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 1637: Plain (5 Oct 2003)

This puzzle won’t have kept many regular solvers up past their bedtimes, but the less experienced may have struggled with clues like 13a and 27a, for which a little lateral thinking delivers big dividends.

Notes to the clues:

10a:   In spite of returning energy sister swallows painkiller  NUROFEN (for, rev. + E in nun).  ‘For’ in the sense of ‘For all that he tried he couldn’t do it’.

13a:   Tramp going where his heart was in say Anglo-Catholicism.  SPIKERY (piker for a in say).  Double trouble for the solver results from the use of ‘tramp’ to provide both ‘piker’ and ‘a’, and from the sneaky disguising of ‘say’ as part of the definition.

14a:   Upward curve welcomed by Chancellor.  HANCE  (hidden).  Dr Watson constructed the solution as han + CE, despite not finding anything in the dictionary to link ‘han’ with ‘welcomed’. The correct explanation didn’t dawn until the solution was in the post.

15a:   Criticisms from e.g. Wesley blasted sin, endless nuisance  SNIPES (2 meanings, anag. + pes(t)). To get the second definition you’ll need to think method acting rather than Methodism.

27a:   Iris’s part, coloratura role in Carmen?  AREOLA (anag. in AA).  Some very misleading wordplay. ‘coloratura’ is a bit farfetched as an anagram indicator, and Carmen = AA (Automobile Association) is one of the old crossword puns that surfaces now and then, but all so winsomely put together that it’s a pleasure to solve.

4d:     Regulators measuring obstruction once put up.  OFTEL (of + let, rev.).  Azed often exploits the more obscure meanings to short words like ‘of’ to maintain variety.

6d:     Small bit of rope: what it contains goes into cleat at being cast off.  CRINGLE  (ring in cle(at)).  You do have to solve this reductively, as it’s only when you find cringle in Chambers that you discover a cringle holds a ring. Watson’s nautical knowledge isn’t sufficient to know if this clue manages a ‘semi-& lit’.

23d:   See dim one amongst stars sulk about Queen.  MEROPE  (ER in mope).  This particular star won’t be found in Chambers; interested solvers may wish to point their telescope in the direction of Taurus.

Other solutions:

1a: ICONOMACHIST (con + anag. in it);  12a: CRAN (c + A in RN);  17a: LUNGWORT (anag. in lunt);  18a: RHOMBI (r ho MB I);  20a: ALKIE (K, I in ale);  21a: GROAT (a in grot);  22a: MEMNON ((Pria)m + anag.);  24a: TANGLING (tang ling);  29a: ARIOT (I in a rot);  30a: BURTONS (2 meanings);  31a: OMER (re mo, all rev.);  32a: DIAPASE (a pas in die);  33a: ENDONUCLEASE (anag. + lease);  1d: INCHARITABLE (in + anag. + table);  2d: CURAT (curat(or));  3d: NON-COM (N + oncom(e));  5d: MESQUIT (me squit);  7d: HOKI (K in hoi);  8d: ICE POINT (anag. inc. 0, C);  9d: TRYSTING-TREE (try string tree);  11d: FRERE (r in free);  16d: CORNERED (r in cone + red);  19d: BALLOON (all in boon);  20d: AMNESIC;  21d: GARUM (ar. in mug, rev.);  25d: GAYAL (ay in gal);  26d: LOESS (e in loss);  28d: OTTO ((fag)otto).