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.

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Azed No 1871 Plain (6 Apr 2008)

One of the great challenges Azed sets himself is that of keeping his clues fresh and original week after week, while staying within his own rigorous guidelines of fairness and precision. One way he achieves this is by exploiting the richness of the many senses of common words that Chambers contains. Here he employs two lesser-known senses of ‘of’ to help with the abundance of F's in the north-west quarter. Only one solution comes from the world beyond Chambers this month: 25 down’s NASHKI will probably have caused a few problems, though it’s not clear whether that’s by design or accident.

Notes to the clues:


11.    Stupid shiksa, measuring inside.  GOOFY (of in goy).  ‘Measuring’ is the first of the two less familiar meanings of ‘of’.

14.    A thousand put in to negotiate I’ll go after Greek rug.  FLOKATI (k in float + I).  Note it’s ‘I’ll go’ and not ‘I go’, allowing the ‘I’ to stand as a noun in the cryptic reading and a pronoun in the surface one. See also 33 across.

19.    Box of old records provoking yelp in being turned over.  SCRYNE (cry in ens, rev.).  ‘Ens’ is one of those words that regular solvers get used to, as its definition ‘being’ is very easy to hide in a clue.

20.    Metalworkers taking endless hours about their medium turned with this, oddly  TINSMITHS (Sn, rev., in tim(e) + anag.).  A somewhat self-referential clue, as what ‘their medium’ indicates (the symbol for tin) is only confirmed once the solution is found. However, the definition makes it a fairly easy solve.


2.      Being a male child, succeeded aboard?  SONSHIP (s on ship).  For once ‘aboard’ doesn’t indicate something inside ‘SS’, which led Dr Watson astray for some time.

4.      Liquor store offering aged fino sherry, cleaned right out.  OFFY (of f,y).  The second unexpected ‘of’, meaning ‘aged’. Azed isn’t usually keen on the ambiguity of removing the inside of a whole phrase rather than a single word, hence the ‘right’ in ‘cleaned right out’.

5.      What’ll make Tom change names, as a variant type?  BYFORM (i.e. by for m makes Tom into Toby).  A ‘reverse cyptic’ clue where the solution must be interpreted as wordplay to bring about the change shown in the clue.

7.      Fawn settee with a bit of red lining.  CROUCH (r in couch).  Not too difficult but a pleasingly misleading definition.

8.      Not very lively year in the country.  ITALY ((v)ital y).  The fluent surface neatly distracts the solver away from the working of the wordplay. Dr Watson’s favourite clue of the puzzle.

21.    Duck, one swimming away from south-west and south-east.  IMMERSE ((SW)immer + SE).  Despite the clue indicating ‘swimmer’ with ‘one swimming’, the solution isn’t at all obvious.

25.    Has ink blended for cursive script  NASHKI (anag.).  Only time and the Azed Slip will tell, but Dr Watson suspects Azed misread his Chambers here. The dictionary in its last three editions only gives ‘Naskhi’ as a variant at Neskhi. A bit of internet research shows that the spelling ‘Nashki’ is in use (and apparently is in the OED), but is far less common than the one given in Chambers. Dr Watson solved this clue quickly then had to resort to Tippex as the intersecting solutions fell into place.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. OSSO BUCCO (U boss, all rev., in anag.);  12. GORE-TEX (anag.);  13. ON-OFF (hidden);  17. SLOG (S log);  18. SHIRRA (anag.);  19. SCRYNE (cry in ens, rev.);  23. STRONGMAN (n.g. in anag.);  26. FINRAY (in in fray);  29. MARMOT (arm in tom, rev.);  30. ECOD (E + doc, rev.);  32. THICKOS (anag. + KOs);  33. HARIM (I in harm);  34. TOSSILY (anag.);  35. KISAN (as, rev., in kin);  36. MADRILÈNE (anag. in made).  Down: 3. SOOPING (O pin in sog);  6. COLOSTOMY (lost + MO, rev., all in coy);  9. JETON (jet on);  10. EXIGÉANTE (anag. incl. 3 e’s);  15. ESTAFETTE (anag. + fette(r));  16. FAIRY GOLD;  22. LAOTIAN (anag.);  24. TANKIA (tank + A1, rev.);  27. ICHOR (hidden);  31. SAIL (2 meanings).

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