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 1728 ‘Wrong Number’ (3 Jul 2005)

‘Wrong Number’ puzzles are an Azed staple that come out every eighteen months or so. As with most of his specials, the setter sets out the instructions clearly in the preamble. Each clue is listed against a wrong light (of the same length), but contains a one-word definition of the solution that should appear at its location. The solving process involves finding solutions and then locating their definition in another clue. Once you have a few solutions in pencilled in, the puzzle falls together quite readily, but getting the hang of the construction is a puzzle in itself.

The biggest difficulty seems to be in the clue-writing competition. As the instructions point out, the simple definition (at 19a) doesn’t lead to the word to be clued, as this word is clued in full elsewhere (at 7d). It’s only at the end of the puzzle that you find a solution without a clue (at 20a), but with a definition hidden inside the clue at that location. In writing the clue you have to remember two things. Firstly the clue number would have been 19a, and so it must contain a one-word definition of the solution that appears there. Secondly, the clue as a whole must lead to the solution at 20a, and the one-word definition of 19a must also contribute to the clue itself (i.e. not be superfluous). Clear as mud? Dr Watson finds it helpful to walk away from the puzzle at this point, not returning until certain of what must be clued and what must be defined.

In the explanation below the clues are listed as they appear in the puzzle. The notes in brackets indicate where their solutions go in the grid, and the one-word definition that appears in the clue at that location.

Notes to the clues:

4a:     Bit of a dance? Slipper at Fettes keeping almost everyone in bounds  PANTALON (al(l) in panton; 3d, movement).  It wasn’t only the solutions that were difficult to locate. Had Dr Watson not mentally placed Fettes in France, this might have been solved quicker.

11a:   E.g. green wallflower like this swallows tot.  SADDO (add in so; 22a, anorak).  The one that seems to have given Azed the most trouble. The ‘green’ here is bordering on the superfluous, and the ‘anorak’ at 22a leads to a rather forced clue as well. However the cryptic part of this clue is very nicely disguised.

12a:   Digger (English) in the same plot.  MACHINATE (china in mate; 5d, engineer).  Azed exploits of the identical meanings of ‘china’ (rhyming slang) and ‘mate’ in a concise and coherent clue that also defines IDENTICAL. There’s a definite touch of genius about it

19a:   Drain.  EIDOLA (20a; fetches).  Remember this is just the locating definition for NULLAH, clued at 7d. You’ll need to provide your own clue for EIDOLA, including a replacement definition for NULLAH.

20a:   Cloth that fetches very small amount, about fitted.  DOMETT (met in dot; 21d, fabric).  ‘Fetches’ for EIDOLA is probably the obscurest locating definition in the puzzle, and the word has no other indication. Watson took some time to work it out.

22a:   Anorak beer spattered? A rake drove thus, possibly.  BORNE (comp. anag.; 24d, thrust).  It wasn’t easy to fit SADDO’s definition in here. The clue’s surface is presumably alluding to a drunk being borne home by car (and so not actually driving?).

26a:   Old-style stew, look, in heat, simmering.  HETAIRA (air in anag.; 10a, tart).  Neither ‘stew’ nor ‘tart’ seems to quite do justice to Chambers’ ‘courtesan, esp. of a superior class’.

8d:    E.g. Morgan loaded with most unlikely columns.  PILASTERS (last in Piers; 14d, pillars).  A reference to the former Mirror editor.

17d:  Borers in mines (the sial) may unearth this sensation Stateside.  ESTHESIA (hidden; 31a, feeling).  Forced to fit a definition for PHOLADES somewhere, Azed finds a brand new way to indicate a hidden word.

Other solutions:

1a: COPE (cop + e; 26d, exchange);  10a: COMPOTE (pot in come; 26a, stew);  14a: RISSOLE (sir, rev. + sole; 30a, cake);  15a: STANIEL (ta in anag.; 25a, hawk);  18a: BOARD (0 in bard; 6d, food);  25a: PHRATRY (h, r in anag.; 14a, class);  28a: OVERLADEN (anag. less W; 8d, loaded);  29a: TROLL (tr. + (a)llo(y), rev.; 18a, song);  31a: BLANDISH (2 meanings; 16d, soap);  32a: SEXY (x in sey; 9d, hot);  1d: PHOLADES (p + ad in holes; 17d, borers);  2d: DIPLOE (anag.; 23d, tissue);  3d: WHIPSTER (anag. less a; 1d, pup);  4d: CASA (c + as a; 27d, house);  5d: PREVAILED (RE in anag.; 28a, won);  6d: OLIVE (0 + live; 11a, green);  7d: NULLAH (null a H; 19a, drain);  9d: HEWS (h + anag. less t; 32a, cuts);  13d: IDENTICAL (I den tic (w)al(l); 12a, same);  14d: PERIBOLOS (ERI in Pb + solo, rev.; 13d, wall);  16d: GAMBADOS (bad in gam os; 4a, bounds);  21d: DISTIL (anag.; 7d, reduce);  23d: STERNO (t in anag.; 2d, jelly);  24d: POTIN (anag.; 29a, alloy);  26d: WISP (p for h in wish; 1a, shred);  27d: GITE (anag.; 4d, cottage).