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 1602: Plain (2 Feb 2003)

Dr Watson offers Azed congratulations on another century reached in great style. His Hamlet puzzle, No. 1600, was a solver’s delight and might have offered great material for a competition had it not fallen mid-month.

For a second month running, no real problems in this puzzle. In fact Watson finished it in close to record time.


Notes to the clues:

7a: Canned stuff one found in fragments from Monty Python series rerun?  SPAM (a in M, P, s rev)  The connection between Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Spam should need no further elucidation, even though you’d need a long memory to recall the original broadcast.

11a: Letter ending affair precedes obstinate passion.  ARDOUR (ar + dour).  In case you were wondering where the ‘a’ comes from, Azed explicitly indicates the letter ‘ar’ in this finely worded clue.

15a: Small birds: almost the last pair returns, one nesting.  YUNX (un in x, y, rev.).  You have to admire the setter’s skill in making so much of a very unappetising word.

16a. University intake electrifying – see admission.  KEELE (hidden).  This is a new departure in indicating a hidden word, as far as Watson knows, and a perfectly good one. Keele University is well established and respected, but  may not be familiar to solvers outside the UK.

28a. A tonic in a bender - like something for a hangover?  CURATIVE (a ti in curve).  The ‘ti’ here is the note form the tonic sol-fa.

30a: Sulphide of iron and copper mined randomly – energy released.  MUNDIC (Cu mined anag. less E).  This is interesting in the light of Azed’s comments on the use of abbreviations in anagrams. It’s quite solvable, but the anagram here looks, by Azed’s own standards, a little indirect and ambiguous, especially as one could argue that ‘copper’ also abbreviates to ‘PC’, ‘DI’, etc. Is this clue qualitatively different from the one for PHRASEMONGER that’s criticised in the recent Azed Slip: ‘He does English prose harm’ (Eng. prose harm anag., & lit.)?

4d: Plate for the back, not suitable for moped, we heah?  SCUTA. (cf. ‘scooter’).  Azed’s imprecise homophones are fun, but does anyone actually say ‘scuta’? In Dr Watson’s part of the world you’re more likely to hear ‘scu’a’ with a glottal stop.

13d: Dreadful limbo, zero moves, energy lacking?  OBLOMOVISM  (anag. less E, & lit.). A spot-on ‘& lit.’ clue. The solution may be most familiar to crossword regulars as the word that appears out of order (after oblong) in Chambers 1997 edition.

Other solutions

1a: FENESTRA;  10a: INCHOATIVE (inch oat I’ve);  12a: ORISON (s in Orion);  14a: MOISTIFY (anag. in my!);  18a: CO-SPONSOR (anag. + s in Cor.);  20a: DECORATED (anag. in deed);  23a: ATONY (a Tony (Blair));  26a: GROG (gorg(eous), rev.);  29a: LESION (noise L, rev.); 31a: EPICUTICLE (I cut in anag. incl. L);  32a: RANT (hidden);  33a: MACHISMO ((s)chism in Mao);  1d: FOAMY (anag.);  2d: EPROUVETTE (pro in EU + vette(d));  3d: NIDING (in, rev. + ding);  5d: THRIMSA (anag.);  6d: ROOFY (oof in Ry);  7d: STIPEND (s + tip + end);  8d: PISCES (is for a in paces);  9d: MENDERS (r in (Sam) Mendes, film director);  17d: ODALLER (all in Oder);  18d: CONVICT (on vic(e) in Ct.);  19d: PTARMIC (tar in c imp, rev..);  21d: COUSIN (US in coin);  22d: BRIDES (B + rides);  24d: JUNTA (Jun(e) ta);  25d: LAUCH (hidden);  27d: GECKO (anag. less a + ok).


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