EV 1623 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1623 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1623 (Hints)

Bus Stop by Chalicea

Hints and tips by Phibs

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Introducing Bus Stop by Chalicea: A Cryptic Cruise Through Commuter Chaos

Ah, the humble bus stop. A haven for weary travellers, a canvas for graffiti masterpieces (of dubious artistic merit), and, today, the unlikely setting for a cryptic conundrum courtesy of the redoubtable Chalicea. Buckle up, crossword comrades, because “Bus Stop” promises a journey like no other – a winding route through double deckers and daydreams, timetables and ticket stubs, all sprinkled with Chalicea’s signature brand of witty wordplay and devious cluing.

Forget your preconceptions of pastoral landscapes and leisurely strolls through the countryside. This is urban orienteering, where missed connections mingle with cryptic crosswords, and every discarded gum wrapper might harbour a hidden anagram. So, whether you’re a seasoned commuter with a well-thumbed bus pass or a wide-eyed newbie navigating the concrete jungle for the first time, prepare to have your preconceptions challenged and your vocabulary stretched to its limits.

Chalicea, the architect of this cryptic odyssey, is no stranger to crafting fiendishly clever puzzles. Their clues are renowned for their sly misdirections and unexpected twists, guaranteed to keep you scratching your head (and frantically googling obscure bus terminology) long after the last bus has pulled away. But fear not, fellow word warriors! For within the chaos of rush hour commutes and cancelled services lies the satisfaction of a perfectly parsed clue, the triumphant aha moment that makes the journey all the more worthwhile.

So, are you ready to board the cryptic bus and embark on a linguistic adventure with Chalicea as your conductor? Gather your dictionaries, sharpen your pencils (or dust off your stylus, you digital detectives), and prepare to decipher the riddles of the route. Just remember, at the “Bus Stop,” the destination is only half the fun. It’s the twists and turns along the way, the unexpected detours and pit stops, that truly make the journey unforgettable.

So, climb aboard, crossword fans, and let’s see where Chalicea’s cryptic bus takes us today!

[This succinct and charmingly understated introduction was kindly provided by Bard]

Preamble: Circling the grid in a clockwise direction from the cell at the bottom left, the speaker explains his situation and says how she must react at the BUS STOP. Solvers should respond as she does, colouring 34 cells appropriately. Single additional letters produced by the wordplay of 24 clues give one more line of the lyrics from one version of the song. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

My fellow blogger’s puzzles usually have pleasingly short preambles, and this one fits the mould perfectly (I’m just glad it wasn’t written by Bard). The wordplays of 24 clues will deliver an extra letter which is not part of the solution and should be noted alongside the clue; personally, I like to keep track of the normal clues as well in order to more clearly see the emerging message, here most of a line from a song. Convention for this particular cluing gimmick dictates that the setter cannot simply add the extra letter on its own just so that it can be removed, as in “Mean to declare new era” for AVERAGE [AVER + N + AGE, surplus N], so expect to see a few anagrams for n-letter entries that involve (n+1) letters, eg “Ordinary bats are vegan” for AVERAGE [(ARE VEGAN)*, surplus N].


8a    Subtly think twice avoiding the crooked curling stroke (6)
One anagram is subtracted from another, the equation in terms of letters being 10 – 3 = 6. The answer is described by Chambers as a ‘stroke’, but I think that ‘shot’ is the correct term; this one is sometimes also known rather more prosaically as a ‘redirect’.

10a    Cruel and ugly, therefore being rejected is habitual at first (7)
The indicator ‘rejected’ is used here in its ‘rare’ sense of ‘thrown or cast back’, and must be applied to a four-letter word corresponding to ‘therefore’.

18a    Patois of Algonquian language adopting old dialect essentially (6)
The language belongs to, and shares its name with, a well-known Native American tribe, while (depending on your musical era) the answer may put you in mind of a king, a kid, or neither.

27a    In Perth shelter offer involving cloth measure (5)
The offer is 3 letters, the cloth measure is 3 letters, and the Perth is in Scotland rather than Australia.

36a    Making a comeback assumed an attitude with a fabulist (5)
Everything in the wordplay that follows ‘making a comeback’ is manipulated by it. Note the use of the past tense ‘assumed’.


5d    Throw out excluding last of trash and ordinary, in the end decrepit, local boat (4)
In this slightly convoluted clue, an eight-letter string in plain view must suffer the loss of three single letters before finally giving up its stowaway.

19d    Illicitly copy jest (3)
In a sense this is a double definition clue, but one of the definitions leads to a four-letter word that could describe the sort of illicit copying whose victims could be smart school pupils or fine authors.

23d  Following prince, a boy attendant is well-informed in the Elysee (7, three words)
The name of the prince is particularly associated with his portrayal by Shakespeare, and ultimately contributes just two letters to the (1,2,4) answer.

28d    Term expressing quality easily for Ed in English mine (7)
The old (Edmund Spenser being known to his chums, including Wally Raleigh and Phil Sidney, as ‘Ed’) word for ‘easy’ or ‘easily’ has various spellings, and you may find yourself working back from the answer and the ‘English mine’ to work out what remains and therefore what letter has been omitted.

34d    By-work built-in from time to time, yes, once for a Shetlander (5)
‘From time to time’ is used here with the same cryptic sense often attached to ‘regularly’. The answer is an obsolete (hence the ‘once’) Scots emphatic expression of assent – ‘Yes, sir!’.

Definitions in clues are underlined

If you’ve worked out the phrase produced by the extra letters (the lyrics do vary from version to version, with one word in the particular taking at least four forms, hence the note in the preamble) then you’ll probably already know what you are looking for around the perimeter, but if not it shouldn’t prove too hard to pick out the two sections of lyrics – don’t forget that the first one starts in the bottom left corner. There is a healthy chunk of checked letters in the bottom right corner which could prove helpful to anyone still struggling to get started.

The three extracts should make it pretty clear what you are looking for in the core of the grid. When identifying the 34 cells that make up the tableau, I would advise marking them in pencil first, because although you’ll know when you’ve got the right ones, it’s easy (trust me on this) to go slightly off-piste during the process. I would suggest not overthinking the choice of colours – I am sure that a degree of latitude will be given when entries are checked.

A splendid puzzle with a very satisfying denouement to round off the year.

As 2023 draws to a close, let me take the opportunity to wish all readers a very happy, healthy 2024. Some of the puzzles that I’ve blogged this year were very good indeed; there was the odd one that didn’t do a lot for me, but the great thing about themed puzzles is that one solver’s treat is often another’s trick, and vice versa. The EV doesn’t have a ‘puzzle of the year’ poll, but I’d be interested to hear what items from the 2023 collection stood out for solvers.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾 (Relatively tricky by Chalicean standards, but still eminently suitable for all)

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8 comments on “EV 1623 (Hints)
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  1. I had trouble with the partial ambiguity in 5d so the hint was a help. Otherwise plain sailing. Googling the lyric segment revealed the rest of it but care is indeed needed to get the neat endgame spot on.
    Thanks to Phibs and Chalicea and A Happy New Year to everyone.

    1. You’re not wrong there, I made a mess of two copies of the grid before that penny dropped,
      Those earworms are persistent too!

  2. A neat puzzle with green entry points to the theme. Of course I couldn’t get The Hollies out of my head despite that being too obvious
    Thanks to Chalicea, Phibs, an to The Bard for lengthy musings.
    An a happy new year to all.

  3. A splendid puzzle, classic Chalicea; and yes I too sniffed at the Hollies red herring (bags I that for a puzzle one day) before picking up the lyric line from the extra letters which gave me much of the rest. If we show enough Chalicea puzzles to Bard/ChatGPT could they devise similarly top notch grids for us?

  4. I only dipped into the hints to confirm a couple of parsings and couldn’t understand the hyper-praise for what seemed a relatively straight forward fill – several obscure words but well indicated, albeit with much misdirection.

    But once I’d identified the final shadings… Wow, just wow! Brilliant!

    Happy New Year.

  5. What a corker to wrap up 2023, which I completed on Jan 1. Like Steve, I was smugly convinced the underlying theme would be Bus Stop by The Hollies (an apt band name for a Christmas puzzle); I even printed the lyrics, and searched fruitlessly for an umbrella. But Chalicea would never be that obvious. The light Dawned on me when I realised the final word of the 24 letter lyric wasn’t ‘cheerio’. A precise message cleverly concealed in the grid by the setter led to 34 cells emerging to be suitably shaded. Cheers and a H N Y to all setters and Big Dave followers.

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