Fifteensquared

Never knowingly undersolved.

Enigmatic Variations No.996 – Medium Rare by Jacques

Posted by Mister Sting on December 17th, 2011

Mister Sting.

The preamble doesn’t give very much away: 12 normal clues, the answers to which require ‘adjustment’. The other clues must have a letter removed before solving. The last sentence includes the always-worrying “numbers in brackets indicate the length of grid spaces”. When you don’t know how long a clue has to be – or (much the same thing) which clues are or are not the length indicated, it makes it that much harder. Just what does Jacques have in store?

One or two of the easier clues (e.g. 11 across) indicate that it is not only the ‘normal’ clues that we need to worry about. Something is ‘shortening’ their answers. What could it be?

Again, some of the ‘normal’ clues are not too tricky (e.g. 27 across, 14 down), and the keen eye spots a similarity – these answers have a male name in their centre. The extra letters in some clues can be identified without too much trouble, and one sees that the last three spell out ‘MAN’.

A little bit of luck/guesswork, and we see that these ‘MEN’ have to be removed before entry – thus shortening (sometimes by as much as 4 letters) the ‘extra-letter’ answers. This speeds things along nicely, helping to slot in answers such as 11 across which had been solved but remained unentered.

A little additional solving confirms that the full phrase spelled out by the extra letters reads ‘CUTTING OUT THE MIDDLE MAN’, and that our reading of the E.V.’s title was correct.

This is a simple idea, which has been executed very well – the grid is symmetrical and Jacques has ensured that the men really are in the middle of the words and that their omission (as with that of the extra letters) leaves real words. I don’t have any gripes – no loose ends that I spotted, just a nice, satisfying solve.

Merci bien, Jacques.

Notation
(xxx) = definition
{xxx} = (anagram/homophone/container/etc.) indicator
XXX* = anagram
< = reversal
xxx = unused letter(s)
Idlers=redundant word

Please post a comment if the explanations are not clear.

Across
1 DODO Dead bird is cold on a Scottish hilltop (4) dead bird: DOD (Scottish hilltop) + O (old)
4 REMARKED Noticed again and said so (8) double definition: noticed again/said so
10 PARLIAMENT Where to find rampant lie about assemblage (10) assemblage: RAMPANTLIE* [about]
11 RUE Faithful to louse time for regret (5) regret: removal [to lose] of T (time) from TRUE (faithful)
12 TALENTS Special abilities not found in incriminating stories (12) special abilities: ins. [found in] of NT (not) in TALES (incriminating stories)
13 BECCACCIA Nearly all stand on the shore to take in County Councillor, Spanish company and Italian bird (9) Italian bird: ins. [to take in] of CC (county councillor) in BEACh [nearly all](sand on the shore) + CIA (Spanish company)
15 IDEAL Bedside tales containing something that can only exist in the imagination (8) something that can only exist in the imagination: bedsIDEALes [containing]
18 AGIN Facetiously anti becoming olid, having given up washing in extremis (6) facetiously anti: removal [having given up] of G (washinG in extremis) from AGING (becoming old)
19 KURTA A Turk snorted making a collarless shirt (5) collarless shirt: ATURK* [sorted]
21 CLINE Gradation of differences of form about grope (5) gradation of differences of form: C (about) + LINE (rope)
23 EASE Loosen each shoe oddly (6) loosen: EA (each) + ShE [oddly]
25 SORNS Gatecrashes at Faslane, kind of ruing Royal Navy boarding ship (8) gatecrashes, kind of (Scot.) [at Faslane]: ins. [boarding] of O (ring) + RN (Royal Navy) in SS (ship)
26 RAGSTONES Tires carrying second great weight in undressed slabs (9) undressed slabs: ins. [carrying] of S (second) + TON (great weight) in RAGES (ires)
27 ANDANTE One poet producing moving, moderately slow piece (7) moving, moderately slow piece: AN (one) + DANTE (poet)
28 TID Seat‘s movement almost giving a mood to Angus (5) a mood (Scot.) [to Angus]: TIDe (sea’s movement)[almost]
29 GRIEVANCES Wild scavenger eating one giving grounds for complaint (10) grounds for complaint: ins. [eating] of I (one) in SCAVENGER* [wild]
30 SEALANTS Marine mammals consuming insect substances that block water passage (8) substances that block water passage: ins. [consuming] of ANT (insect) in SEALS (marine mammals)
31 ARTS Shun following artificial branches of learning (4) branches of learning: ART (artificial) + S (sun)
Down
1 DISTANCE Sit awkwardly through ballet, perhaps it’s aloofness (8) aloofness: ins. [through] of SIT* [awkwardly] in DANCE (ballet, perhaps)
2 OPTIMAL The best pick essentially diminishing pain (7) the best: OPT (pick) + I (essentially diminIshing) + MAL (pain)
3 DARKENING Becoming overcast and close with deluge’s start first engulfing Noah’s ship (9) becoming overcast: ins. [engulfing] of ARK (Noah’s ship) in ENDING (close), with D at beginning (Deluge’s start first)
4 REEDIEST Prepares one to become earl with tones most like a clarinet (12) most like a clarinet: READIES (prepares), A (one) becoming E (earl) + T (tons)
5 ACATER One stocking ship, in the past, distorted frame (without using force) around obsolete vessel (8) one stocking ship (obs.) [in the past]: ins. [around] of CAT (vessel (obs.)) in fRAE* [distorted][without using Force]
6 ALKANETS Mediterranean plants ground lankiest head of amelcorn included (12) mediterranean plants: ins. [included] of A (head of Amelcorn) in LANKEST* [ground]
7 ECRU Kind of linden tree finally placed beside vineyard (6) kind of linen: E (treE finally) + CRU (vineyard)
8 ETTIN Old giant demotions that technological industry needs initially (5) old giant: Emotions That Technological Industry Needs [initially]
9 DISA Orchid, it is found under ledges in Djibouti (4) orchid: DI (edges in DjiboutI) + SA (it – Sex Appeal)
14 CORIANDER Company manufactured drainer for herb (9) herb: CO (company) + DRAINER* [manufactured]
16 ENROOT To locate planet firmly in space joke casually about nothing (8) to locate plant firmly: EN (space) + ins. [about] of O (nothing) in ROT (joke (casually))
17 CADAVERS More than one defunct body swears to go after bounder (8) more than one defunct body: CAD (bounder) + AVERS (swears)
20 TELEOST Aim bottom of net should hold 250 bony fish (7) bony fish: ins. [should hold] of E (250) in TELOS (aim) + T (bottom of neT)
22 NISI Is fashionable rearming to take effect under certain conditions (6) to take effect under certain conditions: <[rearing] IS + IN (fashionable)
24 MANGE Amass a lot of rage for skin disease (5) skin disease: M (mass) + ANGEr (rage)[a lot of]
26 RAPS Right apparent strangeness in nutters informally (4) utters (informally): R (right) + AP (apparent) + S (strangeness)

One Response to “Enigmatic Variations No.996 – Medium Rare by Jacques”

  1. Dave Hennings says:

    Thanks for the blog, Mister Sting. I just want to add my praise for Jaques’s fine puzzle. I can’t believe that this ‘middle man’ theme hasn’t been done this way before, but, as far as I can see, it hasn’t. Very nicely crafted, and, like you, I appreciated the symmetry … and the title!

    Dave.

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