Toughie 1531

Toughie No 1531 by Elkamere

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

I’m always happy when I get to blog an Elkamere. I highly recommend trying today’s puzzle to experience all the fresh, clever, and fun clueing going on. As always, Elkamere gives us masterfully disguised definitions and crisp wordplay. This puzzle was intended for New Year’s Day so that clues like 22d would have maximum impact, but for me everything still works just fine – after all we’re only a week into the New Year. This took me 4* time and is definitely a 5* for enjoyment.

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    Sees, around drunk youngster, frozen drinks (5,7)
SLUSH PUPPIES: A 5-letter verb meaning sees goes around both a 4-letter drunk and a 3-letter youngster (think young dog)

9a/19d    Old mail service‘s curse about NYE crowd (4,7)
PONY EXPRESS: A 3-letter word for curse (also a viral disease) goes about NYE from the clue, plus a 5-letter verb meaning to crowd or squeeze

10a    Take faulty present back then study martial art (3,4,2)
TAE KWON DO: Anagram (faulty) of TAKE, the reversal (back) of another word for present (as in time), and a 2-letter verb meaning to study (as in “I ** chemistry”)

12a    Sort of thing covering wheels (6)
ANIMAL: Reversal (wheels) of a word meaning a covering or layer. The answer is a “sort of thing” as in “there’s no such ******” or “well, that’s a completely different ******”

13a    New Year is over in Russia – yes, probably (1,4,3)
I DARE SAY: Anagram (new) of YEAR IS goes around (over) the word for yes in Russia

15a    Body of water in drum – uniform gets put inside (5,5)
PUGET SOUND: Take a 5-letter verb meaning drum or beat, and inside this put both the letter encoded by the international radio communication code Uniform and “gets” from the clue. This body of water is on the west coast of North America near the Canadian border. I used to live nearby, so I got this quickly, but I’m guessing it might not be so obvious to everyone

16a    Sink full when wife’s left (4)
HOLE: Remove the abbreviation for wife from the start of a 5-letter word meaning full or entire

18a    No more  balls (4)
OVER: A double definition, the first in the sense of finished and the second in a cricket sense

20a    Fuel stocks start to make crime sadly profitable (10)
COMMERCIAL: a 4-letter type of fuel you may use in your fireplace (not wood) contains (stocks) both the first letter of (start to) make and an anagram (sadly) of CRIME

23a    I cut start of race run during day (8)
LAPIDARY: If a race has a number of circuits, the first of these (at the start of the race) may be referred to as “(3,1)”. Follow this with the abbreviation for run inside (during) “day” from the clue to give you this stone-cutter

24a    Hangover – need to bury head? (6)
GOVERN: Rather well “buried” in Hangover – need

26a    Without love, we ask person to be sad (9)
WOEBEGONE: Place “we” from the clue outside (without) the letter that looks like a score of love in tennis, add a 3-letter verb for ask or implore, and a word for a person (anybody)

27a    Unwilling to dress, skirts not needed (4)
LOTH: Remove the outer letters (skirts not needed) of a 6-letter verb meaning to dress

28a    First clue came up: Dry as air (7,5)
ROSETTA STONE: A 4-letter verb meaning came up, the abbreviation for teetotal, AS from the clue and a 4-letter word meaning air or character


2d    Desolate year existed in past (3,5)
LAY WASTE: One-letter abbreviation for year and a 3-letter verb meaning existed go inside (in) a word meaning past

3d    Place in faculty announced (4)
SITE: The answer sounds like (announced) one of our faculties or senses

4d    £25 pens used, fancy writing false names (10)
PSEUDONYMS: A slang word for £25 surrounds (pens) an anagram (fancy) of USED, followed by the 2-letter abbreviation for a piece of writing or a document

5d    Monarch’s occupying soldiers held Austin? (6)
POWERS: The 2-letter abbreviation for our Queen goes inside (occupying) an abbreviation for soldiers held (in captivity)

6d    Dramatist is describing individual officer (7)
IONESCO: To get this Romanian-French playwright, write IS from the clue around (describing) a 3-letter word meaning individual, and add the abbreviation for commanding officer

7d    Relation finds right time to be stuck in traffic (12)
STORY TELLING: A word for the right, conservative party plus the abbreviation for time go inside (to be stuck in) a word meaning traffic as in trade or dealing

8d    22‘s business dynasty (6)
COMING: The abbreviation for company or business and a Chinese dynasty give a synonym for the answer of 22d

11d    Hanger-on the leaders butcher? (4-8)
CAMP-FOLLOWER: This is a term for a civilian who follows an army or political group. On reading the first word with a different meaning, in comparison we might find “the leaders butcher”

14d    See work, or hear drunk’s verbosity (10)
LOGORRHOEA: A 2-letter interjection for see, a 2-letter verb meaning work (as in “does it work?”), followed an anagram (drunk) of OR HEAR

17d    Posh kid put up with playing regularly (8)
BROOKLYN: a formal verb meaning to put up with or endure is followed by the even letters (regularly) of playing

19d    See 9a

21d    I see frames close to the picture (6)
IDEATE: The I from the clue plus a verb meaning to see (as in to see someone you are interested in) which goes around (frames) the last letter of (close to) the

22d    2016’s arrival (6)
ADVENT: Read this as twenty sixteen, then look elsewhere in the grid for two substitutions

25d    Following cross, evidently a goal? (4)
NEXT: The letter that looks like a cross is “(2,3,3)”, an expression we use when the ball is in the goal

Of course I liked 22d and that is probably my favourite. But I also adored 25d, 17d, 21d, 4d, 5d, 7d just to name a few. How did you like the puzzle and which were your favourite clues?


  1. Gazza
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Superb – thanks to Elkamere and Dutch for the blog. My choices for favouritism were 18a, 17d and 25d.
    In 11d didn’t there ought to be an apostrophe somewhere in “leaders”?

    • dutch
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      I think Elkamere wanted to keep the grammar intact in “leaders butcher” (with butcher a verb), and that gives us more than one leader

  2. Shropshirelad
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I do love a good Elkamere puzzle and this is a particularly brilliant one IMHO. The top half went in quite easily but the bottom half gave the old grey matter a wake up call. 15a leapt out at me as I have friends that used to live in Silverdale and we’d travel across to Seattle on the ferry. The view from the Space Needle is quite spectacular. I have my name on a tile in Pike Market – wonder if it’s still there?

    I liked 22d and 2d but my favourite is 28a.

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

    Have a good weekend all.

  3. halcyon
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Yes indeed Dutch – fresh, clever and fun clueing. I also found it far less of a struggle than yesterday’s.The NE side went in fairly swiftly with most of the tougher clues to the SW.

    I’m not totally convinced by the use of “covering” in 12a as a synonym for the reversed thin layer but that’s a small quibble as it’s easy to see how the whole clue works.

    Favourites: 22d [very Elkamere – the whole grid has to hang around this one clue] and then 8d is a nice bonus. 25d is a cracker too with 7d and 17d not far behind.

    Thanks for a fine blog and especially for explaining 11d which had escaped me [LOL] and, of course many thanks to Elkamere [the New Boss?]

  4. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Loved the “soldiers held” in 5d and the “start of race” in 23a.
    The clues were so smooth and short, a real pleasure.
    Didn’t understand the subtility of 11d though and left 25d incomplete as I couldn’t parse it.
    Favourites are 2d and 17d. Just like Austin above in 5d, it brought a wide smile.
    Could go on and on talking about how clever was this crossword.
    Thanks to Elkamere and to Dutch for the enlightenment.

  5. Hanni
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    I was going to leave this until tonight but I have plans plus curiosity got the better of me.

    Joyful from start to finish and oh so clever. There is not a weak clue anywhere. I agree with J-L about the ‘soldiers held’ in 5d, Loved 18a No more balls, that made me laugh, 17d was genius, 22a, what can I say, brilliant!

    I could go on but it’s easier to say I thought this was an innovative masterclass of a puzzle.

    Many many thanks to Elkamere and to Dutch for blogging.

  6. Gordon
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Top third I found relatively easy (bar 6d and 7d), got a couple of others then I came to a grinding halt.
    I can see them all now except for 11d – can somebody please expand on Dutch’s explanation.
    Many thanks

    • dutch
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      The idea was simply that if the follower is camp, then by comparison the leader might be more butch (butcher)

      • Expat Chris
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink


        • Gordon
          Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

          Ugh! indeed – now understood. Many thanks

          • Gazza
            Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

            You’re putting an extra R into your email address. I’ve edited your last two comments to reinstate your usual email address.

  7. Expat Chris
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Quite pleased with myself because there were only two that I didn’t complete, 14D and 21D. From the checking letters for 14D I did get a valid word but since I couldn’t equate a certain venereal disease with verbosity, I regretfully discarded it. 21D is a ghastly word that sounds like one of RD’s hated Americanisms. It’s not, according to the BRB, but it’s bad enough to qualify as an honorary one. I can’t imagine anyone using it, so I don’t mind not solving the clue.

    Altogether a lovely struggle and after a bad toughie week for me I feel so much better. My favorite was 28A, but I did like 17D, too. Many thanks to Elkamere and to Dutch for the blog (although I can’t make head nor tail of your hint for 11D, the one clue I couldn’t even begin to parse even though I had the answer).

    • dutch
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      I used to lead an innovation team at AstraZeneca, 21d was easy for me without any hint of being an honorary Americanism

  8. anax
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the great blog Dutch – you deserve a couple of drinks down the ‘Goose in an hour.
    Nice to see an ‘Ugh’ comment on 11d. I like to believe only the good puns get that reaction, although I could be wrong.

  9. Jane
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Not prepared to say how long this took, not willing to admit how much help was sought from Mr. Google and definitely not going to neglect to thank Dutch for making sense of my answers.
    6,14&21d were all new words for me and it had never occurred to me that I couldn’t spell 10a!
    All potential favourites but I’ll give the edge to the 8/22 combo and the posh baby at 17d.

    Many thanks, Elkamere, it was worth every tooth-pulling moment!

  10. Salty Dog
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Managed a little over half of this (nearly all on the right) unaided last night, cracked a few more over post-mucking out coffee, but still had to draw on 6 hints to complete. Too advanced for me. I didn’t get 11d (nor Dutch’s hint) so am very grateful for the explanation above. I can now see that it’s a brilliant clue. I’d never have got 28a, or 14d (although I dare say I have offended in this way in my time, I’ve never come across this word for it). All in all, 5*/4*. Thanks to the Elk – I’ll keep trying – and to Dutch for all the help.