Notes for Azed 2,582

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 2,582 Plain

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

The generous dollops of deviousness to be found in this puzzle raised it, I thought, to the middle of the difficulty spectrum despite there being no individual clues that stood out as being particularly tough. There were a couple of neat &lits (29a and 5d), together with one somewhat less appealing example of the genre at 29d.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 25d, “Holes excavated for where the dead will rest (5)”. A simple anagram of HOLES, but the point of interest here is the anagram indicator, ‘excavated’. What constitutes a valid anagram indicator – and what does not – is a subjective matter, but this one seems to me to be a real stretch; the only definition given by Chambers or OED which suggests disturbance to the thing excavated is ‘to get out by digging’, as of something being mined. I don’t think this is sufficient justification – I wouldn’t use ‘dug out’ or ‘mined’ to indicate an anagram, and I don’t see that ‘excavated’ has any greater claims to validity. Incidentally, I don’t have a problem with ‘cleverly’ at 14a – custom and practice dictates that an adverb on its own can act as an anagram indicator (with something like ‘arranged’ to be assumed by the solver), so the ‘dexterously’ meaning is enough.

13a Unified creatures close to being included among hybrids (5)
A two-letter word meaning (inter alia) ‘close to’ is contained by (‘included in’) one of the several alternative spellings for those crossword regulars, “a kind of hybrid domestic cattle found in parts of the Himalayas, said to be a cross between the male yak and the common horned cow.”

15a Bit of burley in tobacco box, sort of hickory (8)
The first letter (‘bit’) of ‘burley’ inside a four-letter word for a type of tobacco (in fine tangled shreds, hence the name) and a three-letter word for the sort of box that Indiana Jones was looking for.

16a Tractor cutting pillar diagonally (5)
An eleven-letter tradename for a type of tractor or earthmover designed to operate in soft ground has the letters PILLAR removed (‘cutting pillar’) to produce a (dialect, though not indicated as being so in the clue) word meaning ‘diagonally’.

19a Catch walrus? It makes one very sad (9)
As soon as I saw ‘walrus’, I thought MORSE, and with the definition seeming to suggest something along the lines of ‘remorse’, I had the last five letters mentally pencilled in. I was wrong, of course – the walrus here is not the ostreophagous sort, rather an ostentatious display of facial hair such as that affected by Friedrich Nietzsche, Theodore Roosevelt…and walruses.

27a Each with mutton getting to leave nothing on plate (5, 2 words)
The two-letter abbreviation of ‘each’ is followed by a three-letter word for a ram – since Chambers gives ‘mutton’ as a ‘jocular’ term for a sheep, this seems acceptable.

34a Blue dye that’s appropriate, as it’s said, for such bags (4)
Azed uses homophones sparingly, although not quite as sparingly as I. Here the soundalike (“as it’s said”) is for ‘saxe’ (‘blue dye’), with the clue referring to the sort of bag in which a squid might secrete its ink. The mention of cephalopod ink always takes me back to Mr ‘Billy’ Buttle’s Latin classes: if a pupil’s fountain pen stopped working, an initial plaintive exclamation of “Sir, my pen’s run out” would inevitably be met with “Well, run after it then”, while “Can I fill my pen, sir?” would receive the counter “I don’t know, but you may try.” A student who managed to navigate around these traps would be invited to fill up from Mr Buttle’s bottle of ‘soot and cuttlefish blood’ in return for a small contribution to charity.

1d I’ll leave ladies, maybe leading a Neapolitan folk dance (8)
A clue with Azed written all over it: a four-letter slang word for a lavatory (‘ladies, maybe’) from which the I has been removed (“I’ll leave”), followed by the letter A and a four-letter word that could be applied to the sort of Neapolitan that I used to ask Santa for (in the plural) at Christmas. I was devastated when Terry’s Neapolitans were discontinued at the time of the closure of their York factory in 2005, although the recent discovery of Storck Merci mini chocolate bars has gone some way towards repairing the damage.

3d Chestnut’s second in race by missing hedge (6)
A charade of the second letter of ‘chestnut’ (“chestnut’s second”), the letters IN (from the clue), and the five-letter name commonly applied to England’s foremost flat race, from which the letters BY have been removed (‘by missing’).

5d What’s guy whacked hard with end of baton? (7)
This &lit (all-in-one) clue involves a two-letter word for a ‘guy’, an anagram (‘whacked’) of HARD, and the last letter (‘end’) of ‘baton’, the result being a percussion instrument played either with the bare hand or with a turned piece of wood.

6d Prop over-stretching in twice getting dropped (5)
A nine-letter word describing the sort of  overstretching that muscles or ligaments might be subjected to (the p-word not the t-word) has two instances of the letters IN removed (‘in twice getting dropped’); the prop is the sort that might be found in a mine. It appears that “spraining one’s ankle” was at one time a euphemism for being seduced and becoming pregnant, which must have been a boon for 18th century sitcom writers.

12d One just before stroke given a bone (4)
The ‘one just before stroke’ is a cunning way of describing a particular occupant of a rowing boat, one who is here ‘given’ (followed by) the letter A to produce the name of a bone found in the human body.

17d Canons, Catholic, preceding liturgy with soaring tune (8)
The usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘Catholic’, a four-letter word describing a liturgy, and a three-letter word for a tune which has been reversed (‘soaring’) combine to produce a word for ‘canons’ in the sense of ‘standards’.

20d Almost everything filling floor or window display (7)
A three-letter word for ‘everything’ with the last letter missing (‘almost’) is placed inside (‘filling’) a five-letter word for a storey of a building taken directly from the French.

21d Endless outrage coming up about ‘dry’ functions (7)
A five-letter word for ‘outrage’ (sometimes associated with ‘awe’ in order to describe a military strategy) has its last letter removed (‘endless’) and is reversed (‘coming up’) around a word for ‘dry’ usually applied to wines. The ‘functions’ (or an abbreviation thereof) that result are the sort that were to be found in my copy of Frank Castle’s Logarithmic and Other Tables for Schools, not in the well-thumbed early pages of the book, rather in the rarely-visited sections towards the end (I don’t remember ever looking up a hyperbolic cosecant, but perhaps I’ve just put the occasion from my mind).

22d Dam in Germany gives this menacing rumble (6)
Yep, Azed had me going here – I hope I wasn’t the only one! Since my European geography isn’t up to much, I was confidently expecting that the solution was the name of an embankment somewhere in the Ruhr Valley. But it’s not that kind of dam at all…

23d Commander writing about moving up artillery cannons (6)
A two-letter abbreviation for Commanding Officer (‘Commander’) and a two-letter abbreviation frequently found in Azed puzzles for ‘writing’ (specifically done by hand) are placed around (‘about’) another two-letter abbreviation, this time for the (Royal) Artillery, which has been reversed (‘moving up’). The ‘cannons’ are of the type played in cue sports – I was introduced to the term a number of years ago by the excellent Jim Wych in his commentaries on 9-ball pool.

26d Coke imbibed in alcoholic tipple yielding kick? (5)
The single-letter abbreviation for cocaine (‘coke’) is contained by (‘imbibed in’) a four-letter word for an alcoholic tipple that comes in two principal colourways, producing an obsolete term (indicated only by the question mark) for a kick.

29d Choice hunks of pork? One bit of each thereof (4)
The first letters (‘one bit of each’) of the first four words of the clue, with the ‘one bit of each thereof’ in the surface reading intended to show that the solution is a single ‘choice hunk of pork’, but it didn’t work for me.

(definitions are underlined)

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