Toughie 2976 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2976

Toughie No 2976 by Elgar

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

A fun puzzle with a (2,5,2,2’1,4) Nina that relates to 8 & 13d. Enjoy. The Nina helped me in SW. Took me a while – I got stuck after about 7 entries, then the delightful 22d got me started again.


1a    Like the impertinence of hitmaker? (8)

ASSASSIN: A short word meaning like, a word meaning impertinence, and a preposition that could mean ‘of’

6a    Vatican City’s No.1 missed playing forward! (6)

AVANTI: An anagram (playing) of VATI(c)AN without (missed) the first (No.1) letter in City

9a    Start betting cartel (6)

SPRING: Some betting odds and another word for cartel

10a    Contemplative beer producer, Italian, takes soft drink, preposterously (8)

TRAPPIST: A shortened word for an Italian restaurant contains (takes) the musical abbreviation for soft and a reversal (preposterously) of another word for drink

11a    High point for Scot, commandeering Rolls to take off the relations (8)

BRETHREN: A Scottish word for mountain contains (commandeering) the abbreviation for Rolls Royce which in turn contains (to take) an anagram (off) of THE

12a    “Bust” is me with no cash (6)

MONIES: An anagram (bust) of IS+ME+NO

13a    What Santa is fundamentally right to take in his employee program Shape? Pride (4-8)

SELF-APPROVAL: The first letter of Santa (what … is fundamentally) and the abbreviation for right contain (to take in) his 3-letter employee plus a 3-letter program you might have on your phone, all followed by a shape

16a    Modified proposal connected to torpedo assignment? (12)

RESUBMISSION: Split (2,3,7), the answer would suggest ‘connected to torpedo assignment’

19a    See teetotaller, naked, moon (6)

OBERON: Take a (5,3) teetotaller and remove the outer letters (naked)

21a    Restrained tango breaks hectic routine (8)

RITENUTO: The letter with radio code tango goes inside (breaks) and anagram (hectic) of ROUTINE

23a     Tin drum collected spiritlessly by the military escort (3,5)

ARM CANDY: Another word for tin plus a spiritless D(rum) are collected by another word for the military

24a    Missing the first ordinal out, the second of twelve (6)

ALDRIN: An anagram (out) of (o)RDINAL, missing the first letter

25a    Someone must pay her new girl support (6)

DEBTEE: A ‘new girl’ and a golfing support

26a    Aussie carrier: attendant, ill, switches wings (5,3)

DILLY BAG: Take a 5-letter attendant plus a 3-letter word meaning ill or evil, then exchange the very outer letters (switches wings)


2d    A payment in advance will secure choice (6)

SUPERB: A 3-letter word for ‘A’ in the clue is secured by a ‘payment in advance’

3d    Inclusive of current core representatives of theatre, films, music and fiction? (1-4)

A-LIST: The central letters (core representatives) of theatre, etc., include the physics symbol for current

4d     Ruffled, glamourpuss not so sweet (9)

SUGARPLUM: An anagram (ruffled) of GLAM(o)URPUS(s), without (not) the letters of SO

5d    Memos lawyer returning from sunless vacation? (7)

NOTANDA: Split (2,3,2), the answer may describe a lawyer returning from a sunless vacation (where ‘vacation’ subtly suggests an American lawyer)

6d    Like a jolly loud warning? (5)

ALARM: Splitting the answer (1,2,2), we find a phrase that can mean ‘like a jolly’ or ‘in the manner of sailors’

7d    No help, sadly, given by service to a Swiss summoner (9)

ALPENHORN: An anagram (sadly) of NO HELP and a military service all following A from the clue

8d    Thematically shaped tiles are put up around second base (8)

TESSERAE: A reversal (up) of ARE from the clue and a word meaning ‘put’ goes around the abbreviation for second, then the base of natural logarithms. These tiles usually have the shape that forms the theme of this puzzle

13d     Upper and lower parts of this grid are shot (6,3)

SQUARE CUT: Upon completion of the puzzle, you’ll find the upper and lower parts of the grid are so divided

14d    Suffering first of blows during remarkable game (9)

PAINTBALL: A 4-letter word for suffering, then the first letter of blows goes inside a word meaning remarkable or unbelievable

15d    Ace in clothes for soaring over the Med? (8)

SEABORNE: The abbreviation for ace goes inside (in) the reversal (for soaring) of another verb meaning clothes

17d    Effected dispersal of clouds so was quick to catch some sun (7)

SPRAYED: A 4-letter word meaning ‘was quick’ contains (to catch) a bit of sunshine

18d    Marauding king landed, it’s appreciated, from the south (6)

ATTILA: A reversal (from the south) of a 4-letter word meaning landed plus an expression of gratitude

20d    Certainly not dispensing with refreshment for the afternoon occasion (5)

NONCE: Take a (2,6) expression meaning ‘certainly not’, then remove (dispensing with) the refreshment for the afternoon

22d    A kid’s character not even the Empire State will embrace (5)

NODDY: A word meaning ‘not even’ is embraced by the state known as the Empire State

As well as the thematic clues, I liked the simple 12d – and my favourite is the 5d sunless vacation. Which clues did you like?

20 comments on “Toughie 2976
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  1. Slow (very) but steady solve today, aided by the online letter hints.

    Dutch, there is an additional part to the Nina in the central horizontal line, which I’m sure you saw but haven’t mentioned in your intro.

    Thanks to Elgar/Dutch.

  2. Another very challenging one from Elgar – like Dutch I got stuck after a very few (relative) gimmes. I did spot the relationship of 8d and 13d, and indeed it helped me to guess the first word of the latter, but totally failed to spot the central line, so thank you Odrum for that. I needed Dutch’s help with 19a (or I thought I did, because I thought that ‘see’ had to be part of what was naked, if you see what I mean – what is ‘see’ doing there?) and 3d, which was a bit of a bung-in. As always with Elgar, a grid completed even with bung-ins and after a good deal of head-scratching really felt like an achievement.

    Many thanks as always to Elgar and Dutch for keeping me coming back.

  3. It’s Friday and here we go again! Just 3 bloggers and Dutch. Unless there are many satisfied brilliant lurkers out there, is it really fair to ignore the rest of us?

    1. Hello, JB. There are indeed many lurkers out there eagerly following Elgar Toughies. We know this because Dutch’s blogs covering Elgar’s puzzles always rack up well over a thousand page views. Blog readers who comment on the site in public represent only a tiny fraction of the BD community.

    2. Hi JB, thanks for your comment. Fairness is very close to the heart of any crossword setter. Elgar’s puzzles are difficult (well, it is the Friday toughie) but always fair, else they wouldn’t get past the editor. Like any work of art, some will like more than others. Actually, I thought this one was rather good with the theme and “square” dividing the grid.

      When I started doing Elgars, I only managed a few clues. But I learnt, so i think there is hope for us all :) There are of course many who solve and don’t comment – I can readily count off `a dozen or so just from people I know. I rarely comment on puzzles i solve theses days – perhaps i should, setters love comments (although you have annoyed Elgar). I want you to keep commenting, but please don’t criticise the setter for what you can’t do. Wishing you happy solving

  4. Didn’t even attempt this when I got an email notification that it was 5*. Only just finished the ordinary Friday crossword.

    1. Just so you know: the 5* is a measure of how long it takes me. Each star is a number of minutes (I can’t disclose on this website, we aren’t meant to discuss solving times for fear of discouraging those who aren’t quick) – but I can say that I have never been a speedy solver, unlike many admirable people on this site. Don’t let 5* discourage you. I wish we would abandon that metric.

  5. The usual convolution fron my friend which I managed to unravel in one go for a change. No particular favourites today except pethaps the military escort!

  6. Sorry, but I thought this was impossible for the vast majority of people.
    I struggled to understand the parsing even with the answers and explanations.
    Also, far too many obscure words.

    1. It’s for people like you that I spend many hours putting together the blog. I hope the explanations help you to understand how to do better 😃

  7. I got there after a long, long, time and a bit of Google assistance to confirm a couple of obscurities. First time I’ve spotted a Nina, and it actually helped me too.

  8. Finally finished on Sunday morning – and then only after seeing Dutch’s number break down of the Nina.
    I too found Elgar impossible to begin with (and posted a moan). Dutch recommended Chambers, and I’ve just accepted that setters do use a lot of obscurities – and references to people, places, plants and animals etc. that one’s never heard of. Learning new stuff is part of the fun. (Shame I forget most of it again).
    Thanks to Dutch and Elgar.

    1. You’re not the only one.
      It usually takes me a few days to finish an Elgar. And I’m not talking about his New Year special which I finish around Easter.

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