N THE END there’s nothing too tricky in this competition puzzle, though a couple of the clues defy easy parsing. Dr Watson has had to take a best guess at how OLD TOM at 5 down works. One topical reference might pass some solvers by if they’re unfamiliar with the name or role of Cressida Dick. The competition word CLEARING is an interesting challenge. While it’s fairly friendly for wordplay, it’s often difficult to define an -ING word without using another one – though in this case there is the nounal sense of a woodland glade to fall back on.
12. Cuddly toy? Baby’s first, what one finds mother’s in front of BRUIN (b ruin) The parts needed for this clever charade are both available in Chambers. Bruin is a rather traditional familiar name for a bear, not necessarily a toy one, and mother’s ruin is gin – it looks like a moralistic Victorian term, but OED’s earliest citation is from the 1930s, suggesting it’s only ever been used facetiously.
13. When high they show celebrating sport FIVES (2 mngs.) References to high fives, and the squash-like ball game, both requiring a firm hand.
14. Argument to add when dividing … DISPUTE (put in anag.) Dividing what exactly? Read on …
15. … Side falling out including amateur plans IDEAS (A in anag.) … Azed shares the anagram of ‘side’ across the ellipses. The joined-up surface of the two clues just about works.
20. One passionate about tea, tense inside, downbeat-like THETIC (t in theic) Theic is a rare name for a tea connoisseur. ‘Thetic’ from thesis means related to a downbeat in poetic metre. Azed used essentially the same definition for this solution in No. 2547, four competitions ago.
25. Requiring more scratchings, I ordered thrice ITCHIER (I + anag.) Azed is careful to use ‘ordered’ in the wordplay rather than the imperative ‘order’, which wouldn’t fit grammatically with the preceding ‘I’. The surface refers, we assume, to pork scratchings, a less uniquely British snack than Dr Watson had thought before consulting wikipedia.
27. Cream cheese: 200 sandwiches a lad cut CABOC (a bo(y) in CC) A nicely misleading use of ‘sandwiches’ as a verb in the wordplay.
4. Regular speed merchant – or not, one assumes TON-UP (i.e. ton, rev. = not) ‘One assumes’ should alert regular Azed solvers to the reverse cryptic wordplay, which takes advantage of the solution’s vertical orientation.
5. Kitty would do for this traditional gin regaining popularity OLD TOM (2 mngs.) It’s not obvious what Azed is alluding to here. The solution is a name for a type of gin (archaic or not depending whether you find it in Chambers under ‘old’ or ‘Tom’). A kitty could be a tomcat, and perhaps on regaining popularity Old Tom would become just plain Tom again. Or would Kitty do for an old tom in a scrap, while Old Tom gin “has experienced a resurgence in the ‘Craft Cocktail’ movement”?
7. Junkie, how one might describe Cressida? ACID-HEAD (i.e. a CID head) A very topical and British reference that might be difficult for solvers elsewhere. Cressida Dick is the UK’s top cop as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and thereby head of the Met’s CID.
8. Star of Oliver!, say? I’ll give way to musical’s No. 2 in dance JUVE (u for I in jive) The musical Oliver! necessarily has a juvenile lead (you’d think, though with Ian McKellen taking on Hamlet at 82, who knows?).
16. Clapper of course interrupting music coming up is thrown out CROTALUM (rotal in mu(si)c, rev.) Some unpacking required here. A crotalum is a type of castanet. ‘Rotal’ relates to a rota in the sense of a routine or course of activity. ‘Is’ can be be removed from ‘music’, after reversal, to leave the required container.
17. My cousin’s a husky hulk, one trained with little depth ELKHOUND (anag. + d) There’s no particular relationship between elkhounds, which are hunting dogs, and huskies, though both operate at northern latitudes – but the husky gives Azed a convenient adjective.
24. This, on being processed, produces colorant CROTAL (comp. anag. & lit.) A tidy & lit. The crotal lichen’s name is unrelated to the crotalum of 16 down, being derived from a Gaelic word.
26. Fixture in hob, a silvery tool’s cutting edge BASIL (hidden) A superbly hidden solution, benefiting from the obscurity of basil2, a variant of bezel.
30. It’s pouched – in more ways than one EURO (2 mngs.) Azed exploits the two meanings of euro as a currency and a large kangaroo, and their respective pouches or purses.
Across: 1. SPLIT-OFF (to in spliff); 11. COLLICULI (anag. in coli(c)); 18. ONSHORE (anag.); 19. PRELIM (re L I in pm); 22. LOOK-UP (2 mngs.); 24. CHAUNT (C + haunt); 29. ROADBED (ad in robed); 31. ALOUD (OU in anag.); 32. SOLUM (0 in slum); 33. TURNAGAIN (naga in Turin); 34. KILLCROP (I’ll C in pork, rev.).
Down: 1. SUBDUPLICATE (bus, rev. + Duplicate (Bridge)); 2. PURI (I R up, rev.); 3. LAUS DEO (anag.); 6. FLUENT (flu + ENT); 9. CLEARING; 10. DISSECTED MAP (anag.); 21. TUMBLER ((i)t + l in umber); 23. PEROGI (gore, rev., in pi(E)); 28. BORD (Bord(eaux)).