EV 1539 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1539 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1539(Hints)

Recovery by Eclogue

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Eclogue set crosswords for all the thematic crossword outlets. This is their thirteenth in the EV series.

Preamble: This puzzle is based on a notable theft and RECOVERY (or two). 16 answers are too short for their allotted number of cells, leaving some cells empty. These empty cells must be filled with the title of the stolen work and its creator, resulting in real words and proper nouns throughout. Numbers in brackets refer to final entry length.  Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

A nicely succinct preamble with no complicated device signaled. We speculate that the empty cells are going to appear in a block or in two series or blocks since they will be filled by a work and its creator, and we realize that we will need to identify lots of the answers (almost certainly both across and down) that are too short for the allotted number of cells in order to place this empty block (or these blocks).


11a         Ed’s quiet account by company of soldiers (5)
The two elements of the wordplay were evident but the Spenserian word was new to the Numpties.

15a         The old satisfy American plan indeed (4)
As in the above hint, the two elements of the wordplay gave us an archaic word we didn’t know.

16a         Steep sum of money given back (6)
The solution was an unexpected word for ‘steep’, not one suggesting that the sum was excessive.

32a        Name coarse person scruff (4)
As I write these hints, Eclogue continues to raise a smile for the lovely way he uses double meanings of words like this ‘scruff’.

38a        Beehive made of straw stalks kept covered up (4)
Eclogue gives us a generous clue for a word that is rare.


1d           Turkish attendant having sparkling wine on steamer (6)
Here we put together the name of a type of sparkling wine and the abbreviation for the steamer .

5d           Scots removed sport taking large number for money (6)
We reminded ourselves that some answers are too short for their allotted number of cells.

7d            It’s acceptable being involved in the old union (4)
A short term that says ‘it’s acceptable’ goes into an old word for ‘the’.

20d         Musical inspiration getting evangelical union to peter out (7)
An abbreviation is needed here before ‘peter out’ in order to produce a classical name for that musical inspiration.

26d         Confine criminal men with shorn sheep (5)
The surface reading produces a smile. The solution, made of two wordplay elements, is an old word.

30d         Ham, say, with junior US airman on RAF aircraft (6)
The definition puzzled us here but we put an abbreviation for that airman on a familiar term for the plane.

37d         Power corrupting one minor pen pusher (4)
One is ‘corrupted’ here after the ‘power’.

Generous clues and intersecting acrosses and downs quickly gave us some of the short answers and showed us where we needed to find the creator and his work. There seemed to be a range of possibilities for some of the letters we needed to complete but others gave only one possible word and, from those, we were able to confirm what we had suspected when we first read the preamble.

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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11 comments on “EV 1539 (Hints)
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  1. A classic example of a really well-made but thoroughly approachable barred/thematic puzzle: the sort that makes it so sad that the DT are saying that the series is to be discontinued. The Numpties’ comments are very helpful and if you take them on board you’ll find you can get into this one, spot the theme (I focussed in on the place where the spaces were appearing) and finish quite quickly. Enjoy!

  2. The info that the theft is of a “work” is a bit of a giveaway but the puzzle is no less enjoyable. Generous clues enable plenty of the un-shortened answers to be entered, making the task of solving the others that much easier. The “real words” restriction enabled successful hypothesis testing, altho one modified answer required some googling.
    Why, in heaven’s name, is the DT planning to discontinue EVs? Who makes these decisions?
    Thanks to the Eclogue and The Numpties.

    1. What, again? I’ve just got back into them, and it’s only the Numpties’ kind provision of hints (a service which started the previous time this was announced) which gives me a chance at getting a full grid. I know similar crosswords exist in other outlets, but I doubt I’d commit the time to trying one without the knowledge of having the safety-net of hints to fall back on should I get stuck.

    1. Yes, don’t abandon us please! I’ve enjoyed the steady progression since my first solve not long before No 200.

    2. I too remember their start… tackled almost all of them… very, very few exceptions. Won the prize 8 times… but for several years have not submitted an entry. Always, I regard EV as the supreme newspaper mental exercise – avidly awaiting the next issue. Surely, 30 odd years is far too soon to stop the Saturday pencil-sharpening preparation for midnight’s publication!

  3. I was really shocked to hear they are discontinuing! I am a newbie to these and it took me a while to get started, but now it’s my highlight of the week. Does anyone know who we can contact to vent our displeasure?

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