Toughie 1663 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1663

Toughie 1663 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Kitty

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


Welcome everyone to Toughieland, today brought to you by Elgar.  For me, this puzzle elicited smiles throughout and was well worth the effort.  I found it not impenetrable and was able to get started fairly readily – and if finishing it was considerably harder work, this was at least partly down to silliness on my part.

This is not Elgar at his most fiendish, which is why I haven’t given the maximum difficulty rating.  Even though to be honest I’d put this firmly in the 5* category, I thought that this was on a par with previous puzzles of his which have been rated 4*.  So, ever the fence-sitter, I have compromised.  I can say exactly the same thing about enjoyment – it’s 5* really, but the bar has simply been set too high.  As always there’s plenty of cleverness to amuse and delight. After the last amazing nina, this one is more or less a WYSIWYG, but I’m not complaining!  There is a special significance to 27a, however – see the bottom of the post.

The definitions are underlined in the clues below, and you’ll find the answers inside the boxes.  The exclamation mark is not an imperative – click only if you wish to reveal all.

Do leave a comment telling us how you found it and what you thought.



6a    Lord’s address – he’s about to lead Orchestra: English National (7,6)
HORATIO NELSON: Start with an oral address; around this is HE from the clue (he’s about).  Next we need an English orchestra (but not a national one). Finally, add N(ational) to give us a this Lord: a British admiral.  Tired yet? We’ve only just started!

8a & 9a    Result of which check-up, nursing bruises? (6-8)
SUCKER-PUNCHING: This is a little more straightforward: an anagram (bruises) of CHECK-UP NURSING

10a    The Artificial Tongue of Eugene Onegin (3)
NEO: Included in (of) the last two words of the clue is an artificial language launched in 1961 by Arturo Alfandari

11a    Ale supplier goes into business with Cheese and Meat Sanctuary (6)
DELPHI: The two letter abbreviation for somewhere which serves ale goes inside a place which serves cheese and meat to give us an ancient sanctuary which was the seat of a famous oracle

12a    Productivity of the Red Queen’s kitchen compound? (8)
TARTRATE: Split (4,4) this could be a description of the speed at which Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts produces pastry dishes

14a & 16a    Somebody rich needing GP for massaging work? (7,2,5)
GOODBYE MR CHIPS: Another anagram.  The letters which are for massaging are found in SOMEBODY RICH; also needed are GP.  The work is a novella and its many adaptations



20a    My slimming having taken effect, your compiler had Listener’s cake (1,7)
I DECLARE: How the setter would say he had, contracted (slimming having taken effect), followed by something which sounds like (Listener’s) the cake which Chambers describes as “long in shape but short in duration.”  I don’t know about you, but after those last three clues I’m getting rather peckish!

23a    Purchasing points all but replete with stuff miles away (6)
FULCRA: Two nearly finished words put together: Three of the four letters of (all but) a word meaning replete and then stuff or pack (as a verb) without m(iles).  These purchasing points are what levers rest upon.  For a quote not by Archimedes “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will break my lever”

24a    Good though graphic format (3)
GIF: The abbreviation for good and though or while.  Spoiled for choice for picture opportunities with this.  Sadly the one referenced here seems to have been expunged from the internet

25a & 26a    Vorderman, occupying Zone A, is hot stuff! (8,6)
CAROLINA REAPER: Before Rachel there was Ms Vorderman.  Follow her with synonyms for occupying, area, and finally the “a” which is first in the line-up of Big Dave’s Usual Suspects

27a    Bilbo’s Magnificent Birthday  Run that invokes the Lord above? (8-5)
ELEVENTY-FIRST: This is the birthday that Bilbo Baggins celebrates at the start of Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.  For the second part of the clue, we need to turn to the Lord above … above in the grid, that is.  That lord gives his name to a supposedly unlucky score in cricket.  So the answer is also the run in that game which would bring one to a ******.  I am bowled over (or bowled out) by this clue

Even if you are not a cricket fan, the Wikipedia article about the unlucky score is interesting. It includes a quote from 14a/16a: ‘in the 1939 film … a schoolboy refers to Nelson in these terms: “One arm, one eye, one destiny.” ’



1d    Slower on airways to holiday home (5,3)
BRAKE PAD: Heard (on the airways), the first word of the solution could be to take a short holiday.  Adding an informal term for home forms this slower of moving vehicles



2d    Diner eating egg doesn’t take a long time (8)
ETERNITY: An extremely long time.  It’s a diner or restaurant containing (eating) an egg of the type you wouldn’t want to find in your hair but which doesn’t contain (doesn’t take) A (from the clue)

3d    Fruit dessert – Brown Betty slices appear (7)
COMPOTE: A stewed fruit dessert.  “Brown Betty” is inserted into (slices) a word for appear or arrive.  The surface reading relies on Brown Betty being (in the US) a baked fruit pudding, but the British meaning (absent from my copy of Chambers) is needed in the wordplay

4d    Note commonly picked up from Pavarotti (6)
TENNER: A name for a banknote commonly sounds like (picked up from) what Pavarotti was, professionally speaking

5d    Master of the illusory lands cape in Surrey town (6)
ESCHER: No, that’s not meant to read “landscape.”  To find this artist one deposits (lands) c(ape) into a Surrey town.  I have some tales to tell set in this part of the world, but this is a family blog and so I will not elaborate further



6d    Universal handle, so fixed in minds (6,4)
HOUSEHOLD NAME: An anagram (fixed) of U(niversal) HANDLE SO, contained within a word for in (in minds).  Very clever!

7d    Every Tom, Dick and Har? (6,3,4)
NINETY PER CENT: Count the letters in the clue, and compare to the number of letters in the full phrase



13d    A twitch, every now and again (3)
TIC: “Every now and again” indicates that alternate letters are needed.  The whole clue is the definition.  Neat!

15d    Merging live US track raised sound level (3)
BEL: A word meaning live and a US raised railroad are here sharing their common letter (merging).  The sound level is ten times that of a more familiar measure of loudness

17d    Flirty friar collects fine, following female faex populi (4‑4)
RIFF-RAFF: An anagram (flirty) of FRIAR contains (collects) F(ine), then we have F(emale) f(ollowing).  A fabulously fun-filled festival of f’s – a fine effort!

18d    Rachel lost one following me cutting across some land (4‑4)
HALF-ACRE: Starting with an anagram (lost) of RACHEL, “one following me” – think musically! – is then inserted (cutting across)

19d    Take power up, but not with sailing event (7)
REGATTA: Follow the abbreviation for the Latin recipe/take with the reversal (up) of a measure of power without the w(ith)

21d    Secret court cases are unsuccessful (6)
CLOSET: The abbreviation for court contains (cases) “are unsuccessful.”  Fine, unless early on in the solve you carelessly bung “over” into the middle bit, causing immense problems with 25/26a and 27a until you realise your booboo

22d    Toasted sarnie popped up (6)
ARISEN: A simple clue to finish, but what a tasty (buttered, perhaps) crispy surface!  An anagram (toasted) of SARNIE.  Why not have one now?  You’ve earned it!


Choosing a favourite clue is once again a hard job.  There are plenty of tasty morsels here, including those in 12a, 20a and 22d, and I also enjoyed 13d and 17d.  Cricket is, let’s just say, not my thing and I have also managed to avoid reading or watching any Tolkien, so naturally I hated 27a.  But I also loved it! It is with very mixed feelings that I simply have to nominate it my clue of the day.  Which was yours?

Thanks to Elgar for the puzzle, which I’m told is his 27a Toughie.  Congratulations to the Maestro on this Magnificent Milestone!


33 comments on “Toughie 1663

  1. Magnificent – thanks to Elgar for the enjoyment and to Kitty for the super review. I agree on 27a being a favourite (there was a big d’oh when I realised who the Lord above was!) but I had loads of others in the frame including the laugh-inducing 12a, 11a and 13d.
    Now that I’m aware of the 27a milestone I’ve given a little hop and skip in the manner of the late umpire David Shepherd.

        1. I was just about to pop that here, but BD’s beaten me to it. He sent it to me, but I didn’t end up including it in the blog because by then I already had 13 pictures, which seemed like enough – not to mention an appropriate number!

              1. Oh yes. Silly me – I’ll have to blame the heat again, and add the silly yapping dog next door, to all the other distractions this afternoon.

      1. I went to school with him (although he was 4 years or so ahead of me). He was a star batsman and played for the school’s first XI from the age of 12.

        1. He’s up there with my all time favourite cricket umpires – never met him but it’s been said he was a true gentleman.

  2. A fine puzzle from Mr Henderson and worthy of being the Friday toughie. Having said that, it is nowhere as devious as some of his others but still a masterclass in clue construction. It was an upside down puzzle for me – I started off with 27a which, as I love Tolkien’s work, was a gimmie and progressed upwards. I have far too many ticks beside clues so, I will just say thank you to Elgar for the puzzle and well done to Kitty on her review.

    Have a good weekend all, I have the pleasure of hosting the in-laws for Sunday lunch – can’t wait :cool:

    Forgot to add, as a nod, to my previous employer at 1a:

    Fifth columnist seen at Trafalgar Square? He’s a Lord (7,6)

  3. Well with inspiration, perspiration and the odd word search I finally finished it. However I really needed Kitty to explain much of the wordplay. Last one in was 27a. I was proud to get that! Thanks to Elgar and Kitty

  4. Can’t have been that difficult as I managed to finish it.
    Had most of the down clues before any of the acrosses came to light though.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Kitty.

  5. Not Elgar’s toughest toughie, but still pretty tough; he disguises the definitions so well. I made slow progress until I had enough checking letters to help out. I needed Kitty’s aid for 25/26a; I worked out the first word, and guessed what the second must be, but didn’t know it was a chilli. Many thanks to Elgar and Kitty.

  6. What can one say about Elgar. Regal writ large. You start at base camp desperately searching for an “easy” clue to give you a foothold. For me it was both 10a and 4d, so finding two gave me hope that I might just make smoother progress than is normal with Elgar’s puzzles. Kitty’s right – this isn’t impenetrable and slowly but surely I was able to complete it. Where Elgar really stands out for me is in his longer clues as they tend to give him full rein for his inventive wordplay skills. Having said that my favourite was 20a – I’m not sure I’ve ever had a penny drop that far. *****/***** for me. So great thanks to Elgar and Kitty (getting Elgar to blog must be like drawing both the long and the short straw)

  7. Splendid stuff – thank you to Elgar and congratulations on your 27a Toughie

    This took me a long time so I’m going to have to go for 5*/5* and admit that I too did a bit of a hop and a skip when I realised the significance of 27a. Too many favourites to pick just one so I think I’ll have to go for a “Brucie”.

    Thanks to Kitty too – now I wish I’d summoned up the strength for that arm-wrestle.

  8. ‘a snowball’s chance in hell’ springs to mind…………

    Managed 7 and that was it. As three of those only had three letters apiece they were hardly likely to give me a lot of help!
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading how our clever Kitty worked it all out and was relieved to discover that there was a fair sprinkling of definitions I could readily forgive myself for not knowing.

    I bow to your superiority, Elgar – and yours, Kitty!

    1. I know what you mean – I very nearly gave up thinking it had beaten me, but a couple more checkers and it came to me slowly. Very slowly…. and yes, had I been given this to write up I would have resigned! Well done Kitty.

    2. Hi, Jane. I was pondering Kitty’s picture for 24a when I remembered that you’re a bird expert. Is that one on the left at it?

  9. I thought 20a was brilliant but…..just a niggle. Am I the only one to think an eclair is a pastry and not a cake?

    1. I’d be inclined to agree with you, JB, but the dictionaries generally call it a “cake of choux pastry.” It may be a pastry, but it is not not a cake.

  10. We eventually got it all sorted except the parsing of 27a where we had the answer from the birthday but failed to make the connection with 8/9a. We did know all the cricket stuff so kicking ourselves now. Amazing cleverness – how does he do it! A real challenge for us with lots of fun along the way and very satisfying to get an almost completion.
    Thanks Elgar and Kitty (we’re still in awe of your courage in tackling it, Well done you.)

  11. Avoiding the blog and hints because I’m still working on this, picking it up every now and then in the hope that inspiration may strike. I’m about 2/3 done. That may be it, but I’m not ready to give up just yet.

    1. Welcome from me too, New Malden. That’s what I tried to indicate in the hint without simply handing the answer out on a plate (perhaps served with some tea brewed in the aforementioned pot :).)

  12. well, here we are at 3:45 AM (daybreak and I are on a first name basis, though I can’t repeat what my name for him is) and I’ve just finished! My tactic for the last few was to stare at the checkers until eventually a word jumped out. So I had several bung-ins that I needed help to parse. I’ve heard of Bilbo so I knew what book, but I had to investigoogle for the answer. I also had to look up the lady in 26A and then look up the hot stuff to verify my answer. The hottest I was aware of before that was a Scotch Bonnet. I spotted the answer for 3D right off, but it took a hard look to see where the Brown Betty came in. I think every expat in the USA except me must have one: they’re sold on all the British food websites.

    So, on to favorites…It has to be 27A because I just love the word, but 12A and 20A also made me laugh and 14A gets a mention because I love the original film. Thank you Elgar for the very satisfying work-out and thanks and kudos to Miss Kitty for a terrific blog.

  13. Top puzzle. Thanks John (it’s nice to finish one of yours) and Kitty for unravelling some of the wordplay.

    CS Lewis (about whose thought I have written a book – sadly, not yet published!) once wrote a review of LOTR, which is cringe-inducing, comparing his erstwhile mate to Ariosto! (I know who I prefer.)

    He didn’t have too many blind spots, but I think this was one of them. For me, The Hobbit is superior to its follow-up, which is also capped by its film version. Lewis may also have written that there is death in the camera (writing about films and specifically Disney – he rather enjoyed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but thought the silver screen version of King’s Solomon’s Mines destroyed the key element of the book – suspense), but, in the case of the Tolkien’s epic, the NZ landscape provides the greatest viewing interest.

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