HIS IS THE first ‘Letters Latent’ competition puzzle since no 2209 in October 2014, though Azed has provided two more in non-competition weeks since: no 2363 in 2017, announcing Azed’s 75th birthday, and no 2488 last year, a Valentine’s special. All of these puzzles can be found on the & lit. site’s online puzzles page.
The joy of a Letters Latent is discovering a hidden phrase or quotation, which Azed usually makes pertinent to the puzzle’s publication date (three previous competition words are month names). But on occasion, like this month’s puzzle, there a quotation that reflects ‘loss of character’ in some way. Working through the clues reveals the lines:
Life is all a variorum,
We regard not how it goes,
(capitalisation per ODQ) from Robert Burns’ The Jolly Beggars, where they’re followed by:
Let them cant about decorum,
Who have characters to lose.
In an extra twist that’s featured in some previous L.L. puzzles, Azed includes ‘variorum’ as an unclued solution in the grid, where it provides its own M to the quotation, and also provides the competition word.
1. Thinly sliced beef (say) in one Scots diner’s starter (L)AME(LL)ATED (meat in ae + d) Azed often fits a word with multiple excisions into the top left of a Letters Latent grid, once using (T)I(TT)LE-(T)A(TT)LE.
6. Collision? London’s force exert influence (I)MPACT (MP act) London’s force is now officially the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), but the abbreviations MP and Met are common.
11. German squaddie nurses wound leaving front (F)RANK(F)URTER ((h)urt in ranker) The sort of word that adds colour to a L.L. puzzle, and Azed handles it very neatly.
13. Button, round, was bright round front of vest OLIV(E)T (O + v in lit) .
14. Devour telly lying back – those colourful bands V(I)TTAE (eat TV, rev.) A vitta is a colourful stripe on a plant or animal.
15. Fruit to plug – indicator of precise time of month? DATE(S)TAMP (date tamp)
16. Compound coming from the orient E(A)STER (2 mngs.) It’s convenient when the grid entry is a word in its own right, ‘ester’. Azed exploits the less familiar meaning of ‘easter’ as ‘from the east’.
17. Dull American turning head SUN(L)ESS (US, rev. + ness)
20. Arch for instance circled by watches endlessly ESPIÈG(L)E (e.g. in espie(s)) ‘Arch’ here meaning cunning or unserious.
23. Disorganized rep having time to wander in theatre pit P(A)RTERRE (t err in anag.)
26. Ogle lustfully before getting in gentle stroke PER(V)E AT (ere in pat) Azed finds a better wordplay for this Australian phrase than might have been possible for the more obvious PER(V)ERT.
30. Girl to seduce males (not me) L(A)UREN (lure (me)n)
32. One processing with symbolic burden changed bases in European league C(R)OSSBEA(R)E(R) (anag. in COE) The longest clue of the puzzle thanks to the demands of the definition. It’s a shame for the surface reading that COE only abbreviates Council of Europe and not Church of England.
33. Love of Rome? What Italian enterprises will welcome N(I)ENTE (hidden) Here’s the ‘familiar foreign word’, meaning ‘nothing’ (it meant nothing to Dr Watson, whose Italian is both minimal and rusty).
34. One jotting extract from Davenant, a triolet N(O)TAT(O)R (hidden) This solution is also footnoted as non-Chambers. The reference is to the 17c Poet Laureate and Royalist William Davenant.
35. Number of desks I see’s arranged outside, quickly taken in ESC(R)ITOI(R)ES (cito in anag.) ‘Cito’ is a Latin tag meaning ‘quickly’.
36. A bit of a yen to enter part of Canada without being posted (U)NSENT (sen in NT) ‘Yen’ and ‘sen’ are the Japanese currency units and NT is Northwest Territories.
37. unclued VARIORU(M) The thematic word to be discovered, and then clued. Its meanings are an annotated or revised edition of a work, or (jocularly) a succession of changes; the latter definition quite possibly due to Burns’ use of it. Either way, it’s a genuine challenge for competitors.
1. Senior administrator always on song (W)AY(W)ODE (ay + ode) The solution is an old Balkan official, derived from Russian as ‘voivode’ and modified to a useful double W word.
2. Old smear Parliamentarian applied to previous king (E)MPLAST(E)R (MP + last R)
3. One transferring glove in middle of week (R)EMITTE(R) (mitt in (w)ee(k))
4. Sailors clutching dry rags TATT(E)RS (TT in tars)
5. Death near, neglected hazard ENDAN(G)ER (end + anag.) An uncommon anagram indicator, presumably in the sense of treated carelessly rather than ignored.
7. Price on medicine produced by external stimulus P(A)R(A)TONIC (pr. + tonic)
8. Working a lace dress ATTI(R)E (at tie) The ‘a’ in the wordplay doesn’t contribute to the solution, despite possible first appearances.
9. Alluvial plain with misplacement of last conifers CE(D)ARS (e moved in carse) A carse is a geographical feature whose name is derived from a Gaelic word.
10. Is restricted by forest movements? TRE(N)ISES (is in trees) Dr Watson confidently inked in TRISE(M)ES for this solution, as triseme and movement are both terms referring to stress patterns in verse. A trenise, though, is clearly a movement in music.
12. Keats not upset over writing, the opposite of chaos K(O)SM(O)S (Keats less eat + MS) Kosmos or cosmos is defined as the universe as an orderly whole.
18. Enemy pawn forward in clear space OPPONEN(T) (P on in open)
19. Beaten metal: observe changing tint S(H)EET TIN (see + anag.) A clue to get you started.
21. Brain parts being enveloped by soaring tunes SENS(O)RIA (ens in airs, rev.) Ens and esse for ‘being’ are old crossword friends.
22. Major conflict: rage infuriated sailor GREAT (W)AR (anag. + tar)
24. European beer spills on Jerry regularly P(I)LSNER As pilsner originates from Plzen, the I is an appropriate letter to drop.
25. Major Cambridge exam accepted clad in hooded jacket GREA(T) GO (a in grego) The second of two ‘great’ phrases. Scholars outside Cambridge may be unfamiliar with this arcane term for a final exam. A grego is a jacket associated with Greeks.
27. Like empty nest maybe produce of missel evacuated from below E(GG)LESS (hidden rev.) The only latent double letter in the puzzle – it seems to have escaped the editor’s attention, as the clue is erroneously enumerated (6).
28. Ancient letter caught inside old-style printing-press R(O)UNCE (c in rune) Chambers doesn’t quite support this definition. A rounce is a handle or apparatus that is part of a hand-operated printing press.
29. Tall grass: duck found under small one TO(E)TO(E) (tot + 0) The dictionary gives this as an alternative spelling of TOITOI, so which letter is the correct latent one must wait until the quotation is found.
31. This marine deity, sad, hides under sea NEREU(S) (comp. anag.) ‘Under sea’ gives an anagram of the grid entry plus ‘sad’. Dr Watson thought it a small weakness that the anagram material includes the latent S. The defined solution, a Greek sea god, appears in the entry for ‘nereid’ in Chambers.