Never knowingly undersolved.

Enigmatic Variations No.1047 – X Marks the ???? by Rustic

Posted by Mister Sting on December 22nd, 2012

Mister Sting.

There are two errors in the first sentence of this EV’s preamble. There are dots rather than commas separating some of the numbers giving word lengths for the quotation, which is described as “running clockwise IN THE MOST of the perimeter”. I appreciate that these are small mistakes (and not the setter’s fault), but they irk me.

The answers to the clues are found steadily enough and, helpfully, it swiftly appears that all of the shortened clues have something in common, namely, they all contain the letter P. Removing this (without, as yet, knowing why), the answers fit nicely into the grid.

Thus most of the available letters in the perimeter are revealed. The “cynical remark” is not immediately obvious, because it’s not at first clear where it starts, but the word lengths certainly help. It turns out to be:


which is a comment made by Robert C. Gallagher.

The grid itself represents a vending machine, and the three letters at the bottom represent the lower slot through which the change does not emerge (“the non-productive area”).

The missing Ps suggest “in a small way” the elusive (small) change. It’s nice that most clues with Ps have these removed, although 4dn does have an undeleted P.

The word SLOT is to be entered into the top blanked-off area. The idea was that the grid resembles a slot machine, and the word ‘slot’ is hinted at by ‘X marks the ????’. However, I don’t think that this was sufficient well indicated and many solvers appear to have been confused. With apologies to Rustic, I think that the neat idea which is at the core of the EV doesn’t quite work in practice, though to be fair it appears that the grid shows signs of an abandoned attempt to create a hidden message which would have confirmed which word was to be entered.

The problem comes with “the top blanked-off area” which the preamble tells us has to be completed according to what is “suggested by X MARKS THE ???”. However, ‘X Marks the ????’ suggests ‘SPOT’, which doesn’t make any sense here. The space represents a ‘SLOT’, and that word rhymes with ‘SPOT’, but ‘COIN’ could fit just as well (would perhaps make more sense, since we would be putting COIN ‘in the slot’). Unfortunately, there are no hidden messages to make it clear that the solver has chosen correctly (although, with ‘LOSE’, ‘SOME’ (if one chooses ‘SLOT’) and what looks like ‘TENDER’ appearing, there may have been an attempt to do just this). I have plumped for ‘COIN’, because that way the grid ‘acts out’ the perimeter quotation. However, solvers at, who are as perplexed as me, have chosen a variety of different solutions.

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

Please post a comment if the explanations are not clear.

8 APERY Greek abandons vineyard for the Rock of Gibraltar (4) Rock of Gibraltar: [Greek abandons] GRAPERY (vineyard)
9 AGAR A type of fish jelly (4) jelly: A GAR (type of fish) 
10 PSORA With sprinklings of paprika and spice mouths itch (4) itch: P S (sprinklings of Paprika and Spice) ORA (mouths)
11 TAMP Pack round bit of metal in barrel’s stopper (3) pack round: M (bit of Metal) in TAP (barrel’s stopper)
12 LOPS Prunings from work in Lesotho (3) prunings: OP (work) in LS (Lesotho)
14 PINES Longs for a bit of nutmeg in pastry dishes (4) longs for: N (a bit of Nutmeg) in PIES (pastry dishes)
16 MET Came across a brief study of the weather (3) double definition: came across/abbr. of meteorology
17 ENDUE Provide with proper space first (5) provide with: DUE (proper) EN (space) first
18 VEST Vets working garment at one time (4) garment at one time: VETS* [working]
20 UNDERN A light meal once short of nothing at first (6) a light meal once: UNDER (short of) N (nothing at first)
21 SPEER Scots ask second fellow (4) Scots ask: S (second) PEER (fellow)
22 PROBED Priest getting dressed is closely examined (5) closely examined: P (priest) [getting] ROBED (dressed)
24 NITTY Infested with lice Italian’s initially treated in New York (5) infested with lice: IT (Italian’s) T (initially Treated) in NY (New York)
27 GEEP Doctor taking internal parts of deer to create an artificial animal (3) artificial animal: GP (doctor) [taking] EE (internal parts of dEEr)
29 IN-HOUSE One state river is within the establishment (7, hyphenated) within the establishment: I (one) NH (state) OUSE (river)
30 WARREN Hastings’ densely populated area (6) double definition: Warren Hastings/densely populated area
31 STAMMER Speak hesitantly of sick marmoset starved of oxygen (7) speak hesitantly: [sick] MARMOSET* [starved of O (Oxygen)]
33 DOPING Drugging Australian’s punch putting half of tablet in (5) drugging: DING (Australian’s punch) [putting] PILL (half of tablet) [in]
34 RAMPS Sheep eat pastor’s wild onions in Idaho (4) wild onions in Idaho: RAMS (sheep) [eat] P (pastor)
35 MAIM Mutilate proverb omitting twenty-fourth letter (4) mutilate: MAXIM (proverb) [omitting] X (twenty-fourth letter)
36 ERICA Fine American moorland plant (5) moorland plant: ERIC (fine) A (American)
37 ATLANTA Huntress less active in US city (8) US city: ATALANTA (huntress) [less Active]
1 LEANED Thin journalist bent over (4) bent over: LEAN (thin) ED (journalist)
2 EYE Narrowly observe a brood of gamebirds (3) double definition: narrowly observe/a brood of gamebirds
3 CALMNESS Most of clansmen in revolt need southern serenity (8) serenity: [most of] CLANSMEN* [in revolt] need S (southern)
4 PASTURE Grazing ended by early practice (7) grazing: PAST (ended) by URE (early practice)
5 TREE Support around crown of roof timber (4) timber: TEE (support) [around] R (crown of Roof)
6 PROW Argument in favour of tungsten for nose cone of aircraft (3) nose cone of aircraft: PRO (argument in favour of) W (tungsten)
7 ORDURE Vulgar or rude filth (6) filth: [vulgar] ORRUDE*
13 INDOOR Popular means of approach used within a building (6) used within a building: IN (popular) DOOR (means of approach)
15 PEST Blister between ape’s toes? (3) blister: [between] aPESToes
19 PURGER One removing undesirables is to swear falsely in hearing (5) one removing undesirables: PERJURE (to swear falsely) [in hearing]
21 STOMACH Courage of mascot fighting onset of hepatitis (7) courage: MASCOT* [fighting] H (onset of Hepatitis)
23 BIRIANI Lara eats one starter in Indian – a spicy rice dish (7) spicy rice dish: BRIAN (Lara) [eats] I (one) I (starter in Indian)
25 INTERN One after another reported boarder at school (6) boarder at school: IN TURN (one after another) [reported]
26 THALIA Arab, perhaps, interrupts most of that comic inspiration (6) comic inspiration: ALI (Arab, perhaps) [interrupts] [most of] THAT
28 ZENITH Obscure hint below unknown base for greatest height (6) greatest height: [obscure] HINT* [below] Z (unknown) E (base)
30 WEST 18 not very wise at first giving direction (4) direction: VEST (18) [not V (very); W (Wise at first)]
32 PEAT Old term of endearment for favourite fuel (3) double definition: old term of endearment for favourite/fuel
33 DELE Operator needs English editor’s instruction (4) editor’s instruction: DEL (operator) E (English)

One Response to “Enigmatic Variations No.1047 – X Marks the ???? by Rustic”

  1. Tony says:

    Thanks, Mr S. I don’t know whether it’s significant that there is an X above the slot, but I think it still doesn’t give enough information for a definitive answer. And I agree that the ungrammatical preamble is a minor error but it is off-putting right at the beginning. Part of me wondered what other errors were in store and part of me wondered whether the unusual wording was significant in some way.

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