Azed hasn’t marked the occasion in any way in the puzzle, but provides the accustomed mix of wit and misleading language that’s been the weekly or monthly staple of his solvers for so long.
1. Quickfire comic: Scouse mate holds rictus leaving us squirming. WITCRACKER (anag. of rict(us) in wacker). Dr Watson had come across ‘wack’ but not ‘wacker’ as a Liverpool term for a mate.
11. I adore a four: established custom dispenses with final threesome in driving area. TETRADITE (tradit(ion) in tee). A tetradite is a person who associates mystical powers with the number four. Dr Watson couldn’t understand the context of the clue’s surface. Could it be golf (a four iron) or cricket (four runs) or carriage driving (a coach and four)?
14. German league formerly making contribution to Jonathan Sachs. HANSA (hidden). The Hansa or Hanseatic League was a powerful trade organisation from the middle ages. Its name lives on in German airline Lufthansa. The only Jonathan Sachs that Dr Watson could discover is the founder of the Lotus software corporation, now part of IBM. The better-known Jonathan Sacks is the UK’s Chief Rabbi and a regular contributor to Thought for the Day on Radio 4.
15. Mum having rejected Latin, family youngster for history … SIENT (si(L)ent). ‘Mum’ often indicates either ‘ma’ or ‘sh’ but here it’s ‘silent’. ‘Sient’ is an old form of ‘scion’.
16. … as is not suitable (crazy play nut). UNAPTLY (anag.). Solvers might expect the ellipsis to mean some element is carried over from one clue to the other, but this time Azed has simply joined two clues into a single sentence – though not one that makes a lot of sense.
19. Scottish bank about died, where one on board gets a roasting? SUNDECK (dec. in sunk). ‘Dec’ (deceased) is a less familiar abbreviation for ‘dead’ than ‘d’ or ‘ob’. A nice allusion in the misleading surface to RBS and Sir Fred Goodwin.
20. Old tale about David M’s cabinet colleague? Thatcher’s source! REEDBED (Ed B in reed2). A reference to David Milliband and Ed Balls, now shadow cabinet colleagues and rivals for the Labour leadership. Norfolk reeds are the traditional choice for thatching in many parts of England.
28. Boil fish I caught in buttermilk and water (tail removed). BLAIN (I in blan(d) 2). The double definition of ‘boil’ and ‘fish’ makes the wordplay a little more difficult to pin down.
33. Landlord, eccentric chap, delivering stiff missive, stuck up. LETTERCARD (letter card). An entertaining definition that neatly captures Chambers’ description of a lettercard.
2. Parent blowing top? Gee – is that me being wayward? TEENAGER (anag. of (p)arent gee & lit.). Dr Watson was caught out by this clever & lit., looking for something ending with ‘ee’.
4. Some of the Maldives (one assumes) yielding tax in copper, once. ATOLLS (toll in as3). The Maldives are low-lying coral islands, and an as was a Roman copper coin. ‘One assumes’ because of the inscrutable etymology entry for atoll in Chambers: ‘Name in Maldive Islands’.
8. Multicolour printing, hard – cost Romney somehow has got round. STENOCHROMY (h in anag.). The four word indication of both anagram and container-and-contents makes the clue harder to parse. George Romney was a 19th century English painter.
18. Joke about Jewish ‘doctor’ I concealed in lucky dip? Sort of. GRAB-BAG (Rabb(I) in gag). Chambers gives ‘a bag from which gifts are drawn’ as a US meaning of ‘grab-bag’.
23. One such (not English), alternating his pieces? AUTHOR (au to front in Thor(E)au). Anyone who was caught out by last month’s POET clue (One such, to love denied?) might have been better prepared this time. Dr Watson has been held up before trying to fit US writer Henry Thoreau (a contemporary of Poe) into wordplay where ‘author’ was required, so the link between the words was familiar. ‘Alternating his pieces’ is a rather imprecise wordplay instruction, Dr Watson thinks.
26. What’s associated with moonlight and time that’s light no longer. FLITT (flit + t). Chambers gives ‘moonlight flit’ under the entry for moon.
Across: 12. SPEKBOOM (anag.) 13. DOER (d o’er); 18. GIGA (GI + ga(ga)); 24. ETHE (e the); 26. FOULARD; 29. TABOR (hidden rev.); 30. BIRL (birl(inn)); 31. NICHROME (0 in anag.); 32. AKOLUTHOS (a K + lo, rev. + anag.). Down: 1. WUSHU (W + h in usu.); 3. REBATO (re bato(n)); 5. CRONY (on in cry; intimate noun); 6. KAMSIN (anag.); 7. EDDIC (hidden); 9. PERTAKE (anag. in Peke); 10. SPANIEL-LIKE (nielli in spake); 17. METABOLA (a lobate m, all rev.); 21. BEN-NUT (anag. in bet); 22. DOUCHE (douc + he(ad); 25. FILLE (fille(d)); 27. DREAD (Rev with A for V in DD).