EV 1489 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1489 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1489 (Hints)

Dating Agency by Ifor

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Ifor is familiar to Listener, Magpie, IQ and EV solvers. You can be sure of a challenge wirh fairly difficult clues and an endgame that will be theme-packed and substantial.

Preamble:  All three- and four-letter entries are new words formed by thematic treatment (a change then a loss) of their answers. The unclued entries are two names associated with a DATING AGENCY. Letters of these names appear in the same (thematically significant) letter position in the 22 clues to five, six and seven-letter entries; in clue order these letters suggest what they did. Solvers must thematically replace the letter in one numbered cell in the originally-filled grid. Some abbreviations used are not in Chambers Dictionary (2016) which is otherwise recommended; numbers refer to entry lengths.

Our first hint is to identify the clues which have three- and four-letter entries, we highlight ten, eight of them mutually intersecting, and since ‘numbers refer to entry lengths’, we suspect that the solutions to those clues will be longer than the cells available. The solutions are going to all be treated thematically so we solve some but enter nothing for the time being. There are going to be several ways to identify the theme which will tell us what the ‘significant letter position’ is (probably ‘first’, ‘last’ or a number) – we have two names that are going to appear at 1ac and 35ac and we wonder about their ‘dating agency’. Finally, we notice that all but four of the remaining clues have five, six or seven letters. A letter from each of those will contribute to 22 letters that will spell (jumbled,obviously) the two names and suggest to us what they did (read in clue order).


9a           Life force restraining judge in direct understanding of the truth of religion (6)
As we usually comment, 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 it helped to have a definition of a word that was new to us and to be given a hint about how to construct it.

12a         Replicating nominal value, returned acclamation with thanks (5, two words)
The ‘acclamation’ that we needed to ‘return’ to get this two-word solution was an Australian usage that wasn’t familiar to us. (It came 5th in the definitions of the word in question in Chambers. That is part of Ifor’s style. He isn’t going to use the most obvious of the definitions.)

14a        Web link downloads will do, overwriting page in copies (7)
The clue instructs us how to play with ‘copies’ in order to produce the ‘web link downloads’.

19a         Scots loth to maintain unbridled hate for leisurewear (7)
What would we do without Mrs Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary? Of course, she has a Scots word for ‘loth’. Actually, she has two, but only one of the two will produce the leisurewear when ‘hate’ is ‘unbridled’ and added to the word.

22a         They are first in prizes maybe (7)
We were puzzled by the second part of this clue but it was confirmed by Chambers.

25a         Got up in alarm, seeing gentleman’s return (4)
This is one of the clues it is important to solve in order to understand the crossword’s theme. To find the word for ‘got up’ we had to return, or reverse, the ‘gentleman’ within a word denoting an ‘alarm’. Of course, once we had the solution, we needed to adapt it, deploying a ‘change and a loss’ presumably one letter changed and one removed.  Solving four down clues, 21, 20, 3 and 16 gave us a change, a loss and a new real word.

28a         Nonreactive tablet put back by the way (7)
This solution, for us, needed a back-solve. The answer springs to mind at once and helpful letters that you may well already have in the grid spell it out – almost – but we needed to confirm that the second part of the clue, just two letters, could be ‘back by the way’.

29a         Ditch in Wellington,  taking special order from ground (3)
The ‘ditch’ is a crossword setter’s favourite and there is more than one ‘Wellington’. The ‘ground’ from which we were taking ‘special order’ was not the earthy kind. Of course, again we have to solve intersecting down clues, bearing in mind that we are to remove a letter and change another.

30a         Roman impromptu’s at most painful without following new reforms (5, two words)
Those crossword abbreviations for ‘special’, ‘judge’. ‘following’, ‘new’ etc. will be becoming familiar to newer EV solvers. With those in mind, the ‘Roman’ expression will be easy to find.

32a         Sardonic articles rejected, to some extent better on track here in Washington (6)
The solution is a relatively obscure word so Ifor has clued it generously.


7d           Harm to the elderly in suburban environment (3)
This clue was the one that showed us the ‘way into’ the crossword. Ifor’s generous clue gives you the word from which you must remove a letter and the words entered at 10 and 12ac will indicate which letter must change. We needed to think about what the letters in question could represent.

15d         Answer that’s left with sneaky catch (4)
Ifor uses ‘left’ in a specific way here. Solvers need to think what ‘with’ can represent in a crossword (and what ‘sneaky’ means). As in 15d, the letters that are being played with (one changed, one removed) will guide you to the theme.

23d         Painter – no amateur – reproduced colour in butterfly’s wings (6)
A fascinating and unusual word appears when you do what the clue instructs.

The changes we had to make to the three- and four-letter entries, which became evident as our grid filled and ‘clashing’ letters dictated the changes, shared a common feature and prompted us about the dating agency. We needed the Internet to clarify for us why we were making those changes and to confirm the two names – and prompt us which letter in each clue we were using to receive a hint. When you have found that, you will smile at the ‘one letter in a numbered cell’ that has to be changed. Don’t forget to do it!

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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10 comments on “EV 1489 (Hints)

  1. That was great! Took me a while to figure out what was going on, but when I finally did, I involuntarily let out a gasp. My wife had to check in on me to make sure I was OK.
    Lots of clues earned stars this time, but I particularly enjoyed the clever style of wordplay in clues like 14A and 25A. Thanks, Ifor!

    I also really have to give a shout out to this blog for providing me with a valuable education. I was able to conquer both the Listener and the EV this weekend, which would have been unthinkable before this blog appeared in September. So, thanks to The Numpties, Big Dave, proXimal, and all the commenters (which, of course, includes Ifor). It’s been very satisfying to measure some real growth.

  2. Lee, that’s really good of you – and also the fact that you regulary comment and help us with your input. Just this week, I asked the editor (proXimal) whether we are providing a useful service or whether we should eventually put an end to the hints. He suggested that at some stage we ask the silent solvers (not David Thomson, you and Ifor and the others who regularly comment) to speak up if they want us to continue. We are happy to go on doing them and having to break down every clue into its elements actually enhances our own solving skills, but maybe they will soon have outlived their purpose.

    1. I discovered the EV in Spring 2020 and have been hooked ever since; it is definitely the puzzle highlight of my week. I never cease to be delighted and amazed at the ingenuity of the setters. While I do not always need the Numpties hints, I really appreciate having them there and always enjoy reading them. It also gives me the confidence to tackle the EV every week, even when it initially sounds unfathomable. I am also grateful to them for the pointer to Mrs Bradford, who has become very well thumbed since requesting her as a Christmas present.
      I would like to join the other commentators in hoping both the EV and the Numpties’ hints continue. A big thank you to the setters, bloggers and commenters for brightening up a difficult year.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with everything that Lee has said about this blog. I started doing the EVs back in September and have done every one since, I’ve also recently started doing the occasional Listener. I have learned so much, I’d never managed to even understand the preamble prior to this blog starting now I always finish (although the time it takes me varies!) and I always send it in. I also love the setters blogs, it’s always fascinating to read the back story to how a puzzle comes into being, and the time and effort you all put in to crafting a puzzle to perfection for our enjoyment is amazing and very much appreciated. So a very big thank you from me to everyone involved for the hours of fun, I for one would be very disappointed if the blog ended.

  4. By solving the clues with 5,6 and 7 letter entries enough was revealed to identify the two names and confirm my hypothesis about the theme. The 3 and 4 letter entries, changed in accordance with the theme then completed the grid and I’m pretty sure I know which cell needs changing. So far so good but I’m still baffled by the “same thematically significant letter position” despite an hour or more on Wikipedia.
    Thanks to Ifor and, as ever, the Numpties. Like Denise I’ve been doing these since you started blogging them and long may you continue.

    1. ….in the 22 clues”.Not the solutions, bonehead. It helps if one reads the instructions!

  5. All of us on what we could call the production side are very grateful for the positive feedback. I’m sure it’s been duly noted at Telegraph Towers. Thank you also for the kind remarks about this particular puzzle. Denise – there will certainly be a setting blog in due course. Halcyon – we’ve all been there, I’m sorry to say.

  6. Please keep these blogs. I am a real novice at EVs but usually have a try now that I have a bit of help from the Numpties.
    I often don’t finish, but have submitted some whereas before the blog I didn’t even know where to start.

    As to this one, I figured out the alterations to the short clues and have got the unclued names…but am stumped by replacing the letter in one numbered cell in the originally filled grid. A few hours to go yet before I have to give up.

    Thanks to Ifor and to the Numpties

    1. In the nick of time I think I have found an answer to the letter substitution .
      In desperation I consulted my husband who does not ever do crosswords but does have a chemistry degree…….hurrah!

  7. Finished – at the eleventh hour – plus! Nailed the theme very early on and even the letter change , 95% done last week but as often it is filling in the last unchecked letters that cause me to abandon. Returning to it I think I’ve got them all but there seems one anomaly. I think lacking a Bradford is costing me!
    Please do keep these hints they are invaluable even for directions on just that one answer. These hints have directed me towards an interesting community of ‘grown-up’ crosswording – I get a certain feeling of camaraderie knowing others are toiling!
    Without them I would attempt less (if any) of the EVs – I attempt about 50% and only 2 have really defeated me.
    It was this hints blog that started me – keep up the great work!

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