Notes for Azed 2,556

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 2,556 Plain

Difficulty rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

I thought that this puzzle was of above-average difficulty and slightly below-average entertainment, with some of the clues seeming to me a little unsatisfactory, although Azed’s sense of fun still shone through clearly. I must admit that my views regarding the quality may have been affected by tetchiness at having to delay my breakfast by a quarter of an hour or so, the result of the late appearance of the puzzle on the Guardian website.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 14a, “Site that is missing a prisoner? Not one for that kind” (6). The wordplay – analysed in the notes below – makes up the first sentence (no pun intended) of this clue for STALAG. The second part (‘Not one for that kind’) plays no part in the cryptic indication of the solution, and cannot on its own define it, but when combined with ‘Site that is missing a prisoner’ the whole serves as a definition of the solution. So what type of clue is this? It is what Ximenes termed an ‘offshoot &lit’, where the entire clue provides a definition of the solution, while part of the clue (always a group of consecutive words at one end of the clue or the other) doubles up as the wordplay. The example which Ximenes gave was “What a bishop may have had before getting a crook” for PREBEND, where the cryptic element is ‘before getting a crook’. Whilst not as satisfying as a true &lit, where all the words in the clue contribute to both wordplay and definition, this construction is used by Azed on occasion and can facilitate some inventive clues. This appealing clue from AZ 2,200 could be considered as having a simple definition/wordplay construction, but works as an offshoot &lit:

What AZ has to go through and measure efforts (7)
ENTRIES [EN TRIES (‘measure efforts’)]

3a In pash being thwarted by female, showing cunning about that aid to better sex (10, 2 words)
An anagram (‘thwarted’) of IN PASH followed by the usual abbreviation for ‘female’, the whole lot being inserted into a three-letter word meaning ‘cunning’ or ‘crafty’ to produce a (7,3) solution.

13a Fellow managed prison (all names withheld) – it maintains a lively rhythm (6)
Three-letter words for ‘Fellow’, ‘managed’ and ‘prison’, each of them missing their (closing) N (‘all names withheld’), the result being something that could be used to maintain a lively rhythm.

14a Site that is missing a prisoner? Not one for that kind (6)
Here we have SITE without IE (‘that is missing’) plus A and a three-letter word for a prisoner. The prisoner in the wordplay is specifically a convict, and the second part of the clue indicates that the camp in question would have held prisoners of a different kind.

17a Slating material, furious in being written out (4)
A six-letter word for ‘furious’ has the letters IN removed (‘in being written out’), the result being a large rough slate. 

20a Former disgrace, portent (not the first) – goodness me! (6)
A four-letter word for a portent (not the one in 21d) missing its first letter (‘not the first’) and a (1,2) expression meaning ‘goodness me!’ combine to produce a Shakespearean spelling (hence the ‘Former’) of a word meaning ‘disgrace’.

22a Aids this barge being refitted – lakeside possibly (4)
A composite anagram, where AIDS plus the solution (‘this barge’) when rearranged (‘being refitted’) can form LAKESIDE (‘lakeside possibly’).

26a Can’t stand to let off e.g. MOT? (6)
I think that it is stretching the bounds of fancifulness to suggest that to ‘de-test’ could mean ‘to let off a test’.

29a Former PM in charge of ideal state (before fall) (6)
The four-letter surname of the British Prime Minister undone by the Suez crisis is followed by the normal abbreviation for ‘in charge’, the whole being an adjective referring to a biblical paradise. If the words in parentheses had been ‘before the fall’ then the word ‘fall’ would have required an initial capital; since a fall is ‘a lapse into sin’, then I think ‘before fall’ is ok. Just.

31a Ex-president (English not American) has installed Chinese interpreters (8)
The six-letter surname of the 33rd US president of the US must have its A replaced by an E (‘English not American’) and the standard abbreviation for ‘Chinese’ inserted (‘has installed Chinese’). The resulting word is shown by Chambers as obsolete, and I am surprised that Azed did not indicate this – ‘Chinese interpreters in the past’ would arguably enhance the surface reading.

32a Permit (one assumes) required before start of excavating Turkish borate (10)
‘Permit (‘one assumes’)’ tells us, as it turns out, that the letters making up the word PERMIT are to be divided, with a suitable conjunction placed between the two parts. The first letter of ‘excavating’ (‘start of excavating’) completes the wordplay.

3d Never stood for spicy meat en brochette (5)
One could certainly argue that ‘never stood’ and ‘remained seated for ever’ (here expressed as two words) are not the same thing, but it makes for quite a nice clue.

4d Bit of immature creature, part replacing one in farm animal (6)
A three-letter farm animal has its central I replaced by a four-letter word meaning a ‘part’ of the type that might be played (‘part replacing one’).

6d Water running into shore’s rotten – could be ‘dead’ hippo (8)
A two-letter word for ‘water’, much loved by barred puzzle setters, is contained by an anagram (‘rotten’) of SHORE’S to produce an obsolete (‘dead’) word for a hippopotamus.

11d Falconer’s bird? Deal in the latest cracking experience mostly (11)
The wordplay requires a four-letter word for ‘deal in’ and a three-letter word for ‘the latest [information]’ (or ‘the lowdown’) to be inserted into (‘cracking’) a five-letter word for ‘experience’ (or ‘sample’) missing its last letter (‘mostly’). The result is a Spenserian (not indicated in any way by Azed) term, hyphenated 7-4, for a male peregrine falcon.

18d Isotope: it’s discovered in notable achievement, independent of pH (7)
Here the word IT is ‘discovered’ in a seven-letter word for a notable achievement from which the (closing) letters PH have been removed (‘independent of pH’).

19d Beneficiary set up a limit for trust maybe (7)
The usual cruciverbal synonym for ‘[to] set’ reversed (‘up’), the letter A, and the name of the letter found at either end of ‘trust’ (‘limit for trust’). The ‘maybe’ on the end seems a tad de trop.

22d King set out for audience, one resisting conquerors from abroad (6)
Ugh! – a partial homophone, this one for ‘left’ (‘set out for audience’), follows the abbreviation for king that appears in chess notation.

25d Jock’s stall – is this his den ransacked for merchandise? (5)
Another composite anagram, wherein an anagram (‘ransacked’) of the solution (‘this’) plus HIS DEN can produce MERCHANDISE.

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2 Responses

  1. Michael T says:

    I had a slightly different interpretation of 6d.
    A three letter word that signals ‘water’ (as in a large body of water)
    running into [preceding]
    an anagram (rotten) of SHORE (i.e., ‘SHORE is rotten)

    Clearly it gets to the same place, but is this a valid way to analyse Azed’s clue?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Michael, and thanks for your comment.

      A good suggestion, and if this were a clue in a ‘back page’ puzzle, I think that your interpretation might indeed be valid, even perhaps what the setter intended. However, because this is Azed then I am confident in saying that it isn’t, and I’ll explain why it doesn’t quite work.

      ‘Water’ (‘a body of water such as an ocean’) for SEA is fine, and there’s no reason why ‘running into’ shouldn’t indicate juxtaposition. The problem is the apostrophe-s: if we assume that in the wordplay this is an abbreviation of ‘is’, then the wordplay as a whole would effectively read ‘Water running into shore is rotten’. The grammatical elements of the wordplay must be [Water] / [running into] / [shore is rotten], and the subject of the main verb, ‘is’, can only be ‘Water’. For the alternative interpretation of the wordplay to be sound, a pronoun is required in order that ‘shore’ can become the subject of a relative clause at the end, eg “Water running into shore that’s rotten’.

      I hope that makes sense. If one of the potential subjects were in the plural and one in the singular, the problem becomes clearer: in “Chef making cakes is rotten’ it can only be the chef who is rotten, and “Chef making cakes are rotten” is grammatically unsound. “Chef making cakes that are rotten” would correctly express the idea that the chef might just be having an off day.

      Azed could have written the clue as “Water running into shore rotten”, indicating SEA plus an anagram of SHORE. However it is considered very weak clueing to use a headword from the dictionary (here SEA) in the wordplay for an entry (SEAHORSE) that appears under the same headword. Whilst this is far from unknown in puzzles from other setters, it is something to which I cannot remember Azed ever resorting.