EV 1548 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1548 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1548 (Hints)

Elementary III: Growing Concern by Brock

Hints and tips by Phibs

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Today we have the third in the Elementary series of puzzles, and we’re starting to get a pretty good idea of what to expect theme-wise.

Preamble: To improve it superficially, each clue has had an extra letter added, which must be omitted to obtain a solution. A description of a process of GROWING CONCERN and the person describing it are spelled out word by word by most of these letters in clue order. 12 answers must be entered in accordance with this process (as real words; numbers in brackets refer to the space available, numbers of words to the answer). After initially filling the grid, solvers must illustrate one of the by-products by erasing a number of cells. The handling of the clues interspersing the words of the message indicates the content of those cells and the number involved. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

I wondered if there was some special significance to the wording of the first sentence, but in hindsight it could simply have read “Each clue contains an extra letter which must be removed prior to solving“. After last week’s unusual one-in, one-out device, here we just have to remove a superfluous letter from every clue, and we’re going to come across 12 answers that won’t fit in the grid; no point trying to work out how they might be modified until we know what some of them are, so let’s get solving…


1a      Relative scope to return extra canvas (7)
The impostor here isn’t hard to spot, but you may well need to use the dictionary (as I did) to identify the corrected word along with its four-letter synonym (more often applied to a poet) which, when tacked onto the end of a three-letter abbreviation, will be ‘returning’.

9a      Dislike path teen is travelling (3, two words)
The ‘(3, two words)’ catches the eye here. Remember that bit in the preamble about the number of words shown in brackets referring to the answer? It means that the answer to a clue shown as ‘two words’ will indeed consist of two words, but the solution to be entered in the grid very likely won’t.

12a    In places it ruins artist’s hanging (5)
With ‘extra letter’ clues I am always on the lookout for words with single-character abbreviations which may have been camouflaged by the addition of a letter, and we have just such a one in this clue. The ‘In places it’ tells us that the first part of the charade here is a (very short indeed) dialect word for ‘it’, not to mention ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘they’.

14a    Owe for Scotch – when relative shortly comes round, not in! (6)
The Scots pronoun in the wordplay could also be ‘a pair of ducks’. ‘Shortly’ indicates that another word should lose its last letter.

18a    Trinket first for reseller on eBay bringing in grand (7)
The impostor here readily suggests itself, with the corrected word denoting a geographical feature. The word ‘on’ is used in the sense of ‘beside’ and can be ignored.

19a    To survive yearns to spend a penny has sixpence kept back (5)
The convention of underlining the definition should help here. ‘To spend a penny’ is to be interpreted in its euphemistic sense, leading to a three-letter word which has a slang term for a sixpence (consigned to history by decimalisation) ‘kept back’.

26a    Maybe beats second to take first place in draughts (7)
The second letter in a word meaning ‘draughts’ (and a core subject at Hogwarts) must be moved to the start. The ‘Maybe’ suggests that the definition won’t be found in the dictionary, and nor will it, but when each word is preceded by ‘good’ or ‘best’ they come to pretty much the same thing.

34a    Language abandoned by Glaswegian along with acceptance of special treatment (5)
There are limited possibilities here for the impostor, and identifying it (and thus the familiar word produced by the removal of the bonus letter) is key to parsing this clue.

37a    Beans, not initially stirred in, boil over, creating condensation (7)
The impostor gives up its extra letter and then loses a further letter by a cryptic reduction before being ‘stirred’ and put ‘in’ another wordplay element.


2d    Recovers curé abandoned by pirates seizing last of treasure (7)
‘By’ is seen quite often in across clues indicating that one wordplay element should be placed next to another, but here it appears in a down clue with the meaning of ‘in addition to’. The impostor is a noun which becomes a verb form once corrected.

4d     Rejected Dutch honey pots mace flavoured (7)
‘Rejected’ is used in its rare literal sense of ‘thrown back’; we also have a seldom-seen abbreviation for ‘Dutch’ and a pharmaceutical term for honey.

5d     Cable over subs for second electronic transfer (6)
It helps in solving this one if you mentally insert ‘wherein’ between the first two words; ‘subs’ here means ‘acts as a substitute’. Two words in the clue are abbreviated to single letters, but ‘second’ isn’t one of them.

8d     Awfully nice Tory upset following proclamation in cold environment (9)
This clue as it stands involves a rather unusual manoeuvre – for the purposes of solving it’s best to imagine the sequence of the first four words as ‘Tory upset awfully nice’ (the first of which is the impostor).

9d     Cultural location in Peru on cruise? Not nearly! (6, two words)
The wordplay here is a charade of three elements, while the definition, if not exactly cryptic, is certainly playful – Sir Alexander Fleming would surely have appreciated it.

21d   In Scotland they’d cook dinner of neeps for person to eat (7)
One might assume that we are dealing with cook¹ in Chambers, but that would be unwise. The corrected clue has a letter selection indicator which you may not have seen in this role before.

28d   Former reputation’s holding university up – faculty staff mostly very quick (5)
Finding the impostor, a nicely-disguised anagram indicator, is the key to sorting out the wordplay. There’s a three-letter abbreviation in there, but it’s from the 18th century, hence the ‘Former’.

33d   Beef (not topside) a large number have as mince (3)
The underlining here should point you towards the extra letter, at which point the clue becomes a lot easier to handle.

Some of the wordplays in this puzzle would have been tricky even without the ‘extra letter’ gimmick, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself having to fill in the odd gap in the message in order to identify the surplus letter before working out which word it should be taken from. Thankfully the term and the name of the person who applied it to the process are clear (one, if not both, should be familiar), and a consistent pattern will emerge regarding those ‘clues interspersing the words of the message‘ which should enable the final step to be completed with a high degree of confidence.

The accommodation of the twelve ‘special’ solutions was impressive, particularly so given that there were less than twenty distinct options available to the setter that satisfied the criteria. This puzzle definitely wasn’t Elementary – we wait to discover what challenges the fourth puzzle in the series will present.

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4 comments on “EV 1548 (Hints)
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  1. Having an expectation of the theme was definitely a help in solving this one, particularly when it came identifying the twelve answers that had to be modified. Overall I found the clues quite difficult and had to back solve quite a few to complete the grid.

    Thanks to Brock for providing the challenge and to Phibs for the hints and guidance.

  2. I appreciate that these are meant to be challenging but couldn’t help feeling that some of the clues here [eg 8d] were just wilfully awkward. But I was taken with the hill-farmer in 23d. The endgame is another of those where, after staring at a full grid for some while, one concludes “well that must be it then”. Something of an anticlimax.
    Thanks to Brock for the struggle and to Phibs for valuable assistance.

  3. Have finished trying to pat my head whilst rubbing my tummy and managed to complete another good EV so thank you Brock. Do feel the theme of this set is a case of preaching to the converted but look forward to next Sunday as ever.

  4. Many thanks to Phibs for the solving blog and for feedback from solvers. I did not set out to make it a particularly difficult solve, but it ended up being at the harder end of the EV spectrum and a few loose ends in the wording of some of the clues will not have helped with that.

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