Azed No 2226 ‘Playfair’ (1 Feb 2015)

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

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LAYFAIR puzzles are a rare treat for Azed solvers these days. The basic Playfair format has been around since at least the early days of Ximenes (who with typical impishness once used CAB as the codeword), and many variations have appeared in other thematic crossword series. There are two principal problems for Azed in continuing to produce these puzzles. Firstly the supply of suitable codewords is finite and most of the good ones have been used already. Second, they they are harder to solve. The solution process can become rather mechanical at the end, when all the clues have yielded and the solver just needs to crack the code in order to fill a few remaining blanks.

Azed has addressed both of those problems here. The codeword DOUBLE-PARKING is a great find – Dr Watson hasn’t seen it used before. And as with the last competition Playfair, no. 1967, he has chosen for the encoded solutions words that provide a nicely cryptic hint at the codeword, in this case PP in every word, so that the solver is rewarded with an extra penny-dropping moment in the final stage. None of the normal clues is especially difficult. One of the clues to the encoded solutions is quite easy, and two are straightforward, but the remaining one, 4 ac, contains what looks like a deliberate tease that could equally delight or frustrate solvers.

In the notes below clues to encoded solutions are in italics. More about the mechanics of Playfair can be found in the puzzle’s preamble and elsewhere on the web.

Notes to the clues:


4.       Old cast-offs, one penny for each, grabbed by young ones  CKNEAPCB (FRIPPERY; I p per in fry)  The last clue solved by Dr Watson, after the code had been cracked. Azed rather cheekily provides two misleading indications that the solution is a plural noun with the definitions ‘cast-offs’ and ‘young ones’. This led Dr Watson, and probably many other solvers, to try to decode the CB at the end of the solution to ?S, causing some difficulty in completing the Playfair square. But all in all it added to the satisfaction of the eventual solution.

11.     Patriarch’s number one à la mode  NOACHIC (no. a chic)  A comical reference to Noah, who’s better remembered for his nakedness than his dress sense. The solution can be found under ‘Noachian’ in Chambers.

17.     Attack just after circling b-boxer  PNAOCG (OPPUGN; p-pug in on)  Dr Watson spent a little time looking for a 3-letter pugilist, but found nothing better than ‘Ali’, clearly a poor fit for the required stammer.

19.     Staff officer switching divisions in extreme aversion  RED HAT (halves of hatred switched)  This wordplay has been used many times before, but the opportunity to employ an unusual device is one that setters won’t lightly pass up.

19.     US flirt, touchy woodworker  ISNERW (CHIPPY; 3 mngs.)  The three different senses of ‘chippy’ are spread out in Chambers. The flirt is under its own headword, chippy1; the adjective is in the subheading ‘chippy’ under chip, and the woodworker is bracketed in the definition of ‘chips’.

27.     Rang off from devastating nerves  VAGI ((ra)vagi(ng))  Much easier to explain in retrospect than to solve from scratch.

31.     Randy Scots, reverse of sober after contact sport  RUDAS (RU + sad, rev.)  Azed is trying to ‘play fair’ by offering an explicit indication of ‘RU’ that fits well with the main definition. ‘Randy’ defines the noun, meaning a coarse woman or similar.

34.     Monk quietly returned drink in Italian eatery  SKRAENTH (TRAPPIST; p + sip, rev., all in trat)  The easiest of the encoded solution clues, with ‘quietly’ a nice extra hint at the solution. There’s good & lit. potential in the clue, but Azed has sensibly avoided it in this instance.

35.     Poet’s growl echoed in transept?  SNAR (hidden rev.)  Dr Watson is a bit dubious about ‘echoed’ as a revesal indicator, as an echo reflects a sound but doesn’t reverse it. Extending the metaphor of ‘sending back’ to the letters of a word is quite a stretch.



4.       Like much church music, reduced option includes bit of Rutter  CHORIC (R in choic(e))  Solvers who avoided the temptation of entering ‘choral’ in the grid before consulting the dictionary acted wisely. John Rutter is a well-known and frequently performed composer of church music.

10.     Elizabeth two times more astute about society, a know-all  BESSERWISSER (Bess ER + S in wiser)  The two Elizabeths is a nice touch. Chambers only supports S as an abbreviation of ‘Society’ wth a capital S, so Azed is bending his guidelines to an extent here.

18.     Touring abroad (having left Britain), part needing to be plugged in?  ADAPTOR (pt in anag. less B, & lit.)  A great & lit. clue with the added ambiguity of whether ‘touring’ or ‘abroad’ is the anagram indicator. Dr Watson notes that these things seem to be universally called ‘adapters’ nowadays.

20.     Fine fabric, quite German, opening mouths  ORGANZA (ganz (Ger.) in ora)  You won’t find ‘ganz’ in Chambers or any English dictionary, as far as Dr Watson knows, so for non-linguists a visit to Google Translate may help.

23.     Cap, a bit lacking to the French  AMORCE (a morce(au))  The wordplay is a little tricky, as it’s ‘au’ rather than ‘morceau’ that is indicated as a French word.

24.     The old begin as fools, entering college  INCEPT (C in inept)  Azed takes advantage of ‘enter’ being both an intransitive and a transitive verb. The fact that Chambers also defines ‘incept’ as meaning ‘to complete a degree’ makes the wordplay even more elusive.


Other solutions:

Across:  1. ICKY (K in icy);  12. POLYPOSIS (anag. in pos);  13. EMEER (’em e’er);   14. LUNARS (l + anag. less anag.);  15. RUND (run + d);  16. RISING (is in ring);  19. FACTOR (act in for);  26. DAEMON (mead, rev. + on);  29. TOP DOG (pd 0 in tog);  32. EUTERPEAN (anag. in anag.);   33. APPRIZE (Pr in a pize).

Down:  1. INTERPRETESS (anag.);  2. COMMUNE (mun in come);  3. KAREN (2 mngs.);  5. KILERG (l in kier + g);  6. EMPUSA ((h)emp USA);  7. AGONIC (I in anag.);  8. PESANTE (anag.);  9. COIR (hidden rev.);  22. HEDERA (rede in ah, all rev.);  25. SERAPH (rap in anag.);  28. ADMIN (m in a din);  30. OULK (0 for s in sulk; see ouk in C.).


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