Toughie 1731 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1731

Toughie No 1731 by Elkamere

Hints and tips by Dutch

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****


We have a lovely Christmas present from Elkamere – a highly entertaining puzzle which is not too difficult, and still carries the punch of his trademark clueing. I am hoping many people will try this. Now I’ve finished this blog, I have most of 2 days left to try and get organised for the festivities. I wish each and every one of you a most delightful Christmas – please ensure you enjoy to the utmost – beginning with this puzzle!

These hints and tips appear an hour earlier than normal since many of you will already have left work. As always, the definitions are underlined in the clues below. I hope the hints allow you to work out the solutions, but you can always peek into the SURPRISE!! boxes for the answers. Please leave a comment to let us know what you thought and how you did.


1a    Belts as a Christmas present (5)
SOCKS: Two definitions, the first meaning hits hard


4a    One blows top, given plastic tree (9)
TRUMPETER: A verb meaning to top followed by an anagram (plastic) of tree

9a    Leave band a unique Christmas present (9)
PARTRIDGE: a verb meaning leave and another word for band or strip provide the single present you might get on the first day of Christmas


10a    Diamond in right hand, groom’s heading off (5)
RHOMB: The abbreviation for Right Hand plus a 4-letter verb meaning groom without the first letter (heading off)

11a    Start off Christmas in defeat? Don’t let that happen! (4,3)
RULE OUT: Remove the first letter of a 4-letter word meaning Christmas (not Noel), and insert into a word for defeat

12a    One fastens locks very tight (7)
HAIRPIN: Two meanings: the first is a hair fastener, the second is an adjective


13a    Can almost handle Christmas decoration (6)
TINSEL: Another word for can plus the first 3-letters of a 4-letter word meaning handle or trade

15a    Cocktail party – I wrap up Christmas present first (8)
SNOWBALL: A word for party or dance or a good time is preceded by the letter that wraps up (Christma)S and a 3-letter word for present as in at this time. People in my research group used to take great delight in ordering this cocktail for me, just because it was so out of character

18a    Ship carrying right Christmas decoration (8)
STREAMER: A kind of ship with the abbreviation for Right inserted. A chestnut with a seasonal twist

20a    For some, the present opening is the first sign of Christmas (6)
ADVENT: A 2-letter abbreviation denoting the current age we live in, according to some, followed by a word meaning opening

23a    Can thus name president (7)
JOHNSON: Another word for the little room referred to as can, a 2-letter word for thus, and the abbreviation for name.  Opportunity for a dig at Boris?

24a    Moan about idiot’s Christmas song (7)
WASSAIL: To moan or lament around a 3-letter idiot

26a    Extremely keen to have patent (5)
KNOWN: The extreme letters of KeeN plus a verb meaning ‘to have’

27a    It has small flowers (they’re big when out) (9)
EYEBRIGHT: Anagram (when out) of THEY’RE BIG


28a    Crooked men working at night during Christmas? (9)
SHEPHERDS: Cryptic definition of men looking after a flock


29a    Search of Lapland elves (5)
DELVE: Hidden in the clue


1d    Running sap, a tree’s branches (9)
SEPARATES: Anagram (running) of SAP A TREE’S

2d    Pass round a recipe for Noel (5)
CAROL: Another word for a mountain pass goes around A from the clue plus the abbreviation for Recipe

3d    His Christmas present was one of three (7)
SCROOGE: Clever cryptic definition of a Dickensian character


4d    Carry around attorney until 23rd December? (2,4)
TO DATE: A 4-letter verb for carry goes around an American attorney. The quick amongst you will recognise the date

5d    River on clan chief’s compound (8)
URETHANE: A Yorkshire river plus a Scottish clan chief

6d    Neat whiskey keeps this clue within reach (7)
PURVIEW: A word for neat or unadulterated plus the letter associated with the international radio code for whiskey contains (keeps) a Roman version of this clue number

7d    Sides to keep interrupting over tie that’s happened (4,5)
TOOK PLACE: The ‘sides’ of KeeP go inside (interrupting) a 3-letter word meaning over or in excess and a verb meaning tie (as in your shoes)


8d    Take home Christmas card feature? (5)
ROBIN: To take illegally, plus the usual preposition meaning home


14d    Santa’s home help – or not, possibly (5,4)
NORTH POLE: Anagram (possibly) of HELP OR NOT

16d    Obstruction in toilet potentially making one wee on foot (6,3)
LITTLE TOE: An obstruction (by the net in tennis, perhaps) goes inside an anagram (potentially) of TOILET. Brilliant! I was fascinated by Elkamere’s admission that the grid entry was originally MISTLETOE, but the M generated problems – so this turned out to be the last clue written, knowing the definition was going to be pretty hard to nail (ha-ha)… and it became his favourite!

17d    Santa’s team drops 25 audibly (8)
REINDEER: A homophone of both drops (from the sky) and another word for 25d


19d    When drunk, ban this liqueur (7)
ABSINTH: Anagram (when drunk) of BAN THIS

21d    With dad gone, is this on one’s wish list? (7)
DESIRES: The answer might whimsically describe the state of someone without a father (‘with dad gone, is this’)

22d    More than one way to wrap tiny stocking filler (6)
SWEETS: The plural of an abbreviation for a type of road (more than one way) goes around (to wrap) the Scottish word for tiny

23d    Short gag about fine Christmas cracker contents (5)
JOKES: The first 3-letters (short) of a 4-letter word meaning a funny gag go around (about) the 2-letter informal word for fine or all right


25d    An upturned stocking filler, one on Christmas tree (5)
ANGEL: AN from the clue plus the reversal (upturned) of something that might fill a stocking…


I really liked 27a (..small flowers, they’re big when out) and 14a (Santa’s home help…) but my favourite has to be 16a for the brilliant surface and definition. Which clues were your favourite presents?

15 comments on “Toughie 1731

  1. Thanks to Elkamere for the festive fun and to Dutch for the first-rate review and Season’s Greetings to both. I thought that 26a and 3d were excellent gifts but my top present was the laugh-out-loud 16d.
    I did wonder whether Elkamere had considered something like “Neat whiskey brings sex within reach (7)” for 6d.

  2. A nicely seasonal gift from Elkamere which didn’t cause too many problems beyond the fact that I didn’t know the 5d compound or the meaning of 6d.
    I guessed he’d tried to fit mistletoe into 16d – not to worry, it was still a great clue.

    Podium places going to 12&28a plus 3&25d.

    Many thanks and a very merry Christmas to you, Dean, – likewise to you, Dutch, and to all the BD Toughie gang.

  3. Lovely stuff, and just the right level of difficulty for a busy day ahead. I ticked 3d, 6D and 16D. Thanks to Elkamere and Dutch, and Merry Christmas, y’all!

  4. Having said yesterday that I had finished with puzzles for 2016, Gazza subsequently posted a comment that Elkamere was out today….. This one really is my last until 2017!

    Great stuff – most of it went in fairly quickly apart from a couple in the NE, which was where I finished up.
    16d got my tick.

    Many thanks and Merry Christmas to Elkamere, and to Dutch.

  5. Very enjoyable with lots of fun to be had although I can’t remember the last time I saw Dean being so ‘verbose’ in his clue writing :) I hope that you all have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas.

  6. What a nice way to end the toughie week.
    Not too taxing but very enjoyable.
    Learned new words in 6d and 27a.
    16d did make me smile too.
    Thanks to Elkamere and to Dutch.
    Joyeux Noël à tous.

  7. Hard enough for me today, but I did manage to get everything in without cheats, which is always good. I was really embarrassingly slow to parse 15a, but relieved that when I went back to it at the end I saw the light, because my shins would be covered in bruises if I’d come here instead to get it.

    Hugely enjoyable. So much clever stuff that it seems wrong to pick a favourite but the gold star goes to 16d, while the silver 13a is awarded to 15a. And a stripey mint to 3d.

    Thanks and Merry Christmas to Dutch and Elkamere, and all the very best for 2017 too.

  8. I thought this was far harder than yesterday’s. It’s a real struggle and I must say very little fun. For me ****/*

  9. We were going to nominate 2d as our favourite as we both get a mention but when we arrived at 16d that had to claim the prize. We did wonder whether mistletoe had some part in its parentage. Even 8 year old Sam had a chuckle when we showed him that clue.
    Excellent fun and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Elkamere and Dutch.

  10. l needed 3 hints to finish (5d, 15a and 16d) so can’t score this less than 3*. I enjoyed the ride, though, so a festive 4* for that. I had quite a list of potential favourites, but I think one of the three which defeated me – 16d – deserves the accolade. Thanks to the Elk and to Dutch, and compliments of the season to all my fellow devotees.

  11. Very amusing. thanks, Elkamere. Just right for Christmas. And here’s wishing a most happy one to yourself, Dutch and all my fellow bloggers

  12. I managed quite a bit on my own before turning to this site – thank you to all for help this year, albeit it mostly unknowingly given, as I don’t post much. Still at stage of just being pleased when I get answers, rather than being able to appreciate beauty of clues – which is another reason I appreciate this site, as reading about all your favourites makes me go back and read them properly again. Small point, answer to 21d must end in d, not s, in order to fit with 29a. Merry Christmas to all, with special thanks to all setters and bloggers for all your work this year!

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