Notes for Azed 2,620
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 2,620 Plain
Difficulty rating: (3.5 / 5)
A 13×11 puzzle which struck me as being quite tricky in places. Some of the clues were not simple to parse, and a couple of dodgy (ie not in Chambers) added to the complexity. I didn’t think that overall it was one of his very best, but others may feel differently.
Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 17a, “Ambassador infiltrating rebel Chinese (5)”. ‘Hidden’ clues like this rarely generate a great deal of debate, largely I think because the answer is there in plain view and there is little incentive to take a microscopic view of the wordplay. Although I have seen it said that pretty much any containment or insertion indicator can be used in a ‘hidden’, I don’t agree with this. Containment and insertion indicators essentially come in two forms: static (eg ‘inside’, ‘holding’), where a steady state is being described, and dynamic (eg ‘going into’ ‘drawing in’) where an action is described. The latter group cannot in my view be used to indicate a hidden word, since it’s already in situ. I’m not comfortable that ‘infiltrate’ has anything other than a ‘dynamic’ meaning, and therefore I think this clue would be better as “Ambassador that’s infiltrated rebel Chinese”.
10a A hum around major artery? It’s a spinal process (8)
The letter A (from the clue) is followed by a five-letter verb which is the sort of thing that Bing Crosby would do (when on stage rather than the golf course) containing the two-character designation of a ‘major artery’ in the context of the English road system. I am reminded of Norah Jarman’s brilliant winning clue for CHEMIST in Ximenes comp 743, “I provide something you can rattle up and down in a box”.
13a African tongue precious in southern part of the continent (5)
A somewhat icky three-letter term of endearment (a shortening of a similarly sweet five-letter term) is contained by the normal abbreviation for the southern part of Africa (‘the continent’, referring back to the start of the clue).
14a Try one’s hardest, as American rabble broaching cask (8, 3 words)
A two-letter abbreviation meaning ‘American’ and a three-letter word for a rabble (often associated with rag, and sometimes also bobtail) are contained by (‘broaching’) a three-letter word for a large cask (more often seen in its four letter form).
15a Scottish hard rock duo finally lost in tragedy (6)
I couldn’t immediately think of any Scottish hard rock duos (I don’t feel that the Proclaimers quite cut it), but here Azed has craftily disguised the break between definition and wordplay, the latter involving the last two letters (‘duo finally’) being lost from the title of one of the Bard’s most famous tragedies. Hard rock duos of any nationality? The White Stripes would be the best I could come up with.
16a Source of music once – merry monarch welcomes it (6)
The ‘merry monarch’ who ‘welcomes’ (contains) the letters IT (from the clue) is not Charles II but another merry old soul.
18a Faced government department stopping boozing for good? The reverse (8)
A charade of the two-letter abbreviation for the Department of Education, a two-letter abbreviation meaning ‘stopping boozing’ (or more accurately ‘not boozing’, since one might never have started), and a four-letter word meaning ‘for good’ (or ‘always’) is reversed in its entirety (‘The reverse’). The answer is something that might describe ramparts or river banks which have been given a retaining ‘face’.
26a Sail ships lacking mark in part of India (5)
A three-letter word for ships in general (but only those ‘of a certain age’) has the usual abbreviation for ‘mark’ removed (‘lacking mark’) and is contained by the name of a state in the south-west of India.
27a Little bit of corn in idle unploughed meadow (6)
A three-letter word for a ‘little bit of corn’ (the seedy element) is contained by an old slang word meaning ‘[to] idle’, the result being a (3-3) hyphenated solution.
29a Jock’s crazy touching woman in flop (6)
Even if you started off in the SE corner, I doubt whether this was your FOI. I could be wrong, though. The wordplay has a two-letter bit of commercial jargon for ‘concerning’ (ie ‘touching’) followed by a single-letter abbreviation for ‘women’ (though not ‘woman’) inside a three-letter term for a flop. The solution is hyphenated (3-3) and is the Scots form of a (3-4) expression, the second element of each being an obsolete adjective meaning ‘insane’
30a Acidic salt? Lupin maybe is filled with it (8)
Careful with the unchecked letter here – IT (from the clue) must be put inside the first name of Maurice Leblanc’s fictional gentleman thief to produce the name of a particular salt. Pedants might argue that ‘acidic salt’ is close to tautology, but not me. Well, not today.
31a Committee treated penetratingly for auditors? (5)
A homophone (‘for auditors’) of a word for which ‘treated penetratingly’ is a rather long-winded synonym.
1d Newt caught by chance in creel? (6)
Native British newts come in three varieties, but Crossword newts number just two – the eft and the ask (or asker). The one in this clue is contained by a three-letter word meaning ‘[to] chance’.
4d Wily creature runs in mountainous region (6)
‘The usual abbreviation for ‘runs’ is contained by the name of the autonomous region of China nicknamed ‘The Roof of the World’, producing the name of the cat in Reynard the Fox, although I’m not sure that he was particularly wily, an epithet which could more appropriately be applied to Reynard.
7d Scottish entry, I lost to Jones? (4)
‘Jones’ here is the seventeenth century architect of that ilk, and he endures the loss one of his I’s in order to provide you with a Scots word for an entry.
8d Bat caught out getting cap in the past (5)
A seven-letter bat (the largest British species) loses a two-letter abbreviation for ‘caught’ (‘caught out’) to produce a Spenserian spelling of an old word for the top of the head. Unfortunately, although I have seen this abbreviation used many times in cricket scorebooks, it isn’t given by Chambers. I did also ponder over whether the top of the head could be described as the ‘cap’, but I think that in an ornithological context (eg blackcap) it could.
9d Harrow’s maybe punished with a wicket? (5)
A double-definition clue, which potentially describing someone who has been given a specific punishment at Harrow School or an entry which has been closed off with a ‘wicket’. I thought the phrasing here was a tad cumbersome.
11d Millennium (not AD) in a bit of a pickle? (5)
A seven-letter word for a millennium (or 1,000 of anything) loses the letters AD (‘not AD’) to produce something that could definitely form part of a pickle.
19d Channel cargo famously scrapped in water (7)
A simple wordplay, and a reference to a composition which featured at number 27 in Bookworm‘s 1995 poll to find Britain’s favourite poem*. Just the three verses to learn, the last being
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
Incidentally, it also features a spelling error in line 1, the vessel from Nineveh being described as a ‘quinquireme’.
*1: If— (Kipling) 2: The Lady of Shalott (Tennyson) 3: The LIsteners (de la Mare)
20d Seasoned society gal brought up to admit Scottish race (6)
The sort of gal who was coming out into society is reversed (‘brought up’) around (‘to admit’) a Scots form of the word ‘run’ (differing from the usual form only in its middle letter).
22d Snack aromas avoided by ladies? (5)
An eight-letter word for ‘aromas’ (or ‘tastes’) is deprived of (‘avoided by’) an informal term for a facility which could be indicated by either ‘ladies’ or ‘gents’. The snack takes its name from the time of day at which a light meal would be provided to workers toiling in the fields at harvest time.
25d Goddess, foremost of those in Asian province (5)
A four-letter Greek goddess is followed by the first letter (‘foremost’) of ‘these’, producing the name of a province in Afghanistan.
(definitions are underlined)