Azed No 2053 ‘Wrong Number’ (2 Oct 2011)

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

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ROSSWORD purists who believe that all clues should be solved and be solvable without cross-checking letters known in advance should have no excuse for failing to complete a ‘Wrong Number’ (WN) puzzle. In the Slip for his first WN competition puzzle, No 358, Azed expressed concern that the difficulties he experienced in constructing it had led to many clues being ‘longer and more stilted than usual’ which led in turn to the puzzle being more difficult than would be the case for a plain puzzle. Ten WN Competition puzzles on, one cannot sense the merest hint of this. Perhaps the odd one or two might seem a little forced, but on the whole they seem as transparent and delightful as ever, and, if anything, a little easier than those in a comparable plain puzzle. This is, perhaps, as it should be, given the extra work involved in determining where each answer should go.

The advice given in Azed’s preamble is sound, and it is recommended that solvers should read it thoroughly. Some thought should be given in advance to a reliable system of cross-checking solutions with the one-word definitions of them hidden in other clues. Counting the clues, and identifying those of the same length and their numbers, is a sensible first step.

When it comes to writing a clue, one must find the one word in the puzzle for which Azed has not provided a clue. The entry must be a normal cryptic clue for that word devised so as to include within it a one-word definition of the word found to be a replacement for the ‘asterisked’ definition: ‘Guess’. In the detailed notes below, all the clues relevant to this process are included.

In all explanations the clues are numbered as they appear in the puzzle. The notes in brackets indicate where their solutions go in the grid, and the one-word definition that appears in the clue at that location. Additionally, in explanations quoting the clue in full, the word within it serving as the one-word definition of another solution is underlined.

Notes to the clues:


1.       Outlet is broken? Lost this requirement for sewer possibly.  ETUI (comp. anag.; 31a; case)  The first solved and the first to be placed in the diagram, an obvious composite anagram, the two parts being ‘outlet is’ (broken), and ‘lost’ plus the solution ‘etui’ (possibly). The surface suggests something to do with drains, but on discovering the solution, the more delightful picture emerges of a lady denied her favourite pastime, that of needlework.

4.       Plant imp initially in inn sofa, misbehaving.  SAINFOIN (i in anag.; 3d; fodder)  The device of using the initial letter of ‘imp’ to indicate ‘i’ will have alerted old hands that the word may turn out to be a pointer for another clue in the puzzle. It serves eventually to confirm both the identity and location of the competition word: ‘perisher’.

12.     Cover with verdure to do with inside edge on borders. OVERGREEN  (re in verge, all in on; 16a; conceal)  Azed has omitted a more conventional hint that our solution is a word peculiar to Shakespeare in favour of using the poetic ‘verdure’. ‘Borders’ doubles as a noun in the surface, and as a verb in the subsidiary, indicating that ‘on’ borders ‘verg(re)e’.

13.     What’s concealed in chest? I’m essential for peers. STIMES (hidden, s.v. stymes; 28a; glimpses)  The first of four ‘hidden’ clues, easily spotted, and providing an opportunity for solvers of all levels of ability to get under way. The solution, in its singular form, is listed with three basic definitions: ‘a glimmer or glimpse (of light)’, ‘a tiny particle, jot’, etc, and the definition used in this clue, ‘to peer’. One of them must therefore appear in some sense as a one-word definition of ‘stimes’ in another clue. The difficulties faced by the setter in devising a puzzle of this type may be ‘glimpsed’ in that clue, 28 across.

15.     Engineers given compass bearing for ‘royal cubit’.  REMEN (REME + N(orth); 9d; measure)  The inverted commas are explained on finding the entry for the solution in Chambers. It includes this alternative term for REMEN in capital letters, suggesting that it should be listed separately. However, it does not feature in the entry for ‘royal’. Dr Watson knew that he had to find the appropriate professional body of engineers (from several possibilities) to complete the solution, but struggled to do so. REME is the abbreviated name of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

16.     Thrash must conceal one story to do with punished Olympian.  TANTALEAN (an + tale, all in tan; 24a teasing)  Here, Azed has expressed ‘conceals’ by the deft device of using ‘must conceal’ instead in order to accommodate a correct place indicator for OVERGREEN. Authority for the use of ‘teasing’ in 24 across to define our solution may be found in Chambers at its entry for ‘tantalize’. Tantalus was to blame.

18.     Jock’s eye runs in lid infection – disturbance for Scottish writer.  STEERY (ee +r in sty; 6d; commotion)  Jock has created mayhem in the otherwise orderly household of Sir Walter Scott.

23.     Bell often does well, injuries restricting century.  SCORES (C in sores; 18a; runs)  Azed has buried the opposition here under an enormous pile of runs. Amongst the vast number of definitions at Chambers’ entry for ‘run’ one finds (eventually) under vt, ‘to perform, achieve or score by running’, thus justifying the definition of our solution included at 18 across. Bell is acting as Azed’s ‘runner’, that is, doubling as a convenient definition of CROTAL.

28.     Houseboat one glimpses secured by Taiwan gantline?  WANGAN (hidden, s.v. wanigan; 13a; chest)  Perhaps there really is some type of gantline peculiar to Taiwan to justify this seemingly desperate clue. In choosing or otherwise arriving at this clue as a home for a one-word definition of STIMES, Azed has been faced with limited options, as suggested above (13). Our solution may mean either a houseboat for loggers or a storage chest for supplies. It is North American in origin.

29.     Officer throwing off crest shocked female governors.  RECTRICES (anag. less off; 5d; feathers)  A brilliantly witty and entertaining clue evoking memories of past embarrassments better forgotten. Our solution, in its singular form of ‘rectrix’, is listed as rare in its use as meaning ‘a female governor’, but conveniently doubles as meaning a bird’s steering tail feather.

30.     See Conservative unseated in upset recapture gap.  APERTURE (anag. less C; 11a; opening)  Has Azed foreseen in this clever clue (through a chink, perhaps) a return to majority government for the nasty party? The combination of ‘unseated’ to indicate removal and ‘upset’ doubling as noun in the surface and as anagram indicator is most pleasing.


1.       Dad put in laundry a bit of rag – the fuss!  PALAVER (pa + lave1 + r; 4d; talk)  Dr Watson can find no authority for defining ‘lave’ as ‘put in laundry’, or as (perform) any act of washing clothes. That might cause a fuss.

2.       Monuments, most (far from normal) containing bishop.  TOMBS (B in anag.; 24d; buries)  The need to include in this clue a one-word definition of USUAL has resulted in the amusing and very novel anagram indicator ‘far from normal’. ‘Tomb’ may be used as a verb meaning ‘entomb’ or ‘bury’, hence the one-word definition included in 24 down.

3.       Value items unusually used as fodder.  ESTIMATE (anag. + ate; 17d; ‘guess’)  This clue supplies in its solution the eight-letter word to be defined in a single word within competitors’ entries. It is otherwise quite unexceptional.

4.       Talk about dissipation without a sure garland.  CHAPLET (ple(a/sure) in chat; 19d; wreath)  Many solvers may have wondered quite how ‘a sure garland’ may differ from the ordinary. More talk is likely – Dr Watson suggests one devised so as to remain on the head whilst cavorting, etc.

8.       Loin in pastry crust? It poses a tricky question for Scots.  PLISKIE (lisk in pie; 21d; condition)  This clue cleverly defines ‘pliskie’ in the sense of a plight, whilst alluding to that of a mischievous trick, a second meaning. The definition includes the single-word definition of EROTEMA: ‘question’. The subsidiary part needs no comment. For Dr Watson, the overall surface is the mystery – bloggers to the rescue.

9.       Common fuel measure? It excites me, free, this.  USUAL (comp. anag.; 2d; normal)  Dr Watson felt a warm inner glow on solving this clue. ‘Fuel measure’ is found to be an anagram of ‘me, free, usual’ (i.e. ‘this’) ‘Common’ is a definition of ‘usual’, but the whole clue alludes to ‘the usual’, often abbreviated to ‘usual’, meaning a drinker’s customary tipple.

14.     Terribly clean young man in pack, he was just above rankers.  LANCEJACK (anag. + jack; 29a; officer)  The solution is army slang, often derogatory, for a lance corporal, the lowest rank of non-commissioned officer, so one holding rank above only private soldiers, otherwise called rankers. His rank as an NCO justifies the use of ‘officer’ as the one-word definition in 29 across. What the surface means, in connection with ‘pack’ and ‘rankers’, Dr Watson cannot fathom. ‘Young man in pack’ refers to Chambers’ definition of jack ‘a playing card bearing the picture of a young man’.

17.     Guess. The competitor’s entry to include a definition of ‘estimate PERISHER (The competition word; 4a; imp)  Many competitors may well feel that in keeping to the sole definition in Chambers:- ‘n (inf) a mischievous or annoying person’, they will be missing opportunities afforded by definitions listed elsewhere. In addition to two Australian slang meanings, there is a choice of three within SOED’s more contemporary entry:

          4. A periscope; (the course of instruction for) an officer training to become a submarine commander. nautical slang.

22.     Welcoming end of shoot, Carlo played castanet.  CROTAL1 (t in anag.; 23a; bell)  New solvers should note the inclusion of another one-word definition having the sole function of supplying an odd letter (‘t’) in the subsidiary indication, one proving eventually to be the place indicator for STOLON. Our solution is defined in Chambers as ‘a crotalum; a small spherical bell’. Crotalum is further defined as ‘a clapper or castanet used in ancient religious rites’. Solvers may have their own notions as to which form of shoot is intended in the surface.

25.     Partners work with return of concession.  OPPOS (op + sop (rev.); 26a; mates)  A very amusing and concise clue. Dr Watson suspects that a reference is being made to certain free bets or the like.


Other solutions:

Across: 10. BUST2 (bus + t; 1a; broken) 11. STENOSIS (s + anag.; 32a; constricting) 24. GUILLOCHE (loch in guile; 12a; edge) 26. GESTE (anag less ma, s.v. gest1; 15a; bearing (s.v. gest3)) 31. ÅSAR (sa in Ar, s.v. ås; 10a; banks) 32. BELONGER (long1 in beer; 30a; conservative) 33.   POLE (Po + l,e; 27d; terminal)

Down: 5. NESTLINGS (anag. in Sn (rev.); 14d; rankers (ref. nestle)) 6. STOLON (anag. + on; 22d; shoot1) 7. MERE2 (hidden; 33a; lake) 19. CRATERS (anag. of (w)reat(h) in C, Rs; 20d; bowls) 20. EROTEMA (anag.; 8d; question) 21. BAGWASH; anag. in bash; 1d; laundry) 24. RECUR (hidden; 25d; return) 27. HUSS (huss(y); 7d; fish)


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