Enigmatic Variations 1559 (Hints)
Save by Vismut
Hints and tips by Phibs
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In several European languages, ‘vismut’ translates to ‘bismuth’. My university thesis (in the dim and distant past) concerned the photoelectron spectroscopy of oxidation catalysis by bismuth molybdate. I can’t see that being relevant here.
Preamble: In each of six clues the position of an extra word, to be removed before solving, indexes the letter to be selected in that word to give a description applicable to all of them. Six other clues lead to answers which must be thematically modified before entry. The wordplay in fifteen further clues generates the answer minus one letter which, when read in clue order, gives an instruction to be applied thematically. A member of the class (seven cells in a straight line) not matching the description should be highlighted in the grid. All words before and after any changes, SAVE one proper noun, can be found in Chambers Dictionary (2016) which is recommended.
A gimmickfest! We’re going to come across six clues that contain a superfluous word, each of which will provide us with a letter leading to a ‘description’ – if the extra word were, say, ‘bonus’ and it was the third word of the clue, it would be its third letter that we must extract, ie N. We’ve got fifteen other clues where the wordplay fails to deliver one letter of the answer, and we need to keep track separately of these ‘missing’ letters. On top of that we’ve got six answers that need to be modified before entry in the grid – since we don’t know which these are, the only thing to do is to enter every answer that we get (in pencil!) and be ready to encounter some clashes. Importantly, however, we do know: (i) that the modified entries do not relate to the 21 gimmick-affected clues, so the answers to these 21 clues can be entered confidently, with any clashes indicating that it is the crossing entry which must be changed; and (ii) that the modified entries as well as the answers to the clues are all real words.
11a Dahlias arranged without armful Hal sent for high table stand (4)
In a subtractive anagram, unless the word to be subtracted is a substring of the word(s) from which it is to be removed (eg ‘Genuine leather eclipsing the counterfeit’ for REAL, [LEA(the)R]*), there will be two anagram indicators. Here the second one is far from obvious, but ‘send’ can have a meaning of ‘to rouse to ecstasy’.
13a Stop ham overacting with stupid grin removed (6)
A very similar clue to 11a, here the unusual anagram indicator means ‘clumsy’ or ‘coarse’. Chambers lists around 40 different types of organ stop, and the answer is one of them.
25a Bloodsucker defaced shirt (5)
A somewhat whimsical interpretation of the word ‘defaced’ is required here, analogous to the use of ‘detailed’ to indicate the removal of the last letter in a word.
26a Sawn fir, apple and elder recycled, rubbish all free to go (6)
A third clue of the same type as 11a, the equation for the two components and the answer this time being 13-7=6.
30a Bar Scottish, following many leaving country (5)
There’s an imposter here, the crafty placement of which makes an otherwise straightforward wordplay tricky – like me, you might initially think that the letters GER will form part of the answer, but they don’t. The ‘Scottish’ is there to indicate that Chambers gives the answer as ‘chiefly Scot‘.
33a Outcast‘s shock before a meal sent back (6)
There are two similar two-letter abbreviations used on medical prescriptions – ‘ac’ (ante cibum, before food) and the one here for ‘before a meal’. It is joined by the sort of ‘shock’ which might put you in mind of Struwwelpeter or Dennis the Menace.
37a Odd points of darts thrown previously? (4)
This clue is of the type that Ximenes termed an ‘offshoot &lit’, where the whole clue acts as a definition of the answer, but only part of the clue constitutes the wordplay (Ximenes’ example being ‘What a bishop may have had before getting a crook‘ for PREBEND, [PRE BEND, just the last four words making up the wordplay]). Here the wordplay, which delivers the answer minus one letter, is ‘Odd points of darts thrown’, where ‘points’ should be interpreted as ‘features’.
3d Old knights lacking force in blows (7)
Mentally swapping the third and fourth words of the clue should make this one easier to solve; the last word of the clue indicates not a noun but a verb, usually followed by ‘away’.
7d Never cut like equally powerful suits (7)
Replacing ‘like’ by ‘with’ may help when it comes to the definition. Remember that in barred puzzles hyphenated answers are enumerated as single words.
8d Riotous party drink after Ecstasy dropped in supplement (7)
This is an awkward clue to parse, made trickier by the ‘one letter short’ gimmick. The key is the three-letter verb indicated by ‘[to] supplement’ (a meaning that it has when followed by ‘out’), wherein a letter denoted by ‘Ecstasy’ must be ‘dropped’, ie moved downwards.
21d Breathe eastern wind (7)
A short clue to which, like me, you may get the answer before fully parsing the wordplay. The five-letter word involved is more familiar in a six-letter form with ‘-al’ on the end rather than’-e’.
22d Old painter of birds on a daisy-tree (7)
The ‘painter of birds’ will probably be better known to most solvers as a ‘writer of nonsense verse’. The ‘Old’, while it could be applied to him, is actually a separate element .
24d Suppliers fine when section goes south (7)
Similar to the ‘dropped’ in 8d, here we have another single-letter abbreviation moving downwards within a word indicated in the wordplay.
26d Dealer withdrawn over Aussie scheme (6)
The ‘over’ here is a familiar piece of commercial jargon, often denoted by ‘about’, while ‘withdrawn’ has the sense of ’caused to retire’.
30d Blow borrowed Irish halfpenny (3)
The ‘borrowed’ in this double definition clue might look like one of the superfluous words that needs to be removed, but checking the meanings ascribed by Chambers both to it and to the answer should explain why it isn’t.
It should start to become evident what sort of thing is being produced by modifying each of the six answers, thus revealing the broad theme; the description derived from the six extra words will help to qualify this. The fifteen-letter instruction should also be clear, and if you choose to follow it at this point you should bear in mind that it is to be thematically applied. An alternative approach is to identify possible ‘members of the class not matching the description’ with seven-letter names (I could only think of two) and say to yourself ‘If this were a Chalicea puzzle, where would I be looking first?’. You should be able to find enough matching letters to spot where this ‘class member’ must be, and then you can follow the instruction in order to complete its name and make the final grid comply with the requirement that it comprises only real words. The significance of the title should become clear if you treat it similarly to the modified answers.
The various gimmicks may slow down the solve but it should be possible to maintain steady progress. When solvers find themselves in a position to carry out the instruction they will appreciate the extremely skilful grid construction.
Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾🥾 (Best suited to solvers with experience of themed puzzles. The endgame is not obvious)
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