RY January is here for some, and perhaps clear heads are ready for a tougher challenge, while a rest from Christmas’s cruciverbal glut suits others. Azed caters to the latter group with this puzzle, providing, as he has for a few months of regular competition puzzles, a selecton of reasonably easy clues. There’s a good sprinkling of straight anagrams and not-too-heavily disguised hidden clues. One geographical excursion takes us beyond the covers of Chambers, and some literary knowledge is needed to identify a titular heroine. A few of the clues mentioned below caught Dr Watson’s eye for their especially elegant wording. Competitors will hopefully embrace the competition word CLERIHEW, as the verse form gives a rare opportunity for creative definition by example.
11. Fellow, before turning over, rises from bed GUYOT (guy + to, rev.). ‘Before’ indicates ‘to’ in the sense of e.g. quarter to three.
14. Congo river: a broad segment flowing east-west EBOLA (a lobe, rev.) Not the River Congo, and not the disease ebola, but the Ebola River, a tributary of the Congo that flows through (the Democratic Republic of) Congo.
17. Tyrannical – and no nicer after reforming NERONIC (anag.). A superb anagram to go with a solution that relates to the Emperor Nero.
23. Obsessively obstinate heroine in the solarium? ANALEMMA (anal Emma). Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse couldn’t be described as an anal obsessive in the Freudian sense, and was a century ahead of Freud in any case. The solution is a sundial, not a solarium you could inhabit, unless you’re a tove gyring and gimballing.
34. Latin? Progress being retrograde I’ll attend college for science LOGIC (L + go, rev. + I + C). A lot of construction is required for a short solution in this elaborate charade.
1. Architectural decoration such as flying dragon round a new church EGG-AND-ANCHOR (e.g. + a n Ch in anag.). Dr Watson couldn’t find any examples of this style of moulding online. It’s a variant of egg-and-dart decoration.
3. Milkmaid involved in opening up what used to be shed, sadly EYE-DROP (dey in pore, all rev.). A great surface reading in support of a punning definition that leads to the old meaning of eye-drop as a tear.
4. Weathered Ring? You’d need a good seat for that! RODEO (rode O). And another fine string of puns leading to a ride unlike that of the Valkyrie. ‘Rode’ and ‘weathered’ are synonymous in relation to a storm.
8. A club admits balance sheet being worthless AMBS-ACE (bs in a mace). The solution is gambling slang for double ones in a dice game, and by extension something of no value.
20. Set up poor rickety houses, causing head complain PORRIGO (rig in anag.). Several ambiguous words here could be either a synonym or an instruction to manipulate the letters, so the solution takes some finding.
27. Instruction manual? Time put in reversed major setback TUTOR (t in rout, rev.). Not especially difficult but the elegant phrasing of the wordplay is the sort of thing Azed’s competitors must aspire to.
Across: 2. MERCAPTAN (anag.); 12. LARMIER (arm in lier); 13. GLEDE (hidden); 15. PRESSMEN (MSS, rev., in preen); 17. ARCS (scra(p), rev.); 18. DROPWORT (Dr + anag.); 24. NAIR (anag.); 26. AMATEUR (mate in aur(a)); 29. CLERIHEW; 31. HASID (as in hid); 32. STARN (tar in S, N); 33. OLIGIST (anag.); 35. CO-STARRED (costar(d) + red).
Down: 2. MULSE (s in mule); 5. ALERION (ER in a lion); 6. PACE (p + ace); 7. TREST (hidden); 9. TELECOM (anag.); 10. TRANSPARENCY (anag. inc. p in tray); 19. REAL ALE (re + a in all E); 21. RAMENTA (RA menta(l)); 22. AMENAGE (A men age); 25. BIDIS (bid + is); 28. UNRID (anag. + d.); 30. HIST (hidden).