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 1628: Plain (3 Aug 2003)

The ‘Right and Left’ puzzle (an invention of Ximenes, who also gave it its roundabout name) is a great variation of the cryptic crossword. Its beauty lies in the way the clues and the grid complement each other. The double-clue format leads to the double task of separating the clues and then assigning the solutions to the correct halves of the puzzle. The thematic linking word is a nice final touch that forces a single solution. Recent Azed Right and Lefts have had RIGHT AND LEFT and HERE AND THERE as the link, while a transposed ‘Down and Up’ variant used ROLLERCOASTER.

The clueing criteria are, as ever with Azed, strict. The double clues are exactly that – two abutting clues with no redundant words, no overlap, and no cross-referral, but joined together as seamlessly as possible. The clue for the joining word is typically difficult so as to prevent the grid being started quickly. As an additional measure in this puzzle, the setter has created a grid where many of the corresponding checked letters are the same on both sides of the grid. In fact four words on each side have two checked letters the same. At one point Dr Watson’s pencilled-in solution had mismatched top and bottom halves, as well as right and left!

In the notes below, an oblique separates the two parts of the clue, and solutions are marked L or R to indicate their location in the grid.

Notes to the clues:

1a:     Appropriate novel that time has locked in trap case.  THE GO-BETWEEN (gob etwee in then).  A clever take on the joining word, courtesy of L.P. Hartley, referring to its role in the puzzle. No give-away anagrams here, note.

6a:     Plain rings in porridge / bend round the outer edge in over-precise fashion.  HOMINY (in in homy; L); PRIMLY (rim in ply; R).  Making the two clue parts different in size is a good ruse to throw the solver off the scent.

7a:     Part of sonata, centrepiece of quartet assigned to perform / fortissimo – upheaval grips this old fool.  RONDO ((qua)r(tet) on do; R); OUPHE (hidden; L).

8a:     Oxford pair the old get out of / with laxer lacing – tussle for some only.  OUTWIN (OU twin; R); WRAXLE (w + anag; L).

10a:   What turns one on includes love membrane / or play, waving plant.  SEROSA (Eros in SA;R); PYROLA (anag.; L).  One of the trickier pairs to allocate with certainty, due to the common checked O and A.

11a:   My grandsons went to war: exercise trims / buffoon, minor functionary in hospital.  PELOPS (PE lops; R); SCOGAN (cog in san; L).  Two historical characters to identify, though both appear in Chambers, and Scogan may be familiar to solvers who received the Azed slip for the JOKESMITH competition.

15a:   One loveless wife chopped Canadian / squash to munch round the States.  NEWFIE ((o)ne + anag.;R); CUSHAW (US in chaw; L).

16a:   What was the point in 9/11? / Bush (old-fashioned) stuck into seeking revenge.  NEELE (hidden; L); GREVE (hidden; R).  A topical clue, indeed, and an unusual hidden, requiring the solver to spell out ‘nine eleven’ before finding the hidden word.

17a:   Disconnect scattered bits of ulna in / waste glass left inside hip armour.  UNNAIL (anag.; L); CULLET (l in culet; R).

18a:   Toast the countryman’s to cover half with / what’s not minced in dog food, like part of brain.  HEALTH (heal + (wi)th; R); PONTAL (anag. in Pal).

1d:     Time on bay making rower’s pin / chip English esplanade.  THOWL (t + howl; L); EPROM (E prom; R).  The first solution appears in Chambers under thole, which would also be a temptingly possible solution, given a broad interpretation of ‘bay’.

2d:     Pure at heart (outside and in), frequently / bending rule as of yore to utter fluently.  HOURLY ((p)ur(e) in holy; L); TROULE (anag?; R).  The double meaning of ‘pure at heart’ is well-conceived, but the second part of the clue appears to be flawed, with the necessary ‘to’ positioned in the definition rather than the anagram.

3d:     Encourage; cheerless.  EMPATRON (L); WINTERLY (R).

4d:     Wayward Noel with yen of old, just / one – admitting that is wayward Noel to separate, as before?  ONELY (anag. + Y; L); ELOIN (I in anag.; R).  By shifting the ‘one’ around, Azed makes the join much harder to find.

5d:     Malawians: any lumbered with name James / by nominator brought up as farm servant.  NYANJAS (anag. + n + Jas.; R); BYREMAN (by + namer, rev.; L).

9d:     Shaggy old pelt thoroughly enveloping mad fool / who’d get a rickety couch.  WOOLFELL (anag. in well; R); DOGWHEAT (anag.; L). ‘Couch’ being not quite what it seems, but a type of grass.

10d:   Strain drink, we hear, as preparation for major test / jittery chaps’ll ingest consisting of green veg.  PSYCH-UP (‘sye cup’; L); SPINACH (in in anag.; R).

12d:   ‘Hedgy’ stuff – ‘Reduced pressure on bolt’ – / international airline putting it out; it makes one speechless.  PRIVET (p + rivet; R); ALALIA (Al(it)alia; L).  In fact Italy’s national carrier (whose flight numbers, incidentally, are prefixed with AZ) has a good safety record in recent years.

13d:   Brown not out: I’m stumped – / this indicates follow-on (in scoring), as in use abroad.  DUNNO (dun + N.O.); SEGUE (e.g. in anag.).

14d:   Jags offering drivers’ accessory that reduced by 50% / increase in volume – great for the US.  TEETH (tee + th(at); R); SWELL (2 meanings; L).

Other solutions:

10a: HITHERSIDE (hithe + anag.);  12a: TRANSE (tra(i)ns + E);  14a: ENCOMION;  17a: OMERS (hidden);  18a: MEASE ((tediu)m + ease);  19a: TALIPOT (a lip in tot);  22a: STAGE (2 meanings);  24a: ROMAN (anag.);  28a: SCHIZONT (chiz in anag.);  31a:  GENOA (hidden);  32a: SALICORNIA (anag.);  33a: ELEA (E LEA; see Eleatic in Chambers);  34a: SPAEWIFE (anag. + Fe);  1d: JUVE (anag. of first letters, & lit.);  2d: ORANGE-ROOT (O + ranger + too, rev.);  3d: CHICHA (chic + h + a);  4d: ETYMA (hidden);  6d: TETON ((drough)t + note, rev.);  7d: PSAMMITE (anag.);  8d: RINSE (anag. with r for w);  9d: DEEMSTER (ems in deter);  13d: STROGANOFF (anag. less me + ff);  15d: IMPRESSE (impresse(d));  16d: ESTANCIA (tan in anag.);  20d: ALCHERA (anag.);  23d: ADONAI (a dońa + i);  25d: MVULE (vul(pine) in me);  27d: LIGNE (anag.);  29d: TAPE (2 meanings).