Azed No 2551 ‘Spoonerisms’ (2 May 2021)

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

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ND SO ON to the eighteenth Azed Spoonerisms competition, although the previous one, No. 2469 in October 2019, now seems to belong to another era, when the world would have been more familiar with a Verona chorus than a coronavirus. As ever there’s much to enjoy and to be frustrated by in getting one’s head round the corrupted homophones, and Azed provides several corkers. The image of Lionel Messi gassing moles is particularly appealing. The footnote to the clues mentions two proper names, though there are three in the grid, including the straight definition at 1 across, and a fourth in the wordplay of 30 across. Azed is ambiguous on whether joining words are allowed, or approved, between the wordplay and definition in Spoonerisms clues. There are two instances in this puzzle: ‘as’ at 29 across, and ‘giving’ at 32 across.

Time for Dr Watson’s cut out and keep (actually just cut and pasted) guide to the Spoonerisms puzzle. There are two types of clues, here labelled A and B. In type A clues the definition leads to a Spoonerism of the solution that appears in the grid, and in type B, the definition in the clue is a Spoonerism of the actual definition. Dr Watson’s usual is advice to start on the shortest solutions, as these are most likely to be type B clues leading to single-syllable words. (This time it happens that the two 4-letter solutions are both 2-syllable words, though both use type B clues). The best guide for pronunciation, though is a combination of English Received Pronunciation and Chambers’s own phonetic entries.

Notes to the clues:



1.      Famous result for Sitting Bull, aka Old Stone Face  BUSTER KEATON (A; Custer beaten; def.)  A most unusual double definition clue. They’re more common in Letters Latent puzzles, where the modified grid entry is a real word, but Dr Watson has never seen an example in Spoonerisms before. A great spot, though, whose twelve letters Azed clearly couldn’t resist. The references are to the Battle of the Little Bighorn for the def. of the Spoonerism, and to the silent movie actor for the grid entry.

10.    Pear batch is a pear mixed with it  APTERIA (B; bare patches; anag.)  It’s easy to mistake ‘is’ for a joiner between definition and wordplay, but the solution is a plural and ‘pear batch is’ constitutes the Spoonerised definition.

11.    War that tips monarch’s end, in grip of secret society  THONG (B; taw that whips; h in tong1)  The unfamiliar ‘taw’ (a leather whip) has potential to leave some newer solvers perplexed.

12.    Iran’s swirling tints discolour gutters  RAINSTONES (A; stain rones; anag. + tones)  Even rarer than ‘taw’ is ‘rone’, a roof gutter. It might have been kinder to indicate its Scottish origin.

14.    Eat up messily what could be made of shoal  TAUPE (B; shade of mole; anag.)  A superbly neat anagram, with a moderately tough Spoonerism to undo. Taupe, the colour, comes from the French word for a mole.

16.    Goan booze supported trend that includes return of snack bar  BENEFACT (A; feni backed; café, rev., in bent)  ‘Goan booze’ looks like a possible Spoonerised definition, but it points to feni, an Indian alcoholic spirit. ‘Bent’ is used in the sense of an inclination.

17.    Age of sold wines to relish – look inside  NESTOR (B; sage of old; hidden)  Purists may object to Spoonerisms in which only one initial phoneme moves, and Azed uses them sparingly. Nestor was the legendary wise king of Pylos who appears in the Trojan sagas.

18.    Date with bog’s long delayed after start of storm  SLATE (B; bait with dogs; s + late)  A nicely adulterated version of the definition that appears in Chambers under slate2.

20.    Please help yourself to pig bunch  DOUSE (B; big punch; i.e. do use)  It’s always a pleasure for the setter to indicate a common phrase in this way. The definition shouldn’t have caused much bother. The true def. is for douse3, a nautical term for a heavy blow.

23.    Without leader peal’s changing is limited – its chime never ranges  LAISSE (B; rhyme never changes; is in anag. less p)  A laisse is a verse with a single rhyme, much heard in hip-hop these days.

25.    Tuck into a Scotch – the double English gin is awful  EIGHTEEN (A; eat ane; anag. of the E E gin)  Could it be Azed is marking his eighteenth Spoonerisms competition? In the right hands even something as unpromising as this word can be spun into a decent clue, …

29.    I’m in business as a magistrate (very old)  IDEAL (A; aedile; I deal)  … and the same goes for the vowel-heavy ‘ideal’. An aedile was a Roman magistrate, pronounced ‘e-dial’.

30.    Cosmologist following celestial body – kindly follow instruction  PLANE-TREES (A; train, please; planet + Rees)  One of Dr Watson’s last clues standing. As mentioned in the footnote, it’s to be found in earlier editions of Chambers. With all the checked letters in place, it was clear where the clue was pointing, but it still needed a search to find the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees. A nice complement in style to 20 across.

31.    Tarty popper, a feature of purple pendant  LE PEN (B; party topper; hidden)  The Spoonerism’s easy to spot, but the solver could be forgiven for thinking they were looking for a paper hat, and not the father and daughter leaders of the Rassemblement (formerly Front) national.

32.    Genuine when exchanging bits, giving my man (contemptuously) coin in Tokyo  CERESIN (A; sirrah sen; sincere with parts exchanged)  It needs the slightly awkward ‘sirrah’ to achieve the right pronunciation.

33.    Company saturation to heed once, in spin, e.g. when struggling  STOREKEEPING (A; corps steeping; to reke in anag.)  Azed avoids the more obvious ‘core’ for the Spoonerism, and relies on Spenser’s ‘reke’ for the wordplay.





1.      Sailor pub crawl to wind up in exchange deal  BARTENDER  (A; tar bender; end in barter).

2.      Primate food put out with headless fish  UPTAKE (A; ape tuck; anag. + (h)ake)  As usual, it’s anybody’s guess which fish it’s going to be.

3.      Racing brod? Could give thrust whipping punch’s rear  STRUT (B; bracing rod; anag. less h)  To the solver it matters not what a brod is, but to Azed it does. It’s a prod or goad used to spur on a horse, and perfectly fits the surface.

4.      Work held up, dummies water drinks  TEAPOTS (A; pee tots; op, rev., in teats).

5.      Outside PE rest ruined – fixed stoppage  RINDERPEST (A; pinned arrest; rind + anag.)  The Spoonerisms that lead to quite different-looking words can be the most satisfying to solve.

6.      Jean’s to mock such as Dixie going topless  ETTLE (B; means to Jock; (k)ettle)  The familiar Scotsman comes in handy. A dixie is a camper’s kettle.

7.      A house party’s last ball to coat?  AHOY (B; call to boat; a ho. + y).

8.      Call Indian smart, new in classical garment  TONGA (B; small Indian cart; n in toga)  The first of two lovely type B Spoonerisms.

9.      Suggesting Pliny may cane lot carelessly neglecting Latin  ONE ACT (B; mini play; anag. less L)  Even though the wordplay sticks out a mile, it took Dr Watson a while to find the solution, and yet longer to wrestle the definition from Rev. Spooner.

13.    Curtain rod, look, to celebrate permitted feminine ruff  SINGLETREE (A; tringle see; sing let ree)  Everyone knows a ree (see reeve3) is a female ruff, but a tringle is less familiar. As for a singletree, Chambers leads the curious to its entry for ‘swingle’, and perhaps the most opaque collection of definitions in the book (‘scutching tool’, ‘swipple’, ‘whippletree’, ‘swing-stock’).

15.    The Scots learn to cheat English with British money around  STEERLING (A; lear1 sting; E in sterling)  Again Azed avoids the obvious ‘leer’ to give solvers extra meat to chew on.

19.    Sloping jump? I look slyly round diameter after length  LIP-DEEP (A; dip leap; l + d in I peep).

21.    Coal for horde once, fuel on rising mound  OILLET (B; hole for cord)  Dr Watson wonders why Azed didn’t use ‘hoard coal’ here. Perhaps he felt obliged to indicate the obsolete term with ‘once’, but then ‘The old hoard coal…’ maybe?

22.    Cass including garb an Andalusian’s seen in continental summer  ETHENE (B; gas … carbon; hen in été (Fr))  Only one translation required. An Andalusian is a variety of poultry. We’ll never know who Cass is, but they’re clearly a last resort.

24.    Disease in horses  SPAVIN (B)  Azed very fairly offers competitors a promising word for Spoonerising, with several wordplay possibilities, and a wide range of equine and veterinary terms to combine into the definition.

26.    Settlement to cultivate river entering forest often flooded  GRAPO (A; pa2 grow; R in gapó)  Happily Chambers provides a pronunciation for the acronym that is the solution. ‘Pa’ meaning a Maori settlement is close to pure crosswordese, and ‘gapó’ is maybe not far off either.

27.    He’s gassed moles I found under unpleasant clutter  MESSI (B; massed goals; mess + I)  A howler that one can imagine Spooner himself might have uttered, had he ever had cause to pay tribute to Lionel Messi, …

28.    Sharpener that’s dispatched head of harpoon topping whale  ONER (B; whopping tale; (h)oner)  … and perhaps his views on political discourse would also involve the slaughter of animals.


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