Azed No 1962 Plain (3 Jan 2010)

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

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OLVERS can usually expect a fairly gentle puzzle to start the new year, and after the tribulations of the Christmas competition, anything Plain might seem on the easy side. But Azed doesn’t do away with all his deviousness here. There are several imaginative leaps required of the solver, and Dr Watson needed to revisit a number of solutions after entering them to make sure the wordplay had been correctly understood, particularly 11 across and 3 down. After the NGANA Parcel clue competitors may well know every single word that starts with ANA – this could be a help both in solving the reference to Anacreon at 31 across and in producing a clue to ANADEM.

Notes to the clues:


1.       Wee onion spread round near back.  SYBOW (by, rev., in sow).  The string of four common word-manipulation indicators at the end of the clue makes it difficult to see what’s what cryptically. ‘Spread’ and ‘near’ are the definitions, ‘round’ and ‘back’ the manipulations. A sybow, in various spellings, is a Scots spring onion.

11.     Something maybe left by writer in trenches is interesting.  WARMS (i.e. war MS).  It took Dr Watson a while to see how this clue works. The most tempting reference to latch on to is Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, but that doesn’t account for the unchecked first letter. It’s not clear why a writer would leave their manuscript in the trenches, but it may refer to a WW1 poet such as Wilfred Owen who died in combat.

19.     Waxy stuff bringing back of hairstyles to the front?  SPERM (s to start in perms).  Having put aside thoughts of There’s Something About Mary, Dr Watson established that this sperm is the substance (spermaceti) extracted from sperm whales.

22.     Forester especially comprehends such a measure.  STERE (hidden).  A cubic measure of timber provides a nice semi-& lit. opportunity.

31.     Describing treacherous girl, Anacreontic about one ‘speaking properly’?  TARPEIAN (a RP in Teian).  An amalgam of Classical references that are explained in their Chambers entries. Tarpeia betrayed Rome to its enemies in early legend and gave her name to the Tarpeian rock from which traitors were thrown. The Greek poet Anacreon hailed from the city of Teos and its name is applied to his work. RP is Received Pronunciation.

32.     Musical expression, composite, for one historically i/c role calls?  MUSTER-MASTER (mus. term aster).  A clever charade splits the solution in a far from obvious way. An aster is a member of the Compositae family of plants. A muster-master must have mastered musters once.

33.     Do they set exams fool (in pieces) missed in Prestatyn?  ESTYN (Prestatyn less letters of prat).  Azed is careful to indicate that the subtracted letters are not contiguous. Another semi-& lit. clue, as the solution is a Welsh education authority.


1.       Humperdinck’s invention – EH’s No. 1 in charts, arranged with REM and timps.  SPRECHSTIMME (anag. inc. c(harts)).  A highly improbable arrangement for either of the Engelbert Humperdincks (the original a composer, his namesake a 1960s pop singer). All is explained under the Chambers entry for sprechgesang (new to the 2006 edition). All, that is, except for the role of REM and the timps, and EH’s chart No. 1 (Release Me).

3.       Live through a tough winter? This thing’s unsettling.  OUTWEAR (comp. anag.).  Dr Watson is an avid collector of Azed’s devices for indicating a composite anagram. Azed states that there should be something in the clue to show that the solution and surplus letters (‘this’ + ‘thing’) are derived from the anagram material (‘a tough winter’). Here the question-mark seems to indicate the clue should be read as “What’s ‘a tough winter’? It’s the unsettling of the solution and ‘thing’”. ‘Live through’ is the definition.

4.       Process occurring when core of herring is encased in salt?  WRIT ((her)r(ing) in wit).  ‘Process’ is a legal term for a writ. ‘Salt’ is sauciness or wit.

9.       Trendy Aussie youth, not old, making the old mutter.  ROYNE (Roy ne).  Dr Watson’s response on seeing ‘not old’ is to look for an O to remove, but using it for ‘ne’ is a trick Azed’s pulled a few times..

14.     Cornish mineral? Another of those turned up in lake.  ERINITE (tin, rev., in Erie).  Cornwall is known for its tin mines, and erinite (a copper ore) is also found there.

23.     Around Arkansas I pay inordinately for US gum?  APIARY (Ar in anag.).  A ‘gum’ in the US may be a beehive. ‘Inordinate’ can mean ‘unrestrained’ as well as ‘excessive’, but not ‘out of order’.

26.     What was next in line is this.  NEIST (hidden).  The hidden word indicator is itself well hidden after the definition ‘what was next’.

27.     Murphy’s rule accepted by one of his countrymen? Yes, initially.  PRATY (r in Pat + y).  A murphy and a praty are potatoes, and Pat and Murphy are both Irishmen.

Other solutions:

Across: 12. PLEURISY-ROOT (anag. of role your spit);  13. RUSTICAL (anag.);  15. ORGANON (org(y) anon.);  16. CLIENT (lien in ct.);  17. UPSET (hidden rev.);  18. ANADEM;  23. ASSURE (ass + ure);  25. IN PUP (first p in pin-up ‘buried’);  28. MINIMS (m in minis; order of nuns);  29. INERTIA (anag.);  34. STEWY (we, rev., in sty).  Down: 1. BESHINE (shin in bee);  5. PICOTÉ (cot in pie);  6. ASARUM (a r in Musa, rev.);  8. ARDAS (ARD (acute respiratory disease) + as);  10. MONOTREME (not re in mome);  11. STONEMASONRY (anag. in story);  14. PLATINOUS (Latino in pus);  20. PUNIEST (pun I est.);  24. SMARMY (MS, rev. + army);  30. UPAS (a2 in ups).

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