Toughie 1635

Toughie No 1635 by Elkamere

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

An Elkamere, what joy! I thought – then I ended up staring at the grid for a good while before seeing 16a from the enumeration. After that things moved slowly but surely, with each new solution giving delight. I finished in 4* time, completing NW last. Very enjoyable. It’s always a special pleasure to blog an Elkamere.

The definition parts of 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    To carry on being pulled (6)
TOWAGE: TO from the clue plus a verb meaning carry on or engage in (esp war)

4a    Seafood or beef, you might say (6)
MUSSEL: A homophone of beef, as in brawn

8a    What setter may have hard time tackling work? (3,5)
DOG OWNER: A 6-letter word for a hard time or emotional low goes around a short verb meaning to work or to operate

10a    No more opera — it’s awful! (6)
ENOUGH: The abbreviation for English National Opera and an interjection of repugnance

11a    Politician on Mayfair doormat (4)
WIMP: The postcode that includes Mayfair followed by the usual politician


12a    Spirit level in a mine, one working (10)
APPARITION: a 3-letter word meaning level or norm goes between A from the clue and a word for mine, followed by the Roman numeral one and a 2-letter word meaning working or in operation.

13a    Sign of cowardice, being brave about clumsy thief (5,7)
WHITE FEATHER: An anagram (clumsy) of thief goes inside a verb meaning to brave or to face (and get through) a difficult situation

16a    Flowers make adults into children (6-2-4)
FORGET-ME-NOTS: A 5-letter verb meaning to make or form, followed by a word for male adults inside a word for children

20a    Dog bites person, not starting struggling for ages (5,2,3)
HOURS ON END: A dog of a kind used in hunting goes around an anagram (struggling) of (p)ERSON (not starting)

21a    Put on a final piece of music (4)
CODA: A slang word for put on or sham and A from the clue

22a    Business including eg card game (6)
CASINO: An abbreviation for business or company includes a (2,2) expression that mean for example

23a    Macbeth’s position compared to reversal of custom (8)
THANEDOM: a 4-letter preposition meaning in comparison to plus the reversal of a word for custom or a way of doing things

24a    Cracking such nuts, they will be empty (6)
CUSHTY: An anagram (nuts) of SUCH followed by an emptied-out T(he)Y

25a    Wicked pig overcome (6)
DEFEAT: A slang word meaning excellent (wicked) plus a verb meaning to pig or ingest


1d    Firm taking on old soldiers? Absolutely! (3,5)
TOO RIGHT: An adjective meaning firm or firmly fixed goes around (taking on) the abbreviation for old and an abbreviation for soldiers

2d    Doctor’s surgery a scream (5)
WHOOP: A TV doctor and the abbreviation for a surgical operation

3d    Wizard also cuts banner up (7)
GANDALF: A conjunction meaning also or in addition to goes inside (cuts) the reversal (up, in a down clue) of a 4-letter banner

5d    Find caribou near the bears (7)
UNEARTH: A hidden word indicated by bears

6d    Pres. of golf club (5,4)
SHORT IRON: A type of golf club which could be a cryptic indication for press without the final S

7d    Fall behind duck on lake (6)
LAGOON: A 3-letter verb meaning fall behind, a letter that looks like the cricket score called duck, and on from the clue.

9d    New regret about Spike Milligan’s introduction (11)
REPLACEMENT: a 6-letter verb for regret, or feel contrition, goes around a verb meaning to spike (as in a drink) and the first letter of Milligan

14d    Fast winds across weak parts of ships (9)
TAFFRAILS: An anagram (winds) of FAST goes across another word for weak or fragile

15d    Doubts about extremely light fastener (4,4)
STUD BOLT: An anagram (about) of DOUBTS, then the extreme letters of L(igh)T

17d    5 also turned into 25 (4,3)
ROOT OUT: The definition is the answer to 5d. Reverse a 3-letter word meaning also and place inside another word for the answer of 25a

18d    Referee caught abandoning drug (7)
MEDIATE: An 8-letter word meaning to drug with the abbreviation for caught abandoned.

19d    Huge crack in host’s work of art (6)
MOSAIC: A 2-letter abbreviation for huge plus a 2-letter expression for crack or excellent both go inside an abbreviation for a host or compere

21d    Dropping anchor initially, make for island (5)
CRETE: A 6-letter verb meaning make without the first letter of anchor. And by coincidence, we have this the other way around in today’s back-pager

I enjoyed all the clues and particularly liked Spike Milligan (9d), the golf club (6d), and the hidden (5d) – which were your favourites?


  1. Verlaine
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Very very good, enjoyed that immensely, thanks setter and blogger!

    The clues you cite were all outstanding and clever, but I also liked e.g. 16a, so simple yet perfect in all departments.

    • dutch
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Agree completely

  2. Gazza
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Brilliant stuff – thanks to Elkamere and dutch. In addition to the clues mentioned I had to laugh at 10a and loved 17d.

  3. Hanni
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Cracking stuff.

    Tried to make an anagram of IN A MINE ONE (working) for 12a. Oddly enough that didn’t work and it took me ages to spot the hidden in 5d (I bunged it in).

    Favourite is the brilliant 16a.

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

  4. Expat Chris
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have a full grid, and all somehow correct, which I count as an achievement. I didn’t know the “put on” part of 21A, the “wicked” part of 25A, or the word that’s the answer for 24A. 14D was also new to me. Favorites are 16A, 20A and 9D. Thanks to Elkamere for the workout and to Butch for the needed explanations.

    • Hanni
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Butch :grin:

    • Dutch
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

      i suppose i could be that too if you want ;-)

  5. Jezza
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    An excellent puzzle to end my week. After a slow start and a few interruptions I picked up speed and finished it off at 26a (wicked pig had me confused for a little while). It was all good, but I put a tick next to 10a and16a.
    Thanks to Elkamere, and to Dutch.

  6. Sheffieldsy
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks, Dutch and well done for noticing that 21d is a kind of reversal of one from the back pager. In addition, 2d’s doctor clue appears reversed in 13a on the back page. Quite a coincidence that two pairs would link like that?

    We gave it the same 4/4 as you did. Superb crossword, very difficult but not to the stage of impossibility. We asterisked two of your picks, 6d and 9d, of which we felt the Spike Milligan clue was the best – what kind of mind can work that into a clue? Phew.

    We have a slight query about 21a – doesn’t the inner part of the fodder need one more stage than usual (drop the first letter AND THEN make an anagram of it). Felt a little naughty, but the answer was clear enough.

    Thanks to Elkamere.

    • Dutch
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 7:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      ah yes, there was the doctor as well!

      I guess you mean 21d – it isn’t an anagram! if it were an anagram, that would have been indirect and definitely very naughty to the point of unacceptable, as you say. But, it isn’t, it is just another word for make without the A.

      • Sheffieldsy
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Sorry, not 21d. 20a.

  7. anax
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hello Dutch, hello all! Many thanks for the great blog and kind comments.
    The subject of answers being duplicated in backpager/Toughie is interesting. I have no idea if Phil does it deliberately when the opportunity arises, but I think it’s a nice idea. If it becomes a habit, perhaps over time backpager solvers will be encouraged to try the Toughie in the knowledge that there’s a chance an answer will be repeated (thus a potential starting point) albeit with a different clue. Obviously it can’t be planned in advance by setters and will rely on coincidence.
    Back to Wimbo. I’m rooting for Andy, but have to confess I’ll be backing Raonic in the final.

    • dutch
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I’d be truly impressed if Phil does that intentionally! I did think of flagging it up on the back pager to encourage people to try the toughie, and was beaten to it, so that’s great.

      Some one asked if giovanni and elkamere were the same person…

      All the best, surely time for a drink somewhere….

      • anax
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

        A drink is a good plan, but sadly not tonight. Spent the first 3 days of this week down on the south coast with my daughter – an excuse to meet up with Dada as it’s been a long time – and as well as many hundreds of road miles there was an indoor karting session and a day on the big coasters at a theme park. I took a bit of a battering and everything hurts, so I’m on painkillers.
        I blame Xana, especially for the karting. She’s become very talented very quickly. We’d never visited the track before but I managed 5th fastest lap of the day. Yay! Xana got 4th fastest…

        • Dutch
          Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

          yes, my kids are overtaking me in some things (e.g. skiing). And I was a total wreck after EuroDisney. Fun while it lasted…

          I’m excited because my dutch daughter Sonia will join us in Rhodes in August.

  8. LetterboxRoy
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m only half way through but just got 16a – classic!

    Haven’t had to resort to hints…yet.

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 6:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Finished all but one, 8a, even with all the letters, but got it with a hint.

      Very enjoyable puzzle, even though I had to guess 14d. Good to learn something every day.

      Anybody else hold themselves up spelling 3d with an ‘o’?

      Tops is 16a, 24a close runner-up, then 10a.

      Thanks to Dutch & Elkamere.

  9. Jane
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Three new things to attempt to store in the old grey matter – part of a ship, a fastener and a card game. Always thought the latter was just the name of a place one went to play card games!
    Certainly tough in parts but most enjoyable. Podium places go to 8,10 & 16a.

    Thanks to Anax/Dean/Elkamere and to Dutch for the help with some of the parsing. Big smile for the cartoon pic at 4a!

  10. ulaca
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If it is the mark of an outstanding puzzle that different solvers nominate different clues as favourites and that most of the clues end up being nominated, then this one must be up there. For the record, my ticks went against 19d and 23a. Re the latter, I have to confess I forgot to attend carefully enough to what his title was, which contributed to the sense of satisfaction once I finally twigged the answer.

    I’m glad I wasn’t blogging this one: the parsing of both 6d and 20a eluded me. The closest I could get to the latter’s was dear old Ronnie Reagan.

  11. KiwiColin
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Excellent stuff and much enjoyed. Took a long time but slowly and surely they all eventually yielded. Too many good ones to pick a favourite.
    Thanks Elkamere and Dutch.

    • KiwiColin
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Forgot to mention that I gave it a clue word count as we do for RayT/Beam puzzles and it passed with flying colours with 8 being the max. Wonder if this was intentional.

  12. happy days
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That was fun, thanks, Elkamere. Just what I like. No long, wandering, boring clues.

  13. Salty Dog
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Whew! I always expect to struggle with an Elk, and this was no exception. I needed 8 hints to complete, having only got about half unaided. I would score it 4.5* for both difficulty and enjoyment. I thought 9d was wonderful; I only got it when the word suggested itself from the crossers, and even then had to write it in the margin and deconstruct it to convince myself that it could actually be the answer. 25a utterly foxed me – I had no idea “def” had such a meaning. I was fascinated to see that 21d was a (sort of) rework of 18d on the back page – that is one weird coincidence!

    Many thanks to Elkamere and Dutch.

  14. jean-luc cheval
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Am I partial to short and concise clues?
    Well! Actually yes as I must have mentioned it over and over again.
    This was right up my street and a joy from start to finish.
    Learned a few new things along the way in 13a (sign of cowardice) and the card game in 22a.
    Thanks to Elkamere and to Dutch

  15. Posted July 12, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oops – forgot to comment here earlier. It took us more than a single sitting, but was certainly worth it. The usual Elkamere cleverness and originality in abundance. Many thanks to him, and also to Dutch for the explanations.

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