HERE’S a continental feel to this month’s competition grid, with two solutions from French (esplanade, art brut), and five from Italian (numero uno, avanti, contessa, trat(toria), cabretta). Only fair then that Azed assigns one of those as the competition word, while providing devious clues to the others, and finally throwing in an Iberian river at 26 down. Moreover the proportion of clues with a general knowledge component is higher than usual, encompassing Hollywood, pop, Brexit politics, Formula 1 and Greek myth. Yes, cricket as well, but that goes without saying.
13. The most important thing, half of what’s due NUMERO UNO (2 mngs.) Having entered the solution near the end, Dr Watson was still unable to explain the wordplay until the significance of ‘due’ dawned. It’s one of those numbers from other languages that are also English words (elf, once and pump are others), in this case Italian for ‘two’.
15. Is Holding about the ultimate in fast bowlers maybe? HATS (t in has) Simple enough wordplay, and a neat reference to the scourge of Test batsmen of the 1980s, Michael Holding of the W. Indies, perhaps best known as the source of Brian Johnston’s commentary gaffe “The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey”.
18. Tiny thing clutching old covering – for which cot is doubly suitable? DOVELET (vele in dot) It’s not clear that a cot in the familiar sense would suit a young dove, unless we’re anthropomorphising it, but a dovecot certainly would.
29. Ristorante? You may get pickled roes in this one TRAT (comp. anag. & lit.) The Italian theme develops in this compounded anagram. ‘Ristorante’ serves definition and anagram material for ‘roes in trat’.
30. Azzurri’s forward one’s opposing twice? AVANTI (a + v anti) And the theme continues with a double exploitation of synonyms for ‘against’, referencing the Italians’ nickname for several of their national sides.
3. Cave dweller in ooze enveloping sea’s roar PROTEUS (rote3 in pus) The definition refers to the troglodyte amphibian rather than the shape-shifting Greek sea god who was the inspiration for several very brief clues in Azed comp no 508 for POSTURE-MAKER.
5. Rover Matt’s turned up in NOMAD (Damon, rev.) Matt Damon should be familiar to filmgoers. ‘Rover’ might allude to his extraterrestrial travels in The Martian, or more prosaically to the former British car marque.
8. Deviously Ursula’s refused what’s central for Boris – typical USUAL (anag. less r) Chances are this clue was written around the final days of the Brexit agreement negotiations last year, and before the recent vaccine and NI protocol spats with between the PM and the European Commission President.
9. She memorably lacked footwear – scan toes wriggling CONTESSA (anag.) A straightforward anagram, but the definition might be less familiar. Wikipedia lists a rock band and a cookery show called (The) Barefoot Contessa, both no doubt named after Azed’s intended reference, the 1954 film with Ava Gardner.
10. Racing star embracing nymph – one providing aid to the legless? PROSTHETIST (Thetis in Prost) Two proper names entwine in the wordplay: the record-breaking Formula 1 driver Alain Prost; and the mythical nereid, events at whose soap-opera wedding to Peleus eventually brought about the Trojan Wars.
16. Fab performer in short song one released in twinkly style STARRILY (Starr i’ l(a)y) Only for completeness does Dr Watson explain that The Beatles were known as the Fab Four and Ringo Starr was one of them.
28. Heart throbs, quick no longer RATHE (anag.) Dr Watson has a small quibble about the uniqueness of the solution, having initially entered EARTH. ‘Rathe’ (see rath1) is an old word for ‘eager’, but equally ‘earth’ in Chambers shows the definition ‘dead matter’, and ‘quick’ as a noun shows ‘the living’ – no longer amongst the quick, one would be earth.
Across: 1. ESPLANADE (an in anag.); 11. BURAN (a in burn2); 12. CENSOR (anag.); 14. CUTCHA (cut cha); 19. STUPA (St (saint) + up + A); 21. SALISH (LI in sash); 23. CASABA (as in caba); 24. TERSE (hidden); 25. ART BRUT (anag. + rut); 32. TIGHT-KNIT (tight + n in kit); 33. ELUATE (U in elate); 34. SHUNT (n in shut); 35. PARAPETED (ape in parted).
Down: 2. SUSU (hidden); 4. LANCH ((b)lanch); 6. ACETOSE (ace + sot, rev. + E); 7. DERIVATE (anag.); 11. BACK-SCATTER (scatt in backer; see scat5); 17. CABRETTA; 20. CAULKER (a in anag.); 22. IRON OUT (iron + out); 26. TAGUS (tag US; ref. river Tagus); 27. TANKA (tank + A); 31. TONE (ton(nag)e).