Azed No 1927 ‘Spoonerisms’ (3 May 2009)

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

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ZED has established ‘Spoonerisms’ as one of his trademarks, and this is his twelfth competition puzzle using the device. It continues to be popular with solvers because it offers some highly entertaining clues and penny-dropping moments. It’s a clue type that depends on homophones, requiring the solver to juggle with the phonemes as well as the letters of the words. Not everyone is going to agree on pronunciations with regional or (as in the case of CARNET) international variations, and some of the manipulations in the clues are rather strained (such as 17 down), but with a bit of setter’s licence, everything here is fair and solvable.

There are two clue types in the puzzle: those whose definition leads to a Spoonerism of the solution to be entered (A in the notes), and those that contain a Spoonerism of a definition that leads to the answer itself (B). In the ‘A’ case the definition leads to a non-word, so the clues are generally harder to solve from scratch, though it’s a good bet every solution will have at least two syllables. In the ‘B’ case, there are two approaches open to the setter in Spoonerising the definition: one is to find a plausible Spoonerism of a short definition (e.g. ‘peg pins’ for ‘pigpens’ in 5 down); the other is to use a longer and more imaginative definition in which the Spoonerism can be hidden (such as the eight-word definition of RO-RO at 34 across). A solver looking out for these tricks has a good chance of spotting one of the ‘B’ clues and getting a toehold in the grid.

One feature of the ‘A’ clues is that an anagram of the solution may be similar to a Spoonerism of it (e.g. 31 across has ‘a lad spoke’ as the anagram material, and ‘poke leads’ as the Spoonerised definition), which requires clear thinking to sort out. Another of course is that there’s no need to know what the solution means as long as it’s a valid word. Dr Watson is still hazy about what the genlocks at 4 down are or do.

Notes to the clues:


13.     Starry group with inspiring number – new fashion?  LEONINE (A; neo line; Leo nine).  Remember the definition leads to a Spoonerism, so the constellation Leo is part of the wordplay, not the definition. Nine is ‘inspiring’ because ‘the Nine’ is a name for the Classical Muses. And a new fashion in the shops could be a neo (as opposed to a retro?) line.

14.     Greek croup? Start of epidemic in Lemnos is treated.  SEMINOLES (B; Creek group; anag. inc. e).  The Seminoles are also called Creek Indians.

15.     A bit of opprobrium I attract narrows fame?  MIA (B; Farrow’s name; hidden).  Dr Watson spent some time trying to find a connection between pigs and ‘Mia’ before the far from porcine actress who is Woody Allen’s ex came to mind.

16.     Rarely scared though enveloped in filth, rolling over.  TRIFID (A; frighted; if in dirt, rev.).  Still no pigs. Sometimes a Spoonerism of a solution can be in the form of a single word that is defined directly, in this case a rare word for ‘scared’. The solution can be pronounced ‘triffid’ as well ‘try-fid’, which led Dr Watson to assume ‘fritted’ to be the Spoonerism (remembering that Margaret Thatcher once described Denis Healey as ‘frit’ over a General Election), but Chambers doesn’t support this. Some might argue whether the second I of ‘trifid’ has the same pronunciation as the E of ‘frighted’, but the solution is otherwise unambiguous.

20.     Motor attached to fishing aid once near islet.  CARNET (A; narre cay; car net).  The rather obscure Spoonerised pair in the definition allows Azed to use a simple charade for the wordplay and still make the clue challenging. The Spoonerism uses a sort of Anglo-French pronunciation of ‘carnet’ given in Chambers (‘car-nay’).

28.     Sell short brand containing bits of ‘extra additives’.  SEA EAR (B; shell sort; e, a in sear).  A very plausible Spoonerism, this one, almost a tongue-twister.

31.     A lad spoke haltingly to pry about initiatives.  PEAK LOADS (A; poke leads; anag.).  Dr Watson guessed that ‘haltingly’ was the anagram indicator, but struggled because the Spoonerised solution and the anagram material both contain ‘poke’, which caused a wobble in the thought process.

32.     Friend on hill to match mineral aggregate.  ALLY-TOR (A; tally ore; ally tor).  An ally-tor has nothing to do with friends or hills but is a type of marble – the toy sort.

34.     Two lines in stitches, we hear? One making panel chortle, soon set off again. RO-RO (B; Channel port’ll; ‘row row’).  A lot of words for a four-letter solution, but this lovely clue is what Spoonerisms are all about, with allusions to knitting, comedy shows and cross-Channel ferries all bound up in its multiple layers, and leading to a wonderful penny-drop.


3.       Bold writs freeze National Insurance.  ICENI (B; old Brits; ice NI).  The Iceni (one of those setters’ ‘not again!’ words) were Boudicca’s tribe in Roman Britain. Here the Spoonerism moves only one phoneme – arguably just half of one – instead of the usual two-way swap.

4.       Privy law short case dreads?  GENLOCKS (A; john lex; gen. locks).  Plenty of material in a short clue. ‘Privy + law’ for ‘john + lex’ is a great find for the vocalic Spoonerism. ‘Gen.’ is the abbreviation for the genitive case in grammar, and a Rasta’s dreads are his locks. Genlock is something to do with TV image processing.

5.       Peg pins old-fashioned mounts.  STIES (B; pigpens; 2 meanings).  At last, the pigs. Here’s a straightforward clue that would serve as a good introduction to this type of Spoonerism. ‘Sty’ is an old verb meaning ‘to climb’ or ‘mount’.

7.       Soldier’s identifiers (not rank) called up got old country fellow?  ONE-MAN (A; wan mun; name, no., all rev.).  One of the harder clues. A soldier’s identifiers are name, rank and (serial) number. So far so good, but what about the solution? A consonantal Spoonerism would give ‘mun wan’, which doesn’t work, so it must be vocalic, with ‘wan’ an old word for ‘gained’ or ‘got’ and ‘mun’ a man in dialect.

17.     Fish lake dries out around start of summer?  DISMAYER (A; dace mere; May in anag.).  As well the solution not being in Chambers, the clue is complicated by a rather liberal Spoonerism, that requires ‘mere’ to be pronounced ‘me-er’.

22.     Oriental, I’ll start this country on frames of ivory and opaline.  UKIYO-E (B; Oriental-style art; UK i(vor)y o(palin)e).  The solution (a Japanese painting style) is hard enough to pronounce, let alone Spoonerise, so it’s likely that the transposition is in the clue, but it still takes some finding. Good to see Azed unfazed by a word so intractable-looking.

23.     One cat in old sort’s last to hunt after wild mangoes.  DIKAST (B; sat in old courts; dikas + t).  An example of a long-distance Spoonerism (though not the longest Azed has produced), where the C from ‘court’ has reached Spooner’s tongue three words early and the S from ‘sat’ travelled the same distance in the other direction. A dikast was a judge in ancient Athens.

26.     Time approaching, peculiarly polyandrous people will protect daughter.  NADIR (A; day near; d in Nair).  Chambers confirms the pronunciation of ‘nadir’ as ‘nay, dear’. The Nair are an Indian people with a ‘peculiar system of polyandry’.

29.     One array for marriage, length taken up on rear of bride.  ELOPE (B; run away; pole, rev. + e).  Azed saves one of the best for last. The Spoonerism takes some time to dawn and the image is nicely drawn.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. CURLING-STONE (A; sterling cone; cur + anag. + one);  9. LION (B; royal cat; comp. anag.);  11. KETONES (A; tee cones; K Eton E s);  18. EMERY (B; coating board; m in eery);  21. RUDIES (B; natty boys; RU (Rugby Union) + anag.);  24. MESNE (B; middle ground; hidden);  30. EIK (B; Scots weighting; hidden rev.);  33. NOSE-LED (A; lows ned; dele son, all rev.);  35. LETTER-WEIGHT (A; wetter late; anag. in light).  Down: 1. CLUSTER-BEAN (A; bluster keen; anag. in clean (net2));  2. ROOMIE (A; moo ree2; moor, rev. + i.e.);  6. TONSURE;  8. NERINE (B; red blooms; ER in nine);  10. INERM (B; spine free; m to end in miner);  12. SCATTER-SHOT (A; shatter Scot; anag. in scat, hot);  19. RIPPLET (A; rep lit; anag.);  25. SEA DOG (A; d— sog; ado in seg);  27. BELLE (B; fair maid; bell + e).

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