Toughie 1779 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1779

Toughie No 1779 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

And here is Elgar’s 116th toughie! Half a dozen or so clues went in quickly for me, followed by a wee pause, after which progress was fairly steady with plenty of brilliant penny drop moments along the way. There’s a cracking Nina that presents a story using a little bit of cryptic imagination. Linking this to 116 I found more difficult, and I didn’t manage that bit without Elgar’s help – so to point you in the right direction, think of 116 as a date, and search – you’ll know when you’re there.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


8a     Bans missing mass by Northern priest (9)
ORATORIAN: A 9-letter word for bans without the abbreviation of Mass plus the abbreviation for Northern

10a     Eratosthenes’ First Question: American play (5)
EQUUS: The first letter in Eratosthenes, and abbreviations for question and America.

11a     Guru‘s rest interrupted by solemn goings-on on meadow (9,6)
SPIRITUAL LEADER: A rest used in snooker contains (interrupted by) both a 6-letter word for solemn goings on or ceremony and a word for meadow

12a     Contemptible, the state of Elizabeth I’s growler (7)
BASENJI: Add a 4-letter word for contemptible or vile, an abbreviation for the American state where Elizabeth is located and I from the clue to give you a non-barker

13a     Terribly hard when negotiating roundabout to pass around … him? (4,3)
ROAD HOG: A semi-all-in-one: an anagram of HARD goes around a letter that looks like a circle or roundabout, plus a reversal (about) of a word meaning to pass or proceed

15a     First of price indexes – what 12ac may be after market priority (10,5)
PREFERENCE SHARE: The first letter of Price, a 10-letter word for indexes or literary pointers, and an animal that 12a might be after

19a     Brown had B, Cameron had C, but this is upsetting! (7)
DISMAYS: The next letter is the next PM’s!

22a     I treated dioxides, volatile, with variable light (7)
IODISED: An anagram (volatile) of DIO(x)IDES missing the variable (with variable light)

24a     Perhaps Arfur Daley‘s dubious assurances led the old girl to get sucked in (4-3,8) (The online version erroneously had an enumeration of (8,8))
USED-CAR SALESMAN: An anagram (dubious) of ASSURANCES LED contains (to get sucked in) a 2-letter old girl. I was worried Arfur might be a typo and warned Elgar, who assured me it is intentional and reflects a London pronunciation, especially typical of Dave who runs the Winchester club in the Minder series

26a     A broadcast record the penny drops to secure (5)
ALPHA: The abbreviation for a 33.3 rpm bit of vinyl is contained by (to secure) an interjection expressing sudden (or maybe not-so-sudden) understanding (the penny drops). Broadcast as in international radio communication

27a     Ascetic’s time to move forward in anticipation of golden month (9)
THERMIDOR: The 11th month of the French Revolutionary calendar comes from a 6-letter word for an ascetic in which the T(ime) is moved to the beginning, in front of (in anticipation of) a (1’2) French expression meaning golden (or ‘of gold’)


1d     Excellent position when supine? (4)
TOPS: A reversal (supine) of a position or place

2d     Proposal made by Top Cat from the floor? (6)
MOTION: Reversal (from the floor, in a down clue) of a (2,1,3) expression that would suggest Top Cat

3d     Details of ‘Westbound’ couple grabbing kiss in Glasgow? (8)
MINUTIAE: We have a couple in Roman numerals ‘grabbing’ the 3-letter somewhat aggressive ‘Glasgow Kiss’, all of which is ‘West-bound’, i.e., contained in the actress’s first name

4d     Carrot, perhaps, all bar the top for Dennis Rodman (6)
ANGLER: A word describing a carrot when it is suspended in front of you as enticement (or anything else suspended, hence ‘perhaps’) without the first letter (top) of Dennis

5d     Counterpoised among unusual enemies, old Greek king (8)
MENELAUS: Reverse hidden (counterpoised among …)

6d     Screen brought to court erected around back of prisoner (6)
PURDAH: The reversal (erected, in a down clue) of a (3,2) expression that can mean ‘brought to court’ goes around the last letter of prisoner

7d     Hats off to South Africa’s rugby adjudicator (4)
TSAR: First letters (Hats off) the next 4 words in the clue

9d     An absorbing paper under discussion (2,5)
AT ISSUE: Split (1,6), the answer becomes an absorbing paper

12d     Man perhaps shows very little change between the sheets (5)
BIPED: Very little change (in fact the smallest amount of change you can have) is placed ‘in ***’ (=between the sheets)

14d     Two thirds of University course complete, leaving one longing for more (5)
GREED: The last 4 letters (two thirds) of a 6-letter University course or certificate plus a word meaning completed from which ONE from the clue is omitted (leaving)

16d     Coming round bend, almost empty lungs of bishop (8)
EXARCHAL: A 6-letter verb meaning to empty lungs without the last letter (almost) contains (coming round) a 3-letter bend

17d     Supply machine with new balls (8)
CHINAMEN: An anagram (supply) of MACHINE + N(ew). A cricket clue

18d     Unjustifiably claimed this laser can upset 24ac (7)
ASSUMED: A compound anagram: An anagram (upset) of the answer (this) + LASER + CAN gives 24a

20d     Plain, bare skin and bones of Sgt Pepper? (6)
STEPPE: Show (bare) the skin (or outside letters) of SGT and the ‘bones’ of PEPPER

21d     Jacques Clouseau our ultimate offbeat detective? Ultimately, yes (6)
SURETE: Another semi-all-in-one. Last letters (ultimately) of first 6 words in the clue

23d     Fanciful predecessor of PM entering nut repository? (6)
DREAMY: Something that comes before PM goes inside (entering) the nest of a small bushy-tailed animal

24d     State that usually rises to press … (4)
UTAH: Reverse hidden (rises to press)

25d     … twisting ends of story is not American (4)
NARY: Take a word for story and swap the first and last letters (twisting ends)

I find it hard to pick a favourite clue in Elgar puzzles since they are all amazing, but I think I’ll go for 19a. Which clues did you like?

60 comments on “Toughie 1779

  1. In three separate sessions I have managed to solve 13 clues – DT puzzles are not normally the subject of my ‘three goes and in the bin’ but I’ve given up today. I can’t bin the paper because Mr CS will want to do the number puzzles when I get home.

    Sorry Elgar but that’s how it is – thank you to Dutch – I’ll read the hints when I get back home and see if I can work out the ‘missing’ from the hints. Oh… and 19a was one of the ones I did get and it is my favourite

  2. A real Toughie which took me a long time, punctuated with lots of d’ohs. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch for the review. The clues I liked best were 12a, 26a, 2d, 3d and 23d.
    I did remember this time to be on the lookout for 116 but failed to find it, although I did find the Nina. I still can’t see how the Nina links to 116 as a date.

  3. Please check 8 a spelling – once again I could be wrong
    Thanks for the revue ,this really was a toughie

  4. I just wish I could get Toughies on the online version. Taken it up with the DT but to no avail. Any ideas anyone? Or perhaps I shouldn’t want to spend even more time on such dalliance!

    1. yes, you’d have to pay a subscription to get the toughie online – google telegraph puzzles

      1. We pay a subscription for the paper Dutch. We get The Cryptic, The Quicky, a code word puzzle and a sodoffku. It is not too much to ask for a Toughie.

        1. agreed, i’m no fan of paying additional subscription for the telegraph puzzle site – but that’s the way the telegraph works. So I’ve cancelled my paper subscription, just have the puzzle site subscription.

    2. I just look on this site for the ones that interest me and go in through PressDisplay/PressReader at USD 0.99 per copy, which gives a facsimile of the print version of the paper.

      The way the DT is going (agony uncle Graham Norton etc) it will probably be replaced by a horoscope before long but for now that works well for me.

      Availability via PressDisplay/PressReader might vary by location. For a while here (in Australia) it was free via your public library membership – that turned out to be just a teaser and now you pay – either for a monthly etc subscription or pay per copy.

  5. So far I have managed to get two answers. With 4 down I googled Dennis Rodman to discover he is a retired professional basket ball player. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve spent ages attempting to link him with a carrot/lure. Thanks to this blog I now have the answer, but hope to keep my cheating to a minimum hereon. :-)

  6. Well, it took me ages (it didn’t help that I confused Clouseau with Cousteau for a while), but I managed it in the end, with only one hint (for 16d) needed. Elgar disguises his definitions so cunnngly. Favourite was 26a – a penny-drop moment indeed. Many thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  7. The Nina story concerns the king in 5d wanting to retrieve his wife (row 15) from her lover (column 2) at the other side of the grid across the threshold of a city – the device used ‘to enter’ the city is represented in the diagonal.

    The gentleman in 10a, who accurately calculated the circumference of the earth and the distance to the sun, has also calculated when this might have happened (see comment 2) – and that’s the link to 116

    1. Thanks. I found the Nina (I thought that 10a may have been a further hint to the diagonal part of the Nina) but I was nowhere near working out the relevance of 116.

  8. Well – after much cogitation I got 10&24a (plus 24d because it couldn’t really be anything else!) but that was the height of it.
    After reading the review, I found that I was on the right track with a handful of others – the contortions and GK required for the remainder left me speechless but full of admiration for Dutch’s solving abilities.

    With the answers now revealed, I still think that 24a would remain my favourite.

    Thanks to Elgar for the education and to Dutch for letting me now rest in peace.

    PS I was fully expecting CS to be ecstatic over being given a ‘real Toughie’ – that’s twice in one day that I’ve been rendered speechless!

  9. The light dawns! I couldn’t get past GREATS for the University course (which I did) which had me tearing my hair out for hours… So many thanks for the blog. I saw HELEN and PARIS but didn’t connect them or find the horse. Definitely five stars for both difficulty and subsequent sense of awe, well done Elgar!

  10. We had an additional difficulty with this one as when we printed it out the enumeration for 24a was (8,8). Quite a challenge in a 15 x 15 grid. Two pesky 4 letter answers were our last to get in, 7d and 25d. We suspected there might be a Nina and a number thing but by the time we had got the puzzle solved had run out of energy to look any further. A significant challenge for us and satisfying to get it completed.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  11. A few went straight in, then a few more after a struggle, before I threw in the towel. Thanks to Elgar for extending my vocabulary and to Dutch for his masterly demystification.

  12. I’ve done about half which is about eighteen answers which is probably about seventeen more than I usually get with an Elgar crossword.
    Having now read the hints, and lots of the answers too, I know that I would never have got lots of the rest and there are a few answers I still don’t get – oh well, too bad.
    I now know who Dennis Rodman is, not that I needed to as it turns out!
    Generally way beyond me but I enjoyed what I could do so thanks to Elgar and to Dutch.

  13. Well completed eventually in tandem with a chum after a visit to the Hockney… got a much later train home than planned.
    The erroneous enumeration 8,8 at 24 added even more head scratching. Phew! I couldn’t eat a whole one. TY to E & D

  14. Frankly……I am appalled at this test…….this puzzle belongs in The Listener ……..I am seventy-two years old, and Elgar’s puzzles never fail to irk me………one would need a degree in situation stupidity to even fathom the depths he is prepared to go to ……and I am a great fan of crosswords………but I notice…..most participants in this forum tend to shy away from him…….there is simply no fun in attempting his puzzles……I’m sorry…….he should move to “Private Eye”….a puzzle needs parameters…..

    1. Golly Bongs nadine. However I am in agreement with youy. . I am an irregular visitor to Toughieland but usually enjoy the visit. I have been known to save Elgar puzzles to take away on holiday and I do alright eventually. Today No No No. infathomnable. To those who can do this type of puzzle I raise my hat. To Dutch who has to solve and sort the blog my heartiest salutations. As a Friday Toughie I suppose it is perfect but a mile away from what I can sort out.

  15. Blimey, what a struggle. Couldn’t quite finish it let alone get the story behind it… Well done Elgar, I shake your hand and resign.
    Well done to Dutch for climbing a gargantuan mountain.

    1. Couldn’t let it lie, too intriguing. Have just completed with the hints and a couple of cheats. Then went off to work out the story and eventually got to the 116. A remarkable piece of work by Elgar, I am somewhat agog that this can be done. Incredible.
      Well done and thank you to Dutch, too.

  16. After completing the NE corner fairly quickly and then proceeding to solve a few more around the grid, I thought I might be making some reasonable progress. Alas, pride came before the fall and I really couldn’t make any headway with the puzzle – too abstruse for my blood I’m afraid.

    It certainly demonstrates how far I’ve got to go before I can grapple with the likes of this setter. Kudos to Dutch et al who managed to decode this one.

  17. I had two clues solved when the review came up. I now have five. Still plugging away when I can find time. At this rate, I’ll be reporting back by Independence Day.

    1. This person is not someone I would ever want to meet. And after that post, she certainly would not enjoy being in my cross hairs.

      1. Once you have had a comment approved you are free to add other comments, which are then published immediately. This privilege is respected by 99.99% of commenters, but every now and then someone abuses it, which is a pity.

    2. What have I missed? Now I’m intrigued – trying to work out what expletives or insults are represented by 27 asterisks? :-)

      1. It was a best-forgotten pathetic diatribe by a demented person – and all because I pointed out that this puzzle was a genuine Toughie.

        1. It’s astonishing how much nonsense you have to go through to keep this wonderful blog going smoothly, Dave.
          I for one (and I suspect I speak for the other 99.99% too), salute you once again. Thanks as ever, Roy.

  18. This was just too hard for us two mere mortals. We got, perhaps, a dozen answers unaided in 4* time. Having read the hints (?) we’d make this 6* or 7* for difficulty. Bottom line, we’re afraid, too hard and therefore not too enjoyable.

    We did get 17d unaided, which was a joy, but how we’re supposed to spot the Nina and, indeed, know this is Elgar’s 116th Toughie (and hence get the full benefit of the Nina) is utterly beyond us,

    Dutch – massive respect for having solved the puzzle and the Nina. Elgar, thank you for showing us how far we still have to go.

  19. Got really held up in the bottom half as I had the wrong enumeration for 24a.
    Although I knew there was a mistake I was counting on the answer to be 7,8 or 8,7. Was trying to make it a wheeler salesman at one point.
    Had to consult the blog for that one and the rest just fell into place. Except 25d. Never got it.
    Enjoyed all the misdirections.
    Haven’t seen the Nina yet even if the NE corner was a bit Greek to my eyes.
    Thanks to Elgar for the workout and to Dutch for the review.

  20. Too hot for me. I’m amazed that, in the end, I needed only 6 hints to complete (although some of those allowed me to crack other clues as well). Certainly gusting 5* difficulty, but very clever to boot. One day, perhaps…

    Thanks to Elgar, and to Dutch for getting me over the line.

  21. Had a go. Failed. Not sure if I want to cut it out for holiday time. judging from the comments – probably not. See you on Monday with cuddly old Rufus.

  22. Thanks for the much needed hints. Overall 5+ on the difficulty scale for me. I should also add that I have always found the contributors to this site anything but patronising, and certainly not in need of receiving unpleasant slurs.
    Regards to all

  23. NIce puzzle. quite pleased with my performance on this one – more precisely our performance (Mrs Bradford and I) but I got there with no electronic assistance (the boy at the back who whispered the word “cheating” will leave the room immediately). First Elgar where I’ve managed that for a while.

    Many thanks to E for setting and D for blogging.

    BTW – I never miss an Elgar but usually finish long after the thread has gone dead.

  24. Well, I’ve had 3 goes at this one and have barely finished half of it! But I’m not complaining, I’ll keep returning on Mon – Wed afternoons when I have some spare time after finishing the very easy back-pagers on those days. A true Toughie. So far: 4.5*/3.5*.

  25. PS. 1d: “Supine” as a reversal indicator? How does that work, please? Has it been used before?

    1. Supine means “lying on one’s back” so “facing upwards” (in a down clue). I don’t recall seeing it used before.

      1. Thanks G. I did know the meaning of supine but had not seen this device before – I do see it works in the way you describe. Now I’ll have a good explanation for my goddaughter, who is getting interested in cryptics and asking me a lot of awkward questions.

  26. Eventually finished Sunday afternoon which is good going for us and an Elgar. A whole weekend of fun. Did have two answers to check bits from Dutch’s explanation. Many thanks to both.

  27. Enjoyed working through this with the aid of the hints.
    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  28. Commenting late cos I’ve only just finished – but didn’t start till yesterday, so not too bad.

    What a tour de force from John – truly the Prince of Machiavellian crosswords.

    So much to like, but ANGLER gets my nod for the “you b*stard!” moment!

  29. I enjoy the challenges set by Elgar in his various guises, and this was no exception. I managed to solve about 1/3 before conceding. That is emphatically not a complaint, it’s a tribute to the quality of his setting and the multifarious techniques of both clueing and misdirection that he uses.

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