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EV 1551 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1551 (Hints)

Opinion by Chalicea

Hints and tips by Phibs

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I’m delighted to have been given the chance to blog some more EVs, starting with this offering from my fellow hintster and tipster. A prolific setter, Chalicea has a reputation for producing highly accessible puzzles; her definitions, whether of answers or wordplay elements, are usually very precise, often closely matching those found in Chambers.

Preamble: An extra letter is produced by the wordplay of every clue in addition to those required for the answer. In clue order, these give an OPINION about the five unclued entries (three to be read in conjunction with one another) offered by the person whose name must be highlighted in the grid. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

A nice short preamble that leaves us in no doubt about our task. It seems to me that ‘wordplay delivers an extra letter’ clues are among the trickiest of the standard varieties, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself on occasion working back from the answer to identify the contribution required from the oversized wordplay element and thence the extra letter.


18a      A hole I melted down in Hero’s engine (9)
There’s a craftily-concealed break between the two wordplay elements which combine to produce the name of a device said to have been invented by Hero of Alexandria (though he is uncredited by Chambers).

23a      Outstanding old wild herb (4)
‘Wild herb’ is one meaning given by Chambers for a word more often associated with any plant that is growing where it isn’t wanted.

24a      Disrespect damaged edges on box of perishable goods (9)
The word ‘on’ here joins the two wordplay elements and can be ignored, while the ‘perishable’ could also be ‘breakable’.

27a      Something very small in piece of artillery almost backfiring (4)
A six-letter word undergoes three manipulations, the last of them being the removal of the extra letter, in order to yield the answer.

34a      Taken in by story, handed over money advanced for digging mammals (8)
Two elements (one a verb in the past tense) are put together and ‘taken in’ by another, the result being a family of diminutive excavators.

36a      Malaysian forest tribes cause unlimited pain (5)
The original meaning of the first wordplay element here is indeed ’cause’, but nowadays its use is confined to a phrase with meanings along the lines of ‘out of consideration for’ or ‘out of desire for’.


3d      Matchstick drawing of graduate down ultimately after drink (6)
The ‘drink’ is an informal term related to volume. Remember here that in barred puzzles the enumerations (letter counts) ignore hyphens, eg HIP-HOP would be shown as (6).

5d      Fee levied involving European lad with crown of fruit (4)
The wordplay is not complicated, but the net effect of the extra letter gimmick is to make it a replacement rather than an insertion. The definition should raise a smile.

13d      Lecturer on English forms finally adopting old language loses according to Bard (6)
Four elements are involved here, including two single-letter abbreviations and a single-letter selection, with the ‘old language’ being a term applied by those just across the Border to the dialect spoken by those a little further north.

17d      Units of last of vulgar boors (4)
I worked back from the answer to get the ‘boors’, thus identifying a word filed in my mind along with ‘blackguards’ and ‘bounders’.

25d      Late media company reported undistinguished board (7)
‘Late’ indicates that the media conglomerate, which had a famously brief relationship with the Sex Pistols, was dismantled several years ago. The other wordplay element is a homophone leading to a real word which remains intact in the answer.

28d      Pueblo Indian with gutless intent to do a runner (5, two words)
The second part of the wordplay can provide the second word of the answer, but you might need to check out one or two possibilities in order to identify the Pueblo Indian.

31d      A boy spinning as if in idealised publicity world (6)
The extra letter adds to the trickiness of this three-part wordplay, the last element drawing on a less common meaning (OED shows it as ‘obsolete’) of a very common three-letter word. The ‘in’ is there to link the wordplay to the definition.

32d      Indian farmer‘s lost for ever over penetrating touch (6)
The archaic (hence ‘lost’) word meaning ‘for ever’ is a tiddler (often clued by ‘yes’ or ‘indeed’) which has two operations applied to it, while the synonym for ‘touch’ is now used almost exclusively to denote a characteristic feature.

With the extra letters identified and the solutions entered, you will have the start of the quotation, while at least two of the unclued words (plus the three-letter one) will be obvious. From there (unless you know the quotation) ODQ or Google will do the trick, enabling completion of an assertion which itself harked back to the Opinion of a 16th century philosopher. Having located the author in the grid (if you have any trouble, just seek out the eleventh letter of their name), don’t forget to highlight the relevant cells.

A straightforward puzzle to start the new month – Chalicea will not, I suspect, have severely discomfited many solvers, although I’m not sure what the First Minister will have thought if she got as far as 33d.

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12 comments on “EV 1551 Hints

  1. Thanks for the helpful hints, Phibs. Not much to frighten the horses here, as you say, although I did need your nudge to twig the definition in 5D (which is not something to be found in Chambers). I do have one observation to make, however, and that is that the description of the gimmick in the preamble cannot apply in the case of clues which take the form of double definitions (and there are some present in this puzzle), as they do not incorporate any wordplay, but we are, nevertheless, required to find the extra letters which are created via those clues. In so-called “advanced cryptics” it is clearly desirable that the accompanying instructions should be sufficient.

    By the way, what is the relevance of 2016 in relation to Chambers? The latest available edition was published in 2014, as far as I’m aware.

    1. Regarding double definitions and the gimmick used here, as you point out a double-def clue doesn’t have a cryptic wordplay. At one time a standard clue was said to have a definition and a ‘subsidiary indication’, which in this instance would make more sense – the extra letter could be said to be delivered by the ‘subsidiary indication’ – but this term was seen by crossword editors as being over-technical and was superseded by ‘wordplay’. You might not agree (and if you didn’t I might not disagree with you!) but it is generally accepted that either definition in a double-def clue can be treated as the ‘wordplay’.

      On the subject of references, the 12th edition of The Chambers Dictionary included a number of ‘star’ words (marked with an asterisk and highlighted using a grey background), picked out as being of special interest to word lovers. This did did not prove popular with readers, word lovers or nay, and the star words were thus removed from the 13th edition, published in 2014. Unfortunately it was not just the stars and the highlighting that were removed, but also the words themselves. Oops! A list of the casualties was made available by Chambers as a PDF, and a revised edition was published in February 2016 which “includes additional ‘enriching’ words”, ie the ones that had mysteriously disappeared. Hence puzzles normally give the version from 2016 as the primary reference rather than the original 2014 edition.

      For a couple of years, setters quite often had to include notes along the lines of “The Chambers Dictionary (2014) is recommended; it does not give the answer to 7dn, which is in earlier editions.” Ironically, one of the omissions was Ralph, ‘the imp of mischief in a printing house”.

  2. Thanks for your very helpful response, Phibs. As you surmise, I don’t find the notion that either definition in a DD clue can be regarded as wordplay to be very satisfactory, but if that’s the convention I have to accept it. I was, however, unaware of it until now, and I can’t be the only solver who was in the dark. As far as Chambers Dictionary is concerned, I make a lot of use of the app, but I’m pretty sure that, although I purchased the version that was on sale about four years ago, it doesn’t include any of the missing words – it’s just the 2014 edition, unamended.

    Can I take it that clues of the CD type are excluded from puzzles employing this sort of gimmick?

    1. I don’t see any problem with the gimmick here being applied to what might appear to be double-def clues – in reality, there is one definition and one indication of a word which gives the answer plus an extra letter. It seems reasonable to describe the latter as ‘wordplay’ since it does not simply define the answer.

      Re the dictionary, if ‘Ralph’ is in there you’re ok.

  3. Just to amplify a few points touched on:

    “Subsidiary indication” was the preferred phrase of the last-but-one EV editor (now sadly no longer with us) and was discarded by his successor, who I believe may coincidentally have been responsible for a puzzle that deliberately incorporated the missing words Phibs referred to as its theme.

    Mr Fish – if by CD you mean cryptic definition of the wicked thing / candle type, I wouldn’t regard them (or any other type of clue) as ineligible for any sort of gimmick. Certainly no editor has ever raised such an issue with me. But I heartily endorse your comment about the acceptance of convention; in the game that we play all that’s needed is for the rules to be agreed on.

    1. Thanks, Ifor. Just to clarify, what I mean by CD is the sort of thing where the whole clue provides a cryptic definition of the answer – something like Rufus’s “Bar of soap” clue for “The Rover’s Return” – so there is no wordplay and no “subsidiary definition”.

      NB I’d like to add “and published” to the end of your concluding sentence! It’s one thing for rules to be agreed upon by the people who make them, but quite another for solvers to become aware of them.

      1. You will not see clues of the type that you mention in barred puzzles published in the UK – it is a requirement that there should always be two routes to the solution.

        1. This has been very informative. I rarely do barred cryptics (other than the Spectator puzzles), as I much prefer blocked puzzles where the grid entries are generally familiar words and the definitions need not place such reliance on what it says in Chambers, and I am unaware of some of the conventions. Thank you for providing illumination.

  4. Meanwhile, back at the puzzle…..how refreshing to have an accessible one after the rigours of the last few weeks, though I found a few clues a bit tricksy by Chalicea’s usual standards. Many thanks to her and to Phibs.

  5. Excellent as always. Sometimes one needs to accept some quirkinesses – that is all part of the fun… and indeed, being able to cope with them is a necessary requirement of being a solver. That is many times easier than setting a puzzle – which is maybe why there are many solvers yet few compilers. Thanks to everyone who provides the EVs!

  6. Many thanks to Phibs and to Ifor and Mr Fish for the most interesting dicussion that has clarified a couple of points. Indeed, we are required to use the 2016 version of Chambers (with all the words – smile!) by most crossword editors. The 2014 one was rather a fiasco and caused us a number of problems. The question of double definition clues being used to produce an extra letter would indeed be resolved if we still used ‘subsidiary indication’ as the term rather than ‘wordplay’, so that, say, a DD clue to ROUTE/ROUE could produce an extra T with ‘ROUTE’ being a ‘subsidiary indication’ – however, it would be a shame not to inclue a couple of DD clues in a crossword like this because of that ‘wordplay’ question.

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