EV 1511 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1511 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1511 (Hints)

Encounter by Vagans

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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What a pleasure to welcome a new setter to the Enigmatic Variations series – though Vagans is already very active as a solver – usually the very first one to react and make constructive comments when the hints appear at noon on Sundays. He has already appeared as a setter in the Inquisitor and the Church Times. You will not be surprised to find churchy references in the clues (and some unusual words in the answers) when you learn that he is a mediaevalist and retired bishop (so now a Wandering Bishop or episcopus vagans in Latin).

Preamble:  Extra letters generated by the wordplay of each clue spell out part of a thematic journal entry. Having completed the grid, solvers must highlight 22 cells (in three straight lines) which show the ENCOUNTER of two men and their meeting place. Two answers are abbreviations; Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

Two men who meet and one of them was keeping a journal? We already have a sneaking suspicion of the theme, but, of course, when that occurs at the start of a solve, it adds to rather than diminishes from the pleasure of solving. We are also pleased to see that ‘each’ clue has an extra letter generated by the wordplay and not just clues selected here and there.


12a         Scots muddled new Catholic standing behind Cross (6)
We were not aware of this short form used for a ‘new Catholic’. You need to remember that each clue has an extra letter generated by the wordplay. Here the word for the ‘Cross’ is a very short one. The Scottish word is unlikely to be familiar.

16a         Ian after a Scotch on way to being drunk for ever (7)
My oh my! This hilarious clue almost had me abandoning my evening Scotch – until I understood that I had to break the wordplay into three small parts (and that removed the danger!) Start with ‘a Scotch’ then use a short word that means ‘on the way to being drunk’ and finish with poor Ian.

17a         Shrewish family grimace back in front of maid (6)
We reversed that grimace in front of a familiar crossword term for a maid and produced what the definition identified.

22a         Way to protect rowers, a boat-rescue system (6)
A short abbreviation for the ‘way’ is protecting those rowers. The acronym for the boat-rescue system may not be familiar but you can construct it from the three elements of wordplay (remembering, of course, that we are looking for an extra letter).

We need to remind ourselves, when solving, to see whether we can piece together the words the extra letters are spelling. What we had in the coloured strip we had drawn for ourselves at this stage gave a fine penny-drop moment.

28a         First of oaks missing from mixed forest in former times (4)
Of course the solver simply has to remove that ‘first of oaks’ from the forest.

31a         Tuscan river energy stirs oddly uncomprehended emotion (7)
The Tuscan river is probably the first most of us think of. The ‘energy’ part of the clue is the usual ‘crossword energy’. Three clue elements spell the word that is defined.

37a         Narrow ridge traversing start of ozone layer (4)
There is tricky wordplay here and an amusing definition. Letters in the grid will probably help you to find the terms for the ridge and the layer.


6d          Yob constrains parliamentary vote plan (6)
Don’t be seduced by Vagan’s surface reading here! ‘Constrains’ is telling us how the ‘yob’ and ‘parliamentary vote’ fit together.

9d            Sex and alcohol lead to sinning when rector is away for Methodist preacher? (9)
The usual crossword term for sex is followed by the alcohol (not Scotch this time). The rector has to be ‘away’ so that the sinning can complete the solution, producing what a Methodist preacher often was.

14d           Immortal exploit by snubbed bygone sage (7)
A short word for ‘exploit’ is followed by an obsolete word for ‘sage’. We had to ‘snub’ or chop some of the sage off (and remember that extra letter) to produce the ‘Immortal’.

19d          Cures involving sabbath off booze, unfortunately? About time (8)
Like us, you will probably, by now, be smiling at the wealth of references to church things and all that alcohol! We back-solved here as we had six letters in place, and were able to put together a short word for ‘off booze’, an abbreviation for ‘sabbath’, and a short word for ‘unfortunately’, with ‘time’ squeezed in.

24d         Indian tax district about to take a dekko inside Rabbie’s cap (7)
The unfamiliar Indian word is spelled out. The short word for a Scottish cap must include the word for ‘take a dekko’

26d         Vigilantes in East London master early English judge  (6)
The convention of underlining in Big Dave’s hints should help solvers here. Three of the letters of these vigilantes are single-letter abbreviations. ‘East London’ can be one of two places (but these vigilantes are not from either).

29d         Money from Georgia to unite secret society without publicity (5)
We used a short word for ‘unite’ then a term for a secret society with a short ‘crossword word’ for ‘publicity’ removed.

32d         Popular uprising over reduced size of NY baby unit (4)
We are clearly being told that this ‘baby unit’ is an American term. A short word for ‘reduced size of’ gives the second half of the answer.

33d         Fly more, mother! (4)
Again, the underlining will help.

Of course we remembered that we could find those 22 letters to highlight in horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines. We recognised the difficulty Vagans must have had to produce one of the items to highlight, while maintaining grid symmetry. Do remember to do that highlighting.

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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6 comments on “EV 1511 (Hints)

  1. I found this to be quite tough to get into, and for quite some time had succeeded only in solving 34D and 33A. But once I had got the answer to 27D (a guess which was then confirmed by Chambers) things slowly started to fall into place until about half the grid had been filled and the rest then followed reasonably quickly. So certainly not an easy puzzle, but a rewarding solve, despite the large number of obscure words appearing in the completed grid and wordplay elements. I certainly couldn’t have managed it without recourse to Bradford’s and the word search facility in the online Chambers. I fear that, despite the Numpties’ helpful hints, I don’t understand the middle bit of wordplay in 16A, although I have been able to ascertain the extra letter from the quotation. Thanks to Vagans and the Numpties.

  2. I had a similar experience to RichardCV22 above but I found 27d every bit as refractory as 16a [my parsing of which diverges from that of The Numpties]. These were my last 2 in though by then the quote was clear enough. I agree about the obscure words – a higher proportion here than I have ever encountered before – but to be fair some of the clues to these are amongst the easiest.
    I had not previously encountered the quotation and tracking it down amongst the biblical stuff took a while but after that the rest of the endgame was easy.
    Thanks to our erstwhile co-solver Vagans and, of course, The Numpties.

  3. Having failed miserably on the previous two EVs I was determined to have a good go on this one. I certainly needed the Numpties’ hints after middling success. The recounted turned out to be the first one I thought of, and filling in those helped further. Just 21a to solve now, but I still have a week to go.
    Nice one Vagans.

  4. I had to make heavy use of Bradford’s and Chambers to get this one done. I hadn’t come across the quotation before and when I eventually found it I was rather surprised by the identity of the two men, not at all what I was expecting! Once discovered the endgame fell neatly into place.
    Thanks to Vagans for providing a tough but fair puzzle and to The Numpties for their blog.

  5. What a struggle with this one ! I guessed the names of the two men and was delighted when the location eventually appeared, so I am sure I have the endgame correct. That helped with the quotation. However, as always with me, the parsing of some of my answers still evades me ….I am a bunger-inner I’m afraid.
    But I will enter and await fifteensquared to show me where I have guessed correctly or gone wrong.

    Thanks to Vagans and always grateful to the Numpties without whom I would never have started EVs.

  6. Guessed who was meeting who right at the start and then discounted it because I thought they met somewhere else so I forgot about them. I found some of the clues very tricky, but as Vagans knows I’m not very good at actually solving these crosswords. Very enjoyable solve for a Sunday morning.

    Off to ring some bells now :)

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