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.

Azed No 1585: Plain (6 Oct 2002)

Often Azed’s best clues are those that rely on knowledge outside of the purely lexical. Here 15a is a prime example of how to build current affairs into a crossword clue. One interesting feature of the puzzle is the presence of SYNCHROMESH and SYNCHROFLASH in the long lights. Is that what’s called synchronicity?


Notes to the clues:

10a: Old rifle from repeaters Napoleon’s ‘regulars’ wielded.  PETRONEL (anag. of alternate letters in ‘repeaters Napoleon’).  The alternate letter clue is difficult to construct and so something of a rarity – and hard to solve if you’re unfamiliar with the device. ‘Regulars’ amongst Azed’s solvers won’t have been puzzled for long, however.

14a: Grant maybe includes euros for street representing ruin.  CAREY (E in Cary).  ‘Carey Street’ can be found in Chambers, but Cary Grant can’t.  When it comes to indicating euros, it seems ‘E’ can stand for ‘€’ in the same way ‘L’ can stand for ‘£’ for pounds.

15a: Beleaguered leader, one surrounded by a crowd.  ARAFAT (a in a raft).  A beautiful definition, both accurate and imprecise enough to make the solution a great surprise.

18a. Weight shifting left to right, right to left. ROTL (l to r, rev.).  Taking advantage of an unusual word, the clue is deliberately phrased to make the solver wonder what on earth is going on.

25a: Classical female figure, styled Rokeby? Not close.  KORE (anag. of Roke(by)).  The clue refers to the ‘Rokeby Venus’, a classical nude painted by Velazquez and originally displayed at Rokeby Hall..

27a: Oriental therapy  SHIATSU.  The unchecked square allows the solver the choice of two alternative spellings given in Chambers (SHIATSU or SHIATZU), hence the special competition instructions (which Watson completely failed to notice until after submitting a clue – hopefully no-one will have been caught out by this).

32a: Sources of practical advice which one visits abitually.  AUNTS ((h)aunts).  One of two clues demonstrating that solving Azeds may require a lack of aspiration. ‘Visits habitually’ might not be a bad definition for ‘aunt’, thinks Watson.

7d: What’s mobile Eskimo taken? One’s seen with this perhaps.  KOMATIK (comp. anag. & lit.).  A hard-to-spot compound anagram, as the role of ‘seen’ isn’t immediately apparent.

23d: Senate umbly oused was not apt.  USEN’T  (Sen. in (h)ut).  The implied container-and-contents indicator is another trick to beware of, as Azed employs it sparingly.

28d: Battling against e.g. U-boats I’m no longer floating.  ASWIM  (ASW I’m).  The unfamiliar abbreviation (antisubmarine warfare) is used to good effect.

31d: Measures old saddle, top to bottom.  ELLS  (s to end in sell).  Unlike the ‘right to left’ in 18a, the wording indicates a letter shift, not a reversal.

Other solutions

1a: SHARKSUCKER (shark sucker, see remora in Chambers);  12a: NYANJA (hidden);  13a: AMEBA (me in ABA);  16a: HOEDOWN (anag.);  20a: ELEGISED (I see G anag. in eld);  21a: OCTOPUSH (anag. less (stic)k);  29a: LATHEE (he in late);  30a: ASHET (a Shet(land));  33a: DOWELS (do + slew, rev.);  34a: STRAITEN (anag.);  35a: SYNCHROMESH (n chromes in anag.);  1d: SYNCHROFLASH (‘sink’ + for, rev. + lash);  2d: HOYA (hoy + a);  3d: AMARETTO (am a ret to);  4d: RUNED (run + Ed.);  5d: SEA-OWL (ea in anag.);  6d: CRARE (C rare);  8d: REBATE (anag.);  9d: PLATTDEUTSCH (anag.);  11d: THANE (n in thae);  17d: ISOTHERE (I sot here);  19d: LOGHTAN (ht. In logan);  22d: CLAUTS (t in Claus);  24d: SHODER (anag.);  26d: MESIC (hidden).

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