Toughie 1639

Toughie No 1639 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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


Another great puzzle from Elgar. This one took me 4* time and it is full of great clues that should keep everyone happy. Enjoy! I hope you like it as much as I did.

The definitions have been underlined in the clues below. 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.


7a     Try to extend Telegraph employees in pub (tied house) (4,10)
PUSH BOUNDARIES: A possessive pronoun describing Telegraph employees from the setter’s perspective goes inside an abbreviation for pub, giving the first word. Then a 5-letter word for tied plus an astrological house. Something Elgar likes to do? 

9a     B___ awful weather? Fancy, out of nowhere! (10)
BRAINSTORM: B from the clue plus an example of awful weather gives this sudden inspiration

11a     It’s said to stop mother doing her duty at 4? (4)
WHEN: A cryptic definition. 4 is tea-time. Mother’s duty is to pour. I did spend some time wondering what unpleasant duty might await poor mother at 4d

12a     Primarily, someone suckered on the first of April (3)
ASS:     An all-in-one. The initial letters of S(omeone) S(uckered) are added onto the first of A(pril)

13a     ‘Cutter‘ has gotten over failure to incorporate identical Ts (10)
STONEMASON: Reversal (gotten over) of: a (2-2) failure which incorporates a word for identical, followed by TS from the clue

16a     Cargo of pram during periods of calm? (4)
TOYS: This pram is not a boat. When one has a tantrum these are thrown out of the pram, hence during a period of calm, a pram must contain….

17a     Hand over a title once reduced by 50% (7)
OVATION: Half the letters in OV(er) A TI(tle) ON(ce)


18a     Convey wheels expected at the same time? (7)
MEDIATE: Wheels is a reversal indicator. Reading the answer backwards and splitting (3,4), or perhaps (1,1,1,4), we have a whimsical phrase that would indicate the expected time of arrival is the same.

20a     Queen Elizabeth I royally adopted vessel (4)
EWER: The abbreviation for Queen Elizabeth contains (adopted) the Royal way of saying I

21a     Series of bi-singles? ‘Biblical’ woman’s all over poor Glenn (3,7)
RUN LENGTHS: A woman in the bible who has a book in the old testament surrounds (all over – remembering the apostrophe S) an anagram (poor) of GLENN. The answer refers to the number of consecutive identical digits in binary data, if you weren’t already aware.

23a     A challenge for Cretan climbers, they say, getting down from it? (3)
IDA: A homophone (they say) of a type of duck from which one gets down. Although Gazza would probably pronounce the final R

24a     A beast that’s been reduced – to tears, apparently? (4)
CROC: A shortened form of a 9-letter reptile that also describes tears that may not be genuine (tears, apparently?)

25a     A feature of Boxing Day, going Greek dancing (4,6)
KING GEORGE: This Boxing Day feature involves horses. Anagram (dancing) of GOING GREEK

28a     All but mainstream ads broadcast by America? (2,4,2,6)
AS NEAR AS DAMMIT: Anagram (broadcast) of MAINSTREAM ADS beside (by) the abbreviation for A(merica)


1d     ‘Scalpel … Forceps … Forceps PLEASE, nurse!’ Perhaps they’re stressed (9,5)
OPERATIVE WORDS: Whimsical examples of the most significant words in writing or communication

2d     Not in favour of getting Poles to trade wine (4)
ASTI: Take a word meaning ‘not in favour of’ and replace the pole with its opposite

3d     Down with outer garments! (1,3)
A BAS: This French interjection meaning down, or down with, as a 4-letter word is the plural for an outer garment made from Syrian cloth of goat or camel hair.

4d     Evidence of Gangnam-style RTA? Examine the body (7)
AUTOPSY: A 4-letter car with the South Korean singer underneath it (!) provides the evidence for a Gangnam-style RTA (road traffic accident)


5d     The original Biblical item? Give credit to those going to Bow Church (4,3,3)
ADAM AND EVE: Believe (give credit) to an East Londoner (those going to Bow church)

6d     Not one to move around picture frames, I gather (10)
DRAWSTRING: Remove the Roman numeral for one (not one) from a 4-letter verb meaning to move around (as you might your coffee or tea), then ‘frame’ that with a word for a picture – perhaps one made with a pencil

8d     Stupidly they meet agent, carrying a threat ever closer (5,2,3,4)
ENEMY AT THE GATE: Anagram (stupidly) of THEY MEET AGENT around (carrying) A from the clue

10d     In or out of Union, a Eurosceptic’s not Scottish (3)
NAE: The Scottish word for not is hidden in the clue (In, or out of)

14d     Being un-chirpy is typically so unfair (3,7)
NOT CRICKET: An expression referring to a sport and a reference to an insect that would typically be chirping (hence being un-chirpy is typically …)

15d     Production team wrapping 007’s final take of film set in the West Country (10)
MOONRAKERS: A 6-letter word for creators (production team) goes around: OO (from 00-7) plus the last letter in seven (7’s final) plus the abbreviation for the Latin Recipe (take). The answer is a word for Wiltshiremen (a set of people in the West Country). The 007 and especially ‘of film’ are additional clues, with the latter referring to a specific Bond movie (with an apostrophe S = of film)

19d     Jumped-up sect member with no leader and no identity (7)
ONENESS: Reversal (Jumped-up) of both a member of a small religious fraternity among ancient Jews leading ascetic lives and holding property in common, without the initial E (with no leader), plus NO from the clue

22d     Born/died out of necessity (3)
NEE: Remove the D(ied) from a 4-letter word meaning necessity

26d     Gallantry award discovered on a new chap from the Agency … (1-3)
G-MAN: The abbreviation for the Queens Gallantry Medal without the first letter (dis-covered), plus A from the clue and the abbreviation of N(ew). See also Comment 2, thanks Gazza.

27d     … Frank, mentioned in despatches, offering resistance (4)
OHMS: Postal mark (Frank) that may be seen written on post or mail (mentioned in despatches)

Loads to like – I think the Gangnam style accident (4d) is my favourite, but I also enjoyed the original biblical item (5d), the stressed surgery (1d), mother’s duties 11a, and the simple all-in-one at 12a. And all the rest, of course…


  1. stanXYZ
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    So that’s why Telegraph Puzzles didn’t (and still doesn’t ) reveal the name of today’s Toughie setter.

    Looks very interesting!

  2. Gazza
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Elgar for another excellent Toughie and to Dutch for the equally excellent review (especially for the full explanation of 4d, where I hadn’t twigged the ‘on top of’ bit).
    I was going to mention my dislike of the 23a homophone but Dutch has beaten me to it.
    I don’t understand why the gallantry award has to lose its first letter in 26d – I thought the gallantry award was the George Medal (GM).
    I have lots of favourites but I’ll just list 7a, 11a and 15d plus (for its topicality) 10d.

    [Incidentally, with regard to 4d the correct abbreviation these days is RTC rather than RTA – we don’t have accidents any more, they’re all crashes.]

    • dutch
      Posted July 15, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ah, thanks Gazza, I wasn’t aware of the George Medal – that would also work if discovered just means found by.

      I only found the QGM, which would need dis-covering. I like to think Elgar intended that usage of dis-cover, but I wouldn’t know which of the two gallantry awards is the better known.

  3. crypticsue
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It would be interesting to know how many “I can’t do Elgar” people had a go at this one because the list on the TP website still (as I type) hasn’t been updated, and how they got on without his name making them think it would be too hard for them. I was delighted when I opened the paper to find his name at the top of the crossword.

    Lovely stuff, thank you Elgar, if I can only have one favourite, I’ll go for 11a although there are many other splendid clues with stars by them too.

  4. halcyon
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Another no-gimmicks toughie from Elgar and most enjoyable too, if rather easier than his usual [though I failed to parse 18a]. There were enough obvious anagrams and other gimmes [eg 3d] to get a start but plenty of his trademark deviousness as well [9a, 11a]. The short cryptic defs were very clever, except for 24a which doesn’t really work for me since once the beast is reduced it’s no longer the tears.
    Clear favourite – 4d
    Many thanks to Elgar for the diversion and to Dutch for an excellent blog.

  5. Physicist
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    An excellent Toughie which I was proud to finish unaided, so thanks to Elgar, and to Dutch for explaining some of the subtleties I missed. Favourite was probably 1d, which baffled me for a long time.

  6. Jane
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    One of those ‘above my pay grade’ Toughies, but I did rather better than I expected. In the end I needed 3 hints (11&18a plus 19d) and help with the parsing of a further 5.
    New for me were the item of clothing at 3d, the bi-singles, the sect member and the fact that 18a is synonymous with ‘convey’.

    A lot to enjoy – my top three were 9&16a plus 5d.

    Many thanks to Elgar for the challenge and to Dutch for the much needed assistance.

  7. LetterboxRoy
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This was borderline beyond me. First read through I got none. I did find it quite difficult and therefore it was slow progress.
    Couldn’t finish it without a few hints, but for 3d & 19d which I had to reveal.
    Pleased to have got thus far though for such a tricky puzzle.

    Lots of good clues but I’ll pick 1d, 11a & 16a as favourites.

    Jolly good, thanks to all as ever.

  8. Expat Chris
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 8:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Still plugging away, with about 8 more to do….

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted July 15, 2016 at 9:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Persevere; apart from a couple of bu**ers, it’s satisfying. (M’s or G’s!)

  9. Sheffieldsy
    Posted July 16, 2016 at 3:11 am | Permalink | Reply

    Phew, just finished at 3.00am! Needed Dutch’s help enough that this was 5* difficulty for us. Favourites were 7a for the tied house part and 11a which was such a lovely clue once the penny finally dropped.

    Thought 3d was outrageously difficult – have never heard of the French saying or the garment.

    Great blog, Dutch, and thanks to Elgar.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted July 16, 2016 at 4:12 am | Permalink | Reply

      I though it one it more or less a gimme. It just depends on whether you know the French or not – particularly apt in relation to Bastille Day. Any other setter does this compaints about GK appear.

  10. JollySwagman
    Posted July 16, 2016 at 4:23 am | Permalink | Reply

    Tough one for me – I would have given it 5 for toughness – but then I got 2d (which is ambiguous) in wrong so that slowed me down.

    En revanche :-) my guesses at a few Rufus-on-speed CDs turned out to be good so that helped.

    I’ve gone out of my way to dig out Elgar toughies for a long time, preferring them to the same setter’s incarnations on the other papers. I had the impression that he was pulling punches just a little, maybe in defernece to the DT’s reputation as being (even the Toughie series) on average easier than the Guardian and the Indy – not sure – just an impression.

    I fear they’re going the same way – toughness for its own sake. Araucaria (AFAIK his hero – also mine) knew to ration it out a bit – when to hold back – that’s part of the art. Playing to the barred-grid audience is a different game – for them the tougher the better.

    It seems a shame that many regular Toughie solvers will miss out altogether on the good things that are going on here when really a wider audience is precisly what is needed.

    Still -for me personally it was a good solve – a real slow burner – and I got there (sort of) in the end.

    My favourite was 6d – I also liked (as I always do) the trademark well-known-phrase-or-saying biggies.

    Much to enjoy. Many thanks to S&B.

  11. JollySwagman
    Posted July 16, 2016 at 4:35 am | Permalink | Reply

    3d bas is French (slang at least) for underwear – tights etc mainly – that’s how I read that one – Collins has aba (#2) as “outer garment” (of a particular kind) – very specific – so I imagine that was the intention.

    • dutch
      Posted July 16, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      yes, though that meaning of bas is not in the dictionary and would, imho, require a language indicator – and it’s in the answer, not contributing to surface, so no need really to invoke it. ‘A bas’ is in brb meaning ‘down with’. The enumeration gave it away for me. Aba is also in brb as per hint.

      • JollySwagman
        Posted July 17, 2016 at 12:48 am | Permalink | Reply

        I wasn’t criticising the expl in the blog – (as indicated) I think that’s the “official” one. Just explaining how it came to me. With French in mind the one led to the other – although on that interpretation construction-wise maybe it would need to be looked on as an all French CD; I’d heard of that – I hadn’t heard of aba – although sadly I *have* heard of Abba.

        OTOH my expl gives it an extra (Araucaria term) “layer”.

        My order of clue-crunching is:

        1; brain
        2: Mrs Bradford
        3: Online dictionaries (ODO and Collins – Chambers is no good as it’s cut down)
        Accepting one demerit point for “cheating”:
        4: Onelook with guess
        Accepting one more demerit point for “cheating”:
        5:Onelook with wildcards
        In absolute desperation
        5: BRB trawl

  12. Verlaine
    Posted July 19, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Not an easy ride and I came here more or less baffled by several clues – 11a, 4d, 27d. Thanks very much for the enlightenment Dutch, and for the great puzzle Elgar!

Leave a Reply, but please read the Comment Etiquette (under Contact on the menu) first, especially if you are asking a question

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *