Azed No 2603 ‘Wrong Number’ (1 May 2022)

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

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HE IDEA of Wrong Number appears to have begun with Ximenes, whose first such competition puzzle appeared in 1952. There’s no indication in the Slip for that competition that clue writers made the first cardinal error of clueing the wrong word, but it’s noted that many made the second, of making the locating definition (for IMPERIAL) superfluous to their clue.

Azed’s last Wrong Number competition, no 2382, appeared more than four years ago – not quite the longest gap for this puzzle type, but perhaps a sign that his canon of Specials continues to expand.

This month, as ever, Azed enjoys the extra challenge of placing the locating definition of another solution in every clue, and his clue-writing is the more inventive for it, although it’s also more than usually dependent on anagrams – 20 of the 35 clues include letter mixtures of some sort.

The best process for solving is given in the preamble: start by solving a clue cold, then look for a suitable definition in another clue of the same length. In this puzzle some are much harder to spot than others. For the clue-writing competition, read the instructions carefully. A few competitors almost always enter a clue to the word defined in the asterisked clue rather than to the unclued solution. Also remember, as noted by Ximenes in 1952, that the locating definition must be one word, and must be integral (nay, “absolutely essential”) to the clue that contains it and not additional to its own definition and wordplay.

In the explanations below the clues are numbered as they appear in the puzzle. The notes in brackets indicate where their solutions go in the grid, and the one-word definition that appears in the clue at that location.

Notes to the clues:


1.      Buttocks  TERAS (12a; malformation)  The clue is simply a locating definition for PRATT, so per the instructions, it needs to be replaced with a clue to the only unclued 5-letter solution, TERAS (whose own locating definition is found at 12 across). The clue must contain a one-word definition of PRATT, the actual grid entry at 1 across. It would be hard to find a more friendly competition word than TERAS, with its common letters and dozen or so one-word anagrams. There are many words for a bottom to work into the clue, too, of which at least two (‘arse’ and ‘seat’) are partial anagrams of TERAS. For once clue-writers are spoilt for choice.

5.      Like upright text (in short), alias one’s cracked, making Greek dance  ROMAIKA (Roma(n) + I in aka; 11a; caper)

11.    Effect lively caper (not constant) with toe  OPERATE (anag. less c; 33a; conduct)

12.    Moor male with malformation of hat  HEATH (he + anag.; 25d; bent)  An easy enough clue, but its locating definition is difficult to spot. It’s bent2, meaning a dry grass stalk, or an area covered with them.

13.    With start of eulogy I abandoned false praise in gravelly tone  RASP (anag. less e, I; 9d; file)  It’s usual for Azed to indicate in the wordplay that the letters subtracted from anagram material (the i and e of ‘praise’) are given out of order, but he hasn’t done so here.

14.    ‘Snarly’ outer rib? It won’t get inflamed  ROBURITE (anag.; 2d; explosive)  The solution is a substance that explodes flamelessly. The definition of TIGERISH draws all the attention to itself.

15.    Climbing dens a safeguard for last of mice in a row  SERIAL (e in lairs, rev.; 7d; publication)  An ingenious piece of wordplay allows the definition of SURETY to become part of a container indication.

18.    Send central part of skeletons out, snugly packed  NESTLED (anag. of send (ske)let(ons); 32a; cherished)

21.    Giggly girl with the group exuding mere whiff of happiness?  TITTERING (tit + t(h)e ring; 4d; swaying)  Solvers may need to consult Chambers for the definition ‘swaying’ (for which see titter2) given at 4 down.

22.    Mother-in-law traditionally displaying silver with application in clothes  DRAGONESS (Ag + on, all in dress; 17d; monster)  Azed has taken the eleventh definition of ‘on’ from Chambers (‘applied to’) and recast it to provide the necessary noun to locate DILIGENCE, whose clue returns the favour with ‘monster’.

24.    Fell timeless bits of atoll arc ‒ such as are dead  CORALLA (anag. less t; 18a; skeletons)  A lot of extra wording is needed to cope with the egregious ‘fell’. Without it there may be a decent & lit. clue available, but Azed still achieves a coherent surface with what he has.

28.    Chinese caging dog with malaise ‒ creature akin to one called Manx?  HAGDON (anag. in Han; 6d; bird)  Hagdon is a name for the shearwater, of which a Manx variety is found around the UK.

29.    Each had sex wildly ‒ is growth drastically reduced thereby?  AXEHEADS (anag. inc. ea; 20d; cleavers)  It wouldn’t be an Azed without something a little smutty worked in.

30.    Record of past life in ordinary brief space  OBIT (O + bit; 13a; eulogy)

31.    Wherein one may find special fruit clusters?  SHOPS (s + hops, & lit.; 34a; imprisons)  The question-mark carries the heavy burden of doubt for the definition. Dr Watson solved this one last, torn between SHOPS and SHIPS, equally likely or unlikely bearers of fruit clusters, with hips also being fruit. The locating definition ‘imprisons’ didn’t stand out at all in 34 across.

32.    Cherished scripture is keeping translator getting stuck into it  SHASTRA (has tr. in SA; 5a; text)

33.    Crooked Ronnie caught displaying cruel conduct  NERONIC (anag. inc. C; 24a; fell)  A reference presumably to Ronnie Kray. The locating definition at 24 across is fell3, meaning cruel.

34.    Grammar school imprisons mature fruit  GAGES (age in GS; 31a; fruit)  Unusually this clue pair uses the same definition in both.



1.      Irish get all agitated, showing personification of wild beasts  TIGERISH (anag.; 14a; snarly)

2.      Stock explosive in erstwhile spring drill  LOCKSTEP (anag. in lep; 19d; march)  Some nicely misleading wordplay giving a role to ‘explosive’ and indicating an old spelling of ‘leap’.

3.      Can odd bits of potato rear crookedly?  PRATT (anag. of alternate letters; 1a; buttocks)  Azed uses a very multi-purpose definition for a backside, the US ‘can’. This doesn’t preclude competitors from repeating it in their own clues to TERAS, but some may prefer to avoid it.

4.      Swaying polar pine ‒ it yields a pleasant aroma  PIPERONAL (anag.; 21a; whiff)

6.      End of bird leads to proprietor requiring drug  DOWNER (d + owner; 22d; drug)  ‘Leads to’ is just here to join the parts of the charade, but looks misleadingly like an indicator of initial letters. Azed uses the same definition (‘drug’) in both the clue and the locator for a second time.

7.      Publication plugs this cup I love ‒ like a sip?  LIBANT (comp. anag.; 23d; touching)  Dr Watson didn’t recognise ‘plugs’, meaning ‘hits’, as an anagram indicator, and took a while to parse the clue, which compounds the solution with ‘cup I 0’ to give ‘publication’.

8.      Left beds in eager broadcast documentary  REPORTAGE (port in anag.; 16d; style)

9.      What may be kept on file? See some of what can circulate  ACTA (hidden rev.; 30a; record)  Another slightly loose definition, for the benefit of ‘file’ for RASP.

10.    One gets pale, usually at first, having to climb mount  UPGO (first letters rev.; 26d; climb)  The only clue to have specifically ‘down’ wordplay. It would of course be fine for the clue to be wrong-numbered in an across position.

16.    Couches with endless artifice I nail in new style  TRICLINIA (tric(k) + anag.; 8d; beds)  Triclinia are Roman couches that cover three walls of  a room.

17.    I minced leg badly, just missing front of monster coach  DILIGENCE (anag. less m; 22a; application)  Monster’ for DRAGONESS is worked almost seamlessly into the wordplay.

19.    Around middle of march, pop soon gets frazzled in appearance  PROSOPON (r in anag.; 1d; personification)

20.    Place label in surface for e.g. cleavers  PLANTAGE (tag in plane; 29a; growth)  Azed finds a very specific example of a plant to meet the needs of AXEHEADS. Cleavers under cleave2 is a name for goose-grass.

22.    Drug after endless nausea dealt with discomfort  UNEASE (anag. less a + E; 28a; malaise)

23.    Pen going round university, touching, for sponsor  SURETY (U re in sty; 15a; safeguard)

25.    Treat bent tuber  TATER (anag.; 3d; potato)  With the right material, a wrong number clue can be done as succinctly as this.

26.    Friends having to climb pass  SLAP (pals, rev.; 27d; blow)  The clue’s own definition is of slap2, a Scottish hill pass.

27.    Blow missing boxer’s head, fray’s ending, making one livid  ASHY ((b)ash + y; 10d; pale)  ‘Pale, ashen’ is one meaning of ‘livid’ given in Chambers, related to its origins in a Latin word meaning lead-coloured.


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