Toughie 1723 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1723

Toughie No 1723 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Since we had an Elkamere on Wednesday, I suspected we might see an Elgar today. And what a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle it is. A few easy ones to get started meant there was no initial staring at a blank grid (the staring came a bit later). This is Elgar’s 114th toughie and yes, there is an associated theme – requiring some local knowledge (see 28a).

As always, and certainly today, finding the definitions is half the battle – these are nicely underlined for you in the clues below. The hints may help you arrive at the solutions, but you can always reveal them by clicking on the THEM button. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


7a     Like a gel jostling idol in refurbished local (9)
COLLOIDAL: A nice anagram to start off: an anagram (jostling) of IDOL inside anagram (refurbished) of LOCAL

8a     Wren, owl and crane shot on table (5)
JENNY: Multiple definition: female wren or owl, a travelling crane, or a type of billiards shot

10a     American actor no longer in love with a woolly brute (6)
ALPACA: The American actor famous for Scarface and Scent of a Woman without IN O (no longer in love), plus A from the clue

11a     Brahms and Liszt stayed with us once a week (8)
TUESDAYS: Anagram (Brahms and Liszt, Cockney rhyming slang for drunk) of STAYED+US

12a     A lot of old folk ignoring (in fluster) October time clock changes … (6)
MICKLE: The answer is an archaic (of old folk) word for a lot or a great quantity. Remove (ignoring) an anagram (in fluster) of the 3-letter abbreviation for October from an anagram (changes) of TIME CLOCK

14a     … one of the old people nearly swiping cup cake (6)
GATEAU: The first 3-letters of a 4-letter member of an old French tribe contains (swiping) a hot brew

16a     Make one’s mark in function when speaking (4)
SIGN: A homophone of a trigonometric function

17a     Entering empty 28, she‘ll fill stomachs (5)
ELLIE: When placed inside the first and last letters of 28a (empty, i.e., with all the inside removed), this woman’s name will be the inside of (entering …she’ll fill) stomachs

18a     No gentlemen‘s clubs wanting to take marketing on board? (4)
CADS: The abbreviation for Clubs in cards and some marketing seen on a notice board

19a     Two jumps, neither fully reaching water craft (3,3)
JET SKI: Two times a 4-letter jump, without the last letter in each case (neither fully). The first jump is a ballet move.

21a     These things not given credit on XXL suit in medium pack? (6)
SWORDS: These things as in the type of puzzles you are currently looking at, without the 2-letter abbreviations for credit and oversized (XXL) – brilliant

24a     Rhodes sandwiches taste like aioli (8)
GARLICKY: The first name of the celebrity chef goes around (sandwiches) a word for taste

26a     Photography pioneer, ancestor of 9, put on a pound around the middle (6)
TALBOT: Two definitions plus wordplay. A from the clue plus the 2-letter abbreviation for pound goes in around the middle of a word for put on or add up.

27a     The Woman with the Good Hair – like a northern stream? (5)
BECKY: This woman’s name has been used in the phrase “***** with the good hair” to mean an unfaithful cheat in urban slang in general and in a Beyonce song in particular (“Sorry” from her Lemonade album) – I’m not sure which came first, or if there is a deeper history. Anyway, take a 4-letter Northern dialect word for stream, and add a Y to make it a fanciful adjective.

28a     Old people take it with bangers and mash (9)
BRIGANTES: A Celtic tribe in pre-Roman times is an anagram (take … and mash) of IT+BANGERS. The answer is also a dog-friendly (aha) establishment on 114 (aha) 12/14 (minus last 2 letters) in 25 where you can get Brahms and Liszt. This became apparent when I google-checked the old people (who are not in Chambers), though I should have remembered this last port of call in the recent S&B pub-quiz-crawl that Elgar organised. I had not appreciated, though, that the ten names found in the grid are staff members there (the K in the street is also used in two names). Elgar is having a session with them this afternoon explaining all the clues – maybe there will be a photo later.


1d     Old lecturer repeatedly caressed by Elgar’s girl (5)
MOLLY: The abbreviation for Old and a repeated abbreviation for Lecturer go inside (caressed by) a personal pronoun which would mean Elgar’s from the setter’s perspective

2d     Our Friend from Germany, Einstein to his mates, demonstrated American probes (8)
ALSATIAN: How Einstein’s friends might abbreviate his first name, followed by a (3,2) expression that can mean demonstrated into which the single-letter abbreviation for American is inserted

3d     Seize Independent leader from journalist under cover of colleague? … (6)
HIJACK: The abbreviation for Independent plus the first letter of (leader from) Journalist go inside (under cover of) another word for journalist (colleague)

4d     … Telegraph ’s top drawer alternative to Guardian and Times (4)
MATT: A 2-letter parent (who would be an alternative to a guardian) plus the abbreviation for Time, twice (Times)

5d     Aged ditherers see what I did in there? (6)
GEDDIT: Hidden in the clue with a cheeky definition and indicator – brilliant

6d     A favourite of children with oddly yappy characters (4,5)
ANDY PANDY: A 3-letter conjunction that means with, then the odd characters of YaPpY: Y,P and Y

9d     Our Friend in the Hunt wants first sip of brandy, sinking two shots early? (6)
BEAGLE: The first letter (sip) of Brandy, plus a golf term for being two under par

13d     Dropping aitches is extremely bad for him (5)
ELLIS: The answer is a man’s name found after dropping the extreme aitches from a word meaning bad, or even extremely bad

15d     Thoroughly warm beer selection from Our Friends in the North (9)
AIREDALES: Split (5,4), the answer would be a warm and dry collection of beers

17d     Clearly show Kiev in cellophane packages (6)
EVINCE: Hidden (packages) – one of my first in

18d     Fish stuffed with date and eggs on the go (8)
CODDLING: Fish in the plural! Two fish go around the abbreviation for Date. Brilliantly disguised definition

20d     Our Friend from Asia‘s ‘unmistakable’? Mix it up with bat, men do (6)
SALUKI: An anagram of the answer (mix it up with …. do) with BAT+MEN will give you UNMISTAKABLE

22d     Run (from shock) when power fails (6)
OUTAGE: Remove the abbreviation for Run from a 7-letter word meaning shock

23d     Brother of Johann the Younger bringing warring foes to justice (5)
JOSEF: An anagram of FOES following the abbreviation for Justice provides Strauss Jr’s brother

25d     City brewery: no further stock (they’re closing) (4)
YORK: Last letters (they’re closing) of the 4 words following the definition

I admire the way the puzzle number developed into a theme. It was fun unravelling the old people and our friend clues. I think my favourites were 21a and 28a but I also liked 11a, 1d, 4d, 6d and plenty more. Which clues tickled your fancy?

Jetdoc has provided this picture of the presentation copy of this puzzle.  Click on the picture to download as a pdf:

19 comments on “Toughie 1723

  1. Brilliant stuff – I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout. 4*/5* – can’t decide between 11a, 21a, 24a, 27a and 6d for a favourite but 21a and 6d have the biggest stars by them so I’ll go for one as Across favourite and the other as Down favourite.

    Thanks to Elgar for the fun – I must be on your wavelength this week as I’ve just submitted my entry to the December Genius over at the Graun – and to Dutch too.

  2. Brilliant stuff – thanks to Elgar and Dutch. I had no idea of the local theme (although I did notice that there were several forenames in the grid). Too many favourites to list them all, but I’ll go for the cluster of down clues from 3d to 9d inclusive with 5d just winning by a nose.

  3. I enjoyed this more than the last couple of Elgars – while there were a few real b*ggers, generally speaking it was quite accessible.

    I spotted the *likely* theme and thought the preponderance first names must mean something, but it’s nice to have all my suspicions confirmed!

    Favourite clue to 27 because pop culture references are right up my alley. Cheers Elgar and Dutch.

  4. I gave up after an age…….my lateral thinking just can’t lateralise this far……..hats off to those who managed it though……..

  5. The clue for 19a would have produced the same answer without ‘neither fully reaching’ from jump jet and ski jump.

  6. Remembered that this was Elgar’s 114th toughie but couldn’t find anything relevant.
    Managed to solve most of the Left side before Framboise and John came for lunch and the right took me much longer.
    Bought a tea mug in York with all the places of interest. Always a plus when solving an Elgar. The street of the pub in 28a was right in front of my eyes.
    Didn’t know what all the first names were doing there so thanks to Dutch for the inside info.
    Thanks to the staff of the pub,for participating, to Elgar for a great crossword and to Dutch for explaining 17a which was the only one I didn’t geddit.

    1. Just to spell it out, although you may know this already – the Brigantes pub is at 114 Micklegate, it was the last pub in our pub crawl at the sloggers & betters meeting in York. I have fond, though vague, memories.

  7. Apologies for a prolonged absence. This is the first time I’ve been able to get through to the site since returning from hols on 21st Nov. Good stuff from Elgar without the jeux d’esprit that often mar his work for me [though 13d comes close – I grudgingly accept that it is occasionally a given name]. Particularly impressed with 21a and 6d [my last 2 in after most of a day scratching the head]. I failed with 4d [didn’t spot the very clever def] and needed enlightenment re the def for 27a [not a phrase I’ve ever come across].
    So thanks to Dutch for that and for a fine blog – and thanks to Elgar for occupying most of a dull December day.

  8. A lot of names and dogs and a tad too clever for me. Don’t get the ‘theme’, obviously (why would I?). Not much for me to enjoy I’m afraid.
    Well done to those who could understand it, with thanks to all as ever.

    1. Agree the theme is not something everyone (well, not most people) would spot, but it doesn’t matter, it’s an extra – the puzzle by itself stands proud (or so i think) – see also my comment@6

  9. That took us a very long time indeed and one of the team actually staged a mutiny and deserted the ship while much of the SE corner was still blank. Then a very strange thing happened. After trying all sorts of combinations the penny finally dropped with 22d. Almost immediately our electricity went off and stayed off for the next 4 hours. It must have been Elgar who caused it. Not surprising we did find it particularly difficult as most of the finer points of the theme were a total mystery to us. Despite that, the only clue where we did not work out the significance of the wordplay was 27a. Although we had worked out the wordplay for 28a it needed all the checkers before we could get the letters in the right order that made any sense to our references. Working out the ‘Our Friends’ significance quite early was a big help with those clues. Very satisfying to get a conclusion but enjoyment…………the jury is still out.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  10. Managed to latch onto ‘our friends’ courtesy of 9d so I got all of those which led me to about another dozen answers – probably my best attempt ever at an Elgar puzzle!
    Got the young lady at 27a without having a clue about the reference to other than the northern stream but failed miserably on the one at 1d.
    I rather liked our four-legged companions, particularly 15d.

    Thanks to Elgar for letting me get a few right and to Dutch for explaining all the rest!

  11. Excellent stuff as usual from the master.
    However, I think I’ve discovered the secret to beating Elgar. Having made little progress throughout the day, I’ve just picked it up again with a few (medicinal) G and Ts inside and the answers have fallen in! I’d love to know if it works for others.

  12. AndyB @ 11, we need to be clearer about the optimum measure of gin. I couldn’t finish last month’s Elgar despite nine G&Ts, but do vaguely remember folding that day’s Telegraph into a hat and putting it on my head.

  13. Hard but clever, with lots of penny-drop moments. I’m impressed by such a well-developed hidden theme, although it was completely lost on me; but not recognizing it didn’t take anything away from the puzzle, and the dogs-tribes-names strands were fun on their own.

    I think 8a let the side down though. Whilst the wordplay is nice, the clue, once decyphered, is pretty much word-for-word a cut-and-paste from a rather tecnical and plain list of definitions found in the BRB; and in any case, whoever heard of that term be used for an owl? A web search doesn’t yield any results for that, which just adds to the paste-from-the-dictionary feel. Perhaps I’m just bitter that I didn’t (and wouldn’t have) got that one right though!

    1. We have lots of commenters called Andy and as far as I can tell you are a new one so I’m afraid you will have to alter your alias before commenting again

  14. This one was above my pay grade, but interesting and I enjoyed working through it….. with aid of the hints.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  15. When I saw it was an Elgar – finally coming to it today – I cancelled all my appointments, put the phone off the hook, put on my hard hat and bunkered down for the barrage. As Dutch notes, there was something of a phoney war before the blitzkrieg began, and I emerged after an hour or so bloody and bruised but needing to come here for only half a dozen or so. I hate to admit it, but the masochist in me loves these things. The picks for me were GEDDIT and TUESDAYS. I’m a simple soul…

    Is it only me who thinks that 26a doesn’t quite work: is ‘a pound around the middle’ enough, or am I missing something?

    Right, now to block off another few hours and turn to last weeks Elkamere…

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