Azed No 2012 ‘Christmas is coming’ (19 Dec 2010)

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

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HE 38th Azed Christmas ‘special’ puzzle is, in common with a large proportion of its predecessors, special in its own unique way. The instructions specify that of the nine unclued solutions, two are real words, and the remaining seven are non-real and determined in a thematic way to be discovered. Additionally, the nineteen unchecked (but not mutually checking) letters in those nine solutions may be arranged as ANALYSE PAVAN TO A TOAD. The puzzle’s title is taken from a familiar rhyme given in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (2nd Edition) as:

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,
Please to put a penny in the old man’s hat;
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you!

Familiar to most, - although many, including Dr Watson, might know the second clause as ‘.., the goose is getting fat’ - the rhyme is pleasingly limited in its scope for providing or suggesting any special qualities of the puzzle.  However the un-clued, non-word solutions should turn out, the wise and patient solver has it as his best approach to find all the clued solutions first. When that is completed, the checking letters and the clue within the clue to 21 across provide a rational step-by-step approach to completing the puzzle. Only 1 across, 39 across, and 6 down are then found to be capable of completion as real words. As 1 across is believed to be a noun, possibly derived from a verb and meaning ‘enlargement’, it is possible to speculate that it has an ending formed as ‘ion’ or ‘ing’. The latter gives an immediate indication that 6 down is ‘greylag’, and that this is most likely the second real word. The connection with ‘goose’ and ‘getting fat’ is blindingly obvious.

The solver must then deduce the most likely rationale for constructing the non-word solutions and also for disposing of the given unchecked letters. The obvious requirement that they must be uniquely placed in the diagram eliminates any possibility that the non-word solutions may be anything other than composites of real words, but not anagrams. The penny-dropping moment, so to speak, is then not far off, revealing various terms for ‘penny’ squeezed inside different ‘old man’s’ hats, i.e. mostly of another era. Azed’s note concerning 31a and 17d that they are linked is explained by the sola topi being treated as two items. The history of the ‘stiver cent’ (q.v.) is less clear.

Unclued solutions:


1a.     BLOATING  (‘getting fat’, the competition word)  A most seasonal word for competitors to clue. Care must be taken in defining this word, and in not confusing ‘getting fat’ with ‘making oneself fat’.

23a.   RAMIWINGLLIES  (wing in Ramillies).  ‘Wing’, a variant of win3 is an obsolete slang term for penny. The hat is named after Marlborough’s victory in The War of the Spanish Succession.

31a.   SOCENTLA  (cent in sola).

39a.   TREDILE  (red in tile).  ‘Red’ is an alternative and shortened term for ‘red cent’, ‘tile’ a slang word meaning ‘hat’.


1d.    BCOPPERASHER (copper in basher).  ‘Basher’ is a slang term for a straw hat.

4d.    TERPAI  (p in terai)  Terai’ (q.v.) is the name of what seems to have been a bush hat used during the Raj, and named after the province in which it was first used.

6d.    GREYLAG  (Our token goose, the second real word)  A common wild species from which most European domestic geese are believed to be descended.

13d.  TAMDOSHANTER  (d in Tam o’ Shanter)

17d.  TSTIVEROPI  (stiver in topi)

Notes to the clues:


1.       Open country, a furlong within it having abundant trees.  LEAFY (A + f in ley (= lea1))  A charming beginning, the whole evoking the delight of being in leafy country. Beware, barbed-wire ahead!

11.     The old summary judgement by AZ is how you’ll see each ——?  COMPEND (i.e. ‘comp. end’)  The checking letters might lead some solvers to guess at ‘comment’, as Azed’s remarks in the famous slips are separately known. The solution is listed as an old variant of ‘compendium’.

12.     US brook, once pure and steep in country parts.  RUNNET (Run + net2)  The Doctor was up all night with the runs. Deep in Chambers’ list of meanings of ‘run’ as noun is ‘a small stream (US)’. ‘Net2’ has ‘pure (obs.)’ among its meanings. The solution is listed as a dialect variant of ‘rennet1’, ‘any means of curdling milk’. ‘Steep2’ has amongst its noun definitions ‘rennet’ (sic). Many guessers may have been tempted by ‘runnel’, ‘a little brook’, a mistake that might hinder, even scupper, the discovery of the unclued solutions.

14.     Time of life and complexion alternating as indicated. ARGUED (Age, rud - letters alternating)  A simple clue, but Doctor Watson wonders what the clue’s surface is supposed to mean, that is, why ‘alternating’? ‘Declining’ he understands well enough.

21.     Originally lean river pike showing result of 1 Across?  ENLARGED (Anag. (lean) + R + ged)  This is an important clue in the puzzle as whole, a big hint that 1 Across is one of the two ‘real’ unclued answers, and that it may mean ‘enlargement’. The use of ‘originally’ to indicate an anagram may trouble some solvers, but it has been defended by Azed. He uses it occasionally.

33.     Each one swirls, giving yacht no hope? TYPHOON (Comp. anag. & lit.)  The direct reference to the solution within the clue is given by ‘one’, thus ‘each typhoon’ is an anagram of ‘yacht no hope’. ‘Swirls’ indicates the anagram. A brilliant &lit clue.

38.     Jock’s croaking? Give the old man a grave. ROOPIT (Roo + pit)  Listed as one of two adjectives derived from ‘roop1’, itself a variant of ‘roup2’ which yields a similar adjective (‘roupit’), our solution is a Scots word meaning ‘hoarse’. ‘Pit’ is readily found to be used to mean a grave, but establishing a connection between ‘roo’ and ‘old man’ is more arduous. Perhaps the first thought - that ‘roo’ might have been used in the past to mean ‘man’ - was just too improbable. Finding ‘old man’ definitions listed under ‘old’ reveals one being ‘an adult male kangaroo’. Azed seems to have been so taken with this Australian term as a synonym for ‘roo’ that he subsequently used it again in puzzle 2013 at 8 down.

41.     You may see this prompter suit stumbling understudies.  SUDDENER (Comp. anag. (‘understudies’ less ‘suit’))  The solution is presumably the comparative of ‘sudden’ . The phrase ‘You may see’ serves both to indicate the composite nature of the anagram and to avoid the use of ‘suits’ .


2.       Like famous herd, secure in bit of wood?  LOWING  (win in log - Ref . Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard)  The reference to ‘famous herd’ is highly unlikely to indicate any real cattle. Some herd from literature is needed. ‘The lowing herd’ from Gray’s poem fits the bill.

7.       Wig? Prohibition restricts this loosely for bald ‘un.  LUD (anag. of (ba)ld ‘u(n))  Wig may mean ‘a judge’ or m’ lud as he is addressed in court. A very witty and inventive clue. Some solvers may demur.

18.     Fishing boat was still upside-down with little in hold.  YAWL (w in lay2(rev.))  This meaning of ‘lay’, (‘was still’), the past tense of lie2, is beautifully disguised in the clue’s surface, where ‘still’, here meaning ‘yet’, is merely an adverb qualifying ‘was upside-down’. The abbreviation of ‘with’ is also most subtly indicated.

20.     Two-thirds of cavity MO treated - purulent one?  VOMICA (anag. of cavi(ty), MO)  A vomica is ‘a cavity in the lung containing pus’. Conveniently, purulent (q.v.) means just about any condition involving pus, so ‘purulent one’, referring to the treated cavity, defines. The subsidiary brilliantly involves the true definition.

26.     Marriage portion includes love, care of lassie’s modern kind of lover.  DOOCOT (0 + c/o in dot2)  The definition is given by ‘lassie’s modern kind of lover’, with ‘lassie’ serving to indicate a Scots word and also to disguise the true meaning of ‘lover’. Lover2 is listed as ‘an obsolete form of louvre or louver, so a modern lover indicates a louvre directly. One definition of louvre is ‘a dovecote (obs)’. Listed under ‘doo’, a Scots term for ‘dove’, is found ‘doocot’ or ‘dooket’, hence our solution.

34.     Go off virtue, among the characteristics of deity.  ODIN ((Go)od + in)  At first sight this clue might seem intractably complex, but when one has found ‘among the characteristics of’ listed as a definition of ‘in’ its simplicity is apparent.

36.     Exuberant cry featuring centrally in the Moor?  HOO (shoot, presumably)  ..if so, a reference to a grouse moor, i.e a shoot, a tract of land given over to the raising of game birds. The surface reading alludes, of course, to Othello, in which play this Shakespearean cry might be heard. Doctor Watson is confident that the word ‘hoo’ does not appear in the text, however.

          For the record, Azed has confirmed that the correct parsing is (t)h(e) (M)oo(r), which Doctor Watson rejected as imprecisely indicated.

Other solutions:

Across: 15. TALA (hidden) 16. PINT-POT (t,p in Pinot) 18. YEALM (anag.) 22. EGOTISE (e.g. + is in (h)ote(l)) 27. ABSINTH (sin in anag.) 32. HOARD (2 defs) 35. ECHO (E + Ch + o) 37. SNEAPS (Sn + anag.) 40. STOIT (to in sit).  Down: 3. OMEN ((w)omen) 5. INGOES (anag. in I.’s) 8. ENTEROLITH (anag.) 9. ANA (A + Na) 10. FELLER (2 defs) 19. A-GOING (in in agog) 24. WIND (3 meanings) 25. INTENTS (in + tents) 28 BAYARD2 (i.e. "bay ‘ard") 29. SUPPED (up in sped) 30. TOOTLE (to + Otle(y)) 37. SIT (I in st.).

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