Toughie 2553 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 2553

Toughie No 2553 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

A fun and refreshing puzzle by Elgar today, with plenty of interesting devices and the usual deviousness. As always, I was left with a few to parse once I had a full grid but eventually(!) it all made sense. No theme or Nina.

Finding the definitions can be half the battle. They are underlined in the clues below. Sometimes the whole clue is an allusion to the answer and that can be hard to spot, until you realise everything is used up in wordplay. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a     What petty thief is prone to? Some tack (7-4)
SNAFFLE BITS: A petty thief might steal little pieces

9a     Ask, maybe, but no-one will appreciate your doing it (1,9,4)
A THANKLESS TASK: A reverse clue for ASK. The first letter in the answer plus a cryptic reading of the rest

11a/12a  Hit the city: mischief for everyone! (4,5)
ECHO BEACH: The postal code for the financial part of London known as the city, a 3-letter word that can mean mischief (which you might recognise from a mischievous kind of goblin) and a 4-letter word meaning ‘for each’

13a     Out of shape, suffering heart flutter? (4)
FROM: Another word for shape in which the central 2 letters (heart) have a ‘flutter’

16a     Characters in Alice rewritten to save new pop ballet (8)
COPPELIA: An anagram of ALICE (characters in … rewritten) contains (to save) an anagram (new) of POP

17a     One of the nibbles might do (6)
CANAPE: Another verb that could mean might (that *** happen) and a word meaning do or imitate

19a     Could go quickly, this (6)
MAYFLY: Split (3,3), this short-lived insect from genus Ephemera indeed could go quickly

20a     Sweet tops? (3,5)
ICE CREAM: Two words meaning top

22a     Developer‘s very well informed (4)
SOUP: Split (2,2), this informal word for photographic developer becomes ‘very well informed’

23a/24a Cued by ringing, move writer (5,4)
ACTON BELL: Split (3,2,4), this male pseudonym of an English novelist (one of three sisters) would suggest ‘to move, cued by ringing’

Reform, say, before the bat in the bathroom? (10,4)
GENTLEMEN’S CLUB: ‘Before’, since these days women are admitted. ‘The bat’ in ‘THE BAT’hroom would be a striking instrument (4) belonging to a loo (9’1).

28a     Zagreb: largest city in Croatia – and this instant! (5,6)
SPLIT SECOND: Replacing ‘this’ in the wordplay, the answer suggests the next city by size in Croatia


2d     Hopping mad? (3,1,5,5)
NOT A HAPPY BUNNY: A cryptic definition playing on hopping

3d    Smooth pad (4)
FLAT: Two definitions, the second an apartment

4d     One of five N American Greats maybe, Clark Gable’s weird (4,4)
LAKE ERIE: A (2,1) abbreviated description of Clark Gable, who was known as the king of Hollywood, plus another word for weird

5d     Breaking law stranded king? (6)
BREACH: The Latin abbreviation for king is “stranded“, i.e., is stuck in another word for strand

6d/15d A fixture at Old Trafford possibly, check striker in box? (4,5)
TEST MATCH: A phrase that tells you to check a wooden striker that normally comes in a box

7d     Desired outcome of ‘Home, James!’ is key (8,6)
CARRIAGE RETURN: A key you often use can also be an intended outcome of the instruction ‘Home, James’

8d     Red top for breakfast type? (7,4)
SKIMMED MILK: Nothing to do with a newspaper! And another reverse clue where the answer cryptically defines another word for ‘type’

10d     It produces nice glows in review, receiving Mark/Sherelle on vacation? (7,4)
WELCOME SIGN: An anagram (It produces … in review) of NICE GLOWS containing (receiving) the outer letters (on vacation) of Mark/Sherelle. (Mark O’Flaherty and Sherrelle Jacobs of Hotel Hit Squad, the Sunday Telegraph feature, in case you were wondering)

14d/25d    Fly vivace through A Harlot’s Progress? That’ll cause a splash! (5,4)
BELLY FLOP: An anagram (vivace) of FLY goes inside (through) a (4,2) description of the Opera A Harlot’s Progress as a work by a British composer

15d See 6d

18d     Inspecting —, start to uncover cracking fiddle in book (8)
ACCOUNTS: Fill in the blank then the whole clue makes sense. The first letter (start) to uncover goes inside (cracking) a word meaning fiddle, all inside (in) a biblical book

21d     Do very good seafood (6)
SCAMPI: A word meaning do or con and a word meaning very good

25d See 14d

26d     Current choice given to swing band (4)
AC/DC: Three meanings in a good surface, the first two different types of current, the second as in ‘both ways’, and the third a recently-productive long-standing Australian rock band – brilliant!

I particularly like 26d and enjoyed the hit in 11/12. I laughed at the splash in 14d/15d. Good seafood clues like 21d are always satisfying. Some great aha moments in the pesky 13a, the devious 23/24, and the excellent 8d – those were my last three to parse! Lots more lovely clues – which were your favourites?



20 comments on “Toughie 2553

  1. How lovely not to have a huge battle to finish an Elgar crossword – I’d give this one 4.5*/5* and a big thank you to Elgar

    My favourites were 1a, 26a (and not just because it reminded me of a lovely holiday in the first part of the solution), 2d and 6d

  2. I’ve enjoyed Elgar’s Toughies more since he abandoned his puzzle number themes and I enjoyed this one a lot. Thanks to him and to Dutch.
    My last clue to parse was 14/25d where I thought for some time that the harlot was going to be trollop. When I couldn’t get that to work I resorted to Google to find the (unknown to me) Iain Bell opera.
    Out of many splendid clues I selected 28a, 2d, 7d and 8d.

  3. Lovely crossword, full of artful wit and misdirection; thoroughly enjoyed it. Too many great clues to pick favourites.
    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  4. Clues don’t come any better than 26d, and rock music doesn’t come any better than Dutch’s choice!

    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch.

  5. The music choice at 26 down. AC/DC recorded Highway to Hell. Led Zeppelin made Stairway to Heaven. Does this accurately represent the actual footfall to both places?

    As for the puzzle. Typically every other Fridayish. Not really floating my boat

  6. This took me a while to finish as I don’t feel I am yet on Elgar’s wavelength enough of the time. It is a pretty steep learning curve but it is a battle worth fighting. This was an excellent puzzle that was probably more accessible than some of his creations, and I enjoyed the tussle. 26d is just brilliant.

    Many thanks to Elgar for the considerable challenge and to Dutch.

  7. All complete and all correct, but as usual not all parsed. Couldn’t make anything of BELLOP – my fault, I should have googled A Harlot’s Progress. Similarly, I was left with LEMEN in 27a having figured out GENTS and CLUB. I looked up SOUP, and found out it could be computer software from an unknown programmer/developer, which was good enough for me. Hadn’t heard of SNAFFLE-BITS, ECHO BEACH, COPPELIA, or ACTON BELL, but got them all from the word play with some helpful crossers already in place. I can’t decide on a favourite, they well all good.
    Finally, this must have been a bit easier than some recent Elgar’s, because it didn’t take me all that long. Thanks to Dutch and JH.

  8. Well its going dark and the puzzle is complete, was it a 9a or well worth it?
    Going for the latter as there is always a sense of satisfaction solving these ***** crosswords.
    Thanks to Dutch for the exact parsing of 4d which eluded me-and 14d.
    Agree with RD re 26a, was Bon Scott the best singer?
    Favourite was 23/24a

  9. Only failed on the song, the breaking and the writer. Thought the latter would be Peal rather than Bell.
    Loved the red top in 8d and the construction of 9a.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch.

  10. Completed albeit rather slowly and hints required for a couple of parsings. I often struggle with Elgar so happy with that result. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  11. What a treat to have a doable Elgar! I’ll admit to electronic help and inspired guesses but I got there.
    A couple of hmms, Clark Gable and so-up I did not like but 2d and 28a more than compensated.

    1. JB you’ve enticed me here with promises that there wasn’t much to choose between the back pager & this. Admittedly I’ve temporarily mislaid the modicum of cruciverbalist skill I have but you’ve got to be kidding. 20 mins in – got 2 answers & one of those I can’t fully parse which only goes to confirm, benevolent or otherwise, Elgar is beyond me.

      1. I find it’s a bit like doing a jigsaw. When I’m stuck I throw letters into a word search, study what comes out and see if it fits. It’s sort of solving in reverse. I have to point out that this is the first ever Elgar that I’ve finished. No one was more surprised than me!

  12. Nice to have an Elgar puzzle that was not totally impenetrable for us. The answer to 8d has a light green top in NZ, red is used for cream, so this one took a bit of head scratching and then Googling. 11a also needed Google.
    Thanks Elgar and Dutch.

  13. Quite an easy Elgar for me today. Prefer to have to tussle with him a bit longer than this one took. Few of his usual shenanigans and convolutions. But thanks anyway to both.

  14. A bit above my paygrade but a few judicious hints (and occasional answer) helped me complete which is pretty satisfying. I thought 9a was brilliant if Ask is A TASK minus ‘ta’ – can’t quite tell from the hint if that is the suggested parsing though? Many thanks to setter & blogger as always (this goes for all the times I don’t comment too!)

    1. yes, that was the intention of the hint! sorry if it was a bit cryptic.

      A + THANKLESS TASK, the last two words are a cryptic instruction to remove TA from TASK

  15. Do others feel as I do that, when you get clues like 3a and 8/15d in an Elgar puzzle, the answers seem so obvious that they cannot be right?

  16. An accessible Elgar!! Hurrah. More at this level, please Elgar. Crosswords are no fun if they are so impenetrable you can’t solve any of the clues. Apart from 22a, which needed the hints, all done unaided, and highly enjoyable. 26d the top of a very good crop.

Comments are closed.