EV 1599 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1599 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1599 (Hints)

Full Steam Ahead by X-Type

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Dave Hennings’ Crossword Database tells us that this will be X-Type’s seventh EV crossword, previous ones being on I.K.Brunel’s bridges, global warming and the Beatles’ ‘I’ll Follow the Sun’. I know that he sets under at least one other pseudonym.

Preamble: The perimeter message (starting at the top left) must be completed using the letters of SEEMED SLOW FOR CROWD in the unchecked cells. Solvers must draw a line/arrow in response to this message (taken at time of publication) regarding something going FULL STEAM AHEAD. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

The preamble prompts that we are looking for something that uses steam to progress, probably one of the early trains, we wonder. But then we read those words ‘taken at time of publication’ and see that our speedometer (we assume that it is one) allows us to get up to only 190 MPH and those unch letters suggest that this ‘seemed slow for crowd’. Puzzlement! Nothing to do but solve to resolve the conundrum.


16a          Riotous scenes with ecstasy and fine Tokay wine (7)
The ‘scenes’ have to be riotous then the ecstasy added to get the name of this wine.

20a         Sound of birds as snack is unfinished (5)
I remember eating this sweet doughy Spanish snack with Horchata as breakfast during a language course in Madrid. I am not surprised that the bird noise appears if the end is left off for them.

30a         Chap with cents – US money from way back (6)
As is so often the case, the underlining of the definition tells you which three clue elements to put together to get the money.

33a         One who protects the house gets servant (not alien) to make, like, grub (6)
That ubiquitous ‘like’ had to creep into a crossword clue one day. However, here it has a function, as the underlining shows. It is in crosswords that we so often meet the ones who protect the house, the servant is, or was, one who attended to gentlemen and he has to lose those two letters that so often identify the alien.

36a         Cranky nerd at home making pesticide (6)
The pesticide was new to us but it is in Chambers. X-Type has spelled out the two elements of the solution – that ‘cranky’ nerd who has to be ‘at home’.


1d           Place of learning to criticise current leader of council, being anti-Muslim? (9)
Four clue elements give us this word for which Chambers confirms the rather surprising definition. You need the usual ‘place of learning’, a verb for ‘to criticise’ then ‘current’ and the ‘leader of council’.

7d           Bawdy – and chary about UN coming in (7)
We are instructed which two clue elements to use to get this very powerful word for ‘bawdy’.

17d         Stars the little bear – minus roar – in play (9, two words)
A gift to solvers but it was difficult to resist giving a hint for this lovely little clue. There’s a rather sweet surface reading of a sort of Paddington character maybe eating the Queen’s sandwich and refraining from roaring.

21d          Cause harm to animal? Nothing as emphatic (7)
We have noticed that X-Type uses link words in his clues: ‘as’, ‘making’, ‘and’, being’ ‘to make’. You need to ignore them as you solve. This clue is an example of that and leaves you with only three clue elements. ‘Cause harm to’, ‘animal’ and ‘nothing’.

22d         Illegal doings – almost totally deplorable (7)
A Latin plural is needed here. The word for ‘deplorable’ (almost all of it needed) is informal usage.

The clues were a generous set but we did need to use those ‘unch letters’ to complete what was circling the perimeter. That’s an unusual situation for us. Editors often require those letters and there’s a rule that unchecked letters in a perimeter message must not exceed 40% of the message – but with 18 cells unchecked out of 48, X-Type has respected that (39%!) It can be difficult for a  compiler to achieve. Usually we just ignore the letters. Here they confirmed a rather zany theme. How did X-Type know that?

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6 comments on “EV 1599 (Hints)

  1. How did I know the theme’s subject matter? – ask The Numpties. I had insider knowledge, that’s how. And the EV Editor needed to wait till the appropriate time to publish this one…

  2. Very pleased to have finished an EV puzzle for the first time including the theme and am. Now interested to know what level more capable solvers feel this one to be!

  3. Not sure if I’m more capable but I thought this one was relatively straightforward. I got a few of the right hand and bottom columns, guessed a few more and used that to fit the provided letters in the perimeter. They then helped a lot with the clues from the left.
    An entertaining wee saunter and I was amazed at where the line ended up. Thanks to X-type (and to the numpties, although, for once, I’d filled the grid before their hints were published).

  4. Numpties here, Derek D. In no way let this be a dampener but this one was one of the relatively easy ones to solve. However, there is a full range, from this level to ones that take the Numpties several hours to solve so continue to do them. I know there are some real toughies due but also some gentle ‘saunters’.

  5. I agree. A simpler challenge this week with all but one clue and the perimeter message finished well before these hints appeared. That said, it is still quite satisfying to complete it, so many thanks X-Type

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