Notes for Azed 2,530

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 2,530 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

The appearance of another plain puzzle this week is unsurprising given that we can expect a Christmas special in two weeks’ time. I felt this one was right in the middle of the difficulty spectrum, although there was a generous helping of straightforward anagrams to help the solving process along. As last week, I struggled to choose a  ‘clue of the week’, but following a re-reading of all the clues decided on 3d. Azed always says that he aims to choose the most promising word for the clue-writing competition, but he can’t have thought much of the 35 other options available here – good luck to competitors with that one!

1a Stick type of net over dyeing material (9, 2 words)
A tripartite charade to start us off, consisting a three-letter word meaning ‘to stick’ or ‘(to) glue’, a four-letter word for a type of fishing net, and a two-letter preposition meaning ‘over’.

13a Small tipple I swallowed? It won’t go far in Dushanbe (5)
Geography is not my strong suit, and I had no idea where Dushanbe was. Such knowledge would not have helped me much anyway, as I would still not have known that the result of I being ‘swallowed’ by a term for wee drink represented a hundredth part of a somoni there. However, I was able to confidently enter the answer based on the wordplay, with a confirmatory check following later.

17a Boss stopping work early (4)
I don’t much like participles with vaguely implied subjects, so I would have preferred to see this written as ‘Work stopping early for boss’; either way, a five-letter synonym (loosely) for ‘work’ has its last letter removed (‘stopping…early’) to produce a word for [a] boss.

26a Invertebrates? Tern tribe’s mixed in with these (4)
A composite anagram, where the letters of INVERTEBRATES can be rearranged to form TERN TRIBE ‘mixed in’ with the solution. But with nine letters cancelling each other out and only four left for the answer, this is far too heavy on the padding for my taste – I feel that the sum of the parts should ideally not have more than double the number of letters in the solution, and certainly not more than three times the number, as here. Since birds are not invertebrates I also find the definition aspect of the clue less than satisfactory.

28a Bud yielding infusion? It was of value in Peru (4)
Probably the trickiest wordplay in the puzzle, ‘Bud’ here is an abbreviation of ‘buddy’, an INTIMATE, and the infusion is MATÉ.

1d Who often joined Daisy having tea? Come off it! (7)
The East End ladies Gert and Daisy were the creations of sisters Elsie and Doris Waters, who brought observational comedy to an era in which audiences were used to comedians simply telling a series of jokes. The characters were hugely popular in the 1930s and 1940s, and their dialogue was so accurately constructed that some listeners apparently thought that they were real people. Winston Churchill was a fan, and two elephants at London Zoo were named Gert and Daisy in their honour. One of their brothers was Horace Waters, better known as Jack Warner, aka George Dixon in Dixon of Dock Green. The solution is the title of a 1979 single from Chas and Dave:

Now there’s a word that I don’t understand
I hear it every day from my old man
It may be Cockney rhyming slang
It ain’t in no school book
He says it every time that he gets mad
A regular caution is my old dad
Rub the old man up the wrong way, bet your life you’ll hear him say…

3d What’s left penned by composer, unfinished, that can be erased (7)
The standard abbreviation for ‘left’ is contained (‘penned’) by the surname of the composer of the music for the ballets Coppélia and Sylvia, producing a word meaning ‘that can be erased’.

6d Seniors sign to accept lads as neglected (6, 2 words)
A four-letter word for a sign or portent is to be paced around (‘to accept’) LADS with the letters A and S removed (‘neglected’. I’m a little surprised that Azed didn’t indicate that these letters are not consecutive in LADS, but since both words are in plain view in the clue he probably felt it was unnecessary.

7d Group in society mostly keeping quiet about ne’er-do-well (7)
Here we have a five-letter word for ‘quiet’ or ‘silent’ (one of several alternative spellings) with the last letter removed (‘mostly’) around (‘about’) a three-letter word for a ne’er-do-well (often indicated in crosswords by ‘deserter’) .

9d Ready for engagement? What Mr and Mrs share is embodied by mostly expensive rings coming up (5)
I’m afraid that with Christmas approaching this has to be my ‘turkey of the week’. I wonder if this clue was revised and what we have here is some sort of hybrid of multiple versions. The idea is that MR (‘What Mr and Mrs share’) contained by DEAR (‘expensive’) missing the last letter (‘mostly’) is reversed (‘coming up’). But quite apart from the repetition of ‘mostly’ from 7d, the wordplay elements ‘is embodied by’ and ‘rings’ are both containment indicators, and only one of them is required.

19d Uproar once created by telly doctor on rearing owls (7)
Initially I  couldn’t see why Azed had included the word ‘on’ here, as it seemed to me that both the surface reading and the wordplay would be better without it, but the linking ‘created by’ could be considered to demand that the two parts of the wordplay be explicitly joined, in a way that ‘from’, say, would not – I think it’s a moot point, but I’m all in favour of erring on the side of excessive soundness. The telly doctor should be familiar to all, but a trawl through a section of Chambers may be required unless you are familiar with BUBO as a genus of horned owls.

22d Sneery, I maligned those labelled ‘kindly’ (7)
A simple anagram; the Furies were a pretty frightening trio, and rather like Voldemort (and Arthur Daley’s wife) it was generally thought best not to mention their name for fear of attracting their attention, so they were euphemistically known as the Eumenides, variously translated as the ‘kindly ones’ or ‘them indoors’.

27d Crack clayey rock, removing soft covering (5)
I suspect I will not be the only solver who worked back from the solution (meaning ‘crack’, as certain troops might be described), putting a P at the start (the ‘soft covering’ that has been removed), and checking the resultant six-letter rock in Chambers. A repetition here of soft = P, also seen in 4d.

30d Seaweed rising up from below grating (4)
The name of an edible seaweed used primarily in Japanese cuisine is reversed (‘rising up from below’) to produce an adjective which can mean ‘grating’, although it more often associated with the sense of ‘stern’ or ‘inflexible’.

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