EV 1468 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1468 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1468

Communication by proXimal

Hints and tips by The Numpties

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

That capital X (something to do with crosswords? I am sure proXimal will explain) in the pseudonym of the setter, proXimal, prompts us that we have a familiar setter here who also sets as eXternal in the IQ and Listener series (and combines with another setter as eXtent). They might know him as Artexlen in the FT and Boz in The Herald. Big Dave’s regulars will know him from Thursday/Friday Toughies and back-pagers, where he’s also normally put in Fridays (used to be Thursdays). With such a range of setting experience, you can be sure you are in safe hands.

Preamble: Answers to six clues must be replaced by alternatives of a thematic kind, as suggested by a major clerical task undertaken by the recipient of a COMMUNICATION. All other clues contain an extra letter which must be removed before solving; in clue order, the extra letters give the COMMUNICATION and sender. Finally, solvers must expel one letter from each row into the barred-off region of the grid, thereby showing the recipient and the effect of the communication on him; ignoring gaps, real words are left in the completed grid. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

We take note of the information about six clues which are going to be ‘replaced by alternatives’. That doesn’t sound like anagrams or jumbles of the original letters; but we realise that we will have to find the COMMUNICATION that is going to be spelled out to us by single extra letters in ‘all other clues’ – somewhere in the clue, we note, not just in the wordplay.    The sender is also going to be spelled out for us. We will have to discover the recipient for ourselves. Twelve letters that we ‘expel’ – one from each row of the grid will ‘thereby show’ the recipient and probably the ‘major clerical task’ he undertook which, we learn, will give us a thematic hint about the six ‘alternative answers’. That sounds like an entertaining challenge.


11a          Unimportant lawyer’s first welcomed by gangster wanting chat (6, two words)
Rather complex wordplay here but we solved the clue by thinking of the possibly best-known gangster.

14a         Told piece that’s trite by oddball (7)
The solution here was an obscure word and we needed to remind ourselves that the extra letters could be anywhere in the clue – in the definition or the wordplay.

16a         Cool awards in Perth, with leading beer bellies in Oz (7)
We have a clear hint here that we are looking for an Australian word – one that amused us (but was also new to us) and the ‘Perth’ can be telling us that the word for ‘awards’ is also ‘Oz’ but, in fact, we needed a Scottish word for that part of the wordplay.

26a         Shrub is one beaut in Los Angeles (7)
proXimal has been kind with his wordplay since he knows we are not likely to know the name of his shrub – so he spells out its first and last letters.

29a         Dashing run with the venator (6)
We felt that the first word of this clue was used in an original way. We back-solved the clue using a meaning of venator. Remember, as you work, that you are looking for six clues that will not produce extra letters, and that those are the ones that will be ‘replaced by alternatives’.

30a         Nobles prattled, infiltrated twice by unknown radicals (8)
Another new word for us but kindly proXimal has spelled it out. Compilers are very grateful for those letters X, Y and Z which are defined by Chambers as ‘unknown’.


1d          Erected Italian tin shelter moving upwards (8)
Another clue where we back-solved after we had understood which extra letter we could extract. However, the compiler is being tricky here as this shelter (that we have to ‘erect’) is actually a word from Spanish (and one that you would be more likely to encounter in South America than Italy).

2d          Bent rogue influential, getting fit maid sacked (8)
A clue telling you that you have to subtract one anagrammed word from another is usually a generous compiler’s gift.

4d         Outmoded diet books following a basis that’s been overturned (4)
proXimal is playing with familiar crossword abbreviations. ‘Books’ so often refers to OT or NT, and you need to remember that the article ‘a’ is usually removed from a clue by editors unless it is part of the wordplay leading to the solution.

5d         Prince in California closing base is somewhere insular (6)
This clue made us smile. proXimal is lucky that the ‘prince’ hasn’t chosen to move somewhere else, Florida, say or Moustique.

6d         Passionately disheartened with poet’s festive addition to church (9, two words)
Most of this new term (for us) appeared from intersecting letters and Chambers helped us to confirm it. Spotting which letter you can extract from the clue will probably amuse you.

7d         Mare beginning to bleed in wet gum base (6)
A rare word is needed here. 

18d        Mixed drink not made? Hiding rage poorly (8)
When you have extracted an extra letter, the wordplay leads to a word you may not know for the drink.

There was a series of penny-drop-moments for solvers. It was for us by spotting the six alternative words that were to be entered, that we recognised the nature of the clerical task. Next came the sender of the communication, then we realised that those extra letters had spelled the COMMUNICATION out for us. We realised, too, who the recipient was but do be careful in expelling the name as there is sometimes a choice of letters but ‘real words’ have to be left.

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 fifteensquared.

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5 comments on “EV 1468 (Hints)

  1. Unsurprisingly (to those who know my background) the penny dropped pretty early about the theme, but it still took me quite a while to unpack the clues and fill the grid. It may be New Year blur, but tends to happen to me when – however fair the clueing – more than one modification plus the use of some less familiar words are all in play together. Like the Numpties I found that some perfectly proper clues only made sense when I had the answer by other means (“back-solving”). An enjoyable challenge though so thanks to eXternal (Mr X?) and to the Numpties too.

  2. I began solving this one with the down clues in the hope of revealing the ‘sender’. This worked for me and gave me the likely theme allowing me to work steadily through the rest of the clues with several PDMs along the way. For me this was the perfect puzzle, more than one modification, fair clueing making archaic or dialect words achievable and no non-words. I really enjoyed the challenge. Thanks to proXimal and to the Numpties.
    I hope proXimal will be writing a setters blog, I’m really curious to know the background to this puzzle.

  3. WooWee! That was a beast! Took a while to get a foothold, but after chancing upon a few key answers (without knowing why at first), things started to pick up.
    There are a lot of neat ideas packed into this puzzle. Pretty impressive proXimal was able to find a way to get them to all work out.

  4. By gum that was tough! Not having any idea about the theme my strategy was to get the grid filled and find the communication and sender spelled out by the superfluous letters. 1a, 15a and 8d were enough to suss the nature of the replacement required but the reason why remained obscure until DT’s useful comments [1 above – thanks for that] which suggested a couple of possibilities, reinforced by the emerging nature, if not the sense, of the communication. I needed almost every extra letter before the communication and sender were completely clear [not helped by the somewhat ambiguous nature of 27d [which is unambiguous once you know the answer]. But all is clear now and there’s a sense of achievement, as well as a bit more knowledge of an important event in our history.
    Thanks to proXimal and, of course, to the Numpties.

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