NCE again, Azed offers a puzzle with few traps or difficult general knowledge references, for the month’s competition. Three hidden solutions, one of which is a little harder to find, and several straight anagrams, help the solver off the blocks. Surfaces are fluent throughout. 5 down introduces a previously unseen indicator, the colourful ‘arsy-versy’, for swapping round two halves of a word. Clue-writing competitors should enjoy STONKERED, which comes with a good range of wordplay options and colloquial definitions.
11. Arachnid scuttles round head of monastery before liturgy – me? ARCHIMANDRITE (m in anag. + rite). Solvers may be led to think that ‘me’ refers to the arachnid rather than the head of monastery, so the solution delivers a small penny-drop. The clue doesn’t qualify as & lit. in Dr Watson’s view. ‘Me’ has no part in the wordplay, and the wordplay itself doesn’t define the solution.
16. Lawyer links about ﬁve cases DATIVES (DA + V in ties) An example of how to combine wordplay and definition into a coherent, misleading surface. The cases here are grammatical ones.
18. E.g. wooden partition essential to mask re-entry SKREEN (hidden). Revisiting this one for the review Dr Watson had to think again how it worked, which suggests it’s a clever hidden clue, partly because ‘mask’ is usually itself a hidden indicator..
19. Funeral ceremonies over, a little food follows OBIT (o + bit). The surface creates that vivid mental picture that clue writers strive for.
23. Blind ox, wild about introduction to sill BISSON (s in bison). ‘Blind ox, wild’ gives away the definition (‘blind’) less easily than ‘blind wild ox’ might have. A sill is part of a plough, that an ox might be reluctant to be introduced to.
33. I believe in recreation – it’s seen ﬂourishing behind part of fence PALINGENESIST (paling + anag.). Nothing too complicated here, but the punning definition hides the setter’s intent nicely, and ‘it’s seen’ is one of those neutral expressions that the solver can easily pass over before realising the importance of its role.
5. Become mentally confused, as solitary fellow all arsy-versy? MITHER (halves swapped in hermit). Dr Watson certainly hasn’t seen ‘all arsy-versy?’ as a wordplay device before, but it works well enough here and creates the most entertaining clue of the puzzle.
7. German cab driver, clipped on the weather DROSKY (dr o’ sky). The comma between ‘driver’ and ‘clipped’ helps distract the solver from the correct cryptic parsing.
8. Whose plumage changes completely in wintry periods? RYPER (hidden). Very much a semi-&lit. clue. The true definition ‘Whose plumage changes completely’ is enhanced by the wordplay element. ‘Ryper’ is the Danish plural of ‘rype’, a name for the ptarmigan.
21. Rowan up north I knew when rambling round about WICKEN (c. in anag.). Another clue that hides key wordplay elements in innocuous words, ‘I knew’ and ‘about’.
Across: 11. BAREGINE (bare gin E.); 13. À FOND (A + fond); 14. DOPANT (do pant); 15. CHIPSET (anag.); 22. ZONK (z(one) + n in ok); 26. RIPOSTE (anag.); 28. CARIOCA (C + Co, rev., in aria); 30. STOLEN (stole + n); 31. BIKIE (alternate letters); 32. SHETLAND (anag. in s hand).
Down: 2. RAFF (F in RAF); 3. CROUT (C rout); 4. HENBIT (anag.); 6. ANTISTROPHE (anag. inc. th(e)); 10. TANGENT (n gen in tat); 11. BANDOBAST (band + anag.); 12. STONKERED; 17. AB INTRA (a bin + art, rev.); 20. BOREEN (BO + reen); 22. ZORALIS (l in zorais); 24. SCOWL (s + cowl; see lour); 25. SALMI (anag. inc. lam(b)); 27. SAKAI (a in saki); 29. PINS (snip, rev.).