Toughie 2768 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2768

Toughie No 2768 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Not an easy puzzle today, though my recent trip to Edinburgh helped. I soon noticed a pangram (given, e.g., 25a), but I can’t say that this aided my solve. I wonder if it would have helped if I had noticed also that the pangram occupies numbered squares, i.e., the starts of words? Some of you will realise that this could have been even more challenging …


Sneak’s just one – but there’s another in cahoots and a third in custody (8)

SYLLABLE: The word ‘sneak’ has one, ‘cahoots’ has two, and ‘custody’ has three

6a Knotted at the front and behind, an Arab’s long tunic (6)

KAFTAN: The first letter (at the front) of Knotted, another word for behind plus AN from the clue

9a What comprises about twelve in number, east to west? (6)

ZODIAC: A reversal (east to west) of the Latin abbreviation for ‘about’ and a (1,3) abbreviated way of saying twelve

10a Good day to express contentment, perversely? Wintry outside: one’s not happy! (8)

CHIRRUPY: A greeting plus a reversal (perversely) of ‘to express contentment’ (in a feline way) all contained in a 3-letter word meaning wintry (but without the letter that looks like one)

11a Single lovelorn writer needs the drink to forget (8)

NEPENTHE: A 3-letter word for single but without the ‘O’ (lovelorn), a writing implement, and THE from the clue

12a In slices what’s making Dracula poorly? (6)

GARLIC: An anagram (poorly) of the regular letters (in slices) of ‘making Dracula’

13a What disappointed examinee may do? Note appears in front of me (8,4)

QUESTION MARK: In the clue, a musical note appears in front of the answer (=me)

16a Crowd disorder engulfs Sandown Park area, so vet called (5,7)

JAMES HERRIOT: A word for crowd and a word for disorder contain (engulfs) the name of region that includes Sandown Park

19a With blood vessels in evidence, heart’s a-flutter (6)

VEINED: An anagram (aflutter) of the central letters (heart) of ‘in EVIDENce’

21a Answer politician has a clue about in advance? (3,5)

MEA CULPA: The abbreviation for answer, but first (in advance) a politician contains (has) an anagram (about) of A CLUE

23a Vessel‘s strategy in ruins with 50 per cent reduction of oxygen (5,3)

PLANT POT: A 4-letter word for strategy plus a (2,3) phrase meaning ‘in ruins’ (as in ‘gone ** ***’) with only half the number of chemical symbols for oxygen

24a Unwell, perhaps? Yes, rather! (3,3)

I’LL SAY: A word for unwell and a word for perhaps

25a Inexpertly arranged trip abroad exported volatile liquid (6)

XYLENE: An anagram (arranged) of INEXPERTLY from which an anagram (abroad) of TRIP is subtracted (exported)

26a Worker no longer including ‘unreal’ ale in price (5,3)

HONEY BEE: Take a (6,4) expression that translates to ‘unreal ale’, but no longer include it in the 2-letter abbreviation for price


Notice uninitiated character threatening farmers (6)

YEOMEN: A 3-letter word meaning notice or see without the first letter (uninitiated), then a threatening or prognosticating character

3d Not a thing you’ll see in old Italian finance department (5)

LOIRE: A letter that looks like zero (not a thing) goes inside (you’ll see in) some old Italian currency

4d Out they stick butt, saucily, with cheek! (9)

BUCKTEETH: An anagram (saucily) of BUTT + CHEEK

5d Reclaimed land primate abandons to find shade? (7)

ESCHEAT: A primate abandons a (6,4) phrase that involves finding some shade

6d Champ owns ring after this? (5)

KO’ING: A 4-letter champion (often preceded by ‘the’) contains a letter that looks like a ring

7d Female bust, art form that takes Independent in? Hardly (3,4,2)

FAR FROM IT: The abbreviation for female, an anagram (bust) of ART FORM containing (takes … in) the abbreviation for independent

8d In wild rave-up for starters, olive is served with pepper (2,6)

AU POIVRE: Inside (in) an anagram (wild) of RAVE-UP, place the first letters (for starters) of ‘Olive is’

13d Rockers, off and on, earn on new furniture style (5,4)
QUEEN ANNE: A rock group plus the even letters (off and on) of ‘earn on new’

14d Going rusty, say, lacking energy needed to produce neat imagery (9)

OXIDATION: Split (2,7), and inserting the abbreviation for energy, would produce two words, meaning neat (as in cattle) and imagery

15d Very restricted by shoddy relay, we stop in Scotland’s capital (8)

WAVERLEY: The abbreviation for very is contained in (restricted
by) an anagram (shoddy) of RELAY WE

17d Tie (another) gag around the old girl (7)

REMATCH: A word meaning to gag goes around a relative affectionally known as the old girl

18d Support two terms for Trump, not before time (1-5)

T-PLATE: The two terminal letters (terms) of Trump, and a word meaning ‘not before time’

20d Fold up letter so it’s demonstrated (5)

DUPLE: A hidden all-in-one, where the hidden fodder and definition merge. ‘Fold up letter so’ (… it’s demonstrated)

22d Stash you ultimately gamble (5)

UPLAY: The last letter (ultimately) of you, plus a word meaning gamble

I enjoyed the 3d department, the lovelorn writer, and I think Dracula’s nemesis is my favourite – though I was also very pleased with 15d, only because a few weeks ago I would not have recognized the answer. Which clues did you like?


16 comments on “Toughie 2768

  1. I thought this was harder than the maximum five stars. Very tough, it seemed impenetrable for a while until I got a foothold. I freely admit that if I was solving this with pen and paper I would have thrown in the towel. But the iPad version allows you to check letters to get you to the finishing line.

    I dredged 15d up from somewhere, and 3d too came from the deepest part of my memory bank, but my favourite was 16a because I used to live there.

    Brilliant from Elgar, thanks a million, and thanks and congratulations to Dutch for making sense of it all.

  2. As usual I ‘breakfasted with Elgar’ and had been reading the clues for a while when Mr CS asked why I hadn’t written anything in yet? That probably had quite a lot to do with the fact that it took me until 25a before I was actually confident enough to write something in. The first two letters of that solution did start me on the pangram trail and I did notice the particularly clever feat mentioned by Dutch of the pangram being in the first letters of the solutions.

    This was another far more than 5* difficulty solve, even allowing for it being the work of Elgar, not only did we breakfast together but he nearly had to accompany me to the dentist, but fortunately I finished before I had to leave home. Lots to enjoy so it is hard to select just one favourite

    Thanks to Elgar for the extreme brain exercise and to Dutch.for the blog

  3. I thought that this was really tough even for an Elgar – thanks to him and Dutch.
    I noticed the pangram but not its special feature.
    I don’t see how the definition of 21a (assuming it’s the whole clue) means the answer.
    My ticks went to 1a, 6a, 13a and 18d.

  4. Resorted to hints to get the last few. 1a and 13a were my favourites. Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

  5. Too hard for me. Even though electronic assistance (cheating…) eventually gave all the answers, like Gazza 21ac seemed to me odd, 10ac ?wintry, ..
    Still there was enjoyment in limited achievement.
    Amazing skill to produce and in my view astonishing skill to explain.
    Thanks both.

  6. Gosh, that was tough! Well worth the effort, though – very many thanks to Elgar for a real work-out. Like Dutch, I noticed the pangram, but not in time for it to help me. I had to have a break before completing the SE corner, even though I got 24a very early on, and enjoyed it a great deal. I needed Dutch’s help (for which I am greatly indebted) to understand 23a and 26a, and even with the hint it took me a minute to understand 5d. Wonderful stuff, and as ever I am bowled over with admiration.

  7. Even with my electronic gift of 5 letters, I managed to solve only eight clues (happily, I got the ‘vet’ because I’d answered 4 & 15d, the only two obvious (to me) anagrams). Cheers and kudos to Dutch for masterminding this wickedly challenging puzzle (I stand in awe, kind sir) and thanks to Elgar for his omniscient ‘je ne sais quoi’.

  8. I had five clues still to solve, all in the NW corner, and came here earlier to get help with just one of them so I could perhaps continue. I only read as far as the preamble, and went back to my print-out to see which five letters were missing. This enabled me to complete the grid.
    Thanks to Dutch for explaining the parsing of 3d, 5d, 12a, and 26a.
    Thanks to Elgar for the workout. I thought Io in the FT on Wed was tough, but this one was on a different level.
    PS 15d was a write-in for me.

  9. Like some others, this was far too difficult for me, managing only three answers, which meant I didn’t stand a chance of spotting the pangram!! At least 7* for difficulty from my perspective, I’m afraid and, therefore, zero enjoyment. Total respect to anyone who got even half finished.

  10. I was visiting the review of an excellent proXimal puzzle from 2019 when I noted that an Elgar Toughie was at large. Wanting to warm up before the much anticipated Double Toughie I had a shot, only to find that the ‘warm up’ was too hot to handle in the NW corner (5 missing!) and I needed Dutch’s help to see me home. However, I was quite happy to get as far into it as I did. Roll on Christmas Day! Many thanks to both Elgar and Dutch.

  11. Gosh, that was a tough Toughie even for an Elgar and I had to smile at Dutch’s opening comment, “Not an easy puzzle today” …

    First stab last evening, again early morning, and completed finally this evening, albeit with four hints needed from Dutch’s review, for which my grateful thanks. My paper print-out (so no letter hints, sadly!) is littered with scribbles, notes, possible words, potential anagrams … and I still missed the anagram in 19a.

    One expects the surfaces to be a little odd in these puzzles, but I don’t think 26a works – the “no longer including” suggests you discard rather than retain the answer; and I don’t know whether the dead tree version indicated the answer as being (2’3), but as a 5-letter word 6d earned a “yuck” alongside the clue.

    But other than that what a masterpiece of a puzzle. Immensely satisfying despite needing Dutch’s help, and my thanks to Elgar for the great crossword.

  12. Took a long time but got there with some help on just the 5d/10a combination to confirm the remaining two. Knew 12a was garlic but couldn’t see why…

    Pleased with that, and also missed the 1-26 aspect of the pangram. I am terrible at spotting Ninas and other “grid stuff”!

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