Notes for Azed 2,596

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 2,596 Plain

Difficulty rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

After last week’s celebration special, we have a plain puzzle with a 13×11 grid. I thought this was quite a tricky one, with a fair sprinkling of obscurities, several less familiar meanings of familiar words, and some wordplays that explored the boundaries of acceptability.

Setters’ Corner: I see on the site the sad news that Dr Eddie Young, a long-time Azed clue-writing competitor, has died. He contributed many excellent clues,  as can be seen from  the Archive, and won the Azed cup on eleven occasions, but surely his finest moment was with this effort which took first place in comp 1775 (June 2006):

A hard tussle with Dr E. Young plainly winning? (13)

click for solution


1a Early land plants I cut in slash, type grown wild (13)
It’s not difficult to identify that the answer is going to be I plus a three-letter word for ‘cut’ inside an anagram (‘grown wild’) of SLASH TYPE; it’s harder to work out what that answer is. It can be revealed below by anyone struggling to get a foothold.

click to reveal the solution

10a Little Poll issuing shriek in Austrian region? It’s all over (5)
A thee-letter interjection indicating fright which will be familiar to all readers of Beano (and similar comics) is contained by one spelling of a well-known Austrian region, the whole lot then being reversed “It’s all over”). ‘Poll’ is ‘a familiar equivalent of the name Mary, used as the conventional proper name of any parrot’.

14a Leading lady? Father clutches fresh recording, blowing kiss? (8)
A four-letter word for ‘father’ taken directly from another language contains (‘clutches’) a five-letter word for a ‘new recording’ without (‘blowing’) the usual single character representing a kiss. Strictly speaking, I don’t think that it is a new recording, rather a new combination of existing recordings, but I’m not sure that I could better define the term in two words or less.

16a Endless revelry at rear of bottega in Madrid slum? (6)
A four-letter word for ‘revelry’ missing its last letter (‘endless’) goes after (‘at back of’) a rather more mundane word for a bodega, but I don’t think the definition here is accurate. In Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, the term is applied to a ward or quarter of a city, or sometimes to rural settlements, but carries no suggestion of poverty; in the US, however, it is applied to a Spanish-speaking district in a city or town, especially a poor neighbourhood. Although the US has many places with names which duplicate those in other countries, Madrid is not I think one of them.

17a Harvesters become unwell, yellow inside, on being laid off (9)
A six-letter word meaning ‘become unwell’ has inside it a five-letter word for ‘yellow’ from which the letters ON have been removed (‘on being laid off’).

19a One exhausted, given time off, shivering (5)
A single-letter word for ‘one’ is followed by a five-letter word for ‘exhausted’ from which the usual abbreviation for ‘time’ has been deleted (‘given time off’). The solution is an adjective derived from a three-letter name given to the trembling poplar, itself now archaic and superseded by the form seen here.

22a Soaks by the sound of it in acme of distress (5)
I’m not sure this clue is exactly fair, and I would be interested to know how many solvers identified the solution from the wordplay rather than having to reverse engineer it. There’s no problem recognising that the answer is going to be a homophone of a word meaning ‘soaks’, but moving forward from there, particularly considering the fact that the pronunciation of the solution has it rhyming with ‘please’ rather than ‘plies’, is difficult if you are not familiar with either of the words involved.

24a Ace cellist, head giving way to pinnacle in studio (9)
The wordplay here is not phrased in a helpful way – a seven-letter word for a studio (of the sort associated with artists) has its first letter replaced by a three-letter word for a pinnacle or hill (‘head giving way to pinnacle’), the solution being the nine-letter surname of an outstanding French cellist.

29a Knocker’s noise? Oil hinges next to it briefly (6)
The five-letter name of a fragrant essential oil is reversed (‘hinges’ – not a reversal indicator I’ve seen before, but perfectly valid based on the ‘to turn as on a hinge’ definition in Chambers) and followed by the usual shortened form of ‘it’ (‘it briefly’).

30a Chateaux yielding success with English grape (not half) (8)
A charade of a three-letter word for ‘success’, the standard single-letter abbreviation for ‘English’ and the eight-letter name of a type of grape (and of the white wine produced from it) missing its last four letters (‘not half’).

1d Piece of armour once: man has incomplete set on top (7)
A three-letter word for the sort of man that might be ‘hep’ has a five-letter word meaning ‘[to] set’ – without its last letter (‘incomplete’) – on top of it.

3d It breaks up fat, lifting vitality in lean (6)
A three-letter word for vitality or vital juice is reversed (‘lifting’) inside a three-letter word which you might not immediately associate with the meaning ‘[to] lean’.

6d Steamed dish from Mexico – Mediterranean island switches its parts (5)
I’m pleased to see that Azed has taken note of John Atkinson’s comment on the same dish (albeit with an alternative spelling) in AZ 2,592, wherein he questioned the use of ‘spicy’ in the Chambers definition. I will leave it to John to confirm that the ones which he has sampled did indeed appear to have been steamed. The wordplay, involves the first three letters of the name of a Mediterranean island (and George Cross winner) being exchanged with the last two.

9d Barracoutas removed from tin up in Orcadian cabin (4)
Not my favourite clue in this puzzle. We are required to remove the chemical symbol for tin from a six-letter South African word for barracoutas (although the clue suggests that it should be the other way round) prior to reversing it (‘up’), the solution being a word for a hut or shed seen in the Northern Isles and the Barred Crossword.

12d Letter, by hand, accompanied by Her Majesty’s initials? (9)
The wordplay here is a charade of a three-letter Latin word for ‘by’ or ‘through’, a four-letter slang term for a hand, and the Royal Cipher of Queen Elizabeth II.

18d Renault may be got out of this (7)
I imagine something similar has been probably been done before, but this simple anagram of RENAULT provides a nice &lit.

20d Crowning (if indefinable) quality discernible in Napoleon, as usual? (6)
The two-letter word for an indefinable crowning quality is contained by the surname of Napoleon – no, not the French military and political leader, but the much more famous (for those of us of a certain age, anyway) Man from U.N.C.L.E. (a perfect role for Robert Vaughn), who – along with his doughty sidekick Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum) – had us glued to our sets in the 1960s and talking about him at school the day after transmission. Governments across the globe who were ideologically opposed to each other had joined forces to form the United Network Command for Law Enforcement in an attempt to neutralise the threat posed by THRUSH, an organisation which aimed to conquer the world; it fell to Napoleon and Ilya to lead this fight, and very entertainingly they did it as I recall. Incidentally, it seems that when Ian Fleming was asked to contribute to the show’s concepts he came up with the characters Napoleon S and April Dancer, the latter not appearing in the original series but being played in the spin-off  The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. by Stefanie Powers, teamed with Mark Slate (Noel Harrison).

21d Russian travel may be covered uncomfortably in Uralian ones (6)
A composite anagram &lit, but hardly Azed’s finest. The letters of RUSSIAN TRAVEL can be rearranged (‘may be covered uncomfortably’, the last of these words accurately describing how this indication sits with me) to form URALIAN plus the solution (‘ones’).

23d ‘The Mercenary Horseman‘? Choirs often have a go at me (6)
A double definition, the reference in the second being to John of that ilk, an English composer, largely of choral music.

28d Plump hands going up (4)
The plural of a word used facetiously for a hand or handwriting is reversed (‘going up’) to produce a verb which is used these days as ‘[to] barter’, but once also meant ‘to cast or sit down forcibly’, hence to plump oneself (down), although this usage is now confined to dialect.

(definitions are underlined)

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2 Responses

  1. JOHN ATKINSON says:

    For 22 the acme piece was obvious but I still cannot see the soaks. Must be missing something.

    I’m not entirely comfortable being seen as the resident expert on 6. Cursory searching shows most, if not all, are steamed. Recipes for fried ones involve removing the wrapping for those already steamed and then fried. This makes sense as the masa (meal) would most likely break-up if not cooked already.

    I wasted too much time trying to find a mercenary link to 23 spelt with an I.

    Stand with Ukraine. We cannot let it be a domino. Apologies for introducing a non-Azed comment.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      The relevant verb in 22 is also the name of a Native American tribe, and means ‘to soften by boiling or soaking’.

      I thank you for your input regarding 6 and promise not to trouble you again regarding that particular dish; I conclude from what you say that ‘steamed’ is appropriate.

      My mother went to school with a lad of the same surname as 23’s composer whose parents had chosen to have him christened Roland – I always felt that the vicar must have sounded like a poor ventriloquist describing something you might have with a bowl of soup.

      I try to confine myself to loosely cruciverbal observations on this blog, but I’ve no wish to suppress the rights of those posting comments to speak freely – though I draw the line at ones offering ‘performance enhancing’ drugs at knockdown prices, and those entirely written in Cyrillic script.