EV 1472 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1472 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1472

Test Match by Ploy

Hints and tips by The Numpties

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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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11 comments on “EV 1472 (Hints)

  1. Thank you for the hints, but for 33a you’ve inadvertently given us the correction to the clue.

  2. I take my hat off to all those who can solve or blog an Enigmatic Variation. I sometimes get brave and read through the instructions, then wish I hadn’t bothered 😁.

    1. Heno, my tip would be to start solving the clues. The instructions are often deliberately cryptic or misleading but as your grid fills, things become clear and in the end it is often a delightful surprise that has more to offer than the plain cryptic crosswords (not wishing to diminish those – I set both kinds).

  3. Wow. There’s a lot going on in the grid. Funny how I didn’t notice any of it until I filled the whole thing in (I kinda like it that way).
    Thanks to Ploy for the puzzle, and thanks to The Numpties for the insightful hints!

  4. This was nearly as big a struggle as last week’s. As Lee says [above] lots going on and the various elements only came together at the end. The cell with 2 letters in plus the lower case suggestion provided a start in clarifying the theme. Not entirely convinced that the clash of numbers adds a lot but it was an enjoyable solve. Perhaps the best sense of achievement was cracking 13a!
    Thanks to Ploy and the Numpties. Can anyone lend me a highlight pen?

    1. Halcyon – I thought the clash of numbers was significant in solving the endgame and deciding which of the thematic words was the ‘correct’ one to colour in. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but that’s how I interpreted the preamble.

      Thanks to Ploy for the challenge, I thoroughly enjoyed it and to the Numpties for the hints.

      1. Yes I get that and no you’re not overthinking it. I just think it’s an extra frill that isn’t really necessary. Why not just clue the little one as what it becomes after alteration? Perhaps because that clue was my last one solved and so it only stayed as how it was clued for a couple of seconds it seemed a bit superfluous. But if I’m the setter and I can do it then maybe why not.

  5. This was a very neatly put together puzzle with an excellent end game: well worth a bit of head-scratching to get through to the finale. Thanks to Ploy, and the Numpties and Dave of course.

  6. All done (thanks for all the hints) Do we literally have to colour in or can we just crosshatch??

  7. We (Numpties) have nothing to do with the marking so I can’t give an official response but I do know, from John Green’s comment (the Listener marker) that he accepts cross-hatching as a way of indicating high-lighting. It seems to me that you should be fine if the cells to be identified are clearly marked differently.

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