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Toughie 2656

Toughie No 2656 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

This is Elgar’s 175th Telegraph Toughie (waits for groan). Translate this number into letters and you will have a clue to the theme. Ok, ok, I get you couldn’t have known that, but I’m telling you now. The long clue is also a hint to the theme. If it makes you feel any better, I spent a couple of hours looking for a theme related to pairs. Anyway, the theme includes 8 full grid entries, a few partial ones and a few references in the clues. I gloated having got off to a quick start, then I got myself stuck for ages. Pride before the fall. My last one in was 14a. Enjoy!

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.

One of the Rs in Berkshire (7)

READING: Two meanings, the first is one of the three, the second a town

5 Not quite a full house upstairs? (3-4)

TWO PAIR: Not quite a full house in poker can also mean on a second floor

9 Agreed in the second year of life? (2,3)

AT ONE: Your second year of life corresponds to having this age

10 Around La Méditerranée, say, negligently lug oil vessels (9)

GLOMERULI: La Méditerranée is an example of (say) a 3-letter French word. Around this, we have an anagram (negligently) of LUG OIL. The answer is an anatomy word I didn’t know, but there it is in Chambers.

11 Changes in number of electrons spinning on axis do it (10)

OXIDATIONS: An anagram (spinning) of ON AXIS DO IT

12 George Russell, international driver, starts from here (4)

GRID: First letters ( … starts)

14 Put down in error, the writer attends brief jaunt, but gatecrashes (12)

MISATTRIBUTE: A personal pronoun designating the writer (from Elgar’s perspective) has gatecrashing into it a (2,2) phrase meaning attends, a 4-letter jaunt without the last letter (brief) and BUT from the clue

18 Pepys may have taken one to make stock manager (7,5)

HACKNEY COACH: A word meaning ‘to make stock’ and a word meaning manager

21 ‘Lunchtime!’, as Yogi pinches a piece of cake (4)

EASY: Hidden ( … pinches)

22 Be still say cheese off I click non-stop (10)

SHUTTERBUG: An interjection meaning ‘be still’, a verb meaning say, and a verb meaning ‘cheese off’

25 Pure quality pub engineer as a one-off keeps (9)

INNOCENCE: Another word for pub, then a word meaning ‘as a one-off’ contains (keeps) an abbreviation for a kind of engineer

26 With reverse sweep Moeen Ali at last grabs single to secure Ashes? (5)

INURN: A reversal of (with reverse sweep): the last letters (at last) of Moeen Ali contains (grabs) a single in cricket

27 Festivals suspended at centre, when short becomes shorter (7)

EASTERS: The central letter (at centre) of suspended, a short word meaning when, then a word meaning short without the last letter (becomes shorter)

28 Sanction postal scam? (7)

CONSENT: Split (3,4), the answer could suggest a postal scam


Debate About a Boy (6)

REASON: A word meaning about or concerning, A from the clue, and another word for boy

2 Is its companion volume Mid to ZZZ minute? (6)

ATOMIC: As in the first half of a two-volume dictionary or encyclopedia

3 Repeats it: limited spells allowed online? (10)

ITERATIONS: IT from the clue, then an online version of ‘limited spells allowed’ as in allotments or portions

4 Gaston’s girl finds home for large tenor (5)

GIGLI: Gaston’s girl in the eponymous musical movie contains (finds home for) the abbreviation for large

5 … what’s made by hasty judge putting these together side by side (3,3,3)

TWO AND TWO: What is the ellipsis doing? It doesn’t refer to the previous clue, else that would have an ellipsis at the end. So, what does it connect to? Aha! A hasty judge would put (the answer) together to make the clue number! Clever.

6 See 17

7 One taking on water, was square rig just out of trim? (8)

AQUARIUS: Missing outer letters ( … out of trim?)

8 What you might catch from wet pet animal (8)

REINDEER: A homophone (what you might catch) of words meaning wet and pet

13 Freedom for someone I trust to judge anagrams so indirect (10)

DISCRETION: An anagram of (anagrams) SO INDIRECT

15 Like controlling obsession with Big Apple paraphernalia? (9)

ANYTHINGS: A short word meaning ‘like’ contains (controlling) a (2,5) phrase that would mean obsession with Big Apple (the first word in the phrase is an abbreviation)

16 See 17

17, 20, 6 & 16 Measures up, unlike naughty kid in Clarks? (4,4,3,3,4,4,4)

ACTS ONE’S AGE NOT ONE’S SHOE SIZE: A naughty kid would do the opposite in this footwear-related expression

19 Wide-angle lens just a boon, regular shots taken when climbing (6)

OBTUSE: Reverse even letters ( … regular shots taken when climbing)

20 See 17

23 Habitual drinker who’s first to break this at party – but not last? (5)

THEIC: Take a (3,3) part of a metaphor that someone might be first to break at a party and remove the last letter (not the last)


24 Spots origin of 18, so its driver told us? (4)

ACNE: Where the answer to 18 comes from, and how that might be pronounced locally (so its driver told us). 18 is also when these spots often occur.


Lots of excellent clues! I liked the companion volume, About a boy, and the habitual drinker. My favourite, however, has to be the picnic-pilfering bear. Which clues did you like?

54 comments on “Toughie 2656

  1. A very tough crosswords even by Elgar’s extreme standards of Toughieness

    I’d forgotten about numbers and themes and so didn’t look and am none the wiser having read the prologue

    My favourites were the ‘long’ one and the ‘crickety’ one

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch

  2. Well, I managed 12 clues which for me is a record. For the rest it is quite incomprehensible. How anyone solved the clue over 4 slots is beyond me. Well done anyone who finished this and thanks to Dutch for the explanations. He ain’t half clever!

  3. Really too tough for me. Much electronic assistance required and even then waited patiently for Dutch to explain some.
    Don’t get the theme and relieved to see that CS doesn’t either, as I assumed it should be obvious.
    The tea drinker was new to me, sounds like a godlike adjective.
    10ac was clear from the clue but neither in the kidney nor the brain is the singular a vessel.

  4. I don’t believe I will ever get on with Elgar I don’t consider 5DN ‘clever’ – I just don’t see it.
    5a – I put in the correct without comprehension and the hint imputes a meaning to it of which I have never heard in my long life.
    The basis for 4d requires specialist knowledge outside the normal ken.
    As usual, the setter is ‘too clever by half’. I think I shall skip his offerings in the future

    1. I have always said Elgar is too clever by half. Such a pity our Friday is blighted this way but he does have his followers. Never mind, at least we lesser mortals can enjoy….I hope!…the back page which, just to be contrary, is inside today..

      1. Which is why you are leaving a comment today? Glad to see you had a look. It’s what the blog is for, thank you

        1. Oh, I always look at it. I even try to work a few out before throwing in the towel. Maybe one day I will get on Elgar’s wavelength. After all it wasn’t so long ago I wouldn’t look at any Toughie. Now I manage to complete a few after plugging away for ages with no success. I am trying to do the same with Elgar but no success yet.

          1. I often look too, and if a couple of answers jump out at me, then I’ll have a stab. Not usually very productive but I do sometimes learn a new word that will probably show up some time in the regular cryptic. Doubt I’ll ever see 10a or 23d anywhere, ever again though. Definitely one for the truly clever folks today.

      2. Steve, I never do the Toughie, the backpager is enough for me. I only looked today ‘cos Dutch gave it five stars and curiosity made me look to see what five stars looks like. Now I know, and I also know why I never do the Toughie!

    2. Ah. I think you’re hooked 🙃. You’ve said the same the last few weeks, and you are obviously doing brilliantly with only a few clues missing (better than most!). See you in two weeks 😃

    3. Bertie, surely a seasoned campaigner like yourself can “see” 5d! It’s pretty straightforward – the clue number is part of the clue word-play: Five – what a hasty judge would get by putting the answer together. (2+2 = 5).

      1. In my book 2+2=4.
        It would surely be reasonably easy to compose a clue that didn’t indicate an aspect of the legal profession. If the word used had been ‘judgement’ I would have no problem with it.

        1. Ha, it is in my book too. But there is an expression: adding up two and two to make five = a hasty (wrong) decision

          1. I’m waiting for your crossword. Honestly, give it a go. You are obviously talented

            1. This website is a good place to submit first attempts of crosswords (with apologies if first is wrong)

            2. This website is a good place to submit first attempts of crosswords (with apologies if first is wrong)

        2. Bertie, there’s no indication/reference to the legal profession in the clue (only if you contrive it). The “hasty judge” isn’t a law court officer, it’s just any person making a hasty judgment by rashly concluding that 2+2=5 (as in the common saying/expression).

          1. * A good example has been provided by yourself with your appraisal of 5d – you’ve been a “hasty judge”.

            1. *The judge here is a countable noun meaning critic, assessor, appraiser. You can be a good judge (of something), you can be a poor/bad judge (of something). You can also be a hasty judge (of something).

  5. I started off at a cracking pace and thought that this was going to be the easiest Elgar ever – that thought didn’t last long. I struggled mightily in the NE corner, having never heard of the 10a vessels.
    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.
    My ticks went to 22a, 2d and 5d.
    I see from the blog that Elgar has resurrected his dratted ‘number themes’ which I hoped he’d forgotten all about. I’ve no idea what’s going on with that.

    1. Will explain what I’ve seen a bit later, though not sure ive got everything

  6. Like Gazza, I got off to a deceptively good start and even managed a total of 17 correct answers (using my online 5-letter gift), which is surely the best I’ve ever done with an Elgar. But the four-part clue just evaded me altogether, though I did conjure up ‘age not’ at the bottom, having correctly answered four clues in the SE! This must be the first time I’ve ever seen Beniamino G (4d) in a crossword anywhere (I have a precious old LP of one of his ‘Bohemes’) and that fact tickled me. Beyond all that, regarding Elgarian numbers and other arcana, I’m stranded here in Charleston. Many thanks to Dutch for all of his help, and to Elgar for putting me properly in my place.

    1. Ah, the tenor lives! Happy to hear from a fan, it was out of my gk, I had to look him up but the wordplay was clear. I have to admit I’m not super keen on clues with gk both in clue and answer – ideally one or the other.

  7. Like others, I set off at lightning speed, enjoyed a brief glow of smugness and then ground to a shuddering halt … Thanks very much for the explanations. And I feel a whole lot wiser for knowing that there were Hackney coaches in the 17th century. Who’d have thunk it?!

    1. You’ve used a variation on the aliases that you had used before. All the varieties should work from now on.

      1. Gosh, I hadn’t realised I’m a woman with multiple identities….! Sorry to cause confusion, and thanks for rectifying.

  8. Finished and parsed with only the tea addict and the tenor ( who sounds more like a treble prone to laughter to me) needing to be checked, so I was very pleased with myself. I was going to do something useful with the rest of the day, but now I am going to have to try to unearth the theme. I assume the letters are Roman, but I am seeing nothing at the moment.

    1. One, two, five, got me going for numerous things but to fully understand I needed to know, from Dutch, that one, seven, five meant so much more.

      I still think the surface of 26a is brilliant. R.S.P. today.

  9. I’m just so grateful for the explanations! Sometimes I kick myself, often I bow in awe. It’s no fun when it’s too easy, and sometimes (today!) I find it too hard! I do think it’s a bit tough to have words no one uses, even if you can see what the answer must be. 10a was new to me and I only wish I was as clever as Elgar and Dutch!!

    1. I’m not that clever. I offered to blog for bigdave and he said brilliant, we only have the friday toughie slot. Then I had the “opportunity” of getting inside Elgar’s head. Well. I’m not there yet, I doubt anyone can ever be, but I’m better than I was 3 years ago. I do have a lot of respect.

  10. It all went rather well at first and I’m very grateful to Elgar to give us accessible clues in 21a, 25a and 27a which gave not only the Acne/Hackney lark but also enough checkers to find the idiom in that corner. Act and shoe as key words were enough to get it.
    In fact, every corner had one or two gimmes which I always appreciate.
    Needed the hints to understand a couple of the usual bung ins.
    Favourite is 15d.
    Haven’t had time to look for the theme yet.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch.

  11. Like others, fast start, I was wondering whether Elgar had mellowed. It then slowed considerably, hampered by how long it took the penny to drop on 17d et al. Once that was in, I picked up pace again and was delighted to finish without reverting to the hints. A very entertaining struggle. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  12. Ok 175 = A, G, E or age

    Remember this is just an “extra” not essential to solve, just therefor your delight

    So we have age of consent, that giggly age, etc.

    Age of reason
    Age of innocence
    Age of consent
    Age of discretion
    Age of Aquarius
    Atomic age
    Reindeer age
    Reading age

    Several clues
    Acne at 18
    Second year
    Long clue

    Partial clues:
    Ice age
    Giggly age
    Age thing

    Any more?

  13. Sadly, and I wish it were otherwise, attempting to solve an Elgar puzzle is never a deeply satisfying or enjoyable experience for me. I would be the first to acknowledge the cleverness of the clueing, but in addition to their subtlety, there are invariably references that simply do not resonate with me. In today’s puzzle I had considered the correct entry for the ‘Not quite a full house’ in 5a but dismissed it because I could not think of a context for it to mean ‘upstairs’. In addition to the vessels in 10a, there were several other definitions I had not heard of – the habitual drinker in 23d for instance. And then there was the marathon 17, 20, 6 and 16. The solution was certainly descriptive, and the clue mirrored it beautifully – I just wish I had heard of it. Without it, the SW corner was a great swath of real estate with virtually no checkers. Consequently I am left with yet another Elgar puzzle with several gaping holes in it and no real sense of accomplishment.

  14. I failed miserably two weeks ago with 174, but I completed this one without too much difficulty. Last one in was 14a, the only one I didn’t fully parse. Forgot to look for a theme, which is rather obvious from the completed grid, 1=A, 7=G, 5=E, but I could only spot 6 ages in the completed puzzle. My favourite clue was 24d.
    Didn’t know GIGLI and GLOMERULI, but get them both from the crossers and the parsing.

      1. Got the first 6, never heard of reindeer or reading. I had another look at 174 and have only 3 clues still to solve.

  15. Completed it just before midnight. Like several others I raced through the first few clues, and then it was slow all the way, until I solved the very long phrase. Very ingenious and tough. Favourites were 22a and 14a. Many thanks as ever to Elgar and also to Dutch for the theme explanations.

  16. Too tough for me after the 10 or so answers I managed to squeeze out. I’m with a few others above – I can appreciate the cleverness of Elgar – his knowledge of obscure words and GK is amazing, but … I don’t see the simplicity and elegance of clueing and surface readings that many of our setters offer. 25a was positively yoda-esque. Having said that, I realise that many people like Elgar’s crosswords and get real satisfaction from solving them, so happy to allow one a week! :-D My hat is doffed again Dutch.

  17. My wife and I actually finished this. Very hard, certainly, but enjoyable for collectors of rare words. Glomeruli indeed!

  18. I did not do his puzzle until Saturday evening for various reasons. I had the usual gasp of annoyance hat my first pass yielded only two answers, but after a period of deep thought, it all fell into place quite nicely. Tough, very tough, perhaps: but doable with perseverance and rewarding to complete.

    Belated thanks to Elgar and to Dutch. Having read the threads above, I am living proof that perseverance and regular exposure to these puzzles will produce completed grids.

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