EV 1523 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1523 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1523 (Hints)

Working Titles by Harribobs

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Harribobs sets fabulous crosswords for the EV, IQ, Magpie and Listener series. Solvers can be sure that they will enjoy every stage of the solving process and finish with a grid full of thematic material. This one was no exception.

Preamble:  One or more (consecutive) words must be removed from each of 13 clues before solving; in each case, the extra words contain a string of letters, either starting at the start of a word or ending at the end of a word, which can be unjumbled to create a name. In 26 other clues, the wordplay leads to the answer plus an extra letter; in clue order, extra letters describe part of the grid to be highlighted. 13 WORKING TITLES corresponding to the names, in order, must also be highlighted, with adjacent blocks in different colours; just 13 cells should be uncoloured. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

We get out the highlighting pens as we are clearly going to need several and we note that we will have eight completely normal clues, 26 that will give us an extra letter in the wordplay and a further 13 which contain one or more extra words. We are not fond of jumbles but right from the start, the words that we extract from clues are fruitful. When we reached the endgane, “Read the preamble!” we needed to remind ourselves as the names IN ORDER helped us enormously.


14a          Wearing jumper and Japanese accessory (4)
This little word, made up of two wordplay elements, is one we meet more often in crosswords than in any other context. Of course, we need to remember that an extra letter will be extracted from the wordplay of over half the clues.

16a         Local rascal and short outlaw wrestling bears (7)
We loved the surface-reading here (as in so many of Harribobs’ clues) but had to suss it out. We decided the rascal was a local word and that it was constructed from the name of an outlaw cut short. The bears were not the grizzly type – the word was telling us how to put our clue elements together.

17a         Cave-dwellers start to lurk in Dostoevsky’s place of exile (4)
Another graphic surface-reading. Remembering, of course, that there was a fair chance of an extra letter again, we had to put the start of that lurking into Dostoevsky’s place of exile. The Internet will help you if you don’t immediately recall the name of the place.

21a         Vintage pancake following two of Escoffier’s articles (6)
The name for the pancake was obscure but three wordplay elements came together to create it, two of them evidently French. Like us, you will have noticed, by now, how the clues are redolent with famous names

39a         Old heathen girl’s half a bitter(6)
An unfamiliar word (prompted by ‘old’) was made up or ‘half’ of the girl, followed by a ‘bitter’ expressed in a shorter word. Remember the prompt that editors or setters tend to remove ‘a’ from a clue unless it is needed for the wordplay.

44a         Temporarily left author with onset of dementia, around midde of April (6)
This was the last clue we solved. The ‘author’ is not named this time but his name is needed to go ’round the middle of April’ concluding with the ‘onset of dementia’.


1d            Die with acting prime minister of Marathas (7)
A long word for ‘die’ is followed by two abbreviations. Again, the Internet might come to your aid if this fairly unusual term is not familiar.

6d           Sign showing entry point before motorway service area (5)
We were surprised to learn that there is an abbreviation for the final three words of this clue.

12d          Spenser’s arrogant about stabbing pain (4)
A number of the Spenserian words in Chambers remind us of their French origins or equivalents. This is one of them. The ‘stabbing’ was connected with the structure of the clue, telling us what to do with ‘about’ and ‘pain’.

19d         Scottish peer wants to live in Leith with yours truly (5)
A standard Scottish word for ‘live’ needs a short. word for ‘yours tuly’ tagged onto it. (Remember those extra letters we are extracting! A message is probably appearing by now.)

27d         Scott’s smoked grass, full of repose (7)
You need to put the repose into the grass to produce another, probably familiar, Scots word.

36d         Glaswegian storyteller‘s strangely relaxed forgetting ending (5)
‘Strangely’ says it all. We chopped off the ending and found the term for the storyteller.

Once you have spotted a couple of the jumbled names, it will be a pleasure to identify the remainder of the thirteen. It was helpful to be told that 13 cells would be white in our final grid. Happy colouring!

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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5 comments on “EV 1523 (Hints)

  1. My first EV of the year and what a pleasure it was! Solving the clues was fairly straightforward with a bit of help from The Numpties, but then I spent ages staring at a black and white grid without inspiration. It was with a great clang that the penny finally dropped and I was able to steadily complete the very rewarding and colourful endgame. A seriously impressive feat of setting and well worth the time it took to solve. Many thanks Harribobs and The Numpties.

  2. What a great crossword! Gold star to Harribobs. The pennies kept dropping. As much as I am pleased to have completed this, the real skill must have been in devising it. Much fun was had.

  3. A brilliant puzzle by Harribobs. At one point I thought it was going to defeat me but perseverance paid off and one by one the ‘working titles’ took shape to complete the endgame.
    Thanks to Harribobs for the entertaining challenge and to The Numpties for their blog.

  4. I think “tour de force” can justifiably be applied to this amazing creation. I have no idea how many hours went into its creation but I’ve certainly spent many [thus far] on its solution.
    The clues were amongst the toughest I’ve experienced in an EV – made even more taxing by the need to decide into which category one would put each one before starting to solve it. With grid completed the 26 letters supported a tentative hypothesis from the title – but then how to arrange items? Luckily No 1 was a bit of a gimme and suggested formatting restrictions that made life just a tad easier.
    I still have 4 more to find so maybe I’ll finish by Sunday.
    Thanks and admiration to Harribobs and thanks, as ever, to The Numpties.

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