Notes for Azed 2,609

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 2,609 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Not quite at the level of last week’s puzzle, perhaps, but an enjoyable solve nonetheless. I have recalibrated the Tuffometer® slightly, as I felt that based on the difficulty of the last hundred or so puzzles this one was smack bang in the middle of the spectrum.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 8d, “Brit leader’s abandoned, astray? (6)”. As we expect from Azed, there’s some misdirection going on here, with the ‘Brit’ being not a British person but ‘a young herring, sprat, or other fish’. Note how Azed has ensured that ‘Brit’ is at the beginning of the sentence in order to avoid giving the game away by putting ‘brit’ or by falsely capitalizing the word, a practice which should be avoided as it unfairly misleads the solver. The thing I wanted to highlight here, though, was the question mark. It’s clear from the definition of ‘Brit’ above that its use to indicate ‘herring’ constitutes a definition by example (not all brits are herring), so this needs to be indicated. One option for this would be the inclusion of a word like ‘perhaps’ to qualify the DBE, but if this were put before the word being qualified (ie ‘Perhaps Brit…’) then the capitalization problem rears its head, while it cannot be put after ‘Brit’ without destroying the surface reading (‘Brit perhaps leader…’). The other option is to use a question mark, but I am firmly of the opinion that this is only valid when the DBE comes at the end of the clue; I wouldn’t consider that ‘Brit leader’s abandoned, astray perhaps’ suggested that ‘Brit’ was the DBE, and I don’t see why a question mark should work any differently.

11a Service book, one lying behind e.g. main part of church, from east to west (10)
A four-letter word for ‘[some]one [who is] lying’ follows a reversal (‘from east to west’) of EG (from the clue) and a four-letter word for the main part of a church.

12a Bobby on Thursday beat (5)
Another diminutive form of the name ‘Robert’ is here following (‘on’) an abbreviation for ‘Thursday’.

17a Shut up in prison, one given time (5, 2 words)
A three-letter slang term for prison (invariably, I think, preceded by ‘the’) and the Roman numeral representing one are followed by (‘given’) the usual abbreviation for ‘time’.

24a One of a pair connected in vice, creating frightful noise behind church (5)
A nice oblique definition of the solution (‘involved in’ would perhaps have read even better, but it would be stretching things a bit), and a wordplay that requires a two-letter abbreviation for ‘church’ to have behind (following) it a three-letter interjection which will be familiar to readers of children’s comics of the 1950s to 1980s or thereabouts. Not so much a frightful noise as a frightened noise, it would be emitted (along with the appropriate number of exclamation marks) by softies such as Walter when confronted, say, by a mouse (the presence of which was usually attributable to Dennis). I don’t think I ever stopped to think what it actually sounded like, its appearance on the page said all that needed to be said.

28a Afternoon song by the camp fire? We’ll provide leafy cover (5)
The single-letter abbreviation for ‘afternoon’ is joined by the name of a song, the first verse of which is traditionally sung by Girl Guides and Boy Scouts around the campfire before retiring to their tents. Originally a bugle call used at US military ceremonies, it is also known as Day is Done (for obvious reasons) and (for less obvious ones) Butterfield’s Lullaby.

30a Soldiers in unusually large unit reduced by 50%, like one such (10)
After a little teasing out, the wordplay here reveals itself as a three-letter word for soldiers (the ones that aren’t officers) inside an anagram (‘unusually’) of LARGE plus one half of the word UNIT (ie ‘unit reduced by 50%’), the adjective that results referring to ‘soldiers in…[a] large unit’.

31a Nogs drunk were flowing with daughter welcomed as one of the family (8)
One of those ‘missing comma’ clues, the imaginary mark being between ‘drunk’ and ‘were’, so that an anagram (‘drunk’) of NOGS has a three-letter word meaning ‘was flowing’ and the usual abbreviation for ‘daughter’ taken inside (‘welcomed’).

32a Ball penetrating one side of wicket, turning – I must get even (4)
A single-character, two-dimensional representation of a ball (slightly questionable, but we’ll let it pass) is contained by (‘penetrating’) a reversal (‘turning’) of the three-letter term applied to one side of a cricket field, specifically the side on which a right-handed batter stands when taking guard.

1d One lacking entry permit we support when it’s shortly acquired (7)
I don’t remember coming across this word before, a very expressive term for an illegal immigrant who crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico to the US. The wordplay leads to WE (from the clue) and a four-letter word meaning ‘[to] support’ with a shortened form of ‘it’ inserted (‘acquired’).

2d Police abroad, ideal when following car or lorry up (6)
The solution will be familiar to most solvers, myself included (though not from direct personal experience, I hasten to add), but what was not familiar to me was the slang term for ‘a car, lorry or wagon’ which is here reversed (‘up’) over the usual two-letter representation of a description applied to something (originally a ship) in tip-top condition (‘ideal’).

5d English Pernod I spit out swallowing it – it’s bad for the heart (12)
The usual abbreviation for ‘English’ and the six-letter name of a famous producer of anise-flavoured pastis apéritifs take advantage of another missing comma to be the ‘it’ which is swallowed by an anagram (‘out’) of I SPIT. Having spent a while puzzling over the relevant Wikipedia pages,  I have concluded that the decision on whether ‘Pernod’ is a valid indication of the name here should, as they say, be left to the reader as an exercise.

7d Where cattle are kept warm and dry, gale swirling outside (7)
A three-letter word meaning ‘[to] air and dry’ has an anagram (‘swirling’) of GALE outside.

10d Cornish visitor, one with good vision letting go of rope (5)
I expect that those of an optometric bent will have written in the solution here without delay, but I had to work back from the solution – thankfully the ROPE that needs to be let go comes at the end of the nine-letter word for someone with good vision, so my visit to Chambers was a brief one. Will I now remember the word for future use? Unlikely.

13d Moravian, German gent, Jaeger, name becoming leader (10)
The four-letter German term of address equivalent to ‘Mr’ is followed by a familiar six-letter word exemplified by a jaeger (or by Orion)  wherein the standard abbreviation for ‘name’ has ben moved to the beginning (‘name becoming leader’).

20d Hull? That’s involved with North Sea mostly (7)
The ‘that’ which is ‘involved’ (mixed up) with the standard abbreviation for ‘North’ and the first two letters of SEA (‘sea mostly’) is HULL; the anagram in this neat clue delivers a synonym of ‘hull’ completely unconnected with the context established by the surface reading.

21d Travelling box one’s packed into Jordanian destination? (6)
The ‘Jordanian destination’ into which a single-letter word for ‘one’ has been packed is the subject of a poem by John William Burgon. The place in question was the chosen theme in the 1845 competition for Oxford University’s Newdigate Prize for Poetry. Despite having never visited the city (or even the region), Burgon – at the time a very mature student of 32 – lifted the prize for his submission, best known for its closing couplet:

Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.

In doing so, he added his name to a list that includes Oscar Wide, Matthew Arnold and John Buchan. It was to be another 17 years before he eventually got to see the subject of his poem through his own eyes.

23d Object of worship I wrapped in loose gown (6)
Neither the solution nor the five-letter word for a loose gown in which the letter I (from the clue) is wrapped are exactly in common use, although the gown might be more familiar in a seven-letter version with the ending -eau.

24d Tolling sound, a complex tone (5)
A double definition – the first is probably more likely to spring to mind than the latter, a musical term more often spelt with an initial K.

(definitions are underlined)

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4 Responses

  1. Tim Coates says:

    Do you have any thoughts about 6 down? There can only be one answer, an anagram of “Matlo sails it”, but the definition puzzles me. Chambers has it as “the very highest summit”, but I’m struggling to see how “masthead flies from it” fits well with this. If it was just “masthead” I could understand it (at a pinch). Any ideas?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Tim

      I hadn’t looked at this clue closely given the unambiguous wordplay, but the definition doesn’t work. I wonder if Azed believed that in a newspaper context the ‘masthead’ was the name itself in big letters rather than the place where it appears, and by false analogy that in a nautical context it identified the pennant flying from the top of the mast rather than the top of the mast itself.

      That would certainly explain the phrasing of the definition. Another explanation would be that the word ‘pennant’ or similar has simply been omitted. Alternative suggestions are welcomed…

  2. JOHN ATKINSON says:

    The Pernod question is muddled by the fact that the two pastis producers merged into one company in 1975. The clue is fair to me but I do think using pastis would be better to give a choice. When living in France, I came to prefer the one used in the solution. For clarification, licorice is dominant in ****** while Pernod derives its flavour more from star anise and fennel.

    Loved 20d. J

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Thanks, John – that answers my question splendidly! I don’t think the clue is unfair at all, and I’d much rather see ‘Pernod’ for the word here than ‘man’ for any male name you can think of because (i) it offers far fewer possibilities, and (ii) it’s much more interesting.

      I entirely agree re 20d.