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 1884 Plain (6 Jul 2008)

A set of concise clues shows that setters don’t need to be fancy to be clever. Solvers need to have their Spanish and their Elizabethan literary knowledge up to scratch as well as their Chambers to hand.

Notes to the clues:


1.      Service tuber in base after modifying radiation taken in.  ABSORBED DOSE (sorb eddo in anag.).  There’s nothing very exciting about the solution, but Azed finds an interesting pair of words for the internal charade. ‘Sorb’ is another name for the service tree. ‘Eddo’ is found under its plural eddoes in Chambers. As the footnote indicates, the solution is listed under dose.

10.    Extortioner enveloping food in sauce?  SOKAIYA (kai in soya).  Quite a cultural mix, with the Maori ‘kai’ contributing to the Japanese gangster.

12.    Rhymer, Old English in part.  POET (OE in pt.).  Dr Watson highlights this clue as proof that Azed doesn’t try to make every clue a struggle.

13.    Short piece for cast disguised by carotene.  ONE-ACTER (anag.).  Azed forgoes some surface sense for the sake of a tempting one-worder.

16.    E.g. tide chart experienced sailor kept in hat.  TIMETABLE (met AB in tile).  It took Dr Watson longer than it should have to notice ‘met’, after making the assumption that an AB is an ‘experienced sailor’.

21.    Clerical headgear indicating bishop before tribunal’s judgement.  BARRET (B arret).  This variant of ‘biretta’ isn’t too difficult to guess, but ‘arret’ is likely to need looking up.

23.    Everything in Spain is a shemozzle.  TO-DO (2 meanings).  The Spanish ‘todo’ isn’t found in Chambers, so a little knowledge of foreign languages can be an advantage to solvers (and they love to show it off – see these 1986 clues for ESCADRILLE).

28.    Botched simple drives.  IMPELS (anag.).  Another one-worder in a more convincing golfing context.

32.    What’ll produce down, head laid to rest (i.e. Scottish down).  OOSE ((g)oose).  Oddly enough, both downs in the clue are the feathery sort. ‘Head laid to rest’ is a bit of a stretch, though an entertaining one, for indicating decapitation.

34.    Organ distention at my age? O help, that’s wretched!  HEPATOMEGALY (anag.).  A lovely anagram for a lovely word, if not a lovely condition.


2.      Lout with locks uniformly cut in backwoods…  BOOHAI (boo(r) hai(r)).  The component words are ‘uniformly cut’ in the sense of having the same last letter removed.

3.      …His shock maybe suggesting one going rapidly downhill, we hear?  SKEER (‘skier’).  A few things to clarify here. ‘His’ refers to the backwoods boor from the previous clue, who’d presumably talk dialect (and ‘shock’ refers to his hair). The question-mark at the end is needed because Chambers doesn’t indicate the pronunciation, and so we can’t be sure that ‘skier’ is what we’d hear. Finally, the solver will have to cross-check that the solution is SKEER and not SKEAR.

4.      Past name almost meaningless, no longer mentioned.  BYNEMPT (by n empt(y)).  A good example of how to construct an effective charades clue, connecting the less obvious synonyms of ‘by’ and ‘empty’.

8.      Perfumed stuff in corded silk man peeled off.  OTTO (otto(man)).  And here’s a simple subtraction clue done with style.

9.      Sydney’s beloved? It’s out of order.  STELLA (tell in SA).  A fairly deep literary knowledge (or as ever a decent reference source) is needed to find the heroine of Philip Sydney’s (or Sidney’s) Astrophel and Stella from the late 1500s. SA (sex-appeal) is still ‘it’ to swinging crossword lovers, even when it’s out (i.e. outside) of order.

10.    Mortified about pop, brother producing mushroom grower.  SPAWN BRICK (pawn br. in sick).  The difficulty here is finding the connection between ‘pop’ and ‘pawn’ (the first is a slang term for the second), without getting distracted by ‘pa’.

18.    Scented bloom woven by faeries.  FREESIA (anag.).  Goodness, a third one-word anagram…

20.    Grenade exploding – it warns opponent of coming attack.  EN GARDE (anag.).  … and a fourth!

22.    Lost match making Scots very cross.  AEMULE (ae mule).  A difficult looking word proves to have a most convenient split for a charade.

27.    A weaver raised dust.  MOOLA (a loom, rev.).  ‘Dust’ as a slang term for money.

29.    Page 3 of 25 – requirement for next day’s lesson?  PREP (p + rep(echage)).  A rare cross-reference to another clue. Azed generally accepts that a subset of letters is taken from the start of a word if not otherwise indicated.


Other solutions:

Across: 14. AHENT (a hen + t);  15. ANKOLE (0 in ankle);  17. NIFF (hidden);  19. SENDAL (end in sal(e));  25. REPECHAGE (anag. + e);  30. ABORD (r in a bod);  31. CURSITOR (curs + roti, rev.);  33. MODULAR (a in anag.).  Down: 4. RIOTISE (I in anag.);  6. DRANT (ran in DT);  7. DUCKANT (K an in duct); 11. FREELOADER;  19. SEAROOM (roo in seam);  24. DORSAL (or in anag. of lad(ie)s);  26. CLINT (Clint(on)).

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