Toughie 2450 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2450

Toughie No 2450 by Elgar

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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

As we start the twelfth week of lockdown, I’m sure I’m not the only one to have difficulty in remembering which day of the week it is. There are the odd things that help one remember, and normally we’d know it was Friday if and when the Toughie setter was Elgar. Not this week, as just to add further confusion to our lives, he’s here on a Tuesday, but with a very good reason, as this is his 150th Toughie and today marks the 150th anniversary of the death of one of this country’s most famous authors.

I didn’t think this was as difficult to solve as so many of the previous 149 Elgar Toughies – but certainly no Tuesday Floughie! In the ‘old’ days, we used to add a subtitle to Toughie blogs and if we still did so, I’d have used the solution to 1/5a. Some great clues – I smiled at several of them when the pennies dropped – and what is extra clever about this crossword is the way in which every Across solution from 9a onwards contains the name of one (and sometimes two – 10a, 18a, 20a and 29a) of our author’s characters.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.

Across

1a/5a I didn’t expect this — and with endless Sketches in novel form! (4,3,7)
WHAT THE DICKENS An anagram (in novel form) of AND WITH and SKETCHEs (‘endless’ telling you that you don’t need to include the final S)

The illustration shows a room in the house in Broadstairs which our author used for the home of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield – if you are ever in Kent, do try and visit – and have your photo taken at the same desk. The house is now a small but fascinating museum with the world’s keenest (and most knowledgeable) curator – don’t say you haven’t been warned!!

5a    See 1

9a/31a Hit trendy bar to catch Number One from top singer on stage (5,5)
TRENT DARBY An anagram (hit) of TRENDY BAR plus (to catch) the first letter (number one) from Top

10a    Tail of dog, Spooner tells us, is so long! (6-3)
TOODLE-PIP This old informal interjection meaning goodbye (so long) could be how the Dreaded Reverend might refer to the tail of a particular breed of dog

11a    Go for a shower … (6)
PEPPER An informal term for vigour or life (go) followed by a way of saying a (each)

12a    … I’m annoyed about symbol of power missing by mill (7)
GRINDER A very informal way (3) one might express annoyance goes round a symbol of power missing the letter used to indicate by, for example when giving the measurements of a plank of wood

16a/21a We will quickly sell trading tips for PM in disorder (4,4)
PELL MELL The BRB and I think that this disorder should be hyphenated 4-4. An abbreviated (quickly) way of saying WE WILL plus SELL (from the clue), swapping (trading) their first letters (tips) for a P and an M respectively

18a    Experienced upset spearing rather dainty molluscs (10)
CUTTLEFISH These cephalopod molluscs can be found by inserting a reversal (upset [in an Across clue?!]) of a synonym for experienced into a way of describing something rather dainty

20a    Rupert Bear’s best pal left after evil pet (6,4)
BADGER BILL The abbreviation for Left goes after a synonym for evil and a pet rodent (this one did make me smile – if you’ve ever been bitten by said ‘evil pet’, you’d have been amused at the description too)

21a    See 16

23a    Producer of draught beers, first of which floors leader of men (7)
BELLOWS Replace the first letter (leader) of some men with the first letter of Beers

24a    Conceal two aliens, one with no head (6)
POCKET Two aliens, one from the Starship Enterprise without his first letter (with no head) and the other from the eponymous film so useful to setters of crosswords

29a    Little Jenny‘s pain of separating not entirely unpleasant (4,5)
WREN CHICK The pain of a difficult separation followed by almost all of an informal adjective meaning unpleasant

31a    See 9

32a    Humour of woman dries up (7)
WITHERS Some humour followed by the female possessive pronoun (of woman)

33a    Hunks unfortunately score, letting in own goal (7)
SCROOGE A miserly curmudgeon (hunks – thanks BRB) is an anagram (unfortunately) of SCORE into which is inserted (letting in) the abbreviation for Own Goal

Down

1d    Fibre with a bug (5)
WATAP The abbreviation for With, A (from the clue) and a verb meaning to bug using a concealed listening device combine to give a fibre made from conifer roots used by Native Americans for weaving or as a sewing thread

2d    Absorbed winning 10-2, say, on radio show? (3,2)
ATE UP A homophone (on radio show) of a way of saying that you were winning 10 goals to 2

3d    Rock adder (6)
TOTTER A verb meaning to rock or walk unsteadily or someone who adds things up

4d    Painter first to jump off pier (4)
ETTY Remove the first letter of Jump from a pier

5d    Two complete circles united (3)
DUO A verb meaning to complete ‘circles’ the abbreviation for United

6d    Business getting over big blow — it’s used to strain (8)
COLANDER An abbreviated business goes before (over in a Down clue) an informal term for a heavy blow

7d    Filling a gap, spicy eel pie with TV Times to digest (9)
EXPLETIVE An adjective meaning filling out, for example added merely to fill up (a line of verse) – an anagram (spicy) of EEL PIE with TV and the letter used to mean ‘times’ in multiplication sums

8d    Record held by Peter for one branch of the family (4)
SEPT A extended-play record held by the abbreviation for a canonised person such as Peter (for one)

13d    Disconcert concert-master (6)
RATTLE A verb meaning to disconcert or a famous musical conductor (concert-master)

14d    Cruciverbalists put up notice that hurt bright one appearing through mist? (6)
SUNBOW A reversal (put up in a Down clue) of the way we cruciverbalists might refer to ourselves, the [Latin] abbreviation meaning to notice, and an expression of pain (that hurt)

15d    Pulse youth turned up to check close to death (4)
DHAL A reversal (turned up in a Down clue) of a youth into which is inserted (to check) the ‘close’ or last letter of deatH

16d    Among them The Spaniards counter at opening serving brews up …? (4)
PUBS The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead is an example (among them) of the solution. A reversal (counter) of UP (from the clue) and the openings of Serving and Brews

17d    … staying in one, maybe old men get sozzled (9)
LODGEMENT An anagram (sozzled) of OLD MEN GET – if the old men took temporary accommodation in a 16d, they might well get sozzled!

19d    WW1 admiral GI found outside Cell 1 agitated (8)
JELLICOE A name quite often added to GI when referring to a US soldier goes round (found outside) an anagram (agitated) of CELLI

22d    Stranger’s after fine food (6)
FODDER Another way of saying stranger goes after the abbreviation for Fine

25d    A castle king’s set up on tableland (5)
KAROO Take a way that someone other than Rabbit Dave might refer to A ‘castle’ in chess and move the abbreviation for King from the bottom to the top to get a high inland pastoral tableland in South Africa

26d    Old solver’s got the setter a little shrub! (5)
THYME An old-fashioned way of saying ‘you’ (the solver) followed by the way Elgar would refer to himself

27d    Following on: wicket, single, wicket — what I’m about to text may not matter (1,1,1,1)
FWIW Text speak – the abbreviation for Following goes on (top of in a Down clue) the cricket abbreviations for Wicket, Single and Wicket

28d    Runners get amorous when cycling (4)
SKIS Cycle the last letter of a verb meaning to get amorous in a particular way to the front of the word

30d    Passport and driving licence? They are the basics for drive (3)
IDS An abbreviated way of referring to forms of identification such as a passport or driving licence can also mean the unconscious mass of primitive energies from which come instincts for the gratification of basic desires (drive)

Just in case anyone is interested: the characters come from the following works:

9 TRENT The Old Curiosity Shop10 TOODLE Our Mutual FriendPIP Great Expectations11 PEPPER Great Expectations; 12 GRINDER The Old Curiosity Shop16 PELL Pickwick Papers; 18 CUTTLE Dombey & SonFISH The Chimes; 20 BADGER Bleak HouseBILL Oliver TwistMartin ChuzzlewitSketches by Boz; 21 MELL David Copperfield; 23 BELLOWS Little Dorrit; 24 POCKET Great Expectations;  29 WREN Our Mutual Friend CHICK Dombey & Son31 DARBY Bleak House; 32 WITHERS Dombey & Son33 SCROOGE A Christmas Carol.

Thank you to Elgar for another great and most enjoyable Toughie. Thanks also to Miffypops who has swapped blogging days with me so that I can meet up (socially distancing, naturally) with some of my old work colleagues on Thursday morning, when I’d normally be preparing the blog of that day’s Toughie.

34 comments on “Toughie 2450
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  1. Another tour de force from Elgar – thanks to him and CS.
    I recognised many (but by no means all) of the relevant names in the grid and I needed to confirm the 1d fibre and the 33a hunks (though both answers were gettable from the wordplay).
    My ticks went to 20a, 24a, 29a and 22d.

  2. I had thought that Elgar on a Tuesday perhaps meant that he had contrived to produce a puzzle we could all manage but, having seen the rating from CS and the fact that there’s a very specific reason for it appearing today, I think it unlikely!

    1. Apart from 1a and 31a, there’s no need to notice or indeed know anything about the theme to solve the puzzle. Now if only I’d had a £l for every time……..

  3. For once I got the theme right away from the fairly straightforward1/5a -but that didn’t help much in solving, the lower half especially. Granted not as bad as the Friday Elgars but still a stiff challenge.
    Not speaking text I didn’t get 27d but I see where it comes from [thanks CS]. 29a is a bit of a “blue pullover” solution but I did chuckle at 10a, the evil pet in 20a and the cleverness of 5d.
    I think there’s a tad more to 4d CS – the letter to remove is the first to Jump as well as the first letter of “pier”.

    Thanks for the blog/explanations and thanks to a relatively fluffy Elgar.

    1. re 4d that’s what I meant to put – I can show you my annotated solved grid if you like. In my defence, I had been up since crack of dawn (or what felt like crack of dawn) to make sure I could get it sorted in time.

      Having once been bitten by the pet in 20a, I did laugh at the ‘evil’ bit of the clue!

      1. Yes, they do have big, sharp teeth. The other thing I remember about my nephew’s specimens [tho it was a while ago now] is that the longer you allow them to run around on the carpet the faster they get and the harder it is to catch the little blighters to return them to their house.

  4. As enjoyable as it was, today’s cryptic didn’t sate my recent descent back to addiction. So I turned to the toughie, which didn’t disappoint.

    1a was clearly not ‘The Spanish Inquisition’ but I got the hang of it and before long I was left with half a dozen, which took longer than the rest put together. (Isn’t 33 quite a lot of clues?)

    Wasn’t confident about 11a, 16a, 29a, 27d or 30d. Used to live not far from 16d.

    Liked 20a, 2d and 26d and my favourite was 10a – I know Spoonerisms are not universally admired, but the answer itself is quite fun on its own.

    Incidentally, I visited Broadstairs not long ago and having been told by the lady in the tourist kiosk that as a promotion entry to all museums was free that day with a brochure, I walked into the nearby said museum past the unattended paydesk. But I hadn’t got far before I was collared, marched back to the kiosk where myself, the tourist lady and several others were berated for five minutes or so by the curator. Apparently that museum was one of the few attractions still charging that day. I didn’t have the nerve to return.

    Thanks to Elgar and cs – I’m encouraged that she gave this a 4* rating. Presumably they can’t get much harder! :D

  5. I too thought we were in for a slightly more benevolent Elgar on a Tuesday. 1/5a leapt to mind without resort to checking the anagram and quite a few of the author’s characters came as well but I ground to a halt and resorted to a hint or “ate”.
    I have met Elgar at a few of his birthday bashes where he almost always sports a shirt from his favourite brew/ery (Fullers ESB)
    I was convinced that Fullers was going to be the answer to 23a right up until it no longer fit the checkers gleaned from CS’s excellent hints.
    I did like the WW1 admiral and Rupert’s friend but mainly because I managed to solve them unaided. A special mention to 4d a local painter whose statue I walk past most days.
    Thanks to CS and Elgar hopefully Friday’s toughie will be fluffy!

  6. This was a DNF for me but when I looked at the parsing everything made sense, I had to goggle the writer but nevertheless it was a pleasant semi solve DNF for me.

    Thank you to Cryptic Sue and Elgar.

    TTFN

  7. I couldn’t understand why I was making such heavy weather with this until I turned to bigdave’s website and saw who the setter was . . . . . . It turned out that there were about eight or ten definitions or parts of the word play that I did not know (the singer in 9/31a, the tableland in 25d, the text speak in 27d, etc. etc.) Some I was able to unravel, but others not. I threw in the towel with almost two thirds completed, but without knowing the historical significance of the day, or how it applied to the puzzle, and I needed crypticsue’s review to realize the wonderful cleverness of it all. As usual with an Elgar puzzle, my disappointment in not being able to do better, or to find and appreciate the hidden cleverness, by far outweighs the pleasure and satisfaction of the parts that I could complete. I know how deeply revered Elgar is, but I’m afraid he is back on top of my do-not-attempt list. Thanks to him regardless, and to crypticsue.

  8. Matter of taste, I know, but I really didn’t enjoy this one. Far too much GK – who knew The Spaniards refers to what it does? Red Lion, ok, but… And I must admit my ignorance of 9/31, 1d, 8, & 25. Perhaps I need a broader education. 4*/1*. Thanks Elgar & CS, whose help I needed to parse not a few.

  9. Ignorance is bliss. I’ve been blogging the Toughie every other Tuesday to give Big Dave a break when all of a sudden young CrypticSue asked me if I wanted a get out of gaol card for free, no charge whatsoever. Well what she actually said was “Wanna swap Tuesday for Thursday? It’ll be a Beam” A Beam Toughie I can handle. Elgar, I’m not so sure of. So CrypticSue got today’s Elgar and I stood on the end of a pneumatic drill breaking concrete. I’ve got four in after the first run through and I’ve spotted a writer at 5 across so all is not lost. Roll on Thursday. Ta to all.

    1. Your life is one round of excitement! I was wrong about it being a Beam, you’ve got a Micawber instead, and everyone should blog at least one Micawber in their career. Thanks again for swapping.

  10. Many thanks Elgar for highlighting this anniversary and CS for a great blog

    Nice to have a week off! Though it did confuse my temporal awareness – not without a degree of panic. Some of this went in quicker than usual but I didn’t know the disorder, and I didn’t recognise The Spanish as a pub in the Pickwick Papers, having never read that (I’m afraid that my school experience of Tale of Two Cities didn’t make me rush out and buy the rest). Another great grid fill.

    After seeing 11a/12a I started looking for salt shakers etc. Some new words including 14d. I’d have thought that would be a mistbow, but I guess I must have always said rainbow, even if it wasn’t raining.

    Fun seeing (Terrence) Trent D’Arby, I did think he was pretty good at first. What ever happened to him? Oh, I see he changed his name to Sanada Maitreya – there’s a quiz question I would have missed.

    All great stuff

    1. A Tale of Two Cities is the only one I’ve read, I’m ashamed to say, as I have no excuse for not reading the others.
      I bought the complete set about 50 years ago from Heron Books, and all but one of them will still be in pristine condition.

  11. Well, I was absolutely flattened by this extraordinarily rich Elgar. I did manage to solve nine of the clues unaided, but missed the tribute to Britain’s greatest author, whose novels I taught for most of four decades at three different colleges in America, and so I should have been more savvy than I was. There were simply too many GK allusions that I did not know, nor did googling help me much. So a respectful thank you to crypticsue for the enlightenment and to Elgar for the Experience!

  12. Elgar on a Tuesday? Just as impossible as Elgar on a Friday! Managed a couple of clues and then realised why the rest was impenetrable. He could at least have got Rupert’s friend right!!

  13. The trouble with clues like 2d is that pronunciations can vary. I pronounce ate as et, not eight. But I suppose I have heard the latter often enough.

  14. Elgar on a Tuesday! The first four words of 1 & 5a sum that up. Still I managed to finish it with a bit of help from BRB and the internet.

  15. It all made sense eventually.
    This is the only crossword I was able to tackle this week so far, being back at work.
    Noticed the theme as the first line came readily.
    Surprised to read that hunks was synonym to scrooge.
    The spelling of 16/21 was new to me.
    Loved the bad gerbil in 20a.
    Thanks to Elgar for the toughie and to CS for the review.

  16. Just like Stan, this one too hard for me. Got a few right though and found it ironic that one of those was ‘What the Dickens ‘

  17. Beaten by this, but clever though it is, it is very verbose. A trait Elgar does not need to spread difficulty. Coupled with obscurities (1d, 4d, 8d, 25d I’ve not come across) even if a couple were getable bung ins, so definitely not 4*! And Elgars on a Tuesday ruins the week. They take so long to deal with, I’m well behind on toughies.

  18. I didn’t get to start this till Friday, but it was well worth the wait, as I always enjoy Elgar in his various guises. In this instance the theme was beyond me, as my knowledge of Dickens is minimal, but that did’t detract from the enjoyment.

    Might I add a minor correction to 26D? ‘Thy’ is an old way of saying “solver’s”, solver would be “thou”. And while old, it is still not extinct, still being in use in rural Cheshire when I last lived there in the 1990s.

    Thanks Elgar and CS.

  19. I was just tidying up all the paper at the side of my chair, and I came across this puzzle, half finished. I’ve usually nothing much to do on a Sunday unless the Inquisitor is holding out ( which it wasn’t), so I carried on with it. Believe it or not, finished it, all correct and all parsed, my first ever Elgar!

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