Notes for Azed 2,577
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 2,577 Plain
Difficulty rating: (3.5 / 5)
Normal service from the Guardian’s website was resumed this week, which allowed me to address the puzzle whilst enjoying my Sunday breakfast. Having started to write these notes, however, a power cut stopped me in my tracks – thankfully, it lasted only until around 2pm rather than the 7pm that had been estimated. The puzzle itself was notable for several clues which trod the fine line between originality and unfairness, with a couple (I felt) perhaps falling into the latter category.
Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 19a, “Is it squidged in pats round either edge of river? (7)”. The wordplay involves an anagram (‘squidged’) of IN PATS containing (’round’) R (‘either side of river’), producing SPRAINT. If this were a normal definition + wordplay clue we would be left with just ‘Is it’ as the definition, to which the answer is clearly “No, it isn’t”. So this is an &lit (or ‘all-in-one’) clue, where the entire clue when interpreted cryptically constitutes the wordplay and when taken literally represents the definition. I have commented before that the term ‘definition’ when used in relation to a clue does not necessarily mean a definition that can be found verbatim in a dictionary – very few of the ‘definitions’ in a typical barred puzzle (including this one) will appear in Chambers, and hence I prefer the term ‘indication’, or (particularly in this instance) the hybrid ‘defication’. But when it comes to &lit clues the amount of latitude allowed to setters is increased still further, in recognition of the difficulty associated with producing such clues – making both readings of the clue sound can be a tricky business. What one often (very often, in fact) finds is that there are superfluous words in the non-cryptic reading which are essential to the wordplay; certainly the word ‘either’ here would not be acceptable in a ‘normal’ definition. These bonus words do not invalidate an &lit clue; what the setter must focus on is the grammatical soundness of both readings, in particular ensuring that there is a part of the non-cryptic reading which makes it clear what the solver is looking for – this often involves the use of pronouns such as ‘what’, ‘they’ or (as in this clue) ‘it’.
I’m not clear why Azed chose ’round either edge of river’ here rather than simply ’round river’. The best &lits contain not a single spare word, one of the very finest examples being Colin Dexter’s Azed competition clue for MAGIC LANTERN, “Item gran arranged family slides in”.
10a Godless hiding gun in disguised terrine (10)
A three-letter word meaning ‘to increase the speed of (a car engine)’, roughly equivalent to the slang ‘gun’, inside an anagram (‘disguised’) of TERRINE.
11a Ally constant in axis, say (5)
The usual (and to my mind the only acceptable) single letter representing ‘constant’ is contained by a four-letter word for which ‘axis’ is an indication by example (there are many others, a couple of hundred without venturing beyond the human sort). The definition is an obscure one, particularly since its usual spelling is ‘alley’ rather than ‘ally’.
12a Speak incomprehensibly, horse refusing jump? (6)
I am familiar with the word meaning ‘speak incomprehensibly because it appeared regularly in the children’s comics I used to read (often in the last frame of a strip drawn by the legendary Ken Reid, as I recall), but when I checked in Chambers it was clear that an alternative (less common) spelling was required in order to satisfy the second element of this double-definition clue, the term for the obstinate horse invariably being spelt with a ‘J’ at the start. I don’t know much about horses, but it seems that although one of this type might well show no interest in jumping its defining trait would be the habit of stopping unexpectedly and refusing to go forward.
24a What’s next to do? Think about filling in that CV (6)
Here the solver needs to answer the question “What’s next to do [in the tonic sol-fa]” and then to reverse (‘about’) a four-letter word meaning ‘think’ inside it (‘in that’).
27a Wood? River circles small one (5)
I’m not keen on this one – the four-letter name of a river in northeastern England contains (‘circles’) the abbreviation (‘small’) for…yes, ‘river’. I think that if ‘one’ is referring to another noun here, it can only be ‘wood’.
29a Neutering precludes this cross-breed – nothing smelly (7)
A charade of a two-letter word (often seen in barred puzzles) for a type of hybrid domestic cattle found in the Himalayas, the usual single-letter representation of ‘nothing’, and a four-letter word meaning ‘smelly’, as something that’s been shot for the pot and hung up for a while might be.
33a Part of golf club selected club lost latitude (5)
An error here – a five-letter word meaning ‘selected’ loses a letter and is then followed by the usual abbreviation for ‘latitude’, but ‘club’ is not valid for C; the abbreviation C for ‘clubs’ relates to the suit in a pack of playing cards, in which context ‘club’ has no relevance (even the ace is the ace of clubs).
34a Tangle in one end of leash at full stretch (7)
I didn’t like the ‘one’ in 27a, but I can just about accept it here. Just about. The solver has to pre-process the clue, replacing ‘one’ with the only noun to which it can possibly refer, ie ‘tangle’, producing ‘Tangle in tangle end of leash at full stretch’, at which point things become much clearer.
1d This fortune-teller calls art? Is crystal ball possibly (5)
A composite anagram, where the letters of the solution (‘this fortune-teller’) plus CALLS ART can be rearranged (‘possibly’) to produce IS CRYSTAL BALL. I’ve two problems with this clue – firstly the amount of extra material in the anagram (eight letters for a five-letter solution) and secondly the fact that the solution has two alternative spellings, either of which could fit the bill.
2d Family of lice like this to catch in gym are on the rise (10)
A two-letter word for ‘like this’ and a three-letter word for ‘to catch’ (as in “Do that again and you’ll catch it”) are contained by one of the two standard two-letter abbreviations suggested by ‘gym’, the whole lot being followed by a reversal (‘on the rise’) of ARE.
3d Faithful about family king abandoned, marking direct descent (6)
A four-letter archaic/poetic word for ‘faithful’ or ‘loyal’ containing (‘about’) a word for ‘family’ missing the abbreviation for ‘king’ in a chess context.
4d Covenant reached by doctor, character closing surgery (6)
Here ‘reached by’ is the first of two very questionable link phrases in this puzzle. The wordplay is a five-letter word for ‘[to] doctor’ plus the last letter of (‘character closing’) surgery. At a pinch I could have accepted something like ‘received from’.
6d Imagine once e.g. breaking hand in two places (5)
A three-letter slang word for a hand or arm (as might be presented for shaking by an anthropomorphic fish) has the letters EG inserted (‘breaking’) separately (‘in two places’).
9d Furrowed part of the US bordering another (7)
After a couple of clues that used the word ‘one’ in unusual ways, the wordplay here would have benefited from it being included at the end, thus making it clear that a five-letter ‘part of the US’ is containing (‘bordering’) the two-letter abbreviation of just such a part (‘another [one]’).
13d Cable maybe chaps fitted in east when missing – here’s proof (10)
The forename of the leader of the Liberal Democrats between 2017 and 2019 (‘Cable maybe’) plus the usual three-letter word for ‘chaps’ are contained by (‘fitted in’) EAST without a two-letter word meaning ‘when’ (‘when missing’).
17d Australian shrubs cover one fresh pulled up (7)
A three-letter cover (for the head), a single-letter word for ‘one’, and a three-letter word for ‘raw’ (or ‘green’) are all reversed (‘pulled up’).
22d First sign of racism in school creating turmoil as before (7)
The first letter of ‘racism’ is put inside the name of a public school in Buckinghamshire. The ‘as before’ is unnecessary – Chambers (rightly or wrongly) does not show the solution as being obsolete or archaic.
23d Unploughed field due to knowledge number’s left in places (7)
An eight-letter word for knowledge has the usual one-letter abbreviation for ‘number’ repeatedly departing. The solution is hyphenated, (3-3).
25d Plant bodies Aegean island’s reared (7)
The name of a Greek island in the eastern Aegean sea is reversed (‘[has] reared’).
26d Wildcat grabbing swan’s tail in savage struggle (7)
The wordplay involves the last letter of ‘swan’ (“swan’s tail”) being put inside a four-letter word for a struggle (I’m not sure it’s necessarily particularly savage, but that probably depends on your view of Rugby Union as a whole). However, as this clue stands, it must surely be the wildcat that is doing the grabbing both in the surface and the wordplay.
(definitions are underlined)