Notes for Azed 2,550

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 2,550 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Several straightforward anagrams, but enough tricky wordplays (17a and 32a in particular) to raise the overall difficulty to the middle of the range. Some nice clues, although it was strange to find two pairs of repeated wordplay elements crossing in the grid (14a/7d and 26a/5d) as well as the solutions for 5d and 33a beginning with the same six-letter word.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 27d, “Defensive wall protected by some Berber militia?” (4). A ‘hidden’, with the solution appearing in ‘berBER Militia’ and the selection of a chunk of the two-word string being indicated by ‘some’. Hold on, though…the definition here is ‘Defensive wall’, so the wordplay must be ‘protected by some Berber militia’ – but the solution isn’t ‘protected by’ BERM, it is BERM. We have one concealment indicator too many here: ‘Defensive wall protected by Berber militia’ would be plenty adequate, as would ‘Defensive wall some number maintained’. Note that ‘Defensive wall some Berber militia constructed’ would not be acceptable – a ‘hiding place’ must not contain redundant words other than ‘a’ or ‘the’, and therefore the word ‘constructed’ has no place in the clue; this is why ‘some Berber militia’ cannot be the hiding place in the published clue.

9a Extremes of lethargy with taking English in? With which Eng. Lit. students are familiar (6)
The ‘extreme’ characters of the word ‘lethargy’ are followed by a three-letter word for ‘with’ (seen most often in place names or descriptions of multifunctional roles) containing the usual one-letter abbreviation for ‘English’ The solution is “a place or building devoted to literary studies, lectures etc.”

11a Saddle rug gallop turned hard (5)
A four-letter word for a high speed (‘gallop’, as in “He was travelling at quite a gallop”) is reversed (‘turned’) and followed by H (‘hard’).

16a Suitable for disco? There’s no charge getting in morning and afternoon (5)
A two-letter abbreviation for ‘no charge’ is contained by (‘getting in’) a three-letter word for ‘morning and afternoon’ (as opposed to evening and night).

17a Cannon maybe? Hence e.g. fired inside (4)
A tricky little fellow this one – the ‘Cannon maybe’ indicates a definition for example, while the wordplay requires that the letters EG be removed (‘fired’) from within (‘inside’) a six-letter word meaning ‘Hence’ in the interjectional sense of ‘Away!’

24a Nimble Scottish woman dressed in loose gown, old (5)
The definition here is ‘Nimble Scottish’, ie a Scots word for ‘nimble’, with a one-letter abbreviation of ‘woman’ contained by (‘dressed in’) a four-letter word (which can also be spelt with ‘que’ rather than ‘k’ at the end) for a woman’s loose-fitting gown. Chambers shows the gown as ‘historical’, hence the ‘old’ in the clue, but doesn’t give W as an abbreviation for ‘woman’ (only for women or women’s) – not the first time that Azed has made up an abbreviation (I remember ‘cadet’ for C a while back).

30a Weed got with cash, ecstasy following (4)
A three-letter slang term for ‘money’ (rarely seen these days outside crosswords), followed by the E for ecstasy, producing a ‘wild vetch or tare’ (‘Weed’). I’m surprised that Azed didn’t use ‘Weed locally’ or similar for the definition, given that Chambers shows the solution as ‘dialect’….

31a Plain, as example where river enters it (5)
…and here we have a Scots word which Azed has similarly chosen not to flag. The wordplay is straightforward, the standard abbreviation for ‘river’ entering a four-letter word for an example (which is often followed by ‘in point’)

32a Ancient vow, what cardinal may describe when bound by his title? (6)
‘Cardinal’ might describe EAST (along with North, South or West), and on those frequent occasions when I have cause to drop a line to a cardinal I would accord him the title ‘His Eminence’, which can be shortened to ‘H Em’ or, as here’ ‘HE’, The ‘vow’ is a Spenserian one.

6d Work? Not just one will often be seen going after soap (5)
A double definition, the first being ‘Work? Not just one’ (ie the plural of the Latin word for work) and the second being ‘[it] will often be seen going after soap’.

8d Shrubby plant on river spotted rising after time, a real winner (12, 3 words, apostrophe)
A nicely constructed wordplay: after the T for time (‘after time’) come a four-letter shrub (named after the cupbearer of Olympus), a three-letter river that emerges into the sea at Whitby, and the reversal (‘rising’) of a four-letter word meaning ‘spotted’.

10d Decorative work, see, covering bishop’s vestment (7)
You may have to get this one from the definition alone, unless you know that a ROCHET is “a close-fitting surplice-like vestment worn by bishops and abbots.”

17d Edible fungus, slightly warm, in pieces (7)
A lovely word, this, produced by putting a three-letter synonym for tepid (‘slightly warm’) inside a four-letter word meaning ‘pieces’.

23d Who’s worried re aim with this – a sommelier perhaps? (5)
A rather weak composite anagram &lit, where the letters of RE AIM plus the solution (‘this’) can be rearranged (‘worried’) to form A SOMMELIER. I suppose the surface reading is quite amusing, but I don’t like the “Who’s” in the cryptic reading – it should surely be “What’s”.

25d Marriage venue? Sounds like I may be seeing to some chairs (5)
The solution sounds like the the scene of a famous marriage when water was changed into wine; the event is depicted in a 1563 painting by Paolo Veronese. The solution describes a craftsperson who might be found ‘seeing to some chairs’, specifically those with woven parts.

28d Tight head’s feature (one of two) with name or number on (4)
For some reason Graham Rowntree immediately sprung to my mind, but sadly he was a loosehead prop. A three-letter word for a feature of the human head (one of a pair) follows an abbreviation for either ‘name’ or ‘number’. In the definition, ‘tight’ has the sense of ‘stingy’.

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6 Responses

  1. Debbie Mackley says:

    Any help with 18 down would be appreciated

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Debbie

      ‘Embroidered hanging in honour of prince (6)’ – the wordplay involves a two-letter word meaning (among many other things) ‘in honour of’ (as a book might be dedicated in honour of someone) followed by a four-letter word for a [Rajput] prince (also, rather appropriately, the genus to which the common frog belongs). The definition is ‘Embroidered hanging’ and like the prince is a Hindi word.

      Hope that helps, but let me know if not!

  2. John Atkinson says:

    This was a first for me. I had never before completed an Azed without some form of aid, despite spending too much time thinking of red for cardinal. To see you rate this at 2.5 for difficulty surprised me. One niggle for me is the repeat word in 5 and 32.

    Thanks, as usual, for keeping this up. Being on Chicago time, I suspect I am usually the last to visit each week.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      First of all, congratulations on your first ‘unaided’ finish – I’m sure it will be the first of many, as the key with Azed is getting used to his unique style. I suspect that the occasional UK-specific references (I remember Elsie and Doris Waters cropping up a few weeks ago) must make things a little trickier for those outside the UK, but I’d be interested in your view on that. The ‘hits’ on each set of Azed Notes generally increase steadily through Sunday, peak either on Sunday or Monday, and drop off from Tuesday onwards; for the toughest Azeds, such as the recent Printer’s Devilry and Carte Blanche puzzles, the peak occurs later and the drop-off is slower. So you’re a long way from being the last visitor!

      Regarding the difficulty ratings, my main yardstick (if one can have multiple yardsticks) is the number of clues which I would expect to be the subject of requests for help on one of the crossword forums. Sometimes there are only one or two, but here there were at least four. I do then make an adjustment if there are, say, a disproportionate number of ‘hiddens’ (downwards) or complex wordplays (upwards). I certainly felt that this puzzle was very close to average difficulty for a plain Azed, but of course it’s a subjective view.

      • John Atkinson says:

        I’m a Brit expat, born in Lincolnshire but left because I didn’t like the Iron Lady. UK references aren’t a problem and with BritBox and YouTube etc it’s easy to keep up to date. I understand more UK football matches are available here than over there. One thing I find amusing is that the northerners on Top Gear get sub-titles!

        Enjoyed today’s Spoonerisms but need your help on the magistrate @29. Thanks.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Hi John

          Occasionally (on average probably once per Spoonerisms puzzle) Azed has to resort to a ‘type A’ clue where the ‘definition’ indicates a spoonerism of a single word. Can a spoonerism involve just a single word? According to the OED definition, “an accidental transposition of the initial sounds, or other parts, of two or more words”, no. But I’m not complaining – these puzzles are a wonderful feats of construction. Here the ‘magistrate (very old)’ is an AEDILE, and the wordplay (“I’m in business”) leads to the solution IDEAL, a spoonerism of AEDILE.

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