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 1598: Plain (5 Jan 2003)    

A very straight plain puzzle to help ease solvers through their New Year lethargy, and providing Dr Watson with an excuse to keep this review short. The competition word, PHRASEMONGER, is a gem, so let’s hope it generates a good entry.

Notes to the clues:

15a: No timid lady wants to ramble with a new leader.  TIGRESS (digress with change of first letter).  Azed rarely uses a substitution without indicating the substitute letter or letters, as he does here. Did he overlook the opportunity offered by ‘t’’ as a short form of ‘to’?

17d: Both sections retreating, beat little old drum.  TABRET (two halves of ‘batter’ rev.).  An unusual device that turns the word inside out is clearly indicated.

5d: Pan? Pan receives it (coarsely).  SLASH (two meanings).  An amusing clue that’s about as coarse as Azed gets.

9d: Turn out for football team lacking forward?  EVERT (Evert(on)).  Nicely worded, with a straightforward reference to the ‘other’ Liverpool side.

26d. Bitter wind, we hear, affects this fruit.  RIBES (‘wry bees’?).  Dr Watson’s best guess at the homophone used in this clue. Any better suggestions to the message board, please.

27d. Beatitudes, maybe, and other things read up in part of scripture. OCTET (etc, rev. in OT).  Brewer’s (and the NT, of course) confirms that eight different groups are blessed in the Sermon on the Mount.

Other solutions

1a: BAASSKAP (A as ska in BP);  12a: ARVAL (hidden);  13a: FOVEA (ove(r) in fa’);  14a: STELA (st. ela(ted));  16a: ZENIST (in, rev. in zest);  19a: PATTE (patte(r));  20a: PHRASEMONGER;  22a: STEPCHILDREN (anag.);  25a: TROUT (TR out);  30a: RICTAL (comp. anag., & lit.);  31a: ONE-DAY (anag. less n);  32a: OBTENDS (anag.);  34a: KEELS (sleek, rev.);  35a: SEAZE (s(L)eaze);  36a: ORSELLIC (anag.);  2d: ATREL ((c)artel);  3d: AVENTRE (vent in era, rev.);  4d: SALINA (L in anag.);  6d: KETTLE-HOLDER (anag. + older);  7d: AVITAMINOSIS (anag.);  8d: CORBAN (orb in can);  10d: RESET (anag.);  11d: PASTERNS (stern in pas);  18d: UPSTROKE (anag. + oke);  21d: GRADUAL (GR a + laud, rev.);  23d: PUTELI (I let up, all rev.);  24d: DIESEL (dies + el);  28d: IN USE (hidden rev.);  29d: DARZI (R in dazi(ng)).


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