EV 1571 Hints – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1571 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1571 (Hints)

Dotty Links by Wickball

Hints and tips by Phibs

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The sport of Sepat Takraw can be played with a wicker ball, and Wickball is also the name of an ancient camp in Wiltshire. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I conclude that our setter is a devotee of kick volleyball who lives near Salisbury.

Preamble: Entries in the shaded cells comprise the names of two shows (one briefly), the actor appearing in both and his role in one. Wordplay in 29 clues fails to give one or two letters: solvers must mark each of the 35 cells involved with a bold dot at the midpoint of the left-hand edge. Eight clues contain an extra word: reading the first then the third letter clue by clue identifies two sources, to be written under the grid. The remaining seven clues are normal. Finally, using a highlighter, selected DOTTY LINKS, straight and curved, must be drawn between the dots to spell a phrase of 10 characters. The standard ‘Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended’ text had to be omitted due to space constraints but is still applicable.

Sounds quite complicated, but all we really need to know before we start solving is that the definition part of 29 clues is normal while their wordplay fails to deliver either one or two letters (for the six wordplays which come up short by two letters, these are not necessarily adjacent); that a further eight clues contain a word to be removed before solving; and that the other seven clues are normal. As we solve each clue, we should note (i) the un-indicated letter(s), or (ii) the extra word, or (iii) that there is no gimmick – we can then do a cross-check to make sure that we’ve identified the right number of each clue type.

I would also advise putting in the bold dots as you enter the solutions, remembering that they go on the left edge of the cells containing the letters which the wordplay fails to indicate. On occasion there might be, say, one T un-indicated but two Ts in the answer – it will always be clear from the wordplay which of these letters is in the cell to be marked. If the clue were ‘Brown grass around square (5)’, the answer would be TOAST, the letters indicated by the wordplay would be OAST (S in OAT), and the cell containing the first T would receive the dot. Were the clue ‘Brown amphibians abandoning delta’ (TOADS – D), however, it would go to the cell containing the second T.

Note that some of the normal clues contain words that are superfluous to the extent that they are not required in order for the clue to function correctly, but in the eight clues which contain an extra word, that word actively damages the clue, such that it must be removed before the clue can be solved (eg ‘Brown stoat eating bananas’ for TOAST, where ‘eating’ has to go). In ‘Brown grass around square is holding up start of test’, on the other hand, the word ‘is’ is redundant, but it’s just part of the (normal) clue.


17a      Locum races around hospital’s centre after ear wax gland (7, two words)
There’s an impostor in this clue, which involves three elements, one of them a word taken straight from the clue.

27a    Chilled aged soprano taken in by one in the Highlands (6, two words)
This one features two abbreviations, one of which is the same as the third wordplay element.

30a    Spray killing unknown Eastern shrub (7)
The tricky thing here is likely to be ‘dotting’ the right two cells in the grid.

35a    Started again fitting old feather into pipe (8)
When a definition includes the word ‘again’, you can make a pretty good guess at the first two letters, which here come from the pipe. You might not think of the three-letter word for a feather (the ‘old’ is a separate element of the wordplay) as having that meaning, but its common modern use derives directly from it.

36a    Royal Philharmonic Orchestra returning briefly in South Bank (7)
The first three words, which constitute the first part of the wordplay, will probably get you to the answer here. If you imagine the other part to be ‘in briefly South returning’ it will be easier to resolve. Removing an initial capital letter from a word which requires it in the cryptic reading is a no-no for setters (eg ‘nice day’ for JOUR), but adding an initial capital to a word which should not have it (eg ‘A day in Nice’ for DECADENT) is considered just about acceptable. Incidentally, where a word is in the wordplay simply to provide some or all of its letters, the setter has a free hand, so ‘fancy Truss’ and ‘fancy truss’ would both be fine for RUSTS).

38a    Old sectarian jeopardises corrupt religion having left out saint (9)
The presence of an imposter makes this clue, which uses two abbreviations (only one of which appears in the answer), more difficult than it would otherwise have been.


3d    Irish diggers of brass, for instance, but not Aluminium (4)
While you may not be familiar with the answer, the key to resolving the wordplay is to translate ‘brass, for instance’ into a five-letter word.

10d    Open display with International Day disrupted and lost over siting it (5)
The word DAY here must be combined with the standard abbreviation for ‘International’ before being ‘disrupted’ and ‘lost’. There is an imposter lurking near the end of the clue.

25d    Me, introducing performing trio in slot (7)
Unless you’ve already solved 40a, you’re going to have two options for the sixth letter of the answer; the fact that the definition for that crossing entry is ‘potters about’ should suggest the correct choice.

29d    Umbelliferous plant genus, v51? (6)
In the wordplay here you have to expand an abbreviation, working back from a single-letter form to the word that it can represent.

32d    Echo 5 Live rebounding in this? (6)
An &lit (all-in-one) clue, where the whole thing is both wordplay and definition. Each of the first three words indicates a wordplay element, while the fourth word indicates what must happen to the last of them.

37d    Passed nothing knocked down (4)
Here we have a two-letter abbreviation which I probably have encountered in a clue before but I can’t remember when – the phrase is quite an easy one to work into a clue, but the letter pair doesn’t come up very often in answers.

The generous helping of checked letters in the shaded areas should enable you to work out the actor, the role, or the non-abbreviated show, and if you’re not an aficionado then Google will assist when filling in any blanks; the bottom row can be worked out even by those who have no knowledge of the actor or the shows. The ‘sources’ might also help here (don’t be put off by the fact that the first four letters of the first one seem distinctly unpromising), but they are particularly relevant to the ten-character phrase, which really needs to be worked out prior to drawing the lines – anyone who spots the shapes without knowing what they’re looking for will have earned my utmost respect. Bear in mind that (i) the process does not involve the letters already in the grid, and (ii) Chambers defines a character as ‘a letter, sign, figure, stamp or distinctive mark; a mark of any kind, a symbol in writing, etc.”

There was plenty going on in this puzzle. Drawing lines and creating shapes isn’t my ‘thing’, but what was required here was well signposted.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾/🥾🥾🥾 (The clue gimmicks may make it tricky for beginners, while those familiar with the theme will have a definite advantage when joining up the dots)

In closing, I wish the readers of this blog a happy, healthy 2023, with lots of good solving. My thanks to all the setters – and the EV editor – for providing us with some cracking puzzles in 2022.

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7 comments on “EV 1571 Hints
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  1. A lovely challenge. There was a lot to do and whilst the top half went in fairly easily the clues in the lower half, more-or-less a separate puzzle, seemed a lot trickier and separating the 3 clue types correspondingly more difficult. I started the end-game with a handful of clues still not fully parsed and thus some dots missing but the shaded rows were fairly simple to complete – the actor’s name being quite distinctive. Identifying the 2 sources brought the whole thing together and identified the link outlined by the dots, enabling the final, dotty clues to be identified. The final grid is a treasure.
    Thanks and admiration to Wickball and thanks to Phibs for some useful hints.

  2. Sorry Phibs, the source of my pen-name is much more mundane. It is my dear lady’s tongue-in-cheek reading of my scrawled signature

    1. Thank you Wickball – I did feel that there might be room for an alternative explanation, and I’m much obliged to you for providing same. Rather good if I may say so… though had I gone down a similar route, my nom de plume would simply have been ‘Illegible’.

  3. I feel that there is too much going on in this puzzle with three types of clue including those without any intruders to be identified, plus having to join the dots.
    I have the name and one of the shows, but the other show eludes me. And despite Phibs’ helpful hints I am struggling on the lower half. Am I missing something or made a big error somewhere.
    I await the published solution.

    1. You aren’t missing something. I didn’t know this role and the letters I had in for the show really didn’t make sense until you realise that it is the abbreviation for a show with quite a long name that was a bit of a cult back in the day….and our actor might not have been acting. The first and last words of the role gave me a foothold with Google otherwise I’d never have got it. I still haven’t got round to joining the dots though! Good luck keep going!

    2. Fans of both shows will get the link between them immediately but I fear others will not and so will have trouble joining the dots. Yes, the lower half is a bit of a sod compared with the upper.

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