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 1806 Plain (7 Jan 2007)

Far from relaxing after the Christmas period, Azed starts the new year with quite a dazzling display of verbal ingenuity that runs throughout this excellent puzzle.

Notes to the clues:


1.      Dope runs away from elements in rhythmic pop style.  DUMB-ASS (d(r)um bass).  The elements of drum’n’bass are of course ‘drum’ and ‘bass’.

12.    Cruelly toss penny in celebrated cut.  SPANGHEW (p in sang + hew).  Despite having come across ‘spangcockle’ in Chambers, Dr Watson hadn’t noticed this singular definition under the same headword. It seems almost too much richness for one dictionary entry.

14.    Feature of the US south-west found in James Agate.  MESA (hidden).  This is a word Azed has clued many times. James Agate was a real person (and as author of a nine-volume autobiography called Ego, clearly didn’t expect the world to forget it), but any connection to the American south-west appears to be fictitious.

23.    Bird: it appears in a McCartney offshoot, possibly . SITTELLA (it in Stella).  The reference is to Paul’s fashion designer daughter – surely a McCartney in her own right these days rather than an offshoot.

30.    Speculation? Like results from Italian money when this.  RISK (i.e. lire becomes like when R is K).  Azed occasionally indulges in this kind of reverse wordplay when the solution allows it. A rather better & lit. example of his is ‘Did my letters make lad sad?’ for LASS.

32.    Place for flats perhaps that’s been renovated in southern island  SCENE BAY (anag. in S cay).  The definition (flats being scenery), and the well-hidden anagram material create a very misleading surface that’s a delight to solve..

33.    M for mooch?  MIKE (2 meanings).  This gave Dr Watson a lot of bother it dawned to consider the NATO alphabet.

34.    Ally accepting end of breach as détente?  THAW (h in taw).  Solvers with Bradfords should find ‘ally’ and ‘taw’ (not to mention ‘spangcockle’) under heading of Marble.


3..     Spare tyre may come out after this!  BLOW-OUT (2 meanings & lit.).  It’s so satisfying to find a two-in-one definition that works this well that Azed can award himself an exclamation mark.

10.    Slap a bit of water in basin.  TWANK (w in tank).  Chambers unhelpfully hides the relevant definition under twang with no cross-reference.

16.    UC herd perplexed about OU course – JK’s sitting pretty!  UPPERCHED (PPE in anag.).  Look, another exclamation mark! OU is Oxford University in this case, where the PPE course probably graduates more politicians than philosophers or economists. JK is John Keats, whose coinage this is, referring to a nightingale (but in Endymion rather than Ode to).

21.    From Austria, dictator is describing Reichs culminating in his own?  TRIADIC (hidden).  A semi-& lit. treatment that depends on the solver knowing that Hitler was Austrian and declared the Third Reich.

26.    Territorials once on moving water may be this (in both senses).  AT SEA (ATS + ea, & lit.).  There’s a nice double reading on the clue’s surface that’s nothing to do with the solution’s frequent role as an anagram indicator. Territorials, being a land force, would be at sea at sea, so to speak.

Other solutions:

Across: 7. WADT (wad + T);  11. EXUL (luxe, rev.);  13. DYSODILE (anag. in anag.);  17. BRAIN (RA in bin);  18. MECOPTERA (cop in met. + are, rev.);  19. PORISTIC (anag. in porc);  27. ARGENTINE (gent in (m)arine);  29. ARTIC (anag.);  31. HELIODOR (anag. + 0 in her);  35. ONISCUS (anag.).  Down: 1. DEDIMUS (dim in deus);  2. MUSK-CAT (tack sum, rev.);  4. SPINTO (anag.);  5. SALLE (L in sale);  6. INEBRIANT;  8. AHEAD (HE + a in ad);  9. DESIPIENT (sip i.e. in dent);  15. PERITRICH (anag. + rich);  20. SITCOMS (sit coms);  22. CHÈVRES (VR in chees(e));  24. LEGLAN (l + anag.);  25. KARST (karts with st rev.);  28. GREBO (0 berg, rev.).