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 1856 ‘Four in One’ (23 Dec 2007)

Azed quite often produces a ‘mixed bag’ type of puzzle for Christmas, combining several different clue types. There are two old favourites this year: misprints and printer’s devilry, as well as normal clues and ‘anagram’ clues which are a more recent invention of Azed’s. The solver’s challenge is to find which clues are which, given the information that all the clues whose lights start in the same quarter of the grid are of the same type. There is no further theme to discover, but as an extra twist, one clue is of the wrong type for its location, and a clue of the right type must be submitted for the clue writing competition. Given the constraints that printer’s devilry and anagrams place on solutions, the grid is a masterful construction, and the clues are well up to Azed’s exacting standards. Dr Watson found the puzzle well suited to being solved over several sessions interspersed with other Christmas activities.

Of the different clue types, printer’s devilry (P in the notes below) are probably the easiest to spot because of their distinctively quirky wording (‘Anew, shipmen, sea king waves’ for instance), and they inhabit the south-west quarter. They are also generally the hardest to solve, so solvers may have to satisfy themselves with having located them until a few letters are in place from other types of clue. The only technique with P.D. clues that’s of much use is to find the oddest-looking part of the clue and try to prise it apart. In the notes below a slash marks the insertion point in each clue.

It’s no great surprise to find misprints (M) in the north-west corner as this contains the most long words, and unlike P.D.s and anagrams, misprints place no constraint on the solutions that can be clued. With misprints the best approach is to identify and work on the wordplay while thinking about what single-letter changes could be made to the definition. In the notes the misprinted word from the definition is given, corrected, before the explanation.

In the anagram clues (A) in the north-east quarter the definition leads to the word to be entered and the wordplay to a one-word anagram of it. There’s nothing to distinguish these clues except that the wordplay doesn’t lead to the defined solution. There is a very limited number if words that can be clued in this way, and Azed has used many of them in past puzzles, but he finds enough for this grid, including one of eleven letters. Azed has used two types of anagram clue in the past, and while both are challenging and entertaining, neither is completely satisfactory as Azed has acknowledged. The first approach is the one used here, where the definition and wordplay lead to different mutual anagrams (with one or other entered in the grid). The disadvantage here is that the clues need not be fully solved – the solver just needs to do enough to find the one that goes in the grid. The other method, used in the Christmas puzzle two years ago, is to clue only the anagram, while including in the clue an indication of the solution to be entered (a one-word synonym). This requires complete solving of the clue, but it led to some rather forced clues and loose synonyms, and was no doubt very difficult to produce, and Azed hasn’t used it again. In the notes the anagram produced by the wordplay is given before the explanation.

Notes to the clues:


16.    Cupid’s dark brown if once found in hiding place.  CATANANCHE (M; dart; tan an in cache).  The solution is a plant otherwise known as Cupid’s dart. The misprint is worked smoothly into the surface reading of the clue. ‘An’ is an archaic word for ‘if’ that turns up in Shakespeare a fair bit.

19.    Worktable channel encased in platinum.  PLATEN (A; planet; lane in Pt).  Most of the checked letters are in the same position in the solution as in the anagram, making it more difficult to identify the clue type.

20.    Are mo/ments considered necessary for the homeless?  RETENE (P; …more tenements…).

24.    Anew, shipmen, se/a king waves.  EASTERNISM (P; A new ship men see astern is making…).  Words ending in –ist and –ism are often good bets for longer P.D. solutions.

20.    They find most news items depressing – and the la/ment.  TESTATOR (P; …latest a torment).

29.    Schilling invested settled currency in Vilnius.  LITAS (A; A-list; S in alit).  This is the out-of-place clue type, though Azed doesn’t make it easy to solve. ‘A-list’ is found under the headword A in Chambers, and like ‘C-list’ a few months ago, is easily overlooked, so solvers might be left in doubt as to what type of clue this is. Crossword Centre members may recall LITAS as a P.D. competition word from 2006, and those who entered then will have had a welcome head start now.

31.    My passion is for inland waterways? So infe/r.  ENSILING (P; …in fens I linger).  A very satisfying P.D.

32.    Tug-of-war team wastes hea/t in grope slip.  VEINLET (P; …heave in letting rope…).

33.    Like a sponge maybe found in California reef.  CAKEY (N; CA key).  Hopefully with all that Christmas food about, solvers will have quickly associated sponge with cake.


1.      Old form of verge fence protecting battle wing.  PASTOURELLE (M; verse; stour el in pale).  A difficult clue with three out of the four definitions probably needing to be looked up, and only ‘pale’ for ‘fence’ being fairly familiar.

3.      Brick, old, brilliant as topping for Church.  PEARCE (M; prick; pear CE).  ‘Pear’ and ‘brilliant’ are synonymous as descriptions of gemstones.

8.      On the qui vive, not quite run over in reverse.  ARRECT (A; carter; retrac(t), rev.).  ‘On the qui vive’ is one of those expressions Watson had heard but never really known what it meant, so this was a small education. It means ‘alert’ as ‘Qui vive?’ was the challenge of a French sentry, presumably seeking the response ‘Vive le Roi’ or ‘Vive la République’ before shooting or saluting. ‘Run over’ is a clever disguise for the wordplay.

11.    Without taking much exercise, dreadfully idle, directed glance within.  SEDENTARILY (A; disentrayle; sent ray in anag.).  It’s great to see a new long one-word anagram, though Dr Watson didn’t find the Spenserian ‘disentrayle’ (which Chambers defines as ‘to let forth as if from the entrails,’ leaving the context to the reader’s imagination) until after the solution was in the post.

18.    Get out of tune, perhaps, and Rite goes astray.  DETRAIN (M; tube; anag.).  The neatest of the misprint clues. The tube is the London Underground.

19.    One outstanding with oars to whirl e.g. trawl.  PINSENT (A; spinnet; spin net).  Here’s the proper name from the footnote, and the multiply-medalled Matthew Pinsent is hopefully about as familiar as oarsmen come.

21.    It’s liquor of a kind – tha/nks in large measure.  TSOTSI (P; …that sot sinks…).  Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a bibulous Azed clue, and here it’s a first-rate P.D.

26.    I pick wild fungus in the woods and mo/at regularly.  RELIE (P; …morel I eat…).  It had to be morel, but there are a number of outside possibilities until the final E is confirmed.

28.    Talon? No eagle I dissected could reveal this nail.  OGEE (N; comp. anag.).  The compounded anagram is well signalled, but the connection between ‘talon’ and ‘ogee’ isn’t apparent unless you look up the former word in Chambers.

Other solutions:

Across 1: POPPA (M; dad; pp in poa);  5: SPIRALS (M; winding; rip, rev., in anag.);  10: BERGÈRES (M; sofas; Ger. in anag.);  12: SPANE (M; wean; p in sane);  13: STRAE (A; reast; a in rest);  14: TARGA TOP (M; roof; tar + to in gap);  17: UREDO (M; rust; red in (q)uo(d));  22: CLART (N; l in cart);  30: LURGI (N; U in anag.).  Down 2: OUPA (M; nan; hidden);  4: PONGA (M; fern; pong A);  5: SEPTATE (M; divided; EP in state);  6: PRION (A; orpin; or pin);  7: RETINAL (A; latrine; anag. in line);  9: LEATHERS (A; halteres; alter in he’s);  15: CREATINE (M; flesh; a tin in cree);  23: AMTRAK (N; t in karma, rev.);  26: SAUBA (a in a bus, rev).