EV 1541 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1541 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1541 (Hints)

Difference by Ifor

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Ifor’s crosswords appear in the Magpie, IQ, and Listener series and we can be sure of carefully-crafted clues that will give us a challenge. We have learned in the past how important it is to carefully read his preambles.

Preamble: In one down clue in each column the wordplay produces a real-word answer that differs from the defined entry by one letter, the clash always appearing in an unchecked cell. Each letter-pair must first be used to generate a number by DIFFERENCE. This number must then be converted into a letter using A = 1, 27…; B = 2, 28 …etc. and that letter written underneath the column. The completed grid is pangrammatic bar one letter, whose Chambers Dictionary (2016) entry will assist with the first manipulation. One normally-clued entry is an abbreviation; 3d is a variant spelling in Collins..

We realize that 13 clues are going to give us an answer that can produce a different word when one letter, always in an unchecked cell, is changed (a word that will be derived from the wordplay of the clue). 25 of the letters of the alphabet are going to appear in this grid and we are going to learn something about how the DIFFERENCE is generated by consulting Chambers Dictionary, when we have worked out what that missing letter is.


1a         Lucky stake not won in two-up (6)
Ifor starts with a tough clue. We didn’t know this slang word for ‘lucky’ or the alternative name for ‘two-up’ that was going to lose a letter (not won!) and incorporate a word for a stake.

11a         Everything fine in short wood with nothing in the middle (3)
We needed to move ‘nothing’ to the middle of the ‘wood’.

14a        Unplanned performance better to finish early (6)
The term for ‘better’ needs to ‘finish early’ in order to get this short word for a performance that is not rehearsed..

28a        Once recently advanced, and elsewhere retreated (5)
‘Once’ suggests that the answer here is no longer a current word. We know that following ‘advanced’ we need a four-letter word and that it has ‘retreated’.

37a         Headgear leaves stuffing badly shaped (9)
This headgear was not a hat and ‘leaves’ was used deceptively (stuffing ‘badly shaped’ with ‘badly’ giving us a hint).

40a         See without network’s backing (6)
Again Ifor is tricking us by suggesting a verbal usage when his solution is a noun. We needed a brief expression for ‘without’ before the reversal of the ‘network’.


3d            A sorry track restricting one lacking in willpower (7)
Three elements of the wordplay produce the required adjective.

6d            Joint initially offering spirits in large bowls (6)
Again there are three wordplay elements that we put together to get the large bowls.

8d            Any formerly rejected book rattles cages (3)
‘Formerly’ suggests an old word to us. The words ‘rejected’ and ‘cages’ both give us hints about what we are looking for. We do remind ourselves that the defined word and the word produced by the wordplay might differ by a single letter that will appear in an unchecked cell.

11d           No organised design in awfully grainy quantised particle (9)
We realize that we have to manipulate the words ‘design’ and ‘grainy quantised’ to produce the word Ifor is giving us here.

16d           Trainspotter sounding more stupid (6)
You might not be familiar with this name for a ‘trainspotter’ but most of it will have appeared in the grid and we are being prompted to find a homophone for ‘more stupid’.

21d           Size up verse, one from here and there on the page, perhaps (8)
We find an amusing example, here, of the solution.

34d           The countryside’s on work, for the most part turning up (3)
We are told here that this short word is dialect usage.

I wonder how many solvers, like the Numpties, will initially produce a non-word underneath the column. We needed to fully absorb what the preamble was instructing us to do in order to produce a real word (there was no way Ifor would leave us with gobbledygook in his endgame).

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3 comments on “EV 1541 (Hints)

  1. For a long time I had a full grid but no idea about the end-game. After a lot of obvious but fruitless conversion of letter positions, then bringing in a “third variable” I looked more carefully at the nature of the letters, at which point a large penny dropped and the relevance of a different definition of the missing letter became obvious.
    Thanks to Ifor and the Numpties – hints were a big help this time.

  2. A really entertaining puzzle, a joy from start to finish. The clashing letters gave me a hunch as to the theme early on which fortunately turned out to be correct and when I eventually completed the grid I was able to finish the endgame without too much trouble. My favourite clue was 37a, it took a long time for the penny to drop!
    Thanks to Ifor for another brilliantly constructed puzzle and to The Numpties.
    Thanks also to EV Editor Steve for agreeing to keep the EV in the print edition.

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