EV 1459 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1459 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1459 (Hints)

Winning by Ifor

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Ifor will be a very familiar name to thematic cryptic crossword solvers. 95 crosswords by Ifor appear on Dave Hennings’ Crossword Data Base and they have been set for the Listener, The Magpie, the Inquisitor series and the Enigmatic Variations series so you can be confident that you are being challenged by the work of a polished setter. His clues are usually subtle in the way he manipulates words, but totally fair.

Preamble: All clues whose answers occupy 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9-letter slots contain an extra word of four or more letters. In the first two types the word contains only one letter not found in that clue’s answer; collectively these letters give a confused person. Extra words from the latter three types can be grouped into four sets of three, each having a common synonym; the four synonyms can then be paired to give two locations in a film. The initially-filled grid contains 19 empty cells and the surnames of a partnership to be highlighted (nine cells in two groups). It represents the view of one partner at the WINNING location, to be written under the grid. Solvers must modify it to show how the other saw things. Changes create new words; numbers in brackets count cells available. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended

The Numpties consulted Ifor who has provided some very useful extra hints with regard to the strategy to adopt with this crossword, as follows:

In a puzzle of this sort it is often helpful to use highlighters or similar to distinguish the various clue types and mark the extra words when found.  Here there are three clue types: the 3s and 4s; the 7s, 8s and 9s; and the rest (which will be normal with normally-entered answers, by default).

“The grid…contains 19 empty cells”.  This does not imply that 19 answers are each one letter short for their slot, as some empty cells may be crosschecks (ie present in both an across and a down entry) and some answers may be several letters too short for their slots. Nor should you assume that a five-letter answer will occupy the first five cells in a seven-cell slot; empty cells may appear anywhere. But you would be justified in thinking that their distribution is in some way meaningful and not just there to complicate matters.

“The word contains only one letter not found in that clue’s answer” does not imply that the word will necessarily be one letter longer than the clue’s answer, as either the answer or the extra word may have repeated letters, and not all of the answer’s letters may appear in the extra word. For example, a clue to ANSWER might contain the extra word DEAR, WARDENS or SERENADES to give the letter D.”


6a         Airline in the UK breaking sovereign contract before union (7)
Ifor is usually very generous with anagrams which are always a fine way into a crossword. We have been told that extra words contain four or more letters, so that excluded ‘in the UK’. Our anagram of that (with the ‘airline’) gives us a word that takes us to Chambers.

13a         Relation abandoned islet in the east (8)
The wide range of anagram indicators that Ifor finds never ceases to amaze us, and, of course, they are selected to add to the surface sense of the clue (like the poor abandoned relation here and the needle breaking in 17a).

A hint at this point. Remember that 19 cells are going to be empty after our original gridfill (and we will need to fill them to show how one of the ‘partners’ saw things differently) so some of our initial solutions will not be of the word-length indicated by the numbers in brackets.

21a         Former master starts to study every mark in retrospect (6)
We have three ‘indicators’ in this clue. ‘Former’ is prompting us about an outdated word, ‘starts’ tells us where to find the letters we need, and ‘in retrospect’ speaks for itself.

27a         Hand held back heavy knife (3)
We’ve reached the first of the 3-letter clues and, since the ‘hints style’ on Big Dave’s Crossword blog underlines the definition, you have a fine gift here. The 3-letter knife (which Mrs Bradford will give you if you have any doubt) must be three of the letters of ‘hand’, ‘held’ or ‘back’ – and is unlikely to be ‘back’ which sounds like a reversal indicator. We know that we must reverse a word for ‘held’ to produce that knife and the first of our letters to spell the confused person.

29a         Leader of Scots once put in place here (6)
A magical little clue. Think of Scottish history – the ‘stolen’ (or restored – depending which nation you belong to) coronation stone that was discovered in Arbroath and will sit below the royal throne at the next coronation. Don’t forget about those 19 empty cells!)

34a        Plain records masking cunning in governors (7)
The short words for records are crossword old chestnuts. Here we had to insert a word for ‘cunning’ to produce a fairly rare word for governors.

37a         Ace show without treats, sadly (5)
‘Sadly’ is a familiar anagram indicator. We need to think of a word for ‘show’ from which we could remove those letters, leaving a word for ‘ace’.

39a         Calamities at Holyrood saw end of one disgraced leader (7)
Another of Ifor’s appropriate anagram indicators here. Maybe there is a political comment here about our recent Scottish (Holyrood) ‘leader’ whose career was brought to an end by accusations from all but one of which he was exonerated – and that one ‘not proven’. ‘Calamities’ indeed. Remember we need to extract an extra word from the clue.

41a        Clasp acting manager, having run in pursuit of hundred grand (7)
We found this clue tough. One word has to be removed as one of our twelve, then we must find a word for a ‘manager’ and move a letter within it to produce the name of a clasp. Fortunately, five letters that appeared from the down clues helped us.

43a         Hurdle race, day before date left for clubs (6)
Ifor is performing one of his challenging manipulations of letters. Remember that there are abbreviations for four of the words (or even five); three of those will replace just one to give the defined word (which was new to us in that context – we know it as a substance farmers use when the tup is let loose with the ewes at mating time).

46a         Objects to help when praying hard clutched by elderly Yemenis (5)
The ‘elderly’ word for Yemenis might not be in your vocabulary but, amazingly, it is in Mrs Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary and Google will give it to you too. The clue tells you what to do to produce the objects in question.


2d        Handle bracelet in box before stopping abroad regularly (7)
‘Before’ suggests that this word for ‘box’ is an old word. We didn’t know this word for a bracelet but could guess what it was from the letters in the grid.

4d         Madmen sent packing being nonsense (3)
We had almost forgotten that we were extracting a letter from the extra word, the only one that wasn’t present in the 3-letter solution. This was a delightful example of the device.

11d         I’m surprised about that man (5)
This must be the first time this word has ever been clued in a crossword. (Remember those 19 empty cells!)

24d        Plunge into water beginning to exercise when fresh (4)
This is another setters’ favourite word since it uses its two vowels in a rather more original way than ‘even’ or ‘ever’. You may not know it but will certainly meet it frequently from now on!

28d        Track in lines once predator discovered bucks (6)
Three ‘indicators’ here. We are told that this is an old poet’s word by the ‘track in lines once’. ‘Discovered’ tells us to ‘undress’ the word and ‘bucks’ (another of Ifor’s lovely anagram indicators) tells us what to do with the letters with their ‘clothing’ removed.

30d        Feature of verse repeating ending in routine (6)
This is a specialist word but the letters already in the grid will tell you how to create it (a word for ‘routine’ with its ending ‘repeated’).

33d         Very good for Waugh brothers, both as bats (6)
We don’t know much about cricket (even though one Numpty was Yorkshire born) but you can interpret the ‘bats’ in typical Ifor fashion to find this foreign word.

A full grid (except for those 19 cells) and we needed to find a film and partners. We had several ways to cope with the endgame. The best seemed to be to convert our eight extra letters into a name. That rang a bell and we remembered the film but had to use Google to find the partner, whose name appeared in the grid. – highlight both – it’s so easy to forget that!

Two locations: we found those and understood what the view of one partner had to be (making real words where our 19 extra cells had been – though we struggled to find one of them). We have to admit that we back-solved to produce the two pairs of synonyms to give us the locations but we could see which of them was WINNING, and wrote that below the grid.

What a fine and challenging compilation. This was about as difficult as an EV can get. (Don’t worry – easier ones are in the pipeline!) If you have managed this, you can consider yourself a fully-fledged thematic cryptic solver. Do please send in your entry and comment below on how you fared with a crossword as difficult as the EV can be.

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8 comments on “EV 1459 (Hints)

  1. Phew! But what a great construction (as always with Ifor) so that when the penny drops the final endgame is unambiguous and beautifully neat. As the Numpties point out, concentrating on the “confused person” is a good way to the theme, so do get the highlighters out and mark up the clues.

    1. Ha! I just realized we both started our comments with the word “phew!”
      What an appropriate word.

  2. I’m glad you said this is about as difficult as they get because I’m struggling with this. I wonder if others are too, given the lack of posts. My problem is not just that the theme remains totally opaque but that the particularly tough clues [well, at least the few I can’t solve] are all in critical positions with respect to the empty cells in the initial grid. I have the short across clues and the downs at the very top and bottom on the right side [including the clever little 11d] but I just can’t see 22, 26 or 32d – so I can’t work out where 50% of the empty cells should be. Any chance of another hint or two?

  3. Halcyon – I’m pleased you’re persisting. Of course I can’t comment while the puzzle is live, but just in case your request has not been seen I’ve contacted the Numpties. You might also care to look at the thread on the Crossword Help Forum, but bear in mind that you might learn more there than you’d like.

  4. I’m just about to make a start on this puzzle and as usual hope things become clearer as I go along. I’ll be making full use of the Numpties’ hints of course. Time will tell!

  5. Phew! Got it!
    Being part of this new audience that has been doing the EV ever since the “easy” series was released in September, I can verify that this was the most challenging one so far. Well, maybe not if you’ve seen the “film” recently.
    Now that I’ve had the film spoiled for me by reading its Wikipedia page, I have to admit that this was a really clever theme. That was quite the endgame!

  6. Phew indeed. It took me all week to crack. I am not a watcher of films so it was excruciatingly hard work to gradually piece the information together. The eight letter anagram of extra letters gives the confused person’s name (4,4) which I did not know. The Wikipedia entry for the film then gives the names required to be found. I think the preamble could have been worded more precisely.

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