Toughie 2896 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2896

Toughie No 2896 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Wow. I know Elgar won’t use this grid lightly. Quite the wonderful and oh-so-satisfying penny drop when you finally figure out what is going on. A great construction, thank you Elgar!!

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Daughter has uniform pressed with green leaf design (9)

DECOUPAGE: The abbreviation for daughter, then the letter with radio code uniform is put in between (pressed with) a 3-letter word meaning green and a paper leaf

9a    Boo-Boo, perhaps, irritated having to leave thinking man’s practice (6)

YOGISM: Boo-Boo is of course (4’1,4), to get the answer remove (having to leave) the last 3 letters meaning irritated

10a    It hurt, retiring part-way through spell on a new daily (9)

CHARWOMAN: A reversal (retiring) of an interjection meaning ‘it hurt’ is inserted into (part-way through) another word for spell, then A from the clue and the abbreviation for new

11a     Toughie set for the afternoon is faultless (6)

TEASER: A (3,7) set for drinks in the afternoon loses the last 4 letters that mean ‘fault’ (fault-less)

12a    Bias, say, in corrupt old state (9)

ABYSSINIA: An anagram (corrupt) of BIAS SAY IN

13a    Country diary’s rebuffed cutting gossip (6)

ANGOLA: A reversal (rebuffed) of a 3-letter diary or record is inserted into a word meaning a collection of gossip or literary anecdotes

17a     I’m disgusted from the outset about Benson & Hedges packets (3)

BAH: B&H contains (packets) the first letter (from the outset) of ‘about’

19a    After reform, due to forgive any number (5,3,1,6)

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND: An anagram (after reform) of DUE TO FORGIVE ANY

20a    Game hunter’s gun has gone off (3)

NIM: A 6-letter hunter with the last 3-letters meaning ‘gun’ removed (has gone off)

21a    Atlantic resort “oddly grand” in song (6)

AGADIR: The odd letters in grand are inserted into another word for song

25a    Fine Verdi divertimento’s received well! (1,5,3)

I NEVER DID: Hidden ( … received)

26a    Myrtle getting worked up three times a year? (6)

TERMLY: An anagram (getting worked up) of MYRTLE

27a    In flat, small talk of thieves about to go bananas (9)

PLANTAINS: Into (in) a word for flat or level land plus the abbreviation for small, insert a 4-letter word meaning the talk or jargon of thieves, removing the initial Latin abbreviation for about (‘about’ to go)

28a    Top question, one set about fine, fine art centre (6)

UFFIZI: Remove the first letter (top) from a 4-letter word meaning question or interrogate plus the Roman numeral for one go around (set about) twice the abbreviation for fine

29a    Science curiously is nice after the yoga off and on (9)

HYGIENICS: An anagram (curiously) of IS NICE comes after the even letters (off and on) of ‘the yoga’


2d    Recording the timeless swinging youth of old Athens (6)

EPHEBI: A smaller vinyl record, (t)HE from the clue without a T (time-less), and a word meaning swinging both ways

3d    Pair in advance disposed of man-eater (6)

OGRESS: An 8-letter word for advance with the abbreviation for pair removed (disposed of)

4d    Fearful brownie coming into shot (6)

PHOBIC: A brownie or pixie goes inside (coming into) a camera shot

5d    So down-to-earth, independent director above all in profit (15)

GRAVITATIONALLY: The abbreviation for independent, an old French movie director, a preposition meaning above and ALL from the clue go inside (in) a slang word for profit (and the answer relates to the theme!)

6d    Such forms not marred in reproduction?

MODERN ART: An anagram (in reproduction) of NOT MARRED

7d    Drop Jack, one’s character in sitcom (4,5)

MISS JONES: To drop or omit, the card abbreviation for Jack and ONE’S from the clue

8d    Dying instruction to get “so”, “mo” or “zo”?

SMORZANDO: A music term. These all end in O, so we have (S, M or Z) + O

14d    Ancient city axes not for slicing loaf!

BYZANTIUM: Two of the 3D axes and a 4-letter word meaning ‘not for’ are inserted into (slicing) a verb meaning to loaf or sponge

15d    Copper, needing a little break from relations, put to sea (3,6)

CUT ADRIFT: The chemical symbol for copper, a 3-letter word meaning a little, and a break from relations

16d    Within grasp, royal order (9)

SERIALIZE: Within a 5-letter verb meaning grasp, we have a 4-letter word meaning a royal person

17d    VIP upbringing good for de Sade? (3)

BON: Reversal (upbringing) of a VIP, de Sade is a language indicator

18d     Coarse son of Arkwright smoked meat (3)

HAM: Three meanings, the second refers to the biblical arkwright

22d    Five/six-footer nutmegs ace Italian forward! (6)

AVANTI: The Roman numeral for five plus a 6-legged creature goes in between (nutmegs) the two-character expression meaning ace or excellent

23d    Establish Resistance moved north through old sewer (6)

ORDAIN: Take the abbreviation for old and another word for sewer or waste outlet, and move the abbreviation for resistance up (north) one letter

24d     Wheatsheaf Inn – iced bottles from Helsinki? (6)

FINNIC: Hidden ( … bottles)

Plenty to like, especially the Nina! I enjoyed Boo-Boo, the Toughie, and the 19a anagram took me surprisingly long. I have fond memories of a trip to 21a with my 16 yr-old daughter. I liked the music term. Which clues were your favourites?


57 comments on “Toughie 2896

  1. The most difficult crossword, Toughie or otherwise, that I’ve solved for quite a long while. I didn’t write anything in the grid until I reached 17d! My favourite was 11a

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch

  2. I solved about half the clues, the easier half obviously .
    19a is my favourite .
    Thanks to Dutch for solving the hard ones and to Elgar for the puzzle.

  3. Properly tough, though for me not as hard as some of Elgar’s. Too many delicious moments of realisation to count, but as yet that doesn’t include spotting a Nina. May I have a hint?

    1. I thought 7d was a strange entry. Couple that with some stuff going on in the middle. That might send you in the right direction

      1. I can sort of see a sporting reference (associated with Lords, perhaps!) in the middle, but no idea how that might link to 7d … am I getting anywhere? Well anyway, hugely enjoyed the solve, as ever with Elgar very tough but very rewarding. Didn’t know the gun in 20a (BRB suggests Americanism), nor 8d … but with a little electronic assistance that became my favourite. Many thanks for another fine crossword & blog, Elgar & Dutch.

          1. I had the wrong name (Ian Botham) bit now have 4 x LZ names … but still can’t see anything else?

            1. Hold on … rows & columns 2, 6, 10, 14 – well that’s some hiding! Is there anything more?

        1. Excellent and very hard. Thanks to Dutch and Elgar both. Struggled badly with 8d at and after what seemed like ten years gone, I felt sick again and had to resort to Dutch’s hints although to be honest the rest frankly left me trampled underfoot as well. Didn’t spot that there was even a nina until I got here.

  4. An excellent and very rewarding puzzle to finish off the Toughie week. Naturally I missed the Nina, but the rest all fell into place quite nicely. I needed our blogger’s help with a couple of the parsings to justify my answers, otherwise I was mightily relieved to finish it. 19a, 2d and 14d made it to the podium.

    My thanks to Elgar for the considerable challenge, and to Dutch.

  5. I got 2d plus the 4 little ones pretty quickly then stared at it for a long while until 5d clicked, then it was plain sailing – well, for Elgar. I even managed to parse them all except 27a. But I’m damned if I can see a NINA.
    Favourites were 9a [it had to be!] 8d, 14d and 22d.
    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch [come on, fess up].

  6. I solved one quartile, had a breather then moved on to the next, and so on. Very enjoyable – thanks to Elgar and Dutch.
    I’ve now looked for the Nina that Dutch has discovered – no idea!
    Top clues for me were 9a, 11a and 5d.

  7. I’m still baffled. Anything to do with an actress called Helena? Or related to the three African places? Or … no, wait – LZ, right?

        1. Do you mean 22d rather than 22a, Dutch. Not that I can see any names there or in 1a. Oh dear.

    1. You’re such a 11a! … so, having found four surnames, should I be looking for more people, or song names (I can’t find a reference to celestial escalators anywhere), or …
      I’m wondering if the large number of ‘i’s in the bottom three rows means anything. But sometimes when you’re sure there’s something to look for, you start seeing things that aren’t there.

  8. So there I was, my first solve, 20a, quite sure it was an anagram of gun and thus the gnu beloved of Flanders and Swan. Silly me, of course it wasn’t! So, I’ve done my usual read and write where I read the answers, try to make sense of them and then enter them in the grid. I don’t think I shall ever understand this setter!

  9. I’m still bamboozled. What on earth is 9a about? My first thought was Basil Brush but of course it wasn’t.

    1. Boo-Boo is a friend or (synonym of friend) of another talking creature that lives in a park. Does that help?

      For me, the rest of the Nina will have to wait till tomorrow. I am a morning person.

  10. Apart from about 10 that I solved, most of the rest were away with the fairies!. Never heard of so many of the solutions . Nina? No idea.
    Took up a large part of the day though. Just hope I’ve learnt something.
    Thanks Elgar, but it’s astonishing that Dutch has sorted it all out. Bravo

  11. Finished this earlier with all 5 bonus letters, one clue from Dutch (thank you!), grim determination, and a desire only to be partially thrashed by Elgar.

    A ghastly grid was of little assistance as I lurched from SE to NW, and SW to an eventual finish in the NE. I can respect the brilliance of the puzzle without having particularly enjoyed it, and thought it felt rather dated. I’ve come to enjoy some Elgar puzzles, but this was not one for me.

    Thanks anyway to Elgar, and of course to Dutch – I look forward to seeing what the Nina was.

    1. I reckon the Nina could be an ancient rock music track called Dazed and Confused by 4 artists who clearly anticipated Elgar’s puzzles…

  12. ok, the way I got it, is that i noticed a lot of letters in NW and SW, but they seemed unconnected …

    1. I sometimes wonder why Elgar makes such an effort when hardly anyone can appreciate his subtlety.
      Presence or Physical Graffiti then, though I’ve no idea how.

        1. I see how it works now. Thanks, Odrum. I remember that unusual album cover from the 1970s but I never bought it. That sort of music was never my thing.

  13. A hard one that left me feeling sick again and trampled underfoot. It took me all day and it feels like 10 years gone. Especially as the sun had been out here, down by the seaside.

    Thanks to Elgar and Dutch.

    1. Album covers? How … quaint. As I said, brilliant, but in this puzzle rather dated … ah well, the world would be a duller place were we all to tread the same path. :)

    2. Wow! I can only agree with Aldhelm. I confess I have never heard of the album, and even after finding it on Wikipedia I doubt I would have spotted it in the grid without your last comment sending me to look for a copy of the cover. I think this must be his hardest ever Nina.
      Would it horrify you if I said that my favourite version of Stairway to Heaven is by Dolly Parton?

      1. My favourite version of Stairway is the one the DJ can’t play because he has ran out of time

    3. Yes, very, I also see now some related LZ hints in the clues themselves, (eg 21a, 8d), although I may be reaching. Maybe Elgar was listening to it while compiling.

  14. I finally got round to looking for the second part of the Nina this morning. I don’t know what impresses me more: Elgar’s brilliance at compiling it, or Dutch’s ability to find it.

    Congratulations to both.

    1. I agree entirely – I am constantly impressed by Dutch’s abilities to solve and blog the Elgar puzzles, let alone spot and explain the Ninas.

  15. So yes, we have in the grid the names of Led Zeppelin members, JONES, BONHAM, PAGE & PLANT. And 5d GRAVITATIONALLY is related to going down like a lead balloon.

    Then the crossword is a picture of the album cover of “Physical Graffiti” In which the title appears in the regularly spaced windows of a building. thus, we see “Physical Graffiti” in rows/columns 2,5,9,14

    I went off looking for “Led Zeppelin” of “lead balloon” but got nowhere. Then I noticed a lot of the letters in Graffiti in SW, and a lot of Physical in NW. But not connected. I wondered if there was some pattern or logo and went to remind myself of the album cover – Bingo. I was gobsmacked!

    1. Yep – I’m impressed. Both by Elgar’s ability to set em and your ability to spot em. [But not your ability to count!]

  16. Just got round to this today and completed the grid fairly quickly. Failed to parse 18d and 27a.

    Know absolutely nothing about LZ so couldn’t even spot the names in the grid.

    1. Like you I know nothing about LZ so thank you for the picture of the album cover – I now, rather belatedly, understand what Dutch was going on about.

  17. I see BONHAM PAGE PLANT and JONES in the grid-I needed help with about 5 clues
    I was about to get the vinyl cover from Zep 4 then I saw the relevant album cover shown
    Might have the CD.
    Thanks for blog, Dutch and to JH

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