Notes for Azed 2,563
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 2,563 Plain
Difficulty rating: (3.5 / 5)
The ratio of tricky clues to straightforward ones seemed quite high, so I’ve rated it somewhere above average difficulty, even though none of the solutions was particularly tough to parse once you’d got the answer. I felt that Azed had pushed the envelope more times than an indecisive sorting office worker, resulting in considerably more quibbles than usual.
Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 29d, “Cry of pain let loose by nithing? (4)”. This clue is parsed in the notes below, but what interested me was Azed’s choice for the final word, prompting me to consider the alternatives. Having decided that OW was to be removed from YELLOW, with the whole clue providing a definition of YELL, the question would be how to indicate ‘yellow’. ‘Wimp’, say, would work in the surface, but while ‘yellow’ means ‘wimpish’, it doesn’t mean ‘[a] wimp’, so we need a word which can function as an adjective in the wordplay and a noun in the clue when read as a whole. ‘Chicken’ seems like an excellent option until we review the &lit definition – a cry of pain let loose by a chicken would never be described as a ‘yell’. ‘Craven’ fits the bill, but these days it is almost exclusively used as an adjective, and ‘…let loose by craven’ looks very unconvincing. The obvious choice would be ‘coward’, which is normally seen as a noun but is also an adjective, however Azed has decided instead to use the historical term ‘nithing’, which would have more appeal if ‘yell’ had itself been an obsolete or archaic word. The presence of the letters OW in ‘coward’ (such that ‘letting loose’ OW would produce CARD) is an unwelcome distraction, but knowing Azed’s propensity towards less common words, I suspect he would have preferred ‘nithing’ to ‘coward’ in any event.
1a Scottish bum, placed askew – he drank heavily (9)
If, like me, you were unfamiliar with the Scottish bum or the (6-3) solution, you may have needed a checker or two to get this one, which involves FUD (‘Scottish bum’) being followed by an anagram (‘askew’) of PLACED.
7a Old master having something to get barbecue going? Not quite (3)
An eight-letter word for a North American wood used as a fuel in barbecuing has the letters QUITE removed (from the end) to produce the answer.
12a Very drunk, ultimately blotto as usual (6)
A charade of a two-letter word meaning ‘very’, a three-letter word for ‘drunk’ and the last letter (‘ultimately’) of ‘blotto’, the result being a musical term taken directly from the Italian language.
16a Salad ingredient, great with eggs around (7)
A four-letter word for ‘great’, in the sense of ‘important’, has the usual three-letter word for ‘eggs’ outside (‘around’).
19a Hot stuff disowned by band, not pro (6)
Here a ten-letter word for stuff which is (loosely) ‘hot’ has the consecutive letters BAND removed (‘disowned by band’) to produce a preposition (and adverb) that is the opposite of ‘pro’. A rather weak clue by Azed’s standards, given that the solution is the stem of the wordplay element from which it is extracted.
23a Male interrupting girl playfully is offensive (6)
A two-letter word for a male being contained by (‘interrupting’) a ‘playfully pejorative name for a child or a girl’ (or a familiar name for a cat). I was a bit dubious about the definition here, but Chambers gives ‘offensive’ as ‘making the first attack’, so I think it’s just about ok. Just about.
31a Wife on reflection to long for 2, 3 or 4? (4)
A three-letter, jocular word for a wife (referring to the genesis of Eve) reversed (‘on reflection’) is followed by a setter’s favourite for ‘to long’. The definition exploits the fact that ‘par’ for holes on a normal golf course can be 3, 4 or 5.
32a Little old coin, Sun King’s No. 2 on face (8)
A three-letter word for the Sun personified, the second letter of ‘King’ (“King’s No. 2”) and a four-letter word that means ‘to face’ in the sense of ‘defy’.
34a Silt swirling with rains near on our roads (9)
I feel that Azed could have omitted the ‘on our roads’ given the Chambers definition of the solution; as it stands, if the solver lives in a country where one drives on the right hand side of the road the qualification may be more confusing than helpful.
2d Sheep roaming wild catches cow up in the manner of a mate (7)
A five-letter word for a Himalayan wild sheep contains a reversal (‘up’) of two-letter word for a cow. I’m not happy about the definition here: ‘of a mate’ would be absolutely fine, but ‘in the manner of a mate’ surely defines an adverb (eg ‘uxorially’) rather than an adjective.
5d For best effect it requires keeping one’s hand in? Blimey, I think not (5)
A three-letter interjection meaning ‘Blimey!’ is followed by a two-letter word for ‘I think not’. I bow to Azed’s musical knowledge when accepting that the solution describes the sort of French horn that is played using a hand-stopping technique.
9d Marine creature, live when caught by tail (8, 2 words)
Two-letter words for ‘live’ and ‘when’ are contained (‘caught’) by a four-letter word for ‘tail’ in the sense of [the] posterior.
15d Old philosopher, form of stoic absorbing what’s current in Cambridge (8)
It is CAM which here is ‘absorbed’ by an anagram of (‘form of’) STOIC. Whether the river that flows through Cambridge can legitimately be described as “what’s current in Cambridge” is a moot point; based on the Chambers definition, ‘current’ here must be a noun – the meaning ‘a stream’ might just about make it legit.
21d Copy page in antique, its first (7)
The usual abbreviation for ‘page’ inside a five-letter word for [an] antique, with the first letter of ‘antique’ (‘its first’) bringing up the rear.
26d Wild flower, green and pale (5)
The wordplay here requires that ‘green means go’, which I suppose you could argue that it does for road users. The three-letter word for ‘pale’ which follows is a favourite of setters.
27d A bit like Jaques’s schoolboy, beginning to lick inside cone (4)
The ‘cone’ which contains the first letter of ‘lick’ (‘beginning to lick’) is PUY, a small volcanic cone, specifically one in Auvergne. The reference is to Jaques’ “All the world’s a stage” speech from As You Like It, which includes the following:
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.
29d Cry of pain let loose by nithing? (4)
An &lit to finish off, with OW (the cry of pain in the wordplay) being ‘let loose’ by YELLOW (‘nithing’ as an adjective), to produce a word which could be indicated by the clue as a whole (where ‘nithing’ functions as a noun).
(definitions are underlined)