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 1818 ‘5 Down’ (1 Apr 2007)

Crosswords are fertile ground for April Foolery, and solvers with a few years’ experience of Azed will have embarked on this one with their eyes open. The best sort of trick of course is one that subverts your expectations of how a puzzle should work, and lies hidden in the preamble and clues. Here the unclued 5 down was looking  likely to contain some sort of surprise element, but exactly what didn’t become clear until very late in the solving process. The first step was to find out which across clues were ‘abnormal’ and in what way, while making the possibly dangerous assumption that the down clues were ‘normal’. That assumption turned out to be correct, and after a while it became clear that there was some sort of ‘Letters Latent’ element to certain of the across clues.

Notes to the clues:


1.      OK south coast resort, except for outsiders.  RIGHT-O(N) ((B)righto(n)).  Although fairly easy to solve, this isn’t the clue to give away the abnormality. For one thing, ‘right-o’ is adequately defined by ‘OK’, and for another, what’s happening with that N – is it the wordplay or the solution that’s being tampered with?

11.    Crowd noise with switching of halves, having no match at Ibrox?.  ORRA (halves of ‘roar’ reversed ).  Normally this wouldn’t have caused too much trouble, but it wasn’t certain this was a normal clue, and ‘switching of halves’ (cf. 15a and 9d) could have led to ARRO with the R’s still checking correctly..

14.    See preamble.  POISSON D’AVRIL  At least this solution fell out reasonably quickly for Dr Watson, even if the ‘abnormality’ warning meant it could only be pencilled in for the time being. It’s now clear that there is an April Fool element to the puzzle, but not what it is.

15.    Lapwing, parts of very pale colouring interchanged. TEWHI(T) (parts of ‘white’ exchanged).  Well, it does look like one of the T’s is latent in the clue, but it’s not absolutely certain which one, and the grid has room for both.

19.    Snouts like this I spotted stuck into cooked sole.  S(T)OOLIES (so + I in anag.).  It’s clearer which letter is latent here, but the definition makes it hard to solve.

20.    A bit of broccoli, say, not so tall in feet.  FLOWER(E)T  (lower in ft.).  Uncertainty here may lead the solver to wonder whether ‘feet’ rather than ‘ft.’ is part of the wordplay.

21.    Spirit dad displayed after nasty blow.  (G)RAPPA (rap + pa).  Hurray! At last, one that’s unambiguously latent, and all the evidence is pointing to latency of the letters that check the crucial central column.

31.    Being spoilt, fed on glace, ‘Alaska’ inside, a light sweet confection.  ANGEL-F(O)OD-CAKE (AK in anag.).  Oh dear! Back to ambiguity. At least the latent central column idea works, but could the solution be some manipulation of ANGEL-CAKE, and what should we make of the fact that the clue also leads to ANGLE COD FAKE, which does rather fit the poisson d’avril theme?

33.    Depression that’s advanced (his second) dispelled by famous physician.  GLEN (G(a)len).  Amidst all the trickery, Azed offers in parenthesis a very fair chance of tracking down the required reference in Chambers under Galenic.

34.    It’s steep in the Cairngorms, but one returns after having succeeded.  STEY (s + yet, rev.).  Fair enough, but the ‘but one returns’ is a bit unusual.

35.    Mass of water enters prospector’s trough turning groove in machine.  (K)EY-SEAT (sea in tye, rev.).  Possibly some doubt about ‘ea’ or ‘sea’, but otherwise confirming the abnormality.



8.      Chestnut saved (stiff coating removed) in autumn.  FAVELL ((sa)ve(d) in fall).  The ‘stiff coating’ is playing a little close to Azed’s dicta on nounal indicators. In the wordplay at least, ‘stiff’ means ‘the word “stiff”’, which is surely a noun.

9.      US private exchanging sections in plans?  ASIDE (parts of ‘ideas’ exchanged).  Azed seems rather taken with reorganising arbitrary parts of words in this puzzle.

18.    Thus to smother a thing sprinkles the oil and vinegar.  OVERLIE (comp. anag.).  The compounding detracts from the elegance of the wordplay, forcing Azed to use ‘thus to smother’ as the definition.

21.    Struggled getting roast out of one oven into another.  STROVE (r(oast) in stove).  What’s happens here is that ‘oast’ (an oven) is taken from ‘roast’ and the remaining ‘r’ is inserted into ‘stove’.

Other solutions:

Across: 6. RAFF (hidden);  13. ELAPSE (pale, rev., + se(em));  16. EDDA (adde(d), rev.);  17. SICKO (anag.);  26. TEMPE (temp(L)e);  27 SIKE (‘psyche’);  32. NUTRIA (anag.).  Down: 1. ROPES OF SAND (anag.);  2. GRIECE (anag. less ID);  3. TOSH (s in hot, rev.);  4. OBOIST (anag.);  6. REDO (red O);  7. ALAMORT (Alamo + rt.; ref. ‘Remember the Alamo’);  10. DÉLASSEMENT (lass eme in dent);  12. ROTIS (rotis(serie));  20. SWEERT (E in trews, rev.);  22. EMPALE (p in E male);  23. SPAKE (p in sake);  25. LINUX (un, rev., in LIX);  28. OFAY (of + ay);  30. ADRY (anag.; ref. ‘Rime of the A.M.’).

Oh yes, 5 down. The checked letters give N–NTT–EGO–K, which by now doesn’t look like much of a word, and come to think of it, it doesn’t actually have a clue, either. So the April Fool is… 5 down. There’s no solution, and the instruction to ‘complete’ rather than ‘fill’ the grid is carefully chosen. The clue to be submitted is to POISSO(N) D’AVRIL with the N that checks the central column latent.



As is evident from the review above, your reviewer completely misread the April Fool in the puzzle. Not spotting the possibility of RIGHT-O(H) as a solution to 1 across, Watson assumed that the central column contained nonsense and shouldn't be filled in. With RIGHT-OH's H in place, 5 down now reads H–NTT–EGO–K, which still doesn't look much of a word; but solvers with an eye to the theme (and possibly a Bradford's on hand) will have spotted the complementary Scottish phrase HUNT-THE-GOWK, which Azed intended to be entered to complete the grid. This time Dr Watson concedes defeat.