WO reasonably familiar political leaders from the last century are the only general knowledge references in this month’s competition puzzle. Azed enjoys deploying several original or unexpected wordplay ideas throughout the puzzle that might lead to more than the usual amount of head-scratching for the solver, and do lead to more than the usual amount of explanation from Dr Watson. Followers of the Crossword Centre’s clue-writing competition will find Azed’s choice for this month’s competition word uncannily familiar.
3. In pash being thwarted by female, showing cunning about that aid to better sex SPANISH FLY (anag. + f, all in sly) Azed’s not shy of this kind of surface, and this isn’t his raciest by a long way (in fact Dr Watson’s not quite sure what’s going on). ‘Showing cunning about that’ indicates ‘sly’ going around the result of all the previous wordplay.
12. It lurks in the everglades from Georgia to heart of Florida GATOR (GA to (Flo)r(ida)) A tidy semi-& lit. clue with the easily-overlooked ‘to’ a key component.
13. Fellow managed prison (all names withheld) – it maintains a lively rhythm MARACA (ma(n) ra(n) ca(n)) The two halves of the clue don’t fit together very well, but the opportunity of an unusual wordplay is eagerly grasped.
14. Site that is missing a prisoner? Not one for that kind STALAG (site less i.e. + a lag) The inference being that a Stalag would house a PoW rather than a regular lag.
22. Aids this barge being refitted – lakeside possibly KEEL (comp. anag.) There’s a loose & lit. element to this comp. anag. ‘Aids keel’ is an anagram of ‘lakeside’, where a barge might be refitted. Keel2 is a type of boat, ironically one lacking a keel1.
26. Can’t stand to let off e.g. MOT? DETEST (i.e. de-test) Setters are allowed this fanciful sort of pun. If Shakespeare could do it…
29. Former PM in charge of ideal state (before fall) EDENIC (Eden i/c) A well-realised reference to the short career and downfall of Anthony Eden, though perhaps his state was less ideal than God’s Eden.
31. Ex-president (English not American) has installed Chinese interpreters TRUCHMEN (Ch in Truman with E for A) Another mid-20c leader in the shape of Harry Truman. ‘Truchmen’ is a falsely inferred plural of ‘truchman’, derived from a Turkish-Arabic word, though less egregious than a commentator’s description Dr Watson heard of a female footballer as ‘the team’s taliswoman’.
32. Permit (one assumes) required before start of excavating Turkish borate PANDERMIT (i.e. p and ermit + e) Azed enjoys his reverse cryptics, where the solution must be interpreted as wordplay, but to see it as part of a charade is unexpected. Azed acknowledges this by providing ‘permit’ rather than a synonym, and the guidance of ‘(one assumes)’.
3. Never stood for spicy meat en brochette SATAY (i.e. sat ay3) Another wordplay opportunity taken, this time a synonym leading to a phrase rather than a word. ‘Ay3’ meaning ‘forever’ is commonly found in clues, though Chambers gives it only as an alternative spelling of a Scottish and dialect word. A brochette, for avoiders of barbecues, is a meat skewer.
5. What’s mass of clay in New York, producing a sort of ‘bong’? NARGILY (argil in NY) The sort of bong referred to here is a cannabis pipe that functions in the same way as a hookah, as does a nargily, narghile or any of six other spellings.
6. Water running into shore’s rotten – could be ‘dead’ hippo SEAHORSE (ea in anag.) The quote marks don’t imply Schrödinger’s hippo, but the obsolescence of this meaning of seahorse, also once a name for a walrus.
9. Recommended by dieticians – unlike much of what it serves? LOCAL (i.e. lo-cal) Gone are the days when Guinness was ‘good for you’, though you’d find low calorie mixers in any local that’s still open.
11. Falconer’s bird? Deal in the latest, cracking experience mostly TASSELL-GENT (sell gen in tast(e)) It took Dr Watson a while to parse this one, as an anagram of ‘latest’ sticks out of the solution, but proves to be a red herring.
16. Awful mess – double-headed besom’s wielded with it BOMBSITE (anag. of b-besom it) Interesting to see Azed avoiding the usual stammering delivery that indicates a double initial letter.
18. Beneficiary set up a limit for trust maybe LEGATEE (gel, rev. + a tee) A very cogent surface, and more tricky wordplay requiring extra thought. ‘Set up’ often indicates a down reversal on its own, but here a synonym of ‘set’ is hoisted. ‘Tee’ is the T found at either end of ‘trust’.
22. King set out for audience, one resisting conquerors from abroad KLEPHT (K + ‘left’) Dr Watson has an inkling that Azed would once have avoided this kind of homophone-charade combination, as the pronunciation of a part-word may not be definitive. In this case though it presents no problems. A Klepht was a Greek resisting the 15c Ottoman occupation.
25. Jock’s stall – is this his den ransacked for merchandise? CRAME (comp. anag.) Azed can’t quite get a satisfactory & lit. out of the anagram pair of ‘merchandise’ and ‘crame his den’.
Across: 10. NEAR GALE (anag. + ale); 15. CHARAS (a in chars); 16. BIFOCALS (anag. less e); 17. RAGG (rag(in)g); 18. TREBLE (tre(m)ble); 20. IGNOMY ((s)ign + o my!); 23. DRAMBUIE (anag. + i.e.); 28. TOERAG; 30. SPATE (anag. less N).
Down: 1. ANGST-RIDDEN (anag. incl. d); 2. PEAT-HAG (anag. in gap, rev.); 4. PROLEG (pig with role for I); 7. HORACE (comp. anag. incl. L); 8. FEAR (anag. less I); 18. TRITIUM (it in trium(pH)); 21. OMENED (men in OED (Oxford English Dictionary)); 24. REDIA (aider, rev.); 27. TERN ((sh)er(ry) in TN; tern2).