HE Azed series has few flaws, but one of them is a lack of proofing that allows unnecessary errors to creep through on occasion. The error in this puzzle is the transposition of the clues at 23 and 24 down, a fairly serious hindrance to solvers since the solutions are of the same length. No doubt the Azed Slip will make it clear where the responsibility lies for this. Dr Watson suspects it’s with Azed himself, but the Observer really could do something about it, if only by passing the puzzles in front of a crossword-aware staff member before committing them to type. Without the mistake this would have been a fair puzzle, on the difficult side. As published it will have given little confidence or encouragement to newer solvers, even if regulars can pass it off as ‘one of those things’.
1. Given whacks round hindlegs gee’s bolted, upset, tall leggy creature. SPINDLESHANKS (anag. less g in spanks). A quaint term from a couple of generations ago. ‘Gee’ in this case is the letter G. The anagram of ‘hindle(g)s’ is more of a top-to-tail.
14. Conifer, close to pitch in colour. HUON PINE (on pin in hue). The clue looks like it’s indicating an H with ‘close to pitch’, but in fact is looking for ‘on’ (close to) and ‘pin’ (pitch in the sense of distance between two things).
17. Lazaretto for slaver? SPITTLE (2 meanings). A lazaretto is an old isolation hospital, for which ‘spittle’ is a colloquial form, and ‘slaver’ is nicely punned.
19. Love bite’s end, showing teeth marks? EROSE (Eros + e). Love is a many-splendoured thing for Azed, and solvers shouldn’t rely on it indicating an O. An attractive surface results for the clue, if not for the bitee.
23. Portion of huitre farcie you shouldn’t eat? TREFA (hidden). Dr Watson hasn’t come across stuffed oysters, but they sound plausible, and certainly wouldn’t be kosher, which gives the clue its semi-& lit.-ness. It’s unusual for Azed to tack a partial definition (‘you shouldn’t eat’) on to the clue without a punctuation break. A more standard presentation would be something like: “Portion of huitre farcie – that you shouldn’t eat?”
27. Such as venues for lectures by Zeno, keeping circle in step mostly. STOAI (O in stai(r)). The explanation, when you get there, is all under the Chambers entry stoa. Zeno, of the paradox involving Achilles and the tortoise, lectured at the Stoa Poikile in Athens, which in turn gave its name to the Stoics.
30. Curvy shape I’ll turn with minimum of exercise. OGEE (ego, rev. + e). ‘I’ indicating ‘ego’ is a trick familiar to regular solvers.
31. Deadeye losing head in ill-fitting harness, not one for rapacity. SHARK’S MANNERS ((m)arksman in anag. less a). Dr Watson spent much time, before the transposition of the down clues became clear, trying to fit something complicated that used the nautical meaning of ‘deadeye’, but the actual solution turns out to be very neat.
1. It’s going down fast, to wit dogfish on the menu. SCHUSS (sc. huss). An fine combination of ski-slopes, Latin abbreviations (sc. is equivalent to i.e.) and the restaurateur’s way of passing off shark – though ‘huss’ is probably less misleading for the consumer than its alternative, ‘rock salmon’.
6. Famous computer sequence from Tavernier. ERNIE (hidden). ERNIE was, and still is in a later version, the computer that draws the Premium Bond winners. Bertrand Tavernier is the filmmaker best known outside France for the jazz story Round Midnight.
8. Ruler in Rome cropped sister and husband likewise. NUMA (nu(n) ma(n)). The ruler is Numa Pompilius, who succeeded Romulus as King of Rome. Dr Watson’s not sure there was ever a Roman ruler in a position to crop their husband – maybe it was the sister’s husband.
13. Old Surrey bowler admits bowling less, ploy calculated to yield success later. LOSS-LEADER (anag. in Loader). Peter Loader played cricket for Surrey and England in the 1950s.
18. Rome’s crazy about Italian version of N. African dance. MORESCA (anag. + ca.). This is the word found in italics, appropriately, at the Chambers entry moresco.
22. Emergencies come up in public administration. CRISES (rise in CS). Indirectly indicating abbreviations is something Azed usually avoids. In this case he decided CS (Civil Service) was sufficiently unambiguous to get away with it.
23. Pick stuff that contains a modicum of elegance. CREAM (e in cram). Nothing too difficult about this, but the clue should have been for 24 down.
24. Roast bananas or edible tubers. TAROS (anag.). Dr Watson was unfortunate to solve this one on sight (‘taro’ turns up fairly often in barred puzzles) and enter it at 24, where it played havoc with all the checked across solutions, especially 24, in which ‘Credit reduced’ looked like it might be e.g. ‘trus(t)’.
26. Old Tom turned up with a very old car. BIGA (gib, rev. + a). A gib is an old tomcat and ‘car’ can mean a chariot.
27. Scrutinize briefs without ties. SCAN (scan(ties)). A brief and entertaining clue to round off the puzzle.
Across: 10. CONI (con + I); 11. PAPULA (up in a lap, all rev.); 15. URDEE (urd + (s)ee(d)); 16. DIOPTASE (opt as in die); 20. TOPOLOGIC (0 log in topic); 24. CROAKER (cr. oaker); 25. ALBICORE (anag.); 28. RESCINDS (Esc (computer key) in rinds); 29. ORGEAT (r in anag.). Down: 2. POURPARLER (Parl. in pourer); 3. NINE-TO-FIVE; 4. DOPE (3 meanings); 5. LAID LOW (anag. in law); 7. HATPEG (anag.); 9. SAREE (eras, rev. + E); 12. PATRIATION (atria in anag.); 21 PACHAK (Pacha + k).