Toughie 2023 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2023

Toughie No 2023 by Elkamere

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Always a total pleasure to blog an Elkamere. In today’s puzzle I quickly managed to find a few footholds, then slow and steady progress left me with a few headscratchers at the end. All great fun.

Definitions are underlined below. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay, and you can always click on the  Anyone seen my sunglasses? buttons to reveal the answer. Please leave a comment telling  us what you thought.


1a     It’s seen in tours around old medical building (6)
SPITAL: IT from the clue goes inside (seen in) a reversal (about) of a word meaning tours or circuits

5a     Is silly old line used in most of comic? (8)
TOMFOOLS: The abbreviations for Old and Line go inside (used in) an anagram (comic) of MOST OF. Did anyone else find the American comedian Tom Fos(s)?

9a     Sexual intercourse? (6,4)
PILLOW TALK: Cryptic definition based on intercourse also meaning dialogue

10a     One entertained by very loud electronic instrument (4)
FIFE: The Roman numeral for one goes inside (entertained by) the musical abbreviation for very loud, followed by the abbreviation for electronic

11a     Jumble sale for boxing clubs outside (8)
ALFRESCO: An anagram (jumble) of SALE FOR contains (boxing) the cards abbreviation for clubs

12a     Like female doctor about to use bed? (6)
GIRLIE: A reversal (about) of a 3-letter verb meaning to doctor, followed by a verb which could mean ‘to use bed’

13a     Chopped portion of cashew nuts (4)
HEWN: Hidden (portion of …)

15a     Out of old pennies, spends outgoings (8)
EXODUSES: A 2-letter preposition from Latin meaning out of, the abbreviations for Old and pennies, and a verb that could mean spends or consumes

18a     Like a rodent‘s short cut, long (8)
SHREWISH: A word meaning to cut or rip to pieces without the last letter (short), and a word meaning to long or to desire

19a     Eats hot stew (4)
HASH: A word that could mean eats (as in *** dinner), plus the abbreviation for hot

21a     Bird out at sea chased by vessel (6)
TOUCAN: An anagram (at sea) of OUT, followed (chased) by a vessel

23a     Visionary clue enumeration? (8)
IDEALIST: a 4-letter word for clue (as in I have no ****), plus a word meaning enumeration

25a     Ancient queen is used to love (4)
DIDO: A 3-letter verb that could mean used to, as in a past practice, plus the letter that looks like a score of zero in tennis

26a     A mark, possibly (10)
BLOODSTAIN: A cryptic definition of a mark that could be type A

27a     Nobody will capture soldiers covertly (2,6)
IN SECRET: A 6-letter word for a nobody or insignificant person contains (will capture) a 2-letter abbreviation for soldiers

28a     Ready to call on artist (6)
RARING: To call on the phone follows (on) the crossword abbreviation for artist


2d     You might say this is put in bottle (5)
PHIAL: A homophone of a verb meaning to put in or register, e.g., to put in a complaint

3d     Give cheer when in rapture (9)
TOLERANCE: A Spanish cheer goes inside (when in) a word meaning rapture

4d     Worst art imitating cattle? (6)
LOWEST: The ‘art’ here is an Old English indicator. Think ‘thou art imitating cattle’ or thou ******

5d     Be (or become?) distressed (4,4,4,3)
TEAR ONE’S HAIR OUT: Cryptic definition – the answer describes being distressed (using Be), which would result in your being a different kind of distressed (using become)

6d     Feeling parts for a barrel repair (4,4)
MAKE GOOD: A 4-letter word for feeling parts to allow in (for) A from the clue plus another word for barrel

7d     Volunteer as an assassin? (5)
OFFER: The answer could be whimsically read as a killer

8d     Stature without bags of money (9)
LOFTINESS: A word meaning without contains (bags) OF from the clue and a slang word for money

14d     I hope it transforms a North African (9)
ETHIOPIAN: An anagram (transforms) of I HOPE IT, then A from the clue and the abbreviation of North

16d     Cushion, wrong place to put arm? (9)
UPHOLSTER: Split (2,7), the answer suggests where you might want to put a (fire)arm – but that might have it pointing the wrong way?

17d     Red crab cooked around local area (8)
CINNABAR: An anagram (cooked) of CRAB goes around another word for your local and the abbreviation for Area

20d     10, as 26 is, over 7 (6)
TENDER: Spell out the first number, then reverse (over) a characteristic of the answer to 26

22d     Small amount of liquid I spit (5)
CLONE: The abbreviation for a small amount of liquid, then spell out the I

24d     Branch of Christianity originally seen in Jerusalem (5)
SCION: The first letter of Christianity (originally) goes inside (seen in)another name for Jerusalem

The clues I enjoyed most were 5a, 11a, 23a, 6d, 7d, 24d – the last is probably my favourite because the surface is so natural. Which clues did you like?

35 comments on “Toughie 2023

  1. A great crossword from the master of deviousness – thanks to Elkamere and Dutch. All done without the use of obscurities (although I had to check that 1a is a real word and that 5a can be a verb). I’ll nominate 26a, 4d, 5d, 8d and 16d as top clues.
    I’ve just noticed that my list doesn’t overlap with Dutch’s at all, which is a mark of how good this puzzle is!

  2. How good was that? Like Gazza, wasn’t sure about 1a. Cheers to Dutch and Elkamere

  3. Stuck on a couple. Thought the other name for Jerusalem was spelt with a “z”. I have never seen this alternative. My favourites? 9a. and 21a.

  4. Finished all three so far this week but came to grinding halt with this one with seven clues solved in ***** time!! Respect to you guys who can get even close to completion and don’t lose heart if, like me, you failed on this one!! Thanks for the blog

  5. Only knew 1a because as a boy I once became curious as to the origin of Spitalfields Market (my father used to deliver there, I was a reluctant passenger).

    “Spitalfields takes its name from the hospital and priory, St. Mary’s Spittel that was founded in 1197”

    Can’t seem to get to grips with the rest of the puzzle, I blame hayfever. Going for a lie down.

      1. It’s not even there any more. I will never forget the smell…

        I never wear sunglasses either – the more you wear them, the more you need them.

  6. I thought this was a terrific puzzle. For me the left half went in more easily than the right half, but this was largely self inflicted. I had the middle two words in 5d but I was stuck on ‘cut’ being the final word, and as soon as I had let go and figured out the correct last word, the SE went in easily enough. Likewise I had ‘expounds’ for 15a, and again, once I had that sorted out correctly, the NE corner fell (although far from quickly – I think I may have been stung before in not recognizing ‘comic’ as an anagram indicator – but the checkers were very helpful). I think it’s been a great week in toughie-land, and today, many thanks to Elkamere and Dutch.

  7. Crikey. that was far too tough for me. After a long slog with several stop/starts I managed to get about a third completed before I gave up and took a detailed look at Dutch’s review which showed how clever this was. I doubt I’ll be tempted to try another Elkamere Toughie though.

    Thanks anyway to Elkamere, and also to Dutch for putting me out of my misery.

    1. Pretty much the same for me RD.

      I struggle mightily with Elkamere and his other alter egos in various dailys. The surfaces are so slick and occasionally I’m able to complete them – not today however. I have a feeling he may set the Times quickie on the odd day which are generally write-ins but it’s probably the only one that isn’t for me (if I’m correct in my assumption) I know that setters are not named in the main puzzle over there so difficult to cross-reference.

      One day Elkamere! – great puzzle as per usual and thanks to Dutch.

    2. Same here. Something to do while the over hyped non event ruins tomorrow!!
      Much more fun and will endeavour to finish before Monday in between copious embibing!

  8. We did wonder what Mr Tom Foss had been in that had made him a household name in the UK, but we were quite happy to believe that we had parsed 5a correctly. Dooh!
    20d was our last one in as we waited until we had all the possible reference clues before attempting it. Even then it still took a lot of head scratching before the penny finally dropped.
    Had trouble justifying the spelling for place name in 24d. Our BRB does not appear to support this alternative.
    A significant challenge and really good fun.
    Thanks Elkamere and Dutch.

    1. Didn’t fall in the Tom Foss trap. Comic always activates my anagram alarm.

  9. Thanks as ever for a top blog, Dutch.
    Like others, I’ll be finding better things to do tomorrow. Setting up OBS for live streaming is the main thing, but brushing my teeth would qualify. Really, what does Harry see in Angela Merkel? I suppose looks aren’t everything – in any case, she’ll doubtless be furious when it’s pointed out he isn’t Ed Sheeran.
    I digress. Dutch – you won’t believe it, but an hour ago I found your sunglasses hiding (again) by the passenger seat of the car. Let me know when you’re around on the weekend and I’ll drop them off.

    1. Elkamere – thanks – best news i’ve had all day. “we’ve got to stop meeting like this” comes to mind.

      For everyone else – I lost my sunglasses after the Derby event. Elkamere let me know afterwards that he found them in his car (he drove me home to Macclezfield). So we met up for a curry, he returned them, but by the end of the night i had lost them again. No joy at the Snowgoose or the curry restaurant, i couldn’t figure out what happened.

      So I am genuinely happy that they have once again been found in Elkamere’s car ( he drove me home) – thanks Dean. Another curry beckons, but i’d better get some handcuffs or other restrainers to tie me to my shades.

  10. Re 24d: If you look at the wikipedia entry for Zion, you’ll see that Sion is an alternative.

    1. re 24d, Never heard of the alt spelling so whilst solving on a train I had my fingers crossed I had parsed it right . Live and learn eh :)

  11. Managed the SW, a few in the NE and a very small number elsewhere before turning to Dutch for help.
    Made me feel a bit better to discover that most of the ones I didn’t get are ones that I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance with – still means that I’ve scored a fail though, which is most annoying.

    Thanks for the challenge, Elkamere/Dean and many thanks to Dutch for the help to get across the line.

  12. A great story about sunglasses, and a really enjoyable Friday solve for me.

      1. This is le nouveau Jean-Luc style – no solo comment, just reply to all the other comments

        1. I haven’t been very chatty lately so I tried to make up for it.
          All the comments I made reflect what I felt about the crossword. Loved the brevity of the clues but some really threw me.
          Thanks to Elkamere and to you for the first rate review.

      1. Could have been worse, leaving wallet , keys et al on your motorbike in Derby come to mind ha ha

        1. yes, well… thanks, andy, I hadn’t forgotten.

          in a funny sort of way i am getting better with “just” sunglasses now.

  13. We didn’t get to this until after lunch on Saturday, but it was no less enjoyable for it. Some fabulous clueing with 26a our favourite. Given previous struggles with Elkamere puzzles, we’ll take a punt and say this was 3*/4.5*.

    Thanks to D and E and the sunglasses.

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