Never knowingly undersolved.

Enigmatic Variations No. 989: Problem by Samuel

Posted by mc_rapper67 on October 29th, 2011


This was a rather fun, um, ‘probléme’ to solve, and I can only say, erm, ‘bon mots’ about it. The preamble refers to six thematic, undefined answers which, combined with a quotation made up of superfluous letters – or words – in other clues, would suggest a solution to the problem implied by the six, and enable the deduction of the unclued middle row. Got that? Then let’s, er, ‘commencer’…

Sneaky trick that, combining superfluous letters AND words for the quotation – multiplying the permutations and re-readings of clues, to see what could be dropped and still make sense. Once the extra letters/words were identified, there were then still some challenging clues to solve, and what seemed like a larger than usual number of ‘archaic’ words.

Over two or three half hour sessions I gradually built up a third, then a half of the grid and a selection of extra letters, and a few of the more obviously incongruous extra words – like ‘hen’ in 28A, and ‘ant’ in 1D. But, I wasn’t getting any of the undefined thematics – even though I should have twigged to focus on the shorter clues for them.

Then, a shaft of light, a ‘bingo’ moment, as I got THINGAMY and WHATSIT – and was reminded of a recent, unrelated, exploration in Chambers to find ‘DOOBREY’, as in ‘doobrey-whatsit’. The unclued answers were all colloquial words used when one can’t quite remember the actual … sorry, where was I…DOODAH, GISMO, DOOFER, DINGBAT – that was it.

The clincher was ‘peak’, in 10A, and then I had the beginnings of a phrase: ‘Speak in French…’ and the ODQ index did the rest:

Lewis Carroll, in Through the Looking Glass – ‘Speak in French when you can’t think of the English for a thing’ – and the unclued row – which I had originally been thinking was a Latin phrase, ending ‘QUOD’, became ‘JE NE SAIS QUOI’.

All in all, an enjoyable romp, and for me one to keep picking up and picking away at during the week, I felt – an occasional tipple of finest malt, rather than a ‘session’ crossword to rattle off over a couple of pints of real ale. Clever use of those extra letters/words to distract and drive to distraction, and an educational leap off to planet Carroll in the, erm, just a sec…oh, ‘dénouement’, or ‘quelque-chose comme ça’…


Clue No Extra Letter/Word Entry Clue (extra letter/word in bold underlined/
1A * DINGBAT Aged knock flier (7) /
thematic/undefined – DING (archaic for beat, or knock) + BAT (flier)
6A S ABORD Approach once associate leaves on ships (5) /
ABORD = on ship (aboard) minus A (associate) – ABORD being archaic for to accost, or to approach
10A PEAK EYEBATHS Lamp cleaners moved peak by the sea (8) /
anag (i.e. moved) of BY THE SEA (Lamp being archaic (again?!) for ‘eye’)
11A I COO Chief curtailed murmur (3) /
COO (murmur) = COOk (ch(i)ef, curtailed)
12A N ERST High rents at first (4) /
anag (i,e, high) of RE(N)TS
14A F PROSO Around Roumania fops cooked cereal (5) /
PSO – anag (i.e. cooked) of (F)OPS – around RO (Roumania)
16A R DROPLEAF Old rep repaired a finer type of table (8) /
anag (i.e. repaired) of OLD REP, plus A + F (fine(r))
17A * THINGAMY Lean and lively (8) /
thematic/undefined – THIN (lean) + GAMY (lively)
19A E PRENUP Peer spoilt play on words about agreement before match (6) /
anag (i.e. spoilt) of PE(E)R, plus NUP (pun, play on words, backwards)
20A N ASTIR Wine runs out of bend (5) /
ASTI (wine) + R (runs) – out of be(n)d
21A * JE NE SAIS QUOI See preamble (12, 4 words) /
thematic, to be deduced
24A C SUCRE Caught crook during petition for South American money (5) /
SUE (petition), around C (caught) + R ((c)rook)
25A H DOURLY Grimly, threat united rally every now and then (6) /
DO (t(h)reat) + U (united) + RLY (alternate letters of RaLlY)
27A W PROTEGEE Thrust taking in campaigner’s final move won ward (8) /
POTE (thrust, or poke), including R (last of campaigner), + GEE (move (w)on)
28A HEN BAROCCOS Exuberant styles hinder officer in charge of hen function (8) /
BAR (hinder) + OC (Officer in Charge) + COS (cosine, mathematical function)
31A * GISMO Force love (5) /
thematic/undefined – GISM (force) + O (love)
33A Y SORE Hardy god’s returning (4) /
SORE = Eros (god, returning) – hard(y)
34A O UNI Place to study principally unusual nitrogen ion (3) /
first letters of Ununsual Nitrogen I(o)n
35A U REASONER Excitedly arouse men missing Monsieur Rodin’s original Thinker? (8) /
anag (i.e. excited) of ARO(U)SE mEN without M (monsieur), plus R (first of Rodin)
36A C MESNE Chill without a northeastern intermediate (5) /
MES (mesa, or (c)hill, without A) + NE (North Eastern)
37A * WHATSIT Women work alone for Australian press (7) /
thematic/undefined – W (women) + HAT (Aussie for work alone) + SIT (to press)
Clue No Extra Letter/Word Entry Clue (extra letter/word in bold underlined /
1D ANT DEEM Believe portion lifted ant (4) /
DEEM = MEED (archaic for wages, or portion) lifted up
2D T NESCIENCE City man at last someone finally in charge sent up ignorance (9) /
EC (city) + N (last of maN) + E (last of someonE) + IC (in charge) + SEN(T) … all reversed (up)
3D H BAWD Hill’s hiding Welsh brothel-keeper (4) /
BAD ((h)ill) hiding W (Welsh)
4D INK ATTRAP Administrative trainee finally spilt ink to knock Ed’s dress (6) /
AT (administrative trainee) + T (last of spilT) + RAP (knock)
5D OFT THROMBI Clots heartlessy trash gypsy oft swinging both ways (7) /
TH (ThrasH, heartlessly) + ROM (Roma, or gypsy) + BI (bi-sexual, swinging both ways)
6D H ASP Petulant person beheaded ancient three (3) /
ASP = WASP (petulant person), beheaded. (ASP being archaic for ASPEN, t(h)ree, as well as a snake!)
7D E BURLESQUES Bases made rules on unfinished search for playful compositions (10) /
B (bas(e)s) + anag (i.e. mad) of RULES + QUES (unfinished quest, or search)
8D E ROSARIO Take one fish in ordinary Argentinian port (7) /
R (take) + O (on(e)) + SAR (Sargus, fish) + I (in) + O (ordinary)
9D * DOOFER Agent aged inside (6) /
thematic/undefined – DOER (agent) with OF (aged, as in ‘of x years’) inside
13D N RUHR Some spurn Hurricanes over part of Germany (4) /
reversed hidden word in spuR(N) HURricanes
15D G INNER WOMAN Mind wing ornament spoiling aircraft’s final flying (10, 2 words) /
anag (i.e spoiling) of WIN(G) + ORNAMENT minus (i.e. flying) T (last of aircrafT)
18D L STURGEONS Spout empty drivel towards special fish (9) /
ST (SpouT emptied) + URGE ON (drive(l) towards) + S (special)
22D I EUCAINE Drug leads to evangelist unearthing the first Sion — ecstasy! (7) /
EU (first of Evangelical and Unearthing) + CAIN (Adam & Eve’s first s(i)on) + E (Ecstasy) – Eucaine being the drug here, not Ecstasy!
23D S AIRCREW Lunatic carries weak pilots? (7) /
anag (i.e. lunatic) of CARRIE(S) + W (weak)
24D H SUBGUM Mush bug mixed for Chinese dish (6) /
anag (i.e. mixed) of MUS(H) + BUG
25D * DOODAH Judgement shortened knife (6) /
thematic/undefined – DOO (doom, or judgement, shortened) + DAH (Burmese knife)
26D FOR LEER Look lecherously for outcast spurning priest (4) /
LEpER – outcast without P (priest)
29D A SA SA Dance lacking initially aloof thrusting exclamation? (4, 2 words) /
SA SA (fencing exclamation, from French ‘ça ça’ – there, there) = SALSA (dance) minus L (first of (A)LOOF
30D THIN PERT Forward’s thin for a time (4) /
PER (for a, or each) + T (time)
32D G ORE Gold on Swedish coin (3) /
O ((g)old) + RE (on, or concerning)

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