Azed No 2305 ‘Wrong Number’ (7 Aug 2016)

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

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ZED and Ximenes have produced between them 17 ‘Wrong Number’ puzzles. The very first was Ximenes no. 209 in Dec 1952, where competitors were asked to clue ELAPSION with a definition of IMPERIAL. The slip contains several clues referring to the cinema newsreel series ‘The March of Time’.

New solvers shouldn’t be put off by the apparent complexity of the puzzle format. There’s less opportunity to use checking letters because it’s not initially certain where a solution will be entered. But as the grid fills the possible locations reduce, and in fact there’s an extra hint available in the form of a definition in the clue at the location where the solution is to go, that may help to confirm an answer. Azed’s recommended method in the preamble is sound: solve a clue, and then look for another clue of the same length that might contain a definition of the solution. It’s important to read the clue-writing instructions carefully. A few competitors enter a clue to the word defined by the asterisked clue rather than to the unclued solution.

Solvers can enjoy the creative ways in which Azed fits locating definitions into clues, always as an integral component of the cryptic reading, and never as a superfluous addition.

In the explanations below the clues are numbered as they appear in the puzzle. The notes in brackets indicate where their solutions go in the grid, and the one-word definition that appears in the clue at that location.

Notes to the clues:


1.       Piece.  AGREE (31a; suit).  This is simply the locating definition for PATCH, clued at 25d. ‘Agree’ itself is found through its locating definition ‘suit’ at 31a. So competitors must submit a clue to AGREE containing a definition of PATCH.

5.       A small weak brandy drunk polishing off book? Non-sense!  NAYWARD (anag. inc. a, w less b; 24a; denial).  Defined as ‘the negative side (Shakesp.)’ in Chambers, this is a difficult word to provide one accurate crossword definition for, let alone two. Both of Azed’s choices seem to be stretching the meaning a bit.

15.     Coin, not English but one Arabic unit.  CANTAR (cent with a for E + Ar.; 28a; weight).  Complicated by being an alternative spelling of the Chambers entry ‘kantar’ with an unchecked first letter in the grid, and also by being a unit with Arabic associations. The definition in this clue is just ‘unit’.

22.     Agents, only half modest, age led astray.  DELEGATES (anag. inc. (mod)est; 17d; reps).  One of the clues showing signs of difficulty as Azed throws away half of the definition of SHAMEFAST in order to provide the anagram material.

24.     Crooked prelates in denial of English church property?  PSALTER (anag. less E; 5a; book).  A classic Wrong Number clue. Azed finds exactly the right wording, ‘in denial of,’ to fulfil the triple duty of wordplay, locating definition, and good surface sense.

21.     We could see last bits of cheese butty eaten whole.  EYNE (last letters; 9d; spectators).  The necessity of locating FETA begets an inventive surface that would probably never have appeared otherwise.

23.     Prompt creating skirt for Earl formerly.  ONETIME (E in on time; 18a; old).  It’s no problem to fitting this solution’s locating definition ‘old’ at 18a, but ‘skirt’, which locates TOTTIES is more problematic, despite its original use as a container indication. Chambers gives ‘totty’ and ‘skirt’ as sexist slang terms for women, but there is no indication that ‘totties’ plural can be used in this sense.


3.       God clergy ultimately found in part of scripture.  SURYA (y in sura; 12a; sun).  A very satisfying clue that locates CLOTH nicely.

4.       Bird, by the sound of her, with chic resplendent in many columns.  POLYSTYLE (‘Polly’ style; 21a; pillared).  As well as bringing back memories of Monty Python’s parrot sketch (“Wake up, Polly parrot!”), the clue rather cheekily includes the almost redundant ‘resplendent’, looking for all the world like it’s there to define something.

9.       Two pairs of spectators joined in a minor quarrel.  SPAT (sp(ect)at(ors); 26d; drop).  An unusual and effective wordplay, improved even more by the addition of ‘joined’.

10.     Hill fort, not badly fortified initially, sacked from end to end.  THRO (anag. less ill f; 13a; among).  It’s unfortunate that ‘hill fort’ works so well in the wordplay, as it looks as though Azed has provided a two-word definition for RATH. The best explanation is that the locating definition is simply ‘fort’.

27.     A short spin? So this chariot may appear.  RATH (comp. anag.; 10d; fort).  The definition ‘so’ for ERGO could easily have been squeezed in as a joining word, but Azed plays completely fair by making it integral to the anagram wordplay.

Other solutions:

Across: 11. DREIDEL (anag. inc. r, E; 32a; top);  12. STALL (S tall; 34a; stop);  13. FETA (hidden; 30a; cheese);  14. ENTHRALL (hidden; 20d; charm);  18. ATHLETA (L in a theta; 11a; runner);  21. SALLYPORT (ally p in sort; 16d; opening);  28. SWIVET (s + I’ve in wt; 22d; tizzy);  29. PATTYPAN (pat + anag. inc. t, p; 1d; vessel);   31. CLOTH (clot + h; 3d; clergy);  32. TOTTIES (to(p) + I in anag.; 33a; skirt); 34. UNFIT (f in unit; 25d; disabled). 

Down: 1. MUSCATEL (US cat2 in anag.; 19d; vin);  2. RETICENT (tice in rent; 14a; reserved);  6. LUCITE (hidden rev.; 7d; plastic);  7. TESTON (anag. in ton; 15a; coin);  8. HERONSHAW (anag.; 4d; bird);  16. SHAMEFAST (sham + safe, rev. + t; 22a; modest);  17. TREPIDANT (rep in tid + ant.; 8d; trembling);  19. PROVIANT (pro + anag.; 29a; tuck);  20. ATHEROMA (anag. of eat 0 (c)harm; 2d; pouch);  22 ARCADE (anag.; 23d; gallery); 23. SATINY (sat in + y; 6d; smooth); 25. PATCH (anag. inc. t; 1a; piece); 26. ERGO (r in ego; 27d; so).

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