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 1576: Plain (4 Aug 2002)

An entertaining ‘Plain’ with only a few traps waiting to spring on the unprepared solver. The highlight for Dr Watson was discovering what must be two of the queerest fish in Chambers’ well-stocked  pond, the eulachon and the hassar.


Notes to the clues:

15a: Lute we hear spread over part of palace, Illyrian. CEIL (‘seal’ (lute2) and hidden).  A double cryptic indicator can make things doubly difficult. In this case the definition is in the middle of the clue, not at the start or end where you’d normally look for it, and the connection between ‘lute’ and ‘seal’ takes a bit of finding. The reference to Twelfth Night, though, is skilfully done.

16a. Odd fish netted in mist at sea. HASSAR (SS in haar).  The first of the fishy fish. No doubt Azed included ‘at sea’ to send the solver trawling for a non-existent anagram.

17a: Len and Jane exchanging names for same short time in apprenticeship.  LEHRJAHRE (hr for n in Len, Jane).  The unusual double substitution is well indicated and makes the best of a word that looks a setter’s nightmare.

20a: Little lad to croak? One’s too young to do that!.  TADDIE (tad die).  Italics and exclamation mark may have sent shudders through solvers who stumbled over last year’s UNINFLATED clue, but this one proved to be much more tractable and fun. Dr Watson’s favourite in a puzzle that’s full of wit.

22a: Putter that’s abandoned say, club I mishit in general.  PUBLIC (p(utter) + anag.).  Two unimportant-looking words, ‘say’ and ‘general’, do a lot of the work in this clue, and the solution, which initially appears to be an obsolete word, is quite unexpected.

34a: In wild dunes, ‘doubtful’ girl’s shedding one, scantily clad?  UNDERDRESSED (De(i)rdre in anag.).  Doubtful Deirdre isn’t a nod to Coronation Street, but to the Some first names appendix of Chambers, where the etymological connection is spelled out.

8d: Kept in by sir, I shan’t like old Greek?  IRISH (hidden).  You’ll find the explanation under the entry for ‘Greek’, believe it or not.

19d: Winning shot, topped? Otherwise, note, it’s not wicked!  OULAKAN ((f)oul aka n).  It’s worth the search to find the bizarre definition and multiple spellings at ‘eulachon’. The ‘wicked’ joke may not be a complete original (see Chambers Crossword Manual) , but Azed employs it to brilliant effect.

20d: Complex variable: it’s 2 possibly on Réaumur’s scale.  TWISTOR  (it’s two anag. + R).  The strictest of Ximeneans might cavil about the indirect nature of the anagram, but they’d surely be in a tiny minority.

22d: Trouble in bed leading to back-to-back configuration.  DOS-A-DOS (ado in doss).  Another contender for the wittiest clue of the puzzle.

29d: Scottish wool, on being removed from encircling band, revealing its nap.  OOZE (oo1 + z(on)e).  A lot of clue for 4 letters, and none of its elements easy to work out. Many solvers will, like the setter, have left this one to last.

Other solutions

1a: ALL-OR-NOTHING (a l-lorn O thing);  11a: AUDIO (anag.);  12a: TIARAS (I in ta + ras);  14a: APLANAT (a plan at);  18a: SOUND (2 meanings);  24a: FRONT (2 meanings);  25a: ALGONKIAN (anag. + naik rev.);  28a: CAROLI (hidden);  30a: WAUR (U in war);  31a: STADDLE (d in anag.);  32a: RANZEL (ran zel);  33a: ODSOS (D in so-so rev.);  2d: LAPEL (ape in ll.);  3d: LULIBUB (bull bu(ll) I anag.); 4d: RINDED (anag.);  5d: NOACHIC (No. a chic);  6d: TINAJA (tin aja(r));  7d: HAYS (‘haze’);  9d: NAVARIN (an rev. + a r in vin);  10d: BACKSPACER (backs pacer);  13d: STREET CRED (C in anag.);  23d: INLIER (I in anag.);  24d: FACADE;  26d: GRIND (n in grid);  27d: BULSE (s for G in bulge).


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