Toughie 2912 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2912

Toughie No 2912 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Another clever puzzle by Elgar. We have a theme, as suggested by 27d

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


6a    Starveling rejected jelly and cake (10)

RAGAMUFFIN: A reversal (rejected) of a 4-letter jelly plus a cake

8a    Broadcasting this way would be poor/average (4)

MIEN: A homophone of the answer means both poor and average

9a    Snug Bar Tony’s principal reasons not to get a round? (9)

SKINTIGHT: Two 5-letter reasons not to buy a round, but without (bar) the first letter (principal) in Tony

11a    Demon who delights I now see in Rugby (4)

RAHU: De-lights! An exclamation meaning ‘I now see’ goes inside (in) an abbreviation for rugby

12a    A sign of business that is open to question

HUM: Two meanings. For the first you need a 3-syllable Bus-i-ness, the second is an interjection implying doubt

13a    I despise fragmenting walls with dig, incidentally (13)

SIDESWIPE: The answer refers to an incidental comment. An anagram (fragmenting) of I DESPISE surrounds (walls) the abbreviation for with

16a    How enjoyable to squeeze new spots (4)

ACNE: A 3-letter word meaning ‘excellent’ or ‘how enjoyable’ contains (to squeeze) the abbreviation for new

17a    Monitor of suspect pulse around middle of summer afternoon (3,4)

PIP EMMA: Someone you might hire to monitor a suspect (perhaps your spouse), then a 3-letter pulse surrounds the middle letters of summer

18a    Overly protective of “Bravo Bill”, copper’s top snout (7)

TOBACCO: A 3-letter word meaning overly surrounds (protective of): the letter with radio code Bravo, a 2-letter abbreviation for a financial bill and the first letter (top) of copper

20a    Back in the past the origin of messages (4)

OGAM:     A reversal (back) of a 3-letter word meaning ‘in the past’ plus the first letter (origin) of messages

21a    I’m told Raymond’s the man who’s going to make trouble (5,4)

RAISE HELL: A homophone of a shortened form of Raymond’s (including the ‘S), then a (2’2) way of saying ‘the man who’s going to’

23a    Twins, very audibly! (3)

TWO: A homophone (audibly) of a word meaning very

24a    Was sorry for wiggling rear, showing more than a little cheek (4)

RUDE: A word meaning ‘was sorry for’ with the last two letters swapped (for wiggling rear)

25a    Like maiden pursuing favourite outcome of playing flute? (9)

WINE GLASS: An abbreviation meaning like, or for instance, and another word for maiden come after (pursuing) a 3-letter ‘favourite outcome of playing’

29a    Concern with conviction (4)

FIRM: Two meanings, the first a business

30a    Awful lethargy takes over in premature retirement (5,5)

EARLY NIGHT: An anagram (awful) of LETHARGY surrounds (takes) a reversal (over) of ‘in’


1d    Will this make us up? I don’t know (4)

PASS: Split (1,2,1), the answer is an instruction to turn ‘us’ into ‘up’

2d    You’ve got to resort island and villa, finally free of San Salvador (4)

DALI: An anagram (you’ve got to re-sort) of ISLAND+A (villa finally), but without (free of) the letters in SAN

3d    Bottom of the American barrel (4)

BUTT: Two meanings, the first an Americanism

4d    Perhaps unconnected wordplay etc solved here? (3-4)

OFF-GRID: Maybe here is where you scribble to help you solve wordplay

5d    Artisan food preserves a name in style (10)

MECHANICAL: A food preparation, like lunch or dinner, contains (preserves) A N(ame) which is itself contained in a word meaning style or elegance

7d     Twist opening of canticle or its end once: not again (9)

NATHEMORE: Swap the first two letters (twist opening) of a 6-letter canticle or song of praise, OR from the clue and the last letter of canticle

8d     Napoleon’s ailing limb’s dressed with quince preparation (9)

MARMALADE: How Napoleon would say ‘ailing’ in which a 3-letter limb is contained (is dressed with)

10d    Midway through June, Eva is born (3)

NEE: Hidden (Midway through … notice it’s the exact centre)

13d    Cradle-songs or big band Jazz? (5-5)

SWING-MUSIC: The answer is a whimsical way of describing cradle songs that involve gentle rocking

14d    The 24 5s here? Yes and no (5,4)

DREAM TEAM: Theme-related. This might help you spot the theme, and you’ll realise why the answer is true in one way and not in another

15d    A belt – all there is to keep miner’s leader on pithead (3,6)

SAM BROWNE: A 4-letter word meaning ‘all there’ contains the first letter (leader) of miner plus a word that can mean pithead

19d    Venetian madam cut short during it? (7)

SIGNORA: A 6-letter word meaning cut or disregard without the last letter (short) goes inside (during) an abbreviation for sex appeal

22d     Permitted to escape deadly sentient computer (3)

HAL: A 3-letter word for permitted is removed from (to escape) a 6-letter word meaning deadly

26d    Gay son, Joshua, finally wriggling free of San Francisco? (4)

GOYA: An anagram (wriggling) of GAY SON (joshu)A (finally) without (free of) the letters of SAN

27d    Lead characters of thematic play, somewhere within (4)

AMID: The first four letters (lead characters) of the play that is a theme to this puzzle. The whole clue suggests what you might find

28d    I’ve seen the game with second half’s dismissal of Ramsey, nil-nil written all over it (2-2)

SO-HO: A hunter’s call. The abbreviation for second, then ‘half’ with the dismissal of Ramsey’s first name, surrounded by 0-0 (nil-nil written all over it)

I liked the two painters. I also thought 16a was a clever clue for a common grid entry. Which were your favourite clues?

30 comments on “Toughie 2912

  1. Tough and sneaky and clever and brill – Very sneaky indeed to have the names of some of the 24 5s in clues where they actually had no relevance to the wordplay/solution

    Thanks to Elgar for an excellent stretching of the cryptic grey matter and to Dutch for the blog

  2. Another tour de force from Elgar – thanks to him and Dutch.
    Thanks also to the maestro for giving us a very clever theme that even I could get.
    I have lots of ticks including 6a, 9a, 18a and 28d.

  3. I thought this was Elgar in benign mode until I was left with the SE corner, which took as long again. Spotted part of the theme but thanks CS for pointing out all the rest. CoTD is 8d which I so wanted to be membrillo until sanity prevailed.
    Thanks to Elgar and to Dutch for the blog.

  4. An absolute delight, despite not being a great fan of themes. I felt this was on the gentle end of the Elgar range but nonetheless as tough as old boots, especially with several of the 4-letter answers. 11a and 7d new to me, and I needed Dutch’s help to understand why some of my answers were as they were. As usual I felt the surface reads were compromised in the name of extracting every degree of toughness from some of the clues. Lots of super clues, though, with my favourites beign 8d, 18a, and 6a.

    I was trying to count the theme-connected clues and got to 12 (6a, 8a, 17a, 18a, 24a, 25a, 1d (dubious?), 3d, 5d, 8d, 14d, 27d) – have I missed any?

    5* / 5*

    Many thanks to Elgar and to Dutch

  5. Struggled for a long train ride and got about half in, with some of those unparsed. Thanks to Elgar for the fight. Reaching for a 25a!

  6. I know my limitations so am just enjoying reading through the blog as someone cleverer than me talks me through it. I did manage 2 clues, 10d and the 2001 hit on IBM that was HAL.They did not get me very far. Happy Days!

    1. I know I’m thick but, after reading this through, the theme escapes me! 27d,”amid” is relevant?
      I’m interested in that Elgar follows the suggestion that marmalade (8d) was originally made from quinces.

        1. No! From midwife, middleman to intermediary it escapes me as, so it seems, the occasional avatar.

          1. A mid summer nights dream. You’ll find those words in the grid. Well summer is in the clues. Off-grid! And more. Eg ass in 1d. You’ll find most of the 24 5s in the clues, as cryptic sue mentioned. And other clues seem to hint, eg 10a. Have fun

            1. Thank you so much. I did wonder about the Dream but In that case expected Titania , Puck and Oberon to be in the grid. So much for a literal(?);mind!

  7. I’m relatively new to Toughies so didn’t realise there might be a theme! I got about halfway through. I got 27d but wondered why that particular play gave the answer!

    Quite a few new words for me too (20a, I’d got but had to check it was a word, Wikipedia enlightened!)

    Pleased to have got 4d, 9a and 30a. 22d made me chortle.

  8. Useful blog but why give away the answers with explicit pictures like that one of Dali?

    1. Ah, welcome Alan. House style. My instructions as a blogger were to use full sentences to explain parsing, to capitalise anagrams, underline definitions, and to add illustrations to that must relate directly to the definition, rather than some oblique inference. Often that is a portrait of a person. Admittedly, Dali is distinctive and if you recognise the photo you would also recognise any painting used as an illustration. I have in the past used a picture of him walking his anteater. The blog is intended to guide you towards the solutions. Good luck!

      1. Anteater aside, I wouldn’t recognise Dali were he still alive, at that age, and sitting next to me at the kitchen table. Were the anteater here too that might be a different, of course!

  9. Hi Dutch and thanks for the blog (and others). I’m an artist and see the world in images so the photos you all choose tend to give the answers away instantly. Picking more cryptic pictures would be fun. I challenge you!

    1. It would be trivial for me to offer cryptic images. But those are not the house rules. Many people use the images to help them reach the answer. This blog is read world wide. Not everyone shares your views. I do try not to give things away too easily, but I also try to follow house rules. Your comment is taken on board. Though not everyone knows what Dali looks like. If they go, who is that?, I’m happy to have enlightened. People are different.

      1. Elgar went to great lengths to disguise the alternative meaning of flute but the image shows a wine glass giving it away immediately; answer is tobacco and image is a pile of tobacco etc. House rules should maybe be changed or simply ditch the pictures? Otherwise the blog is great and huge thanks to all!

        1. I agree with you about the pictures. Sometimes I’d like to use the blog to unlock one tricky clue, but can’t, because I don’t want the view of various pictures to give me other answers I didn’t want to see.

          There’s always a huge discussion when the “reveal answer” click stops working, but having a bunch of the answers in plain sight all the time is somehow OK!

          I suppose it’s meant to make the blog more friendly/fluffy, but it does have downsides as you note.

    2. Since I have 100% aphantasia, I have never seen an image in my head if I am not looking at it with eyes open. Please do not challenge me even more!

  10. I managed to fill in all the answers with the help of the clues and use of the reveal mistakes option. Did I understand even half of those I put in on my own? No chance! I admit that the picture clues above gave me an idea of what to look for but I didn’t know the subject or the artist. I am happy with what I achieved and won’t worry about what went over my head. Thank you to all involved, all week, and I am looking forward to next week now.

  11. Too clever by half for me however with the explanationsit became all very clear. A masterpiece indeed

  12. I got within two of a completed grid, so that must put this at the easier end of the Elgar spectrum. I was stuck on 7d and 12a. I had never heard of the former and still cannot see what the latter has to do with business. Could I have further guidance, please?

  13. Very late to this. Didn’t get round to it on Friday, and I tackled Maskarade on Saturday. Failed on three, 1d (rather obvious once I saw it), 8a (not familiar with the word/meaning), and 29a (I had w-rap).

    Not familiar with the theme either, although I did get some Shakespeare at school about 60 years ago and I absolutely hated it.

    I liked 2d and 26d.

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