Notes for Azed 2,534

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 2,534 Plain

Difficulty rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5)

First of all, my apologies that the last two Azed posts did not originally have comments enabled; I had cloned a post which had comments turned off as a result, I think, of a WordPress issue I had at the time that I set it up. It wasn’t a ploy aimed at discouraging feedback – far from it, I’m always keen to hear your thoughts, whether on a particular puzzle, the Azed notes in general, or the site as a whole. I’m even happy to be put right if you think I’ve got something wrong! I can confirm that all posts are now open for comments.

Three ‘hiddens’ in quick succession helped to get things started here, and overall I felt the puzzle was towards the low end of the difficulty spectrum. By Azed’s exceptionally high standards it struck me as disappointing, with a few (albeit minor) issues and no standout clues – even a second read through revealed few obvious contenders for Clue of the Week, and the award goes to 4d for its nice surface reading.

10a How Brontës appear in rewrite lacking English – result is slush (9)
An anagram (‘appear in rewrite’) of HOW BRONTES without the E (‘lacking English’), and a clue which highlights one of the few cruciverbal areas where Azed’s views and mine differ significantly. He has always considered (based as I recall on a note from Ximenes) that in a wordplay a string of words (here ‘How Brontës’) can govern a plural verb (‘appear’) as well as a singular verb; I believe that where the words are not separated in any way the verb of which they are the subject must be plural, so here the anagram would have to be indicated by ‘How Brontës appears in rewrite’, which of course doesn’t work in the non-cryptic reading. Application of this rule would have ruled out a number of prize-winning clues from Azed comps, perhaps most notably Dr E Young’s self-referencing classic:

A hard tussle with Dr E Young plainly winning (13)

18a Pain for poet, name forgotten in an upheaval (6)
The second of two ‘upheavals’ in this crossword, here we have A followed by a six-letter word for an upheaval or an alteration with the letter N removed (‘name forgotten’).

24a Such as Fagin, with going for Oliver, say, produces wooden darts (7)
Many’s the time I have come up with what seems like a great ‘story’ for a clue, only to find that I just can’t make it work to my satisfaction. I’m sure this seemed like a good idea to Azed, but the result is frankly a bit of a dog’s breakfast. The wordplay is ok – a four-letter plural of the term which Dickens repeatedly (and controversially) used when referring to Fagin, in which the W (‘with’) is replaced by (‘going for’) the four-letter surname of the British actor Oliver who coincidentally played the part of Bill Sikes in the 1968 film Oliver! but sadly is probably best remembered these days for his drinking exploits and his appearances on chat shows, most notable Aspel and Company, while in the obvious twin grips of tiredness and emotion. The surface reading is, frankly, weak.

30a Military badges, black square surrounding face (7)
The letters B (‘black’) and S (‘square’) surround a five-letter word meaning ‘to face with masonry or other material’ thus producing a word which has more to do with warrants than badges, being the plural of a term for a warrant issued to confer on a commissioned officer a higher nominal rank as a reward for gallantry or merit but without any increase in pay.

2d One extract of hemlock found in vase of Roman garrison in Shropshire (9)
CONIA (‘extract of hemlock’) is one of those things that I’m glad to say is encountered in puzzles more often than in life, and here it is preceded by I (‘One’) and contained by (‘found in’) a three-letter word for a vase, the result being a word which, if Azed had been feeling particularly bilious, he could have chosen as the competition clue word. I’m sure that those planning to enter the comp are glad he didn’t!

5d Portraitist National featured in capital, unknown (6)
N (‘National’) in a four-letter European capital city, followed by one of the three algebraic unknowns that frequently turn up in wordplays, giving the surname of the portrait artist George. Born in Lancashire in 1734, he moved to London in 1762 where pretty much ‘everybody who was anybody’ sat for him. In 1782, the Hon Charles Greville took his mistress, then calling herself Mrs Emma Hart, to Romney to have her portrait painted. So taken was the artist with Mrs Hart (he later described her as ‘that divine lady…superior to all womankind’) that she quickly became established as his muse – during the next four years she sat for him over 100 times. In 1786 Greville needed to find a wealthy wife, and Emma left for a new life in Naples with Greville’s uncle, Sir William Hamilton. Romney felt her loss  deeply, but in 1791 she and Sir William returned to London to be married; Romney booked her for dozens of sittings, and two consecutive entries in his diary for September 1791 show ‘Mrs Hart’ at 9 o’clock and ‘Lady Hamilton’ at 11. After October that year she she never sat for Romney again; his career went into decline, while for Lady Emma Hamilton, the rest, as they say, is history.

7d Like Jock’s well-used fryer? Soften by boiling, then toss (7)
It’s pretty clear that we are looking for a seven-letter Scots word meaning something along the lines of ‘greasy’, but unless we happen to know that ‘to cree’ is to soften (wheat or barley) by boiling then a trawl of the dictionary will probably be required (it appears to be a dialect word, usually found as the past participle ‘creed’ (or ‘creyed/’creaved’).

8d Almost half the letters turning up in pot (4)
Almost half of the letters [of the alphabet] would be encompassed by ‘A to L’, and this is what needs to be ‘turned up’ to produce a small brass or copper pot from India.

9d Old-fashioned wallop Munich gent swallowed in debauch (7)
The four-letter word for a gent in Munich (or anywhere else in Germany) is no problem, but I had to look up ‘wet’ in Chambers in order to verify the meaning of ‘debauch’. I suspect that this is a debauch in the specific sense of a drinking bout, but it’s strange that it should be bracketed with ‘dram’, which surely describes a very different level of alcoholic intake and one much closer to what I would understand by a ‘wet’.

16d Turn including disc-player, one added (7)
A three-letter word for a ‘turn’ (particularly in the music hall sense) containing (‘including’) a two-letter abbreviation for a person who plays discs and a two-letter dialect word for ‘one’, the whole meaning ‘added’. I’m surprised that Azed saw fit to use ‘one’ without any qualification.

23d Upturned punt? Liquid’s heated in it (4)
The reverse (‘Upturned’) of a word for a ‘punt’ in the betting sense, but although the two words share a common meaning of ‘stake’ I can’t think of a sentence in which they could be interchanged without significantly altering the sense. The solution is another barred puzzle ‘regular’, unique among four-letter words for its central letters.

25d Gloom – end up dismissed for insolence (4)
The gloom here is a seven-letter word for ‘unhappiness’ from which a reversal (‘up’) of END has been removed (‘dismissed’) to give a word meaning ‘insolence’, or at least ‘impertinence’.

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4 Responses

  1. Doctor Clue says:

    Hi Peter

    As you suggest, many of the words are not in common use in Scotland, and Chambers also tends to give more of the variant spellings for Scots words than for English ones. With my setter’s hat on, I appreciate that sometimes the only word that will fill a difficult gap is a ‘Chambers Scots’ one – for instance there are five words that match the pattern ?OWF and they’re all Scottish. While I don’t mind the odd one as a solution when the wordplay is simple, I wasn’t keen on the use of the obscure (as far as I am concerned, anyway) ‘cree’ in 7d, and one per puzzle is quite enough!

  2. Peter Owen says:

    I do wish that Azed would ease up on those obscure Scottish words unfamiliar I’d bet even to the vast majority of Scots.

  3. Doctor Clue says:

    Hi Cait, and welcome!

    There’s no shame at all in having regular recourse to the dictionary during an Azed solve…well, I certainly hope there isn’t! 🙂 And I think 9d shows why Chambers is the one essential element of the Azed ‘toolkit’ – I don’t believe wet=debauch can be found anywhere else (it’s certainly not in the OED) and without access to Chambers I would have seriously doubted whether it was right.

  4. Cait says:

    Thank you! I completed with lots of help from dictionary but couldn’t parse 16d, 24a or 25d but ‘got’ from letters and definitions. Can’t believe I couldn’t see word for ‘turn’! Agree re word for debauch in 9d – so many definitions for this word – but obviously not to his liking – it’s my assumption that I know what a word means that is often my undoing…
    Thanks again.