Notes for Azed 2,588

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.

While I – of course – believe that the views presented are valid, I realize that (i) I am not infallible, and (ii) in the world of the crossword there are many areas where opinions will differ. I say what I think, but I don’t intend thereby to stifle discussion – I would encourage readers who disagree with the views that I express, whether in the blog posts or in response to comments, to make their feelings known…I shall not be offended!

Azed 2,588 Plain

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

I’d put this puzzle right in the middle of the difficulty spectrum – no particularly difficult clues, but not too many easy ones either. More than one clue for an obscure solution also involved an obscurity in the wordplay, and several wordplays required careful untangling. A couple of definitions struck me as questionable, and I have turned the spotlight on them below.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 2d, “Like a crystal Archibald’s sculpted – not bad (6)”. A subtractive anagram, where the solution is obtained by rearranging the letters of ARCHIBALD without BAD (I remember enough from my Chemistry degree to know that not all crystals are chiral, but we’ll let that pass). The point of interest here is that the letters BAD are not consecutive in ARCHIBALD – is that a problem? Not in my view – both the raw anagram material (ARCHIBALD) and the element to be removed (BAD) are in plain view in the clue, and any solver who really didn’t want to remove non-consecutive letters could rearrange ARCHIBALD to produce CHIRALBAD (“Archibald’s sculpted”) and then remove the BAD (‘not bad). If the last part of the clue had read “not unskilful”, requiring a synonym of ‘unskilful’, ie BAD, to be removed, I think that would be a bridge too far. In this latter situation, the letters removed must be consecutive in the raw material, as in say “Piece of furniture Archibald assembled – not simple” for CHAIR ((ARCHIBALD – BALD)*).

13a When imbibing I desist from vintage Scotch perhaps (7)
The wordplay involves a two-letter word meaning ‘when’ containing (‘imbibing’) I (from the clue) and an obsolete (‘vintage’) word meaning ‘to desist from’ (Chambers shows it as Spenserian, but it pre-dated him by several hundred years). The spelling here of the solution (a Scots word for ‘perhaps’) is that favoured by Burns, but there are several alternatives, including the rather charming ‘yibbles’.

15a Old woman in truth abandoning husband (4)
A ‘formal or archaic’ (according to Chambers) interjection meaning ‘in truth’ (although I suspect that the ‘formal’ aspect applies only to the noun and not the interjection) missing (‘abandoning’) the usual abbreviation for ‘husband’. I would have preferred to see ‘Old crone’ rather than ‘Old woman’ as the definition – the word, which means ‘old woman’ or ‘crone’,  is itself obsolete, and therefore ‘Old’ on its own is somewhat overworked.

16a Garrison commander a month after defeat (8)
The name of the twelfth month in the ecclesiastical year of the Jewish calendar follows a four-letter verb meaning ‘to defeat’ in a pretty final sort of way.

19a Part of chair back was in place at fringes of town library? (5)
A three-letter word meaning ‘was in place’ is put around (‘at fringes of’) the two-letter abbreviation for ‘public library’. In line with the views I expressed last week regarding indirect indications of abbreviations, I’m not entirely happy with ‘town library?’ here.

23a Treasury chap I found in heart of in-tray, looking back (5)
A three-letter word for ‘I’ is contained by the central letters (‘heart’) of IN-TRAY, the whole lot being reversed (‘looking back’). The solution is the last name of the British physician, natural scientist and lexicographer known to all crossword solvers for his magnum opus, first published in 1852, which has been regularly expanded and reprinted and which appeared in an abridged form as his Treasury of Words.

25a Eggs arranged and put in grades as before (8)
An anagram (‘arranged’) of AND is put inside an obsolete (‘as before’) word for ‘degrees’ or ‘ranks’; the ‘Eggs’ in the definition refers to bombs, although I’m not sure they are quite the same sort as the ones that constitute the solution.

29a Passionate person once displaying energy in pursuit of fabulous bird (4)
The usual abbreviation for ‘energy’ appears here following (‘in pursuit of’) a “fabulous bird (by Europeans commonly called the phœnix), one of the symbols of the imperial dignity in China.” Someone who was in the grip of irritation or anger would be described as being ‘in a ****’, and the word was consequently used as a noun, describing someone apt to get into such a state.

32a Drive former president out of party? (4)
The middle name of the 32nd President of the United States has the usual crossword term for a party (in the usual Boris Johnson sense) removed from its fringes (‘out of party’).

3d Island fast revealing hostility to poet (9)
A five-letter island (a recipient of the George Cross) and a four-letter word often deceptively indicated in clues by ‘fast’ combine to produce a word for ill-will or malevolence used by (among others) Edmund Spenser (‘hostility to poet’).

6d Scots miserly – about right? Love it (6)
Going ‘about right’ (ie around the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘right’) are a three-letter word for ‘love’ (in the Novak Djokovic sense) and the letters IT (from the clue). I can find no evidence to suggest that the definition here is correct – Chambers shows this word (rather than the similar word ending in E) as meaning ‘stunted’ or ‘pinched with cold’, it’s not in OED, and I can’t find any support in the Scots dictionaries available online.

Additional note: the comment from Ray Jennings (below) prompted me to look at the entries for NIRL in both the electronic and paper versions of Chambers. I use the electronic version when solving, and in there the subheads for ‘nirled/nirlit’ and ‘nirly/nirlie’ are clearly separate; in the paper editions a tiny full stop is the only thing that divides them I can quite see why Azed thought that the meanings given for ‘nirly/nirlie’ were also applicable to ‘nirled/nirlit’.

7d Highlander set about opening of area (4)
A three-letter verb meaning ‘[to] set’ containing (‘about’) the first letter (‘opening’) of ‘area’, but the definition here is very much by example – such a person could (according to Chambers) come from Ireland or the Isle of Man, so there needs to be a ‘maybe’ or similar in there.

8d How drought affects region, always restricting clear lake (6)
A horrible word to define, formed by a two-letter word for ‘always’ containing (‘restricting’) a three-letter word meaning ‘[to] clear’ and the usual abbreviation for ‘lake’; I think it is only ever used to describe a manner of speaking, as in this example from Hardy’s The Dynasts:

Were I as coarse a wife
As I am limned in English caricature—
[Those cruel effigies they draw of me!]—
You could not speak more aridly.

9d What raja may accompany, always full of energy? Reverse of that (4)
That word for ‘always’ that appeared in the previous clue pops up again, this time containing (‘full of’) a two-letter word for ‘energy’ or ‘pep’, the whole lot being reversed (‘Reverse of that’) to produce the name applied to various systems of physical and/or mental discipline, of which ‘raja’ is one form.

18d Last bit of lunch left for pet (3)
The final letter (‘Last bit of’) ‘lunch’ is followed by…well, somehow we have to get ON from ‘left’ or ‘left for’, but I can’t see it myself. Chambers gives ‘with respect to’ as a meaning of both ‘for’ and ‘on’, but even if we accept this rather tenuous synonymity the issue of that ‘left’ remains. Could H be ‘[the] last bit of lunch left’? I don’t think so – the solver would have to infer “…when the first four letters have been deleted”, which is asking too much. All suggestions will be welcomed.

21d Fall on bottom, end of cord coming away (6)
A three-letter word for ‘bottom’ (such as a river has), followed by a four-letter word for ‘cord’ with the last letter removed (‘end…coming away’). The grammar of the second part of the wordplay is questionable – I would prefer the cord to be the subject, as in say “cord lacking end’ – but the definition of the solution is impeccable, ‘fall’ on its own being inadequate.

27d Old but scent-free, growing white (4)
A nine-letter word meaning ‘growing white’ has the letters SCENT removed (‘scent-free’), to produce an archaic (hence the ‘Old’) conjunction. The solution is a contracted form of the phrase ‘All though it be that’, invariably seen nowadays spelt with six letters but in the past sometimes further abridged by the removal of the pronoun. However, I don’t think that ‘but’ is accurate – I realize that ‘although’ is uncomfortably closely related to the solution, but it would surely be better.

(definitions are underlined)

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12 Responses

  1. Much Puzzled says:

    11A – If it is permissible to decode “road” as a “B”, as in ‘B-road’, then this clue parses very well to give the solution “OBSCURE” (defined as “not bright”)!
    Fortunately I had already solved 1A by then, and realised that my original interpretation had to be incorrect due to the possibility of 6D & 7D being even more obscure!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      I like it! The wordplay for OBSCURE even has the comma between ‘about road’ and ‘mistaken course’ necessary (in my view) to avoid Yodaspeak. Yes, ‘road’ is a little loose for ‘B’, but I’ve seen worse.

      I can see that the combination of OBSCURE and the correct answer for 1A would have led to some serious head-scratching regarding the crossing entries 🙂

  2. Michael T says:

    While I understand how you have parsed 32a, I still have some difficulty with the cluing. The clue calls for a ‘former president’ as the starting word, and I thought the usual convention when a title in a clue is intended to identify a specific person who held that title is that the result should be the person’s surname, unless additional wording in the clue indicates that a given name, or a nickname, or (as in this case) a middle name is what was intended. Thoughts?
    I also don’t particularly like the ‘out of’ as an indicator for removing the outer letters of the starting word, While it makes grammatical sense in the clue wordplay, I would have expected that ‘out of’ indicates removing letters from within the starting word — i.e., taking ‘DELANO’ out of a word for party to result in a word for ‘DRIVE.’ Thoughts?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Michael

      I share your misgivings on both counts. I don’t think that Azed would feel constrained by a precise convention, and he is likely to allow himself more latitude with former presidents (44 in total, assuming they are US presidents) than with, say, poets. I remember him using ‘troubled cricketer’ a few years ago to indicate KP. That said, while I think IKE or FDR would be perfectly acceptable, DELANO seems odd. Similarly, I’m not at all keen on the way that the removal of DELANO’s outer letters is indicated; as you say, the instruction here seems misleading. Incidentally, there are very few constructions that accurately indicate such an operation – for instance, even ‘Delano released from party’ doesn’t truly indicate DELANO without the DO at its fringes, because DELANO is never contained by DO (the latter is simply part of the former) and therefore can’t be released from it; an active verb form is usually preferable, eg “Former president shrugging off party’s impetuosity” for ELAN.

      The entry must be ELAN, so is there an alternative parsing? Well, I can’t see that Grover CLEVELAND helps us, but as with 18d I’m open to suggestions… One could of course simply echo Eleanor’s sentiments, “Franklin, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

  3. Ray Jennings says:

    Re AZED2588, Clue 6D. My 2011 Chambers has an entry for NIRL which includes the adjective NIRLIT, defined as niggardly.


    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Ray, and welcome

      Thanks for that. Looking at the entry for NIRL in the printed version of Chambers, I think I understand the confusion. It reads along these lines:

      nirl (Scot) a lump; a crumb; a stunted person vt to stunt; to shrink or shrivel; to pinch with cold.
      nirled or nirlit adj. nirly or nirlie adj knotty; stumpy; stunted; niggardly.

      The full stop after the part of speech label for ‘nirled or nirlit‘ is significant; this indicates the end of the subhead entry, and there is no definition given for these words, their meaning being ‘readily deducible’ (see section 6, ‘Subheads’, in Using the dictionary) as participial adjectives of the verb ‘nirl’. The subhead entry for ‘nirly or nirlie‘ does include four definitions.

      Listing the entries in this way saves paper, but the electronic versions of Chambers make things much clearer, with ‘nirled or nirlit‘ clearly separated from ‘nirly or nirlie‘. The Chambers entry for a familiar word such as ‘sop’ highlights the scope for misreading – ‘sopping‘ and ‘soppy‘ appear as consecutive subheads, but the meanings listed (‘drenched; thoroughly wet; sloppily sentimental’) apply only to the latter, the meanings of ‘soppily’, ‘soppiness’ and ‘sopping’ being readily deducible from the definition of the verb. Again, the electronic versions of the dictionary clearly separate ‘soppy‘ from the other derivatives. I can quite see how Azed was misled.

      • Ray Jennings says:

        I agree entirely. As presented in my Chambers, it would appear there are adjectives. And then there are adjectives! Take your pick?

  4. Tim Coates says:

    I started trying to fit “hen” into 18 down as it would fit the definition, but “en” was more difficult than “on” to justify as left or left for. I ended up with a similar idea to John in thinking of the on side at cricket, although that’s only true for a right handed batter. The only other thought I had was expanding lunch to luncheon, but then you have an extra e to explain away. I ended up not finding anything satisfactory and I’m glad I’m not alone.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      I rarely if ever reject luncheon, but on this occasion I did so rapidly. Azed is pretty well up on cricket, so I wouldn’t expect him to think that the onside was the left side, but it’s conceivable that ‘leg’ (definitely ok for ‘on’) turned into ‘left’ – perhaps the most likely explanation?

  5. Doctor Clue says:

    Thanks John, and similar wishes to you.

    The possibility that you mention is another that I considered, and I do wonder if it is what Azed had in mind. However, I think that in relation to a horse, road or vehicle, ‘off’ is fine for ‘right’ and ‘near’ for ‘left’, both confirmed by Chambers, but if my car failed its MOT due to the state of its ‘OSF tyre’, I’d definitely be getting the front right one changed. OED confirms that the near/off thing started with horses, which apparently are (or were) “commonly mounted, led, or approached, from the left side, which is consequently the one near to the person dealing with them”. Hence the ‘near’ side is the closer side and the ‘off’ side the more distant one.

  6. John Atkinson says:

    For 18d, the best I could come up with is the on- and off-side of a car, which works where people drive on the left. I’m still not happy with 13, and wasted far too much time ignoring the sausage plural at 12!

    Belated best wishes for the new year. J.