Notes for Azed 2,605
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.
Azed 2,605 Plain
Difficulty rating: (2 / 5)
I thought this puzzle was a shade harder than last week’s, but still a little below average difficulty. It had all the hallmarks that one associates with an Azed production, although it perhaps lacked some of the brio of his very best offerings.
Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 23d, “Gang violence? Name applied to wars covers volumes (6)”. Here we have an example of the accuracy that pervades Azed’s clues. There is a temptation to indicate BOER by ‘war’, but this would be an error; the attributive noun ‘Boer’ is indeed used to identify either of two wars fought between Britain and South Africa, but it cannot be used on its own to represent a particular war any more than ‘First World’ can – no-one would ever be described as having ‘fought in the Boer’. What about ‘battle’ for Trafalgar? Well, you might say that Nelson fought ‘at Trafalgar’, but the ‘at’ here is key – Trafalgar is the site of a battle, not the battle itself. In general, unless the dictionary gives the proper noun as representing the conflict itself, or a particular type of conflict (see the entry for ‘Vietnam’ in Chambers), indications such as ‘war’ or ‘battle’ alone will not do.
The clue prompts another thought: ‘vv’ is given by Chambers as an abbreviation for ‘volumes’, but what if only ‘v’ were given for ‘volume’ – would, say, ‘spans volumes’ then be acceptable for ‘contains VV’? The answer to this is ‘technically, no’, any more than ‘ff’ is (or are) ‘fines’. But crosswords would be boring indeed if setters weren’t allowed a little licence when the result isn’t unfair to the solver, and I wouldn’t have a problem with ‘fines’, ‘goods’ etc. There are certain editors that I believe would be less tolerant; to be on the safe side when setting, say, a Listener puzzle, I would try to find an alternative, for instance ‘one fine after another’.
13a Sport activity? It gives catching practice (5)
I can’t remember coming across this word before – I’m not sure that the definition in Chambers is entirely accurate, but sine I learned everything I know about baseball from Peanuts cartoons there may be an element of ultracrepidation creeping in here. The wordplay is a charade of a three-letter word meaning ”sport’ and a two-letter word for ‘activity’.
14a This writer takes shelter in scrum (5)
I didn’t like this clue very much – the combination of ‘takes’ being used as a throwaway juxtaposition indicator and ‘in’ being there simply to link the wordplay to the definition results in a deception which I think borders on the unfair; the solver could reasonably expect ‘takes…in’ to indicated that the two-letter word for ‘this writer’ was to be put around (rather than before) the three-letter word for ‘shelter’ which is a frequent visitor to crosswords.
17a Annoyed, not having leader in final? (4)
A seven-letter word meaning ‘annoyed’ has a three-letter word meaning ‘having [a] leader’ removed (‘not having leader’) in order to produce the solution. As in 14a there is a deceptive aspect to the wordplay, but here it is absolutely fair.
21a Number of candles within fancy red cake decoration? (6)
A word for something that would be equal (fire regulations permitting) to the number of candles on your birthday cake is contained by (‘within’) an anagram (‘fancy’) of RED. The solution is the name of one of those little silver balls that are used for decorating cakes – though not in California, where their sale is banned.
29a They establish level by means of line and bit of string (5)
A nice clue, the wordplay being a charade of a three-letter word meaning ‘by means of’, the usual abbreviation for ‘line’, and the first letter (‘bit’) of ‘string’.
31a Was wobbly English vicar, retiring, housed in part of college? (8)
The standard abbreviation for English and a three-letter abbreviation of a title prefixed to the name of a member of the clergy are reversed within a four-letter word describing a feature of many Oxbridge colleges around which the main college buildings are arranged.
32a New Englander always clutching behind (9)
Here we have a three-letter contraction (common in poetic and cruciverbal contexts) of a word meaning ‘always’ containing (‘clutching’) a six-letter adverb meaning ‘behind’, the result being a term for an inhabitant of one of the New England states (implied by Chambers but given explicitly by the OED).
34a Hut collapsing in strain, rarely to be relied upon (6)
An anagram (‘collapsing’) of HUT is put inside a three-letter word for ‘strain’ in the ‘put demands on’ sense to produce a word meaning ‘reliable’ which is given by Chambers as ‘rare’, hence the ‘rarely’.
1d Rude name for oldie, bloke coming round about experience (12)
A six-letter word for a fellow outside (‘coming round’) a two-letter word for ‘about’ and a four-letter word meaning ‘[to] experience’ delivers a hyphenated (6-6) term for an elderly person shown by Chambers as ‘offensive slang’.
2d Play girl, very bad person (4)
A double definition clue, a term for a very bad (or very impressive) person or thing is also the name of the heroine (in the central rather than idealized sense, note) of Frank Wedekind’s Earth Spirit (1895) and Pandora’s Box (1904), now usually performed together in a shortened form under the title of the girl herself (this also being the stage name taken by Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie in 1962, after her manager described her as ‘a real ???? of a kid’.
3d Fungus I found inside a huge fish (7)
The letter A (from the clue) is followed by a five-letter word for a large, flat-bodied fish (while a two-word name may be more familiar, the single word is given by Chambers) within which is found the letter I (again from the clue).
4d Trumpet played tenderly (no more) grips other ranks (6)
Azed has been quite kind here both by putting the ‘no more’ in brackets, thus making it clear that the letters MORE should be removed from a two-word phrase meaning ‘played with tenderness’, and by explicitly using the words ‘other ranks’ rather than ‘men’ to indicate the two-letter abbreviation which must be inserted into the result.
9d Joint, OK, in a lido swinging (8)
A three-letter verb meaning ‘[to] OK’ is to be put inside an anagram (‘swinging’) of A LIDO.
18d Address etc adjusted after being taken in by spinner? (7)
An anagram (‘adjusted’) of ETC is ‘taken in’ by a four-letter term for something used by an angler – a spinner is an example of such an item, hence the question mark.
20d Inveigh against pirate taking wife on board (7, 2 words)
A six-letter word for a pirate ‘takes on board’ (ie contains) the usual single-character abbreviation for ‘wife’, the outcome being a (5,2) phrasal verb.
30d Improper desire for winter sports venue (4)
To round things off we have another clue comprising two definitions, the first being found in Chambers and the second in Austria.
(definitions are underlined)