OTHING to hold up regular solvers this month on their way to the clue-writing competition; not even Azed’s singles-bar fantasy at 20 across should get in the way of the grid-fill. A French abbreviation may be unfamiliar to some and not quickly verified, while Rabbie Burns’ and Dr Johnson’s appearances are easy references by Azed’s standards.
13. The old own up to wrongdoing recalled in later years AGNISE (sin, rev., in age) It takes little more than a quick glance in Chambers to confirm the solution, and so it’s easy to overlook how neatly the clue’s components are dovetailed into a convincing surface.
16. Grass hidden by some lichen MELIC (hidden) The definition refers to melic2, a type of fescue grass. The clue’s device is anything but hidden, though it would take some pretty rampant lichen to obscure anyone’s lawn.
20. Succeeded beside fireplace with loosening bras in pick-up joint! SINGLES BAR (ingle + s, all in anag.) Experiences differ, but let’s assume this one comes from Azed’s imagination!
22. Speed in net ploy misplaced? I’m yearning for the unattainable NYMPHOLEPT (mph in anag.) Dr Watson was delighted to discover ‘nympholept’, even though as a word it suggests more than it delivers. Maybe the clue is a riposte to 20 across?
26. Staff cheers about new dish in trattoria? POLENTA (n in pole ta) Students of the competition may know that Ximenes set POLENTA in a 1956 competition. Azed doesn’t borrow from any of the clues in that Slip, many of which focus on the exoticness at that time of Italian food.
29. Spurious word member of choir has left in ALL-TO (l in alto) A scan of Chambers reveals that ‘all-to’ is indeed a word with no meaning of its own, created from a false division of an expression that contains it.
32. Recoil shocked about e.g. Johnson backsliding – or his namesake perhaps? COMPILER (PM, rev., in anag.) The backsliding of the Prime Minister might be the cause of more eye-rolls than double-takes, confirming the definition of ‘politician’ chosen by his namesake and dictionary compiler Samuel Johnson: “A man of artifice; one of deep contrivance”.
33. Does it suggest a coin from ancient times, and where one may be found? ATHENS (i.e. a then s) An allusive wordplay based on the notion that a coin from ancient times could be ‘a then-shilling’. Athens is of course one of many places you could find one. Others have offered a different and perhaps better explanation as a reverse cryptic clue, with ‘A then S’ suggesting as3, the low-denomination Roman coin, perhaps dropped by an ancient visitor to Athens.
34. Young apache if having quit existence in form of farming ARABLE (arab + l(if)e) Azed chooses the lower-case ‘apache’ deliberately. An arab and an apache are street hooligans at different stages of their career.
1. Cervine organ in part of face, soft inside INCHPIN (in + p in chin) This unusual word means a deer’s sweetbread or pancreas.
3. Hitmen, brothers engaging French lawyer BRAVOS (Av. in bros) The solution is an Italian or Spanish term for a hired assassin, while Av. is a French abbreviation for ‘Avocat’, not found in Chambers or that easily on the anglophone internet.
6. What’s posh about money? It’s given out for distributing METING (tin in meg) Regular solvers of this sort of cryptic will know that there are many slang terms for a halfpenny. ‘Posh’ and ‘meg’ are but two of the ten listed in Bradford’s. ‘Meting (out)’ is usually reserved for punishment nowadays.
21. Dried out in bar, like Rabbie’s love? ROSE-RED (sere in rod) The reference is to Burns’s “O, my Luve’s like a red, red rose”.
22. Nothing to elicit, I shut up, being indolent OTIOSE (0 + I in tose) It took Dr Watson a while to parse the wordplay, as it looked like the I was contained in ‘to se(e)’ or similar, but in fact it’s in ‘tose’ meaning to draw out wool strands from fleece.
29. Oven Lalique emptied, right, hot inside LEHR (h in L(aliqu)e r) Azed finds a suitable glass-maker for his glass-annealing oven.
Across: 5. AMPHIPOD (anag. in anag.); 12. NIRLIE (in, rev. + r, l + i.e.); 14. CLAUSTRA (a in anag.); 15. HAVEN (have + n); 17. PROPS (3 mngs.); 19. NACRITE (anag.); 27. LARES (L Ares; see lar); 30. STIPE (I in anag.); 35. SEREVENT (ser. + event).
Down: 2. ZILA (hidden); 4. BLUE PIPE-TREE (anag. + E); 7. PARIAL (aria in PL (Poet Laureate)); 8. INTERSPATIAL (anag.); 9. PILL (2 mngs.); 10. OSCITATE; 11. DE-ICE (e in dice); 18. RHYOLITE (anag. in rite); 24. LAWMAN (ma in lawn2); 25. TRILBY (I lb. in try); 26. PALAS (a for m in palms); 31. PELA (l in pea).