EV 1453 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1453 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1453 (Hints)

Four-letter Words by Piccadilly

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Piccadilly has been setting crosswords mostly in the Enigmatic Variations series and for the Listener for over thirty years so you can be confident that his clues will be fair and balanced. When we see his name as the setter of a Listener numerical crossword, we tend to shiver (though his recent numerical one had a memorable finish – the numbers had to be converted to words and they gave I HATE NUMERICAL CROSSWORDS BECAUSE MAKING A MISTAKE MEANS STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN) but fortunately we are dealing with words here.

Preamble: Solvers must remove one letter from most answers and two letters from 17, 21 and 28, the removed letters being placed at either end of the row/column. The leftmost/uppermost omitted letters are to be placed in the leftmost/uppermost cell in the row/column. Starting from any corner cell and reading clockwise, the perimeter contains a series of FOUR-LETTER WORDS which combine to make overlapping eight-letter words or phrases.

‘Four-letter Words’. We were told that these begin and read clockwise from any corner cell so you can pencil in the divisions straight away. We left it far too late in our solve to look at and use the words that were emerging. They really help to choose between two or even three potential letters so keep an eye on them, and, of course, use a pencil.

Don’t be put off by the preamble. The device sounds daunting but as your grid fills, the puzzle becomes easier. I recommend writing in firmly the letters when they are confirmed, and faintly penciling in the ones in-between. For example, a generous anagram in 1d and one in 17a clearly establish a letter they share, and the same letter will go in when 7d and 17a cross each other. If you solve 18a next, your grid fill will be underway.

It will at once be clear to you that it is the three long words (17, 21 and 28) that are the only clues in their rows; they must, therefore, yield two spare letters each.


5a           A thin leg excited former heir apparent (8)
Piccadilly is generous with anagrams and has used one here because the solution is an archaic word (indicated by ‘former’).

14a         Villein first to capture aquatic mammal (6)
We struggled with this clue (for another old word) but kicked ourselves because the clue tells us that we have to attach a letter to the ‘aquatic animal’.

16a         Language used in calypso thoughtlessly (5)
You probably don’t know this word (we didn’t) but Piccadilly kindly gave it to us.

18a         Entered to win ten pounds (8, two words)
We felt that the anagram indicator here was rather quirky but solving this clue was invaluable as (with 1d) it fixed so many letters.

21a         Almost free, sane, and ready for action (11)
Remember that ‘almost’, ‘mostly’, ‘not quite’, ‘tailless’, etc. in a clue can be telling you to lop off the last letter of a component word (one meaning ‘free’ here).

26a         Cowboy introducing tailless deer to South African pastoral tableland (8)
See above – this ‘deer’ is tailless. You might not know the word for the South African tableland that is the other component of the clue, but the cowboy will be familiar.

28a         The old car was abandoned somewhere in Yorkshire (12, two words)
How appropriately Piccadilly has chosen his anagram indicator! Try scribbling the 12 letters in a rough circle then remove the ones likely to identify a place sufficiently stately to figure in a crossword puzzle – the ones left should spell it out for you. We visited it after the Listener dinner that was held in York, just fifteen miles away from there, and it was a memorable visit.

31a         One non-drinker enters Kentucky to find Jack (5)
Abbreviations for US states are often the obvious ones (the first and last letters – my letters to the grandchildren in California go to CA). Knowing that will provide this solution which was a new word for us in the context.

36a         Witch-hazel gradually returned, hiding Scott’s dell (6)
Another new word for us and we are told that it is Scottish, but we are also told how to find it by two indicators.

38a         A medley of leguminous trees? Not quite (4)
We had the solution for this word and a full grid that confirmed it and 34d, but head-scratched for about ten minutes. It is a real step up in difficulty from the rest of the crossword – but not the least cause for concern. However, if, like us (as bloggers we have to work out all the wordplay) you need to understand it, try slotting the last word of the clue into your solution and ‘hey presto’ you’ll get the leguminous trees.


4d           Old Bill up north showing police truncheon (5)
Remember that ‘up’ can be a reversal indicator.

8d           Drunkard Henry swallowed by lion, African country revealed (7)
Chambers will confirm the abbreviation for Henry.

9d           Finishes off retsina again: Greek patriarch is cross (4)
I don’t think we have met this little word anywhere but in crosswords. However, Piccadilly kindly tells us where to find the four letters (just as he does in 32d and with ‘endlessly’ in 23d).

13d         Crosby perhaps runs down person investigating death (7)
How silly of me, I was expecting to find Bing here when the solution is using what he was famous for (and ‘moving down’ a letter in the clue).

15d         European nut in V&A displays stringed instrument (5)
Chambers and Mrs Bradford confirmed for us the instrument that Piccadilly had spelled out but you wouldn’t encounter two of the letters you need to insert, in a regular cryptic crossword. Chambers gives you that unusual word for a nut (and remember to keep looking at the words that are appearing round the perimeter!)

19d         The postgraduate volunteers to provide subjects for discussion (7)
Oh those volunteers (two letters)! Like the ‘game’ in 27d they are another crossword old chestnut.

We didn’t think this crossword was particularly easy but it was lovely to solve and many, throughout the EV year, are of about this level of difficulty. Do please send in your entry.

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25 comments on “EV 1453 (Hints)

  1. I attacked this by ignoring the grid and cold solving as many clues as possible and listing them separately. I managed to get quite a high proportion of them this way and could concentrate on getting them into the grid with the right letters moved to the perimeter. It took me a long time but I did get it all sorted eventually. The Yorkshire place was a real challenge.
    Thank Piccadilly and The Numpties.

  2. Hi. I haven’t started this yet, so thanks in advance (my head needs a break after only completing the previous one this morning), but I have a question about Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary, which you recommended: how beneficial is it to have the latest edition?

    I see new ones are the 11th edition. Would a cheap second-hand 8th or 9th edition (say) do, or would that be a false economy? Thanks.

  3. The two that are on the desktop in front of me (yes – we need two as we bicker over it if one is somewhere else when we are solving – it is so invaluable) are the 7th and 9th, and both are first rate so I don’t think it would be false economy. I also have a Bradford app in the Kindle on my iPhone and iPad. I don’t know whether they are still available.

  4. I took a similar approach to KiwiColin, and shaded in clues I’d solved in the grid so it was easier to spot when I had several that intersected. In the cases where there was only one letter that could possibly intersect then (in almost all cases, except where two repeated letters were involved, or the three longer clues) one half or the other of those words could also be firmly written in. This made it much simpler than the Preamble might have first led you to believe!

    1. Yes, shading or otherwise marking slots for solved clues is useful in puzzles of this sort. It’s also worth mentioning to newcomers that any real words appearing in the central.section will be by accident only.

      Please don’t be put off by the format. The clues are relatively friendly, with many anagrams that will yield to an online cracker such as Qxw if letter-shuffling doesn’t appeal.

      The major difference between earlier and later editions of Bradford is that in the latter more fields are sorted by length. Otherwise older versions are fine.

      I’d add that in my judgement as a long-term solver this is by no means at the more straightforward end of the range.

      1. Thank God for that! Thank you Ifor.

        I started along the same lines as Kiwi Colin and Encota, but whilst I have quite a lot of answers it’s slow going working out which letter to move where! And how do I get one in to each corner square? The good news is that it helps me avoid doing the gardening today.

        1. The short answer is “from the other perimeter letters”. For example, the first row might read ?OOTBALLPARK?
          …over to you. And don’t forget the gardening!

          1. Sorry, i’m going mad. Whilst I think I understand what you are saying, no clue actually touches the 4 corner squares in the perimeter.

            Don’t tell me as it may spoil the fun for others.

            Whilst i am not actually not going to go and do any gardening, I am going to go for a stroll around it with a glass of wine to contemplate!

            1. Wahoo. I hope that glass in the garden made the pennies drop. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Ifor’s example would require F to go into the first space (obviously) then maybe the next few 4-letter words would be something like LAND-LINE-FISH-FARM and so on.

  5. I’ll save my detailed comment for the full review. This was an enjoyable solve that brightened my Saturday evening. Thanks to Piccadilly and the Numpties.

  6. I must say thank you to The Numpties for their willingness to help poor souls like me. I have made efforts to understand the EV puzzles and even when I see the solutions to the same I am no better informed. I read and re-read the preamble but that shows no light on things. The EV is not for me. Don’t wish to offend anyone but I find the hints as just obscure as the clues.
    It would be good if Miffypops could blog a puzzle and I am sure I would reach enlightenment.

  7. Now that I’ve been given permission to shamelessly use a dictionary, I think I’m going to be a regular EV solver. Sure, I had to verify the majority of my answers in the BRB, but I did so without guilt, and I feel like I learned something.
    This was my favorite of the September series so far. Looking forward to more!

  8. Lee, a puzzle is a competition between you and the setter, whose ambition is to concede defeat gracefully and in a way that satisfies the solver. There are purists who use no solving aids at all; there are others who use dictionaries, Bradford and the like and pattern-matching / anagram-solving software; and this without mentioning Google and the various hints sites. Use none, any or all without guilt; but enjoy the experience. Welcome aboard.

          1. Neat! I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never noticed the anagram. Thanks for the heads up, John Bee.

  9. The clues were kind enough to solve blind with a couple of exceptions – I took a wrong turn on the lathe and was thrown by the reverse of a coin. But filling the grid was a bit nerve-wracking. I made one wrong decision in the NE which necessitated some rubbing out but it all came right in the end. And quite satisfying too around the perimeter – although seeing a grid full of gibberish in the middle rather goes against the grain.Thanks to Piccadilly and The Numpties.

  10. I think I may have completed this one……gasps with astonishment.

    Needed an awful lot of help from the electronic gizmo and, of course from the most excellent hints.

    I could not do last week’s but now I have completed 2 EVs after decades of staring at them with no idea how to begin.
    Ridiculously pleased with myself.

    Thanks to Piccadilly and to the Numpties. (And of course to Big Dave).

  11. Again finished at the eleventh hour. though I am very unsure of my parsing of 29 Down and couldn’t locate the pesky leguminous trees at 38 across!
    The hardest of the 3 EVs that I have done, I had most of it for days but, about to give up, pulled most of the SE quadrant out in the last inspired half hour of guesswork & computer dictionary searching. I echo Ora Meringue apt phrase – I too am ridiculously pleased with myself!
    I fear I may be hooked on EVs – but why are setters obsessed with Scots dialect? Or a meringue?

  12. Chillin and Ora Meringue – brilliant! I think that was the most difficult of the first three and I am fairly sure the fourth of the month will prove to be easier for you. Yes, Chillin, those trees really were a tough clue – we all found that to be so. Try just adding the very last word of the clue to the four letter word you have probaby opted for – look that up and you’ll get the name of the trees. That was as tough a clue as you will ever find in an EV (or even a Listener).

  13. Aha the trees! Quite luckily I did get the correct entry despite messing around…
    NB It’s past the deadline for entering the grid now

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