Notes for Azed 2,536

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 2,536 Plain

Difficulty rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Before delving into this puzzle, a couple of non-related points. Firstly, looking at the published solution for 2,533 I see that there is no explanation given for HOSS at 23a; Azed provides notes for those clues which he considers require them, so I think we can safely assume that there wasn’t some subtlety about the clue which escaped us all. Secondly, a bit of self-promotion – for anyone who fancies tackling a fairly tough blocked puzzle with Ximenean clueing, this weekend’s NTSPP (Not The Saturday Prize Puzzle) on Big Dave’s excellent site is one of mine.

This puzzle seemed to me slightly above average in terms of difficulty and somewhat short of Azed’s very finest in terms of quality. The grid was an unusual one, with those six four-letter words strung across the middle and ten four-letter words in all. The enumeration for 1d is incorrectly given as (12, 2 words) when it should be (11, 2 words).

It was nice to see the nom de guerre of one of the greatest setters of all appearing in the grid. His bank holiday double puzzles in the Guardian were sometimes infuriating and always immensely enjoyable. Some of his clues were not to the liking of Ximeneans, but unlike a number of today’s setters he was well aware of the ‘rules’ and simply chose to break them on occasion. Azed wrote of him: “His distinctive style and seemingly limitless invention endeared him to generations of both solvers and setters. We met on only a handful of occasions, usually in large gatherings of the kind he disliked, but I always enjoyed our chats (perhaps more than those who regard the Ximenean and ‘libertarian’ approaches as irreconcilable might imagine). There is no doubt that he will be remembered as one of the pre-eminent figures in the history of crosswords.”

ScotsWatch: a whopping 5 today – one in the wordplay for 16 across, one in the wordplay for 5 down, and the others as the solutions for 21 across and 17/23 down. This beats last week’s 3 and sets the bar very high indeed for future puzzles.

16a Jock’s confident about busy lab identifying parasite (9)
A hyphenated entry (4-5) that results from putting an anagram (‘busy’) of LAB inside a six-letter Scots word meaning ‘cheerfully confident’.

19a Bolt fast almost (4)
Azed has kindly placed the ‘almost’ at the end of the clue rather than in its more natural position between ‘Bolt’ and ‘fast’, thus clearly indicating that the five-letter word which must have its last letter removed (‘almost’) is one which means ‘fast’ or ‘swift’, the definition being ‘[to] Bolt’.

21a Scotch went, last of bottle swallowed in the pursuit of pleasure (4)
The ‘last of bottle’ is the letter E, but it seems far from obvious to me that ‘the pursuit of pleasure’ by which it is ‘swallowed’ is GAD. Chambers does give gad3 as ‘to wander about, often restlessly, idly or in pursuit of pleasure’, but to transfer this meaning to the noun form without the sense of wandering is a stretch and a half.

22a Spotted rodent tails disappearing in two metal containers? (4)
There are quite a few permutations for the two three-letter ‘metal containers’ which must both lose their last letters (‘tails disappearing’). The first one here would go on the hob but isn’t a pot while the second would go in the pantry but isn’t a tin.

23a Parts of wager to be exchanged? It’s not quite final (4)
The OED shows MISE as being derived from the Old French ‘mise’, ‘the action of placing…wager’, but doesn’t give the English noun in this sense. However, Chambers has it as ‘a stake in gambling’, and it is the word which must have its halves exchanged to produce the round in a knockout competition which is not quite [the] final.

30a Hebe clutches rear edge of charger – such as this? (7)
Hebe is the cupbearer of Olympus, so we need a six-letter synonym for ‘cupbearer’ (a not dissimilar word) to ‘clutch’ the R (‘rear edge of charger’), thus producing a word for the rear part of a horse. I wonder why Azed didn’t choose ‘rear end’ rather than ‘rear edge’?

32a Page one held in both hands, sent from a star (7)
A four-letter word for ‘Page’ (the sort you might fill with writing in school), followed by A (‘one’) held in the single-letter abbreviations for either hand. I think ‘sent from the stars’ would be a more accurate description than ‘sent from a star’, since its use is essentially figurative, but this would adversely affect the surface reading. 

33a Girl having embraced one, perfume lay before fading – as here today… (12)
The wordplay involves a three-letter girl’s name ’embracing’ AN (‘one’), followed by a five-letter word for ‘perfume’ plus LAY without the letter A (‘before [ie A, ante] fading’). Adverbs are very awkward to define interestingly, and here Azed has come up with the rather crafty definition ‘as here today [gone tomorrow]’.

3d Trump’s snipe? Tons pinned by junior pressman (4)
The solution is not an American word for ‘snipe’, rather it is an English word sharing the American meaning of ‘snipe’, viz the butt of a cigar or cigarette.

5d Bean: I loved one in French article (Parisian) (7)
The wordplay here might take a bit of unpicking – it’s  [I plus a two-letter Scots word for ‘beloved one’] in the two-letter abbreviation for ‘French’ and the two-letter [masculine] definite article in France, ie ‘article (Parisian)’.

7d Breeding place closing prematurely, worst in local areas (5)
The ‘Breeding place’ which must have its last letter removed (‘closing prematurely’) is one that you might associate particularly with rabbits but is also ‘a piece of ground kept for breeding game, esp hares, rabbits, partridges, etc’.

14d Dog catches a so-called mackerel and a catfish (9)
The wordplay involves a cruciverbal staple for ‘dog’ containing [A plus a four-letter word for a fish sometimes called the horse mackerel] followed by another A, but the grammar is faulty. As it stands, the ‘and a’ must mean that the second A is also part of what is being caught; the problem can readily be fixed by replacing ‘catches’ with catching.

20d Quack I see usurping last of principate (6)
Since the solution can mean ‘of [a] principate’, this one could prove tricky to parse. In fact, the definition is ‘Quack’, and the wordplay involves the letters IC (‘I see’) replacing (‘usurping’) the last letter of a six-letter word meaning ‘principate’.

23d Was it yielded by Rob Roy alone, rebelling at heart? (6)
A two-letter word for ‘rebelling’ must be put at the heart of a four-letter word for ‘alone’. The word certainly appears in Guy Mannering (‘a gude oak souple in his hand’) if not in Rob Roy.

25d Pastor in heaven, describing special type of attachment (5)
Another hyphenated solution, this one (3-2), produced by putting the one-letter abbreviation for ‘Pastor’ inside a four-letter word for ‘heaven’ (or Jerusalem).

26d Escape notice in after-work party for journalists? (5)
The usual two-letter word seen in crosswords for ‘notice’  is contained by a poetic word for ‘evening’, which in turn can mean ‘an evening party’, although it doesn’t itself have that meaning. The clue therefore leaves something to be desired.

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4 Responses

  1. Graham John Wenman says:

    Shame you did not include 8d in your commentary. We still cannot the answer in our (not 2014) dictionary

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Without mentioning its grid location I did allude to the solution in my ‘preamble’ – ARAUCARIA (CURARA* in AIA), the pseudonym of one of the great setters and the name of the monkey puzzle tree. I am a bit surprised that you can’t find it – I have several editions of Chambers and it’s certainly in all of them.

      PS I try to pick out clues which seem particularly tricky or are interesting for other reasons, but on request I’ll happily provide hints or comments on other clues.

  2. Steve says:

    Is there supposed to be a preamble as indicated after the reference to Chambers at the end of the clues, or is that an error?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Thanks for pointing that out – I hadn’t noticed it.

      It certainly doesn’t apply to this puzzle, which is a standard ‘plain’. That sort of error is usually the result of the footer being inherited from a non-standard puzzle – I couldn’t immediately remember that particular text appearing, but I now see that it has come from 2,532 (the Christmas special).