EV 1563 Hints – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1563 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1563 (Hints)

Belief Systems by Serpent

Hints and tips by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

I gather that our setter’s alias derives from the name of the block cipher (cryptographic algorithm) which came second in the contest to establish the Advanced Encryption Standard. Why not choose the name of the winner? Well, Rijndael doesn’t quite have the same ring about it, and anyway Serpent was arguably the hardest of the lot to crack – let’s hope that cracking this puzzle isn’t quite so tough…

Preamble: 14 clues are normal. 14 across clues contain an extra letter that must be removed before solving; these letters spell out a book title. The wordplay in 14 down clues generates an extra letter. In his introduction to a second book, the author discussed two contrasting BELIEF SYSTEMS. The extra letters generated by wordplay can be rearranged to summarise the author’s preferred belief system (9,5), which solvers must use to replace the one summarised in the central row of the completed grid (5,9), thereby creating new words.

The unchecked letters in the two BELIEF SYSTEMS could be seen as POIGNANT. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

We’ve got two gimmicks to contend with, and a pair of unclued words (of 5 letters and 9 letters) across the middle. It seems unlikely that we’re going to be able to guess the words without most or all of the checkers, so we just need to crack on and fill the rest of the grid, identifying the removed/extra letters as we go. Remember that the removal of letters from the across clues will always leave a real word, even though the surface reading of the revised clue may not make much sense.


12a      Corporate identity backed game for clubs in reserve (5)
Quite often in ‘remove a letter’ clues a word in plain sight is used just as it appears in the clue except for the loss of the letter, this substitution clue providing an example. The ‘reserve’, as it so often does in crosswords, leads to a particular three-letter word.

15a      Created rule to stop teenage daughter sneaking about (9)
The imposter here is part of an anagram indicator, though you could easily overlook it because the clue arguably also works as it stands.

16a      Vessel caught apex predator superior to seal (4)
Here ‘caught’ is used in the sense of ‘heard’, while the definition is a little stretched in order to accommodate an imposter. The word ‘apex’ is there to improve the definition rather than to confuse.

24a      Players chasing title initially take big step forward (6)
The imposter here is a well-disguised containment indicator in the wordplay.

30a      Prisoner requires this amount to be added to stop (5)
One of those clues where the wordplay requires the answer to be part of an equation, here wordplay_element (two letters) + answer (ie ‘this amount’) = another_wordplay_element (seven letters).

32a      Regret over closure of men’s department (4)
I’ve commented before about looking out for three-letter words being reduced to two-letter ones in ‘remove a letter’ clues, something which can help the setter out of a tight corner. In the sense in which it is used here, ‘department’ often includes an acute accent and an extra ‘e’.

33a      Sought-after present of flower for one included in stay (9, two words)
The wordplay here is unusual in that two elements both lead to the same two-letter abbreviation. When considering ‘sought-after’, think ‘hunted’.

36a      Surpass raise with new investment introduced by trustee (9)
I’m not sure that ‘investment’ has the meaning required of it here, but if you mentally replace it by ‘inserted’ things may become clearer. The clue also features a rarely-seen two-letter abbreviation, while ‘introduced by’ in this instance indicates not ‘contained by’ but ‘preceded by’.

38a      Asks for money having made such people homeless (6)
A bit of a Marmite clue, I suspect – when the answer (‘ie such people’) has, as playfully suggested by ‘homeless’, a common two-letter word removed, the result is a four-letter word meaning ‘asks for money’.


4d      Adult takes son’s place in my dance (5)
When one sees ‘my’ in a clue, there’s always a fair chance that it should be treated as an interjection expressing surprise – ‘cor’ is the synonym that often results, but here we are looking for a six-letter equivalent which will undergo change both by gimmick and by wordplay.

5d      English university dons shed light on place (4)
Although ‘dons’ is an insertion indicator here, if – like me – you find yourself working back from the solution to the wordplay, the removal of the extra letter may make it seem otherwise.

6d      Evergreen singer almost entirely ignored in awards (7)
The key part of the wordplay is indicated by the first word of the clue, and it also delivers the extra letter.

10d      Length to move along carefully? (5)
A two-element charade, and an &lit, where the whole clue serves as a definition of the answer.

20d      Historical figures who hindered literary culture (7)
A double definition clue, and not an easy one. The ‘Historical’ tells us that the first meaning is archaic, and derives from a three-letter word now encountered only in the context of a sport that also gave us ‘ace’ and ‘set’. Not to mention Dan Maskell.

22d      Backing singers and what they do is all too obvious (7)
The ‘singers’ here could well be ‘singing like canaries’ (albeit figuratively), while ‘what they do’ is pretty obvious, and it gives rise to the extra letter. It is very unusual to see ‘backs’ or ‘backing’ used to indicate reversal in a down clue.

29d      Measures delaying opening of Edinburgh Festival (4)
Thinking of ‘delaying’ as ‘putting back to a later point’ may help you to work out what needs to happen in the four-letter word equating to ‘Measures’.

31d      Many cultures are based on this revolutionary form of music (4)
A mildly cryptic definition, and a type of music that originated in India.

With all the clued answers entered, the unclued words should become clear, and their unchecked letters can be deleted from the word POIGNANT. The letters removed from the 14 across clues will have revealed the book title, but it is questionable how much help this will be. When I solved the puzzle I took the 14 extra letters from the down clues (which in clue order should form two seven-letter words, immaterial to the endgame but a handy check that you’ve got the right letters), removed the four remaining letters from POIGNANT, and experimented with fitting the other ten letters into the checked cells such that each one created a new down word. Adding the POIGNANT letters into the unchecked cells, I was quickly able to identify the 9-letter and 5-letter words. I felt duty-bound to find out the name of the author, and a spot of googling did the trick.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾🥾 (Some tricky clues, made harder by the gimmicks. The endgame is relatively straightforward)

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8 comments on “EV 1563 Hints
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      1. Thank you, Denise! I am most grateful… it is such a disappointment that it is no longer available online. As a follower since the very first EV, Sundays are not the same. Really, it usually takes a night or two of mulling as well :)
        Thanks again.

  1. The puzzle is well worth seeking out in the usual places online, or in the print edition. The first EV editor (no longer with us, sadly) used compliments very sparingly indeed; but on rare occasions he’d take “polished” out of the box. I’m pretty certain he’d be doing so here.

  2. A satisfying puzzle with some well disguised extra letters …. and no Scottish idioms for once. In fact a solution with answers in everybody’s vocabulary. The penny dropped just over half way through and this allowed completion.
    Thanks to Serpent and Phibs.

  3. Like Steve [3. above] I was impressed by the lack of obscurities in this fine puzzle. The work spelled out by the acrosses, though perhaps the most well-known of the author’s books, is hardly typical, but does provide a way in. Despite that I failed to find the text alluded to and resorted to the Phibs end-game method, which did the trick.
    Thanks to Serpent and Phibs. BTW Phibs I wouldn’t say the two 7-letter words generated by the downs are entirely immaterial [to the theme] given the amount of misinformation put about on the interweb.

    1. I didn’t mean to suggest that those words had no relevance to the theme, only that I didn’t see them as being material to the endgame, particularly given the age of the relevant work. I take your point, though.

  4. A very cleverly constructed puzzle and as Steve and Halcyon have mentioned above the lack of obscure words was welcome. I was familiar with the book spelled out in the across clues but not with any of the author’s other works so needed google to help with the endgame.
    I think this is the first puzzle that I’ve come across from this setter and hope there will be more to come. Thanks to Serpent for the challenge and to Phibs for the helpful advice.

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