EV 1579 Hints – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1579 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1579 (Hints)

Line of Duty by Eclogue

Hints and tips by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

I wonder if when two setters are contemplating a collaboration their decision is influenced by the name of the hybrid which will result. eXternal and Serpent combine very neatly to produce eXtent, and the marriage of Hellebore and Phi to produce Hellphire was surely irresistible. Eclipse plus Logogriph is less obvious, Ecriph or Loglipse having understandably been ignored in favour of Eclogue. But what about Ifor and Wickball getting together as Iball, or Harribobs and Piccadilly forming Harpic? Jacques and Sea-kale as Jacqusea, perhaps? Curmudgeon and Wan might need to think carefully about names before entering into an alliance, though…

Preamble: Six entries (including one plural), thematically connected with the unclued entry, are undefined. A single letter should be dropped from the remaining clues, always leaving real words, which when read in clue order provide an adapted line of verse and the original author. Together, these all allude to the tableau to be highlighted by solvers (17 cells in two separate straight lines), illustrating a suspension in the LINE OF DUTY. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended, but omits 33 which is in Collins.

There’s plenty going on here – an unclued (unnumbered) entry, six clues consisting of wordplay only, and all the other clues containing an extra letter to be removed prior to solving. The undefined entries are linked in some way, so if we can get one or two of them that may help us with the others. The ‘tableau’ can wait until we’ve got a full grid and we’ve worked out the ‘adapted line of verse’.


14a    Gastric concretion locks valley, maybe (8)
There aren’t too many possibilities for the imposter in this charade clue, but having identified it you will need to take into account the ‘maybe’ while thinking in terms of children’s games. Terms like ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’ usually signpost a ‘definition by example’ (really more a ‘suggestion by example’), either in the definition part of a clue or the wordplay. The example often quoted is along the lines of ‘dog’ and ‘poodle’ – since every poodle is a dog, ‘dog’ alone is adequate to indicate POODLE; but every dog isn’t a poodle, so indicating DOG would require something like ‘poodle, maybe’ or ‘poodle?’. DBEs are often seen when the names of famous people are being referenced, as in ‘French, perhaps’ for DAWN.

15a    Nonplussed, scratching head (4)
There doesn’t seem to be room in this clue for a definition to go with the wordplay, wherein I guessed wrong first time round when it came to the synonym for ‘nonplussed’ that has its head scratched – it begins with an S rather than a B.

17a    Direct from game Scottish and West Country town (7)
Resolving the second element of this two-part charade requires you to remove the extra letter from one word and then to identify a Scottish meaning of that word, not a Scottish form of it.

19a    Adult clearing leftmost way from VIPs in fancy syrups (7)
This clue involves a single letter in one word being replaced by another to produce the answer, the displaced letter being indicated in the clue by a short word which becomes even shorter after losing the extra letter. Solvers born within the sound of Bow Bells will be at an advantage when it comes to the definition.

24a    Block heroine after success by English following run out (6)
The four wordplay elements here (three of which are abbreviations) appear in the order B-A-D-C in the answer.

29a    Strip cleric avoiding work (4)
There’s only one realistic option for the imposter in this clue, and once deprived of its extra letter it must be interpreted figuratively.

33a    Nice milts blended in fillets (8)
If there’s an unexpected word in a ‘remove a letter’ clue, you can be pretty confident that it’s the imposter; it’s also quite likely, particularly if the word is there either as anagram fodder or to provide its first/last letter, that the corrected word will be obscure too. The answer is an anatomical term that doesn’t appear in Chambers but can be verified in the online Collins dictionary or elsewhere on the web.

35a    Fury baled me out (6)
When combined with the wordplay, the definition can only reasonably lead to one answer, but make sure you get the middle pair of letters in the right order because there is a mildly persuasive alternative.


1d    Hot yen I found in coach chasing bait for marine substance (9)
With this clue gimmick, sometimes the setter will include an imposter which once stripped of the extra letter delivers part of the answer ‘just as it is’ (eg in ‘Wave son away’ for SWAY [S + (a)WAY], extra letter A). One of the  five elements in this wordplay is of that sort.

3d    Kelson’s mood over northern meadows for authors’ news (7)
The only problem related to the imposter here is trying to work out what the corrected form should be – it turns out to be a proper noun (potentially unfamiliar to non-UK solvers) which gives a geographical qualification to the next word in the wordplay, as ‘northern’ does for the word which it precedes. The “authors'” qualifies the definition of the answer, which is given by Chambers as ‘esp literary’ but will be familiar to all.

4d    Hold scabs head aboard ship (5)
Once again the imposter must be modified to produce a word (this time an adjective) which qualifies another word in the clue.

5d    Cain bitter in French dock (8)
The comment for 1d about the reduced imposter being included literatim also applies to this two-element charade…

20d    East African has Will’s leg armour on cit with endless reserve (8)
…as well as this three-parter. Will’s word for leg armour derives from the French for ‘thigh’, and the ‘reserve’ is a setters’ favourite…

21d    Record acceptable to his eye in Perth – female’s worn-out in Paris (7)
…It applies also to this four-element job, where the record is of the musical variety, and the acceptability is specifically social…

22d    Scotsman after Goa, returning first class for Brazilian city (7)
…and to this one, wherein ‘Scotsman’ indicates a three-letter forename which is shared by many non-Scots but is Gaelic in origin.

Definitions in clues are underlined

If a combination of the unclued entry, the undefined entries and the message generated by the extra letters doesn’t make the thematic context clear, ODQ won’t help but Google will. The name of the author should make it clear why the line of verse has been ‘adapted’ (in fact the adaptation contains elements from two lines of the original). When locating and highlighting the appropriate tableau, the unclued entry is a potential distraction which should be ignored.

The gimmicks, together with a fair number of obscurities, lent some chewiness to the grid fill. The endgame was straightforward, although I was glad that the number of cells to be highlighted was stated – otherwise I might have expected the unclued entry to feature in the tableau, albeit perhaps not in the position where it was found.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾 (Suitable for all solvers, but if you don’t have access to Chambers you may find the grid fill quite tricky)

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2 comments on “EV 1579 Hints
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  1. Yes, Chambers was a necessity for this, though retrospectively the clues were all scrupulously fair. I particularly liked the fancy syrups, which were new to me.
    The endgame brought it all together and was nicely represented in the grid.
    Thanks to Eclogue and Phibs.

  2. I agree on the fairness of the clues, but for me there were just too many obscure answers; words I will forget and never use. Phibs’ hints were my essential for solving some.
    I do admire the positioning of the 17 letters to be highlighted.
    Thanks to Eclogue for what became a mind-stretching exercise.

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