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.
The clue at 24d: “Fools in awful stew about ‘correct accent’?” (TWERPS) makes use of the abbreviation RP for ‘received pronunciation’. Quite appropriate in this month’s puzzle, in which a number of clues rely on homophones. What the ‘received pronunciation’ of a word is, and how far the setter can stretch it for the sake of a good clue is always going to be a moot point amongst those who enjoy crosswords. 19d in this puzzle is a case in point.
Notes to the clues:
11a: Ham and eggs tucked into by her majesty plus court. OVERACT (ER in ova + Ct.). An almost ideal combination of misleading definition, natural wording and a great ‘picture’ make this Dr Watson’s favourite clue of the puzzle..
17a: System essential to sailor (a navigator). LORAN (hidden). A good example of a ‘semi & lit.’ clue where the vague definition is made more specific by the cryptic part.
20a: With an end piece this op is superlatively good. TIPT (tip-t(op)). A clever bluff that disguises the definition as part of the wordplay and vice versa, leading to a nice moment of revelation.
27a: Yawed with wind showing very early signs of freshness. DEAWY (anag.). The ‘very’ makes the point that ‘early’ indicates both the time of day and the antiquity of the solution.
31a: Seashore plants likewise found in interior stretch of grassland. SALSOLA (also in (gras)sla(nd)); ‘Interior stretch of grassland’ is by Azed’s normal standards a little imprecise as a cryptic indicator for the container part of the clue. The solution is found in Chambers as part of the entry at salsolaceous.
19d: Fine performance at Henley, we hear? Bets were placed on it. PHARAOH (‘fair row’). A nicely worded clue, though to Watson’s ear, pharaoh does sound more like ‘fair owe’, and isn’t the game (a.k.a. faro) usually pronounced ‘far owe’?
22d: One in SA producing distinctive band sound. OOMPAH (a in oomph). This container and contents combination has surely been used before, but the setter finds a witty and original way to package it.
29d: The young read, buried in Marvel, look. VELL (hidden). Cows’ stomachs seem to provide Azed an unending source of inspiration. Nonplussed solvers should check the Chambers entry at read2.
1a: MACHTPOLITIK (anag.); 10a: BIRO (r in bio); 13a: BROMELAIN (Rome in blain); 14a: AIRSPACE (anag. in ace); 15a: NASIK (n + a Sik(h)); 18a: CRAMPET (cram pet); 21a: CONF (on in c.f.); 23a: DIRECTS (anag. inc. I, St); 26a: HODJA (O in anag.); 28a: AMPERAGE (am PE rage); 30a: CABOCEERS (Abo in anag.); 32a: LAPP (p-pal, rev., china rhyming slang); 33a: SHEPHERDLESS (d in anag.); 2d: AIR-CAR (a (s)ircar); 3d: CROSS-AND-PILE (DP in cross anile); 4d: HOMY (M in hoy); 5d: TWEAK (t weak); 6d: OVARITIS (o’ vari(e)ti(e)s); 7d: LEISLER; 8d: TAMARICACEAE (mat, rev. + anag. of air ace ace); 9d: ICECAP (pace c I, all rev.); 12d: TRENT (t(or)rent); 13d: BANC (hidden); 16d: BED-TABLE (b + anag., & lit.); 21d: CHAOS (h in anag.); 24d: TWERPS (RP in anag.); 25d: SYES (‘size’); 27d: DECAD (c in dead, ref. Ten Commandments).