Notes for Azed 2,540

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 2,540 Plain

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

There wasn’t anything particularly difficult about this puzzle, but overall I felt it probably merited a rating just below the middle of the spectrum. The standard of the clues was consistently high (24d was particularly good) and I got the feeling that Azed had enjoyed writing them.

ScotsWatch: just the one today, at 32a, its Scottishness being indicated in the clue only by context.

10a Ancient author describing portion of holy scripture (5)
A bonus point to anyone who wrote this straight in without having any checkers. I didn’t. The ancient author is the Roman poet whose full name was Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Born in 39AD, he was brought up by his uncle, Seneca the Younger, and studied rhetoric at Athens. He found favour with Nero, and was appointed to the augurate (the Roman equivalent of VAR as applied to public decision-making) in 60AD after winning a prize at Nero’s quinquennial arts festival; around this time he published the first three books of his epic tale of the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, Pharsalia. Sadly his relationship with Nero rapidly went downhill, possibly accelerated by some poetic finger-pointing in Nero’s direction regarding the Great Fire of Rome, and reached an all-time low in 65AD when he joined the Gaius Calpernius Piso’s conspiracy against the emperor. On being accused, he did what any honourable chap would do – he dobbed his mother in for treason. When this gambit failed, he was forced to commit suicide at the age of 25, hence Pharsalia comes to an abrupt stop part-way through book 10.

12a Love child I enveloped in all liquid of part-partum discharge (7)
I have commented before on my reluctance as a setter to include technical terms in my puzzles, and technical adjectives are about as bad as it gets. Here Azed has worked hard to integrate the definition (‘of post-partum discharge’) with the wordplay, which involves a (1,2,1) representation of ‘love child I’ being ‘enveloped’ by an anagram (‘liquid’) of ALL, but even then the appeal of the clue as a whole is technical rather than aesthetic.

25a It’s red at sea (or sort of red, bow to stern and vice versa) (6)
Here we have a term meaning ‘[of a] sort of red [colour]’, or perhaps more specifically ‘with a reddish-brown coating’, in which the first letter is to be moved to the end and the last letter to be moved to the start. How do we feel about ‘bow’ and ‘stern’ being used in reference to something other than a ship or boat? Well, I don’t think we’re in any doubt what he’s trying to tell us.

29a Bonnes bouches maybe for being served in French city, not English (8)
The wordplay in this clue has a two-letter word meaning ‘for’ contained by (‘served in’) a seven-letter French city (famous for its Maid) from which the E has been removed. The solution is the plural of a type of bird “common in Europe and eaten as a delicacy.” Yum.

31a Boss rival disheartened? He was free but lowly (5)
The ‘Boss’ is a TLA for the chief executive of an organisation, and the ‘disheartened’ rival has had his ‘heart’ (which remarkably constitutes 60% of him – I’m not sure even Big Hearted Arthur Askey would have laid claim to that sort of proportion) removed.

33a Head of state’s partner, so she’s un-Boris in a way (5)
A teensy-weensy composite anagram, where the the letters of SO plus the solution (‘she’) can be rearranged (‘in a way’) to form UNBORIS. The solution is the surname used by the singer-songwriter and fashion model who is married to Nicolas Sarkozy, former president of France.

1d Folded what’s delicate in hamper (8)
Barred puzzle neophytes may be unfamiliar with PED, a word for a pannier or a hamper; older hands will probably know it only too well. Here it contains a five-letter word meaning ‘delicate’ (or ‘insubstantial’), producing a term which means ‘folded’, although it is shown by Chambers as ‘obsolete’ in that sense. The wordplay should be read as “What’s [the result of] [a word for] delicate [being placed] in [a word for] hamper [?]”

2d Sardinia’s capital – large part of that’s limestone (7)
This is a neat clue, with the first letter of ‘Sardinia’ (“Sardinia’s capital”) followed by a large part (three-quarters) of the name of the capital of Sardinia (‘that‘).

4d What’s this, one containing soft herrings? (6)
Yes, what is this? It’s one of 36 that we have to deal with, it contains the normal single-letter abbreviation for ‘soft’, and it’s followed by A (‘one’).

5d Spring festival’s attended by millions in all-embracing philosophy (6)
The wordplay here gives us the four-letter name of a Hindu spring festival plus an [apostrophe-]S (“Spring festival’s”), together with (‘attended by’) the one-letter abbreviation for ‘millions’.

6d Energy lost in trek replaced with red cheese sandwiches (bulky) (12)
I’m far from convinced by ‘replaced’ as an anagram indicator, but here it is being used to tell the solver to mash TREK without the E (‘Energy lost’) together with RED CHEESE, the definition being ‘sandwiches (bulky)’.

8d Car panel, French article fitted in Packard? (7)
The wordplay here has a French (definite) article ‘fitted in’ the first name of the 20th century American journalist and social critic whose surname was Packard. His book The Naked Society, published in 1964, was the first to highlight the threat to individual privacy posed by the emerging technologies of the day; in it he argued that greater restrictions were required in order to prevent personal information falling into the wrong hands. I wonder why he was so worried – it’s pure coincidence that the ads which pop up on my screen seem to relate to things I’ve recently been shopping for online, right? Right?

11d You aim for Mecca, every last one – in this? (4)
Not a difficult clue, but if you are relying on an early edition of Chambers you might be confused to find there ‘umma’ but not the solution (with a different third letter), which is given by later editions as “the lesser Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca”.

20d Explosive carbamide containing potassium, a brilliant invention (7)
A two-letter abbreviation for a detonating explosive of great power plus a four-letter word for the main form of nitrogenous bodily waste containing the symbol for potassium. The resultant word is usually spelt without the first letter in English, although this version is probably a little closer to what Archimedes’ neighbours recounted when describing the incident to the ancient Greek police.

24d Mix new chocolate? A lot we ———, possibly (6)
A second composite anagram, this time an &lit. The letters of NEW CHOCOLATE can be rearranged (‘possibly’) to produce A LOT WE plus the solution. I don’t recall ever coming across this word before, and Azed has found a very nice way to clue it.

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