EV 1470 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1470 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1470 (Hints)

Level Crossing by Hedge-sparrow

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Hedge-sparrow’s crosswords have been appearing regularly in the Listener series over the past 13 years and we have seen him in the Magpie, Inquisitor and Enigmatic Variations series too. Naturally, considering his pseudonym, birds have often featured in his grids – but not so this time. The Numpties found this crossword very tough indeed, but we hope our hints will help you reach an amusing conclusion.

Preamble: Two unclued entries, to be completed by solvers, are the site of a LEVEL CROSSING and an (incomplete) inscription commemorating it. Seven answers require a non-standard method of entry (numbers in brackets after clues refer to entry lengths). The missing part of the inscription is represented by modifications applied to six other answers prior to entry (three each of two types). Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; 40 and 1 down are in Collins.

We take note that only six of the 47 clues will lead to some kind of modification in the solution but that another seven will be entered in a non-standard way. That could, of course, mean that the answers will be jumbled but we have experienced answers entered, for example, as Greek letters, digits or mathematical symbols. That, we think, is more likely and more rewarding. The comment about entry lengths warns us that some of the solutions produced by wordplay will be gaining or losing letters when we enter them in the grid. (Why else would a setter give that information?)

Across

13a          Good grain for countryman’s little pig (5)
The wordplay spells this out but the dialect word was new for us.

17a         Salt tear spilt following end of impromptu (5)
Again very clear wordplay gives a word we rarely hear.

21a        Sort out what’s left in the country (4)
Yet again we have very clear wordplay for a word that we are told is dialect.

27a         Sea carp disrupting what once offered protection for lugs (4)
We were initially puzzled, as the answer we came up with didn’t fit with a letter we had already entered in 27d.

34a         Advance reservations for American in difficulty is most convenient (4)
As in 27ac, our solution wouldn’t conveniently fit into the grid we were filling.

38a         Distinguishing marks around drainage filament (5)
This solution was given to us as there were no unchecked letters in it and we know what ‘around’ can mean in an across clue, but we needed Chambers to check the definition.

40a         Disease-causing bacteria open umbilical ruptures (13)
Remember that we were told that this word is in Collins (so not in Chambers). The Collins Dictionary is a lovely work that often has unusual variants that don’t appear in Chambers. Hedge-sparrow knows solvers may not have a copy, and is generous with his wordplay. The compiler, Ifor, has commented in his remarks about previous sets of hints, that the https://www.quinapalus.com/companag.html gives help to solvers attempting to resolve long anagrams. (If you scroll to the Union Dictionary, you will find words that are in Collins.)The programme is free and will help you create grids if you have been inspired by the EV setters and are keen to have a go yourself.

41a         Newly-arrived immigrant – process engineer lacking in expertise essentially (7)
When you have solved this clue and possibly been surprised that the solution fits the definition, you will also probably smile at the clever clue construction and the deceptive surface reading provided, for example, by that ‘process engineer’.

Down

1d           Record‘s dry without opening of string trio (7)
EP and LP are compilers’ favourites. You need to think of that type of record and a commonly used word for ‘dry’.

2d          Scolds exhausted people(4)
Such a short clue suggests that the compiler is using a ‘double definition’ solution.

4d           Friend gets ignored in expenditure plans (6)
‘Pal’ and ‘mate’ are compilers’ crossword friends but this one is more American.

6d          Exert influence out of court to stop Scottish mine opening (4)
The solution appears frequently in crosswords. We needed to back-solve and to check the Scottish element of the wordplay in Chambers.

7d          Vessel about to be torpedoed (5)
There is a slightly unorthodox clue here – one that is sure to make you smile.

11d          What might indicate a love potion, concocted to capture women for love (6, two words)
I commented that the Numpties found this crossword tough to solve. This was where our difficulty began. The solution was not known to us. https://www.quinapalus.com/companag.html  will help you work out the clue, then you will have to decide how to enter your solution.

13d          Former pope disposing of railway jacket (5)
Knowing the abbreviation for railway helped us to think of an appropriate ‘former pope’.

14d          Form of work contract worried Scots cushy month off (5, two words)
The type of work contract is one that is often criticised as it reveals no incentive for efficiency. The wordplay spells it out but you need to fit the term into the grid.

22d          Allied powers sent up in English verse (5)
Once we had had our penny-drop moment, we back-solved to resolve this wordplay.

23d          Pour fluid into nurse’s bed (7)
As in the above clue, this clue will make you laugh once the penny has dropped. In these Covid days, no-one is likely to be wetting a nurse’s bed!

24d          Cardinal nearly discovered hugging tenor in ruff (5)
‘Nearly’ (like ‘mostly’ or ‘almost’) can mean that the last letter of a wordplay element is removed. You need the female version of the ‘ruff’ here.

26d          At first, microbiologists in America struggle to get “female” fungal form (7, two words)
The solution was new to us but confirmed by Chambers. We still had to fit our answer into the grid.

33d          Stock market’s closing before capital’s cut by 50% (5)
The answer is a rare usage. You need to think how you can cut the capital by 50%.

37d          Duck about to cross lake border (4)
The solution here is a heraldic term.

Like us, you probably had to search hard in Wikipedia to find the ‘level crossing’ and its amusing inscription. That is one of the extra pleasures provided by the thematic cryptic crosswords. So often we learn something new from them.

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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11 comments on “EV 1470 (Hints)
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  1. A tough challenge indeed and thanks to the Numpties for the hints which might prise it open if you’re getting stuck. I focussed on the second line, but struggled for some time and only cracked the theme once I had spotted how it was affected by the modifications. After that it was a quick romp home. Thanks to Hedge-Sparrow for a fierce but fair challenge.

  2. As Ronnie Corbett sometimes used to say in his monologues, “if you don’t like the joke you can admire the scenery”. Here, if you don’t like the endgame (but you will) you can admire the clues. This is one of those setters who works particularly hard to provide a meaningful surface reading; there are clues here that you could hear in everyday speech without noticing anything unusual.

  3. Well that was tricky. I hadn’t heard of the ‘level crossing’ but enjoyed unravelling the theme (with help from Wiki) as I worked through the clues with several PDMs along the way. Like Ifor I very much admire the elegance of Hedge-Sparrow’s clues. I feel particularly pleased with myself for cracking this one as even the Numpties say they found it difficult!
    Many thanks to Hedge-Sparrow for the entertaining challenge and to the Numpties for the tips.

  4. Well, that was seriously tricky! I identified the “level crossing” with the grid only 30% full and had a fair idea of how the 2 sets of 3 might be processed – but the clues, scrupulously fair tho they are, were often extremely taxing, as was the non-standard entry methodology for the 7 [at this stage i could not see how the commemoration could be selected/constructed]. Then the penny dropped at 14d but it was still a long haul to the finish and I wasted a long time trying to crowbar Mr Milne’s bear into 20d.
    Many thanks to HS and of course to the Numpties.

    1. Good to know that I am not the only one who’d spent far too long trying to persuade that animal into 20d… now I feel only half the sense of daftness for allowing an assumption too much strength! lol

  5. Loved this puzzle. Thanks to HS . Still uncertain if final grid should feature 3 epsilons?? Especially as the minus has been reinstated…. Answers appreciated.

    1. Liz, our comment about Greek letters in our hints was only there to give an example of what might go into cells in the place of letters. We don’t expect anyone to actually enter foreign letters – maybe some other kind of digit.

      1. However the original inscription on the bridge did use the Greek form of e and it ,along with the reinstated minus, have both been lost in recent years!

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