Notes for Azed 2,542

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 2,542 Plain

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

There were a good variety of clue types in this 13×11 puzzle which I felt was of slightly below average difficulty. Some nice clues, and very little for me to take issue with.

ScotsWatch: just the 1 today (at 5d) – surely after the recent famine we will be due another bumper crop soon?

7a Most of skin one’s revealed in part of strip? (5)
The first three letters (‘most’) of a four-letter word for ‘[a] skin’ (the missing fourth letter could be an L or a T, take your pick) with a two-letter word for ‘one’ inside (“one’s revealed in”), the whole being a part of the sort of strip you might see in a newspaper.

11a James, or Jim? (4)
Similar to a couple of VHC entries for AZ comp 788, the first part of this double-definition clue takes us from ‘james’ to its equivalent form ‘jemmy’, from there to ‘crowbar’, and thence to a four-letter abbreviation thereof. The second element is a definition by example, Jim Crow being ‘a derogatory name for any black person; racial discrimination against black people’.

Incidentally, the winning clue in the competition was H. Freeman’s clever ‘B-r-ag?’, while those similar clues were W. Jackson’s ‘James, alias Jim’ and G. Johnstone’s ‘Jimmy or Jim?’ – I marginally prefer Azed’s clue here to either of these.

23a Halt progress at sea? Sign alternates with it (5, 2 words)
Here the letters of a sign of the zodiac are interleaved with the letters of the word IT.

28a Tower X left unfinished twice (4)
The wordplay here is straightforward, but the definition might seem puzzling without the knowledge that Chambers gives one meaning of ‘tower’ as ‘(esp in the 17c) a woman’s high headdress’.

30a Fruit of abnormal size – selection stocked (7)
A two-letter abbreviation for ‘of abnormal size’ with a five-letter word for a selection inside (‘stocked’).

31a Brain tissue turning sickly, in needing to be removed (4)
A six-letter word for ‘sickly’ has the letters IN taken away (‘in needing to be removed’) and is then reversed (‘turning’).

32a Sort of Germanic hidalgo exchanging components (5)
It is the SENOR whose parts (one of two letters and one of three) must be exchanged.

33a Timber I cut roughly, given guidance, was like aspen (8)
An anagram of TIMBER (‘roughly’) without the I (‘I cut’) followed by a three-letter word meaning ‘given guidance’. In the words of Tennyson, “Willows whiten, aspens quiver”.

1d Criss-cross pattern in thin strip on gilded leather (11)
A pretty unlikely word for (perhaps) gilded leather is produced by putting a five-letter word for a criss-cross pattern inside a four-letter word for a thin strip (often of wood) followed by ON. Although the OED gives many alternative spellings for a word which became obsolete around 1400, later occurrences being conjectures on the exact nature of the material, which was highly esteemed in the Middle Ages. The ten-letter versions beginning with either SH or CH are (in the words of Victoria Wood) totally bona fido, but the eleven-letter variant found here may be a Chambers ‘invention’.

The word previously appeared (also as 1d in a 13×11 puzzle) in Azed 1,946 – the same elements featured in the wordplay, the clue on that occasion being ‘Gilded leather? Verify lining flap, worn’.  

2d The breath of life was going in the old man (5)
A three-letter word meaning ‘was going’ (in the sense of ‘the machine was going’) is put into a two-letter term for ‘the old man’.

7d Wing a crane’s seen to flap and fly around (11)
The surface reading here is either ungrammatical or strange, while the wordplay is somewhat questionable as well – it involves an anagram (‘seen to flap’) of A CRANES with the four-letter name of ‘a small but very troublesome Brazilian biting fly’ going outside (‘fly around’). I’d have no problem if the last three words had been ‘with fly around’; although this would have made the surface reading less deceptive, I think that overall it would have been an improvement.

10d Topic dominated by tragic monarch clutching the fool (11)
A four-letter word for a topic (or ‘chief point of a discourse’), preceded by an archetypically tragic Shakespearean monarch containing (‘clutching’) the letters THE.

16d Dress materials: treat embroidered lengths (short) in print (8)
An anagram (’embroidered’) of TREAT, followed by the plural form of a short length used in printing, twice the width of an ‘en’.

21d Sweeper, one prone to patrol breadth with ball? (6)
A four-letter word for someone who is prone (‘one prone’, ie someone lying or laid flat) containing the usual abbreviation for ‘breadth’ and followed by a single-character representation of ‘ball’, the whole being a sweeper in a footballing context.

In his excellent book Inverting the Pyramid, A History of Football Tactics, Jonathan Wilson describes how Ivano Blason came to be recognised as the first great libero. “When he had joined [Internazionale]  in 1950, he had been a clumsy full-back, but in his new role became noted for his long clearances and his uncompromising nature. Legend has it that before kick-off he would scratch a line on the pitch and tell opposing forwards they were not allowed beyond it, hacking them down if they tried.” Lodovico Maradei of the Gazzetta Della Sport said “Blason was not the elegant libero some may imagine. He was basically a hacker who just belted the ball into touch whenever he could. That’s why the libero was originally known as battitore libero – ‘free hitter’ – because more often than not he would simply hit the ball into touch.”

22d Former province was still held by leader of Turkish uprising (6)
A three-letter word meaning ‘was still’ is ‘held’ by the three-letter representation of the letter at the start of ‘Turkish’ (‘leader of Turkish’), the whole lot being reversed (‘uprising’).

25d Peter pursuing trendy freelance company (5)
A three-letter word for ‘peter’ (as in ‘peter out’, note how – as in 11a – Azed has put the word at the start of the clue so he could legitimately misdirect solvers with the initial capital) following (‘pursuing’) the crossword staple for ‘trendy’ (or ‘popular’, ‘fashionable’ etc). Note here that because the verb ‘peter’ is invariably compounded with ‘out’,  the word indicated by it has to have a similar meaning when also compounded with ‘out’. Thus ‘fade’ would be fine, as would the synonym used in this clue, but ‘wane’ would not.

27d Girl, Victoria’s close friend, that is missing? (4)
The occupation of Queen Victoria’s ‘close friend’ in her later years has the letters IE removed (‘that is missing’) to produce a word which is not only a diminutive form of a common girl’s name (the name being common, not the girl, I hasten to add) but is also given by the main section of Chambers as ‘a girl’.

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