Toughie 2131 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2131

Toughie No 2131 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

This is Elgar’s 130th Telegraph Toughie, and that number features in a ghost theme. I did think that one-thirty sounded like a time, and I noticed the bottom row, but I had to phone a friend to put it all together (thanks Elgar). Most of you will probably recognise it straight away. The click-here buttons at the end of the blog reveal the themed entries. A clever puzzle.

This was a slow and steady solve for me. As usual, things started speeding up a bit as more checkers appeared. The subtractive anagrams were a helpful start (though hard to do in your head). My last clue was the spoonerism where I struggled because I didn’t know my riots.

There seems to be a discrepancy between the paper and online versions today. No doubt this will be fixed soon, but in case you have solved the online version, I will mention the differences. It only affects 6 clues, and of those, 4 are fairly minor changes. It is the paper version which is “correct”.

The definitions are underlined. The hints are intended to help you unravel the word play, and usually you can click on the watch with 8d! buttons to reveal the answers


1a    Stage managers with New Order leaving en masse for Pulp’s ‘Common People‘ (6)
RAGTAG: Remove (leaving, as in leaving behind) an anagram (for Pulp) of EN MASSE from an anagram (with New Order) of STAGE MANAGERS

5a    See 24d

10a    What courage aunt shows with regular donation … of this? (5)
ORGAN: Even letters (what … shows with regular donation). The whole clue contributes to the definition. (The online version lacks the last two words)

11a    Most scared-looking soldiers hiding a training-ground (9)
PALAESTRA: A word meaning most scared looking plus an abbreviation for a type of soldiers go around (hiding) A from the clue. (The online version has ‘lightly coloured’ instead of ‘scared-looking’, same parsing)

12a    Part-time screw grass has got in awful flap (4,3)
HALF PAY: A word for dried grass contains (has got in) an anagram (awful) of FLAP

13a    Niff given off by one bulging man of literature (7)
BOSWELL: An abbreviation for ‘Niff given off by one’ and a noun meaning bulging

14a    Without any trained oarsmen for protection, Caesar may have blown it (5,4)
ROMAN NOSE: A 2-letter word meaning ‘without any’ is protected by an anagram (trained) of OARSMEN

17a    See 19a

18a    Sweet cicely leaves, when drawn (5)
CANDY: The two letters that are left (leaves) when C[icel]Y is drawn, i.e., emptied. (The online version has ‘perforated’ instead of ‘when drawn’, same parsing)

19a/17a Name scratched from Open, one shot down, could get this? (3,6,5)
THE WOODEN SPOON: An anagram (could get) of OPE[n] ONE SHOT DOWN from which the abbreviation for Name is scratched. The whole clue contributes to the definition.

Online version: “One down, hopes to dodge it (3,6,5)”, an all-in-one with an anagram (dodge it) of ONE DOWN HOPES TO

21a    Whiter than white, it drifts in with cold snap (7)
PICTURE: IT from the clue and an abbreviation for C are drifting (together as an anagram) into (in) an adjective meaning ‘whiter than white’   

23a    Refrain from Carmen keeping our time now (7)
ABSTAIN: Car men (!), as in roadside assistance, containing (keeping) an abbreviation for the time in UK, plus a short word meaning now or trendy

25a    Models of perfection Spock set out pricked by McCoy’s latest disapproving reaction (9)
COPYBOOKS: An anagram (set out) of SPOCK contains (pricked by) the last letter of McCoy plus an expression of disapproval

26a    Half the ground covered by old poet (5)
ODIST: Place the first half of an 8-letter word meaning ‘the ground covered’  after (by) the abbreviation for old

27a    Briefly fluid, I must repay Blossom (6)
FLOWER: The 2-letter abbreviation for fluid and what we call someone who must repay

28a    ‘Not quite empty!’: no work for them (6)
POTMEN: An anagram (work) of the first four letters (not quite) of EMPT[y]+NO gives these bar staff


2d    Strangely, this spirit‘s bottled (5)
ANGEL: Hidden (bottled) – and an example of a definition that is not at either end of the clue

3d    Spooner having offered £25, Miss Daisy riots here (9)
TONYPANDY: A spoonerism of the slang word for £25 plus the surname of Jessica, the eponymous star of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ gives a Welsh mining town (my wife winced at my pronunciation) famous for 1910 and 1911 riots

4d    Good — it’s jettisoned by arrogant swimmer (5)
GUPPY: The abbreviation for Good, then a 6-letter word for arrogant from which IT from the clue is jettisoned

5d    Each slow song, similarly endless, uplifting with increased speed (4,5)
ALLA BREVE: Another word for each and another word for a slow song, both without their last letter (similarly endless), all reversed (uplifting)

6d    Refuse cars from ’66 and ’86? (5)
DREGS: How might you refer to such cars in terms of their license plate?

7d    Travelling in front, hero advances (2,3,4)
ON THE ROAD: Hidden (in …)

8d    Minute remaining, matron! (6)
MOTHER: The abbreviation for minute and another word for remaining

9d    A lot in dancing join at the back (4,2)
TAIL ON: An anagram (dancing) of A LOT IN

15d    Terribly undiplomatic, releasing rebellious Democrat to community (9)
MUNICIPAL: Community is used as an adjective here. An anagram (terribly) of UNDIPLOMATIC minus (releasing) an anagram (rebellious) of the abbreviation of Democrat +TO from the clue

16d    Regularly I’m amused that doing gigs is captivating (2,3,4)
ON THE HOUR: A 3-letter informal expression that means I’m amused (chuckle), goes inside (that … is captivating) a (2,4) phrase that means doing gigs while 7d.

Online version: “What of us under May, perhaps, without leadership at particular intervals? (2,3,4)” An interjection meaning ‘what’ and a pronoun meaning ‘of us’ go under a period of time exemplified by May, without the first letter (without leadership)

17d    Champion boxers, perhaps when cycling, suddenly halt (4,5)
STOP SHORT: A 3-letter adjective meaning champion plus something of which boxers are an example (perhaps) – then cycle the last letter around to the front

18d    E.g. Putin’s token record for rolling in the hay (6)
COPECK: The abbreviation for a kind of vinyl record is reversed inside (rolling in) a word that surprisingly means a pile of hay, which I think we have seen before

20d    ‘Century, ten inferior’ about nails it (6)
NINETY: Reverse hidden (… about nails it)

22d    In finales from Rameau to Flotow, lead violin may make this (5)
UPBOW: Into (in) the last letters (finales) of Rameau, to, and Flotow, place the chemical symbol for lead

23d    For this storyteller, the tide’s turning on theatre work (5)
AESOP: A body of water described by ‘the tide’ is reversed (turning), and some work you might have done in a theatre (not the dramatic kind)

24d/5a Cryptographic couple vexed an old cabbie (5,3,3)
ALICE AND BOB: An anagram (vexed) of AN OLD CABBIE. Instead of “A sends a message to B”, these names are used to increase readability in cryptology. Apparently there are more, Eve for eavesdropper, etc. (The online version had ‘vexing’.)


The definition of 14a made me laugh. I liked the smooth hidden at 7d. I had come across Carmen before, but it still took a while for the penny to drop. But my favourite today is the brilliant 20d. Which were you favourite clues?

The theme:

The original cycle of the Children’s BBC program “Watch With MOTHER (8d)”, shown at 1:30 pm every weekday afternoon. Monday PICTURE BOOK, Tuesday ANDY PANDY, Wednesday FLOWER POT MEN, Thursday RAG, TAG, and BOBTAIL, Friday THE WOODENTOPS.

Grid highlighting themed entries:



20 comments on “Toughie 2131

  1. I really loved this – I was thrilled that I actually spotted the theme quite early on (the solutions to 1a and 5a helping there) and being the right age for such things (and having a video I bought when the boys were small so that they could see the television programmes Mummy used to watch) meant that this is one of my specialist subjects. My first car was a 66 6d too!

    Thanks to Elgar for the proper and entertaining Toughie, and to Dutch for the blog.

    1. Does it mean switch into double time (2/2 instead of 4/4) which sounds like you’re quickening but technically the pace is the same? the expression in english seems to be “cut time”. I’d never seen it before, and the dictionaries aren’t a lot of help

  2. Whoopee – I completed an Elgar AND Dutch gave it 5* for difficulty!
    OK – I did have to look up some stuff – the 11a training ground, the man of literature, the musical term and the cryptographic couple and it took me ages to recall the 3d actress – but I still got there in the end.

    Didn’t spot the theme until after I’d finished and I don’t remember the Monday offering but the others were very familiar.

    Favourite was 14a.

    Thanks to Elgar for giving me a chance today and to Dutch – particularly for the parsing of 16a which had eluded me.

    1. Same experience with picture book too
      I guess Mondays must have been a regular playdate in the Bee household when I was four. But the other 4 were old friends.
      Never had a 6d car in 66 the family had an ancient Morris Oxford and by 86 I could only afford an old V reg Fiesta.
      I did like 6d 7d but 5d and 11a were out of my solving zone.
      Thanks to Dutch and Elgar. I was in the bath so long I’ve gone all pruney.

  3. I know that we often get differences in the odd clue between the different platforms but having six clues that are different must be some sort of a record. Luckily the only one which caused me problems was 10a where, without the last two words of the clue, I couldn’t see what the definition was meant to be.
    This was a proper Toughie which took me a long time to conquer, especially the SW corner. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.
    The standout clues for me were 14a, 6d and 7d.

  4. DNF 1-0 to Elgar again. Too many references to which I am blissfully unaware. As for the theme, I’m happy to report that I am too young to be aware of some of of them, ie except for Bill and Ben and Andy Pandy, (which I found a little disturbing I seem to remember), and I’ve heard of Watch with Mother, but seeing mother did not point me to the ‘show’ – never mind what time they were aired.

    Never mind, it kept me occupied for some time. Thank you Elgar, and to Dutch for the explanations which mystified me.

  5. I didn’t mean to do it. I knew I was tempting the disaster that has befallen me on previous Elgar puzzles, but I had finished the ‘backpager’ and the toughie kept beckoning to me (as it always does). However on this occasion, and to my surprise and delight, although I did not finish it, I came pretty darn close. Ultimately I was defeated by local knowledge that I did not have; I did not know (nor could I track down) an expression for 25 pounds (3d) and nor had I heard of the Welsh town or its riots. Also, I am not sure what the license plate has to do with 6d. Sadly, the only thing I recognized on reading what was hidden under ‘The theme’ in Dutch’s review was ‘BBC’, and thus I was not able to appreciate or draw on the hidden theme during the solve. (I should confess that I did not get 1a, and I absolutely should have.) So close . . . . . . . Many thanks to Elgar and to Dutch.

        1. The letter used to signify cars registered in a particular year. D being used in the years in the clue

  6. Nicely themed, I thought, spottable without knowing about any connection to 130. I’m sure I would have noticed some of it, even though it’s from my parents’ time rather than mine.

    I said “would have” because I didn’t have time or heart (10a) for a proper battle today, so used many of Dutch’s excellent hints. That allowed me to appreciate the clever clueing without having to actually be clever.

    Before then I did at least find a few ways into the puzzle, which is always encouraging. It has encouraged me to try harder next time!

    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  7. We really struggled with this. The theme of course did not mean much to us and there was some CK such as 6d that was a challenge (although we did guess that wordplay correctly as it happened). Eventually ended up with an almost full grid but missed some of the parsing.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

    1. with pleasure, if you can tell me what raie means. If you mean “read”, you should be able to click on the “click here” boxes at the start of every hint. Does that work?

  8. Dear Durch,Thank you ..Sorry I meant raise. No I do not have the “click here” message. Oh dear. It was always there until this week

    1. Yes, I think people have had problems depending on which device and operating system they use. Sometime the “click here” button gets compressed to a single character space, and then you can’t click it. When that happens to me, it seems to fix itself after a few minutes.

      You can have a look at the copy of this blog that big dave has posted (just above this blog) with a different kind of spoiler button. At least you’ll get the answers to this puzzle!

  9. No fun at all. Completely above my pay grade! I got lost just trying to read the overlong clues. I didn’t solve one and, even with an Elgar, I. usually manage a couple. Now I’m going to settle with my breakfast coffee and read the blog. It’ll make interesting and, I hope, illuminating reading.

    1. Well, I’m glad I didn’t persevere. With the hints I realise I got the first word of 14a and should have got the second. I also solved 8d but didn’t believe it. Better luck next Tuesday.
      Thank you Dutch for the blog. incredible!

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