Toughie 1599

Toughie No 1599 by Elkamere

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

I’m always delighted when I get to blog an Elkamere. Today’s puzzle has the usual mix of clever clueing, disguised definitions and fun answers. It took me just over normal toughie time creeping into 4* for difficulty.

The definitions are underlined. 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    Natal West, Natal East, home (10)
BIRTHPLACE: One interpretation of Natal is left (west) of another (on the right/east)

6a    Fancy women welcome getting married (4)
WHIM: The abbreviation for women, an informal welcome, and the abbreviation for married

9a/10a Soldier and crazy outlaw in communist military group (10,4)
REGIMENTAL BAND: An American soldier, a 6-letter word for crazy, and a verb meaning outlaw all go inside a 3-letter communist

10a    See 9 Across

12a    This is one line and signal boxes (4)
CLUE: The abbreviation for line with a word for signal around it (boxes)

13a    A number of split leaves? (3,3,3)
TEA FOR TWO: Number as in a song, leaves as in a brew


15a    Male monarch abandons car (8)
MERCEDES: M(ale), the abbreviation for our queen, and a verb meaning abandons

16a    Sponge — WC Fields’ first, I see (6)
LOOFAH: Another word for WC, first letter of Fields, and a 2-letter interjection meaning ‘I see’

18a    Ingredients grown outside city (6)
RECIPE: A word for grown or mature goes around the London financial district post-code

20a    Could be a bit of a shock? It’s not clear-cut (4,4)
GREY AREA: We may find this in our hair as we age

23a/24a     A London slip road? (9,4)
PETTICOAT LANE: A famous London market known by a street name that can translate to “slip road”. Confusingly, the actual street name was changed to Middlesex St in 1846 (the Victorians didn’t want underwear in street names, but apparently didn’t mind sex)

24a    See 23 Across

26a    Silica seen in old china (4)
OPAL: The abbreviation for old and another word for china (plate) or mate

27a    Shade just broken after changing hands? (5,5)
LIGHT BROWN: A word for just or fair followed by a word for broken (as a speaker or amp might be), then swap the L and R (changing hands)

28a    Smile as you’re eating a piece of cake (4)
EASY: A lurker (eating) in Smile as you’re

29d    Scrap copper collected by motorsport bodies (10)
FISTICUFFS: The chemical symbol for copper is contained in the highest class of motor racing plus a 6-letter word for bodies or cadavers


1d    Crossing river, accept swamp (4)
BURY: a slang word for accept goes around R(iver)

2d    Artillery weapon upset soldier (7)
REGULAR: Reversal (upset) of the abbreviation for Royal Artillery and a type of pistol

3d    Comic mime drops the bombs (5,7)

4d    New parts on, so spin out (8)
LENGTHEN: The abbreviation for new goes inside (parts) a cricket side (on), and a word meaning so

5d    Scarf, mostly long for a time (6)
CRAVAT: Take a 5-letter verb meaning long for and remove the last letter (mostly), then add A T(ime)

7d    and 8d: OT players? (5,2,10)
HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN: A football team which is also a cryptic instruction generating OT

8d    See 7 Down

11d    It is, although isn’t (12)
MONOSYLLABIC: A property of a word demonstrated by “it” but not by “although”

14d    Mixed metaphors over name for mobile device (10)
SMARTPHONE: An anagram (mixed) of METAPHORS goes around (over) the abbreviation for name

17d    Fancy new torch etc (8)
CROTCHET: Anagram (new) of TORCH ETC

19d    Steel refined, but no good (7)
CUTLASS: A word meaning refined without the G(ood)

21d    No longer married? Close call! (4,3)
RING OFF: To end a phone call might also suggest one is no longer married

22d    Like this covering one slashes (6)
SOLIDI: A word for like, a 3-letter covering, and the Roman numeral for one

25d    Responsibility — our responsibility? (4)
ONUS: Split (2,2) the answer suggests this is our responsibility

I think the WC Fields clue is my favourite, although there were many contenders – which clues did you like?


  1. Posted May 6, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is only the second Elkamere I’ve attempted, and I found it considerably harder than the other. Not so at the beginning: my eyes fell immediately onto 26a – and so it was, with several more, mostly in the south (14d was a good in), following its lead. But then, after having fun surfing in the SW, it was back to reality with a huge bang.

    I liked the 6a fancy women, WC Fields in 16a and the 14d mixed metaphors. Also the 21d close call and the changing hands in 20a. Not to mention the wonderfully cryptic-sounding surface of 11d.

    I can think of a variation on the clue for 20a: something else that could be a bit of a shock and lead to the answer.

    Somehow I didn’t know that meaning of 17d, even though I am of course familiar with its adjectival form. Things that were completely new to me were 3d and 22d.

    I won’t tell you what manner of creative cheating I employed to get 7/8d. It’s a lovely clue once you know the answer, but getting there was painful!

    The trouble I had at the end rather took the shine off the puzzle at that point – but writing the above has reminded me of just how much I enjoyed it. Which was plenty. Many thanks to Elkamere for that wonderful (but very stiff) challenge.

    Thanks aplenty to Dutch also for another consummate review. An interesting bit of info re 23a/24a, which made me smile.

  2. Gazza
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Elkamere for a super puzzle and to Dutch for the informative review. The clues today are pretty succinct and packed with Elkamere’s usual clever misdirections. I didn’t know the ‘fancy’ in 17d. I’ll propose 29a, 11d and 21d for favouritism.

  3. Hanni
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good stuff as always.

    Highlights inc 1a (clever), 13a, 16a, 3d and 7&8d (glad we had the team recently).

    Favourite is the mixed metaphors of 14d.

    Many thanks to Elkamere and to Dutch for a great blog.

  4. Jezza
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I managed most of this without too much trouble, but despite all the checking letters, I was left with 7d/8d unsolved.

    Many thanks to Elkamere for a most enjoyable puzzle, and to Dutch for the write-up.

  5. Physicist
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I thought this was on the easy side for an Elkamere. The only clue which held me up significantly was 3d; first I mistook the definition for the anagram indicator, and then was misled by the enumeration. I thought that although apostrophes are ignored in possessives, those that indicate missing letters are shown, so the enumeration should have been (5, 1’6). Thanks to Elkamere and Dutch.

    • dutch
      Posted May 6, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Interesting distinction, but is it a missing letter? Unlike can’t and cannot, the answer is never spelt any other way. Which leads me to think, I’m sure I haven’t seen can’t enumerated as (3’1), whereas I think I have seen that sort of enumeration in proper nouns. I’m just admitting that I don’t know the rules!

      • Physicist
        Posted May 6, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

        You’re right, of course about can’t; I hadn’t thought of that. The apostrophe in 3d stands for an elided e rather than a missing one, I suppose. However, I’m sure I’ve seen “maitre d’hotel” for example, enumerated (6, 1’5) in previous crosswords. Perhaps it’s just foreign phrases that are enumerated that way.

        • dutch
          Posted May 6, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I was also thrown by the enumeration – but that happens to me a lot.

          • Hanni
            Posted May 6, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

            What’s the rules for enumeration when it comes to acronyms? I did a puzzle last week where the answer was an acronym but it wasn’t indicated as being so.

            • dutch
              Posted May 6, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

              Yes, that’s another one that has frustrated me as well – I imagine elkamere’s explanation below may be extended to this

              • anax
                Posted May 6, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

                Abbreviations are funny animals and whether they’re listed as 1.1.1. or 111 depends which dictionary you refer to. For that reason I avoid them entirely – in fact some crossword series disallow them full stop. Where they can be used I suppose (3) instead of (1.1.1.) is just a generally accepted space-saver; but, as I said, I avoid them so don’t have personal experience to refer to in terms of what editors say.

                Acronyms, by the way, are usually fair game and enumerated by a single digit.

                • Hanni
                  Posted May 6, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

                  Ta for the explanation.

                • dutch
                  Posted May 6, 2016 at 5:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

                  Oeff, hadn’t picked up on the distinction between acronyms and abbreviations – ta

  6. jean-luc cheval
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Such a clever crossword.
    Was on the right wavelength and surprised myself by getting 23a straight away (although I spelled it with a Y which slowed me down) and the football team in 7/8d ( where I thought OT was the Old Tynecastle stadium)
    29a was last in as I had Ring Out for 21d until I realised my mistake.
    Was a bit upset by the enumeration in 3d but finally managed to sort out the anagram.
    Loved the clever 27a and favourite is 20a.
    Thanks to Elkamere for a superb crossword and to Dutch for explaining everything.

    • stanXYZ
      Posted May 6, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

      1a – I still don’t understand the wordplay … Help!

      • Physicist
        Posted May 6, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Natal means (to do with) birth, and it’s also a place, so the answer is just two natals put side by side.

  7. anax
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks for the review Dutch – ace job as usual.

    Now, apostrophes. I have seen some publications use them but not the national dailies as far as I can tell. Omitting them isn’t an attempt to mislead, just a dual practicality. The first – very minor – is the extra space taken up by text which, very occasionally, might push a clue onto an extra line. The second is more significant and it’s simply that Crossword Compiler does the enumeration automatically and doesn’t include apostrophes. Adding them is very easy to forget, and an editor is just as likely to miss it because the reference will be a solution grid, not a list of answers.

    • dutch
      Posted May 6, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Elkamere,

      We love it when you drop in. Thanks for the apostrophic enlightenment – I guess we’re lucky ever to see apostrophes enumerated – and thank you of course for the puzzle.

      I should mention to our readers that they can meet you at the Derby S&B meeting in a few weeks, in case they missed you at the macclesfield meeting.

  8. crypticsue
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A splendid Toughie thank you Anax. 4*/5* and I’d better not repeat what I called you when I finally worked what the OT was.

    Thanks to Dutch too

    • dutch
      Posted May 6, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oh go on, repeat it…

      Anax, 4* from CS is a major compliment

  9. Salty Dog
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Cor! I’m amazed, and not a little smug, to report that I completed this unaided. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I have “cracked an Elk”. I freely admit that I had not come across 3D or 22d before, although by dint of inspired guesswork I managed to get both right. Overall, 4.5*/4.5*. There are so many wonderful clues to choose from, and I cannot pick a favourite from 29a, 9/10a, 18d or 7/8d. Many thanks to Elkamere, and to Dutch for confirming my inspired guesses.

    • dutch
      Posted May 6, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

      well done!

    • Hanni
      Posted May 6, 2016 at 8:18 pm | Permalink | Reply


  10. Sheffieldsy
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great stuff, even though we finally failed in the NW corner. We’re with Physicist on thinking that the enumeration for 3d, a phrase we’ve not previously encountered, was a little misleading and felt unfair.

    Otherwise a great effort. Our favourite clue by a long way was 7&8d – the biggest penny-drop moment in a long, long time. Honourable mentions go also to 27a and 22d.

    Agree with 4*/4* and thanks to Dutch for the review (and the ever-so-slightly relevant pictures) and to Elkamere for the fun.

    • dutch
      Posted May 6, 2016 at 8:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

      all pictures are relevant :-)

  11. Robin Newman
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 9:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    hints most appreciated-answers only needed for a few !

  12. Expat Chris
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Another day, another fail. So far off wavelength it wasn’t really any fun for me, but all due respect to the setter.And thanks of course to Dutch.

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted May 7, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That’s what I thought yesterday, I’ll bet you’re not alone.

  13. Woolgatherer
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 10:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Enjoyed the six I managed to do – but then retired defeated!

  14. Al
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I love him too. My mum put in Cha Cha Cha for Tea for Two – and you can sort of see why, but it niggled – and threw me off for half an hour. But a fun Friday evening :)

    • Posted May 6, 2016 at 10:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Welcome to the blog Al

    • Hanni
      Posted May 6, 2016 at 10:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Welcome from me too Al.

      I rather like the alternative answer your mum came up with!

  15. Jane
    Posted May 6, 2016 at 11:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Got there eventually but not without having to clamber across several obstacles.
    6a eluded me for ages, which meant I had no chance with the 7/8 combo until very late in the day. Once the initial letters were in, good old Dad’s obsession with listening to the football scores came into play again, but didn’t work out the parsing until much later!
    Registered the necessity for the L/R ‘changing’ in 27a but still managed to take a long time to sort it out correctly.
    29a – thought of every definition of ‘scrap’ barring the one needed and googled several motorsport bodies en route.
    3d was a complete unknown – can’t tell you how many anagram circles went into constructing that one!
    4d – yet another new cricket term……..
    11d – had the wrong ending in for quite a while. Talk about ‘nearly, but not quite’.
    17d – not come across that definition of ‘crotchet’ before today – thought it was just a music note. Live and learn.

    Phew – but lots to enjoy. Long list of ticks includes 9/10, 12,13,16&23/24a plus 21d.

    Many thanks, Dean/Elkamere/Anax – not exactly the words I was offering up to you this afternoon – and also to Dutch for a great blog. I should think you satisfied our male commenters on every level with the 15a pic!

    • Hanni
      Posted May 7, 2016 at 12:04 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hey! I’m a girl and I loved the pic of the SLR. In fact if someone wants to gift me one I’ll drive around in that outfit. Not the shoes obviously. And I don’t like tassels. And I prefer skinny jeans and tops. So maybe not that outfit. But nice car. :yes:

      • Shropshirelad
        Posted May 7, 2016 at 12:15 am | Permalink | Reply

        Nice car – poor aftercare.

  16. Shropshirelad
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 12:01 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi all – ‘V’ late in commenting on today’s puzzle, it’s been a busy day. One of the reasons (and there are many) I love a Mr Mayer production in whatever guise he’s chosen to go with, is – you always get lots of scribbling space beneath his clues. Such are the pithy constructs of his clues – he even makes Ray T seem verbose.

    Today is no exception. Loved the ‘doubles’ – Natal, Natal – responsibility, responsibility. However, I was disappointed by 15a. I have been brainwashed with ‘Audi’ over several months and complained about it several times. Now that I’ve bought one – you’re introducing ‘Mercedes’. Nope, won’t go there.

    I can’t single out a particular favourite as I’d be here all night. Suffice to say, thanks to Elkamere for the thoroughly entertaining puzzle and to Dutch for equally entertaining review.

    Having now booked my travel and accommodation for the 21st – I look forward to meeting you.

  17. LetterboxRoy
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi All – I’m posting late too because I’ve finally given up, begrudgingly. Two days to do a crossword – shameful.

    This was a strange one for me; I absolutely flew through a spattering of clues, then slowed on the deeper ones… then finally gave in to 22d. Still don’t really get it, I’ll look it up later.

    Had to build 3d as I didn’t know it, but as soon as I worked out the first word could only be one thing, second part was simple.

    Thought 16a was very neat and somewhat amusing, as was 6a.

    Tough one, but all the better for it.
    Thanks to all.

    • Physicist
      Posted May 7, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Re: 22d, a solidus is the technical name for a / , and solidi is the plural.

      • LetterboxRoy
        Posted May 8, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I see, thank you for taking the time to teach me something. I live to learn.
        Thanks again

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