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 1897 Plain (5 Oct 2008)

Back to reviews index  |  Try the puzzle

The creative juices seem to be flowing as copiously as ever for Azed as he approaches his twentieth century of puzzles. Three weeks ago, he produced a non-competition puzzle (no. 1894 ‘Lax Mud Pile’) entirely from one-word anagrams. He appears to have stayed in the mood – or perhaps just had a few left over – as this puzzle contains several notable anagram-based clues.

Notes to the clues:


7.      See, in a couple of states, an old face that’s not wholly American.  FAVOR (v in FA, OR).  Azed doesn’t usually favour ambiguous indicators such as ‘point’ for N, etc., but has made an exception here, giving the solver a large number of options (2,450 possible pairings in fact) to choose from. Imagine the solver’s reaction if it had been, say, “a couple of International Vehicle Registrations”. ‘Face’ and ‘favor’ are synonyms in the sense of ‘esteem’, and ‘favor’ isn’t wholly American because this spelling is also given as an archaic one.

13.    Brandy: special one bottle in Lemberg, I see.  SLIVOVIC (s + I in Lvov + I c).  Slivovic is a Balkan spirit, but the reference is to the Ukrainian city (now officially Lviv), and its German name Lemberg.

15.    It offers rooms afloat you need to bale out?  BOATEL (anag.).  A nicely realised anagram that must have just resisted the possibility of an & lit. treatment.

21.    Dram of Scotch? Off such, concealing condition.  TIFT (if in TT).  A teetotaller would be ‘off the Scotch’, and an ‘if’ is a possibility or condition.

26.    Nag set out, snatching lead from Red Rum.  STRANGE (r in anag.).  A straightforward enough anagram, but the definition ‘rum’ is beautifully concealed.

29.    Poet’s wear, old breeches needing iron for rear half.  CHAUFE (chau(sses) + Fe).  ‘Wear’ here meaning ‘chafe’, of which this is an old poetic spelling.

32.    Alternate in e.g. Christmas holidays, with going first.  INTERLEAVE ((w)inter leave).  Taking a holiday at Christmas could constitute ‘winter leave’, from which w for ‘with’ goes.

33.    I’m famous for hot spicy stuff – get me a wife!  MEAUX (me a ux).  Dr Watson’s culinary horizons didn’t extend to Meaux, a suburb of Paris, noted for its mustard. ‘Ux.’ is an abbreviation of ‘uxor’ (Latin for ‘wife’), which might be familiar as the root of ‘uxorious’.

34.    Unconventional sext includes equivalent of this?  EXISTS (is in anag.).  The solution has nothing to do with a sext. There’s no explicit definition because ‘exists’ and ‘is’ define each other. The idea is probably that the definition and wordplay are solved simultaneously in a moment of glorious revelation, but Dr Watson suspects this sort of clue probably satisfies the setter more than the solver. The clue isn’t really an & lit., and Dr Watson’s unsure if there is a name for it.


2.      Aid in combating tsetses, rarefied in treatment of one flier.  EFLORNITHINE (thin in anag.).  Azed solvers with a memory for unusually formed words may recall EFLORNITHINE from competition puzzle 1823 (also at 2 down), with the clue “The finer lion, ill, displaying what restricts mane?” The drug combats both sleeping sickness and abnormal hair growth.

3.      In the pink you may come out with this, half your sick ailing.  YOICKS (yo(ur) + anag.).  This is a hunter’s cry and a hunter’s jacket is known as a ‘pink’.

4.      Deer love tucking into blooms.  ROOSA (0 in Rosa).  Azed seems to have misread his Chambers as roosa is listed as an alternative spelling of rusa2, the grass, rather than rusa1, the deer.

6.      Bit of food I draw off cyclically.  EDIBLE (‘cycling’ of I bleed).  Here’s an unusual device whereby the clue material is cycled around, moving letters from the end to the start in the correct order.

10.    Honours list former editor scrapped.  ORDER OF MERIT (anag.).  There’s nothing so satisfying for a setter as a word or expression that offers a full, simple and appropriate anagram…

16.    Stew  disposed of (eat up) that all may see.  POT-AU-FEU (anag. + U). …though an anagram that buries itself invisibly in the wording of the clue might come a close second.

24.    French auxiliary in British regiment – substandard material.  RETREE (être in RE).  The verb être in French is an auxiliary verb, as in ‘on est arrivé’.

25.    Group of formidable ladies that is dressed to annoy animal rights activists?  FURIES (i.e. ‘dressed’ in furs).  This is a very vivid image, bringing to mind the pro-fur protests by a number of redoubtable posh ladies in the 1980s.

26.    With this aunty may redo my curtains.  SCRIM (comp. anag. & lit.).  Just how a compound anagram should be: short on extraneous material and making a convincing & lit. proposition.

27.    One uplifting a supreme ruler?  RASTA (a Tsar, rev. & lit.).  Another neat & lit. Rastafarians are named for Ras Tafari, a title of Haile Selassie.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. WEYARD (we yard);  12. OBOE D’AMORE (OED in anag.);  14. HOCUS (H + 0 + cus(tom));  17. LLANERO (all, rev., + nero (It.=black));  18. UNSOILED (’un’s oiled);  19. TROW (hidden);  22. TARTUFFE (tuff in anag.);  30. NARES (hidden);  31. PORTFIRE (port fire).  Down: 1. WASHOUT;  5. DEVALL (l-laved, rev.);  8. AMIANTUS (anag.);  9. VOLTE ((wa)l(tz) in vote);   11. REALO (real 0);  20. WEASELS (as in weels);  23. AGE-OLD (e in a gold);  28. UNTAX (hidden).

Back to reviews index  |  Try the puzzle