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 1858 Plain (6 Jan 2008)

Head still spinning in the aftermath of those Christmas cryptics? Azed often sets an easier competition puzzle for January to help clear the fug, but this time it’s more hair-of-the-dog than analgesic. This puzzle is quite short on helpful anagrams and long on the more obscure subsidiary definitions. The good news is that only a couple of clues stray far from what can be confirmed in Chambers, and as ever there’s lots to enjoy.

Notes to the clues:


12.    Peer, sporty lord in the capacity of lecturer.  CO-EQUAL (Coe qua L).  Lord Coe is probably the easiest component of the clue, though ‘qua’ (Latin for ‘as’) and the abbreviation are in Chambers.

16.    Guard guitar favoured by the stars.  FENDER (2 meanings).  Dr Watson spent a while pondering what ‘favoured by the stars’ could define before seeing the correct break. Famous players of Fenders are too numerous to list here, but Wikipedia does a reasonable job of it.

27.    Hamlet, old-style? Rep to get excited about opening thereof.  THORPE (H in anag.).  The clue plays cleverly with the alternative meanings of ‘hamlet’.

33.    Oriental litter, edge gripped by 12?  NORIMON (rim in noon).  Solvers trying to fit something into a synonym of ‘co-equal’ would have got nowhere. Azed rarely cross-references clues in that way, but it doesn’t stop him pulling the occasional fast one.

35.    Suppurating rednesses round opening of scar - it’s knowing what to put on.  DRESS SENSE (s in anag.).  The anagram is rather a good one (and one that has seen past service, if Watson recalls correctly), but ‘suppurating’? It’s difficult to see a connection, analogous, metaphorical or otherwise, between oozing pus and the rearrangement of letters.


2.      Well up in waste resinous stuff of use to insects.  BEE-GLUE (gee, rev. in blue).  Both the subsidiary definitions are difficult to decode. ‘Gee’ and ‘well’ are equivalent interjections.

3.      Far from merry widow who can be fully gratified? Not able.  SATI (sati(able)).  Leaving aside the extreme litotes of the definition, there’s still the question of the wordplay. ‘Satiable’ needs to be read as a noun to match ‘who can...’.

6.      Face to Face, story about father getting tipsy.  CONFRONTÉ (Fr. on in conte).  ‘On’, Dr Watson’s least favourite anagram indicator (with ‘suppurating’ now running it a close second) appears here, but thankfully as part of a charade.

8.      Bits of gut fitted upon a fiddle? Flip these, perhaps.  DUODENA (comp. anag.).  If the compounded anagram isn’t obvious, it’s possibly because of the uncommon indicator ‘fitted’, or the addition of ‘perhaps’ at the end.

10.    ‘Nun wife, New Church admitted’ - Herald (second leader).  CLARENCEUX (n CE in Clare ux).  A series of fairly difficult definitions to piece together here. The Clarenceux is the second-ranking king-of-arms in the world of heraldry.

15.    Hollywood types? Upset as none’s found round set.  ANGELENOS (gel in anag.).  Azed’s brilliance at finding a punning connection often brings his clues to life. The linking of ‘gel’ with film-sets is quite inspired.

26.    Modesty in statement from char when coming round?  AIDOS (I do in as).  The question-mark is well merited. A char, being ‘a lady who does’ (i.e. cleans), might describe her profession as ‘I do [for a gentleman, etc.]’

30.    Reminder of summer holiday in Hungary? The opposite - immediately forgotten.  THAN (H in tan).  A lot of clue for a short answer, and it’s not at all clear at first where it’s leading, but it all hangs together beautifully. ‘H in tan’ is the opposite of the ‘tan in H’ indicated by the first sentence. The definition leads to than2, an archaic form of ‘then’, which can mean ‘immediately’.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. OBSTRUCTED (r in anag.);  11. GEARE (hidden);  13. METOPON (met Op. on);  14. MOXA (ox in ma);  17. CLIP-ON (lip in con);  18. DIENE (e in dine);  19. HUMONGOUS;  22. STENOPAIC (I in anag.);  25. SANKO (sank + o);  29. TISANE (tis ane);  31. ODAL (l ado, all rev.);  32. NARTHEX (N art hex);  34. DIANA (an aid, all rev.).  Down: 4. TROPPO (op port, all rev.);  5. REPRO (hidden);  7. TELEDU (anag.);  9. WAXEN (axe in (he)wn);  13. MOCHA STONE (mo + chast(e) one);  20. MANSARD (man + r in sad; see mansard-roof);  21. LIPPENS (lip pens);  23. TO-NAME (on in tame);  24. PONTIE (anag. in pie);  28. HARDS (hard + S).