Notes for Azed 2,531
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 2,531 Plain
Difficulty rating: (2 / 5)
I feel that in the clue for 1d ‘Context’ should read ‘Contest’, although the clue probably works (just about) with either word.
The expected plain puzzle to precede the Christmas special, and overall a slightly disappointing one. It seemed to me a little below the mid-point of the difficulty spectrum, with the presence of three ‘hiddens’ being a particularly generous gift. Although I didn’t feel that the puzzle as a whole was a classic, there were a couple of nice clues, with 32a getting the nod as ‘clue of the week’.
12a Fruit pest, rare thing enveloping most of stem (8)
The five-letter word for a rare or unusual thing is familiar enough, but the stem which must have its final letter removed before being ‘enveloped’ by it was one that I either didn’t know or had forgotten. It’s a CULM.
14a Pair of characters in oyster place changing places for sort of smoothie (6)
I think Azed has got his seafood geography mixed up here – Brancaster is known for its oysters, but Cromer is famous for its crabs. It is the latter place which must have two non-consecutive letters swapped. A pretty weak clue, in truth, what with ‘place’ and ‘places’ being separated by just one word.
17a Mass entering bewildering system, on edge? They’re misbegotten (8)
The usual abbreviation for ‘mass’ enters a four-letter word for the sort of bewildering system that one might get lost in; a three letter word for ‘edge’ follows. The result is a term for children who are misbegotten in the sense given by Chambers as Shakespearean (though the OED suggests that it was more widely used).
21a Nick bits of earlier recorded stuff? Could be Grub Street denizens (10)
The Nick here is Old Nick, the Devil. Another name for him is followed by the first letters (‘bits’) of the words ‘earlier recorded stuff’, the result being a class of people who ‘scribble, write hurriedly or carelessly’. Grub Street, a street in London near Moorfields renamed in 1830 as Milton Street, was described by Dr Johnson as being “much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems” and was often used allusively to describe the domain of needy authors and literary hacks.
24a Stop fumbling after cross comes back – I won’t catch a thing (8)
If you are as deaf as one of these then you won’t catch anything at all.
28a Roman army issue, troublesome flier when holding line (5)
The sort of clue where my Latin ‘O’ Level stands me in good stead, but for those denied the pleasure of Virgil et al the ‘troublesome flier’ which is ‘holding’ the standard abbreviation for line is a PIUM, a ‘small but very troublesome Brazilian biting fly’. In his book Brazilian Adventure, the story of an expedition to search for the explorer Percy Fawcett, Peter Fleming (the elder brother of Ian Fleming) writes: “By day the worst pest was the pium fly, a little black creature the size of a midge, which covered your hands and anything else it could get at with small hard red pimples.”
34a Return of comic dame, central character in Christmas range (5)
The ‘comic dame’ making a return is also known as Mrs Norm Everage. This would be a very neat clue if the ‘range’ at the end didn’t jar somewhat.
1d Stone cold performer turned up leading road race? Context [or Contest] not requiring drivers (12, 3 words)
A three-letter word for a stone, the abbreviation for ‘cold’, a four-letter word for a performer (could be a dab one), UP reversed (‘turned’) and a familiar two-letter abbreviation for a road race on the Isle of Man, all adding up to something which is cleverly defined. I have seen objections raised in the past about ‘race’ being used to indicate TT, on the basis that the Tourist Trophy is a time trial and therefore not a ‘race’; this is a specious argument – a ‘race’ is ‘a competitive trial of speed’. However, you could legitimately argue that the TT is not one ‘road race’ but several.
3d This size, OS, is not right for OU gels (4)
A composite anagram of the acceptable kind. The letters of the solution (‘This size’) plus OS can be rearranged (‘not right’) to form OU GELS, and there is a nice bit of misdirection in terms of the sort of ‘size’ we are looking for. That said, can ‘This size, OS’ in the wordplay govern a verb in the singular (‘is’)? Probably not. Replacing the commas with dashes would improve matters.
6d Surfing tyro got mermaid helplessly rolling about (7)
The ‘helplessly’ here is a slightly fanciful way of indicating that the MERMAID should have her AID removed before ‘rolling about’ with GOT.
8d Tympanist missing entry – rather odd (6)
A straightforward wordplay, but a definition that revives a question that I have asked myself on several occasions: does ‘rather odd’ mean ‘odder’, or indeed ‘rather anything’ mean ‘more anything’? I can find no justification for it; ‘rather odd’ certainly suggests ‘somewhat odd’, but unless you take that to mean ‘more odd [than an implied norm]’, then it doesn’t mean ‘odder’.
9d Food store – see one denied pant for meal concealed (6)
The ‘one’ in the second part of the clue (the wordplay) references the ‘Food store’ (the definition) at the start, so we have a second six-letter word for a food store lacking (‘denied’) PANT and receiving in its place an anagram of MEAL (‘meal concealed’). The use of ‘concealed’ as an anagram indicator relies on the Chambers definition of ‘conceal’ as ‘to disguise’. I think that it is very close to the border of acceptability, and probably in the queue to get in.
21d A number as introduction for unaccompanied wind (6)
‘A N’ is what must be introduced to a word meaning ‘unaccompanied’.
30d Stone that’s reddish-brown with being dug out of turf (4)
The usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘with’ must be ‘dug out’ of a five-letter word for ‘turf’ (which when preceded by ‘green’ means ‘land covered with grass’).