Toughie 1895

Toughie No 1895

Hints and Tips by Fred and Ginger

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


It has been a while since Fred and Ginger last danced their way onto the Toughie blogging floor, but with the start of the Strictly season under way, it seemed a good time for us to collaborate and work out what Elgar had in store for us with his 121st Toughie. We’re a bit miffed that we didn’t get a spot on Strictly, Fred had his eye on Len’s job and I fancied partnering one of the celebs. But hey ho, maybe next year!

You’ll need to look carefully at the clues and remember your times tables to get the Nina – although Ginger would like to point out also that Across row 10 does misleadingly contains part of the first line of Psalm 121 – strange the things you find when you’re desperately seeking Nina!

As usual there’s no quarter given by Elgar, it’s a top-end Toughie and was certainly a challenge to work through and to work out.


Across Hints by Fred

1a     Suspect seen burying thief’s knife (11)

SNICKERSNEE    We bet you’ve never heard of one of these. It’s a type of carving knife. You’ll need to take something that is a slang word for someone who steals and add a possessive ‘s’. Place this inside an anagram (suspect) of SEEN

8a     This twisted, one-sided crowd with my team in a sort of spirit (6,5)

MÖBIUS STRIP    A word for a crowd of people which has how we describe our team, plus an anagram (sort of) of SPIRIT with a possessive word for a group will, all in all lead to the name for a one-sided loop.

11a     Score-draw leaving sides 10th in table? (4)

NEON    Here the table is the Periodic Table, so you are looking for the tenth element listed. This can be found by taking the lowest score draw, 1-1 and dropping the first and last letters (leaving sides).

12a     Lustful desire harboured by male chauvinist (4)

LECH     A word for a carnal desire is hidden inside maLE CHauvinist.

13a     Arts graduate’s presented with a ____ headscarf (7)

BANDANA Say what you see. If you get a degree in art you would get this, add a joining word inside the degree and add A to get a type of headscarf.

15a     Clubs, on the subject of 6, split (7)

CREVICE    A word for a split is found by taking the abbreviation for clubs in card games, then add a short word meaning ‘about’ and adding something that means the same as the answer at 6.

16a, 27a & 19a    Athletic but not best, hence it’s us here for kick-off? (2,3,11,5)

ON THE SUBSTITUTES’ BENCH. This is an all-in-one clue where the whole thing defines the clue and provides the indicators. An anagram (athletic) of BUT NOT BEST HENCE IT’S US, plus H, the first letter (kick-off) of HERE.

17a & 21a     Having seen better days, good morning interrupts obvious suffering (4,3,4)

OVER THE HILL    A phrase that means having become past it. Place a short way of saying ‘good morning!’ between (interrupts) something that means obvious and a word for suffering.

18a & 22a     Perhaps Methuselah’s coming in for infantryman (4,7)

FOOT SOLDIER    You may have to think a fair way outside the box for this one! A cryptic definition of Methuselah (where you’ll find him, in short, and what he’s known for – think the name of a Richard Ingrams magazine that came after Private Eye!) and place all this inside FOR. This gives another name for an infantryman.

19a     See 16

21a     See 17

22a     See 18

23a     See 19 Down

26a     See 20 Down

27a     See 16 28 Western Sydney area’s toasting this first? (3,5,3)

NEW YEAR’S DAY    A sort of all-in one clue, with a shortish definition qualified by the first part of the clue. An anagram (toasting) of W SYDNEY AREA gives an occasion when the answer is celebrated by that place earliest.

Down Hints by Ginger

2d     In business, succeeding #12 (4)

NOON An adverb indicating working (in business) goes after (succeeding) the abbreviated word which # represents

3d     Company bathing topless sure good in Calais, but who gains? (3,4)

CUI BONO The abbreviation for company ‘bathing’ or going round two French words (as spoken in Calais), firstly one meaning sure (yes) without its first letter (topless) and another meaning good

4d     The first of two opposite points of view (4)

EAST Look carefully at the last word of the clue and you’ll spot two points of the compass. The solution is the first of the two

5d     ‘Yah boo!’, the sign by regular’s bar stool? (2,5)

SO THERE Split your solution 3, 4 and you’d get something to put on a sign by a non-teetotal pub regular’s seat

6d     Stirring up, making mischief (4)

EVIL A reversal (up in a Down clue) of another way of saying stirring or active

7d     Is it useful to shrink lamb’s fleece? After fight over, knit woolly clothes (3-4,4)

INK-BLOT TEST The ‘fleece’ of LamB goes after a fight (3,2) and they are then reversed (over) and ‘clothed’ by an anagram (woolly) of KNIT

8d     Volcano hunter unveiled in flash picture puzzle (5,6)

MOUNT EREBUS Here the ‘unveiled’ tells us we need the inside letters of hUNTEr which should be inserted between a very short time (flash) and a type of picture puzzle

9d     Complaint malevolent being has to protest about (11)

PERITONITIS A beautiful malevolent being, TO (from the clue) and a reversal (about) of a type of protest

10d     Not the first to see 10.30 ruined everything (3,8)

THE ENTIRETY Write down the numbers 10 and 30 in words, remove the first letter of sEE and then an anagram (ruined) of the 11 letters will give you your solution

14d     Backer in film doctor strove to get around? (5)

ANGEL If you know your Peter Sellers’ films you should know there’s one with Doctor in the title. The person who backs theatrical productions can be found lurking inside STROVE to make the second word of the film title

15d     Head of Charterhouse School upset over cuts in tuck-shop stock? (5)

CHOCS The ‘head’ of Charterhouse and a reversal (upset) of the abbreviation for school, the latter having O (over) cutting in

19d & 23a     I say nothing, busy working with revolting smells (5,2,4)

BLESS MY SOUL The solution is an anagram of O (nothing) BUSY and SMELLS – working indicates the need to rearrange BUSY and revolting does the same for SMELLS

20d & 26a     Poor 23 – in short, what’s made public on 28 (7,4)

HONOURS LIST – An anagram (poor) of the solution to 23a plus IN and SHORT (from the clue)

24d     It’s blown by Scandinavian decoy (4)

LURE A long curved Bronze Age trumpet of a style still used in Scandinavian countries for calling cattle; a decoy or bait

25d     Where the Sphinx is an old man, according to rumour (4)

GIZA A homophone (according to rumour) of a slang term for an old man

26d     Mother of twins and Head of Broadcasting (4)

LEDA The mother of the twins Castor and Pollux sounds like a homophone (broadcasting) of a head of an organisation

In case you haven’t spotted it, today’s (real) Nina is here.

There are 11 eleven-letter answers. What does 11 x 11 make? Add to this (on the) SUBSTITUTES’ (bench) for the twelfth man!

Fred’s off to administer the sedatives in Bruno Tonioli’s tea and happy pills in Craig’s Pimm’s No 1. Ginger’s going to start working out Nina possibilities for the number 122 ready for next time. We’ll see you soon!



  1. Verlaine
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I found this very enjoyable, a steady and not TOO time-consuming solve, though I had to throw in the towel and tweet Elgar himself to ask him how 14d worked.

    I’d heard of a 1a though. Lots of really ingenious stuff on offer here, as you hope for from a puzzle by the big man. I’ll single out 11a, 16/27/19a, 18a, 2d, 4d, 10d as having tickled my fancy. That’s a lot of favourites! I gave up on trying to spot the Nina though. Is it related to another number? My problem is I can never remember where we’re up to. Thanks setter, blogger and blogger!

    • Verlaine
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oh wait, I see you’ve spilled the beans on the Nina front! Even if I’d remembered the number we were looking for I might not have spotted it, though the unusual grid should probably have been a clue…

  2. Deep Threat
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The answer to 1a is in a song from The Mikado

    • jane
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Twice in one day, DT! As with the Texas city in the back-pager, I knew I’d heard of the 1d knife in a musical context. Takes me back to the days of school concerts although, sadly, not sufficiently rapidly in this instance!

  3. jane
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well, I gave it my best shot and succeeded in blagging my way through most of this with much inspired guesswork along the way.
    Failed totally with 1&8a plus 3d and never did manage to parse 7&14d but can’t tell you how proud I was to have worked out 11a!

    Much too clever for me to derive much enjoyment from but I did particularly warm to 5&25d.

    Thanks (with reservations!) to Elgar and congratulations to Fred & Ginger for making sense of it all. I presume that the pair of you will be taking to the floor at the Birthday Bash?

  4. Physicist
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m always a bit frightened by Elgar, especially when there are lots of phrases clued by several linked clues, as here. However, I didn’t think this was one of his hardest. I, too, knew 1a from G&S, so tha gave me a good start. Didn’t know the 27d cattle-caller, but it had to be what it was. Favourite was the 16/27/19 combination. Thanks to Elgar and the dancing bloggers.

  5. Tony
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This was way out of my league. I got a half dozen or so – and several others that I had right but could not figure out why (the volcano in 8d for instance). I’m sorry, but no enjoyment here for me I’m afraid.

  6. Gazza
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Very impressive and enjoyable as ever – thanks to Elgar and to the terpsichorean twins for unraveling it all. I particularly liked 11a, 16/27/19a, 18/22a and 15d.
    I had no idea about the Nina (not least because I can never remember what number we’re up to) but I can’t understand it even with the concealed explanation. I can see that the multiplication gets us to 121, but what have SUBSTITUTES and twelfth man got to do with it?

    • Tilsit
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Eleven in a team plus substitutes as twelfth man.

      • Ezfer
        Posted October 8, 2017 at 11:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Because 11 x 11 letter answers plus substitutes being an extra (12th) 11 letter word within a longer answer? All way too clever for me but glad as ever for this blog to help me work my way through it so I could appreciate the cleverness rather than being utterly stumped by it!

  7. LetterboxRoy
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Got through most of this before resorting to the blog to check, and here and there, cheat. Nina is eluding me.
    Spelling 8a wrong wasn’t helpful. A bit too tough for me today overall.
    Many thanks to Elgar and to our illustrious bloggers.

  8. Dutch
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 6:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good lord, very special thanks to Fred and Ginger, I’m glad I got out of this one! Devious would be an understatement. Tried to do some of it on the train back from London, then looked here.

    Thanks Elgar for an amazing puzzle

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We eventually got a completed grid but there were a few where we did not have a complete understanding of the wordplay. We did get the Methuselah one that we thought very clever. Thought that HEH for good morning (assuming we have worked it out correctly) was a bit of a stretch. We did not think of the doctor we needed for 14d either. We certainly admire the cleverness of it all.
    Thanks Elgar and the dancers.

    • crypticsue
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The good morning bit is the HI

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks both. It makes sense now.

    • jane
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Had the same problem with HEH – but a second look makes me think the greeting is HI and the suffering that surrounds it is HELL.

  10. Mr Kitty
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The apostrophe in 13a is missing in the version on the puzzle site. Happy to see that was in fact a typo and not a parsing fail on my part.

    Expecting a battle, I made considerable use from the start of what Janet & Gavin have dubbed the BRApp. I got the grid filled in a reasonable time that way and parsed everything except for 14d. I see I was not alone in that. I also needed Google to verify the knife, the Swedish trumpet, and the mother of the twins.

    No question about today’s favourite – I laughed out loud when the penny dropped re Methuselah in 18a/22a

    Thanks muchly to setter and hinters.

  11. Outnumbered
    Posted October 7, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    I always enjoy having a go at Elgar’s puzzles, although this one can’t have been too hard as I finished it with only having to look up a couple of words for confirmation. Clever stuff as usual, my lol moments were 5 down and 18/22 across.

  12. Mac
    Posted October 7, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    I’m pleased with myself for having got through this comparatively quickly (I started late yesterday and finished this morning). As usual, I needed the blog for some of the parsing. Otherwise, apart from one, I knew the answers or could work them out from the checkers. The one I didn’t know was 8a and I happened on this by chance when checking BRB to see if the first word might be ‘mobile’.

  13. barker
    Posted October 8, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If you folllow Fred’s hint for solving 13 ac, you’re left with B AND A A. Isn’t the correct parsing just B and an A (the A in the clue thus not being part of the wordplay)?

    • Gazza
      Posted October 8, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Welcome to the blog, barker.
      I took the parsing to be B AND A plus N (with, as in fish ‘n chips) plus A (from the clue).

      • Mac
        Posted October 8, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Another possibility is BA ‘ND AN A. If Verlaine is on tweeting terms with Elgar, perhaps he could ask him how this should be parsed.

        • Ezfer
          Posted October 8, 2017 at 11:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I’m inclined to agree with Barker – graduate presented with a ‘B and an A’. But just my humble opinion, not claiming any authoritative view!

  14. Posted October 9, 2017 at 10:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    These days I have a rule that (daily) puzzles must be started on the day or not at all and not then kept for more than a day. Just to prevent any backlog which might make crosswording feel like work and not a hobby. Anyway, I made a double exception to that rule for this one.

    (It’s very slightly annoying I didn’t tackle this promptly, because I could have had a smug by parsing something that Verlaine couldn’t! I got 14d, though it does seem a bit backwards in its mechanism to me … but I think it might be my head that’s on backwards at the moment.)

    Other than that, it seemed like this was a puzzle almost designed to make me kick myself multiple times. It didn’t help that there were some things I didn’t know (like 1a), but mainly I just seemed to excel at finding ways to be stupid. Hmm, that doesn’t sound so unlike me most of the time, actually …

    I was another heh! in OVER THE HILL, but don’t need to list the other things I did wrong. Stumbled home eventually.

    I had Barker and Ezfer’s interpretation of 13a, because that’s the only way I can make the ___ in the clue make sense to me: B AND AN A.

    A glut of clever stuff to choose from, but the one which tickled me most was falling off the 5d bar stool – SO THERE!

    Thanks to Elgar for the music and to Fred and Ginger for the routine.

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