EV 1480 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1480 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1480

Spoiler Alert by Kcit

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Kcit, who appears also as the setter Phi, has been setting crosswords for over 30 years for the Listener and Magpie series and the Inquisitor and EV. He also sets as Phi for the BBC Music Magazine and appears regularly with crosswords of medium difficulty in the Telegraph Toughie series. You may well be solving one of his Listener puzzles this weekend, too.

Preamble: Fourteen clues are separate from the rest: each of these clues has wordplay omitting one letter. Fourteen other clues each contain a misprint of one letter in the definition: in clue order the correct letters spell a thematic phrase. The letters of this phrase must be added in order to the omitted letter in the equivalent answer in the separate clues (A=1,27, B=2,28 etc) giving new letters forming new words to be fitted into the grid where they will go (eg GAL(A) wordplay and K misprint => A+K = L =>GALL to be entered). The new letters spell out a further thematic phrase – the SPOILER ALERT- to be written below the grid. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; 32 and 37 are in the ODE and two answers are abbreviations.

For those who have been worrying recently about deciphering the preambles of crosswords, my advice would be “Don’t worry and don’t try yet!” Certain aspects of the preamble are useful at this stage. We are told that the wordplay in fourteen clues omits a letter. We identified those fourteen solutions at once (they were missing from the numbered list of clues) and we highlighted them in the grid. We understood that we had to find fourteen misprints in the definitions in numbered clues, and that these would spell a phrase that we would be using by adding it to the fourteen extra letters. Clearly we could do nothing much about this until we had the phrase (or enough letters to identify it) and most of the extra wordplay letters, so we had to get down to solving.

It is not clear investing in bond gives thrill
We found this first clue difficult and back-solved from the likely solution finding that we had to incorporate a Latin abbreviation in our answer.

Scots stride in Montrose now
As so often happens, the same word appears in a number of thematic crosswords. This Scots word was in an EV three weeks ago.

Live subordinate to female companion in the past
The surface reading of this clue produced a wry smile. It tended to be the female companion in the past who accepted her subordinate role. This old word is another that frequently appears in crosswords. The word ‘subordinate’ also suggested a down clue to us.

Love and desire in neat style?
Think hard about that ‘neat style’. This is yet another ‘crossword setter’s old chestnut’.

More than one otologist is enthralled by professional skills
If your solve follows the route ours did, you will be mystified by the word that seems to be the answer here. A letter we already had in the grid (from 19ac) produced a solution that simply didn’t fit with the definition. Hint-users have the advantage that the definition parts of clues are underlined on Big Dave’s website. You can avoid our pitfall.

Fellow with active webpage, often
We had to smile when the penny finally dropped. This clue included the last cell that we filled (back-solving after doing those final sums). Kcit is certainly being subtle here!

Search for Scots in Skye? Not unknown there
A completely irrelevant comment but we drove through Skye on our way home from Stornoway one summer ago (it was my childhood playground) and were horrified by the thousands of tourists – busloads and busloads. Scots are almost becoming something you have to search for there – but this clue simply requires a Scottish word for ‘search’.

Previously assess limits to cognitive science
A slightly more generous clue that uses the ‘limits’ of words helping you to find an extra letter and discover an outdated word for ‘assess’.


12a          American vessel can strike around Ohio (8)
Again the convention on Big Dave’s site of underlining the definition part of clues gives you a prompt towards this unusual word. Think of the usual range of words ‘can’ produces in crosswords. Chambers confirmed the word that was new for us.

14a.        Attempt to limit your new charge (5)
Three wordplay elements lead to a rare word.

28a         Persian carpet left covered by food in Auckland  (4)
There was an unusual use of a word here but, again, the underlining is probably all a solver needs.

30a         Almost certain to accept Latin? It’s indicated by legate (4)
The wordplay spells out a word but you may need to remember Kcit/Phi’s setting of the BBC Music Magazine crosswords to help you work out how the definition here fits with the word you have come up with.

40a         Hawk taking a spheroidal  item? (5)
Kcit used some astonishing misprints to create the fourteen-letter phrase we were going to use in the sums at the end.

43a         West Indies taking lead in Kingston, with one side prepared by many people (4)
A lot of words here to produce the letters of a simple little answer that is sure to raise a smile. Remember we are looking for misprints in the definitions.

At this stage of your solve, if you are entering the words from the fourteen separate clues and the ones produced by the normal clues, clashes will be appearing – fourteen appear in all. We simply entered both letters into each of those cells (and used a different highlighter to identify the fourteen cells) realising that the adding that we had to do at the end would spell out a fourteen-letter phrase that would confirm which letters we must enter. We know, of course, that Kcit will use only real words in his final grid but there are some cases where either letter would work so performing the endgame is essential.


1d         Surface wound’s equivalent, perhaps, on outside of foot (9)
A most peculiar word was produced by three wordplay elements here.

5d        Historic piece of legislation to prosecute artist (4)
The historic legal word would have been appropriate in last week’s EV.

8d        Put down article there for meditation  (4)
It is probably time to look at the letters being produced by corrected misprints which will be suggesting a phrase for you and will help solve these final clues.

18d       Party picked up study about sexual behaviour in Scottish judges (7)
You need to ‘pick up’ the party and find an abbreviation for ‘sexual behaviour’ to place in the ‘study’ in order to get yet another Scottish word.

27d        Comment apparently by old Government in opposition (8)
Four wordplay elements here, two of them just single letters but the word for ‘comment’ is a rare one.

35d       Poor situation in Ruskin’s view, with no women penning lines (5)
Sadly Ruskin’s ‘poor situation’ has nothing to do with the lack of lady crossword setters. The women actually have to be removed to make this clue work.

Kcit doesn’t allow us to stop with a full grid. We have found an amusing phrase from the corrected misprints and now have to do the sums, which produce a smile and an understanding of the title (There is eternal muttering about the crossword websites that spoil a solver’s pleasure by spelling out answers! See the message in red below.) Don’t forget to write below your grid that phrase, spelled by the letters that have completed fourteen words in your grid.

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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6 comments on “EV 1480 (Hints)
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  1. Thanks to Kcit/Phi for two excellent puzzles this weekend. I admire and envy the way s/he can find fresh ways of adding a happy amount of complexity into them. No cunning plan for solving this one, other than perhaps setting up a little table of the two letters and their combined result so you can keep track of the two messages.

  2. Indeed. Completely different in style and nature of demand, but both challenging (this more so than the Listener, I thought) and enjoyable. As the Numpties remark, the potential ambiguities in some of the thematic entries require that you solve all 14 of the starred clues and do the arithmetic to resolve them.

    To newcomers – I reckon this is very much at the more demanding end of the EV range. And I’d be disbelieving of anyone, however experienced, who claims to recognise every answer and entry.

  3. Certainly this was challenging and I think I enjoyed solving the numbered clues and revealing the thematic phrase. But cracking the unnumbered clues was, for the most part, a bit of a slog until the new thematic phrase was clear, when the remaining few could be back-solved more easily. One must admire the ingenuity of 40a but parsing 20d took a while and seems unnecessarily complicated. It might have been more amusing as an Enid Blyton parody.
    Thanks to kciT for the workout and to the Numpties, whose hints, especially for the unnumbered clues, were more than usually useful.

  4. Another multi-session effort. But well worth it!

    I just now realized that the preamble got cut off in the version that can be printed from the Telegraph Puzzles website. The note about 32 and 37 and the abbreviations (which can be seen in this blog post) just wasn’t there. I was starting to think that my new Chambers was already outdated.

    1. Hi Lee

      The puzzle was very tight for space in the EV template, as you can probably tell. The result was that the last bit of the preamble had to be cut, but The Numpties are able to provide this additional information, due to working on an earlier copy.

      1. I figured that might be the case. No worries. It didn’t cause much distress. I have no issues with Googling a word when Chambers doesn’t give me what I want.

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