SP 011 (Full Review) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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SP 011 (Full Review)

Special Puzzle 011

Christmas Double Toughie 2023

“Y in 27 52: XY” by Elgar

A full review by crypticsue

The puzzle can be found here

The instructions read:

A phrase XY is to be deduced. The solutions to the anagrams at 3ac and 18ac are Chambers definitions of X. The definition part of each of the asterisked clues is for a longer answer than will fit the grid; wordplay, letter and word counts are for the letters to be entered – enabling solvers to identify Y. Using X and Y, solvers must write the interpretation of the title under the grid.

So what did you do this Christmas? We had lots of lovely food and drink, pieced together our usual Christmas Jigsaw but mostly I spent  a very long time working on the Double Toughie and then the parsing and blog writing, not to mention the usual  need for a regular lie down in a darkened room.  I started off with only a few clues solved after a couple of  sessions,  and was beginning to think I’d never get very far but slowly and surely everything came together in a completed grid, I worked out the ‘interpretation’ and then typed out the review. About half a dozen of the clues kept their solving secrets for a very long time, and there’s still one I’m not sure about, but someone is bound to tell me where I’ve gone wrong.

I had a fair idea of what Y might represent after I’d solved the clue for 1d and other solutions to which FOUR could be added soon fell into place. It took me a very long time to see what X had to be, mainly helped by the checking letters for the last bit of 3a being CxIxKxT. A check of the Chambers definitions for 3a and 18a soon confirmed that X had to be Twenty-Twenty and thus the interpretation for “Y in 27 52: XY” had to be :

The Year (27a) of Our Lord (52a) :

X =Twenty-Twenty (the solutions to either 3a or 18a) Four (Y in the asterisked clues)


1a     By virtue of being any of the same group of players, Crouch dropped wingers (3)
QUA – sQUAt (crouch) without the outside letters (dropped wingers)

3a     Mock-sport affected Africa (23, 6 words)
A FAST PACED FORM OF CRICKET – An anagram of the whole clue produces the Chambers definition of Twenty-Twenty cricket

15a     What honour is vouchsafed by repeated beadledom! (3)
MBE – Repeat BEADLEDOM BEADLEDOM and you’ll see that MBE (honour) can be found in the middle

17a     *Over a hectare and a half one’s taken outside Reading? (5)
[Four] ACRES – ACE’S (one’s) taken ‘outside’ R (reading being one of the three Rs

18a     Lo! Avon NHS, I am uniform (19, 4 words)
OF HUMAN VISION NORMAL – A anagram of the whole clue produces the Chambers definition of Twenty-Twenty vision

19a     *Bit of old silver bust cheapened when head’s nicked (5)
[Four] PENCE – An anagram (bust) of CheaPENEd without (nicked or taken away) the letters HEAD

20a/57a Party time for upper class lad pursuing naval career (3,6)
THE SEASON – SON (lad) going after (pursuing) THE SEA (naval career)

21a     *Bondsman has way to hold back President’s speech (8)
[Four] FREEDOMS – SERF (bondsman) ‘holds’ MODE (way) and then is reversed (back). The Four Freedoms was a speech by President Franklin D Roosevelt in January 1941.

22a     *Not just any anxieties about Mason’s symbols of cowardice (8)
[Four] FEATHERS – FEARS (anxieties) go about THE (not just any) – A reference to the novel by AEW Mason about white feathers, given to people thought to be cowards

23a     Maybe prepare to drive some furniture (6)
SETTEE – If you were preparing to drive a golf ball, you would SET [a] TEE

25a     Tubers cooked between Arsenal and Upminster? (3)
ALU – An alternative spelling of ALOO (Indian potatoes – tubers) can be found between arsenAL and Upminster

27a/55a Day, thereto, for Creation? (3,4,3)
THE YEAR DOT – An anagram (creation) of DAY THERETO gives the very beginning of time

28a     Bone – the whole set of three sections (7)
STERNUM – TERN (a set of three) ‘sections’ or is inserted into SUM (the whole)

30a     The visiting children were 36 34! (7)
SEETHED – THE (from the clue) ‘visiting’ SEED (children)

32a     Scruffy bed unoccupied by outside left (7)
UNKEMPT – bUNK EMPTy (bed unoccupied), the outside letters being left off

33a     It’ll excavate second XI’s third-rate home (5,6)
STEAM SHOVEL – S (second) TEAMS (XIs) HOVEL (third-rate home)

36a/34d Waldo thoroughly excited! (3,2,1,6)
ALL OF A DOODAH – A waldo is a mechanical gadget also known informally as A DOODAH – which should be put after ALL OF (thoroughly)

37a     Orderless arrangement in turning parts is badly in need of it (11)
DISASSEMBLY – MESS (orderless arrangement) inserted (parts) in an anagram of IS BADLY

42a     *Buddhist realities allow Moab woman to infiltrate the gentry (11, 2 words)
[Four] NOBLE TRUTHS – LET (allow) and RUTH (Moab woman) ‘infiltrate) NOBS (the gentry). The Four Noble Truths are the main elements of the teachings of Buddha

44a     *Some vulgarity: races in Barking were accepted by MCC HQ (11, 2 words)
[Four] LETTER WORDS – TT (races) in an anagram (barking) of WERE, inserted into (accepted by) LORDS (the headquarters of the MCC)

52a     “My God” returned girlfriend’s last toffee (1,4)
O LORD – A reversal (returned) of D (the last letter of girlfrienD) and ROLO (toffee)

53a     *Film day: champion on board having enjoyable time squeezing into slipper (19, 4 words)
[Four] WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL – An abbreviated day of the week, DING (the reigning World Chess Champion) and an ornate shoe or slipper into which is inserted FUN (enjoyable) ERA (time)

54a     *Middle 57 leads forty pairs out of the ark (5)
[Four] SCORE – An archaic way of saying eighty (forty x 2 (pairs)) – The abbreviation for Son (the solution to 57a ‘leads’ CORE (middle)

55a     See 27a

56a     *Ref’s eye analysed with an ophthalmoscope – their appearance could signal the end (23, 4 words)

57a     See 20a


1d     *Works collected by poet cue transformation of stature (8)
[Four] QUARTERS – Q (cue) and an anagram (transformation) of STATURE – A set of four poems by TS Eliot published over a six year period but now available in one volume

2d    d *Self-help book about M penned by 007 and colleagues (10)
[Four] AGREEMENTS – The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom is a self-help book by the author Don Miguel Ruiz. RE (about) EM (M) inserted into (penned by) AGENTS (007 and colleagues)

3d     Self-disciplined stroke and cox both reported (7)
AUSTERE – Homophones (both reported) of OAR (stroke) and STEER (cox)

4d     I survived what might be run in frenzy (4)
AMOK – Split 2,2 this would be quite a terse way of saying “I survived”

5d     Beginning to shoot up, needs liquid gear (1-6)
T-SHIRTS – Move the first appearance of S (the beginning to shoot) up THIRSTS (needs liquid)

6d     Not fully trained European actress (5)
AIMEE – Almost all of AIMEd (trained) and E (European) – the actress being Aimee Anouk

7d     Risk one’s oddly taken with new forms of wheat (8)
EINKORNS – An anagram (oddly taken) of RISK ONE into which is inserted N (new) – one-seeded wheat

8d     Market’s sufficient number maybe randomly selected (4,6)
FAIR SAMPLE – FAIRS (market) AMPLE (sufficient)

9d     Is it more inspiring to govern union? (10)
REINFUSION – REIN (govern) FUSION (union) One of the definitions of infusion is ‘inspiring’ so a re-infusion could be said to be more/further inspiring

10d     Trademark slipshod no-ball takes wicket, trapping Eoin in front (3-5)
OWN-LABEL – An anagram (slipshod) of NO BALL ‘takes’ W (wicket) while ‘trapping’ the first (at the front) letter of Eoin

11d     Pleasing congregation, maybe priests dropping the flannel! (5)
CLOTH – To have a LOT of people in CH (church) would be a pleasing congregation – Drop THE from THE CLOTH (priests) and you get a description of a textile such as flannel

12d     Put away stop sign after climbing peak naked (7)
IMMURED – RED (the colour of a stop sign) goes after a reversal (climbing) of the inside (naked) letters of sUMMIt

13d     ET: what’s not to like about mass (4)
KILO – Take away the ET (what’s not) in tO LIKe and the reverse of the solution can be clearly seen in the letters that remain

14d     Part of bus depot, converted fashion house (3,4)
TOP DECK – An anagram (converted) of DEPOT followed by CK (Calvin Klein, fashion house)

15d     *Small child detective retained track record (10, 2 words)
[Four] MINUTE MILE – MINUTE (small) ‘retaining’ EMIL (child detective in Emil and the Detectives written by Erich Kastner

16d     *Greek Foundation, European people I think we should set about (8)
[Four] ELEMENTS – According to the Greeks, there were four major elements, earth, air, water – E (European) and LETS (I think we should) ‘set about’ MEN (people)

24d     *Talents of scholarly old Chinese emperor on a cycle (4)
ARTS – Cycle TSAR (emperor) – The four main academic and artistic talents required of the aristocratic ancient Chinese scholar-gentleman.  They were the mastery of the qin (the guqin, a stringed instrument) qi (the strategy game of Go) shu (Chinese calligraphy) and hus (Chinese painting)

26d     *Boundary rider unstaking fences (4)
[Four] RUNS – Hidden in, or fenced by, rideR UNStaking

29d     Banker down south renounced one’s administration (9)
EXECUTIVE – EXE (river, banker, in the south) CUT (renounced) IVE (one’s)

31d     Cyclical position professor occupies with distinction receives one shock application (4,5)
HAIR TONIC – Cycle CHAIR (position professor occupies) follow with TON (distinction) and I (one)

34d    See 36

35d     As far as it’s possible to go, revealed Georgia’s secret (7)
OUTEDGE – OUT (revealed) and EDGE (hidden in revealED GEorgia)

38d     Rosy start for athlete joining two sides after back-to-back golds (7)
AURORAL – Two back-to-back golds – the chemical symbol AU and the heraldic OR, the latter reversed) followed by the start for Athlete inserted in (or joining) R and L (two sides)

39d     Do items in a new fashion? I will (7)
MODISTE – An anagram (in a new fashion) of DO ITEMS

40d     Tough guys’ principal rough? (6)
THUGGO – An anagram (rough) of TOUGH and G (the principal letter of Guy)

41d     Reinforce the rising cost – of ale, by the look of it! (4,2)
BEEF UP – Reversal (rising) of FEE in a PUB

43d     Increasingly mean and threatening appearance (5)
LOWER – Double definition

45d     Feature of woodland that’s south of the Bullring? (5)
OXLIP – A ring is inserted into the nostrils of an ox and so an ox lip would be seen south or below this

46d     *First love lost, once? Several times over (4)
[Four] FOLD – oF OLD (once) without the first instance of O for Old

47d     *British Rail gauge is very fine when set up (4)
[Four] FOOT – A reversal (set up) of TOO (very) F (fine) – a standard rail gauge in Britain is 4ft 8½ ins

48d     *Do endless barbershop? (4)
[Four] PART – A PARTy or DO without its final letter (endless) – a reference to Barbershop Quartets

49d     Means to cut commercials on the radio (4)
ADZE – A homophone (on the radio) of ADS (commercials)

50d     *Group of singers man’s taken from the opera (4)
[Four] TOPS – HE (man) taken away from The OPS – I’ve been looking at and muttering at this clue for a week. I think (hope) that it is T (THE without HE – man’s taken away) and OPS (opera being a less used plural of opus)

51d     *Hot date neglecting last words of film number (4)
[Four] TEEN – I stared at this one long and hard and then we watched a Christmas film where the last words were THE END! ‘Neglect’ or remove the H (hot)and D (date) from ThE ENd

Thank you and Happy New Year to Elgar – just think there are only 358 days until the next Elgar Christmas Double Toughie!

6 comments on “SP 011 (Full Review)
Leave your own comment 

  1. After a couple of lengthy sessions, with a two day break in between, I did succeed in filling the grid but had some of the parsings to sort out. I then decided I had given my brains enough racking, and didn’t want to interrupt festive celebrations further, so would wait for the review to dot the i’s and cross the t’s for me! Thank you for doing so, CS. I did get all the answers to the clues :smile: but I didn’t spot the ‘pleasing congregation’ construction in 11d, or that 40d contained an anagram, and I didn’t discover the ‘child detective’ in 15d. I can’t help out with 50d as the parsing also eluded me! Most frustratingly of all I didn’t see the “interpretation of the title” despite it being the easiest ‘clue’ of the lot after having found X and Y (in addition to 27 and 52) – the word “interpretation” threw me off the scent, perhaps. I did find an intended (I thought) choice of wordplay (indicated by ‘any of’) in the 1d clue with ‘the same group of players’ being SQUAD as well as ‘Crouch’ being SQUAT. The other suggestion I have is that ET in 13d is ‘what’s not’ (i.e. the letters to be removed) when reversing ‘to like’. And NB there is a typo in your 54a hint which reads ‘so’ instead of ‘son’. Of the asterisk clues, I had not previously encountered the ‘freedoms’, ‘noble truths’, ‘quartets’, ‘agreements’ or ‘arts’ so picked up a bit of GK as I progressed. 56a was first of these to get solved and thus provide the identity to ‘Y’. There were some other new terms to me such as ‘tern’, ‘waldo’ and the alternative spelling of ‘lour’. Once I had surmised a likely ‘X’ I tried to work out the anagram in 18d. I obtained the four words but initially put them in a different order, which slowed things down until additional checkers forced a correction, even though it doesn’t make such good English in my reading. I don’t have a Chambers to check if it is verbatim.
    Normally, I don’t select favourites when solving an Elgar crossword as I’m so wrapped up in the process but 32a broke the spell and made me laugh! 4d and 8d also provided some good PDMs. And I needed a lot of PDMs…
    Thanks, Elgar, for the annual workout: always a stiff challenge, but also an enjoyable challenge – especially if I manage to complete it!!! And my thanks, again, to CS for taking the time to solve, parse and blog for the benefit of the rest of us.

    1. I spent quite a lot of last week thinking about the review of this crossword, and one of the things I kept thinking about was that I should explain the removal of ET in 13d but never remembered to do so anytime I was near the computer. I have corrected the typo

  2. I’m surprised this hasn’t attracted more comments yet

    I thought it was a great, hugely inventive, puzzle

    Solved it in leapfrog shifts with a chum on the other side of the globe

    We hadn’t made much headway till I managed to crack 56 from just two crossers, followed shortly after by 53, which gave us Y, which in turn helped to open the * clues

    After that it was slow progress again until my mate suggested the last word of 3A, which then opened up the rest of the grid

    A very satisfying solve which took a transglobal 4 days, but all the more gratifying for it

    Thanks to Elgar for the challenge and to crypticsue for the excellent blog

  3. I loved this puzzle solved over a few days. Very clever clues which held my interest and made me not want to give in.
    A very difficult puzzle which are the best. Fair clues when worked back but it took a few goes to get into it. Thank you Elgar for the brain workout over Boxing Day etc. best crossword since last years double.

  4. Late comment, but I also did this over a few days. Hard to get a foothold as there weren’t many easy clues, so just a question of sticking at it.

    Hints needed at the end to decipher 8 or 9 bits of wordplay, plus a couple of Googles to confirm some GK as I was going along.

    All very enjoyable, thanks both.

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