Enigmatic Variations 1521 (Hints)
Tops and Tails by Piccadilly
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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The last two EVs by Piccadilly were the one with a Playfair square and his ‘Two Straight Lines’ which were horizontal and vertical. Clearly his themes range considerably and we can expect something unusual.
Preamble: The wordplay in eight across clues leads to the answer plus an extra letter; the extra letters can be arranged to spell the theme connecting the unclued down answers, each consisting of two words whose TOPS AND TAILS overlap. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended and confirms the TOPS and TAILS.
Nothing too puzzling there. We are able to identify the six symmetrically placed down clues that have no clue numbers, all nine letters long, and we understand that they will each contain two overlapping words. Eight extra letters produced by wordplay will be arranged (anagrammed, we guess) to explain the theme.
9a Part of plant sadly misspelt with only one S (6)
What we had to do here was clear since we were removing one S from a word and needed a six-letter solution but we felt that this was a fairly rare word for part of a plant.
13a Place in Massachusetts miles east of mud volcano (5)
The defined word is probably the best-known ‘place in Massachusetts’. The wordplay consisted of a single-letter abbreviation and a word for a mud volcano that was new to us. We needed to work this wordplay out at the end of our solve in order to fully understand the theme of the crossword.
23a Cook bread for biblical character (4)
Piccadilly is using a short word for ‘cook’ and a short word for the ‘bread’. The version of bread that we are used to meeting in crosswords has another letter in the heart of it.
28a Deny government replacing 160 needing asylum (6)
‘Needing’ is a rather unusual ‘link word’ here. Chambers includes the numerical equivalents for letters at the start of each letter section, and we were initially somewhat puzzled by this one. Back-solving, we could see how the clue worked but initially we thought that only 70 would be needing asylum. We needed to consider a different letter to produce a synonym for ‘deny’.
29a Sporty fans met Edberg possibly (6)
‘Sporty’ is a hint about how to handle this clue. You might need to use the Internet to remind yourself about Edberg.
4d Lines up awl in Peebles (5)
The underlining says it all. We had check in Chambers the Scottish word for an awl that was being hinted at here.
5d Artist volunteers to depict antipodean tree (4)
Two standard crossword abbreviations are put together to give another word that we needed to confirm in Chambers.
10d Indian dish of water cock containing last of marjoram (5)
The solution is, we are told, one of the most popular Indian dishes in the UK, but we were not familiar with the water cock that had to ‘include’ that ‘last bit of marjoram’. Of course, it appears in Mrs Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary in her list of birds.
19d Coil long slender stalk (5)
Again the convention, in Big Dave’s crossword hints, of underlining the definitions in clues says it all. We have a double-definition clue here.
22d Parts of ruminants: some pass gas endlessly (5)
‘Endlessly’ tells you what you need to find a five-letter word. There is frequent discussion, in crossword circles, of whether the word can prompt solvers to remove just the last letter of a word or both ends. Happily, editors tend to accept either option.
26d Chief magistrate of ancient Athens not working (4)
We are invited to remove a short word for ‘working’ from the name of a classical magistrate to produce this synonym for ‘chief’.
We felt that these clues were generous, possibly not requiring many hints. The unclued lights gave us a speedy penny-drop moment, especially the third and fourth ones, and, for the Numpties, it was a kind of back-solve to anagram our extra letters (we had to hunt for one of those) to produce the word that explained the theme.
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