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Toughie 1971

Toughie No 1971 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

This is Elgar’s 124th Telegraph Toughie puzzle. This, it turns out, is evident in many of the answers, as I should have realised with the first across clue (7a/9d). I saw this rather late – funnily enough it did help me to get 18d, even though that was an answer where the theme was not fully evident. As often with Elgar puzzles, I had an initial period of despair while I couldn’t find a way in, then about half of it unfolded starting with NE. I needed a break before I could do the next half, which left me feeling very satisfied. I’ve had a hectic and stressful week accepting an offer on our house and trying to find a new place for us to live, but we’re about to go and enjoy skiing in Italy for the mid term break.

As always, definitions are underlined. The hints are intended to help you unscramble the wordplay, and with an Elgar puzzle it is forgiven if you need to reveal the answer by clicking on the BAD! buttons. Please leave a comment below telling us what you thought and how you got on.


7a/9d     Sides stirred up with BBC anagram shows expressed hysteria (9,6)
SCREAMING ABDABS: An anagram (… stirred up with …) of SIDES + BBC + ANAGRAM

8a     Having intelligence to seize veil (5)
NIQAB: A 3-letter verb meaning to seize contains (having) an abbreviation meaning intelligence

10a/12a Ring experts about recruiting new Bond, needing decider? (6,6)
SECOND BALLOT: The reversal (about) of a verb meaning ring or peal plus a word meaning experts contains (recruiting) and anagram (new) of BOND

11a     Hotshots committed ABH and slashed clothes (3,5)
DAB HANDS: Hidden (… clothes)

12a     See 10a

14a     Buzz e.g. I derived when derailing trains? (6)
ALDRIN: EG and I are removed (derived) in an anagram (trains) of D(e)RA(i)LIN(g)

16a/20d Crossing bar to grab a game at table (4,6)
ROAD BRIDGE: Another word for bar or pole contains (to grab) A from the clue, plus a 4-player card game played at a table

17a     Fast runners grounded after perhaps reading literary Uncle (5)
REMUS: Long-legged birds that can run fast but can’t fly (hence are grounded) after an abbreviation for Reading, which together with (w)Riting and (a)Rithmetic is one of 3 standard school subjects denoted by a single letter

18a     See 5d

19a     Red marks on cable supply (6)
MALBEC: The abbreviation for Marks plus an anagram (supply) of CABLE

21a/26a Marge, defrosted, did this gambler who knows his limits? (6,6)
SPREAD BETTER: Two meanings – the second referring to gambling on whether something happens within a certain range or limits

24a     French food that’s taken over German city (8)
FREIBURG: The abbreviation for French, then a reversal (taken over) of another word for food and the Latin abbreviation for ‘that is’. The answer is the happy home of Baerchen/Knut/Julius, for those of you who know him

26a     See 21a

27a     Mark‘s endless worry (5)
BADGE: Take a 6-letter verb meaning worry or hassle and remove the last letter (endless)

28a     See 17 Down


1d     Small man’s salary (5)
SCREW: The abbreviation for small and a verb mean to man

2d     In fifties and I model buildings (8)
LEGOLAND: insert a Latin word for I or self into (in) two Roman numerals for 50 plus AND from the clue

3d     What developed the rise of wife of pop superstar (6)
AMIDOL: A reversal (the rise of, in a down clue) of the 2-letter wife of pop/dad plus a word for superstar

4d     Mistaken identity? That’s no case for a woman (4)
ENID: Hidden (… that has no case)

5d/18a Assist slave princess with successfully catching fish? (3,3,4)
AID AND ABET: The Ethiopian slave princess in the eponymous opera by Verdi plus a 3-letter fish that is apparently successfully caught (i.e., it is in a ***)

6d     Maybe this chap (not by chance) arrived a little dazed to collect bishop … (3,6)
CAB DRIVER: Take CHAP from the clue and remove a 3-letter word for chance (not by chance) then add an anagram (alittle’ dazed – i.e. a mild anagram swapping only 2 letters) of ARRIVED containing (to collect) the abbreviation for Bishop

9d     See 7a

13d     … by 4 o’clockSundaymorning? (5)
TIMES: The clue has four examples of the answer, i.e., these are all *****

15d     But Roman, out of Italy, trades Ecstasy for old foodstuff (4,5)
SODA BREAD: The Latin word for but (Roman) neatly juxtaposed with a word for where a Roman out of Italy would be (a wee bit of double duty?) and then swap (trades) the occurrences of E(cstasy) and O(ld)

17d/28a Muscular pair incapable of hearing us rating party skirts (6,9)
RECTUS ABDOMINIS: A homophone (hearing) for being ‘incapable of’, perhaps due to too much beer, plus US from the clue, an abbreviation for a rating or sailor, a 2-letter party or function and some short skirts

18d     One too many served up in Nag’s Head, say – and Hog’s End? (8)
ABATTOIR: The Roman numeral for one and a 3-letter abbreviation for ‘too many’ are reversed (served up, in a down clue) inside (in) a (1,3) type of establishment that the Nag’s Head would exemplify (say)

20d     See 16a

22d     Novel written about 1715 Manhattan (3,3)
ROB ROY: Two meanings, the first is a novel written about stuff in 1715 (not written in 1715)

23d     Do one up front! (5)
LEGIT: Split (3,2) the answer would mean to do one, as in a runner

25d     Get past fish (4)
GOBY: Split (2,2), the answer would mean ‘get past’

Hard to pick a favourite. I really liked ‘wife of pop superstar’, and I was quite pleased with myself getting the muscular pair. I think my favourite is probably 18d. Which clues did you like?

42 comments on “Toughie 1971

  1. With a considerable time zone advantage and the help of a few aids, I went to bed with the grid filled and almost everything parsed. However, sleeping on it did not illuminate where the sod came from in 15d, exactly how the letters required for 14a were pulled from the fodder, and what the little was doing in 6d, so thanks to Dutch for explaining those. The NW was the last section to fall, with 10a/12a and 3d last in (I think I may still have some 3d stored away somewhere so I should have got that sooner). So much of this was brilliant that it’s hard to pick a winner, but since the biggest laugh-out-loud moment came from 18d I’ll go with that as favourite clue. Favourite answer is 19a because it’s what kitties like to have with their steak.

    Thanks to Elgar for the challenge and to Dutch for an excellent blog. Loved the Easter egg. Enjoy the skiing.

      1. where kitty always leaves them – in the preamble – just a hint, i sometimes do that with elgar

  2. I can’t be the only one who ended up with the 7a/9d’s at the end of the long long on-and-off solve of this beast of a Toughie. I had 11 clues solved at the end of my usual time for a 5* Toughie and then came back to it on and off through the morning, finally finishing when the penny dropped loudly to the floor with 2d.

    After all that, I didn’t bother to look for the 124 links as (a) I was supposed to be working and (b) if I wasn’t a member of this blog, I wouldn’t know I was supposed to look for one anyway.

    Thanks to Elgar (btw what’s happened to your friends Enigmatist, Nimrod and IO?) and to Dutch

    1. Dear sweet thing, thanks for the enquiry, I’ve not been idle.

      You might need an early start on the morrow. X

    2. I was almost ready to hand over to you my half-finished blog in despair – glad i wasn’t the only one who struggled

      Eventually got quicker with the checkers

        1. it’s 5*. Not sure I’ve ever managed an Elgar in 4* time. And the “only” 4* enjoyment is more likely due to me having had a cantankerous and stressful week than anything to do with Elgar.

          1. Interestingly two of us discussed in in a email earlier this afternoon as to why you’d only put 4 for difficulty so either we both need to go to specsavers or . . ?

  3. Sorry to say I didn’t really enjoy this one, can’t say for sure why, though more than half clues had an unchecked start. Definitely way over my usual 5* time. Clues I did like include 2d, 13a and 17/28

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch

  4. Dear sweet thing, thanks for the enquiry, I’ve not been idle.

    You might need an early start on the morrow. X

  5. I’ll be honest – I just can’t get my head round this. I’m getting there, but crikey it’s slow going. The slightly weird grid and the cross-references are adding to my muddlement. A definite 5* for me. I’ll come back to it later.

    Thanks Elgar, thanks Dutch, though I’m determined not to look at the hints just yet.

  6. I don’t know what constituted Mr K’s ‘few aids’ but mine involved Mr Google, bung-ins and a sprinkling of hints from Dutch! Not to worry, I got across the finishing line and that’s a huge achievement for me with an Elgar.

    As usual, it was some of the shorter clues I liked the most – 1,23&25d.

    Thanks to Elgar and gratitude to Dutch for being there in my hour of need. Have a great holiday and try to put the thoughts of moving house out of your mind!

  7. I started this last evening and continued it this morning and made very heavy weather of it. I then turned to Dutch’s (always excellent) blog to see if I could find out why I was having so much difficulty, and the moment I saw who the setter was I had my answer. Taking the first three down clues as example; In 1d I don’t know what the answer has to do with salary, 2d was brilliant – and I should have been able to get it (but didn’t), and I had never heard of the term in 3d. Without the 10a and 12a combo (again brilliant) I really did not stand a chance. Unfortunately, when staring a blank grid it is hard for me to distinguish between those which I could get if I were to persevere, and those on which I really don’t stand a chance. I would be the first to acknowledge the wonderful cleverness of the construction, but sadly it is so far beyond my ability that there is no enjoyment for me here at all. I deeply admire those who are able to sort this all out, but sadly I should not even begin the attempt. My thanks to all.

  8. I’ll admit this completely floored me. 27a was my only solve before going to the blog. There I found most of the answers were unknown to me. 21/26a was new as was 17d/28a. I am old enough to have heard of 17a and am surprised to find the character, in today’s Puritan times, is not now politically incorrect!
    I am just overcome with admiration for Dutch and the bloggers who finished it. Well done!

  9. OMG total respect to anyone who got more than my six answers in normal 5* time!! No idea of the significance of 124 and several words were new to me. Week started well with two completions, faltered yesterday and collapsed today!! 6*/1* for me, I’m afraid. Anyone feeling the same level of incompetence; next week will be better.

  10. Have to say, I failed miserably with this – only 10 answers before looking at the blog and even then got only a few more. For instance, having got 7a 9d early on, I guessed “amidol” for 3 d – which shows how long ago (OK about 60 years) since i was an amateur photographer. But I still couldn’t understand the rest of the clue and even with Dutch’s parsing It still took me a while.
    Deep admiration for Elgar and Dutch! Thanks

  11. For those who haven’t spotted the 124 thing, it refers to alphabet sequence. Letters 1,2,4 are ABD. You’ll notice that sequence, or a permutation, prevails in the puzzle – sometimes across different words as in 16a, 21a, etc.

      1. I’m not sure how ABD stands out, because according to the above table both E and R occur more frequently than B or D.

        1. Hi, Gazza. It’s the relatively large number of Bs and Ds that is unusual – the average Toughie has 3 Bs and 6 Ds.

  12. Using every possible assistance such as electronic and even revealing letters I managed to get it all except 23d where I settled on BEFIT with the definition being ‘do’, but no sense in the wordplay. It did take an awfully long time.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  13. This was a real Toughie which required a lot of perspiration to complete – thanks to Elgar for the puzzle and to Dutch for the blog. 23d was my last answer as I didn’t know the slang meaning of ‘do one’. Top clues for me were 15d and 18d.
    I didn’t know that this was Elgar’s 124th Toughie (who did?) so, luckily for me, I didn’t spend any time looking for the Nina because I’d never have equated 124 with ABD or even noticed that ABD appeared a lot.

  14. I know it is possibly heresy, but I do ask myself what is the point of an Elgar “Toughie” as hard and obscure as this? stanXYD can only comment that this is the 123rd time he’d failed and you have only to read the blog to know he is definitely not alone! We don’t want to be spoon fed but would appreciate a sporting chance to finish the challenge.

  15. We got maybe a dozen before resorting to Dutch’s blog.

    Too hard for us, sadly, but we’ll keep trying.

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  16. I gave myself a strict time limit in which to finish this, in which time I’d only managed half, so a failure here I’m afraid! Thanks for the blog which explained ably everything I couldn’t. :-)

  17. This was far beyond my comprehension. With about seven clues genuinely solved I resorted to Dutch’s hints. Several new words learned and probably never to be used again with much of the remainder even with Dutch’s help way over my head. No worries though I’ll keep trying. On the positive side, I did enjoy the back page Giovanni, which was far more fairly matched to my aging brain cells. Thanks to setters and hint providers alike.

  18. Never have the Toughie and the regular cryptic been on such extreme opposite ends of the difficulty scale! Thank goodness for the latter!!

  19. I didn’t manage a single clue, and my admiration goes to anyone scoring significantly more than zero. (As for those who actually completed it, I can only watch from far below in the valley in amazement.)
    Despite my abject failure I have no objections to the Toughie mix containing a puzzle this difficult. Some people need this level to challenge them, it’s clear. And they don’t usually moan when it’s easier!
    Many thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  20. I should know by now to just scroll on by when Elgar pops up. Kudos to anyone who even made inroads on this let alone completed and parsed every clue. But there must be provision for all levels of solver, even in the toughies, and I recognize that.

  21. Went to bed with two outstanding, although one was solved in my head. Finished today over breakfast. Some help from the electronics and BRB on the way but I got there. My favourite was the 7a/9d combo, although I had previously thought that the second word began with ‘h’

        1. I suppose that that’s the thing about nonsense words. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how they should be spelt.

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