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.
‘Overlaps’ is an original grid construction in which each across light consists of two solutions that overlap in the middle four columns, the last four letters of the first solution being the first four of the second one. The structure is reminiscent of Azed’s ‘Parcels’ puzzles in which two adjacent words form a third word across the join (e.g. STABLES / BLESSING / SINGLE), but the clueing here is more like that of the recent Christmas puzzle where the definition and cryptic part lead to different but related words. With only one clue for each pair of (or should it be one and a half?) solutions, there’s a danger of ambiguity that can only be resolved by cross-checking against a down solution, and so both across and down clues have had to be kept fairly straightforward. Overall then, in Dr Watson’s view, a good idea that’s worth a place in the Azed repertoire, but perhaps the clueing of the across lights needs a bit of refinement.
Notes to the clues:
23a: Clumsy oaf damaged lilo with a pin. CLODPOLL / POLLINIA (anag.). The best example of what can be done with this type of clue, exploiting the choice of which word to define and which to indicate cryptically. Note here, as in all the across clues, that the setter avoids putting any linking words between the cryptic part and the definition, on the basis that the one can’t be seen as ‘leading to’ the other.
27a: Tart unusually before fish pasta. RATTLING (anag. + ling) / LINGUINE. An illustration of the danger of under-clueing the light. Watson can’t have been the only solver who got it quite quickly and happily entered RATTLINGUINI in the grid, only to find it was the wrong spelling to fit with 10d.
1d: Lottery feature wherein you’ll find the devil is teasing. SCRATCHCARDS (Scratch cards). Solving this very satisfying clue is probably the key to completing the puzzle as eight of the across lights depend on it.
2d: This lot are for a maritime career. THE SEA (these a). One of the less familiar abbreviations leading to ‘a’. This ‘are’ is the unit of area. Other down clues also feature ‘area’ and ‘active’ from amongst the many possibilities listed in Chambers.
3d: Stuff a bit of pork. GAMMON (2 mngs); ‘Stuff’ here in the sense of ‘stuff and nonsense’.
8d: What makes bet best is soothing. EASES (i.e. e as es makes bet into best). Regular Azed solvers will be on the lookout for ‘reverse’ clues like this, where the solution is indicated by an example of its effect when considered as a cryptic indicator. Unusually, Azed hasn’t flagged it with a question mark.
4a: TROAD / ROADTEST (o in anag.); 11a: CHARANGO (rang in chao(s)) / ANGORA; 12a: REMASTER (re Master) / STERNSON; 15a: TEOSINTE / INTELSAT; 16a: CANARESE (canar(i)es + e) / RESENTER; 18a: HASIDIST / DISTASTE (t in disaste(r)); 28a: AMENTA (amen ta) / ENTAILER; 29a: SELF-SEED (anag. in seld) / SEEDS; 4d: TRAP (’t + rap); 5d: ONTO (hidden); 6d: AGENTS (a gents); 7d: DOR-BEETLE (bee in anag.); 9d: SCOPAE (a in scope); 10d: TIN-STREAMERS (r in anag.); 13d: BIRD-POLES (anag.); 14d: ULNA (even letters); 17d: AIDE (a to start in idea); 19d: ALGATE (l in agate); 20d: IODINE (Odin in i.e.); 21d: SNAILY (ail in sny); 22d: TINNED (inn in ted); 24d: OCTAL (anag.); 25d: ANTE (n in ate); 26d: HUIS (U in his).