Toughie 1619 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1619

Toughie No 1619 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Yes, Dutch who? But what an amazing puzzle we have today. It easily deserves 5* for enjoyment for all the laughs and the cleverness, but wait – not only do we have a pangram (I would have loved to use it in my solve), but we also have an impressive Nina, hinted at by the 14a/17a connection in the clues. What a creation – I salute Elgar the Great. So, 6* for enjoyment

The definitions in the clues below 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     Specific dock? (6)
DETAIL: The answer can whimsically be interpreted as a verb meaning to cut off (a part of an animal)

4a     Get out of Oxford in a tediously straight line (8)
ORDINATE: A brilliantly hidden lurker (indicated by ‘Get out of’….definition)

9a     Make merry when hosting a show (6)
REVEAL: A verb meaning make merry contains (when hosting) ‘a’ from the clue

10a     Without cares, having reduced line of supply (8)
ALFRESCO: Anagram (supply, as in flexibly) of CARES + reduced L(ine) + OF

12a     Boxes unopened – Cornish port has standards! (4)
PARS: Two sets of wordplay to give you a fighting chance: Remove the first letter (unopened) of a verb meaning boxes, and a 3-letter Cornish port plus an ‘S (=has)

13a     Everyone wanted this way back when heading off crew at Cambridge (5)
OLDIE: Remove the initial letter (heading off) from a Cambridge rowing crew to get a type of song

  ARVE Error: need id and provider

14a     Get bigger third helpings of tart unifying passion-fruit and cherry … (4)
RISE: Take the third letters from the list of words at the end of the clue

17a     … stone-cutting ogre about to give lecture to Gordon Bennett! (12)
ORCHIDECTOMY: Ouch! A 3-letter Tolkien-style ogre goes around (about) a 5-letter verb meaning to lecture or to rebuke, followed by ‘to’ from the clue and a 2-letter interjection meaning Gordon Bennett!

20a     ‘I’m cop later on, with reform’ (6,6)
POLICE MATRON: An all-in-one. Anagram (with reform) of I’M COP LATER ON

23a     Penny has dropped, bowled and stumped skipper (4)
AHAB: What you might say when the penny drops (for this clue, perhaps) plus the abbreviation for bowled

24a     Fly-by-night crew discovered heading west (5)
EGGAR: Taker a 7-letter verb that means crew or boasted, remove the first and last letters (discovered or dis-covered) and reverse (heading west)

25a     Is it the last to groom on an equine’s head? (4)
MANE: A semi-all-in-one. Take the last letter of groom and place it on ‘an’ from the clue and add the first letter (head) of equine

28a     I’m too sophisticated – she’s gradually seduced (8)
SMOOTHIE: Another great all-in-one: An anagram (sophisticated) of I’M TOO into which SHE is gradually (i.e. one letter at a time) seduced or ensnared

29a     In from Exchange and with final tip for Twitter following (6)
FANDOM: In ‘from’ from the clue, substitute (exchange) ‘and’ for the last letter in (final tip for) Twitter

30a     We accept bouquets, doing a turn in kilts? Kelvin will have to go for lecturer (8)
NOSTRILS: Take a (6,2) phrase that can mean in kilts, reverse (doing a turn), and replace K(elvin) with L(ecturer)

31a     Unusually nervy dogs with dragon’s offspring? (6)
WYVERN: Anagram (unusually) of NERVY follows (dogs) the abbreviation for w(ith)


1d     Broke free from below rocky mass, Teletubby captive (4-4)
DIRT-POOR: A 3-letter verb for free or remove is reversed (from below, in a down clue), followed by a 3-letter rocky height or hill into which a Teletubby is inserted

2d     Comrade‘s fired up, admitting limitless greed (8)
TOVARICH: A 3-letter word for fired or passionate is reversed (up) around (admitting) a word for greed from which the first and last letters have been removed (limitless)

3d     I take on what people often ask about leaderless country (4)
IRAQ: I from the clue, the Latin abbreviation for take (recipe), plus frequently asked questions in abbreviated form without the first letter (leaderless)

5d     Sequel to Cider with Rosie? Another novel with hilly setting (4,2,3,3)
ROLL IN THE HAY: Ha, I hope Rosie is smiling. Anagram (novel, setting) of ANOTHER + HILLY.

6d     At the end, I pen Your Truelove as Regards (2,2)
IN RE: Last letters (at the end) of I pen Your Truelove

7d     Go carol-singing, having no women to attack (6)
ASSAIL: A 7-letter verb meaning to go carol singing without the initial W (having no women)

8d     This diver could get excited over (6)
EXOCET: Another all-in-one with a tricky compound anagram: The answer (this) plus DIVER is an anagram of (could get) EXCITED OVER – so, subtract the letters of DIVER to find what excited him


11d     During trip, general seen by doctor’s badly soporific (8,4)
SLEEPING PILL: Place a 3-letter US civil-war general inside a short pleasure trip you might make in a car, add an abbreviation for doctor and a word meaning badly or poorly.

15d     Swinging day in Paris for cutting jewel (5)
BIJOU: A two-letter description of someone who swings both ways plus the French word for day without the last letter (for cutting)

16d     Austen’s gutted about one of her titles missing its first capital (5)
AMMAN: Take Austen with the central letters removed (gutted) and insert the 4-letter title of one of her books, without the first letter

18d     Endlessly wild partying hosts with fine muslin (8)
ORGANDIE: A plural noun for (very) wild parties with the last letter removed (endlessly) contains (hosts) a 3-letter conjunction meaning ‘with’

19d     Boring pub muppet losing it over American’s engagement (8)
INKERMAN: Find a muppet that can lose ‘it’ – yep, the green one – and add the 1-letter abbreviation for American, then insert into (boring) another word for pub to get a Crimean war battle.

21d     Cult leader succeeded in rearing pro, presumably (6)
MANSON: The abbreviation for succeeded goes inside (in) the reversal of a (3-2) phrase which would presumably mean pro.

22d     The Old Woman of Scandinavia’s baseless grounds (6)
MANORS: A 2-letter word for the old woman plus a 5-letter word which means of (a specific country in) Scandinavia, without the last letter (baseless)

26d     One in the lead, perhaps, found failing to finish (4)
STAR: A verb meaning found or initiate without the last letter

27d     Knight lying down, perhaps, with some old clown (4)
ZANY: Take the chess abbreviation for Knight, turn it clockwise 90˚ so it is lying down, and add a 3-letter word for some

How on earth do you choose a favourite clue from this lot? OK, I’ll try – I did really like (although part of me also didn’t..) 17a. And I thought 5d was brilliant, wasn’t what I had first imagined. But there were plenty more. Which clues were your favourites?

If your are struggling with the Nina “Get bigger third helpings of tart unifying passion-fruit and cherry …  … stone-cutting ogre about to give lecture to Gordon Bennett!”

54 comments on “Toughie 1619

  1. Yes, a truly incredible crossword on so many levels.

    I sweated so hard over the likes of 13ac and 24ac… and then how I kicked myself when I realised they would have been trivial, if only I’d spotted the Nina during, instead of well after the fact!

    1. My favourite I think was 27dn, because I quickly thought of the answer word, but thought the “knight” must be its third letter – how on earth could that work? Which made the penny drop all the sweeter when it finally happened.

  2. This Toughie is apparently (according to Twitter) dedicated to Elgar’s much missed friend Araucaria. Apparently the first of A’s puzzles that he solved many years ago had the theme included in this Nina.

    I’m delighted to report that this was a right proper Toughie, I saw the Pangram and the Nina, but I’d have to award it 5*+ for both difficulty and fun – why can’t all Toughies be as tough and fun as this one??.

    1. I’m going to hang my head with shame and admit that when I started doing the Toughie only recently my reaction was “huh, they’re not all *that* Tough”, but this puzzle completely put paid to any insolence on my part.

      I used the pangram to help me get 8dn, but only spotted the Nina while I was admiring the finished grid.

      <3 Araucaria <3

      1. Had not Toughies originally been this tough, I’d never have put a whole clue into Google and transformed my [crossword] life by finding this blog..

  3. Made slow progress but was left with just two unsolved.
    13a (everyone wanted) as the only team I knew where the “blues” and the moth in 24a. Never occurred to me that crew was the past tense.
    A bit heavy on GK as I had to use a lot of
    Internet searches.
    Chambers was only used to check 1d (broke), 2d (comrade) and 17a (stone cutting) of course.
    Favourite is 30a (we accept bouquets).
    Didn’t see the Nina and still don’t.
    Thanks to Elgar for the usual clever clueing and to Dutch for the help.

    1. Glad that it’s not just me re the Nina. Then again my brain is dizzy after solving this.

      1. Ah, CS is right – 53! over twice a perimeter nina. I had a perverted version involving a 3-letter word, mislead by the movie – see row 12!

            1. I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen cleverer, to be honest. *bows down to Elgar, chanting “I’m not worthy”*

              1. Stunning isn’t it. Hadn’t spotted the other potential part of it too until Dutch pointed it out.

        1. Typical – I track down the resident mathematics expert, get him to add up the component parts and confirm that no letters were used twice, and by the time I get onto the interweb, you’ve seen it for yourself.

        2. Oh, goodness me, I thought of the movie title, but not in my wildest dreams did I think that would have managed to appear in the Nina too. Absolute genius.

  4. Well I got there in the end but like J-L I needed a lot Googling to check things. And I do mean a lot.

    Never did parse 8d, only got the moth as it came up somewhere else once before and it took me a stupidly long time to ‘see’ the ‘discovered’ bit (was it yesterday it was mentioned?)…19d was completely new to me I think (who knows anymore)..and I didn’t ‘say’ the beginning part of 23a when I cottoned on, I said a few less than polite words and then smiled a lot.

    What a brilliant puzzle. Just brilliant.

    I’m loathe to name a favourite as there as just so many outstanding clues but 5d is rather special.

    Many thanks to Elgar for the challenge and to Dutch for a cracking blog (and for sorting out 8d!)

    Didn’t spot the pangram and I still have no idea about the Nina.

    I was going to do Triton’s (aka Phibs) Inquisitor later but I’m not sure I can solve anything else today.

  5. 20a – I can’t find the definition in my BRB (12th Edition)

    Am I looking in the wrong place? Ooh! Matron!

    1. the answer to 20a is not in brb or collins, but it is in OED. I like “with reform”

  6. Quite simply stunning,not that there was anything simple about it. I was so glad to have nearly finished it,and very grateful to Dutch for the explanations.To further illustrate the nina could you highlight sailor also?Bravissimo.

  7. Oww oww oww! I was alerted in conversation to the pangram and the nina and I could pretend to be annoyed at the spoilers … but in actuality I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have managed without at least the latter. Computers were also used extensively in the solving of this, and even then I needed our Dutchman to add the few extra rays of light needed for full illumination.

    Incredibly clever. I think my favourite is 17a because it made me laugh. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  8. Tremendous stuff – thanks to Elgar and Dutch. Top clues for me were 23a, 5d and 27d.
    I can’t see the word ‘soldier’ in an Elgar Toughie without shuddering at the memory of his infamous clue of some time ago:
    Mythological soldier? Toughie solver might interpret it thus (6)

          1. Split soldier 3,4 to get a (very) cryptic definition of the mythical young man who flew too near the sun and perished.

              1. I wouldn’t have got it without the checkers that Gazza provided and I wanted to both laugh and bang my head against a wall when I parsed it….and that took a long time.

    1. Ah yes, that’s famous, though I personally think it’s a shame he copped out with the second sentence of the clue. I suppose it *is* better not to be lynched by an army of angry solvers, though.

      1. It’s been a day of hunting: I had to search for that one too.

        I think we’ve decided (read: I asked for suggestions and then I decided, but it’s open to a vote) that the collective noun for crossworders is either a compilation or a misdirection. Perhaps having two different words is justified. A compilation of genial solvers and a misdirection of angry ones?

  9. extraordinary grid-fill; I can’t imagine how long it must have taken, how many discarded attempts.
    Guilty admission: I saw TINKERMAN pretty early on and was on Ranieri spotting duty until I saw the true light. Different class. I was personally revolted when a Dubai hotel decided to award itself 6 stars, but in this case I quite see the point

  10. This took us a very long time and required the use of every weapon in our armoury, including revealing a few letters, and we eventually ended up with just one unsolved. This was 13a where the crew was new to us and Google not much help without the first letter. (We have it sorted now,) We had spotted the pangram but did not think to look for a Nina too. Biggest penny-drop was when we sorted out the first letter of 27d. Absolutely amazed that so much cleverness could be put together into one puzzle.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  11. Stunning, just stunning. Taken me ages to complete , but my word am so in awe of Elgar. Thank you Dutch and Elgar

  12. As Ian Dury once said *there ain’t half been some clever bastards”. This was clearly a masterclass of grid-filling, but having spent several hours on about half of it I had to admit a dishonourable defeat. Respect to anyone who finished it without recourse to any checking – I’d like ti think I’ll be capable of that some day but this was a humbling experience.

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch

    1. PS Thanks also to Kitty for sending me the puzzle – hope you don’t mind but I have forwarded it to a few people on the Guardian site,

  13. Absolutely superb; didn’t manage to complete it until after midnight, and I completely missed the Nina. I also liked 27d, amongst many others, including 1d, 5d and 13a. Many thanks as ever to Elgar, and to Dutch for revealing the Nina in such a clear diagrammatic manner.

  14. Stunning stuff from JH -thanks for full nina revelation.I saw some of it but was brain-dead from solving the rest.

  15. Gordon Bennett it took some time for them pennies to drop. Even then we needed confirmation of four answers and the Nina advice. Really like the complicated construction clues. So favourites are 23a 24a 30a 11d 19d and especially 27d. Many cheers to all.

  16. An amazing puzzle. I failed on two but I am ridiculously pleased to have got that far. Heaven knows how long it must have taken to set. Many thanks to Elgar( and Dutch). As Dodger says: Bravissimo!

  17. My aged mother (95) and I completed the solve (without reference to computers) over the weekend, so surely we can’t be totally thick?!! But even after having read all the references to the nina, I still can’t see it. Can somebody please enlighten us in the simplest possible terms so we can get some sleep! Grateful thanks in advance.

    1. At the bottom of the review there is a note that says if you are having trouble with the Nina CLICK HERE. This then shows you all the elements of the Nina and the clue that points to it.
      We totally missed it too.

      1. Thanks very much for that, Kiwis – glad we’re not the only ones who missed the reference to the nina. I’d love to look inside Elgar’s head to see what makes him tick. How brilliant can you get? I might be able to catch up on some beauty sleep tonight, lord knows I need it! By the way, where is the pangram? Thanks again. Billy.

        1. The pangram is simply saying that the puzzle contains all the letters of the alphabet. Strictly speaking a pangram is a sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet, eg A quick brown fox jumps………… but the crossword world has borrowed it. Cheers.

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