Notes for Azed 2,559

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 2,559 Plain

Difficulty rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I got the feeling that Azed enjoyed setting this one, and I think that it would have proved quite a tester for someone unused to his ‘little ways’. I thought that the clues at 1a, 12d and 28d were particularly good, but there were many to admire, more than in any recent puzzle that I can recall.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at the clue for 31a, “I’ll be captivated by s-spiffy little bird on the river” (8). This features a device which is quite often seen in Azed puzzles but rarely occurs elsewhere, and involves a word in the clue being modified in order to tell the solver that an analogous modification must be made to the word indicated. Like the ‘Cockney’ device, where for instance ‘ammer might indicate ‘it, here the modification suggests a stammer which must be similarly applied to the word derived (the result will not be a real word, but will form an element of the solution), so ‘remain b-blue’ could indicate ‘be l-low’ , and here ‘I’ is contained by ‘d-dapper’ to produce ‘didapper’. It is not a device that I’m particularly fond of, and one of the few in the Azed portfolio that I would not use in my own puzzles.

1a Greedy one studies food supply – his targets were sounder, but loose? (12)
A three-letter word for a greedy person (‘Greedy one’), a four-letter word meaning ‘studies’ (which Chambers shows as archaic), and a five-letter word for a supply of food (based on where it might be arrayed) combine to give a (3-9) hyphenated solution. The clever definition exploits the fact that a ‘sounder’ is a herd of pigs.

13a Join climbers in Cairngorms? Retreating deer whines (8)
A three-letter word for a deer closely related to the moose combines with a five-letter word meaning ‘whines’ or ‘complains’, the whole lot being reversed (‘retreating’). The result is a Scots word (‘in Cairngorms’) meaning ‘to clamber’.

17a Old peasant troubled shrink, admitting start of eccentricity (7)
An anagram (‘troubled’) of SHRINK containing (‘admitting’) the first letter of ‘eccentricity’; ‘old peasant’ might at first glance seem inappropriate to indicate an obsolete adjective, but in the cryptic reading ‘peasant’ is also an adjective (‘of or relating to peasants’). Since Chambers gives ‘e’ as an abbreviation for ‘eccentricity’ (of a conic section), the words ‘start of’ are superfluous.

18a Cheeky minx, woman replacing husband, mimsy one (5)
A five-letter ‘minx’ (often brazen) has her (initial) H for husband replaced by a W for…well, for ‘women’ or ‘wife’, but not according to Chambers for ‘woman’ (I’m pretty sure Azed did the same thing a few weeks ago). The solution can be an adjective or, as here, a noun, defined (rather loosely, it seems to me) as ‘mimsy one’.

19a Coarse Scots when going after Mrs Grundy, firing off extremes (5)
The usual two-letter word for ‘when’ follows a five-letter word for a person of extreme propriety (‘Mrs Grundy’) from which the first and last letters have been removed (‘firing off extremes’). Mrs Grundy ‘appears’ in Thomas Morton’s 1798 play Speed the Plough, although at no point does she actually take the stage; that she is the personification of all that is proper, however, is witnessed by the  sensitive Dame Ashfield’s frequent references to her, often in the phrase “What will Mrs Grundy say?” This became something of a catchphrase in the early nineteenth century, and the 1810 pantomime The Bold Serjeant included the song “What’ll Mrs Grundy Say?”

23a Is this player, shiner, exciting in orchestra? (5)
The first of two composite anagrams, here the letters of the solution (‘this player’) plus SHINER can be rearranged (‘exciting’) to form IN ORCHESTRA.

25a Disciple of theological pioneer admitting 50% of errors (7)
A very neat wordplay which involves a three-letter poetic contraction of a six-letter word meaning ‘admitting’ or ‘even if’ followed by the first four letters of an eight-letter word meaning ‘errors’ (ie ‘50% of errors’).

30a Militant supporting what’s left of spread (5)
A three-letter word meaning ‘supporting’ or ‘in favour of’, plus a two-letter abbreviation of a word for the left-hand page of an open book. I’m not entirely happy about the two-step process required to convert “what’s left of spread” into the required form; I would have preferred something along the lines of “what’s left of spread, in short”.

32a Place giving Aussie bad feeling? Leaving capital optional (5)
This is a double definition clue with a twist: the ‘Place’ is known by two names, the longer form including the prefix ‘London’ – this can be omitted while referring to the same place, so ‘leaving [out the name of the English] capital’ is optional (though mandatory for some).

2d Staffage appalling at Balmoral in queen being put up therein (7)
A four-letter Scots (‘at Balmoral’) word for ‘appalling’ has the letters IN R (‘in queen’) reversed inside (‘put up therein’). ‘Staffage’ refers to ‘decorative accessories in a picture, or subordinate additions in any work of art’, ie decoration or embellishment 

5d Some turning up seeking famed Louvre piece head off (4)
A simple ‘hidden reversed’, but a neat definition which forms part of an appealing surface reading. The ‘famed Louvre piece’ is the Winged Victory of Samothrace, which – perhaps unsurprisingly, given that it is over 2,000 years old and was buried in pieces – is missing a few minor elements, most obviously the head. Her right hand was found as recently as 1950, so there still hope…

8d Heap of refuse, last to be cast from furnace’s function? (4)
The eight-letter function of a certain type of furnace has the letters LAST removed in order to produce the solution, possibly Microsoft’s biggest ‘heap of refuse’ since Vista.

9d Iron tenon: some instruction required with one installed (8)
Here we have a six-letter word for a ‘prescribed portion of instruction’ containing W I (‘with one installed’).

13d Product of teashop creator…OAP’s thrilled with it! (11)
The second composite anagram, this time of the &lit variety. The letters (‘Product’) of TEASHOP CREATOR are the same as those of OAP when mixed up (‘thrilled’) with the solution (‘it’). As something of a cake aficionado, I was expecting great things when I picked up a slice of the ‘Original’ (made to the original recipe, I think, not part of first batch from 1832) cake from the Vienna confiserie. It was a very hot day, which probably didn’t do the cake any great favours, but I’m afraid that I was sadly disappointed. The local apple strudel with a generous blob of ice cream, though, was a horse of a very different colour.

17d Render in rough stone old-style wharf, possibly first installed (8)
A three-letter ‘earlier’ (ie ‘old-style’) spelling of a word for a wharf that is more familiar in four-letter form contains an anagram of FIRST (‘possibly first installed’), resulting in one of those words that make you wonder why anyone felt the need to create them – in fact, this one isn’t given by the OED, so perhaps the editors of Chambers invented it just to fill an empty space.

20d Nurse comes round opening up premed alkaline (7)
A three-letter word for a nurse (an alternative spelling of ‘ayah’, and one that is very useful to setters) contains (‘comes round’) a four-letter word for an opening that has been reversed (‘up’).

22d Prophet’s descendants rising proudly to the surface, last rising about halfway (6)
The wordplay here is focused on a six-letter word  which (in botanical circles, describing leaves) means ‘rising above the surface of water’. The ‘proudly’ is used in the sense of ‘in a way that stands out from the surface’, and the ‘last rising about halfway’ tells the solver that the last letter of the word must be moved up to either of the central positions.

28d What kept Pyramus from Thisbe – or Ida from mice! (4)
Very nice – a Shakespearean word for the thing that kept Pyramus and Thisbe apart, they being able only to whisper their love through a crack in it, which is produced by removing the letters IDA from a seven-letter word for the mouse family.

(definitions are underlined)

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4 Responses

  1. orange says:

    Glad you gave this 4 out of 5 as I was getting nowhere without your help! Nearly asked for the uncrossed letter in 28d, then I scrolled down to thank you and could see what it was. M?RE joins my very small collection of letter combos which can take any vowel to make a word: T?N, P?T for example.
    Let’s hope that tomorrow’s is more approachable! 😉

    • Doctor Clue says:

      I’ve written notes for a lot of Azeds and that was one of the toughest plain puzzles that I can remember. This week’s is definitely closer to ‘normal’ difficulty.

      L?RE is good – six possibilities 🙂

  2. John R Atkinson says:

    Thanks, as usual. When checking my answer to 20d, I was amused to find it is also the name of a fictional country created by the United States army. I think AZED missed an opportunity for mischief.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      You’re welcome. How interesting re 20d – I’m not going to say too much as it seems that there are five of them and I feel a theme for a puzzle coming on…