Azed No 2539 ‘Printer’s Devilry’ (7 Feb 2021)

reviewed by Dr Watson for & lit. – The Azed Slip Archive

Reviews index  |  & lit. homepage  |  Try the puzzle


HIS puzzle is Azed’s 29th Printer’s Devilry competition, and the 26th linked to a full P.D. grid. Ximenes, who introduced the clue type in 1949, held 25 competitions, making it the most popular ‘Special’ competition in both series. A lot of fun for solvers (though some claim an aversion) and a lot of work for the setter, who must produce both a grid of suitable words and the 35 or so clues, which as competitors know, can sometimes be excruciating to construct. That said, Azed is undoubtedly the master deviller, consistently writing clues with plausible readings, wit, and some delightful penny-drops.

If you’re new to the format, P.D. puzzles can be a devil to start, but with practice you’ll learn where to look for the solution’s insertion point. It’s often in a word that looks slightly out of place, like the ‘posies’ in 29 across, or in one that could easily be replaced like 7 down’s ‘men’ (though the replacement here is quite unexpected). The most challenging are those like 31 across, where it’s easy to overlook, as Dr Watson did, the innocuous ‘by’ in the devilled reading. Writing your own clue is a further challenge that’s unlikely to be mastered on the first go, but not to worry, there’ll be another chance in a couple of years’ time!

Notes to the clues:



1.      This is where the horses are com/ing between races  BED-REST  .

6.      Being ho/me, she can’t wait for lessons to end  TONGA  Dr Watson wasn’t sure what ‘hot on game’ meant, but then it dawned that a gender swap was required for ‘hot on games, he…’.

10.    To a crude and slovenly American: m/uck  ANCHORESS  The protagonist needs to be crude, solvenly and American to say the chores suck.

11.    Victorious armies keen to lo/ok a long time over it  OTTO  Splitting two double O’s is a satisfying achievement.

13.    In retirement among many, pleas/ing, in a choir  URESIS  Regular solvers may know that singing in a (currently virtual) choir really is one of Azed’s pleasures in retirement.

14.    I selec/t the name applied to a gallery piece with flashing lights  TRICAR  A reference possibly to Martin Creed’s 2001 Turner Prize winning ‘electric art’ installation The lights going on and off.

16.    A coat of white was/ted, wall’s becoming discoloured  HAVER  A wording carefully chosen to make the most sense in both readings.

17.    My wife doesn’t like to cook i/t, straight from the river  DESINE  It makes sense to scale and gut your ide before you cook it.

18.    Was it wretched affairs made m/ad verses?  EPENTHESES

19.    A society pa/d, what he’d expect for celebrity portraits  INTERSTATE  The ‘inter’ part of the solution for ‘painter’ stuck out immediately, but there were many possibilities for the second half.

23.    The club’s new signing is recognized as l/ively, gifted  ADMASS

25.    Dad, after yet another night at the local, b/urns unsteadily  ARRET  A night at the local bar is but a distant memory for Dad now.

28.    Was the Ramsbottom lad prodding that, li/ve? Mistake  ONAGRA  Dr Watson so hoped the undevilling would separate ‘Ramsbottom’ into ‘ram’s bottom’, but instead we get an equally clever reference to Albert Ramsbottom’s provocative behaviour and just reward, courtesy of Marriott Edgar and Stanley Holloway.

29.    We go out for meals occasionally but avoid pos/ies  HEATER  One of those words that’s very versatile for devilry, and has been extracted from many passages over the years.

30.    Is T/ony (popular in British jokes) less familiar to US audiences  HEIR  Hopefully this won’t be lost on US solvers.

31.    ‘In my opinion, Boris benefits the country,’ b/y Hardliner  ESTIMATOR  With E-TIMA--- in place it was clear where this one was going, but it took Dr Watson an age to find the correct insertion point. Very well disguised.

32.    A well-informed person can grasp such things while ignora/nt  MUSCA

33.    Delicate nymphs find the attentions of oversexed si/ting their tolerance  LENITES  Sileni’ were new to Dr Watson, who was looking for a suitable faun or satyr to insert.



1.          During space odyssey would astronauts ever need to? Re/al!  BOOTH  2001: A Space Odyssey being one of Dr Watson’s favourite films helped pin down this reference to the Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer very quickly.

2.      Highland stalkers on all sides coming in wav/er  ESTRAPADE

3.      It’s a bar – many have ‘wine/ry’ – often wish I owned it  DATIVE  Dr Watson initially entered SATIVE here, which works, though the correct solution gives a marginally better undevilled reading.

4.      Should wealthy patron l/ist rooms to work in?  ENDART The second reference to artists’ accommodation after 19 across, or perhaps the third (“Will make up your mind about that bloody light!”).

5.      Wretched folk with the sun blazing; for all it’s wor/ry, spell continuing endlessly  THUNDER-GOD  The longest, and Dr Watson’s favourite, clue of the puzzle looks like it caused Azed a few problems, but fitting ‘undergo’ into the undevilled reading is quite a triumph.

6.      A heraldic wreath  TORSE  A generous competition word that should generate a good variety of devilry.

7.      Make sure you pick the right m/en in the woods!  OR ELSE  It’s not at all obvious that the undevilled version involves mushrooms, but ‘the right morel seen’ makes full sense once spotted.

8.      For an inexperienced surgeon setting a shattered bo/ard  NESH

9.      Yon bonnie laddie will surely get l/ed up  ASSIEGE  There’ll siccar be roamin’ in the gloamin’ afore lang wi’ yon lassie sae geed up!

12.    Stethoscopists can detect even a min/e  ORCHESTRAL  Derivatives of ‘orchestra’ are another P.D. staple for the long lights. A rale is a rattling cough.

15.    These are tired old jokes from the p/ast, admired  UNSTERILE  Azed spots ‘punster’ and works wonders on an unpromising word.

18.    In Mozart’s op/inion, Figaro must outwit his master  ERATHEM  If this looks familiar, it’s because it’s E. C. Lance’s winning clue from the last P.D. comp, Azed No 2443. A nice tribute from the setter.

20.    Party activist has wor/ker to demonstrate affiliation  NASTIC

21.    Who took control after shocking event in the senate that wa/y?  SANTON  Dr Watson thought at first this must be a reference to recent events in Washington. But Azed would have written the clue well before Jan 6, 2021, and well after Ides of March, 44 BC.

22.    In the class, w/ry attempt to close ranks if threatened  ARGENT  Class war follows the insurrection.

24.    Thi/n of yore, has gone to seed physically  SHEMA

26.    Our director’s unrelenting – he never gives his cas/t  TARES  This is really the only clue of the puzzle that’s a little weak, repeating ‘cast’ in the same sense in both versions.

27.    I’ve solved crosswords for years – is this my first g/etting up to scratch?  OATS  Dr Watson was reminded of crossword editor Hugh Stephenson’s comment that he dreads the letter that reads: “I’ve been a Guardian crossword solver for many years, and now I’ve retired, I thought I should try my hand at setting. I’d be grateful if you would consider the enclosed for publication…” Azed need have no such qualms.


Reviews index  |  & lit. homepage  |  Try the puzzle