Notes for Azed 2,610

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 2,610 ‘Eightsome Reels’

Difficulty rating: 5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

The Eightsome Reels variation was originally devised by Azed, the first one appearing in November 1972, and this was its twenty-fourth outing. I rather like having normal clues but a different way of entering them in the grid; sometimes with this sort of puzzle the clues are made a little too easy in order to compensate for the extra difficulty of the format, but Azed didn’t make too many concessions in this one. The effect was that instead of steaming towards the finishing line after getting a few interlocking solutions the solve was more about maintaining steady progress right through to the last couple of entries.

When solving an Eightsome Reels puzzle, clearly a single answer cannot be entered in the grid unless the solver possesses the relevant paranormal ability. To get going, one needs first of all to solve the clues to two adjoining squares – let’s assume that they are side by side, and the solutions are MEPHISTO and CURTSIED. The three consecutive shared letters are IST/TSI, so there are only two ways these can be entered:

The fact that the shared letters are reversed in one solution means that the entries will both run clockwise or both anticlockwise (if they were in the same sequence, eg MEPHISTO/BRISTLED, then one will run clockwise and the other anticlockwise). If you can then solve a clue to a ’reel’ above or below either of these two, you can then confidently enter all three solutions into the grid. I got started with 3, 4 and 10, none of which are too difficult – respectively a double definition (the piece of furniture being hyphenated 3-5, the other definition being somewhat whimsical), a 2+6 charade, and a ‘hidden’.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 15, “US warehouse keeper calls about putrefaction all over”. Here we have a five-letter word for ‘calls’ containing (‘about’) a three-letter word for putrefaction, the whole lot (‘all’) being reversed (‘over’). But hold hard! Surely in the grid the solution isn’t ‘over’, it’s ‘going round the wrong way’? This is true, but in puzzles of this type it is accepted that the manipulations in the clue are all applied prior to entry in the grid, so they take place in the same plane as the clue. Hence ‘over’, ‘about’ etc are absolutely fine – when you think about it, even containment indicators would be a bit questionable if they were applied at the time of entry into the grid.

1 Deadhead what overdue bloomers display?
I’m a little surprised that Azed has run the words ‘dead’ and ‘head’ together, particularly as ‘dead-head’ is an alternative form. Anyway, each part leads to a four-letter word and together they produce the solution.

7 Control such as is contained by ultra deploying energy
A two-letter abbreviation for ‘such as’ is contained by an anagram (‘deploying’, =’taking up strategic positions’) of ULTRA plus the usual abbreviation for ‘energy’.

9 Government put forward for discussion what’s likely to collapse?
The ‘Government’ here translates to the plural of a two-letter word meaning ‘a member of the party in office’; this is followed by a verb meaning ‘[to] put forward for discussion’.

13 Group we’ve left involved G. Stein, one for developing master race?
The group we’ve left had more to do with B. Johnson than G. Stein, but its abbreviated name is followed by an anagram (‘involved’) of the latter.

14 Gentle old fellow with fatty stuff on end of nose
A charade of a word for a fellow, a four-letter word for fatty tissue, and the last character (‘end’) of ‘nose’. The ‘old’ indicates that the solution is shown by Chambers as ‘archaic’. This was the word chosen for AZ competition 1593, and resulted in one of those rare instances where first prize was shared between two identical clues.

17 Cow, English, in favour of being kept in appropriate group
The standard abbreviation for ‘English’ and a three-letter word meaning ‘in favour of’ are kept in the sort of group which is very likely to contain cows.

18 Doctor back, on firm ground being completely variable
A reversal (‘back’) of a two-letter abbreviation for a doctor (in the armed forces or other organizations) is followed by an anagram (‘ground’) of ON FIRM.

20 Doctor intervening when cocaine is involved
A seven-letter adjective meaning ‘intervening’, more familiar as a verb, with the usual abbreviation for ‘cocaine’ inside (‘involved’), producing a solution which in the past meant ‘to doctor’, in the sense that one might doctor alcoholic drinks (an example given by the OED talks of ‘wine in the time of the old Romans being *doctored* with pitch and resin’. Should’ve gone to Oddbins…

22 Welsh elite, part of circle that’s brought back dance (not accepted)
A three-letter part of a circle is reversed (‘brought back’) and followed by the name of a dance (which has a nine-letter form as well as the six-letter one here) from which one instance of the standard abbreviation for ‘accepted’ has been removed. The solution is a derogatory term applied to  ‘Welsh people who snobbishly affect English customs, manners and speech.’ Incidentally, mention of the dance in question always brings the tune Wheels (originally recorded by the String-A-Longs, subsequently by Joe Loss and his orchestra) into my head, and once there it’s hard to dislodge.

23 ‘Foul mixture’, reverse of solid, mass Scotsman swallowed
A four-letter word for ‘solid’ is reversed and the usual abbreviation for ‘mass’ plus a three-letter name often applied to a Scotsman are contained therein (‘swallowed’).

28 Symbolic meal came up in talk informally
A four-letter word meaning ‘came up’ is contained by a four-letter word meaning ‘[to] talk informally’. Apologies for the earlier error, caused by me putting in the parsing I first thought of when I looked at the clue rather than the one that actually got me to the solution! My thanks to the correspondent who (very gently) pointed out my lapse.

30 Wire edging, obstruction when bent back
A five-letter word for an edge or brink shown by Chambers as ‘poetic’ and a three-letter word for an obstruction (also a reason why a tennis service would be cancelled out) are put together and reversed (‘bent back’).

31 Trouble following dip in river? Something to deal with extremities on hand
A three-letter word for ‘[to] trouble’ and the standard abbreviation for ‘following’ are contained by (‘dip in’) the name of a major African river. Azed, like Ximenes before him, accepts that a sequence of wordplay elements (here ‘Trouble’ and ‘following’) can govern a plural noun. In my view, unless they’re separated by a comma or a conjunction such as ‘and’ they can’t.

32 Showing brass that’s bust, lacking inner volume
A nine-letter word meaning ‘bust’ (as a company might have gone) loses the usual abbreviation for ‘volume’ from within.

34 Bull may be pulled by this diminutive bird entering drink
The five-letter name of a member of a group of small finches including the canary is put inside a three-letter traditional drink of which the Dutch version is Advocaat, although I believe that the methods of production vary somewhat.

35 Erica, breaking rule? – ‘a thing of shreds and patches’
I’m not sure how well known the ‘Erica’ here is these days – it’s almost fifty years since Fear of Flying was published. Anyway, her surname is followed by an anagram (‘breaking’) of RULE. The ‘shreds and patches’ started out in Hamlet’s description of his usurping uncle Claudius as ‘a king of shreds and patches’, but the reference here is to the famous song from The Mikado which Nanki-Poo starts thuswise:

A wandering minstrel I —
A thing of shreds and patches,
Of ballads, songs and snatches,
And dreamy lullaby!
My catalogue is long,
Through every passion ranging,
And to your humours changing
I tune my supple song!
I tune my supple song!

(definitions are underlined)

The unchecked letters in the corners are: [1] NES, [6] PEE, [31] IFL, and [36] MOS.

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9 Responses

  1. Alastair says:

    I wasn’t even going to try this – I find a normal AZED is generally on the edge of my ability and the ‘special’ versions are off in the far distance. But, thanks to your notes about how this one even works and your tips for some of the answers, I just completed it. Thanks!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Alastair, and welcome to the blog.

      That is really good to hear – I’m glad you found the notes/hints useful. Normally the clues in an Eightsome Reels puzzle are relatively gentle, but these were the toughest I can remember, which made for a decidedly stiff challenge.

  2. 🍊 says:

    Loathsome reels, indeed! Thanks for getting me started.
    It’s good to see gair cymraeg for a change!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      P’nawn da, Oren

      Ah yes, the 8Σ Reels – you’re just beginning to get your head round them and then you have wait two years for their next appearance, by which time…

  3. Hazel says:

    Hi, there is no explanation for 29, for which I have an answer, but do not understand why it is what it is!I understand the first three letters but then I’m stumped. Any help appreciated!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Hazel

      I’m sure you’ve got the right answer (the flavoursome herb), and those first three letters supplied by ‘to spoil’; the last step is to look up the remaining five letters in Chambers, and all should become clear. If you don’t have access to Chambers, then it’s a little trickier – but if you replace the A with a U (producing the more common spelling) and look it up in the Collins online dictionary ( then you’ll find the explanation.

  4. JOHN ATKINSON says:


    For 28 I had “came up” inside the informality, not an anagram.

    I am struggling with 2 and 3.


    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi John

      Sorry about the error in 28 – no excuse other than hurrying to finish the blog, aka carelessness. Thanks to a prompt from a correspondent I fixed the problem around 3pm.

      2 is an anagram (‘muddled’) of GETS ALL with the usual representation of ‘nothing’ put inside (‘entered’). The solution is hyphenated, 3-5, and the ‘initially’ (which is part of the definition) refers to the fact that entries would have been transferred from here to a book.

      3 is a double definition, the bit of furniture – also hyphenated 3-5 – having been used originally for a specific card game.

      Hope that helps.

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