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.
This puzzle highlights a couple of the tricks Azed employs to befuddle the unwary solver. Three clues include an extra definition, and one cleverly disguises the definition as a cryptic indicator
Notes to the clues:
1a: H. Higgins excited about V gesture used exultantly? HIGH-FIVE-SIGN (five in anag.). The reference seems to be snooker star Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins rather than Prof. Henry. It’s nice to see ‘V’ used to indicate ‘five’ for a change, rather than the other way round.
14a. Rolls, fab, one gets about in? Money needed. BREAD (re in bad + 2 defs.). Azed throws in the second definition to make it that bit harder for the solver to find the cryptic part, and to enhance the literal reading, but it does also give the solver extra confirmation of the answer.
27a: Buddy shrub (evergreen)? HOLLY (2 meanings). A good enough clue, but the Buddy Holly reference could have been made a little less straightforwardly, Watson feels.
28a: Burns, say? Nasty mark edges one. MAKAR (a in anag.). That’s more like it. Not only does the solver have to know the Scottish poet, but they must also find ‘makar’ in Chambers – hidden in the entry at mak and then cross-referenced to the one at make.
1d: ‘Ring’ books in big success – or character therein? HOBBIT (O bb in hit). A good example of a ‘semi & lit.’ clue where the definition relies on the cryptic part for its full meaning.
3d: Given punishment in hearing? That’s detection for you. FIND (‘fined’). The judicial wording makes for an original homophonic clue.
5d: Glib talk insults plaque vicar put up? VERBALS (slab Rev, reversed + 2 defs). Another unexpected double definition liable to leave the solver wondering what to do with ‘insults’.
8d: Delightful sight for a (poetic) sailor turned up one short? NEEDER (red e’en, rev.). The definition (the last two words) is almost impossible to spot – it looks like just an instruction to remove an A or I from something. The clue alludes of course to the proverb ‘red sky at night, sailor’s delight’ (‘shepherd’ would have given the game away too easily). Very satisfying to solve, and Dr Watson’s favourite of the puzzle.
10d: Eatery serving malt liquor to stop old practice. PORTERHOUSE (porter ho use). Since a porterhouse is a house serving porter, the use of ‘malt liquor’ in the cryptic part verges on the tautological, unless Watson has misinterpreted the clue.
21d: Old French coach, delightful chap but daft in Melbourne. DILLY (3 meanings). The third definition rather spoils the clue in Watson’s view. It doesn’t really improve the surface, and the use of ‘but’ to join different parts of a clue is something good setters generally avoid.
24d: Dipping into the classics or testaments may yield this. SORTES (hidden, & lit.). A great hidden, though Azed may have been lax in allowing ‘the’ (which contributes none of the hidden letters) into the clue.
28d: Early time for poet Motion – limit for him may be expressed thus. MORN (M or N). You’d be forgiven for wondering what’s going on here, even if you’re familiar with the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. The clue is indicating that either M or N may be considered as the limit (end) of ‘Motion’.
9a: OPIFICER (if ice in anag.); 12a: BODY (d in boy); 13a: TRANNIE (an in anag.); 15a: VIAND (a in vin + d); 16a: MACAW TREE (anag. in mace); 17a: TENOUR (one in rut, rev.); 19a: NAYAR (nay AR); 20a: ARDRI (hidden); 22a: SCRAGS (crag2 in (sci)ss(ors)); 25a: SHIELD-MAY; 29a: PULLS IN (pull sin); 30a: VAST (as in VT); 31a: INTRORSE (r in anag.); 32a: NEWS AGENCIES (anag. inc. W ); 2d: GIDEON (Deo in gin3); 4d: ICTIC (first C of CIC in it); 6d: SANITARY (anag. in say); 7d: GUINEA GRASS (anag., see panic2); 11d: SNARY (S nary); 16d: MORELLOS (more L + sol, rev.); 18d: REDWING (d in rewing); 20d: ASH-PAN (h in a span); 23d: ASKARI (K in a sari); 26d: MONTE (mon + t(im)e).