Notes for Azed 2,567

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 2,567 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

An entertaining puzzle which seemed pretty close to the middle of the difficulty spectrum, generous helpings of disguise and misdirection (together with more than a touch of mischievousness) being offset by ten anagrams and a trio of hiddens. Some nice clues in there, including a couple of &lits.

Setters’ Corner:

Occasionally I have a look at the fifteensquared Azed blog, which I’m pleased to say regularly receives more comments now than it did four or five years ago. I noticed that the blog for AZ 2,564 had accumulated a generous helping of comments, which prompted me to take a squiz. I was gratified to see that many of the remarks related to a new solver joining the Azed ranks, but my eye was taken by a criticism of certain clues, in particular of 7d, “Junkie, how one might describe Cressida?”, the solution to which is ACID-HEAD.

The objections were that (i) an acid-head is not a ‘junkie’, and (ii) that Dame Cressida Dick is the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, and therefore not ‘A CID head’. Now, as regular readers will know, I’m not averse to a bit of nit-picking, in particular where I believe the wording of a clue is questionable; but points of grammatical accuracy and shades of definition are horses of rather different colours.

Errors do occur, of course – a recent Mephisto used ‘cashier’ to define ‘demote’, which is hard to defend – but in general setters have to be given a bit of latitude. Most &lit clues would fail if their definitions were examined closely, and sometimes a solver with expertise in a particular area will attach a meaning to a word with a precision beyond the scope of the setter’s knowledge or of dictionaries such as Chambers.

Going back to the Azed clue, the OED ‘s definition of a junkie is ‘a drug-addict’ and of an acid head as ‘someone who habitually takes the drug LSD’ which seems plenty close enough for a layman, while Cressida Dick not only has responsibility for the Metropolitan Police’s Criminal Investigation Department but was at one time head of the Specialist Crime Directorate. Of course the view of what’s fair in a crossword and what’s not will always be subjective, but I don’t see a problem here.

1a A hot slice of tart epicure cooked to feed healthily (12)
An anagram (‘cooked’) of A HOT T(art) EPICURE. There are those who would say that ‘slice’ is no more appropriate to indicate the first letter of a word than any single letter or group of consecutive letters from it. I would probably count myself amongst them.

13a Urgent – plump in the middle? See lens measurement (7)
A four-letter word for ‘Urgent’ (a meaning given by Chambers but not the OED, which restricts itself to the more familiar ‘dreadful’) in the middle of a three-letter word for ‘plump’ in the sense which I will forever associate with Arthur Marshall and Frank Muir making their selections from the three explanations of obscure words given on Call My Bluff (this will be lost on anyone who hasn’t seen the programme, and probably on many who have!).

16a Party provided warmth about start of evening (6)
Here we have a two-letter word meaning (inter alia) ‘provided’ followed by a three-letter word for ‘warmth’ (in the sense of anger) containing the first letter of ‘evening’. I don’t in truth think that ‘warmth’ is quite the same as anger- the OED goes no further than ‘a heated state of the temper approaching anger’ – but in view of my comments in the Setter’s Notes above I think I ought to let it pass… 😉

17a Colts accepting start of training? (6)
A nice little &lit, with a five-letter word for colts (or lambs) left by their mother(s) and brought up by hand containing (‘accepting’) the first letter of ‘training’.  The use of the same letter selection indicator in two clues in the same puzzle would normally be considered unacceptable by editors; here the same indicator (‘start’) appears in two consecutive clues, although one instance could readily have been replaced by ‘beginning’, say.

18a Heat meat for cottage pie, setting aside first three quarters (7)
A five-letter word for the meat that would go into a cottage pie has its first letter removed (‘setting aside first’) and is followed by the abbreviations for three cardinal points (‘three quarters’). Sneaky.

23a Experience taking in flash? One has no shorts! (7)
I worked out the solution from part of the wordplay and the definition, not knowing that the ‘flash’ that is contained by a three-letter word for ‘[to] experience’ is a pool or marshy place; the solution is a foot (of the prosodic variety) which contains just two long syllables – and therefore no shorts.

33a Vacated theatre and left only half set (4)
The first and last letters of ‘theatre’ (‘Vacated theatre’) and half of the word ‘left’ (‘left only half’) combine to produce the sort of set that might be seen in the corner of a room or, perhaps more likely these days, on the wall.

34a Mitre might be this indication of grade (12, 2 words)
The (5,2,5) solution when preceded by something like ‘one possible’ could indicate the letter sequence MITRE.

5d Old bungs foiled user opening special up (6)
An anagram (‘foiled’, ie baffled) of USER inserted into (‘opening’) a reversal (‘up’) of a two-letter abbreviation for ‘special’. The solution itself is not obsolete, but bung5, a bit of criminal slang from the 16th/17th centuries, certainly is – hence the qualification ‘Old’.

6d To recap, with it Roman somehow encapsulated….his admired philosopher (12, 2 words)
A two-word (2,3) phrase meaning ‘To recap’ has an anagram (‘somehow’) of IT ROMAN contained within it (‘encapsulated’), producing the (6,6) description applied by Cicero to Plato.

11d Chilled Scotch in Jock’s bar (5)
A double Scotch, as it were – the meaning of ‘a dam in a stream’ (‘bar’) is unlikely to spring to the minds of those south of the border (and perhaps even of some to the north of it), but the ‘chilled’ (or ‘chilly’) sense will be familiar to both Scot and non-Scot alike.

14d E.g. Christian doctor, just as timely (9)
A two-letter abbreviation for a particular type of doctor is followed by a two-word (2,5) phrase meaning ‘just as timely’; the ‘E.g’ is needed because this is a definition by example, there being many non-Christians who would associate themselves with the solution.

20d Lay about wandering male, minor luminary? (7)
A luminary is a source of light, so a minor luminary is a source of a small amount of light, yes? A three-letter verb meaning ‘lay’ contains an anagram (‘wandering’) of MALE.

22d Rolled up coat following guide (6)
This one puzzled me briefly, until I realized that the charade was made up of a three-letter word for ‘coat’ and a three-letter word meaning ‘following [a] guide’, a verb in participle form.

25d Banter (one might suppose) I introduced to restrain (6)
The wordplay involves the letter I being put inside (‘introduced to’) a five-letter word meaning ‘to restrain’ (or put off). The definition is fanciful (hence the ‘one might suppose’), based on the verb ‘bant’, itself a back-formation from Banting – not a participle but the name of a 19th century Londoner who wrote of his success with a dietary system devised by an ear surgeon.

William Banting was a five-foot-five undertaker and coffin maker who weighed over 200 pounds. By all accounts a good-humoured man, he said of his considerable consumption of sweets and fatty foods that “a big ship is not built with scanty materials”. A member of the family whose business handled the funeral of anyone who was anyone (including Prince Albert), he became less chirpy in retirement, suffering from a number of ailments apparently linked to obesity, and complaining “If fat is not an insidious enemy I do not know what is.” He tried many remedies for his condition (including at least 90 Turkish baths), but in the absence of a Victorian Jamie Oliver he was at the end of his tether when he was further afflicted with hearing loss; he consulted William Harvey, a well-known ear surgeon and a friend of Charles Dickens, who told Banting that his hearing issue was a result of excess fat blocking an auditory canal. He prescribed a diet low in sugar and starch, excluding such things as potatoes, bread, butter and beer. The regimen was a huge success – Banting lost 46lb in a year and his health (including his hearing) improved enormously. Wanting to share the secrets of his weight loss, Banting wrote a pamphlet which he entitled A Letter on Corpulence. It was a huge success, to the extent that within just a few years ‘to bant’ had become synonymous with ‘to diet’.

27d Old soldier, last promoted to lead 20’s a slight one? (5)
The soldier dates back to Roman days, being the Latin word for same, and his last letter is moved to the start (‘last promoted to lead’). Probably only Azed could get away with indicating that a slight instance of the solution could be described by the answer to 20d.

30d Heading heavenward, maid leaves glittering stake (4)
A neat clue, with a reversal (‘Heading heavenward’) of MAID leaving an eight-letter word meaning ‘glittering’ to produce the solution. I did wonder whether Azed could have used an alternative term for glittering in order to make the surface reading even better, perhaps ‘flaring’, but on refection I think that ‘glittering’ is itself something of a stretch for an adjective which means ‘covered in glittery things’ rather than ‘glittering’.

(definitions are underlined)

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