Azed No 2000 (26 Sep 2010)

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

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VERY 250th puzzle in the Azed series is a very special occasion, marked by a gathering of solvers (this time for lunch at Wadham college, Oxford) and various celebrations and tributes. You can find some links to the events surrounding this 2000th puzzle on the & lit. site. It’s remarkable to reflect that Azed has produced a top-notch puzzle every week without a single omission for over 38 years, and equally remarkable that many solvers have stuck with him for the entire period, entering solutions and competition clues with such consistency and dedication.

Of course a special milestone demands a special puzzle, and on previous 250th occasions Azed has linked the puzzle’s theme to its number. No. 1750 took its theme from Gray’s Elegy, published in that year, and no. 1000 used the combination of M and Azed to incorporate a Maze theme in the grid. But if any solvers were anticipating or fearing ‘the special to end all specials’ this time, they may have been over-optimistic or pessimistic. In fact Azed has kept the 2000 thematic material light, even eschewing a cryptic title, and opting for a message around the perimeter of the 14x14 grid that is created from latent letters (letters not indicated in the clue’s wordplay and omitted from the central grid). The message itself can be interpreted as a clue, whose solution is to be clued again for the competition.

Working round the grid, and resolving the couple of ambiguities mentioned in the notes below, solvers will discover the message AZED HOPES THAT SOLVERS WILL FIND WHAT’S TO UNDO CLUED HERE. ‘Clued’, as regular solvers will know, points to an anagram, and the preceding eleven letters rearrange into the not entirely unexpected TWO THOUSAND.

So it’s a puzzle not much more difficult than a regular Plain, but with a pleasant outcome to mark the occasion. As ever with Azed it’s the clues that matter, and solvers should not be disappointed with the wit, elegance and of course fairness of what’s on offer.

Dr Watson, who lacks Azed’s stamina if not his enthusiasm, has decided after 120-something competition puzzles to take a break from reviewing. Another regular solver (also called Dr Watson) will be taking on the monthly reviews from no. 2006 in November, and this Dr Watson is greatly looking forward to reading them.

Notes to the clues:


12.     SI units company excluded from rows of figures.  LUM(E)NS ((Co)lumns).  For anyone who deals regularly with spreadsheets or tables of data, the idea that columns can be rows must seem a bit strange, but Chambers does define ‘column’ as ‘a vertical row of figures’.

14.     Thus recast the AV was topping for Anglican clergy.  S(H)OVE(L) HAT (so + anag.).  The first of two examples of verb-phrase definitions. The definition is ‘was topping for Anglican clergy’ as the solution is an old type of clerical headgear. More below at 21 across.

15.     Bristle facing strangeness that is CAP scheme.  SETASI(D)E (seta + s + i.e.).  A rare use of ‘strangeness’ (an attribute of quarks in subatomic physics) for s. Setaside is a system in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy whereby farmers are paid for not farming.

16.     Neglect cat.  (V)OMIT (2 defs.).  A tidy little clue that’s a classic Letters Latent double definition.

17.     Ruling aggregate of votes I’ll yield to in newspaper.  PR(E)POLL(E)NT (poll for I in print).  An unusual word that looks like Spooner’s rendition of ‘propellant’. Solvers need to read the wordplay as: it’s ‘poll’ that ‘I’ will yield to inside ‘print’.

21.     A cord with minimum of effort controls goshawks.  A(U)STRINGE(R) (a string + e).  Simple wordplay is complicated by two factors. Firstly, Chambers gives ‘astringer’ as an alternative spelling for this goshawk-keeper, which makes it more difficult to work out which letters to drop. Secondly, Azed uses the verb-phrase definition ‘controls goshawks’. Azed has defended this type of definition an number of times in his Slips (see 556 and 701), but it’s slightly confusing that he accepts this definition whilst rejecting past participles (see 809, example 4). So ‘controls goshawks’ is ok to define a noun but, say, ‘obeyed by goshawks’ isn’t.

29.     Buttercups with dividing underground parts.  (C)RO(W)FOOTS (of in roots).  Dr Watson’s initial thought was that the solution was (C)ROW(F)OOTS (w in roots) and the setter had miscounted his O’s. But solvers underestimate Azed at their peril, and the price was trouble working out the perimeter clue with FILL instead of WILL. ‘With’ is one of the definitions of ‘of’ in Chambers.

30.     It’s satisfying following a fixed routine.  FAR-(O)UT (f a rut).  Competitors who clued FAR-OUT a few months ago should have been familiar with the definition in this neatly worded clue. Incidentally, this shouldn’t be read as a noun-phrase definition (‘it’s satisfying’) defining an adjective. The ‘it’s’ is just a filler meaning ‘the solution is’.

31.     Continue shooting toxic dose?  POT(I)ON (pot on).  The solver has to imagine e.g. a guest in a shooting party asking ‘should I stop shooting?’ and getting the reply ‘No, pot on’. The question mark is required because poison is indicated as only one possible type of potion in Chambers.

34.     Chain of stores: they progress in stately fashion.  (L)ARGOS (2 defs.).  Solvers outside the UK may be unfamiliar with Argos stores. Think of Ikea without the showroom.


2.       Shaving disparate groups from among Trappists, tonsured.  RA(Z)URE ((T)ra(ppists) (tons)ure(d)).  A rather weak clue from Azed, who seems keen to use the monks to create an interesting surface reading. ‘Disparate groups’ could be pretty much any five letters. The latent Z is required for the perimeter clue, but solvers must deduce that the solution isn’t RA(S)URE.

6.       Tinies look up after exercises.  PE(EW)EES (PE + see, rev.).  Again the solver needs to deduce from the rest of the perimeter which way round the latent letters go, and that the solution isn’t PEE(WE)EES.

9.       Instinctive aptness at play you’ll see child, male, in.  SE(A)T-O(F)-THE-PANTS (tot he in anag.).  The solution came as a great penny-drop to Dr Watson, who’d expected a much more scientific synonym of ‘instinctive’.

18.     Make withdrawal apply to the past.  RETR(O)ACT (2 defs.).  Dr Watson got ‘retract’ (possibly ‘retrait’) fairly quickly , but it took a while to work out the full solution and its latent letter.

22.     Part of onrush of regiments, it summoned Israelites to battle.  SHOF(A)R (hidden).  The shofar is a ram’s horn used as a call to worship or action in Jewish tradition.

23.     Greek character appearing in paltry Irish epic.  T(H)E TAIN (eta in tin).  The Táin or Táin Bó Cúailnge is an epic story of conflict set in 1st century Ireland and centring on a stud bull. This is the ‘literary proper name’ from the preamble. ‘Tin’ means ‘paltry’ as in ‘tinpot’.

27.     Carrying forward old drinking cup.  TOTI(N)G (to tig).  One difficulty here is that both ‘tot’ and ‘tig’ are drinking cups, so the wordplay isn’t obvious. ‘To’ for ‘forward’ comes from uses like ‘to and fro’.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. TR(E)SSY (SS in try);  5. TOPMAS(T)S (to P mass);  10. B(R)AMAH-PRES(S) (anag.);  13. ENRO(O)T (e + torn, rev.);  24. (L)OTIC (2 defs.);  26. HEELTAP(S) (elt in heap, i.e. platform shoes);  32. MA(D)RIGA(L)IST (a rig in ma + anag.);  33. STER(N)SON (hidden).  Down: 1. T(A)BLESPOONF(U)LS (anag. of  slobs left on p(late));  3. S(E)MMIT (m in smit);  4. SAN(D) MA(S)ON (an Mao in Sn);  5. T(O)PSOIL (anag.);  7. ATRAMEN(T) (ta, rev. + ramen);  8. SOOT(H)ING (0 + it, rev., all in song);  11. (P)ROVEN (r + oven);  19. PRIORA(T)E (RI in anag.);  20. (S)AILBOAR(D) (anag. + oar);  25. POT (H)A(T)S (A in stop, rev.);  28. AR(I)OSO (aros(e) + O).

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