Notes for Azed 2,592

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.

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Azed 2,592 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

After last week’s Carte Blanche, this time around we have a full complement of bars, numbers and enumerations. A generous helping of anagrams and hidden/initial letter clues seemed to balance out a few trickier ones, so overall I felt the difficulty was a shade below average.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 2d, “Foreign pick-up in novel for store’s delivery guy (8)”. The wordplay is covered below, but the point of interest here is the definition, “store’s delivery guy”. The solution is classified by Chambers as ‘N Am’, but there is no ‘US’ or similar to be seen in the definition – is that an issue? No, because it is considered perfectly acceptable to suggest localization simply through the choice of defining words. Although ‘store’ and ‘delivery guy’ may have made their way across the pond, they still smack sufficiently of North America to imply that the solution likewise hails from that continent. Azed has done something similar in 10a, this time in the wordplay, where he has used the old-fashioned word ‘viand’ to indicate a term shown by Chambers as ‘archaic’.

10a Enzyme regrettably consumed in viand (8)
A four-letter interjection meaning something along the lines of ‘regrettably’ (and described by Chambers as ‘now rather archaic or mock-heroic’) is contained by (‘consumed in’) a genuinely archaic four-letter word for a viand (normally seen in the plural, though not here).

12a Coarse thread I used to join parts of fish with hands in Scotland (5)
The letter I is used to join the two halves of a Scots word meaning ‘to fish with the hands’ or ‘to guddle’. I wasn’t sure what exactly the thread was being used for in the surface reading, but following a visit many years ago to Threave Castle, where a small pond was teeming with tadpoles of quite freakish dimensions, the idea of finding in that country a fish blessed with hands seems far from implausible.

13a Ape in perfect condition, with dull coating (5)
A two-letter word meaning ‘in perfect condition’, as all systems might be, has a three-letter word (often spelt with four letters, particularly where paint is concerned) meaning ‘dull’ outside (‘coating’),

18a Solitary flower framed by mullion (11)
A five-letter flower (an example of which would be the Michaelmas daisy) is contained (‘framed’) by a six-letter word for a mullion.

24a Girl suggesting divine beauty, mostly in the saddle? (6)
A seven-letter adverb which could feature in the description of someone on horseback has its last letter removed (‘mostly’), leaving a girl’s name of Scandinavian origin to which Chambers ascribes the meaning ‘divinely beautiful’.

26a Navigation system one introduced cut short (6)
It’s that ‘missing comma’ again! Here its presence is required between ‘introduced and ‘cut’ in order to properly (in my opinion) indicate that a five-letter word for ‘cut short’ (as hair might be) is to have a single-letter word for ‘one’ inserted (‘introduced’).

27a Scholar scribbled bit of Homer out in cloistered studies (6)
An anagram (‘scribbled’) of SCHOLAR with the first letter (‘bit’) of ‘Homer’ removed (‘out’). The solution is the plural of a common word, but I was not familiar with the particular meaning used here, “a small enclosure or ‘study’ in a cloister”.

29a House I got back – it’s a long story (5)
The ‘house’ that must be prefixed to the letter I (from the clue) and reversed (‘got back’) is the lower house of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland. The original story runs to 24 books and ten years, and the name has come to be applied to a tale of many woes or a long story.

1d In local speech ‘truly’ say is replacing US for ‘howdy-do’ (4)
I’m not entirely convinced by the accuracy of the wordplay here (‘in’ would certainly be preferable to ‘for’, but would produce a meaningless surface reading), the solver being expected to take a four-letter word for a ‘howdy-do’ (a troublesome state of affairs) and then replace the letters US with a two-letter representation of ‘say’. 

2d Foreign pick-up in novel for store’s delivery guy (8)
The ‘foreign’ pick-up is a three-letter one of the antipodean variety, frequently to be found parked in crossword grids, and the sort of novel wherein it is contained could be à clef or policier. Or Abramovich.

3d Ramp maybe, one with leg on each side (5)
Nothing too tricky about the wordplay, the ‘leg’ which goes either side of the Roman numeral for one being the sort that designates the side of a cricket field on which the batsman’s legs are when taking guard. The ramp here, however, is ramp2 in Chambers and has nothing to do with sleeping policemen.

4d Grand girl in novel accompanying knight, an old fellow (6)
A charade of the usual abbreviation for ‘grand’, the four-letter title of a novel featuring the eponymous Ms Woodhouse, and a single-letter abbreviation for knight. The ‘old’ in the definition reflects the fact that Chambers give the solution as ‘archaic’.

6d Spicy dish cheers man (6)
The usual two-letter interjection that crossword setters frequently indicate by ‘cheers’ plus a four-letter word for a man. As John A points out below, the dish in question is not necessarily spicy, although Azed’s definition is in line with the Chambers entry, presumably written by someone who (like me) had never eaten one (or who had cause to remember a particularly spicy one).

8d Pils – that’s about it for those nicking what’s not theirs! (5)
A clever clue, and one that when broken in half would be seen to have Azed written right though it. If you put the letters PILS around the solution (‘about it’), you get a word for people who nick stuff that isn’t theirs.

9d Suitable for regular traffic? Hard to believe in grassland, we hear (8)
First the missing comma, now the partial homophone! A four-letter word meaning ‘hard to believe’ (as a story might be) is contained by a group of four letters that would be pronounced the same as a poetic word for a meadow (‘grassland, we hear’). Those four letters do at least constitute a word (which is something for which to be grateful, I suppose), but it has nothing to do with grassland.

17d Reckless conspirator, name associated with mutiny, fired up inside (8)
The five-letter name of a minesweeper featured in a 1950s book, play and film, the last of these memorably featuring Humphrey Bogart as Lieutenant Commander Queeq, has a three-letter word for ‘fired’ (or ‘illuminated’) reversed (‘up’) inside. The original conspirator gave his name to two conspiracies in the first century BC, although his involvement in the first one, and indeed its very existence, have been questioned by modern historians. He was no stranger to suggestions of improper behaviour – he was accused of murdering his wife and daughter so that he could marry the wealthy Aurelia Orestilla, and in 73BC was brought to trial on a charge of adultery with a vestal virgin, a capital offence (‘capital’ as in ‘punishable by death’ rather than ‘excellent’).  He was acquitted. Tried for extortion in 65BC, he was again acquitted, although one commentator wrote that “he left the court as poor as some of his judges had been before the trial.” The next year he stood accused of murdering his former brother-in-law and carrying his severed head through the streets of Rome, before getting the victim’s name retrospectively added to the proscription in order to legitimize it. Once more he was acquitted. The conspiracy to overthrow the Roman republic in 63BC that bears his name (and that he really did lead) signalled the end of his run of luck, the slaughter of his entire army (already depleted through desertions) obviating the need for a trial.

28d Letter from Tel Aviv date shown in unsealed enclosure? (4)
The usual single letter for ‘date’ is contained by a three-letter abbreviation for something that was once commonly enclosed when a response by post was expected to your written request or enquiry but is a relative rarity in these days of predominantly electronic communication. I wonder if millennials would be familiar with it? I don’t suppose that any read this blog, so I’m probably not going to find out. Anyway, the solution is the eighteenth letter of the Hebrew (hence ‘Tel Aviv’) alphabet, as well as being the name by which singer, songwriter and actress Helen Folasade Adu CBE is better known.

(definitions are underlined)

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4 Responses

  1. John Atkinson says:

    For some reason, I found this not much of a challenge.

    Having just checked Chambers for 6d, I can see why the word spicy is in the clue. However, in my experience tamales can be quite varied including sweet varieties. The first time I was served one, which was prepared by a newly-wed colleague’s wife, the filling was bland and not very nice. I was embarrassed when told that I should not be trying to eat the husk! If you are interested, see the Wiki entry.

    Thx. J

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Thanks, John, that’s interesting. I’ve never had one myself, and I think I’d probably assumed that they were spicy simply based on the Chambers entry (which is not echoed by the OED). I can see that eating the husk could be considered a faux pas, whether evidencing unfamiliarity or extreme hunger. In Kate Sanborn’s A Truthful Woman in Southern California (1893), she writes:

      “But whatever other folly you may be led into, let me implore you to wholly abstain from that deadly concoction, the Mexican tamale. Ugh! I can taste mine now. A tamale is a curious and dubious combination of chicken hash, meal, olives, red pepper, and I know not what, enclosed in a corn-husk, steamed until furiously hot, and then offered for sale by Mexicans in such a sweet, appealing way that few can resist the novelty. It has a more uncertain pedigree than the sausage, and its effects are serious.”

      I didn’t feel that it was one of Azed’s best puzzles or one of his more devious offerings.

      • John Atkinson says:

        Amusing. At the risk of sounding too PC (CRT and all that), there is so often an element of implicit racism in such articles.

        BTW Apologies for giving up the solution on my first comment. Oops.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          I quite agree. The other usage examples in the OED have similar overtones.

          Whilst I generally try to avoid providing solutions in the notes themselves, I’ve no problem at all with the occasional one being revealed, particularly if discussion is thereby facilitated.