Azed No 2064 ‘DNKA ILSL STORME’ (18 Dec 2011)

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

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Azed’s last Christmas special featuring a mixture of clue types was set in 2007, No 1856 ‘Four in one’. Solvers were then required to determine the correct type for each clue. In the present puzzle, with six types and a Playfair cipher to break, solvers have been granted prior knowledge of each clue’s type. That seems a fair compromise, but the help available to solvers in recent Christmas specials involving Playfair ciphers is absent here. In the puzzles for 2003 (No. 1648) and 2006 (No. 1804) solvers were able to deduce at least part of the cipher block from letters revealed in the grids as they were completed. The codeword in this puzzle was found eventually to be a three word phrase not listed in any dictionary - BOXING DAY CUTS. Thus solvers were presented with a stern test of their cold code-breaking skills. Dr Watson found the clues themselves relatively easy to solve, although they were not without their sweet delights. Those for SPAUL, TRIPITAKA, TRAPUNTO, LARDY and WAVER gave respite from the wintry grind.

Azed’s last Playfair competition puzzle was No 1967 in 2010 when the codeword was the competition word: SUBORDINATELY, a long word, certainly, but one listed in dictionaries and hence searchable, including via computer and on-line search engines. If he wasn’t then, Azed has shown that he is now wise to the easy availability of on-line cipher breaking tools. Fortunately for crossword setters and their trusty followers, cipher blocks of the Playfair type form a small subset of all 25-letter cipher blocks, even those in which the latter part is ordered alphabetically. Breaking tools need access to dictionary listings to distinguish blocks in which the former part is a real word or phrase, and so they fail to detect unlisted phrases.

As he explains below, Watson was uncertain of his solution of 1 Across, but was sure of MOMZER, RECTUS and PATACA. He thus knew how four word pairs were encoded: M,Z=P,W; U,S=T,E; T,A=S,D and C,A=G,Y. From these meagre facts he deduced that, in the cipher block, A, D and Y were on the same level, that E, S, T and U were on the same level, that the two sets were on different levels, and also, because both sets contain letters from opposite ends of the alphabet, that they were both on levels to which the code-word extended. He also noted that W and Z were on the same level, and therefore were likely to be on the bottom level. By combining this approach with guessing at what Azed would be likely to call a puzzle featuring odd types of clue at Christmas, he then tested ideas against the encoded title ‘DNKA ILSL STORME’. After several sessions he had something resembling ‘COLD XMAS TURKEY’ emerging from the wreckage. The final cipher block is eventually found as:



























Notes to the clues:

Playfair Clues (actually, normal cryptic clues to be entered encoded)

1A.    For parents and children, mostly boring in dress.  MOGTKS (KIDULT, dul(l) in kit)  In another puzzle this clue might have led to FAMILY (ami(d) in fly). Although that interpretation stretches both parts of the subsidiary indication, it was the only possibility available to Dr Watson for this light until he had broken the cypher.

6A.    Special corroding process for glue-maker’s leather.  FLFSGP (SPETCH, sp. + etch)  Few solvers would have known this word, or thought of etching in connection with corrosion. One of the last three clues to be solved.

31A.  Curse wildly, clenching tense muscle.  WTDFTE (RECTUS, t in anag.)  The indication is immediately obvious here, but the solution provides only one pair of letters (U,S) for use in breaking the cypher.

32A.  Oriental coin at the right place – centre of Macau.  LCSDGY (PATACA, pat + (M)aca(u) & lit.)  A literal reading of this clue suggests the name of a coin used in Macau.  The difficult part is finding a three or five-letter synonym for ‘at the right place’.  Once solved, this solution provides two pairs of letters for code-breakers - T,A and C,A.

9D.    Cut e.g. sepia from tail up, given to eat.  PONETY (KNIFED, ink (rev.) + fed)  Dr Watson fancied that HUNGRY (‘given to eat’) might be a likely solution in a Christmas special.  Wrong end of this cracker! 

20D.  American mother has endless love for love child.  KIPWTW (MOMZER, mom + zer(o))  Finally, a very easy clue to find the right place in the dictionary for the solution, and a further two certain pairs of letters - M,Z and E,R.


Misprints Clues

Misprints clues, especially when they are each one of two types to be determined, can be among the trickiest to solve, although it must be said that all of them in this puzzle are indicated in the fairest and most straightforward manner.

Type one – misprints in clue definitions

15A.  Saint - one such offering a lamb.  SPAUL (= a limb; S + Paul)

1D.    Gentleman rising in ministry making one eager for move.  MORISH (= ‘eager for more’; Sir (rev.) in MOH)

25D.  How ageing fans express their appreciation of pop singer?  DIGIT (= finger; i.e. ‘Dig it!’)


Type two – enforced misprints in solutions

10A.  Hoer worked with difficulty holding in poppy extract.  RHOEADINO (for RHOEADINE; anag. + ‘in’ in ado)

27A.  Cordial toper, drunk, admitting wrongdoing.  PERSINOT (for PERSICOT; sin in anag.)

6D.    Arab in charges is glittering.  FEARES (for FLARES; Ar in fees) 


Wrong Number Clues

Notes in brackets include the grid number for the entry. and the one-word definition appearing in the clue at that location, therein underlined.

Regular solvers had an excellent recent rehearsal for these clues in Competition Puzzle 2053.  By comparison, this sextet presents little difficulty, especially with regard to determining where each solution is to be entered in the grid.

12A.  Nameless man of the cloth put on a pedestal.  REVERED (19D; worshipped; revere(n)d)  

26A.  One may have links with Mafia Inc. as wanting change.  SICAN (8D; islander; anag.)    

28A.  Fabrication of old weaver, worthless in prohibition.  BARACAN (12A; cloth; raca in ban) 

8D.    Embroidery nail? One holds head for islander.  BRAID (24D; start; i(slander) in brad)

19D.  Unreal creature, initially worshipped alongside nasty Hagman.  WHANGAM 28A; Fabrication; w. + anag.)  The reference here to Larry Hagman. is, of course, to his character, the nasty J. R. Ewing in Dallas.

24D.  After start of walk, old cattle move to and fro.  WAVER (26A; change; w(alk) + aver2)  It was ever thus.


Right and Left Clues

17,18A   ‘The deil’ scribbled on hire / vehicle in second lines showing signs of earlier body damage.  HORNIE (anag.) / SCARRY (car in s + Ry)  ‘Deil’ is a Scots word for 'devil’and Hornie a Scots name for The Devil.

22,20A   Revolutionary in German party once disseminated / UK title last secreted somehow in palm.  SPREDD (red in SPD) / KITTUL (anag. less ‘e’)  SPD is the abbreviation for Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands. ‘Spredd’ is listed amongst obsolete spellings of ‘spread’.

21,22D   Like a croissant swallowed after meal, child ignored / mouth’s chomping almost.  LUNATE (lun(ch) + ate) / STOMAL (anag.)


Normal Cryptic Clues

13A.  Boggle, say, with females mostly appearing in drag, queer? The opposite.  WORDGAME (anag. in wome(n))  A generous first normal clue containing in its contradiction a clear pointer to a correct parsing.

30A.  Buddhist scripture: you’ll find it also known as ‘following a single journey’.  TRIPITAKA (trip + it + A.K.A.)  Quite a few solvers may have been diverted at this point by the question whether TRIPITAKA may be known otherwise as ‘following a single journey’. Dr Watson remembers the phrase ‘many vehicles but a single journey’ as describing the study of the Bhudda’s teachings.

2D.    Outweigh odd characters in exec. with proviso subtly.  OVERPOISE (anag. inc. e,e)  An understanding of ‘executive’ as meaning ‘the persons who administer the government or an organization’ is needed for a true reading of this clue’s surface.

4D.    Reverse of well-informed skill, not intricate Italian quilting.  TRAPUNTO (up, art (all rev.) + anag.)  The first of two intriguing clues in which its conventional reading as parsed above offers the definition: ‘Italian quilting’. However, in its surface reading the definition could be construed as ‘intricate Italian quilting’, equally valid, and yet qualified by the observation ‘reverse of well-informed skill, not’ which is perfectly true of trapunto. A very fine clue.

5D.    Creeping stem is like this, mostly below ground.  SOBOLE (so + anag. less ‘w’)  Again, a cleverly worked surface renders a true statement about our solution, the bane of neglectful gardeners. 

14D.  Eating hungrily at random rider tucked into bean.  MURDERING (anag. in mung)  The phrase ‘one could eat a horse’ comes to mind.


Definition and letter mixture (DLM) Clues

Dr Watson rates DLM-type clues as the least difficult and, at least for the solver, the least interesting of those on show in this puzzle.  He is surprised to note the use of redundant (link) words in the last two listed here, 16 and 23 down.

11A.  Bare rigid strengthener in concrete. REBAR

29A.  Part of countryman’s stubble? It’s growing.  STRIG

3D.    User of Scottish canal snarling at barb. GABBART

7D.    Hungry lad, overweight.  LARDY

16D.  Russian four-wheeler for a tsar (naturally)  TARANTAS

23D.  E.g. dry garden, or muddy  DREGGY (s.v. dregs)


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