HIS month’s competition puzzle is most notable for the variety of great clues to short words of 4 to 6 letters. Regular cryptic setters must have clued, for example, TROUT many times over the years, but Azed still manages to come up with an original approach to the wordplay. It’s a similar story with AMASS, though here Azed stretches the viability of the ‘solution as wordplay’ device to its limit. Happily, there are no horrible traps for solvers, and everything can be verified in Chambers.
15. Colourful bird releasing cry of wonder within Broadway stalls PARQUET (par(o)quet). Azed combines an unusual spelling of ‘parakeet’ with an unfamiliar meaning of ‘parquet’ as theatre stalls. Solvers may release a cry of wonder ‘O!’ or another sentiment when all the pennies drop.
16. Larval excreta frequently found on turnip FRASS (fr + ass). With the football World Cup upon us, it’s an appropriate time to recall a sense of ‘turnip’ popular in 1993.
17. Portion of unimportant refuse, or grot ANTRE (hidden). The grot in question is grot2, a poetic form of ‘grotto’.
22. Once at sea, I was off course by miles ASWIM (anag. + m). Azed doesn’t miss the opportunity to disguise the definition ‘at sea’ as the anagram indicator.
26. Retiring, it’s start of pension with what counts as final salary STIPEND (it’s, rev. + p + end). An elegantly worded piece of wordplay, though sadly true for fewer and fewer retirees nowadays.
28. Small joint, one acquiring name for weakest spirits JANN (j an n). It’s worth noting that ‘jann’, like ‘jinn’ (of which jann are a sub-group), is a plural noun, as the definition indicates.
30. Suggestive of formidable brigade, rebels uni sacked BLUE-RINSE (anag.) Blue rinse is much less evident than it once was amongst “the supposed type of well-groomed usu middle-class, older women” as Chambers puts it. ‘Formidable brigade’ is a more interpretive definition of the term.
1. A wee bittie s-scar SCLIFF (s cliff). The exploitation of speech impediments for cryptic purposes is rarer than it was, which must be a good thing. It should perhaps be reserved for surfaces in which the reason for the mispronunciation is clear, such as fright or drunkenness.
2. Arrests more than one lock-keeper in person NABS (3 mngs.). The latter two senses used here are the socket a door bolt slides into, and the slang term seen in ‘his nabs’ or ‘his nibs’.
4. Pile? Team could be set up with this AMASS (i.e. team with am as s = set, rev.). A more complicated take on the ‘reverse cryptic’. Not only does the solution need to be read as wordplay, but the result then needs further wordplay to reach its target.
8. What flies attract, all around river? TROUT (R in tout3). The semi-& lit. wordplay takes an unexpected direction thanks to the loose definition.
20. Mosque servant (female) admitting Jesuits MASJID (SJ in maid). A welcome piece of interfaith activity from the progressive wings of both organisations.
25. Lead in screen trailer providing plug SCART (s + cart). Scart connections, like blue rinse, seem to have had their day. They continually came loose from the back to Dr Watson’s video equipment, and their replacement with HDMI is welcome from a technological, if not a crossword setting, point of view.
Across: 1. SYNGAS (y in anag.); 6. SPETCH (sp. etch); 11. CHARMEUSE; 12. LABIA (lab I a); 13. YO-HO (hoy, rev. + O); 18. FORE-AND-AFTER (anag.); 20. MUSSITATIONS (muss it + anag.); 25. SLICK (s to start in licks); 29. ARABY (A RA by); 31. DES RES (des(I)res); 32. STAYER (t in anag.).
Down: 3. GRILSES (anag.); 5. SERPENTINOUS (pen tin in serous); 6. SUGAR DADDIES (Garda in anag.); 7. PSORA (p + sora); 9. COHERENCE (here in C once); 10. HOOTER (2 mngs.); 14. CROUSTADE (roust in cade2); 19. FILARIA (a r in filia(l)); 21. SKRYER (r in skyer); 23. WINGS (n in wigs); 34. MERLE (hidden); 27. WANY (N in way).