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’s solvers have come to expect a fun but not too taxing challenge at Christmastime, but usually something different and a little more difficult on special occasions like a centenary puzzle. And when both occasions coincide? Azed comes up with a very special ‘special’ that combines the themes of 1700 and Christmas in a most original and surprising way. As ever it’s the combination of some great cluemanship (‘misprints’ this time) and the penny-dropping moment when the theme reveals itself, that make it a puzzle to savour. The theme is hidden in six unclued lights. Three have a connection to Christmas and three have a connection to a theme word hinted at in the title, while each the first three forms a compound expression with one of the second three. The theme word forms a further compound expression that completes the connection with the puzzle’s number. The letters that correct the misprints in half of the clues spell out a quotation that hints at this last expression.
In the notes below the correct word for a misprinted clue is given in the bracketed explanation.
Notes to the clues:
13a: Clover maybe gives this oil, not right to eat. TREF (tref(oil)). One that might leave you puzzling even after a scan through the TRE’s has turned up the solution.
18a: Forward after kick-off, one secretly helping with the hooker. KOBOLD (hoover; KO bold). Watson’s solving time was increased by the assumption that the corrected misprint was ‘cooker’ rather than ‘hoover’.
28a: Triplets from Pavarotti switched showing musical range. OTTAVA ((P)ava(r)ott(i) switched). Not an obvious device, but clearly explained. A misprint or a longer name could have made it difficult.
2d: Having no time for counting, one gypsy trick gets almost everyone UNROMANTICAL (courting; ’un rom antic al(l) ). You could struggle with this clue if you decide ‘gypsy’ must be ‘Roma’ rather than ‘rom’.
3d: River birds in Blackburn and the like? DEEJAYS (Dee jays). Luckily for solvers under about 35 who avoid middle-of-the-road radio, Tony Blackburn has made something of a celebrity comeback recently.
6d: Victorian topper? There’s barrier maybe on Garden production without one. WALLOPER (copper; wall + oper(a)). We’re talking here about the state of Victoria and Covent Garden, home of the Royal Opera House.
29d: Boozer swallowing his last? It shouldn’t be taken literally TROPE (r moved in toper). There always seems to be a reference to carousing somewhere in an Azed Christmas puzzle. This one is well up to Azed’s best standard.
32d: Climbing mountain peaks you’ll discover old puy? SNEB (guy; bens, rev.). This takes a bit of finding, even once you’ve realised ‘puy’ contains the misprint. ‘Sneb’ leads via ‘snib’ to ‘snub’, which means to secure with a rope, as does ‘guy’ (as a verb).
10a: ANERLY (L in an + anag.); 12a: LABRUM (lip; Lab(rador) rum); 14a: ROBE (hide; hidden); 15a: MANILA (paper; nil in maa); 16a: IMARET (I + Ar. in met); 20a: CLASPER (anag.); 23a: STEPPES (trees; step pes(t)); 26a: EFT (tailed; 2 meanings); 30a: AROLLA (roll in aa); 31a: BANISH (NI in bash); 33a: ICON (I con); 35a: NAPLES (anag.); 36a: TERRAE (bits; arret, rev. + E); 37a: GLEED (ember; l(ak)e in ged); 1d: PAT-LID (tea; anag. in pad); 4d: ILEA (I lea(n)); 5d: GLAIKS (deceptions; gla(d) + (wh)isk(y) anag.); 7d: IROKO (ok in iro(n)); 8d: TUBULIFLORAE (l + or in anag.); 9d: EMENDS (corrects; end in Ems); 11d: YENTA (yen ta); 17d: ELEVATED (merry; anag. less Ry.); 21d: RELEARN (RE + L + earn ); 24d: PANISC (s in panic); 25d: PAINT (oils; pain t(it)); 27d: TACKET (nail; C in take + t).
1a: PUDDING; 6a: WHITE; 19a: DAY; 34a: MARK; 38a: CABINET; 22d: BOXING
The Christmas compounds are PUDDING, WHITE and DAY. With the other three thematic words they form the compounds CABINET PUDDING, MARK-WHITE and BOXING DAY.
MARK, CABINET and BOXING all form compounds with SHADOW (the ‘spirit’ of Christmas).
Correct letters in misprinted clues spell out ‘I have a beard coming’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
1700 is five o’clock and so the compound to be clued is FIVE-O’CLOCK SHADOW.
Azed previously used a time of day connection in puzzles 250 (linked to Brooke’s ‘Stands the church clock at ten to three?’) and 1250 (where ‘ten’ was replaced by ‘one’ – sometimes in another language – in several solutions).