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 1725 Plain (5 Jun 2005)

Dr Watson was pleased to find Azed on top form with this puzzle, which contains many fine clues, but two absolute gems.

Notes to the clues:

17a:         Chips, e.g., dear as accompaniment for meal  TEACHER (tea cher).  David ‘cheap as chips’ Dickinson might disagree with the clue’s assertion, but the reference is to the aging schoolmaster in the novel and film Good-bye, Mr Chips.

18a:         What produces great breadth in song, loosely.  LAXLY (XL in lay).  Azed takes advantage of the fact that pretty much any wordplay can be tacked on the definition..

32a:         Service returned marks location (for Hewitt).  FARM (RAF, rev. + m).  This one needs a bit of post-rationalisation. If Hewitt and ‘service’ don’t immediately connect, think Lleyton and tennis. Then recall that Lleyton Hewitt is Australian and, finally, check the entry for location in Chambers, and all should become clear.

34d:        Honorific declared to include those pronounced wise?  SAYYID (‘Y’s’ in said).  What you might call a reverse homonym, this reminds Watson of the children’s riddle ‘YYUR/YYUB/ICUR/YY4ME’.

2d:          Me, I’ll be involved with this form of auto racing for Americans.  NASCAR (comp. anag.).  A ‘semi-& lit.’ clue in so far as ‘Americans’ provides both the compounded anagram and further detail to the definition.

3d:          Cut some insides, expressly.  DESEX (hidden).  This could be taken as & lit. if ‘cut’ is seen as part of the wordplay instructions, or semi-& lit. if ‘cut’ is the definition, enhanced by the remainder of the clue. Either way, a clever clue.

10d:        The Chancellor’s after what scraps men earn, showing lingering magnetism. REMANENCE (anag. + CE).  Dr Watson’s favourite clue of this puzzle, just pipping 23d. The anagram is beautifully disguised, and the picture of an insouciant stealth-taxer fits Gordon Brown perfectly.

23d:        Lass I love moving upwards you may find well beneath this.  OIL RIG (girl I 0, all rev.).  A lovely pun joined seamlessly to the wordplay, creating an image that couldn’t be further removed from the solution.

30d:        America maybe shifting on in black market place (global).  EBAY (A for on in ebony).  Watson hadn’t previously noticed that eBay has made it into Chambers (and also into Watson’s spellchecker, it seems).

Other solutions:

1, 36a: DEIPNOSOPHIST* (anag.), DISAGREEABLES (anag.) (table, / i.e.);  11, 34a: RASPING*, RELEASE;  15, 32a: ARAK* (hidden), ACTA (Ct. in AA) (kind / court);  16, 31a: PRELATE* (p + relate), STACHYS (anag.) (discourse / acts);  17, 26a: KEIREN (ire in ken), FARFET* (anag. in fat) (house / ref);  18, 24a: ANANA* (a nana), ERNIE (hidden rev.);  2, 29d: EREUS* (usure(r), anag.), I-MODE (mod. in i.e.) (blower / that);  4, 27d: GESTE (st in gee), ATTAP* (a TT a p) (US / roofing);  5, 26d: FANGO* (fan go), RATAN (Ra tan) (stake / climber);  6, 25d: SLAGS* (anag.), ERECT (hidden rev.) (waste / some);  7, 22d: ALEYES (ley in sea, rev.), LARKIN* (lark in, ref. Philip L.) (once / bird);  8, 21d: DALASI* (D alas I), LACUNA (u in anag.) (I / used);  9, 19d: SEABEE (be in anag.), MAZARD* (m + (h)azard) (deviously / marks).