Enigmatic Variations 1534 (Hints)
Six Thieves by Aver
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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A fine surprise – we have another EV debut crossword, though we have already solved a Listener crossword by Aver. He gave us Dream Match last year, which used a Shakespearean reference to guide us to a plan of the Nine Men’s Morris. It was a superb crossword debut.
Preamble: Each clue contains an extra word that must be removed before solving; selecting either the first or last letter of these words spells an incomplete sentence, while the other letters spell two instructions to reveal the SIX THIEVES. Chambers Dictionary (2016) and ODQ are recommended; all entries at all stages are real words or phrases.
We need to draw a double highlighted column at the side of the clues, as we are going to be using the first and last letters of extra words to give us a sentence (probably from the ODQ, we surmise) and two instructions. Clearly one or both of those will somehow involve adjusting words in the grid, as we are told that there will be ‘real words or phrases’ at all stages.
13a Putting nervousness aside do alibi for imposters (7)
The ‘nervousness’ here is of the kind that affects a golfer, say, when he is preparing his shot, and, to find the imposters, we had to use a word for ‘do’ in the party sense. This produced a lovely word that was new to us.
14a One’s seen finishing preface to Tale of Peter Rabbit (6)
We struggled with this clue but Mrs Bradford gave us the word we needed for the rabbit and we were able to back-solve using the ‘one’ and a short form of a biblical book, as two of the wordplay elements.
20a Decayed turnips oddly succeeded Ed’s thyme quiches (5)
Clearly we were prompted, here, that the clue was using a Spenserian element. We needed Chambers to help us understand how we were going to deploy those odd turnips (and succeeded).
32a Native antelope passing unknown Indian ravine (4)
‘Passing’ here was telling us to remove or exclude the ‘unknown’ from the word for the antelope.
35a Francis bit Miss and Maid: cut off their heads apparently (8, three words)
Solvers probably need no hint for this clue but it is such an entertaining clue (and somewhat thematic) that we felt we had to include it.
37a Before I hesitate, pellets must be removed from wild rabbit hole entrance (6)
Three wordplay elements produce this entrance. Pellets gives two letters that must be removed from the ‘wild’ rabbit and that is followed by ‘I hesitate’ with just a pair of letters indicating the hesitation.
Like the Numpties, you have probably, by this time, spotted a series of words that are suggesting a theme.
2d Soothe abdomen before food in Sheffield? (7)
We put a two-letter abbreviation into a word for something produced in Sheffield.
3d Boil aspic or carrot if imparting flavour (9)
When we had removed the extra word, we were left with the ones we needed to ‘boil’.
6d Jock’s on top of sailor imagining a French female (5)
The Scots’ indicator prompted us that we had to use a short sailor abbreviation and a short French female word.
12d Maybe slip climbing an old catechu tree (7)
There’s an old use of ‘an’ here. I’m reminded of the little rhyme ‘If ifs and ans were pots and pans, there’d be no need of tinkers’. The ‘an’ has to be climbing, followed by a five-letter tree.
22d Marcel, a huntsman, donned hugging pale-green coat (7)
Removing the extra word makes this clue easier to solve. (Consider what ‘hugging’ can mean in a crossword clue!)
30d Parents initially rejected children: “Not ours!” (6)
Another clue we couldn’t resist including in the hints. Half of the parents have to be initially rejected!
The Numpties found Aver’s cluing style challenging but a very familiar quotation slowly appeared and allowed us to use the other letters to receive our two instructions and discover the six thieves.
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