Enigmatic Variations 1472
Test Match by Ploy
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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Ploy’s crosswords have been appearing in all the well-known thematic cryptic outlets for almost twenty years. They are invariably enjoyable with very fair clues and intriguing end games. This one was no exception.
Preamble: In the completed grid, one cell contains two letters. Across and down entries clash in another cell (givng a choice between two numbers) preceded by a 4-letter phrase. A letter must be changed in each clue before solving. The new letters indicate (1) how to select the correct number, followed by (2) which three cells to colour correspondingly to show the TEST MATCH. Of two parallel, thematic words in the grid, the cells of the correct one must be similarly coloured. The final grid must contain a numeral, and one letter is best in lower case. Numbers after clues show how many cells are available for the answer. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.
After our struggle last week, we are relieved to have an instruction to simply change one letter in each clue to produce two messages. This is a preamble you need to read carefully (and probably return to when you reach the end game). We note that one cell is going to contain two letters, that there will be a numeral in our final grid (apparently that there will be a choice between two numerals) and that we are advised to put one letter in lower case.
10a Leaving Malta, beach bum’s chanced heelless slipper (7)
The solution is an unusual word but the wordplay spells it out for us.
13a Unaltered after sustained iodine, in the US this needs a germicide (6)
Rather complex wordplay here; we need an abbreviation of a musical term for the ‘sustained’ and that helps us find the US spelling of the answer.
21a In review, not all closed units come into operation legally (5)
The solution here was an obscure usage for us but the clue gave us the word.
23a Viola derivative oddly learned by you, missing finals with academy (7)
We found this clue difficult. We had to construct the solution from three parts of the clue, remembering that a letter had to be changed, then check that what we produced did fulfil the definition.
33a Advent watchdogs take year off for Yule usually (7, three words)
Seeing that this was three words gave us this answer. Again the wordplay consisted of three small elements and the first of those was an abbreviation.
35a Nothing old in blue-sky location of avian display (3)
We smiled at the relevance of the surface reading in this clue, once we had remembered to change just about the only letter we could change.
2d Groom‘s trapped by alopecia symptoms souring (5)
No need for a hint here for habitual cryptic crossword solvers who will have met this word rather frequently but I suspect it appears nowhere but in crosswords (like ASTI, ETNA, ANTE – how would we compile crosswords without them?)
3d A sound character, retired Penny made up for kissing things (4)
We were puzzled as we couldn’t make our solution fit the word-count. The letters that were appearing in the message prompted us towards a changed letter that gave a more convincing surface reading (not likely, is it, that some sound OAP has spent her youth kissing things!)
4d What’s been winched earlier? Principal pipe belonging to us (7)
Ploy generously tells us that the solution is an obsolete word.
5d Final 60% of brass instruments are loud, primarily at the lowest lever (5)
This clue required us to work out which brass instruments were having their first 40% lopped off.
6d Arrant tabloid omitting day of death rate (6)
I commented last week how the requirement in hints on Big Dave’s site to underline the definition can be a help to solvers.
7d Breed of hen tracking up in a rural spot (10)
Ploy must have been delighted to find this wordplay to give an unusual breed of hen.
15d Amateur runs mine in buying and selling – a discarded cloth (10)
For us, this was a question of seeing the word that fitted into the grid and identifying the changed letter than back-solving to fit together the four clue elements (two of them are those single-letter abbreviations setters frequently use).
19d Asian tree is now dead, so taken back (5)
The answer is probably a new word for you. It is made up of a ‘dead’ 3-letter word and a reversed 2-letter one.
27d University lecturer sent up same rheology professionals (6)
An unusual word is needed here (again there are two of those single-letter abbreviations compilers like).
We had a full grid and two complete messages before we made sense of the end game and understood how the first five words of the message told us which of the two numerals to insert after the ‘4-letter phrase’. We had vaguely expected our TEST MATCH to be a cricket event but … We needed to look in the obvious place to fulfil the second highlighting instruction.
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