Notes for Azed 2,532

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 2,532 ‘Presents Round The Tree’

Difficulty rating: 4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

A pretty gentle Christmas special, with everything spelt out very clearly in the preamble, but no less enjoyable for that. Below I’ve included some notes on the normal clues, followed by hints for the thematic entries. My clue of the week was 7d, which features a lovely definition nicely integrated into the clue.

For those planning to enter the competition, note that the requirement is to provide a wordplay specifically for the thirteen-letter entry at 1a, thus (as with the standard competitions) providing the puzzle with its ‘missing’ cryptic clue. Recent converts may find the Azed slip for 2,376 helpful as it refers to a near-identical puzzle, where coins were hidden in puddings and the absent clue was for SOW(PIASTRE)ENS, ie PIASTRE in SOWENS. History shows that when judging Christmas comps Azed tends to prefer clues with a seasonal flavour.

May I take this opportunity to wish all solvers a very happy Christmas and much good solving in the New Year.

12a Weed: a vineyard infested with it suffers reverse (6)
The letter A plus a three-letter word for a vineyard ‘is infested with’ (contains) the word IT, the whole lot being reversed (‘suffers reverse’).

19a Typical of artistic school that is found in fuzzy (not cloudy) scenes (7)
The usual abbreviation for ‘that is’ inside an anagram (‘fuzzy’) of SCENES without the abbreviation for ‘cloudy’ (‘not cloudy’).

33a Circus owner maybe introduced to rubber trampolines (7)
A simple enough ‘hidden’, but younger solvers may not be familiar with the Bertram Mills Circus, the most famous circus in Britain in the 1930s and still a household name in the 1960s. Born in 1873, Mills – described by Lady Eleanor Smith as ‘a short, stocky man with a bald head, a ruddy pugnacious face, a grey moustache, and twinkling, shrewd blue eyes’ – worked for many years in the family’s coach building and undertaking firms, successfully developing these businesses while indulging his love of horses by coach driving for a hobby. After attending a performance of Fred Wilkin’s Great Victory Circus at Christmas 1919, Mills was asked for his opinion on the show (which featured many top-class acts); he is said to have replied “I dare not trust myself to tell you. But if I could not give the people a better circus than that for their money, I’d eat my hat.” A £100 bet with a fellow coaching enthusiast, Sir Gilbert Greenhall, meant that more was at stake than his hat when Mills took up the challenge. Having previously met John Ringling at the New York Horse Show, Mills swiftly arranged for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to come to England for the 1920/21 winter season; unfortunately, John Ringling was unable to arrange shipping so soon after the first World War and had to ask Mills for cancellation of the contract, adding, “Let me know what I owe you.” Mills replied, “You owe me nothing; I will produce my own show.” And that is what he did; his Christmas 1920 show at Olympia was hailed as a triumph, and the Bertram Mills Christmas show was rapidly established as a fixture in the London calendar. His touring tented circus subsequently became a major attraction as well, and though Bertram Mills died in 1938 his two sons kept things going until the circus finally closed in 1967. In their heyday, the Christmas shows attracted the rich and famous, with the British royal family and Winston Churchill being enthusiastic supporters.

35a Name giving promise of payment involved in rowdy party in Perth? (6)
A man’s given name is produced by putting the abbreviation BE (‘bill of exchange’, ie ‘promise of payment’) inside an Australian (‘in Perth?’) word for a rowdy party.

4d Wine one’s drunk clutching drinking-mug (7)
One of my bugbears is ‘has’ (or apostrophe-s) being used to indicate ‘is followed by’. Here A (‘one’) is followed by (“‘s”) an informal word for ‘drunk’ surrounding a three-letter word for a drinking-mug.

6d Twins rarely like conjoined ones, i.e. separated (5)
The letters I and E must be individually removed (‘separated’) from a word synonymous with ‘conjoined’.

7d Got up in coating of gilt I can be made a fool of (6)
A fine clue, where the ‘coating of gilt’ serves to indicate the letters GT.

18d Shift cycling shades (5)
It is a word for ‘shades’ which is ‘cycling’ (the last letter moving to the start) to produce a word meaning ‘[a] shift’.

28d Member of ascetic fraternity in reduced numbers, forsaking extremes (6)
A clue which is simpler than it might initially appear – a word that on a good day might just about mean ‘in reduced numbers’ (but certainly means ‘reduced’) loses its first and last letters (‘forsaking extremes’).

32d Not what this is, clearly (5)
The word ‘this‘ refers not to this particular clue, but to this particular puzzle. ‘Clearly’ is the ‘straight’ definition.

Thematic Entries – shown as (p1,t,p2) where p1/p2 are the two parts of the ‘present’ and t is the tree:

1a (5,5,3) – the ‘present’ (in its alternative spelling without the second T) was the Christmas 1987 competition clue word – this was the first Azed comp I ever entered.

14a (3,2,2) – this ‘present’ is the sort that pupils in a Latin class would call out during the taking of the register (and also what Caesar did with his jam).

23a (2,6,5) – the ‘on shortened’ here simply indicates O.

27a (3,3,1) – a four-letter Latin word for ‘life’ has to be put into a judo costume.

39a (3,6,4) – the ‘present’ is a French New Year’s gift, here singular (seven letters) but normally (according to Chambers) seen in the plural.

1d (1,3,2) – having confidently entered the solution based on the wordplay, the ‘present’ had me scratching my head for a while. It’s a three-letter acronym for a potentially tax-free gift.

3d (2,6,5) – the privies here are not brick outhouses, rather (a shortened form of the word for) the lavatories in a barracks or similar.

8d (6,4,3) – the three-letter word for ‘reputed (French)’ would typically be translated into English as ‘said’.

10d (1,3,3) – the woman is the sort who according to Rider Haggard or Rumpole must be obeyed.

22d (4,2,1) – a ‘rem’ is “a former unit of radiation dosage, the amount which has the same effect as one rad of X-radiation.”

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