ZED regulars have been anticipating this special for some time, and speculating on how the setter might approach the theme of 2500. Now all is revealed, and we find that Azed can still pull off an original clueing device after nearly 50 years of weekly puzzles.
Typically for Azed, the requirements are spelled out clearly in the preamble. The challenge is to find two words, each of which contributes half its letters to one solution and half to another, creating a grid of mostly non-words. As each word is defined in two different clues, there is an approach available; namely to solve one clue then search for a matching definition in another.
Consequently Dr Watson found that the ten-letter entries, of which there are only four, fell first, followed by the eights. The sixes and twelves held out longer due to more difficult definitions or wordplay. The wordplay in clues to four-letter entries was generally easier, but with sixteen words and so little contributed by each in its entries, it was difficult to keep track of them. It didn’t help that two pairs sharing the same last letters (LING/RANG, RAGA/GUGA) are mentioned in the preamble, while three pairs and one triplet sharing the same first letters (LIRK/LING, PEBA/PEPO, REKE/REDO, RAGA/RANG/RAYS) aren’t mentioned. Also three grid entries (RA-GA, RA-NG, LI-NG) are identical to three of the contributing words. Some book-keeping was needed at the end to ensure that every word was accounted for (see the list after the clue notes).
Huge congratulations to Azed on reaching this milestone after 48 unbroken years of compiling some of the best crosswords in the business. Regulars will look forward to celebrating it at the postponed lunch in September, lockdown allowing.
In the notes below, definitions are underlined, and the grid entry is the part outside the brackets.
1. Paddle boat with twice getting into unyielding reedy stuff ‘speared’ delicacy STERN-W(HEELER SPARRO)WGRASS (w, w in stern grass) Sparrowgrass is another name for asparagus.
9. Severely criticize constitutional activity when limited by the crown PAS(EAR BER)ATE (as in pate)
11. Hot-food stand governess, English, wrapped in quilt DUE(NNA TRI)VET (E in duvet) A good def. for ‘trivet’ even if the rest of the surface creates an unlikely picture.
12. Ancient landmass, one shifting evasively, almost regularly shifting LAUR(ASIA WRIG)GLER (anag. less y)
14. The old care about armadillo – it’s trapped in wire basket RE(KE PE)BA (hidden) The first clue Dr Watson cracked, a simple hidden, but requiring a look-up of both words.
17. Beams rattle round fruit RA(YS PE)PO (rap O)
18. Processed butter to cook freshly butchered hog with date stuffing GH(EE RE)DO (d in anag.)
19. Bum opposed to active Scottish race AR(IS AG)IN (a rin)
20. Posting round Cambs city military force that’s present but not obvious MAILE(D FIST UNDER)LYING (Ely in mailing) With a couple of letters in place, one of the easier 10-letter solutions that helped Dr Watson open up the grid.
22. Love poet, gin drunk, ignores the alarm? Effect of the elements OVERS(LEEPS WEATH)ERING (0 verser + anag.)
25. Called ‘a wrinkle’, loveless language LI(RK RA)NG (ling(0)) Dr Watson assumed that the LI in this solution came from ‘line’ and didn’t match it to ‘lirk’ in 5 down until a tally of the 4 letter solutions after completing the puzzle revealed the mismatch.
26. Plated creature, small bird, ends in cheap pie, cooked hastily PE(BA TO)DY (last letters) Tody is one of four birds in the solutions (along with takahe, guga and saker), so the definition helped less than it might have. ‘Plated creature’ is a clever def. for the culinary surface.
27. Oil for cooking kingfisher’s cousin, to set alongside peeled neep TO(DY GH)EE (to (n)ee(p))
30. Berry, an enticement for each guest’s centrepiece PE(PO LU)RE (per + e) Dr Watson solved the wordplay quickly, but didn’t find the contributing words until the final stages.
31. A suit, ragged with age, covering a large expanse of old TEGU(MENT LAUR)ASIA (anag.)
32. Chaperone returned one behind threefold grate bracket TRI(VET DUE)NNA (trin + an, rev.)
33. Flightless bird, a jackdaw seized by female falcons SAK(ERS TAK)AHE (a ka3 in she; see kae)
34. See preamble ESPAGN(OLETTE STRENG)THENER ‘Espagnolette’ was the very last word that Dr Watson found, with only ‘catch’ from 1 down to go on. Competitors have quite a task on their hands with clueing this entry.
1. Vegetable box – loot tree scattered – catch SPARRO(WGRASS ESPAGN)OLETTE (spar + anag.) Showing signs of the difficulty of creating a cogent surface for every grid entry.
2. Stroll secure, beside a river rail TAK(AHE PAS)EAR (take + a R)
3. King with commander called ‘The Toothsome Gannet’ RA(NG GU)GA (R + aga) Azed creates an amusing surface from the most unpromising material.
4. What lie-abed often does: cries about almost all the suffering, coming safely through WEATH(ERING OVERS)LEEPS (anag. less e in weeps)
5. Fold edible wee seabird – champagne served up? GU(GA LI)RK (Krug, rev.)
6. Go over Indian piece as encountered in heart of Kerala RE(DO RA)GA (e.g. in (Ke)ra(la))
7. Fiddle churn almost tilting over suddenly SEE(THE VIO)LIN (seelin(g); seel3)
8. What powers US vessel? Catching fish herring set I released STRENG(THENER STERN-W)HEELER Azed seems to have missed out an anagram indication here, perhaps overlooking that ‘released’ indicates the subtraction of I.
10. Muddled up barristers gutted, document half missing: writ case SUBP(OENA TEGU)MENT (anag. of up b(arrister)s + (docu)ment)
13. Military might find rudest scrapping fundamental UNDER(LYING MAILE)D FIST (anag.) Some good misleading wordplay makes this one of the most enjoyable clues
15. Contra behind start of attack on US troops? AG(IN AR)IS (a + GIs)
16. I age, worn out, one trying to evade summons? WRIG(GLER SUBP)OENA (anag.)
21. Heather? Day going, idyl’s dispersed sunlight LI(NG RA)YS (anag. less d)
23. Kit? Old cannons, strength about over VIO(LIN SAK)ERS (o’er in vis) Two obscure definitions solved by a process of elimination amongst the six letter solutions.
24. Dress down, get agitated with rage, almost put to bed? BER(ATE SEE)THE (berthe(d))
28. Old trumpet, one in middle of flat wind, far from warm LU(RE PU)NA (un in (f)la(t)) A tricky definition for lure2, a type of prehistoric trumpet.
29. Sitar performance, maybe, new in jazz style, Scottish row? RA(GA LI)NG (n in rag) ‘Ling’ is indicated as Scottish, but Dr Watson initially matched it as ‘line’ with 25ac.
30. Concern for the old round our country is exercising bleak elevated region PU(NA RE)KE (UK in PE) Another solution where the wordplay yielded long before the definitions.
The list shows which solutions each four-letter word contributes to
AGIN 15dn 19ac
ARIS 19ac 15dn
GHEE 18ac 27ac
GUGA 5dn 3dn
LING 21dn 29dn
LIRK 25ac 5dn
LURE 28dn 30ac
PEBA 26ac 14ac
PEPO 30ac 17ac
PUNA 30dn 28dn
RAGA 29dn 6dn
RANG 3dn 25ac
RAYS 17ac 21dn
REDO 6dn 18ac
REKE 14ac 30dn
TODY 27ac 26ac