EV 1549 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1549 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1549 (Hints)

Elementary IV: A Dramatic Instruction by Kcit

Hints and tips by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

Today we have the fourth in the Elementary series, the overall motif for which should now be clear to those who have tackled puzzles I-III.

Preamble: Eight answers share a common feature which affects their entry (though not the crossing entries), four in each of two distinct ways. Lengths in brackets are the number of cells available. All other clues contain a misprint in the definition: correct letters spell first useful information (7,5,6) when considering the grid in plan view, then A DRAMATIC INSTRUCTION (5,3,4) – a suitable colour for shading should suggest itself) leaving only a small number of cells filled (only one of which is unchecked). These fall into two groups – the letters in each can be rearranged to give: a two-word example and a shorter generic type (which would survive a further application of the instruction) to be written below the grid. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; 34 across is in ODE, 8 down is a location often referenced under an equivalent name.

So we’ve got eight normal clues, the answers for which probably won’t be the same length as their enumerations given in brackets, while all the rest have a single misprint, with the correct letters being the ones we need to keep track of (since any misprints are confined to the definitions, in these hints they will always be in the underlined sections of the clues). The rest of the preamble can wait until we’ve solved some clues, except for the last sentence – it sounds as though the solution to 8d could be a proper name that is not universally known, and so it proves; although 34a is not in Chambers, it turns out to be a familiar term. As usual with misprinted clues, we’re on the lookout for unexpected words. Here we go…


10a      English message about a lover of Saladin? (6)
The unusual word here is the impostor, and the wordplay leads to a person’s name which we need to associate with Arthurian legend in order to make sense of the corrected definition.

11a      Miss out unfortunately – article not included in bargain event (6)
The position of the misprint here is not ambiguous, but the replacement letter is. I guessed that it would probably be a U, but I guessed wrong.

17a      Mandy’s dolly beginning to keep bairn diverted, close to hand (8)
It’s quite common to see a phrase such as “Jock’s brother”, say, being used to indicate a Scottish word for a male sibling, and the corrected clue here involves something very similar. The wordplay is a charade of three elements in a 1,5,2 pattern.

20a      Naked as source in which Latin delinquent appears (6)
The convention of underlining the definition should help with the impostor-spotting, while the wordplay leads to two elements of equal length, one of them a Latin word. The last word in the clue can be ignored when solving.

21a      Pair of accountants keeping lecturer in lounge for telephone message (6, two words)
Here we have a ‘container within a container’, the repeated abbreviation for a particular type of accountant forming the inner one. I think that the answer defies definition in a way which is both succinct and precise, and I suspect that the setter might agree with me.

33a      Breeks were said to come from here once, some hosieries recalled (4)
The simple wordplay should get you to the answer (particularly when combined with ‘here’ in the definition, strongly suggesting a place), and the impostor is conspicuous – the corrected form may seem counterintuitive, but a brief consultation with Chambers will confirm the relevant 19th century slang term.


2d        Slower coach taking time (4)
Solving this one will perhaps be made easier by reading ‘taking’ as ‘after taking away’.

3d        Error regarding the gullet is now usual (8)
The ‘error’ is a crossword regular, but the second (five-letter) wordplay element may be familiar only to those of a veterinary bent. Once again, the underlining may be of assistance.

7d        Added protection for cat having ornate rails, too (8)
Identifying the impostor here didn’t detain me too long, but I had to work out the anagram in order to establish the true definition and thus the replacement letter.

8d        Sad yarn about reduced corporation railway in Sussex (10, two words)
The explicit definition is a big help here. In the wordplay, ‘reduced corporation’ indicates that the last letter should be removed from a word given by Chambers as a synonym for ‘corporation’.

9d        Prizes the boxing ring? (4)
A straightforward wordplay but, as with 11a, an ambiguous correction to the definition. One of the possible replacements struck me as being unlikely to feature in a message, so I (correctly) chose the other.

23d      Hans possibly shoots (6)
A ‘double yolker’ which should suit gardeners down to the ground.

25d      Male avoiding variety of maize containing nitrogen atoms in rind (5)
The ‘variety’ here should be interpreted in a cryptic sense. It might appear that the ‘nitrogen’ is part of both wordplay and definition, but the corrected definition is more accurate without it.

The two types of oversize answer start to emerge, and it should become clear how to fit them into the space available in order to fill the two-dimensional grid. When reading the (7,5,6) information, bear in mind the bit in the preamble about ‘considering the grid in plan view’, which suggests that a third dimension is important when carrying out the instruction. The rearrangement of the letters of the smaller group is straightforward, but although I knew the sort of thing I was looking for from the larger group, a bit of googling didn’t make up for my poor subject knowledge so I resorted to an anagram solver. There’s little scope for doubt about what would constitute a suitable colour for shading, and there should be no ambiguity either regarding what must be visible in the sixteen cells which remain filled (if you think there is, then consider how the first application of the instruction worked and the fact that the cells in the ‘generic’ group would survive a further application.)

I felt that the clues here were very nicely judged – not too long, and the right level of difficulty – while the endgame struck me as highly original. I can let you into a little secret: the Elementary series culminates next week in an ensemble puzzle which rounds off the month, and my term as apprentice Numpty, very nicely.

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3 comments on “EV 1549 (Hints)

  1. One never ceases to admire these constructions, particularly this one with its added dimension. The number of candidate words and phrases for the 2 groups of 4 would also have been a major constraint.
    I was in 2 minds about the generic, 4-letter word – thinking they would be the first to go, then realised one is looking at the final result of the further application. Neatly done.
    Thanks to kciT and Phibs.

  2. Hats off to Kcit for the brilliant construction of this one. It took longer than it should have done for me to understand the significance of the first message but once the penny dropped the endgame fell nicely into place.
    Thanks to Kcit for the entertaining challenge and to Kcit for the hints – particularly for the advice on the preamble.

  3. I liked the two novel devices used on 8 of the clues, and the answers neatly fell into place. However, I over-thought the first instruction and got nowhere. Then driving home the penny finally dropped and I could follow the second instruction.
    Many thanks to Kcit and this week’s Numpty.

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