Toughie 2350 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2350

Toughie No 2350 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Another amazing puzzle from Elgar. I managed to spot the theme quickly in 8a/11a and that helped enormously with the rest of the solve. It was harder to find the connection to 139 (this being Elgar’s 139th Telegraph Toughie) – I was briefly distracted by Genesis 13:9, but it turns out the link is elsewhere, as explained in Elgar’s words at the end of this blog. Elgar tells me we have Tim King (Encota) to thank for the suggestion of this theme – well done Tim! Once again, I am in awe of the grid fill.

As always, finding the definitions is half the battle – these are underlined for you in the clues below. The hints and tips are intended to help you unravel the wordplay, but you can always reveal the answer by clicking on the UN resolution 139: Admission of Mali! buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


7a    I’m a master employing my ex-bearer (4)
MAMA: Hidden (… employing)

8a    In reviving old frailty, mum’s done deal (1,9)
A FORMALITY: A 2-letter word meaning mum goes inside (In …) an anagram of (reviving) O(ld)+FRAILTY

10a    Getting message across turned round 0-1 in match (8)
EMAILING: A reversal of (turned round): a 3-letter word for zero plus the Roman numeral for one inside (in) another word for match (as in sports)

11a    Oxford Road literally always holds strategic position (1,5)
A FORTY: A 2-letter version of always contains (holds) a strategic position or stronghold 

12a    High Peak town Republicans accepting defeat (7)
GLOSSOP: Not far from Macclesfield! A 3-letter abbreviation describing the US Republican party contains (accepting) a word meaning defeat

15a    Bail out — think about avoiding Eastern seaboards? (7)
MALIBUS: An anagram (out) of BAIL has around it (about) a word meaning think avoiding the abbreviation for Eastern

17a    Ray and me, perhaps attacked from rear? (5)
NOTES: A reversal (from rear) of a (3,2) phrasal verb meaning attacked

19a    Welsh community cove river runs through (5)
BARRY: Another word for cove contains (through) the abbreviations for river and runs

20a    What’s sent intermittently as Morse? (3)
SOS: The intermittent or regular letters in “as Morse”

21a    Counterfeit fine for king starting rule (5)
FEIGN: Substitute the abbreviation for fine for the abbreviation for king at the start of (starting) a 5-letter word meaning rule

23a    Group of stars or high-IQ bods? Different names (5)
MENSA: Two definitions and an anagram (different) of NAMES

25a    Africans, aboard a limo, buzzing? (7)
SOMALIS: An anagram (buzzing) of A LIMO aboard, or inside (an abbreviation for) a ship

27a    One smoker, awfully tedious (7)
IRKSOME: An anagram (awfully) of I+SMOKER

28a    Germanic tongues: Number One from the hills (6)
NORSES: The 2-letter abbreviation for number, then remove the Roman numeral for one from another word for hills

29a    Sweet kids play this round (4-4)
ROLY-POLY: A triple definition

31a    Makes usual sounds maintaining right to strike back (10)
NORMALISES: Another word for sounds contains (maintaining) the abbreviation for right plus a reversal (back) of a word meaning strike or beat

32a    Article on counter describes Celt (4)
GAEL: The indefinite article is described by the reversal (counter) of a cricket side equivalent of “on”


1d    It’s so nice in Latin, others taking a class (8)
MAMMALIA: Three identical letters you might sound to indicate “It’s so nice”, plus others in Latin, contains (taking) A from the clue

2d    Clay-based mass: some admit it here to give others (4)
MALI: A direct reference to today’s theme. The abbreviation for mass is based or underpinned by a boxer also known as Clay (and see comment 1)

3d    Contents of small dish long the poet’s curse (7)
MALISON: A poetic word for curse is generated by the inner letters of (Contents of …) 3 words in the clue

4d    & 29 Down Swan, maybe, or spider? Result: big break (4,4)
LONG REST: As in holiday. Both a swan and a spider are examples of the answer in a different sense, referring to (as can a big break) a game requiring a lot of balls

5d    Antelope sadly overcome by devil (7)
IMPALAS: Remember antelope can be plural. A word meaning sadly has above it (overcome by) a word meaning devil

6d    Melancholy G&S? John digs in (10)
GLOOMINESS: The letters G&S have another word for John plus a word for digs or excavations inside (in)

9d    Visit restaurant topless on cycle? One’s plated up (5)
TATOU: A (3,3) expression meaning to go to a restaurant, without the first letter (topless), the moving the last letter to the front (on cycle)

13d    Marine plants tales about Reading or Writing — and Arithmetic (10)
SARGASSUMS: Another word for tales, typically long ones, goes about the abbreviation used for Reading or wRiting, plus a 4-letter word describing some arithmetic

14d    Models have doubles made single (5)
POSES: A 7-letter word meaning have, in which double letters are made single

15d    In centre-spread of Times sits top scorer (5)
MESSI: Hidden (In centre-spread of …)

16d    Tinned olive, not as it happens native? (3)
SON: O(live) from the clue omitting (not) a word meaning “as it happens” goes inside the chemical symbol for tin (tinned)

18d    100 + 14 letters? (3)
TON: Split (2,1), the answer suggests the first 14 letters of the alphabet

19d    This vehicle descends, another aptly surfaces (3)
BUS: This vehicle when written downwards aptly becomes another that surfaces (read upwards)

22d    Doctor of Jewish Law‘s image all wrong (8)
GAMALIEL: An anagram (wrong) of IMAGE ALL gives a biblical reference to a Pharisee Doctor of Jewish Law

23d    ‘The Arrow’, say, is second in race (7)
MISSILE: IS from the clue plus the abbreviation for second goes inside (in) a race distance

24d    Pacifist members missing? (7)
ARMLESS: Without upper limbs

26d    One projects ‘Love, love, love’ (one’s cut up) (5)
OVOLO: Three loves, with the central one spelt out in reverse (up) without the last letter (cut)

29d    See 4 Down

30d    Stick order of Teletubbyland eviction? (4)
POGO: Split the answer (2,2) to see the order of Tellytubbyland eviction


What I enjoyed most today was finding the clue pairs in the theme. In addition, there were loads of quirky clues I really liked – Tellytubby land (30d), 14 letters (18d), love, love, love (26d), Ray and me (17a), doubles made single (14d), tinned olives (16d), etc. I think “It’s so nice in Latin” (1d) is my favourite. Which clues did you like?

Elgar’s explanation of the theme quoted from his puzzle submission:

Under UN Security Resolution 139, MALI (2dn) gained admission to the UN, as it does to 7ac (to make 1dn), 11ac (to make 8ac), 28ac (to make 31ac), 32ac (to make 22dn), 16dn (to make 3dn), 19dn (to make 15ac) and 19dn (to make 15ac).

35 comments on “Toughie 2350

  1. Thanks for the kind comments Dutch and Elgar! I did enjoy solving this one and am prepared to admit that the LOI and last one parsed was 2d. D’oh!

    1. i think that was my last one too … and doh, I only just realised clay-based mass may double as definition, a mini-all-in-one

  2. I found this a very stiff struggle, though very enjoyable. 2d was my last answer and I eventually revealed a couple of letters to get it finished, whereupon the theme leapt out at me – I should have spotted it before but didn’t. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.
    Top clues for me were 14d, 16d and 30d.
    Why is the “ex-” in 7a? What does it add to the clue?

  3. Challenging, certainly! But I don’t share Dutch’s enthusiasm I’m afraid. ‘Ray’ isn’t a note unless you can’t spell – and I hardly think that the use of perhaps makes it clear that spelling is irrelevant (maybe that’s just me). And I don’t recognise Norse as being capable of being made plural – and Chambers doesn’t either. 22d is so obscure that I could only find it in Google after having the whole word to search.
    That all out of my system, I did like 10a, 21a and 31a.
    Thanks to Dutch. Elgar can do better.

      1. Come on Dutch; doe isn’t a note either: it’s a deer- and in the song ray is something to do with the sun.

  4. Quite impossible, way out of my league and, with all that repetition of the theme it was, dare I say it? somewhat boring. A pity that Elgar’s insistence on drumming home just how may crosswords he has had published here should become a rather tedious obsession. Oh dear, not really sour grapes, just a sad admission that an Elgar Toughie will always be beyond me.

    1. Most Toughies are out of my league, and I enjoy Elgar’s themes — impressed by his ingenuity in finding something to say about each number.

      I’m going to be looking at hints and revealing letters anyway (sometimes both on the same clue), so the added difficulty doesn’t bother me, and having something linking some answers makes it seem more worthwhile to me: I find myself smiling in anticipation at just seeing ‘Elgar’ the top of a blog article.

      Each to their own!

  5. Sadly, an Elgar puzzle is at the top of my ‘do not attempt’ list. I generally skip an Elgar puzzle altogether and go directly to Dutch’s blog to marvel in the cleverness of it all. However, today I decided that this was churlish on my part, and I gave it a go. I got most of the central horizontal third (far more than I usually get) before I ground to a halt not having the remotest idea of where or how the 139 was likely to be lurking. There were all sorts of things I had not heard of (the marine plants, the plated animal, the Oxford road reference etc.) and in several instances it took every word of Dutch’s explanation for me to figure how the word play worked – take 1d as immediate example. And then there was the theme – so very clever, and so very disappointing for it to be totally beyond my ability to recognize it when solving. Sadly, I think an Elgar puzzle needs to remain at the top of my ‘do not attempt’ list. Good luck with 140, and my undying admiration for those who are able to solve these. Thanks to all.

  6. After liberal use of Google we eventually ended up with a completed grid and most of it parsed. As well as the obscurities that other people had to check we had to add 11a, 12a, 19a to the list too. Totally missed the theme (we’d had enough by that stage) but agree it is cleverly done.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  7. Sorry to say that I gave up on trying to solve Elgar’s offerings when he became obsessed with marking every progression in his number of published puzzles.
    However, I still pop in to read Dutch’s reviews so many thanks to him for those.

  8. Elgar at his devious best – 5*/5* from me. My favourites include 7, 11 and 17a, and 16 and 30d

    It isn’t necessary to know which number Elgar has reached to solve his Toughies, but just enjoy the battle with the master of sneaky clue writing. Let’s face it, if you didn’t know about BD’s blog, the chances are you’d never think to look for a theme, although if you are aware that something is going on, it is fun to try and work out the link(s).

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch

    1. I take your point, CS, and have nothing but admiration for those solvers who can cope with Elgar’s puzzles. For those of us who had a constant battle to attempt to deal with his un-themed offerings, this new dimension is just a bridge too far.

  9. Hard, although I got there in the end.
    I found the experience devoid of enjoyment as too many of the wordplays and meanings were very “forced”. That’s not clever, a bit like the official Scrabble dictionary which seems to have progressed to the point where any combination of letters means something to someone somewhere.
    “Norses” and “Malibus” are not words, defeating the essence of a crossword puzzle, and I doubt that the plural of Sargassum is ever used even if it theoretically could be.
    I prefer something more elegant; luckily other compilers provide that and I can give myself a day off when Elgar is the setter.

    1. I’m not going to defend Elgar from your accusation of “forced” wordplay/surfaces but I will defend 1 of the 3 plurals, which definitely exists
      eg “get the malibus on the woodie, we’re going surfing.
      sargassums could be used in the plural by aquarists to refer to the sargassum fish but I find it hard to imagine a plural of the seaweed…and as for Norses – just try googling it.

  10. Well I for one enjoyed the struggle, stared at a 3/4 completed grid for an eternity and muttered there is a lot of “ma”…. lightbulb moment. My top scores went to those mentioned by CS. 5* 5* from me. Thanks to Dutch and Elgar, and I admit Google may have had a bit of input

  11. Took a long time and almost finished.
    Couldn’t parse 10a and 4/29d so left them blank although they seemed correct.
    Didn’t get the answer to 26d and couldn’t see what to write between all these Os.
    The theme helped me getting 28a from 31a and guess the right order of letters in 22d. Google did the rest.
    Putting Gop in Google informed me straight away that it was the parti republicain.
    Had to check the classification in 1d too.
    The only thing I could think of was that Mali was probably on the 139th parallel which I didn’t bother to check.
    Thanks to Elgar for the good struggle and to Dutch for the review.

  12. We couldn’t complete it and hadn’t spotted the theme that Tim prompted (good idea Tim!). Those plurals are always a contentious issue but as Halcyon says, they can be justified. Years ago Elgar (in his editor role) accepted an IQ of mine which used a ‘mass noun’ according to the ODE but was OK in Chambers – which accepts that almost any word can be pluralised – and it can can’t it? “There are two ‘happinesses’ in your essay and two ‘Malibus’ – you should delete one of each.

    1. Yeah, that way lies madness
      How many Norseses would this rationale need before it stopped sounding credible? One use of Norses is already one too many.

  13. I refused to even look at this offering after the debacle of the Sue Grafton 138
    I got nowhere in 3 hours on that – I was even contemplating an early onset test
    In the 7 toughies between that and this one I did everyone in under an hour with no recourse to google – so the variation in toughness is enormous in my book. Fair enough to have super tough setters but I see Elgar and think I can’t take the disappointment

    1. I guess I got into Elgar puzzles the hard way, having to blog them. Before that, I got nowhere. Now I can do most in almost the same time as other puzzles, though I won’t hesitate to look stuff up. This is not because I’ve had a leap in IQ. It’s simply practice, getting used to the constructs and getting into (and appreciating) the way of thinking. The device here, with pairs of answers that differ only in the inclusion of MALI, is what made the puzzle special for me, rather than the connection to 139 which is cute, but hard to find. As cryptic sue said, as with all ghost themes and nina’s, the puzzle doesn’t depend on them and stands in its own right. It’s just a little extra fun.

      1. Very late Dutch I know but I totally concur. I love Qaos offerings in another place, always a ghost theme but it matters not one iota if you know it. More times than not I have no idea but didn’t stop completing the grid.

  14. Did anyone else waste lot of time trying to work out how to get 139 as a value for a gematria (Hebrew alphanumeric cipher system)? Gematria would have fitted if you only had the first two checking letters (as I did for a long time).

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