EV 1547 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1547 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1547 (Hints)

Elementary II: Rising Costs by Hedge-sparrow

Hints and tips by Phibs

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Those who solved last week’s Elementary I may already be able to take an educated guess at the overarching theme of this month’s collection. Staying Alive was a gentle prelude, and I’m expecting Rising Costs to be accompanied by Rising Difficulty.

Preamble: Two thematic entries are unclued. From six clues, before solving, a word must be removed, suggesting a thematic circumstance. For all other clues, before solving, a letter must rise to the clue above, and a letter come in from the clue beneath (skipping the six clues referred to above), this effect wrapping around from the top of the across clues to the bottom of the down clues. For all clues, changes always result in real words.

In clue order, the rising letters spell out an instruction. To demonstrate RISING COSTS, solvers must follow the instruction and highlight two synonymous thematic states, (6) and (7), appearing as a result, which are an effect of one unclued entry and a cause of the other. All entries before and after changes are real terms. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; 38 and one other final entry are in Collins

Other than noting that it is the departing letter that I need to write against each solved clue, I’m not going to worry about the second paragraph until the grid is filled. It’s the last sentence of the first section – “For all clues, changes always result in real words”- that is of particular interest. This strongly suggests that:

(i) In the six clues where a word is to be removed, that word will currently be part of a longer word (the only reason I can see to emphasize the ‘all‘)

(ii) In the remaining clues, the word donating a letter upwards will not be the same word that receives one from below (the alternative would be near-impossible to achieve within this constraint)

At times we are going to come across a clue which is unable to donate the letter required by the clue above or refuses to accept the letter from the clue below. When that happens, the clue will be one of ‘the six’ – we will need to mark it as such, and look to the clue below/above it as the potential donor/recipient. To get a toehold in this type of puzzle, I tend to scan through the clues to find ones where the words to be modified stand out. So let’s get that grid filled and the message revealed…


13a      Lope away from vertical column’s finial to avoid stress (8)
There are two sore thumbs throbbing away here, and since the second of them can only make another word by the loss of a specific letter it becomes clear what needs to be gained by the other. Throughout the puzzle we should be looking for words rarely seen in clues, particularly those which can be turned into crossword regulars (‘last’, ‘west’, ‘holding’ etc) by adding or removing one letter. The wordplay here has a nine-letter verb meaning ‘to stress’ (as we do with the definitions in these hints) being ‘avoided’ by a single character.

14a      Remove fastening from sun lamp, wanting tan (bar legs) (5)
Sometimes in ‘remove a letter’ clues the setter has little option but to put into the wordplay a three-letter ‘impostor’ that becomes a two-letter word after modification (eg ‘tin/ti’, ‘men/en’); the resulting mini-word then either directly forms part of the answer or makes up an element of the fodder for an anagram. The answer here is made up from just such a word, followed by a further word in the clue from which a three-letter synonym for ‘tan’ has been removed, and finally a pair of letters supplied by the words in brackets (following a change to one).

25a      Ill-tempered lad leaving pair time to engage in fling (6)
This clue is made a little trickier by both impostors being in the same wordplay element, ‘lad leaving pair’, the net effect being that the four-letter word ends up as just two letters when it comes to assembling the answer. The good news is that there can’t be any misprints elsewhere in the clue!

26a      Independent ego with no core equal rights (7)
The two impostors aren’t hard to spot, but you might be tempted to remove a letter from the first rather than adding one, and you might easily overlook the interjection that results from the second change.

38a      Bedevilment muses sensed to rear of ship, and ahead (13)
One modification produces an imperative anagram indicator that takes a bit of finding; the ship gives us a familiar two-letter abbreviation, and ‘ahead’ is telling us that the final element of the wordplay goes right at the start of the answer.


2d        Classy cap doffed by dad? (5)
The three central words already indicate a familiar cryptic operation, leaving little doubt about the two impostors; it’s clear how the first of them must be modified, but the change to the other (which then indicates by example a six-letter word) is far from obvious.

4d        French city lies within Loire, overlooking river (5)
The first impostor in the wordplay delivers a two-letter abbreviation used when referencing a section of verse, while the second loses one letter by upward transfer and then another by cryptic manipulation.

7d        Attack weed, lopping with tool when finishing off planting snowdrops (6)
The last word here is a rare visitor to crosswords and thus demands attention; adding or subtracting a single letter isn’t going to work, so it looks as though we have to do something else with it. The weed is a weak, ineffectual person, and I would suggest mentally replacing ‘finishing off’ with ‘finish off’ in order to identify the letter which will change its position in the ‘tool’, such as might be packed by a mobster.

12d      International law-enforcement agency briefly ponders arresting unionist hack over uprising (7)
The ‘briefly’ indicates that a word already significantly shortened should lose its last letter, while two of the last four words in the clue must be abbreviated to single letters.

15d      Fakes (perhaps) casting stone, being fitfully emotional (5)
The first word in the clue must receive a letter, producing the surname of a famous (or infamous) person whose first name is required. Both impostors are in the first half of the clue.

22d      Uniat hated abandoning Saint Ignatius for mad Greek characters (6)
The ‘Ignatius’ immediately draws the eye; we notice that IGNATIUS contains an anagram of UNIAT that could depart from it, and the departure indicator is in plain sight but, as the clue is written, the anagram indicator is not. The usual abbreviation for ‘Saint’ has two letters, but there is a single-letter one as well. Further into the clue we find one of those ‘3-letters-become-2’ words, which the ‘abandoning…for’ tells us will replace the departing jumble.

28d      Iran’s shabby envoy having case (5)
Answers shown by Chambers as Scottish are often indicated by the use of a Scots name, eg “Sandy’s this” or “Jock’s that”. The definition here, with suitable modification, is of the same type. The other modification leads to an expulsion indicator of a colloquial nature.

29d      Bearing ascendant king astern, cross Nile (4)
One word in this clue can be enhanced to make a seven-letter word that has a single-letter abbreviation. The ‘cross’ is something of a crossword staple, being a type of hybrid domestic cattle, seen here in its two-letter form (where the Wizard came from backwards). The underlining should give a good indication of where the second impostor lies.

32d      Smother elderly Academician wearing Japanese bead (4)
Another clue where the impostors readily suggest themselves, and there is only one realistic possibility for the modification to the first of them. In the definition, ‘elderly’ indicates that the word is shown by Chambers as ‘archaic’.

With the grid filled, the message will be fully visible, or at least sufficiently so that we can make good any blanks. The instruction requires only some very basic decrypting before we can seek out a particular feature in the grid and treat every instance of it as directed. There should be no need for protracted grid-staring as the two words to be highlighted emerge very neatly.

On graduating from Sandhurst, David Niven famously put as his third and final choice of regiment “anything but the Highland Light Infantry”, with the obvious result. The moral of this, ‘be careful what you don’t wish for’, occurred to me when reflecting on last week’s comment about my preference for unadulterated clues – but, while I may not have been impressed by having to make 72 (!) clue modifications, the well-signposted changes to the grid and the emergence of 11 new words went a long way to making up for it. A lovely bit of grid construction, as we would expect from this setter. This puzzle certainly sat a rung or three up the difficulty ladder from last week’s – we will find out next time to what degree Elementary III will belie its name…

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5 comments on “EV 1547 (Hints)

  1. Well, it’s certainly tougher than last week’s. And there’s a lot to do. I found the clue modifications difficult to crack, requiring them to be most efficiently approached in strict order, but the 2 unclued thematics emerged early, which helped. With the grid full the next steps, as spelled out, seemed clear enough but the intermediate stages [preserving real words] were a bit fraught! The end result makes it all worthwhile.
    Thanks to Hedge-Sparrow and to Phibs for the [valuable] hints.

  2. I was stumbling around at the start because there were so many possible rising letters and words which they could be added. However, it slowly took shape and the instruction became obvious. Hats off to Hedge-sparrow for that final transformation. A puzzle from the more difficult side of the spectrum, so all the more enjoyable to have completed it.

  3. I found this quite a difficult puzzle but this didn’t detract from the enjoyment. Once I got into the rhythm of spotting the rising letters the grid started to take shape and the emergence of the 2 unclued entries was a big help. Keeping real words with so many changes was impressive indeed. Thanks to Hedge-sparrow for the challenge and to Phibs for the hints.

  4. Thank you. Thank you. I just could not get started; there seemed too many ways to look at every clue. The hints saved the day – getting me started so I could complete it on my own from there. So pleased not to have given up.

    1. That’s really gratifying to hear :good:

      I do think that with themed puzzles, particularly the trickier ones like this, the hardest part is often getting a toehold.

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