Notes for Azed 2,561

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 2,561 Plain

Difficulty rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Following last week’s ‘hiddenfest’, Azed throws in just two lurkers this week, one to kick things off and another in the final clue. A reasonably entertaining puzzle which I felt was slightly past the half-way line of difficulty, with the NE corner being tricky, though I was on the ball when I tackled it this morning and it didn’t require much extra time. At least one clue (30a) would have had solvers crying ‘foul’, if not actually making them cross, and a couple of others I’ve flagged below as somewhat iffy. No trophy is on offer, so when you’ve completed the puzzle don’t bother sending it off…

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 29a, “It portrayed a novelist’s life whiskey cut short” (4). This is a good example of where the spelling of a word in a clue can provide implicitly the extra information needed by solvers; ‘whiskey’ sticks out here, being the Irish/US spelling of ‘whisky’, and most obviously represents Irish whiskey, often known simply as ‘Irish’. The opportunities to use this device are relatively infrequent, but I do recall a clue of mine along the lines of

Wake when honor students start putting calculators away (9)

it can make a pleasant change from the rather trite explicit indicators of context, such as ‘American’ or ‘US’ which could have been used instead of the ‘honor’ above.

5a RC congregation is involved in branch of learning after mass (7)
The word IS is contained by a four-letter word for a branch of learning which can be qualified by ‘fine’ or ‘dark’, and an M (mass) is added to the front to produce the plural form of a term for a member of a particular evangelical RC sect.

13a Fashionable style has abandoned orangey dyes (4)
The more clues I write, the more I take against wordplays which strain the English language beyond breaking point. Here HAS must be removed from a seven-letter word for ‘orangey dyes’ to produce the answer, but I cannot accept that ‘x abandoned y’ can mean ‘y without x’, and I know that several crossword editors feel the same way. Whilst I’ve no issue at all with ‘x abandons/abandoning/has abandoned y’, where x is the subject of the clause, with the participle ‘abandoned’ the subject is y and in order to mean ‘y with x abandoned’ the clause must include a comma, ie ‘x abandoned, y’. The wordplay of this clue therefore requires a comma between ‘abandoned’ and ‘orangey’, which would spoil the surface reading. ‘Fashionable style has passed by orangey dyes’, where HAS has been ‘passed’ or disregarded ‘by CHICHAS’ might not read quite as well (‘passed orangey dyes by’ would be more natural) but is grammatically sound.

17a Bank involved with brief transactions in market (4)
A composite anagram  with a whiff of indirection, the letters of the solution (‘bank’) and a two-letter abbreviation for ‘transactions’ can be rearranged (‘involved’) to produce MARKET.

19a Showy bird supplied by one seeing to pets on a small scale? (7)
The fanciful indication of the solution  given by the wordplay resolves as a four-letter word for ‘small-scale’ and a three-letter word for someone who might see to pets. This clue didn’t really do it for me.

25a Place for tools, second in garden opening presto? Far from it (6)
The second letter of the word ‘garden’ is contained by (‘opening’) a musical indication of tempo which is a long way from ‘presto’ (‘presto? Far from it’) to  produce a hyphenated (4-2) solution.

29a It portrayed a novelist’s life whiskey cut short (4)
The ‘whiskey’ is Irish, and it must be ‘cut short’ to produce the title of the 2001 film based on John Bayley’s 1998 memoir.

30a Opposition‘s tricks, unnatural but not strained (4)
As Bobfos observes below (and I hadn’t spotted), the wordplay here doesn’t work: CONSTRAINED (‘unnatural’) without STRAINED (‘but not strained’) produces CON rather than CONS. If ‘strained’ had been ‘trained’ the wordplay would be ok, and perhaps since ‘unnatural’ and ‘strained’ are synonymous this may have been Azed’s intention. There are also two definitions for the price of one here, with that awkward “‘s” in between them which seems out of place when there is not only a second definition following but also a wordplay.

I did idly wonder whether “Opposition’s trick, unnatural but not strained” would be valid, featuring a single definition (‘Opposition’) and two elements of wordplay separated by a comma, each leading to CON and together therefore representing CONs. I would want to see a question mark at the end of such a clue, but it doesn’t strike me as blatantly unfair.

33a Market contains delicate cut woodland plant (7)
A four-letter word for [a] market contains a four-letter word meaning ‘delicate’ with the last letter omitted (‘cut’).

3d Trumpeter maybe interrupts cheers for African race (6)
A four-letter word for a species of bird exemplified by the trumpeter (‘Trumpeter maybe’) goes inside (‘interrupts’) every setter’s favourite two-letter word for ‘cheers’ to produce the name of an African people or their language.

4d The No. 1 cleric revised what’s typical of Galilean ideas? (12)
Nothing complex about the wordplay, but the ‘Galilean’ refers not to a Roman division of Palestine but to a great mathematician from a Queen song.

6d Just like Pooh CR found in pot upended (7)
A neat clue, where the letters CR are to be place inside the word DIOTA (an ancient case, ie a ‘pot’) and the whole lot reversed (‘upended’).

9d Apostrophe: abbreviation of ‘has’ follows one in middle (5)
A single-letter abbreviation of ‘has’ follows a single-letter representation of the number ‘one’, the pair being put into a three-letter word which roughly equates to ‘middle’ and is often indicated in crosswords by ‘corporation’.

18d Russians historically raising temperature a long way for Irish stew! (7)
A seven-letter word for citizens of the former USSR has the T in position six moved up to position two (‘raising temperature a long way’), the result being Irish stew.

19d People in Scotland suffer endlessly – this is used to ease pain (7)
The wordplay here is deceptive, breaking down as ‘People’ (three letters) and ‘in Scotland suffer endlessly’ (a five-letter Scottish word meaning to endure or suffer). The outcome is something used as both a topical analgesic and a decongestant, the key element of a joke about a Smartie and a gang of Lockets which it would be inappropriate to reproduce here.

22d Dark spot round square heraldic bearing (6)
Unless you are familiar with the lozenge-shaped, perforated bearing which constitutes the solution, you will need to know that a MACLE is a term for a dark spot within a mineral.

(definitions are underlined)

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4 Responses

  1. Bobfos says:

    Shouldn’t 30 clue be trained rather than strained?
    Struggling to parse 10 & 14.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Thanks Bobfos, and welcome

      I hadn’t spotted the error in 30a, but of course you are quite right – I have updated the Notes accordingly.

      I nearly included 10 in the Notes – the wordplay involves A (‘one’) following (‘after’) a reversal (‘coming up’) of the plural form of a word for one of the seven canonical hours of the divine office; the definition must be viewed in the context of bodily functions. 14 involves a four-letter word for ‘finished’ (or ‘elegant’) plus the single-letter representation of the number one, all inside a four-letter word for an admired personage or person of exceptional courage.

      • Bobfos says:

        Thanks DC, didn’t know the hours but should have got 14.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          The canonical hours are not a specialist subject of mine either, and I had to check the ones in 10d – it seems that the other daytime hours are lauds, prime, none, vespers, compline, and the one that needs to be used with care these days, sext.