Notes for Azed 2,548

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 2,548 Plain

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

A 13×11 grid this week, with three ‘hiddens’, one TFL (take first letters) and a generous serving of anagrams offering plenty of help to get things started. It didn’t detain me beyond my second slice of Toastie, but I enjoyed both while they lasted.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 2d, “Backs possibly injured dropped from later game” (5). The  word ‘lame’ (‘possibly injured’, the ‘possibly’ being there because one can be lame for reasons other than injury) is ‘dropped’ from outside ‘later game’ to yield TERGA (‘Backs’). The clue would read more smoothly with a couple of commas, ie “Backs, possibly injured, dropped from later game”, so why didn’t Azed put them in? One of his rules of clueing relates to respecting orthography – punctuation must not be used in the wordplay to mislead the solver unfairly – and here he obeys it: the ‘all-in-one-breath’ expression LAME-dropped-from-LATER-GAME’ is fine, but in ‘LAME, dropped from LATER GAME’ the word LAME is clearly the subject and therefore the combination cannot reasonably lead to a modified form of LATER GAME. In general, punctuation should not be introduced to enhance the surface reading if it makes the cryptic reading less clear.

13a Increase county gossip? (6)
When the linguist Alan Ross introduced the terms ‘U’ and ‘non-U’ in 1954 he cannot have realised quite what a boon the former would prove to crossword setters. Although it is more often indicated by adjectives such as ‘posh’, here Azed uses ‘county’, in the sense of ‘relating to the nobility or gentry with estates and a seat in the county’, to provide the U which is followed by a five-letter verb meaning to talk foolishly or to gossip.

17a Plain song? Probed endlessly about that (7)
A nicely-disguised definition (‘Plain’), the wordplay being a three-letter word for a song with a truncated (‘endlessly’) five-letter word meaning ‘probed’ set around it (‘about that’).

18a Muscly lump where contemporary art is shown around yard (5)
The element of wordplay which is to be put around the normal abbreviation for ‘yard’ is indicated by ‘where contemporary art is shown’, specifically the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

25a Salt in love turned loose, worried (7)
The wordplay here involves a single-letter representation of ‘love’, a reversal (‘turned’) of a three-letter word meaning ‘loose’, and a three-letter word meaning ‘worried'(in the ‘gnawed away at’ sense).

27a Gifts, on being removed from stock, sent off (7)
I’ve clearly been solving barred puzzles for too long, because the sight of the word ‘stock’ in a clue immediately makes me think ‘talon’, the stock of cards remaining after a deal. Here it has the closing ‘on’ deleted (‘on being removed’) and is followed by an anagram (‘off’) of SENT.

29a What gets said after it, often recalling fine sport? (4)
The wordplay involves the reversing (‘recalling’) of the usual abbreviation for ‘fine’ together with a three-letter word for ‘sport’, and ‘What gets said after it, often’ is a definition with ‘Azed’ written all over it.

2d Backs possibly injured dropped from later game (5)
A word that could (‘possibly’) mean ‘injured’ is ‘dropped’ from the outside of ‘later game’.

6d Wellington’s address offering telling punch – error mostly corrected (6)
Azed is one of those setters who like to have a bit of fun when indicating words which are specific to a geographic region, often in a way which is designed to mislead (though of course not unfairly so). ‘In Perth’, for instance, could point to either a Scots word or an Australian one; here ‘Wellington’ has nothing to do with the Duke and everything to do with the city in New Zealand. The wordplay has a two-letter abbreviation for a punch that finishes a boxing match followed by an anagram of the first four letters (‘mostly’) of ERROR. Incidentally, the address of the Duke of Wellington (or of his former residence, at least) is 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London, W1J 7NT; when Apsley House was built at the end of the eighteenth century, though, it was next to the main turnpike into central London so became known as ‘Number 1, London’ because it was was the first house you came to when you entered the city.

8d Antiseptic compound? Unsuccessful one’s given up, cocaine preferred (6)
A five-letter word for someone who is (consistently) unsuccessful gets reversed (“‘s given up”), with the abbreviation for ‘cocaine’ being placed at the top (‘preferred’).

14d Bird that’s not OK in theater stalls? (9)
An &lit, albeit not in my view a particularly satisfying one. The four-letter name of a bird, missing the closing OK (“that’s not [ie that has not] OK”), is placed inside a seven-letter word for the stalls in a US theatre (hence the spelling ‘theater’) – as well  as a type of wooden flooring – to produce the name of another bird. However, whilst I suppose that Azed might say that a ‘bird’ in the sense of a girl might be OK in the theater stalls while this sort of bird definitely isn’t, I would rather have seen this clue in a non-&lit form, ie “Bird, one that’s not OK in theater stalls”.

26d Pressed to the mast, sailor’s to work ‘ard as drudge (5)
The standard two-letter abbreviation for a sailor is followed by (“‘s”) a word meaning ‘to work hard as a drudge’ (or to journey on horseback) with the initial h dropped (by analogy with “‘ard”). Chambers confirms the definition ‘Pressed to the mast’.

28d Strap cracks – time to leave (4)
A five-letter word for ‘[wise]cracks’ with the abbreviation for ‘time’ missing (‘time to leave’). On first reading on this clue, it seemed to me that the ‘cracks’ must be of a humorous variety otherwise Azed would have chosen a word like ‘breaks’, which would have significantly enhanced the surface reading. I was right.

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