Notes for Azed 2,521

There are usually one or two points of interest in an Azed puzzle, and here we pick them out for comment. Please feel free to add your own questions or observations on any aspect of the puzzle (including clues not listed below) either by using the comment form at the bottom of the page or, if would prefer that your question/comment is not publicly visible , by email.

Azed 2,521 Plain

Difficulty rating: 3 out of 10 stars (3 / 10)

An entertaining puzzle, and a competition clue word almost sufficiently enticing to tempt me out of retirement – but not quite. Although this puzzle didn’t last long past breakfast, I felt there was enough trickery in there to justify a mid-range (for plain puzzles) rating. An Azed trademark that was in evidence today was the use in the clues themselves of uncommon terms such as ‘dam’ (1d) and ‘budget’ (3d) which share a spelling with a more familiar headword.

12a Village abroad? One making return journey as reminder (4)
The village ‘making a return journey’ is DORP, a Dutch/South African village or town which, according to Chambers, is rather appropriately ‘considered as backward’.

18a Revolutionary, executed maybe protecting his leader, brittle when heated (8)
RED (‘Revolutionary’) combines with SHOT (‘executed maybe’) around (‘protecting’) R (‘his leader’, ie the first letter of ‘Revolutionary’) to produce a rather fine word that I don’t recall coming across before; Azed manages to work a somewhat intractable definition into a clue that reads well. The slightly more prosaic ‘hot-short’ has a similar meaning when used to describe iron which contains an excess of certain impurities, while there is a parallel term ‘cold-short’, which when applied to a metal means ‘brittle in its cold state’.

27a What’s uprooting wort from historic field? Rats! (4)
What do you get when you remove (‘uproot’) WORT from BOSWORTH, the field which hosted a Lancashire-Yorkshire derby in the summer of 1485? Chambers only gives the interjection ‘rats’ as an expression of irritation or annoyance, which would not satisfactorily indicate the solution here, but OED offers “used ironically in plural to express incredulity: ‘humbug’, ‘nonsense’.” for ‘rat’, so it’s fine.

28a One playing around with characters, a feature of moral philosophy (5)
RALPH (hidden in the clue) is an imp who inhabits newspaper printing offices. These days he’s certainly better known to crossword solvers than to any other demographic group, printers included. The origin of his name appears to be shourded in mtystery, but William Savage’s Dictionary of the Art of Printing (1841) tells us that ‘Every chapel is haunted by a spirit, called Ralph. When any man resists the decision of the chapel, and it is determined to enforce it, Ralph, or the spirit, is said to walk; and whatever mischief is done to the resisting party to enforce submission, which is always performed secretly, is invariably imputed to Ralph, or the spirit.’ Albert Barrère’s Dictionary of Slang, Jargon and Cant (1897) tells us that “A man is ‘sent to Coventry’ if he dares to defy the decision of the chapel, and many tricks are played on him by his companions in consequence.” Any information on how the imp acquired his name would be appreciated.

Incidentally, a “printer’s devil” was the errand-boy in a printing office, or sometimes the youngest apprentice (boy or girl), and the term seems to have separately become associated with printing errors, but as the result of inexperience rather than intimidatory mischief-making. A number of famous authors apparently served as printer’s devils in their early days, including Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman…and Ambrose Bierce, who will no doubt make futher appearances on these pages.

The multi-talented author Denys Parsons (grandson of Herbert Beerbohm Tree) in his collections of misprints such as Funny Ha Ha and Funny Peculiar preferred to ascribe errors to a shady character called Gobfrey Shrdlu. The first two columns on a linotype machine contained the keys ETAOIN and SHRDLU; when an error had been made in a line, the machine operator would typically type these letters repeatedly to fill out the line, indicating to the proofreaders that the line should be identified for deletion prior to printing. Sometimes, however, this deletion did not occur, and Gobfrey’s signature ‘etaoin shrdlu’ would appear on the printed page. The arrangement ETAOIN SHRDLU was chosen based on compositors’ views of the frequency with which individual letters appeared in publications; the number of times that certain words such as ‘the’ are repeated in printed works means that this sequence is somewhat different to that which is applicable to dictionaries,  usually given as EARIOT NSLCU (but it all depends on whether you choose to include derived forms such as plurals, participles etc in the tally).

30a Feature of shores, lacustrine or palustrine? This splinter possibly (4)
A composite anagram which contains rather too high a proportion of excluded letters (8 of 12) for my liking but which has a certain je ne sais quoi. The letters of SPLINTER plus the solution can be rearranged (‘possibly’) to form OR PALUSTRINE; the definition is ‘Feature of shores, lacustrine’.

33a A cause son’s abandoned in part of city? (4)
SON here is abandoning A REASON (‘a cause’) to produce a word given by Chambers as meaning ‘part of a building, city, etc designated for a special purpose or character’.

1d Fundamentally strengthen e.g. dam, dry, protected by spar (12)
The ‘dam’ here has nothing to do with barrages, but is dam4 in Chambers, an obsolete COPPER coin. The remainder of the wordplay sees TT (‘dry’) being ‘protected’ by BOOM (‘spar’).

3d Budget? Chancellor’s last cut initially in the bag (5)
And again here, despite what the surface of the clue might have you believe, the ‘budget’ is budget2, a fixed RUDDER on a barge, from which the last letter of Chancellor (“Chancellor’s last”) must be removed (‘cut’). There are solvers out there who believe that “Chancellor’s last” should indicate S. They are wrong.

6d Sitar player getting into first half of raga soaring rapturously? (6, 2 words)
The sitar player who is getting into RA (‘first half of raga’) reversed (‘soaring’) is the late RAVI (Ravindra) Shankar, the master of the instrument who, unlike Joni Mitchell, actually managed to make it to Woodstock.

7d Youngster mounted on pre-eminent stallion maybe presenting rodeo challenge (7)
A neat clue, with CUB (‘Youngster’) reversed (‘mounted’) above KING (Chambers: ‘a man or other male animal who is pre-eminent among his fellows’).

19d Hammer maybe decapitated copy in gutted engine (7)
Not too many physical CARBON copies around these days, and I wonder how many email users who are cc’ed on a message know that they are receiving an electronic one. The word is losing its head (‘decapitated’) and being enrobed in the first and last letters (‘gutted’) of ENGINE. This particular bone is known in England as the malleus, and north of the border as the malleus Scotorum.

20d Snuffs to sprinkle without getting up (6)
Not the easiest wordplay to make out, being SET (‘sprinkle’, as in ‘stud’) SANS (‘without’, as in ‘sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything’) reversed (‘getting up’, as in, well, ‘getting up’).

25d Knight e.g. displaying distinctive character, following Lancelot’s lead (5)
The reference is to Dame Laura Knight, the pioneering British artist probably best known today for her informal portraits of performers, most notably those from the worlds of ballet and circus.

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2 Responses

  1. Stephen Terry says:

    Thanks for the help (I certainly needed it on 30 ac) but shouldn’t you be giving away a bit less?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Thanks, Stephen – that’s a very fair question. If people visit the Notes post I expect it to be when they’ve finished (or at least nearly finished) the puzzle. I look to clarify points that solvers may be unclear on while the puzzle is still fresh in their minds, and to add a little background colour regarding constructions and references which may be unfamiliar to some. My overall aim is to enhance – even if just a tiny bit – solvers’ enjoyment of Azed’s exceptionally fine (and distinctly idiosyncratic) puzzles. Anyone wanting an answer to an Azed clue can get it within minutes through one of the crossword help forums (though they may well not get an accurate parsing) so I see no reason to be unnecessarily cryptic with my explanations at the cost of clarity. I don’t show answers to clues unless they are integral to the discussion (eg RALPH above), so if you only want to check on one clue there’s very little risk of seeing another answer that you wanted to work out for yourself, perhaps with the help of an extra checker.

      If people simply want to know what letters go in a particular series of cells, as I have said there are other ways to get that information. If the requirement is for very gentle nudges, that can best be achieved through a direct interaction. But beyond that I’m happy to be guided by readers regarding the explicitness of the wordplay analysis – for instance, I could have omitted the name of the field of battle from the explanation in 27ac, but I’m not sure how much that would have left to the imagination.