Notes for Azed 2,523

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 2,523 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2 out of 10 stars (2 / 10)

This one didn’t last beyond my second slice of Toastie, but I felt that there were enough obscure words to justify a difficulty rating only a little below average for a plain Azed.

24a Lacking ice, a fruit drink to skip? (5)
Quite a nice &lit, the cryptic reading indicating JUICE (‘a fruit drink’) with ICE removed (‘lacking ice’) followed by LEP (a dialectal form of ‘leap’, ie ‘to skip’), and the surface reading giving a pretty fair indication of the solution. Incidentally, the alternative parsing where ‘ice, a’ are removed from JUICE and LEAP respectively is ruled out for me by the punctuation.

26a Have a rinse up north in basin with 14 (4)
I can’t recall ever seeing this construction in an Azed puzzle before – a ‘hidden’ where the solver is required to replace a reference to another clue with the solution to that clue in order to complete the hiding place.

28a Better rooms round bishop’s place, furnished in the old style (6)
At one time many houses in Scotland and Northern England had a single entrance leading into the kitchen (which was ‘but’ the house, or towards the outside). From here one would enter the parlour (‘ben the house’, ie towards the inner part, so known as the ‘ben’), and in a three-roomed house, one would pass through this to reach the inner chamber or bedroom (the ‘far-ben’). So how ‘ben’ you were invited to go into someone’s house reflected the intimacy of your relationship with the occupier. Here the BEN is surrounding the bishop’s office to produce an obsolete adjective meaning ‘furnished’.

32a Much-abused princess, one appearing in Hamlet? (5)
The question mark is there to show that Hamlet is just an example of a DANE, into which the letter A must be inserted. The princess in question could certainly have held her own in the company of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen (“..and if you tell that to the young people today, they won’t believe you.”). As so often, things started to go wrong when her dad (Acrisius) consulted the oracle who gave him the bad news that he was going to be killed by his daughter’s son. Since at that point she had no offspring, he entombed her in a bronze chamber lacking doors and windows, which must have seemed like a pretty safe bet, but he had reckoned without Zeus’s innovative insemination techniques, in this instance involving a shower of gold. Having given birth to a son, Perseus, Danae then found herself shut in a chest with him and cast into the sea. Things improved for her after that, and Perseus went on to be an all-round good egg (decapitating Medusa, rescuing Andromeda etc) who showed slightly less prowess at javelin-throwing, unfortunately for his grandfather.

1d Floral spikes grooms fixed round soft saddle (8)
A generous dollop of uncommon words or meanings here: the grooms are SICES (‘sice’ being an unusual alternative spelling of ‘syce’) and the soft saddle fixed inside is a PAD.

2d Alternative to crystal ball? Rating satisfactory (5)
A slight trap here for the unwary – the set of cards used for fortune-telling is usually seen as a ‘tarot’, but that doesn’t fit the wordplay, the rating being a TAR and ‘satisfactory’ being OK, so the solution is one of the alternative spellings (of which ‘taroc’ is another). Hands up anyone (besides me) who remembers the excellent children’s TV series Ace of Wands from the early 1970s  featuring Tarot (a stage magician with supernatural powers, played by Michael MacKenzie) and his pet owl Ozymandias (played by Fred Owl).

4d Cyclist round Germany? One employs cogs regularly (8)
I’m not sure why Azed didn’t write this as ‘going round’ or ‘travelling round’ rather than ’round’, which would surely have improved the surface reading, but at least he didn’t use ‘touring’, which I refuse to accept as a containment indicator. A seven-letter (informal) word for a cyclist surrounds the D for Germany, and a ‘cog’ is a trick or deception.

18d One known for rambling, with less and less on top (7)
Clare Balding is the host of Ramblings on BBC Radio 4, where she ‘joins notable and interesting people for a walk through the countryside’. The programme has been running since 1999 and is now into its fortieth series.

21d Heat and leave simmering? Have a ———, not overcooked (7, two words)
A composite anagram, where the letters of HEAT AND LEAVE when rearranged (‘simmering’) can produce HAVE A plus the solution, the definition being ‘not overcooked’. But in a clue like this when the blanks are replaced by the solution the whole thing should make some sense, and here it doesn’t.

25d Five hundreds? Twice that, with rest to follow (5)
A neat clue. Twice five hundred is a thousand, ie M, and if you follow it with a word for ‘rest’ you get a measure for five ‘hundreds’ of herring, such a ‘hundred’ being anything from 100 to 130, probably depending on whether you’re buying or selling.

27d Historical wimple come to light, without red binding (5)
I don’t think that ‘come to light’ can reasonably equate to ‘revealed’ (the former has an active sense and the latter a passive sense), but here it is expected to, and it’s having the letters RED on the outside (‘red binding’) removed.

28d Sound of horn number one one tone above tuning note, rising (5)
PEE (‘number one’) and B (‘one tone above tuning note’) are being reversed (‘rising’), but if this clue read any worse it would be illiterate. Which puts me in mind of the moment in the film No Surrender where the club bouncer (brilliantly played by Bernard Hill) who has just thrown out some customers because of the way they looked is told that no-one should judge a book by its cover, to which he replies “I do. I can’t read.”

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