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 1801 Plain (3 Dec 2006)

The selection of ‘semi-& lits’ and unorthodox cryptic devices in this month’s competition puzzle may have some solvers consulting their Chambers Crossword Manual for reassurance, but Dr Watson’s certain they’ve all been used before.

Notes to the clues:


13.    Boot of skin you’ll find fashioned round Norway?  FINNSKO (N in anag.).  A ‘semi-& lit.’ clue as indicated by the question mark. Azed could arguably have gone all the way by omitting ‘you’ll find fashioned’ and using ‘boot’ as the anagram indicator.

14.    Cold? That’s shortened grasses (rice included). CORYZA (C + oryza).  The italics show that ‘cold’ is being used both as definition and (shortened) as part of the wordplay.

18.    Something like poker? Game secured involves king.  BRAG (R in bag).  ‘Game secured’ is a clever indicator. The shortest ever winning clue in a Azed competition is ‘B-r-ag?’ for CROW (or possibly other way round).

19.    Produce conflict overlapping with deity presiding thereon. WARES (war overlapping Ares).  This is a rarely used device, and needs some semantic connection between the overlapping parts to justify the ambiguity in the size of the overlap. The definition is hard to spot.

21.    He destroyed old Nick, an evil fellow.  ABADDON (a bad don).  The wordplay again produces a ‘semi-& lit.’ result. Would ‘An evil fellow?’ have worked on its own? It’s probably not specific enough for Azed. Dr Watson could find no evidence that Abaddon destroyed Satan, but the name may have been interpreted as meaning separately The Destroyer and Satan, so there appear to be two definitions.

31.    Barbarian having five such bloodied?  HUNDRED (Hun + D(=500) + red, & lit.).  The & lit.-ness of this clue works very much by suggestion. There’s no real definition: a barbarian could have five pretty much anything bloodied. It might have helped to italicise the ‘such’, similarly to 14a.


17.    P-Pomeranian shark?  PENNY-DOG (penny(=p) + dog).  A fun clue cheekily disguising itself as a ‘stammerer’, and so including the solution’s hyphen. The Baltic, incidentally, is not renowned as shark territory.

26.    Deliberately avoid parade-ground order.  SHUN (2 meanings).  Chambers give ‘’Shun!’ as a short form of the military command ‘Attention!’.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. CHAMBERSTICKS (C + amber in anag.);  10. LEVELLER (ll in levee + r);  12. BUNA (a nub, rev.);  15. STEEK (t in seek);  20. RENAMED (man, rev., in reed);  23. OBELI (E, l in obi);  26. SWAG (anag.);  28. CHINO (hidden);  30. YANKIE (‘Yankee’);  32. NARK (n ark);  33. SNOTTIES (tons, rev. + anag.);  33. RUSE DE GUERRE.  Down: 1 CLOCK-WATCHER (clock + anag.);  2. HEBONA (he(ir) bona);  3. MENYIE (I in anag.);  4. BLAZE (b + laze);  5. ELF-ARROW ((sm)el(ly) farrow);  6. REIS ((fi)re + Is);  7. TANTRA (NT in tara);  8. INSEAMED (in sea + Med);  9. KWOK’S DISEASE (wok in anag.);  11. SKEG (’s + keg);  16. DRAWINGS (win in drags);  22. DANDLE (D and le);  24. BANATE (an in bate);  25. LAIKER (anag.);  27. BANTU (n in anag.);  29. DENE (hidden).