Notes for Azed 2,538

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 2,538 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

A pleasant challenge, probably a little below the mid-range of difficulty, due in particular to the four ‘hiddens’ which accounted for 22 letters, or around 15% of the completed grid. The anagram across the bottom was pretty simple, the one at the top a little trickier. I know that some solvers are not keen on puzzles that overtly demand a degree of general knowledge, and this one may not have been to their liking – personally, I think that in practice a degree of general knowledge is required to solve any cryptic puzzle and a few references that go beyond the dictionary only serve to add to my enjoyment. That said, I thought the restaurateur in 9d was decidedly obscure.

ScotsWatch: just the 2 today – the solutions for 22a and 8d. However, the one at 8d is not just Scots but obsolete Scots, which imbues it with a little extra cachet.

10a Face to windward, being connected via modem (6)
A simple charade, a four-letter word for ‘Face’ and a two-letter term for ‘to windward’ producing an adjective hyphenated in the same pattern (ie 4-2). I guess there’s a whole generation out there now who have no idea what a modem is – I’m afraid that I can remember when one was a luxury and often the only option available would be an acoustic coupler. This was a device with two rubber cups, into which the telephone handset was inserted after a call had been made to the remote system. At full throttle the connection would deliver a heady 30 characters per second, accompanied by a fascinating  variety of crackles and whistles, but if you were on a shared telephone extension and someone tried to use the other phone, things rapidly went downhill…did I mention that there was no error correction facility?

13a Source of hardwood? There’s none on timber tree in being cut twice (5)
The wordplay here involves the usual single character representation of ‘nothing’ being followed by the four-letter name of a tree which is a common source of timber having the letters IN removed (‘in being cut’) and then being repeated (‘twice’).

14a Edible fish coated in batter I almost vomit (7)
A four-letter word for ‘vomit’ has its last letter removed (‘almost’) and is inserted into (‘coated in’) a three-letter word meaning ‘[to] batter’ (which can also be suffixed with ‘bast’) and the letter I.

17a Choir feature in tribute to prince HM backed repeatedly (8)
This is a nicely constructed clue that reads well. If you’re not familiar with the answer (a feature of a church stall), then you will need to know that a MISE was historically “in Wales and the county palatine of Chester, a payment to a new king, prince, Lord of the Marches, or earl, to secure certain privileges.”

19a Homeric star? I, ———, battling with arms maybe (6)
A composite anagram, where the letters of I, ARMS and the solution when moving around (‘battling’) can form (‘maybe’) HOMERIC STAR, the solution being the name of a Trojan prince and top warrior. He led the Trojan army in the Trojan War, despite not being in favour of the conflict. Because it had been prophesied that the first Greek to step on Trojan soil would die, Odysseus craftily threw his shield on the soil and stepped on it. The next person who stepped off the ship was Protesilaus, who was duly killed in a duel with Hector. Hector then proposed a further duel to settle the war, but after he and Ajax had fought for a day it turned out that they were level on the judges’ scorecards. With his duel results on the slide, Hector unwisely took on Achilles, whereupon he suffered his first – and only, although that may have been little consolation to him – defeat.

30a Priest’s daughter, extremely fussy about eulogy’s opening (5)
I’ve come across the solution here being used to describe the daughter of a Pope, but the OED sums it up nicely as “Euphemistically applied to the illegitimate daughter of an ecclesiastic”. A leading contender for the title of ‘most prolific uncle’ has to be Pope Alexander VI, who fathered at least seven children including (while a priest but before becoming Pope) Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia.

32a Rarely used net from class abandoned us in rough sea (6)
This is an anagram (‘rough’) of SEA around a five-letter word for ‘[a] class’ from which the letters US have been removed, but the grammar of the wordplay is faulty. The ‘abandoned us’ needs to be something like ‘having abandoned us’, ‘that’s abandoned us’ or ‘abandoned by us’; I wonder if the last of these options was intended and the word ‘by’ accidentally omitted.

1d Wild flower causing reduction in insect numbers? (7)
When split 3/4, the name of the wild flower produces a phrase describing an event that results in a reduction in insect numbers.

2d Fauvist rubbish, including exotic feast seen from below (7)
It’s not often that LUAU (a Hawaiian feast) appears as part of a wordplay (indeed there are no other words in Chambers which feature those letters either backwards or forwards), but here it is reversed (‘seen from below’) and placed inside a three-letter word for ‘rubbish’, thus producing the name of a French artist. Born in Paris and apprenticed to a stained glass designer, he used glowing colours outlined with black when depicting his subjects. Early in the 1900s he joined the Fauves, led by Derain and Matisse (a personal friend). Many of his works were acquired by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who commissioned the series of large religious engravings published after Vollard’s death as Guerre and [the answer to 17 across]. In 1948, he took 315 of his 700 unfinished paintings to a factory in Paris where he threw them into a furnace; his reasoning was that at 77 years of age, and with a picture often taking him 10 years to finish to his satisfaction, he wasn’t going to have time to get them done. When he died in 1958 he was considered to be a sufficiently important figure to be given a state funeral.

3d What rises somewhat, clipping top of wicket? (4)
A five-letter word for ‘[part of a ] wicket’ from which the first letter has been removed (‘clipping top’), producing a word for a particular geographical feature. Has Azed misread the Chambers definition of ‘stump’ and seen ‘wicket’ as a valid synonym, or has he used the question mark to show that he is taking a minor liberty – if the latter, I think it is a bit of a liberty, as a ball clipping the top of the wicket would make contact only with the bails.

8d Scots release, as of old, former member of the family? (5)
Two obsolete words here, both the solution (Scots for ‘[to] release’) and the second element of the wordplay, which involves a two-letter prefix meaning ‘former’ plus a three-letter word, much beloved of crossword setters, for an uncle.

9d Upmarket restaurateur, half cut, appearing in paper as ‘Peg leg’ (10)
The surname of Giuseppe “Joe” Bertorelli (I think, though I’m open to alternative suggestions) must be reduced by 50% (‘half cut’) and inserted into the five-letter name of a British newspaper to produce a hyphenated (6-4) term for a person with a wooden leg. Bertorelli opened one of the first (or possibly even the first) high-class Italian restaurants in London in 1913, at 19 Charlotte Street.

11d Probes former injury brought up in boasts (10)
When you see ‘former injury’ in a barred puzzle you can be pretty sure that it will be either a ‘dere’ or a ‘tene’, and here it is the latter which must be reversed (‘brought up’) in a word meaning ‘boasts’. A clue of simple construction but considerable appeal.

21d As regards character leading regiment in War, we’re concerned with breeding (7)
The capitalisation of ‘War’ makes it clear that we are looking for the personification of war, in this instance from Greek mythology. Unfortunately for him, in contrast to Athena, who represents military strategy and generalship (good), he is the embodiment of violent aggression (less good). Indeed, when it came to Olympian popularity contests he was invariably voted off in the first week, both by his fellow gods and by the Greek public; despite his association with war, he was often portrayed as a coward, reacting to even a slight injury with outrage.

24d Pigment is seen when climbing over Sicilian location (6)
Here the word IS is to be reversed (‘climbing’) above (‘over’) the four-letter name of a city in Sicily.

29d Guinness, say, something served in pubs cold (4)
The ‘Guinness’ here was a brilliant British actor who is perhaps best known these days for his portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy (he talks about the first film in this lovely clip from the Parkinson show), although he had received the Best Actor Oscar 20 years earlier (in 1957 for The Bridge on the River Kwai), had been knighted in 1959, and had been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.  Although he was reluctant to appear on television, his masterly portrayal of George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People won him two BAFTA Best Actor awards. Despite his enormous success, he was rarely recognized by the public; he told the story of checking his hat and coat at a restaurant and asking for a claim ticket. “It will not be necessary” the attendant said. Guinness later retrieved his garments, put his hand in the coat pocket and found a slip of paper on which was written “Bald with glasses.”

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