Enigmatic Variations 1473 (Hints)
Sea Shell by The Ace of Hearts
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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On the crossword database we see that The Ace of Hearts has been compiling crosswords since 2015 for The Listener, Inquisitor, Magpie, Crossword and the Enigmatic Variations series. This one is his twentieth compilation.
Preamble: One letter must be deleted from each clue before solving; these letters in clue order spell out part of a definition of a two-word entry in Chambers, the SEA SHELL. Five thematic answers are formed in cells where entries clash. With one exception, these clashes are formed by their answers being too long for the given space. After the clashes are formed, they must be treated as per the definition from extra letters. The final grid will then consist of real words (ignoring content of cells generated by thematic treatment). Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.
The compiler and editor have been generous in giving us the length of answers where the convention is to leave the poor solver struggling, knowing only the length of the available space for the answer. (It would be interesting to know your view of this – we, the Numpties, really approve as we are never in favour of ‘difficulty for difficulty’s sake’ in a crossword). Thus, we know roughly where the clashes will occur in the grid and how many letters will be involved. From previous experience, we realise that we are going to combine letters from across and down clues to produce five thematic terms.
1a Earring big head girl originally traced for military unit (12, two words)
The somewhat absurd surface reading here suggests that the compiler has had real trouble creating his clue and virtually tells you where to look in the clue to produce your two-word answer. Moreover, you have that very helpful word-length that tells you what is going on. We guessed the answer when we had a few letters in place and back-solved to get our first p.d.m. Of course, we remembered that we needed to tease out an extra letter.
10a Sundowner parking Fiat in middle of showroom (6)
We drive 4-wheel-drive Fiats because of our snow and saw the new electric one in the showroom yesterday when we took one to the showroom/garage for its service. But oh dear, no! The Ace of Hearts is talking of a totally different ‘sundowner’ and ‘middle of showroom’. The term was new to us in this context.
14a Being all over old small Scottish dame at last, in heather (8)
We had to put together the three elements of the wordplay (two of them commonly used in Scots) to produce this old word.
20a Sited Warrant Officer cooking sweet dish long ago (6)
Remembering that we were teasing out that extra letter helped us to find this old word that was new to us.
21a Biases of Cambodian partners received by ambassador at centre (5)
‘Partners’ are more of those ‘abbreviations’ so useful to compilers. They refer to the N and S playing opposite E and W in bridge. Here we need one set of partners and the heart of that ambassador has to welcome them.
30a Caledonian onion from old times soon to make return (4)
Grannie Sarah probably used this word when she was cooking but we don’t. ‘Times’ is another compiler’s favourite which can become X or ‘by’. To complete our answer, we needed to remember to extract the extra letter to find another abbreviation.
6d Camera part framing beer tin shaped like a helmet (7)
The helpful word-length and the usual crossworder’s answer for ‘beer’ will help here and this solution might give you the p.d.m. if you are still wondering.
11d Some enthusiasm El Cid raised for feasts (5)
The words ‘some’ and ‘raised’ helped us find an unusual word.
19d Heard French cheese’s indeed found under worn roofed passage (9)
One of our favourite cheeses has to be “heard” in the plural. Again we are helped by the word-length and need to remember to remove an extra letter.
25d Balts imprison two thirds of enlisted women in recess (5)
There is a slightly unorthodox spelling of the answer here. We had to hunt for the abbreviation for the ‘enlisted women’.
We thought that The Ace of Hearts’ clues were generous and after the first clash gave us our penny-drop-moment, we knew what we were looking for. We needed to use the appendices in Chambers Dictionary to perform the final ‘neatening up’ of our grid using the hint that the extra letters had provided.
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