1. Modern nabob spoilt pet? FAT CAT (2 meanings). Almost a simple definition clue. Solvers might be surprised to find something quite so straightforward in an Azed.
7. Strong headwind: lacking a motive turns back. NOSER (re(a)son, rev.). Azed competitors had a go at NOSER in 1977 in competition 298. It offers many definitions. L. May, author of the famous ‘Bust down reason?’ clue, won the competition with ‘Elevated debate precludes one’, using the same wordplay as Azed uses here, but in an & lit. down clue.
14. Producer of blast to fan flames, ‘masculine’ in a manner of speaking. TROMPE (m in trope). The misleading context hints at some kind of macho behaviour, but doesn’t take long to see through. A trompe is a type of bellows used in a furnace.
17. What’s unusually bitter in old-fashioned look, or words. LIBRETTO (anag. in lo). A very good clue. The definition ‘words’ isn’t at all obvious, and Azed takes full advantage of the archaicness of ‘lo’.
30. Mamet plays, new? One analyses the elements. MET MAN (anag. + n). A Met man is a meteorologist (from the Met Office). David Mamet is best known for the fast-paced dialogue of plays and films like Glengarry Glen Ross.
31. Sense of despair I perceived in a department. ANOMIE (I in a nome). A nome was an administrative department of ancient Greece, and as a word it turns up regularly in the harder cryptics.
32. What may be squeezed to good effect lay within fruit. MELODEON (ode in melon). Dr Watson did wonder how you could squeeze a reed-organ, but Chambers lists ‘accordion’ as one of the definitions. A lay is a song or poem.
34. A shortish stretch down under limits even muscular wasting. SWEENY (e’en in swy). ‘Swy’ is an Australian slang word with various connotations of two-ness, including a two-year prison term. The solution is a condition affecting horses.
4. Cine shot showing progress in dense jungle? CUTAWAY (cut away). ‘Shot’ and ‘in’ hint at some sort of cryptic device, but it’s another double definition, albeit rather better than 1 and 28 across. ‘Progress’ needs to be read as a verb in the second definition.
11. He earns by speaking, heated in sequence of perorations. RHETOR (het in (pe)ror(ations)). ‘Sequence of perorations’ is a very vague indication of ROR, as Azed has acknowledged in similar cases before, and probably not in the setters’ best practice guide, if such exists.
19. One’s cast for fish off e.g. Maryport, one caught in tangle of fat hen. HAAF-NET (a in anag.). Chambers gives the Solway Firth as the specific geographical location of the haaf-net or halve-net, and Maryport is in the north of Cumbria. The surface isn’t quite as bizarre as it might appear on first reading, as fat hen is a type of ground-covering plant.
23. Glistening? It was forged. SHEENY (sheen-y). The appearance of SHEENY and SWEENY in the bottom right corner, both with their second letters unchecked, is an unusual feature of the grid.
26. More than one duck? Side’s exchanging money for one at learning stage. TEALS (L for M in team’s). Azed manages to create a cricketing context out of ‘ducks’, with an indication of L that’s different from the standard ones.
27. Caribbean fruit – West maybe imports some? Not so. MAMEE ((so)me in Mae). It seems Mae West is never far from some setters’ thoughts. Dr Watson isn’t sure the Caribbean can really be considered outside of the West.
Across: 12. ACAULOSE (Au in a close); 13. ROSTER (hidden rev.); 15. ON TAP (NT in OAP); 16. UNIAT (I in anag.); 18. TRIATHLETE (anag.); 28. SYNAERESIS (anag.); 24. ECOSTATE (eco state); 28. SOFAR (so far); 29. FRATE (f rate); 33. DRENT (hidden, ‘drown one’s sorrows’). Down: 1. FAR-OUT; 2. À CONTRE COEUR (anag.); 3. TASTY (st in Tay); 5. TORSI (torsi(on)); 6. ASTABLE (as table); 8. OZONE (Oz one); 9. SAMITE (ma, rev., in site); 10. EXPATRIATION (anag. in expiation); 20. TETRODE (rod in tete); 21. DESMID (hidden); 22. SOFTIE (s of tie); 25. SAMAN (SA + man).