For the benefit of solvers new to the rigours of the Advanced Cryptic, Dr Watson provides a monthly review of the Observer's Azed competition puzzle. Dr Watson is a regular Azed competitor. Please post any comments on this review to the Crossword Centre’s message board.

Azed No 1680: Plain (1 Aug 2004)

A good helping straight-ish anagrams will have helped solvers this month.

Notes to the clues:

1a:     Remove head of gum boil  LEEP ((s)leep).  The method is easy to see but the solution isn’t. ‘Sleep’ is maybe the last synonym of ‘gum’ you’d think of.

14a:   ‘People’ people, independent, tough, accepting one.  INUIT (I + I in nut).  A reference to the etymology of ‘Inuit’ given in Chambers.

22a:   Aussie cheers attract bird tailed in identical fashion.  HOOROO (hoo(k) roo(k)).  The last four words look like part of a charade rather than the precise instruction that they are.

28a:   Island excluding academician.  BARRA (bar RA). Neat, but with no geographical hint the definition leaves the solver a lot of possibilities to consider.

31a:   I race round a large part of NZ – exhaustion results.  INANITION  (I + NI in nation).  The abbreviation NI (North Island) is not given in Chambers. The solution might take a bit of finding under inane, as the semantic connection isn’t obvious.

4d:     Not a sausage made from Scottish cows.  NOWT  (2 meanings).  Dr Watson enjoyed this unexpected connection between the two meanings.

6d:     Electrician who’s shown box discovers short circuits.  SPARKIE  (ark in spie(s)).  One to leave you wondering what’s going on even after you’ve solved it. The cryptic reading is grammatically accurate but convoluted.

8d.:    Has a gin (not having to decline), to save Scotch.  HAIN (ha(s a g)in).  A interesting variation on the hidden type of clue…

9d:     Rank vegetation needs symmetrical trimming at edges.  ÉTAT ((veg)etat(ion))  … followed by another.

11d:   Forerunner of Equus, opus Philip worked on.  PLIOHIPPUS (anag.).  A reference to the play by Peter Schaeffer. It’s not clear who Philip is.

18d:   One goes at a clip, creating wild elation?  TOENAIL (anag.).  A satisfying use of  the anagram pair.

28d:   Beri-beri doubles me up dreadfully: pain often accompanies it.  BRIE (anag. of beri(beri)).  A very misleading French pun adds the final twist to this set of clues. Chambers doesn’t support a hyphen in ‘beriberi’ –  Dr Watson suspects the Observer’s typesetter slipped it in.

Other solutions:

1a: AFFENPINSCHER (anag. less l);  11a: PILLOW-CAP (anag.);  12a: KORALIAN (I in anag.);  16a: PRENT (p rent);  19a: HACKETTE (anag. + kett(l)e);  23a: LINEAL (in in leal);  24a: INNUENDO (anag.);  26a: VISNE ((p)ensiv(e), rev.);  29a: PENTADIC (anag. in pec);  30a: GOON (go on);  32a: SMALL-AND-EARLY (all in anag. + dearly);  2d: FIENT (fie n(o)t);  3d: FLEURON (anag.);  5d: ICOSANDRIAN (i’ CO sand + anag.);  7d: CAREENS (anag.);  10d: RINGELMANN (anag. + n, n);  15d: CHON (Ch on);  17d: CRUSTAL (U for Y in crystal);  20d: CLOY (l in coy);  21d: TERROIR (I in terror);  25d: DROOL (0 in lord, rev.);  26d: VEHM (eh for i in vim);  27d: INIA (hidden).