OLVERS are used to a pitch perfect rendition of the clues in an Azed puzzle, and they get almost that in this competition. The highlight for Dr Watson is an original approach to the oft clued IBEX. A couple of clues stray outside the confines of Chambers, with references to the arts that may need an internet search to unlock. But unusually there’s what appears to be quite a howler at 17 down, of which a faulty anagram is only the start.
7. First to last in head covering, I’ll appear courtly AULIC (c to end in caul I) Note that the I is part of the wordplay: Azed isn’t suggesting a cauliflower would make a good hat.
11. Bruce going out with aunt in grand vessel BUCENTAUR (anag.) The bucentaur was indeed a grand vessel, the state barge of Venice.
18. The core earth’s middle pens? Possibly CENTROSPHERE (anag. inc. r, & lit.) Possibly a slightly wayward definition, as it’s the earth’s crust that encloses the centrosphere. Like barysphere, the term is out of favour with modern geologists. OED calls it ‘largely disused’.
24. Relative of mackerel? Enthralled when French whopper’s netted SERGEANT FISH (géant (Fr.) in serfish) Time to bring out the French dictionary to find one of a difficult pair of wordplay components. ‘Enthralled’ is used in the sense of being in bondage, like a serf.
25. Composer, one you’ll associate with shades ADES (2 mngs.) Thomas Adès isn’t the first composer to come to mind for most solvers, and being a relative newcomer, isn’t found in crossword lists either. ‘Ades’ is Milton’s version of Hades, abode of the shades. Azed used the same idea in no 2390, though with a more helpful definition.
27. Heart of lightning jagging back – unlimited maybe NTH ((lig)htn(ing), rev.) Dr Watson would argue that an nth item has an indefinite, rather than unlimited, ordinality.
29. Something like Bovril I used to stuff carp? Send it back! LIEBIG (I in gibel, rev.) New additions both to Dr Watson’s piscine and culinary repertoires.
4. Wild goat having to live caged in square IBEX (be in IX) A nice use of ‘square’ for IX that Dr Watson can’t remember seeing before.
9. USA having abandoned Giuseppe’s island years ago was illuminating LAMPED (Lamped(usa)) Lampedusa, the Italian island close to Libya, is better known today for its role in illegal migration than for Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, its last Prince (though never a resident) and author of ‘The Leopard’.
17. What’ll fix corsage from east in gay deceiver? Variety of paints BREASTPIN (E in bra + anag.?) This clue seems to have slipped through both Azed’s and his proof-reader’s scrutiny. The main issue is the faulty anagram. There’s no other apparent explanation for the extra A in the wordplay. But in addition, there’s the enumeration, given as ‘2 words’ in the puzzle, the definition of bra (a great find, but Chambers indicates ‘gay deceivers’ plural), and possibly the main definition – a breastpin is an ornament in itself rather than something to hold one in place.
23. Myth about riding horse in ancestry of old LINAGE (nag in lie) It looks like the container and contents is indicated by both ‘about’ and ‘riding’. If so the wordplay doesn’t read all that well. The solution is an old version of ‘lineage’. (Update: readers have pointed out that ‘riding horse’ is one of Chambers’s definitions for nag).
30. World looking up? It’s close to Taﬀy’s heart BRO (orb, rev.) Not the bro of a bromance. Regular solvers may have come across this Welsh word, meaning the place one calls home, before.
Across: 1. FIJIAN (I J in naif, rev.); 12. ATTEST (fattest less f(ood)); 13. STEMMA (hidden); 14. KRU (last letters); 16. UPBY (alternate letters); 19. MANGOSTAN (man + anag.); 22. INTERPLAY; 31. SCRAPE (scrap + e); 32. MITRAILLE (trail in mile); 33. SAYON (say on); 34. LEGEND (Gen(esis) in led).
Down: 1. FLAK (flak(E)); 2. INTREATED (anag.); 5. AUSTRONESIAN (US trone in Asian; see tron); 6. RESISTENT (I sten in rest); 7. ANTIPARTICLE (anag. + article); 8. UTE ((m)ute); 10. CRAYER (anag. less f); 15. COSTALGIA (anag. inc. A); 20. PSALMS (S in pal MS); 21. FREETY (tee, rev., in fry2; i.e. superstitious); 26. AREG (hidden rev.); 28. HEND (h + end).