EV 1557 Hints – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1557 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1557 (Hints)

Or Do They? by Poat

Hints and tips by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

I’ve never solved a Poat puzzle before, so I have no idea what to expect…

Preamble: After completing the initial grid, solvers must justify the unclued entry (two words) by swapping the unchecked letters in 5, then swapping one of them with an unchecked letter in 25, swapping another in 25 with the one in 22 and swapping single letters (checked or otherwise) between 12/13, 16ac/23, 18/30, and 4/26. The final grid contains real words or phrases throughout, including eight entries which have something in common…OR DO THEY? Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; one answer is an abbreviation and 31 appears in Chambers as part of a phrase.

A preamble to gladden the Phibian heart: normal clues, and normal entry of their answers to boot. We can crack straight on, and if we’re able to fill the grid (except for the unclued and unnumbered entry) we can then turn our attention to the manipulations, which I suspect will make more sense once we’ve actually got something to manipulate.


1a        Note suspirations in audience, and blow up? (6)
The second wordplay element involves a homophone, indicated by ‘in audience’. The question mark at the end suggests that the definition is not precise.

13a       Editing tone, photo developed as expected (7)
Here the wordplay can be simplified if ‘Editing’ is read as ‘Edited’.

15a      Receiving low grades in French to have one shirking homework? (7)
The low grades are those that come just above a Fail. The first word of the clue can be ignored, and the question mark here indicates that the shirking isn’t specific to homework, so this is a form of definition by example.

16a      Sword in The Ring omitted from display? (7)
The wordplay leads to a two-word phrase which could be applied to undisplayed works of art of a particular type, while the answer is a proper noun not given by Chambers. It was at this point that I started to get an inkling of the theme.

18a      Bound to quash first hint of inclination (4)
This one is easier to deal with if you mentally remove ‘to quash’ from the start of the wordplay and add ‘quashed’ to the end.

20a      Getting runaround in frosty climate, U-turn cheers Tories (6)
Chambers only gives ‘U-turn’ as a noun, but the OED has it as a verb as well, and here it is an imperative, meaning ‘Reverse the direction of’. ‘Tories’ needs to be changed into a synonym before being abbreviated, and the definition is, if not exactly cryptic, certainly oblique.

24a      Top member of staff must be relocated (4)
Mentally replacing ‘of’ with ‘in’ should help here, while ‘member’ gives rise to one of those abbreviations which outside the world of crosswords is never seen on its own.

25a      Confusion surrounds strange sign in historian’s eye (7)
The ‘confusion’ will be familiar to regular solvers of barred puzzles, and appears here in its three-letter form (there is also a two-letter version). “Historian’s” is there to indicate that the solution is shown by Chambers as ‘obsolete’.

32a      Turning tail, traitor makes this bread with skill (4)
Most clues are split into a wordplay, which leads to the answer, and a separate definition of that answer. Here the structure is different, and the answer (indicated by ‘this bread’) forms part of what is effectively an equation – if you work through the clue piece by piece, all should become clear.

33a      Zippo left in tiny rent-free accommodation (11)
Those who remember the late Ken Dodd (“I told the Inland Revenue I didn’t owe them a penny because I lived near the seaside”) should quickly identify the ‘tiny’ bit of the wordplay. Remember that in barred puzzles hyphenated answers are enumerated as single words, eg TWO-PART would be shown as (7).


3d      Using her initial, poet’s avoiding hard and soft sound (6)
The key element of the wordplay here could also have been indicated by ‘Wife of T Hughes’.

9d      Cook up latest recipe for pies with this cheese, possibly (8)
This is a composite anagram, formerly known as a ‘Quarrelsome Whale’ clue. The latter was a reference to AF Ritchie’s clue from 80 or so years ago, “You could make this whale seem quarrelsome” for RORQUAL – ie the solver (‘You’) could make [the letters of] RORQUAL (‘this whale’) plus SEEM (from the clue) into QUARRELSOME (again from the clue). This sort of clue is, in effect, a subtractive anagram presented in a different way. Here ‘this whale’ becomes ‘this cheese’ and the other corresponding parts of the equation are PIES and LATEST RECIPE.

11d      That man in centre of Pforzheim? (5)
Here we have a 2+2+1 charade in an &lit (or ‘all-in-one’) clue, where the whole thing gives an indication of the answer. Setters are allowed rather more latitude in &lit ‘definitions’ than in conventional clues, and (as here) you are unlikely to find the ‘definition’ in a dictionary (which is a part of their appeal). A classic of the genre is Colin Dexter’s clue for MAGIC LANTERN, “Item gran arranged family slides in”.

22d      Flashy type who’d steal kitty, as Uncle Sam might say (5)
Step one is to imagine how some Americans (embodied by Uncle Sam) might pronounce the word ‘kitty’, and step two is to check the expected answer in Chambers.

26d      Wicked start for actor here (4)
This is another &lit, and again the whole clue provides a pointer to the answer rather than a dictionary definition. There are two possible answers – the one beginning with B should be ignored.

27d     Pry about such passing remarks? That would show honesty (4)
Here we have another clue where the answer (ie ‘such passing remarks’) is part of an equation; in this instance you are looking for a word that when surrounded by the letters PRY will ‘show [a word for] honesty’.

29d      Taking this direction, running shoe’s used as tea-strainer (4)
As in 32a and 27d, the answer (ie ‘this direction’) participates in the wordplay, this time leading to the last word in the clue.

Once we’ve filled the grid we can take a pretty good guess at the two words of the unnumbered entry, and the suspicions aroused by 16a start to look justified. The main obstacles to completing the letter movements are likely to be (i) not reading the instructions properly (what was I doing exchanging letters in 6d?) and (ii) not keeping proper track of what’s gone where. Spotting the required manipulations shouldn’t give any problems.

A well-constructed puzzle with a wide variety of clues, some quite testing. If having completed the puzzle you’re still wondering about the title, just say to yourself what it is that the entries have in common.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾/🥾🥾🥾 (Suitable for Toughie-level solvers relatively new to barred puzzles. The clues are tricky but normal, and the dénouement is well signposted)

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5 comments on “EV 1557 Hints
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  1. Poat is I think in a generous mood today and the absence of gimmicks in the clues plus a decent sprinkling of easier ones should mean it opens up OK for most cryptic puzzle solvers. The letter swaps at the end aren’t as challenging as they sound, given the need to leave real words. Thanks all!

  2. Good fun, helped by generous and often witty clues. The unclued entry gave a pretty strong hint about what was going on, aided by 16 and 33a and I learned some new Afrikaans.
    Thanks to Poat [more like this would be good] and to Phibs.

  3. I really enjoyed it too. Certainly the right standard for me. I enjoyed working out what the title meant. Clever that real words were left after the swaps and that some complicated clues befitted the theme. Thanks Poat and Phibs.

  4. A nice mix of easier clues and obscure answers. I cannot imagine 25a being used in either of its two meanings. Nice title craftily used. Thanks to Poat and Phibs

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