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 1615: Plain (4 May 2003)

This seemed a harder than average puzzle – it didn’t help that Dr Watson was forced by circumstances to try and solve it without Chambers initially. The main problems were a couple of fairly difficult references and more than usually ambiguous wording in some clues. Or to put it another way , the puzzle was both a challenge and an education.


Notes to the clues:

11a: Old country man, born Joey Westward?  BOOR (b + roo, rev.).  This cartographic way of indicating a reversal seems to be growing in popularity. One has to distinguish carefully between expressions like ‘westward’ that mean heading or facing west, and those like ‘westerly’ that mean from the west.

19a: Notable figure making appeal for reason about scrap?  WORTHY (ort in why).  Azed finds a subtle way to indicate ‘why’.

27a: Island state, very small, home to Francesca.  RIMINI (RI mini).  Rhode Island won’t have given too much trouble, but Francesca da Rimini, the title of a piece by Tchaikovsky , might be a less familiar reference.

30a: Wrinkled.  RUGATE.  The alternative of RUGOSE and the unchecked fourth letter make 22d a key solution in the puzzle.

32a: Asking questions, quote rent returned.  EROTETIC (cite tore, all rev.).  Watson struggled here with the ambiguity of ‘rent’ (and of ‘crack’ in 28a) combined with the rather difficult clues at 26d and 29d. This corner of the puzzle remained unsolved until Chambers was again at hand.

3d: Venue for ‘midnight feast’ again stepped up.  DORTER (retrod, rev.).  The unwary solver, thinking of ‘midnight feasts in the dorm’, might be tempted to go for DORMER.

13d: Misguided swim and revolutionary poet’s gone astray.  MISWANDRED (anag. + and red).  Lord Byron famously swam the Hellespont and survived, while Shelley, a non-swimmer, drowned at sea. It’s not quite clear whether this clue refers to either of them, but the wording is still very good.

22d: Old cavalryman for hire king put in circulation.  RUTTER (R + utter).  With RITTER and REITER also given in Chambers, but looking unpromising, it took Watson a while to find the correct horseman and so pin down RUGATE with certainty.

29d: Play about robots suitable for children? It’s a hoot, one assumes.  RURU (RUR + U).  Surprisingly, a reference to the play RUR can be found in Chambers, under the etymological entry at robot, this being the work for which the word was originally coined.

Other solutions

1a: OLD-FOGYISH (anag.);  12a: BEANPOLE (2 mngs);  13a: MORAT (hidden);  14a: GLOVER (g lover);  15a: COGITATE (cog + tat in i.e.);  16a: SHELLS (anag. inc. h, L); 20a: RE-EDIT (reed + it(as)); 21a: ALDERN (anag. + RN);  26a:  TERMER (term ER);  28a: DRIFTPIN (rift P in din);  31a: STOIT (I in tots, rev.);  33a: ERAS (E ras);  34a: TARADIDDLE (rad + anag. in tale);  2d: LOOPHOLE (anag. inc ll., separated);  4d: FRAILTEE (rail in anag.);  5d: GELOSY (gel + anag.);  6d: YAGGER (anag. less d);  7d: IN-LINE (in line);  8d: HOVAS (ho vas);  9d: BLET (blet(her));  10d: DERESTRICT (deres + ‘tricked’);  17d: PERMUTED (Rm in anag.);  18d: BIENNIAL (I in ben + lain, rev.);  23d: NEPETA (hidden., & lit.);  24d: TRIFID (if in dirt, all rev.);  25d: MILORD (OR in mild);  26d: GIGOT (go in git).

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