EV 1512 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1512 (Hints)

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’.

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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8 comments on “EV 1512 (Hints)

  1. Thanks to Brock for an entertaining and amusing puzzle and to The Numpties for their blog.

    I was sorry to read of the death of Anne Bradford. My copy of Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary has has been invaluable for finding the obscure, dialect and archaic words so loved by EV setters. Thank you Mrs Bradford RIP.

  2. Enjoyed the puzzle. Thanks Brock. Sorry to hear about the death of Anne Bradford. I was introduced to her work by Devadolly on a train many years ago and it is my constant companion. Thank you Anne

  3. What fun! Brock has used the “special offer” to create some very clever clues. After an early start with 12a I thought it would be straightforward but it seems that the endgame consists of parsing the clues in sufficient detail to identify all 21 of them. And I’m still unsure of the significance of the “other terms”.
    Thanks to Brock and The Numpties.

  4. I think the words “other terms apply” may be otiose. As far as I can see, they merely reinforce the notion of “a special offer” and are of relevance only to the clues to which the device applies. I must confess, however, to having been able to identify only 19 of the 21 clues in question with certainty. A clever idea, and a puzzle that became reasonably tractable once it became clear what was going on. Nice not to have a superabundance of obscure words. Thank you, Brock and the Numpties.

  5. I hope I’m not out of turn here to say that the “other terms apply” most definitely means something!

    1. Indeed, the Numpties were tempted to come into the discussion, Brock, and say just that. Brock doesn’t waste his words and our editor would delete anything otiose, as space is always at a premium.

      1. I look forward to being enlightened, but do hope the answer doesn’t have anything to do with having to change the final letters of certain entries in the completed grid, which was an early thought I had about it!

        1. I hope that my setter’s blog (and/or solution at Fifteen Squared) provides a satisfactory answer. You were certainly not alone in not spotting what “other terms apply” meant. But as it was not needed to complete the puzzle, as long as it was an enjoyable solve for people even without it, I am happy.

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