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 1823 Plain (6 May 2007)

After last month’s flummoxing Dr Watson was looking forward to a nice ordinary Plain puzzle for May, and wasn’t too disappointed, though some of the clues took quite a bit of decoding.

Notes to the clues:


2.      ‘Free’ estates likewise historically including reverse of same.  ALODS (do., rev., in als).  It’s not clear if the obtuse wording is meant to be cod legalese. The explanation is ‘do.’ (ditto) reversed in ‘als’, an old form of ‘also’.

14.    Very well off, Ed disposed of currency in Tajikistan.  SOMONI (so moni(ed)).  The first new currency Dr Watson’s come across in Azed since ngultrum. Another one to save up for Quiz Night.

17.    Music Neil arranged, trivial, generally frowned upon.  MINISCULE (anag.)  It’s interesting to see that Chambers admits this spelling as a ‘non-standard’ one. Watson is more inclined to Azed’s frown than Chambers’ nod.

21.    Joints tire badly in grip of chronic bone disease. MITRES (anag. in MS).  Dr Watson could find no evidence for MS standing for anything other than multiple sclerosis, a chronic nerve disease.

24.    Oil pa’s to brush on with this.  NOINT (i.e. paint with no int = pa).  The ‘reverse cryptic’ device isn’t that uncommon (and doubtless some competitors will exploit it in their KISS clues as ‘K is S’), but the parsing is unusual here because it’s ‘brush on’ rather than ‘pa’ that needs to be considered ‘with this’.

25.    Descriptive of a particular muscle that’s near bum.  ATTRAHENS  (anag.).  A beautifully conceived anagram and indicator. The unwary solver is in danger of entering ATTRAHENT if the wordplay is not understood.


5.      Composer (Richard) lacking measure to provide computer extras.  ADD-INS (Addins(ell)).  Probably more solvers than Dr Watson will have filled in the answer and researched it afterwards. Richard Addinsell, who died in 1977, is best known for film scores of the 1930s to 50s.

7.      Lowly squire e.g. Mum brought up.  AMYAS (say ma, rev.).  This is the (slightly obscure – but perhaps no more so than Richard Addinsell) literary character mentioned in the footnote. He appears in The Faerie Queene, but for once Edmund doesn’t get a credit in the clue.

9.      Help rising jazz great, first to last, in sound required for calling.  DIALLING TONE (aid, rev., + Ellington with E moved to end).  A much easier reference this time, and a perfect connection (so to speak) between wordplay and definition.

16.    Sea cow maybe identified by homo sapiens?  LAMANTIN (man in Latin).  We’re used to the ‘tucked up’ type of indicator for something in COT or BED: this takes it a step further. It might have helped to italicise ‘homo sapiens’, but it’s still a very satisfying and original clue.

22.    There’s glamour in one asked for a late-night kiss or valediction!  SHALOM (halo in SM).  The explanation lies in the wartime song ‘Kiss Me Goodnight, Sergeant-Major’, making it a very funny clue once you get it. ‘Goodnight kiss’ would have given more guidance to the generations of solvers that are required to research such an answer (your reviewer included).

Other solutions:

Across: 1. KETUBAH (anag. less by);  11. RHODYMENIA (anag.);  12. SLAY (a in sly);  13. DAY-COAL (ay in anag.);  18. ANENT (an ent(ry));  19 NUBBIN (anag. in nun);  28. ROBOTS (B in roots); 30. TIMBALE (anag. in tie);  31. GLOW (g + low);  32. INDIGOFERA (gofer in India);  33. NEESE (seen, rev. + e);  34. MAD-BRED (anag. in med).  Down: 1. KISS;  2. EFLORNITHINE (anag.);  3. TRAMPETTE (tram pette(d));  4. BORNITE (it in borne);  6. HYALIN (anag. less CD);  8. LECH (hidden);  10. SALIENTS (alien in st + S);  15. TUBICOLAR (anag.);  20. UNNOTED (anag. + Ted);  23. TEREFA (ref in tea);  26. ADAGE (ad age);  27. IBIS (ib. + Is);  29. SWAD (w in sad).