EV 1627 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1627 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1627 (Hints)

The Missing Link by Gaston

Hints and tips by Phibs

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I cannot see the phrase ‘missing link’ without thinking of an episode in Jennings’ Diary, one of the series of wonderful school stories by Anthony Buckeridge. For Jennings, it represents the prized cuff link lost by Mr Wilkins which prompts him to note ‘Mr Wilkins – missing link’ in his diary. For the somewhat irascible Mr Wilkins, who chances to read this entry, it unfortunately conjures up ‘a picture of a sub-human anthropoid monster, swinging among the tree-tops in some dark prehistoric era.’ I wonder whether this puzzle will involve any flapping cuffs or simian species from the Great Chain of Being.

Preamble: Answers to eight normal clues have the same consecutive letters (the LINK) removed before being entered as real words (one being a place name). The LINK is also MISSING from a statement of 10 words (11 if the LINK were added); this begins in the top row, follows into the bottom row and continues into the sequence of single-letter corrections to the definitions in 18 clues – none of which involve the eight above. When the grid is complete, solvers should highlight the eight entries from which the LINK is MISSING and deal with the central square appropriately. Letter and word counts refer to grid entries.

So eighteen clues require a single letter to be corrected in the definition part; we need to keep track of the replacement letters (and my advice would be to also mark the normal clues as you find them, which makes it easier to see where the other misprints might be). A further eight clues will deliver answers which are too long for the space available – until we know what needs to be removed, we will have to note down the answers and hope that a pattern emerges. Remember that with these clues the word count relates to the grid entry rather than the answer. There are plenty of checked letters in the top and bottom rows, so there’s a reasonable chance that we will be able to deduce at least some of the words in them as the grid fill proceeds.


11a    Animal fond of Gaston’s good English breakfast? (8, two words)
With misprint clues, setters can sometimes deceptively incorporate a link word between definition and wordplay into what appears to be a familiar phrase – the ‘of’ here is a prime example of this; in the corrected version, it links the definition to a 3+1+4 charade.

12a    Discriminators Italian certainly spots going round square (7)
The key to this one is reading ‘Italian certainly’ as ‘the Italian word for “certainly”‘.

14a    Graduate with discourse for Scottish football (5)
There is no clear agreement in crossword circles as to whether apostrophes in answers should be mentioned in the enumerations, for example whether DON’T should be shown as (4, apostrophe) or just (4). That might initially appear to be relevant here, but then it turns out not to be.

25a    Tell odds given by one person hanging round racing-stables (5)
This is a charade consisting of elements indicated by ‘odds’, ‘one’, and ‘person hanging round racing stables’. A lot to fit into five letters, perhaps?

32a    Anthony’s carer is Simon’s acquaintance, having abandoned Spain for Gabon (4)
A quick look at the entry in Chambers for ‘Anthony’ might be helpful for this ‘replace one letter in a word with another’ clue.

33a    House doctor on important day in May (4)
The ‘doctor’ could well be in the armed services, while strictly speaking the ‘important day in May’ is ‘the initials applied to an important day in May’.

37a    Ed’s team about to be sick inside (5)
In misprint clues we’re always on the lookout for words which could produce others through a change to a single letter, and there’s one here that offers a great many options; you’ll almost certainly need to find the answer and work back from it to the definition (where ‘Ed’ is of course our old friend Mr Spenser). In the wordplay, a comma should be imagined between ‘about’ and ‘to’.

38a    A lot of work when weight limits runner failing to start (6)
The ‘weight’ leads to a two-letter abbreviation, while the runner could be Sir Roger Bannister.

39a    Less confident part of personality kept hidden by record-keeper (7)
The record keeper in question had a vital role when the aforementioned Roger Bannister raced at Iffley Road on 6 May 1954.


1d    Bond acknowledging his boss and former rabble-rouser (13)
You’ll be doing well if you get this one from the wordplay. The first part of the hyphenated answer is a (1,2,5) phrase which might have come from the mouth of [James] Bond when acknowledging the status of his boss; regarding the second part, ‘former’ is a noun rather than an adjective.

14d    Tony tore everything away from Sally (5)
Since ‘Tony’ doesn’t have any sort of ‘by example’ qualifier (eg ‘perhaps’, ‘maybe’), you can be pretty sure that it’s misprinted. The tricky wordplay element is that ‘tore’, which relates specifically to the sort of tearing that is done with the teeth.

24d    Maybe shave Eastern governor of Judaea formerly (5)
The ‘maybe’ is necessary here because there’s more than one way to make hair today gone tomorrow.

34d    Sound and patient batting is abandoned (5)
A slightly unusual clue, where the prefix indicating a negative is removed from a word in order to produce its positive form. It helps if you insert the word ‘when’ between ‘patient’ and ‘batting’.

36d    Opponent discards last suit in Lerwick (4)
Another one where you’ll probably need to get the answer from the wordplay/checkers and then work out the misprint.

40d    Shlep from right to left and back again (3)
…on a map.

Definitions in clues are underlined

Having identified both the ‘link’ that is omitted from the eight entries and the last part of the statement, filling in any blanks in the top and bottom rows shouldn’t prove too difficult. Before trying to deal with the central square, it is essential to highlight those eight entries; all will then become gratifyingly clear.

Some pretty tough clues, particularly given the clueing and entry gimmicks which were in play, and some nicely camouflaged misprints. Once the endgame has been completed the very fine grid construction can be fully appreciated.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾🥾/🥾🥾🥾🥾 (Not recommended for beginners. The grid fill is harder than the endgame)

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10 comments on “EV 1627 (Hints)
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  1. I don’t solve barred crosswords so can’t comment on the puzzle, but wanted to say thank you for reminding me of another great Jennings story

    1. I’m delighted to hear that you enjoy the stories, being a (very) big fan myself. A couple of weeks ago water started pouring through our kitchen ceiling, and as I jabbed at it with a screwdriver hoping to relieve the pressure I couldn’t help remembering what happened when Mr Wilkins used a confiscated penknife on the music room ceiling (deluged with water syphoned out of the bath overhead by Jennings’ improvised snorkel) to similar purpose…

      1. 😊

        My favourite is still the one where he goes to the station to collect the machine his aunt with the terrible handwriting has sent him as a present

        1. Ah, yes 😊 – the result of what Jennings described as ‘a veiled hint here and there’ in his letter to her, which included ‘On Saturday week we are all going on a picnic, but I am not as I have not got a bicycle. There is a boy named Atkinson who got a bicycle for a Christmas present, so he can go but not me, as you have to have a bicycle. It is a long time since Christmas. I hope you enjoyed the card with the robin that I sent you. Almost everyone has a bicycle except me…’

      2. Mr Wilson (I think it was): “What do bats do in the winter?”

        Jennings (confidently): “They split if you don’t oil them, sir”

        An excellent and unambiguous construction; thanks, Gaston.

        1. I’m not prepared to admit how many decades it has been since I last read a Jennings book, but I will say that the joy of reliving extracts from them never diminishes

  2. Spent my early years with Jennings and Darbi, William [Richmal Crompton] and Kemlo [E.C. Elliott].
    Late to the party this week [house guests] and have just completed the endgame – very satisfying. The clues were relatively challenging but the whole thing was good fun.
    Thanks to Gaston and Phibs.

  3. Needed many of the gentle pointers from the hints and comments to get me over the finishing line. Thank you. Well worth the effort. Will double check and send tomorrow. Enjoyed the literary reminiscences too – I also remember Molesworth in How to be Topp and his dyer speling.

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