Toughie 2521 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2521

Toughie No 2521 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

A great puzzle by Elgar today. No puzzle number puzzle, no Nina, just clues.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


7a    A lax body — most common in mums — during surgery, finally tucked up? (14)
ABDOMINOPLASTY: A from the clue, then an anagram (lax) of BODY contains (tucked up) the most common letter in ‘mums’, a (2,2) phrase meaning during surgery, and another word for finally

9a    The writer’s prudish, having exposed adult book licence (10)
IMPRIMATUR: A (1’1,4) expression for ‘The writer’s prudish’ (from Elgar’s perspective), then a 6-letter word meaning adult without the outer letters (exposed)

11a    See fencing exercise scratching face? It shouldn’t (4)
EPEE: SEE from the clue contains (fencing) the abbreviation for a school exercise class, then remove the first letter (scratching face). The wordplay sets the context for the answer

12a    Monster really will sacrifice wings to be human (3)
ERR: Hidden ( … will sacrifice wings) – the wings are, as they should be, of equal length

13a    Some relief from the rants of Mad John Bull? (10)
ENGRAVINGS: John Bull of course is a personified Englishman, and split (3,7) the answer would describe his mad rants, where the 3-letter part is an abbreviation

16a    You’ll see this man, initially cornered in board meeting, rip off flier (4)
ROOK: A triple definition

17a/18a Reason for securing airfields? (7,7)
LANDING GROUNDS: A word meaning ‘reason for’ and a word meaning ‘securing’, but switched around so the answer can be read to mean ‘reasons for securing’

18a    See 17a

20a    Returning student doctor not entirely the same (4)
IDEM: A reversal (returning) of a 5-letter student doctor without the last letter (notentirely)

21a    Advice about border wind up southern range (3,7)
THE MENDIPS: Some advice or hints containing (about) a (e.g. sewn) border plus a word meaning to wind up or finish. Alternatively, use a single piece of advice or hint and then conclude the wordplay with the S as an abbreviation for southern. The range is in southern UK

23a    City Bank failing to appoint head of RBC (3)
ELY: A word meaning ‘to bank’ without (failing to appoint) the first letter (head) of RBC

24a    Scandinavian heptad, now deserted by leader of eight (4)
SVEN: The number meaning a heptad is deserted by the first letter (leader) of eight

25a    Quirk of taxing Formula One scrap, keeping heat right up (6,4)
FISCAL DRAG: The abbreviation for Formula One (using a letter that looks like the number) plus a scrap of cloth contains (keeping) a word meaning ‘heat right up’ and also means to injure with hot water or steam

28a    Naked logic exploited failing — Kirk didn’t see adversaries using it (8,6)
CLOAKING DEVICE: An anagram (exploiting) of NAKED LOGIC plus a word meaning a failing or weakness


1d    Anthropophagic, it’s a wild and wicked beast (9,5)
TASMANIAN DEVIL: Anthropophagic means cannibalistic, so we have a ‘MAN-eating’ anagram (wild) of IT’S A (the anagram goes around ‘MAN’), then AND from the clue and a 4-letter word for wicked. Apparently, the answer can be cannibalistic, so the whole clue is an elegant extended definition

2d    German river leading, in essence, to Cologne, do we hear? (4)
ODER: A homophone (do we hear?) of the first two words leading up to Cologne in a type of essence or perfume

3d    Order of Mammalia yielding religious figure (not lama) (4)
IMAM: An anagram of (order of) MAMMALIA from which the letters of LAMA have been excluded

4d/19d Exchange online giants Massenet, Brahms & Liszt? (7,7)
INSTANT MESSAGE: An anagram (Brahms & Liszt, Cockney rhyming slang for pissed) of GIANTS MASSENET

5d    Perhaps Idomeneo and Flavio hope to undress before Overture to Swan Lake (5,5)
OPERE SERIE: HOPE from the clue without the outer letters (to undress), a 3-letter word meaning before, the first letter (overture) of Swan, and one of the Great Lakes

6d    Express delivery part of its service? (5,5)
PAPER ROUND: A cryptic definition playing on Express also being a daily

8d    ‘Our Father Time/Who art a weather vane/Hallowed be thy ground …’? (3,5,6)
THE LORD’S PRAYER: A cryptic definition referring to a cricket ground where ‘Father Time’ is a famous weather vane

10d    Between five and 50, this palm would be essential (3)
ITA: Placed between the Roman numerals for five and fifty, the answer becomes a word meaning essential

14d    Crude hire covers University of Little Enlightenment (10)
RUDIMENTAL: A 6-letter word for hire, as in a hire car, goes around (covers) the abbreviation for university plus a 3-letter word meaning ‘of little enlightenment’

15d    Volume: a pretty tiny novel within a novel (6,4)
VANITY FAIR: The abbreviation for Volume, A from the clue, another word for pretty, then within that we have an anagram (novel) of TINY

19d    See 4d

22d    With regular saves on field, no goals (3)
NIL: Even letters of ‘on field’ (with regular saves … )

26d    Some uttered an expression of relief (1,3)
A FEW: A homophone (uttered) of ‘an expression of relief’

27d    No alfresco party to ruin! (2,2)
DO IN: The party isn’t outside!

Lots of amazing clues – I don’t know how he does it. My favourite today has to be the anthropophagic beast (1d). Which clues did you like?


34 comments on “Toughie 2521

  1. The most enjoyable and solver-friendly Elgar Toughie for some considerable time – I always feel he needs a separate Toughie difficulty to the rest of the Toughie setters – for one of them this would have been 5*, but for one of his, I took about a 3.5* Elgar time

    So much to enjoy – 7a, 12a, 2d and 6d were all on the shortlist – the Scandinavian in 24a would be my favourite Across clue, but the overall winner, because he obviously wrote it with (his) Jane in mind, has to be the splendid 8d

    Thank you very much Elgar – more like this one please

  2. No impenetrable ‘number’ riddle, no theme, no other gimmicks just lots of good stand-alone clues – hurrah. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

    I got the two long verticals early on which gave me a lot of help and I made steady if unspectacular progress to the finish. I didn’t know the 10d palm but it couldn’t be anything else and I had to look up the 5d phrase which was new to me.

    I liked 12a, 17/18a, 1d and 6d but my favourite was the brilliant 8d.

  3. The best I have ever done on an Elgar! Great Goobieoobahs! Failed to solve four properly: 7 and 28a; half of 6d and 25a (had ‘order’ which makes good sense in America; had ‘deal’, not ‘drag’ which doesn’t really make sense anywhere, I guess). 4/19d is my compound COTD, though I didn’t know the Cockney, but 5d and 9a are nearly as brilliant. (Is Kirk in 25a of Star Trek fame?) Wasn’t this wonderful, over all?! Thanks to Dutch for the hints and parsings, and to Elgar: many, many thanks, and I’ll get you yet!

    1. Yes, Kirk of Star Trek. The answer is an invisibility system used by Romulans I gather, hard to illustrate!

    2. A few years ago, Robert, we in the UK became quite used to hearing that 25a term In budget statements……..otherwise I would never have penned it in with enough checkers for a light to go on! It is a bit of an odd phrase.

  4. As usual, I enjoyed reading Dutch’s review despite having barely attempted the puzzle. However, I did rate both 8&26d quite highly for two reasons, one being that I managed to solve them and the other that they were both humorous – neither being common occurrences in an Elgar puzzle!

  5. I went through this with no hope of solving, well it was an Elgar after all. However, incredibly, I finished it. Some I have to say were bung-ins as I couldn’t parse them, just felt they were right. My son explained 28a to me and a couple were solved by Google.
    My COTD is 8d. It was brilliant.

  6. Always important to recognise your limitations – no point trying to play off the championship tees if you can’t make the carries….
    Have ground to a halt after 10 answers so early help from Dutch required.

  7. I am not usually an Elgar fan but this one was very accessible largely due to several very easy four letter clues and obvious longer ones like 1 and 8 down. I still find some of his surfaces difficult such as scald for heat right up and there was no way I would get The Mendips as a range even if I had heard of this “range of Limestone Hills”. Dutch’s excelllent blog explained 8d as the reference about the weather vane went over my head. 5 and 10d new words for me. 6 and 14 d at the top as surfaces and answers were excellent. Cheers Dutch and for once Elgar managed to put a smile on my face.

  8. Got a fair few more than I usually manage on an Elgar but was still heavilly reliant on the tips and required answers in a couple of places. Thanks to Dutch and Elgar.

  9. This was my first ever Elgar finish so feeling particularly pleased with myself. It took about my normal solving time for a Toughie so it must have been at the easier end of his considerable setting spectrum. Some brilliant clues, a couple of impenetrable parsings, (thanks Dutch), and a whole lot of fun. Favourite clues have to include 8d and the excellent 28a.

    Thanks Elgar for the testing challenge and to Dutch for those parsings.

  10. I only finished with some electronic help. Thank you to Dutch for help with parsing and to Elgar for the strenuous workout.

  11. I print these out and, not concentrating, started to do this before the backpager. I was lucky, like Gazza, that I got those two long verticals which helped and, to be honest, quite a few came from checkers and parsed (a bit laboriously) afterwards.
    Then I noticed it was a Toughie……..but managed to get all but 5 acrosses and 2 downs. I was very close to getting 28 across and that it was something to do with Star Trek, but I never watched sufficiently to know that term.
    Then I went to the hints and saw the difficulty as 5*. At that point, I got a bit of a thrill and no mistake, guvnor!

    If I’d taken a look at the blog and seen that 5* first, I’d never have continued, so it’s always worth a shot.
    Thanks to Mr Elgar and Mr Dutch. It was fun.

  12. A first – we finished this before the blog came out! Polished off by 10.30am – an Elgar often takes days chipping away! How strange – something about this particular puzzle must have been on our wavelength. Really unexpected and got the day off to a great start! At first glance it did look like a struggle, but no – it was a good and enjoyable challenge – thank you Elgar and Dutch (even though we had no need to reference the blog this time)! 3* / 5*

  13. This is a totally ridiculous display of intellectual arrogance. Without pleasure; without merit. Hate Elgar and shall avoid in future.

    1. There can’t be many commenters on this site who have only ever made three comments, each time telling us how much they hate Elgar crosswords and how they are never going to go near them again :scratch:

  14. I had two still to solve (26d and 28a) and came here to get some help. Having read Dutch’s hints, I solved them within seconds, although I still haven’t a clue what 28a is all about, not being a trekkie.

  15. I got there in the end with a lot of help from BRB and Dutch’s hints.
    getting three of the long ones early doors deluding me into thinking I had Elgar sussed
    As a trekkie 28a was nice but 8d was my fave today
    I hope Jean-Luc gets a chance to see this
    Thanks to Dutch and Elgar
    Time to give my brain a rest TTFN

  16. I’m sorry Eve but if you don’t appreciate the pure craftmanship and effort that goes into a clue like 8d then I totally agree: go back to the back page puzzle.

  17. Generally I do not attempt an Elgar puzzle, because I find the frustration level significantly outweighs any enjoyment. However, many of those who commented on today’s puzzle led me to suspect that I might find this particular puzzle more accessible and so I gave it a shot. Sadly, I really shouldn’t have. I would be absolutely the first to recognize the wonderful inventiveness and subtlety of the clues. However, just taking the first few of the down clues for instance, in 1d I did not (and still do not) quite fathom how the definition is connected to cannibalism. I got both 2d and 3d (!) In 4d I was pleased with myself in recognizing the the rhyming slang – but did not recognize the equivalent of Brahms and Liszt as an anagram indicator. I have never heard of 5d. In 6d I entered (with some confidence) DAILY ROUND. I agree with those who have identified 8d and as a wonderful clue – but it really only makes sense if the particular weather vane is known, and its location. I didn’t know either. All power to those who enjoy and can solve these, but sadly, I’m back to the sidelines when it comes to an Elgar puzzle!

    1. 1d – the definition is ‘beast’ – anthropophagic is part of the word play, saying that we have a ‘MAN’-eating anagram of IT’S A (see hint)

      However, interestingly enough, the beast in question does on occasion eat it’s own (i.e. is cannibalistic), so the clue as a whole also could work as a definition (but it is not an “all-in-one”, since ‘beast’ is not part of the wordplay: we clearly have wordplay + definition). It’s just a bit of cleverness.

      1. Cleverness indeed – and thank you for going to the trouble to explain the wordplay (which I should have been able to gather from your earlier hint).

  18. This was pretty straightforward for an Elgar. During lockdown I have worked my way through his complete catalogue of Guardian crosswords, daily, prize and genius, (where he is Enigmatist) on the website back to 2009 so now am pretty familiar with his quirky way of clueing. I found this to be on the infra red side of the spectrum with very few fiendishly complicated clues if any. Can’t see why anyone would say it was a display of intellectual arrogance, unless the comment was meant to be read as Simon S suggested! Loved 8d – typical John! I also thought 7ac was very clever.

  19. With the considerable help of Dutch’s hints I gamely struggled to within 2 answers (3 letters) of a finish but eventually revealed 10&26d. Reckon I managed about 60% by myself but tackling an Elgar remains akin to sitting a degree paper safe in the knowledge that you’ve an O Level in the subject. Still fun to try & full of admiration for those able to solve such extremely tough (sorry this was more accessible apparently) examinations.
    With thanks to Elgar & Dutch.

  20. Oh my word. Cor blimey mister. I take my hat off to all of you who found this easy! Tackled it as usual in the bath and confidently put in about a dozen answers. Ground to a halt and gave up. Then at 1.30 couldn’t sleep and decided to have a hot chocolate and read the excellent hints which gave me a few more. I would never have got 1d or 28a. Mr Elgar is amazing, I bet he’d have been roped into Bletchley park with such a convoluted mind. I had to laugh at the comment 14 and the responses! Ah well, back to bed and try to get some sleep. Thank you Dutch and Elgar for making me smile!

  21. This is the best Elgar crossword ever for me. It was actually very enjoyable I had nine solutions to find before I looked at the guidance from Dutch. But even with that excellent direction i could not get 5d which i thought ought to be opera seria which is in chambers dictionary whereas the answer is not. I assume that it is the french equivalent. at 28a the reference to kirk left me cold. The nearest that i managed was blocking device but it clearly did not fit the anagram. Like many of the respondents my favourite was 8d indeed the ground at Lords is sacred. and 1d was also very good and i managed to parse it!! Thanks to Elgar and Dutch a very happy weekend even though i know very little about Star Trek,

  22. I also finished it – although I did need the dictionary for Opere
    Will Elgar mix it up and throw in the googly ********** difficulty in a fortnight? This did feel *****

  23. I’ve been doing this step-by-step over a couple of days. Very pleased to get about 80% done pretty much unaided: this is a vast improvement for me for an Elgar.

    Intellectual arrogance?………I don’t think so: I marvel at the constructs and will definitely be emboldened now to try next time’s.

    Bravo to Elgar for this symphonic crossword and also to Dutch for helping and explaining my “missing” 20%!!

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