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 Centre’s message board.
The ‘Wrong Number’ is a rare visitor amongst the Azed specials, and can be difficult to get started, as no solution can be entered immediately into the grid. As with all such puzzles, though, perseverance is rewarded, and once a few lights are safely filled in the solver can enjoy the craft with which Azed has constructed the clues.
A few solving notes in addition to the preamble may be useful if you haven’t tackled anything like this before. Firstly, all clues are normal. Although each clue contains the definition of another solution (the locating definition), this definition is part of the cryptic reading and not superfluous. Secondly, the locating definitions are, as stated in the preamble, strictly one word each. Thirdly, the locating definition for a particular solution will be found in a clue to a light of the same length, which helps narrow the search. Finally, the clue writing competition instructions are unusual, and best left until solving is well under way (see the note to 18a).
Few of the clues are especially difficult (by Azed’s standard) in their own right, and part of the pleasure of solving is to spot how the setter has stretched and manipulated the clue to include the locating definition. Some of these definitions (‘dover’ for SWERF, ‘duke’ for NIEF), are not at all obvious, and Azed raises the quality of the puzzle by incorporating words with unexpected multiple meanings (e.g. LOLLARDRY and SURA).
In the notes that follow, the clues are listed with their published numbers – the correct location and locating definition are given with the explanation in brackets.
Notes to the clues:
13a: These lads, with tune, can get a student dancing. TADS (comp. anag.; 10d; pinches). One neat way to include a locating definition (‘tune’ for AYRE) is to make it the superfluous part of a compound anagram.
18a: Juts. MARGENT (5a; border). Unlike a normal competition puzzle, the definition given here is not for the word to be clued, but is the locating definition for BEETLES, clued at 33a. The only indication of MARGENT is the definition hidden in the clue at 5a, and the only way of identifying it as the word to be clued is that no other clue leads to it. So solvers need to enter a clue to MARGENT that contains a definition of BEETLES. Azed gives its initial letter in the preamble probably to stop solvers guessing TANGENT as the solution.
34a: Grazer damns (in part) creature that howls in African night? ZERDA (hidden; 25d; fox). An example of how far the clue may need to stretch to accommodate the extra definition – ‘howls’ in this case.
19d. A foreign burning bush one spotted engulfed by a feu strangely. AUTO-DA-FÉ (tod a in anag.; 29a; punishment). A clue that merges the main definition, wordplay, and locating definition into a delightful unity.
20d: French measures? There they’ll follow what’s smuggled in casing of bootlegs. BRANSLES (ran in b(ootleg)s + les; 1d; dances). Further knowledge of French required, with neither the word to be translated (‘they’) nor its translation (‘les’) being very obvious. And that’s before you seek out ‘bransle’ under ‘brawl’, and establish that ‘measures’ means ‘dances’.
22d: Ecstasy after kiss in van making one wing-footed? ALIPED (lip E in ad; 6d; bat). The connection between ‘van’ and ‘ad’ is that they’re both abbreviations of ‘advantage’. Since a bat is an example of an aliped rather than vice versa, Azed has allowed himself some latitude with the locating definition at 6d, which presumably is ‘bat?’.
1a: COBIA (C obia; 12a; fish); 5a: DASHEEN (a she in den; 33a; plant); 11a: GORDIAN (anag.; 32a; knot); 12a: YAWLS (L in sway rev.; 34a; howls); 14a: LAYABOUT (lay about; 2d; idler); 15a: BOCAGE (bo cage; 23d; woodland); 21a: HOLOCAUST (oca U in anag.; 4d; sacrifice); 22a: EBRILLADE (lea(ther) bridle anag.; 8d; jerk); 24a: RAGWOOL (rag woo(d) L; 11a; shoddy); 28a: SMOOCH (moo in Sch.; 22d; kiss); 29a: SHEBEENS (b(arg)e in sheens; 20d; bootlegs); 30a: AYRE (Ayr + E; 13a; tune); 31a: BLASH (s(mir) in blah; 1a; dash); 32a: STEMSON (stem son; 24a; timber); 33a: BEETLES (beet les(s); 18a; juts); 1d: EXTERNAL (anag.; 19d; foreign); 2d: LEISURED (anag.; 14a; casual); 3d: DRECK (D(over) reck; 31a; rot); 4d: PERIPHERY (anag. + hery; 17d; outside); 6d: GOUSTY (anag.; 7d; empty); 7d: PHEERE (he e(ndeavou)r in PE; 28a; partner); 8d: RILLETTES (anag.; 16d; paste); 9d: WADD (D in wad; 26d; ore); 10d: RUNE (n in rue; 30a; song); 16d: LOLLARDRY (l-lard in lory; 21a; sloth); 17d: SUBLIMATE (I’m at in anag.; 22a; transmute); 23d: NARROW (a RR in no w; 15a; close); 25d: SWERF (hidden; 3d; dover (see dove2)); 26d: SURA (r in (u)sua(l); 27d; chapter); 27d: NIEF (n + (ch)ief; 9d; duke).