Notes for Azed 2,526
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 2,526 Plain
Difficulty rating: (2 / 5)
Plenty of anagrams and not too many tricky constructions, although several wordplays demanded a modest degree of general knowledge. I had far more quibbles with this puzzle than with its recent precursors – this can’t be put down to peevishness on my part resulting from a disappointing breakfast, since we have a new toaster which prepared my two slices of Warburton’s Toastie beautifully for a generous application of home-made marmalade. Note that the claim ‘Every word is in the Chambers Dictionary (2014)’ has been mistakenly copied from the Carte Blanche puzzle 2,252 and is a fib (the proper name at 18d is not in the Big Red Book). No clue stood out for me as being particularly fine, but my ‘clue of the week’ award goes to 31a.
2a Poacher: filches cockles with bark? (11)
A simple anagram of FILCHES and BARK which produces a hyphenated (5-6) term for a nocturnal poacher of a particular type, but this clue is notable for the appearance of ‘cockles’ as an anagram indicator. Will we be adding it to the relevant list in our Clinical data section? We will not. Chambers gives cockle3 as meaning ‘to pucker’, but a group of letters ‘wrinkling’ doesn’t suggest to me that they are being rearranged.
15a Love retracing instant in past poetically (5)
The wordplay here involves putting a two-letter word for [an] instant inside a three-letter poetic term for ‘past’ or ‘finished’, and reversing the whole lot. ‘Retrace’ is a transitive verb, so someone or something has to be doing the retracing; this can only be the solution or the solver – neither is entirely satisfactory. But in any event, ‘retracing’ anything (usually steps) doesn’t mean turning them backwards, it means repeating them in the reverse direction. But we knew what he meant.
20a Woman with great admiration for vintage roller (4)
No end in sight yet to the cavilling. This is W (‘Woman’) together with a three-letter word for ‘great admiration’ or ‘reverential wonder’, and a nice oblique definition. But can Azed get away with ‘Woman’ for W? Not on my watch! It’s a valid abbreviation for ‘women’ though, so replace ‘Woman’ with ‘Women’ in the clue and all will be well. He could even have left the first word out completely.
31a Decide against declaring in blackjack? (5)
The wordplay indicates what a cricket captain who was considering declaring his side’s innings closed might decide to do (3,2) if he felt a few more runs were needed. I think Azed probably realized that the definition was a little imprecise, hence the question mark, though both a blackjack and the solution could deal one a nasty blow. Hands up all those familiar with the blackjacks (or black jacks) that came individually wrapped in waxed paper, tasted of aniseed, and turned your tongue black? It seems that the resurgence of vintage sweets has brought them back to the shelves, but I shan’t be rushing to stock up.
33a With troops in lines traditionally, representing command a Tory ignored (4)
A rather verbose definition which wouldn’t be to the liking of some crossword editors, ‘With troops in lines traditionally’ is a long-winded way of indicating that the word comes from the verses of Edmund Spenser and means ‘[provided] with troops’. The wordplay involves a nine-letter word meaning ‘representing [a] command’, with A TORY dropped from the end (‘ignored’).
1d Like ancient cursive script proclaimed in scribbled sheet, look (11)
Unless you know the word, this one is impossible to be certain about without checking the dictionary. It’s an anagram (‘scribbled’) of SHEET around a four-letter word for ‘proclaimed’ or ‘resounded’, the whole lot being followed by a two-letter interjection meaning ‘look!’, but the ‘proclaimed’ word could potentially have been spelt with a U rather than an A, and the ‘look!’ word with an A rather than an O.
4d Lewd woman making one cry out with pain (7)
An anagram (‘out’) of CRY with PAIN, the ‘lewd’ meaning of the word relating to the ancient times when Cyprus was famed for the worship of Aphrodite/Venus. Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries the term was regularly applied to ladies of the night.
7d Ivy, embraced by Spanish gent? See her ‘glow’! (5)
This clue has UDO (a Japanese species of Aralia, part of the ivy family) being ’embraced’ by an abbreviation for the title of a ‘Spanish gent’, though I’m a little surprised that Azed hasn’t indicated that the gent has been shortened. The exclamation mark suggests that the definition is a tad offbeat, the idea being that since “Horses sweat, men perspire, but women merely glow” what you are seeing here is “the glow on Ivy”.
18d Garnett, briefly, plus forename – a spell-binding character (7)
The last series of Till Death Us Do Part was broadcast in 1975 (scary!), but I suspect that many solvers who weren’t born then will know of its lead character, played by Warren Mitchell. The wordplay gives us the first letter of Garnett (‘Garnett, briefly’ – a bit iffy in my view, but I’ve nit-picked enough for one week), followed by a three-letter word for ‘plus’, followed by the character’s first name. As mentioned above, the answer is not in Chambers, but should be familiar to anyone who understands this:
Bilbo emerged from his hobbit-burrow one morning to find that while he had been asleep a Tesco Express had sprung up just outside the entrance. That was certainly an unexpected item in the Baggins area.
23d One regularly hailed as ageless dullard, that is coming last (6)
A neat definition, and a wordplay which involves a seven-letter word for a ‘dullard’ or inactive person losing the letters AGE (‘ageless’) and being followed by the usual abbreviation for ‘that is’ (‘that is coming last’)
25d Appear in new form? Art maybe taken up, then English (6)
It was only on second reading that I appreciated the surface reading of this clue (I don’t know about you, but I find that having solving a lot of cryptic crosswords I tend to go straight to the cryptic reading of clues, so the ‘form’=’class’ thing passed me by the first time around.) The wordplay relies on a degree of familiarity with an American jazz pianist, first name Art (Arthur), whose surname is to be reversed (‘taken up’) before getting an E (English) tacked on the end.
27d What naphtha mostly deals with? Treat ash-plant with it (5)
A composite anagram &lit, which doesn’t read too badly but is somewhat flawed. The letters of NAPHTHA MOSTLY can be rearranged to form ASHPLANT plus the solution (hyphenated, 1-4), but the construction is, well, messy at best, and anyone who tried to deal with the pest in question using naphtha would be plum crazy – it’s the flammable hydrocarbon mixture that in my chemistry days we used to keep metallic sodium in; naphthalene would be a much better bet.