Toughie 1919 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 1919

Toughie No 1919 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

This is Elgar’s 122nd Telegraph Toughie. I proceeded very steadily, almost smugly, through most of this until I hit the NW corner. This stopped me in my tracks completely. I stared at it for ages but the entire corner remained blank. I thought maybe a diagonal Nina might help me out, but I couldn’t find one. I mentioned my predicament to Elgar, who recommended using the Nina to get me going again – right. Eventually, I did spot what I thought was quite a clever, geographic representation that not only got me into the NW but also nicely revealed the connection to 122. This allowed me to complete the puzzle, revealing that there was more to the Nina than I had first realised – all building rather beautifully on the geographic depiction. A wonderful puzzle with a superbly clever Nina.

As always, the definitions are underlined in the clues below. The hints explain the wordplay. You can reveal the answers by clicking on the WONDERWALL buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a     On first of burglaries, help is given about breaking glass (8)
OBSIDIAN: Inserted (breaking) into ON from the clue we have the first letter of Burglaries, then the reversal (given about) of another word for help plus IS from the clue

5a     Playing a part by ear, go backwards (6)
ASTERN: A 2-letter word for playing a part, then a homophone (by ear) of another word for go

9a     Counter identified one dressing as The Thinker (5,3)
IDEAS MAN: A reversal (counter) of a verb meaning identified plus the Roman numeral for one contains (dressing) AS from the clue

10a    Less energy, more rubber (6)
GRATER: Nothing to do with eraser, which i had pencilled in. Take a 7-letter word meaning more and remove (less) an E(nergy)

12a     Husband wound up behind bars, given time at the Marshalsea? (2,4)
IN DEBT: An anagram (wound up) of BE(h)IND, (barring Husband), plus the abbreviation for Time. You need to know for which crime Marshalsea was predominantly used

13a     Church’s single beer dispenser (just in case of emergency) (2,1,5)
AT A PINCH: Split (1,3,2,2), the answer would mean Church’s single beer dispenser

15a     Really brilliant play’s over (2,5)
DE FACTO: A slang word for brilliant, a verb meaning to play (on stage), and the abbreviation for Over

16a     Pretty heartless miracle‑worker (4)
FAIR: An Indian miracle-worker without the central letter (heartless)

20a     Suspicious, turning head to one side (4)
AWRY: Take a word for suspicious and reverse the first two letters (turning head)

21a     Years marked as important by certain musical duo (7)
ERASURE: A period of years of some significance, plus another word for certain



25a     Spot on back is bathed with elixir (8)
POSITION: A reversal (on back) of IS from the clue is covered (bathed) with another word for elixir

26a     My Father, The Almighty – and a place of worship (6)
PAGODA: A familiar word to call one’s father, another word for the Almighty, and A from the clue

28a     Dash round Italy with English girl (6)
ELAINE: Another word for dash or brio goes ’round’ the abbreviation for Italy, followed by the abbreviation for English

29a     Fighter turning up on US muster roll? (8)
PUGILIST: A reversal (turning) of UP on what would be a (2,4) US muster roll

30a     Numbers NYPO conductor announced? (6)
LIEDER: I couldn’t find a sound-alike person, so I think this is a homophone (announced) of a top position as exemplified by a NYPO conductor (hence the question mark)

31a     Iron Man unmasked in crime slapstick makes psychological thriller?! (4,4)
CAPE FEAR: Take the chemical symbol for Iron plus (m)A(n) with the outer letters removed (unmasked), and place inside (in) a comic crime story


1d     Looking up to him in Egypt, gentleman’s worthless? (6)
OSIRIS: A reversal (looking up) of a 3-letter gentleman, the expanded ‘S from the clue, and a letter signifying nothing so that the whole reversal reads ‘gentleman’s worthless’

2d     Clock Graf’s serve? (6)
SPEEDO: I first thought this was a double definition, with a new slang word for a fast serve – instead we have a famous WW2 German Graf which was a heavily gunned cruiser, plus a 2-letter verb meaning serve.

3d     Peckham resident hotelier nearly died in lift without power (8)
DISABLED: A reversal (in lift) of a 3-letter TV Peckham resident, a 5-letter TV hotelier without the last letter (nearly) and the abbreviation for Died

4d     Reason noisy disagreement’s avoided frequently? (4)
ACAS: A semi-all-in-one. Take a 6-letter word for a noisy disagreement and remove the abbreviation for FRequently

6d     As Tiger Woods’s last blunder, hitting right of fairway (6)
STRIPY: The last letter of Woods, a blunder or slip, and the rightmost letter of fairway

7d     Last of schoolboys (e.g. Boris) almost making it to Head of State (8)
ESTONIAN: The last letter of schoolboys moves from the bottom almost to the top (head) in the the kind of schoolboys exemplified by Boris

8d     During noon rest, take blows (8)
NORTHERS: Place the Latin abbreviation for take (recipe) ‘during’ the abbreviation for Noon and another word for the rest

11d     Politician in rising gets it at Senate (7)
STATIST: Reverse hidden (in rising ….)

14d     Military base aborted missile after West’s given order (3,4)
WAR ROOM: A missile fired from a bow without its last letter (aborted) comes after the abbreviation for West and before an order or medal

17d     ‘I’m a beast,’ Raphael finally admits to Splinter (4,4)
HARP SEAL: No, not a ninja turtle! An anagram (to splinter) of RAPHAEL plus the last letter (finally) of admits

18d     Family’s branches overseeing the struggle for power (4,4)
ARMS RACE: A 4-letter family or set of descendants with another word for branchescoming first (overseeing)

19d     Make Indo-European an increase in pay that no revolutionary may cut (8)
ARYANISE: An increase in pay (1,4) is ‘cut’ by the reversal (revolutionary) of another word for no

22d     Fashion expert enrobes without delay (2,4)
AT ONCE: A 3-letter word for fashion is covered (enrobed) by a 3-letter expert

23d     Number eleven’s game’s up now (2‑4)
NO-SIDE: An abbreviation for number plus an eleven or team gives this rugby term

24d     What’s essential to Kew Flower Festival (6)
EASTER: The central letter of Kew plus the name of a flower

27d     Sensations experienced before an episode/a broadcast? (4)
AURA: I also wondered whether this was a double definition at first, but that doesn’t work: the wordplay is a homophone (broadcast) of “/a” (“OR A”)

Well, I have to say that my favourite aspect of this puzzle is the clever Nina. The clue that tickled me most was 13a, and I liked 6d, but just about every clue had something special. Which clues did you like most?

For those of you who would like to see where (not what!) the Nina is:


37 comments on “Toughie 1919

  1. I looked at all the clues, and then found I could solve a few in the SE and then I worked my way slowly up towards the top, finishing with a couple of d’oh moments in the NE corner. I did see (yes, me, I saw it) the very clever and helpful Nina one part of which helped me see the light with 4d. I should have got 1a a lot earlier than I did as just before turning to the middle of the paper I’d had a conversation with someone about my new birthday present volcanic glass earrings!

    I’d definitely agree with the ratings – even if I hadn’t had to fit my second, third and fourth goes in between doing the day job, I think I’d have taken just as long at home.

    Thanks to Elgar (off to make a note that next one will be 123) and to Dutch too

  2. I thought that this well up to Elgar’s usual standard in both difficulty and enjoyment. I struggled with the top half and eventually had to reveal a couple of letters in order to finish it.

    Top clues for me were 13a, 29a, 2d, 6d and 7d.

    I saw bits of the very clever geographic Nina but missed most of it until they were pointed out by CS.

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  3. Don’t like 30a. In the orchestral world (to which this clue refers) ‘conductor’ and ‘leader’ are not the same.

    1. I wouldn’t know, but in my searches for a homophonic person it did seem that the conductor and musical director are one and the same (currently Jaap van Zweden for NYPO, who incidentally is of course Dutch)

      1. I suspect that the reason for Elgar specifying a New York orchestra is that in the UK the ‘leader’ of an orchestra is the principal first violin and not the conductor, whereas that is not the case in other countries.

  4. One of these days I’ll get to grips with Elgar’s puzzles but today isn’t it. Only managed 6 clues leaving N totally virgin.Dutch’s excellent blog yet again proved that Elgar is so far ahead of me that I doubt I’ll ever get there at my advanced years! The man is a crossword master. Hey ho! Guess I’ll just keep on trying.

    Thanks and salaams to Elgar and to Dutch.

  5. Did some clues, Visited 89 year old friend. Came home and got son to help. Got husband to help. Still two left and hadn’t got NINA. Thanks for clues. Shattered.

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed the last Elgar – this one’s too tough to be enjoyable. Much of it is beyond me I’m afraid. I managed a sprinkling before resorting to the hints and still found it hard going. 13a my fave, also liked 1d. I can see some Nina fodder, but not seeing 122 at all.

    Many thanks for the challenge, Elgar, and thank you for the help, Dutch.

    1. have a look at the Nina locations at the end of the blog – that should give you the whole Nina, the connection to 122 is reasonably straightforward

      1. Think my brain has packed up and left town Dutch – I still can’t see it.

        EDIT: Aha – got it! Brilliant! Thanks.

  7. Hi Dutch – The permanent (as opposed to guest) conductor of an orchestra can also be the musical director. The leader is neither of these.

    1. I happy there is a specific meaning to leader, though i also loosely imagined that when conducting, you might be leading the orchestra. At the very least you are in front of it. It could be as gazza suggests, the stricter meaning of leader may be uk-centric hence the NYPO.

      Elgar tweeted this clue as the clue he wanted to advertise the puzzle with!

    2. Chambers gives, for “leader”:

      An alternative name for a conductor (of an orchestra, etc) (US)

      Hence the reference to an American orchestra.

  8. Why do I persist in believing that I’ll crack an Elgar one day when time after time I’m proved wrong. I managed five in the SE and that was the height of it.
    Never mind, I enjoyed reading Dutch’s blog from which I worked out most of it although the hotelier in 3d still eludes me – could someone enlighten me?

    Well done on reaching your 122nd, Elgar, and thanks to Dutch for the dedication and the well-illustrated blog. Rather mean of you to make it compulsory for me to fill in the entire grid in order to read the Nina!

    1. Oh balderdash – never occurred to me that I was looking for a particular hotelier! Thanks everyone.

  9. After a good week with all three Toughies finished I came to grinding halt with this one. Gave up with only twelve solved (with four unable to parse!). Just not on the same wavelength I’m afraid, so *****/* for me.

  10. After my abject failure with Elgar’s NTSPP of a few weeks ago, I decided that it was silly of me to even make an attempt, and so I contented myself with reading Dutch’s (as always) wonderful review marvelling at the cleverness of it all. I would never have stood a chance.

  11. Very happy with the amount I managed unaided earlier, but feel that now is the time to let Dutch guide me the rest of the way before seeking out some more soothing ways to unwind after a long week.

    Really enjoyed what I could do — thanks to Elgar — and will enjoy reading the blog now — thanks to Dutch.

  12. We worked on this for a long time and them came to a grinding halt with some big gaps, mainly in the NW. We then went on line and selected a few strategic lights to use the reveal letter option. This enabled us to eventually get a completed grid although we see that we did have a couple of mistakes (never heard of the 21a duo) and several only partly parsed. We did not bother looking for the Nina and even now, when we can see all the words in it, doesn’t make much sense to us and no idea how it relates to 122.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

    1. 122 defines when Row 8’s structure was constructed. The other constituents of the Nina are placed in the grid in the correct geographical relationship to the structure.

      1. I particularly like the way the river and firth flow into their respective oceans. And I guess the north south divide is nothing new.

  13. As I have said in my comment on today’s 28,587, I only managed 26a (Pagoda). Even with Dutch’s help I was still often “clueless”. My admiration to Elgar and Dutch.

  14. At least we managed two before realising we couldn’t compete here!

    Truly, one for the maestri of the crossword world.

    Thanks Dutch and Elgar.

  15. OK, here’s a description of the NINA for those who didn’t get that far.

    across the middle we have HADRIANS reaching from where the SOLWAY enters the IRISH SEA on the west to where the TYNE flows into the NORTH SEA on the east. The wall was intended to separate the PICTS in the north from the ROMANS in the south. And of course it was built in 122 AD.

    See the grid at the end of the blog for the locations of the capitalised entries.

  16. Completely outclassed by this. Only managed 4. My sincere congratulations to Dutch for making sense of a fiendish Friday puzzle

  17. Despite getting totally wrong answers at first in quite a few slots such as an Alps Hare in 17d, Mice Fear in in 31a (anagram of crime and fea), Emilie in 28a (always put a dash of lime in my lager), I managed to complete three quarters of the grid but nothing in the SE apart from 3d as I got both Mr Trotter and Fawlty.
    Thought 1d was going to be some kind of wordplay on base and saheeb but couldn’t make any sense of it.
    Gave up on that corner entirely.
    Didn’t spot the Nina needless to say.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch for the review.

  18. Though not the dog’s dinner of a couple of days ago, life is too short to waste on puzzles so obtuse as this one. Got a few but had no enjoyment doing so. Too much bending of the definitions.I agree with the comment above about conductor & leader, plus f is the abbreviation of frequency, not fr.

    1. Yes, I think this is as hard as they come in the toughie series. If you look up FR in chambers, you’ll see it is an abbreviation for frequenTLY.

    2. Which comment about conductor and leader (there are several)? I thought that NYPO clearly identified a US orchestra, and leader has a different meaning there. Had there been no indication that it was the US definition that was being used you would have had grounds for complaint, but the indication was there.

Comments are closed.