Notes for Azed 2,573

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 2,573 Plain

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

Another plain puzzle – this one seemed rather less tough than its predecessor, but I felt that it was of at least average difficulty, perhaps even a little bit above (all thoughts on the subject welcomed). I’d have to say that I didn’t think it was one of Azed’s very best (but even a slightly below-par Azed is a puzzle to be reckoned with), and it featured a few constructions that I wasn’t too keen on. No ‘spicas’ this week, but a brace of ‘leos’.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 27d, “In hollow a dip through which river runs (4)”. No problem finding the answer, WADI is hidden ‘in’ holloW A DIp, but there are a couple of points of interest. Firstly, the definition: can ‘through which river runs’ indicate a noun? This is one of the few points on which Azed and I disagree – I would say ‘no’, but Azed has stated in the past that he does not have an issue with the solver effectively having to identify the subject of an otherwise subject-less verb. The example he has quoted in the past is “barks and is man’s best friend” for DOG: this requires the solver to infer a ‘one’ (or ‘it’ etc) as the subject, but here even the expanded ‘one through which river runs’ strikes me as a rather messy definition of WADI. There is another problem, though. ‘In hollow a dip’ cannot stand alone as wordplay, ie it doesn’t by itself deliver a substring from ‘hollow a dip’ – it needs a subject, as in eg ‘river valley in hollow a distraction’. That missing subject could perhaps follow, eg ‘In hollow a discernible river valley’, although I’d prefer to see a comma between the hiding place and the definition; but here we don’t have an implicit subject, which means that the clue has to be pre-processed to ‘In hollow a dip[, one] through which river runs’. That said, I expect Azed has had to clue the word many times over in the preceding 2,572 puzzles, and I applaud the fact that he doesn’t re-use clues, even if it means the occasional clue being a little below his usual standards.

1a Bruiser with power breaking additional window (8)
A seven-letter word for someone/something that bruises (or more commonly grinds to a pulp) has the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘power’ inserted (‘breaking’) to produce that devious sort of advertising window which pops up on your computer but is only visible when you close the window behind which it is lurking. The wordplay here strikes me as questionable; as it is written the participle of an intransitive verb is required to indicate the insertion, eg ‘entering’, so here the solver must infer ‘Bruiser with power breaking [it]’.

7a Seed covering ball is there? He belts it possibly (4)
A composite anagram, where the letters of BALL IS THERE can be rearranged (‘possibly’) to form HE BELTS plus the solution (‘it’).

11a Positive German football team making money (4)
I’m afraid my knowledge of German cardinal numbers doesn’t go beyond ten, so I would have needed this to be a netball or ice hockey team in order to avoid the need to check that part of my answer. The usual abbreviation for ‘positive’ is followed by the appropriate German number, producing a word that originally meant ‘things pilfered’ or ‘booty’ and became a derogatory term for wealth or money, ie ‘filthy lucre’.

13a Starts going at this speed one’s gift for traffic police (5)
A strange one this. There’s no doubt about the answer, but ‘starts’ on its own to indicate ‘take the first letters from’ isn’t something I’d expect to see from Azed. Even if you assume a preceding ‘it’, that still doesn’t work (‘It starts x y z’ surely can’t mean ‘It consists of the first letters of the words x, y and z’). There are some possible alternative parsings, but none that seems viable. Plus the surface reading doesn’t make any sense, to me at least. I’d be happy with “Starts to go at terrific speed – one’s gift for traffic police”.

17a Wolf maybe died having escaped from fair (5)
A six-letter adjective more often associated with frankness rather than fairness, without the usual abbreviation for ‘died’ (‘died having escaped’). The ‘maybe’ indicates that this is a definition by example, since the solution also applies to animals which are not wolves.

23a Holiday abroad, shortest one if there’s no Brie (5)
The combination of an eight-letter word meaning ‘shortest’ and a one letter word for ‘one’ has the letters BRIE removed (“if there’s no Brie”).

29a Republicans having a bit of a knees-up in lively dance (5)
This clue might prove tricky for solvers unfamiliar with the acronym GOP as used to describe the US Republican Party. It dates back to 1875, at which point it stood for Gallant Old Party, and has been given several alternative interpretations over the years (most notably Get Out and Push) but the accepted expanded form is now Grand Old Party. In 2009 the Wall Street Journal instructed staff to discontinue use of the term GOP on the basis (ostensibly) that readers might not know what it meant. Incidentally, the party’s elephant symbol dates back to an 1874 cartoon by Thomas Nast, showing the Democratic Party as a donkey trying to scare an elephant depicting the Republican Party. .

32a Sex symbol that is given leading part in India (4)
A rather wordy wordplay from which all but the first and last words could be removed without changing the outcome; a three-letter (poetic or Scottish) word for ‘that’ (as in ‘that x over there’) is followed by the first letter of (‘leading part in’) the word ‘India’. 

33a Certainly wood growth having nitrogen applied quite recently (8)
A charade of a three-letter word for ‘Certainly’, a four-letter word for ‘wood growth’ (in a very general sense), and the chemical symbol for nitrogen.

2d King Cole in a bad way? Soon one’s out at the elbows (9)
An anagram of the monarchical (rather than chess) abbreviation for ‘King’ together with COLE, followed by a four-letter word meaning ‘soon’, producing a projection on the ulna. I’m not sure why Azed chose to use ‘elbows’ rather than ‘elbow’, which would have been more accurate.

3d Indian tree, one replacing millions of others (5)
A term applied to members of a large group of tropical and sub-tropical trees (‘others’, ie other trees) has its M (for ‘millions’) replaced by a single-letter word for ‘one’, producing a tree found in India.

15d Photo on lake that is showing Walter’s bird (9)
A three-letter colloquialism for a photo is followed by a four-letter word for a lake (of the sort that you might come across in the Lake District) and the usual abbreviation for ‘that is’. As is usual, ‘Walter’ is Sir Walter Scott, who is responsible for something like 140 words or distinct meanings in Chambers, including such gems as beflum and gumple-foisted.

22d Not strictly a Mohican cut for harvest celebration (6)
We’re into James Fenimore Cooper territory here, with specific reference to the protagonist of the five books that make up the Leatherstocking Tales, a child born to white parents and known as Natty Bumppo. After growing up among Delaware Indians, he takes various aliases including ‘Deerslayer’ (the title of the first book); in the second and most famous book, The Last of the Mohicans, he is a British scout known as ‘Hawk-eye’ and with his Mohican friends, Chingachgook and Uncas becomes part of the caravan transporting the two daughters of Colonel Munro to the safety of Fort William Henry. Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce in M*A*S*H takes his nickname from the character, as apparently The Last of the Mohicans was the only book his father ever read. Incidentally (although completely irrelevantly), John Brunner’s brilliant 1975 sci-fi novel The Shockwave Rider features an intelligent dog called Natty Bumppo – the book  gave us the term ‘worm’ as a description of a malicious program that spreads through a computer network, and is one of the first works of fiction to feature computer hacking.

25d Region of SW France suggested by the French? (5)
The masculine singular definite article in French is suggested by the solution when it is read as (1,3,1). At first I thought that Azed had missed a letter off the end of the solution, but it is not a proper noun, rather a word given in Chambers as describing ‘a heathy plain or sandy tract (now forested) along the coast in SW France’. A ‘region’ is a ‘tract of country’, so this is absolutely fine.

26d Such a face suggests foolish cracksman, first to last (4)
This is what Ximenes called an ‘offshoot &lit’, where the whole clue acts as the definition while just a part of it forms the wordplay – here it is the last four words, an American word for a burglar or safe-breaker having its first letter moved to the end (‘first to last’). Since ‘Such a face suggests foolish’ is no good as the definition, we must re-use the wordplay in order to produce a satisfactory(ish) definition of a word which might describe the face of a foolish[-looking] cracksman. The example that Ximenes gave for this type of clue is “What a bishop may have had before getting a crook” for PREBEND, which is not dissimilar in structure.

(definitions are underlined)

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2 Responses

  1. Crossguesser says:

    13a puzzled me too, knowing how clear Azed has been about loose indicators. I doubt he’d approve of ‘Going at this speed one starts…’ which is more or less the same thing.
    I enjoyed the puzzle in general, though. (I was expecting a fiendish Special after four previous Plain competitions.)
    21a wasn’t mentioned in your review, perhaps because it’s too straightforward, but I really liked it. I don’t think I’ve seen it before, surprisingly.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi CG

      I enjoyed the puzzle myself – while I felt that it lacked some of the élan of Azed’s very best, there were plenty of good clues to savour, so on reflection my review was a bit on the grumpy side. And even when Azed is slightly below peak form he’s still well ahead of the rest. 21a is very neat, and I likewise don’t recall seeing it before – perhaps because night=black is not obvious. I had a look in Mrs Bradford’s book (not a favourite of mine and very rarely used) – she doesn’t give it, but it seems absolutely fine to me.

      I also thought we were (over)due a ‘special’, but looking on the andlit site I see that while it was not uncommon in the past for a calendar year to feature four competition specials in addition to the Christmas puzzle, in 2018 and 2019 there were only three, and last year just two. We’ve already had two this year, although neither of them was in the 21/22 competition year. A ‘Wrong Number’ for November, perhaps?