Notes for Azed 2,583

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 2,583 Plain

Difficulty rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5)

As we prepare ourselves for next Sunday’s Christmas Special, we are faced with a plain puzzle that includes eleven anagrams or partial anagrams. These, together with the absence of any particularly tough clues, seemed to place it somewhere below average difficulty.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 3d, “Bird shedding top (i.e. with no hint of chagrin) in Edinburgh joint” (5). This involves CHOUGH (the bird) losing its first letter (‘shedding top’) to produce a word for a joint that, whilst not exclusively seen north of the border, was a favourite of Sir Walter and is therefore undoubtedly Scott-ish. The point of interest in this clue is the bit in parentheses, ‘i.e. with no hint of chagrin’. The ‘hint’ of chagrin is the first letter of the word, so Azed is telling us that it is the letter C which must be removed from CHOUGH. This is true, but we already know which letter has got to go, so this clarification is unnecessary and would be rejected by most crossword editors, the emphasis these days being placed on conciseness, with extra stuff like this being seen as unnecessarily confusing to the solver.  Either ‘Bird shedding top in Edinburgh joint’ or ‘Bird needing minimum of clothing in Edinburgh joint’ would be fine. The bracketed enhancements to 7a and 31a also fall into the same category and could equally have been omitted without any adverse impact on the clues.

2a X and what follows Y – a swindle (4)
The antepenultimate letter of the Greek alphabet, the capital form of which is X, plus the letter of the Roman alphabet which follows Y. The solution will be familiar to readers of the Jennings books written by Anthony Buckeridge, or at least to readers of the versions which have not been ‘brought up to date’ by replacing Buckeridge’s largely invented (and therefore timeless) slang with modern (and therefore rapidly obsolete) equivalents.

It was now four days since Mrs. Cherry had left, and for the fourth day in succession the menu for tea had consisted of corned beef and half-baked potatoes.

“Oh, no! Not again!” groaned Atkinson as the boys went into the dining hall for the evening meal.

“Mouldy chizz, mouldy potatoes,” moaned Bromwich. “If this goes on much longer I shall soon start looking like a baked potato.”

“Nothing new about that. You’ve reminded me of one for years,” said Temple. He picked up the jacketed potato from his plate, squeezed it and shook his head sadly. “Bullet-proof!” was his verdict.

Incidentally, I do permit myself a smile when I see discussion of the correct pronunciation of the Greek letters used to distinguish the variant forms of COVID-19. Since very few recordings survive of ancient Greeks reciting their alphabet, frankly your guess is as good as mine. I went through several years at school in the comfortable certainty that the Romans pronounced the O in ‘amo’ like the O in ‘go’ and the GN in ‘magnus’ like the GN in ‘signal’, only for a new Latin master to arrive fresh from Cambridge pronouncing the O in ‘amo’ like the ‘ore’ in ‘sore’ and the GN in ‘magnus’ like the ‘ny’ in ‘canyon’. A very good reason to go to Oxford, IMHO.

7a Old copper collection (of pans say) – it’s well worth having (5)
A two-letter word for an ‘old copper [coin]’ and a three-letter word for a collection (which could be of pans, but could also consist of many other things such as spoons or spanners) combine to produce something that by definition is worth having.

12a Keeper dismissing No. 3 for a duck – Aussie’s hard projectile (6)
The ‘keeper’ here would be found not behind the stumps but on, say, a football pitch; their third letter is discarded (‘dismissing No. 3’) in favour of (‘for’) the character representing a duck in the cricketing sense.

13a Cicero? He comes to prominence after Caesar’s end (6)
Following the last letter of ‘Caesar’ (“after Caesar’s end”) we have HE (from the clue) and a three-letter word for a prominence. The term that results could certainly be applied to Cicero.

15a French artist recalled (no date), one of seven historically (4)
The five-letter surname of a French artist famed for his paintings of ballerinas is reversed (‘recalled’) and has the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘date’ removed (‘no date’) to produce an epithet that could be applied to any one of Solon of Athens, Thales of Miletus, Pittacus of Mitylene, Bias of Priene in Caria, Chilon of Sparta, Cleobulus tyrant of Lindus in Rhodes, and Periander tyrant of Corinth – take your pick!

27a Show passion getting in variety of seed potato (7)
A three-letter word for passion (in the sense of anger) contained by (‘getting in’) an anagram (‘variety’) of SEED produces the name of a potato originally developed in the Netherland in 1962. With red skin and waxy, pale yellow flesh, they are good for mashing, roasting and baking. Though not all at once.

30a Health food with alcoholic additive died away (4)
An eight-letter word meaning ‘with [an] alcoholic additive’ (a specific one) has the letters DIED removed (‘died away’).

31a Record once achieved by two girls (nothing between them) (8)
Two four-letter female forenames (try saying that after a few alcoholic additives), the second a diminutive form of ‘Elizabeth’, combine to produce the solution, the obsoleteness of which is indicated by ‘once’. The ‘nothing between them’ simply indicates that one name directly follows the other, but although it perhaps enhances the surface reading I think it should have been left out.

4d Italy’s pre-eminent spot for pasta (4)
The ‘pre-eminent’ here is used to indicate that the IVR code for Italy has a three-letter word for [a] spot above it – above, superior, pre-eminent…well, yes, I see where Azed is coming from but it seems a bit of a stretch.

5d Shield protecting centre of pectorals in S. European sport (6)
A five-letter word for a light shield carried by Greek peltasts is placed around (‘protecting’) the middle letter (‘centre’) of ‘pectorals’, the result being a sport of Basque origin.

8d What’s specially threaded puts sailors on course? (8)
The wordplay here leads to a (4,4) phrase, the first word of which can mean (among many other things) ‘puts on a course’ and the second describes a ship’s company. As correspondent Tim points out below, there is nothing special about the thread of the item in question, rather it is marked out from its brethren by its head. I’m afraid that Azed’s definition gets no support from Chambers or OED either, so it’s a nailed-on error that could have done with fixing…

10d Base of heraldic border moved to top for old peer (4)
A four-letter heraldic term for a border close to the edge of a shield has its last letter (‘base’) moved to the top, producing an obsolete form of a familiar word for a British nobleman.

19d Eastern mine without alteration leads to catastrophe (8)
A charade of the usual abbreviation for ‘Eastern’, a three-letter word for a mine (in particular a coalmine), and a (2,2) expression meaning ‘without alteration’.

24d Very small score with No. 2 changing direction completely? (6)
The compass direction represented by the second letter (‘No. 2’ ) of a word for [a] score is replaced by the corresponding abbreviation for the opposite direction (‘changing direction completely’).

26d Abrupt snob cutting in (5)
Understanding the wordplay here requires the solver to know that ‘snob’ is an old informal term for a cobbler, a seven-letter word for which (being also the name of their patron saint) is deprived of the letters IN (‘cutting in’). The ‘shoemaker’ meaning of ‘snob’ seemingly predates its other senses; it appears that its usage was extended to include tradespeople generally and developed thence to describe someone from the ordinary classes before it came to describe a person who “meanly or vulgarly admires and seeks to imitate, or associate with, those of superior rank or wealth.”

28d Waterway fully feeding West Bank city? (4)
‘Fully feeding West Bank city’ is Azed’s way of saying that the solution forms the name of a West Bank city apart from the first and last letters. I would have preferred something along the lines of ‘West Bank city cutting skirts waterway’.

(definitions are underlined)

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4 Responses

  1. 🍊 says:

    Echoing Tim with thanks for the snobby cobbler (other flavours are available), but my word of the week has to be 14A – if you’ve read ‘Men at Arms’ by Terry Pratchett, you might’ve laughed aloud as I did.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      I’m afraid that although a colleague at work did lend me two Terry Pratchett novels about 20 years ago, I haven’t read them…and I’ve still got them (oops!)

      The word immediately brings PG Wodehouse to my mind – I think he coined it, along with a few others like ‘whiffled’ and ‘snooter’. In The Code of the Woosters, when Bertie rejects his suggestion of a ‘highly educational’ Round-The-World cruise, indicating that he became ‘full up’ with education years ago, Jeeves responds with an icy “Very good, sir.” As Bertie describes it, “He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled, so I tactfully changed the subject.”

  2. Tim Coates says:

    As an ex-engineer, I wouldn’t have described 8 down as specially threaded (and I can’t see support in Chanbers for that unless I’ve missed it). What distinguishes it from other screws is the head which doesn’t have a shoulder. Specially headed maybe but that doesn’t really work in terms of a good definition.
    Thanks for the explanation of 26 down which taught me a new word for a cobbler and a new definition for snob.
    The Jennings reference made me go and look at my childhood books. I still have one of them.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Thanks, Tim. As Jennings would say, Azed has bished it up (albeit perhaps not lobsterously). Notes updated accordingly.