ZED has never before to Dr Watson’s knowledge honoured a competitor in this way, but then there really is no other competitor like Sir Jeremy (C. J.) Morse, the man who chaired Lloyds Bank, who provided the name for Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse, and who celebrated his 80th birthday on 10 December. CJM has competed consistently and successfully through almost the whole 63 year history of the Ximenes and Azed cluewriting competitions, earning an extraordinary total of 579 annual honours points since his first VHC in Ximenes competition no 107 in 1949. His clueing style is distinctively mischievous and creative, often testing the boundaries of X’s and Azed’s guidelines, and he excels at the two staples of competitive cluewriting – the ‘& lit.’ and the misleading definition. 35 across in this puzzle, from competition no 452, is a great example of both & lit-ness and invention, while his winning clue to BODY-SNATCHER in no 482 (‘Stiff collaring, that’s my trade – shows what can be done by starch’ (anag.)) is one of his outstanding definitions. Further comments on the prizewinning clues included in this puzzle are in the notes below.
Dr Watson enjoyed a head start in the puzzle, as CJM’s clues were already familiar. Azed would have had no desire to try to outshine the them with his own clues, but comes close with a pretty testing set of that’s of top quality. Azed also adds an extra four down clues to the usual quota of 18 (the constraints of the grid, or to properly test solvers who peeked in the Archive?).
As a puzzle of celebration and tribute this was a real pleasure. Hopefully it will also have helped inspire and raise the aspirations of other solvers and competitors. Expect further compliments when the competition clues to MORSE appear.
1. Strike poses a tricky test involving row between one small trade union and another one. ATTITUDINISE (a + TU din in I,I in anag.). From puzzle no 521 in 1982 when labour relations were still testing the first Thatcher government. The first thing to note is the definition – verb and object masquerading as subject and verb. This is followed by a complicated agglomeration of components that together form a plausible and topical surface reading.
14. Stop getting tanned, abhor catching sun and treat heatspots immediately. POSTHASTE (anag. + S in hate, anag.). CJM’s most recent cup winning clue from no 1836 in 2007. Dr Watson suspects that CJM decided ‘heatspots’ on its own would be too popular an idea, and so added the something extra that would catch the judge’s eye. Double wordplay isn’t necessarily a winning formula with Azed (though see 8 down below) as it does extend the clue, which in this case could have been just the last three words, so it has to be done well.
15. Old lard became liquid in me, having turned. ENARM (ran in me, all rev.). The definition is for the verb ‘lard’, presumably in the sense of ‘garnish’ rather than ‘smear with fat’.
17. ‘DI IN SEX ROMP’ could furnish material for artist with twisted mind. SIPOREX (comp. anag.). The Third prize winner from no 1273 in 1996, a year of intense press interest in Princess Diana’s post-marital affairs. The clue caused a ripple of controversy, not because of its subject matter, but because the definition ‘material for artist’ appears in the middle of the clue. A more conventional treatment would have used ‘this material…’. This is probably the hardest of the CJM clues in the puzzle. Siporex is a type of lightweight concrete used by builders and sculptors.
21. Worthless opener for India, not imposing, playing in test. TRIPY (I p(laying) in try). Azed has added quite a lot of material to indicate the P within a convincing cricketing context.
23. Art giving succour, that is after onset of Alzheimer’s. AIDEST (A + id est). A tricky deception, using the old second person singular (thou) form and the full form of the familiar abbreviation ‘i.e.’.
30. Changing tack, they’ll produce kid secundum naturam? DINKS (anag. inc. s.n., & lit.). A high quality & lit. Dinks is marketing speak for ‘double income, no kids’ couples (post-yuppies?). The Latin expression means ‘naturally’.
32. Marlborough’s second crusher in conclusive quartet of victories. RAMILLIES (a + mill in (victo)ries & lit.). This won competition no 419 in 1980. At the time Azed commented: “RAMILLIES was a generous word to have to clue, though I did get a little tired of the armies being knocked into a cocked hat. To anyone familiar with English history the first prize winning clue is perhaps rather easy to solve but I decided that that was not sufficient reason to demote an otherwise excellent ‘& lit,’”. The second sentence is possibly an optimistic assumption. The clue refers to the Duke of Marlborough’s successful campaign in the War of the Spanish Succession, where the victory at Ramillies, now in Belgium, in 1706 came after that at Blenheim and before Oudenarde and Malplaquet.
33. With this gem is setting done? No, coral would add further lustre. PEARL (2 meanings). As the preamble indicates this clue is linked to the puzzle celebrating 30 years of the Azed series in 2002 (that Dr Watson memorably failed to solve). Pearl is the symbol of a 30th anniversary, and coral of a 35th, while lustre2 from the Latin lustrum (a ceremonial purification carried out every five years) can mean a five year period. So the clue manages to be both a coherent definition (setting in the sense of jewellery) and a tribute to Azed’s crossword setting.
34. S East’s distinctive qualities. ESSE (ess E). Spelling out a letter is a trick that can occasionally be pulled off.
35. Mitredness is wrong? That’s what it says. DISSENTERISM (anag. & lit.). ‘Mitredness’ might be what bishops exhibit, and Dissenters didn’t approve of them. A perfect & lit. opportunity perfectly grasped in competition no 452 in 1981.
1. Ace filly laps remainder of the field. AGRESTAL (A + rest in gal). A top class misleading definition from competition no 1130 in 1994. The fluent surface and clear image it evokes make this one of Azed’s and CJM’s own favourites. It has been reused once before, in an ‘Eightsome Reels’ puzzle.
7. Ready for ‘love’? It also suggests hate. IN HEAT (i.e. in he at = hate). A ‘reverse cryptic’ where the clue indicates the result if the solution is considered as cryptic wordplay.
8. Will’s to take on board his nip (mixed), consisting of small drink as drunk might say. INSHIP (anag., drunken pronunciation. of ‘in sip’). Azed has gone to town on this double wordplay. Fifteen words for a six letter solution is rather exceptional. ‘Will’s’ is one of many indicators for a Shakespearian word.
9. What Castlemaine suggests company refunds. EXES (2 meanings). The first definition refers to Castlemaine lager (‘Australians don’t give a XXXX for anything else’), and the second to the colloquial term for expenses.
12. It incorporates endless legal tit-for-tat for very old colonial. ITALIOT (talio(n) in it). ‘Talion’ is a legal term meaning ‘like for like’ and an Italiot was a Greek in ancient Italy.
20. Fail to become Byronic, having been mistaken with muse. UNBESEEM (anag.). Putting the qualifier ‘Byronic’ behind the definition ‘fail to become’ shifts the whole meaning of the clue’s surface and allows a very neat anagram.
22. A young lady cut short in coterie, literally isolated? SEA-GIRT (a gir(l) in set). ‘Isolate’ literally means ‘make into an island’.
24. What needle pierces as blood wells up on artery section. DERMIS (red, rev., + M1 s). It took Dr Watson far too long to see that ‘artery’ means ‘main road’.
27. What accompanies shot cut square? Absolutely. BANG (3 meanings). The surface is some sort of cricketing jargon. The three meanings are the noise, the hair fringe and the adverb (as in ‘bang on’).
28. Work most of earth in strategically important territory. GOLAN (go lan(d)). The Golan Heights are a disputed territory between Israel and Syria.
29. ‘Classical’ track, something created by Hart and Rodgers in tandem. TROD (hidden). You might call it an ‘indirect hidden’, since you have place Hart and Rodgers side by side (if not by Sondheim) to find the answer.
31. X in ‘billet-doux’ and the ilk is silent. KISS (hidden). There’s a semi-& lit. element to this winner from competition no 1823 from last year. The X in a love letter would be a kiss and ‘kiss’ is in ‘ilk is silent’.
Across: 10. GRUM (r in gum); 11. ON END (anag.); 16. EPHAS (anag.); 22. STEP-IN (p(int) in stein); 26. NABOB (nab ob.); 28. GALLATE (all in gate); 29. TIROL (o in tirl). Down: 2. TRIN (r in tin); 3. IMPROPER (I’m pro PE r); 4. TOOM (moot, rev.); 5. UNSPENT (anag.); 6. DETOX (ted, rev., + ox); 13. CAPI (capi(tally)); 18. IRIDIAN (IR + anag.); 19. REALISER (anag. in rear); 25. SALLEE (s allee); 30. DELE (dele(gable)).