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’.
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