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 1879 Plain (1 Jun 2008)

Two notable features of this month’s competition are well-disguised definitions merging invisibly into the wordplay, and the tricky alternatives provided for common words like ‘in’ and ‘at’.

Notes to the clues:


12.    See variety turn and frivol with it idly? Highly corrosive stuff.  OIL OF VITRIOL (olio, rev., + anag.).  Solvers unfamiliar with olio (a dish with a variety of ingredients) might have wondered about the opening wordplay. ‘See’ is required in the surface reading to create the double meaning of ‘turn’.

13.    Number one run out after reverse sweep belted one.  ORION (no. I r/o, all rev.).  The great punning definition ‘belted one’ creates a cricketing image from an astronomical one.

14.    Scots won’t delay disposing of it round pub.  WINNA (inn in wa(it)).  The pub is easy to find, but the definition ‘Scots won’t’ and the subtraction are more difficult to spot.

16.    Cheap US book, apocryphal, about Washington.  TWO-BIT (W in Tobit).  Another definition, ‘cheap US’, that doesn’t leap off the page, and book looks like it’s contributing a B to the solution until you spot Tobit (‘apocryphal’ adds some colour to the surface reading while perhaps indicating a C of E slant in the setting). ‘W’ is a less familiar abbreviation for Washington.

17.    Generated billion I turned as clear profit.  BEGOTTEN (b ego + nett, rev.).  ‘I’ for ‘ego’ is a trick that’ll catch solvers out time and again.

18.    Infatuate old fool with love alongside famous model.  ASSOT (ass 0 T).  For many setters, ‘model = T’ is an equation that’s taken for granted despite the fact that its reference, the Ford Model T, is fast approaching its centenary. Azed does at least acknowledge that ‘T’ isn’t just any old (or new) model.

21.    Get gloomier, having to change ends, annoyed.  NARKED (ends swapped in darken).  An unusual device in the wordplay but adequately signalled.

28.    Map a clue wrongly – admission of guilt.  MEA CULPA (anag.).  It’s not quite clear how you ‘map’ a clue, but it’s a nicely self-deprecating reference to Azed’s tendency to use this phrase in the Slip when things go amiss.

29.    What’s served up at the Academy? It’s often not cooked.  RADISH (RA dish).  A better clue than, say, ‘What artist serves up?’.

32.    We all pass this joyless trip, myself included.  URINE (I in (jo)urne(y)).  A clue that’s likely to produce a chortle once the penny’s dropped (or spent), with its clever definition, original wordplay and most misleading surface.

33.    Independence in writing style recalled in e.g. Sheridan?  DINAH (I in hand, rev.).  Younger solvers might have needed some internet help to track down the British actress referred to here, whose better known appearances were in Genevieve (1953) and The Railway Children (1970).

35.    Staggering tot has inserted her logarithm base in addition.  THERETO (her e in anag.).  Azed takes a rather roundabout (and mathematically not entirely convincing) path to create a misleading context for the definition ‘in addition’.


4.      Night flyer maybe making cock-up, velocity constant  BOOBOOK (boo-boo + k).  The solution is an invitation to creative wordplay, and Azed finds the ‘boo-boo’ option irresistible.

9.      Broken nibs pocketed where unruly pupils go.  SIN BIN (anag. + in).  The two possible anagrams of ‘nibs’ make the wordplay more difficult to unravel. ‘Pocketed’ is the unexpected synonym for ‘in’.

17.    Kt ran pub chaotically, becoming so?  BANKRUPT (anag. & lit.).  The amusing surface makes up for the rather forced anagram and stretched & lit.

20.    Hypothetical evolutionary ‘force’ deployed in murines.  NEURISM (anag.).  Azed needs no second invitation to exploit this one-word anagram.

22.    Moroccan tree marking site of famous anchorage?  ARARAT (arar at).  Another obfuscated preposition, with ‘marking’ for ‘at’.

23.    Rule, what led to Zimbabwe, gutted Smith, rather uncultured.  RUDISH (r + UDI + S(mit)h).  Dr Watson isn’t inclined to get into the historical accuracy of the clue, but the reference is to Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence under Ian Smith in 1965.

26.    Strife dividing pud shifted to higher things.  UPWARD (war in anag.).  Too true. Dr Watson’s been there. A very good surface.

Other solutions:

Across: 5. PELTAST (pelt as t);  15. BONBON (NB in boon);  19. RENNES (2 meanings);  24. CECUM (hidden, see caecum);  30. SCROWS (w in anag.);  34. PASSE-MEASURE (pa’s + me in seasure).  Down: 1. DOOB (initial letters, & lit.);  2. TIROES (anag. of to, r, i.e. + s);  3. FLINGS (2 meanings);  6. EVENTIDE HOME (event + I + he, rev., in dome);  7. LITTER BASKET;  8. ARIOT (io in art);  10. TONITE (hidden);  11. PLATYSMA (platy + anag.);  25. CLONUS (cl(aim) + onus);  27. RINSE (hidden);  31. SHEN (she n).

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