Notes for Azed 2,580

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 2,580 Plain

Difficulty rating: 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

A 13×11 grid, and a puzzle that contained plenty of entertaining clues but certainly didn’t have the needle on the difficulty meter ‘bouncing in the red’. In truth, only a couple of the clues saw it flutter from its starting position.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 35a, “Minimum from relative in what you inherit, making you sneer? (5)”. The clue is parsed below, but the element of the wordplay which I want to look at is the ‘minimum from relative’, indicating the letter R. It is not uncommon in puzzles to see indicators such as ‘[a] piece of’, ‘a little’ or ‘[a] bit of’ being used to instruct solvers to take the first letter of the word that follows. Although in the past I have included such indicators in my own puzzles, I have never felt entirely comfortable with them, and I have found in recent times that they are quite likely to be rejected by crossword editors. The point is this: why should ‘a bit of trouble’ indicated T any more than R, O, U, B, L or E? I have to agree when it comes to ‘piece’ or ‘bit’; I feel that ‘hint’ or ‘suggestion’ are better, as they perhaps imply a first taste. ‘Minimum of’ strikes me as preferable to ‘piece’ or ‘bit’, but not by much.

13a Lake? Dip a rod in its fringes (6)
The letter A and a three-letter word for ‘rod’ (in the sense used by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band in Big Shot: ‘I shuddered. Normally I pack a rod; in pyjamas, I carry nothing but scars from Normandy beach.’) are contained by the first and last letters of ‘lake’ (‘its fringes’).

15a TV recorder in truth requiring outlay of capital? (4)
An eight-letter word for ‘truth’ has a four-letter word for the sort of place that might be the capital of a country removed to produce an acronym which was applied to Britain’s first video recorder.  It was invented by the BBC and unveiled by Richard Dimbleby during a live edition of Panorama on 14 April 1958. After he had described the purpose of the technology, its effectiveness was demonstrated with a playback of the first few minutes of the programme, seemingly rewinding time (gasp!). It had taken six years to develop, and the recordings were made on half-inch tape running as fast as 200 inches per second. Sadly, its moment of triumph was just that, as the delivery later that year of a machine from American manufacturer Ampex – which was demonstrably superior – consigned it to history.

17a Olympian? First-class, followed by another such? (6)
A single-letter representing ‘first-class’ and a four-letter word for ‘followed by’, after which the first-class letter arrives again (‘another such’). The Olympian is not so much an athlete, more a member of the resident pantheon.

21a Sort of insect, female going for husband like a rotter! (9)
I can’t remember seeing this word in a puzzle before, and how neatly Azed has clued it here: a (6,3) insect has its F replaced by an H (‘female going for husband’), summoning up images best reserved for post-watershed nature programmes.

26a One from among notables worsted – such as Brutus? (7)
A single letter representing ‘one’ is removed from (‘one from among’) NOTABLES prior to its letters being rearranged (‘worsted’). The reference is to Mark Antony’s description of Brutus, whom he considered to have acted for the greater good when plotting to assassinate Caesar, whilst the other conspirators were in his opinion motivated by self-interest. Candidates should compare and contrast:

              Caesar adsum iam forte
              ‘Passus sum’ sed Antony

               and

              Caesar adsum iam forte
              Brutus aderat
              Caesar sic on omnibus
              Brutus sic inat

34a I cut cooked meat in e.g. service (8)
A type of meat with the letter I removed (‘I cut’) is placed inside the letters EG. The meat was originally that of any animal killed in the chase or by hunting and used as food, but now invariably relates to the flesh of one specific type of animal; whether the ‘cooked’ is necessary I’m not sure, but I see why Azed has included it, and it can’t be wrong.

35a Minimum from relative in what you inherit, making you sneer? (5)
The first letter of ‘relative’ (‘minimum of relative’) is contained by a four-letter word for a sequence of nucleotides constituting hereditary material (‘what you inherit’), producing a Spenserian term which can be defined by ‘grin’, itself an obsolete meaning of the verb ‘sneer’.

36a Pistol could have done for this yesterday, a dog running wild (13, 3 words)
An anagram (‘running wild’) of YESTERDAY A DOG. The pistol really could only have replaced the last element of the (5,6,2) solution without confusing (or scaring) the hell out of the competitors. Christmas must be getting close, because my thoughts have started to turn to cracker mottos, and those old chestnuts ‘How do you start a pudding race?’ and ‘How do you start a teddy bear race?’…

6d Versatile cooking ingredient, what lumberjack suggests to audience (4)
The homophone (‘what…suggests to audience’) here is of ‘sawyer’ (‘lumberjack’). The OED suggests that the two words are pronounced somewhat differently, but I’m not going to quibble about it.

7d First in perspicacity? Nonsense! (5)
The first letter of ‘perspicacity’ is followed by a word for ‘nonsense!’ (which I’m rather fond of as an alternative to ‘curses!’), the whole clue standing as a (slightly weak, it has to be said) definition of the solution.

14d ARA dismissed by old king? That’s disgusting (4)
A seven-letter word for a king in ancient Egypt has the letters ARA removed to produce an “exclamation expressing contemptuous rejection or making light of anything.”

16d Obnoxious fellow protecting a scheme for red-light district (8)
A three-letter ‘obnoxious fellow’ is placed around (‘protecting’) A plus a four-letter word for a scheme’ I don’t remember previously coming across the solution used in this sense, the OED and I being familiar with it only in relation to the world of EastEnders, Corrie and the like. I was confident that the Chambers Slang Dictionary would enlighten me, and I was not disappointed; apparently from the late 1800s into the 1900s ‘soap’ or ‘bit or soap’ was used to refer to women of loose morals or poules de luxe.

27d British composer failing to finish piece no longer current (5)
The wordplay here involves the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘British’ being followed by the five-letter surname of a classical composer (who also happens to be British) missing its last letter (‘failing to finish’). The solution is a currency unit introduced by Belgium in 1926, equivalent to 5 Belgian francs and tied to sterling at a rate of 35 belgas to one pound. I don’t believe that there were any belga ‘pieces’ as such issued, but some coins and notes did carry both denominations, including five franc coins which bore the legend ‘een belga’. Since they had continued to count their cash in Belgian francs, the masses scarcely noticed when the belga was officially retired on 8th January 1946.

31d Deploying weather eye could make one this (tee-hee!) (4)
A composite anagram &lit to finish with, and a perfect example for anyone new to the genre. The wordplay tells us that rearranging the letters of (‘deploying’) WEATHER EYE could produce (‘make one’) the solution (‘this‘) together with TEEHEE; the whole clue stands as the indication of the answer, suggesting that a person keeping a weather eye open could be considered this. The ‘tee-hee’ is superfluous in the latter interpretation, but doesn’t affect the validity of the clue.

(definitions are underlined)

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