Toughie 2545 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2545

Toughie No 2545 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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


An easier puzzle than two weeks ago, though almost any other Elgar would have been. We have a little Nina corresponding to the theme of 9/25 – an anagram that I could solve readily but I had to check the meaning of the answer. It is a phrase most readily associated with Geoff Boycott and cricket, though also used in team sports like hockey and football to describe the gap between the back row of defence and the goalie.

As always, finding the definition in the clues is half the game, and these are underlined for you in the clues below. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay. Of course, you can always click on the Click here box at the start of the hint to see the solution. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.




Were attractive buttocks one result of playing 9 25? (6,6)

CAUGHT BEHIND: A verb that could mean ‘were attractive’ or captivated plus another word for buttocks

5a Novel by Shaw and older books bound to get a place, at least (4,4)

BOTH WAYS: An anagram (novel) of BY SHAW contains (bound) the abbreviation for some older biblical books

9a/25a Working on an unforced error, City hit it here? (2,3,8,2,11)


10a Drought location ruined barbie, so Spooner phoned to say? (4,4)

DUST BOWL: A spoonerism of “ruined barbie” (BUST DOLL). On the phone, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate a b from a B.



11a See 1a

12a/23a Gathering in lobby, angry historians question 9 25 (5,1,2,5,1)

SHALL I OR SHAN’T I: An anagram (angry) of HISTORIANS containing (gathering in) a 4-letter word for lobby

14a Extremely silly Slimefest brought to premature end (8)

GOOFIEST: Split Slime-fest, take a 3-letter word for slime, then add a 6-letter word for fest or party without the last letter (brought to premature end)


16a Where could you study hard while absorbing historic European capital? (8)

SORBONNE: A word that can mean hard (definition 6 as an adverb in Chambers) contains (absorbing) an old European capital that has been superseded by the original capital. The whole clue is an extended definition, a semi-all-in-one.


19a People looking to take this in tower will be 1? (6)

EYEFUL: A homophone (1a!) of a famous tower


21a M. Fleetwood’s bandmate gets edgy playing 9 25? (6)

SNICKS: Split the answer (1,5) to get initial and surname of a super-idol

23 See 12a
25 See 9a

26a 15 ducks blocking mountain pass (5-3)

ALLEY-OOP: A 3-letter alternative spelling for a kind of 15d plus some ducks, as in cricket scores, go inside a 3-letter European mountain


27a Noble robes of ermine, perhaps, but right denied for wigging (6)

EARFUL: A 4-letter noble contains (robes) a 3-letter word for ‘of ermine’, for example, but without the abbreviation for right (right denied)



Observer’s angle reported as ‘a bit much … lacking basics of language, sadly’ (7)

AZIMUTH: A homophone (reported) of ‘as’, then an anagram (sadly) of A BIT MUCH, but without ABC (lacking the basics of language)

3d As corrupted witness implied? (3,2)

GOT AT: Two meanings, a corrupted witness has been *** **

4d Perennial chart-topper, not always poetical, opening up (4,5)

TREE ONION: A reversal (up) of a (2,1) expression for chart-topper, then NOT from the clue with a poetical version of always inserted (opening)


5d Merseyside town’s good deal on the black market? (7)

BOOTLEG: A town in Merseyside plus the abbreviation for good

6d In what’s upsetting to Arab hearts repeatedly skipping a beat (5)

THROB: The abbreviation for hearts goes in an anagram (what’s upsetting) of TO ARAB but repeatedly skipping A

7d With IDs falsified, Telegraph employees 1 Across! (9)

WIDTHWISE: An anagram (falsified) of WITH IDS is (the answer to 1) inside a plural pronoun that describes Telegraph employees such as Elgar

8d Try-ons unexpectedly involving female? (1-6)

Y-FRONTS: An anagram (unexpectedly) of TRY-ONS containing (involving) the abbreviation for female


13d Inspiring science graduate can habitually take hash (9)

LOBSCOUSE: Containing a 3-letter abbreviation for a science graduate, we have a can or toilet plus a verb that means habitually take (as in drug)


15d Common example of e.g. Liszt’s output, being piano virtuoso (4,5)

OPEN SPACE: An abbreviation for the output or work of a composer, a 3-letter word meaning being, the musical abbreviation for piano and a 3-letter virtuoso or expert


17d Have uprising in prison, one result of playing 9 25? (3,4)

OWN GOAL: A verb meaning to have, plus the moving upwards of a letter in a word meaning prison

18d Prepared cycles – and look at my profile when I’m on one! (3-4)

EGO TRIP: A (3,4) expression for prepared or matured in which the last letter cycles to the front

20d Say where A-T or Z-V are leading the solver’s decision! (2,2,3)

UP TO YOU: A homophone (say) of where the two sequences are leading

22d Dry sparkling white? Not in favour (5)

A popular Italian sparkling white from which a word meaning “in favour” is omitted

24d It may trim a beard – or a raw nerve! (5)

AWNER: Or (it may trim) ‘arawnerve’


Many clever clues today, though my favourite today was 7d because of the brilliant use of “1 Across”. Which clues did you like?

31 comments on “Toughie 2545

  1. A real joy from start to finish.
    Needed a full A4 to unravel the anagram in 9/25 and nearly gave up as I don’t know much about cricket or football.
    Really pleased that I carried on as some clues were real crackers.
    Still laughing at the eyeful tower and loved the spoonophone in 10a.
    Too many Favourites to mention.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch.

  2. I did not find the 9/25a anagram as easy as Dutch even though the school I went to had two religions C of E and Cricket! I had to google the meaning as I had not come across the expression. A couple of words I had not come across 2d or 24d. Finally Needed Dutch’s hints for my last 2 in 21A and 26a. The easy ones 8 and 20 down were my favourites but as usual with Elgar found the enjoyment factor near the low end of the scale.

  3. Thanks to Elgar for another demanding and enjoyable challenge and to Dutch for the review. I knew the Boycott expression which was a big help.

    The 10a Spoonerism didn’t really work for me and, in spite of its being easy to parse, I must be being thick because I can’t see a definition in 8d.

    My ticks went to 1a, 16a and 6d.

    1. 8d the definition is the whole clue (as underlined). It would be unexpected for a female to try these on. An all-in-one

  4. A first Elgar solve from me. I big help was spending ten minutes on the big anagram. With the help of the gained letters I was able to expand the rest in. I confess to an error in 21 across where I had knicks. I couldn’t parse it so was delighted to correct it.
    Too many favourites to name any.
    I’m off now to look for the Nina but I find few of them.
    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch for parsing several of my guesses.

      1. Thanks. Don’t like to ask as I know it spoils it others. I did see zero in the second row and to in the fourth row and was disappointed when I couldn’t find a hero!

  5. Very hard going until the big anagram was solved, and then things gradually fell into place. No really obscure words and more readily understandable parsing than is the norm for Elgar. Enjoyed it more as a result. *****/**** for me.

  6. But do we all know what a Nina really is? (I didn’t). Apparently named after Al Hirschfield’s daughter. He hid her name in his caricatures. Sometimes more than one, in which case he would put the number after his signature. This only applies after her birth (1945).

    Al Hirschfeld: Broadway’s King of Caricature

    gives quite a few examples. But I am darned if I can find any in the ‘Guys and Dolls’ drawing.

  7. Struggling with Elgar this time. I got 9,25 right away from an anagram solver, having guessed IN THE ? OF ?, but hadn’t heard of the expression. Only solved eight more so far. I’ll have another go at it tomorrow.

    1. I spent a short time on that & got the same 3 & then thought what the heck am I doing here & bowed out gracefully. May look at the hints later & have a go but only kidding myself if I entertain notions that there’s sufficient improvement in me to tackle an Elgar.

  8. Well I finished after two or three goes at it. Getting the 9/25 combo straight away was the key from which much else flowed. It was definitely the toughest Toughie I have ever completed, although I have to thank Dutch for a couple of parsings which had me totally mystified. 16a has to be my favourite.

    Thanks very much to Elgar for the considerable challenge and to Dutch.

  9. Another week. Another Elgar that I found mostly gobbledegook. I just cannot understand the man or his faithful followers.
    For me…wait for it…the very best bit was the illustration to 8d!

    Out of interest what’s 13d and why is it illustrated by a bowl of some sort of stew?

    1. 13d is a sort of stew! the picture is accurate (definition in the clue = hash)

      glad you liked 8d – one for the ladies, I thought. Lord knows I’ve put in enough for the men over the years.

  10. What a fun puzzle. Somehow I got over half of them before using any hints — which is way more than I’ve ever got in an Elgar before. Fortunately I knew the cricket phrase and managed to unravel it early on.

    7d caught me out brilliantly with “1 Across”: even though there isn’t a 1d, the fact that 1a starts with “& 11 Across” (not just “& 11”) contrived to make me not see the “Across” in the clue, even after I had the answer.

    And it had the effect that in 26a I noticed the “15” didn’t say “15 Down”, so ruled I wrongly it out meaning that. (Didn’t matter; I hadn’t heard of 26a anyway, and wouldn’t’ve believed it was right if I’d come up with that combination of letters from the wordplay.)

    20d (“A-T”) and 5d (“Merseyside town”) both made me laugh, and my favourite was 21a (“M Fleetwood’s bandmate”), in which I loved both the wordplay and the definition. Thank you Elgar, and thank you Dutch for the explanations.

  11. Good fun, managed all but 6 in the SW, but I was defeated by a few unknown words in the end.

  12. I have ambivalent feelings towards Elgar. On the one hand, I look forward to the challenge; on the other, I often find the process of solving less than pleasurable. Wherever possible, I try to avoid outside help, which considerably extends the time taken to solve the puzzle. The result is grim satisfaction, rather than enjoyment. I started this yesterday and finished it this morning. I filled the grid correctly but, as is frequently the case, had to rely on Dutch for some of the parsing. It didn’t help that I knew neither of the expressions in 9/25a nor 26a, although I was able to work them out. My favourite clue was 21a.

  13. Having got ten entries in my first session on Friday, I slowly made more progress this afternoon and completed it. All correct, but failed to parse 2d (forgot to, actually) and the OP ENS part of 15d.
    BOWL and DOLL don’t rhyme where I live.
    My favourite was 26a, (mountain pass, very clever, JH) which I managed to solve with just the O and P in place, knowing I needed another O beside the one I had. This was my breakthrough this afternoon.
    Happy to be back on track with Elgar, having failed miserably two weeks ago.

  14. I had three clues left when i decided that recourse to guidance from Dutch was required.4d 7d and 19a were the problems. Not having heard of a tree onion before I could not believe it. I grow plenty of onions on my allotment and they are nothing like trees ! !9a was a bit tricky as had on to you instead of up but 7d I thought the answer was somewhat unfair as WE is not a synonym for employees and there is no definition in the clue to guide one to the answer. But on the whole this Elgar was tough but actually approachable So Thanks for that and the help from Dutch. My favourite was 16a as it was my first solution. . once I had cracked the 9, 25 anagram which took some time much of the rest fell slowly into place. A good challenge as always from Elgar.

  15. I’m happy with the wordplay in 7dn but can’t for the life of me find a definition for ‘widthwise’. Every word of the clue is justified in the answer, leaving nothing for a definition! Can anyone enlighten me please!

    1. You have to split “1 Across” into two. 1 is the answer to 1a (i.e caught) and ‘Across’ is the definition.

    2. The definition is ‘Across’. You have to read ‘1’ on its own and resist the temptation to couple it with the word following it. I fell into that trap myself and couldn’t parse the answer until I read Dutch’s hint.

      EDIT: Sorry, Gazza. You got in as I was preparing my comment.

      1. Thank you both! Why didn’t I see that? Probably because that was Elgar’s intention. What brilliant clueing!

  16. What a fabulous puzzle. Started it on the 25th & just finished with 13D.
    I was determined as I got the anagram early and could see other clues to fit that.
    16A, 26A, both great aaah moments.
    3 words I had not come across before.
    Thank you Elgar & Dutch.

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