Toughie 1703 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 1703

Toughie No 1703 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

This should keep the toughieistas happy (thanks mre!). I did this in two sittings, and after finishing still had several left to parse. I did get a bit dizzy from all the reversals. As is often the case, doing the review allows to me relish the clues again and increases the enjoyment for me – there is lots to like. There is a Nina along the same theme as Elgar’s last two toughies – not where you’d normally expect to find it, very clever and original.  I thought there might be a pangram but one letter is absent.

The definition is underlined in each clue as usual. I hope you can work out the answer from the hint, but you can always reveal it by clicking on the IT button. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a     Was fearful, so copyrighted? (7)
CRINGED: Split (1,6), the answer describes the copyright symbol

5a     Central targets employed by Arsenal, say, when in possession of ball? (7)
FOCUSES: “Arsenal, say” suggests something Arsenal is an example of, and “employed by Arsenal, say” translates to a (1,1,4) phrase which then contains (when in possession of) the letter that looks like a ball

9a     Twelve old pennies to secure Bill and Jack? You might expect this, then (1,3,3)
A BAD JOB: Another way of saying twelve old pennies (1,3) goes around a 2-letter Bill or notice and the abbreviation for Jack in cards. The surface suggests a semi-all-in-one

10a     Muggers and gharials, perhaps changing sides, arrive for work (5,2)
CLOCK IN: Take a (4,3) phrase that would mean relatives of the crocodile (muggers and gharials, perhaps) – and change the R(ight) to a L(eft)

11a     Dishonestly take position as head waiter (5-4)
QUEUE-JUMP: Cryptic definition for moving to the front of the line. This clue is in honour of Mike Laws (Elgar’s predecessor as crossword editor for The Inquisitor, who passed away in 2011). It’s a variation of his favourite clue

12a     Show American breaching west-facing enclosure (1,1,3)
L A LAW: The abbreviation for A(merican) goes inside (breaching) a reversal (west-facing) of an enclosure to give an American TV series

13a     Endless drive is exhibited by this architect (1,1,3)
I M PEI: Remove the last letter from both a verb meaning drive and IS from the clue to give the name of a celebrated Chinese-American architect

15a     Volunteers love joining compiler in timeless cask ale round (4,5)
HOME GUARD: Place the letter that looks like a score of nil in tennis (love) together with a personal pronoun that would describe the compiler (from his point of view) inside the reversal (round) of the type of beer you might find in a cask without the final letter T (Timeless)

17a     Anagram tips for one unjumbling any time the solver chooses! (3,4,2)
YOU NAME IT: And now we describe the solver from the compiler’s perspective. An anagram (indicated by the beautifully-disguised imperative ‘Anagram’) of the first letters of O(ne) U(njumbling) + ANY TIME

19a     Repository of facts acquired by mesmeric Dr O’Malley (1,1,3)
C D ROM: Cleverly hidden in the clue (acquired by)

22a     Rumour about bishop – fine English all-rounder! (1,1,3)
C B FRY: A 3-letter word that can mean report or rumour goes around the abbreviations for B(ishop) and F(ine) to give the name of an English sportsman, politician, diplomat, academic, teacher, writer, editor and publisher but best known as a cricketer

23a     Turn of Auction Zone 1 to get ripped off after twice having seen French horns (9)
VUVUZELAS: The reversal of a 4-letter word meaning auction or other offering of goods for money together with Z(one) from the clue but with ‘1 to get ripped off’ leaving just the Z, comes after the French word for seen repeated twice

25a     In retrospect, the way to ride bicycle with space unavailable? (3-4)
TWO-HAND: The reversal of a 3-letter word meaning the way or in what manner is inserted (to ride) a specific kind of bicycle (that would do for Daisy) without the final two letters which correspond to the name of a printer’s space (with space unavailable). The whole clue is word play which makes it an all-in-one with some cycling advice

26a     Busy occupying office, both looking over a part in MND (7)
TITANIA: A (2,2) phrase for busy or occupied and a preposition that can mean occupying the office, both individually reversed (looking over) plus A from the clue gives this character from Midsummer Night’s Dream

27a     The King gets into flat-pack furniture, perhaps, with nervous excitement (7)
DITHERY: THE from the clue plus a single-letter abbreviation for King ‘gets into’ the abbreviation for an activity that may well involve flat-pack furniture

28a     Holding one’s hat, ran back with it to lodge (7)
DEPOSIT: The reversal (back) of a 4-letter word for ran or moved quickly contains (holding) the first letter (hat) of O(ne), together with IT from the clue


1d     Jerky start to exam will initially have to do (7)
CHARQUI: The start to exam would be the first question (in abbreviated form), which follows (will initially have) a 4-letter word for to do, or an occasional piece of house work.



2d     Beset by terrible pain, the man with a limp (2,1,4)
IN A HEAP: A pronoun for the man plus A from the clue go inside (beset by) an anagram (terrible) of PAIN

3d     Old dance resurrected English film series (1,1,3)
G I JOE: Reversal (resurrected) of the abbreviation for O(ld) plus a 3-letter lively dance, followed by the abbreviation for E(nglish)

4d     What’s one to the third, rounding it up? (Base one is base) (9)
DEBAUCHEE: A 2-letter interjection meaning What, an indefinite article (one) which ‘to the third (power)’ contains (rounding it), all reversed (up), plus the base for Napierian logarithms

5d     Heads out of Eastern football tournament (1,1,3)
F A CUP: A (4,2) way of describing one result of a coin toss (Heads) without the abbreviation for Eastern

6d     Contentiously argue diary’s written in Uto-Aztec in two chapters (4,5)
CHOP LOGIC: A 3-letter diary goes inside (written in) a Uto-Aztec (a type of Native American) language, all between two abbreviations for C(hapter)

7d     Dead funny talk is about Hebridean islands (2,5)
ST KILDA: An anagram (funny) of TALK IS goes ‘about’ the abbreviation for D(ead)

8d     Poet’s made stronger without one? (7)
: A poetic word for strengthened is formed from the Latin for without and a word that can mean one or united

14d     Silly housing money withdrawn from hostels, however (2,3,4)
IN ANY CASE: A 6-letter word for silly contains (housing) the abbreviation for some youth hostels recommended by the Village People (don’t forget the plural) but without the abbreviation for M(oney)

16d     Inspired actor hoarding Cheers millions in retirement (9)
: A 5-foot American actor containing (hoarding) an informal word for cheers or thank you, followed by the abbreviation for M(illions), then reverse the lot (in retirement)

17d     Having capsized, half of them – stopping the rot – raced round bay? (7)
YACHTED: All in reverse (having capsized): the first half of TH(em) goes into (stopping) a word for rot

18d     Frank Stapleton’s position settled in advance (2,5)
UP FRONT: A triple definition which also works as a double definition since Frank Stapleton was a football forward

20d     These judicial decisions a bit brutalising, under review (7)
RULINGS: A compound anagram: The answer plus A BIT is an anagram of BRUTALISING (under review)

21d     Given wrong part in film as college’s superior (7)
MISCAST: Inside (in) another word for film, place the word AS from the clue, but just above that (is superior, in a down clue) place the abbreviation for C(ollege)

23d     Hindu texts Yard: ‘Peace-time’? (1,1,3)
V E DAY: The four ancient holy books of the Hindus plus the abbreviation for Y(ard)

24d     Band O-AA follows this volume of ‘Back-words’? (1,1,3)
Z Z TOP: O to AA would follow this other half of a backwards dictionary or encyclopedia


I especially liked 1a, 10a, 11a, 15a, 17a, 1d, 2d, 21d, & 24d – gosh a favourite – I’ll pick 10a. Which clues did you like?

25 comments on “Toughie 1703

  1. That was a real struggle for us but after a lot of effort we eventually got a completed grid but still had about half a dozen that were not fully parsed. After a lot more effort we sorted out everything except for the mathematics details of 4d so a real sense of satisfaction in having got that far after our miserable failure with the last NTSPP. Still have not spotted the Nina.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  2. This was impossible – both to finish the puzzle and to reach the site for explanations. Are you still experiencing problems Big Dave? You were concerned yesterday.

    1. Yes of course, sorry would have replied earlier, but I was unable to get into the site yesterday

      This is Elgar’s 113th toughie. The ninas to his last two toughies involved 111 and 112.
      This time the reference to 113 is in the enumeration to all the 5-letter words (1,1,3).

      i was wondering about the unusual enumeration being repeated throughout the puzzle then I finally twigged.

      It is the first time I have seen the enumeration used for a Nina!

      1. Thanks, Dutch. My husband suggested that while helping me. Shall go and tell him he was right.

        1. I finally remembered to come and check about a Nina and I’m glad to find it was something I’d spotted! Though I hadn’t realised what all the 1, 1, 3 enumerations in fact signified, so many thanks for clearing that up Dutch.

          I didn’t find this one *that* hard by Elgar standards, finishing it in one go in bed last week, but that was still longer than I take to solve most puzzles by a factor of 4 or 5 or so (not 113 thankfully) so nothing to be sniffed at. Thanks Elgar, you verifiable maniac!

  3. Tried to access the site and got a message that the site had extended the maximum requests per limit for crawlers and human! Crawlers?

    As for the puzzle…I am getting nowhere fast!

  4. Got everything apart from 8d.
    Not surprising really as I had “focused” in 5a.
    Parsed all the clues around that corner over and over to spot a possibly wrong checker and failed to see my mistake.
    Really enjoyed the solve as I am getting used to the man’s style such as 21d and 26a and many more come to think of it.
    Haven’t spotted the Nina yet.
    Thanks to Elgar for the super fun and to Dutch for the explanations.

    1. not surprised you had focused in 5a. I also thought that the more natural answer to the wordplay but it didn’t fit the def (or checker!). This was the one clue that I had to ask Elgar about, and his explanation was “Employed by Arsenal, say = FC uses” – I’m still trying to make that work for me, but I’m sure given Elgar’s expertise in such things it does actually work somehow.

      if you add an “is” like 2Kiwis suggest in comment 8, it helps.

      Anyway it is good i asked because it is how I learned that 11a was dedicated to Mike Laws.

      see comment 3 for nina explanation

      1. That did seem a bit odd, but I felt it was *basically* substitutable. “A ball employed by Arsenal”, “A ball (a football club) uses”. Might not get past the most scrupulous cryptic editors, I guess…

  5. 4 to 5 stars for enjoyment? Is that referring to Elgar who seems to me to have been off on some ego-trip?

  6. Finally managed to access the site – kept trying because I was so determined to go through Dutch’s review.

    However impossible this might sound, I battled on with this one until I had about 10 answers in and then managed to get within three of a completed grid through complete guesswork with no idea of the parsing! Must have been down to there being so many short words and phrases.
    The fails were down to words I didn’t know – 23a&4d and the first part of the phrase at 6d.
    So grateful to you, Dutch, for spelling it all out – although there are still a couple I’ll need to read through several more times.

    The greatest respect to those who complete this one in the correct manner (!) and my apologies to Elgar for just getting there any way I could!

    By the way, Dutch – I’m intrigued to know what on earth you put into Google to come up with the 9a picture!

  7. I always enjoy going through the hints, though I never attempt the puzzles, but have absolutely no idea what the hint to 5a means!!!

    1. Arsenal is a FC or football club, put an O (ball-shaped letter) in this and then a synonym for ‘ is employed by’ which here is ‘uses’.

  8. Oh my days! I thought that crosswords were for fun and entertainment. Perhaps Elgar was entertained by torturing the masses.

  9. The boss popped in to say good morning as I was reading the clues for the third time and the only thing I’d done to the grid was put in the lines between the 1,1,3s. You haven’t got far with that he said and I said that I was going to have to look up loads of people/stuff before I could even begin to work out the wordplay. So I looked up what turned out to be crocodiles and started to solve. He came back to ‘help’ and was extremely proud that he worked out one letter in one clue!

    After lots of looking up and muttering I finally finished in probably a 6* time but despite loving 1a and 11a, I can only give this 3* for enjoyment as I ended up really grumpy. If I’d been out of internet range for some reason, I’d have given up long before the end.

    So thank you to the boss, Mr Google, Crossword Solver, Dutch and Elgar.

  10. I thought that this was a real Toughie with, as Dutch says, lots of reversing required (but at least each square has a maximum of one letter in it!). I enjoyed the struggle – I knew the cricketer but had to Google the architect, the jerky and gharials. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch (especially for explaining the Nina above – I’d totally forgotten, again, how many Toughies Elgar has produced).
    I particularly liked 1a, 5d and 18d but my favourite, for the penny drop moment, was 11a.

  11. Finally got through to the site (although I can’t get the grid up on the new Prize Puzzle) to pass comment on another Elgar supertoughie. This took me ages, but with Elgar’s puzzles it’s always worth persevering. There’s no other setter like him. Thanks to Elgar and also to Dutch for the review, which is quite a feat in itself.

  12. One always gets good value out of Elgar ( we met him once at a sloggers and betters do and he seemed surprisingly normal). Maybe not the most enjoyable, but we got there (apart 13a).
    Thanks to Dutch and the Master.

  13. I needed electronic help to get everything in place, and still had to come here for quite a few explanations. Lots of flashes of brilliance but in the end my favourite is the neat 1a. Many thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

Comments are closed.