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 1685 ‘Printer’s Devilry’ (5 Sep 2004)

Love them or loathe them (and Dr Watson is firmly in the former category), P.D.’s are staple of the Azed repertoire, and doubtless will continue to be. As a regular solver, beguiled and delighted by the setter’s witty touch, it’s easy to forget how difficult this type of puzzle is for a newcomer. The main problem is the lack of a definition: the clue gives the solver only one pointer to the solution, and can often leave him or her wondering whether a potential solution is a valid word (e.g. 2d, 29d) or the only possible one (e.g. 6d). Including a definition, though, would in Dr Watson’s view so constrain the setter as to take most of the pleasure from the solving. It would be good to see more puzzles mixing P.D. clues with the standard types, to give novice solvers a chance to get to grips with them.

Notes to the clues:

1a:     Don’t serve bogus Italian food knowing the aversion – one has to be ast/i in cans!  LYRAVIOL (…beastly ravioli…).Dr Watson can’t help wondering if this puzzle was the first word Azed put in the puzzle, so amenable is it to devilry. A great find.

7a:     Mo/ths are obscene.  STOA (Most oaths…).

11a:   Half the meat is marinated in turmeric – and the res/ale.  TING-A-LING (…rest in galingale).  Another pair of words that seems made for devilling together.

12a:   I simply had to buy this picture – I w/aken with it.  ASSOT (…was so taken…).

13a:   Wi/ll badly worn? He must get fresh tyres.  THRIMSA (With rims all…).

14a:   Li/ed starts, a song typical of warblers. STENTOR (Listen to redstarts’…).

16a:   Advocates of good behaviour ab/out in any gathering.  HORAL (…abhor a lout…).

19a::  I find le/a refreshing on a hot afternoon.  MONTE (…lemon tea…).

20a:   The char mo/ans: ‘Supposed to work like magic!’  NATALISM (…charm on a talisman’s…). Words ending with ‘ist’ and ‘ism’ are often good bets in a P.D. puzzle. This one contains three.

23a:   The proud newly-wed woodman may show his bri/ars.  DEHISCED (…bride his cedars).   Every element of the clue builds up to the inevitable, if not obvious, conclusion.

24a:   Many old landed families now have f/ates.  EWEST (…few estates).  Not a misprint for ‘fêtes’. A glance at the solution to Azed 1682 on the same page would have offered a hint here, as EWEST appears in that puzzle as well.

26a:   Of all China I find this spo/t appealing.  DEMOS (…Spode most…).

28a:   The potter made his fir/ing – rather crude techniques.  STURNUS (…first urn using…).

30a:   Saint pe/stered actively among early Christians.  TERMINI (…Peter ministered…). 

31a:   Some candidates, a p/ost, and no chance of election.  PEART (…appear to stand…).  A very elegant piece of devilry.

32a:   Is it worth a liberal merchandiser trying his wa/y?  RESONATOR (…wares on a Tory?).  You just kind of know this one’s going to have a political twist.

33a:   Tripl/ings are six in number.  ANEW (Triplane wings…).

34a:   Hawks may hover over pl/acing their young.  OVERSMEN (…plovers menacing…). A third ‘over’ is probably the last thing you’d expect.

1d:    Few of his peers played the chauvinist ma/id.  LEASHED (…male as he did).

2d:    Those we support are seen, b/ed backing  YU-STONE (…by us to need…).  One problem with P.D. is that, with no definition to go on, you’re not sure what sort of word you’re looking for. In this case solvers will see no entry in Chambers for the apparent solution ‘yustone’, and will need to find it under the entry at yu.

3d:    At the ba/t, out, bumpers for all.  RISE (…bar I set…). 

4d:    An ultra-modern extension isn’t gre/ed-building.  ATONALIST (…great on a listed…).

5d:    Suspected corruption leaves as light ta/ppers record.  INTONACO (…a slight taint on a copper’s…).  A good example of the undevilled version making more sense than the devilled.

6d:    Through a del/ver sometimes runs.  LARI (…dell a river…). You might need to rule out ALSO, LILO, LIRA and a few others before settling on the best  solution.

8d:    My new programme’s an international co-production: The Par/ade in France.  TIMONISM (…part I’m on is made…). An impressive splitting of the solution across five words.

9d:    The conductor’s bat/tles: disputes over tempi.  ONSET (…baton settles…).

10d:  The awful lot of thef/t on was working for older boys.  AGATE (…the fag at Eton…).

15d:  Would his new young wife want to meet, hi/t while mistress?  SOLDERERS (…his older, erstwhile…).

17d:  People close to the fi/ctions of the building collapsing.  REHEARSE (…fire hear sections…).

18d:  Guests at a cheese and wine party mu/m’s passed round without cutlery.  STEATITE (…must eat items…)

21d:  Inte/nt: notices about ‘more for less’ are seductive to shoppers.  SCOURGE (In Tesco urgent …). Azed must have been out at the supermarket, as ‘more for less’ is a real Tesco slogan.

22d:  Did hol/iest problems require less than half a pipe?  MESS-TIN (…Holmes’s tiniest…)

24d:  He’s given me a hot tip for then/ce.  EXTRA (…the next race).  A nice straightforward one to get you started.

25d:  As well as breaking, the la/d angered other road users. WHEEN (…law he endangered…).

27d:  A raincoat of hemp, etc. MINO

29d:  Tied up at Mari/an’s, repairing his craft  NAAM (…marina a man’s…).  It’s always worth checking whether a promising gap-filler is in fact a word.