DT 26520 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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DT 26520

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 26520

Hints and tips by Big Dave

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

I always do the Quick crossword first on a Thursday to get a hint as to whether or not Ray T is the setter. I knew what I was up against before I started this one, and, rather surprisingly, it took me five minutes longer than today’s Elgar Toughie.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


7a    Philosopher with jug held noxious liquid (8)
{SEWERAGE} – put a word meaning a philosopher or wise man around (held) a jug to get this noxious liquid

9a    Start to sing shanty, it helps the stoker (6)
{SHOVEL} – a charade of the first letter of (start to) Sing and a shanty or ramshackle dwelling gives a tool used by a stoker

10a    Impediment getting mouth around sibilant? (4)
{LISP} – this speech impediment is created by putting a mouth or opening around a sibilant speech sound – excellent surface reading

11a    Pitch is left in clinical condition (10)
{INFLECTION} – a pitch or modulation is created by putting L(eft) inside a clinical condition like measles or mumps

12a    Endless palaver engulfing a second star (6)
{FAMOUS} – put most of a four-letter synonym for a palaver around A and a two-letter word for a second to get an adjective meaning star or celebrated

14a    Foreign national, the Parisian curses English (8)
{LEBANESE} – this foreign national from the Middle East is a charade of the French definite article, some curses and E(nglish)

15a    Please turn over and go on (6)
{ELAPSE} – an anagram (turn over) of PLEASE gives a word meaning to go on or slip away

17a    Small woman about to get tough (6)
{SEVERE} – a charade of S(mall), a woman’s name and one of the usual abbreviations for about gives an adjective meaning tough

20a    Reporting finished in pen (8)
{COVERAGE} – a noun meaning reporting is created by putting a word meaning finished inside a pen or enclosure

22a    Almost go out to see ‘Midnight Express’ (6)
{GUTTER} – a verb meaning to be blown downwards, or threaten to go out, when applied to a flame is a charade of the middle letter of niGht and a word meaning to express – the definition was a new one for me, but the wordplay was fairly obvious

23a    Commercial centre with mail shot (10)
{MERCANTILE} – an adjective meaning commercial is an anagram (shot) of CENTRE with MAIL

24a    Blast desperate character embracing right (4)
{DARN} – a similar expletive to “blast!” is created by putting the desperate cartoon character from The Dandy around (embracing) R(ight)

25a    Mercury, say, showing level temperature (6)
{PLANET} – a heavenly body, of which Mercury is an example, is a charade of a level and T(emperature) – once again the surface reading is very good and misdirection is achieved by placing Mercury at the start of the clue to conceal the required capitalisation

26a    ‘Cry wolf’ put in appearance (8)
{ENTREATY} – this cry is derived by putting a word meaning to wolf down food inside an appearance


1d Church recently admitting single Bishop’s chaste (8)
{CELIBATE} – start with the abbreviation for the Church of England and then add a word meaning recently, typically recently deceased, then inser I (single) and B(ishop) to get a word meaning chaste

2d The old vinyl record ‘Shout’ (4)
{YELP} – a charade of the Olde English for “the” and a vinyl record gives a word meaning to shout

3d Degeneration on ‘ampstead ‘eath? (6)
{CARIES} – this degeneration affects the part of the body that is represented in Cockney rhyming slang by ‘ampstead ‘eath

4d Group practised holding jam turned up… (8)
{ASSEMBLE} – a verb meaning to group is created by putting a word meaning practised around (holding) a jam reversed (turned up)

5d …’Asia’ perhaps, including start of great group (10)
{CONTINGENT} – put the land mass of which Asia is an example around (including) G (start of Great) to get a group – the only links between this and the previous clue are the ellipses and the word group

6d Knight, brave man’s protecting birds (6)
{HERONS} – put the chess notation for a knight between (protecting) a brave man and the S from ‘S to get these birds

8d Examination ends on fine ancient shroud (6)
{ENFOLD} – this clever charade combines E & N (the end letters of ExaminatioN), F(ine) and a synonym for ancient to get a verb meaning to shroud

13d         Shot scene with a plot twist (10)
{OPALESCENT} – The definition here is shot, which is a bit tricky as it is being used in the sense of multi-coloured or pearly – it’s an anagram (twist) of SCENE with A PLOT

16d         Stand still getting beat up in arena (8)
{STAGNATE} – a word meaning to stand still is derived by reversing a word meaning to beat and then inserting it into an arena

18d         Denounce former wife before end of divorce case (8)
{EXECRATE} – to get this verb meaning to denounce start with a former wife(2) then follow it with the last letter (end) of divorcE and a wooden case

19d         Emblem of French depravity (6)
{DEVICE} – this emblem is a charade of the French for “of” followed by depravity or immorality

21d         Too old really to accept Liberal (6)
{OVERLY} – once again the key is to spot the definition, in this case “too” – a charade of O(ld) and a word meaning really or quite around (accept) L(iberal)

22d         Poor part of town, hard, within reach (6)
{GHETTO} – this poor part of town immediately conjures up memories of one of Elvis’s greatest songs! – put H(ard) inside a phrasal verb meaning to reach (3,2)

24d         Tory leader expected to lead twosome (4)
{DUET} – the first letter (leader) of Tory is preceded by (to lead) a word meaning expected to get this twosome

This puzzle does look as if it escaped from the pile labelled “Toughies”!

The Quickie pun: {cur} + {daffy} = {Gaddafi}

91 comments on “DT 26520

  1. I found this to be about the same level of difficulty as the toughie from RayT yesterday. My last one in was 12a, as I put CAVITY for 3d, and I did not spot my error until the end.
    22a also caused me a headache, but I am sure that I have seen this definition somewhere before in a DT cryptic or toughie puzzle.
    Many thanks to RayT, and to BD for the review.

    1. I knew I had seen the definition for 22a before – 27a in 26339 blogged by Libellule.

  2. Wow, tough one today. Must admit, I had to use a serious thesaurus to get 3D – not something I normally do. Some very good clueas today – 13D was my favourite closely followed by 22D (nice to see it being used in this sense after so long). Also liked 14A, 22A, 24A, 4D, 5D, 6tD and 16D – liked all of them really. Nearly an hour today !!!!! (and a trip to the little crossword solvers room)

  3. Tricky today – it’s taken me a lot longer than usual and I still ended up with two that I couldn’t do – 12a and 3d. Will wait for the downs because, even with the last letter of 3d now in, STILL can’t do it. I had trouble with 13d – couldn’t decide what the definition was going to be – either ‘shot’ or ‘twist’ but could be either as both words could do for an anagram indicator!
    Too many great clues to pick a favourite – perhaps 22d?

    1. Kath
      Re. 3d the following might help. ‘ampstead ‘eath is Cockney rhyming slang for teeth!

      1. Thank you Libellule – NOW I get it and can go back to the garden without having to carry on ‘mithering’ about it!

      2. I’m only just having a look at this and it’s very hard! Thanks for the tip about Cockney ryming slang–now I get it!

  4. Another day off work for me so gave it until 10.30 – only did about half. I knew the posting for this one would be later than usual – but if I was doing the review it would be some time next week! 2d made me laugh, though. 13d a bit tenuous, I thought. I may return to it this evening if I have nothing else to do. Always learning …

  5. 3d doan and 12a held me up to the point that I bagged a coupl eof letters from Clued up (and then kicked myself for not seeing A MO instead of A S at 12a).
    This was very hard but well worth the effort with plenty of excellent clues as BD has pointed out.
    Many Thanks to the setter and to BD for the review.

  6. Great fun with the Beamer!

    A bit longer than my morning coffee and almost bumped into a colleague on the pavement on the way to the office as I was still looking in the paper instead of watching where I was going.

    1d: Nice surface, denying that the Right Reverend is called Gene Robinson
    3d: Learned a new rhyming slang and a new indicator
    17d: Smooth…

    Absolute topper: the 10a all-in-one!

    Did not know 22a as a verb… Learning every day. We remain apprentices until our death.

    Thanks to the Boss & the Beamer.

    1. I know the indicator but can’t see the answer still. Anyhow, fence panels to paint – will return to it this eve. Thanks to all.

      1. Having seen the comment from Libellule above I had the wrong indicator in mind. Got that answer now. Must switch this bl***y machine off and get back to my chores. This one has done my head in today. (Not all in a bad way!)

  7. This was a proper test of the cryptic brain cells – after three times as long as yesterday’s cryptic, I still had one clue left which called for a touch of Gnome’s Law. I had heard of the verb in 22a – from historical novels, I think. My favourite clue was 3d. Thanks to Ray for a right brain stretching – definitely on the toughie side of cryptic. Thanks to BD for the hints too.

    The Toughie is a splendid Elgar – tough but with some very nice penny-dropping moments in it.

  8. Very good puzzle indeed, and trickier than yesterday’s Beam Toughie IMO.

    10A was very nice.

    Thanks to Ray T and BD.

  9. These tough Cryptics frighten this septuagenarian. When I can’t do them (without the help of BD’s Blog), I start to think I’m losing it. It’s reassuring to hear that the bar has moved up. I can’t say I enjoyed this one, but at least I can put it behind me.

    ps. I don’t get today’s Quickie pun.

  10. Fabulous crossword from RayT today much trickier than usual. Thanks RayT and BD for the review. 7a was my favourite.

  11. started this after12 and am just about to give up on it just over half way through!

    1. No didn’t enjoy this today have finished now with a little help from the blog and my ‘friends’ only clue I really liked, well maybe 2, were 9a and 22d, I am sure it is a really good crossword but for me it belongs on the ‘toughie’ page, if this had been the first cryptic I attempted I wouldn’t have tried any more :)

  12. Mary and I are in the class again, I hope milk monitor is up for grabs. I barely finished half and had to give up. I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t finish a normal daily crossword.
    Thanks for the hints Dave, live and learn.

      1. Just by the way, nothing to do with anything really but doesn’t ‘the strretlight gutter’ in ‘Midnight’ by Andrew Lloyd Webber? nothing to do with the clue I know just the Midnight & gutter connection :-)

            1. …If a candle flame gutters and causes grease to form in a winding sheet, it is a death omen for whoever is sitting nearest to it…

        1. It does – and that’s how I got this one. Yes it’s “memory” but the first line is “midnight, all alone in the moonlight”; that, and [starlight] express put my brain in the right place! Wonder if the Lloyd Webber references were intentional. Otherwise a very tough puzzle!!

  13. I’m mightily relieved to see this is a 4* as I only got three answers on the first read-through. Have been out most of the morning and can now get out and enjoy the sunshine without feeling guilty about ignoring the puzzle!

    1. Hi Geoff, enjoy the sunshine, we haven’t got any today even though it was promised :(

        1. Once I’ve walked the dogs, or more likely the dogs have walked me, then by all means you can have a little sent westwards from here.

  14. Without doubt the most difficult cryptic for ages – I had to resort to all manner of help after staring at the clues blankly for some considerable time! Thanks to BD for the enlightenment!

  15. Excellent crossword. 3d stymied me, I once lived in Hampstead and it was frustrating not being able to pin down the relevant form of degeneracy as practised on the Heath (I only played rugby and other wholesome games there). Thinking ‘Lamour’ (Dorothy, a minor star admittedly) for 12a didn’t help.

  16. This was tough today and I’m pleased to say I’m not alone in thinking that! After several read-throughs, I had only put in 6 answers, so I resorted to BDs hints for the across clues. Having put those in, the down clues did fall into place [well, I did have lots of checking letters to help] – but it made me think “why did I find this so difficult?” As they say, all the clues were there. Certainly the synonyms were not the most usual or well-known and 22a is a new word for me, used in that sense. Maybe tomorrow’s will be a breeze! So congratulations to the setter for a brain teaser and a half which had me stumped and to BD for the [much need] review.

  17. This must be the hardest back page puzzle so far this year! Harder than some of the Toughies have been.
    Thanks for the hints Dave, I needed one for 3d – D’oh, it’s that rhyming slang again. I really must get a dictionary of it!
    Thanks for the brain strain RayT, I enjoyed the tussle.

  18. A really meaty and enjoyable Cryptic from Ray T, at least on a par for difficulty with his Toughie yesterday. Thanks to him and BD. I knew 22a from its use by Wilfred Owen in his poem “Dulce et Decorum est”:
    “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.”

    1. Wilfred Owen was one of the poets we had to study at “O” level back in the early seventies. I didn’t appreciate his poetry then but being maturer I now find his verse most moving. Thanks Gazza – I think it’s time to dust down my old poetry books & revisit “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.

    2. I studied him at University – went to see his grave at Ors a while ago. He is buried in the village communal cemetery rather than in a Commonwealth War Grave cemetry.

  19. In agreement with nearly all comments. I dread to think what Barrie would have posted. Think 13d is a bit tenuous, even though the anagram was relatively easy to identify. Thanks to BD and RayT.

  20. Several rests needed in order for the brain to clear, but got there in the end. Did anyone else get TWIN at 24d? 2d and 22a stood out amongst a rich crop of great clues. Cheers BD and Ray T. Curdaffy indeed!!

  21. Must admit my heart sank when I saw this was a RayT product. Still having had some success with these recently and a bit more time today I took the plunge. Oh dear. After a couple of hours of chewing concrete I realised I was really dealing with a runaway Toughie. Got down to the last three before seeking help but did not enjoy. Just not my cuppa tea. Thanks to all anyway.

  22. Hello, my first post here and please let me say how much I appreciate this site.
    I’m a refugee from the Guardian, having abandoned it for the Telegraph because I can’t stand its compilers (with the exception of Rufus). But I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no point me buying the Telegraph on Thursdays, I can’t get anywhere with this compiler. So it’s back to the Guardian on Thursdays for me, and fingers crossed it’s not their dreadful Paul doing their crossword.

    1. Welcome to the blog Grumpy Andrew

      I’m sure that you will be delighted to know that John Halpern, aka Paul, is now setting Toughies as Dada!

    2. Welcome Andrew. Ray T is usually every other Thursday so do persevere with the DT every day. This was a particularly tough example of his cryptics – his Beam Toughie yesterday was a lot more user-friendly.

      1. CrypticSue, you misspelled “perservate”. Grumpy Andrew may as well get used to the idiosyncrasies of the site.

        Andrew, join the perservating crowd.

        1. i leave Mary to the perservating – I am more of a ‘numberals’ girl myself :)

    3. Hi Grumpy Andrew.

      The DT puzzles are often more accessible than the Guardian’s, but today’s was the trickiest back-pager for quite a while, I think. You shouldn’t give up just yet.

      FWIW I enjoyed today’s Brendan in the Guardian, and I think that it’s rather less convoluted than some in that paper.

    4. Welcome Grumpy Andrew, Ditto others replying. I usually find RayT in the cryptic enjoyable, but today for me was neither enjoyable or straightforward, and would echo CrypicSue comment that his Beam yesterday was far more approachable. The “Toughie” today by Elgar I completed in less time than this one. Keep at it.

    5. Andrew

      Here’s an Idiots Guide to Guardian setters in the Telegraph:

      Brendan (Brian Greer) – Sunday Telegraph
      Enigmatist (John Henderson) – Toughies as Elgar + occasional regular cryptics
      Pasquale ( Don Manley) – Friday crtptics + Toughies as Giovanni
      Paul (John Halpern) – Toughies as Dada
      Rufus (Roger Squires) – Monday cryptics

      1. Oh dear – now I’m totally confused – thought that I’d got to grips with the compilers – maybe not .. :sad:

  23. Today’s was definitely harder than usual, as most have said, and I was pushed for time, so resorted to hints for a few and that enabled me to finish off. Didn’t pick up the rhyming slang in 3d which was annoying, and for 25a I thought element and Freddie, but not solar system! Grrrr. But I did know 22a, as in a g*****ing candle. Thanks to the setter for the challenge, and thanks to BD for the hints.
    PS I was slightly disappointed when I saw the answer to the pun – I was expecting it to be longer, though that does make it sound a bit like a Sun headline! :-)

  24. Am only now having a look at it—and think I will have to work backwards from the hints & answers!!!

    Still, that’s how one learns.

    What’s the Toughie like?

    1. It’s Elgar so its tough but if you perservate and use a few of Bufo’s hints, there are some very fun clues within.

  25. Some boringly obscure clues; I shall probably not renew my on-line sub if the tedious standard continues.

    1. CS

      That would be a shame! – I thought the puzzle was difficult, but not boring. Some people (me included) find those from RayT a challenge to decipher, but his puzzles are always very well put together.

  26. I was delighted to have another Ray T but I did find it v tough. In fact I have not got 3d yet but shall keep trying. 22a and 13some were the best for me. Thanks to Ray T and BD

  27. A struggle to get into this and to keep going. In the end two clues unsolved 12A and 3d.
    Even with the Big Dave hints I do not understand 3D. Chambers says that CARIES is teeth, where is the degeneration.
    This for me was the hardest cryptic I have come across and while I enjoyed the challenge some of the clues were a bit obscure.
    Thanks to setter and Big Dave for the hints, needed today.

      1. I would agree – I was unaware of the Cockney Rhyming Slang but I have understood ‘caries’ to be synonymous with ‘tooth decay’ since I was about 8 years old.

  28. Thanks to BD for his dissection, and to everybody who took the time to give their feedback.

    A bit trickier than usual perhaps, but there will be some easier ones along soon…


    1. You said that last time! Did you mix up yesterday’s Toughie and today’s backpage in the wrong envelopes :)

  29. Phew! I thought it was just me being thick after reading the earlier blogs – now coming” back in” to read the latest I feel much better. I think I managed 4 before resorting to BD and even then I couldn’t get all of them. Have NEVER seen or heard of 3d before (although, strangely,, I did know 22a which seems to have caused quite a lot of confusion). Perhaps my school reports were correct – “could do better if tried harder”? But I DID try hard to-day – had some shredding to do,which is one step worse than watching paint dry, so settled myself with shredder and “to be shredded” on one side and Xword on my knee and tried REALLY hard – honest! Simply couldn’t do it. Hey ho – it won’t stop me trying.

  30. I can usually finish the toughie without having to pop over to the hints… but this was very very hard.

    Too difficult for me to enjoy it fully. Please don’t take that as a ‘moan’, more a cry of frustration at my weakness and limitations.

    Thanks to RayT for a strenuous workout, and to BD for making it possible for me to finish it.

    Do we use the same * system for the cryptic and the toughie? 5* difficulty for a cryptic, 4* on the toughie scale, I think.


    1. Nick

      I work on the basis that the Toughie should, on average, take 4 minutes for every three mnutes of a regular cryptic and adjust the difficulty accordingly. Your analogy of 5* / 4* is about right.

      1. Thank you.

        I think my toughie performance is not quite as good as that … I’ll have to time a few.

        Was quite relieved to find that other people found it hard today. I’m not always in tune with the average on this site.

  31. Stonking stuff from Ray T today that certainly limbered up the brain. Many thanks to him for a great crossword to wrestle with and to BD for the review.

  32. I had 3 left, all in the NW corner for which I needed the blog. Definitely more difficult than usual. Thanks to RayT
    for the challenge & to BD for the enlightenment.

  33. I am a big fan of RayT but I must take exception to 7a. Sewerage is a trerm for the pipes which carry sewage which is the noxious liquid. Black mark Ray! Big trouble with sewers this week after trying to convince me that a main was a main sewer. Rant over. I found the rest up to the expected RayT standard with 3d best followed by 9 12 13 22a and 26. Late on duty today due to other commitments but most enjoyable.

    1. Check your dictionary!

      From Chambers:

      sewerage noun
      * A system, or the provision, of sewers
      * Sewage

      The first definition is the infrastructure but the second is the liquid.

      It’s quite hard to catch Ray out on the English language – which he teaches to the Frogs!

      1. I hope he doesn’t teach that to the French. No matter what Chambers says, sewage is carried by sewerage, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

          1. I often wonder if the people that write dictionaries know what is going on in the real world.

            1. Dictionaries very often differ from “accepted usage” when it comes to “terms of art”, or words or phrases having a particular meaning in a specialised context.

              For that reason, doctors, lawyers, engineers and clergymen (among many others) are frequently upset when terms used in a particular way in their owns spheres are described otherwise by lexicographers.

              Unfortunately, this is probably inevitable. Dictionaries are written by specialists in the world of words, not in the words of worlds. Lexicographers look at how words are used generally, rather than specifically. This is why dictionaries have “infer” and “imply” as synonyms; many would say that that was blatantly wrong, but lexicographers refer to historical patterns of usage. The same applies in this case.

              Several million wrongs, apparently, do make a right.

  34. I found this puzzle to be a whit tougher than usual – many thanks Ray T!
    7a, 20a, 22a, 26a, 3d & 13d were my favourites. I still remember The Old Bull and Bush!

  35. Sadly with my addictive personality I have to limit my crossword consumption to our three week sojourns to Menorca where the DT crossword is my daily treat. I keep completed ones to do the Quickies if the weather goes off, so when I discovered your site and rating system, I went back to find the puzzle I had scribbled ‘APPALLING’ across and to my delight found that I was not alone in having found it a ‘toughie’ not that I’m any judge. So Dearest Dave, here I am, a new fan and the ‘idiot test’.

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