9. Reversal of fortune cut short with a versatile crop? SOLA (Los(s) (rev) + A). Doctor Watson found this clue the most troublesome. The unchecked third letter could have been ‘y’, as in ‘soya’. Either that or ‘sola’ would have satisfied the definition ‘versatile crop’, (or is it just ‘crop’?) - Chambers is not helpful. One conundrum concerns ‘fortune’ - is it ‘cut short’ or is it ‘cut, short’? In one case the ‘reversal’ leads to ‘ssol’, which allows the possibility that another meaning is intended. By assuming the second case one can derive a workable reading of the subsidiary, as given above. However, an alternative reading, with ‘versatile’ indicating an anagram of the derived letters (Los(s) +a), would yield the same solution. In that case, ‘loss’ is indicated by ‘Reversal of fortune’ rather than by ‘fortune cut’ as preferred by Doctor Watson.
However, since writing this note, the possibility of an alternative solution has come to Dr Watson’s attention involving the ‘cut short’ reading noted above. It points to ‘SOJA’, an alternative spelling of ‘soya’. The explanation concerns ‘joss’ meaning ‘luck’ or ‘fate’, so giving a parsing of :- JOS(S) (rev) + A
Solvers and competitors will have to wait to see how Azed has treated this apparent ambiguity.
10. Old highwayman grabbing excellent dye. PARA-RED (Rare in pad2). The solution is defined in Chambers as an ‘azo-dye’ (qv under ‘azo-’). ‘Pad’ is usually given as ‘foot-pad’, a thief on the highway.
11. Stop a doughboy beginning to enter US submarine. HOAGIE (Ho + a + G.I. + e(nter)). ‘Doughboy’ is a WW1 term for a US soldier, ‘submarine’ a shortened term for ‘submarine sandwich’.
14. Wanting to slaughter lots half disposed of in a mass. BLOODY (lo(ts) in body). Here, ‘bloody’ is used in the ‘murderous’ sense
20. Nickelodeon? Make flicks having turned nickel in. KINEMA (Ni (rev.) in anag.). A charming clue in which the word indicating the anagram, ‘flicks’, is disguised in the surface as a noun.
26. Measure that’s sad, truncated – one aims to influence policy. ENTRIST (En + trist(e)). One might say of entr(y)ism that it is now sad and part of history. ‘En’ is a printer’s measure.
31. Rosencrantz’s end in Hamlet (he expires)? LETHEE (hidden). ‘Rozencrantz’s end’ is a big hint here that the solution is a term peculiar to Shakespeare. The surface is brilliant.
32. Antoine’s strong baccy in top of the mouth. CAPORAL (cap + oral). In similar vein, ‘Antoine’s strong baccy’ points the way, but the effect is rather spoilt by its following 31A. so closely.
34. Dicky tummy and spleen’s caused by high-pressure aircon. PLENUM SYSTEM (anag. of tummy spleen’s). Doctor Watson notes that the numeration used here (12), and not (12, 2 words) may have been an editorial oversight. Quite possibly, the term is already in technical use as a hyphenated expression. However, Chambers gives it as a two-word phrase.
3. Turning up (on board the Pequod?) to call on small grotesque figure. MAGOT (to gam (all rev.)). The Pequod was Captain Ahab’s ship in Moby Dick by Herman Melville. It serves here to hint that a word peculiar to sailing or to whaling (‘gam’) might feature in the solution. ‘Magot’ is our grotesque figure.
4. Eros in Midi smitten? It may give point for writer. IRIDOSMINE (anag.). Online solvers may have been hampered by a misprint in this clue - ‘mind’ given instead of ‘Midi’.
6. Flour (wheat) well mixed? Hew out this Scotch cake maybe. FARL (comp. anag. ‘Flour wheat’ less ‘Hew out’). A curious clue. Azed rather overdoes the mixing with the seemingly redundant adverb ‘well’, but does he really indicate the matching anagram with the much weaker ‘maybe’?
7. You’ll need to rattle object inside jagged rock to find this big fish. ARAPAIMA (Rap aim in aa). This clue is remarkable for its use of ‘aa’, an Hawaiian word now preceeding the celebrated ‘aardvark’ in Chambers. Doctor Watson wonders whether aa’s propensity to form jagged fragments justifies the definition given in the clue.
13. Restyle IOM differently so as to annoy? TIRESOMELY (anag.). A simple anagram including a common anagram indicator, ‘restyle’, perhaps a joke at the expense of lesser setters.
21. Information quite short, soon to be delivered in stables? IN-FOAL (Info + al(l)). In the subsidiary ‘short’ qualifies only ‘quite’ whilst ‘info’ is left to stand as a synonym for ‘information’. ‘To be delivered’ in the definition part refers not to the foal, but to the mare.
25. In the past, a test when there were no women? PREEVE (i.e. pre-Eve). Preeve is clued here as a noun meaning ‘proof’. The subsidiary is a counter example to the rash statement Doctor Watson made about this type of clue in puzzle 2006 at 13D. Another example was included in puzzle 2009 at 26A. Common to all three is the need to read the solution afresh in order to understand the clue, which gives them a ‘chicken and egg’ dimension when it comes to solving them, annoying to a few, but a delight to many.
28. Eastern Church image, stunner found in old abode? IKON (k.o. in in2). A alternative spelling of ‘icon’. ‘In’ is Spenser’s term for ‘inn’ which may mean ‘abode’.
Across: 1. A COMING OF AGE (The competition phrase) 17. SERIATE (I + A in anag.) 18. CHAPS (2 meanings) 19. RESIST (is in rest) 24. SIMPS (P in anag.) 29. IMAGER (anag.) 30. LOOKER (OK in anag.) 33. TAVA (Initial letters.). Down: 1. ASHBUCKET (buck in ashet) 2. COOLTH (O in anag.) 5. GASPER (Gas + per.) 8. GENETS ((Rop)e in gents) 10. PEYSE (phon. (pays)) 15. JETSTREAM (anag. in jam) 16. GANTLOPE (G + ant(e)lope) 22. ASHRAM (sh in a ram (of a warship)) 27. BATTS (t(he) in bats)