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 Centreís message board.
For most regular Azed solvers, Dr Watson included, Printerís Devilry puzzles are a rare treat, eagerly awaited and solved with great pleasure. For new solvers, though, they can take a lot of getting used to. Itís unlikely that anyoneís first PD clue, let alone a full puzzle, is solved quickly or easily. PDs are really nothing like normal clues: they lack a definition and wordplay in the normal sense, and they play with spacing, punctuation and capitalisation in a way thatís contrary to the usual rigorous observance. However they do allow the setter great scope for wit, humour and springing surprises, and Azed takes full advantage of this.
How PD clues work is explained well in the puzzleís preamble, and in the notes on clue types on this site. How to solve them is harder to explain. In most PD clues the devilled version (i.e. the clue itself) makes less sense than its undevilled version, so solvers can look for the part of the clue thatís the most odd-looking to find a possible insertion point for the answer. If you feel youíve found the undevilled version, but the letters youíve added donít make a word, itís worth shifting the insertion point a letter or two in either direction to see if that works (see e.g. 26d). Be open to unusual word structures or endings (as in 8d) because the setter will rely on a few of these to provide PD-able words. Finally be prepared to fully revise your reading of the clue (as in 21a). In the best PD clues the undevilled reading can be utterly different from the devilled, and itís all achieved by shifting a few letters and exploiting the different meanings of the words Ė that idea at least is familiar to all solvers.
In the notes below, an oblique marks the insertion point in each clue.
Notes to the clues:
1a:†††† As marketing manager, Iíll reward the s/ame as my best men† EREPSIN (...these reps I name..).† Scientific terms that are such a pain to clue normally often make great PD words, as the setter is freed from the need to defiine them.
6a††††† Gadget† GISMO.† A word offering competitors lots of alternative PD approaches.
10a††† Iím not sure youíd call at our ma/mís tone.† LINEAGE (...a tourmaline a gemstone).† A complete change in meaning and an uncommon word in the solution make this one of the harder clues in the puzzle.
11a††† Rare species are bought by the avi/d, kept safe from predators.† ARYAN† (...aviary and...).
13a††† Examples of fish may beg a pe/ak in river.† RINSEABLE† (...be gaper in sea, bleak in...).† Quite easy to guess where this clue is going, harder to pin down exactly which fish itís going to be.
14a††† For those visiting, far/e on the tractor is always fun.† MARID (...farm a ride...).† One of the more straightforward clues. If a possible but unfamiliar solution presents itself, itís always worth checking the dictionary.
15a††† The designerís working on a dress in organ/izing it for the fuller figure.† DIES (...organdie, sizing...). It looks like the split word is going to be Ďdressí and the solution comes as a surprise.
16a††† Iíd never confront a gang of drunks, but sing Ďóó (lew/d) off!í.† INOSITOL (...single winos I told...).† A clue to raise a chuckle even before itís solved..
19a††† Whoever samples Ďgro/atsí, an Aussie seafood dish?† PERMEATE (...groper meat eats...).
21a††† I fell, and roadstea/d locals are upset.† MISROUTE (If Elland Roadís team is routed...). This one needs considerable adjustment. For solvers unfamiliar with English football, Elland Road is the home of Leeds United, who have had a rocky season.
25a††† I like painting alfresco, but itís not the we/ed..† ATHERINE (...weather I need).
27a††† ĎYouíll find the confirmed,í I d/rone, Ďtoshy away from workí.† LERP (...idler prone to shy...).
29a††† Donít ask her to pay, hal/ting her for the first time.† FONDA (...half on dating...).† What a good PD should be: sound all round and elegantly worded.
30a††† A cl/ingfilm programme will raise awareness of ecological issues..† EVERGREEN (...clever greening film...).
31a††† Seeing the old dear in need of a rest, a scout finds h/at.† ERASE (...her a seat).
34a††† I donít understand Ė why the bowler, Cho/pin?† SEA LEGS (...chose a leg-spin).
1d††††† They fed their Span/ish mash of tinned meat and left-overs.† ELAMI (...spaniel a mishmash...).
2d††††† T/arts arenít enough to make a Scottish fool!.† ENGROSS (Ten grossarts...). A fine penny-drop when you see how it works.
3d††††† Naming a violet, is he s/ane? Not to botanists† PERISARC (...Hesperis arcane?...).
4d††††† Iím really ill Ė I couldnít Ė fe/ver.† IGNITE (...feign it ever).
5d††††† In a US li/mbo, ATS will beat risk, at sea.† NESTOR (...line-storm boats will be at risk...).
6d††††† The top reg/ister could hardly exclude Marley† GAEL (...reggae lister...). A tough problem for the setter, brilliantly overcome. Dr Watsonís favourite clue of the puzzle.
7d††††† A co/le titís an ideal place to build a nest.† SYBIL (...cosy billetís...). Watson spent a long time trying to do something with Ďco-letí before the right answer dawned.
8d††††† Self-denial and prayers Ė for/ty for the devout.† MALENTENDU (...form a Lenten duty...).
9d††††† A weak manager, maybe con, d/id work ethic among staff† ONE-STEP (...condones tepid...).
12d††† His business is mer/ging on entrepreneurial.† CANTILEVER (...mercantile, verging...). A big word fitted perfectly into a small clue..
17d††† Group of Ďstrollingí players maybe includes fla/t horn.† NEURONAL (...fl‚neur on althorn...). As so often, Azed makes a virtue of necessity and comes up with a lovely idea.
18d††† A s/aw Iíll be served after the afternoon session.† IMPLETE (...simple tea will...).
20d††† Cinema-goers may be surprised by the Alp/en on stage.† ACINOSE (...Al Pacino seen...).
22d††† Ac/e bamboozled the opposition.† UTERUS (A cute ruse...).
23d††† Itís a solitary time for the abbey Ė bre/ach in a cell. †THRENE (...brethren each...).
24d††† The chairman spa/rks curtailed debate on the subject.† TREMA (... chairmanís pat remarks...).
26d††† The collier has to h/ack loads all day.† EAVES (...heave sackloads...).
26d††† Since thereís nosh or t/aters, donít hold back.† AGEE (...no shortage, eaters...).† Having guessed at Ďshortageí, itís tempting at first to try and fit the break after the Ďaí.