Azed No 2087 Plain (3 Jun 2012)

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

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HIS was a puzzle at the easier end of the Azed scale for difficulty, and Dr Watson made light work of its solution, yet finding much to delight, amuse and intrigue in the process. The clues for CHAW, GERONTOCRATIC, PECK, MOONER and TABOPARESIS gave most pleasure in various ways.

Notes to the clues:


1.       A —— ... can spy a lot? Wrong (at times, anyway)  NYCTALOPS (composite anagram &lit; s.v. nyctalopia)  ‘A nyctalops’ is found to be an anagram of ‘can spy a lot’, and so the designation: ‘comp. anag.’ applies to this clue. In consequence, immediate attention must be paid to the surface reading of the whole clue, as this type is often devised so that it may be read as a definition of the solution (designated ‘&lit’). This must be the case here as there is no definition given internally, and it is clear that the whole is a true statement about someone afflicted with nyctalopia. Whether that true statement is an adequate definition is always a matter of taste and judgment.

          Azed is known to insist that each of the two parts of a composite anagram must be indicated separately. Dr Watson’s best guess is that the question mark applies to the second, and ‘Wrong’ to the first.

7.       Cheer? It’d go round in US town.  GRUB (burg (rev.))  ‘Food’ is listed as the last definition of ‘cheer’ as a noun, hence our solution.

15.     Like old governors, ergo contra changes, involuntary response.  GERONTOCRATIC (anag. + tic)  Azed has achieved a brilliantly apt and witty surface here, alluding to the knee-jerk response: ‘Contra!’ to any suggested change. The clue turns on readings of ‘changes’ – as a noun in the surface, and as a verb in the indication.

17.     Composer producing repeated note and one below it in sound?  BIZET (i.e. “B’s, A”)  At first reading the reference to sound, rather than to pitch, seems odd. Clang!

20.     Once favoured putting shilling in a jar.  AGRASTE (s in ‘a grate’)   Our solution is one variant of the past tense of ‘aggrace’, Edmund Spenser’s word meaning ‘to grace’.

24.     Source of sugar? That’s yellow and green.  SORGO (s(ugar) + or + go; s.v. sorghum)  ‘Green’ equals ‘go’ is a common enough crossword convention, but Chambers, whilst it has an entry for ‘green light’ with a definition: ‘permission to go’, does not list the definition ‘a green signal’ (or light) at its entry for ‘green’. Dr Watson has found such a definition in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, but not elsewhere.  

26.     Pickle? Hardly a smack.  PECK (2 meanings; s.v. peck1 & pickle3)  Azed may have had HMS Pickle in mind for the surface reading of this clue, in which context it has subtle shades of meaning with ‘smack’ referring to another type of small sailing vessel (two readings), or else to damage sustained by Pickle during her brief but illustrious career.

27.     Sharp (e.g.) ear UK deployed installing electronic radar system.  REBECCA-EUREKA (Rebecca + e in anag.)  A reference to Becky Sharp (as an instance of ‘sharp’), the anti-heroine of Vanity Fair.

30.     No loveless Romeo, wandering? Yes and no.  MOONER (anag. less 0)  The ‘yes and no’ device rounds off two distinct readings of the whole clue, with ‘yes’ completing the indication of the word: ‘mooner’, and ‘no’ the double negative of its definition.

32.     E.g. sodalite specified as ‘retrograde’ in density.  FOID (of (rev.) + i’ + d)  ‘Specified as’ may be found amongst the definitions of ‘of’.

33.     Pond creature unknown in European river.  EMYS (y in Ems)  ‘Unknown’ makes a quick return as an indicator in an Azed puzzle, this time as ‘y’.

34.     Herd, ill, fell sated – those farmers fatten thus?  STALL-FEED (anag.)  Azed has shown how to indicate an anagram of two words, cleverly involving a word needed for the surface (as a collective noun). In the indication ‘herd’ (as a verb) serves to do no more than instruct the solver to join ‘fell’ and ‘sated’ before considering them ‘ill’.


1.       Peg that’s good as ‘chaser’ for strong old ale.  NOGG (nog2 + g; def. as nog1)  In the surface ‘peg’ refers to ‘a drink measure, esp of brandy and soda’ taken as the chaser, but as nog2 in the indication. With ‘g’ (good) added, our solution is the variant listed at nog7 (Norwich strong ale (obs)). Consequently, ‘that’s’ must be understood as meaning ‘that has’ in the indication reading, but as ‘that is’ in the surface. See Chambers’ entry for ’s.

3.       Flexing abs, a riposte that’s effect of STD on the nerves?  TABOPARESIS (anag; s.v. tabes)  Younger solvers may not remember subscriber trunk dialling, the system by which one could telephone someone on a distant exchange without dialling the telephone operator first. They may test their ab control by watching this video of the first-ever STD telephone call in Britain in 1958.

          Our solution is an effect of syphilitic infection of the nervous system (hence control of the muscles), and so STD is to be understood in that context as ‘sexually transmitted disease’.

5.       These guns may be taken on board.  PIECES (two meanings)   The two meanings apply to the predicate: ‘may be taken on board’ – firstly in respect of guns (pieces) which may be mounted on a ship, and secondly in respect of chess pieces (the cryptic reading) which may be taken in play by an opponent. Dr Watson does not know of any use of ‘guns’ as meaning ‘chessmen’ or ‘chess pieces’. Thus there is an asymmetry in this clue in that the definition part is not involved in the ambiguity of the indication.

7.       Fool holding puree of pea errs – impermeable in the kitchen needed!  GREASEPROOF (anag. in goof)  For experienced solvers, the reading of this Azed clue as an indication is immediate and straightforward – the only question concerns the choice of a four-letter synonym of ‘fool’ from quite a long list of candidates. The surface has prompted Watson to check the entries for ‘greaseproof’ in Chambers and Oxford dictionaries. Neither has the word defined as a noun, but only as an adjective as defined here by Azed. Websters (online) has an entry for ‘greaseproof paper’ defined as ‘British: a heavy stiff waxed paper – called also greaseproof’ which accords with everyday usage as both adjective and noun. Chambers needs to ‘get some greaseproof quick!’

8.       Line ending in bait: grub.  ROWT (row + (bai)t)  Solvers who checked the entry for rout2 without having first considered the obvious ‘row’ as a synonym for ‘line’ may not have found the variant spelling: rowt, which is listed separately. The ‘w’ is the unchecked letter here.

10.     See news vendor circling character in centre of fanzine for old copper.  CREUTZER (c + z in Reuter, ref. Paul Julius Reuter)  A less well-known variant spelling of ‘kreutzer’ is found by considering ‘see’ as the letter ‘C’ and recalling the name of the famous news agency founded by Paul Reuter.

13.     Queen’s granddaughter among commoners, as privileged Christian in old Spain.  MOZARAB (Zara in mob)  A reference to Zara Tindall MBE, the daughter of The Princess Royal.

14.     Wearing amplifiers, including one that’s taken off.  MIMICKED (mic in miked; s.v. mike1)  Azed may have been influenced by Chambers’ somewhat spurious entry for ‘microphone’ to define them as ‘amplifiers’. Here’s Wikipedia’s article.

24.     Fish – lots – died in pouches hauled up.  SCADS (d in sacs (rev.) plus 2 defs; s.v. scad 1 & 2)  A very simple clue in its indication with the added twist of definitions to two very different meanings of the same word.

29.     A potter’s first aim, once explained.  ARED (i.e. ‘a red’, ref. Snooker; s.v. aread)  Chambers has two main entries for ‘potter’, but one has to find the correct reading here under pot1 as a transitive verb: ‘to pocket (a snooker or billiard ball)’, no doubt after trying to remember words relating to pottery.

Other solutions:

Across:  10. CHAW (C + haw1) 11. MICROBE (rob in mice) 12. GRABEN (anag.) 16. QUEP (hidden; s.v. gup1) 18. SUMO (sum + o’) 23. CZAR (z(one) in car) 31. KNAIDEL (N.A. in anag.)  

Down:  2. CHARET (re in chat) 4. LENTI (lenti(go); s.v. lento) 6. SCART (i.e. scar t(issue); s.v. scart1) 9. BEACON (e in bacon; s.v. speck2) 19. SCRIKE (anag.) 21. ROCKET (The competition word) 22. WEENIE (wee + nie) 25. GEMEL (’em in gel) 28. BLAY (B +lay; s.v. lie2)


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