Azed No 2078 ‘Either/Or’ (1 Apr 2012)

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

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OLVERS are instructed to determine an unspecified number of clues which lead to two slightly different words, one defined and one indicated by the ‘wordplay’. In each case the words differ by one letter only which always occurs at a cross-checked square in the grid. Completion of the puzzle requires the solver to determine in each case which word to enter. As the solutions are found it becomes clear that solvers would not be able to rely on cross-checking with solutions to normal clues and that, in every case, an ‘either/or’ solution intersects with another such solution at the ‘either/or’ letter. Once solvers begin to discover that such intersections would not fix each word as either both defined or both indicated solutions, the suspicion that a theme word or phrase might be hi dden in the grid at the intersecting squares becomes a clear conviction. This much was confirmed in a message released by Azed on the day of publication which read:

Any competitors uncertain which set of alternative answers to enter may be assured that either complete set will be acceptable, to indicate that the theme has been understood. A mixture of alternatives will not be accepted.

Nine squares are found needing to be filled from these nine pairs of letters:-


and, despite there being 512 possible combinations, careful scansion of the first few pairs leads quickly to the phrase APRIL FOOL which, in view of the date of the puzzle, is obviously the intended theme. The uncertainty mentioned by Azed is likely to have been occasioned by the note added at the foot of the clues in the published puzzle which reads:

Every answer in the puzzle may be found in The Chambers Dictionary (2011) except one at 33 (in the OED), one at 25 (a non-dictionary compound), and one proper name.

If the theme is to be included in the grid, in across light order, the solution of 25 Down must be REDEAL, which is listed in Chambers in the panel containing words formed with the prefix ‘re-’, and not RED EAR, the non-dictionary compound, which must be discarded. By contrast, the word needed at 33 Across is DOVIES, the word not in Chambers, but found in the OED. The word discarded is DAVIES, a proper name. However, there is also another proper name amongst the other solutions, namely ENYA at 36 Across. Thus there appears to be an inconsistency in the way discarded words are treated when considering Azed’s footnote.

Dr Watson is confident that Azed did not intend that the theme letters should comprise any set other than those in ‘April Fool’, and that few solvers, if any, would seriously doubt it. In the notes below, ‘Either/Or’ solutions are shown in square brackets with the defined word first and the word indicated by the ‘word-play’ second. The word to be entered in the grid is shown in capitals with the theme letter underlined. 

Notes to the clues:


1.       Bad-tempered look when imbibing gin. [stroppy/STRAPPY] (trap in spy) The first of many very simple clues in this puzzle.

7.       E.g. Burnsian prevents retiring. [Scots/SPOTS] (stops (rev.)) The interest here is in the definition of ‘Scots’. Chambers has:- ‘n any of the varieties of the northern branch of English spoken in Scotland, esp that of Lowland Scotland preserved in the poetry of Burns and others ..’

11.     Fellow trimmed thin crinkled silk stuff. [chap/CRAP] (crap(e))  Chambers defines ‘crape’ as ‘a thin crinkled silk or other fabric’.

14.     Investment in Elzevir? One risking some European money. [kroner/IRONER] (hidden)  Solvers wondering about the significance of the reference to Elzevir found that they were wasting their time when the hidden solution appeared. Azed may have intended the surface to refer to a purchase of a rare Elzevir book rather than any financial investment.

21.     After removal of limits Europe modified former register?  [ROUL/roup] (anag. of (E)urop(e))  Roul’ is an obsolete form of ‘roll’.

22.     Low starting point - it makes bar give attention.  BASE (‘bar’ with ‘b’ as ‘e’ gives ‘ear’) The first (with 7 Down) of two clues that reveal their parsings by study of the solution, rather than the clue. They are frequent features of Azed’s puzzles causing solvers to murmur with delight or to groan according to taste. 

28.     Just after coming round had a meal frequently. [OFTEN/oaten] (ate in on)  The possibility that the ‘either/or’ letter might be ‘f’ may well have confirmed in the minds of those solvers who took an early view that a theme must be involved exactly what it might be.

33.     Little darlings, reverse of serious about life abroad. [DOVIES/Davies] (vie in sad (rev.))  Dr Watson notes that Azed has relied on an entry in the OED, when a friendlier reference might have been made to the shorter (2 volume) edition which also contains an entry for ‘dovie’ (under ‘dovey’). See also the preamble for discussion of Azed’s note about the inclusion of one proper name as a solution.

36.     Singer-songwriter from part of E. Africa, just missing No. 1.  ENYA (K(enya))  A reference to Enya, the Irish singer.

37.     Secretary ecstatic about about introduction to tycoon.  [STENO/stent] (t in sent)  ‘Sent’ as a synonym of ‘ecstatic’ has its origin in the world of jazz.

38.     Constant deficit e.g. Miliband turned over? [grossed/GLOSSED] (G + loss + Ed)  Watson’s parsing leads him to suspect, somewhat incredulously, that this brilliant clue was written since Thursday night when the astonishing result of the Bradford by-election was known. Ed Miliband is the current leader of the Labour Party in the UK.


2.       Allowing little time with preliminary sketch, crude.  [though/TROUGH] (t + rough)  Solvers may have been troubled here by the the addition of ‘crude’ to qualify ‘preliminary sketch’ which to many might seem an adequate synonym of ‘rough’, regardless of its quality. Dr Watson might have avoided consideration of other possibilities here had he checked the entry for ‘rough’ first, where he would have found the definition: ‘a crude preliminary sketch’. How ironic the surface of this clue seemed then!

4.       One picking a genus of ferns is missing. [opter/APTER] (a + pter(is))  Apter’ proved eventually to be the apter option, according to opter.

7.       What limits stand? A lot of ducks. SORD (i.e. ‘s’ or ‘d’; s.v. sord2)  Regular solvers may have been reminded of a recent and similar clue in Azed 2075. There, at 6 Down, ‘Group’s outsider, possibly…’ was the subsidiary indication leading to ‘gorp’ (gorp1). Regarding the surface of this clue, Azed, by repute a keen follower of cricket, should surely know that a stand may be limited by a maximum of one duck only. An alternative reading might involv e a ‘flock of mallards’ causing mayhem in a stand of corn.

8.       Weep about nothing, having lots of birds. [PLOVERY/clovery] (love in cry)  Another lot of birds feature in this much simpler clue. Solvers may have noticed the definition: ‘a company of plovers’ at the entry for ‘stand’ when pondering 7 Down.

10.     Journey in missile launcher getting out of gear. [stripping/STRIPLING] (trip in sling)  Welcome to the circus, Azed-style.

14.     Piercing blade upended pan. [kris/IRIS] (siri (rev.); s.v. sirih & pan)  Some careful cross-referencing is needed in understanding this clue. Both sirih and pan3 are synonyms for betel.

16.     Some E. Europeans are housed in dilapidated cast-iron. CROATIANS (a in anag; s.v. are2)  The key to understanding this clue lies in realising that the innocuous ‘are’ refers in the subsidiary indication to the unit of metric land measurement equivalent to 100 square metres, abbreviated as ‘a’.

20.     Pine’s crafted close to board. PENSION (anag. + on)  ‘Close to’ may be found amongst the many listed definitions of ‘on’.

24.     Finishes ship, top to bottom. ENDS (‘send’ with ‘s’ moved to end)  Dr Watson observes that ships are customarily finished from bottom (the keel) to top (the topsides).

25.     Result of boxing rambling leader? [red ear/REDEAL] (anag.) At an early stage, Dr Watson suspected that this was a normal clue, with REDEAL defined as ‘Result of boxing’ in connection with the game of cribbage, but thought that to be somewhat tenuous on his limited knowledge of the game. Solving 38 Across as an ‘either/or’ clue leads to an understanding of ‘Result of boxing’ as defining the spurious ‘non-dictionary’ compound: RED EAR. See the preamble for consideration of Azed’s footnote on this 0and other clues.

29.     Faith I had put in rising tide. [FIDES/aides] (I’d in sea (rev.))  A most telling clue for sailing folk. Even the parsing phrase ‘I’d in sea (reversed)’ might cause a wry smile or two.

30.     Tense, temperature not normal? [taut/TOUT] (t + out)  A sweet and simple clue. An enquiry one might ask of someone complaining of red ear syndrome, perhaps.

31.     Cans shed nuts like this, a nuisance. [pest/PESO] (pe(cans) + so)  Construing ‘Cans shed nuts’ the right way is the key to understanding this clue, as Dr Watson belatedly found.

Other solutions:

Across:  12. RÉCOLLET (The competition word; s.v. recollect) 13. COTTUS (U in cotts; s.v. cot3) 17. AGORA (or in Aga; s.v. agora2) 18. TIDE RIP (TID + anag.) 19. WHIPLASH (hip in anag.) 23. TERIYAKI (anag.) 27. LEONINE (anag. in line; s.v. Leo) 34. EN DASH (i.e. end a ‘sh!’) 35. EUROSEAT (initial letters + roseat(e))  

Down:  3. RAT-POISON (anag.) 5. PRUH (pru(dis)h) 6. PESETA (set in pea) 9. TEED (hidden) 15. SAWBLADES (saw + blades) 26. KEKSYE (ke(pt) + anag; s.v. kex) 32. INTO (into(nation))


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