EV 1617 Hints – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1617 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1617 (Hints)

Mistaken Identity by Ifor

Hints and tips by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

I didn’t feel there was much to offer Bard in relation to this week’s theme, so I asked him why a setter would choose the pseudonym Ifor.

He told me that the name could have been chosen because “It has a hidden meaning. Some crossword setters use their pseudonyms to convey a hidden meaning or message. For example, the setter Ifor could be a combination of the words “if” and “or,” suggesting that the setter is open to different approaches to crossword setting.” He went on to say that the name could be interpreted as If or not, suggesting that the setter is interested in exploring the different possibilities of crossword setting; If only, suggesting that the setter has a desire to create crosswords that are challenging and rewarding for solvers; or If not now, when?, suggesting that the setter is passionate about crossword setting and is always looking for new ways to improve their puzzles.”

These are surely laudable ambitions for any setter, but the cynic in me wonders whether Bard would have found a way to match them to any name that I had supplied. Though perhaps if he had seen some of the crafty constructions in this puzzle he would have come up with Ifor Detail.

Preamble: A MISTAKEN IDENTITY (3, 6, 3, 6; in ODQ) to be written under the grid exemplifies modifications to be made to ten across answers. Another three in the remaining rows must be changed as the remark states. The latter’s clues each contain the same superfluous letter-string that can be rearranged to identify a thematic book. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; 43 is in SOED

So the down clues are all normal, and we can confidently enter their answers as we get them. But in ten of the thirteen rows one answer will undergo some form of modification before entry in the grid, while one answer in the remaining three rows will have to be ‘changed’ before entry. I decided to lightly pencil in all the answers to the normal across clues (ie any that didn’t contain superfluous letters), looking for clashes which would enable me to identify the modification, but not to attempt entry of the ‘special’ three (even if I could solve them) – the preamble suggests that the superfluous string is the same in each, but a quick read through the clues suggests that we may be looking (as Eric Morecambe might have put it) for all the same letters but not necessarily in the same order. Of course, once we find the entry to be modified in a particular row, we know that any other light in that row must be filled normally. The preamble doesn’t explicitly state that all the grid entries are real words (which of course include proper names), but it seems like a fair assumption.


16a    One more passing over tip of male organ (6)
A seven-letter word and a single-letter abbreviation feature in the wordplay.

17a    Permits for fear that hush is preposterous (4)
A two-letter interjection becomes ‘preposterous’ (=> ‘literally inverted’ => ‘reversed’) in the word meaning ‘for fear that’ wherein it already appears.

24a    Flag of nation hard to fly (4)
The ‘of nation’ leads to an adjective applied to things relating or belonging to one specific nation, and the ‘to fly’ should be read as ‘flies’, in the sense of ‘flees from’.

26a    Urgently pressing once hare gave up earth (5)
The wordplay is a 1+3+1 charade with two single-letter abbreviations. The source of the first abbreviation may not be evident in the clue as it is written, and the underlining makes it clear that the third word of the clue doesn’t belong to the definition.

28a    Thin material not split, ultimately still put back (4)
The key to parsing the wordplay here is to interpret ‘not split’ as ‘undivided’. The combination of two elements is ‘put back’.

38a    Volcano goddess lost stake (4)
One of those double definition clues where neither is exactly a household word, the second being shown by Chambers as obsolete (hence the ‘lost’). A possible third definition would be ‘Famous Brazilian footballer’.

39a    Club antelope, stopping to split suffering (6)
A tricky wordplay, where one needs to interpret ‘stopping to split’ as ‘withholding the letters TO, which have been separated’.

43a    Stunner in NY back street takes shot (7)
The wordplay starts with a reversal indicator and ends with an anagram indicator. As implied by the preamble, the answer is not given by Chambers, but as well as appearing in the SOED it can be found in the online Collins English Dictionary.


4d    Idle students’ pass degree only occasionally overturned (6)
The key part of the wordplay here is a four-letter word applied collectively to those students who read for or obtain a ‘pass’ degree; it could also have been indicated by ‘ballot’ or ‘parrot’.

9d    Dish forgotten in anger once blunder’s accepted (7)
The words making up the wordplay need to be mentally rearranged as “blunder’s accepted in anger once”, where ‘once’ indicates that the word for ‘anger’ is archaic. The answer is shown by Chambers as being an ‘older spelling’ of a familiar word, hence the ‘forgotten’.

10d    Proofs cut short twaddle (8)
This is a 5+3 charade, the ‘proof’ being the sort that would have been ‘pulled’ by a printer on a long slip of paper, for revision before the type was made up into pages.

13d    Rotary tool stripped plaster (5)
The ‘plaster’ which must be stripped is a verb meaning ‘to smear liberally’.

25d    Rings following bits of uneven road tyres (7)
One needs to translate ‘bits of uneven road’ into ‘uneven bits of road’ and thence to ‘odd bits of road’.

27d    Care covering word of agreement – it might prevent a punt being lost (7)
The word for ‘care’ is generally seen these days only as part of a longer word indicating its absence, which is often applied to particularly bad driving. The answer is shown by Chambers as ‘dialect’.

30d    Nuts chasing suspect discharged firearms (5)
The ‘nuts’ here are the kind that printers used to keep amongst their type for the purposes of spacing. The word ‘chasing’ is used in the sense of ‘following’.

31d    Prevents extension to ramp in case of accidents (6)
The main element of the wordplay is a relatively new addition to Chambers, coming from the world of skateboarding/snowboarding and describing a vertical extension to a ramp, from which stunts are performed.

Definitions in clues are underlined

I observed a few weeks ago that my knowledge of things historical derived largely from 1066 And All That, and it certainly came up trumps here (albeit the authors translated the joke slightly differently). Kudos to anyone who worked out the theme from the ten modifications, but I also needed to determine the ‘thematic book’ before I could identify the quotation (which may be apocryphal) and populate the three remaining lights – it was clear by this time which the three ‘special’ clues must be, so even without solving them it wasn’t too hard to work out the five letters that had to be removed from each. I had concluded some time earlier that these entries bore no direct relationship to the answers to the corresponding clues, with ‘changed’ in the preamble equating to ‘replaced’. I could then work back to solve the three clues, thus obtaining further confirmation (if such were needed) of the theme. Another possible route through the endgame (and the one taken by our editor) is to work out what the three effectively unclued entries must be and look up the appropriate plural in ODQ. In any event, remember to write the (3,6,3,6) quotation underneath the grid.

This was a tough puzzle, and the preamble certainly didn’t give much away. Solvers who complete the challenge will be in no doubt that they have the correct solution, and they may want to allow themselves a little celebratory beverage.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾🥾🥾 (Not one for the faint-hearted)

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13 comments on “EV 1617 Hints
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  1. I eventually got over the line in the last three EVs but they didn’t have a 4-shoe rating 👞👞👞👞 like this, I shall plug away more in hope than expectation…

    1. I would suggest that the four ‘old boots’ here indicate a puzzle that will yield gradually to perseverance rather than one which requires any mental leaps that come under the general heading GWIT (“guess what I’m thinking”). Thankfully the latter sort, which can involve long periods of staring at the grid while scratching the head, are rare in the EV series (although the current editor has in the past reminded me of a puzzle that I set which came into that category :oops: ).

      1. It was the current editor who set me on the quest for EV redemption at Elgar’s birthday S&B, I will persevere and hope I have sufficient boot leather for the journey

  2. A real stinker! Not what I wanted to come back to after a break, but there it is. Many of the clues were not exactly generous, with some rather convoluted wordplay, but all were fair enough [though I still can’t parse 42a]. The modification became clear about halfway through and was enough, when combined with the middle one of the 3, to identify the quotation, provide a steer to the nature of the 3 and enable the empty cells to be filled. With the grid full, all that remained was to scour the 3 clues for the superfluous string, identify the book and solve the amended clues to confirm the theme. Phew.
    Thanks to Ifor and Phibs.

    1. 42a Laboured regularly late inside the works (7).

      The second word in this clue starts off a letter selection and the last word indicates an anagram of the letters thus selected.

      1. Thanks Phibs – brain failure on my part. I was fixated on regular letters of late [lt] inside some synonym of “the works”, which is, I guess, exactly what Ifor intended.

        1. I suspect that may have been my initial thought about how that clue would ‘work’ as well. And brain fatigue is entirely understandable after a puzzle like that! :wacko:

          Talking of stinkers, the Stinker crossword published many years ago in Weekend magazine was exactly what it claimed to be. On one occasion, the editor received a heartfelt letter from a group of work colleagues who regularly tried, and frequently failed, to solve the weekly puzzle, requesting a photo of the setter so that they might attach it to the dartboard in their recreation room during times of need. The editor replied to say that while they had his sympathy, he must decline their request on the basis that the setter was a lady (she was, in fact, Nuala Considine, who subsequently set a great many puzzles for the Telegraph).

  3. I won’t comment on the puzzle except to thank those who take the trouble to do so, and of course Phibs. I’m encouraged by his replies from Bard here and over previous weeks; their generality tends to suggest that we setters aren’t likely to find ourselves redundant any time soon.

  4. I found some clues, answers and preamble rather 15 across (before adjustment). Took me three days to get that penny to drop.
    Thanks to Ifor and Phibs. Now to return to normal life

  5. What a cracker of a puzzle! So glad I persevered and woke up last night having realised the significance of the three… really pleased to come up to the 4 boot thing, just in time before 1618 arrives ;)

    Then I realise it was tricky to solve – but how much harder it was to invent… so for me, there’s little chance of setters’ redundancies!

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