Notes for Azed 2,528
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 2,528 Plain
Difficulty rating: (4.5 / 5)
I give each puzzle a difficulty rating based on a combination of my own solving experience and the number of clues which I identified as being likely to turn up on one of the help forums. A rating of 0 would be given to the very easiest puzzle (if I were able to write in all the answers in clue order, which isn’t going to happen), and the most difficult plain Azed that I could imagine would be given a 5, so in practice my ratings are likely to range between 0.5 and 4.5, with 2.5 being average. Difficulty ratings above 5 are reserved for special puzzles. It’s a very subjective thing, though, and I would be very interested to hear how other solvers rate individual puzzles in terms of relative difficulty.
If last week’s was tricky, this was trickier. A feast (for those with strong stomachs) of composite anagrams and wordplays for uncommon words that themselves contained obscurities was served up in a puzzle that would perhaps have proved hard to digest for a solver unfamiliar with Azed’s cruciverbal cuisine. My ‘clue of the week’ by some margin was 27a.
11a The governor occupies position in list from which twelve were chosen (4)
‘The governor’ here is one’s father, and the verb ‘to be’ means ‘to occupy a position in space’; the solution is shown by Chambers as ‘archaic’.
13a Tussle in the south-west? Local service cut, line closed (6)
Well done if you got this one without a couple of crossers – I didn’t. The wordplay involves the abbreviation for Western Region (a region of British Railways which was created from the Great Western Railway company when the ‘Big Four’ were nationalized in 1948 and which existed until 1992) plus a three-letter word meaning ‘to cut’, with the standard abbreviation for ‘line’ inside. I’m far from convinced that the adjective ‘closed’ in its sense of ‘restricted’ is valid as an insertion indicator – ‘closed in’ would be fine, though of course would not work for the surface reading.
15a Epic hero? King loses first by bog (4)
I read a day or two ago a short self-penned profile of a blogger in which he wrote that he started to get to grips with cryptic crosswords when he realized that the definition almost always came at one end of a clue or the other. Well, this pushmi-pullyu has a definition at each end; the wordplay sandwiched in the middle involves a RAJA (‘King’) missing the first letter (‘loses first’) followed by X (‘by’, as in ‘multiplied by’). The second definition is an Elizabethan pun on ‘a jakes’, a privy; in Love’s Labours Lost, Costard says to the Sir Nathaniel the curate:
O, sir, you have overthrown Alexander the conqueror. You will be scraped out of the painted cloth for this. Your lion, that holds his pole-axe sitting on a close-stool, will be given to Ajax. He will be the ninth Worthy. A conqueror, and afeard to speak? Run away for shame, Alexander.
A close-stool was a sort of commode, and Alexander’s coat of arms was traditionally depicted as a lion sitting on a throne, so Shakespeare is indulging in a little lavatorial humour here.
17a Two signs of wealth maybe creating popular outcry? (6)
Unless you feel that the rich are normally associated with large holdings of mineral aggregates or seaweed, the second of the signs here involves the poetic meaning of ORE, precious metal.
25a Strip clubs: reluctant entering French one, being female (8)
The C (clubs) and a four-letter word meaning reluctant are ‘entering’ the female form of the French word for ‘one’.
27a Group of senior ministers, excluding Rudd, rigidly formal (6)
A very neat clue. The Star Chamber is ‘a group of senior ministers of the British Cabinet, who meet occasionally to decide how government spending is to be allocated amongst various ministries.’ You could argue that Rudd ought to have some form of ‘definition by example’ indicator (‘perhaps’, ‘maybe’ etc), but I really don’t think that’s necessary here – we all know to whom he is referring. The solution, more often seen in its noun form, can also be an adjective.
29a Swell? Crescendo may proceed so (4)
A crescendo may proceed TO fortissimo…
34a Those in the oldest profession, they say, dull as it sounds (4)
A homophone (‘they say’) for ‘prose’ (‘dull as it sounds’).
1d A puff or two might make insecure roof ——— (6)
A composite anagram &lit, where the letters of A PUFF OR TWO can be rearranged (‘might make insecure [version of]’) ROOF plus the solution (the blank); the whole clue does not serve as a definition of the answer, but when the blank is replaced by the answer it forms a meaningful sentence, a little like a Printer’s Devilry clue.
2d Constituent of opium or cocaine inhaled by nostril once? Death mostly follows (7)
Unless you are familiar with the solution, you need to know that NARE is an archaic term for a nostril, in particular that of a hawk.
19d Children (tinies)? So typical of nanny, isn’t led astray (7)
Another composite anagram, here the letters of CHILDREN TINIES are an anagram (‘astray’) of ISNT LED plus the solution, represented by ‘So typical of nanny’, with ‘so’ being used in the sense of ‘thus’. The ‘nanny’ in question is not of the human variety.
20d Either of two Oxbridge colleges acceptable for ‘harmless drudge’ (7)
There is a St John’s college at Oxford, and I gather that there’s one at Cambridge too. Dr Johnson’s definition of a lexicographer (a role that Azed performed at the Oxford University Press) was ‘a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.’ In The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce puts it a little more forcefully: ‘A pestilent fellow who, under the pretence of recording some particular stage in the development of a language, does what he can to arrest its growth, stiffen its flexibility and mechanize its methods.’
22d Hall e.g. among number put up, ultra-modern (6)
This clue takes me back to the summer of 1966, watching the England v West Indies test series on TV (with the sound turned down) and simultaneously listening on my transistor radio to the ball-by-ball commentary (broadcast on the BBC’s Third Programme, which the following year became Radio 3) as WES Hall and Charlie Griffith gave the English batsmen a very hard time indeed.
23d Quaker? Not unlike one he reveres endlessly? (5)
AS (‘Not unlike’) followed by the surname of the man who founded the Province of Pennsylvania’s (‘one he reveres’) without its last letter (‘endlessly’). Since the ‘Quaker’ in the definition has nothing to do with the Religious Society of Friends, it’s a moot point whether ‘he’ can legitimately be used in a self-referential sense to indicate one such in the wordplay.
24d It’s for lifting potatoes one planted in trench (5)
Once again, you either need to be familiar with the potato lifting fork or know that a ‘grip’ is a small trench for carrying away surface water.
26d Bacteria? Opening of cut on back of head put off (5)
This one involves the OCCIPUT (‘back of head’) losing the letters PUT (‘put off’).
30d Waterfall, one leaving depression (4)
The wordplay here features a Latin word which I think of as meaning ‘ditch’ (something the Romans seemed to spend a lot of time digging), but is also given by Chambers as meaning ‘a depression’. The solution, produced when A (‘one’) leaves the depression, is an alternative spelling of a more familiar term for a waterfall, although anyone who has spent time exploring the Yorkshire Dales may well have come across the word.