Enigmatic Variations 1463
Drawing Parallels by Kcit
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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Kcit certainly needs no introduction for EV solvers – his challenging puzzles in all the thematic cryptic outlets (also as Phi) and in the broadsheets, where, among other appearances he is a regular Telegraph Toughie setter, stretch back over almost twenty-five years.
Preamble: Five clues each have three surplus consecutive letters, to be removed before solving; in clue order, these groups spell out what every other clue has at least one of (amended clues may not make literal sense). In the final grid a number of cells will be blank – lengths in brackets give the spaces available. Solvers must place a dot in one such cell, DRAWING PARALLELS by connecting it with lines to the four corners of the puzzle. The correct choice of blank cell will reveal a four-word phrase in the cells crossed by two of the four connecting lines. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.
There’s a lot going on here and our advice is (as usual) to pay very careful attention to the preamble. We wondered, at first, whether ‘every other clue’ could mean every second clue, but no, it means all but the five clues which have a group of three letters to be extracted from them. Since ‘amended clues’ are spoken of, we assumed that some kind of change (‘at least one of’!) was going to occur in all but five clues.
We were also warned to expect a number of blank cells so we assumed, for example, that a seven-letter solution might have eight cells available. We had to identify one of these ’empty cells’, place a dot in it and draw lines from that to the grid corners. (BE CAREFUL! Place your dot in the centre of it and draw those lines to the corners very carefully – the Numpties needed two tries to get this right). Something is going to be revealed by reading the cells two of those lines cross.
5a Savant accepting learner probing a song book (7)
We’ve commented before that editors usually prompt setters to remove ‘a’ from their clues unless it is an essential part of the wordplay. It is a strange and very adaptable word and here, since something has to ‘probe’ (or fill) it, it has to represent a longer word. Remember that we are either going to remove three letters from the clue or adapt a word or words in some way.
11a Ill-favoured swimmer, nothing won, hiding in hut (6, two words)
We had a comical surface reading of an ugly swimmer who has lost his race and hides his shame in some hut. But then we broke down the elements of the clue producing a couple of letters from two of the words and produced our ‘ill-favoured swimmer’, an ugly creature indeed that was not familiar to us.
14a Working form of cure mostly for Australian with disorder (5)
We have a clear hint here that we are looking for an Australian word. knowing the usual crossword word for ‘working’ and needing only three more letters gave us our way into what was going on in almost every clue of the crossword.
16a Old guy initially aboard sports car – that is Max, perhaps (7)
Again we had to think beyond aged Max in his sportster and convert the clue to useful single letters. Remember that ‘perhaps’ in a clue suggests that the setter is ‘defining by example so ‘Max’ is an example of something. Don’t forget that some empty cells are going to appear. The intersection of across and down clues will resolve that issue (with less trouble than we initially feared).
29a Studies around church revealing more than one hell (7)
This clue, with an apparent link word in its centre spelled out the solution for us (once we had made the adaptation that we know we are making in clues) but we needed Chambers to confirm a rather surprising plural form.
31a Stuff to build all, I accepted, is something like mackerel (5)
Another new word for us but, as is so often the case, the word mostly appeared in the grid (towards the end of our solve) and we could consult Mrs Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary to find a 5-letter fish.
34a Caledonian regiment tie rating up (6)
We are evidently looking for a Scottish word for a regiment. (In fact like Spenser for English words, Sir Walter Scott is the culprit for many of the Scots words in Chambers and this is one of his). ‘Up’ is another of those words that are so popular with crossword setters. Chambers tells us that it can mean ‘amiss’ or ‘in an excited state’.
35a Carriage leading all Scots to see bard (7)
We back-solved from our solution towards the end of our solve, remembering that there can be more than one adaptation in a clue. We needed Chambers to confirm the ‘all Scots’ element of the clue, as we did for ‘loot as before’ -a dated word produced by 36a.
2d Leader abandoning top pace (4)
We could see how the definition led to the solution here but parsing the wordplay had us puzzled and will probably puzzle you too – just an added challenge.
3d Angler’s lie: no source of fish in historic water (7)
Again, we could see and recognise a fairly unusual word for the solution but had to back solve to parse the wordplay with that ‘historic water’ giving us a challenge.
6d Quit place in South-East – openings in Runcorn’s skyscraper blocks (8)
Another of Kcit’s comical clue surface senses. With no disrespect to Runcorn (we are northerners) no one is likely to quit a place in the South-East for a squat in some high rise there. Of course, we needed to put together all those mini clue elements to find a word that is particularly relevant as I write.
9d English poison bearing poisonous compounds, taking out King – no difficulty here (8)
Kings and queens appear so often because of the letters they provide for setters but here we are deleting the King from an unusual word for poisonous compounds.
16d Listless fellow to offer ale for nocturnal type (8)
Solvers who download the crossword from the Telegraph Crossword Club (as we do) or buy the newspaper, don’t have the benefit of underlined definitions which is an aspect of Big Dave’s Crossword blog hints that probably really helps newcomers. In this clue it is useful to know that our clue elements produce a night creature of some kind. We know it with a slightly different spelling.
20d Article on investigation overlooking Southern heaths (7)
A technical word is needed here. ‘Overlooking’ suggests omission of something.
25d God willing to accept men? Thor in another country (5)
A two-letter abbreviation for men had to go into three other letters. We found it tough to produce those three but the letters that appeared in the grid gave us the word we were told was foreign.
27d One old teal circling island with a sense of chill (5)
As usual, we are given an indication that an element of the wordplay is ‘archaic’ or old.
29d Chia or chai supported by a very vulgar character (4)
You may need Chambers to explain how this clue works. Remembering the device of making one or more adaptations in most clues, and knowing your Chambers‘ abbreviations will certainly lead to an amused smile here.
Once you have spotted what is going on in the clues (and probably, as we did, worked backwards to find the fifteen letters that spelled it out) you will have been entertained by the series of deceptive verbal pictures, like that frozen old bird flapping its way round an island in 27d). With Kcit being such an old master in the crossword world, much of his language will be familiar to regular solvers, but he leaves us with a task to perform. It won’t be too difficult to decide where to put your dot, but do place it in the centre of that cell and enjoy the final penny drop moment.
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