Notes for Azed 2,608

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 2,608 Plain

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

I thought this was Azed’s finest puzzle for a while in terms of the overall quality of the clues, with the best ones being very good indeed. In terms of difficulty, I felt that it was somewhere just below the middle of the spectrum, although we so rarely have a plain puzzle that falls much beyond that mark that I may have to think about recalibrating the difficulty meter.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 12d, “Made to feel old since one’s put on strange diets (10)”. The first thing that a compiler looks to achieve when writing a clue is soundness, closely followed by fairness to the solver; after that would come a pleasing surface reading, a good dollop of deception, and a well-disguised break between the definition and the wordplay. Here Azed has achieved a nap hand. The use of ‘old since’ to indicate SENS is the key to the construction – on the surface we see ‘Made to feel old’ and only later do we find out that we have been deceived, but in the nicest way possible. This is not a difficult clue, but for any novice setters looking to develop their skills it is one which warrants a close inspection.

13a Dim listener chattering might make such a troubadour die (8)
A neat &lit, where a rearrangement (‘chattering’) of DIM LISTENER could produce the solution (‘such a troubadour’) and DIE. The Chambers definition of ‘chatter’ leaves room for doubt over its suitability as an anagram indicator, but the OED gives ‘to shiver, shake’, so it’s absolutely fine.

15a Grand hostelry providing spirits (often enormous) (4)
Based on the definition alone there are two possibilities for the unchecked first letter, but the wordplay (a single-letter abbreviation of ‘grand’ and a three-letter hostelry) make the correct choice very clear.

16a Fiercest backs avoiding wingers in intense contest (5)
A seven-letter word meaning ‘fiercest’ is reversed (‘backs’) and is stripped of its first and last letters (‘avoiding wingers’), resulting in a hyphenated (3-2) term for an intense contest.

19a Skilful performer, OK for ton? One may get caught at long leg (8, 2 words)
A seven-letter word for a skilful performer gets the letters OK in place of one of its T’s (‘OK for ton’) to produce a (4,4) cricket stroke which could well see the batsman being caught at long leg.

23a Lord accepts opening for what 13 may offer (8)
A four-letter (obsolete) term for a lord or master contains (‘accepts’) a four-letter ‘opening’ (often designed to allow the passage of air). The solution is a verse of satirical or heroic character which the troubadour at 13 would have written and performed.

27a Drams knocked back including starter of Irnbru? What fou fellow may do (5)
A straightforward wordplay has a four-letter word for ‘drams’ being reversed (‘knocked back’) around (‘including’) the first letter (‘starter’) of ‘Irnbru’, but there are a couple of points to note. Firstly, the use of ‘fou’ in the definition: since the solution is given by Chambers as Scots, ‘What drunk fellow may do’ would be insufficient. ‘What drunk Scotsman may do’ would be fine, but Azed has chosen instead to use a Scots word for ‘drunk’ to make the clue more interesting. The second point concerns the use of ‘Irnbru’: it is considered unacceptable to include redundant words in a letter selection element, so ‘No. 1 from Adele’ is a valid indication of A but ‘No. 1 from Sam Smith’ is no good for S. However, a single hyphenated word is perfectly valid, so I don’t know why Azed chose ‘Irnbru’ rather than the correct name of the drink, Irn-Bru. Known as “Scotland’s other national drink” it has been sold under its current name since 1948 and is apparently “Made in Scotland from girders”, although the 0.002% concentration of ammonium ferric citrate suggests that there may not be too many girders to the gallon.

31a Having entered university blue’s required to study (5)
‘Enter’ here is used in the sense of ‘admit’, so the solution is a five-letter term for dark blue or bluish-grey after it has let in the usual single-letter abbreviation for university.

32a Add a couple of ducks to pet uncle exercised (8)
Azed adds some interest to a simple anagram with an inventive definition which effectively requires the solver to pre-process it by translating ‘ducks’ into ‘noughts’.

33a Vehicle I must shift front to back? It has excellent turning circle
A combination of a four-letter vehicle and the letter I (from the clue) has its first letter moved to the end (‘must shift front to back’). The solution is another vehicle, this one having a flexible connection between the front and rear section in order to improve its manoeuvrability; it has been shortened, which I suppose will also have helped to reduce the size of its turning circle.

4d Tooted once like a famous piper welcoming queen? (5)
Azed demonstrates one of his favourite tricks, here using ‘Tooted once’ not to indicate an old word meaning ‘tooted’, but a word in current use which share a meaning with an old (Spenserian) sense of the word ‘tooted’. The queen is a single-character abbreviation used in a monarchical context and the piper shares his epithet with the wagtails which have recently spent a lot of time scouring our lawn for tasty morsels.

5d Monkey should be fed nothing yielding inertia (7)
A six-letter Indian name for certain species of monkey contains (‘should be fed’) the usual single-letter representation of ‘nothing’.

6d Suicide swallowed stuff (7)
A clever clue, and a simple charade of a four-letter word for a subcontinental suicide (often seen in an alternative six-letter form) and a three-letter word meaning ‘swallowed’.

7d Blockhead upset after imbibing supply of tea? (6)
A three-letter word meaning ‘[to] upset’ or ‘overturn’ is seen containing (‘after imbibing’) a three-letter word for a vessel which is very likely to offer a (generous) supply of tea.

18d With little support around misshapen tree was wobbly (8)
Here we have a four-letter word meaning ‘with [a] little support’ outside (‘around’) an anagram (‘misshapen’) of TREE. Again, not a difficult clue but the construction is very satisfying.

20d Like some art related to name on the way up (7)
More deception in the wordplay here, the first element being not ‘related to’ (which one might assume from an initial inspection) but simply ‘related’, producing a three-letter word which is followed by a reversal (‘on the way up’) of a four-letter word meaning ‘[to] name’.

21d Discover bum exchanging cap for heroin (7, 2 words)
An informal term for what was once euphemistically called the BTM (‘bum’) has its first letter (‘cap’) exchanged for the single-character abbreviation for ‘heroin’. The solution is divided (3,4).

24d Sundae, middle of sweet stuff, not going round (6)
The three central letters (‘middle’) of a five-letter word for ‘sweet stuff’ have the letters NOT (from the clue) surrounding (’round’) them to produce a type of sundae, though not the ice-cream sort.

(definitions are underlined)

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