Enigmatic Variations 1546 (Hints)
Elementary I: Staying Alive by X-Type
Hints and tips by Phibs
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After almost two years and ninety-five puzzles the Numpties are taking a well-deserved break this month. I am delighted to have been offered the role of locum tenens, and I’m looking forward to being your guide as we navigate a path through the next five puzzles. The prefix to the title of today’s offering suggests that it could be the start of a linked series – time alone will tell (‘cos I won’t!).
Preamble: In the final grid, solvers must highlight a continuous sequence of eight symbols, all of which occur in the single unclued down entry. Five symbols consist of two letters, which must share the same cell. Of the three unclued across entries: two name examples of the third unclued entry, which we must reduce to continue STAYING ALIVE. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.
So we are dealing with normal clues (my favourite sort), and it looks as though we’ll have to squeeze a pair of letters into five cells that are in a line of eight. Since all the lengths in brackets tally with the number of available cells, there is no indication of which (or how many) entries will require special treatment. Therefore while we can confidently enter all answers that will fit in the space available, we will need to keep back for now any that exceed their stated lengths. Time to get solving…
13a Cash earlier given as broken foot is beginning to hurt… (7)
Here the ‘earlier’ in the definition reflects the fact that the answer is shown by Chambers as being an earlier form of a three-letter slang word (itself old), while the ‘given as’ is simply there to link the definition to the wordplay. Often when two clues are connected by closing/opening ellipses information from the first clue must be used in order to solve the second, but not here.
16a Woman’s name may be spoken in this group of languages (5)
Probably the trickiest clue in the puzzle, with ‘may be spoken’ indicating a near-homophone that sees Chuck Berry fans holding a distinct advantage. Don’t forget that in barred puzzles hyphenated answers are treated as single words, eg PUT-ON would be enumerated as (5) while PUT ON would be shown as (5, two words).
21a That woman with singular energy, acquiring spades and old harrows (5)
‘That woman’ (considered objectively) is followed by three single-letter abbreviations, the result being a word shown by Chambers as ‘obsolete’, hence the ‘old’.
25a Capital city: Cork? Nay, that’s wrong (6)
Although “Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended”, the standard convention is that there is no need for proper names to be flagged (in the past, exclusively those which would normally be written with an initial capital, though now ‘eBay’, ‘iPad’ etc also qualify). Reference will always be made in the preamble to any other answers which do not appear in Chambers. Incidentally, the capital city here is bigger than you might think in more ways than one.
26a Front bit of timber member cut off later (5)
It is a specific, and familiar, type of timber member which must have its front bit ‘cut off’.
1d Younger relative is cracking and relaxed once the Parisian’s gone (10)
The wordplay here involves joining an adjective that Wallace might use to describe a slice of Gromit’s finest toast with another (meaning ‘relaxed’) from which a Parisian version of ‘the’ has been extracted.
10d Such language, from youngster in back of Volvo! (6)
A charade of three elements, each shorter than the one before. Exclamation marks in clues frequently suggest that the setter has done something rather unexpected, but this is a perfectly conventional clue.
12d Once burnt in escalating natural disaster…but not in the morning (5)
The [potential cause of a] natural disaster must be subjected to two changes, firstly using the five words that follow it, then the word that precedes it. Note that here the word ‘in’ is part of the definition.
23d In Austria, hitched up in government office (6)
The wordplay provides us with three elements which are to be put together and then manipulated en masse.
31d One slain by Gideon in tattered robe (4)
Another proper name, but even if you are not acquainted with it (and I wasn’t) then the wordplay plus Google should add up to a satisfactory outcome.
The clues proved to be very friendly, and having found a couple of oversized answers the potential ambiguity in “a continuous sequence of eight symbols, all of which occur in the single unclued down entry” quickly resolved itself. The fact that every other letter in the words containing the symbols was checked left no room for doubt about the correct entries, though we must be careful to enter “symbols consisting of two letters”. Completing the unclued entries was pleasantly straightforward, as was identifying the eight cells to be highlighted.
We had a no-show from the brothers Gibb, but a strong indication that this might indeed be a gentle lead-in to a series of puzzles with a highly topical motif. If so, there is every likelihood that we will be faced with denser undergrowth before the month is out.
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