Notes for Azed 2,547

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 2,547 Plain

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

Although there were very few ‘gimmes’ in this puzzle, there was nothing too tricky either, and I needed Chambers only in order to confirm a few entries (and correct the one at 33a). The clues were of a high standard, I thought, with some nice (and deceptive, as you would expect) surface readings.

I have just noticed that comments have mysteriously been disabled on all posts on the site. I have re-enabled them for recent posts and will keep an eye open for any recurrence of the problem. Last time something similar happened only new posts were affected, causing me to blame the post-cloning plug-in that I use, but I may have been pointing the finger in the wrong direction. I should have noticed the complete absence recently of not just crossword-related comments but also the usual assortment of generous offers  from around the world to provide me with a wide selection of medications and, er, services…

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 29a, “First character to perform admits stiff dressage manoeuvre” (6). ‘Sad’ is not an obvious synonym of ‘stiff’, but they could  be used interchangeably on Bake Off in a pejorative sense, and here SAD is contained by PEE, producing PESADE. We are all familiar with ‘first to’ as a single-letter selection indicator, eg ‘first to complain’ = C, and Azed regulars will also be well versed in the use of the ‘names’ of individual letters of the alphabet (‘see’ = C appears in the very next clue). However, it is a moot point whether ‘first to complain’ can fairly indicate SEE, or ‘first to perform’ PEE. In these situations I would normally use ‘letter’ or ‘character’ in order to point the solver in the right direction, and here Azed has done likewise, including ‘character’ – ‘first character to perform’ is scrupulously fair for PEE.

1a Mess up wrong raw material for French bread? (6)
A charade to start with, the first half being a synonym for ‘wrong’ (often applied informally to a wrong note), and the second half being the French word for corn or wheat.

6a Splash pint? Pan’s needed with this all over the place (6)
The first of two compound anagrams &lit, in this one a rearrangement (‘all over the place’) of the letters of PANS plus the solution (‘this’) can produce SPLASH PINT. The solution describes what could be all over the place after the pint has been splashed.

11a Feeble (lacking power) about rough sea, windy? (6)
A four-letter word meaning ‘feeble’ has its (initial) P removed (‘lacking power’) and is set around (‘about’) an anagram (‘rough’) of SEA. ‘Windy’ here is used in the sense of ‘nervous’.

12a Villa, maybe one with central heating in the middle of Napoli (6)
The none-too-tricky wordplay gives us the soubriquet of Francisco Villa (born José Doroteo Arango Arámbula), the Mexican revolutionary general who has been portrayed in films by (along with himself) such notables as Raoul Walsh, Wallace Beery, Telly Savalas and Yul Brynner.

17a Who is fitted out with one? Hoplite was (5)
A very fine composite anagram &lit, concise and accurate. The letters WHO IS when rearranged  (‘fitted out’) together with the solution (‘one’) can produce HOPLITE WAS. The Spartan hoplites each had an ‘aspis’ (or hoplon), a large and somewhat unwieldy shield; Philip II fitted out the hoplites in the Macedonian phalanx with a smaller shield of the sort named here.

18a High jinks? Not for civil servants as a whole (6)
A four-letter word meaning ‘Not for’ (ie ‘not in favour of’) followed by a two-letter abbreviation for the civil service (‘civil servants as a whole’).

29a Resident alien once tucked into ale, terribly sick-making (8)
I got this one from the definition; deriving the solution entirely from the wordplay means knowing that a ‘metic’ in ancient Greece was a resident alien in a city who was subject to a special tax. This ‘resident alien once’ is ‘tucked into’ an anagram (‘terribly’) of ALE.

33a What’ll launch rocket aloft, we hear, and deny malfunctioning (6)
I guessed wrong for the first part of the wordplay – a non-word homophone (not something I favour) for ‘high’ (‘aloft, we hear’) which precedes an anagram (‘malfunctioning’) of DENY. The rocket fuel in question was developed by Rocketdyne in the US to give ore power than an ethyl alcohol/water mixture; it offered significantly more thrust, and significantly higher toxicity. After being used for several successful launches, including that of America’s first satellite, it was superseded by fuels offering even higher performance.

2d Loose, run free, almost free (6)
An anagram (‘free’) of ‘run’, followed by a word meaning ‘free’ (in the sense of ‘unrestricted’) with the last letter missing (‘almost’).

7d Dolly, say, one in cast performing (6)
The wordplay here is a charade of ‘one in cast’ (4) + ‘performing’ (2), and the solution is the surname of the multi-talented American singer, songwriter and businesswoman. I admit that I’ve selected this clue simply so that I can quote the exchange:

Interviewer: How do feel when people describe you as a ‘dumb blonde’?
Dolly: I don’t care, ‘cos I know I ain’t dumb…and I know I ain’t blonde neither.

9d The endless beat (referring to the downbeat) (6)
Here we have the word THE (from the clue) followed by a four-letter word for ‘beat’ with the last letter removed (‘endless’).

19d Plan to win nothing is admitted by club (6)
I assume that Azed is referring here to Newcastle United. The word IS gets admitted (contained) by a four-letter word for a Maori war-club (often seen in its alternative spelling with a closing I rather than an E) to produce a declaration at the game of Solo (there may be others) that one will attempt to win no tricks.

20d Our distant ancestors, or a writer about them (6)
The letter A followed by a crossword staple for ‘writer’ containing a two-letter contraction of the word ‘them’.

21d Charger maybe in sparkling get-up, all but extremes (6)
An eight-letter word for ‘in sparkling get-up’ (as performers on Come Dancing often were) with the first and last letters removed (‘all but extremes’). The ‘maybe’ indicates that a ‘Charger’ is an example of the solution rather than a dictionary definition.

24d What means game’s up? Reverse of that for inventor (6)
The term for the end of a game of Rugby Union (“What means game’s up?”) is reversed (‘Reverse of that’) to produce the surname of an inventor who acquired (singly or jointly) 1,093 patents, many related to electric lighting, the phonograph, the telegraph, and storage batteries. Sadly he did not invent the six-legged chair seen in the Simpsons episode ‘The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace’; this is the one where Homer, inspired by Edison, becomes an inventor and creates, inter alia, a six-legged, untippable-over chair and a somewhat capricious electric hammer. On visiting the Edison Museum, he sees a model of Edison seated in an identical six-legged chair, but realises that the invention has not been recognised as Edison’s because no-one has so far spotted the extra legs. Taking up his electric hammer, Homer intends to smash the chair so that he can reclaim the invention as his own, but stops himself when he sees a poster in which Edison illustrates how he worked in the perpetual shadow of Da Vinci just as Homer has worked in Edison’s shadow. He puts down the electric hammer and exits the museum, leaving the extra legs at the back of the chair clearly visible. The next day it is announced on TV that two previously unknown inventions of Edison have been discovered – the six-legged chair and the electric hammer – and are “expected to generate millions for Edison’s already wealthy heirs’. D’oh! For anyone wishing to build themselves a copy of Homer’s (or Thomas’s) six-legged chair, this video is required viewing.

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