Azed No 2334 Plain (5 Mar 2017)

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

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 N A BREAK with the usual Plain instructions, Azed makes a special request for competitors to start their clues with a letter that completes a hidden message. Even long-term followers may not have noticed that this puzzle falls precisely on the forty-fifth anniversary of Azed No 1, which appeared in the Observer on 5 March 1972. Solvers were hungry for more clue-writing competitions in the style of Ximenes following his death in 1971, when a young Jonathan Crowther stepped into X’s shoes – and proved to be a brilliant, consistent, prolific and remarkably long-standing replacement who shows no sign of losing any of those qualities.

The message, strongly hinted at in the instruction, is an acrostic of the across clues that reads ‘Forty-five years of AZ’. Competitors must supply a clue beginning with R to complete it, replacing the definition at 29 across.

Notes to the clues:


1.       Flattened parasitical growth causing higher bp when bitten by a nasty fly  APPRESSORIUM (pressor in a pium)  An unusual medical adjective ‘pressor’, meaningcausing higher blood pressure,’ and a Brazilian fly, make this a difficult one to guess at.

13.     Yo-yo, one trailing a girl  ANITA (a nit + a)  The choice of definition for ‘nit’ is very much determined by the requirements of the acrostic, but it’s worked tidily into the surface reading.

15.     Frenzied orgiast on the fringes cheers political activists  AGITATORS (ta in anag.)  It’s surely a happy coincidence that allows Azed to include his very first competition word in this clue in the anniversary puzzle.

19.     Early diet left one with ‘dead’ label  LANDTAG (l an d tag)  Regular cryptic solvers are usually alert for alternative meanings of words like ‘diet’, here used in the historical sense of a medieval German council.

29.     Song of praise  ALLELUIAH  Here’s the word, a less common spelling, that competitors must produce a clue for, beginning with the R that completes the acrostic.

32.     On a slope in Scotland I set off to whizz downhill fast?  SKLENT (sk(i) Lent)  One of Dr Watson’s two favourites of the puzzle, with its innocuous-looking final word providing a much-loved cruciverbal pun as well as the meat of the solution.

35.     Zany salt on RN term: ‘What’ll I have to enlighten me?’ STORM LANTERN (anag.)  A semi-& lit. clue whose definition refers back to the nautical wordplay. There are a few cryptic staples that provide a wordplay element and an infrequent letter, such as ‘quaint’ and ‘jumbly’.



1.       Spear-thrower, range slightly reduced with extremes of  toil  ATLATL (Atla(s) + t(oi)l)  ‘Range’ for Atlas (mountains) is a great choice in the context of the definition.

6.       Black marks distinguished soldier  SMUTS (2 mngs.)  An oft-used double definition referring to the Boer and First World War leader General Smuts.

8.       Those on the fringes, frightful trash in part  ULTRAS (hidden)  Regular solvers and Slip subscribers will form their own view as to whether Azed is using the opportunity to express his opinion here.

17.     One can clock up miles travelled, having motored freely round Spain  ODOMETER (E in anag.)  In 1948, further back even than Azed’s forty-five years, Ximenes’s followers competed with clues for ODOMETER. This wasn’t one of them as far as we can tell from the Slip.

20.     One cheers to know Mafeking remained so  UNTAKEN (’un ta ken)  That’s the second ‘cheers’ for ‘ta’ of this puzzle. The reference is the long and ultimately unsuccessful Boer siege of Mafeking which ended 1900 and made a national hero of Baden-Powell, though Gen. Smuts wasn’t involved.

21.     Head’s topped by merest hint of smoke – a wisp?  SCAPES (s + cape’s)  Dr Watson’s other favourite clue has a clever misleading definition that relies on Chambers’s entry at scape3, the cry of a snipe or the bird itself, and the eighth sense of ‘wisp’ as ‘a flock (of snipe)’. No sniping if you didn’t get it.

29.     Particle rapidly showing displacement of neutron  PROTON (N moved in pronto)  This one may be difficult to parse because of the similarity of ‘proton’ and ‘neutron’, but it’s simply a question of shifting the N in ‘pronto’.

30.     Wolf not following at rear abandoned growl  SNAR (snar(f))  A fiendish clue to finish the puzzle. Solvers looking for words ending ‘-nar’ will find gnar, knar and snar, all of which mean ‘growl’ in some sense. And the first two ‘rear’ nicely to make words in reverse. But it’s the colloquial sense of ‘wolf’ meaning to eat greedily that’s needed to pin down the correct solution.


Other solutions:

Across:  10. TRIP (2 mngs);  11. NAMEABLE (anag. with a for 0);  12. LAMEDH (lamed + h);  16. TRIO (anag. less v);  18. SPINAL (pin in sal(on));  23. HANGS UP (anag. in push, rev.);  26. COLMAR (col(our) mar);  31. PEATY (anag.);  33. ENTERATE (enter + anag.);  34. URAO (U + oar, rev.).

Down:  2. PRAT (prat(ie));  3. PIMPINELLA (imp in pine + all, rev.);  4. ENDGATE (d(o)g in enate);  5. SAHIBA (has, rev. + I BA);  7. RANTINGS (ant in rings);  9. MEASLY (m + eas(I)ly);  14. IONOSPHERE (anag. + P + here);  22. DOLENT ((in)dolent);  24. ARISTA (s in Arita);  27. RURAL (RA in rul(e); rural n.).


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