-letter depressing experience with the abbreviation for diamonds removed

26d    Reason patient’s beginning to get over suffering? It’ll help you 16 (4)
PILL: An all-in-one: first letter of patient gets over (in a down clue) a word for suffering or sick. And one more for your list

So much to like here but my favourite has to be 16. What did you like?


  1. halcyon
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I was fortunate to see 5d straight away and the X helped me guess and confirm 16a without any idea what he was banging on about. Only after completing two thirds of the rest did light begin to dawn i.e. “oh is that it?” Some great clues – 12a [repairing etc] 25a [carrying on] 26a [counter serving, v clever] but I’m afraid I’m a little bit underwhelmed by the theme.

    Thanks to Elgar for the contest and to Dutch for the blog.

    • dutch
      Posted December 11, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      did you find them all? 15 unique.

      • halcyon
        Posted December 11, 2015 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        I can see 12 in the solutions [including the possessive of 9d and a phrase from 21a]. Then there are 4 in the wording of 16a and another two as Ninas.

        • dutch
          Posted December 11, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          Brilliant, wanted to make sure you found the Nina.

          12 from clues excluding 16a, which are your extra 2?

          • halcyon
            Posted December 11, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

            Sorry -“black” is one of my 12 and it’s also in 16a. The other extra may be from 21/23a – I count 4 here: tele box, phone box, telephone box and “on the box”

            • dutch
              Posted December 11, 2015 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

              Brilliant, I only thought telephone box. I was wondering if you were including other solutions ( owner box?)

              Anyway I thought the ninas plus the 3 horizontal connected clues were quiite a constraint on Elgar – he’s not lazy!

              • Hanni
                Posted December 11, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

                Nope..can’t see the Nina as usual.

                • dutch
                  Posted December 11, 2015 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

                  rows 1 and 15

                  • Hanni
                    Posted December 11, 2015 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

                    Cheers Dutch.

                    Brilliant. Loved the crossword, love it more now.

            • Gazza
              Posted December 11, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

              I’m not sure you’re allowed to count 4 from 21/23 since the clue tells us ‘two more’. I made it 15 (only counting ‘black’ once) but I’m a bit doubtful as to what a ‘title box’ is.
              I thought that the whole thing was beautifully put together – thanks to Elgar for the proper Toughie and to dutch for the comprehensive review.

              • dutch
                Posted December 11, 2015 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

                I may be wrong but title box is something i encounter when writing manuscripts on a computer

                • halcyon
                  Posted December 11, 2015 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

                  Yep – I used to do a lot of text prep and I know “title box” is kosher. [even if Elgar doesn’t]. That’s actually my main criticism of the theme – that it’s so vague in that there are dozens/hundreds of words that may be suffixed by -box. Never mind, still fun.

  2. the dodger
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic! Bravo Elgar,and thanks to Dutch for the answer to 26 ac, a new word for me but there it was in the clue . Grrrrr. Best puzzle for ages.

  3. Physicist
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I managed three-quarters of this after much headscratching, but couldn’t make any headway in the NE quadrant. Many thanks to Elgar for the challenge, and to Dutch for the much-needed hints.

  4. Shropshirelad
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I am now going to lie down in a darkened room to give my brain a rest – I may be some time.

    Thanks to all, I think

    ’nuff said

  5. Barry
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Managed over half of it but still haven’t a clue what it is all about! Can anyone help please?

    • Posted December 11, 2015 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Barry

      Try reading the review again, then look at the comments.

    • dutch
      Posted December 11, 2015 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      welcome, in particular look again at 16a & 21a

      • Barry
        Posted December 12, 2015 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        After a lot of beer last night and a nights sleep, I have finally got it. Thank you. On reflection this was a terrific crossword, very cleverly constructed.
        I have been doing the Telegraph crossword for over 40 years and I love this site, not only for the occasional help but also I enjoy the comments. Thanks again to Dutch, Big Dave and Elgar.

  6. Charlie3110
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed this. Got the bottom half after a struggle and most of NE corner. Needed help with some of NW I confess. Loved 5d. Not a word I use often.
    Thanks to Dutch and Elgar.

    • dutch
      Posted December 11, 2015 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      5d exemplifies to me how a great clue can preclude any complaints of obscurity

  7. 2Kiwis
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    We needed to cheat with 11a. Not surprising when we look at the explanation. A few others where we did not understand all the wordplay. However we did end up with a completed grid but it did take a very long time. Had realised that there were lots of the themed answers but ran out of energy and time to sort them out. In awe of the cleverness involved in it all.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  8. Hanni
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 6:46 pm | Permalink


    Gosh! Just gosh. What a way to end the Toughie week and my goodness I found this tough. 16a is just so very clever but I didn’t spot all the links until I read the blog. Outstanding stuff.

    Two new words for me, 26a and 5d. I needed most of the checkers for the first and then spotted the hidden reverse. 5d was clued so fairly that I didn’t have a problem with it. A masterclass in the setting of an obscure word that is solvable. Oh wait 28a was new too.

    Loved the whole thing but certainly the most testing Toughie of late. No bad thing at all.

    Many thanks to Elgar for a superb puzzle and to Dutch for a brilliant blog.

  9. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I considered myself very lucky to have solved 16a at the start of the crossword but only realised what to look for once I got 26d.
    Needed the hints to finish the NW corner. Didn’t get 7a, 11a, 8d and 2d.
    As usual a masterpiece of cross clueing.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch.

  10. Expat Chris
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    I am avoiding looking at the hints and even reading the comments in the forlorn hope that I may get a few more answers all by my own self than the half dozen or so I have so far. It could possibly take me all weekend, in between the mince pies and cranberry-orange relish and brandy butter and stuffing making. If I am carted away drooling and gibbering to a nice soothing padded cell, I will endeavour to send word of my whereabouts so that you can send cake.

    • Hanni
      Posted December 11, 2015 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

      Consider it done Chris. We’ll smuggle in a glass of something strong too. It’s worth sticking at though.

      Cranberry and orange relish..sounds wonderful!

  11. Jane
    Posted December 11, 2015 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Couldn’t have been much further off wavelength!

    Got 14&17d in place and then bunged in 16a because the word count fitted. 10a came next and then I asked dear Mr. Google to find me a word to fit 5d with the P and X in the appropriate places.
    Well on my way, I thought – two Toughie setters already revealed (Anax & Kcit). Needless to say, it all went downhill from there.

    Resorted to Dutch’s admirable blog for hints and the odd ‘reveal’ to complete the grid but, until the penny finally dropped as to the theme, several of the definitions didn’t seem to make much sense.
    Sorry I made such a hash of it, Elgar, and many thanks to Dutch for leading me by the hand!

  12. Doughnut
    Posted December 12, 2015 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    Extraordinariy puzzle, jaw-droppingly good. New forehead crease count = 4.

    I baulked at 11a “Really challenge Dave…”: Challenge should surely have a capital C to play fair by the rules… But double-checking showed that Challenge TV’s logo is lower case c. Brilliant.

    • dutch
      Posted December 12, 2015 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      very nice. I notice I casually capitalised it incorrectly in the review

  13. Sheffieldsy
    Posted December 12, 2015 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    We did this in bed with a cup of tea this morning (our anniversary). We finished the tea but not the puzzle. Got about two thirds of the grid filled then had to refer to the hints. We were not helped at all by having ‘coins’ as the second word of 13a and bunging in Olympus for 10a! For Elgar to include two themed Ninas as well is utterly stunning. Fabulous stuff all round. Can we give it six stars just for admiration?

    • dutch
      Posted December 12, 2015 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      happy anniversary

      • Sheffieldsy
        Posted December 12, 2015 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        Thanks, Dutch and thanks for a cracking blog too. Today appears as though it will be devoted to putting up the Christmas decorations. Hey ho….

  14. Robin Hill
    Posted December 12, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Fantastic puzzle, which I finally completed this morning after being very slow to realise the connections. I also missed the Ninas. Many thanks Elgar, and also Dutch for the blog.

  15. andy
    Posted December 12, 2015 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Only finished this morning, manic few days but plaudits due in spades. Stunning. Needed help with the sweet thing in 6d though to fully understand the answer. Thanks to Dutch and Elgar