AVING noted that last month’s competition puzzle wasn’t too difficult, Dr Watson is loath to repeat the same observation this time, but if anything this is an easier puzzle than 2447. Dr Watson entered nineteen solutions on a first pass through the clues (the usual hit rate is five to ten), and completed the puzzle with little effort from there. The mix of clues isn’t very different from normal, but Azed helps to solver with many easy-to-spot cryptic devices and, once again, little that needs to be confirmed outside of Chambers. Dr Watson also noted how many clues are made up of two sentences, the first of which is a short, verbless question. There are six in the acrosses, which may not be unusual, but begins to feel a little repetitive.
11. Half crazy (exactly!) about aged goddess GAEA (ae in ga(ga)) This was probably the hardest clue to parse in the puzzle, and the last Dr Watson solved. ‘Gaga’ didn’t spring to mind for ‘crazy’, and this meaning of ‘ae’ didn’t spring to the fore in a search of the Chambers app, where it’s listed under ‘ae.’ with a dot, as an abbreviation of the Latin ‘aetatis’ (of a certain age). The ‘(exactly!)’ is something of a red herring – it simply points out that the halves of ‘gaga’ are identical.
15. Production of Tosca, new? —— 2 is fantastic! SCENA (comp. anag. incl. two, & lit.) Azed occasionally makes anagrams slightly indirect by converting number words to numerals, which may throw the unwary solver.
20. Not a major thoroughfare? That’s obvious BROAD (i.e. B road) Offering a small penny-drop in the wordplay.
25. Catlike creature, one member of the Felidae – certain about that? SURICATE (I cat in sure) Azed seems to have struggled with an oversupply of cats in this clue. A suricate isn’t a cat, and even its etymology isn’t clearly related to ‘cat’.
31. Excessive devotion that is shown by press back in May? PIETISM (i.e. + sit, rev., in PM). Azed was bold to make this reference to the PM, given Mrs May’s tenuous position this year, and right to add the question mark!
32. People exercise them sometimes – leads required! PETS (initial letters & lit.) A very neat and not at all obvious initial letters & lit.
9. Prance about – what you do when hanging a picture? TITUP (i.e. ‘put it’ up) A rather unusual reverse cryptic, made the more difficult because ‘put it up’ is palindromic, and it’s not clear whether it’s going up or down in the solution.
6. Showy plant: see red one ran wild in rose garden SEGO (comp. anag.) The anagram material is hard to spot first time, with the roles ‘see’ and ‘one’ unclear. The anagram equation is ‘red sego ran’ ~ ‘rose garden’, and ‘see’ is just an instruction.
8. Support drink – Islam working for what supports the opposite TEETOTALISM (tee tot + anag.) The pro and anti-alcohol elements are cleverly combined in the surface reading of this semi-& lit. clue.
9. Fan of film clubs alight over endless festival CINÉASTE (C in Easte(r)). Chambers gives ‘in’ as meaning ‘alight’ in relation to a fire. Dr Watson’s view is that Clubs needs a capital C when abbreviated this way.
17. A head CAPUT It’s a pleasure to have a short normal competition word. This one has an abundance of colloquial definitions and should offer many different approaches.
19. ‘Beloved brave’ encompasses Longfellow’s leading character DARLING (L in daring) An original route to an oft-clued word. The reference is to Hiawatha.
21. Such as Turpin of old, affected by Bess’s end SCAMP (s + camp2) The solution is an old name for a highwayman. Dick Turpin supposedly galloped Black Bess from London to York to create an alibi.
26. Of use to joiners – or railway workers? ELMEN (i.e. El men) Workers on Chicago’s elevated railroad might be called El men. ‘Elmen’ describes elm wood.
29. Doss down with English historian BEDE (bed + E) The solution points to the prolific medieval writer.
Across: 1. TUMBLER-SWITCH (tumblers witch); 10. IMARI (mar in II); 12. TEIL (hidden; lime3); 14. TALIPOT (a lip in tot); 17. COASTER (a in coster); 18. PIERHEAD (anag.); 24. COPRA (op. in anag.); 27. ANIMIST (anag. incl. m); 30. MENUS (men US); 33. CRAN (alternate letters); 34. DESSE (d(r)esse(r)); 35. BROTHER-GERMAN (anag.).
Down: 2. MAL DEL PINTO (anag.; see pinta); 3. BRIERY (b + i.e. in RR + y); 4. LIPA (lip + a.); 5. EGOLESS (e.g. + anag.); 7. WASABI (hidden); 13. LARDY (r in lady); 16. TIMONEER (one in timer); 22. TAISCH (is in anag.); 23. SCOTER (t(h)e(m) in anag.); 28. SURE ((ton)sure).