EV 1560 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1560 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1560 (Hints)

It’s Not What You say by Vagans

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Solvers will already have met Vagans whose first Inquisitor, ‘Excess Baggage’, (with Dante’s Divina Commedia as the subject) appeared last year. In his ‘Encounter’, his first EV, Stanley met Livingstone at Ujiji. His first Listener crossword, ‘Hear, Hear’ gave us another theme that required some background knowledge. His last EV was ‘How’ an amusing reference to the problems inherent in the life of a vicar or a bishop. How can he ‘flirt’? We wonder what Vagans has in store for us here.

Preamble: Six clues have thematic answers. The remaining across clues each have an extra letter generated by their wordplay givng, in clue order, an instruction showing IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY that matters. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; one answer is an abbreviation.

If ‘it’s not what you say that matters’, we ask ourselves, then what is it? Usually we follow that with ‘It’s how you say it’ or with ‘It’s what you do’. What sort of instruction are we going to glean from the across answers that is going to somehow instruct us to enter six thematic answers differently?


10a          Cured fish reek: “Do heed Rory,” I’d nag from time to time (10, two words)
Clearly there is something going on here and we wonder if this is one of the six thematic clues.  That ‘from time to time’ is a familiar setter’s term prompting us to read alternate letters and the device gives us a two word answer that strangely clashes with some of the letters we already have in the grid.

12a        Bonds with vicar in stall (6)
We hadn’t met this word for a stall before but produced it by putting that short term for a vicar in a word for bonds.

20a         Dry pieces retroverted in a flower from Africa (7)
We used a short word for dry and a short word for the pieces and turned those letters round, extracting one of them as the extra letter, then added a couple of letters on the end to get the flower.

23a         Cheer Kingmaker’s family capturing knight on return (7)
A tough clue here! We thought Warwick was the kingmaker but found that he had a different family name. When he ‘returned’ we had to extract an extra letter and allow him to ‘catch’ that abbreviated knight.

27a         Ale-loving at first Burton finally became strangely frightening (5)
The underlining should help! There is an ‘at first’ in the clue and a ‘finally’ and a short word for ‘strangely frightening’ has to follow those.

33a         Rishi losing head with Bishop in gathering (5)
Some distinguished people in this gathering (though it is, in fact the kind of gathering my grannie used to create with her needle). Poor Rishi’s head has to go, as does another letter, and you need to remember the couple of letters that abbreviate a bishop.

34a         Marrowsky’s hot belonging near academic (10)
This clue will certainly help you to understand what is going on in the crossword, especially if that word  ‘Marrowsky’ tells you what to do with ‘hot belonging near’. It should prompt you to a ten-letter word that suggests that a thing has no relevance. Oddly, that word will probably clash with letters already in the grid.

35a          Contradict, backtracking about central expressed desire (6)
We used a four-letter word for ‘contradict’ and reveresed it around ‘central’, remembering that we needed to extract a letter. That produced a word we have never used except in its three-letter form in crosswords, but here it ‘expressd desire’ in a verbal sense.


1d            Millions Vagans to pledge as wager in error of judgement (7)
The clue is not difficult. The millions can be reduced to a single letter, as can Vagans, and ‘pledge as wager’ will give five more letters that clearly complete a definition of ‘error of judgement’ but that word won’t fit the five letters that you probably already have in the grid. When the penny has dropped with a clang, you should see that the word to be entered in the grid still describes the clue, but in a different way..

5d            Hydrocarbon function losing initial resistance? Excellent (7)
The ‘resistance’ has to be initially dropped from the function. The hydrocarbon’s name is completed with the word for ‘excellent’.

6d          D’Urberville girl shortly coming back, not out to become established (5, two words)
That poor girl, Hardy’s heroine! She has to be cut short before ‘coming back’ and giving us the first of the two words.

8d          Unfit representative (alternatively, Prime Minister) I upset  (8)
Four clue elements need to be ‘upset’ here: I, the Prime Minister, a short word for ‘alternatively’, and a short representative. Again the ‘unfit’ solution will not ‘fit’ the letters you have in the grid. You need to consider how you came to the solution.

22d         Maladroit vitrail of little importance (7)
This clue, all by itself (considering the letters you will already have in the grid) almost gives Vagans game away. All setters and solvers know how to interpret ‘maladroit’.

25d         Hack sits awkwardly boxing our group in (6)
As above, ‘awkwardly’ tells us all we need. This ‘hack’ is not the literary kind.

27d         Domineering men in US heartlessly unproductive (5)
The word for ‘men’ in the US is probably only met in crosswords. Onto that you need to tag a very short word for unproductive (not the usual sense we meet the word in) with its heart removed.

We didn’t find this crossword easy but I suspect that once you have discovered why ‘it is not what you say’ that matters (and what it IS that matters) and found one of the six thematic answers, you will know what you are looking for in the other five, especially if you have managed to work out what the message provided by the remaining across clues tells you to do.

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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6 comments on “EV 1560 (Hints)
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  1. Please note that 30 across generates an S as its “extra letter”, when an E is required. Apologies that this one slipped through the net: my mistake.

  2. Yes indeed. people are pointing this out to the Numpties too. So sorry that we (who also tested this one) didn’t spot the error.

  3. Well, thanks for that. I’ve been banging my head against 30a, trying to fathom how it can possibly generate an E rather than an S. It was clear enough what was intended, but only once the penny dropped. My only [other] criticism is that the device makes actually solving the remaining thematic clues rather academic, or even irrelevant.
    Thanks again to Vagans and The Numpties.

    1. It’s fair comment about the thematic clues not actually needing solving once the penny has dropped, and one which applies to the device in general, though of course the setter would hope the solvers would enjoy cracking the beautiful clues just for the sake of it – and seeing the thematic group they form. This setter is pondering re another puzzle how to avoid the downside of the device. Perhaps the original answers might have to be used in some other way in the grid, for instance?

      1. For me, I would hesitate before using ‘criticism’ – that was part of the fun. It was a very enjoyable puzzle, the theme being a new and excellent idea. Thanks!

  4. Enjoyable puzzle, nice range of clues with a few easier ones giving a way into the grid. I agree with the comments by halcyon and David above about the thematic clues, I only needed to solved three of them to finish the grid. I did solve the remaining three afterwards but if felt like a bit of an anticlimax.
    Thanks to Vagans for the challenge and to The Numpties for their blog.

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