EV 1603 Hints – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1603 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1603 (Hints)

Pie Crust by Jaques

Hints and tips by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

I wonder if Jaques, a new setter for me, is as melancholy as his name suggests? Of course, his pseudonym may have nothing to do with the Bard – the OED tells me that ‘jaques’ is an old term for a privy, so that could perhaps work if his real initials are WC. But then there’s Jacques of London, the famous maker of games, in particular the Staunton chess set. Am I getting warm…?

Preamble: Eight clues have no obvious definition and have wordplay to only part of the answer. Solvers must enter the other part, occasionally ignoring articles, which should allow them
to see the PIE CRUST. Information in brackets refers to entries. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

My approach to this sort of puzzle is to crack on with the solve and await the emergence in the grid of solutions which appear to bear no relation to their clues. The alternative of trying to solve wordplay-only clues for answers of unspecified length without any other pointers is likely to prove unrewarding. Once we can work out a couple of those special entries, things should become much clearer.


1a    Short sword sinistral bears rampant at the hub for groups bearing arms (5)
A couple of unusual indicators here – ‘sinistral’, in its sense of ‘turning to the left’, and ‘at the hub’, directing us to select the ‘focus’ (ie central point) of’ the preceding word.

10a    Appear delirious lacking doctor that’s sound for disease (4)
The doctor who goes missing from a six-letter verb is a Bachelor of Medicine in his Latin form.

11a    Flap having two roles, taking stage finally — not on to start with (6)
The flap serves to control both the pitch and roll of an aircraft, combining the functions of an elevator and an aileron. You will notice that there is no underlining here.

23a    Italy added to stone in concrete and legions of Romans used it (5)
The word for a stone set in concrete, into which an abbreviation must be inserted, may be unfamiliar – it is also a fruit, and was the nickname of PG Wodehouse. For the cryptic reading to work, the ‘and’ joining wordplay to definition needs to be ignored.

24a    One was bound in essence to forget occasional brief time (4)
‘To forget occasional brief time’ dictates the omission of the non-consecutive letters of an (informal) word for a brief time

25a    Echoing top note for one that reached unusual heights? (4)
One of those clues that is tricky if you don’t know either the word defined or the term in the wordplay which is ‘echoing’ – the latter is the highest note of the lyre, but could also have been indicated cryptically by ‘catch English’.

34a    Decisive female’s gone for natural, initially concerning birth (5)
When one sees ‘x has gone for y’ in a wordplay, it usually means that x must be replaced in a word by y.

38a    Bridge inside thing with ears, like pons’s location? (8)
The thing with ears is alive but isn’t an animal, and the definition should be viewed as “relating to pons’s location”.


1d    One close to rudder and close to stern (4)
A neat clue, the wordplay comprising three elements in a (1,1,2) formation.

3d    Flat pack originally organized with carcase of all put up (6)
Two of the three elements here are ‘put up’.

5d    Wily old fox put up in court (4)
Another clue with two relative obscurities, the second more familiar as ‘to put on record’ or ‘to bring before a court’.

6d    Priest and priestess held in contempt, scourge of the bible (8)
The priest and priestess contribute three letters between them, the latter once doing service for the goddess Hera in Argos (in the days when they still had a catalogue).

18d    Hour gone when Arabic chiefs returned for gallery’s top pictures (5)
Setters don’t use indicators in the past tense, so here we must infer ‘is returned’ to describe what must happen to the word for the Arabic chiefs following its loss of a single letter.

21d    Could be Nissan parking is Cherry, perhaps that can see to it itself? (8)
The wordplay delivers elements in a 7+1 pattern, while the definition requires a comma to be inserted between ‘perhaps’ and ‘that’.

28d    Cycling measure for compound? (5)
The measure that is ‘cycling’ (its first letter being moved to the start) has its origins in France and is equal to a cubic metre, typically being used when quantifying cut wood.

33d    Sabbath understanding prayer class for Peggy and Robin (4)
Deceptively removing the capital letter from a word in a clue (eg putting ‘nice’ when you mean ‘Nice’) is not allowed, but deceptively capitalizing a word is usually considered to be acceptable. Having done this once in 21d, here the setter gives us a double dose; looking up ‘peggy’ in Chambers will tell you what she and robin have in common. Chambers also confirms that ‘understand’ can have the meaning of ‘support’.

Definitions in clues are underlined

Sure enough, once one or two entries suggested themselves, in particular an eleven-letter one, it quickly became clear what was going on, and the grid could be filled. There is no requirement to resolve all eight partial clues, some of which are quite complex, although like me you may wish to do so for your own satisfaction. Having established the connection between the thematic solutions themselves, you will be able to make sense of the title.

A puzzle which had some tricky clues but from a thematic perspective became very straightforward once its secret was revealed.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾/🥾🥾🥾 (Solving the clues is harder than finding the theme. Suitable for all except beginners)

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1 comment on “EV 1603 Hints
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  1. The pie crust was something of an anticlimax [and one in particular somewhat obscure] but many of the clues were extremely clever. The army fare in 19d raised a good chortle as did the perfect surface for Peggy and Robin in 33d. And 12d is quite a masterpiece.
    Thanks to Jaques and Phibs.

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