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Toughie 2457

Toughie No 2457 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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


This is Elgar’s 151st Telegraph Toughie. There is a Nina, one part of which is fairly obvious. What is not so obvious is that this is a very old one, and if the grid is a map of England you can see how it travels from a place in the south to a place in the north via a place in the middle. Of course, names were different then. There is no direct relevance to 151, Elgar tells me, it’s just that he stumbled across this while looking at the A151

As usual, definitions are underlined. The hints aim to guide you through the wordplay, and you can reveal the answers if you like by clicking on the Stoat in 7d buttons. Please leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you thought of the puzzle


1a    Player doing a stretch by the book (6,5)
INSIDE RIGHT: A word meaning ‘doing a stretch’ in prison and a word meaning correct, or by the book

9a    Habit of the Queen, perhaps, to take a turn loading twelve-bores (4)
ROBE: Reverse hidden (to take a turn loading … )

10a    This baker is to start new project (5,6)
BREAK GROUND: A reverse anagram. BAKER may be cryptically described by the answer, where the second word is an anagram indicator

11a    Cut short year’s entry for a bit of old India (4)
ANNA: Remove the last letter (cut short) from a word meaning year’s entry

14a    Top actors Rickman and Firth getting fat (7)
LANOLIN: Remove the first letters (top) from the first names of actors Rickman and Firth

16a    Glam rockers back at top of class; we’re at back! (7)
DUMBEST: A reversal (back) of a glam-rock band famous for a 1974 Christmas song, and a superlative meaning top of class. The definition alludes to the surface classroom. When I was a kid, a neighbour proudly told me that of the three idiots in the class, he was the smartest. Guess where he sat.

17a    Pass over stretch of canal (5)
COLON: Not that kind of canal. A mountain pass and a short word meaning over

18a    From which ricocheted the outer shot? (4)
OCHE: An all-in-one hidden. Think darts. The outer part of RICOCHETED is shot

19a    Pastry case – it’s missing: I go after Joel (4)
AMOS: A triangular savoury pastry (my son has some in the oven right now, not that that’s going to help you) without the outer letters (case – it’s missing, where also it = SA!). The definition refers to books in the bible

20a    A small part to play – ‘Tra-la’ with this song (5)
PSALM: A SMALL PART forms an anagram (to play) of TRA-LA + [the answer]. Did anyone else enter Layla? (part+LAYLA) = (tra-la +play)? No? Just me then

22a     Intelligence scores dismal, approaching zero, skew (7)
OBLIQUE: A 2-letter abbreviation meaning intelligence cuts into (scores) a word meaning dismal or sad, behind (approaching) the letter that looks like zero

23a    Geneticist driving pupil longing to control second floor (7)
LYSENKO: The letter denoting a driving pupil, a 3-letter longing that contains (to control) the abbreviation for second, and to floor in boxing

24a    Ancient Rimer’s associates croaked (4)
CREW: A word for people working on a ship, i.e., the associates of the ancient person narrating Coleridge’s famous Rime.

28a    Maximise efforts to serve a mug each (2,3,3,3)
DO ALL ONE CAN: Taking the last word as a noun, the answer could mean give everyone a mug. This hint should stop you bunging in GO ALL OUT FOR, as I did, leaving the wordplay utterly unexplained and making 26d & 27d near impossible

29a    Like four-and-twenty blackbirds? And magpies! (4)
PIED: The answer describes both the fate of 24 blackbirds and the colouring of magpies

30a    Tinned soup, initially cold, through action got intensely hot (11)
INCANDESCED: A (2,3) phrase meaning tinned, then the first letter (initially) of soup plus the abbreviation for cold goes inside (through) a word meaning action


2d    Nettle and grass (4)
NARK: Two meanings, to annoy and to inform

3d    One is a leader in Mosque (4)
IMAM: A first-person version (1’1) of ‘one is’, A from the clue and the first letter (leader) in Mosque (4)

4d     Heading to university for party in his city centre, doge of good breeding (7)
EUGENIC: In DOGE from the clue, replace a 2-letter party with the first letter (heading) to university, then put the whole lot inside the centre 4 letters of his city (remembering that a doge is a functionary of a 6-letter Italian city VENICE)


5d    Flavour of the month, having nailed business image (4)
ICON:     A 2-letter word that means flavour of the month or popular contains (having nailed) an abbreviation for business

6d    Arm and leg finally received by Attila? (7)
HANDGUN: AND from the clue plus the last letter (finally) of leg go inside (received by) a kind of person exemplified by Attila (question mark indicates definition-by-example)

7d    Frustrate plot the writer’s kept hidden? (11)
COUNTERMINE: The writer’s, expressed as a first-person possessive pronoun, is kept hidden, as in a shop, by placing it under the *******

8d    After a foul place to go for kicks (7,4)
PENALTY SPOT: A cryptic definition where the meaning we are looking for becomes apparent if you place a comma after the third word

12d    One’s to produce picture internally, for first of stars contracted influenza (11)
FLUOROSCOPE: Replace the first letter of your astrological stars with a contracted form of influenza

13d    Surprising end result chap secured in the Open (11)
UNSHELTERED: An anagram (surprising) of END RESULT contains (secured) a chap expressed as a male pronoun

15d    Injury writ large after this vox pop escalated (5)
NOISE: An injury is written if you place the abbreviation for large after [the answer] and then reverse it (escalated). I hadn’t realised that ‘writ large’ is a thing, meaning written in large capitals, i.e., made very obvious (Chambers)

16d    Work load then left for me? (2-3)
DO-ALL: Anagrammatise (work) LOAD, then add the abbreviation for left

20d    Half-inch nail only at intervals runs all the way to the top (7)
PURLOIN: The odd letters (at intervals) of nail only, the abbreviation for runs, and a 2-letter word that can mean ‘all the way’ (definition 26 in Chambers), all reversed (to the top). The definition is Cockney rhyming slang for steal

21d    ‘Like some marrow?‘, I say – look at that interrupting breakfast celebration (7)
MYELOID: A 2-letter interjection meaning ‘I say’, then a 2-letter interjection meaning ‘look at that’ goes inside (interrupting) a Muslim “break-fast” celebration

25d    Arm section to infiltrate all-powerful nation (4)
ULNA: Hidden (to infiltrate … )

26d    One will depart parish and use false god (4)
ZEUS: ONE from the clue is omitted from (will depart) a 4-letter word meaning district or parish, plus an anagram (false) of USE

27d    Is this opened by White Rabbit and Hare, say, limping? (4)
GAME: Three meanings, the first to do with chess, the second with food, the third lame

I particularly liked the top actors (14a), tra-la (20a) and the poor blackbirds (29a). Which clues were your favourites?



21 comments on “Toughie 2457

  1. The first nine Across clues were, for me anyway, that expression we don’t use any more. I was just thinking ‘who are you and what have you done with Elgar’ when the battle with the bottom half of the crossword started. I did notice the ‘stoat’ Nina and checked the 151 connection (although once again you didn’t need to know there was a theme based on a number in order to solve this enjoyable proper Toughie.

    Thanks to Elgar for the nice brain-stretching and to Dutch for the blog

  2. Another great head-scratcher from Elgar – thanks to him and to Dutch.

    I liked the 9a surface because I remember an old photo of HM helping to reload the guns at a ‘shoot’ so that the slaughtering could continue without interruption.

    The clues I liked best were 1a, 14a, 7d (‘kept hidden’ – brilliant) and 21d (I loved the ‘breakfast celebration’).

  3. Hello Dutch.
    As I am quite new to this can you please explain‘Nina’ to me?

      1. the first 2 words can mean give each or serve each, as in ** *** breakfast as in ** breakfast for ***, and the last two words mean a drinking-vessel

    1. a Nina is a hidden message. Have a look at FAQ 31.

      Elgar has been working his puzzle number into a nina or theme for a while

      They can be surprisingly difficult to see, and this may be one of the harder ones. The “obvious” bit I referred to is row 11. The rest is trickier, but I will reveal all a bit later on.

  4. Many thanks, Dutch. I very much enjoyed reading through your review even though it has to be said that, even with the answers in front of me, I was totally lost where much of it was concerned! Elgar remains something of a closed book for me but I certainly admire the brain power of those of you who manage to appreciate his work.

  5. Knowing an Elgar is an acquired taste and quite beyond me, I have just gone through the hints. As I thought, I was really flummoxed especially as there is no hint for 6d. At a guess I’d say “handgun”?

  6. OK, the Nina:

    As Elgar was, for some reason, looking at the A151, he noticed it crossed a Roman Road. This is described by the last 6 letters in 7d and row 11: ERMINE STREET, which goes from LONDINIUM (London) in the south (hidden in rows 13 and 14) to EBORACUM (York) in the North (hidden backwards in row 2), via LINDUM COLONIA (Lincoln) in the middle (hidden in the centre, in rows 6,7,8).

    did everyone find that?

  7. Very Elgar. Clues from the sublime to the ridiculous. Ignoring the latter, 14a is lovely, 21d is the wittiest clue for weeks [if one has some biological knowledge] and 7d is lovely, even though I was fixated on countermand for far too long, preventing me from seeing the under the counter reference and the weasel.
    I thought Ermine Street was the A15 and finished in Winteringham, N. Lincs, where the best restaurant in England used to be – so that didn’t help.

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch

  8. Thought at long last I was going to complete an Elgar but failed at the very end with LAME in 27d. Also failed to spot the nina apart from STREET even after going back to look for it.

    1. 27d was my last one in, pretty hard with the *A*E checkers (+M if you had seen the nina by then, which I hadn’t). Why would Elgar use white rabbit? is what suggested the split into separate definitions to me, which led to a unique answer

  9. We actually managed to complete it and found it not quite at the usual Elgar Friday Toughie level but we didn’t get the nina (and probably should have done as we live up there too). Thanks to Dutch and Elgar.

  10. this was way beyond my capabilities so i admire those who managed to solve the puzzle & the nina. thanks to elgar & to dutch (and i thank him also for the printing tip relating to a puzzle in the ft).

  11. Late to the party (again) I know, but I only started this one this morning (Saturday). What an eye-opener. Many thanks to Dutch for the half dozen or so hints I needed; never heard of the 23a chappie, but managed to work him out after revealing 7d, a new word for me. Agree with 5*/5* and definitely 5 more for the Nina. Elgar – what a brain. How do you sleep at night?

  12. A bit too tough for me to really enjoy. i got about a dozen answers unaided and for the rest i needed your guidance Dutch for which many thanks..Even then I could not get 28a one can does not equal a mug as far as I am concerned! M favorite was 29a mainly because i solved it straight away.

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