EV 1500 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

EV 1500 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1500 (Hints)

The Obvious One by proXimal

Hints and tips by The Numpties

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

Solvers have already met proXimal, the EV editor, a couple of times in these hints, and he sets some of the Toughies. You can be sure of a challenge but fair and carefully constructed clues too.

proXimal added this comment to the hints:

We are coming up to the anniversary of the introduction of the EV hints blogs on Big Dave’s site, so it would seem like a good idea to review their effectiveness. Undoubtedly, there was some initial success and some solvers have become hooked on the series, helped through these blogs. However, the blogs do seem to only attract a small number of comments, often from the same people not necessarily needing the hints. While all comments are appreciated, it would be good to hear from other solvers to find out whether the blogs are fulfilling the purpose of helping novice barred-grid solvers understand and enjoy these puzzles. The Numpties put in a considerable amount of time to provide these hints, so we would like to understand whether the effort is worthwhile. Finally, I hope you enjoy the puzzle!’

Preamble:  With one exception, each down clue has an extra letter provided through wordplay to form the entry; extra letters, in clue order, spell out the first part of the theme (THE OBVIOUS ONE). Solvers must replace the contents of two lines of eleven cells each to show the second part of the theme. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; all final entries are real words.

We have just travelled the world with The North American One, The Asian One etc. and now we have The Obvious One. We assume that we are coming home, and we examine what is in front of us very carefully. Seeing that this one is by the Enigmatic Variations Editor, our suspicions are aroused.  The instructions about all but one of the down clues prompt us that those solutions might not, initially, be real words, since we are told that we will replace two sets of eleven cells producing ‘all real words’. Clearly, it make sense to attempt the across clues first.


5a           Used to be no difficulty turning tool (8, two words)
‘Turning’ suggested to us that we were reversing the three clue elements to produce the two-word name for this tool.

11a         Unfinished oatmeal dish makes Scots shudder (4)
I’m currently reading Ian Mortimer’s Time Traveller’s Guide to Restoration Britain. He tells how oats were just about all Scots had to eat and no dish would be unfinished. However, here you simply have to remove the last bit of that ‘oatmeal dish’ that is perhaps familiar because of Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

22a        Trapping national in deception, established Mac’s most severe (8)
Another Scottish word: we needed an abbreviated word that we put into a term for deception, followed by another abbreviation.

32a         Anatolia’s prime locations for places of worship (4)
Clues using this device appear rather rarely in crosswords. Think of ‘prime numbers’.

34a         Mediterranean surrounds versatile bard Shakespeare’s produced in passion (7)
The bard had to be ‘versatile’ and surrounded by the Mediterranean to give us a most evocative Shakespearean term.

38a        Browning’s to drive off any sort ignoring initial shot (6)
This poetic word is more familiar to us when used by Macbeth’s witch describing what ‘the rump-fed ronyon’ cried. We are told which letter to remove to produce the six we need to use.


1d           Flimsy sides of special rowing boat (7)
This first down clue is a gift but it makes sense to include a hint for it, since it helped us understand what was going on in these clues. The definition gave us a real word but we were instructed to enter that with an extra letter. That letter, which was the beginning of the 19-letter spelled-out ‘first part of the theme’, had to be entered in the grid. Here, a real word resulted, but that was not the case in most of the down entries.

2d          Ed’s visor dead centre in basinet cupped in hands (7)
We used a word for ‘dead’ then the heart of the ‘basinet’ surrounded by (cupped in) what are usually ‘hands’ in crosswords.

7d          Birds from north losing wings so lie around (8)
We removed the wings from one word, then ‘so lie’ had to be ‘around’. Remember that the letter that is added to the ‘bird’ definition is part of the ‘spelled-out’ theme.

13d         Once split new tyre badly (5)
So many old past participles, like this one for ‘split’ begin with the same letter. ‘Badly’ suggests an anagram so we clearly needed an abbreviation for one of the two clue elements.

23d         Lumpsuckers, sprat and elvers occasionally sampled (7)
You probably don’t know the word for these ‘lumpsuckers’ but the clue tells us how to find it.

Should you be having trouble deciding which 22 letters to replace, look for places where ‘non-words’ appear in the down clues. Changing the words in question to ‘real words’ should give you all you need. You will almost certainly have spotted what is special about this crossword and realized why the editor has set it himself. James Leonard (setter Mr Lemon) who created this series almost 29 years ago, would certainly be. delighted that his very special creation has survived. 

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.

Could new readers please read the Welcome post and the FAQ before posting comments or asking questions about the site.

As this is a Prize crossword, please don’t put any ANSWERS, whether WHOLE, PARTIAL or INCORRECT, or any ALTERNATIVE CLUES in your comment.

Please read these instructions carefully – they are not subject to debate or discussion. Offending comments may be redacted or, in extreme cases, deleted. In all cases the administrator’s decision is final.

28 comments on “EV 1500 (Hints)

  1. I started tackling the Enigmatic Variations a couple of years ago. There were many weeks when I would stare blankly at the grid not knowing where to start. This blog has been a huge help and I read it every week. Thank you so much for your hard work putting it together.

  2. I’ve been doing EV’s for a long time and was glad when the threatened cessation a few months ago came to nought – the absence of an EV on a Sunday would have created an unwelcome hole in Sunday! Today’s puzzle was, as you’d expect from ProXimal, fair and on this occasion, not too tough with, as the title suggests an ‘Obvious’ payoff – but no less welcome for all that. I have, on occasion, looked at The Numpties blog and have found, if nothing else, the confirmation of the clues’ definitions useful. I’d consider myself an experieced solver of barred puzzles – I subscribe to Magpie and The Crossword Club – but I do look forward to the weekly challenge presented by EV. Long may it continue – thanks to all involved

  3. Over the years I often attempted these puzzles but always gave up, often after just reading the preamble! Then I found this blog and it has been immensely helpful. EV puzzles are now my favourite crosswords and I really enjoy the challenge each week of solving a new one. I am in awe of the setters and their fiendish minds. Thanks all!

  4. More than happy to add my support to this wonderful blog. I invariably run in to difficulties when attempting the EV and this site has always proved most helpful.

  5. I’ve been attempting EV ‘s now since around number 120, and (rightly), finding them more difficult over time. My interest had started flagging a little until Big Dave came on the scene, coupled with the acquisition of a copy of Bradford’s. EV is my one go-to every week and I frequently look here even though I rarely comment

  6. I’m one of those solvers who have become hooked on EVs since the introduction of the Numpties hints and tips. I’ve attempted every puzzle since then and successfully completed all bar two of them. I’ve improved a lot but I still find the blog useful in so many ways, for instance to confirm the definition (helpfully underlined), to understand the parsing of a ‘bung in’, to find a way in to a particularly tricky puzzle, or simply to get some tips on strategy.

    I don’t comment every week for a couple of reasons. I don’t always get time to look at the puzzle until later in the week (I haven’t done this week’s yet) and by then I generally find my views have already been voiced by other contributors. ‘I agree with all of the above’ doesn’t make for very interesting reading! The other main reason is that it’s a prize puzzle which makes it difficult to engage in the type of discussion around clues etc. which takes place on the daily cryptic blog without breaking the (quite rightly) strict rules of the blog.

    I always send the completed puzzle in, not because I want to win (who wants a fountain pen these days?) but because the Numpties always urge us to do so and I get the feeling that the Telegraph use the number of entries as some sort of measure of popularity of the puzzle and I would hate it to disappear which I believe almost happened a year or so ago. If you want to hook in more new solvers perhaps you could do a general article in the Telegraph on EVs (similar to those that have appeared in the past on solving cryptics) covering points such as how to spot the indicators for obscure Scottish or Shakespearean words, explaining some of the more common gimmicks and devices that are used and tips on how to unpick the preamble.

    Numpties, I do hope you will continue with the blog, it would leave a big gap and would most definitely impact on my success rate if you were to call it a day! I thank you wholeheartedly for the help and encouragement that you have given over the last year, I had never got past the preamble until you stepped in.

    1. Thank you Denise for that detailed response. I believe it was the diminishing number of entries that prompted the threat of killing off the EV a year or so ago and we do prompt solvers to enter, though we have to agree with you “Who wants a fountain pen these days?” (the same could be said of chocolate, note books and the like as IQ prizes or the Magpie pen – we should encourage solvers to attempt the IQs too – slightly more difficult, we think, than the EVs but using all the same gimmicks and devices). Clearly something like the latest copy of Mrs Bradford would be a great prize – but we’ve made our love of her works evident already – though there is the kudos of winning too.

      We appreciate the responses to proXimal’s query that are coming in and are delighted that so many have become hooked on the EVs and share our addictive pastime (the other Numpty calls it – especially our Listener solving – an OCD!)

  7. I have been tackling EVs since they began – all that time they have become something of a unmissable part of my week. Lucky to win a time or two! I reckon I have solved around eight or nine out of ten of them, but with the Numpties guidance that has most certainly increased, lol. I am extremely grateful to all the editors, compilers, fellow solvers and BigDave for ensuring that EV continues. Thanks!

    1. I don’t send them in any more having won three pens before EV 500 was published, and I thought it only fair to give others a chance!

  8. I’ve dragged a few friends from non-starters into trying the EV through these weekly hints where previously they usually just tried the ‘back page’ type cryptics from the various papers. They’re not quite at the stage of ‘potential entrants’, but have been enjoying their struggles and progress regardless.

    I think the hints are a very good incentive that isn’t present for the other, similar puzzles on offer elsewhere. You’re quite right that it’s hard to gauge usefulness without visible engagement and frankly, I can’t see my friends commenting as per wider internet discourse, it’s easier to consume than engage even if you are quite grateful.

    Unfortunate, but more pertinently it creates a big question mark when it comes to metrics for the hints.

  9. I’ve been attempting the EVs since January after previously thinking them impossible. This blog was certainly a help to convince me to get started. I’ve probably completed about half the puzzles this year, but generally take between one and seven days, so don’t feel like I’ve anything to add to the comments. I will always take a look at this blog at some stage. I like it because you can read all the hints and always still feel like you’ve achieved something when you complete the puzzle. I also like having a puzzle that I can’t finish without putting in some time and effort.

  10. I enjoy the EV, IQ and Listener every week. When stuck on the EV I usually find this site helpful. Please keep up the good work!

  11. I didn’t get the paper version of the Telegraph with this EV in it and it isn’t on my online version.
    Other than subscribing to Telegraph Puzzles, is there anywhere I can download it ?
    Thanks for any help .
    Ora Meringue

  12. Thanks very much for the comments regarding the use of the hints blog. We’re happy to see that it is proving useful.

    1. It seems apparent too that many people would be lost without their weekly ‘EV fix’! Please don’t stop the series….

  13. I would like to add my thanks to the Numpties for their hints. I was totally mystified by EVs until their blog came along but since then have been hooked. If I finish I always send it in and…. drum roll please….I even won once . Could not believe it. (And I like a fountain pen.)
    Anyway, as with most others I really look forward to them now after decades of ignoring them as being well above my pay grade.

    Thanks to everyone concerned with them.

  14. It’s been nice reading these comments. I hope that I’ve made it clear in previous weeks that I really appreciate and respect all the sweat that the Numpties pour into this blog. Thanks to the Numpties, I’ve also added Magpie and the Listener to my puzzle rotation (although, I don’t get to those every week like I do the EV). This is such a valuable resource!

    And happy 1500, EV! proXimal’s puzzle was a great way to celebrate.

  15. Late to the party because of family commitments but I enjoyed this approachable and timely EV. Entering the surplus letters felt strange at first but, unusually for me, ensured I spelled out the obvious bit correctly. Thanks to proXimal and The Numpties.
    Apropos the Editor’s comments – I have tackled every EV since the Numpties added their invaluable hints to BD’s terrific blog. Before that I had glanced at the puzzle each Sunday but usually felt I just didn’t have the time to unravel the preamble and figure out what one was expected to do. I tried a small handful and completed a smaller handful. The blog gives me an assurance that I probably can invest a bit of time to crack the puzzles and will be able to get a bit of a kick-start if needed. Altho’ now something of an addict it’s likely that, without the Numpties hints, I wouldn’t attempt the particularly intimidating-looking ones for fear I wouldn’t have the time to get them done. The response to this weeks blog is encouraging and I suspect there are plenty more solvers we will never know about.

Comments are closed.