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.
Quite a literary medley in amongst this month’s clues (Hardy, Stevenson, Austen, and Fielding – though not Henry) including, in the last of those, what appears to be a significant howler from our normally infallible setter at 5d.
Notes to the clues:
13a: Perry with a dash of Médoc in – or Australian red? COMMO (m in Como) The old crooner appears in an unlikely setting. Do we still call Communists ‘reds’? Certainly at least one of the broadsheet dailies continues to use ‘Russian’ for ‘red’ in its clues.
31a: Start of morning, 9, 10? Not the beginning whereon cock crows? MIXEN (m + IX + (t)en). Numbers in a clue tend to make it harder to crack – there’s always the possibility it’s referring to another solution, though that isn’t the case here. Watson was unsure if there’s a literary reference here to a cock crowing on the dunghill, but thought the better of an internet search due the words involved.
34a: Ill humour shown by tragic heroine about lure of questin’ seducer? TETCHINESS (etchin’ in Tess). There’s no evidence that Alec D’Urberville ever invited Tess up to ‘see his etchings’, but the clue is great fun to unravel, all the same.
5d. B. Smith, say, swilling in tea, ingesting hard drug. ANTI-HEROINE (heroin in anag.). Who is B. Smith? Readers of the following Sunday’s Observer will have seen the correction. This should have been B. for Bridget Jones from Helen Fielding’s books. Thanks to Roger Cohen for spotting it. Watson looks forward eagerly to Azed’s explanation in the next Slip.
8d. Duck, old? See me among wild eiders, ay cast adrift. DEMERSE (me in anag. less I). The order of the first two words signals that the solution isn’t a noun (though there’d be nothing wrong with ‘old duck’). Watson hadn’t noticed I3 (‘adv same as ay’) in Chambers before, but enjoyed the entry at ay (‘ay2. See aye2.’, ‘ay3. See aye1.’)
17d: Dry fruit? Daft-sounding clue, though devious. SILICULE. (‘silly’ + anag.). The best clues are often daft-sounding but devious, as all solvers know. Nicely self-referential, and Dr Watson’s favourite of this puzzle.
18d: John losing his head over the Woodhouse girl in the morning ACK-EMMA ((J)ack + Emma). The reference is to Jane Austen of course, and the solution is hidden at the entry for ack-ack in Chambers. ‘Losing his head’ is a bit of a crossword cliché, but Azed uses it skilfully here – in the right context and combined with ‘over’.
19d: Sheen surrounding one from another planet? MARTIAN (a in Martin). Fans of The West Wing shouldn’t have had any trouble with this one.
21d: Sort of foreign whinger? What press’ll make short work of, we hear. KREESE (‘crease’). A whinger is a type of dagger. A slightly ambiguous clue, as it could equally lead to any of the four spellings (kris, crease, creese, kreese) given in Chambers.
28d: Authors representing Israel? HANDS (2 meanings). Nothing to do with ‘H and S’ somehow standing for Israel, as Watson suspected. This is Israel Hands, coxswain of the Hispaniola in Treasure Island. Thanks this time to Mike Grocott for the explanation. It doesn’t seem long since Azed set a clue involving the donkey from Travels in the Cevennes, or for that matter the brilliant anagram about Long John Silver ‘ransacking ship’s store’ – he clearly has a penchant for Stevenson.
1a: GOB-SMACKED (smack in anag.); 10a: UNHEPPEN (he in anag. + pen); 12a: MIS-SET (miss ET); 14a: POTTO (pot(a)to); 15a: IN-KNEED ((bulloc)k in I n-need); 16a: ANARCH (an arch); 18a: AMBAN (b(ureaucracy) in a man); 20a: TAMISE (is in tame); 21a: CALKER (anag.); 23a: UPLED (d to end in duple); 26a: MORISH ((memento) mori + sh!); 29a: ETAERIO (hidden rev.); 30a: COCOA (co(t) co(t) a); 32a: UPTURN (upt urn); 33a: MANSUETE; 1d: GOMPA (m(a)p in Goa); 2d: ORION (R in No. I + O, all rev.); 3d: BISTABLE (St. a in Bible); 4d: SISTRA (sis + art, rev.); 6d: KECKS (c(ree)k in anag.); 7d: EPONYM (pony in ’em); 9d: SNODDED (odd in sned); 11d: HAND-TO-MOUTH (2 mngs., i.e. hiding a yawn); 24d: PROTON (t in anag.); 25d: ARNUT (hidden rev.); 27d: SORUS (so rus(t)).