Toughie 1559

Toughie No 1559 by Elgar

I’ll huff and I’ll puff…

Hints and tips by crypticsue

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

The long-awaited first Elgar Toughie for 2016 brings us a lovely themed crossword with the  level of difficulty we expect from him, and always hope for in a Toughie,  particularly on a Friday.

There was indeed a lot of huffing and puffing, not to mention muttering and head-scratching, but once I’d solved 11a, I got a toe-hold (sorry!) on that part of the  theme, solving 7d provided the other part  and after that everything fell into place, although I have to say that parsing/writing the hints for a few  of the clues did take longer than others.

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.


6a           Writer’s left second 7 in shelter for pigeon and rook (5,6)
COLIN DEXTER   A well-known crime writer can be found by inserting the abbreviation for Left and the second “7” into a shelter for a pigeon, the result then finished off with the abbreviation for Rook in a game of chess

9a & 21a   Current means to identify criminal on the Rock turning antagonist to 11 (3,3,4)
BIG BAD WOLF   Reverse (turning) the movement of, for example, water (current), a slang fingerprint (means to identify criminal) and the abbreviated way we refer to the British Rock on the tip of Spain.

big bad wolf

10a         ‘Double O’ assumed by wily secret agent stopping the rot (8)
CREOSOTE    A wood preservative is obtained from an anagram (wily)  of O O (double O) and SECRET.


11a         Beastly triad split and leg it when alarmed (6,4)
LITTLE PIGS    An anagram (when alarmed) of SPLIT and LEG IT

14a         See 27

15a         After the last 7, Little Britain’s personal anti-hero (6,5)
PINKIE BROWN    The anti-hero in Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock –  The abbreviation for Britain and an adjective meaning personal go after the American and/or Scottish way of referring to the last “7”.

Pinkie Brown

21a         See 9

22a         Fourth 7, months back, not quite the showman (10)
RINGMASTER   The fourth “7”, an abbreviation for months, and not quite all of  the nautical term for something towards  the back of a ship.


25a         It’s critical, like a 11 home city lacking hospital (8)
BRICKBAT     Like the home of one of the 11 followed by a West Country city without the H (lacking hospital).

27a & 14a             Modified old EEC grain from which retinol vitamin is derived? (6,4)
GOLDEN RICE   A genetically-modified grain from which retinol (Vitamin A) can be derived is an anagram (modified) of OLD EEC GRAIN once you have removed the A (derived here  meaning drawn off or removed).

28a         English region means to raise water drowning first 7 on river (11)
NORTHUMBRIA   Insert the first “7” and the abbreviation for river into a  machine activated by water power and used for lifting water into a small aqueduct, either for the purpose of irrigation or for the use in towns and villages


1d           Absolutely nothing in beauty missing a beat? (3,3)
YOU BET  Insert O (nothing) into BEAUTY, remove the A (missing A) and then ‘beat’ into an anagram to get a slang way of saying absolutely.

2d & 20   C-grade pupil in French class heading off with lecturer after third 7 (6-5) Online clue C-grade, perhaps, exposed intelligent lecturer after third 7? (6-5) 
MIDDLE LEVEL   A French school pupil without its first letter (heading off) and the abbreviation for Lecturer go after the third “7”
Online:  A synonym for intelligent without its outside letters (exposed) and the abbreviation for Lecturer go after the third “7”.

3d           Poetical fairy skips from time to time (4)
ODIC   Remove a beautiful fairy (fairy skips) from an adjective meaning from time to time.

4d           Old mate’s all fingers and thumbs – and toes? Instead, perhaps, muscle (8)
EXTENSOR  Any muscle that stretches – an abbreviated way of referring to a former partner (old mate) , the number of fingers and thumbs, or indeed toes, that you have, and OR (instead, perhaps).   The clue contains quite a heavy hint as to the theme of today’s Toughie which is reflected in the illustration which I thought much nicer than any of the options for the muscle in question.

fingers and toes

5d           Like a 11 home stylish newbie’s set up over plant (8)
BEDSTRAW   A young lady presented at court (stylish newbie) is reversed and put over a description of one of the 11’s  home.


7d           2 for one is very much like sexual attraction (5)
DIGIT   the Arabic numeral  2 would be an example (for one)  of this  – Split 3, 2 you’d very much like some sexual attraction.

8d           See 24

12d         Pool league’s popular (3)
LIN     The abbreviation for League followed by another way of saying popular gives us one way of spelling  a pool at the foot of a waterfall.

13d         In time, a note to clarify (1,4)
I MEAN    Look carefully and the “lurker” will be clarified!

16d         Virus maybe in corrupted force, taking little time (8)
INFECTOR    IN (from the clue) and an anagram (corrupted) of FORCE into which is inserted (taking) an abbreviation (little) for Time.

17d         A country singer performing opera’s a bit strange (8)
KIRIBATI    The Christian name of an opera singer from New Zealand and an anagram (strange) of A BIT go together to make a tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean..

18d         More than one opening for topless American singer (3)
ORA    Removing the first letter (topless) from fOR and adding the abbreviation for American gives us both the plural of a zoological mouth/opening  and the surname of Rita the British singer, some of the illustrations of whom would definitely almost fall into the topless category – fortunately it is me illustrating this one!

Rita Ora

19d         See 26

20d         See 2

23d         President Lincoln’s face stands aloft (6)
MUGABE    A slang term for the face goes before the informal way we might refer to President Lincoln.

24d & 8   Tanned by sun, I feel like a 11 home camera accessory (6,5)
SELFIE STICK   S (sun) is followed by an anagram (tanned) of  I FEEL and then a description of the material used to make a home for another of the 11a.

selfie stick

26d & 19   Repeatedly act as solicitor’s brief (4,5)
TOUT COURT   Briefly, simply or without further clarification –  Repeatedly indicates that you need two of the many words that we might use instead of saying act as one who solicits.

Thanks to Elgar for an entertaining brain-stretcher and for Dutch for letting me win the virtual arm-wrestling contest.


  1. Gazza
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    A lovely Friday treat – thanks to Elgar and CS.
    The online clue for 2/20d is slightly different;
    C-grade, perhaps, exposed intelligent lecturer after third 7? (6-5)

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    What a splendid crossword.
    Two themes running at the same time.
    Got 11 and 9a first which helped me get the three construction materials. Then 7d and all fingers were accounted for.
    Stroke of luck really which made the rest pretty straightforward.
    Loved the French expression in 26d and favourite is either 23d which made me laugh aloud or 1d.
    Thanks to Elgar for the super fun and to CS for the review.

  3. Davelawes
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to setter, but mainly to crypticruise- without hints today I would have got nowhere – despite solving 11a .
    All in all too difficult for me .

  4. Hanni
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    As I was solving (battling) with this I was thinking “Gosh I do not envy Dutch writing clear hints for this”…However thanks and congratulations go to CS! I did also wonder if I’ll huff and I’ll puff would be used for the title! Yay!

    Onto the puzzle. I was lucky that 9 and 11a went in quite quickly but 7d didn’t. I huffed and I puffed and the house remained standing. It took an age for the penny to drop. 25a was a new definition for me..also had to check 5, 12 and 18d.

    As difficult as I found this, it was a joy an absolute joy to solve and just that great feeling of satisfaction when you realise what Elgar is up to if that makes sense.

    Loved 1d

    Many thanks to Elgar for one heck of a puzzle and to CS for an excellent blog.

  5. Physicist
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Great puzzle. I stared at it for ages before getting my first answer (27a & 14a), but after that I got the beastly triad and then 7d, and things began to fall into place. Many thanks to Elgar for the challenge, and to CS for the blog – a model of clarity as always.

  6. Shropshirelad
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Can’t say much more other than ‘I doff my cap to you sir’ – what an excellent puzzle! On my first read through I managed to get 3 clues and one of them was 12d. My next one in was 4d which opened up quite a bit of the puzzle for me (don’t know many writers with an ‘x’ in their name). That led to 7d an away you go.

    Loved it from start to finish – thanks for the enjoyment Elgar – you’ve made my week. Thanks are also due to CS for a splendid review, you must have had fun writing it – well done. I had expected to see Dutch in the blogging chair today but, thinking of it, I haven’t seen him comment for the last few days. I hope he’s well.

    Have a great weekend all.

    • crypticsue
      Posted February 26, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      He was all right when we arm wrestled last night and he had a very busy day planned for today. Perhaps he will pop in later

      • Shropshirelad
        Posted February 26, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink


    • dutch
      Posted February 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      I’m fine, thank you. Went skiing for a week then needed to go to holland unexpectedly for the funeral an uncle who has been in slow decline. I’ll be back!

  7. halcyon
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I found this more satisfying [and less infuriating] than usual for Elgar. It was certainly tough to get into, with so many clues referring back to 2 “theme” clues [neither of which I could solve until half way thro] but once 7d yielded it all fell into place. 7d was itself rather cunning as I assumed the 2 referred to 2d! Favourites were the stupendous 27/14a, 1d [one of my last in, to my shame] and the neat 17d.

    Many thanks to Elgar and to CS for unravelling it.

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    It took ages for us to crack the theme clues and before that progress was very slow indeed. Eventually we had a flash of inspiration and got 11a and not too much later 7d. From then on progress was slow but steady until, with a bit of help from Google in places, we got it all sorted out. 17d is definitely our favourite as not only does it feature a Kiwi, but many years ago we spent an amazing month in the tiny island nation that is the answer. An excellent puzzle where the enjoyment and satisfaction truly justified the effort needed to solve it.
    Many thanks Elgar and CS.

  9. Jane
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Well out of my league today. Got 9 answers in (including the two that should have helped – 11a&7d) but simply ran out of steam.
    Many thanks for the review, CS, it was good homework to look at how I should have gone about this one.
    Elgar – you’re a very clever setter!

  10. Sheffieldsy
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Rather beyond our pay grade. We felt too many of the answers were obscure, and given the difficulty of their associated clues it turned into a less than joyful electronic search exercise in too many places. We’d rate it 6*/3*.

    Favourite clue was 9&21a.

    Thanks to CS and Elgar.

  11. Wolfson Bear
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    What a great puzzle. I am sure I sat in front of my print off without getting a single answer for longer than I have any crossword in the last five years or so. Fear, not of a “Did not finish” but a “did not start” began to set in before cracking the anagram to 11a which of course opened it up a lot. The 7d one took longer although I had seen the actual answer fitted “like” “sexy” well but was unsure about the “2 for one”. Eventually a number of pencilled in hunches showed a number of types of finger and the connection with 11a and the hunch at 7d struck home and it was then a relatively smooth ride in

    Thanks to CS for explaining the word for pool – it did not show up in the electronic dictionaries i use (free ones it must be said) which I had not heard of in any spelling let alone this one. However there seemed no alternative answer. There were several other words I had to look up too but for such a cleverly constructed puzzle I will not complain – far too enjoyable. And thanks to Elgar of course

    Unless I am mistaken this puzzle makes the difficulty rating of this weeks 4 toughies hit 16 out of a maximum 20. There can’t have been many weeks with 17 or more stars. MrT is falling behind with just 3* – time he produced a stinker!

  12. Heno
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Thanks to Elgar and to CrypticSue for the review and hints. I’ll leave this one to the experts. I couldn’t get one clue. I got the wrong anagram fodder for 11a. Then looked it up. I guessed 12d, but I’d never heard of it. I’m completely mystified by 15a, can’t even understand the hint. Never heard of 18d either. I give up.

  13. Outnumbered
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Clever and very enjoyable as usual from Elgar. I needed the dictionary a couple of times and was stumped by 26/19, but pleased with my effort…

  14. Killer Watts
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Made a poor start, then got steadily worse. Only problem areas were the NE, NW, SE and SW corners. Back pager til I die, back pager til I die, I know I am, I’m sure I am , a back pager til I die.

  15. Kitty
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    This little pig has a brain made of straw. I needed most of the hints, but it was an interesting learning experience even if it did put me in my place: inside the wolf!

    Thanks to Elgar for the ordeal and many thanks to CS for the lifeline.

  16. dutch
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    I only got around to this today (sunday). At first I was put off by all the cross-referencing, but as usual once you get into it, it’s not that bad. I thought this was reasonably doable for an Elgar (though it took me quite a while). Some obscure stuff. I thought it was clever to include index and thumb in the top and bottom across clues.

    Many thanks to CS for covering for me and for an excellent review: I hadn’t managed to parse 3d and I had convinced myself there must be an american singer called Nora (18d)

    I was massively impressed with the exceptionally clever &lit at 27a.

    JL suggested two themes, but as CS mentions in her review at 4d: piggies can also describe digits, especially toes ( this little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home….)

    Many thanks Elgar for a great puzzle as always and thank you CS for the review

  17. Lesley
    Posted February 29, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    monday morning. i want to blame the lurgy on my befuddled brain, but having looked up hints and answers the crossword was just beyond me, although i have have no complaints (other than ague). I bow down to greater brains than mine. Thanks guys

  18. Ann O'Rack
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Cor, that was a stiff one. More like that please.

    • Posted March 13, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Ann

      Are you a train-spotter by any chance?

    • Kitty
      Posted March 13, 2016 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      Consider yourself spotted. Welcome.