Notes for Azed 2,603

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 2,603 ‘Wrong Number’

Difficulty rating: 6.5 out of 10 stars (6.5 / 10)

The ‘Wrong Number’ puzzle was introduced by Ximenes in the 1950s, and Azed tends to serve one up every two or three years. That’s often enough for me, as I wouldn’t say that it was a favourite of mine. Whilst Printer’s Devilry and Spoonerisms puzzles give Azed the chance to demonstrate his originality, the Wrong Number gimmick almost inevitably results in a lot of anagrams (here 20 in 36 clues!) and letter selection indicators (here 11). They are also extremely difficult for new solvers to get their heads round, and there are invariably several competitors who submit a clue to the wrong word.

This variation is quite a bit trickier than a standard Azed, particularly in the early stages of solving; it also means that a few clues are likely to have a somewhat ‘forced’ word play in order to include the additional definition. Some entries are hard to indicate using just a single word, so don’t expect all the one-word definitions to be of ‘dictionary standard’. I thought this offering was far from simple and any relatively inexperienced solver who completes it without assistance has done very well.

Just to be clear (since Azed’s preamble might not be) – the clues themselves are all normal, the wordplay and the definition leading to a solution of the length given in the clue; what is not normal is that rather than being entered into the grid in the position belonging to this complete clue, the solution is entered at the position belonging to another clue (for a solution of the same length) which contains within it a second, one word definition of the solution (this defining word also playing a normal role in the clue in which it appears). So taking 33a as an example, the wordplay indicates an anagram (‘Crooked’) of RONNIE plus C (‘caught’) and the definition is ‘displaying cruel conduct’, with the length of the solution matching the enumeration ‘(7)’; but NERONIC is not entered at 15a, instead it is entered at 24a, where the clue contains the second definition, ‘Fell’. In the ’normal’ interpretation of 24a, ‘Fell’ serves as the anagram indicator. Another solution will be entered at 33a, its auxiliary definition being one of six words of ‘Crooked Ronnie caught displaying cruel conduct’ (as you might expect, the one that has clearly been accommodated only with some difficulty).

You will find that the solution at 12a is lacking a clue. Those entering the competition will need to provide a clue for this word which also includes a one-word definition of the entry at 1a, ie a clue which could be labelled as ‘1a’ and is of the same form all the other clues in the puzzle. The use of ‘buttocks’ as the extra definition is allowed but not recommended, particularly given the number of alternatives. 

Following the notes I have provided a list of grid positions together with the word which is the definition of the entry at that grid position and the identity of the clue which provides the solution.

5a Like upright text (in short), alias one’s cracked, making Greek dance (7)
A three-letter abbreviation for text of the normal, upright kind (as opposed to italic) is followed by an abbreviation meaning ‘alias’ containing the Roman numeral for one (“one’s cracked”).

13a With start of eulogy I abandoned false praise in gravelly tone (4)
An anagram (‘false’) of PRAISE without the first letter of ‘eulogy’ and the letter I (‘with start of eulogy I abandoned’).

15a Climbing dens a safeguard for last of mice in a row (6)
A five-letter word for ‘dens’ reversed (‘climbing’) around the last letter of ‘mice’.

21a Giggly girl with the group exuding mere whiff of happiness? (9)
A three-letter term for a girl or young woman given by Chambers as ‘derogatory’ is followed by a concatenation of THE (from the clue) with a four-letter letter word for a group, dropping (‘exuding’) the first letter (‘mere whiff’) of ‘happiness’. Not too hard to sniff out the ‘additional definition’ word here.

22a Mother-in-law traditionally displaying silver with application in clothes (9)
The chemical symbol for silver and a two-letter word meaning ‘with application [to]’ are contained by a five-letter term for ‘clothes’.

24a Fell timeless bits of atoll arc – such as are dead (7)
A slightly strained clue, with &lit overtones. The wordplay involves an anagram (‘fell’, ie ‘dire’) of ATOLL ARC from which the abbreviation for ‘time’ has been removed (‘timeless’).

31a Wherein one may find special fruit clusters? (5)
A true &lit (though perhaps not Class 1), being a charade of the usual abbreviation for ‘special’ and a four-letter word for ‘fruit clusters’, specifically those you’d find on a bine.

32a Cherished scripture is keeping translator getting stuck into it (7)
The combination of a three-letter word meaning ‘is keeping’ and the standard (if rarely seen) abbreviation for ‘translator’ is ‘getting stuck into’ the two letters still frequently found in crosswords representing ‘it’ in the Clara Bow sense. I haven’t even underlined ‘cherished’ as being part of the definition, because frankly it is there purely to indicate which solution should be placed in this grid location.

2d Stock explosive in erstwhile spring drill (8)
An anagram (‘explosive’) of STOCK inside an obsolete (‘erstwhile’) three-letter variant of a common four-letter word meaning ‘[to] spring’.

3d Can odd bits of potato rear crookedly? (5)
The definition here is qualified by Chambers as ‘North American slang’.

7d Publication plugs this cup I love – like a sip? (6)
A composite anagram (no, really) where the letters of PUBLICATION can be rearranged (‘plugs’, a strange choice of word) to form the solution (‘this’) plus CUP I O (‘love’). 

8d Left beds in eager broadcast documentary (9)
An example of the wordplay being expanded to satisfy the requirements of this type of puzzle – ‘beds’ is superfluous and can be ignored when solving the clue.

20d Place label in surface for e.g. cleavers (8)
The ‘cleavers’ in the definition by example here can also be spelt ‘clivers’.

23d Pen going round university, touching, for sponsor (6)
A three-letter word for a pen (of the porcine enclosure sort) containing (’round’) the usual abbreviation for ‘university’ plus a two-letter piece of commercial jargon meaning ‘concerning’ (‘touching’).

26d Friends having to climb pass (4)
Not the meaning that one normally would associate with the solution here, it relates to the second instance of the headword in Chambers, with the sense of a hill pass or a gap in a fence.

27d Blow missing boxer’s head, fray’s ending, making one livid (4)
A four-letter word for a blow (or the sort of thing you might have been fined for holding during lockdown) missing the first letter (‘head’) of ‘boxer’ and followed by the last letter (‘ending’) of ‘fray’.

(definitions are underlined)

The list follows, for use if you have completed the puzzle or want a bit of additional assistance.

Click here to open


1a: the definition of the entry at this position is ‘buttocks’, the full clue for the solution is at 3d
5a: the definition is ‘text’, the clue is at 32a
11a: caper (5a)
12a: malformation (clue to be written by competitors as a replacement for 1a)
13a: eulogy (30a)
14a: ‘snarly’ (1d)
15a: safeguard (23d)
18a: skeletons (24a)
21a: whiff (4d)
22a: application (17d)
24a: fell (33a)
28a: malaise (22d)
29a: growth (20d)
30a: record (9d)
31a: fruit (34a)
32a: cherished (18a)
33a: conduct (11a)
34a: imprisons (31a)


1d: personification (19d)
2d: explosive (14a)
3d: potato (25d)
4d: swaying (21a)
6d: bird (28a)
7d: publication (15a)
8d: beds (16d)
9d: file (13a)
10d: pale  (27d)
16d: style (8d)
17d: monster (22a)
19d: march (2d)
20d: cleavers (29a)
22d: drug (6d)
23d: touching (7d)
25d: bent (12a)
26d: climb (10d)
27d: blow (26d)]

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