Toughie 1991 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1991

Toughie No 1991 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

This is Elgar’s 125th Telegraph Toughie puzzle. Wow. A connection to this is found in one of the down clues (and is referenced by another). This was slow progress, surprise surprise – fortunately there are a number of gentler clues, anagrams etc., allowing you to find a way in. As usual, it’s a super-satisfying solve with plenty of lovely twists along the way. There were a few new words for me.

As always, the definitions are underlined and the hints are there to help you unscramble the wordplay. You can reveal the answers by clicking the WHEN I’M SIXTY-FOUR buttons. Please leave a comment describing how you got on.


1a     Big event buffets uncatered for? (4,2,6)
TOUR DE FRANCE: An anagram (buffets) of UNCATERED FOR

9a     Fast mover – exactly what’s needed to stop working of nice try (9)
INTERCITY: A pronoun meaning ‘exactly what’s needed’ (as in “That’s **!”) is inserted into (to stop) an anagram of (working of) NICE TRY

10a     Couple starting bright and early, both caught short, needing tree! (5)
BEECH: The two letters (couple) that are starting Bright and Early – both missing the last letter (cut short) – which means we need to be looking for a longer spelling of each letter to begin with

11a     What protected front of old full HCl bottles (6)
LORICA: The answer is an old-fashioned protective garment and is hidden (… bottles) in the expanded (full) version of HCl

12a     Detailed quiz set enigmatically about element in it? (8)
QUESTION: An anagram (enigmatically) of QUI(z) SET, after QUI(z) is de-tailed, plus a prepositiion meaning about

13a     Range’s lower end, supplement for stock? (6)
OXTAIL: The end of a ‘lower’ on a range is also a soup ingredient

15a     What’s kept fluid? Account returns make it clear (4,4)
CASH FLOW: An all-in-one, where the whole clue is wordplay and the whole clue is also the definition. A reversal (returns) of the abbreviation for account plus a verb meaning ‘make it clear’ is what is keeping the abbreviation for FLuid.

18a     Old iron fashioned to embellish entrance to abode (8)
DOORNAIL: Another all-in-one. An anagram (fashioned) of OLD IRON includes (to embellish) the first letter of (entrance to) abode

19a     After storm hit methodical mice scuttled out of the ark (3,3)
OLD HAT: An anagram (after storm hit) of METHODICAL with the letters of MICE removed (scuttled)

21a     Caught in blast, Open’s first shot left Couples with this? (4,4)
LOST BALL: A semi-all-in-one with a windy Golf surface including a reference to Fred Couples. An anagram (shot) of O+BLAST, i.e., the first letter of O(pen) caught in BLAST, plus LL (left couples)

23a     Incompetent confectioner can’t find a supplier for this? (6)
TOFFEE: An incompetent confectioner would be useless at finding a supplier, i.e., they couldn’t find one “for ******”, where the answer is also some confectionary. Since this is a play on words, I’d call it a cryptic definition.

26a     Revoke order from tribunal, unnaturally overturned (5)
ANNUL: Reverse hidden (from … overturned)

27a     Offensive, accepting fertiliser as evidence (9)
TESTAMENT: A 3-letter famous military offensive during the Vietnam War, named after the Vietnamese lunar new year festival, contains (accepting) the part of a flower that produces pollen, i.e., a ‘fertiliser’

28a     Define ‘slurry’ in a way that’s easy to understand? (4-8)
USER-FRIENDLY: An anagram (in a way) of DEFINE SLURRY


1d     John holding up catch on tree-house? (7)
TWIGLOO: Another word for a John is underneath, or supporting (holding up, in a down clue) another word for catch on or understand

2d     Absolute state (5)
UTTER: Two definitions, the second meaning say

3d     Outside Court 1, De Niro’s funny line for Scorsese? (9)
DIRECTION: Line as in profession. An anagram (funny) of DE NIRO goes outside the abbreviation for court and the Roman numeral for one

4d     Not even letters fill in page – turn over (4)
FLIP: The odd letters of FILL IN plus the abbreviation for page

5d     I agree with second person’s pronunciation (2,3,3)
AS YOU SAY: The answer can be read to mean ‘using the pronunciation of the second person’, as in the person being spoken to, or the second personal pronoun

6d     8, 27 say die – and die again? (5)
CUBES: 8 and 27 are two examples of the answer (hence say). Die and Die again would give you two ****, another definition of the answer

7d     Huge hotel, not well stocked, that’s unnecessarily extended (8)
MEGILLAH: A slang word for huge plus the abbreviation for Hotel contains (stocked) a word meaning not well. The answer means a tedious account, derived from a scroll containing a book of the Old Testament to be read on certain Jewish feast days.

8d     Departed, holding what aloft? Vogue (3,3)
THE NEW: A reversal (aloft) of a verb meaning departed containing (holding) a 2-letter interjection meaning what

14d    Admitting crossword people, plus one of 6 (8)
THOUSAND: A casual contraction meaning admitting, a pronoun suggesting crossword people, and another word for plus

16d     About to replace last of Old Nick’s pots and kettles (9)
HOLLOWARE: A 2-letter word used as commercial jargon for ‘about’ replaces the last letter in an old London prison

17d     Reading up list topped by instrument one may break in? (8)
VIOLATOR: A reversal (reading up) of another word for list has above it (topped by, in a down clue) a stringed instrument

18d     Buck upset everyone in bar (6)
DOLLAR: Reversal (upset) of another word for everyone in another word for bar

20d     No alternative for Tory negotiating horribly tense minute (7)
TEENTSY: Remove the 2-letter alternative from Tory then use the remainder to surround (negotiate) an anagram (horribly) of TENSE

22d     Bishop and deans ignoring dead ringers (5)
BELLS: The abbreviation for Bishop and another word for deans, as in small valleys, without the abbreviation for dead

24d     Place for cattle, sheep etcnot bat (5)
FIELD: Two meanings, the second being a cricket reference

25d     ‘Time it right’, he ruled (4)
TSAR: The abbreviations for Time, “it”, and Right

All great clues. I think the clues I liked most were the simpler ones, e.g. 28a, 18d, 25d. I appreciated the clever surfaces, like “De Niro’s funy line for Scorsese”, the deans in 22d, full HCl bottles, etc. Which clues were your favourites?

32 comments on “Toughie 1991

  1. If it hadn’t been for the problem parsing 10a (and I still don’t understand the explanation) I’d have ranked this one as a “who are you and what have you done with Elgar” Toughie as I’d expect to have taken a lot longer on one of his.

    In addition to 6d, surely 9a and 8d/27a are both linked to the relevant number – I spent a while putting various combinations of 125 and solutions into search engines to see if I could connect any of them together, but to no avail

    Thanks to Elgar for a nice friendly but very ‘proper Friday’ Toughie

      1. Is it ok to mix and match like that? If E is Echo then B is Bravo and the tree is BRAVECH.
        Too many “too clever by half” clues for my liking.
        John was always difficult but presented a challenge worth tackling. Not anymore for me, I’m afraid.

          1. I didn’t understand it either, assuming it was B + E plus a really dodgy homophone of EACH. Wow, classic Elgar.

  2. This was quite a workout for me and I enjoyed the struggle – thanks to Elgar and Dutch (especially for the parsing of 10a – my effort at parsing had ‘both cut short’ as ‘each’ without the A which didn’t really work).
    My favourite clue was 13a.

  3. Could not get to grips with this, too many I didn’t know or didn’t (don’t) understand. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed the struggle.

    17d – I have an extra A (rota, viola) Anyone? Fave is the beautifully well hidden 28a anagram.

    Many thanks to Elgar, you win this time round, and thanks to Dutch for somehow working this beastie out.

  4. I was lulled away from thinking this was an Elgar production (having not looked at the setter list) by an absence of the answers-over-multiple-lights and interlinkings that I associate with his puzzles. Maybe that’s why I made quite a decent fist of things to begin with. It didn’t last though, and I still had quite a number of gaps when I came to the end of the time I had available to spend on crosswords today.

    I agree with Dutch that often the simpler ones were the most pleasing – maybe just because it was so nice to get some light relief! Favourite moments for me generally came in certain details rather than whole clues, but I liked 6d and the 6ds.

    Some new vocab for me to remember (or not, as the case may be): 11a, 1d, 7d and 16d.

    Thanks Elgar for the challenge and thanks Dutch for the very helpful help.

  5. I had said on the back pager review that I wasn’t very hopeful about completing the Toughie as I had noticed it was Elgar. It was tough – but I got there in the end – apart from 10a. Could see the answer but couldn’t parse it (went along the same route as Gazza, so thanks to Dutch for the enlightenment). So I think this was Mr H being somewhat generous as there were certainly quite a few ‘gimmies’ and not so many linked clues – I’m not complaining :smile:

    Thanks to Elgar for the puzzle (and reaching number 125) and to Dutch for his excellent review.

  6. Liked the 125 link to 9a. Several quite lost on me. Have never heard of a 1d and the logic behind 7d. Agree with others that the mixture of 10a was wrong.
    Still, I managed over half of a Friday Elgar so it wasn’t all bad.
    This site must be one of the few places left where the illustration to 20d thankfully doesn’t cause outrage!
    Thank you Dutch for the explanations. I needed them.

  7. I did better than I was expecting to with about half completed – more if you count the five that I had right but did not enter because I could not fully parse them (including 10a that I still don’t understand). Added to the challenging word play, there were several things I had never heard of (the answer in 11a for example – and I don’t know what the HCI reference is all about). I’m afraid I really didn’t enjoy this, and I think for the next Elgar puzzle, I will just cut straight to Dutch’s (as always wonderful) blog!

    1. The HCl reference is a bit unfair in that uppercase I looks like lowercase l in the font used online. I guessed that it might be HCL, cut the letters from the pdf display and capitalised them in Word (Shift + F3) to confirm (you can’t do this with the newspaper – did the letter look line an L?). The full name of this chemical is HYDROCHLORIC ACID, which contains the answer.

      1. Thank you very much. I’m ashamed to say that my grasp of chemistry is sufficiently non-existent that I cannot blame the typography, but I do appreciate your explanation and enlightenment.

  8. Haven’t had time to look at this one yet – torment for the weekend!
    Confusing to note that Dutch gives it 5* for difficulty whilst CS almost has it in the ‘what have you done with Elgar’ category. Ah well, it will doubtless still fall into my ‘you must be joking’ category!

    1. Spent most of yesterday evening working on this one but whilst I finished up with letters in all the spaces, it can’t actually be said that I solved it. The combination of words I didn’t know (11a plus 1,7&20d), wordplay I couldn’t fathom and synonyms that didn’t quite work for me meant that I found the exercise very unrewarding.
      Keep hoping that I’ll find Elgar’s wavelength one day but it would seem that day is still a long way off!

      Congratulations to those who completed it and the greatest of respect to Dutch for the explanations.
      Sorry, Elgar, the workings of your brain continue to amaze and befuddle me!

  9. Got started with 1a a gimme for a cycling fan. The down ones from that followed apart from 1d I had never heard of that before and had to consult BRB and Dutch’s hints.
    Faves here were 18a and d but mainly because I worked them out by myself.
    11a out of my league and required extensive googling to get an answer I would never have got in a month of Sun(fri)days. Still got half a doz to do but running out of time to do them.
    Thanks to Dutch And Elgar.

    1. Having got just the U, D and F checkers for 1a I was sure that it was ‘coup de foudre’ (which does more or less correspond to ‘big event’) but I couldn’t parse it so didn’t write it in (just as well).

  10. I managed about two thirds of this (at best) after getting off to a good start. I needed too many hints to really enjoy this puzzle but liked what I was able to complete.

    Thanks to Dutch and Elgar.

  11. A struggle to finish, but we got there eventually without recourse to Dutch’s write up.

    We also struggled with the parsing of 10a. Our favourite by a long way was 6d – the fact that if you concatentate the answers to 8 and 27 (as the clue might lead one to do) gives something meaningful was such a great red herring that it must be deliberate. We also have a soft spot for 19a.

    Nice theme of cube numbers in the clueing and answers, which fits nicely with Elgar’s 125th (how do you know that, Dutch? Are you counting?). We counted four words new to us plus one new spelling of a fifth.

    For a while we thought there was a pangram as well, but no Z or J sadly.

    Thanks to Dutch and to Elgar.

  12. Surprisingly gentle for an Elgar Toughie, which is to say that it was still pretty difficult, but not quite as impenetrable as his last offering. I finished, with help along the way, and felt quietly satisfied with that.

  13. As in the back page, 4 clues gave me some trouble. The only difference is that I never got them.
    1d, 14d, 11a and 13a.
    For the latter I almost wrote Bovril as the only checker was the “I”.
    Knew what to look for in 11a but didn’t know where. I also thought HCI was human computer interaction.
    14d was a real misdirection as I thought Admitting was a containment indicator.
    Could not have got 1d in a month of Sundays (to paraphrase John Bee) and even after reading the review, I managed to get it wrong and went for Tsigloo with a gist going up and a loo going down.
    Remembered it was Elgar’s 125 and 9a confirmed that straight away.
    Thought the tour in 1a started 125 years ago but was disappointed to find it was only 105.
    Looked for other related answers to no avail but I am sure we missed something.
    Clever JH as usual.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch for the needed help.

  14. some more cubes courtesy of elgar

    8 BELLS, OLD HAT/FIELD (no-one would have spotted that, but it is a fairly well-known pub in those parts for Dickensia connections)
    27 books in THE NEW/TESTAMENT (it was going to be CLUB before I spotted that this fitted answers 8 and 27)

    1. Even knowing what number Elgar puzzle we’re up to I wouldn’t have got most of those. I never do know, until I check the blog, so all this cleverness is rather wasted on me! Just like in those “find the link” picture quizzes where there are lots of really clever links, that we never get to enjoy because nobody knows who all the pictures are of.

      1. When the train first ‘appeared’ it was always known as the Intercity 125 so I’m sure I’m not the only one who still refers to an intercity train in that way

  15. Late to his party but I did enjoy this puzzle on my way into work this morning. Most crosswords don’t take me the a whole commute, but Elgar usually manages to keep me bewildered door-to-door! Thanks big man and also much gratitude to Dutch – I don’t usually need the parsings but I rarely understand a whole Elgar crossword without help!

  16. I think this must have been on the easy side for Elgar, since I ended up with a correctly completed grid. I did need help with the parsing of three answers (10, 27 and 14), so thanks for the explanations.

    As an aside, it is a shame this otherwise great website is frequented by sad men who feel the need to titillate themselves by posting pictures like that for 20d.

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