PERA features in three different clues in this month’s competition puzzle, two of them via Verdi, but apart from a couple of translations, the references don’t step far outside of what can be verified in Chambers. For the first time that Dr Watson can remember there are no ‘hidden’ clues in the entire puzzle, and so nothing to get the solver off to an immediate start. A couple of very neat, & lit. clues add to the entertainment, though it’s probable that neither is virgin cruciverbal territory. Competitors may look a bit askance at LITERATIM, the comp word. It’s a Latin adverb, and like MEMORITER back in 2002, it could elicit “some huffing and puffing about the extra difficulty they pose”.
1. Led away, was talking incoherently in US dormitory? BURB (burb(led)) ‘Dormitory’ in the definition is used in the sense of dormitory town or suburb.
13. Officer briefly interrupting enemy wave as of old FLOTE (Lt alternating with foe) The clue parses as ‘officer briefly = Lt’ interrupting ‘enemy = foe’. Chambers gives ‘break the continuity in’ for ‘interrupt’, but this doesn’t seem to completely offer the sense of alternation that the wordplay requires.
16. Bring round cages i.e. in Germany for kestrel WINDHOVER (d.h. in win over) ‘d.h.’ for ‘das heißt’ or ‘that is’ is in Chambers. Ximenes gave WIND-HOVER (hyphenated) as a comp word in 1946. Several competitors used the same wordplay idea as Azed here, but at the time de Havilland the aircraft manufacturer was understandably a more popular option for DH than the German expression. Ronnie Postill, an officer in the Signal Corps during the war, took second prize with “Hawker isn’t likely to use it; try to persuade De Havilland (win DH over)”.
18. Devil getting end away going after American Honeysuckle? ABELIA (A + Belia(l)) A reference to the Hebrew name for the Devil.
29. Sauce coming in a river? The opposite – single lump perhaps HEAP (i.e. ea in HP) The dialect word for a river or channel should be known to most solvers. HP Sauce is still a popular condiment, and users of the glass-bottled product will be familiar with its tendency to emerge either not at all or all at once.
29. Who’s ticked off about a bit of lying? CHILD (l in chid, & lit.) Something like this has no doubt been done before, but it’s always a pleasure to see a tidy & lit. from Azed.
3. Spotted playing blinder BRINDLE (anag.) Azed carries off a straightforward anagram with style.
7. Deerhound? Not crazy about matted fur, unkempt TUFTER (anag. of (ma)tte(d) fur) It’s clearly going to be an anagram, but the combined presence of ‘ crazy’, ‘matted’ and ‘unkempt’ is enough to put the solver off the scent.
14. Wind formerly cut choice at sea LIBECCHIO (lib2 + anag.) The wordplay appears to be crying out for an anagram of ‘cut choice’, but it’s a bit more complicated. ‘Lib’ is a dialect word meaning castrate, and the solution is a Miltonic misreading of ‘libeccio’.
20. Linnaean library? Find right book, going into ‘Cures’ HERBALS (r b in heals) Carl Linnaeus was known as a botanist and zoologist as well as a taxonomist, and his library was likely full of herbals, or books of medicinal plants.
24. Bully for you, making tons of gold! TAURIC (t auric) A very clever charade. Chambers doesn’t quite support the definition ‘bull-like’ for ‘bully’, but it can mean blustering in an archaic sense.
25. Weight reduced, one is going in here? WAIST (a is in wt) Another irresistible & lit. that’s surely cropped up before somewhere in cryptic history.
28. Il Trovatore, to wit singular opera? SCOP (sc. op.) Much to unpack from a short clue, quite apart from the reference to Verdi’s opera. ‘Scop’ and ‘trovatore’ are in different worlds words for a minstrel or troubadour; ‘sc.’ abbreviates ‘scilecit’, Latin for ‘namely’; and the Latin singular of opera is opus or op.
Across: 4. OBSTACLE (anag.); 11. USURPATURE (usu. + rapture with ap rev.); 12. CUBITS (Cubist with ts rev.); 15. WHITTRET (whit tret); 21. SENE (Sene(gal)); 23. DUETTI (TT in due I); 26. CHAMFRAIN (anag. in chain); 28. SCARIDAE (arid in anag.); 30. LEARNT (earn in L t); 31. SEAMANLIKE (anag. incl. ne(at)); 32. POTSHERD (stop, rev. + herd); 33. SCUR (s(E)cur(E)).
Down: 1. BUCKWASH (buck(et) was H); 2. RUBINE (bin in rue (Fr)); 5. BASHO (bash 0); 6. STRIVED (t in anag.); 8. CEORL (CEO + r, l); 9. LITERATIM; 10. EVET (eve(N)t); 17. SPINSTER (pins in ster(n); see tabby cat in C.); 19. ACADEME (a d E in acme); 22. WHIDAH (hid in haw2, rev.); 27. MALAR (malar(key)).