Toughie 1679 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1679

Toughie No 1679 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

This is Toughie no. 112 for Elgar – that may give you a clue for the Nina, which hopefully won’t be too hard to find (once you’ve done the puzzle, that is!) – but see the end of the review if you get stuck. I didn’t manage to use it during the solve – a pity because it might have been quite helpful, particularly in SE. It will be no surprise to most of you that this puzzle is perhaps on the trickier side of our Toughie offerings, and yes, it took me a little longer – but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. It is well worth a go – do try, you always have the hints if you need them.

Half the battle is finding the definitions – in the clues below, the definitions are underlined, which should help you a lot. If that plus the hint still doesn’t quite get you there, you can click on the SPOILER button to reveal the answer. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


7a     Not blab about grain-store sacking on comeback campaign (9)
GALLIPOLI: Take a word for grain-store plus a word for sacking (as in plundering), then remove a 4-letter word for blab or confess secrets from the outskirts (no blab about), then reverse the lot (on comeback) to give you a military campaign

8a     For which a little room’s needed near front of orchestra? (5)
CELLO: Another word for a little room plus the first letter (front) of O(rchestra). A semi all-in-one.

10a     Asian tree‘s great size reduced after tight squeeze (6)
JAMBUL: A 4-letter word for great size without its final letter (reduced) follows a tight squeeze or a crowded standstill (as in traffic). A new tree for me

11a     Front-runner, perhaps holding off Germany, and it’s gold for France! (8)
ANCESTOR: AND from the clue without the abbreviation for Germany, plus the French for “it’s gold”.

12a     Kermit and Emu together, in it? (6)
TANDEM: This is quite clever – it’s a hidden, and the hidden indicator comes close to doubling as the definition – When you’re in (the answer), you’re together. Hope that makes sense!

14a     60s motoring icon after right to produce copy? (6)
RETYPE: The abbreviation for R(ight) is followed by an iconic 60s model of Jaguar.

16a     Career work of Kipling giving new heart to literature (4)
LIFE: A famous Kipling poem replaces the internal letters of (giving new heart to) L(iteratur)E

17a     Contemporary poet could take a break, not mark time (5)
AYRES: Find a (3,4) phrase that would mean ‘could take a break’ and remove the abbreviations for M(ark) and T(ime)

18a     Sports club’s apparently empty vessel (4)
BOAT: A sports club used in cricket contains nothing, or zero (apparently empty)

19a     Native Californian stir-fried rice’s left to cool (3,3)
RED FIR: This native Californian is a tree. An anagram (stir) of FRIED R(ice) – without (left) ‘to cool’

21a     The last of fifty cents’ change put in bag in person (6)
ENCYST: Anagram (change) of the last letter in (fift)Y+CENTS

24a     Front a small firm in the Home Counties? (3,5)
SEA COAST: ‘A’ from the clue plus an abbreviation (small) of a firm or company goes inside a (1,4) description of the part of England corresponding to the Home Counties

26a     What picks up 5 in the real name of Magic (6)
EARVIN: A 3-letter organ that ‘picks up’, the roman numeral for 5, and IN from the clue. The definition does tell you exactly what is wanted: the real name of someone nick-named Magic

27a     Perhaps speed will return, having swallowed a watch? (5)
GUARD: The reversal of a word of which speed is a specific example contains the letter A from the clue

28a     Ban these sleepers playing in brass section! (5,4)
CROSS TIES: An anagram (playing) of BAN + (the answer = these sleepers) could produce BRASS SECTION. Chambers and Collins have the answer as one word, though it is (5,4) according to Oxford


1d     Spanish fare preferred to Italian fare when cycling (5)
TAPAS: Take a typical Italian fare and ‘cycle’ it to get a typical Spanish fare

2d     Side perhaps putting beginnings of faith and charity after Britain in this? (4-4)
CLUB-FACE: Place the first letters of ‘Faith And Charity’ after the abbreviation for B(ritain) inside a 4-letter word described by ‘this’ (i.e., 2d).

3d     With a stake in Southern mansion, died (6)
SPILED: The abbreviation for S(outhern), a word for a big mansion, and the abbreviation for D(ied)

4d     Army presence, could it be, spaced out in Dublin Bay? (4)
ULNA: Even letters (spaced out) in Dublin Bay. Army – get it?

5d     Regular users of aeroplane black box (3,3)
JET SET: Another word for black and another word for box or TV

6d     Lecturer absorbed by Twin Peaks, uplifting new plot for story (5,4)
FLOOR PLAN: Reversal (uplifting) of two types of peaks going around the abbreviation for L(ecturer), then add the abbreviation for N(ew).

9d     At least 40 goals (6)
SCORES: Since the answer is plural, there are at least two of them, which means we have at least 40

13d     What motorways often do during summer getaways (5)
MERGE: Hidden in (during) the last two words of the clue

15d     Priest’s newly unveiled superior given a kick? (7,2)
LIVENED UP: The abbreviation for P(riest) has an anagram (newly) of UNVEILED above it (superior)

17d     Take on board train an erk (6)
AIRMAN: The Latin abbreviation for take (Recipe) goes inside (on board) a 3-letter word for train or direct, followed by AN from the clue. Yes, I had to look up erk…

18d     How much interest, so far, in censure? (4,4)
BASE RATE: A 2-leter word that can mean ‘so far’ (definition 5 in brb) goes inside a verb meaning to censure or reprove

20d     Fellow, scientific expert’s in sudden difficulties (6)
FACERS: The abbreviation for a Fellow of the Royal Society (fellow, scientific) contains a 3-letter expert (expert is in)

22d     Cracking break, I want (Spain is cracking break) (6)
CUEIST: The International Vehicle Registration for Spain plus IS from the clue go inside (cracking) a word meaning break or sever

23d     Like a game of Risk on at least two levels? (5)
DICEY: The board game Risk involves armies fighting for each other’s territories using die rolls (sigh – if only). The answer describes Risk in two ways.

25d     Mediterranean port, totally restorative for vacation (4)
TYRE: This Lebanese port is found by vacating (removing inner letters) from two words in the clue

With every clue a lovely challenge in its own right, I find it hard to pick a favourite. I like the clean compound anagram in 28a. I also like 5d and 9d, they read nicely. I liked 4d because it was possibly my main duh-moment, having toyed with the answer for an embarrassingly long time before I realised the definition worked. Which were your favourite clues?

As promised, here is a spoiler button which will reveal the Nina in a completed grid – so be careful, this contains ALL the answers:

23 comments on “Toughie 1679

  1. A right proper 5*/5* Toughie – the SE corner being particularly beastly – my last one in was 22d.I agree that spotting the Nina earlier would have helped- If I have to pick one favourite, I’ll go for 4d which I did get quite early on but it made me smile more than my other ‘top clues’

    Thanks to Elgar for the extreme workout and Dutch for the explanations.

  2. Another brilliant Elgar puzzle. The grid looked as though it must have a Nina and I did spot some (but not many) of the relevant words but I’d never have linked them with Toughie 112 (How are we supposed to know that this is Elgar’s 112th Toughie? Does it say so in the newspaper?). Thanks to Dutch for explaining all that and for his comprehensive review.
    I have lots of ‘favourites’ but I’ll just list 7a, 17a, 2d and 4d.

    1. Nothing said in the paper – perhaps we are supposed to remember that the message in the last one referred to that being his eleventy-first.

  3. Not bad. Was only left with 3 unsolved.
    17a, due to my lack of knowledge of poetry, 22d and 23d which totally eluded me.
    As for the Nina, I only spotted bits of it.
    Couldn’t parse 7a and 17d albeit having the right answers.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch for the help.

  4. How does he do it? Superb, I needed much help to finish,so thanks to Dutch, and all hail the mighty one.

  5. I managed about two-thirds of this unaided, but then resorted to the hints (and, in some cases, the answers) to complete the SE corner; there were some I would never have got on my own. The Nina leaves me speechless with wonder. Many thanks to Dutch for the much-needed elucidation, and to Elgar for the challenge.

  6. The first Elgar I have failed to finish since the Christmas Double 2014. Too many unfamiliar trees, sportsmen and other words for a chap with modest vocabulary to finish without hints.

    I am most grateful for Dutch’s display of the nina – I never really understood what one was before. I dont really like such constraints as they tend to drive the setter towards weird words. I can see most of the ones I had difficulty with this time are involved in the nina

    A nice challenge so thanks to Elgar and Dutch (I prefer Dutch’s concert hall to his boating lake!)

  7. After 4 reasonably simple and enjoyable toughies, I felt this was difficult and obscure just for the sake of it! Managed half but didn’t enjoy it. Elgar is just too much. I’m impressed Dutch made sense of it – or did he, perish the thought, have a crib?

  8. Well that was a real struggle for us. We have a friend staying with us so Helen joined the team and we sweated over it for a very long time. We used all the tools in our armoury, and even resorted to revealing a few letters to eventually get everything apart from 22d. This morning, after noting that there was a Nina, a long search still failed to find it. Perhaps if NZ had the same significance for 112 as the UK apparently does we might have had more luck, but wouldn’t count on it.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  9. Well – I gave it a shot but this was way above my level. Think I only got half a dozen by myself! It was still a very useful exercise to go through Dutch’s hints (and reveal some answers!) to see what I should have done.
    Congratulations to Elgar for working round such an appropriate Nina and many thanks to Dutch for taking me by the hand through the maze.

  10. Thought I was doing well this week till today. Enlisted husband and son but was still left with 28a and 22d. I never get Ninas anyway. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch. Certainly a tour de force.

  11. A clear Elgar tour de force in which I made minimal headway. I enjoyed the review – thanks Dutch. I “got” 4d, but did not put it in as could not relate it to the answer, and still can’t. Can someone please explain.

  12. With my pendant’s hat on (as ever!), it’s a pity but 6d doesn’t work as it requires the US spelling of storey. Admittedly Twin Peaks is American, but in my opinion that is a leap too far for the solver to make.

  13. This was certainly value for money (let’s just say that I didn’t finish it in one setting) but perhaps controversially I don’t think I’d give it five stars for fun, it striking me as more like a trip to the dentist: the overwhelming sense of relief on completion does not retroactively make all that drilling a blissful experience! Still some marvellous stuff in here from one of the most devious minds in crosswords… But personally I’m leaning a bit more towards elegance than impressive convolution this morning.

  14. Much to my chagrin I couldn’t get to this until Saturday. Maybe it’s my weekend head after a Friday night in the local but I found this as tough as anything I can remember in this slot. Thanks to Elgar for being way out there at the top of the toughness league and perhaps even more to Dutch for deciphering without crib. Very impressed.

    1. I did have some hints from Elgar (“think snooker, think basketball”) which helped me get SE. But if I’d seen the Nina earlier that would have helped too.

  15. Fortunately, I didn’t know this was a JH when I embarked on it – fortunately, because I did the first few without any excess feeling of trepidation giving way to terror. Although I never got the Nina, and living out of the UK/EU, had no idea about the emergency number, I did begin to twig that it must be the mighty Henderson quite quickly. Who else is so devious?

    The positive thing about this one is that I did it before – and after – Dean Mayer’s Sunday Times, and this one made that one seem a doddle in comparison. Actually, it is, as others have said, an extraordinary feat, and one I enjoyed in the same way I enjoy playing Scrabble online against an Indian or Chinese guy with a list as long as your arm of memorised high-probability 7-letter words. I learn a lot about strategy, lateral thinking and, well, genius and I am given a timely reminder of my own level.

    As for the puzzle, I got all bar the SE without aids, and then came here for the rest. Thanks to both John and Dutch.

  16. Having finished the Cryptic over breakfast, thought I would give this a shot over lunch. Despite being more awake I proved to be quite pathetic and this is obviously above my pay grade.

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