Hints & Tips February 2024

February 2024 grid page

Clues by Arachne and Grid by Rikki

Enter the prize draw by 29 February.

Our monitoring stations have intercepted an intriguing message. It seems to have been written by an operative codenamed Arachne based on a design by an operative codenamed Rikki.

The first page is a photograph (bearing the name Andrew Littlewood) showing the intricate interior of an electro-mechanical device. Superimposed on this is a grid possibly representing a 7x5x6 cuboid. The second page is a calendar for the month of February containing an enigmatic message for each day (but extending beyond the end of the month?).

Intelligence from traffic analysis suggests that:

  • Each cryptic message leads to a word that should be inserted in the grid using the coded directions.
  • The whole marks seventy years since the death of whoever is referenced on Day 32.
  • We also have reason to believe that the yellow cells in the grid form an anagram (3,9,4) providing one depiction of the person.
  • The cryptic messages are presented in alphabetical order of their solutions.

Additional chatter from sources known only as GS, JP and NI is listed below. This may or may not be helpful.

Agent Arachne has spun an intriguing web from the construction created by Rikki. Your task is to crack this fiendish code. Good luck!

Day 6

Russian perhaps swapping tips for key to cipher (6)

What language family does Russian belong to? (6 letters) The central four letters do not move so just swap around the first and last letters and Bob’s your uncle. [GS]

Day 9

Imagine heading off to crack cipher 31 helped to break (6)

This charmingly appropriate surface includes the phrase ‘heading off’ suggesting the removal of an initial letter and the word ‘crack’ indicating an anagram of what’s left. The answer is a cipher our thematic protagonist famously helped to break. [NI]

Day 13

Gene Wilder or Hackman perhaps supporting film’s lead (6)

Occupation of Wilder or Hackman following (supporting) first letter (lead) of film to give a word you’d associate with Gene (Mendel’s original name for gene). [JP]

Day 14

Preview on Radio 4 oddly skewed (7)

The word ‘radio’ in a clue often means, as it does here, ‘sounds like’. So a different spelling of four with the same sound. Oddly could be an anagram indicator, but not here. Simply take the 1st, 3rd and 5th letters from skewed. Preview as a synonym? Mmm? More in the sense of imaging a future result or possibility. [GS]

Day 16

Big mobs on loch regularly for Celtic festival (6)

‘Regularly’ indicates that we should take alternate letters from the thirteen letters formed by the first four words. You need to start in the correct place to end up with six letters. The unfamiliar answer is an ancient Celtic festival celebrated on the second of February. [NI]

Day 20

Boy stops sweetheart cycling in altogether (7)

Don’t think of a nude bike ride! Think of another word for sweetheart and ‘cycle’ its first letter to the end. A two-letter name for a boy then goes inside (stops) to give you a word for altogether. [JP]

Day 26

Crime writer from Minnesota working thanklessly (7)

Very popular French writer whose name is an anagram (working) of Minnesota after the removal of ‘ta’. Homophonic hint: May Grey. [GS]

Day 27

Counter-intelligence organisation’s silence about state scientists (6)

Think of a short abbreviation for silence. Inside this (about) put an abbreviation for an American state and an abbreviation for a learned scientific fellowship (founded in 1660) to find the counterintelligence organisation (name coined by Joseph Stalin). [JP]

Day 33

Time and trouble spent listening in on subterfuge? (5)

Listening in suggests we need a homophone, in this case of a word meaning subterfuge (singular here though often used in the plural). The definition is the first four words and is a less obvious meaning of our answer (often when used in conjunction with “worth one’s”). [NI]

I am grateful to the other members of the Hints & Tips team: Garry Stripling (Gin) and Jim Pennington (Philostrate).

Happy solving!

Nick Inglis (etc)

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