HIS month’s competition puzzle seems to have more than the usual number of clues deserving special comment. It may be that with entry numbers showing a modest increase after many years of slow decline, Azed feels able to up the challenge a little, or possibly that the puzzle happens to contain a greater variety of clueing devices. A testing puzzle, anyway, with a couple of traps for those who, like Dr Watson, are prone completing in haste.
2. Official report MP found in record (old) under ‘garbled’. COMPTE RENDU (MP in cote + anag.). Why Azed uses ‘record (old)’ and not ‘old record’ isn’t clear.
10. Latin talisman displaying leafy parts. LOBI (L obi). A few difficulties here: an obi or obeah is a West Indian charm or fetish; the solution as is found as the plural of lobus under lobe; and most trickily the whole thing is disguised as a plausible ‘hidden’ clue.
11. Extreme fan or follower, what this puzzle lacks initially? MANIAC (man + 1ac.). Azed notes that there is no 1 across (normally the initial clue) in this grid, and creates a pleasingly self-deprecating joke out of it.
15. Clergyman, priest introducing service for marrieds. PRELATE (P + Relate). Relate is the name of the national marriage guidance service in the UK.
20. A m-message making one depressed. ACCABLÉ (a c-cable). The ‘stutterer’ is just about consistent with the surface sense of the clue, which implies a degree of nervousness. In this case the device doubles the first letter of the subsidiary part – it can also indicate that the letter before the hyphen should be added (e.g. ‘s-side’ could indicate ‘s-wing’).
23. Misnamed cookie? This sir’s lambasted as ‘silly error’. RYE-ROLL (comp. anag.). Chambers explains that a rye-roll is ‘understood not to be of rye’. Sounds like a case for Trading Standards.
27. Our going away pains dog. LAB (lab(our)). A very fluent surface showing the care Azed takes with even the shortest word.
28. Puppet show featuring rabbit and (local) pottery BUNRAKU (bun + raku). Bunraku is a type of Japanese puppetry and raku is a Japanese ceramic.
30. Hail Mary! Old coins – heaps. AMASSES (AM asses). AM is given as an abbreviation of ‘Ave Maria’ and asses are Roman coins often exploited by clue writers in both the plural and singular form (as).
34. Travel on trains but little – like some details? GORY (go Ry). ‘Trains but little’ makes a change from ‘line’ to indicate ‘ry’ (an abbreviation of ‘railway’ Dr Watson’s never seen used outside a crossword – even the Ordnance Survey uses ‘Rly’). The solution refers to expressions such as ‘spare me the gory details’.
35. Chief ministerial post, endless opportunity to be attendant on Queen? CHANCELLERY (chanc(e) + Ellery). All credit to Azed for using Queen to indicate something other than Q, R or ER. Here’s it’s US crime writer Ellery Queen. The solution offers a trap for the unwary and Dr Watson anticipates comments like ‘a few/several/surprising number with CHANCELLORY for CHANCELLERY’ in this month’s Slip.
1. Old scold having to applaud with a tear. CLAPPERCLAW (clap per claw). The use of ‘a’ to indicate ‘per’ (as in ‘£1 a kilo’) is familiar to most cryptic crossword regulars.
2. Recess providing soap for regulars? CORRIE (2 meanings). An excellent clue and a welcome foray into popular culture. The familiar name for Coronation Street is also a recess in glaciated terrain.
5. End of digit in contact with current – yielding this sensation? TACTUAL ((digi)t + actual). A semi-& lit. clue whose definition is made specific by the rest of the clue, with a clever play on ‘current’.
6. Beak’s bark, ticking us off? RAM (ram(us)?). There appears to be a misprint or error here, as a ‘ramus’ is a barb rather than a bark. A ram is the ‘beak’ of a ship, so Azed might have been thinking of ‘bark’s beak’.
7. You may find seaming in game’s providing these for batting repeatedly. ENIGMAS (2 anags. & lit.). You’ll need to know that in cricket, ‘seaming’ by the bowler causes the ball to turn unpredictably, giving the batsman a puzzle or enigma to solve – and not much time to solve it.
9. You can see this stand for speaker or radio’s misplaced. DAIS (comp. anag.). ‘Or’ is part of a subsidiary indicator and not a linking word. The cryptic reading seems to be this: the solver can see ‘radio’s’ misplaced (i.e. anagrammed) as this (the solution ‘dais’) plus ‘or’. Azed has expressed the opinion that in a clue like this there should be something to indicate that the solution and extra letters are derived from anagram material. In Dr Watson’s view ‘you can see’ at the start here doesn’t really do the job.
19. Hireling’s given up on pity once blooded? CREMSIN (merc, rev., + sin). A merc is a mercenary as well as a car, ‘pity’ is an unfamiliar sense of ‘sin’ (both old and inf. according to Chambers), and the solution is an old form of ‘crimson’.
21. Act’s creating a callus at work. CLAUSAL (anag.). The definition is ‘Act’s’, meaning ‘of an Act’. ‘Clausal’ can mean ‘relating to clauses’ of which an Act consists, but the clue probably merits a question mark.
28. Nurse one associated with nocturnal visitation, mostly. AMAH (Amah(l)). The culture moves up a notch from Corrie, but still with a TV focus. The clue refers to the opera Amahl and the Night Visitors by Menotti, commissioned for US TV in the 1950s, and a popular Christmas broadcast in subsequent years.
Across: 13. ARVAL (lavra, rev.); 14. COMITIA (omit I in ca.); 17. PIR (initial letters & lit.); 18. AMUSEMENT (men in a muset); 23. CATERWAUL (anag. in caul); 32. TUBER (anag.); 33. WALIAN (law, rev., + Ian). Down: 3. OBVERSE (ob. + verse); 4. PALAMPORE; 8. NITRE (hidden rev.); 12. CANTERBURYS (cant + r in anag.); 16. RECOUNTAL (anag.); 22. BELABOR (0 in anag.); 24. FAKERY (ake in fry); 26. TRA-LA (hidden); 31. SAC (sac(k)).