EV 1478 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1478 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1478 (Hints)

Excusez-moi by Eclogue

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Crosswords by Eclogue have been appearing in the EV and IQ series, Crossword Magazine and the Magpie, and on the Crossword Centre for over ten years. We are usually treated to his creations on the Crossword Centre message board at Christmas.

Preamble: The correct letters of misprints in definitions, in clue order, provide a French version (ignoring one accent) of a common English idiom and some additional assistance, which together will explain each “EXCUSEZ-MOI” required in a number of undefined, but otherwise plain, clue answers. Enumerations refer to entry lengths. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; one answer is an abbreviation.

The compiler, Ifor, has commented in his additions to the hints that it is important not to be over-stressed about what seems to be an impenetrable preamble. We need to understand that the setter is deliberately being cryptic so that the ‘penny-drop moments’ occur as we solve. And yet, we must read the preamble with great care and constantly return to it as parts of it become clear.

Eclogue’s preamble is a good example. We understand already that there are going to be some solutions where the ‘enumeration’ does not correspond to the length of the answer. The ‘EXCUSEZ-MOI” (is that “Excuse my French?”) suggests that French will, in some way, be introduced into ‘a number of answers’ that will otherwise be normal but will have no definition part.


1a           Little child embarrassed wearing headdress of Indians (7)
As usual in the hints on Big Dave’s site, the underlining of the definition part of a clue can be all the help a solver needs. Here, when you know which part of the clue is the definition, there seems to be only one word that could produce a corrected misprint.

12a         New department in office, fine in retrospect (13)
You will need to understand what is going on in the crossword before you will be able to tackle this clue and even then  it will be a challenge. To solve it we needed an unfamiliar word and it was almost the last solution we entered. By the time you solve this, you will have realized how the lists Mrs Bradford provides can be useful. That is where we found the word we needed.

16a         Experience lidos of old, aged admitting pretence (6)
Putting ‘pretence’ into an abbreviation for ‘aged’ will give you the solution. We needed to work backwards from that word to understand how to get the corrected misprint.

17a         Edmund’s home down with trouble in street (6)
Here we are faced with spotting the misprinted letter and recognising a Spenserian word (Edmund’s).

18a         Radical infiltrates New York’s workers collectively (13)
‘New York’s’, here, indicates a US spelling.

24a         Secures revolutionary rule (13)
The revolutionary and the rule are the usual ones used by setters. Prompts given in the preamble are beginning to make sense. The convention of underlining definitions on Big Dave’s site coupled with the length of 12a, 18a and this solution will have given a big hint to solvers. For a setter to manage to get seven solutions that cross the entire grid is quite an achievement! We examine these clues more carefully.

37a         Cops section spread with strangeness (6)
There are three wordplay elements here and adding them together gave us a word we had not met in this context, bearing in mind that we needed a misprint in ‘cops’.

38a         Local chap with old eyes that’ll counter swing (7)
Putting together a local word for a ‘chap’ and an old word for ‘eyes’ gave us the solution but we had to slightly stretch credibility to convince ourselves about the definition.

At this stage, we had realized that the corrected misprints were appearing in all but the solutions to very long clues, so we had a good idea where the “EXCUSEZ-MOI” was needed. A French version of a common English idiom has already mostly appeared. Surprisingly it isn’t in the ‘Phrases and quotations from foreign languages’ at the end of Chambers, but, if French is not one of your languages, Google Translate, with a little manipulation, will produce the English idiom for you.


3d           Con in LA is shut up (4)
Another hint about US usage. ‘Up’ is a useful word for setters – it can mean ‘reversed’ in a down clue, or ‘anagrammed’.

5d           Take half a dozen balls (13)
If you are still struggling to know what is going on, focus on this clue! The single letter Latin abbreviation for ‘Take’ (indicating the imperative of the verb ‘recipere’) and the four-letter word for those balls will be the hint you need. Possibly, now, the significance of the title and the “EXCUSEZ-MOI” is clear but, of course, there are still corrected misprints that will give us additional assistance.

6d           One tending to slots in Leeds getting number in forbidding words (6)
This time the indicator tells us we have a northern word. Use words that say you ‘must not perform’ and put an abbreviation for ‘number’ in between them to get this dialect word.

9d           Bond of diverters once seen regularly throughout Wednesday (4)
You need to be quite old for this abbreviation to mean anything to you but the wordplay spells it out.

15d         Old comely presentation to conceal fully and only half conceal (6)
As in 9d, you need to be quite old for this to be familiar. A prompt – in the thematic cryptic crosswords, hyphens are not indicated in the ‘enumeration’. A very useful corrected misprint will help with the ‘additional assistance’ we know we are being given.

21d         Nut pain reduced by half for tedious timer (6)
The principally French word produced by a short word for a ‘nut’ and half of a longer word for ‘pain’ occurs frequently in crosswords.

29d         Ruby’s voice, quiet still (6)
The underlining shows where the corrected misprint has to be. Chambers confirms the unusual ‘dialect’ word that is the solution.

30d         Charges the ordering of a manuscript (5)
The solution needs us to add a word for ‘a’ to an abbreviation for ‘manuscript’.

32d         Seem odd to have shattered bearings in arms (4)
English is rich in these ‘armorial’ terms.

Once we understood (with the help of the hint that came from the last twelve corrected misprints) it was entertaining to complete those long entries. The Numpties live in France and use French as much as English so we had no problem, but  the Internet will provide what you need if your school French is rusty. Look back at the preamble and you will see how it hinted at the completed grid without spoiling your solve by spelling everything out.

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 1478 (Hints)

  1. Yes, this is a good example of the need to tease out the mechanical or instructional part of the preamble (some clues contain a misprint in their definition, others are “undefined but otherwise plain” – that is, they consist only of wordplay to answers likely to be linked in some way – and the lengths given are not necessarily those of the answers); and to accept that the rest will become clear as solving progresses and themes or patterns emerge.

  2. I solved this before reading the hints and thought it was of average difficulty for the EV. Realising that the 13-letter answers were the “undefined” ones was a key move for me. I marked them as omissions from the message being generated which helped me spot that reasonably quickly. (I can get by in French though no linguist like the Numpties: once I had the message’s first three letters I asked myself what sort of French phrase they could be leading into…) After a bit more solving I tackled the second part of the message, and that opened up the way in which the long answers worked, after which a list of the items involved made short work of them and I romped home. A very neat construction and a nice sense of humour; many thanks to Eclogue.

  3. I feel like the person who doesn’t get the joke when everyone else is laughing. I have a full grid by dint of plugging away at the misprinted clues until the French and English were both spelled out. I wasn’t helped by getting the misprint wrong at first in 37a, resulting in a letter virtually unknown in French. So the French words that go into the remaining long clues are clear enough but what explains the obvious thematic nature of the rest? And what is the relevance of the French idiom? Sorry to be dim – no doubt all will be clear next week.
    Thanks to Eclogue and to The Numpties, whose hints were more than usually helpful this time.

    1. @halcyon I’m pretty sure I did the exact same thing as you on 37A! That sure took a while to sort out.

      As for the “joke,” the English idiom isn’t a direct translation of the French phrase, but it has the same meaning. In fact, I wouldn’t even call the French phrase an idiom, but the English version certainly is.

  4. That was not easy.

    Had to do a little at a time over several days. Boy was I relieved when the theme finally emerged — that’s when I really started to enjoy the puzzle.

    Thanks for the challenge, Eclogue!
    And thanks to The Numpties for teaching me how to translate these puzzles into English…and now into French.

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