EV 1605 Hints – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1605 Hints

Enigmatic Variations 1605 (Hints)

Who, Where and When by Ifor

Hints and tips by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

Rudyard Kipling kept ‘six honest serving-men’, three of whom appear in the title of this puzzle – we don’t have to worry about ‘What’ or ‘Why’, and ‘How’ is by solving it.

Preamble: Four clues each contain a string of four or more letters to be removed before solving. Remaining clues each contain an extra letter; in clue order these explain how to use the four clues to identify WHO, WHERE AND WHEN. Solvers must change one letter in the initially-filled grid to reveal the name of a relevant person (WHO must be highlighted). All changes to clues and grid create new words; surface reading of clues may suffer. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.

We need to remove a single letter from all but four clues – Ifor is a master at making these stowaways difficult to spot, but there are a couple of things to look out for. Firstly, words which you don’t normally see in cryptic puzzles – could they lose a letter to form another, more familiar, word? For instance, ‘dirge’ is not a common feature of clues, and is therefore a potential imposter. It can lose the letter g to form ‘dire’, which is an anagram indicator, so it would be a strong candidate. Secondly, keep an eye out for words which can lose a letter to form a short word with a single-letter abbreviation – ‘hot’ (=H), ‘are’ (=A), ‘ace’ (=A), and ‘see’ (=V or C) are favourites, giving rise to such imposters as ‘shot’, ‘hoot’, ‘bare’, ‘fare’, ‘face’, ‘race’, ‘seek’ and ‘seem’.

If in a particular clue you can’t identify where a single letter could be lost, it may be that it’s one of the ‘special’ four. Remember that when the string of four or more letters is removed, real words will be left, although they may not be common ones, and the surface reading of what remains may not make sense.


1a    First notes in lost octave no longer displaying care (3)
Hardly a ‘gimme’ to start with. A four-letter, obsolete (‘lost’) word for the octave of a festival has a single letter removed.

13a    Goal’s alcohol, provided bottles not previously returned (4)
Another potential hiding place for the stowaway is in a word qualifying a definition, eg “Scout’s honour” for “Scot’s honour”, the answer being a Scottish word for ‘honour’. In the wordplay here, ‘bottles’ should be read as ‘bottling’, since everything produced by the preceding four words must be ‘returned’.

14a      Support dray with the entire amount going (3)
The imposter is easy to spot, but that still leaves three possibilities – the one we require leads to an eight-letter word from which another word is subtracted.

19a    Rangers sides to select primarily young stock (6)
The sort of charade which a Sinclair Scientific might have appreciated, with ‘primarily’ indicating that the second wordplay element precedes the first.

24a    Former cover measure in print reversed issue recalled… (7)
Remember what I said about looking for potential imposters that could end up as single-character abbreviations? The wordplay elements here deliver 1, 2 and 4 letters respectively, with the second and third being separately manipulated.

25a    …needs hideouts cut beforehand (5)
When two clues are joined by ellipses, they often have to be solved as a pair, but these can be addressed independently. The imposter here harks back to my dirge/dire example.

37a    Russian measures formerly misusing hospital’s toxic compounds (7)
The base element of the wordplay is an eight-letter word, the plural form of an old (‘formerly’) measure of length which was approximately two inches shorter in Russia than in Turkey.


3d    Waste conveyers ground boats, perhaps (9, two words)
The letter to be removed isn’t obvious, since the result is another word not often seen in puzzles. For ‘perhaps’, read ‘literarily and poetically’.

4d    Shilling bracelet left on elbow in error (9)
There doesn’t appear to be anywhere that a ‘single spy’ could be hiding, and so it proves. For ‘left on’ read ‘left end of’.

6d    Welcoming run out for emperor and chancery (9)
There’s a similarity between this clue and 25a, although in this instance there is also a single letter subtraction involved.

8d    Sheriff in Nottingham ultimately aware Robin’s not died in revolt (8)
Getting the answer here is likely to be easier than unravelling the wordplay. The ‘ultimately’ refers to the word following it, ‘not died’ tells us to remove a two-letter abbreviation for obiit (died) from the word which precedes it, and ‘in revolt’ is an anagram indicator. Having identified part of the necessary fodder, you then have to determine what letters are missing. Phew!

10d    Chemical increasing muscle mass found trending into fashion (8)
The imposter here becomes a containment indicator, though not one that I’ve encountered before, perhaps slightly stretching its sense of ‘taking care of”

20d    Plants in vase at last overcoming introduction of parasites (8)
Here one letter in an eight-letter word is replaced by another. The ‘in’ is a link word, connecting the definition to the wordplay.

24d    Trying experience before dread treatment (6)
A 2+4 charade, where the wordplay seems to suggest that the word meaning ‘before’ is defunct, although Chambers shows it as archaic rather than obsolete.

29d    Doughboy trucked into festival that’s finished with free joints (5)
The festival here, at which large quantities of a particular beverage were consumed, similarly belongs to times past. Doughboy is an ‘indication by example’ of a familiar abbreviation.

Definitions in clues are underlined

Having filled the grid, identified the stowaways (and thus the message), and made use of the four extracted strings, all should be clear. If you are not familiar with the theme, a bit of googling will give you the name that you are looking for, and finding it (and the letter to be changed) should be straightforward. There is a trap designed to catch the unwary, but if you have identified the ‘who’ and ‘where’ rather than just the ‘when’ then you will not fall into it.

The setter’s skilful use of the ‘extra letter’ gimmick made for a distinctly tricky grid fill (some of the clues would have been testing even without the stowaways); thankfully the endgame was a much simpler proposition. It seemed a shame that the ‘red herring’ (the new word that it would produce in the grid appearing to confirm its incorrectness) could not somehow have taken a more prominent role which would have brought it to solvers’ attention.

Phibs Toughness Rating : 🥾🥾🥾/🥾🥾🥾🥾 (Some very tricky clues make this best suited to experienced solvers)

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4 comments on “EV 1605 Hints
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  1. Yes indeed Phibs, some very tricky clues and thanks for picking the “right” ones to hint – I had all the answers but the parsing and identification of surplus letters in 2 of the 4 was quite a challenge. The endgame was then quite straightforward and a quick Google provided the relevant person’s name, easily found in the grid. Finding your red-herring was more of a challenge – his pseudonym would also be there if 2 grid changes were made!
    Overall a tough but satisfying puzzle and one has to admire Ifor’s skill in integrating the required extra text into the 4 clues so smoothly.
    Thanks to him.

  2. Now I’m not sure whether I’ve highlighted the red herring or the correct answer.
    Fun puzzle, anyway. Thanks to Ifor

    1. If you’ve got the ‘who’ and ‘where’ from the extra letters, then I’m sure you’ll have got the right change/highlighting. If you’ve made the wrong change, the new word produced in the grid would tell you so!

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