Notes for Azed 2,572
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 2,572 Plain
Difficulty rating: (4 / 5)
This struck me as a tough puzzle which newcomers to Azed might have struggled to get to grips with. Not as many straightforward anagrams as usual, and several clues where obscure (to my mind, anyway) words were involved in both the wordplay and the solution, something that I don’t like. If anyone (unlike me) managed to complete the puzzle without recourse to Chambers, kudos! There were some well constructed clues, but I did feel that the sense of fun that shines brightly in some Azed puzzles wasn’t on full beam, and whilst a single ‘spica’ in a puzzle is fine, the presence of two of them represents one spica too many.
Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 25d, “United in small island group, they’re not wholly divine (5)”. The wordplay here is U in AITS, but the point of interest is the use of ‘small island group’ to indicate AITS, which raises the question of how much the setter can ‘twist’ a straight definition to suit his or her purposes. Here Azed clearly didn’t want to use ‘small islands’, although it would be grammatically sound; I’ve no problem at all with something like ‘more than one small island’, or even ‘several small islands’, but I think ‘small island group’ is a bridge too far – it suggests a collective noun and frankly even as the definition in a clue for AITS I think it would be iffy. I suppose ‘rock group’ might be acceptable for STONES, but then rocks and stones are generally found in groups. When tweaking the indication of a word in order to improve the surface reading of a clue, the setter has to be careful not to stretch it to breaking point or to introduce superfluous words in order to make the clue ‘read’ better.
1a A dry cape’s inside – something supplying effective cover (5)
I initially thought that we would be required to put a ‘C’ inside A plus a word for ‘dry’, but in fact the clue is a charade of A, a two-letter abbreviation meaning ‘dry’ in an abstemious sense, and the ‘inside’ of the word CAPE, producing a word for the leaves of a palm tree which are used for thatching.
7a What comes after lying in sun repeatedly? We’re often baked (5)
I do wonder whether ‘What comes after’ is rather too indirect for comfort; to infer ‘the main course’ seems a stretch, so our first step must be to ‘afters’, whence we proceed to the three-letter word which is placed inside (‘lying in’) two instances (‘repeatedly’) of the normal abbreviation for ‘sun’.
13a It was fired from the saddle, oil coating more than half of one (8)
A six-letter word for a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons (‘oil’) which is hard to come by in England at the moment containing (‘coating’) two consecutive letters from the word ONE (‘more than half of one’). The solution is a short rifle carried by mounted soldiers in the 16th and 17th centuries.
18a A bandage applied to a very large place? Discernment required (12)
A three-letter word meaning ‘a’ in the sense of ‘for each’, a five-letter word for a bandage wound around an injured limb in repeated figures-of-eight, and a four letter word for a very large place combine to produce the solution.
28a Butterfly to free following rulebook (6)
The three-letter verb meaning ‘to free’ is a crossword staple, but to get to the answer you need to know either the butterfly or PIE, a book of rules for determining the Church office of the day.
29a Sandwiches: number in foreign bread set before one (6)
So accustomed does one become to misdirection that I immediately assumed that ‘foreign bread’ was going to be the currency used in some far-off land, but in fact here it is the French word for ‘bread’ which contains the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘number’ and is followed by the Roman numeral for ‘one’.
30a Pair reduced to single in travelling interrail, moving slowly (8)
The ‘pair reduced to single’ is the double-R in INTERRAIL which must be reduced to a single letter before the remaining letters are shifted around (‘travelling’) to form an adjective which certainly doesn’t mean ‘moving slowly’ but which is decidedly tricky to define accurately.
31a Large tropical fish, American, revealing soft metallic element (6)
The four-letter name of a large marine fish of the mackerel family found in warm parts of the western Atlantic is followed by the usual two-letter abbreviation for ‘American’ (or ‘America’). Again, I think the definition is questionable – the adjective here describes the element in a combining form, certainly not something in which it is present in a ‘soft metallic’ form.
32a Countryman’s handle to lift on end of scythe (6)
The five-letter word which is followed by (‘on’) the last letter of ‘scythe’ (‘end of scythe’) means ‘to lift’ in the pilfering sense. The solution is shown by Chambers as ‘dialect’, hence the “Countryman’s” qualifying the definition.
33a Acreage yokel turned over for cows out of service (5)
The usual abbreviation for ‘acreage’ (I say ‘usual’, but I’m struggling to remember when I last saw it used in a puzzle) and a four-letter dialect word for a yokel are reversed (‘turned over’), the result being a Spenserian (‘out of service’) word meaning ‘subdues’. This verb is probably related the adverb ‘adawe’, meaning ‘out of life’, which may have been mistaken for a verb in phrases such as ‘they did him adawe’, meaning ‘they did him out of life’, ie ‘they killed him’.
2d Ecstasy filling African people in some sacred places (6)
The African people ‘filled with’ Ecstasy are the TEMNE, now predominantly found in northern Sierra Leone, having left their original settlements in Guinea during the 15th century.
6d Company in flying to Mars go by direction finder (12)
The standard two-letter abbreviation for ‘company’ contained by (‘in’) an anagram (‘flying’) of TO MARS plus a four-letter verb meaning ‘to go by’ or ‘to elapse’.
7d Cause of disease forward fellow’s turned up (5)
The adjective meaning ‘forward’ (or ‘saucy’) is in common use; the associated noun less so. Followed by an [apostrophe-]S, it needs to be reversed ‘turned up’ in order to produce the solution.
8d Coconut oil product to preserve eggs soft? Reverse of that (6)
A charade of a three-letter word meaning ‘to preserve’, a pair of letters representing [duck] eggs, and a one-letter abbreviation for ‘soft’, with the whole thing being reversed (‘Reverse of that’). I believe that the solution is more of a by-product of the extraction of coconut oil, being the mass left after the oil has been removed from the pulp.
10d Osteal places may afford space to this (5)
A composite anagram &lit, and a succinct one at that, where the letters of OSTEAL PLACES can be rearranged to form SPACE TO plus the solution (‘this’). Too succinct, perhaps – I’m not sure that ‘may afford’ is sufficient to indicate rearrangement, even a potential one.
17d Feature of requiem to fade with soaring swell within? (8, 2 words)
A three-letter word meaning ‘to fade’ has a five-letter word (just about) meaning ‘[to] swell’ or (more commonly) ‘to come into being’ reversed (‘soaring’) inside (‘within’), the result being a (4,4) solution. The ‘swell’ meaning of the five-letter verb is obsolete, associated now only with the similar four-letter verb lacking the initial A. The required letter sequence could have been more accurately indicated by ‘a swell’, but this would have presented a problem in relation to the reversal – ‘a soaring swell’ reads very nicely but would deliver AESIR rather than ESIRA, while ‘a swell soaring’ doesn’t sound right at all.
20d Like e.g. US soldiers on parade, from Weald, leaderless, might one assume (6)
The idea is that when read as (2,2,2) the solution could (hence the ‘might one assume’) describe WEALD with the first letter removed, ie EALD. The solution is the North American spelling of a word which might describe the orderly arrangement of soldiers on parade. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but a great clue it ain’t.
21d Precise pointer at top of compass? (6)
When the pointer is at the top of the compass it would be indicating ‘north’ and therefore could perhaps be described as a (1,5).
23d Poison swallowed direct, dad dropped (6)
A concatenation of a five-letter word for ‘swallowed’ and a four-letter word for ‘[to] direct’ has the letters DAD removed from the outside. I question whether ‘dropped’ is sufficient to indicate that the word to be taken away has first to be divided – I don’t see why the relevant part of the clue couldn’t simply have read ‘dad dropped outside’ (or ‘dropped off’), which makes the instruction clearer..
24d Avian spur son observed on magpies (5)
The usual one-letter abbreviation for ‘son’ has the four-letter magpie genus added to produce a word which also features in the wordplay of 18a.
25d United in small island group, they’re not wholly divine (5)
Here the standard abbreviation for ‘United’ appears in a four-letter word for ‘small islands’, with demigods being the outcome for those fluent in Tongan, although those more familiar with the languages of other Pacific islands may ascribe a slightly different meaning to the word.
27d Check up about sign of what’s not right in Paddy’s bit of casual work (5)
A four-letter verb meaning ‘[to] check’ or ‘to restrain’ is reversed (‘up’) around (‘about’) a mark made by a teacher beside an incorrect answer (“sign of what’s not right”).
(definitions are underlined)