EV 1454 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1454 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1454 (Hints)

Ramjets by Eclogue

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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We have been finding crosswords by the Eclogue team in a range of publications of thematic cryptics over the last ten years, the EV, Crossword, the Inquisitor series and the Magpie, and we know that the clues will challenge us but be fair and that there will be a smile when we spot the theme.

Preamble: An extra letter not entered in the grid is generated by wordplay in each clue; read in clue order, the extra letters give three names which will lead solvers to the definition of RAMJETS, the eight unclued entries. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

Of course, we examine the title as we know it will be related to the theme and I admit that it told the Numpties nothing at first, but suggest you think of it as two separate parts – the first used in a way that the word is frequently whimsically used in cryptic crosswords.

The device of each clue producing an extra letter that is generated by the wordplay (note that word ‘generated’ – not necessarily ‘in’ the wordplay) is a very popular device with the thematic cryptic setters. Actually, it is one of the easiest ones available to produce a message, which might, of course, help us to spot the theme. Again, it didn’t help the Numpties as the theme leapt out at us very quickly without those names, but it’s a good idea to draw yourself a magic marker line and keep a careful eye on those letters.


10a           Old itch to redevelop Warsop (5)
A gift to start us off. That ‘old’ tells us that the word is archaic or obsolete but we find the word in our Bradford, and have our first extra letter. (We notice, here and all the way through the puzzle, that Eclogue is generous with anagrams.)

13a         Glasgow gangsters kill in new style (4)
The Scottish word often appears in crosswords. Here, to get your extra letter, you need to look in Chambers for the probable abbreviation for ‘new style’.

14a         Watchmaker sits awkwardly on spot (6)
General knowledge required here but if you don’t have the names of well-known watchmakers to hand, the word has no unchecked lights and will ultimately appear anyway.

15a         Rhode Island involved in current gibe from the Emerald Isle (5)
You can work backwards from your solution to find the letter that setters use for ‘current’ (Chambers again, of course). Then you need to work out which word for ‘gibe’ gives you the extra letter – think ‘horses’. Remember to watch the names that are appearing in those extra letters too.

18a         Contemptible person against programming language (4)
A short word that also means ‘against’ here, and a fairly obscure word for a programming language – but you can again work backwards from your solution (though one of the Numpties really resents those little amphibians being a synonym for odious creatures – I rear them and they are delightful, friendly and intelligent little things).

20a         Muddled trio in anti-aircraft vessel (5)
Some Eclogue trickery here. He’s trying to make you think of ships operating that AA. Remember, there are other types of vessel.

23a         Antiseptic powder aged badly all the way inside (5)
We didn’t know this word but it is in Chambers and Bradford. Like us, you might need to work backwards to find the two-letter word that means ‘all the way’.

25a         Scrap stone around urban rail system (5)
Two little words reversed here to give you the obvious answer, and produce the extra letter. The word for ‘scrap’ is a dialect word. It’s used in my area of the Yorkshire Dales.

27a         Drizzling mist in the highlands returned right in the middle of trees (4)
Probably a new Scottish word for you but return those trees, with ‘right’ in the middle and you should be able to have a stab at the word and extra letter.

29a         Most dissipating in energy and extremely fluffy (8)
An extremely unusual word here (it’s used in physics and radio engineering). Bear in mind that ‘extremely’ can also mean ‘the most’ – Eclogue has used two words that are not very different (just one extra letter!) to get the extra letter he needs.

36a         Hindu god of wisdom adult has somehow seen in Georgia (6)
Be careful! We slotted in the familiar name – but there are two spellings. ‘Georgia’ is the clue to which of them you need.


1d           Like Shylock you reported disparagement with promises to pay (8)
Such a generous long word will really help you with the grid-fill, especially if, like us, you often begin with the down clues (one of those useful tips we have learned – try starting at the bottom of the grid sometimes too – often those are the last ones the compiler enters and slightly less crafty – and crafted). The problem here will be finding the extra letter from a four-letter word for ‘disparagement’.

2d           Shortcoming encountered in gypsy girl (6)
We don’t like names in crosswords but here Eclogue was clearly struggling to produce that extra letter.

5d           Frozen girl leans obliquely (4)
If you didn’t see the Disney film, you might need to ask a child for help here. My little granddaughter imagined herself as one or other of the two royal children and sang the songs rather tunelessly for weeks after we went with her to see Frozen II. Actually, it isn’t as awful as you might imagine.

8d         Wordplay in their unholy number, such as 666 (7)
New to me but the other Numpty explained that this is any number with repeated digits – like 999, say. The ‘wordplay’ here is a very short word (“You can tune a guitar but you can’t tuna fish” is an example).

11d         Played in lively fashion well beyond northern creek and mountain pass (7)
You are told, here that the word for ‘well’ goes ‘beyond’ or after the other components of the solution. One of those (the northern creek) is another word frequently seen in crosswords but rarely elsewhere – except in remote parts of Scotland where it is a gully or creek.

19d         Optical problem, for instance, to lament in data transmission (8)
We were surprised by this word (a hyphenated one in Chambers but it is a convention in the barred thematics that those are enumerated as though they are a single word). Use the obvious letters for data transmission.

22d         Introducing synthetic polymer over one afternoon (8)
Our vocabulary didn’t include this word but, by now, we had asked Wiki for the three thematic names and knew which letter of the anagrammed words we had to extract (remember abbreviations for ‘one afternoon’ can be combined with the longer anagrammed word in a thematic cryptic) – and the word to fill the light appeared.

28d         Sandy’s vacated spot that’s out of the way (6)
‘Sandy’, like ‘Ian’, ‘Morag’ and ‘Mac’ etc. is, of course, a Scottish indicator but you probably won’t need to check in Chambers that the three-letter word you will be using here to add to the ‘spot’ means ‘vacated’ (it’s most of the way down the third full column devoted to the word in the Big Red Book!) The Scottish word for ‘burns’ (31d) and the Orkney shed (33d) are both there too but the clues hint generously at them.

34d         Classes not on? Not so much (4)
This was another clue where the solution was obvious but thought was needed for the wordplay. We needed to remove ‘on’ from a word for classes to give us ‘not so much’ and, of course the extra letter.

35d         Fish course after starter of offal (4)
Oh dear those interminable fish that swim into crosswords! Mrs Bradford has more than 16 columns of the horrid little monsters so don’t be embarrassed if this didn’t splash out at you.

You are most unlikely to be reading these hints still, as, if you have been looking at the silvered unclued words, like us, you will have seen what they have in common and filled in the rest long ago, to render your solve far easier – a real example of how a barred cryptic has that extra delight as you solve.

We hope you will agree that this crossword was fun to solve with a fine penny-drop moment. Do please send in your entry and add your comments here and to the setters’ blogs that are appearing on Big Dave’s site on Thursday’s and to the detailed Blogs that also appear on Thursdays on fifteen squared.

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15 comments on “EV 1454 (Hints)

  1. Well before I had filled the grid I managed to guess the three names and then most of the eight unclued answers. This gave a lot of extra checkers to work with. Eventually managed to track down all the obscurities.
    Enjoyed the challenge.
    Thanks Eclogue and Numpties.
    Is Eclogue a team I would have met in another disguise?

  2. It’s worth emphasising (for newcomers) the point made above. Take care to distinguish between two common clueing gimmicks: extra letter created by wordplay, as here, and extra letter in the clue itself (usually accompanied by “to be removed before solving” or similar). Either may be used to generate a message or similar.
    Thanks for the puzzle and the hints.

  3. With a handful of answers in the grid I figured out the answers across the top and down the left side. That helped with a number of other clues, and once I was sure the theme held up I was able to combine clue solving with a knowledge of the theme and to complete the grid. RAMJETS dawned on me about half way through. Only long after completing the grid did I spot the first name. Then I had to Google the “theme” to get the other two names. And even then there were a couple of missing letters that eluded my understanding.

    Fun, but the idea that the names would give me the definition for RAMJETS couldn’t have been further from the truth.

    I wonder how many others will have solved this backwards. Indeed, is there anyone who has been led to the definition by the names rather than vice versa?

  4. Yes, your solve exactly echoed ours Coatweazel. I suspect it will be the case for most solvers. Those answers are easy to ‘figure out’ and we, too, had to Google the theme to get the other two names. Indeed, you could solve perfectly well without getting the names at all.

  5. Found this very hard – after much e help, I have a sort of completed grid, but answers at 31 (across and down) make no sense to the clues – down particularly as it has no vowels in it… Although I can see the names and the connection, I have no clue what it’s got to do with RAMJETS!!

  6. I went about this differently from Coatweazel. Solving the across clues blind and in order [all bar 39] provided one [and a half] of the names and a quick look in Wikipedia provided confirmation of the theme and the meaning of Ramjets enabling the identity of the two large vertical species to be confirmed. I struggled more with the down clues but enough yielded for the other species to be filled in, which helped solve the remaining clues. Still unsure about the parsing of 39a and 31d [Jonathan??].

    Thanks Numpties and the Eclogue [Scots?]

      1. Many thanks, I’ll try to remember that. I should’ve taken my own advice – “if in doubt look in Chambers”.

  7. Thanks to Eclogue for a classic themed puzzle, which – like many of this sort – speeded up remarkably once the theme became apparent and a large percentage of the grid cold be written in. I focussed on trying to get letters for the thematic words. Some of them have a variety of meanings, and might lead you in the wrong directions so I checked them in Chambers for other meanings – though in this puzzle the theme should jump out quickly enough. At that point Bradford’s Crossword Dictionary is your friend! Do watch out for the unusual variants like the one the Numpties highlight in 36a. Here the variant letter is checked by a crossing word. Crueller setters will place it in an unchecked position so that careless solvers like me who just biff the word in and don’t thoroughly check the word-play (you do always check the word-play, don’t you?) end up in jail. Thanks again to the Numpties for the hints and the EV for running this series.

    1. Doesn’t the fact that the surplus letters have to spell out something sensible mean that greater attention has to be paid to the unravelling of the wordplay?

  8. Still ridiculously chuffed that I have completed another EV……maybe it’s a confidence thing? I certainly spent many years staring at them in bafflement….or more likely it is because I know that there are hints to help out when I need them that encourages me to have a go.

    I guessed the theme fairly early on and filled the unclued entries with the help of Mr Google. That made solving the rest of the clues a bit easier…..as did figuring out the “message” in the missing letters.

    Many thanks to the Numpties and to Eclogue.
    Cannot wait for next Sunday for the next EV!

  9. Enjoyed this immensely – a lovely clear theme.
    The first few clues suggested a name and confirmed the theme. The other 2 names were the obvious ones, generating reliable checkers and then the unclued entries were distinct and definite (no silly spellings!). .
    NB I don’t like “corruptions” like 36a, feel RichardW’s pain on this one.
    Thus my experience was like Ora Meringue’s and Halcyon and dissimilar to that of Coatweazel and the Numpties.
    It’s highly surprising to me that someone might struggle with the 3 names, yet be familiar with the dialect/scots words eg 25, 27,33 ?!

  10. Thanks to the Numpties for the hints and the EV for running this series. Worked like a dream on me. I completed all the September EVS – the first ones I have ever realistically attempted, despite being a consistent Cryptic completer. So I’m hooked -for now! Even this (easier?) EV took me a long time though not looking on Google nor using a dictionary until conceding for the last few squares (pesky SE corner!) explains.
    In the cryptic I will only use an aid as a check – and then only after I’ve completed the whole grid with my best ‘guess’ or I feel it’s cheating. It’s been eye-opening to read of the widespread use of dictionaries, even a special book & as for anagram-helpers , gasp – get thee behind me! Still, it’s obviously the only way to do an EV with any certainty – & to cut down the time spent! Thanks again

  11. I started this well, with the confidence of (a) having — surprisingly — managed to complete September’s previous 3 EV’s, even when it looked like I wouldn’t, and (b) my newly acquired Bradford by my side.

    And I was again pleased to be able to solve a handful of clues by myself without the hints (possibly the most yet — I’m not counting), having found a bench outside a church while the 8-year-old had a dance lesson in the hall (we used to be able to sit inside).

    But it turns out my confidence was misplaced. I got stuck with a little over half the clues solved (again, I’m not counting) — but obviously with the many long unclued words, that’s much less than half the grid filled. There’s a couple where I have the definition, but not the wordplay, so not the extra letter, and five where even with the hint I haven’t been able to work out the answer.

    For 8d I’ve found a word which fits the wordplay, but looking up its definition, it apparently specifically means a number made by repeating 1 (like 11 or 111,111), so wouldn’t apply to 666 or 999.

    From the excess letters of the first few across clues I’ve got what looks to be most of the name of an actor (whose Wikipedia page I’ve now read, without spotting anything relevant). Doing an electronic search for words that fit the letters I have along the edges: down the left matches only a term from geometry; along the bottom is a type of cat; nothing matches the top at all (either I’ve got at least one letter wrong or it’s a word too obscure for my computer’s word list); and down the right I only have one letter, so that’s no help.

    None of these things seem to go with each other, nor have provided me with enlightenment on what ‘ramjets’ means.

    It’s perfectly normal for me not to manage to finish a crossword. Usually I look up the answer, see a couple of words I didn’t know or wouldn’t’ve got, and shrug that it was beyond me. But somehow this feels much more frustrating — possibly because I’m not just missing out on solving those particular clues, but on working out the hidden names, the themed words, and the title. Progress in a regular cryptic crossword is sort-of linear: if I solve 90% of the clues, then I’ve done 90% of it. Whereas the whole point of an EV is working out the endgame, so not getting that far makes the rest feel pointless.

    The submission deadline went earlier today. I guess I’ve given up on this one now, and will look at the review tomorrow.

    Thank you for all the hints, Numpties. I couldn’t’ve done any of this without you, and I love their chatty and encouraging style — please don’t change! However, some terms like “obvious”, “of course”, “generous”, and “most unlikely still to be reading” can unfortunately make not solving something more demoralizing: not only did I fail to work something out, but apparently it should’ve been obvious! (I had “Sandy’s vacated” as being wordplay for ‘SY’; it would never have occurred to me that it indicated Scottishness — the only Sandy I know of is the Danish one who has presented The News Quiz and Bake Off.)

    I’m still delighted with the 3 EVs we did solve together, and I hope to give one a go again if the EV ever repeats having an easy month, or maybe if a hints for one ever suggests it’s at the less-tricky end.

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