Enigmatic Variations 1574 (Hints)
Obscurity by Chalicea
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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Solvers can be sure that they will have no difficulty with an EV by Chalicea who invariably sets crosswords packed with thematic material but with relatively gentle clues that adhere fairly strictly to Chambers Dictionary definitions. This will be her 42nd in the Enigmatic Variations series.
Preamble: Four members of a group and the name of the man who devised the group must be highlighted (all in straight lines). The wordplay in 23 clues produces an extra letter in addition to those required by the answer. In clue order, these lead to a two-word thematic hint to guide solvers out of OBSCURITY. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; 20 is in Collins.
Those words ‘in 23 clues’ initially seem somewhat devious as it is obviously more generous to solvers to put an extra letter into the wordplay of every clue, but where those extra letters appeared turned out to be helpful. Solvers will also be wondering about that almost circular shape of circled letters that is not mentioned in the preamble.
1a Dinosaur gossip after historic rhino uncovered in muddle (13)
This is probably not a word you use regularly in dinner-table conversation. You need to uncover that rhino and ‘muddle’ him with the ‘historic’ gossip (mostly) – just a short word for the gossip – to find the dinosaur.
14a “Flog it” included in stratagem for Jehovah’s Witness (10)
A four-letter word for a trick or stratagem surrounds a two-word expression that tells you to ‘flog it’, giving this alternative name for a Jehovah’s Witness that Chambers considers to be ‘offensive’ (though why, I can’t imagine – apparently it is related to the pastor who founded the organisation).
18a Damaged hagbuts losing hard, highly ornamental weapon protector (5)
The clue instructs you how to produce this word. Of course, there might be an extra wordplay letter provided by the ‘damaged hagbuts’.
20a Strange opening of underground cooking pit (3)
Chalicea has a reputation for including references to alcohol in blogs (it is astonishing how much alcohol appears in crossword setters’ clues!) This ‘strange’ fulfils that tradition here and the opening of that ‘underground’ completes the ‘pit’. (Of course, the next clue in this crossword continues that tradition with a four-letter ‘drunkard’.)
35a Fat substitute falters badly with nothing up front (7)
Not more than six anagrams to a crossword – that’s one of the rules – and Chalicea usually needs them all. Here is one of them, obviously, and solvers will be looking for those wordplay extra letters.
39a Bard’s pouch, pack holding over before end of performance (5)
The Shakespearean word is probably not familiar, though it closely resembles a Scottish word for a bag or the English one where you might find a pig. The clue spells out exactly how to construct the word.
3d Tree genus, one’s arid gums all stripped (6)
Chalicea likes this style of clue that simply strips a series of words to produce another word.
4d Ultimately nastiest slug on a plant (5)
Again, the wordplay spells out the desired name of this plant (with no slugs on it!)
11d Spasmodic exhalations observed rising around south-east (6)
These ‘exhalations’ have an unusual name but the word ‘rising’ in a down clue tells you what to do with the wordplay elements.
12d Scorch with invective about carbon stilt (6)
This is one of those occasions where the underlining in the hints probably tells the solver all that is needed. ‘Carbon’ gives the expected clue element and a six-letter term is needed for ‘scorch with invective’.
25d Ed’s deprived of soul, endlessly harsh and primarily tyrannical (7)
There is disagreement in the crossword world about what ‘endlessly’ means. For some editors, it means ‘without the last letter’ and for others, ‘without the two ends’. I like to think that it can mean either of those, but here, the two ends are removed and the ‘soul’ is a word that appears in French.
30d With no restraints scorn fine American material (6)
The ends are being removed from another word here and the other two clue elements are given.
38d Basic taste of university male friend (5)
Three clue elements are added together to give this short word for a basic taste.
Wikipedia was probably needed by solvers to discover who devised the names of that familiar group. Do remember to highlight his name and the group he created.
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