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 1544: ‘Christmas Devilry’ (23 Dec 2001)

Solvers have plenty of distractions (and less concentration) over the festive period, and a really difficult puzzle could end up in the bin with the all the other unfinished Christmas leftovers, so Azed usually aims with his Christmas puzzles to be entertaining and original rather than especially devious.  This puzzle gives and new twist to an old favourite.  The acrosses have Printer’s Devilry (PD) clues, while the down clues contain superfluous anagrams of their across counterparts, creating a kind of reverse devilry.

On first sight this looks like it might be giving away too much – every across answer is clued twice in effect.  Once you start solving, however, it becomes clear that the anagrams are very cleverly hidden, and you end up congratulating yourself and the setter each time you spot one.  Moreover an anagram isn’t that great a hint to an obscure solution, but can be enough to take the edge off for solvers who find PDs a struggle (especially while digesting the Christmas pud).  Anyone who’s tried to write a clue for the competition will appreciate the effort that must have gone into producing seventeen such clues.

PD clues will be familiar to most readers (how they work is explained in the puzzle’s preamble), so Dr Watson offers only a couple of thoughts on how to tackle them.  Remember that the ‘undevilled’ reading should make more sense than the ‘devilled’ clue, so first look for the word that seems most out of place in a literal reading of the clue. Next, try to think of something that could make sense of the rest of the words, and see what letters would have to be inserted to produce it. Finally, reconsider the punctuation, capitalisation and spacing.  It’s legitimate to change the gaps between words anywhere in the clue, but in practice Azed does this sparingly.  In a really good PD clue the devilled and undevilled versions may have quite different meanings, and finding the solution provides a great penny-dropping moment.

It’s harder to offer advice on the down clues, as they are a completely new type.  The first thing to check is the length of the anagram from the across clue. After that it’s trial and error.  Watson started off by solving some of the PDs on their own, then looking for the anagrams to remove.  Later on it was often a case of solving the across and down pair together, by finding a potential solution to satisfy both clues.

In the notes below, the clues are ordered as across and down pairs.  In the PD clues the insertion point is marked with a “/”. In the downs, the superfluous anagram is shown in parentheses.


Notes to the clues:

1a: Someone should set a good example locally - the p/rying!  ARSONIST  (…parson is trying).  The final word in the clue sticks out like a sore thumb, making it a clear candidate for the insertion point. Probably the easiest of the PDs.
1d: Further portion of meal [sat on ris]sole.  ALSO  (hidden).  If you’re going to disrupt a hidden word clue, this is the way to do it.  There’s little chance of solving it without identifying the anagram first.


7a: Having its full crew of Chinamen aboard the sam/e parts.  PAND  (…sampan departs)
2d: Rarely rejecting gold coins found in bar[n pad].  RECUSANCE  (ecus in rance)


10a: In this, s/ad gear's essential. UNSHEATHE  (…sun’s heat, headgear’s…).  Short PD clues with long solutions can be the trickiest to solve. In this one it’s hard to guess what the undevilled version might be about.
3d: Aussie woodlice, [see, haunt h]ill, artless.  SLATERS  (anag.)


11a: Team/ing we'll win matches, they say.  SCATCH  (Teams catching well…).  Experienced PD solvers will be on the lookout for we’ll/well and similar tricks with apostrophes.

4d: Protest cut out short lines? Having nothing [cast ch]at first.  OUTCRY  (O + anag. + ry.). 


13a: The officer responsible for b/ay's subsistence money.  ATTAP  (…batta pays…).  You’ll need to check batta in Chambers to see how this works.  The end of the clue gives helpfully gives a definition.

5d: Desert Arab: is he [apt at] catching wild leaderless camel with it?  ISHMAELITE  ((c)amel anag. + it in is he).  One of the easier anagrams to slot in, but made to fit neatly into the context of the clue.


14a: Making al/ly's a major challenge for style guru.  OUTCOME  (…a lout comely…).  A classic PD with a witty twist. Watson’s joint favourite of the puzzle.

6d: Char[m cue, too], deserted old faggot.  TEAD  (tea + d).  It also provides Watson’s favourite down clue.  The added anagram works like a charm.


17a: Fugitive caught by man, t/hin, trying to escape.  RAPTORES  (…mantrap tore shin…)

7d: Small detachment. PATROL


18a: The moolah hasn't reached the min/t.  BARYE  (…minbar yet).  The clever use of  a double meaning gives completely different readings before and after devilry.  It’s Watson’s other joint favourite, but would ‘left’ rather than ‘reached’ have made it even better in the devilled reading?

8d: What's directed towards sailor, making an[y ear b]oil!  ATTAR  (at tar).  


19a: After a whole night's drinking we all felt 'mo/rish'.  RELIVE  (…more liverish)

9d: Pressed roughly about duck we s[erve, I l]et down.  DEPOSERS  (O in anag.)


21a: Imaginative reconstruction has made the ru/ler.  INSTAL  (…ruins taller)

12d: Cyclone making one on f[lat in s]oot rising run before wild noises.  DEPRESSION  (ped. + anag.)


23a: The hostess's nightmare: not a so/ya one accepted.  ULNAR  (…not a soul, nary a one,…)

15d: Cav[an rul]e obscured herb, one producing useful seeds.  CEVADILLA  (anag. of cave + dill a)


25a: This l/ine is what you'd expect from a selfish player. OCKERISM  (“This locker is mine!”…)

16  Early Christian misled i.e. to be 'in' [crimes, OK]?  EBIONITE  (anag.)


28a: Moral decay, Ro/land, according to sanctimonious Brits.  TSOURIS  (…rots our island…)

20d: Inward flow showing no date on fliers stuffed in i[s stir ou]t?  INDRAFT  (n.d. RAF in it)


30a: Are public abroad, you'll recall, taking name from We/nger? Many.  IMARI  (A republic… Weimar in Germany).  The only PD clue to involve any significant manipulation away from the insertion point.  Arsene Wenger is the coach of Arsenal FC, but that’s almost beside the point.

22d: [I, Mr, ai]ring results from sin in young girl's embrace.  TERRIT  (err in tit)


31a: Only the finest knights could, cla/d in status.  IMPALA  (…claim Paladin status)

24d: Nothing in irregular pul[p malai]se shows what'll enlarge movement?  LOUPES  (O in anag. of pulse)


32a: For a sore throat I don’t go for linctus – bu/y lemon juice and whisky.  TISIPHONE  (…but I sip honey…)

26d: B[eth is pion]eer vessel in Kansas.  KVASS  (vas in Ks)


33a: Bags dispense with the need for a t/rainer.  EAST  (…tea-strainer).  The word offers a myriad of PD possibilities – Azed has found one of the best.

27d: Gr[eat s]een playing suffers with them, I spy deviously.  YIPS  (anag.).  The hard-to-spot anagram is enough to throw the solver off the scent in what would otherwise have been a rather easy clue.


34a: You'll see them unrolling their mat/ting to pray.  SANDSTAR  (…mats and starting…)

29d: Jock's irritated: flight time hi[s standar]d.  SAIR  (s(t)air).  With its ambiguous wording, it’s is a clue to keep you puzzling even after you’ve found the solution.

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