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An announcement from the editor of the EV Puzzles, Steve Bartlett follows:
I am pleased to announce a weekly hints post for The Enigmatic Variations (EV) barred-grid puzzles, starting this coming Sunday on this site. The EV series runs in the print version of The Sunday Telegraph and is also available through the Telegraph Puzzles website.
The post should be available every Sunday at noon and will be in very much the same format as current posts on the site for the Saturday and Sunday Prize cryptic puzzles. The aim is to provide inexperienced barred-grid solvers with a place to go to understand how to tackle these puzzles with useful information pertinent to the puzzle on day of publication.
My feeling is that the differences between the blocked cryptic puzzles and barred puzzles can be off-putting and daunting for those trying to make the transition, with little immediate help to understand them. As Big Dave’s site has visitors interested in the Telegraph puzzle offerings, it makes sense that there should be a presence for Enigmatic Variations puzzles. Hopefully, with the guidance provided on Sundays, more solvers will feel willing to have a go at the puzzles.
Puzzles at the easier end of the EV spectrum have been selected for the first few September slots to run with the introduction of the new hints posts. I would be very happy to hear from solvers interested in taking up the challenge of trying out the EV series in September (and beyond) with the help of the hints and hearing about their experiences. I should think anyone regularly solving Toughie puzzles should make good progress with the September EVs.
I’d like to outline a few general aspects of the EV puzzles which are different from blocked puzzles:
Bars — bars are used to mark the end of entries instead of blocks. This enables setters to hide messages in the grid, for example. It also provides solvers with a greater percentage of crossing letters for entries than in blocked grids.
Preamble — the introductory text accompanying the puzzle will outline special instructions relevant to the puzzle. This can include modifications to clues, answers or entries, and hidden words to highlight in the final grid, for example. Some preambles are more complex than others, but the Sunday posts will aim to demystify these.
Themes/gimmicks — all EV puzzles are based on a theme of the compiler’s choosing. In order to develop the theme, a compiler can use gimmicks such as misprints, extra letters in clues and many more to generate messages. Again, the Sunday posts will help solvers to understand how to tackle these.
Vocabulary — Chambers Dictionary (2016) is the source dictionary for all EV puzzles and is very much vital. The development of themes will often restrict the compiler’s choice of words to use in the grid, leading to some uncommon words. Any entry within the dictionary can be used for entries and within clues, with some puzzles using unfamiliar definitions.
There are many more inventive things going on in the EV series and I hope that it can attract a new following of solvers with the help provided on this site.
Steve Bartlett (proXimal)