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.
From the cryptic heights of the Christmas competition it’s back down the plains, quite literally, with the January puzzle. A good introduction for newcomers to the Azed (if there are any these days), with many relatively easy clues.
Notes to the clues:
15a: Gazelle disturbed ark with mate around. CHINKARA (anag. in china). This will only have delayed solvers unfamiliar with rhyming slang (china plate = mate).
18a: Vent a bit of anger on student body. ANUS (a + NUS). The misleading definition is worked in beautifully to create a cheeky gem of a clue.
30a: A seaman’s rope? Some area’s fixed with that. SPAN (comp. anag., & lit). Those italics at the end may cause a little frisson of apprehension that the clue is going to be another of those cunning self-referential ones like December’s VEGAN; but it turns out to be just a heavily diluted anagram.
34a: Tailored item costs dear to be altered. COAT-DRESS (anag.). Spotting the anagram quickly at the start of solving, you might be tempted to enter DRESSCOAT.
2d: A large vein. SAPHENA. An unexpected choice of competition word? Watson suspects many solvers, while enjoying the challenge, might have preferred to have a go at, say, STREET-SMART or TORPEDO. A small aside: Dr Watson wondered about using Belgian airline SABENA in the wordplay (for a DVT connection, although this isn’t actually a deep vein), only to find it’s been dropped as an abbreviation from the 2003 edition of Chambers – it’s a little ironic that this is the first puzzle for which that edition is recommended.
3d: Characteristic appearance shown by foreign dwelling, a little restricted. HABITUS (bit in Haus). Or is it ‘a bit’ in ‘hus’?
6d: Portion played is leading to op: ——, possibly. INTRO (comp. anag., & lit.). The compounded anagram is very short and the wordplay is padded out (‘is leading to… possibly’), so that you might not realise immediately how it works.
11d: Some hot millet grain served up producer introduced. SUCH-AND-SUCH (hand in h cuscus, rev.). Azed jumps at the chance of an almost invisible definition (‘some’).
1a: ASHRAMITE (ash rami t(hos)e); 12a: OPEN-HEART (he in anag.); 13a: UPBYE (U Pb ye); 14a: WIRER (w + anag.); 16a: AKEE (a kee(n)); 17a: TROILITE (oil in trite); 20a: UTMOST (M in anag.); 23a: NASION (no. I san, all rev.); 24a: ACAS (a cas(e)); 25a: DINARCHY (ch in anag.); 31a: PLETHORA (Thor in plea); 32a: UPSEE (hidden rev.); 33a: GOBAR (gob Ar.); 35a: WOODHORSE (anag. in worse); 4d: ROYNE (r + y in one); 5d: MEGARON (age in norm, all rev.); 7d: THWAITE (wait in the); 8d: PARKI (‘parky’); 9d: GREET (re in get); 10d: STREET-SMART (anag.); 19d: TORPEDO (anag.); 20d: USHERED (U she red); 21d: OCTOBER (c to be in or); 22d: SATRAPS (a in straps); 26d: IPPON (n opp. I, all rev.); 27d: NASAL (hidden); 28d: CLARO (c + oral, rev.); 29d: WHOSO (anag. less n).