UST AS last month, Azed has avoided too much complicated wordplay in the clues of this puzzle, with four straight anagrams and an unusual three hidden words, only one of which is more than lightly disguised. And, perhaps unwittingly, he displays a surprising knowledge of obscure prog rock acts in another of them. Competitors recovering from November’s SPASMODICAL may wonder how many more long, classically-derived competition words Azed has in store after EPILIMNION.
14. Lassie’s prim, turning pinker about first of jokes PREJINK (j in anag.). A quick look in Chambers will show that the solution is an alternative spelling of PERJINK, which also fits the clue, so solvers must rely on checking letters for the correct answer.
18. Drains baths needing a going-over SAPS (spas, rev.) ‘Needing a going-over’ is an orginal indicator for a reversal.
23. Cats getting left out in Irish festival FEIS (Fe(l)is). Felis is the genus of cats. Feis is an Irish or Scottish cultural festival similar to the Welsh Eisteddfod.
28. Leg breaks keep a tight hold – tampering with nature? CLONING (on in cling). Although the cricketing synonym of ‘on’ is used in the surface reading, the wordplay is nicely disguised to look like ‘keeping’ is the container indicator.
1. Diarist very informally suggests this porridge? SAMP (i.e. Sam P.). It’s most unlikely even friends of Samuel Pepys would have referred to him in this way.
3. Old boy got up, interrupted by a very rowdy party RAVE-UP (a v in puer, rev.). ‘Puer’ is the Latin root of words like ‘puerile’, but isn’t given directly in Chambers, as the footnote explains.
5. Where to find piggy-wig’s ring? It’s cracked by Lear – snap! PRENASAL (anag.). The ring that the piggy-wig sold to the Owl and the Pussycat was ‘at the end of his nose, / His nose, / His nose’, and the solution is a bone found just there in pigs.
13. Warm surface water EPILIMNION. This is probably not the competition word to give encouragement to new competitors, though regulars may see more potential in it.
20. One that doesn’t even get a third in finals or anything ALSO-RAN (hidden). A beautifully worded and not immediately obvious hidden clue. Dr Watson would certainly have preferred ALSO-RAN to EPILIMNION as the competition word.
22. Models of early Christian donations? One’s seen in silver copy AGAPAE (a in Ag ape). The solution is slightly obscured in Chambers by appearing as a plural form at the entry for agape2.
26. Bit of cash once pocketed by Abel Ganz BELGA (hidden). Abel who? you ask. Surely Azed’s misspelt the name of Abel Gance, the pioneering silent film director responsible for the 1927 multi-screen epic Napoléon? Well, possibly, but a search will reveal that Scottish prog rock band Abel Ganz appeared as a support act at the Rites of Spring Festival in Gettysburg, Pa. in 2015; they are otherwise pretty much lost even to internet history. You can’t fault Azed on his rock musc trivia.
Across: 1. STROPPY (port, rev., in spy); 6. POIND (I in pond); 10. À MERVEILLE (anag. inc. E); 11. MEVE (hidden); 12. MALLEE (m. + allée); 16. BOATSWAIN (anag. & lit.); 19. RADDLE (R + addle); 21. PLANTA (l in pan + ta); 25. HIGH-BLEST (anag. in HT); 30. REPULP (anag.); 31. ANIL (a Nil(e)); 32. ILANG-ILANG (an gila in anag.); 34. SYNTONY (t(i)ny, rev., in Sony).
Down: 2. THERMALITE (the + anag. less a); 4. PERIOST (r I OS in pet); 6. PEARS (a in pers(on)); 7. OILY (alternate letters of jovially); 8. ILLIAD (ill I ad); 9. DEEPNESS (anag.); 15. ASPHERICAL (anag. inc. cir(cle)); 17. TREE LILY (comp. anag.); 24. ERINGO (rin(d) in ego); 27. LUNK ((s)lunk); 29. GLEY (g ley).