EV 1638 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1638 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1638 (Hints)

Chilly by The Ace of Hearts

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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The Ace of Hearts has been producing crosswords for the Magpie, Listener, Enigmatic Variations, and Inquisitor series since 2015. This, Dave Hennings’ Crossword Database tells us, will be his 12th EV.

Preamble:  From the answer to each clue a letter must be deleted wherever it appears before entry into the grid; definitions refer to the full unmutilated answer, wordplay to the grid entry and word length/count to the answer. In clue order, the omitted letters give a definition (eight words) of a CHILLY word in Chambers Dictionary (six letters), which must be highlighted in the completed grid. The three unclued entries are examples of this word. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

We saw at once that we were faced with a challenge as we were not entering complete words, but words with a letter extracted at least once. That, of course, renders the solve difficult as the solver doesn’t have real words appearing in the grid to further his progress. We saw where the three unclued entries would go and assumed that they would be full words – maybe a help towards the theme that was going to be indicated to us by the omitted letters read in clue order. We realised that the ‘definition’ of the keyword would somehow be hidden in the grid as it would not be losing any letter(s) and would not have a light of its own.


10           Texan concerned with middle case of champagne left in car originlly (6)
Hint users have the advantage that the underlining of the definition on Big Dave’s site indicates which part is the definition, and are left with the task of removing a letter (or letters) either from it, or from the wordplay. Here we decided that we were being prompted that we had an American spelling (which often already has fewer letters than the UK equivalent). We used the ‘case’ of champagne, ‘left’, and ‘in car’ originally to produce our grid entry.

13        Henry to tear old dress (6)
Some setters are known for their gentle puzzles (often those who choose to use the first Chambers definition). Others (who opt for the 3rd, 4th or 5th definition or even the 19th) clearly aim at giving their solvers a tougher task. The Ace of Hearts puts himself into the second category here. Henry is the usual crossword Henry, but his ‘tear’ appears as an obsolete Chambers word (thus the ‘old’) and the answer – that ‘dress’ comes way down the list of Chambers meanings.

16        Unusual irritability, right is occupying His Majesty (8)
Should you know this term (the Numpties didn’t) you need to remember that in a ‘letters latent’ clue, a letter ‘must be deleted wherever it appears before entry into the grid’ – so once, twice or even three times. That will guide you to the six letters needed here (two for one wordplay element, then two combined with another wordplay element for the other four).

20       Condense indium investigator corroded (10)
The comment above applies again. The Numpties have come across this pretty obscure word in crosswords before, but could see (from the wordcount) that a letter was coming out three times – we added together three wordplay elements; indium, investigator, and corroded.

22        Arrive suddenly to iron out aged state performer (8)
Yet another fairly obscure old word! There are two wordplay elements put together in what must be entered in the grid; ‘arrive suddenly’ and ‘iron out’ (we were not sure what ‘to’ was doing there – maybe just for the surface sense?)

24        Area primarily cultivated Rock of Gibraltar’s native non-flowering plant (7)
Don’t spend too much time hunting through texts about Gibraltar’s botanical abnormalities. Just consider that word ‘primarily’.

31        Neglected joints and short legs embarrass soldiers at the front (6)
There’s an amusing surface sense here in the clue but the wordplay works differently. Yet again the ‘neglected’ suggests to us that we have an old spelling of those joints, then we have a ‘short’ word, and others ‘at the front’.

32        Rail for example blocking Nevada hydrant (7)
This ‘rail’ isn’t one that would come out of Nevada’s renowned metal mines (we had a spectacular visit to a ‘silver’ town there on the day that they elected Trump way back in 2016). The wordplay has three elements; ‘Nevada’, ‘for example’ and the ‘hydrant’.


2          Terry picked up unopened rice drink, Japanese consumable (8)
‘Picked up’ suggests a homophone and we are familiar with that ‘rice drink’. Sadly it has to be unopened.

12         Nonsense gathering in hall meeting (8, three words)
‘Gathering in’ suggests that we have an answer contained here and we needed to do some back-solving when we had the spelled-out eight word definition of the theme to get those three words for the nonsense.

15         Scoring more than United, German guzzles can containing beer (11)
Creating this wordplay must have challenged The Ace of Hearts. Once you have the letters to remove (possibly by this time from the eight-word definition) you can put together ‘United’ and the ‘can’ containing the beer (just a smallish drink) with the German.

17        Current head of France turned up after apparently lacking desire (10)
Deceptive wordplay again. One could hardly accuse our current president (Macron) of lacking desire! (Well, he did marry his primary school teacher didn’t he? Good for him!) Think of how we say ‘head’ here (where we live – in France) and put that together with the ‘current’ (in brief) and the ‘apparently’.

18       District Attorney welcomes injury laws (7)
This is an unusual word for laws but the answer to enter simply requires you to put together the District Attorney and a word for injury.

25       Spasm initially could lead subject to urinate in the van (6)
Another fairly obscure word but you can ignore The Ace of Hearts’ rather grimy surface reading and consider what leads, and put that ‘subject to’ urinating ‘in the van’.

27        Once a year goes around Latin places of worship (5)
Another amusing clue which, when you consider what ‘goes round once a year’ and put it around the Latin, gives you a fairly rare name for those places of worship.

28       Take seconds to assess seventeen ugly assorted plants of western America (5)
You will need those seconds and the plants probably aren’t all that ugly!

29       Square nuts cut in half (5)
We needed to add a ‘second half’ to work out how we got the ‘nuts’ from our entered solution. Chambers gave us only four offerings.

The device of letters latent is indeed a challenging one as real words don’t appear to help with the solve. The Numpties were not really helped by the three, relatively unusual real unclued words that appeared and we had to use the entire message given by those omitted letters. Chambers, happily, explains what those unclued answers are and spells out the keyword. Don’t forget to highlight it.

Do please send in your entry and add your comments here and to the setters’ blogs that are appearing on Big Dave’s site on Thursdays and to the detailed blogs that also appear on Thursdays on  fifteensquared.

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3 comments on “EV 1638 (Hints)
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  1. This device is indeed one of the most taxing for solvers and it is made many times worse if clues are as obscure as many are here. I was fortunate to spot the theme, from the first of the 3 unclued entries plus the first few letters latent, with less than half the grid filled and so was able to identify the 8 word definition and “back-solve” from there on. But it was still more of a chore than a pleasure.
    Will anyone under 70 have a clue about the theme?
    Thanks to The Numpties and The Ace of Hearts.

    1. Next year I’ll be 80 and never heard of the theme… my fortune was spotting two likely words in the missing letters and a happy web-search. Very hard going and so many unknown words – but great fun!

      1. We enjoyed a week’s holiday in a cottage in Northumberland which meant that I had many hours to crack this fiendish EV from the genius that is Ace of Hearts. An excellent and challenging puzzle.

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