EV 1591 Hints – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1591 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1591 (Hints)

Split Personality by Check

Hints and tips by Phibs

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Should we presume that our setter is a keen chess player? A poker aficionado? Or perhaps a fan of Neighbours and Home and Away star Craig McLachlan’s band Check 1-2? That’s perhaps the most likely explanation, but frankly it’s anybody’s guess.

Preamble: All across entries share a common feature which cryptically suggests the name of a thematic setting (11 letters) to be written below the grid. Each clue contains an extra word to be removed before solving. Selecting either the first or last letters of these words in an equal amount spells an instruction for solvers to resolve the SPLIT PERSONALITY. In the final grid, four cells are empty but all entries (ignoring gaps) are real words or phrases; Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

The key information at this stage is that each clue contains an imposter which must be removed prior to solving; we need to keep track of these words (in clue order) ready for the endgame. We might also want to keep an eye out for the emergence of that ‘common feature’ of the across entries, since it could help when solving further across clues, although that’s entirely optional.


3a   Extract appendix during second entry to surgical periods of observation (9)
Sometimes we setters, in true Humpty Dumpty fashion, choose to creatively interpret a Chambers definition of a word in order to suit our cryptic purposes. The preposition ‘during’, which the BRB gives as ‘in the course of’, is a good example, and it is used here to indicate the insertion of a (4,3) phrase between two single letters. Remember that in barred puzzles hyphenated answers are enumerated as single words, so SPOT-ON would be shown as ‘(6)’.

15a    Celtic sign nimble Italian with recipe to overcome league (5)
The ‘overcoming’ involves one single-letter abbreviation replacing another. For ‘Celtic’ read ‘Scottish’.

17a    Plant sometimes overlooking dirty money Mark circulated (7)
Two abbreviations, the indication of one having been deceptively capitalized (no pun intended), are to be removed from the anagram fodder.

27a    I caught worker idling behind window (5)
The second (two-letter) wordplay element, indicated by ‘worker’, is placed in front of the first, which is a homophone (‘caught’).

32a    Top table forgot to veto bachelor’s awful jacket (7)
In the wordplay, ‘to veto’ would ideally be ‘vetoing’, but with the imposter in place the surface reading would then make no sense.

34a    Fat Spaniard’s approval wearing thin (5)
The ‘approval’ is to be heard not just in Spain but on occasion at English football grounds, greeting each of a series of successful passes.

38a    Freedom incrementally overturned during incarceration in Barlinnie (3)
The intention here is that ‘incrementally’ should be interpreted as…well, I suppose, something like ‘at regular intervals’, though that does seem something of a stretch; the convention of underlining the definition in these hints makes the imposter stand out.


5d    Butterfly trap risks falling apart without engineer’s head (6)
Again, the imposter finds itself isolated in this clue where a slang definition leads to a slang answer. Chambers does give the preposition ‘without’ as meaning ‘outside of’, albeit it is shown as ‘archaic’.

12d  Reduced power of upsetting act to imprison idle teachers (7)
‘Upsetting’ here is the intransitive form of the verb, meaning ‘being overturned’, while the teachers are represented by what was once their largest trade union but ceased to exist in 2017. Note that it is a combination of wordplay elements which is becoming upset, rather than just the ‘act’.

18d    One abusing irrelevant supply worker had to quit (7)
Despite the order in which the indications appear in the clue, you need to mentally prioritize the removal of three consecutive letters over the rearrangement of the remainder. If you are in any doubt about which word is the imposter, select the longer of the two possibles.

23d    Slim Shady keeps younger fans singing (6)
Nothing to do with Marshall Mathers III, the capital letter on ‘Shady’ disguises an adjective which Chambers gives as both ‘disreputable’ and ‘mysterious’.

24d    Work day constrained by selfish person using tool (6)
A combination of two abbreviations is ‘constrained’ by the selfish (and almost certainly greedy) person.

25d    Ensemble broadcast music to frame race entrant’s debut (6)
When I solved this clue I couldn’t decide which of two alternatives was the imposter, as each could potentially have delivered the three-letter word required by the wordplay, but it turned out to be the second of the pair. The ‘race’ is actually a series of time trials, as BD points out in his Pedant’s Guide to Crosswords.

26d    Coldplay rocks example of retro lyrics (6)
The imposter is pretty easy to spot even without the underlining. Although ‘retro’ in the sense of ‘backwards’ is not given by Chambers and is shown by OED as ‘rare’, the ‘example of retro’ indicates a reversal of a familiar abbreviation,

28d    Volcanic outburst of athletic teen shown love at last (6)
The anagram fodder here includes a one-letter abbreviation and a single letter selection which is interrupted by the imposter.

Definitions in clues are underlined

The lengths of the across entries may have offered a hint to the form that the ‘common feature’ might take, and identifying it in the completed grid should not prove difficult. Consideration of the first and last letters of the redundant words, picking out likely – and rejecting unlikely – letter sequences, will lead to the six-word message (comprising two instructions, one of four words and the other of two). Equal numbers of first and last letters are involved, and the unused letters have no obvious significance.

The instruction on its own isn’t enough to pinpoint the theme, so we either need to work out the thematic setting (that word is important) or find something helpful in the grid. The setting (which cryptically suggests the common feature) is hyphenated, 6-5, but once you’ve got it you may still not know exactly what to look for in the grid. Thankfully, the old solver’s maxim, “When in doubt check the Chalicea line out”, will come to the rescue. Don’t forget to follow both parts of the instruction.

The clues were made pretty tricky by the fact that all of them included a redundant word, and each stage of the endgame demanded some effort.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾🥾 (Neither the initial grid fill nor the endgame was simple)

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1 comment on “EV 1591 Hints

  1. This didn’t really hang together until I realised that I’d made an incorrect assumption [necessary but insufficient] about the across clues. Then it all made sense. It’s clear from the deciphered instructions that there’s something relevant in the completed grid and the instructions also clarify the 4 empty cells. The only thing I’m still baffled by is 27a which seems to indicate the opposite of what’s required.
    Thanks to Check and to Phibs for the hyphenated steer.

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