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 1624: Plain (6 Jul 2003)

A straightforward puzzle to start the new competition year. But it does feature an apparent slip-up by the setter at 7d. This is such a rare event that regular solvers are likely to welcome it as a sign of Azed’s human fallibility rather than a criticism of the quality his clue-writing.

Notes to the clues:

1a:     Short chap, OAP playing part of short game.  APPROACH-SHOT (anag.).  Non-golfers have no excuse, as ‘short game’ also appears in Chambers.

21a:   Like soft nightwear slipped off by Nelly the tart?  FLAN (flan(nelly)).  A lovely image, though it takes some grammatical stretch for ‘slipped off’ to work cryptically.

24a:   Old soldier, lance abandoned, one impotent to protect English lives.  SPEISADE  (E is in spade).  A clue of several parts involving something of a treasure trail. ‘Lance abandoned’ is part of the definition, the dictionary entry being lance speisade under lance prisado (all cross referenced, fortunately). ‘Spade’ in the sense used here is spade3, under spado,  ‘Is’ for ‘lives’ adds the final twist.

30a:   Part of dining-room serving curries?  GROOMS (hidden).  The fluent surface and unusual definition make this hidden more satisfying than most of its kind.

36a:   Elizabeth, our queen, more shrewd about society – a know-all, in fact.  BESSERWISSER (Bess + ER + S in wiser).  ‘In fact’ appears only to be there for the flow of the surface reading. Watson is puzzled as to how this word (it’s German and often facetious, apparently) ever found its into a English dictionary, even one as eclectic as Chambers.

5d:    One in bed toys deviously with temporizing utterance.  OYSTER  (anag. + er).  Nicely misleading, and the long indicator for ‘er’ makes a changes from ‘hesitation’.

7d:    Reefers, very strong, held in lips askance.  SPLIFFS  (ff in anag.?).  Oh, dear, where’s the other S gone? We eagerly await the explanation.

12d:  Dodgy market trader has muddled boss up – and her following.  SHARE-PUSHER (anag.+ super, rev. + her).  What a pity the word structure didn’t allow ‘her indoors’.

25d:  What with little depth da Vinci may have carved?  INCAVI (anag. less d, & lit.). A simple enough clue, but making good use of ‘little depth’.

26d:  Record breaking over, lay down.  DEPONE (EP in done).  Neat, succinct and slightly devious; the clue Dr Watson would most like to have thought of this month.

Other solutions:

10a: BELAY;  12a: LOPING (pin in log);  14a: SNAPSHOT (snaps hot);  16a: SWINGE (swinge(r));  17a: RENDERER (ren + anag.);  18a: FORE (r in foe);  19a: PEDERERO (dere in anag.);  21a: EDAM (anag. less r);  27a: GAMB (gamb(it));  28a: QUENCHER (n, c, h in queer);  31a:  SHEAR-HOG (hear in shog);  34a: ORDURE (anag. + re);  35a: VEENA (E in vena);  2d: PENSEE (pen see);  3d: PLAP (l in pap, & lit.);  4d: RAPID (p in raid);  6d: CLOSE-REEFED (anag.);  8d: HISN (hidden);  9d: ONAGRA (anag.);  13d: GREENERY (gree ne Ry);  15d: ARPEGGIO (egg I in a RPO);  20d: EMBOLUS (lob rev. in emu’s);  23d: DARTRE (hidden rev.);  29d: CARES (cares(s));  31d: OLDS (Olds(mobile));  32d:  SHES (he in SS).