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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