EV 1554 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1554 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1554 (Hints)

Absolutely Nothing by Kruger

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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There is no need to introduce Kruger who has been setting EV crosswords for over 25 years. We always find his crosswords challenging and this one was no exception.

Preamble:  Wordplay in each of fifteen clues yields an extra letter that is not entered in the grid. In clue order, these letters give the start of a quotation from a poem (in ODQ and associated with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING) and the initials of its source. The third line of this quotation suggests how twelve answers are to be thematically treated before entry. Lengths in brackets refer to grid entries while word counts refer to original answers. Chambers Dictionary (2016) and ODQ7 are recommended; 21 is in Collins.

We see that there are four ‘word counts’ and suspect that some of these will be in those twelve answers that are to be thematicallly treated – probably by having something removed from the solution. Clearly we will need to find the fifteen letters that will be extra in wordplay in order to spot the quotation from a poem, or we must work out what is happening in those twelve answers. In fact, it was a ‘pattern’ that emerged in some clues where there simply wasn’t room to enter the solution given by the definition and wordplay that was the ‘way in’ for the Numpties.


6a           Give weapons to anonymous German – one ultimately confronting fellow burying dead in Great War (6)
There are six little wordplay elements in this clue! ‘Give weapons to’, ‘anonymous’, ‘German’, ‘One ultimately’ ‘dead’ and ‘fellow’. When you have put all of that together, you will probably be perplexed because the term for the ‘Great War’ won’t fit the allocated space. You will need to solve the five intersecting down clues to sort out what is going on.

11a           Singer irritated about our Dutch Queen (7)
As in the clue hint above, you will produce an answer by worrying ‘about our’ and the usual Dutch followed by a letter for the Queen – then you will wonder why your solution will not fit the space.

12a          Local player‘s inspiration including numbers 5-7 of Warwickshire, right? (4)
The answer is clearly indicated as a dialect word (local). A four-letter word is needed for the ‘inspiration’ (the classical kind) and into that you need to put 5-7 of Warwickshire – an amusing device. ‘Right’ will conclude your answer.

20a        First-rate wood-scouring agent applied to front of oak tree (7)
The underlining of the definition will help here. The ‘first-rate’ so often encountered in crosswords sent us to Mrs Bradford who has only one ‘tree’ with seven letters that fits the wordplay. Chambers confirmed that the following four letters are (or were) a ‘wood-scouring agent’.

24a         Capital village idiot initially involved in organisation of students (7)
We ignored the rather unlikely surface reading of this clue and used a very familiar acronym of a student organisation with that idiot ‘initially’ involved in it – that gave us more than half of the name of a capital.

33a        With no prospect of power, lies to society (4)
This was our last ‘solve’ or rather ‘back-solve’ since our almost complete grid had three checked letters and none of the possibilities Chambers offered fitted with the definition. We knew it had to be our twelfth adapted answer. We used a short word for ‘power’, a synonym for ‘lies’ and a letter for society and smiled happily when what appeared fitted with the thematic device.

34a        Ghanaian‘s new shirt (4)
We needed a short word (just the four letters) for this Ghanaian so we knew what we had to do with the extra letter.


3d           Axes ways of working around spilt oil (7)
There’s a Latinate plural for the ways of working and that ‘surrounds’ the ‘spilt’ oil. The ‘axes’ were not the ones we usually picture, or the verb form.

8d          Poet’s inadequacy beginning to disturb Bury no longer, we hear (5)
It’s useful to remember that capital letters can be used deceptively by a compiler. We realize that this ‘Bury’ (no longer – suggesting an archaic word) that we hear after ‘beginning to disturb’ is not the northern city.

11d         Flipping goddam goats consuming part of body (5)
Solvers need to remember what ‘flipping’ can mean in a crossword clue and that Kruger might have hidden one of those extra letters in this amusing clue.

23d         In Paris, she’s after drink to be consumed with last of Italian fruit (6)
The Parisian ‘she’ has to come last, after that short word for a drink and another for ‘to be consumed’ with the ‘last of Italian’. This will all add up to a rather long, unusual word for the fruit.

24d         Way I’m winning bridge rubber (6)
The rubber here didn’t have much to do with a bridge game. We used a short Latinate word for the ‘way’ and an abbreviation for the bridge to give us a kind of sporty rubber.

31d         Hamper temporary quarters (4)
The initials of the poet didn’t really help us but we spotted an extra letter in the wordplay here and knew it had to be one of them, as it was the very last clue.

After we had worked out what was ‘shortening’ some of the words we were entering, and found the four opening words of that poem and the initials of the poet, we were able to use our friend Wiki to tell us more about this poem and explain why its third line explains the adaptations. We still had one unexplained answer (33d) but were now able to ‘back-solve’. I suspect other solvers will be in a similar position as Kruger certainly gave us his usual challenge.

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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9 comments on “EV 1554 (Hints)
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  1. I am happy to be corrected, but my version of the BRB gives the 4 letter word following “first rate” in the solution to 20a as a wool-scouring agent.

  2. I found this a bit of a curate’s egg. The nature of the thematic treatment of 12 clues became fairly clear quite early [4d, 6d, 6a] making identification of the poem somewhat redundant. The clues themselves were a nice mix of gimmes and fiendish and solving the last couple of treated clues [37a, 31a] provided rather loud “penny-drop moments”.
    Thanks to Kruger for the challenge and The Numpties for the hints.
    Yes, there’s a misprint in 20a.

  3. Finally completed this puzzle, but in my defence I was with the family Sunday and Monday.
    I too found the quotation redundant having guessed the device from the first two treated answers. Consequently no need to chase those extra letters unless curious about the poem. Perhaps there should have been an extra instruction needed to show the poem had been found.
    Nevertheless a good challenging crossword, do thanks to Kruger and The Numpties

  4. Off-topic slightly but isn’t EV 1555 supposed to be available already? (or has the threat of cessation actually materialized?)

  5. I am afraid that the EVs are now only available in the printed newspaper and no longer on-line in the Telegraoh crossword site. Of course this makes it difficult for some of us who live overseas.

  6. This change to the EV is all rather disappointing, but the more so since as far as I can tell this was never actually announced to us online puzzles subscribers at all — it’s all been hearsay and rumour on sites such as this. The EV page on the puzzle site just stops at 1554 with not even a note to explain what has happened. Really not good enough IMNSHO and I’ve sent feedback to that effect to the puzzles team via https://www.telegraph.co.uk/customer/contact-us.

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