Azed No 2291 ‘Printer’s Devilry’ (1 May 2016)

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

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OR regular Azed solvers – the majority at least, Dr Watson like to think – Printer’s Devilry competitions are a treat that comes along a little too rarely, about once in every hundred puzzles, or 25 competitions. This is Azed’s 26th P.D. puzzle, and he finally overtakes the tally of Ximenes, who was a more frequent supplier of the form, producing 25 puzzles in 27 years of setting.

Solvers new to P.D. might wonder where the definitions are, and what happened to all those rules about punctuation and letter case that appear in the Slips. But this type of clue gleefully abandons all that. What matters is that the order if the letters is preserved in the two readings, that the ‘undevilled’ reading (after insertion of the solution) makes good sense, and ideally that there is some shift of meaning between the two readings. The best clues give marvellous penny-drops. Devilry in the form of changing the spacing or punctuation away from the insertion point is allowed, but Azed keeps it to a minimum; in fact there’s none evident in this puzzle at all.

Starting to solve is often a question of searching egregious words in the clue, like ‘aula’ in 22 across or ‘planish’ in 28 down, for potential insertion points. In some cases, like 16 across, it’s apparent where the undevilled reading is going, and it’s a question of finding a word the right letters to get it there.


Notes to the clues:


1.       With holidays imminent, the bad weather is moving, s/ad  OUTHIRE

6.       This remote landscape and hill for/t a few will enjoy  MAVIS

12.     Where they’re not permitted to, b/old, they must move on  ÉGAREMENT

13.     To show that they have rhythm, m/ime on the pub tables  ENRAPT

14.     This is a policy the opposition would relish a bi/t  GRANTA  The publishing house strongly indicated in the footnote.

15.     What’s a stay? Whatever is starting tos/s-up  AGITPROP  One of the neatest-fitting pieces of devilry in the puzzle.

16.     You may ask sow/s that, to do with me  HATHA  This was Dr Watson’s first solve. The change of meaning is good, but the undevilled version does show through quite clearly. ‘Hatha’ is found in Chambers under the entry for ‘hatha yoga’.

18.     Rumours of business malpractice make me r/ead, ‘Likely to fail’  GERAH  Achieving two very fluent readings, an exemplary piece of devilry.

20.     This group of WI members r/ing for a cuppa themselves  UNSTEADY  ‘Runs tea’ isn’t the most natural expression, but the undevilled reading creates an appealing picture.

22.     Reviewer wanting an interview gives au/la (this house)  THORACAL  At last, a clue where the word containing the insertion point sticks out a mile. An aula is a type of hall.

25.     Such birds have become ra/ce targeted by hunters  RESIN  Another one that yields quite readily to guesswork.

27.     An editor will always maintain that his p/ries to get at the truth  APERT

29.     The haruspex must sacrifice: the bea/ns can be read  STEREOME  P.D. often needs an exotic word that encompasses two diverse subjects. In this case a haruspex is involved with both beasts and omens.

31.     He needs do no vacation work though we’ve lots to give hi/m time  MINTER  It’s less satisfactory when the same word (‘him’) appears both before and after the solution is insterted, but it’s difficult to avoid it in every clue.

32.     Food (can/ine) on the supermarket shelf  SENDAL

33.     Being concerned about my health, has me/t every week  ANTIDOTES  Another solution that slots in very neatly.

34.     Is that your mat/uring? It’s time for you to go  EGEST

35.     We’ve assigned prisoners coming to te/ach  NACELLE  A change of social conscience, or perhaps budget, between the two readings.


1.       As a shrewd investment I bought this t/ome for my children  OBEAH

2.       Is she the las/s there, another yet to arrive?  TORI

3.       Do rascally buyers, c/ringers when catches are landed?  HEATHER  It takes an experienced P.D. writer to produce an undevilled reading containing ‘cheat herringers’ without it seeming completely forced.

4.       In olden days porters were often summoned to bea/k  RAT-RUN

5.       He began his career in London but, late/nt, abroad  ERGOTS

7.       Show ar/gand? He may get interested!  AMATE  Rams and tegs are a cryptic crossword staple.

8.       Breaking the law, gives the contra/sting case to answer  VENERATE  It’s very satisfying to fit the break into the middle of a long word.

9.       For any, gra/tis, a key end-product  INTRADERMAL  Long solutions need to be chosen carefully when creating the grid. Here the solution supplies both ‘grain’ and ‘malt’ to create the context of the undevilled reading.

10.     After a bad fall I felt mo/od – I’d no exercise for a while  STACHYS

11.     Her gold hoard gave her such a thrill I often saw her chuck l/ots  INGATHERING  Great devilled and undevilled readings make the most of the long solution. Dr Watson’s favourite clue of this puzzle.

17.     The RSPB would surely never, let loose, bu/rn sanctuaries  TEOSINTE   Dr Watson was alerted to the possibility of ‘tern’ in the solution early on, but buteos (buzzards) were definitely unexpected.

19.     Fine spirits with soda? You surely don’t like drinking be/rated  STRUMAE

21.     He’s a literary giant at his career ap/t to gain yet higher honours  EXPENSE  A slightly less gainly reading requiring ‘apex, pen set’.

23.     I’m looking to soli/d Els, wanting harmonious rounds!  CITRON  A complete change of sense from golf to music. Setters have a lot to thank Ernie Els for. Long may he continue.

24.     Zoroastrian scripture  AVESTA  The competition word.

26.     This is the m/uck to cleanse my breath  INTIS

28.     Anyone wanting to plan/ish as a ready-made source of oil  TELAE  Again, only one place the solution could slot in, but the vowel-heavy ‘Elaeis’ is not at all obvious.

30.     Haute cuisine is a keen passion I like – my fo/ot!  ODAL  A classic piece of devilry to finish.


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