1. Pack leader housed in the Lakelands. AKELA (hidden; 3,8,A) Azed has given solvers an easy clue to get started with, at least for those who were Cubs as boys.
2. Ankle, say, is wrenched as this – it’s triple-bonded. ALKYNE (comp. anag.; 1,7,D) In this clue ‘Ankle, say’ is found to be an anagram of ‘as’ and our solution, ‘alkyne’.
4. Half of cash spent in coin? Its delights were imaginary. COCAIGNE (ca(sh) in coigne; s.v. Cockaigne; 7,1,A) This simple clue sweetly evokes the imagined land of Cockayne.
5. Clump of old grass completely swallowed by SA tot. DALLOP (all in dop1; 1,11,D) Yet another very simple clue reminding one of the pleasures, not of imagined drunken bliss, but of early explorations of the world with tongue and fingers.
6. Low-energy stream modified later in time. DELTA RAY (anag. in day; 2,5,A) Solvers may judge the accuracy of the surface reading as an extended definition of the solution at this link. Dr Watson’s own energy stream is not sufficiently charged for that task at present, but a number of interpretations appear to be possible.
13. Victim of earthquake, island in grip of e.g. basher, independent. HAITI (I in hat + I; 10,8,A) Azed regulars have been treated to quite a few ‘bashers’ in recent puzzles, and may have arrived at HAITI in double-quick time.
14. Time for start of operation, hands on, reverse of sport. H-HOUR (hh + o’ + RU (rev.); 1,2,D) The Oxford dictionaries list abbreviations for ‘hands’ under both ‘h’ and ‘hh’, whereas Chambers has no listing under ‘h’. Not good sport for solvers who don’t know their ‘hands’.
15. Lack of business consisting of ruin of most of retail. INERTIA (in + anag. of retai(l); 9,6,A) Dr Watson can find no authority for defining INERTIA as ‘lack of business’ in the ordinary commercial sense of that expression. The definition must be regarded as merely alluding to the true meaning. Azed is usually careful to hint at this possibility, but has not done so here.
16. Imprisoning king, oik acts badly, ribald – no way to run a country. KAKISTOCRACY (K in anag. + racy 1,9,D) The first of three long solutions having in its first and last letters the key to fixing those entries in the grid. With either K or R as likely fillers for the anagram of ‘oik acts’, solvers are quickly looking for a four-letter synonym of ‘ribald’. ‘Racy’ is immediately obvious since virtually every word meaning a particular way of running a country ends in ‘-ocracy’. The surface is brilliantly apt as a qualification of the cryptic definition: ‘no way to run a country’.
17. Yielding, Guy was nabbed before he ——. LITHE (i.e. lit HE; 8,11,D) The presence of a ‘he’ in the surface may have caused some solvers to question their understanding of this clue. Watson moved quickly to LITHE1 as the solution, but ‘before he lit’? - that didn’t seem to be adequate, and, in any case, would render ‘Guy was nabbed’ more or less redundant. He was further troubled by ‘yielding’ being given as a definition of the Shakespearean LITHER, but not expressly for LITHE. The true reading comes, so to speak, in a flash.
18. Making marmalade, mum’s put in a —— chopped. MEDLAR (composite anagram inc. ma, & lit.; 1,6,D) For this composite, ‘a medlar’ is found to be an anagram of ‘marmalade’ when ‘ma’ is inserted. Solvers may guess which species of MEDLAR Mum has used by browsing here.
19. Came across peculiar story: ‘The French will produce speed fixers for some players’. METROSTYLES (met + anag. + les; 12,2,A) Unfortunately, this clue was published with the word ‘fixers’ printed as ‘fixer’ which may have troubled some solvers. More importantly, its letter ‘y’ proves eventually to serve as a ‘fixer’ for the location of KAKISTOCRACY in the grid. It is otherwise notable for the first inverted comma of the quotation separating parts of the subsidiary indication, a feature frowned on by some. If solvers had any concern, no doubt the brilliant surface achieved here will have compensated for it.
23. Veterans? Taken for a ride, first to finish. OLDS (sold with first letter at rear; 7,9,A) The lot of the elderly is no less wacky, apparently. OLD is listed, as a noun, as: ‘an old person (archaic or, esp in pl, inf); olden times, eld.’
24. Stock valuation zero, lowest point − I’m quitting (separately). OMNIUM (0 + m(i)ni(m)um; 7,2,D) This is a very witty and entertaining clue. There is little point in selling stock at zero value, and it would seem certain that our quitter would be alone in doing so.
25. One living by the sea, directed towards inhaling right air. ORARIAN (r + aria, all in on; 5,1,A) One of the Pearl Fishers might be so directed, perhaps. A truly wonderful clue, with the parsing adding its own chorus of praise. ‘Directed towards’ is one of the many listed definitions of ‘on’.
31. Book (gospel) dropped in the mud, ruined − not just this! THUMB-MARKED (b + Mark, all in anag.; 1,1,A) On reading this clue, Watson’s first thought was to check for an instruction that ‘this’ should be in italics, always part of the pleasure of solving Azed puzzles. The next task was to calculate the length of the anagram, (5), and then the length of the synonym for ‘gospel’, (4). Thus a choice of 3 possibilities presented themselves, the favourite being ‘Mark’. The penny was quickly found in the mud.
32. Excellent spinner not on full length of pitch (short). TOP-NOTCH (top + not + ch.; 1,1,D) The key to understanding this clue is knowledge of the length of a cricket pitch, which is 22 yards (1 chain) between the two sets of stumps. ‘Full length of pitch (short)’ is then understood as an abbreviation of ‘chain’, i.e. ‘ch’. TOP-NOTCH was the competition word in May 1983. Solvers may see what competitors made of this word here.
34. One leading church, free from formality? UNSTARCH (’un + star + ch.; 1,3,D) This clue relies for its effect on ‘starch’ meaning ‘formality’. As a verb, it has no connection with that concept, except by allusion, hence the question mark.
35. Scott’s collection of plate, yielding profits once inscribed with his initial. VESSAILS (ess in vails; s.v. vessel & vail3; 5,12,D) Sir Walter Scott is one of a number of authors whose works have contributed unique words to the language, many of which are included in Chambers. They feature regularly in Azed puzzles. Regarding the surface, Dr Watson fancies that a find of plate inscribed with the name Scott would yield greater profits had they belonged to Robert Falcon Scott and he believes that Azed intended to convey that impression.
36. Exercise joint, one constricted WIELD (I in weld; 4,8,A) Unfortunately, this simple clue was printed in the published puzzle with the wrong enumeration: (4). In a normal puzzle it would not have caused any great inconvenience, but in a ‘jigsaw’ it may have done so.
3. AULNAGER (nag in anag.; 11,1,A); 7. DICER (ice in dr.; 10,1,A); 8. DYAD (D(I)Y + a(i)d; 1,12,D); 9. EDAM (anag. less r; 9,1,D); 10. ENEMA (men (rev.) in (f)ea(r); 9,1,A); 11. GREAT APE (eat in grape1; 6,5,A); 12. GRINGO (G(eorge) + Ringo; ref. The Beatles; 7,6,D); 20. MISTREATMENT (The competition word; 1,4,D); 21. NANCES ((pe)nances; s.v. nancy; 7,7,D); 22. NUTTILY (y. + lit + tun (all rev.); 4,1,A); 26. PALATIAL (p + I in anag.; 5,10,D); 27. POSSE (s in pose; 3,1,A); 28. RASCALS (scal(e) in ras; s.v. limb1 ; 8,6,A); 29. TARA (a rat (all rev.); 8,5,D); 30. TAWA (a wat (all rev.); 2,8,D); 33. TORE (initial letters; 6,1,A)