EV 1493 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1493 (Hints)

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.

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7 comments on “EV 1493 (Hints)

  1. It was bitter-sweet (I had to include an oxymoron didn’t I) to solve this last puzzle. TBH the theme jumped out at me before I looked at the clues, but that didn’t make the solve any the less enjoyable or the construction and clueing any the less first-rate. A good gentle workout.

  2. By coincidence I’ve recently read a book about one of the five and that helped me identify the theme early on. I then worked steadily through the clues back solving some of the trickier ones as the names emerged in the grid. My favourite clue was 1d. It was my last one in but when the penny finally dropped it made me smile.

    Thanks as ever to The Numpties.

  3. I found this quite tough* going until the theme was guessable from a couple of the forenames. I didn’t help myself with “eclairs” for the initial 1d [though** I thought*** “Dishes” was pushing it to define them]. Once the missing letters were known the rest was much easier [unsurprisingly].
    The hints were especially helpful, for which many thanks to The Numpties.

  4. You may have inadvertently been a little too helpful in 9d. The clue does not quite read as you have it here.

    1. The hint, as it stands, actually made the clue harder for me – “it can’t be that as it’s mostly in the clue” – until I read the paper version.

  5. This was my introduction to Oxymoron. Glad I had the opportunity to solve one of his puzzles.

    This was also my introduction to the theme. Since I couldn’t make a guess at the missing letters (until the very end), I found this puzzle to be very challenging. It didn’t help that I had a very convincing incorrect answer for 11A, and I went down the same road as halcyon for 1D (maybe this says something about me, but I would totally call an eclair a dish). Once I got those clues sorted out, Google was a little more helpful.

    A big thanks to Oxymoron for furthering my education. RIP.

  6. While I was pleased (and surprised) to see another Oxymoron puzzle, I did not consider this was one of his best. The theme was good fun, and the grid very well constructed, but the level of ambiguity in the clue answers and entries made the solving process more of a slog than it could have been. As well as 1D (as already mentioned), I noted 21A, 32D and 40A as having some level of ambiguity or very nearly so, and the number of possibilities for ‘tender’ at 7D also slowed things down.

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