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 1753 Plain (1 Jan 2006)

As Midwinter recedes, but before the Christmas decorations are down, it’s time to embark on another year of Azed competitions. As usual the January puzzle is a little easier than the preceding specials, but tough enough to wake you up on a New Year’s Day. And only if you’re more wide awake than Dr Watson will you spot the seasonal greeting before you embark on the clue writing competition!

Notes to the clues:

11a:   Boffin maybe visiting IOW town forgets second name.  INVENTOR (in Vent(n)or).  The geographical reference isn’t too obscure, the clue is neatly constructed, and if strings of letters can get drunk, as they do so often in puzzles, it’s reasonable to assume they can suffer from amnesia too.

20a:   Revolutionary academic backed Homer perhaps.  NODDER (red don, all rev.).  This refers to the expression ‘Homer sometimes nods’ (meaning even the best have their off moments), originally from a line in Horace. It was unfamiliar to Dr Watson, but it can be tracked down in Brewer’s and ODQ. ‘Homer sometimes?’ might have been more helpful as a definition.

21a:   Miss Grey in Cluedo? No, this is wrong.  DULCIE (comp. anag.).  Dulcie Grey isn’t a name that springs readily to mind these days. She had a career in British films mainly of the 1940s and 50s, and many subsequent TV and stage roles.

24a:   Ligature considerably less than half of the healing art.  AESC (Aesc(ulapian)).  The definition is misleadingly placed in a medical context. Solved only by a guess followed by a scan down the column in Chambers.

34a:   Slantwise.  DIAGONAL.  It may not strike you as the most obvious word for a competition, but it’s an oblique reference (literally) to the puzzle’s special feature: the greeting HAPPY NEW YEAR in the NE–SW diagonal of the puzzle.

2d:    One small number ‘crunched’ by indefinitely vast one in electronic apparatus.  LINAC (I, n in lac).  A linear accelerator is probably more accurately described as ‘electromagnetic apparatus’.

4d:    Felt uneasy about going up in cable-car.  TELFER (anag. + re, rev.).  Very elegantly worded, taking full advantage of the down light.

8d:    Sound of TV going bang? It involves chaps including police force.  IMPLODENT (plod in men in it).  Azed gets his physics right here (assuming the telly is a CRT one).

Other solutions:

1a: BLEATING (l in beating);  7a: KISH (hidden);  13a: SNOOL (loons, rev.);  14a: FRAPPÉ (pp in anag.);  16a: FRAMPLER (Pl. in framer);  17a: OCHREAE (anag. in oche);  18a: NAIK (a in Nik(e));  26a: CRAUNCH (crab lunch less bl.);  28a: COPYISTS (anag. in cots; see cote1);  30a: TREENS (sneer + t, all rev.);  31a: BASIC (anag.);  32a: RESNARED (ran, rev. in anag.);  33a: READ (2 meanings);  1d: BUS CONDUCTOR (anag.);  3d: AVOS (comp. anag., & lit.);  5d: INGRATE (n.g. in irate);  6d: GORMY (m in gory);  9d: SAPELES (ape in anag.);  10d: HIERARCHICAL (chic in anag.);  12d: RAPID (p in raid);  15d: PHILOPENA (P + open in hila);  19d: AURORAE (or in aurae);  20d: NORTENA (anag.);  22d: CRYER (rye in Cr.); 23d: GASBAG (AS b in gag);  25d: WINED (in in wed);  27d: CNIDA (n in anag.);  29d:  HARO (haro(set)).