Notes for Azed 2,591

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 2,591 ‘Carte Blanche’

Difficulty rating: 5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

This puzzle is, in the words of Adam Ant, ‘nothing to be scared of’ (I was never sure whether it was ‘ridicule’ or ‘Liverpool’ that he was actually talking about, but having recently watched The Responder I think it must have been the former). But it’s significantly tougher than a standard plain puzzle because that’s what it is,  but without bars, numbering or enumerations! And based on feedback here and on the help forums, I think that the increase in difficulty is more pronounced for non-setters than for setters – hence I’ve moved the dial on the ‘toughometer’ up a bit. There are a couple of things to note when solving it. Firstly, the 180-degree rotational symmetry (seen in all Azed puzzles) means that the lengths of the across solutions in clue order are symmetrical, ie if the solution to the first across clue is four letters, the answer to the last across clue will also be four letters, and so on. Secondly, the unching in the puzzle is in line with Azed’s normal standards, so four and five letter entries will have exactly one unchecked letter while six, seven and eight letters entries will have either one or two unchecked letters. This means, for instance, that a four letter entry on the top row must have exactly three down solutions hanging off it, whilst a five letter entry in the same position would have exactly four.

The only way to deal with a Carte Blanche like this is to blind-solve several clues, ideally among the first six across and ten down clues (or thereabouts), and then to start slotting the solutions together. Remember that as soon as you solve an across clue, you can put a length against its symmetrical partner, so solving the last few across clues offers extra benefit. Once you have a foothold, things become a great deal simpler. After the usual notes on some of the trickier or more interesting clues, I have included a checklist of the answer lengths. Following that I have provided (as hidden spoilers) the layout of the first row and the solutions to the first two across clues for the benefit of anyone who is really struggling to get started.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at the clue “Delicate sponge cake – it receives new adornment on wedding day (2 words)”. The interesting feature of this clue is that the solution includes an apostrophe, which raises the question of whether this should be indicated in the enumeration of the clue, eg (2 words, apostrophe). It is a point on which there is no general agreement, and I must admit that for this reason I try in my own puzzles to avoid solutions which contain apostrophes (I can’t recall ever including one), but I am of the view that there is no need to indicate them. It seems to me that the worst thing for the solver is to be unsure as to whether a possible solution matches the enumeration – better, surely, to have a standard for all barred puzzles that solutions consisting of multiple words with spaces between them are indicated as ‘(n words)’ and everything else – hyphens, apostrophes, diacritical marks – is ignored.


Rod, worthless, catching exhausted fish for supper?
A three-letter synonym for ‘rod’ is followed by a four-letter biblical word for ‘worthless’ (no stranger to Azed puzzles) containing a three-letter word for ‘exhausted’ in the sense of ‘finished’ or ‘used up’. If you are puzzled by the ‘for supper’ in the definition, Azed has included it to indicate that the fish in question is described by Chambers as ‘edible’, unlike another denizen of the deep with a similar spelling.

Waitress serving drink, a chatterer
A three-letter word for a (small) drink and a three-letter word for a chattering bird combine to produce the name given to a waitress working in a Lyons’ tea shop. Up until 1924, a waitress working in one of J. Lyons’ tea shops was known as a ‘Gladys’. When the management decided that a general image update was required, they launched a competition among their staff to come up with a new name. Suggestions such as ‘Sybil-at-your-service’, ‘Miss Nimble’, ‘Miss Natty’, ‘Busy Bertha’, ’Speedwell and ‘Dextrous Dora’ were mysteriously overlooked in favour of the solution here, although it was spelt with five letters rather than six (I don’t know where the alternative spelling in Chambers comes from). The ban on bobbed hair was lifted, and a new uniform was introduced, featuring a starched cap with a big, red ‘L’ embroidered in the centre, a black Alpaca dress with a double row of pearl buttons sewn with red cotton and white detachable cuffs and collar, finished off with a white square apron. They made their bow on New Year’s Day in 1925, and by 1939 there were 7,600 of them;  the name quickly became associated with waitresses in general. Changes after the war meant that the days of were numbered, with the tea shops targeting a rather different audience and moving over to cafeteria service. Towards the end of the century, Lyons invited former waitresses to write to the company with their memories of working in their iconic restaurants, and these letters are held in the London Metropolitan Archives.

Drunk falls over in place of bishop, bristling?
A reversal (‘falls over’) of the usual crossword term for a drunk inside the three-letter word describing the ‘place of [a] bishop’.

‘Peaceful’ girl, not drinking, with fan round what encloses tennis court?
A five-letter girl’s name derived from the Greek word for ‘peace’ and the standard two-letter abbreviation meaning ‘not drinking’ are enclosed by (‘with…round’) a four-letter word for a fan, or the vane of a fan.

Take your medicine, one short in sherry glass
A six-letter word for a sherry glass has a single-letter word for one removed (‘one short’) to produce a (3,2) expression meaning ‘to suffer a punishment’.

Season for Horace? His first is holding the writer back
The first letter of ‘Horace’ (‘His first’) is followed by the letters IS (from the clue) containing a two-letter word for ‘the writer’ reversed (‘back’), the solution being the Latin name for a season which features as a headword in Chambers by dint of also appearing in the works of Shakespeare.

After start of election party man delivered speech with more detail
Following the first letter of ‘election’ we have a three-letter abbreviation for a particular political party and a six-letter word for ‘delivered [a] speech’. The ‘man’ seems superfluous as far as the wordplay is concerned.


Burns I get treated: this saline solution and guts maybe
A composite anagram of the most friendly kind. The letters of BURNS I GET when rearranged (‘treated’) can produce (‘maybe’) the solution (‘this saline solution’, no pun intended) and GUTS.

Ring mount including bit of erbium? It only looks like gold
A single-character representing a ring is followed by a four-letter word for [a] mount (in the equestrian sense) containing (‘including’) the first letter (‘bit’) of ‘erbium’.

Art having the ability to show consent in what’s felt?
I’ve obviously done too many crosswords, because when I see ‘Art’ at the beginning of a clue I immediately assume that the solution is going to end in ‘-est’ (‘Art master’ = ‘teachest’), and on this occasion I was right. The archaic phrasing of the definition mirrors the archaic nature of the solution, while the wordplay involves a three-letter word for ‘consent’ (or an affirmative answer) being put inside a three-letter synonym for ‘[to] felt’, ie to become tangled. At first I thought that ‘Art having the ability to’ was the definition, which seems to fit the solution, but that won’t work – the first element from the wordplay is not a verb, so must be simply ‘consent’, while if ‘show’ alone were there to link the definition and the wordplay it would have to be ‘shows’. The linking words must therefore be ‘to show’, and the definition is as indicated by the underlining above. This doesn’t entirely convince, but I suppose that any auxiliary verb can be used with an implied infinitive – “Can you see the sea? I can”.

Painter, silly, accepting closure of atelier
A four-letter word for a ‘silly’ (the sort who might also have a hairless head)  containing (‘accepting’)  the last letter(‘closure’) of ‘atelier’ gives us the surname of a French landscape painter of the nineteenth century, whose works generally majored on mood and atmosphere, often at the expense of topographical detail. That information comes from the web since, although in general I’m reluctant to reveal my ignorance, I have to admit that I had never heard of him.

Riders regularly cover these warm trousers?
The wordplay leads to a (3,5) phrase suggesting the type of trousers which would almost certainly be warm and would definitely not be short. The definition is of the oblique sort, the ‘these’ being particularly relevant to horse races, where they would usually be covered in less than 15 seconds.

Period of a festival as in Rome and since
I was prompted by Much Puzzled’s comment (below) to look more closely at this clue, which I had solved and rather rapidly moved on. The wordplay consists of a two-letter Latin word meaning ‘as’, seen in English only in phrases such as ‘xx supra’ and ‘xx infra’, together with a two-letter word meaning ‘since’ or ‘because’, which itself appears earlier in the clue. The solution is classified by Chambers as ‘obsolete’, so has Azed simply chosen not to indicate this or is this what Ximenes termed an ‘offshoot &lit’, where the whole clue serves as the definition while part of it functions as the wordplay? But the solution is not a Latin word, rather a reduced form of the plural ‘utaves’, a variant of ‘octaves’. Originally it was the name given to the eighth day after a festival, but subsequently in a transferred sense it came to mean the period of a festival itself. This word originates from the Middle Ages while the latter usage dates from the Elizabethan period, so ‘as in Rome’ cannot be part of the definition.

Part of hammer getting under pitfall of e.g. basalt
One spelling of the  four-letter word for the thin or sharp end of a hammer-head opposite the face is preceded by (‘under’) a four-letter word for a pitfall.

Sang like a pigeon, holding note
A six-letter word (sometimes hyphenated 2-4) which could describe the feet of a pigeon contains the usual single-character abbreviation for ‘note’.

I’m swallowed by bot that’s done for?
An &lit which Azed has made as straightforward as possible, IM (from the clue) being ‘swallowed’ by an anagram (“that’s done for”) of BOT. The second (and last) of the definitions in Chambers is the relevant one.

Judge, as before, Spielberg’s achievement in cinema
The two-letter name of a Spielberg film is contained by a three-letter term exemplified by cinema. The ‘as before’ indicates that the solution is obsolete.

(definitions are underlined)


Answer lengths

Across: The clue beginning with ‘Mountain’ (4); A crowd’s (4); Rod (10); Waitress (6); Foreign (5); Member (7); Composer (5); Drunk (6); Peaceful (4,7); Delicate (5,6); See (6); Take (3,2); Dotty (7); Season (5); Study (6); After (10); Bit (4); Early (4).

Down: Charges (4,8); Pomade (4,3), Ribbon (7); Burns (5); Ring (6); Art (6); Painter (5); Riders (8); Period (4); Bacteria (12); Part (8); Sang (7); Welshman (7); Box (6); River (6); I’m (5); Judge (5); Concerning (4).


First row

Please expand the items below to reveal the layout of the first row and the solutions to the first two across clues.

Layout of first row
A four-letter entry with the third letter unchecked, a four-letter entry with the last letter unchecked, and then four unchecked letters
Solution to first across clue
GHAT [competition clue word]
Solution to second across clue


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6 Responses

  1. 🍊 says:

    Many thanks for the word lengths; it’s not until they’re missing that I realise how very much I rely on them!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      You’re welcome! Yes, starting off with no checkers and no word lengths is a tad daunting. And unless one happens to know the answer (which I for one didn’t), having the competition clue word as the first across entry doesn’t make things any easier. Thankfully after a while a normal crossword does at least emerge 🙂

  2. Much Puzzled says:

    Regarding 1D) – I originally made a very different interpretation of this clue to reach an alternative solution which seems more apt.
    I regarded “Changes in playground allegiance” to be the definition part, and the “forming current links?” to be a piece of jocular wordplay. Thinking of “playground” as a sports pitch, I came up with the idea of supporters changing their stripe to give a solution of “Switches Gear” which would give the nod to the Chambers listed compound of “switch’gear” – which is indeed something that forms current links. One’s head goes into strange places wrestling with these puzzles.

  3. Doctor Clue says:

    Thanks, MP

    Based on your feedback I have upped the difficulty rating by a notch. It’s hard in this type of puzzle to select the clues for comment, and I must admit that on another day I might have chosen differently.

    Regarding your questions:

    i) This is a three-letter abbreviation that effectively means ‘see next page’ (although it involves the initial letters of three different words) contained (‘penned’) by a transitive verb which based on its entry in C can just about mean ‘counsel’ in the ‘give advice to’ sense. Just about.

    ii) This is a messy one! The definition is ‘Period of a festival’ and the wordplay involves a two-letter Latin word for ‘as’ (usually seen followed by ‘infra’ or ‘supra’) and a two-letter word for ‘since’ (in the ‘because’ sense) which has appeared earlier in the clue. C gives the solution as ‘obsolete’, but this is not indicated in the clue.

    iii) The first two words constitute the wordplay – a four-letter word for ‘[to] box’ and a two-letter crossword staple for ‘on’. The solution (a bar or rail) is shown in C as both ‘chiefly Scot’ and ‘archaic’, hence the ‘traditional Glaswegian’.

    Hope that helps

    • Much Puzzled says:

      Many thanks for this – the mists have now cleared such that these solutions all seem so embarrassingly straightforward once demystified.

  4. Much Puzzled says:

    Phew! This is considerably more difficult than you’ve assumed. I had never heard of the ‘river’ mentioned here, let alone the ‘part of hammer’ and the biblical reference for “worthless”. The layout of the puzzle is also somewhat unusual, but was glad I sorted the first line format before peeking at your hints.
    Interesting how you have highlighted the longer solutions as I find these tend to be the more straightforward ones. Your reinforcement of AZED’s misdirection using the word ‘cover’ about the ‘warm trousers’ also caused further head scratching.
    I am down to 3 difficulties
    i) “See next page counsel’s penned” – I have the solution but cannot decode this wordplay,
    ii) “Period of a festival” – I have letters 2, 3 and 4, yet still don’t know what the solution is!
    iii) “Box on in traditional Glaswegian bar” – only missing the fourth out of six letters – but still not confident about the solution!
    Any help much appreciated.