Enigmatic Variations 1492 (Hints)
PTO by Charybdis
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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Charybdis has been setting crosswords for over twenty years for all the outlets for thematic cryptic crosswords so certainly needs no introduction. We have come to expect completely fair clues and a challenging endgame from such an experienced setter and this crossword gave us just that.
Preamble: Set A clues are arranged in alphabetical order of answers, not all of which enter the grid. Set B clues show lengths of clue answers before entry in the grid. They are thematically altered and generate the theme word (11) which suggests what solvers might PTO. The theme-word, taken together with the answers to surplus clues, indicates how sixteen cells must be altered in symmetrically placed grid entries. All entries are real words or phrases at each stage. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.
As usual, we solve in pencil, as some answers are going to be altered in a way that is going to be indicated by a theme word of 11 letters. Since there are eleven clues in set B, we suspect that each of them will somehow produce a letter that will not be used in the answer since their clues ‘show lengths of clue answers before entry in the grid’. This thematic word is going to be taken together with answers to ‘surplus clues’. It looks to us, too, as though we are going to PTO – turn something over. Clearly, this is one of those preambles that will make sense as solving progresses – typical of an advanced thematic cryptic crossword.
Since clue numbers are not given, we colour-code the lengths of answers in the grid and clues, noticing, as we do so, that there are just two 10-letter solutions and four 8-letter ones. We aim to place one or two of those successfully to begin a grid-fill. Hints about how to do that are given below.
Obstruct gambling for tropical birds (7)
Of course, Mrs Bradford has these birds in her list. You will find them when you put together a word for ‘obstruct’ and one for ‘gambling’.
Excellent people to have around borough – they thoroughly probe bungs (10)
We really wanted this 10-letter solution as a way to begin to fill the grid. Think of a rather slangy word for excellent people and put it round a short word for boroughs.
Ginger back next to bowler (5)
Put back a word for ‘ginger’ and add a little one that means ‘next to’ and you’ll come up with a word that hasn’t much to do with cricket.
Pondweed, small portion picked up by Fenland channel (6)
We decided that the fact that this ‘small portion’ was picked up suggested that this clue was to a down solution. Little things like that can help.
Guts upset with a lot of alarm for young embryo (8)
The generous wordplay (an anagram suggested and a hint about which letters to anagram) gave us an unusual word that we knew would fill one of the four 8-letter slots. If you are struggling, it is worth considering that the more unusual letters in the word (G and U, say) will probably go into unchecked cells.
Top half of grazer is regularly seen in zoo proceeding elegantly (8)
We have commented before how Italian musical terms appear in crosswords. We had to work backwards to try to understand the wordplay here but the comment about the word for a young embryo, above, applies here too. A rare letter in your 8-letter solution is likely to go into an unchecked cell. When you consider the initial letters of the other two 8-letter ones, that you have probably already solved, placing them is logical and you have a skeleton grid fill.
Floating request to attend event with the French taking the first two places (10)
The French appear rather often in crosswords. We are told where they appear in this solution and that they have ‘taken’ the first two places in that ‘request to attend event.
Hidden channels seeing ace promoted in Australian airlines (6)
This unusual word may not be familiar but we all know the Australian airlines and a new word appears when we ‘promote’ the ace.
American lettuce – NE state’s run out first (7)
‘Run out’ first – we are told. That should be sufficient to identify the lettuce (and Mrs Bradford includes it in her list, of course).
Rawboned creature seen originally by outcrop (5)
Think of an outcrop of rocks to complete this rather pejorative description of a creature.
Rains lightly in the countryside? Or beginning to sile cats and dogs? (5)
Charybdis’ sense of humour is evident here. He spells out a dialect word for us with those cats and dogs giving most of it.
Natural affection is good to hold in reserve (6)
A new word for us but we created it from the two wordplay elements. Of course its position in the alphabetical list of solutions helped; and we found it in Chambers – not even an obsolete usage!
The final eleven clues were challenging and we knew that they had to produce an 11-letter thematic word. The first of them was perhaps the most helpful:
Diplomat‘s ending for poem (5)
We searched our grid carefully to see where this ‘double definition’ word would fit.
Journo in emergency call for plumed caps (7)
The letters for the emergency call are familiar. The term for the ‘journo’ is fairly harsh and together they produce the ‘plumed caps’.
Peking Man’s missing section – it’s wrongly termed ‘fisher’ (5)
We just removed a section from this wordplay. We needed Chambers to confirm that the answer is ‘wrongly termed fisher’.
The solutions that are not entered in the grid gave the Numpties a hint about what to PTO. A penny-drop moment comes when you understand that the alphabetical order of solutions and the un-numbered grid are not simply to add difficulty for its own sake but are there for a thematic reason.
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