Notes for Azed 2,553
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 2,553 Plain
Difficulty rating: (2.5 / 5)
Although this puzzle didn’t detain me long past my second slice of Toastie, I felt that the high obscurity count probably brought it into the middle of the difficulty range. Thankfully, as ever with Azed, even the unfamiliar words could usually be confidently entered thanks to the accuracy of the wordplays.
Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 23a, “One unseating e.g. Herod rent him in pieces” (9). While the solution here is clearly DETHRONER, derived from the letters of HEROD RENT, it may not be immediately obvious where the ‘e.g’ and ‘him’ fit in. Clues may legitimately be self-referential, for instance by including a pronoun which refers to a noun appearing earlier in the clue. This requires the solver to essentially pre-process the clue, replacing the reference with the item referenced – so here ‘him’ must replaced by ‘Herod’, making the normalised clue “One unseating e.g. Herod rent Herod in pieces”. where the definition is ‘One unseating e.g. Herod’ and the wordplay is ‘rent Herod in pieces’. Note that because the pre-processing takes place before the clue is solved in the conventional definition/wordplay sense, the internal reference must ‘work’ in the context of the surface reading. The clue “Compass point, one to avoid (4)” for SNUB [S + NUB] is unfair – it must expand in line with the surface reading as “Compass point, compass point to avoid” (not “Compass point, point to avoid”), and the indication of NUB is no good. Incidentally, ‘”Compass point, one most up-to-date”, pre-processed to “Compass point, compass point most up-to-date”, would be just about ok for NEWEST.
1a Who’s involved in it? Cited Ken Hom (not English) (10)
A nice &lit to set the ball rolling, even if the cryptic reading probably requires a ‘What’ rather than a ‘Who’. The answer to the question ‘What must be tangled up to produce the solution [ie it]?’ is CITED KEN HOM minus E.
13a I love being included in Cub Scouts – one of muster maybe? (6)
The wordplay is straightforward, with IO (‘I love’) being included in a four-letter word for a group of Cub Scouts, but the solution is a questionable reading in Shakespeare (hence the ‘maybe’) and a muster is a company of peacocks.
16a US bumpkin, honest – more than one’s seen in closet once (4)
Two definitions here, both qualified by ‘US’, and a pointer towards a third. In the US the solution means both ‘a bumpkin’ and ‘honest’ (or ‘OK’), while the self-referential “more than one’s” tells us that the plural form of the bumpkin word is a (Shakespearean, hence the ‘once’) privy.
25a One entering turn off embarrassed – it’s unsuitable for regular traffic (8)
This clue reminds me of an unfortunate incident involving a new road that was being constructed a few years ago off a roundabout (or ‘island’ as we Midlanders say) somewhere near Oxford. Well, they should have put a barrier across the exit if they didn’t want people driving up it. But let us speak no more of that – here we have a single-letter representation of ‘one’ inside (‘entering’) an anagram (‘off’) of TURN, followed by a three-letter word meaning embarrassed, the whole being an adjective that could describe a road that was ‘unsuitable for regular traffic’.
26a Dance, one in the White House years ago (4)
The eleventh President of the United States was James Knox Polk. Perhaps the original ‘dark horse’, when the delegates at the Democratic convention of 1844 could not agree whether Martin van Buren or Lewis Cass should be put forward as their presidential candidate, they eventually broke the deadlock by selecting Polk, perhaps to his surprise as much as anyone else’s. His Whig opponent Henry Clay lamented that someone ‘more worthy of a contest’ had not been chosen, a remark which seemed ill-judged in the light of Polk’s comfortable victory. Usually characterized as straight-laced and humourless, Polk was apparently described by one fellow politician as ‘a victim of the use of water as a beverage (his wife had banned hard liquor – and dancing – from the White House). Unsurprisingly, therefore, none of his tweets have survived. He served a single term, his departure from office in 1849 being quickly followed by his death from cholera.
27a At the time of retiring certainly goes after secluded spot (4)
Here a two-letter word meaning (among many other things) ‘at the time of’ is being reversed (‘retiring’), with a two-letter informal word meaning ‘certainly’ following (‘goes after’) to produce a word for a ‘secluded spot’.
31a I sit out on fringes of party – I don’t have many others to speak to (6)
I like this one – since there are believed to be less than 5,000 Ido speakers in the world (24 of them in Finland – who knew?) I think that Azed’s statement is incontrovertibly correct.
33a Dismisses pointed tool, we hear, for low gnarled tree (4)
Azed uses homophones sparingly, which suits me fine. Here the solution sounds like ‘sacks awl’ (‘Dismisses pointed tool’).
2d Copper one’s dropped into muddy drain, losing it (7)
The ‘one’ in the cryptic reading of this clue is the setter, who has dropped the chemical symbol for copper into an anagram (‘muddy’, not an anagram indicator I’m familiar with, but the meaning of ‘confused’ makes it perfectly fair) of DRAIN. The definition ‘losing it’ initially struck me as very clever, but having checked the solution in Chambers I think that ‘likely to lose it’ or similar would be more accurate.
5d Duffer stuck awkwardly the lady’s clutching (8)
An anagram (‘awkwardly’) of STUCK has a word meaning “the lady” (I would I think have preferred ‘that lady’) containing (‘clothing’) it.
8d Point out former impairment limiting lives (6)
A four-letter word often used as a verb meaning ‘to disable’ but archaic as a noun (hence the ‘former’) containing (‘limiting’) a two-letter word meaning ‘lives’. I wasn’t initially sure about the fanciful definition ‘point out’ for ‘aim badly’, but on reflection it seems perfectly fair.
13d Discipline needed going round one small island, of little value to Uncle Sam (10)
A six-letter word meaning ‘[to] discipline’ (in a chastising sense) ‘goes round’ I (‘one’) plus a three-letter word for a low island or reef (which has an alternative spelling often associated with Florida). I wasn’t familiar with the solution, which relates to the name formerly given in some southern US states to the Spanish half-real, a coin with a value of six and a quarter cents.
19d Anti-damp precaution that is not seen in Scots town, Jock’s own (7
The seven-letter name of a town in Scotland must have the IE removed (‘that is not seen’) from its end, to be replaced by a three-letter Scots word for ‘own’ (as in ‘my own’).
24d Strong winds from opposite quarters with rose buffeted between them (6)
The opposite quarters which have a rearranged (‘buffeted’) version of ROSE between them are north and south.
30d Facility for sewers, openings for effluent they use inside (4)
In the surface reading the ‘sewers’ are drainage channels, but in the cryptic reading they have turned into seamsters.