Enigmatic Variations 1457 (Hints)
A Clear Law by Vismut
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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Like Skylark, Vismut joined the relatively small band of lady setters just a couple of years ago and has challenged solvers of the Listener, Magpie, Inquisitor and Enigmatic Variations series with crosswords that nearly always oblige us to extend our knowledge of a fascinating range of subjects. This one is no exception.
Preamble: After visiting two landowners, a traveller arrives at A CLEAR LAW and writes a book. Its title includes the name of the area in which they live given by three of the unclued entries. Wordplay in nine clues omits a letter of the answer; read in the conventional way from the grid these give the name of one of the landowners who along with the other to be written below the grid (14 letters), also appears in the title of the book. The other unclued entry is a more famous collaborator. Solvers must highlight the division which arose following these travels (12 cells).
Vismut’s preamble is deceptive but perfectly fair. We understood that the subject was a traveller, that we were going to find the name of the area that traveller visited in unclued lights as well as the name of a collaborator. The traveller wrote a book and its title would include two landowners, one whose name would be spelled by nine letters in the grid and the other whose name we must write below the grid.
Unclued lights, nine clues where wordplay omits a letter of the answer, and 12 cells to highlight in the grid as well as a ‘landowner’ to write below the grid. That is not too daunting, and, of course, we examine the title and attempt to make something of it. We always attempt to anagram a rather unusual title. That worked on this occasion but it was a while before we understood what had appeared.
1a They conjure an image of old person in squabble returning fees (12, two words)
This was almost the last clue we solved. You will need some of the letters of the solution and, like us, will probably work backwards from the probable solution putting together the ‘old person’, ‘squabble’ and ‘fees’, turning one of them round (and remember we are looking for nine letters ‘omitted from wordplay’).
11a Nancy’s the teen played from an age division (6, two words)
‘Nancy’ and ‘Nice’ are setter’s prompts that they are using foreign words.
15a Outlining gossip about Liberal ruler and East London man (11, two words)
‘East London’ (like ‘Perth’ which can indicate a Scottish or Australian usage) can be ambiguous. It can hint at Cockney or South African usage as there are two East Londons.
21a Colour right bit of dahlia base sheaths for botanical purposes (7)
Vismut has struggled to produce a coherent surface reading here, but she has spelled out the answer for us by splitting it into three little bits and cluing each of them. The letter for ‘base’ is a setter’s favourite.
25a Old form of song with reflective content (5)
This is a really subtle clue. You need to ‘reflect’ or ‘return’ the content of a word for a song to produce another word that Chambers confirms is an old form (with ‘old’ telling us that this word for the ‘form’ is old or obsolete).
26a Gael occasionally displays Scottish instrument (3)
This instrument is one we have only ever encountered in crosswords. Remember that ‘occasionally’ (like ‘oddly’, ‘regularly’, ‘now and then’, ‘intermittently) is telling you which letters of your wordplay to use. (Don’t forget to keep a record of omitted wordplay letters – it’s a good idea to shade them in your grid, if you are working on a copy that is not the one you will submit, as you are going to read them in the order they will appear in the finished grid, to produce one of the ‘landowners’).
We filled the lower half of the grid first and the long, unclued light gave us our first ‘aha’ moment. Only two were offered when we fed the three-letter and five-letter words on row five into TEA (an invaluable crossword help) and one of them gave us the book title we needed.
2d Word to husband (4)
We were sure one of those omitted wordplay letters was in this clue, but struggled to see which it was. Remember that ‘to’ in Chambers can be another 2-letter word.
3d Daughter with gifts dreams of Iain (6)
Iain joins Mac, Fiona, Morag and Jock as a Scottish indicator so you know that the answer is likely to be an unfamiliar word for you (unless you are Scottish – and maybe even then).
4d Mac’s diamond cutter’s tool (7)
This might be difficult if, like us, you are not aware that the first part of this word can be a diamond (in Scotland or thr North of England) .
6d Like one person like another from pub with clubs promoted (6)
You need to start with a word for a pub that has a C in it and ‘promote’ (move up) the C. You will still have a problem finding the definition but remember that there are those omitted wordplay letters.
7d Sharp Yankee chasing T Oscar out (5)
Yankee and Oscar (and T) will be familiar indications of letters to crossword solvers. Vismut is playing games with three of them here.
12d Mishandling non-electronic retinoscope leads to turning out of eyelids (10)
It is so useful to have these long words (at 10d and 12d) to begin our grid-fill, so it was worth ‘mishandling’ or anagramming (with a letter removed – as Vismut indicated) and looking up the extremely odd word. We have never used the word or the idea it suggests and I suspect we never will. The ‘fish’ at the other side of the grid is fairly rare too, but it swims into Mrs Bradford’s list of 10-letter fishes. It is a good idea to download the Quinapalus Qat tool (free on the Internet and a great help in clues like this) where you are given the word for RETINOSCOP[e] anagrammed.
27d Unholy earl abandoning learning about class of spirits (4)
There is a subtractive anagram here indicated by two anagram indicators, so you know that you have to take a shorter set of letters from the longer one, and both sets are jumbled.
We felt that this crossword was within the range of difficulty of the four September ones with not too many difficult devices to handle. Of course you will be looking in the obvious place for the letters to highlight – and they will make sense of the title for you. At this point, we had spelled out one of the landowners but needed the Internet to tell us the other.
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