Azed No 1923 Plain (5 Apr 2009)

reviewed by Dr Watson for & lit. – The Azed Slip Archive

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OLVERS may remember this competition puzzle for two things: the body part at 35 across, and the difficult references in some other clues. The grid is very generously checked, and this may have led Azed to raise the difficulty of the clues (particularly 30 down with its three alternatives). Either way it proves an even more challenging puzzle than many recent ones, but for all the right reasons – inventive clueing, a wide range of general knowledge and overall high entertainment value.

Notes to the clues:


1.       Nick House? One who’s ungenerous when it comes to helping.  PINCHCOMMONS (pinch Commons).  A relative of Hugh Laurie’s grumpy character in the House TV series? A pinchcommons is to food what a pinchpenny is cash. The clue is nicely paired with 35 across.

13.     Flasher? Bore in the middle lacking a garment.  STROBE (s(a)t robe).  A precise but convoluted instruction to remove ‘a’ from ‘sat’ creates a plausible context for an exposure of the tallywhacker.

15.     Ground ochre, including measure that’s applied to powder and salt.  ROCHELLE (ell in anag.).  The compounds Rochelle-powder and Rochelle-salt are given under the main entry Rochelle in Chambers.

18.     ‘Dance?’ ‘No thanks’. (Bride may have had it).  VELE (vele(ta)).  An old veil and an old dance in a timeless setting.

25.     Palm cent buried in crumbs?  COCO (c in coo!).  Some clever changes to parts of speech between the surface and cryptic readings. The question mark is possibly a trick to avoid the exclamation mark that Azed would normally use for an interjection.

28.     Camel I kept in den reproduced twelve or thereabouts.  NOONTIDE (oont I in anag.).  An oont is an Indian camel that all crossword solvers should come across sooner later. ‘Reproduced’ is a slightly unusual anagram indicator.

31.     Loot for pirates? It may give me strife.  PROA (comp. anag. & lit.).  ‘Loot’ in the sense of ‘spoil’ is the anagram indicator. A proa or prau is a type of boat that frequently appears in this sort of puzzle. Azed recently clued it very subtly with ‘It has an outrigger on the side of it’.

32.     Fashionable party tincture, unlike BBQ.  INDOOR (in do or).  ‘Or’ as ‘gold’ is well-known, and it also means a gold tincture in heraldry. Dr Watson, with enough experience of British summer, would recommend a question mark on this one.

35.     Roger Clark, wealthy eccentric. TALLYWHACKER (anag.).  Azed’s never shied away from the coarser end of our language and here presents two of the less prominent members of its extensive vocabulary of the penis. Beautifully clued both in its own right and as a partner to 1 across.


1.       One’s moved on from Germaine if it’s men (tops) get one excited.  POST-FEMINIST (anag.).  Nice anagram, but Dr Watson suspects Ms Greer may have moved on too (cf. G. M. Hornby’s winning clue from Azed No. 10 in 1972).

2.       Prickly plant, live, stuck in top of bottle.  NEBECK (be in neck).  The nebk or nebeck is also called the Christ’s thorn, an appropriate choice with Good Friday around the corner.

4.       Trumpets (in music or on a star).  CORONAS (hidden).  A neat, not-quite-semi-& lit., as coronas can be astronomical phenomena (though not musical instruments, unless a daffodil is playable).

5.       Encountered shelter one missed where Robert the Bruce was defeated.  METHVEN (met h(a)ven).  Methven near Perth was the site of one of Bruce’s defeats to Edward I in 1306.

6.       Snout’s part? Strange retroussé end of nose.  MURE (rum, rev. + e).  In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tom Snout the tinker takes the part of the wall separating Pyramus from Thisbe. ‘Retroussé’ really means ‘turned up’ so this would have worked better as a down clue.

7.       Oil tanker left some money in Athens once.  OBOL (obo l).  An obo isn’t strictly an oil tanker, but a general purpose oil and bulk ore carrier. An obol was part of a drachma.

9.       Bruce’s incredible girl (acc. to Rev. William) runs off with e.g. Jacob?  SHEEP-STEALER (Spoonerism of ‘steep Sheila’).  Seeing Bruce again, Dr Watson spent some time pursuing the idea that the William might be McGonagall, whose Adventures of King Robert the Bruce is one of his classics. (“King Robert the Bruce’s deadly enemy, John of Lorn, / Joined the English with eight hundred Highlanders one morn, / All strong, hardy, and active fearless mountaineers, / But Bruce’s men attacked them with swords and spears.”). However, Bruce turns out to be an ocker and William to be Spooner. Jacob of course is the traditional breed of sheep. Azed clued the same word a few years ago with this rather good anagram: ‘Wicket missing, wethers asleep rashly? Then I can do my worst!’

11.     Rent in one end of town?  TORN (t or n).  Requires a bit of thought – one end of ‘town’ could be the letter t or n.

17.     Type of boa, tailless one, found in Canada, wild.  ANACONDA (on(e) in anag.).  The idea of a tailless snake, let alone a Canadian boa, is a stretch too far for Dr Watson’s imagination.

24.     That old grating on which locos are reversed.  Y-TRACK (yt rack).  Even with ‘track’ in place, this is a difficult solve (and a long search through Chambers, where it’s listed under Y) unless the old form of ‘that’ is known.

29.     Room in harem, with first of ladies recognising no lord.  ODAL (oda + l).  ‘Odal’ or ‘udal’ refers to a form of non-feudal tenure in Orkney, and an oda was a chamber in a Turkish harem.

30.     Crown, historically – or its sworn enemy (to some)?  NOLL (2 meanings).  With ‘noll’, ‘noul’ and ‘nowl’ all variants meaning the top of the head, this was clearly intended to be a challenge. So it’s time to brush up your English history: ‘Old Noll’ was the Royalists’ nickname for Oliver Cromwell, a rather obscure piece of information that it was hard to verify even with an internet search. Dr Watson’s research was once again led astray, this time by misreading the entry header in Chambers Biographical Dictionary for Fan S. Noli, an Albanian who led opposition to King Zog in the 1930s.


Other solutions:

Across: 10. OVERTONE (O vert one);  12. SOBA (so B a);  14. TRET (hidden);  16. FAÇONNÉ (con in fane);  21. AWELESS (anag.);  23. MATISSE (sit, rev., in anag.);  26. INVITEE (vite in (w)ine(s));  33. TAAL (initial letters);  34. POSTICHE (tich in pose).  Down: 3. CRATONIC (ton in craic (variant spelling of ‘crack’));  8. NOBLESSE (bless in anag.);  19. ELLIPTIC;  20. ISOTOPY (0 to in I spy);  22. WENDISH (end in wish);   27. VENT (2 meanings).

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