EV 1526 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1526 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1526 (Hints)

A Processof Elimination by Wan

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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As I said last time we solved a crossword by Wan, Wan’s compilations appear in the Listener, Magpie, IQ and EV series. Thematic cryptic solvers are sure to have solved one of his before. With all that compiling experience, you can be sure that you are in safe hands, with fair clues.

Preamble:  In 27 clues an extra letter (always in the wordplay part) must be discarded before solving, thereby completing most of A PROCESS OF ELIMINATION; another to be eliminated must be removed from the grid. The finisher must be revealed by replacing an appropriate word (six cells). The theme must be highlighted in the grid, apart from the 1st, 5th and 14th (last) letters. Finally, the two parts must be linked by adding a bar and then both parts embellished (in the solver’s own style) to depict the finisher. All changes leave real words; Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

We understood that we had to find 27 letters that could be discarded from the wordplay part of clues and that these had something to do with ‘a process of elimination’. Something else was to be eliminated from the grid and this would leave real words. Finally we would be ‘depicting the finisher’ in our own style. This suggested some artistry to us.


1a           Join up with navigator returning to Spain (6)
The navigator who has to return is an unusually technical one. We used the usual crossword abbreviation for the ‘Spain’ the navigator returns to.

12a         Plainly missing E note in two musical instruments (7)
We removed the E from a word for plainly, then the note had to be ‘in’ two to give us the fairly rare instruments.

18a         Nerve to soak bear close by Lake (5)
The amusing word picture of some courageous fellow drenching a bear is truly deceptive. When we realised that we could remove a letter here, the wordplay told us how to adjust a word for ‘soak’  and what we must add to the result to produce a word for nerve.

20a         Calls one comprehending Latin Monica? (5)
Of course we must prompt that letters are coming out of the wordplay parts of clues. The question mark after Monica suggests that this ‘Monica’ is the name of someone we have all probably heard of.

30a         Steam essentially to stop poet’s fire (5)
The same prompt as for 20ac might help solvers working out what ‘steam essentially’ can be. We added that to a word for stop and were surprised when Chambers confirmed that this can be a word for ‘fire’.

38a         Reduce ex wife’s exhausting expenditure (5)
This was a clue we had to back-solve from the word that almost appeared in the grid which clearly meant ‘exhausting expenditure’. We needed to remove that ‘wife’ from an expression for ‘reduce’.


1d            Accompanied by swanks, baron snubbed greetings earlier (8)
The ‘earlier’ prompts that this is an outdated word for ‘greetings’. We used a couple of abbreviations, one to open the solution word and one to tell us what to remove from a word for ‘swanks’.

3d          Ceases to stock parasitic tree yielding special fibre (7)
An abbreviation had to ‘stock’ or surround the name of the parasitic tree that had to ‘yield’ one of its letters.

22d         These smooth clubs with only one name (8)
A most surprising clue and maybe a lucky find for Wan. Remembering an abbreviation for ‘name’, we took just one of those from the name of a club we are happy not to be using too often on the golf course.

26d         Infatuated French wanting king, join in with support (7)
We remove the ‘king’ from the word for ‘join in’ and put one of the usual crossword three-letter words for ‘support’ (not bra this time!) to produce a French word.

31d         From German volumes A C D E F G, the two missing? (5)
This delightful clue reminded us of the famous clue for ‘Note’ that has the wordplay A B C D F. German may not be one of your languages, but the wordplay spells out the answer. (Of course we remembered that we might have an extra letter in the clue and by this point of solving, could see what it should be.)

34d         Ape scratching backside repulsed old character (4)
Of course Mrs Bradford has the relevant ape in her lists. We are prompted that his ‘backside’ has to be scratched and the ‘old character’ will be ‘repulsed’.

The penny-drop moment for us came when we saw what the discarded letters were spelling. We needed an Internet visit to help us with the further elimination and to help us adequately depict ‘the finisher’.

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13 comments on “EV 1526 (Hints)

  1. That was fun! Despite knowing the theme really rather well, I was concentrating hard on solving the clues and took my eye off the message, so there was a big smile when I recognised the words and soon had my colouring pens out. Nice one, Wan (both words being pronounced the same in my Yorkshire accent of course).

  2. Well, this is a proper mystery. Everyday, I can solve the DT puzzle, without hints. But I confess that, having read the Pre-amble several times, I don’t know how to proceed on this puzzle (I managed Chalicea’s last week, even though it took a day!). I guess an example of ‘discarding/removing letters’ would shine a big light.

    1. A letter needs to be removed from a word in the clue before solving and often the surface sense will suffer (ie the clue will not sound meaningful after the removal) – but only removed in the wordplay part of the clue, not the definition. An example might be: Attempt backing maid (4) for STAB, with the wordplay being ‘backing mad’ BATS< with the I in 'maid' removed.

      Hope that helps.

      1. Cripes. Not even my ‘A’ level skills of years gone by, are going to help me much. But, I will persist. Thank you, ProXimal.

  3. (if it helps – I don’t want to appear patronising) removal of a letter prior to solving is a common device in these sorts of puzzle. When, as here, it’s from the wordplay, there are two likely possibilities. Sometimes it will be from an operator (eg crEated becomes crated as an inclusion indicator) and sometimes from the operand (eg Steam becomes team as the anagram fodder for the answer mate). Look for words that can feasibly lose a letter (and with a setter this good anticipate some cunning disguise), and don’t expect the modified clue to read plausibly. Good luck!

  4. I’m just about there and only stuck with the ” the finisher must be revealed by replacing an appropriate word”. I think I’ve found the word but can anyone give me a hint as to what I’m supposed to be replacing it with…..is it the name of the finisher, or just some random word…or even just random letters.?
    Otherwise a lovely fun puzzle with a few question marks on some of the wordplay. Looking forward to Thursday week, when I will see the error of my ways!

    1. Your extra letters should spell three examples of something from a specific event. A fourth example is there in the grid and must be removed. The fifth – the only ‘finisher’ – replaces the appropriate word. Wiki came to the rescue for me.

  5. A great penny-drop moment when I finally made sense of the last of the three and Googled them. It is so satisfying when “what the hell is this all about” changes to “aha”. The “other to be eliminated” was then obvious but the place to put the finisher took a bit longer [orientation?]. Overall, terrific fun but I’m not sure my artistic efforts would pass muster.
    Many thanks to Wan and to The Numpties for picking the ones I was struggling with this time!

    1. EV solutions are published two Sundays after the date of publication, so this EV1526 solution will be in the Sunday Telegraph on 27th March along with the new EV1528. You can also see the solution earlier on the Thursday (24th) before that on this site, when a solution post will appear.

  6. Thanks to Wan for a brilliantly constructed puzzle. There is so much to admire not least that all the changes resulted in real words. When I first read the preamble I thought this one would beat me but I hung on in there and got it finished in a couple of sessions. Just got to add the ‘embellishments’ now!

    Thanks again to Wan and to The Numpties for their blog.

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