Never knowingly undersolved.

Enigmatic Variations No 979 Problem by Salamanca

Posted by twencelas on August 20th, 2011


So some shaded squares this week to help define the problem and 6 clues to be entered in a non standard way to indicate the title. Other than that everything is straight forward. Is it an elementary puzzle or something more complex.

A lot of anagrams this week, and the right hand side of the grid soon took shape. 17 across was the first answer that I found which did n’t fit with the crossing answers, with the answer “virgules”. At first this appeared to be entered  in a jumbled manner. Then 19 down did n’t fit either “leprosy”, nor 33 across “proselytiser” then the penny dropped.  Gules, rosy and rose (all words for reddishness) needed to precede the rest of the clue. The other 3 odd balls were 9 down swine’s cress [wine], 1 down winter cherry [cherry] and 1 across picrocarmine [carmine].

So what clue did the shaded squares yield, 3 different arrangements of PIPE. Sherlock Holmes – perhaps. A study in scarlet was my first thought, but did n’t seem quite correct. So a quick google of three pipes and Sherlock Holmes gave an unfamiliar work of Arthur Conan Doyle’s – The Red-Headed League – exactly fitting the mode of entry of the 6 odd balls.

And that my dear Watson, was that. I do wonder how many solvers would be aware of this tale, but unlike a recent Listener with a Father Brown theme, I did n’t need to read some empire-esque literature to fully understand the theme.

Holmes words to Watson  were  “It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for  fifty minutes.” Hence the puzzle’s title.

So Holmes needed the time it takes to smoke  three pipes to solve the problem – which was roughly the time I took to polish this one off. Many thanks to Salamanca, for a very pleasing end-game.


* Anagram

Rev (reverse)

Underline = definition in clue


1 After confusion small reptile mauled marine leaving stain a microscopic (12)

Pi (confusion) + croc (small reptile) + (marine)* = PICROCARMINE entered as CARMINEPICRO

8 New head knows how to describe one with a hooked beak (9)

(head knows)* = HAWKNOSED

11 One time recompense for loss of family member I achieved in part (6)

Hidden (member I ACGieved) = ERIACH

12 Fetlar’s small prize always held (6)

Fetlar is in the Shetlands – pie (small prize) around eer (always) = PEERIE

13 Bits of music, heavy metal’s not started to perform inside (6)

Iron’s (heavy metal) – I (not started) around do (perform) = RONDOS

16 Accumulate tops of ripe ears agriculturally produced (4)

1st letters of ripe ears agriculturally produced  = REAP

17 Accents of French give slur that’s alien (8)

(give slur)* = VIRGULES entred as GULESVIR

18 Old product used in brewing certainly takes time (4)

Yes (certainly) + t (time) = YEST (old word for yeast)

20 One’s so active inside like a goddess, (5)

I (one) + sic (so) around a (active) = ISIAC

22 Weapon with shortened handle behind point (5)

E (point) + stoc(k) (handle) = ESTOC

23 A letter to male in Ghanaian town (4)

A + nu (letter – greek) + m (male) = ANUM

24 Cut in free short cruises (8)

In + (cruise) = INCISURE

28 Excess of fish lacking power (4)

Porgy (fish) – p (power) = ORGY

29 Exact — without lids to turn (6, hyphenated)

Rev (No pots – without lids) = SPOT ON

30 Scots fabrics upset wet golfer (6)

(wet)* + Els (as in Ernie the golfer) = TWEELS

31 Relating to part of brain involving optic nerve’s top (6)

(optic + n)* = PONTIC

32 Helmet had a bit of ebony inside part (9)

Had around e (bit of ebony) + piece (part) = HEADPIECE

33 He attempts to convert translation of sorry epistle (12)

(sorry epistle)* = PROSELYTISER



1 Exciting! — try new richer balloon-vine (12, 2 words)

(try new richer)* = WINTER CHERRY

2 Patriarch one on a circuit turned up (5)

A (one) + a + Rev (Nor – as in Nor gate) = AARON

3 Rowing small boat, say, disguised in a small way (5)

In cog (small boat)  = INCOG (short for incognito)

4 Leaps about on topless rows and rows of fruit trees (9)

(laps)* + tirs – t = ESPALIERS

5 Absolutely unequalled, left out, she can have a seat in the house (7)

Peerless (absolutely unequalled) – l (left) = PEERESS

6 Mobile home need’s an area etc. with TV broadcast (11)

(an area etc + tv)* = CARAVANETTE

7 Reader of dreams, an expert about one sort of fiction (12)

Oner (expert) around i + romance (sort of fiction) = ONEIROMANCER

9 It grows in waste areas and namely in abandoned sewers in south (11, 2 words)

Sc (namely) in (sewersins)* = SWINESCRESS entered as WINESSCRESS

10 Lark-like bird nipping end off pods (4)

Pipin (lark) – n = PIPI

14 Early poem I’d read up at times (4)

Rev(id) + tt (tims) = DITT

15 Royal Society replaces angular momentum in version of calculus that’s subsidiary (9)

(calculus – l (angular momentum) + rs (royal society))*= SUCCURSAL

19 A hint of pallor and sorely ill — hope it’s not this (7)

(P + sorely)* = LEPROSY entered as ROSYLEP

21 Wicked playfellow, one with a silver ring (4)

I + ag (silver) + o (ring) = IAGO

25 At present time for nothing at all (4)

Now (at present) + t (time) = NOWT

26 Recruit (Eleusinian-style) finding work in record time (5)

Ep (record) + t (time) around op (work) = EPOPT

27 Love in old buffoon’s expression (5)

Vice (old buffoon) around o (love) = VOICE

One Response to “Enigmatic Variations No 979 Problem by Salamanca”

  1. mc_rapper67 says:

    Thanks for a comprehensive blog of a very enjoyable puzzle.

    I had a similar – though slower – journey to you – spotting the three pipes as Sherlockian, expecting it to be ‘A Study in Scarlet’, and having to resort to e-searching for the Red-Headed League.

    However vir-gules was my last thematic solve – I had ‘proselytiser’ and ‘leprosy’ not crossing, and then hit on ‘winter cherry’, which immediately went to ‘cherry winter’ due to other crossing words, and ‘swine’s cress’ just wouldn’t fit without a bit of manipulation.

    I was delayed by thinking it was significant that leprosy is an anagram of the first 7 letters of ‘prosely’tiser, but, even so, it would have been several more pipes for me – if I was a smoker…

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

× one = 4