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 1702 Plain (2 Jan 2005)

Azed usually sets January competition puzzle that’s on the easy side, as a kind of solvers’ alka seltzer. Consequently this puzzle makes an excellent introduction for crossworders just graduating from the blocked puzzles of the dailies. And the competition word should delight all the wordsmiths who regularly pit their wits in the clue writing challenge.

Notes to the clues:

1a:     Whining old beggar getting heavy blow, one magistrate put back inside.  WHIPJACK (I + JP, rev. in whack). ‘A whining beggar who pretends to be a sailor’. This is one of those fascinating Chambers definitions that has probably survived unchanged from a much earlier edition. An internet search indicates a whipjack was a fraudster who hung around the docks claiming to be a sailor who’d suffered loss or injury at sea. But why ‘whining’ specifically? The answer, it seems, is lost to lexicographical history.

11a:   Crab I cook, yellowish-brown on the outside.  OCHIDORE (I do in ochre).  Another oddity of a word attributed uniquely to Kingsley (of The Water Babies, presumably).

16a:   Ruining of scattered clubs related to a language group.  FINNO-UGRIC (anag.).  This looks at first sight as though it’s going to involve an anagram of ‘scattered’.

22a:   Whole round not missing ball I play.  INTACT (n(o)t in I act).  A convoluted but precise cryptic reading.

25a:   March? Ides is missing with short month!  DEMO ((I)de(s) + mo.).  There’s been some discussion in the Azed Slip recently about exclamation marks, with Azed generally deprecating their gratuitous use. The one here is probably meant to highlight the ridiculous premise of the clue.

35d:  Kilt set off pins.  SKITTLES (anag.).  The perfect anagram opportunity perfectly grasped.

3d:    What, we hear, one with joint might say, needing specialist carver?  IVORIST (‘I’ve a wrist’).  Chambers shows the o in ‘ivory’ – and therefore by extension in ‘ivorist’ – as a neutral vowel (represented by what Dr Watson now knows to call a schwa), thus confirming that the homophone, technically at least, is valid.

7d:    Queer holds roué appallingly smelly.  ODOURED (anag. in odd).  Another clue containing a decoy anagram indicator.

10d:  Oil bread on being cut person holds crushed jar.  PETRODOLLARS (trod olla in pers(on)).  A lovely misleading definition, even if the rest of the clue doesn’t make great sense.

24d:  Carmen is a bit of a treat for the discriminating person.  RACIST (RAC is t).  ‘Carmen’ was AA a few puzzles ago. What next – Green Flag?

Other solutions:

12a: RYOKAN (Ry. ok an);  13a: COP IT (anag.);  14a: DARING (dar(l)ing);  15a: SQUIER (anag.);  18a: MAST (hidden);  20a: BEEFED (E in be fed);  26a: GOLD-BEATER (old, beat in Ger.);  28a: HURLER (anag. in (as)hr(am));  30a: ACETAL (ace tal(lies));  32a: ENIAC (hidden);  33a: VIMANA (man in via);  34a: RINGHALS (R + anag.);  1d: WORDSMITHERY;  2d: HOYA (o in anag.);  4d: PEKIN (PE kin);  5d: JOANNA (jo anna(t), i.e. grand piano);  6d: CHASUBLE (C has + anag.);  8d: TOPI (top I);  9d: GRIECE (anag. of Ger(many), Ice(land));  17d: OUTBREAK (anag. in oak);  19d: TALLAGE (tall age);  21d: FEE TAIL (feet ail);  23d: NGUNIS (gun in sin, rev.);  27d: TEMPT ((fla)t + empt(y));  29d: RINK ((d)rink);  31d: ANCE (hidden).