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 1654: 'Overlaps' (1 Feb 2004)

The ‘Overlaps’ puzzle made its debut only a year ago, and Azed has clearly been keen to have another go, building on solvers’ comments. This version shows two welcome changes. First, the 11 × 13 grid contains overlaps of only three letters instead of four, allowing more flexibility and choice of grid entry (and generously including two fully-checked 13-letter lights). Second, the clues here cover both definitions, and all of the letters in the overlapping lights, making them tighter and less ambiguous. The solver still needs to think carefully about the way the clues are constructed. Each clue is really two consecutive clues, but in one the wordplay covers the letters minus the overlapping part. Either word may be partially indicated, and either word may be clued first. This should be familiar to solvers who tackled ‘Right and Left’ a  few months ago. As ever Azed exploits the possibilities of the clue structure to make the clues entertaining and challenging but quite solvable.

If we do revisit this style of puzzle, there are no doubt more clueing styles that could be tried out, and Dr Watson hopes that Azed will continue to experiment and develop the idea.

In the notes below the overlapping solutions are given in the order that they are clued.

Notes to the clues:

11a:   Cluer (e.g. I) mixed cement with rarely used in the country – response includes little new.  RICE GLUE / ENCHO(RIC) (anag.; n in echo). One way to mislead the solver is to give the longer solution the shorter clue. Another is to reverse a familiar bit of ‘cluespeak’. In this case ‘in the country’ looks like it’s indicating a dialect word rather than providing the definition.

13a:   Walking-stick I cut from flexible piston found in secret store, a wreck ye ken.  (ASH)-PLANT / STRAMASH (pl(i)ant; ram in stash).  Yes, or perhaps aye, laddie, those last two words are intended to point to Alban.

18a:   Deplorable intelligence service knocks out half of Islamic complex system.  (MOS)SAD / KOSMOS  (sad; KO’s Mos(lem)).  The only clue to use a double definition (of sorts), and the clever use of ‘knocks out’ gives the solver some extra thinking to do.

3d:     Sailor going after a behemoth (its end). AHAB  (a + h + AB, & lit.).  Captain Ahab features reasonably frequently in blocked puzzles in the dailies. Azed sets the standard for clueing him.

6d:     Copies City gardens?  ECHOES  (EC hoes).  Chambers doesn’t indicate that  EC (for East Central) refers to the postal address of the City of London.

17d:   Ancient peer, one extreme of evil perhaps.  EORL  (e or l).  It takes a little lateral thinking to spot that either ‘e’ or ‘l’ could be an extreme of ‘evil’.

24d:   E.g. Rackham relinquishing art, artist to cheer.  HURRA  ((Art)hur + RA).  Arthur Rackham is the renowned early 20th century illustrator of children’s books.

Other solutions:

1a: CADASTRE / (TRE)SPASS (as in anag.; s pass);  16a: RECENTRE / (TRE)E-NAIL (recent + re; a in line, rev.);  23a: WHERE(OUT) / OUTSPEED (hidden; anag.);  29a: (SES)TETTE / TREVISES (t in tete; v is in anag.);  30a: CRESCENT / ENTHRALS;  31a: HALTERES / (RES)ERVES (alter in hes; anag.);  1d: CESAREWITCH (c + erase, rev. + witch);  2d: ANTHEM (an them);  4d: SOMAN (so + man);  5d: TRANT (RN interspersed in tat);  7d: SEPSES (SE sp(i)es, all rev.);  8a: ALAP (à la p(age));  9d: SUNNI (’un in anag.);  10d: SETTLEDNESS (sett led ness);  12d: CRACK (2 meanings, dab adj.);  14d: SCROUGE (sc(out) + rouge);  15d: KNAP (k + nap);  19d: SEA ICE (e in saice);  20d: MOTSER (mo + rest, rev.);  21d: DELTA (a to end in dealt);  22d: PETTLE (‘petal’);  25d: TESTS (hidden);  26d: SITHE (H in site);  27d: TAEL (tae L);  28d: SERR (s(in) + err).