Notes for Azed 2,611

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 2,611 Plain

Difficulty rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

At first I thought that the Guardian web site had generously provided the solution as well as the puzzle, but no, it was the grid and solution from three weeks ago. Thankfully the clues were the correct ones, so combining them with the grid from the first page produced a complete puzzle, albeit in two parts.

The recently-recalibrated Tuffometer® gave a reading just above halfway, influenced I think by the tricky SW corner. There were a couple of wordplays which I found a little unsatisfactory, but generally it was an acceptable puzzle, even if it lacked the gusto of Azed’s headiest concoctions.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 29d, “Dog having special identification mark (4)”. A straightforward wordplay leads us to ‘stag’, a verb shown in Chambers as meaning ‘to follow, dog, shadow’, so it’s hard to fault the clue. However, I always feel distinctly uneasy about employing one word which is clearly being used in a metaphorical sense to indicate another such word. The Chambers Thesaurus gives ‘mole’ and ‘canary’ under the entry for ‘rat’, and while I have no problem with ‘informer’ being used to indicate any of these terms, I cannot accept ‘rat’ as a definition of ‘canary’. They are simply not the same thing, as any but the most unscrupulous pet shop owner will tell you. Were it not for the Chambers entry, I would feel rather similarly, if perhaps a little less fervently, about ‘dog’ being used for ‘stag’.

6a Erstwhile conductor in bus mostly with lot transported (5)
The conductor here is a man who owes his fame less to London Transport than the London Philharmonic; he conducted the first performance of his friend Gustav Holst’s The Planets in 1918, received a knighthood in 1937, and after being forced to retire from his position as director of music at the BBC in 1950 revived the flagging fortunes of the LPO. The wordplay involves an anagram (‘transported’) of BUS without its last letter (‘mostly’) and LOT.

10a Legal sponsor representing oneself (without son) occupying large house (10)
The  wordplay here sees a two word (2,6) phrase meaning ‘representing oneself’ with the letters SON removed (‘without son’) being put inside (‘occupying’) a five-letter word for a large house.

20a Three out of twelve growing wild in grass I planted (8, 2 words)
I believe that the intended reading requires the now-familiar ‘missing comma’ to be placed between ‘grass’ and ‘I’, such that an anagram (‘growing wild’) of IN GRASS has the letter I (from the clue) inserted (‘planted’).

21a Site of famous tablet round Troy? It’s been turned over, I swear (8)
The name of the port on the Nile Delta near which a famous tablet (strangely not an iPad) turned up in 1799, almost 2,000 years after its inscription, is put round the usual abbreviation for ‘troy’ (Azed has perhaps taken a slight liberty with the capitalization, but no more so than setters routinely do when using ‘river’ for R) and the whole lot reversed (‘turned over’). Perhaps my favourite clue in the puzzle.

24a English out of place in current plundering of Scotland (4)
A four-letter word which can mean ‘current’, although is more often used in the sense of ‘prevalent’ or ‘abounding’, has the usual abbreviation for ‘English’ moved from one position to another (‘out of place’) to produce a Scots word for ‘plundering’; whether ‘plundering of Scotland’ is strictly accurate seems unimportant, since we all know what Azed is getting at.

27a Train guard’s aid in determining quantities? (6)
An imperative anagram indicator (‘Train’) leads us to the shortened name of a Latin dictionary of prosody (translated form: ‘a step to Parnassus’) which was for many years used in English public schools. First printed in England around 1691, it was intended as an aid in Latin versification, both by giving the ‘quantities’ of words (hence the definition here) and by suggesting poetical epithets and phraseology; the term was applied to subsequent works of a similar nature. As Thomas Hughes wrote in Tom Brown’s School Days,

The three fell to work with ****** and dictionary upon the morning’s vulgus

30a Virtuosic person (if lacking that prime bit of prowess?) (4)
A five-letter word for a person (often used in a legal setting) has the first letter (‘prime bit’) of ‘prowess’ taken away, the result being an adjective which one might not immediately think of as meaning ‘virtuosic’, but a brief consultation with the dictionary should provide the necessary confirmation.

33a People of old Arabia, without date, biblical book included (5)
One generally expects ‘without [a] date’ to indicate the abbreviation SD (‘sine die’), but here we have the less common (in my experience, anyway) ‘sine anno’, which has the three-letter abbreviation for one of the books of the New Testament ‘included’, producing the name of a people best known for their queen, who came to Jerusalem “with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones”.

34a Heir, on being given bit with end of estate (7)
A three-letter synonym for ‘on’ in a cricketing context is followed by (‘given’) a three-letter word meaning ‘bit [into]’ and the last letter (‘end’) of ‘estate’.

4d Row of old guns producing broadside (4)
When the two definitions in a double-definition clue relate to the fourth and fifth headwords in Chambers, there’s every chance that solvers are going to need to get some checked letters before having recourse to the aforesaid work, which makes it somewhat unsatisfactory in my estimation. The first headword is the one we all know – ‘to become weary’ etc.

6d Good queen about king ‘I smother with affection‘ (6)
The name applied to a queen also known as Gloriana is placed around not just an abbreviation for ‘king’ (person not piece) but also the letter I from within the quotation marks.

8d A gun going off, ‘umongous start of destruction without measure? (8)
An anagram (‘going off’) of A GUN is followed by a synonym of ‘humongous’ with the leading ‘h’ analogously removed and the first first letter (‘start’) of ‘destruction’.

16d Rage when heading north entering Scots border, attracting tax (8)
A four-letter word for the sort of ‘rage’ which (with the same sound but a different spelling) frequently overcame Mr Wilkins in the Jennings books is reversed (‘heading north’) inside (‘entering’) a four-letter Scots word for a boundary mark, itself having an alternative spelling ‘dool’.

17d Organ, or rag, distributing the written word? (8)
A three-letter word for a rag (or junk generally) is put inside (‘distributing’) a five-letter term for normal spoken and written language (‘the written word?’).

19d Energy-filled hospital facilities? Armies will want their support (7, 2 words)
A five-letter word for the sort of facilities very much associated with hospitals is ‘filled’ with a two-letter word for energy, the result being a (3,4) term.

22d Scale as in wee round (6)
The word ’round’ here seems redundant and somewhat unfair. A three-letter word meaning ‘in the capacity of’ inside (‘in’) another Scots meaning much the same as ‘wee’ delivers the answer nicely. I suppose ‘in wee round’ could be interpreted as something like ‘enclosed by wee on all sides’, but I’m not keen.

23d Orangey stuff, one to get (but not in) (6)
The Mad Jaffa Cake Eater (as played by Victor Spinetti) used to steal people’s Jaffa Cakes while loudly declaring “There’s Orangey”, but that seemed unlikely to be relevant here, and so it proved. A two-letter word meaning ‘one’ is followed by a six-letter word for ‘to get’ or ‘to achieve’ from which the consecutive letters IN have been removed (‘but not in’).

28d Take a little girl climbing (4)
A slang term for a girl is reversed (‘climbing’) to produce a word more familiar as a noun in a specific expression, but which Chambers gives as a verb with a meaning exactly matching the definition here, although it is shown as ‘obsolete’, something which Azed has chosen not to indicate.

(definitions are underlined)

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7 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Hmm.. 3d left. I have the 4 letter word for Laplanders and want to append something for I’ll join. I have the 5th letter from the 15a too but can’t see the final letter! I thought the reference might be to an Indian political organisation but still can’t make sense of I’ll join (adding an I still leaves me with the extra letter before it!)

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Mike, and welcome to the blog.

      You’re essentially correct about everything – but if you look in Chambers under the entry for the Laplander you’ll see that there is a five-letter plural form which includes your mysterious extra letter. All should then be clear.

      Hope that helps.

  2. JOHN ATKINSON says:

    I hesitated on 28d, it being a long time since seeing the word used in such a way. Will have to watch an episode of The Sweeney on Youtube this evening, wifey permitting.

    Wasted far too much time on 14a and was unaware of the 16a antelope. All in all, very satisfying.

  3. Steve says:

    The problem with the web site was mirrored by the paper copy which had a large grid with the solutions from 2608. I had to print out the current grid and stick it on the paper 😀

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Trust the Grauniad to come up with something a bit different! The online version seems to have been fixed, so expect someone from the newspaper to come round shortly with a new edition of the paper 🙂