Notes for Azed 2,552

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 2,552 Plain

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

After last week’s fit of bun, this week we have a plain Azed that seemed to sit right in the middle of the difficulty spectrum. A good variety of clues, with the standout for meĀ  being 31a.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 20d, “Route? I’ll abandon public transport on it” (7). Nothing too difficult about the wordplay here, I ‘abandoning’ TRAINS IT to produce TRANSIT (a route), but it highlights a classic trap for setters. The slightly shorter alternative “Route? I abandon public transport on it” looks absolutely fine at first sight, but consider the grammar of the cryptic reading – it is not the person ‘I’ abandoning TRAINS IT, but the letter I. If the clue read ‘One abandon public transport’ the error would be obvious, but because we expect to see ‘I’ followed by a verb in the first person it is easy to miss. Likewise “You abandon adolescent” to give TH (YOUTH – YOU) is flawed. The usual workaround is to include an auxiliary verb (normally ‘will’) where the first and third person endings are the same, which is what Azed has done here; “I will abandon…” works in both the surface and cryptic readings.

5a Lenten psalm to perform in hope mostly (7)
A three-letter word meaning ‘to perform’ is contained by a five-letter word for ‘hope’ (or faith’) from which the last letter has been removed (‘mostly’).

14a Hob? Small fish put in to cook (5)
The ‘small fish’ which must be inserted into a three-letter word for ‘to cook’ is the AI, more commonly known as the ayu or sweetfish.

15a Scot typically rejected Irish and English seizing independence (6)
The parsing of this one isn’t straightforward. The definition is ‘Scot typically’, the solution being a noun which is most often applied to (certain) Scotsmen; the wordplay has a four-letter Irish word for ‘rejected’ (or murdered) together with the usual abbreviation for English, containing (‘seizing’) the single-letter abbreviation for independence.

16a Rare old ruminant, smash hit united with curry once (7)
The smash hit is the sort that might end a boxing contest, ‘united’ is represented by a single-character abbreviation, and ‘curry’ is an old form (‘once’) of ‘quarry’ in the hunted animal sense.

19a New actor entering, reverse of overly alert (9)
The cryptic reading of this clue has an implied ‘With’ at the start, so the wordplay involves a three-letter word for ‘overly’ being reversed (with) N plus a five-letter informal term for an actor ‘entering’ to produce a doubly-hyphenated solution.

30a Spy magnolia son plucked mistakenly, referring to different plant class (10)
An anagram (‘mistakenly’) of SPY MAGNOLIA without the letter S (‘son plucked’). Chambers only gives the (nine-letter) name of the class, but OED confirms the adjectival form with an ‘n’ on the end.

31a Injection of fluid, rarely pleasant, from behind (5)
A word for ‘pleasant’ shown by Chambers as rare (‘rarely’) is reversed (‘from behind’) to give us a chuckle.

32a Under cover in region of Italy (not the outer fringes (6, 3 words, apostrophe)
Most of what I know about Italy I have learnt from Inspector Montalbano, and it is the bit of the country separated from Salvo’s stamping-ground by the Strait of Messina which must have its first and last letters removed (‘not the outer fringes’) to produce a (1,1’4) French expression meaning ‘under shelter’.

1d Paddy rudely dividing group, causing shift as before (7)
Here we have a four-letter term for an Irishman given by Chambers as ‘offensive slang’ (ie ‘rudely’) contained by (‘dividing’) a three-letter word for a group, producing a term for a shift or smock. Chambers doesn’t show the solution as being obsolete or archaic, so the ‘as before’ is unnecessary. I’m never happy about one personification being used to indicate another, so while I’ve no fundamental problem with a setter using ‘Irishman’ for ‘Paddy’ or ‘Mick’ (though it’s not something I do myself), I don’t see how one can indicate the other – Paddy is Paddy and Mick is Mick. Similarly with figurative terms – a scoundrel could be described as a dog or a swine, but that surely doesn’t mean that ‘dog’ can be used to indicate swine.

6d Corner piece for fleece (4)
The ‘corner’ is the corner of a chessboard, which is where the piece in question would be found at the start of a game.

9d Chinese ready? That could make it handier (5)
A composite anagram &lit (not one of Azed’s finest, IMHO), where the letters of CHINESE READY can be rearranged to form (‘could make’) the solution plus HANDIER; for the definition, ‘ready’ is used in the sense of ‘money’. The last five words seem to add very little to the definition.

17d Spear exotic fruit that’s turned mature inside (8)
The exotic fruit is an ASSAI, the product of a South American palm, and a three-letter word meaning [to] mature is reversed (‘turned’) inside it to produce an unfamiliar spelling of a word for a slender African spear.

23d Is it showing first signs of sorrowful mien in face? (6)
An &lit, where ‘Is it’ should be read as ‘Does it mean’ in the non-cryptic reading (ie the definition); the cryptic reading has the first letters (‘first signs’) of ‘sorrowful mien’ being contained by a four-letter term for the ‘face’ of a watch or clock.

28d This pond pest could be pampas rodent (4)
A nice composite anagram &lit brings up the rear. The letters of the solution (‘This’) plus POND PEST could be rearranged to form PAMPAS RODENT. Although the animal in question is called the Patagonian Hare, and hares are not rodents, this guy is indeed a rodent, having the ears of a hare but the body of a small deer. It is also known as the dillaby or Patagonian cavy – this latter name could result in a shock if you bought one thinking you were getting a guinea pig, along the lines of Manuel’s ‘filigree Siberian hamster’.

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