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 1719 Plain (1 May 2005)

A fairly average puzzle by Azed’s standards, which is to say 36 faultlessly constructed clues (save for a small quibble with 2d) and a good smattering of the usual wit.

Notes to the clues:

6a:     Plot of Macbeth? Duncan’s undoing, matched pair going free  SCAUD (anag. less n,n).  The two N’s are neatly released in what appears to be a reference to the Thane and his Lady. You’ll need to check plot2 in Chambers to confirm the definition.

11a:   Cosmetic dressing ay dispensed with in the city.  BRUM (b(ay) rum).  Dr Watson’s more of the first Brut generation, but just about recalls bay rum being dispensed at the barbers. Solvers outside the UK might be unfamiliar with Birmingham’s old appellation.

18a:   Ancient city without date, scrap and bones.  SARAGOSSA (sa rag ossa).  This old (or possibly English) spelling of Zaragoza is easily Googled.

27a:   In re this breed… nannies are involved?  SAANEN (comp. anag. & lit.).  A trademark & lit. compound anagram – though goats always offer good punning material.

2d:    A feast maybe including kidney’s what stimulates the heart.  ADRENALINE (renal in a dine).  Watson’s only quibble is that the ‘renal’ part of ‘adrenaline’ is etymologically identical to the ‘renal’ indicated by the wordplay.

8d:    Letter from Israel I received in Rand?  AYIR (ay i’ R).  The clue seems to be pointing to a container and contents, especially if you have the I in place. It’s only when you realise that the I in the clue is I2 in Chambers, and the ‘in’ in the clue is the I in the grid that it all (sort of) makes sense.

22d:  Where one takes water with wine? It affects hock badly. SPAVIN (spa vin).  This was surely a clue waiting to happen, though Watson can’t recall seeing it done exactly this way before.

25d:  Solved dud in clues.  UNDID (anag.).  Not in this puzzle, Watson is pleased to say.

Other solutions:

1a: FAJITAS (j, it in fais);  10a: OZONE LAYER (o zone + anag.);  12a: AVARICE (a, r in a vice, & lit.);  14a: REVERB (ever in R,B.);  16a: ONE-DAY (anag. + ay);  17a: NECKED (c(oo)k in need);  20a: MARE’S-TAIL (a rest in mail);  23a: LIGAND (nag, rev. in lid);  24a: APERÇU (a per Cu);  28a: CEASING (hidden);  29a: JIRD (J + (b)ird);  30a: ANHELATION;  31a: TARRE (a r for heat in theatre);  4d: RENEGED (e + anag.);  1d: FIBRO (orb if, all rev.);  3d: J’OUVERT (anag. less s);  4d: TOERAG (e in to rag);  5d: SEVEN SEAS (evens in seas(on));  6d: SLAVES (com. anag. & lit.);  7d: CARICA (C + A(me)rica);  9d: DREIDEL (ID in anag.);  10d: CHELICERAE (he in anag.);  15d: BY-ORDINAR (by or dinar);  18d: SALTCAT (act, rev. in salt);  19d: WARNING (r in waning);  20d: MAUSER (use in mar);  21d: ANCILE (c in anile);  26d: TAHR (comp. anag. & lit.).