EV 1565 Hints – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1565 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1565 (Hints)

Solstice by Chalicea

Hints and tips by Phibs

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I learn from an interview with The Guardian that “Chalicea began as a simple merging of CHARLES (husband) and ALICE (mum). Doc, the editor of 1 Across magazine, accidentally added the A and it stuck.” My fellow blogger also on occasion goes under the names Curmudgeon and Gnomie (suggesting a tight fist and a pointy head?), and has a reputation for producing entertaining and scrupulously fair puzzles which tend to inhabit the lower end of the difficulty spectrum.

Preamble: The six unclued entries will suggest a song title (without the definite article, 20 cells) which cryptically hints at the SOLSTICE. That song title together with its singer (eight cells) must be highlighted in the completed grid. Chambers Dictionary 2016 is recommended.

A nice simple preamble, no clue gimmicks, six unclued entries (two pairs intersecting in the NW and SE), and all we have to do is crack on with the solving…


10a      Dried apricots from most excellent folk in California (5)
A relatively obscure solution, and a charade made up of a seldom-seen abbreviation and the plural of ‘a familiar form of address’ in the US.

13a      Preposterously transfer anything locally for double dealer (8)
A rare (but fair game in barred puzzles) meaning of ‘preposterous’ is ‘inverted in order’.

14a      Gratin, prepared with first drops of grease removed? (4)
This is an &lit clue, where the whole thing constitutes both the wordplay and an indication of the solution, although the first word on its own represents a concise definition.

16a      When thrusting, cry like Russian guy that’s not hard (4)
The apostrophe-s combination is a boon to setters, as in addition to denoting possession it can be shorthand both for ‘is’ and ‘has’; here it functions as the former in the surface reading and the latter in the cryptic interpretation, where “that’s not” equates to ‘that does not have’. A diminutive Russian and a familiar abbreviation are also involved.

25a      Printing type remained unchanged absorbing new (5)
The verb we are looking for means ‘to remain unchanged’ in the sense of ‘to rest without further elaboration’ and typically occurs as an infinitive in phrases such as ‘I let it ****’, although it is the past tense that is required here.

27a      Protester’s claim for chemical component of dyes (6)
The “Protester’s claim” is a (1,3,2) phrase.

35a      Care about crude rubber’s heavenly colour according to Ed (7)
The second element of the wordplay is a barred puzzle regular, a three-letter word for a Central American rubber tree (genus Castilloa) or the crude rubber extracted from it. I don’t know whether Edmund Spenser’s chums called him ‘Ed’, but many crossword setters certainly do.

38a      American inland sea receding, essentially declining by half (5, two words)
In this clue with a three-part wordplay I would advise ignoring ‘inland’ in the middle element if you are among those who consider the Caspian to be the largest inland sea.


1d      Offence being mostly about parent‘s excessive molly-coddling (12)
The ‘offence’ here is the sort frequently seen in puzzles and often indicated by ‘error’, while the ‘being’ is another of the usual suspects, a four-letter term describing the essential nature of something, rarely encountered outside the spheres of philosophy, theology or cruciverbalism.

5d      Action of enzymes unknown by Yankee sibling consuming type of wild onion (9)
The first three wordplay elements will surely be familiar to solvers, but not, perhaps, the name of the wild onion, a four-letter term that has been applied to various plants believed to be the fabulous herb endowed with magic properties that was, according to Homer, given by Hermes to Odysseus as a charm against the sorceries of Circe.

12d      Last order possibly for those playing ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ (11, two words)
This clue could be viewed as what Ximenes termed an ‘offshoot &lit’, where part of the clue constitutes the wordplay and the whole thing acts as the definition. In any event, the last seven words of the clue lead to a (1,4,2,4) phrase, the reference being to a 1912 event and a story associated with it.

15d      Whisky’s staple removing us from Hell on reflection (4)
The six-letter name for Hell used here comes from Greek mythology.

The pattern of the unclued entries will start to emerge, and the song title should readily suggest itself – a quick mental calculation might give you 21 letters, but a check on the spelling confirms that 20 is correct. The fact that one solution is also a word of the title is a big help when seeking out the title in the grid, while the letter which occurs twice in the singer’s name probably offers the quickest route to the second group to be highlighted. Anyone pinning their hopes on the Chalicea Line, aka the main diagonal, will discover only someone called Ned. The significance of the title should be apparent, and might bring to mind a line from the theme song of Only Fools and Horses.

An enjoyable puzzle which is unlikely to have frightened any horses that chose to tackle it. Fitting so much thematic material into a standard 12×12 grid was a fine achievement, and made it almost inevitable that a significant proportion of relatively obscure words would be involved. For that reason, although Chambers is not a necessity it certainly makes the solving a good deal easier.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾/🥾🥾 (Clues generally straightforward, likewise the endgame. An excellent introduction to themed puzzles)

PS Please excuse me for concluding with a plug for this site’s current Quarterly Prize Puzzle, itself entitled Enigmatic Variations and set by…well, me 😉.

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9 comments on “EV 1565 Hints
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  1. Just the job for a sunny Sunday with lots to do on the allotment so many thanks to Chalicea. Thanks also to Phibs for explaining the full significance of 12d.

  2. Yes, Steve, you are certainly right – I had real trouble finding a satisfactory title and Solstice was an early bungle that never really got corrected by testers or editor or me along the way.

    1. I thought it was fine – whether Solstice or Equinox were chosen, the cryptic interpretation would I believe involve the same intermediate word.

  3. It didn’t hinder me at all having solved the puzzle before I realised. However it is themes like this that reveal my age; which is no bad thing rather.
    Thanks to Chalecea for a fair and entertaining puzzle znd Phibs for some useful direction pointers

  4. Thanks to Chalicea for a beautifully constructed puzzle. The singer jumped out at me while filling the grid (probably an age thing) and the rest fell neatly into place.

    To the Numpties and Phibs I would like to reiterate my thanks for the time and effort that you put in to providing the weekly blog. I only started solving EVs when the blog started and have had hours of enjoyment since. I always attempt the puzzle without help initially and come here if I get stuck. Sometimes I need help with a few clues, sometimes just one clue unlocks the grid and sometimes it’s unpicking the preamble that turns the lightbulb on. So Chalicea there is no need for any sock pulling and Phibs your hints are most definitely not rubbish! Yes, you have different styles in your approaches just as you do as setters but there is nothing wrong with that.

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