Toughie 2342 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2342

Toughie No 2342 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Today’s theme is readily apparent, we have a grid filled with 9 examples (one hypothetical) of 4d’s 8d series. This is Elgar’s 138th telegraph toughie, and if you have not spotted the relevance of that number you may be forgiven, for it involves some poetic licence. (Think “G for Gridfill”.) Very appropriately, today’s puzzle is a pangram. I am in awe of how Elgar manages to add a pangram to an already superb grid fill.

Definitions are underlined as always. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay and you can reveal the answer by clicking on the (1,3,8) buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    To break lock, resort to this? (8)
TRESPASS: Another word for a resort to break another word for a lock, with the whole clue alluding to the answer

5a    Joe and I getting worried … something following me around tree (6)
FEIJOA: An anagram (getting worried) of JOE + I with the note following Me/Mi around 

9a    Paradoxically, one caught in the firing line with right to left shot? (8)
RICOCHET: Paradoxically, as in on the contrary, suggests that instead we have the firing line (think darts) inside (in) the Roman numeral for one plus the 2-letter abbreviation for caught, then the abbreviation for right on the left (i.e, at the front)

10a    Patting baby’s back, parent may get this close? (4,2)
WIND UP: The answer as defined is a phrasal verb, but it is a nounal expression for the cryptic allusion.

11a    With Her Majesty intervening, is applauding Boris’s retreat (8)
CHEQUERS: A verb meaning applauds or shouts encouragement contains (withintervening) a 2-letter abbreviation for Her Majesty

12a    Perhaps Helena’s contrary object of desire — or Lysander’s? (6)
HERMIA: A lovely reference to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A female possessive pronoun (Perhap’s Helena’s) plus a reversal (contrary) of a 3-letter ‘object of desire’, or equally just object or intention

14a    Being drunk and disorderly, say, left in charge in here? (3-7)
OFF-LICENCE: A 7-letter word for a criminal charge, of which ‘being drunk and disorderly’ is an example (say), has the abbreviations for left and ‘in charge’ in

18a    Retiring President about to regret poisoning agent (10)
NEUROTOXIN: A reversal (retiring) of all of a US President containing (about) TO from the clue and a verb meaning regret (or a translation of “to regret”!)

22a    Musical, as it happens, has a band of gold (6)
OLIVER: A 4-letter adjective meaning ‘as it happens’ is surrounded by (has a band of) a 2-letter word for the heraldic colour gold

23a    In which cases start to involve detectives? (8)
HOMICIDE: A word meaning ‘in’ contains (which cases) the first letter of (start to) involve and an abbreviation for detectives


24a    Performer‘s source of wealth divides them (6)
EMINEM: A source of wealth goes inside (divides) an informal abbreviation of them

25a    Not yet a couple, love misplaced, getting pulled? (5,3)
UNDER TOW: A (5,3) phrase that suggests ‘not yet a couple’ has the O (love) moved forward one space from its final position (misplaced)

26a    Pretty little 13-19-year-olds on verge of twenty (6)
TEENSY: A word for 13-19-year-olds plus the last letter (verge) of twenty

27a    Idler no longer running course for PCs (8)
DEADBEAT: A word meaning no longer running plus a word meaning the course or round for policemen


1d    Home for Spartacus and most of the people (6)
THRACE: The first two letters (most of) THe plus another word for people

2d    Top business chief meets top guy at press, the former turning tail (6)
EXCEED: A 4-letter word for a business chief plus a top newspaper guy. The former has the last two letters reversed (turning tail)

3d    Seductee shot leader of Union in nuts? (4-2)
PICK-UP: An informal word for a shot or photograph, then the first letter (leader) of Union goes inside (in) a brand name for nuts

4d    Fat marshals count on author of 8 books? (3,7)
SUE GRAFTON: A 4-letter word for fat contains (marshals) a German count, plus ON from the clue

6d    Introduce Old Vic landlord to European in place of proof (8)
EVIDENCE: Insert (Introduceto) an old Queen Vic landlord (!) into the abbreviation for European plus a word meaning ‘in place of’, often used to qualify nouns like President etc.

7d    Opinion formed by Tony Hall, say, on people working in project (8)
JUDGMENT: The position held by BBC’s Tony Hall, for example, plus a word meaning ‘people working’, all inside (in) a word meaning to project


8d    Keeping record, heads of Austria and Hungary make good spellers? (8)
ALPHABET: A vinyl record goes between the first letters (heads) of Austria and Hungary, then a word meaning ‘make good’

13d    ‘Just a little fling’, disgusted, dishabillé guide admitted (5,5)
FLUID OUNCE: A word meaning a disgusted fling contains (… admitted) (g)UID(e) from the clue without the outer letters (dishabillé)

15d    Impeccable hotel supported by none of Trump’s money (8)
INNOCENT: A 3-letter hotel is on top of (supported by, in a down clue) a letter that looks like zero (none of) and the unit of Trump’s money

16d    Fleeing university, heading for great time? That will enthral one in five (8)
FUGITIVE: The abbreviation for University, the first letter (heading) for great and the abbreviation for time contains (will enthral) the Roman numeral for one, all inside (in) FIVE from the clue

17d    It’s #26-1 without sections (8)
ZONELESS: #26 (in 8d) plus a (3,4) way of saying -1

19d    Offer to lag low-down part of machine (3,3)
BIG END: A 3-letter offer contains (to lag) another word for low-down or information

20d    Steal look over widening moor (6)
TIPTOE: An abbreviated instruction to look over (the next page) goes inside (widening) a word meaning to moor

21d    Bird taking flight, setter and solver record it (6)
PEEWIT: A reversal (taking flight, in a down clue) of a pronoun describing setter and solver plus the abbreviation for a smaller vinyl record, then IT from the clue


I liked 10a, 11a, 14a, hm, better stop there, so much more… Which clues did you like?

31 comments on “Toughie 2342

  1. One of the most disappointing puzzles for some time. Three Toughies finished this week; this one, several solved & have to resort to the blog for explanation for fourteen clues even with the answers to hand!! Way beyond my capabiltity so, for me ******/nil Huge respect though for anyone that can get anywhere near finishing this. No chance with a theme if you only have a handful of answers!! As I always say, there’s always next week!!

  2. Elgar back in full hob-nailed brain-mangling mode. It took me a while to see the ‘count’ in 4d but as I’ve read all 4d’s books, I was then able to spot some of them in the grid. My favourite clue was 10a but there are a number of runners-up on the list

    Thanks to Elgar for the brain stretching practice ready for Saturday week and to Dutch for the blog

  3. I have read most of 4d’s 8d books so I did spot the theme. Sadly, she died just before finishing her series so #26-1 is very relevant as the 8d only reached Y in her case.

    There were lots of d’oh moments as the clues slowly unravelled – I didn’t know the 5a tree or the disgusted fling of 13d. I didn’t notice that it was a pangram but I did spot that there is only one anagram.

    Thanks to Elgar for another proper Toughie and to Dutch for the explanations.
    My podium selections were 10a, 23a and 27a.

  4. Agree to the misspelling of 5a. I only know because I had to look it up having never heard of it. Has anyone?
    I was cross to be slow getting 4d having read most of her books. A pity she died before finishing the series.
    A bit of a slog and was unable to finish the SW corner. 23a and 19d were the last 2 in but I couldn’t parse them.
    Still, to almost finish an Elgar is cause for celebration

    1. We have one of the 5a trees (well more a bush really) growing just outside our back door a few metres from where I am sitting. The fruit is delicious and a favourite addition to breakfast when in season.

  5. The theme was totally unknown to us so no help at all in solving. However, picking that it was a pangram did enable us, after a long tussle and liberal use of electronic assistance, to eventually end up with a correctly filled grid although there were a handful which we could not fully parse.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  6. Either you can solve a themed crossword without knowledge of the theme – in which case it’s a fair do:
    You can’t – in which case it is subject to the same criticism as any other crossword employing excessive use of “general knowledge”.

    I suggest this one is insoluble without knowledge of the theme. I was fortunate to twig the author from vague librarian memories and that enabled me to google the list of her books and bung in the remaining answers, then figure out [most of] the wordplay – some of which is very clever.

    But what a shame for anyone who simply failed to solve 4d.

    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

    1. I feel 4d is fairly clued and therefore no further GK is required , if you know the theme all very well but if you don’t, as I didn’t before checking the blog, hey ho. Still being ridiculously thick in that I cannot parse 2d even after looking at the hint.

      Cheers to Dutch and Elgar

        1. How on your Gods earth did I not see that ? Wearing a cap with a capital D on the bottom stair ;) Cheers Dutch

      1. Of course 4d is fairly clued. I would never accuse a reputable setter of clueing unfairly [well, not very often anyway]. But how many of you solved it purely from the wordplay and how many gazed at some checkers, looked at 8d and then -aha, yes, whatshername, and then worked out the perfectly fair wordplay?

        btw – 18a is magnificent!

    2. Actually, I didn’t know the author or this series of books. After solving 4d from wordplay, I was delighted that I could recognise most of the 8-letter grid entries in just one google. So enjoyment would seem possible for the unenlightened, albeit with electronic help

    3. It isn’t essential to know there might be a theme or even which toughie number Elgar has reached to solve the crossword. I took a long time to solve the crossword, interspersed with the housework, and it was only when I’d eventually got a completely filled grid that I looked more closely to see what had been hidden for us to find

  7. I usually enjoy a Friday evening with the Toughie. Not today. I don’t mind the odd bit of general knowledge but this puzzle involves an excessive amount of knowledge about a niche subject I know little about. Excessive recourse to google whilst doing a crossword is a particular bete noire of mine and hence I did not enjoy this at all.

  8. Never heard of Sue Grafton let alone read anything by her so this was a total waste of time for me – struggled to get a few but really hate themes like this – no chance of finishing it if I’d worked till doomsday!

  9. Blimey! It must be the end of a bad week. I managed six and although I am an avid reader I don’t know the 4d lady. Oh well, there is always tomorrow and if it were not for your blog I would be pulling my hair out. Goodnight.

  10. I’ve just had another look at the crossword while eating my toast and marmalade

    If you take out 4d and 8d, what you have is a set of perfectly ordinary (well ordinary for an Elgar) set of crossword clues which are solvable on their own without any link to a theme or a particular author’s works, although there are quite a few crime-related clues which you could call a ghost theme. Add in 4 and 8d and you can remember sadly the fact that she never got to finish her series

  11. I think the theme was fair, and all the clues were solvable (eventually) even if you hadn’t heard of the series. (I knew of it but have never read them). Anyway, I still can’t spot the 138 bit of the theme. Can anyone enlighten me? Thanks

    1. Some “poetic licence”, as mentioned in preamble. It was intended to be the enumeration (1,3,8) for F for Fugitive, H for Homicide, R for Ricochet etc., 9 entries if you include the hypothetical Z for ZONELESS. Poor Elgar later realised the titles actually include an “IS” (E is for Evidence), so it didn’t really work and it was unlikely anyone would spot it. I certainly didn’t …

  12. Too tough for me.Ones that I cant do are usually of interest because I can learn something for the future.But this crossword-even the solutions are hard to understand!

  13. Managed all but three and one of those I should have got with a bit more thought. Would it have been too much to ask for ” ’em”, rather than “them”, in 24a? I had never heard of 4d, so there was no chance of getting that without the help of a crossword solver. Who is she and why should I know anything about her?

    1. Well, this puzzle educated me about the late 4d Sue Grafton’s ALPHABET (8d) detective novel series, including
      D is for DEADBEAT (27a)
      E is for EVIDENCE (6d)
      F is for FUGITIVE (16d)
      H is for HOMICIDE (23a)
      I is for INNOCENCE (15d)
      J is for JUDGMENT (7d)
      R is for RICOCHET (9a)
      U is for UNDERTOW (25a)
      and unfortunately she didn’t make it to Z and we have a hypothetical
      Z is for ZONELESS (17d)

      A very popular series, from what I gather, featuring Kinsey Millhone as the female detective with a story of her own

      1. Ah, I get it. Don’t think I would have spotted it, even though I saw the theme. Many thanks for the enlightenment, Dutch

  14. Very disappointing. Although I completed it correctly, my lack of ability to explain so many answers ruined any enjoyment. *****/*

  15. Where have I been all my life ? I’d never heard of Sue Grafton or the Alphabet Murders, so no wonder it took me a couple of days to complete this latest Elgar offering. Now if it had been The ABC Murders it would have posed no problem, as I’m an Agatha Christie aficionado…Never heard of Feijoa either. Plenty of other tricky clues which I liked, such as 13d, 19d and 20d. Many thanks, Elgar. I’m going to read at least one of Sue Grafton’s books in the new year.

  16. Only started cheating in the SE by looking at the list of these ‘famous” alphabet murders. Well, not to me anyhow, but that didn’t stop me from getting most of the answers.
    Thanks to Elgar for the challenge and to Dutch for explaining a few loose ends.

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