FTER the bracing slog that was Azed 2500, solvers and competitors may be happy to swap their metaphorical hiking boots for open-toed sandals and enjoy the gentler terrain of this month’s competition puzzle. None of the clues is especially difficult, and everything that’s needed can be found in Chambers or its close vicinity. Dr Watson had quibbles with a couple of the definitions, but more as a result of Chambers’s ambiguity than Azed’s interpretation of it.
1. Such as Quasimodo producing ring in big belfry’s No. 1, swinging GOBBI (O in anag. incl. b) ‘Such as Quasimodo’ doesn’t provide the information to determine that the plural form of ‘gobbo’ is needed, and solvers must rely on the wordplay to fill in the unchecked final letter.
7. Constellation as above alongside Libra aloft LUPUS (L up + us) L for libra (i.e. pound) may be a familiar abbreviation, but ‘us’ for ut supra perhaps less so. Lupus is a constellation of the southern hemisphere.
14. Liqueur for Pepe’s other half? TIA MARIA (cf. Tio Pepe) Unusually for Azed, this is almost a cryptic definition. Tia Maria has her own entry in Chambers, but that certainly doesn’t exclude any other liqueur named Tia, of which a number can be found online. Any relationship between Jamaica’s Tia Maria and Tio Pepe of Jerez would necessarily be a long-distance one.
17. Hear this for anguish, Charley? TACHE ((hear)tache) A nicely penny-dropping wordplay. It seems improbable that a moustache named after Charlie Chaplin would be spelt this way, but Chambers provides both spellings for all definitions of ‘Charlie’.
27. Toe part’s misshapen – it’s prone to the big C PROSTATE (anag.) A reminder that prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK.
29. Plant ovaries, end buried in earmarked areas STIPITES (tip in sites) Chambers’s definition under ‘stipe’ should almost certainly be read as ‘A stalk of an ovary’ and not the ovary itself.
32. Skin disease represented by Greek letter? TINEA (i.e. t in ea = eta) A ‘reverse cyptic’ clue where the solution must be read as wordplay. This isn’t the best example of the type, but it adds variety for solvers. If, like Quasimodo, it rang a bell, it’s because Azed has previously used this wordplay in puzzle nos. 2325 (“Menial Japanese displays this skin disease?” [eta2]) and 1849 (“Skin condition presented by eta, literally”).
6. Small branches about closed in green activity – part of trade war? PRICE-CUTTING (rice c. in putting) ‘Green activity’ for ‘putting’ is a deft touch. Rice2 is an obsolete or dialect term for brushwood.
9. Punch holes in article about what’s central for Boris PIERCE (r in piece) Our hapless (or choose your preferred term) PM makes his first appearance that Dr Watson can remember in an Azed clue.
11. Eels mixed with ray where sea creatures breed SEALERY (anag.) Dr Watson struggled with this definition. Chambers gives ‘seal-fishery’ as its definition for sealery but unhelpfully fails to define that term. A scan of OED turns up ‘the occupation of hunting the seal’ for sealery, but it likewise doesn’t define ‘seal-fishery’. A fellow solver has pointed out the entry for sealery in SOED as ‘a place colonized by seals’, so the confusion is understandable. Azed’s definition seems closest to that of ‘seal-rookery’.
21. Musician not following another LUTER ((f)luter) The clue appears to be missing something until you discover the role of ‘following’ in the wordplay.
Across: 12. ARRIDE (Ar + ride); 13. RAPINE (anag. less MO); 15. PICKEREL (pic + r in keel2); 16. OLENT (hidden); 19. DIVARICATE (anag.); 20. SANGUINARY (Angui(s) in snary); 23. SNIRT (trins, rev.); 24. GOLEM (go + LEM); 30. STANZE (s + Tänze (Ger)); 31. NOSEAN (nose + an); 33. SERRE (E in errs, rev.).
Down: 1. GATSO (gat so; tool = gun); 2. ORILLION (ill in Orion); 3. BRAVE (v in brae); 4. BIMANA (anag. less I); 5. PERIWIG-PATED (I in anag.); 8. UPBEAT; 10. UNCE (unc(L)e); 18. HARE’S-EAR (rese(t) in haar); 19. DISPOST (dipsos with ps rev. + t); 20. SIOUAN (anag. incl. O); 21. ARSINE (hidden); 22. NOWISE (w in noise); 26. MESNE (s in mene; see mean4); 29. ROTI (rot + i(t)).