Enigmatic Variations 1512 (Hints)
Special Offer by Brock
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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This is only Brock’s second EV but he has compiled memorable puzzles in the Listener series including his unforgettable ‘Bunch of Fives’, and his recent Magpie puzzle was nominated the June puzzle of the month.
Preamble: Solvers are invited to make use of a SPECIAL OFFER. It is valid for wordplay only and is limited to 21 clues. Other terms apply. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.
Those preamble words are more familiar to us in the context of a store attempting to tempt its customers and we notice the restrictions. This special offer applies to only 21 of the 40 clues so that 19 are unaffected. We read those intriguing three other words, ‘other terms apply’, and wonder about them but have no instant penny-drop-moment. There is usually some additional condition applicable to a special offer.
9a Bird‘s face on Ascot headgear back to front (4)
Putting the back of the headgear to the front caused us no problem but we did need to check that the solution gave us a bird.
14a Husband dwelling with company, member of crew? (5)
We have a kind of &lit. clue here where the wordplay (the company, husband and a couple of letters for the member of a ship’s crew) give us a short form of what the clue describes.
26a Irish Republican in ‘stir’ for violent strike long ago (7)
No, this was not a ‘political’ clue. We needed an unusual word for ‘stir’ into which we put three letters for the Irish Republican in order to create an archaic word for a violent strike.
28a Crazy former English sovereign (7)
The ‘sovereign’ in this clue puzzled us but, as usual, Mrs Bradford came to our rescue. (I understand that a new edition of Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary has just been issued – a Christmas ‘must’ for me).
37a Cover one’s knitted with aunt (7)
There was an unusual anagram indicator here and we needed to check, in Chambers, that the word we found could be a cover.
38a Old school rowing boat down by loch (4)
We had to interpret the words ‘down by’ in an imaginative way to find the old word for ‘school’.
1d American leaders in Trump Administration wobble outrageously in a weakened state (9, four words)
Indeed, this is another clue that could be aptly political but, in fact, we used three indicated letters and ‘wobble’ outrageously to find the four-word phrase.
3d Casually put couches, i.e. grass, dried in steamer (5)
The ‘casually put’ suggested less formal usage. We put the dried grass into a couple of letters for a ‘steamer’.
4d Broke back of chief Caledonian hooligan, cleaved by leader of Iceni (6)
Three wordplay elements put together gave us an unfamiliar word.
6d Cut diamonds (4)
It was our early solving of this clue that told us what was going on in the puzzle and how the ‘special offer’ worked. A two-word clue is usually a ‘double definition’ clue with both words being definitions that come under separate headwords in Chambers. However, that didn’t work here, but we were aware of the usual crossword solutions for ‘diamonds’.
8d Old beasts in New York, fantastic!(4)
The underlining is a hint – this is a ‘double definition’ clue. We haven’t commented before on punctuation in cryptic crosswords. Setters are allowed (even encouraged) to use punctuation deceptively. Brock’s comma is deliberately deceptive here.
23d One turning up in ruff, serving staff (7)
The ‘ruff’ here was one that frequently appears in crosswords and not the kind that went round Elizabethan necks.
25d Toon broadcast initially in eighties is now ropy video (6)
‘Initially’ is the hint you need here. ‘Broadcast’ is not a prompt for a homophone in this case.
29d Head of kye displacing top of crofter’s iron milk-can in Midlothian (4)
In this very Scottish clue we needed to use the Scots word for ‘iron’ to produce another Scottish word.
Like the Numpties, you probably worked out how the ‘special offer’ was applied fairly early in your solve and it was then a question of seeing how it was used in 21 clues. We smiled when we considered the other 19 clues and thought about the three words ‘other terms apply’.
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