Toughie 1522

Toughie No 1522 by Elkamere

It Helps if You Watch the Telly

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

Thanks to Elkamere for a proper Toughie which is very enjoyable. There’s a reasonable amount of general knowledge required here (some of which is a lot easier if you watch British TV) and I suspect that some of the clues (10a, 1d and 5d, for example) will cause difficulty for non-Brits. As always Elkamere is the master of hiding the definitions in plain sight.

This is my last blog before Christmas so may I wish everyone a Very Happy Christmas.

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.

Across Clues

1a Out of order lift wanted – she’s being thick (4-10)
HALF-WITTEDNESS – an anagram (out of order) of LIFT WANTED SHE’S.

9a Building where Holy Mother swaddles Jesus? (7)
MASONRY – the name of the mother in the Christmas story contains what Jesus was to her.

10a Elected American sent over article taken from Rear Admiral? (7)
INSURER – string together an adverb meaning elected, the reversal of an abbreviation for American and the word ‘rear’ without its indefinite article. Admiral is a company which is an example of the answer.

11a Newcastle‘s very nice, no formality (4)
TOON – an adverb meaning very or extremely followed by ‘nice’ without the word for formality or reserve is how Newcastle upon Tyne (and especially its football club) is referred to by its inhabitants.

12a Crimean port does not let through returning Israeli actor (10)
SEVASTOPOL – reverse a verb meaning ‘does not let through’ (like a goalkeeper) and add the name of an Israeli actor best known for his role in Fiddler on the Roof. I got this primarily from the Israeli actor but it took me some time to parse the first bit since I’ve only ever seen the place spelt with a B.

14a Light colour on desert palm (6)
RATTAN – a light brown colour follows a verb to desert or betray.

15a Whimsical about Earth, possibly how it feels to touch down (8)
FEATHERY – an adjective meaning whimsical or vaguely unworldly contains an anagram (possibly) of EARTH.

17a Religious jerk, about 18 (8)
THEISTIC – put a facial jerk around a verb which has a similar meaning to 18a but usually on a much more serious scale.

18a Turn again, going back to lift (6)
PILFER – reverse a verb to turn again or spin (something, such as a coin or a pancake) in the air once more.

21a Its procedure may imprison you? (10)
COURTHOUSE – a semi-all-in-one. A procedure or method contains an old word for ‘you’.

22a About to wind up pirate (4)
CRIB – an abbreviation meaning about or approximately followed by a verb to wind up or tease.

24a Huge old lady — gypsy? (7)
MAMMOTH – an affectionate word for one’s old lady is followed by what gypsy is a type of in the insect world.

25a With strong accent, hurt censor (7)
MARCATO – this is a musical term meaning strongly accented (I didn’t know it but BD obviously does because it’s in The Mine). A verb to hurt or damage is followed by the name of the Roman statesman and orator known as the Censor.

26a Singer fled capital, a horrible(!) fan being around (7,7)
FRANKIE VAUGHAN – string together a verb meaning fled, the capital of Ukraine, A and an exclamation meaning “that’s horrible”, then put FAN around the lot.

Down Clues

1d Top Gear presenter — one that can’t take over writing (7)
HAMSTER – although I avoid Top Gear like the plague I was aware of the nickname of Richard Hammond. Put someone who can’t take or detests around the abbreviation for (hand)writing.

2d/3d Somewhere a film stunt is shot for sitcom (4,2,3,6,4)
LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE – an anagram (shot) of SOMEWHERE A FILM STUNT. This was my first answer which I got from the enumeration.

3d See 2d

4d Some mints will get you by when you’re talking (6)
THYMES – these sound like ‘by’ (in multiplications).

5d Old record company values stadium (8)
EMIRATES – an old British record company is followed by a verb meaning values or esteems to form the name of a football stadium in North London.

6d Carries on lifting a single pound — very heavy? (4,2,4)
NOSE TO TAIL – a verb meaning carries and ON are reversed. Add A, the Roman numeral for a single and the abbreviation for a pound sterling and we have a phrase that may be used by a traffic reporter to describe very heavy congestion.

7d Short hit, most of strength kept in reserve (8,3,4)
STRAPPED FOR CASH – put a verb meaning hit or banged and a word meaning strength or power without its last letter inside a reserve or secret store.

8d Wheel cuts through mushroom (6)
BROLLY – a verb to wheel goes inside a preposition that can mean through to make what mushroom is a slang term for.

13d Clarinet delivered, plus hard parts (6,4)
BASSET HORN – a plus or something advantageous and the abbreviation for hard go inside a past participle meaning delivered (into the world).

16d Cut up OK-ish minced Russian delicacies (8)
PIROSHKI – reverse a verb to cut or tear and add an anagram (minced) of OK-ISH. Another new word for me.

17d Future book about military chap (2,4)
TO COME – put a large book around the abbreviation for a senior military person.

19d Black and blue after game — what’s needed? (7)
RUBDOWN – the abbreviation for black and an adjective mean blue or depressed follow the abbreviation for the fifteen-a-side game.

20d Foundation provider when I go short (6)
ASIMOV – this is the prolific (and my favourite) science-fiction author who wrote the Foundation series of books as well as lots of excellent stories about robots. A conjunction meaning when is followed by I and a verb to go or proceed without its final letter.

23d Wife‘s endless cheating (4)
FRAU – a word for cheating or swindling loses its last letter.

At the top of the tree for me were 9a, 15a, 21a and 19d. Which ones got your festive lights flashing?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    A lovely proper Toughie, thank you Elkamere and Gazza too. Happy Christmas to you both.

    Fans of Dean’s puzzles may wish to go and do today’s FT puzzle by Loroso. I really enjoyed solving it either side of a filling at the dentists early this morning.

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Needed the review to check a couple as I did manage to complete the grid from the parsing but some answers just didn’t make sense to me.
    I didn’t know the nickname of the Top Gear presenter and the meaning of the umbrella in 8d.
    The three letter word for whimsical was also new to me and I could only find it as a synonym for dead.
    The singer in 26a was quite a construction. Took some time off to watch him on the Morecambe and Wise show and singing with Marilyn Monroe.
    7d also was quite Lego-ish.
    Liked the Sci-Fi writer in 20d.
    And the Arsenal stadium of course.
    The enumeration in 2,3d was a bit messy on the online version as they had (4,2,3,6) for 2d and (4) for 3d.
    Just noticed that the only one I couldn’t parse was 4d. I thought it was some idiom about time passing by but the plural form made no sense.
    Thanks to Elkamere and Gazza and I wish a jolly good Xmas to both.

  3. dutch
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    With plenty of electronic help, I was happy finally to finish this, all nicely parsed or so I thought – thank you Gazza for pointing out there was a little more to 21a than I’d noticed – I thought it was a weak cd having missed the very nice all-in-one, doh.

    I thought the two long anagrams were very good, I quite liked 9a as I spent some time wondering how on earth I was going to fit Jesus in, loved “religious jerk” in 17a and 15a “how it feels to touch down”- luckily I had just come across fey recently. I also thought 4a was very nice, reminded me of being paranoid of smelling like beer. 24a made me laugh. And lots more to like

    Many thanks Gazza, best wishes for Xmas, and thank you Elkamere for another excellent puzzle.

  4. anax
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Thanks all, and a very Merry Christmas. Sorry this is a bit rushed, but today is last one with daughter before Xmas so we’re having non-computer-based quality time… on the PS3.

    • Hanni
      Posted December 23, 2015 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Happy Christmas. Thanks for the puzzles this year.

      My child type thing was plugged into the Xbox until an hour ago. Along with drawing a new map of the world for when she, her stuffed rabbit and the Americans have taken over North Korea. It’s seems quite festive.

      Back to the puzzle.

    • dutch
      Posted December 23, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      she’ll thrash you

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted December 23, 2015 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      Thank you very much for all the challenges in all of your alias’s throughout 2015. So I will take this opportunity to wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  5. Una
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    It certainly was a proper Toughie.I got around half.It was fun trying.

  6. Gazza
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Toughie tomorrow is by Firefly. On Christmas Day (for subscribers to the online site only) there’s a Toughie by Shamus and a ‘Double Toughie’ by Elgar. I think that ‘double Toughie’ means that it has two grids not that it’s twice as tough (although that could well be the case too!).

  7. KiwiColin
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Finally defeated by 11a and had to cheat. Even when I had the answer it took a while to suss the wordplay. The W side (apart from 11a) went in quite easily but the E was a totally different story. Google was needed to check the Admiral in 10 but I had it from the wordplay. Lots of clever clues, such as the wordplay for 26a, and generally much enjoyed but did find some of the “general” knowledge somewhat frustrating.
    Thanks Elkamere and Gazza.

  8. Hanni
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 7:33 pm | Permalink


    It’s a cracker. And a difficult to pull cracker at that. At one point my brain went snap somewhere near a Crimean port (thanks for the help there Jane ) . And despite living sort of close to Newcastle and having worked in Gosforth many years ago, all I could think of for 11a was Magpies? 16d was completely new to me and I needed all the checkers plus Google to confirm it. Amazingly I had heard of 5d as a stadium. I got 25a but needed Gazza’s help to understand why..I have also now printed out The Mine! 1a took an embarrassingly long time to solve too. Despite a perfect letter circle.


    So much to like here. For its seasonal theme and because I just think it’s a lovely clue, 9a gets the favourite vote, although I have stars by 9 others.

    Many thanks to Elkamere and to Gazza for a great and needed blog. Happy Christmas to you both and thanks for your puzzles and blogging in the last year.

  9. happy days
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    9a unquestionably the winner. A lovely clue.

  10. Jane
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Almost tears of frustration as the last five held out for sooooo long.
    You don’t win this time, Elkamere, but came very, very close indeed!
    Possibly a bit heavy on the ‘general’ knowledge, but made up for by some lovely clues.
    Top three for me are 9&15a plus 17d.
    Many thanks and a Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    As always, Gazza, I needed your help to complete the parsing – thanks a million and do enjoy your Christmas break.

  11. Shropshirelad
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Well, he never lets me down – but I am now Anax / Elkamere / Mayered out after the last couple of days. I have far too many ticks beside too many clues to pick a favourite, so I will not even try. I agree that some of the clues were in the GB GK area – however, the were very getable from the word play.

    Thanks to Elkamere for the puzzle and Gazza for his review.

  12. Expat Chris
    Posted December 24, 2015 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    I managed about three quarters, but too “British” and too much general knowledge required for me to say I enjoyed this. As far as the ‘British’ goes, those are the breaks. This is a British newspaper after all. As far as the GK is concerned, just too much in a cryptic crossword for my liking. 15A did make me smile because I’ve been accused of being fey a lot more than once. Thanks to Elkamere for the workout, and thanks to Gazza for the review.