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 1762 Plain (5 Mar 2006)

We’re back in Plain territory again after all the recent Specials, with a puzzle that should be accessible to newer solvers (and those attracted by the little ad that now appears next to the Everyman puzzle). An apparent error at 9d may have been a problem for those who assume these things never happen in Azeds.

Notes to the clues:


11:    Rope forming mostly inert loop?  LAZO (laz(y) + O).  Chambers defines an O as pretty much anything O-shaped. The question mark is to indicate that ‘loop’ is an example of an O rather than defined by it.

12:    Spleen swelling making one hate rolling in pain, as before.  AGUE-CAKE (ace ug, all rev., in ake).  One of the hardest clues to explain, though the checked letters and definition make it more solvable. ‘Ug’ in this sense can be found under the entry for ugly. ‘Ake’ has its own entry, where it’s defined as an ‘Old spelling of the verb ache’. ‘Ache’ and ‘pain’ aren’t really the same verb (‘pain’ is transitive, ‘ache’ isn’t), but it’s reasonable to assume that ‘ake’ could have been use as a noun as well.

13:    Not led astray with heroin, I’ll be very active.  ON THE GO (anag. + H + ego).  That I = ego trick catches Dr Watson out every time.

17:    The liquor without e.g. inserted dilute.  THIN (th(e g)in).  An uncommon cryptic device made a bit easier to spot by the slightly odd surface reading.

26:    Notoriously shaggy one found in thesaurus.  ESAU (hidden).  For those who’ve forgotten their Old Testament, the reference is to Gen. 25:25 “And the first [of Isaac’s sons] came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau,:” et seq.


1.      Fools in love? The opposite, creating mischief in Scotland.  CLOOTS (0 in clots)   ‘The opposite’, ‘quite the reverse’, etc., is a useful device that gives the setter more cryptic freedom. Here it indicates that the solution should be constructed as ‘love’ in ‘fools’. However, to be effective it needs make some sense in the surface reading, as it does here. ‘Cloots’ is listed under cloot1 in Chambers.

8:      Most excellent joke about corrupt imam  JAMMIEST (anag. in jest).  Not involving a cartoon, presumably?.

9:      Spill Scotch left after raki’s drunk  SKAIL (anag.? + l).  A good misleading definition let down by what appears to be a either misprint (though accidentally replacing one drink with another would be a remarkable coincidence) or an error by the setter. The clue works if ‘raki’ is changed to ‘saki’.

15:    I’m idle in study, with minimum of toil? Not if I’m this.  DILIGENT (I lig in den + t, & lit.).  A nicely realised semi-& lit. clue demonstrating a different way of using the ‘opposite’ device seen in 1d.

23:    Squeals, 51 quitting cross-party alliance?  BLABS ((LI)b-Labs).  The Lib-Lab pact may have been dead since 1979 but its memory lingers on in Chambers. It’s less clear whether ‘Lib-Lab’ was ever a noun. One could be a Lib or a Lab in an alliance, but surely not both?


Other solutions:

Across: 1: CROSSANDRA (cross + a  + anag.);  14: DAMMAR (RA m-mad, all rev.);  16: SYNDROMIC (Rom in syndic);  19: ZILA (hidden rev.);  20: SOLVAY PROCESS (anag.);  23: BRIO (R in bio);  27: LEGATIONS (at in Legions);  29: ANETIC (e in antic);  30: ROTATED (anag.);  31: BANG-TAIL (t’ (h)ai(r) in bangl(e));  32: DUAR (comp. anag., & lit.);  33: BELLADONNA (bell ado n n/a).  Down: 2: RANCHO (ran C Ho.);  3: SO-HO (so + initial letters);  4: SPESSARTITE (anag. in spee(d));  5: NGONI (hidden);  6: DUDDERY;  7: REAR-ROASTED (anag. + oast in red);  10: PERCA (hidden);  18: TYPICAL (anag.);  21: SABEAN (’s a bean);  22: SUNDRA (n in Sudra);  24: RENAL ((A)r(s)enal);  25: ZORIL (zo + initial letters); 28: FADO (fad + 0).