Never knowingly undersolved.

Enigmatic Variations No. 993: Mind the Gap by Ifor

Posted by mc_rapper67 on November 26th, 2011


For a long while, the ‘gap’ causing the most problems for me with this puzzle was the one between my ears…

I can just about get my head round those ‘alphabetical jigsaws’, like this week’s Araucaria prize puzzle in the Grauniad, where there is usually one clue per letter of the alphabet, with the occasional doubled up letter, but I normally steer well clear of them when they appear as barred/thematics. And this was not just a jigsaw, solvers also need to find 15 cells and insert two missing clue numbers – to identify a speaker, a location and a date – which would then help complete the grid ‘appropriately’.

But, needs must when the rota says it is my turn to blog…so I persevered and, with a huge slice of luck from an initial guess, on a completely wrong tangent, I managed to complete this one – and very enjoyable it was too, in a masochistic sort of way.

A few sessions of just trying to solve as many clues as I could weren’t producing much, apart from a lot of ‘A’s!, so I reverted to some analysis of the numbers of entries of various lengths, drew up the grid in a spreadsheet so I could play ‘trial and error’ with things electronically, and applied some lateral thinking as to what and where the ‘gap’ might be. Prime candidates were the diagonal(s) and/or that 11-letter entry taking up most of the middle row.

I could see that there were five 7-letter down entries crossing or touching that middle row, but I had not found a single 7-letter answer yet. There were plenty of sixers though. What I thought was the ‘Eureka’ moment came as I was waiting on the Underground platform for the Drain (as the Waterloo and Shitty Line is affectionately known) to take me to Bank. After hearing an announcement of problems on the Central Line, I was warned to ‘mind the gap’…

Middle row? Central Line? Mind the gap – of course! In went ‘Central Line’ – worry about the speaker and the date later – and I started trying to fit the answers that I had around that. The first was ASTERS under the T to make TASTERS. And AVES under the first E, to make EAVES.

Those two and a lot of deduction helped to insert most of the answers I had – but not a lot else was working with the letters in that middle row – in particular OUTAGE looked like it needed an R in the middle, UNIONS might need an S, and I had WIEL looking like it needed a D. Maybe the CENTRAL LINE was previously known by another name – to be substituted – and maybe the speaker was an early Transport Minister announcing the change?

But then, to put me out of my (quite enjoyable) misery, I spotted AGIN and COURT, with HENRY and V above – with a speech made in 1415, i.e. clue 14 = AWDL, clue 15 = WIEL(D), and dramatised a little by the Bard: ‘Once more unto the breach, DEAR FRIENDS…etc.’, turning TASTERS into RASTERS, and the last few altered entries fell into place:


Wow – I’m not sure what I would have done without that initial guess – I’d probably still be here trying out permutations in my spreadsheet! Thanks for an interesting challenge, Ifor. And I expect (hope) many of you found it a bit easier than me?….

(Couldn’t quite parse/explain GOB – grateful for any suggestions…)

Clue No Derived Answer Altered Entry Clue (and unaltered length)/
  AEOLIC   Like some Greek speech made to all regularly in command (6) /
AEOL (regular letters of mAdE tO aLl) + IC (in charge)
  AGIN   Country’s not for gain, sadly (4) /
anag (i.e. sadly) of GAIN – AGIN being dialect version of AGAINST (not for)
  AGIST   Charge with public burden occupying magistrate (5) /
hidden word in (occupying) mAGISTrate
  ALE   Sales pitch covering antique festival (3) /
hidden word in (covered by) sALEssALEs ‘pitching’ its covering letters
  ALOO   Potato some way off no farm’s opening (4) /
ALOO(F) – some way off, without F – first of farm
  AMELIA   E-mail sent after a girl who’s struggling (6) /
A + anag (i.e. sent) of E-MAIL
  ANALLY   Some going about everything obsessively (6) /
ANY (some) about ALL (everything)
  ASTERS (R)ASTERS Calamities discontinued to leave bloomers (6) /
(DIS)ASTERS (calamities) without DIS (discontinued)
  AVES (E)AVES Hails leader going last in rescue (4) /
(S)AVE – rescue – with first letter last
14 AWDL   Welsh lines move slowly, endlessly (4) /
dAWDLe without end letters
  BEARS-EAR   Tolerate withered flower (hyphenated) (9) /
BEAR (tolerate) + SEAR (withered)
  BETEEM BETEEM(E) Poets’ grant ends to become money safeguarding support (6) /
BE (end letters of BecomE) + TEE (support, for golf ball) + M (money)
  BIAXAL   Doubly symmetric, swinging both ways on a loose back (6) /
BI (bi-sexual, swinging both ways) + A + XAL (LAX, or loose, backwards)
  BLAT B(-F)LAT Newspaper baron’s muscle cut short (4) /
B (baron) + LAT (latissimus dorsi, lower back muscle)
  BRAN BRA(I)N Support new health food (4) /
BRA (support) + N (new)
  CID   Captain decided, ignoring both parts of exploit (3) /
(EL) CID – deCIDed missing both halves of DEED (exploit)
  COURT   Auditor’s heard body of officials (5) /
homonym of CAUGHT, or heard
  EARING EAR(D)ING The hard of hearing left little rope on board (6) /
hEARING without the H – hard
  EASEL   Rest left to stand for pictures (5) /
EASE (rest) + L (Left)
  ENVISAGING   Seeing likely results of broken veins putting years on (10) /
anag (i.e. broken) of VEINS + AGING (putting years on)
  ERG   Small amount of work, therefore finished early (3) /
ERGo (therefore) missing last letter, or finishing early
  ERST   Rest’s disturbed at first (4) /
anag (i.e, disturbed) of REST
  FEER   Old friend’s free to play (4) /
anag (i.e to play) of FREE
  GOB   American sailor’s game on board, not in English (3) /
GO (board game) + B (not sure?! B = Bowled out, so not in?))As per Dave H #1 in comments:GOBANG (board game) minus ANG (Latin abbreviation, Anglice, ‘in English’)
  HEATHER BELL   Plant shift hear the ring … (2 words) (11) /
anag (i.e. shift) of HEAR THE + BELL (ring)
  HENRY   … when van’s leaving railway unit (5) /
wHEN (without the first letter, or van/guard) + RY (railway)
  IT GIRL   Young woman in society – Italian finds good in heartless rascal (2 words) (6) /
IT (Italian_ + G (good) + I (in) + RL (RascaL, heartless)
  LITANY-STOOL   Church bureau isn’t loyal in Reformation, hiding regressive part of bible (hyphenated) (11) /
anag (i.e. in Reformation) of ISNT LOYAL, around TO (OT, Old Testament, reversed)
  LUST   Desire subtle changes be removed? (4) /
anag (i.e. changed) of SUbTLe – minus B and E
  MAR   Planet avoiding sun’s damage (3) /
MARs (planet) without S – sun
  NAIRAS   Dust in Africa as rain fails (6) /
anag (i.e. fails) of RAIN AS – ‘dust’ as in ‘gold dust’, or money/currency
  ORE   Logic circuit’s electronic tangle (3) /
OR (logic circuit) + E (electronic) – ORE as in seaweed, or tangle
  OUTAGE OUT(R)AGE Failure of power’s not in generation (6) /
OUT (not in) + AGE (generattion)
  RAFALE   Shots in quick succession, last two returned in style adopted by Nadal, perhaps (6) /
RAFAel (Nadal, tennis player of some repute, your honour) with LE (last two of styLE, reversed in his name)
  RAILED   Fenced goods stolen from aged girl in distress (6) /
anag (i.e in distress) of AgED gIRL – without two Gs (goods)
  ROAN   Hopeless sonar section missing bay (4) /
anag (i.e. hopeless) or sONAR, missing S (section) – ‘bay’ as in horse
  SECUREMENT   Cement sure to make this? (10) /
&lit-ish – anag (i.e. to make) of CEMENT SURE
  STIR   Prison scores, in retrospect … (4) /
STIR = RITS in retrospect; rit = to scratch, or score
  TEF   … grass felt left out in new arrangement … (3) /
anag (i.e. new arrangement) of FE(L)T without L (left)
  TELLER   … shoot informer (6) /
double defn. – TELLER = a shoot, in botany, as well as an informer
  TEREK   Bird’s journey around Spain (5) /
TREK (journey) around E (Espána, Spain)
  TROY   Sergeant in book – flirt enthralling Hardy’s central character? (4) /
TOY (flirt) around R (HA(R)DY’s middle character)
  UNIONS UNI(S)ONS Combinations feasible in Oxford and Cambridge, say (6) /
Double defn – Cambridge and Oxford both have Unions (capitalised), which, in lower case, are also ‘combinations’
  UTE   Small truck – use when empty to carry tons, perhaps (3) /
UsE (use, empty) around T (tons)
  VAMBRACE   Protection for member of married couple subsequent to tax cut (8) /
VA (VAT, or tax, cut short) + M (married) + BRACE – couple – VAMBRACE being a codpiece, protecting the male, er, cod! piece of armour protecting the arm (member)
  V-LOG   See line on gallery’s opening: “Set of moving images” (4) /
V (vide, Latin for ‘see’) + L (line) + O (on) + G (gallery’s first letter)
15 WIEL WIEL(D) Pennine whirlpool with wreath going round (4) /
W (with) + IEL (LEI, wreath or garland, backward)
  YACKER   Sheila’s hard work found car key (6) /
anag (i.e. found) of CAR KEY – Aussie slang, hence Sheila
  YODEL   Flowing melody marks out song with varying pitch (5) /
anag (i.e. flowing) of mELODY without M (marks)

3 Responses to “Enigmatic Variations No. 993: Mind the Gap by Ifor”

  1. Dave Hennings says:

    A fine puzzle from Ifor, a relatively new setter whose previous puzzles I have really enjoyed (especially Listener 4137, Frightened Catherine). This EV looked like it would be horribly tricky, but in fact it wasn’t too tough. Re GOB, I had the same thoughts as you did about GO, but in fact it is GOBANG (board game) – ANG (in English).


  2. Ifor says:

    Thank you for the blog. You were kind enough not to mention the (unintentionally) misleading suggestion that the speech was delivered at/immediately prior to the battle, rather than somewhat earlier, for which my apologies. A few points about individual clues:

    I think you’ll find from C that your VAMBRACE will be more comfortable worn elsewhere.

    TROY was originally just an &lit: “Flirt enthralling Hardy’s central character?” but I wasn’t allowed it.

    BLAT (Newspaper baron’s muscle cut short) was pleasingly apposite when I wrote the clue.

    ALE: You are to “pitch the covering” of “sales”, so (unlike the EV editor as well as you!) I don’t see it as a hidden.


  3. mc_rapper67 says:

    Thanks Dave and Ifor for the comments – and I have made appropriate updates.

    (Ifor – I see your point on the VAMBRACE – I chose the wrong ‘member’ there, not sure which dictionary I was looking in!)

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