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 1524: Plain (5 Aug 2001)††

Nothing so difficult or controversial as last month's puzzle. In fact this Azed offered very smooth sailing, with several examples of the master clue writer's seemingly effortless style. A natural wording can be hard to achieve under Ximenean clueing constraints, and is so often what separates winning competition clues from the rest.


Notes to the clues:

1ac: College sounded call to dinner? It's about time for chicken ŗ l'Indienne. CHITTAGONG (C + t in hit a gong). Many clue writers might have spotted the culinary opportunities in this word, but Watson suspects few would have turned it out quite so tastily.

15ac: Downpour at the Gabba, we hear, sun in? Not a thorough drenching. RINSE (S in 'rine'). The Gabba, in case anyone slightly unfamiliar with both cricket and Australia was wondering, is a Brisbane sporting venue. One could reasonably ask whether Queenslanders do say 'rine' for rain; and indeed whether we hear 'rine' at all, and not 'rin' before the S is inserted. The question mark in the clue is well merited.

18ac: Thin slip, my trimmed smock? SHIM (shim(my)). This feels a little over-condensed, and the cryptic reading ungainly in comparison with the other clues on offer here. The solver might be tempted to think the explanation is shi(rt) or shi(ft) + m', which doesn't quite add up.

23ac: Oozed pounds, having retired, we may assume? BLED (L in bed). Azed allows himself a slightly indirect cryptic indicator, but signals it strongly. The reversed lb. in the solution might lead solvers up the wrong cryptic path.

25ac: Dire bit of 'flotsam', it unusually brought about Titanic's end. DRIFT-ICE (c in anag of dire f it, & lit). A good idea, brilliantly executed. This clue looks like it's been through several iterations since the original idea, in order to get the wording just so.

28ac: Not worthy of fan, about last in league. BELOW (e in blow). Another well constructed clue, seamlessly joining the definition to the cryptic part.

1dn: Gull formerly a feature in Lyme Regis. COBB (2 meanings). The Cobb is a groyne or breakwater, a famous feature of the Dorset resort, familiar in literature as the site of Louisa Musgrove's fall in Persuasion, and Sarah Woodruff's pining in The French Lieutenant's Woman. The Cobb is still very much there - it's the bird that's linguistically defunct.

4dn: Ancient historian leaving us speechless. TACIT (Tacit(us)). Both a fine clue and one you feel rather pleased with yourself for solving without recourse to a reference book.

7dn: What current batsmen are, facing certain defeat. NO-WIN (now in).

20dn: Deliver maiden, then awful wide? About four. MIDWIVE (m + IV in anagram).You must have got the message by now - a little knowledge of cricket will put a lot of Azed within your grasp. Either clue could be a reference to Englandís woeful opposition to the Australians.


Other solutions

10ac: SLIVOVIC ('s + O v in civil rev.); 12ac: BROCKEN (rock in ben); 13ac: WEAR (w + ear); 14ac: BONIE (anag.); 16ac: WESTWARD (we + st(e)ward); 22ac: EUCLID (anag.); 29ac: REDID (I in redd); 31ac: ARAR (a r(o)ar); 32ac: TUNNAGE (un in anag.); 33ac: SAMADEVA (a Deva mas., all rev.); 34ac: CLERESTORY (anag.); 2dn: HEROE (he roe); 3dn: IRONSICK (anag. in irk); 5dn: ALEXANDRITE (a lex and rite); 6dn: OVERDUE (O + verdu(r)e); 8dn: PIASTRE (anag.); 9dn: SCREWED (w in screed); 11dn: INGRATITUDE; 17dn: SOLIDAGO (olid in sago); 18dn: SEA BASS (E AB in sass); 19dn: HUMERAL (hum + anag.); 24dn: GORAL (hidden); 26dn: TENET (comp anag.); 27dn: CIGAR (C + ragi rev.); 30dn: DEWY (first letters)


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