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 1546: Plain (6 Jan 2002)

As the decorations come down and the credit card bills come in, at least we can rely on Azed to lift the post-Christmas mood with some sparky cluemanship.  There are some good examples in this puzzle of how to tackle the shorter words.


Notes to the clues:

1a: Room temperature’s favoured for this.  CHAMBERTIN (chamber t in, & lit.).  What a great clue.  If ever there was an ‘& lit.’ waiting to happen, this is it.  Typically, Azed got there first.

13a: Source of scent lyam’s nose got from house initially.  OTTO ((l)otto).  ‘Nose’ and ‘initially’ together make it a little harder to spot what’s going on.  A lyam is a bloodhound.  Otto turned up in its other form (attar) in the last competition puzzle.

19a: Hole-maker at St Andrews: top golfer, hot, assured of success?  ELSHIN (Els  H in).  Dr Watson predicted a few reviews back that we hadn’t seen the last of Ernie Els in Azed’s puzzles.  As long as his fame continues, he’s too clue-friendly to ignore.

32a: Italian air suiting ‘lily’, hybrid kept inside.  CANZONA (zo in canna).  Chambers helpfully explains that the name ‘lily’ is “extended to other plants of the same family, ... or unrelated.”  Canna appears to be unrelated.  The clue also features that Scrabble-player’s favourite, the zo, zho, dso, dzho or dzo.

2d: Unreliable source, like a stiff container with one in?  HEARSAY (a in hearsy).  Watson would not have believed there was such a word as hearsy, but indeed it appears in Chambers.  A quick search of the internet turned up no examples of its use in context, unfortunately.

4d: Fish before duck? Pan cleaner needed.  BRILLO (brill + O).  This is the trade name mentioned in the puzzle’s footnote.  A Brillo pad is something the Devil’s Dictionary might have defined as: “A wire wool pad infused with detergent, suitable for removing Teflon from saucepans and skin from the fingers.”

20d: Wanton country girl receiving odd mail? The opposite.  IMMORAL (mor in anag.).  ‘The opposite’ indicates that mor goes inside the anagram rather than vice versa. It’s a handy device that helps setters to achieve a good wording.

23d: Achilles? Where he indulged in sulks, mostly put on.  TENDON (ten(t) don).  The reference in this clever clue is to Troilus and Cressida (or its source, The Iliad), in which Achilles, following a tiff with Agamemnon, refuses to leave his tent and do battle with Hector.

24d: Bit of medication, one well known to J. Newcombe?  TROCHE (T. Roche).  You’ll need to cast your mind back to 1974 for the last time John Newcombe and Tony Roche won the Wimbledon men’s doubles, but as probably the most successful men’s pairing in tennis history, they can’t be considered too obscure for this puzzle.  Would Tony have appeared as A. Roche on the scoreboard, though?

26d: Melon substitute you’ll see in a raspberry ring.  NARAS (hidden).  Another of Azed’s unspottable hiddens, guaranteed to have solvers everywhere kicking themselves.

27d: One comparable to G. Knight, making lucre?  DROSS (D. Ross).  Watson, being a dunce about cricket, and vaguely remembering an England player called Knight (actually Nick Knight), assumed this clue must allude to a batting partnership or similar.  In fact you need to think Tamla Motown, not Trent Bridge, the comparable pair being Gladys and Diana.

28d: Young Pike in old coat for defence, busy.  JACK (3 meanings).  The literal reading of the clue refers to the sitcom Dad’s Army.  There must be an almost infinite number of ways to combine the many meanings of jack.  This is one of the harder ones to crack, even for an adept ‘busy’.

Other solutions

11a: PAIR-OAR (pa. I roar);  12a: LARRIKIN (RI in larkin’);  14a: TRAILS (r in tails);  15a: COIT (I in cot);  16a: ALABASTER (anag. in anag.);  17a: CASCO (hidden);  22a: HYPATE (anag.);  24a: THEMA (m in Thea);  25a: SNAKE-BIRD (anag.);  28a: JARK (J + ark);  29a: LORIOT (RI in loot);  30a: AREG (a re G);  31a: DISCOURE (scour in die);  33a: TONELESSLY (anag.);  1d: CALTECH (L in anag.);  3d: MARIA (m + aria); 5d: RAILBED (e in anag.);  6d: TINCAL (‘tinkle’);  7d: NOTOTHERIUM (other in anag.);  8d: TATIE (ta tie);  9d: GROT (r in got);  10d: TRANSPARENT;  18d: PÉBRINE (PE brine);  21d: NATTERY (e(nforce)r in natty)


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