Notes for Azed 2,554
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 2,554 Plain
Difficulty rating: (3 / 5)
The long entries across the top and bottom were easy starters, and there were a couple of hiddens to help out, but there were enough tricky clues to push this one just above the average difficulty mark, I thought (but do let me know if you disagree). The puzzle featured some nicely constructed clues which offered plenty of entertainment.
Setters’ Corner: The clue for 28a is “Foreign knife, its head buried in dog now dead (4)”. The ‘its’ is intended to refer back to ‘knife’, and it is the first letter (‘head’) of this word which must be removed from KUKRI to produce KURI, the ‘dog now dead’. The clue raises two points: firstly, going back to last week’s discussion of self-referencing clues, can ‘its’ legitimately refer to ‘knife’ alone? In my view, no – the result of pre-processing the clue is “Foreign knife, foreign knife’s head buried in dog now dead” and the wordplay fails; “Knife, its head buried in dog now dead” would work very nicely. Secondly, could ‘its head’ alternatively have indicated I, the first letter of ‘its’? No, that would have demanded the use of “it’s head” (which makes no sense) – ‘its head’ does not mean ‘the head of the word it’ (or of the word ‘its’). A possessive pronoun can never (fairly) be used in wordplay with a letter selection indicator alone in order to deliver a letter from the pronoun itself – ‘their leader’ is not T, nor ‘his conclusion’ S.
14a Cheese, round, in yellow wrapping? It’s opened out to be studied (8)
A four-letter (crumbly) cheese is reversed (’round’) inside a four-letter word meaning yellow in colour (‘in yellow wrapping’), the whole describing an oversize page which has to be folded out in order to be studied, but more familiar to me as a description of certain LP covers (Santana III and Axis: Bold as Love spring to mind from my own collection).
15a Colourful bird to be sold in marketplace (6)
The wordplay here combines two barred puzzle staples – TRON, a ‘chiefly Scottish’ marketplace, and GO in the sense of ‘to be sold’, as in ‘Apples go for £1.20 a pound’.
23a Last course over after post-school education? If so, one’s had enough (5, 2 words) (4)
A three-letter informal term for the last course of a three-course meal is reversed (‘over’) following (‘after’) a two-letter abbreviation for education that is undertaken after leaving school.
25a Final challenge for Balliol undergrad, maybe, to announce impending nuptials for last time (6)
There may be a particular reference that I’m missing here (the ‘Final’ at the start seems redundant), but the final challenge for the Balliol undergraduate is an ‘Oxford University (abbreviated) TASK’. I wondered if the clue had something to do with Boris, but he isn’t an undergrad.
28a Foreign knife, its head buried in dog now dead (4)
A five-letter word for a sharp, curved Gurkha knife has the first letter of ‘knife’ (‘its head’, ie “knife’s head”) removed (‘buried’) – from the middle, not the start – to produce the name of an extinct New Zealand dog.
30a Distinctive sound of mobile Girton ‘fresher’, not old (8)
The definition here is ‘Distinctive sound of mobile’, with the wordplay indicating an anagram (‘fresher’) of GIRTON followed by a two-letter, obsolete word for ‘not’ (‘not old’). I’m not sure about any comparative being used as an anagram indicator, so I’m unconvinced by ‘fresher’.
31a Great fighting cocks (4)
A double definition, where a consultation with Chambers is likely to be required in order to confirm that the word meaning ‘great’ or ‘chief’ is also a term for a set of cocks involved in a match.
32a Cross almost always kept in pannier (6)
A four-letter word for ‘always’ with its last letter removed (‘almost’) is ‘kept in’ another barred puzzle regular, PED, a dialect word meaning a pannier or hamper.
4d Extended bit of verse? Digital player replaces one in time (6)
A three-letter word for time (the sort that every dog has) with the four-letter name of a portable media player replacing the central A (‘replacing one’).
7d Not far from Edinburgh, Eastern quarter (5)
The wordplay here involves the normal abbreviation for Eastern being followed by the full name of a cardinal point of the compass (‘quarter’), but does ‘Not far from Edinburgh’ satisfactorily define a word which means ‘near’ in Scotland? I think it’s a moot point, but I would have preferred (say) ‘Glaswegian not far from Eastern quarter’.
11d Mature pacific tree, green all round – a sudden change (9)
A four-letter word meaning ‘mature’ or ‘fully developed’ plus yet another regular, TI (‘[small] pacific [lileaceous] tree’, is contained by a three-letter word which describes the shade of the Owl and the Pussy-Cat’s boat (‘green all around’).
13d I’ll yield to fool in character, one sharing lessons (9)
The letter I in a seven-letter word meaning ‘character’ (or ‘condition of a country or region with regard to temperature, moisture etc’) gives way to a three-letter word for a fool (“I’ll yield to fool”). Reiterating a point made in Setter’s Corner recently, Azed has used “I’ll yield” here rather than ‘I yield’ because the latter would be grammatically unsound in the cryptic reading.
21d On our side, holding ring that’s anything but impregnable (6)
If you are on our side, then you are PRO US.
24d Installed head of state admitting space (5, 2 words)
The head of state in question belongs to Russia, and his surname is ‘admitting [a] space’ in order to produce the two words required by the definition ‘Installed’. The ‘admitting space’ is not required to make the clue sound, but Azed presumably felt that it added some interest to the concise but rather dull “Installed head of state”, the clueing equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel (not that I’ve ever shot fish in a barrel, you understand).
26d Star group exchanging parts, no longer equal in Scotland (5)
The star group (or constellation) which must have its first three letters exchanged takes from the Latin for ‘table’ the name it shares with a society founded by Roland Berrill and Lancelot Ware in 1946. Its professed aim was to take in members based purely on their IQ, without reference to social distinctions. However, when this was exactly what happened they weren’t too happy. Berrill had sought an ‘aristocracy of the intellect’, and the high proportion of non-U members rather spoilt that, whilst Ware apparently bemoaned the fact that ‘so many members spend so much time solving puzzles’. What a terrible waste .
27d King’s given over part of church for his consort’s junior in rank (5)
A one-letter abbreviation for king is put above (‘given over’) a part of a church to provide a playing card which ranks immediately below the king’s consort.