Toughie 2473 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2473

Toughie No 2473 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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


This is Elgar’s 153rd Telegraph Toughie. You’ll notice a theme with a pattern of clues that begin ‘I ***** her’ (1,5,3), as a reference to this number. However, there is a little more going on than most of us could have known, in that this coming Thursday (23rd) is a special anniversary (see 7d’s reference to Ten & Tin) for Elgar and Jane Teather (Jetdoc) – and this puzzle is for her. I trust she (1,5,3) will be thrilled

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 nothing to see here buttons. Please leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you thought of the puzzle


1a    Minus the trimmings, SW treats served in a shoe? We’ll provide the ticket (5,4)
DREAM TEAM: Take (5,4) treats in the SW, remove the outer letters (minus the trimmings) and put inside (served in) an abbreviation for a trendy shoe/boot

8/20a    I doubt her fan letters bothered 25 26a! (3,7,3,6)
THE TROUBLE AND STRIFE: An anagram (bothered) of I DOUBT HER FAN LETTERS. Note the clever thematic ‘I doubt her’ (1,5,3) at the start of the anagram fodder

11a    In one type of music, you must have the heart to debar plucked instrument (5)
REBAB: In a 2-letter abbreviation for a type of music, you must have the central letters (heart) to debar

12a    Manufacture pork pies for one entering river port (5)
LIEGE: A 3-letter verb meaning ‘to manufacture pork pies’ into which goes (entering) a Latin abbreviation meaning ‘for one’ or ‘for instance’

13a    What we said to detectives in retreat (5)
DICTA: A reversal of a preposition that can mean ‘to’ and an abbreviation for detectives

16a    Tell someone’s alter ego from yours at first sight (6)
NOTIFY: Someone’s alter ego would not be themselves, and accordingly they could describe it as “(3-1)”, which, to my surprise, is an entry in Chambers – followed by the first letters (at first sight) of From Yours

17a see 23d

18a    Pacific atoll that a fun-run takes in (5)
ATAFU: Hidden (… takes in)

19a see 23d

20a see 8a

21a    Use it to apprehend fences of narcotics? (5)
SENSE: Apprehend appears to be used in more than one [ANSWER] here. The Chambers definition of apprehend uses ‘it’ [ANSWER]. The whole clue as a definition does too. And in the wordplay, one way to [ANSWER] apprehends the outer letters (fences) of narcotics

24a    Islamic man I see cutting border (5)
RAHIM: An exclamation meaning ‘I see!’ goes inside (cutting) another word for border

26a see 25d

27a    Stopping short of glycerides and salt, change excitedly (3,2,1,7)
ALL OF A TWITTER: A 5-letter verb meaning change contains (stopping) a (2-3) informal expression or label that could mean short of glycerides and a 3-letter word that means salt or dry humour

28a     A burst of hot air to disable works (4,5)
IDLE BOAST: An anagram (works) of TO DISABLE



2d    Make new columns for numbers on bill (5)
RETAB: A short word meaning on or concerning plus a word meaning bill

3d    Lord Bradman, perhaps, second-to-none (6)
ADONAI: Bradman, the best batsmen ever, in keeping with other Manley crossword aliases such as Pasquale, Giovanni and Quixote, is ‘A ***’, (perhaps, meaning as an exemplification of, indicates the article), plus a 2-character string meaning excellent or second-to-none

4d     Taste something spicy? Not Romeo – nor I, his rival (6)
TYBALT: A combination of a 3-letter verb meaning taste plus a 5-letter spicy dish from which the letter with radio code Romeo has been omitted (not), as has (nor) I from the clue

5d    A material from space (5)
AREAL:     A from the clue plus an adjective meaning material or tangible

6d    I yield: her 50.1% tops my 49.9% (3,6,4)
THE BETTER HALF: A numerical approximation of another term for 25/26a or 8/20

7d    Toast ‘Ten!’ and ‘Tin!’ with a cruise for richer/poorer or sickness/health? (13)
UNCERTAINTIES: An anagram (toast) of TEN + TIN + A CRUISE

9d    ‘I avoid her’ – Arthur, so saying, means to enter Ireland? (2,7)
‘ER INDOORS: Split (4,5), the answer would suggest some means to enter Ireland

10d    In the revamped BTec, introductions to entrance exam oddly inverted (4-5)
TETE-BECHE: Inside (in) THE from the clue, we have an anagram (revamped) of BTEC + E+E (introductions to ‘entrance exam’)

13d    Couples fired up by Christmas Day dalliance (5)
DYADS: Reverse hidden (fired up by … )

14d    A chap’s rib with Row 5’s middle C – I’ve got it in range (5)
CHAIN: We have two subsidiary indications here: Taken together with the central 4 letters of Row 5 in the grid, the [ANSWER] would mean ‘A chap’s rib’ (note the 1,5,3 at the start of the clue!), in a biblical sense. Then as wordplay: C from the clue, plus a 2-letter expression that can mean ‘I’ve got it!’, plus IN from the clue

15d    Make play for Clio? (5)
AMUSE: Split (1,4), the answer describes Clio

22d    I’m sorry to admit a mistake so marked beer’s put out (6)
EXHALE: A 2-letter expression meaning ‘I’m sorry?’ as in ‘Pardon me?’ or ‘Come again?’ contains (to admit) a letter used to mark a mistake, plus a 3-letter word meaning beer

23d/17a/19a    ‘I serve her’, says the man at the bar? (3,3,4,2,6)
SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED: Think Horace Rumpole, John Mortimer’s barrister, and how he referred to his wife

25d/26a    ‘I adore her’ in Bow (versatile model from Amsterdam?) (2,3,5)
ME OLD DUTCH: An anagram (versatile) of MODEL plus a description of someone from Amsterdam, for example (question mark indicates definition-by-example)

26d    Squeezes fruit under palm? (5)
DATES: Two meanings, the first girlfriends, colloquially

I enjoyed the 8a anagram, especially with the clever (1,5,3) at the start of the anagram fodder, and I think my favourite clue today is 14d – though I also appreciated 7d once I understood the significance. I don’t know whether Jane is the beneficiary of a cruise; if she is, that would be one hell of a clue! Which clues did you like?




40 comments on “Toughie 2473
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  1. I thought this theme would have something to do with a certain anniversary – I remember well John’s special puzzles that appeared in every paper on that day

    This took me a long time to solve – over twice as long as I’d expect to spend on a 5* Toughie, so I’ve spent the rest of the time between finishing and now, while doing the housework, hanging out the washing and a quick trip to M&S Food, trying to work out whether, if there was such a thing, I’d solved an 11 or 12* difficulty crossword.

    The usual enjoyment and satisfaction was had – I had several candidates for favourite, but because I do like an Arfur Daley clue, I’ll go for 9d

    Thanks to Dutch and even more thanks and congratulations to John and Jane xx

  2. It was very enjoyable working out the themed answers (though I had no idea of their relevance to the the Elgar household – I can’t believe so much time has past since the day that Elgar had puzzles in all the broadsheets to celebrate the wedding).

    Additionally (and most unusually for me) I spotted the Elgar puzzle number (I can never remember which one we’re up to).

    There were several words I didn’t know and had to verify (e.g. 11a, 18a and 3d).

    My ticks went to 27a, 6d, 9d and 23d/17a).
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch for his usual comprehensive review.

  3. I found this very difficult. Never heard of 11a or 10d and although my bung ins proved correct couldn’t parse 27a or 14d. I spent a long tume on glycerides and salt making soap then making lather. The theme was most helpful but all in all a little too clever for me today. My brain hurts, I need a rest. Thanks to Dutch and Elgar.

  4. I’ve just enjoyed reading the hints and realising I hadn’t any hope at all of solving this puzzle. I’m so glad I didn’t waste my time.

    1. Me too. I still can’t understand 1a even having the explanation and the answer. Many obscure words which to me defeats the purpose.

      1. The south-west treats are ‘cream teas’ – remove the outer letters and put what’s left inside DM (abbreviation for Doc Marten’s shoe/boot). The answer means an ideal combination or ‘just the ticket’. I think it also alludes to the ideal combination of candidates for the President/Vice-President ticket in a US election.

  5. Wow. Finished, unaided except to google several answers, 11a, 13a, 16a, 24a, 5d, 10d; never met the phrase 27a; the foregoing notwithstanding, enjoyable in the extreme. 4.9* difficulty, 4.95* enjoyment, if only for finally putting the pen down. Many, many thanks Elgar, & Dutch for the parsings to confirm my meagre thoughts.

    1. As an afterthought, it might be interesting to read how our friends across the world’s various ponds fared, given the preponderance of pure anglicisms.

  6. Had to log on to find out the theme. I was trying to work out how Elgar knew 153 Cockney Wives. Thanks for the explanation.

    Great puzzle really helped by the theme; including love and romance not just those relating to “normal” married life!

    Thanks to Dutch for the review.

    And thanks to Mr H and congratulations to you and “The Mrs”.

  7. Spotted the theme early on and finished this in an hour or so.
    Using obscure foreign words may be “clever” they aren’t much fun to solve, and clues with inexact definitions are just disappointing and intellectually lazy – for instance “exhale” simply does not mean “put out” in any ordinary usage that I’ve ever encountered.
    I’ve decided not to bother with Elgar any more – I prefer “crosswords in the English language” to “specialist knowledge quizzes”.

    1. Did you consult chambers wrt exhale before you decided to throw around “intellectually lazy”?
      (not a description I’d normally associate with Elgar, though i’ve heard him called many things!)

      1. by the way, the only other word that fits 10d given the thematic entries is ENTELECHY, a philosophical term meaning the distinctness of realized existence.

  8. I have some sympathy with Martin’s view about Elgar’s puzzles. With their inclusion of somewhat obscure entries – here REBAB, TETE-BECHE, DYADS, ADONAI, ATAFU – coupled with definitions that are ‘on the edge’ – ‘exhale’ is one, ‘lord’ is a very general definition, ‘we’ll provide the ticket’ seems very imprecise, ‘squeezes’ is not currently in use, I’d suggest – means that these puzzles require aids like Chambers and Bradford and would thus be more appropriate as a themed, barred (probably weekend prize) puzzle such as EV or AZED etc., rather than something to attempt in the middle of a busy day. I think Elgar is inexorably moving from difficult to infuriating: solving an Elgar has lost some of its allure.

  9. Accepted long ago that Elgar plays in a different league but always enjoy reading the review and decryption from Dutch.
    Congratulations to John and Jane – and same goes to all of you clever folk who managed to solve this one.

  10. Congratulations Elgar and Jane. Maybe by your silver anniversary I’ll be in a position to solve one of these, but I loved reading about it anyway.

    We’ve got the same anniversary in the autumn. On learning the gift associated with it, I suggested to my spouse that we should buy each other a selection of tinned food, but for some reason that didn’t go down so well …

    Home-schooling is now over. I wonder what we used to do before it started?

    1. On our 10th I left a card and a very grand tin of soup in the bread bin to surprise Mr CS when he got bread out to make his lunchtime sandwich. I got back from work later in the day to find he’d decided to have something else for lunch and so hadn’t discovered his anniversary present :roll:

      1. I wished my wife a 19th happy anniversary with a cute poem last September and she went ballistic (she had just initiated divorce proceedings). I refrained from giving her flowers on the day, fearing for projectile vases. We continue to share the same home with our children as the divorce progresses, and I have celebrated this 20th year of our marriage by placing fresh flowers for her in our kitchen every day since – not far to go to our 20th anniversary, when I will explain – how mad do you think she will be?

  11. I thought all the references to wives were most unflattering and offensive. Am I led to believe this is a tribute to Elgar’s wife? Surely not?

    1. JB, thanks for your concern but, as the dedicatee, I was neither unflattered nor offended; rather, I was chuffed to bits. I did actually wonder whether I’d be able to spot SCABBY OLD BAT in the grid.

  12. 1a still defeats me. Can someone explain separately (a) the SW treats, and (b) the shoe.
    My word finder failed to give me R?B?B and R?H?M. Can someone point me to a better one?
    Managed to get everything else, but couldn’t parse 27a.
    Missed the anniversary theme – I wasn’t doing crosswords 10 years ago and hadn’t met Elgar by then.

      1. Thank you. All clear now. I had in fact thought of CREAM TEAS for the solution to 1a at one point but couldn’t parse it.

  13. Hmm, very old fashioned references in this puzzle. There’s a whole slew of people who wouldn’t understand half of it.

  14. I was already tired, now I’m knackered :phew:
    Thanks for the challenge Elgar, and congratulations
    Thanks also to Dutch for pointing out the subtlety of the references which passed me by

  15. Anyone still there? I thought the last Elgar was tough but this was tougher, at least to begin with. After a couple of hours yesterday with only a handful complete I put it away. Today I spotted the 1,5,3 pattern and 25/26 – bingo – it’s about “other halves” and Elgar’s wedding anniversary must be 15th March!! With the help of Mrs H [appropriately] it all fell into place before lunch. Even sussed the parsings.
    I know I’ve been critical of some of his clueing in the past but I can’t fault any of this. Podium places go to 9d [solved by same] 27a [loved “short of glycerides”] and the truly Byzantine 14d.
    Thanks and congrats to Elgar and thanks to Dutch for explaining the significance of 7d.

  16. These last 3 Toughies have been the hardest 3 Xwords on the trot for a very long time
    Somehow finished Elgar – but without parsing 3 or 4 – thanks for the explanations
    You need the whole afternoon for this sort of thing and a good dictionary!!

  17. For the 23rd, what I wish you both: A GREAT DAY

    A comment on either the Setter or Blogger (plus plausible musical accompaniment – by Porcupine Tree, naturally): A SMART KID

    Overall: I THANK YOU!

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