Enigmatic Variations 1611 (Hints)
Footsteps by Skylark
Hints and tips by Phibs
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Hoping to make my task a little easier, I asked Bard “What is the theme of a crossword puzzle called Footsteps likely to be?” The response was:
To narrow down the possible themes, it would be helpful to see the crossword puzzle itself. However, based on the name of the puzzle, the theme is likely to be something related to movement, travel, or exploration. Here are some examples of theme answers for a crossword puzzle called “Footsteps”:
- Footprints in the sand
- One small step for man
- The road less travelled
- A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
- Follow the footsteps of giants
We shall find out later how helpful this proved to be.
Preamble: In clue order, single extra letters to be removed from 24 clues before solving give an instruction regarding two relatives, one of whom followed in the other’s FOOTSTEPS. In clue order, single extra letters generated by the wordplay in 14 other clues describe the contents of the perimeter. Rearranging the unchecked letters in the outer perimeter gives: ROMANCED BY MAN’S MERLOT. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.
All but one of the 39 clues include one gimmick or the other, and not knowing which gimmick affects which clue is going to make the solve trickier. When looking at a clue, if there appears to be no obvious way to remove a letter from one word to leave another word which is commonly seen in crosswords, then it may well be a ‘wordplay leads to extra letter clue’. On the other hand, there are two features which strongly suggest a ‘remove a letter’ clue:
(i) a word from which one letter can be removed to produce a word with a single-letter abbreviation (eg ‘shot’ -> ‘hot’, leading to H in answer, extra letter S), or
(ii) a single-letter selection phrase, where the apparent first/last letter of the target can be omitted such that another word is produced (eg ‘start of day’ -> ‘start of ay’, leading to A in answer, extra letter D; or ‘end of line’ -> ‘end of lin’, leading to N, extra letter E) – note that, as in these examples, the resultant word is just there to donate a letter to the answer and thus may be a relative obscurity. Note also that ‘start of day’ couldn’t translate to ‘start of da’ (extra letter Y) because the loss of that letter has no effect on the cryptic reading of the clue.
Also, remember that the term ‘wordplay’ extends to either of the definitions in a double definition clue – so ‘Discovered number of deadly sins’ could be a clue for SEEN, with the ‘wordplay’ leading to SEVEN and the bonus letter being V.
10a Finally wash retired husband and trim angelic one (6)
The first part of the wordplay is covered by my note (ii) above, while the ‘retired’ applies to the two elements separated by ‘and’.
14a Fridge’s sound state (4)
Another tip for ‘remove a letter’ clues is to look for words rarely seen in cryptics, and then to see if by the loss of a single letter they could produce another word. If this is such a clue, then there is only one likely candidate for the imposter, and just one way in which it could be trimmed down.
16a Pierce, missing Catholic’s gout (4)
The definition is the tricky part of this clue, partly because it needs to be modified and partly because the meaning required here is the last of a fairly long list given by Chambers.
20a Stoppages for Ed, skipping end of Flake, winks (5)
I would, as they say, refer solvers once again to my note (ii). ‘Ed’ is of course how Edmund Spenser was known to his chums.
22a Bad tunes by AC/DC member, perhaps raving (13, three words)
The words of the answer are in a (3, 4, 6) pattern, as are the elements delivered by the wordplay once a bonus letter has been omitted from one of them.
32a Clerical dignitary’s avoiding scents in books soon (4)
Here note (i) applies, while the ‘in books’ reflects the fact that Chambers qualifies the answer as ‘literary’ (although, like many words thus marked, I wouldn’t say it was obscure).
33a Turn attention to harness (4)
This is one of those clues where there’s no obvious place for a stowaway to hide, and one wordplay element ultimately contributes just a single letter to the answer.
4d Crony no longer welcoming Ian’s Indians, perhaps (6)
The second element of the wordplay is in plain view, but the first needs careful handling – this means identifying the ‘sore thumb’ word, establishing the only word which can be formed from it by the removal of a letter, and then finding an obsolete (‘no longer’) meaning of that word in Chambers.
9d You once yearn to support chaps overturning Satan (8, two words)
Note (i) is applicable again here, while the ‘to support’ indicates that the element preceding it is to be placed below the one following.
18d Overturned oxygen fuel held by host is gaseous (8)
The word ‘host’ could have concealed a stowaway S, but it doesn’t; that possibility apart, there’s really nowhere that a letter could be lost, and it isn’t the one normal clue (we haven’t reached that yet).
29d Shell is shabby in Aberdeen (5)
Certain purists wouldn’t like this clue, where one of the definitions leads to a word which must lose a letter in order to produce the answer, arguing that it is clearly not true that ‘x is y’ (ie the two sequences of letters produced by the underlined bits are not the same).
33d Snarl, upset recipe to fix (4)
Both elements of the wordplay are ‘upset’, and the fixing here is the sort that would be required when installing a new door.
Definitions in clues are underlined
Having solved the clues and identified the two messages, the place to start on the perimeter is in the top left corner, where the first six letters will surely facilitate a bit of penny-dropping, at least in terms of one relative. If you’re not familiar with the other one, the longer message tells you that they share a particular attribute, and Google will then lead you to them. As it happens, I am more familiar with the works of this second relative, but I suspect that puts me in a small minority – in any event, a source such as Wikipedia will tell you all you need to know in order to complete the perimeter, crossing off the unchecked letters in the unch phrase as you go. Don’t forget to carry out the instruction given by that longer message.
The use of two different clue gimmicks made for a challenging grid fill, but the endgame was well signposted. One was left to admire the construction, in particular the highly satisfying arrangement of the thematic elements. And was Bard on the right track? Well, given that it hadn’t seen the preamble, that last bullet point that it came up with was probably about the best it could have done. I’ll give it a bit more information next time.
Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾🥾 (The use of two gimmicks makes the clue solving quite tricky)
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