Azed No 1984 ‘Doublethink’ (6 Jun 2010)

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

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ACK in January 1984, Azed produced a competition puzzle on the theme of George Orwell’s novel. In the Slip for puzzle no 610 he wrote “Expecting a deluge of ‘1984’ puzzles I wanted to get mine in early. Indeed I had it scheduled for New Year’s Day but the fates decreed otherwise.” It seems the Observer took a 2 week Christmas break and the puzzle appeared on 8th January. The Slip doesn’t give away much about the puzzle’s construction, but it involved misprints and a quotation. The competition word, which had to be deduced, was DOUBLETHINK, and the competition was won by Colin Dexter’s memorable & lit. clue “By it ‘truth’ and ‘lie’ looked alternately interchangeable” (anag. of alternate letters & lit.).

Now the puzzle numbers are rapidly catching up with the year of publication, and 1984 has come around again. This time Azed offers a puzzle themed around ‘Doublethink’ but with a simple premise, made explicit in the preamble. Across solutions are words containing a double letter, which is converted to a single letter before entry. Down clues have one of their single letters doubled before entry. Clues are in the ‘Letters Latent’ style, where the definition points to the original word and the wordplay to the mutilated form to be entered. Azed doesn’t attempt to create a message with the letter changes, but includes one unclued thematic across solution to be deduced. This turns out to be ORWELLIAN, entered as ORWELIAN.

Dr Watson found the puzzle at the less difficult end of the thematic spectrum. The clues are as ever fair, witty and quite solvable. Some require second thought but overall ‘Doublethink’ didn’t mean double the thinking. The letter changes throw up a couple of ambiguities: one (14 across) is irrelevant to the solution, but the other (1 down) may require Azed to consider allowing two alternatives.

Unfortunately solvers of the online version will have had to contend with three faulty down clues. Here are the correct versions that appeared in the paper:

9.       Forage plant: observes a heap round for example middle of byres (11,2 words)

17.     Slightly bulging outline unaltered under battered tent (7)

21.     Sensitive adult one captivated by springtime in the highlands? (5)

Notes to the clues:


11.     Old piece of cloth fabric like velvet.  PAN(N)E (2 meanings).  The clue breaks down as ‘old piece of cloth’ (pane – an old word for a piece of a patchwork) and ‘fabric like velvet’ (panne).

13.     Traditional shorts a Sikh cuts? This sits loosely.  KUC(C)HA (comp. anag.).  Removing ‘sits’ from ‘a Sikh cuts’ provides the anagram material. There looks to be the possibility of an & lit. here, but Azed would normally avoid a comp. anag. & lit. with this type of clue, as it would require the ‘this’ to stand for two different things:  the defined solution and the non-word to be entered in the grid.

14.     Heads don’t bob up and down so much for the most part.  NO(O)DLES or NOD(D)LES (nod les(s)).  The clue leads to two possible solutions. Either will do as there’s no significance to the omitted letters.

18.     Firm open reforms, as standard?  PEN(N)IFORM (anag.).  ‘Penniform’ means feather-like, and Dr Watson initially thought Azed had mixed up ‘penna’ and ‘pennant’ (a flag or standard), but Chambers gives ‘a streaming wing feather’ as one definition of ‘standard’.

25.     Cheers pugilism administering part of old punishment?  TAR(R)ING (ta ring).  ‘The ring’ is a term for boxing. Tarring would be part of the punishment of tarring and feathering.

28.     With leg spinning out, acknowledges place for swinging.  GALLOWS-LE(E) (allows in anag.).  The surface of the clue refers to cricket, in which leg spinning and swinging are bowling techniques. Dr Watson isn’t entirely happy that ‘with A out, B’ accurately indicates ‘B with A on the outside’, but it’s a fairly common and accepted cryptic device.

30.     One maybe delivering Delphic oracle is nosy, reverse of formal.  PRIESTES(S) (pries + set, rev.).  The prophecies of the oracle at Delphi were delivered by the priestess Pythia.

31.     Good times for yachtsmen at sea with empty rig, blown about?  REGAT(T)AS (anag inc. r(i)g).  ‘At sea’ is such a familiar anagram indicator that it’s an excellent bluff to use it, as Azed does here, for anagram material. ‘Empty’ is a cryptic instruction to discard all but the end letters of a word.

32.     Issues old-style matrix (not US) section.  UT(T)ERS (uter(us) + S).  ‘Matrix’ is an old term for the uterus. Removing ‘US’ only to put S back on is a rather roundabout way of cluing the solution, but Azed probably did it to avoid ambiguity over which U to remove.


1.       Punch to finish slowcoach? That was a humdinger.  SOCKDOLAGGER (sock do lagger).  It’s unfortunate that the eighth letter is unchecked, since a slowcoach could be a lagger or a ligger, and ‘sockdolager’ and ‘sockdoliger’ are listed as alternative spellings in Chambers. It’ll be interesting to see how Azed handles this.

2.       Pour out universal pennies no longer, anything but flush.  PROUUD (anag. + U + d).  A very nicely worded clue, taking advantage of the obsoleteness of ‘d’ for pence, and the different senses of ‘flush’ and ‘proud’ as ‘level with’ and ‘standing out from’.

6.       Toffee-nose, contemptible person.  SNOOT (2 meanings).  ‘Snoot’ and ‘snot’ are very close in meaning, one ‘an expression of contempt’ the other ‘a contemptible person’, so the working of the clue is a little ambiguous, even though the solution isn’t.

8.       Infuriate e.g. Glasgow player, header given ultimate put-down.  ANGERR (Ranger with R to end).  Dr Watson has never heard a Glasgow Rangers player referred to as a Ranger, but it’s logical. The wording that indicates the move of the first letter to end is precise and clever.

22.     Sunni geriatrics will accept this old black man.  NNIGER (hidden).  Azed has been pulled up before for including solutions that might be considered racist words, but this one seems unexceptionable, despite being close to an alternative with a different double letter.

23.     Wallop: soak imbibes litre, and the same again.  SLLOG (l,l in sog).  Dr Watson wondered about SLLOP as a solution (slop and wallop are weak liquors) until the checking light was solved. This is really just a normal clue to SLOG extended to indicate the extra L, but it’s the only example of that in the puzzle.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. SPO(O)RS (spor(t)s);  5. RUS(S)ULAS (r + anag. + s);  10. ORWEL(L)IAN;  12. COB COT(T)AGE (OB + cot all in cage);  16. DUCAL(L)Y (cud, rev., + l in ay);  20. LARGHET(T)O (anag.);  26. GAL(L)EON (gale on);  27. SEA-(A)IR (I in sear);  29. ER(R)OR (rore, rev.).  Down: 3. OWL-CCAR (C in anag.);  4. RECHARGGE (char in egger, rev.);  5. RIBEYEES (eye in Ribes);  7. LAA-LA (aa in all, rev.);  9. SEESAME GRASS (sees + a + e.g. (by)r(es) in mass);  15. DEFOREEST (fed, rev. + 0 + reest);  17. ENTTASIS (anag. + as is);  19. OPIATTE (O + I in patte);  21. AWAARE (A + a in ware3);  24. COOPT (2 meanings, cf. co-opt).

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