HERE’S nothing in this month’s competition puzzle to drastically hold up solvers, with only one literary reference and one piece of German required from beyond the realm of Chambers Dictionary. Dr Watson motored through it, which, given the fuel crisis, was about the only motoring possible last week. The competition word HANDS-ON looks to offer a good variety of non-anagram wordplay, but maybe less in the way of interesting or misleading definitions.
7. Seed covering ball is there? He belts it possibly ARIL (comp. anag.) The wordplay with its tennis surface can be hard to see, though you might guess that ‘seed covering’ is the definition. ‘Ball is there’ gives an anagram of ‘he belts aril’.
10. Delayed receiving a present sent back – unusually smooth LAEVIGATE (a + give, rev., all in late) Ximenes set the alternative spelling LEVIGATE as an early competition word in puzzle no 110 in 1949. Some of the language in the published clues might be considered troublesome nowadays.
11. Positive German football team making money PELF (P + elf (Ger.)) Dr Watson spent some time looking for a German team with a three letter name (Ulm?) or acronym, before the simpler ‘elf’ for ‘eleven’ dawned.
28. It’s a tight fit in the dressing room – stars almost late LEOTARD (Leo tard(y)) A fine surface from Azed, and Dr Watson’s favourite clue of the puzzle. The constellation Leo also turns up in an astrological context at 9 down.
29. Republicans having a bit of a knees-up in lively dance GOPAK (GOP + a k) GOP for ‘Grand Old Party’ is more familiar than it was in the UK, thanks to the continuous coverage of the Trump years.
32. Sex symbol that is given leading part in India YONI (yon + I) The clue turns out to be less Bollywood and more Kama Sutra than it first apperars.
2. King Cole in a bad way? Soon one’s out at the elbows OLECRANON (anag. incl. R + anon) The ‘anon’ part is worked neatly into the wordplay. The solution is a bony protrusion of the ulna.
9. Sun rising round East? Many of us enjoy summer birthdays LEOS (E in Sol, rev.) The nice definition refers to Leos in general, but not to Azed in person, whose 79th birthday has just passed in September.
18. Writer I put up in disorderly inn, one of several in alley? NINEPIN (pen I, rev., in anag.) The three N’s and two I’s make the anagram harder to place. Ninepins are found in a bowling alley.
22. Not strictly a Mohican cut for harvest celebration HAWKEY (Hawk-ey(e)) Solvers familiar with The Last of the Mohicans will know that Natty Bumppo or Hawk-eye is a white man who lives among the Mohicans. Hawkey is another name for a Harvest supper, sometimes exploited by crossword setters for its other spelling ‘hockey’.
25. Region of SW France suggested by the French? LANDE (i.e. L and E) ‘Suggested’ should alert the solver to a wordplay trick, in this case that ‘L and E’ gives ‘le’. The word ‘lande’ refers to a type of terrain more than to a specific region in France.
26. Such a face suggests one foolish cracksman, first to last EGGY (yegg with y to end) More suggestion here as someone looking foolish could be described as having ‘egg on their face’. A yegg is a US safe-cracker, and a setter’s gift on occasion for an awkward grid fill.
Across: 1. POP-UNDER (P in pounder; ref. computing); 13. GATSO (first letters); 14. SCALADO (i.e. Scala do); 16. SPINDLE OIL (anag. + l); 17. CANID (can(d)id); 19. ELENCH (L in e’en Ch); 21. KNIGHT (K night); 23. FESTA ((Brie)fest a); 24. CONNATURAL (a in anag.); 30. INNS (in + N/S; ref. bridge); 31. GUIDEPOST (anag.); 33. YESTREEN (yes tree N).
Down: 1. POP-SOCK (pop sock); 3. PALAS (a for m in palms); 4. NAVAID (a in divan, rev.); 5. DEAD-NETTLE (anag.); 6. RIGOLL (go in rill); 8. RATIONS (anag.); 12. BODEGUEROS (bode + anag.); 15. PICTARNIE (pic tarn i.e.); 20. HANDS-ON; 23. FROWST (w in frost); 27. WADI (hidden).