The Azed Clue-writing Competition
The Azed Slip
What’s in the Archive
This Archive is a record of a remarkable competition. Every week without fail for more than forty years, Azed (Jonathan Crowther) has produced a tough cryptic crossword for The Observer Sunday newspaper, maintaining the highest standard of cryptic clue-writing. Thirteen times a year – once a month, and at Christmas – a ‘competition’ puzzle is published, in which one solution is indicated by a simple definition. Solvers are invited to submit with their entries a cryptic clue to replace the definition. The three clues judged best by Azed are awarded prizes. Prize-winners and the Very Highly Commended runners-up (VHCs) receive points that count towards Annual Honours. A silver trophy called the ‘Azed Instant Victor Verborum Cup’ is sent to the First Prize-winning competitor, who forwards it to the next month’s winner.
Some of the leading competitors are crossword setters in their own right for national and local publications. Some are well-known outside the world of crosswords, and some have entered the competition as enthusiastically and consistently as Azed has set it since its beginning in 1972.
You can find more information about Azed, the competition, and the world of cryptic crosswords at the website of The Crossword Centre.
The Azed Slip is a sheet produced by Azed for each competition, containing the Prize-winning and VHC clues, names of competitors whose clues were Highly Commended (HCs), and Azed’s comments, covering the puzzle, his views on clue-writing (or ‘cluemanship’), and much else besides. Azed’s rigorous standards of fairness and accuracy have ensured that the quality of the winning clues has remained extremely high.
Originally the Slip was sent by The Observer to all competitors who enclosed a stamped, addressed envelope with their competition entry. In the 1990s the paper stopped providing this service and the Slip changed to a subscription basis. For many years until his retirement the Slip subscription was managed with enormous care and attention by Anthony Ellis. Anthony never failed to send out a Slip on time or knowingly let an error into it, and replied with great courtesy to all subscribers’ enquiries. It is to the memory of Anthony, who died in 2008, that the & lit. website is dedicated, with thanks for all his work. Brian Head now manages the Slip and continues to provide the first class service that Azed competitors have come to rely on.
Competitors and anyone else may subscribe to The Azed Slip on an annual basis.
The Azed Slip Archive is an attempt by a regular Azed competitor, John Tozer, to place the contents of all 500-plus Azed Slips online as a resource for anyone who appreciates cryptic crosswords and clue-writing, and as a tribute to Azed and his loyal community of solvers.
The Archive is a database of clues, names and Azed’s comments that you can search interactively. The Home page lets you go straight to a reproduction of the Slip for a particular competition. The Browse Archive link lets you search through the archive by year, by the word clued, the type of clue, or to find all the clues written by a single competitor. You can also search for clues and Azed’s comments using keywords. The tables of clues are cross-referenced so that you can jump between competition lists and competitor lists.
You can find Honours Lists (results of annual competitions), and a table showing the state of the current year’s competition is available from the Azed Cup section of the homepage.
The Cup Winners link takes you to lists of the clues and competitors that have won the Azed Cup over the years.
Finally, each time you open a page with a right-hand column, a different prize-winning clue appears in the From the Archive section. You can try to solve it, or click the solution box if you’re stumped.
New features and lists are occasionally added to the site. You can read about any recent changes on the Archive latest page.
New Slips are published in the Archive as soon they are available, normally three weeks after the puzzle appears in The Observer. As well Azed Slips, the Archive publishes Dr Watson’s reviews of each competition puzzle. Reviews contain the puzzle’s solution, and explanations and comments on the clues from a regular solver and competitor.
The Archive has been built up from copies of the original paper Slips. In constructing the archive I have tried to reproduce as accurately as possible the contents and style of the Slips that subscribers receive monthly, with some modifications:
- The style of the Slip has changed over the years. All Slips are presented in the style that is currently used by Brian Head.
- Explanations have been added to all clues that were not explained in their original Slip. In some cases clue explanations have been expanded or modified to make their terminology more consistent.
- Private addresses and certain other personal information published in the original Slips are not shown in the Archive.
- Where an error in a Slip was subsequently corrected, the correction has been made to the original Slip. Some other obvious errors in clues, explanations, names and comments have been corrected.
If you find errors in the Archive information please contact & lit.. I can’t promise an instant response but will do my best.
If the archive does not display properly in you browser, It may help to check the technical notes below.
A keyword search facility is available in the archive. It is found on the Browse Archive page, and it allows you to search through clues, explanations or Azed’s comments for specific words or phrases. The search facility uses a ‘natural language’ search based on technology originally used in Wikipedia, and returns results in order of relevance.
When you click on a ‘by keywords’ link on the Browse Archive page, a text input box appears. Enter any text in the box, up to 150 characters, select (in the Clues search) clues or explanations, and click the Go button. A search results page appears containing the top five matching comments or top 25 matching clues, and shows how many matching results were found altogether.
You can link to further pages of results, or make a new search by clicking the relevant links. If no matching results were found, or if no searchable words were entered, the page contains only a New Search link. This takes you back to the Browse Archive page with the search box and your last search displayed.
To keep the number of results to a reasonable level, the search ignores any words shorter than three letters and a few very common words like ‘the’. Accented characters and numbers of three or more digits can be included in the search. Apostrophes, hyphens and other punctuation and symbols are treated as word-breaks, and words that contain them may be split up or truncated. The results page shows which of the words you entered have been used in the search.
The search matches only whole words, and treats different forms of a word (singular and plural, different verb tenses) as different words: so, for example, searches for ‘puzzle’, ‘puzzles’ and ‘puzzling’ would all return different results. If you want the search to match different forms of a word, include all the forms in the search text, e.g. ‘anagram anagrams indicator indicators’.
Notes: 1. The Clue search can match the text of clues or explanations, but not both together. 2. When sorting the results in order of relevance, words that appear frequently in everyday language are given a lower priority. 3. The Comments search includes Annual Honours lists that were published in Slips, and searching for a competitor’s name will often return Slips with these lists.
The & lit. site uses PHP and MySQL to generate the Slips and lists. This runs on a remote server and generates the pages that are sent as HTML to your browser. Please
if you see an error message that contains the expressions ‘php’ or ‘mysql’.
The Azed Slips and clues contain special characters such as en and em dashes and accented characters. All special characters in the Slips are converted to HTML entities – special codes that allow them to display correctly in all browsers and character set encodings. If you see any unexpected characters, check your browser’s encoding (in Internet Explorer go to View/Encoding) and let me know.
My thanks to Jonathan Crowther (Azed) for permission to reproduce the Azed Slips that appear on this archive and for his encouraging comments throughout its production. I’m indebted to Dr John Grimshaw for providing image copies of the nearly 200 Slips for competitions 300 to 1100, and to Sir Jeremy and Richard Morse, Don Manley and Paul Henderson for supplying the remainder of the archive. The work would not have been completed anything like so quickly without the help of Dr Teyrnon Powell and Derek Harrison to convert and edit Slips for the archive. Many more Azed competitors and crossword enthusiasts have emailed me with appreciative comments and constructive suggestions for the site. My thanks to them also.