10. Who’ll accept trendy modern type of salad? TIN HAT (E; salade; in in that) Azed finds the historical item of headgear that exactly meets his requirements.
13. Most pick clothing seen unravelling, being frank? FREENESS (S; spick; anag. in fres(h)) With the misleading ‘clothing’ in the clue and the possibility of ‘most’ indicating a superlative, the insertion point for the missing letter is very hard to spot.
17. Army unit take in pens, historically CORPS (O; peons; r in cops) Although the solver can guess the solution is likely to be ‘corps’ or ‘cadre’, ‘peons’, an old name for policemen, takes some finding.
18. Spear fruit in SA? His gets e.g. inside ASSEGAI (T; this; e.g. in assai) One of the weaker letter omissions, simply replacing ‘this’ with ‘his’. You’ll need to find ‘assai’, an alternative spelling of the ‘superfood’ fruit açai.
21. Airborne soldier given pint following windy plain PARAMO (O; point; Para mo) ‘Windy plain’ is the definition disguised as an anagram indication. ‘Mo’ is ‘moment’, defined in Chambers as a ‘point in time’.
24. Ask supervisor in mine down one with money invested OVERMAN (T; task; M in over an) An unexpected definition of ‘over’ is ‘down from’, as in ‘hanging over the edge’. ‘Down’ on its own seems a bit of a stretch.
25. Inuit may travel with this cow, one kilometre behind KAIAK (H; chow; kai + a K) It’s not easy to discover the Maori ‘kai’ for ‘chow’, especially with the various spellings of the Scottish ‘kye’ providing a distraction.
30. Debt written off, Met create recast addition ETCETERA (U; debut; anag. less M) Azed finds a very neat way to remove the U from part of the wordplay instructions.
24. Roll, say, coated in edible fish mites ACARI (S; Rolls; car in ai) The first use of ‘ai’ meaning the fish rather than the sloth. A rather unappealing surface in more than one sense.
32. Hungry? Camper maybe is heading for that, faint as before VANISH (A; Hungary; van is H) Dr Watson was puzzled by ‘heading for’. It seems unnecessary, as H is the IVR code for Hungary, and ‘heading for’ appears to indicate a first letter, which would apply to either ‘hungry’ or ‘Hungary’. The explanation is probably that ‘is heading for’ indicates ‘comes ahead of’, and Azed was concerned that the surface reading should make enough sense after the A is inserted.
33. College lie about a Councillor LINACRE (N; line; a Cr in line) This is the proper noun mentioned in the note after the clues, a reference to Linacre College, Oxford – which has not, as far as Dr Watson knows, ever hosted an Azed celebration lunch.
2. One raising e.g. mugs, record very much superior to medium tin cans SHEEP-FARMER (H; thin; EP far M in sheer) Having spotted ‘farmer’ in the solution Dr Watson spent some time looking for one who might cultivate mung beans, but mug6 in Chambers is defined as a ‘woolly-faced sheep’.
9. Old copper sizing wayward Susie, the old enemy! AUSSIES (E; seizing; anag. in as3) Regular solvers will know that Azed can often drop in cricket references like this. The puzzle appeared on the third day of the Ashes Test at Lord’s (where England were being soundly beaten), which gives the clue an extra degree of topicality. The previous ‘missing letters’ puzzle, no. 2168, also came out in the middle of an Ashes series and many of the competition clues were inspired by it.
16. Fish decline? Bet set includes that islander TAIWANESE (N; bent; ai wane in anag.) The second appearance of the Japanese fish. The surface reading after the N is added is slightly strained.
23. Luther might have fashioned this blend of oil in wine VIOLIN (I; luthier; anag. in vin) About the best penny-drop of the puzzle as ‘luthier’ is discovered.
26. Old judge in female underwear, ties ailing SCAN (F; failing; scan(ties)) Azed manages to stay fresh and witty right to the last few clues.
29. The lad pulled up about 500 thorns EDHS (Y; lady; D in she, rev.) Dr Watson had thought of thorn (þ) and edh (ð) as distinct characters with distinct phonemes, but Chambers indicates they were used interchangeably in early English writing.
Across: 1. AMISS (A; coat; amis + s); 5. SESTINA (Z; hazy; anag. inc. E); 11. KUDZU (D; seed; Z in kudu); 14. CREEPERED (N; adorning; père in creed); 20. NIRLIE (W; down; rin, rev. + lie); 27. MILESTONE (O); 34. AGNES (D; lady; hidden rev.).
Down: 1. ATOC (T; stinks; hidden); 2. MICROWAVE (W; warm; anag.); 3. INJERA (O; sourer; J in in era); 5. STREAM (U; housing; R in steam); 6. EWER (N; number; (f)ewer); 7. SKEESICKS (D; ward; sick in seeks, rev.); 8. IDEA (R; truck; I + dea(l)); 12. UNDERRATING (D; danger; anag.); 15. PSAMMITIC (A; about; a in anag. + tic); 19. APOGEAL (D; body; a + go, rev. in peal); 22. ENERVE (F; flag; E + r in névé); 28. LEAR (T; teach; L + ear).
Hidden message in clues: Azed’s no. two thousand two hundred and fifty
Hidden message in grid: AZED’S NO. MMCCL