R WATSON noticed a large number of clues in this month’s competition puzzle that start with a question; eleven in all, and another that ends in a parenthetical question. One (17 across) indicates a definition by example; two (11 and 28 down) indicate some uncertainty in the definition; and the rest are all or partly wordplay. It’s a perfectly good way to construct a clue, but Dr Watson found with so many of them the cadence of the clues became a bit repetitive. With the exception of a literary lover, a biblical mountain and an Italian football club, everything required is in Chambers. The competition word BILBO provides at least two routes to definition (or a double if one remembers Sting).
13. Knight, formally clad? Something in wool SUINT (N in suit) Allusive wordplay, with ‘formally clad?’ suggesting something in ‘suit’. Suint is a fatty substance found in wool.
14. ‘Would-be literary so-so’? Oscar’s chum’s stuck with that BOOKSIE (OK in Bosie) BOOKSIE was the competition word in Azed No 340, and elicited several references to Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. Azed hasn’t borrowed one of the competition clues here, but has gone for a rather complicated wordplay that pulls ‘OK’ for ‘so-so’ across from the first sentence.
15. Aristophanes? Poet’s played about with his Frogs like this RANA (comp. anag.) A well-spotted wordplay combining the playwright and one of his best-known plays in a compounded anagram. ‘Aristophanes’ can be rearranged into ‘poet’s his Rana’, the genus of frogs.
24. Ball not quite hitting target? End almost cut off, willingly BON GRÉ (b(all) + on green less en(d)) There are so many subtraction indicators here that it’s hard to know where to start: ‘not quite’ indicates ball minus ‘all’; ‘almost’ removes the end from ‘end’; and ‘cut off’ removes the result from ‘on green’. Of course a ball that finds the green but misses the pin might be seen as ‘not quite’ hitting the target. Anyway, the definition, as you might have gussed, is the slightly egregious ‘willingly’.
6. Bully waste, light brown at the edges TAUREAN (urea in tan) Azed takes a liberty with the meaning of ‘bully’, as Chambers doesn’t support it in the sense of ‘like a bull’. Putting it in quotes might have been fairer, though it’s unlikely to have held up solvers.
8. Regional Spanish clubs superior to Italian one? No thanks CATALAN (C + Atalan(ta)) Solvers familiar with Serie A football should recognise the Bergamo club, who have had several successful domestic seasons recently.
18. Bout? Losing out, brained badly – something needed to protect loaf BREAD BIN (b(out) + anag.) A nice pun on ‘loaf’ completes this subtraction-anagram-charade, and it’s easier to get from ‘bout’ to B than it was from ‘ball’ in 24 across.
19. Clishmaclaver hangs out clutching muscle GABNASH (ab1 in anag.) ‘Clishmaclaver’ and ‘gabnash’ are both Scottish terms for a gossip. Chambers gives both ‘gabnash’ and ‘nashgab’ as alternatives, one being ‘a cheeky chatterbox’, the other ‘a pert chatterer’.
20. Like Hooray Henry’s girl, certainly uppish, pocketing debt SLOANEY (loan in yes, rev.) Dr Watson recalls Sloane Rangers and Hooray Henries from Peter York’s 1980’s satires, before they began to take themselves seriously and enter the political arena.
26. Ritual drink: state portions to be exchanged HAOMA (parts exchanged in Omaha) Misquoting Bosie’s other half, to mistake the city of Omaha, Nebraska, once for a state may be misfortune, but to do it twice looks like carelessness. The Slip for Azed No 564 reveals the same error, Azed assuming then he confused it with Oklahoma. J. F. Grimshaw exploited the error with his clue to PARAMENT: “American state or city intended? Not Azed’s first slip, it deserved hanging! (Parà me(A)nt)”. It remains to be seen if Azed is taken to task again in the BILBO clues.
27. Dug a bit of Swedish money up NORK (kron(a), rev.) ‘A bit of’ is a loose way to indicate all but the last letter, but the pun on ‘dug’ makes it forgiveable.
30. Logician finding link in even numbers (or consecutive odd ones?) VENN (hidden, twice) The originator of the Venn diagram is referenced in this double hidden clue. The first in ‘even numbers’ is easily spotted, but the second is indirect, being hidden, presumably in ‘seven, nine’.
Across: 1. BOSSYBOOTS (bo! in anag.); 10. SACRARIA (air a + c. in ras, all rev.); 13. LORAL (L oral); 16. OB-GYN (n in anag.); 17. DJEBEL (d + b in je(rboa) el(and); ref. Mount Ararat); 22. ALIGARTA (tragi(c), rev., in Ala); 23. ALIENATE (lien in anag. less m); 25. SHANG (s to start in hangs); 29. NAPA (nap + a); 31. MIRADOR (mir2 ado + R); 32. ANISE (hidden rev.); 33. DOBRO (do + orb, rev.); 34. SEA SNAIL (seas(o)n + ail); 35. PENETRANCE (anag. in prance).
Down: 1. BILBO; 2. SCROGGIN (scrog + gin); 3. SHAKY (ha(t) in sky); 4. BACILLAEMIA (anag.); 5. OR SO ((t)orso); 7. LINNETS (inn in let’s); 9. DOOB (hidden); 11. CREDIT LIMIT (anag.); 21. MEGASSE (e.g. in masse(s)); 28. GROPE (i.e. grope(r)).