HE final competition puzzle of the current Honours year, and Azed delivers some real entertainment in a balanced variety of clue types and references. Dr Watson found the SE corner put up the most resistance, with CRONET, POWIN and TAIGLE all requiring extra lateral thought.
13. Green tops? The tops indeed VERTICES (vert ices) ‘Indeed’ is there only to provide a decent surface, though it may have had some solvers looking for a solution ending in ‘yes’, ‘ay’ or even ‘I’.
14. Sage unaccompanied by that last bit of onion SOLON (solo + n) A misleading culinary surface disguises the reference to the wise Greek lawmaker.
15. A tin shed like this? Ikea’s not involved SKEO (comp. anag.) Although the clue is obviously a comp. anag., it’s quite hard to see the construction. Are we removing ‘Ikea’ from something containing ‘like’? No, we need to take the anagram of ‘tin’ from ‘Ikeas’s not’. ‘Shed like this’ is the definition buried centrally in the clue. A skeo or skio is a shed you’d find in Orkney and Shetland.
21. Section in buff uniform wheeling satisfyingly NUFF (hidden rev.) Azed makes the most of ‘section’ to enhance the military flavour of the surface reading.
27. Design song about extraterrestrial orreries? PLANETARIA (plan ET aria). A tidy charade, but Dr Watson doubts an orrery and a planetarium have ever been the same thing, even if they have a common purpose.
29. What’s youngster after end of fagging? GLAD (g + lad, & lit.) Azed is a former pupil of Thomas Arnold’s Rugby School, so perhaps this influenced the choice of ‘fagging’ amongst all the ‘-ing’ words that mean something a lad would be glad to see the back of.
30. Showy bird making an impact after entering POWIN (pow in) The Scottish peacock had Dr Watson head-scratching for a while about ‘after entering’, which looks like wordplay but is really a synonym for ‘in’.
1. Robbery with violence: do this to find a brigand? Not I SMASH-AND-GRAB (i.e. and grab = anag. of a br(i)gand) Solvers may well have found the solution before untangling the wordplay in this ‘reverse cryptic’, i.e. an instruction to smash ‘and grab’.
9. Clock in square went round SPEEDO (S peed O) Slang terms for bodily functions are often a gift to the setter.
19. Sign which restricts self-confidence THE GOAT (ego in that) Three well-disguised elements are combined here, especially the innocuous ‘which’. The Goat is the zodiac sign Capricorn.
23. Drudgery alternating with former rail company, widen out FLANGE (fag alternating with LNE) The unusual wordplay is explicitly indicated. Chambers gives the abbreviation LNE for the old London and North Eastern railway, but Dr Watson could find no evidence for the use of anything but LNER, also the name of the current operator.
25. Constant upward drift? It was especially noticeable in shires CRONET (c + tenor, rev.) Dr Watson’s favourite clue of the puzzle for its sheer misleadingness. Once you have ‘tenor’ from ‘drift’, you still have to work out that the definition refers to the hairy ankles of shire horses. A great penny-drop.
31. The best of northern England, one of its rivers, if not the first WALE ((S)wale; wale2) The recent flooding in Swaledale may have brought this river to mind for some solvers.
Across: 1. SCHMUDDLE (Sch + muddle); 11. MYOID (comp. anag.); 12. WANHOPE (w + anag.); 16. ROSE-TINTED (tin in roseted; see roset); 17. AGHAST (Aghas + t); 20. SNOT (tons, rev.); 24. HECATE (C in heate(d)); 32. RING ROAD (anag. incl. a); 33. ANGLIAN (alt. letters in anan); 34. FELLS (fell + S); 36. PATENTEES (paten + Tees).
Down: 2. CYBORG (by, rev., in corg(i)); 3. HOWL (h + owl); 4. MIMOSA (mo. in anag.); 5. TWEET; 6. TARTISH (anag. incl. it); 7. ENTENTE (anag. of net net e); 8. DOCKEN (anag.); 10. BESOTTEDNESS (anag. in Bess); 18. SANGRIA (sang3 + air, rev.); 22. UPLINE (in in (Co)uple); 26. TAIGLE (t to start in aiglet); 28. THANE (hidden).