NCE again Azed supplies a competition puzzle with enough hidden and straight anagram clues to give solvers a fair chance of completing the grid and moving on to the clue-writing comp, without unnecessary grief or chance of an accidental error. Almost everything required can be found in Chambers. A couple of unusual wordplays, at 11 and 27 across are given clear instructions in their clues, and in both cases, in ways that complement the surface readings. The competition phrase MONTE DI PIETÀ may look a daunting peak to scale, but contains a good distribution of letters for anagrams and, like last month’s STONKERED, has some helpful colloquial synonyms.
2. Leader of men in headgear for conflict of old CAMP (m in cap). The solution here is camp3, meaning a battle and related to the German ‘Kampf’, rather than camp1, which has military connotations but derives from Latin ‘campus’, a field.
10. Backsliding swindle takes one in FAKIE (I in fake) Fakie is literally sliding backwards, a slang term from skateboarding and snowboarding.
11. Unpleasant woman adorns salon, say, shunned by same couple twice BESOM ((ro)bes (ro)om)). An innovative wordplay device that enhances the surface reading.
17. Records in wine year – little left VINYL (vin + y + l). A misleadingly constructed charade delivering a good penny-drop.
27. First half of Ring reversed and moved to end canon maybe CLERIC (cir of circle reversed and moved to end). A second original piece of wordplay, though the extended instructions don’t produce quite such a convincing surface.
30. Five points released by government department? They reveal a lot! MINIS (minis(try)) The five points are from a Rugby Union try. Variants of the definition have been used for over 50 years. Ximenes set MINI SKIRTS, then newly added to Chambers as a two-word expression, in a 1967 competition.
3. Truant? I see he’s caught by Master (distinguished one) MICHER (I C he in MR). As well as Mister, MR abbreviates the (very distinguished) Master of the Rolls. ‘Miche’ is a dialect word meaning to skive.
8. One in charge turns up following neats roaming here ESTANCIA (anag. + a i/c, rev., & lit.). The only & lit. clue of this puzzle. Neats (need it be said?) are cattle, though you’ll need to visit OED to find this plural form.
9. Sailors aboard boat developing calluses HORNY (RN in hoy1). There are no doubt ways for sailors in boats to get horny other than through developing calluses, but Azed goes for the safe option.
19. Supplies fresh coat for US zebra? Experts required with that REFACES (ref + aces). A ref. to the ref in American football, etc., identified by their striped shirt.
22. Cardinal (low one), priest exhibiting traditional belief THREEP (three P). Azed works the number neatly into the clerical context of the clue.
23. Sell seafood, all but a couple of pilchards SCAM (scam(pi)). ‘A couple of’ isn’t often seen indicating ‘first two letters of’, and isn’t universally approved, either, but Azed is content with it.
26. Goes off sex, troubled about its appeal EXITS (it in anag.) Azed exploits the opportunity offered by the double use of ‘sex’, though ‘its appeal’ for ‘it’ is a little unwieldy.
Across: 5. SMOKE-HO (OK in anag.; ref. Aus cricket ground); 13. FRUCTANS (tan in scurf, rev.); 14. ROCHET (t to end in troche; ref. RC Church newspaper); 15. TORANA (to rana); 18. MORRIS DANCER (r in anag.); 20. PROPITIATIVE (vita I tip, all rev., in anag.); 23. SATED (anag.); 28. IN RIXA (INRI, X + a); 29. DIETETIC (die t + cite, rev.); 31. REATE (hidden); 32. AESCHNA (anag. less t); 33. OPUS (0 + pus).
Down: 1. OFF-RAMP (off + anag.); 2. CAROB (0 in carb); 4. PETER (3 mngs.); 5. STATISTICIAN (anag.); 6. MONTE DI PIETÀ; 7. KEIRIN (anag. less b + in); 12. MEAL (hidden); 16. PROTEINS (anag.); 21. PERSIC (rep, rev. + alternate letters); 24. ALKIE (k (kilo) in a lie); 25. INTRO (hidden).