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Toughie 2405

Toughie No 2405 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Some excellent misdirection here. There something about solving Elgar clues after a bit of a battle that is quite ecstatic. This is Elgar’s 145th Telegraph toughie and as usual this is related to a theme – the relevant grid entries are mentioned in the clues.

The definitions are underlined. The hints attempt to explain the wordplay, and you can reveal the answers by clicking on the 17a 27a 1d 16a buttons. Please leave a comment to let us know what you thought and how you got on


7a    Spanish and Estonian composers go to pieces! (4,5)
FALL APART: A 5-letter Spanish composer and a 4-letter Estonian composer

8a    see 21a

10a    16 into an eccentric (6)
NATION: An anagram (eccentric) of INTO AN

11a    1 perhaps caught unpopular person out? (8)
WATERWAY: A homophone (caught) of a slang term for a disliked person plus a word meaning out or not at home (WART AWAY)

12a    16 corners (6)
ANGLES: Two meanings, the first being a people

14a    see 28a

16a    see 21a

17a/23d     Instrument, an organ newly built, keeping diameter constant (5,5)
GRAND PIANO: An anagram (newly built) of AN ORGAN contains (keeping) the abbreviation for diameter and the constant that relates that to circumference

18a    1 boat ultimately something to chew over (4)
DUCT: A reversal (over) of the last letter (ultimately) of boat plus what a cow chews. Simple but oh-so-effective misdirection, for me anyway. Took me ages to realise boat was not part of the definition

19a    Down which East End scamperer descends to form area for growth? (6)
AREOLE: This scamperer is an animal that sleeps in a form. Coming from the East End, it would not use the H’s of the (4,4) hARE hOLE down which it descends to get there. (And, this sounds like HAIR HOLE, which aptly describes the defined botanical depression in a cactus! – see Collins and Chambers)

21a/8a/16a    Urge to kiss and cuddle a dancer, worried about competition (3-3-5,4)
EGG-AND-SPOON RACE: A 3-letter word meaning to urge, then a word meaning to kiss and cuddle is covered by (about) an anagram (worried) of A DANCER

24a    Risk about a 17 Across (8)
IMPERIAL: A verb meaning to risk contains (about) A from the clue


26a/27a    Reduction in flexible means to save (6,5)
CREDIT UNION: An anagram (flexible) of REDUCTION IN

28a/14a    17 Across 23 brought in at home issuing fifth note with fantastic sound (1,8,6)
A THOUSAND POUNDS: The abbreviation for 23d goes inside (brought in) AT from the clue, a 5-letter word for home without the final E (issuing fifth note), another word for with, and an anagram (fantastic) of SOUND. I spent ages thinking ’17 Across’ indicated only the second word and the definition had to be elsewhere


1d    see 3d

2d    Every man Jack freezes outside a northern 27 … (8)
ALLIANCE: A (3,3) phrase to suggest ‘every man Jack freezes’ goes outside both A from the clue and the abbreviation for Northern

3d/1d    … wheel them around wedding venue’s back passage (6,5)
SPINAL CANAL: Another verb for wheel, then the ‘them’ (every man Jack) from the previous clue, as indicated by the ellipsis, goes around a 4-letter biblical wedding location where water was turned into wine

4d/25d    Take a chance? Prolific sketcher will! (4,4)
DRAW LOTS: Two interpretations, the first might be in a tombola

5d    Glimpse exposed finger wound at printing-house (6)
APERCU: A (5,3) stupidly-painful finger wound you might incur at a printing-house, without the first and last letter (exposed). Argh, this took me ages because I so wanted AP to be the printing/publishing house – ironically Elgar likely added that bit to make it easier!

6d    Nervelessness fighting under commander having to take risks (9)
COWARDICE: Nerve as in courage. A 3-letter noun meaning fighting goes under the abbreviation for commander, then a verb meaning to take risks or gamble.

9d    Like a fool sets about papers? (6)
STUPID: Reversal (about) of a verb meaning sets, then the abbreviation for some papers that show who you are

13d    16 between 10s was to probe this Special One (5)
SPACE: The 2-letter abbreviation for special and another word for one (e.g., in playing cards)

15d    In springtime, well-organised individual will miss European 27 (9)
MATRIMONY: In a month in the Spring, we have a word meaning well-orgainised or neat plus a word meaning individual without (will miss) the abbreviation for European

17d    Rising smoke envelops pasture of northern 16 (6)
GAELIC: The reversal (rising, in a down clue) of something you smoke containing (envelops) a 3-letter pasture

18d    Hamlet perhaps retains opening for scout to employ ballerina (8)
DANSEUSE: A European exemplified by the character Hamlet contains (retains) the first letter (opening) for scout, plus a verb meaning to employ

20d    Moon, after removing belt, stag night’s designated driver? (6)
OBERON: A (5,3) phrase describing the designated driver in a stag night, say (SOBER ONE), without the first and last letters (after removing belt)

22d    Set up namely for one to catch fine lizards (6)
GECKOS: A reversal (set up) of the Latin abbreviation for scilicet or namely plus the abbreviation of for one or for example contains (to catch) a 2-letter informal word for fine

23d    see 17a

25d     see 4d

A cleverly constructed puzzle, with a mini-theme for each of the four key words. Plenty to like. I groaned when I finally saw the homophone at 11a. I liked 5d when I finally parsed it. The simple 4d/25d was very pleasing. My favourite though is 18d, since I spent far too long looking for a canal boat.

Theme: There is a 145-mile ultramarathon between Birmingham and London called the 17a 27a 1d 16a

30 comments on “Toughie 2405

  1. Brilliant as ever – I did mutter a bit when I saw all those ‘see xx across’ clues and it took a long while to get going – my first one in was 18d!

    A right proper beast of a Toughie that left me with a big smile on my face – particularly when I ‘finally’ realised what was going on in 5d. Too hard to pick a single favourite so I won’t.

    I didn’t have any idea about the theme and didn’t bother to go looking for links to 145 either. As I keep saying every time Elgar appears IT ISN’T NECESSARY TO KNOW/SPOT THE THEME TO SOLVE THE CROSSWORD – and, yes, I am shouting!

    Thanks to Elgar and Dtuch

  2. I enjoyed this a great deal (in spite of the abundance of clues referencing other clues which usually annoys me). I was held up finally in the SW corner by 19a and 20d which took me about as long as the rest of the puzzle.
    My ticks went to 18a, 28/14a and 3/1d all of which had well-disguised definitions.
    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  3. I thought this one would see out my self isolation, but completed all eventually. I needed Dutch to parse a few, many thanks. I always thought that apercu was the past participle so the definition would be glimpsed. I read nervelessness as being quite the opposite of cowardice, I certainly need this enforced isolation to brush up my English.

  4. Didn’t know where to start with all these cross references but the wedding venue was the first thing I pencilled in although I looked for another part of the body for the back passage!
    Really enjoyed the solve and managed to parse everything apart from 5d which was my only bung in.
    Thanks to Elgar for the super crossword and to Dutch for the review.

  5. Brilliant and, for me, achieved all apart from 5d and 19a. Thanks for the explanation Dutch. I suppose I may have got 5d one day but never in a month of Sunday’s for 19a; I can’t imagine many people will have the two words even lodged in the very remote memory cells. 20d, 7a and 11a were bung ins that were accepted.

    I’ll go for 28/14a as my star clue just above loads of others.

    Many thanks to Elgar for such a great crossword and Dutch for your guidance.

    P.S. to CS – I know one doesn’t need to know the theme to solve Elgar, but it’s nice to know particularly, as with today, where there seem to be two themes in a sense both derived from the 145, if you see what I mean.

    Successful trip to my local shops yesterday so the fridges and freezer, dry goods, medications are well stocked. Just need some more tissues etc. What the hell are the panic buyers doing with all of them?!

    Stay safe everyone.

    1. Oops you are of course right as usual Dutch – there are four elements to the theme. Stupid me. I should have read your comment at the end first.

  6. Very pleased that Dutch gave this ***** for difficulty. I rarely venture into ‘Toughie’ land so was very pleased to complete all but the SW corner (even if there was a little electronic help on the way). Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch for explaining the parsing of a number of clues and for the hints in the SW.

  7. This is the third Toughie in a row that the SW corner has caused more trouble than the other three corners combined. The cactus part and the Estonian composer were the only unknowns to me which is mighty unusual in an Elgar puzzle. I have only heard of the Spanish composer referred to as “De *****” which did not help – I have never understood when such little words are part of the surname or not – I would not look for Beethoven under “van”.
    I was most upset to find, on reading the blog, that I had missed 26/27a being an anagram – “flexible” is not exactly an obscure indicator! Worse than missing a Ray T lurker! That meant I struggled to get the second word and had “slips” for a while as it has some connection with “reduction”. The parsing of 11a and 5d eluded me.
    Thanks to Elgar for a tough Toughie and for Dutch’s explanations to a few clues

    1. flexible may be an obvious anagram indicator, but it is artfully disguised in the surface – took me a while to see it

  8. Satisfied to have solved it. But I needed the blog to parse 19 and 20.

    A proper Friday Toughie. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch

  9. Great puzzle, but I couldn’t help but be irritated by all the cross-references
    The 145 passed me by too, as usual; think the last one I actually got was 118 which was a Nina
    Thanks to all

  10. Well that was a proper toughie ! and was a joint solve with Mrs B, I’m pleased that Dutch gave it a ***** difficulty and enjoyment rating .
    As well as the difficult grid, and the cross referencing, it was bound to take a while to solve ,not withstanding the parsing of the clues.
    Anyway great satisfaction on the completion.
    7a was a favourite with 5d.
    I feel like a beer-if only I could go out!

  11. I gave up some time ago on trying to solve Elgar’s puzzles but, as always, I came in to read Dutch’s decryption and marvel at his ability to justify everything.
    Many thanks, Dutch, I doff my cap to you!

  12. That was a real battle. I lost. Needed electronic help for 7a and 19a,and Dutch’s hints to parse 11a, 1&3d, 20d and 22d (it was the sc that got me)
    Does anyone else share my view that the clue in 6d indicates the opposite to the answer ?
    My brain hurts.
    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch

    1. Nerveless appears to be one of those words which can mean one thing and its opposite. The Free Dictionary defines it as:
      1. Lacking strength or energy; spiritless; weak.
      2. Lacking courage; cowardly.
      3. Calm and controlled in trying circumstances; cool.

    2. Puzzled me too, but on consulting Collins, it appears to reverse its (UK) meaning when used in the USA!
      Akin to “I couldn’t care less” becoming “I could care less” in the USA perhaps.
      What do others think?

  13. Pleased I got as far as I did, as Fridays generally prove too tough for me, and like others, I dislike multiple cross-references and have never yet spotted a theme.
    Fortunately 7a and 21a got me off to a quick start, but then I struggled, eventually filling in all bar 19a and 5d, albeit many were (correct) guesses that I needed Dutch to parse for me.
    Relieved to see it rated as 5* for difficulty.
    Many thanks to Elgar and Dutch for helping to pass another day in isolation

  14. Top quality fom Elgar as always, and I may be in a minority, but as with Araucaria, the cross referencing almost provides a treasure hunt to work your way through.

    Lots of excellent stuff as usual.

    Anyone missing our old Sunday setter should hurtle over to the Guardian where Brian G aka Brendan has a lovely puzzle.

    1. Hello Tilsit – yes, but Mr Greer isn’t wearing his Virgilius hat over there, that’s for sure!

    1. That made me laugh – couldn’t agree more – but well done to you for persevering, I gave up long ago!

  15. On first inspection I almost gave up and the fact that my post is dated Saturday confirms the difficulty rating. Got there in the end and also agree with the assessment of enjoyment. Loved it.

  16. Just started this tonight, and very nearly completed it, but due to lack of time (I had to get to bed) I gave up with just 15d and the first half of 19a to get. Failed to parse 5d and 11a.
    Brilliant as usual from JH.

  17. Dear Dutch , Thank you for your erudite explanations. I marvel at how you come up with them.
    Like many who have e-mailed above the SW corner proved to be the most difficult. and I failed on 19a never having heard the word before and not being a botanist. I marvelled at your explanation which I would never have arrived at in a month of Sundays.
    This is one of the best results that I have achieved with an Elgar so thanks to him as well. my favourite was 21a Like many I failed to parse 5d 11a and 20d.

  18. Great puzzle, needed help for 2 and parsing for 2, but may I point out (with a touch of sour grapes) that, although their smaller relatives do, ‘ares never go down ‘oles?

    1. Quite! Their form is sculpted in long grass. Wouldn’t say they scamper either! Thanks to Dutch for putting me out of my misery on this one and on the parsing of 11a, and to Elgar for an otherwise most enjoyable puzzle.

  19. I’ve had this Elgar puzzle on the table since last Friday – I’ve picked it up and put it down several times over the past week, refusing to put the paper out for recycling until I’d completed it at some stage of this enforced ‘staying at home’. Today’s the day – yaaaaaay – I have finished it! Okay I needed to check the hints a few times to parse some and I had to cheat to get a couple more, but it’s my best effort to date with this setter’s offerings for several years. Now to lie down in a darkened room with a wet towel over my head whilst my brain recovers. Thanks to Dutch for much enlightenment and to Elgar for the ‘test’ in the first place. Stay safe all you fellow cruciverbalists out there – keep healthy.

  20. Found this crossword in papers given to me for lighting the fire.
    I always find Elgar a challenge and reminds me of my late mother who always did the toughie but would ponder for days over Elgar.
    I managed it all except 19a and 20d.
    Thanks for your explanations.
    During lockdown I have plenty of time to wrack my brain.
    Loved the challenge.

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