Azed No 2376 ‘Christmas Puddings’ (24 Dec 2017)

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

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ITH forty-five previous Christmas puzzles to his name, Azed could be forgiven for revisiting an old theme, but he continually strives to come up with something new for the occasion. Here the theme involves ‘Christmas Puddings’ and the tradition of adding small coins to the pudding mix for the lucky finder to keep – or put towards their dentist’s bill. Traditionally in Dr Watson’s family, before Dr Watson’s time, the coins were silver threepenny bits that were returned for the next year’s pudding.

The style and theme have a couple of predecessors in earlier Azeds. Azed no. 1500 (subject of Dr Watson’s very first, now lost, review for the Crossword Centre in 2001) involved ‘fools’ inside ‘ships’, similarly clued with only wordplay. And no. 1666, a non-competition puzzle marking the year of the Great Fire of London, contained a number of puddings, after the fire’s origin in Pudding Lane.

With the theme laid out in the preamble and the pudding clues in italics, the solver has less to worry about than in many thematic puzzles. The puddings and coins in the grid are reasonably obscure, though, and most of them require a few checking letters in place to offer a chance of solution. The remaining clues are normal and perhaps on the easy side, though that may be because many lead to short words. Only a couple of references require research outside Chambers.

Solvers entering the clue-writing competition should note that all of Azed’s thematic clues lead unambiguously to the grid entry, restricting the coin to only one possible position inside the pudding. So a clue consisting of an anagram, or worse a composite anagram, of the entire entry, or a clue indicating PIASTRE ‘in’ SOWENS in some way, is unlikely to be adequate.

Notes to the clues:


1.       Dad’s trouble returning, male truly lacking ultimate yen   POPODAMVER (pop + ado, rev. + m + ver(Y); DAM in POPOVER)

11.     Oysters copper consumed in Teresa’s place  AVICULA  (Cu in Àvila)  The Teresa in the clue is St Teresa of Àvila, the 16c Spanish mystic.

15.     Drive work on loosed individual game dogs  DROPPERS (Dr op pers(on))  Several elements to join together in this charade, ‘on loosed individual’ for ‘pers(on)’ being the trickiest. A dropper is a dog trained to drop to the ground when game is sighted.

16.     It may be hard to administer when one of pair leaves  HAPLY (H + ap(p)ly)  The definition ‘it may be’ is very well hidden.

26.     See preamble  SOWPIASTREENS (PIASTRE in SOWENS)  This is the coin and pudding combination the solver must provide a clue for.

29.     Working in university with Oxford exam coming round  MODUS (U in Mods)  Oxford students will be familiar with Mods (short for Moderations), the first public exam in an undergraduate course.

31.     A doorman before going off knocked back jar of wine  TINAJA (a janit(or), rev.)  The removal here is harder than ‘pers(on)’ at 15 across. ‘Or’ is an archaic word for ‘before’, and so should really, by Azed’s standards, be indicated as ‘before before’ or similar.

35.     Capital alibi contrived to protect prince  BRASILIA (ras in anag.)  Here’s the familiar proper noun mentioned in the footnote.

37.     Posse disturbed about old gun going off  SPOSOUNGE (o + anag., all in anag.; SOU in SPONGE)

41.     One wandering glens surrounded by Scottish river  TAANGELNSY (an + anag. all in Tay; ANGEL in TANSY)


1.       Dish to extinguish – dismay when losing a spread  PANDOWSEMISDY  (pan dowse + anag. less a; SEMIS in PANDOWDY)

2.       Red in the face after spells of bowling? Mark often is  OVERSHOT (overs + hot)  The charade elements are nicely indicated, and the definition, from the expression ‘overshoot the mark’, is clever.

4.       Female involved in excellent dessert coming up  DUFPENIF (f in fine pud, rev.; PENI in DUFF)  About the best of the thematic clues, with its reference to pudding. ‘Duff’ is the pudding that ‘may be regarded as part of a (common) compound’, i.e. plum duff, and ‘peni’ is a Spenserian spelling of penny.

8.       Rung sweethearts up  STEP (pets, rev.)  Easy enough to solve, but a very satisfying combination of definition and wordplay.

10.     Poorly organized and secretive, clubs dine inside  ROLYPOSCEATLY (anag. + C eat in sly; SCEAT in ROLY-POLY)

19.     Dig has this to be expanding, volatile?  LATIN (i.e. Latin in dig = dilating)  Dr Watson thinks Azed may have misclued this. ‘Dig’ needs to have ‘Latin in’, not just ‘Latin’, to make ‘dilating’. ‘A has B’ would not normally be acceptable wordplay for ‘B inside A’. Chambers gives the definition ‘…denoting the temperament of the Latin peoples, passionate, excitable, volatile’ for the solution.

21.     Make good Elizabethan houses  ABET (hidden)  Azed occasionally produces quite unspottable hiddens, and this was one of them for Dr Watson. It remained unexplained for a time after the puzzle was solved.

24.     Lupin maybe artist’s shown in embroidery fabric  ARRASENE (RA in Arsène)  ‘Lupin’ refers to the fictional detective Arsène Lupin, created by Maurice Leblanc in 1905 as a French rival to Sherlock Holmes.

27.     A selection of exquisite sausage rolls  SUASET (hidden rev.; AS in SUET)  Happily this hidden clue leapt out straight away despite the cunningly indicated reversal, and gave Dr Watson a thematic solution on the first pass of the clues.

32.     Street accepts this outsider to be outstanding  ALIEN (i.e. alien in St = salient)  This one works rather better than the LATIN clue. ‘This’ before ‘outsider’ is key to indicating that the definition is not in its usual place at either end of the clue.


Other solutions:

Across:  12. SOTHO ((tha)t in Soho);  13. NECK (2 mngs.);  14. FORESTEAL (anag. in foal);  17. THECAL (the ca. l);  20. CRAMP (M in crap2);  22. WHATNOT (hat in anag.);  28. PIRATIC (rat I in pic);  33. ILIAD (I + Dáil, rev.);  38. FIAT (a in fit);  39. DETER (deter(mine));  40. TONNELL (ton2 + Nell (Gwynne)).

Down:  3. PICOT (anag.);  5. ALOE (0 in ale);  6. VIES (E in vis);  7. ROTARY (T in roary);  9. SHALM (sh! + alm(s));  18. CO-ACT (C in coat);  23. AWED (a + wed);  25. INITIALS (I in anag.);  30. OLPES (anag. less p);  34. IOTA (0 in ita);  35. BUNA (a nub, rev.);  36. AGOG (go in Ag).


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