EV 1455 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

EV 1455 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1455 (Hints)

The Golden Oldies by Skylark

Hints and tips by The Numpties

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

Skylark joined the relatively small band of lady setters just a couple of years ago and has delighted solvers of the Listener, Magpie, Inquisitor and Enigmatic Variations series with crosswords on literary and musical themes (Jazz, the Beatles, Endeavour Morse, Jeeves, Hercule Poirot, Frank Muir – his ‘Aisle Altar Hymn’, Oscar Hammerstein and Robert Graves).

Preamble: A letter must be removed from each of 14 clues before solving; in clue order, these give a title applying to each orignal member of THE GOLDEN OLDIES. Their collective name appears in the unclued central column; four of their works appear around the border in a clockwise direction. The unchecked perimeter letters can be arranged to form: GET OWN ESQUIRE HOO-HA. In the final grid solvers must highlight the four initial members of the group (28 cells in total). Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended. 18 and 28 are in Collins.

Skylark tells us quite clearly in her preamble that we are looking for four writers or musicians, a collective ‘name’ for them and four of their works. A warning here: conventionally, we would expect the four works that will appear in the perimeter to begin in the top left-hand corner. It isn’t the case here – that was evident very early in our solve.

In last week’s device, the extra letters were ‘generated by the wordplay’. We are looking for extra letters again (14 of them)  but Skylark has adopted a different method. Hers are actually in the clues and have to be removed before solving. In this gimmick, the letter removal should always leave real words, so look out for words which could easily be changed or clues which aren’t quite parsing how you’d think.

As usual, it’s a good idea to draw yourself a magic marker line and keep a careful eye on those letters. They might be of more help this week than last week’s were, where you probably found the theme before the names spelled out by the words.


9a          Reveal soprano  mutters (4)
‘Soprano’ is in that list of words that can be abbreviated to a single letter. We saw a probable extra letter here that we could remove from the clue, still leaving real words.

10a         Lauded former husband blabbed to auditors (8)
You will soon become used to the numerous words that can indicate a homophone: ‘on the radio’, ‘on air’, ‘to auditors’, ‘it’s said’ and so on.

11a         Poet’s kindled love ignored by don yet to be converted (5)
Skylark is another who has devoured her copy of Chambers. We didn’t know this very obscure ‘poet’s’ word which was kindly spelled out for us – we were told we had to ‘ignore’ that ‘love’ (another of those abbreviations) and convert (or anagram) five letters but we managed to get this wrong. Chambers has a Scottish version of the ‘kindled’ word and a slightly different one that a poet used (the poet in these crosswords is usually Spenser or Shakespeare).

14a         Initially using eggs, most eggs powdered (4)
Think about the word ‘initially’. Applying it logically you won’t get a plausible 4-letter word so you will suspect that there is an extra letter here. You might need to check the word you do get in Chambers to be sure that it can mean ‘powdered’.

15a        Jock’s cry about caper crust  (4)
This was a tough clue. There is another of those single-letter abbreviations ‘disguised’ here (maybe another extra letter, you will think) and Jock’s cry (yes, Jock is a Scottish indicator) has to go round or ‘about’ it to give the crust.

20a         Ed’s caused trouble swapping hands in writing Dutch (6)
See 11a. Ed is either the editor or Ed Spenser, the poet. Chambers has a wealth of Spenserian words and this is one of them. Setters know you are unlikely to know them all and are obliged to spell them out. ‘Swapping hands’ is a way of saying use L for R, or R for L (in a word for ‘writing’) and Dutch, of course, is another of those abbreviations. You are looking for four names of golden oldies. Ask yourself why Skylark has chosen this very obscure Spenserian word when a perfectly common one would have served. Did she need that fourth letter for her theme?

21a         Female delay rage ultimately (5)
Another word we didn’t know for ‘delay’. Setters use female or male names as a kind of last resort (we don’t like it but the grid may oblige). This young lady is usually used as a Scottish indicator. Don’t forget to look for extra letters.

23a         Will’s household is gracious housing a German (5)
Will is, of course, the Bard. If you know the word for ‘a’ in German, you need to put a word that could mean “Gracious!” around it and Chambers will confirm another word we didn’t know.

30a         Person appointed as an adjudicator set on restricting zone (4)
And yet another obscure word – we know it in a far more familiar sense and we had to look up the 3-letter word for ‘set on’ that was restricting the ‘zone’ (another of those abbreviations). However, the crossing words might help and at this point in our solve we had spotted the theme and one of the works, which was a great help. Remember to keep looking at the perimeter and scanning the grid for those ‘four initial members of the group’.

34a         Groove doctor howl on vacation (5)
‘Doctor’ here is a synonym for another word and ‘on vacation’ tells us to ’empty out’ a word. That isn’t going to produce a word for ‘groove’ so think ‘extra letter’. Mrs Bradford gave us the ‘groove’ word we needed. Setters are expected to write clues that have a plausible surface sense: a phrase or sentence you might hear in a pub or dinner-time conversation. When, as in this case (or 21a), that sense is difficult to find, you can suspect that something is going on that has given the setter a hard task – another extra letter?

Like us, you will be muttering (or uttering?) that there is an excess of obscure words in this puzzle but take heart – Skylark has done what is required of setters and given helpful clues for those.


3d           Crossing Ohio, lead without delay (4)
Editors don’t encourage us to use the abbreviations for American states but there is a shortage of good ones for O.

3d           Beating everyone within minutes good (7)
See the comment on 34a! There is a 3-letter word for ‘minutes’; the word for ‘everyone’ is common crossword fodder and we all remember getting that lovely letter for ‘good’ in our school books. Put it all together and you have another obscure word. 

2d           Determined, win Spanish wine (6)
By now you probably know what that 14-letter title is, so you will know what letters you still need to extract from clues. The 4-letter word for Spanish wine is one we only meet in crosswords, I believe, but you can work backwards to it if you think of a synonym for ‘determined’

5d           They refuse to speak in slapdash monastery except bubbly Tom (9)
If you see two anagram indicators (like ‘bubbly’ and ‘slapdash’) in a clue, you can suspect that you have a ‘subtractive’ anagram’ – one anagrammed word is going to be removed from a longer one. (‘Except’ tells you that too.)

16d         Stress right, interrupting flunkey disregarding unknown towpath (9)
This word for a ‘towpath’ was new to us but the letters in the grid suggested it and we had to work backwards. Last week I spoke in favour of the delightful little amphibians I rear. They get a very bad press in crosswords – ‘flunky’ indeed! X, Y, and Z are all ‘unknowns’ in crossword so you can remove one of those from the abusive word for the flunky and put another fairly obscure word for ‘stress’ (think ‘torture’) to create the word.

27d          Strain surrounds tense firm in Glasgow (6)
Again the wordplay spells out a Scottish word that we didn’t know (but isn’t Mrs Bradford wonderful? – Look up ‘firm’ and she gives you two Scottish words and the wordplay tells us which to choose).

32d         Finally spot mare, missing mobile Himalayan goat (4)
This is such a familiar word in crosswords and it was the first we entered – but there are two ways of spelling it, both using the same four letters.  Skylark’s wordplay tells you which to use. Again, the rather strange surface reading of the clue will prompt you to look for your last extra letter here.

We rated this crossword as just about as difficult as X-Type’s on Brunel. Wahoo, in the comments two weeks ago, wondered how one could work out corner letters that aren’t clued. There is a similar issue here but you will almost certainly see the ‘four initial members’ of ‘The Golden Oldies’ in your grid. Remember to highlight them. Once you have given them  a shared name in the centre column, you will probably need to Google to get the four works but a very helpful set of letters appears on the top row.

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 Thursdays and to the detailed Blogs that also appear on Thursdays on fifteen squared.

Could new readers please read the Welcome post and the FAQ before posting comments or asking questions about the site.

As this is a Prize crossword, please don’t put any ANSWERS, whether WHOLE, PARTIAL or INCORRECT, or any ALTERNATIVE CLUES in your comment.

Please read these instructions carefully – they are not subject to debate or discussion. Offending comments may be redacted or, in extreme cases, deleted. In all cases the administrator’s decision is final.

11 comments on “EV 1455 (Hints)

  1. As usual I needed the BRB for the obscure Scots words. No other hold-ups. Enjoyed the impressive endgame. Thanks to all.

  2. I enjoyed this puzzle: the good construction and fair clues were helped by a favourite theme of mine. I concentrated my fire on clues giving letters for the central thematic column and soon had a penny-drop-moment and guessed the theme. Since I knew the names of the originals and their works the rest followed easily, themed words and clues helping each other out. Wikipedia will be your friend if the theme isn’t as familiar to you as it was to me. We’re out of the “easy” month but this should be within the reach of anyone who’s made it this far, especially with the generous hinting above. You might even win the prize!

  3. Well, thank goodness for the hints!
    I think I have managed to complete this, though the theme eluded me for ages.
    Time will tell.

    Thanks to Skylark and to the Numpties.

  4. Perfect timing! A mint copy of Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary arrived on my doorstep the day before this puzzle dropped. Holy moly! What a book! Sure made this puzzle quite a bit “easier.”
    Thanks to Skylark for the puzzle. Thanks to The Numpties for your insight and for introducing me to Mrs. Bradford.

  5. I found this quite difficult but kept going until the end. The subject of the theme is not something I know much about but I managed to sort out the answers, with a bit of online research. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to establish all of the 14 letters to be removed from clues, but not crucial. I think I have managed to justify all my solutions so hope they are correct. As with previous puzzles, finishing was very worthwhile. Most enjoyable. Thanks to Skylark and the Numpties.

  6. I found some of the clues quite challenging [our friends in the North have much to answer for] and the overall puzzle very satisfying, even for one with little knowledge of the theme. The hints were, forgive me for saying so, a good deal more useful this week than previously. That said, even an indication of where the definition lies can save a deal of time. Like DT, above, I focussed first on clues that would help deal with the centre column and this, with an ordered list of some removed letters, helped to identify the overall theme. As the grid filled the most well-known of the oldies was easy enough to spot and Mrs H, more familiar with the genre, suggested others to look for [thankfully no diagonals – is there custom & practice for this?]. I was thrown a little by 17a producing a notword but the clue type makes it forgivable I guess. I also failed, until just this minute, to parse 35a, failing to spot that the second half need not be a noun!
    Thanks to all concerned for a fun solve.

  7. Halcyon, the custom tends to put that highlighted material in a diagonal in the thematic cryptics, usually somewhere in the leading diagonal or, less often, in a symmetrical circle around the centre, but Skylark has shown originality here. It has been a Numpty learning experience discovering how detailed the hints need to be and attempting to give newer solvers a helping hand without spelling out the answers and spoiling the pleasure of solving. We are grateful for the input from solvers – please continue to tell us what you need and when we have got it right (and do submit your entries – we need to show the Telegraph editors what a well-loved crossword this is).

  8. Many thanks for this. I’d hazard a guess that this week’s level of help is about right for newer solvers and a tad generous for us older hands. Re the diagonals – looking back at the X-Type puzzle 3 weeks ago the diagonal positioning of the thematic material was dictated by the process of solving and that’s fine. The problem I have is finding completely unknown text on any old diagonal and I’m grateful to Skylark for sticking to verticals here. But forwarded is forearmed – Ta.

  9. Even with the hints, I am about 25% short, no idea what the theme or the members is… I clearly need a copy of Mrs Bradford’s book!! An interesting learning exercise nonetheless

  10. After several attempts have not been able to make any progress at all with this one. Found it way harder than any of the September puzzles which I did solve. Will try again next week.

  11. Thank you so much for the perfectly pitched hints, Numpties. And to Skylark for such a fun puzzle.

    I managed to complete this one (after having got completely stuck the previous week), and really enjoyed doing so. Though after 3 weeks of solving an increasing number of clues by myself at the start (even including the puzzle I couldn’t complete), this time I didn’t get a single answer on my first pass, and had to use the hints to get started.

    I was lucky with the theme: I made a guess after just 4 of the extraneous letters from the clues, and while that didn’t turn out to be quite right, it was close enough to make some progress.

Comments are closed.