Enigmatic Variations 1490 (Hints)
BORICAHF by Piccadilly
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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Piccadilly has been setting EV puzzles for over a quarter of a century and, of course, we meet him in the Listener series, but this one is a new departure for most EV solvers.
Preamble: Answers to the four asterisked clues are to be encoded using a Playfair code-square before entry in the grid. The three unclued entries have been encoded using the same code-square, as has BORICAHF. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.
We rarely encounter Playfair code-squares but proXimal has given some help (below). Solving the clues will almost complete your grid, with just seven solutions and the title in cyphertext.
1a Wasps’ nest in Lothian near centre of Dalkeith (4)
The clue leaves us in no doubt that we are looking for a Scots word. Chambers confirmed the word we created by putting together the two 2-letter clue elements.
12a Number turned west a moment ago in Scotland (4)
As above, we were left in no doubt of what was needed. The number that ‘turned’ had to be a short one.
13a Hit arm twisting catgut in Peebles (6)
Our usual comment – the convention of underlining the definition part of the clue on Big Dave’s site probably gives a solver all she/he needs. (Piccadilly is really giving Scotland a look in this week! The Scottish Numpty knew this word.)
15a Fen reeds scattering spores (8)
It is useful to remember that the thematic cryptic crosswords treat hyphenated words as single words in the given word count.
26a Gets a few unusual textures (8)
The comment at 13a applies here too. The solution word is fairly obscure
29a A US soldier gets nothing money-changing (4)
That poor US soldier appears as a couple of letters in at least one cryptic crossword every week. Give him ‘nothing’ and you get an interesting word for ‘money-changing’.
32*a Touched material (4)
It was clear to the Numpties that we had to solve these four asterisked clues in order to know what the original and cypher text were, so that we could attempt the Playfair code-square. It was a relief, therefore, to find a double definition clue – a word for ‘touched’ had to have a different meaning which was ‘material’.
33a Denoting branch of English South Carolina quickly rejected (6)
We had no problem with the ‘South Carolina’ part of the clue. The 4-letter ‘quickly rejected’ word is rather more unusual.
2*d Dog food (4)
As in clue 32*a, we saw that we had a double definition clue and Mrs Bradford gave us a 4-letter dog that could also be ‘food’ (no, I’m not suggesting we eat the poor creature).
7d Tessa ran naked could be Anna’s _________ (8)
I believe it is the first time we have seen a clue of this type since we began the Numpty hints. You need to remember that ‘could be’ can be an anagram indicator, so you need to equate the two parts of the clue. Piccadilly earned our smile here for the plausible surface-reading that his clue produced with Tessa and Anna being rather bold ladies.
10*d Expert follows middle of current in rapid tidal flow (4)
We need the usual crossword answer for an expert following the ‘middle’ of current.
22d Try, if for love, to change (5)
Here you have to change a word for ‘try’ into one for ‘change’ by adjusting some its letters.
24d Sends out fellow for money, maybe help in identifying suspects (5)
The same device is adopted here as in the previous clue.
25d Japanese lord put on king’s sealskin boot (5)
We didn’t know this word for a boot but, of course, it is in Mrs Bradford‘s list.
26d Nail to top of elm tree (4)
The last of the clues to be encoded is as generous as the other three, and, of course, the encoded forms have appeared in the grid so that we now have eight pairs of original letters and the eight they encode to..
You will have found that completing the grid was not too difficult and, like us, you now have eight pairs of letters with their equivalences in cyphertext and just two empty cells in the grid – but how to proceed to find the keyword and decode the title?
proXimal gave us some guidance:
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