Enigmatic Variations 1493 (Hints)
Cell by Oxymoron
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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Oxymoron (also known as Schadenfreude) was the favourite setter for many solvers, producing crosswords for all the major thematic cryptic outlets for over 33 years and compiling those in the Cambridge University CAM magazine. Sadly, this will be the 72nd and last of the Oxymoron ones in the EV series.
Preamble: The wordplay given by 23 clues omits a single letter. This letter must be removed from the answer and the residue used to form the grid entry, in eight cases without rearrangement. In clue order the removed letters spell five first names. Solvers must highlight the corresponding surnames (35 CELLS) and alter two letters in the same column to reveal the collective name of the five, in two separate blocks, also to be highlighted (16 CELLS). Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; all final grid entries are real words or phrases.
A generous gift here was that the given entry lengths immediately established which twenty-three clues were affected since, in twenty-three cases, those didn’t correspond with the number of cells available – we highlighted those. A quick calculation told us that after we removed a letter from the answer defined in fifteen clues, the wordplay was going to use the remaining letters to produce fifteen entries that would be real words or phrases. Eight clues were still going to lead us to real words even when one letter was removed from the defined word. The twenty-three letters would spell five first names. We decided that those would probably include a couple of short ones. Spotting those names was clearly going to be a way to understand the theme.
2a Cape headland cliffs (5)
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. We felt that it might be a good idea to show how we worked out this solution. The wordplay produced a one-letter abbreviation and a three-letter word. The other ‘extra letter’ needed to define ‘cliffs’ was a very useful first letter of a name. The four wordplay letters would jumble to three Chambers words so we had to solve 2, 3 and 4d to work out which of those to enter.
12a Malicious little children (6)
We were puzzled here, initially suspecting that this was a ‘double definition’ clue, but then realised that the wordplay had two elements that could be added to produce the entry.
23a Screw steamer loaded with finished shafts (7)
The word for those ‘shafts’ is obscure and Mrs Bradford includes it only under a list of a different kind of ‘shaft’ (think spades). The wordplay uses a familiar abbreviation for the screw steamer ‘loaded with’ a less familiar word for ‘finished’.
41a Vale for example acceptable to a deity in Egypt (8)
You would be more likely to encounter this ‘Vale’ in Rome and the solution in the Far East.
4d Answer positive American stars (4)
We’re including this in the hints because the answer (which is spelled out) is a proper noun that doesn’t appear in Chambers. We found it in Collins and on the Internet.
9d Perverted rascal no longer acts carnally (7)
Again the wordplay leads clearly to the answer. It surprised us that this was an obsolete verb. You are, of course, remembering that most of these entries jumble the remaining letters when one has been removed.
24d Places welcoming extremes of total ascetics (8)
A fascinating and unusual word appears here for those ‘ascetics’. What would we do without Mrs Bradford!
32d Aberdonian spills a litre in self-catering section (6)
Oxymoron generously uses very clear wordplay for his relatively obscure words – as in this example.
36d Iain’s odd guessing game (5)
We only ever encounter the Scottish word for ‘odd’ in crosswords and the ‘guessing game’ is fairly obscure too but, of course, Mrs Bradford will help with both and this clue might give you a key letter for ‘guessing’ the theme – it did for us.
Three of the first names produced gave us a very speedy penny-drop moment but if you are less familiar with the theme than we are, you can, rather surprisingly, feed those names into the Internet and the first page that appears tells you all you need to know to change a couple of letters in one column and find their collective name. Don’t forget to highlight those five surnames and their collective name.
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 (though as this is our sad “Goodbye” to Oxymoron, he won’t be saying anything) and to the detailed blogs that also appear on Thursdays on fifteensquared.
As this is a Prize crossword, please don’t put any ANSWERS, whether WHOLE, PARTIAL or INCORRECT, or any ALTERNATIVE CLUES in your comment.
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