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 1694 Plain (7 Nov 2004)

Plenty of wit and invention to enjoy this month, but you’d need to be of a certain age to remember the two 1950s personalities that appear amongst the clues.

Notes to the clues:

14a:   Jock making somewhere to sleep in wretched spot.  SCOTTY (cot in sty).  Jock doesn’t often get the definition all to himself. It would have been tempting to use ‘Jock’s’ and lead solvers up the wrong path.

18a:   Daughter is not common, but elegant in old lines.  DAINT (d ain’t).  Watson’s been unsure whether Azed thinks ‘but’ is ok as a joiner – until now. It certainly adds elegance to the clue in this case.

22a:   Some Appleyard got to turn – producing this from keeper?  YELP (hidden rev.).  Not football but cricket. It’s back to the 1950s (when footballs were too heavy to bend a free kick anyway) and a reference to the England bowler R (Bob) Appleyard.

23a:   Like hand under cover, about touching?  HIRED (re in hid).  A well disguised definition and the ambiguous ‘about touching’ make this one harder than it might look.

31a:   Source of tonic? Group of Indians will ingest bit of this.  DITA (t in (In)dia(ns)).  Like Dr Watson, other solvers may have searched their reference sources in vain for this particular group of Indians. Not one of Azed’s best.

33a:   Country horn player includes it.  BRITAIN (it in Brain).  Another half-century stretch of the memory (or a Google search) is needed to find Dennis Brain. Hopefully he’ll come in handy one quiz night.

1d:    Asylum-seeker present from down under?  REFFO (offer, rev.).  A ‘semi-&lit’ with the definition enhanced by the wordplay.

2d:    Well-to-do residential area? Sell this back for foreign capital.  EXURB (Bruxe(lles), rev.). A well conceived clue, and one that lets the solver feel a little bit clever for getting it.

5d:    To be in work, nourishing for the old countryman  BATTILL (bat till).  Yes, another cricketing one. To bat is to ‘be in’

8d:    Sort of hammock? Last up below this makes you understand!  COTT (cott(on on)).  The exclamation mark points to something unusual happening. In this case you need to subtract the reverse of the foregoing solution (NO-NO) from ‘cotton on’. Azed rarely cross-references his clues, but when he does it, he does it well. A great penny-dropper.

19d:  Blue roach: you can see half of me above water!  AZURINE (Az(ed) + urine).  Brilliant and a little self-depreciating at the same time. Dr Watson’s favourite of the puzzle.

29d:  One short letter by which contract may be reached? ACOL (a Col.).  Colossians is one of Paul’s epistles. The clue refers to the Contract Bridge bidding system.

30d:  Ethereal creature dies – she’s gone.  PERI (peri(shes)). Nice to see peri getting a light to herself, even posthumously, as she’s usually relegated to a supporting role in clues to EXPERIMENT and the like.

Other solutions:

1a: REMEMBRANCES (anag.);  11a: EXILIAN (ex Ilian);  12a: ASTRANTIA (anag. + anti a);  13a: FRIS (fris(king));  15a: OBCONIC (bo(dy), rev. + I in conc(h));  16a: EBON (B in eon);  20a: LUTZ (T in luz);  24a: AUNT ((h)aunt);  25a: CRABBED (crab bed);  28a: GRAPPA (rap in GP + a);  32a: RICERCATA (anag. in a tar, rev.);  34a:  DELITESCENCE (D + elite + c in scene;  3d: MILICIEN (I l ici in men);  4d: MISINTERPRET;  6d: ANACATHARTIC (a Cathar in antic);  7d: NO-NO (on(e) on(e), rev.);  9d: EPITOME (it in anag.);  10d: STAYNED (stay Ned);  17d: BARBICAN (with barb I can…); 18d: DIAGRID (a gri(ll) in did);  21d: UPROARS (pro Ar in US)  26d: ETHIC (anag. of (Va)tic(an) he);  27d: DAINE (I in Dane).