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.
For longer serving Azed solvers there were a couple of blasts from the past this month, as well as one very misleading reference, and the toughest competition word for a long time.
Notes to the clues:
1a: Jacko twitches in dance thus?. JICKAJOG (anag. in jig, & lit.) A beautifully succinct and clever & lit. for to a word that looks almost unclueable at first glance. One might quibble that the ‘jig’ used as a subsidiary part of the answer is rather too close in meaning to the answer itself, which is a variant of ‘jig-a-jog’, but it’s hard to see a better clue than this one.
19a: It involves pack of cards bore held in palm, say. TREDRILLE (drill in tree). TREDRILLE was given as the competition word (in a double clue with FERVOROUS) about six years ago. Competitors involved in that particular challenge should have got this solution very quickly.
22a: Mount is in a frame? SINAI (anag.). Frame in the sense of ‘shape’. With the N unchecked the solver is tempted to look for a solution involving ‘is’ in a container.
3d. Tortuous ego following X? Host may get me under skin! CHIGOE (chi + anag.). A nice in-joke referring to Azed’s own role as successor to Ximenes (thirty years ago now – but the Azed puzzle is proud of its history).
4d. One of unsound mind will, failing test. AMENT ((test)ament). The word will be familiar to many from last year’s April Fool competition with its hidden theme of Parliaments (anag. of April + aments meaning ‘fools’). One of two exemplary subtraction clues, the other being 27d.
5d: Comedian. JOKESMITH. The two checked J’s of JICKAJOG make the clueing of this puzzle a challenge, which Azed quite rightly chooses to share with his competitors. Those who found SHIATSU a bit bland last month now have something much more meaty on their plates.
9d: ’E’s creator of Bunter, etc, a trying lot ESSAYERS (’E’s + Sayers). Those, like Watson, who struggled for ages to work out how to fit Billy Bunter’s creator Frank Richards into the solution, were caught by Azed’s brilliant dummy. The clue really refers to Lord Peter Wimsey’s butler in the stories by Dorothy L Sayers (who wasn’t even an ’e!).
20d: Old cars cross American South. RILEYS (riley S). Watson recalls some uncomfortable journeys as a child on the back seat of a Riley Elf, a sort of Mini without the style. Riley cars had an illustrious early history, but went out of production in the UK, probably in the 1970s.
21d: Checks out, see, amongst those leading retro stylists. RECCES (ecce in r, s). Was this originally intended as follow-on clue linked to 20d? The cryptic components and the surface reading of the clue are unusual.
24d: Mobile can last for ages, interrupting drive. ELSAN ((age)s in élan). Having exploited a double meaning of ‘will’ in 4d, Azed does the same here with ‘can’. The solution comes as an entertaining surprise.
27d: One may produce treatise that dismisses Rome? PROD (prod(rome), & lit.). Azed sets the standard his for clue writing competitors with a trademark & lit., exploiting a great lexical opportunity.
7a: GREE (gree(n)); 10a: HOMORELAPS (ho + more laps); 11a: UNIX (U nix); 12a: BIOGAS (I in bog + as); 14a: PIGSNEY (pigs (see sounder in Chambers) + yen, rev.); 16a: SMOWTS (S two MS, all rev.); 17a: HOKEY (Ho. + key); 18a: ADMEASURE (anag. + sure); 23a: DEVELS (devel(op)s); 26a: HALFCAP (Alf in anag.); 28a: REITER (‘writer’, ref. “the pen is mightier...”); 29a: SCUR (hidden); 30a: EVERYPLACE (anag.); 31d: WETA (W + eta); 32a: STENOSED (son, rev. in steed); 1d: JAUP (Au in JP); 2d: IGNIMBRITE (anag.); 6d: GEISHA (hidden); 7d: GLOBOSE (lob in anag.); 8d: RAGI (ragi(ng)); 13d: ABERGLAUBE (anag.); 15d: YIELDABLE (anag.); 16d: SETSCREW (sets + crew); 18d: AD ASTRA (anag. in AA); 25d: DIET (i.e. in DT).