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 1689 Plain (3 Oct 2004)

This month’s competition puzzle puts the arts to the fore, with several literary and musical references. Science takes a back seat, CYSTINE being especially badly served by the definition ‘chemical compound’.

Notes to the clues:

13a:   More than half cricket team backed cover once.  VELE (elev(en), rev.). Dr Watson will leave cricket enthusiasts to explain what ‘backed cover’ means. The initial V may have had solvers looking for something containing VI (more than half of XI).

15a:   The old lady’s half-hearted affair?  MATER (mat(t)er).  Azed decides a question mark is needed to indicate a non-standard device, which requires a double letter in the middle of the word to be unambiguous.

18a:   Constant Lambert scored composition for luter.  TRUE (anag. less l).  A word like this needs an original treatment, and the clue exploits double meanings in both parts of the composer’s name.

22a:   Harry met Dotty, a piece by MacGonagall?  RAT-RHYME (anag.).  Previously comp word. There’s no better way of understanding ‘rat-rhyme’ than by taking a look at some of William MacGonagall’s verse for yourself.

33a:   Scare on the Pequod? Vessel’s No. 2 lost in open rowing boat.  GALLY (gall(e)y).  The nod to Moby Dick is very appropriate to the word’s origin. It’s nice to see a whaling clue for once that doesn’t lead to AHAB.

3d:    Gershwins (I.& G.) are such drinkers – hin drunk!  SWIGGERS (comp. anag.).  Not intended as a slight on Ira and George, presumably, but an opportunity to link the Jewish composers to the (rather substantial) Hebrew liquid measure.

4d:    Casanova, licentiate in excess?  LOVER (L over).  Azed finds an excellent fresh approach to an oft-clued word.

7d::    Pestilential (ill-formed) clue? It should be rewritten.  LUETIC (anag.). Azed’s followers might imagine that he says this a lot! The erroneous formation is listed under lues.

21d:  Knight lives on lake within borders of Innisfree, put there?  INISLE (N is L in I,e).  A ‘semi-& lit’ clue. This isn’t quite WB Yeats and his cabin of clay and wattles, as Yeats famously refused a knighthood.

27d:  Old skin salve? More than one stank.  PONDS (2 meanings, stank2).  Pond’s lotion has certainly been around in Watson’s time, but the smell was unmemorable.

28d:  Costume I put out for hire.  TO LET (to(i)let).  A result of that urge we’ve all felt to modify a ‘To Let’ sign?

30d:  Tenor attracting attention?  TEAR (T + ear, & lit.).  Robert Tear is one who holds that epithet, ‘distinguished Welsh tenor’.

Other solutions:

1a: MUSSEL-SCALP (anag. in plum, rev.);  11a: POURSUIT (pour suit);  12a: RONIN (hidden rev.);  14a: CLOGGER (C logger);  16a: HEDGEROW (edge, r in how, & lit.);  19a: SOLECID (cole in anag.);  24a: ARNA (comp. anag.);  26a: ASPARTIC (art in aspic);  29a: ALLOT ((b)allot);  31a: TOPMOST (m in to post);  32a: SOAY (0 in say);  34a: OUTLANDS (anag.);  35a: REPRESENTEE (r + resent in épée);  1d: MARCH-TREASON (anag.);  2d: SYNOD;  5d: SUN ROOM (anag. in soom);  6d: CRIM (crim(son));  8d: PILEI (pile + I);  9d: PTERODACTYLE (anag.);  10d: SOLERA (E in Sol, Ra);  17d: PEARMAIN (pear + I in man, & lit.);  20d: CYSTINE (y in anag.);  23d: T-PLATE (anag.);  25d: CLOUR (c(o)lour).