EV 1461 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1461 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1461 (Hints)

Key Change by Brock

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Brock is a familiar name to Listener solvers. His ‘Bunch of Fives’ erlier this year was a beautiful creation and he amused us with spoonerisms on a Spooner anniversary not long ago. This crossword is his first venture into Enigmatic Variations territory and also celebrates an anniversary. 

Preamble: Three cells in the completed grid must undergo a KEY CHANGE, as exemplified by corrections to misprints in definitions in seven across clues, to reveal two new items from a list already partially visible. A further item from the original list is completed by changing a key word entry. A thematic item, not originally available, was later reclassified in the opposite sense and must be shown in the final grid in an appropriate form; correct versions of misprinted characters in wordplay in down clues specify this form (9) and the original list (11), all the items on which must be highlighted in the grid. All entries at every stage are real words, phrases or names.

At first sight, there seemed to be a lot going on here. KEY CHANGE was clearly significant and we knew that we had to look, in across clues, for seven misprints in definitions, the corrections of which would guide us with regard to this (probably musical, we thought) key change. As we solved, a list was going to become ‘partly visible’ so we made a note to keep examining our grid for that. The (9) and (11) puzzled us initially, until we understood that those referred to the number of clues and misprints giving us the ‘ appropriate form’ we had to use in the final grid and the number of misprint letters describing the ‘original list’.

The misprints in all the down clues were going to be in the wordplay. That is so often a generous gift from the setter as it is difficult to find a convincing misprint for every clue in a set, and obvious ones give solvers a hint, but Brock’s were a sound set. Still, the penny-drop-moments came as we solved, and this compilation really showed the edge a thematic cryptic has over an ordinary one as a rich theme emerged.

Brock comments: ‘For my “Key Change”, the most important piece of advice I can offer is to read the preamble carefully and be prepared to revisit it at each stage. Pay attention to what is said about misprints, for instance.


5a          Flannel provided, having little paper (bathroom necessity) (8)
This isn’t a comical clue about the early Covid 19 panic buying of toilet paper. The ‘little paper’ referred to is a crossword staple. Think of a well-known newspaper that is described in brief (little) by two letters.

14a         Using pot daily? Policeman’s dismissed (5)
There’s another comically deceptive surface reading here – no, it isn’t a druggy cop. This time it’s a familiar crossword two-letter abbreviation for the policeman that we have to ‘dismiss’ or remove from the word for ‘daily’

15a        Personal appearance by those leading dance (5)
Compared with other EV setters, Brock doesn’t use many relatively obscure or dated words. You might be unfamiliar with say 12 of his 42 solutions and this word for a dance might be the first but his wordplay spells out the answer.

18a         Tropical plant rare sola (4)
We struggled with this clue suspecting a misprint. We were able to sort it out as a ‘double definition’ clue when three relatively generous down clues (6, 13 and 19) spelled out most of the answer for us..

25a         In retrospect, “svelte, elegant” shows old-fashioned affectation for Patty (6)
This is one of the solutions we were not familiar with. However, we are told that it is an old word. A convention in the thematic cryptics is that the setter can play with capital letters. His Patty might lose her capital letter to produce the solution.

33a         Confusion about last of bottle? More decant? The opposite (5)
My earlier comment about obvious misprints (this is a rare Brock one!) should help you here.

34a         Kip, 100 at note apparently (6)
Chambers has an astonishing 7 headwords for ‘kip’. We broke this clue into four little parts (as well as the definition) to find one of them.

36a         Agas destroy opponents leading peaceful society (5)
We were mystified by the wordplay here but suspected a misprint and worked back from what we decided had to be our solution, bearing in mind that ‘opponents’ are often those in a game of bridge, so N and S play against E and W. We subtracted a pair of opponents from a word meaning ‘peaceful’ and put an abbreviation for ‘society’ at the end.

37a         Macbeth’s guarded once his fate’s announced (6)
Tough, tough! Brock is using Scottish wordplay – a Scots’ word for ‘fate’ (that is probably familiar to you in the context of those fateful sisters in Macbeth). That word is ‘announced’ – suggesting a homophone – and it sounds like a Scots’ obsolete (once) word for ‘guarded’. Five of the letters from down clues will help.


3d           Japanese diplomat returning to York at start of April (5)
This clue took us to Wikipedia. It could have referred to a Japanese musician or name of furniture but the worthy diplomat gave a fascinating account that deserved mention. We realized that the misprint had to be somehow hidden in the ‘returning to York’. Our comment about capital letters in 25a applies again.

5d           Worked hard but lacking light, closed earlier (7)
One of those rare words here (suggested by ‘earlier’ – an old word). Something had to be removed from a term for ‘worked hard’ to produce this word.

7d           Fat lot Monsieur’s leaving by end for Madame (4)
French here; there’s a familiar abbreviation for Monsieur leaving a short word for ‘lot’ and we need another short French word.

8d           Composer of housey riff regularly employed  (4)
Brock obviously found it difficult to produce his misprint and the extremely difficult-to-clue proper name – we have a rare (for him) wonky surface reading and a fairly obvious misprint to help us.

Remember that we are scanning the grid from time to time as the theme is going to become ‘partly visible’. Spotting it will help us make ‘key changes’ and could guide us to what the remaining 11 corrected misprints (the original list) are spelling out.

21d         Monstrosities – note runt at anterior (6)
Here is another unusual word and again, we broke a clue into four mini clues to create the solution we required.

23d         Tanning agent – 2 doses from top of nebuliser applied repeatedly (6)
What you probably already have in the grid will help here. We had never encountered this word before. It has a hyphen and is ‘probably an African word’ in Chambers. Remember that the convention in the thematic cryptics is to treat a hyphenated word as though it is a single word with no hyphen. There is a rather sneaky trick connected with the misprints in this clue and the next one.

30d         James Watt’s much inclined to use bent eyebolt in part (4)
Yes, a Scottish indicator for a word you probably don’t know, just as the ‘locally’ in the next clue suggests a dialect word.

One way or another, you will have spotted the theme and the small alterations needed in the grid will be evident. It gives a fine ‘aha’ moment. Be careful about the 9-letter instruction concerning the ‘appropriate form’ of one thematic item and to ‘highlight all the items on the original list’.

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.

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16 comments on “EV 1461 (Hints)

  1. All that it’s reasonable to add at this stage is that this is a superb puzzle, and well worth persevering with.

  2. Thanks to Brock for a theme-packed puzzle. As noted, do read the preamble carefully. If the penny doesn’t drop in any other way, the hidden messages are very clear. Thanks too to the Numpties for the generous and helpful (but not “gimme”) hints.

  3. Sunday isn’t over yet on my side of the globe!
    This was a lot of fun. I somehow didn’t spot the theme until I had filled in the entire grid. I feel that it was better that way.
    Thanks all!

  4. Perhaps it’s me but this was far and way the most difficult that I have encountered for some time. Anyone else agree?

    1. Welcome to the blog William

      Personally I thought this was a whole league lower than the Ifor (EV 1459) and completed it (I hope!) in two sessions.

  5. Good to see you here, William. We Numpties found this one considerably easier than 1459, the Ifor, which, as we said in the hints, we thought was as tough as an EV can be. Of course, much depends on how soon you spot the theme and how familiar the thematic material is to you. But we feel that the fairly wide range of difficulty is one of the joys of solving these EVs.

    1. Thanks for the welcome

      Not sure of the etiquette for the site, but I am hopelessly stuck on 3 down – this Japanese diplomat!

      1. My/our hands are somewhat tied, but I think it fair to say this is the name of a particular diplomat rather than a general term (in the preamble it says All entries at every stage are real words, phrases or names). You should be able to derive most of the letters and a search engine will finish the job – it did for me.

      2. I’ll second what BD said. And then I pencilled it in my copy of Bradford’s in the off off off chance that I’ll need to refer to it again.

  6. I thought this was a brilliant puzzle. I managed to finish it in two (fairly long!) sessions and enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks to the Numpties for their help in unpicking the preamble and for their tips which were invaluable for a couple that I got stuck on. I did find it less difficult than some of the previous EVs, I think in part because I’ve got better at spotting the indicators for Scottish or archaic words and know when to reach for Chambers.
    Thanks also to Brock for the entertaining challenge.

  7. I’m sympathetic to William S to a degree because I found the clues to be a bit more challenging than usual until I got used to Brock’s style [and thanks for the hints which helped more than usual this time]. However, once the grid was complete the theme leapt out and the endgame was straightforward and extremely satisfying. I’m overcome with admiration for the setter – in particular the twists at 23/24d and the key change to reveal the last item on the original list.

    Many thanks to Brock and to the Numpties.

  8. I have a completed grid but I’m not happy. Because I haven’t found the misprints in 7D, 23D and 24D I don’t have the form required in which to display the non-original item. If I had a pound for every time I have read the preamble I would have enough for a decent bottle of single malt! Any gentle steering would be most welcome.

    1. For 23d and 24d, The Numpties warned us that something sneaky was going on (see their clue for 23d). At any rate, think about the misprints/corrections that you’ve already found – there aren’t too many words that have that letter combination. Try doing a Google search using those letters – that might get the ball rolling.

  9. Thanks for such spot-on hinting, Numpties. I found this very Septemberish: a few answers early on, a bit of a struggle to get up to most of the grid being filled, thinking I’d have to leave it and admit defeat, then coming back the following day and somehow finishing it.

    I was suspicious of the theme from “later reclassified” in the preamble, so after a couple of items had appeared, filling in some more helped with unsolved clues, and a lucky guess on the appropriate form handily provided the misprints for unsolved down clues. I only worked out the across misprints after I’d completed the endgame!

  10. Many thanks to Big Dave for hosting this and the Numpties for spot-on hints, hitting the main likely sticking points without any significant spoilers. I am particularly keen to include Penny Drop Moments in my puzzles, so that was much appreciated. Thank you too for so many kind comments from solvers here and on other sites. I was pleased to see it went down well with some relative newcomers to barred puzzles as well as the long-term residents.

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