For the benefit of solvers new to the rigours of the Advanced Cryptic, Dr Watson provides a monthly review of the Observer's Azed competition puzzle. Dr Watson is a regular Azed competitor. Please post any comments on this review to the Crossword Centreís message board.

Azed No 1519: Plain (1 Jul 2001)††

There's nothing worse than cruising through a puzzle only to come unstuck on the last clue. That was Dr Watson's experience this month, so if you struggled with 12 down, rest assured you were not alone!


Notes to the clues:

1ac: Re former US president: 'limitlessly wretched, corrupt inside' (not for publication). OFF-THE-RECORD (of + (w)retche(d) anag. in Ford). A clever clue alluding toÖ Gerald Ford's predecessor? or a more recent candidate?

19ac: Entry for Kennedy maybe playing Oistrakh's part. INGO (hidden) Not another former president, but Nigel Kennedy and David Oistrakh, classical violinists. This Kennedy is better known for his Cockney than his Scots - the one in the cryptic reading could be LibDem leader Charles.

26ac: Azed's second after X in school do. CHIZ (chi + z) X in the literal reading refers to Ximenes, Azed's predecessor at the Observer (a revered figure of whom much is written elsewhere in this site). In the cryptic reading it's the Greek letter. The definition, like the solver, is nicely done here.

29ac: Cut fine, going after spinner's first over. SPARE (s + pare). Azed grasps the opportunity to disguise the definition as a cryptic indicator.

33ac: Male mincing round University College in furry hood. AMLUCE (UC in anag.) Not the hardest of clues, but solvers without a pre-1998 Chambers would struggle to find the solution, listed only under 'amice'.

9dn: Cats and dogs e.g. sir trained DISGORGES (anag.) An obscure meaning of cats neatly exploited.

11dn: Showing off old fashioned amber round Indian thrones. BRAGADISME (gadis in anag.) The omission of the hyphen from 'old-fashioned' gives away the break between definition and cryptic part, but the trick is hard to spot.

12dn: Undine's ill after swallowing this! UNINFLATED (flat in anag.) The clue that floored Watson. Italics and an exclamation alert the solver that something extra-cryptic is going on here. The explanation is that the solution consists of a synonym of itself inside an anagram; which means that you can only solve it after solving it, so to speak. This would be less of a problem if the checked letters led unambiguously to the answer - knowing the answer with certainty, one could see how it worked. But there is another possibility - UNINFLAMED. Could an undine swallow a flam (a sort of pancake), and become ill, and is that more or less likely than swallowing a flat? And if a flam were by some stretch of the imagination uninflamed, would that answer be correct? UNIFLATED wins easily on the balance of probabilities - after you decide that the synonym in anagram explanation is the right one. So it's solvable, itís not unfair, but in Watson's view, itís just too difficult. The penny doesn't so much drop as sink slowly to the murky bottom. Others will doubtless think it brilliant. Thanks to the correspondents on the message board who offered help with this clue.

31dn: German twice held back. HUNG (Hun + G) An original treatment for a colourless word - again the definition masquerades as a cryptic indicator.

32dn: Given old wallop from barrels in still. YBET (b in yet) Chambers lists a whole raft of obs pa p's (obsolete past participles) formed like this one, as anyone who's yglaunced through the Y's will know.


Other solutions

10ac: SOBRANYE (any in anag.); 13ac: FURY (U in fry); 14ac: BLINIS (nil rev. in bis); 16ac: GOATLING (O in Gatling); 17ac: MAGMA (g in mama); 20ac: PRAY (pray); 21ac: DICOT (d. i' cot); 24ac: TACAN (Ac. in tan); 25ac: CLOG (l in cog); 30ac: CASHMERE (anag. in care); 34ac: BELT (b + anag. & lit.); 35ac: PROVEDOR (proved or); 36ac: TANGLE-NETTER (angle n in tetter); 2dn: FOUMART (anag.); 3dn: TRYP (try P); 4dn: HAGGADAH (Hagga(i) dah); 5dn: ENTOTIC (c(andl)e not it anag); 6dn: RYBAT (by rev. in (g)rat(e); 7dn: COIL (2 mngs); 8dn: RUING (ruin + g); 15dn: IMPECCANT (imp + cc in anag); 18dn: CONSERVE (cons + anag.); 22dn: CARRY-ON; 23dn: FORSLOE (for sloe); 27dn: HALMA (halm a); 28dn: DEERE (red e(y)e anag).


Review this puzzle