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.

Back to reviews index

Azed No 1866 Plain (2 Mar 2008)

Misleading definitions and contexts are the essence of great clue-writing (more so than ‘& lit.’ clues in Dr Watson’s view), and here a Azed provides a wealth of them, making this puzzle one to savour, and setting the bar high for those who enter the clue-writing competition.

Notes to the clues:


6.      Mansion’s cold inside? Envious one responsible for rent.  CASCA (c in casa).  A wonderful punning definition. The rent in question is that in Caesar’s toga, or in Caesar himself, as Casca struck the first blow.

14.    Cancerous agent very little short of powerful, curtailed.  ONCOGEN (on cogen(t)).  Azed makes the wordplay that bit harder by using half the words in the clue, ‘very little short of’, to indicate ‘on’.

15.    Cricketer made runs in singles?  IRANI (ran in I, I).  One of the proper names that ‘may be unfamiliar’, though the definition and wordplay are straightforward enough. Ronnie Irani is captain of the Essex cricket team.

17.    Nutrition gone haywire: in short it’s mash of hops and rye.  TROPHESY (’t + anag.).  The wordplay here doesn’t look quite right. ‘In’ seems to be a link word, and the ‘’s’ of ‘it’s’ must be read as ‘has’ for the cryptic reading.

19.    E.g. Derby, just the thing? Get away!  CHEESE IT (cheese it).  A lovely piece of slang. Azed chooses the most obvious way to break down the answer, but finds two well-disguised subsidiary definitions.

30.    It was worn by Scottish women, and lots in Thailand? The opposite.  MANTY (T in many).  ‘The opposite’ is used to indicate that the process indicated by the wordplay should be reversed. Azed usually works this device more subtly into the surface reading than he has here.

32.    Great Dane: what one might be without lead, that is given runs.  OGIER ((d)og i.e. r).  An even less familiar character (outside Denmark), Ogier, otherwise Holger Danske, is a legendary king.

35.    Dépèche Mode’s losing supposed force, say when retiring.  MESSAGE (m(od)e’s + e.g. as, rev.).  Dr Watson wasn’t aware of Azed’s knowledge of 1980s pop until now (did the band ever display those accents, though?). ‘Od’ is one of those words barred cryptic regulars are bound to come across eventually.


10.    Former champ’s termination of bout, top class?  A-LIST (Ali’s + t).  If you haven’t solved the recent puzzle containing C-LIST or the last Christmas puzzle, where A-LIST played a part, you might miss this word in Chambers, where it appears under the entry for A.

12.    Close friend, fellow grabbed by nursemaid showing passion for e.g. ASBOs?  ACRONYMANIA (crony man in aia).  Dr Watson thought this word would have been ideal for the clue-writing competition. Azed handles it well enough (albeit an acronymaniac’s passion would probably be for e.g. ASBO, etc. rather than e.g. ASBOs), but there’s probably a wealth of possible clues for it.

23.    Fill out staff attendance forms internally.  FATTEN (hidden).  An excellent example of how to disguise a hidden word. The context is utterly misleading and ‘forms’ puts the solver right off the scent.

29.    Gangster’s lost and in penitentiary.  BRIG (brig(and)).  The unassuming ‘and’ turns out to have a central role in the clue.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. KLATSCH (stalk, rev. + Ch);  11. LAARI (anag.);  13. NICOL (Co. in nil);  16. MARDI GRAS (dram, rev. + anag.);  22. HAYFIELD (anag.);  26. SUBPOENA (bus, rev. + anag. in pa);  28. ORATORIAL (anag. in oral);  31. IN VITRO (invit(e) + r, o);  33. BASIS (b as is);  34. SEANS (sea n/s).  Down: 1. KLOOTCH (anag.);  2. LANX (an in LX);  3. TROMPE (mort, rev. + PE);  4. CHÈRE (hidden);  5. HANDSEL (s in Handel);  7. AIR-GAS (air gas);  8. SCARCEMENTS (scar cements);  9. CONATION (on in cation);  18. ROAD RAGE (a drag in roe);  20. HEURISM (anag.);  21. TEA ROSE (ear in tose);  24. GOLIAS (anag.);  25. NOMOS (no mos(t));  27. BINGE.

Back to reviews index