11. Priest leading High Requiem Mass leaving pungent smoke PERIQUE (P + anag. less m) Dr Watson recognised the solution (a Louisiana tobacco) as the competition word set for Azed 1998 in 2010, and thought this clue was well up to the standard of the ones published then. In fact it’s the third prizewinning clue from the competition, by T. C. Borland.
12. Bird e.g. once famously in tow, left dull fatty? LUMP (l + ump) Solvers whose cricket knowledge doesn’t extend back to the 1990s at least may have been stumped by this one. The reference is to the former Test umpire Dickie Bird.
16. Small weight, something that helps to get wheel turning round TAEL (leat, rev.) A leat is a mill stream that helps to turn a waterwheel.
23. Vehicle for aristos guillotined, the French in gingham? UMBRELLA ((t)umbrel la) ‘Guillotined’ seems to be doing double duty here as an (unguillotined) tumbrel is unlikely to be the vehicle of choice for aristos who aren’t on the way to the guillotine. But an original and amusing treatment for a familiar word.
27. A dandy item AS WELL (a swell) ‘Item’ used here in its Latin meaning of ‘likewise’ gives Azed a very neat 10-letter clue.
30. What audience might take to be ring for old opponents? FONE (‘phone’) The clue could also lead to the alternative spelling FOEN given in Chambers, so solvers need to rely on the cross checking of 22 down.
2. Government department responsible for mountain climbing RÉGIE (Eiger, rev.) A great penny-drop when the significance of ‘mountain climbing’ is discovered.
4. Charters shown in great detail (when there’s space within) HIRES (cf. hi res) A rare opportunity to indicate two solutions that differ only by a blank.
9. Round shape formed with both hands, briefly? SPHERAL (anag. inc. r, l) Dr Watson dithered over this clue for some time, assuming ‘shape’ was part of the definition and not the anagram material.
21. Time going, rage over e.g. Osborne leaves one pink no longer EMPERCE ((t)emper + CE) The second solution defined by ‘pink’ after 32 across, but in a very different sense. ‘CE’ for Osborne shouldn’t have delayed many solvers.
28. Swish woman with O so wayward husband WOOSH (w + anag. + h) A great result for a rather unfriendly word. Chambers only gives ‘women or women’s’ for W, but ‘woman’ seems to be fairly widely used, in crossword clues at least.
31. Name of instrument producing low note (one below piano’s lowest) MOOG (moo G) Dr Watson’s piano lessons ceased long before there was any chance of reaching the A at the far left end of the keyboard, and a Moog was not an alternative.
Across: 1. ORCHARD-GRASS (or chard grass); 14. ABSINTHE (h in anag.); 15. SIZEL (size l); 17. PEASON (as in peon); 18. EMIGRÉ (anag.); 19. RUDENESS (dene in Russ); 26. TROPPO (2 mngs.); 32. CORAL (r in coal); 33. OUTROPER (out + anag.); 34. SECO (hidden); 34. ERASMUS (sums are, rev.); 36. TELEGRAPHESE (anag. less y in these).
Down: 3. CRUZADO ((Ine)z in cru ado); 5. RUBINE (B in ruine(d)); 6. DES RES (s in deres); 7. GLIM (hidden); 8. RUN TIME (runt I me(an)); 10. SKELETALLY (anag. + tally); 13. ESPRIT FORT; 20. UPROUSE (up + anag. less oil); 22. PLEROME (morel, rev., in PE); 24. MOPPER (M op per.); 25. BAUERA (‘bower’ + a); 29. LARUS (comp. anag. & lit.).