Notes for Azed 2,557

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 2,557 Plain

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

This was decidedly tricky for a plain puzzle, and there were too many liberties taken in the wordplays for my liking. It all felt a little bit strained and I didn’t find it a particularly enjoyable solve when judged against Azed’s exceptionally high standards.

As an experiment, I have underlined the definition parts of the clues which I have picked out for comment; I know that this convention is used in other crossword blogs. Let me know whether this is something that you would like me to continue with.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 21d, “Very old coat? Half of it covers more than half of terrier (6)”. The second part of the wordplay requires ‘terrier’ to represent ‘Aberdeen’. There is a very clear rule which determines whether this is acceptable, the deciding factor being whether the entry for the first word in Chambers includes a reference to the second. The entry for ‘Aberdeen’ has “(in full Aberdeen terrier) a coarse-haired kind of Scottish terrier”, so an Aberdeen is indeed a terrier. Similarly, Chambers gives ‘cairn’ as “a small variety of Scottish terrier”, but conversely although it has a separate entry for ‘Border terrier’ there is no mention of it under the entry for ‘border’. Hence ‘terrier’ is fine for ‘Aberdeen’ or ‘cairn’, but not for ‘Border’; likewise ‘couch’ can legitimately indicate ‘grass’ (couch == couch grass), but ‘Vera’, or even ‘Vera, say’, cannot indicate ‘aloe’. If one were determined to involve Vera in a clue for ‘aloe’, it would have to be through the use of ‘name given to type of aloe’ or something along those lines – Vera is not an aloe.

7a Baby’s mum wiping bottom – not something one could get out of! (5)
There is nothing in the wordplay to indicate it, but the three-letter word for bottom must be ‘wiped’ from the outside of “Baby’s mum”.

12a Higher organism turning ‘tail’ pursued by a peasant farmer with energy (9)
A three-letter word for a tail, in the sense of a long twist of hair at the back of the head is reversed (‘turning’) and followed (‘pursued’) by A, a four-letter word from the Indian subcontinent for a peasant farmer, and the usual abbreviation for ‘energy’.

14a Wherein political gossip circulates, ‘ideous in endless run (9)
A six-letter word for ‘hideous’ with the first letter removed (by analogy with ‘ideous) is contained by a five-letter word of Italian origin for a race or run with the last letter removed (‘endless’).

16a Super character I found in Vergil (5)
Maro is the cognomen of the Roman poet Publius Vergilius Maro, usually known as Virgil; although the spelling ‘Vergil’ is technically correct the two-i’d misspelling seemingly dates back to late antiquity and is now dominant in several languages, including English. The ‘super character’ is a portly, mustachioed plumber who in 1985  teamed up with his brother Luigi to rescue Princess Toadstool from the wicked Bowser. A series of successful enterprises followed, and at some point he abandoned the world of compression fittings and U-bends, Nintendo having updated his profile in 2017 to describe him as “All around sporty, whether it’s tennis or baseball, soccer or car racing, he does everything cool. As a matter of fact, he also seems to have worked as a plumber a long time ago…”

17a Old Scottish ship capsized – 100 on it overturned inside (7)
The Roman numeral for one hundred is followed by IT reversed (‘overturned’), and the combination is put inside an anagram (‘capsized’, a very iffy anagram indicator) of ‘ship’. The result is the name of a language which could loosely be described as ‘Old Scottish’.

18a Cape for woman or unaccompanied man, might one conclude? (6)
The solution breaks down as x ON y (ie ‘x beside y’) and when x is placed beside y a four-letter word meaning “a man who goes to dances, etc unaccompanied by a woman” (or the term for a male deer) is produced.

22a Cutters in sound? They may be looking out for shoals (5)
The solution sounds like ‘hewers’ (ie ‘cutters in sound’), and the people in question are looking out for pilchards (should have gone to Sainsbury’s).

25a In retrospect rue being taken in by flyer for poisonous apple (6)
The Latin name for the rue genus is ‘taken in’ by a two-letter abbreviation for a ‘flyer’ or ‘advertisement’, and the whole lot is reversed (‘In retrospect’).

31a Just like mater, accepting recipe for cereal (5)
A rather unsatisfactory clue has DURA (‘dura mater’ being “the exterior membrane of the brain and spinal column distinguished from the other two, the arachnoid and the pia mater”) containing (‘accepting’) R (recipe) to produce the name of a type of food-grain. However, ‘Just like mater’ doesn’t in my view indicate DURA, and the grain can also be spelt DURA, which would certainly have caused me to reject the clue.

32a What’s enjoyed in Kenyan tavern? British ale, without hesitation (5)
A three-letter word for ‘British’ common in the antipodes is followed by a four-letter word for ale missing one of the two standard two-letter interjections expressing hesitation (‘without hesitation’).

33a Indulged girls fed with old English trotters (9)
A three-letter adjective meaning ‘indulged’ plus a four-letter derogatory word for girls or young women containing (‘fed with’) the usual abbreviations for old and English.

36a Drops backward booby, say – why don’t we? (8)
The definition here is ‘Drops’, and the wordplay involves a four-letter generic term for a member of the large class of vertebrates of which the booby is an example (‘say’) being reversed (‘backward’) and followed by a four-letter informal expression meaning “why don’t we”.

1d Eye sweet: fool (11)
Chambers gives ‘jack’ as a slang term for a detective (though more commonly a member of a police force), and later editions extend the definition of ‘eye’ to include “A private eye (informal)”. The former is followed by a seven-letter word for a sweet or dessert to produce a hyphenated (4-7) solution.

3d Mites one removed from above and around fruit trees (6)
A five-letter term for ‘mites’ has the ‘a’ at its start deleted (‘one removed from above’), being followed by the usual two-letter abbreviation of ‘circa’.

5d Traitor while following Trump (not one Democrat)? (5)
I don’t recall Azed ever demonstrating his snooker knowledge before, but here we have the first name of the 2019 world champion (‘Trump’) without one of the D’s (‘not one Democrat’) plus a two-letter word for ‘while’. I don’t need much excuse to reproduce my favourite sporting quote: when the former world champion John Spencer was nearing the end of his career he suffered from myasthenia gravis, which resulted intermittently in double vision. When asked what he would do if on getting down to play a shot he was confronted with the sight of two yellow balls, he replied “I pot the easier one.’

13d Like barley sugar, say, or chocolate, one of Easter’s pair replacing egg? (9)
A weird clue this – an E (“one of Easter’s pair”) replaces one of the O’s (‘egg’) in CHOCOLATE, and the resultant letters are then slightly rearranged, but there is no discernible anagram indicator and the whole thing is a bit, well, tortuous.

21d Very old coat? Half of it covers more than half of terrier (6)
The (second) half of the word IT (‘Half of it’) on top of (‘covers’) five-eighths of the name of a type of terrier (‘more than half of terrier’).

27d This sec last? It’s confused with claret maybe (5)
A composite anagram, where the letters of LAST plus the solution (‘This sec’) are a rearrangement (‘confused’) of IT’S together with CLARET

29d Tangle of brushwood ideal for conifer (5)
A three-letter word for a tangle of brushwood (or hair) is followed by a two-letter adjective meaning ‘first-class’ or ‘excellent’…or here, although it’s a slight stretch, ‘ideal’.

30d What scavenger’s retrieved – one left little amount (5)
A three-letter word describing what a scavenger would retrieve from dustbins or rubbish tips followed by A (‘one’) and the usual abbreviation for ‘left’ (‘left little’). I’ve no idea why Azed chose ‘little’ to indicate the contraction of ‘left’ rather than ‘small’ or ‘reduced’, either of which would have worked better in the surface reading.

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