Azed No 2296 Plain (5 Jun 2016)

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

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 SLIGHTLY harder than usual competition puzzle, Dr Watson thought. Although there’s nothing that can’t be solved straightforwardly, a couple of clues require knowledge that might been more common in an earlier era, particularly a reference to Ralph Reader, an ‘old school’ French term for ‘inkwell’, and some Oxford University argot.

Notes to the clues:


1.       Pounds distributed: 59? Could be  SPONDULIX (anag. + LIX, & lit.)  A tidy & lit. with just the right amount of information to provide (appropriately) a small penny-drop.

11.     News broadcasters en—— were of use to French writers once?  CRIERS ((en)criers (Fr.))  L’encrier’ (inkwell) wasn’t part of the standard school French lexicon even in Dr Watson’s day, when dictation was more likely to be taken with le bic than le stylo. Azed’s surface reading makes little sense once the blank is filled, but the clue works well enough cryptically.

15.     Bird returns, clutching part of her underwear – and shades  UMBRAE (bra in emu, rev.)  Now there’s a sentence you wouldn’t see anywhere but a crossword nowadays.

16.     Twinkling gays? They’re often in evidence at kirk funerals  MOURNINGS (mo urnings)  If you’re unfamiliar with ‘urning’ as a term for a gay man (OED cites it as an 1864 coinage last quoted in 1909) then this clue isn’t easy to parse. ‘Mo’ means moment’, and ‘mournings’ itself is a Scottish term for funeral dress.

29.     Shorebird, English, first to last showing no sign of age?  UNLINED (d to end in dunlin E)  The dunlin is literally (as well as littorally) one of the ‘small brown bird’ species beloved of ornithologists. Its name means ‘small and brown’.

30.     Head of showbiz gang? That’s you, right now  READER (2 mngs.)  The second sentence should give enough away, but there’s a trap here for solvers who’ve not come across the Gang Show impresario Ralph Reader before, and might make a guess at LEADER.



2.       Bulldog accompanies one to forage for food locally  PROG  (2 mngs.)  In the peculiar world of Oxford University slang, a bulldog is the attendant of a proctor or prog, who presumably undertook the physical enforcement of college rules. ‘Prog’ also means to poke about in dialect use.

9.       Deploying this initially, police range in it?  DRAGNET (anag. in d, t, & lit.)  The cryptic reading leads a little awkwardly to the & lit. definition, though that itself is quite precise. ‘Police’ in the sense of ‘control’ is a rarely-used anagram indicator.

10.     Love of the French yields such lyrical efforts  ODES (0 des)  A much more fluent surface than the previous clue.

18.     Strong creature that, but old one, stressed finally  OXYTONE (ox yt one)  The solution looks like something you’d use to clean a drain, but it’s an adjective meaning ‘stressed on the final syllable’, which makes it heterological.

20.     Nice summer drawn in, cut short, is wavering  TEETERS (été (Fr.) in ters(e))  Ah, yes, it’s a while since Dr Watson’s seen Nice referenced in this way, but the old puns are often the most welcome.

21.     Hals represented current monarch to give a stony face  ASHLER (anag. + ER)  A neat allusion to Frans Hals’ Laughing Cavalier. The solution is an alternative spelling of the more common ‘ashlar’.

22.     One’s shot small part with actor/model in it  PELLET (Elle in pt.)  The actor/model in question is, Dr Watson assumes, Elle Macpherson, aka ‘The Body’.

26.     What happens when name’s forgotten? Ask!  EVET (eve(n)t)  Azed rounds off with a beautifully misleading surface that exploits Chambers’s second entry for ‘ask’. It means a newt, so now you don’t have to.


Other solutions:

Across:  13. ONBOARD (anag. + Rd.);  14. ROMCOM (MC in room);  17. TORTOISE PLANT (anag.; see elephant’s-foot in C.);  23. HYPERSTHENITE (hype + r + then in site);  24. STEAM-HAUL (anag.);  27. CORBEL (orb in cel(l));  28. CLEEVE (hidden);  31. DRIFT NETS (anag.).

Down:  1. SCRITCH (crit. in Sch.);  3. NECKTIE (ne + anag. less r);  4. DROMOS (d. + anag.);  5. LOCUS STANDI (cuss in lot + and I);  6. INURED (Uni, rev. + red);  7. LOBI (lob + I);  8. CARNALISED (anag.);  12. IMPROPERLY;  19. LINNEAN (inn in lean);  24. SCUM (comp. anag. & lit.);  25. ABIB (a bib).


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