Notes for Azed 2,628
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 2,628 Plain
Difficulty rating: (1.5 / 5)
A puzzle that featured what seemed to me an inordinate number of straightforward anagrams, in consequence of which I would rate the difficulty as significantly below average. I thought the clues were generally of a reasonable standard, although none particularly stood out.
Note that there is an enumeration error (in the online version, at least) in the clue for 30d, where the solution is four letters and not five.
Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 9d, “Bypass to avoid needing to be on time (5)”. This clue consists of eight words, but only the first three and the last play any active part in the cryptic reading, with ‘needing to be on’ offering no useful information to the solver. Although the word ‘on’ is technically superfluous, it is commonly used as a juxtaposition indicator, and is no less appropriate than words like ‘for’ or ‘in’ when used to link wordplay and definition. But what about ‘needing to be’? One of the core principles of Ximenean clueing is that a clue should consist of wordplay(s), definition(s), and nothing else – this rule is clearly subject to bending, or linking words would not be allowed, but modern thinking is that clues should be kept as concise as possible. On that basis, I think that most editors would be reluctant to use a clue like this as it stands, with something like ‘Bypass to avoid centre of Dunstable’ being preferred.
4a Gold purchases – transactions included at least 200 centavos (9)
The chemical symbol for gold and a word for purchases as seen from the vendor’s perspective with the abbreviation for ‘transactions’ inserted (‘included’) lead to the plural of a former Argentinian currency unit which was equivalent to 100 centavos.
10a Chatter quietly with conductor (7)
The ‘conductor’ here is arguably Britain’s most famous living maestro, and surely the only one who can be confidently identified from just the rear view of his head.
13a Predecessor on the throne, English, branching out? (8)
The usual abbreviation for ‘English’ has a word meaning ‘branching’ outside (‘out’), and the answer is a word seemingly only found in Tennyson’s Harold, but not indicated by Azed as being archaic, obsolete, or generally well past its prime. I wonder if Azed is following the lead of several UK supermarkets in removing ‘best before’ dates from a number of products.
15a Offshoot completely extracted from leek (5)
An eight-letter word for a leek has a synonym for ‘completely’ removed (‘extracted’) to produce the solution.
23a Mac’s cast for fish in Windermere? (6)
I knew neither of the words which feature in this double definition clue, although I was able to guess the single unchecked letter as it produced what sounded like a Scots word. I’ve probably heard of the fish (so called, apparently, because of the size of its scales), but if I’ve seen Keith Floyd or Rick Stein doing something with one I’ve long since put it from my mind.
25a Perth’s neat finish? In Perth, honestly (8)
Here we have a charade of a five-letter word from Perth, Scotland, for ‘neat’ and a three-letter word meaning ‘[to] finish’, the result being a hyphenated (5-3) term from Perth, Australia, meaning ‘honestly’ (probably more familiar to non-antipodeans in its six-letter form, typically preceded by ‘fair’). The ‘neat’ word is definitely Scottish in its four-letter form (without the last letter), although I think the version here is in widespread use (Collins shows it without qualification).
28a Not attributes to be found in penitentiary (5)
This clue raises an interesting question – can a noun be ‘defined’ by something it isn’t? Clearly ‘not cats’ couldn’t indicate ‘dogs’, but ‘not clergy’ could I think indicate ‘laity’. This seems to be somewhere between those two extremes, and I leave it to the reader to decide whether it is valid. The wordplay is so straightforward that the clue could hardly be described as unfair, whatever your conclusion as regards the foregoing.
29a One pursuing plan? Court somehow rejected dull spiel (5)
Perhaps the trickiest clue in the puzzle, a ten-letter word for someone pursuing a plan has an anagram (‘somehow’) of COURT removed (‘rejected’) to produce the solution. I’m a little surprised that Azed didn’t use something like ‘One instituting legal proceedings’ rather than ‘One pursuing plan’, in order to enhance the surface reading.
2d Tailor’s material to employ with circling bands, right inside (11)
The wordplay here takes a bit of teasing out (rather like the material, perhaps). It involves a concatenation of the letters TO (‘from the clue’), a synonym for ’employ’, and a five-letter word for ‘circling bands’, into which the single-character abbreviation for ‘right’ has been inserted.
3d Close interest (4)
The ‘close’ in this double definition clue is how a guess in a game might be described if it was reasonably near to the right answer, but not very near.
5d Hamlet’s sword wound? Laborious, a V cut (5)
A seven-letter word for ‘laborious’ has the consecutive letters AV removed (‘cut’). The solution actually appears in The Taming of the Shrew: “Here’s snip and nip and cut and ***** and slash”.
7d A reader missing denouement? She was furious (6)
The letter A (from the clue) is followed by a word for a reader from which the last letter has been removed. This clue immediately made me think of the Hancock’s Half Hour episode The Missing Page, where the library copy of the murder mystery Lady Don’t Fall Backwards by Darcy Sarto borrowed by Mr H turns out to be lacking the final page, whereon detective Johnny Oxford would have unmasked the foul miscreant.
25d Disinfect mattress from below that’s disgusting (5)
A reversal (‘from below’) of a three-letter word for ‘mattress’ is followed by an interjection meaning “that’s disgusting”.
26d Lively as child with age (not adult) (5)
A three-letter child combines with the letters AGE from which the usual abbreviation for ‘adult’ has been removed, the result being a word which is shown by Chambers, though not by Azed, as ‘dialect’.
27d Inject mass within maximum, first off (5)
The usual abbreviation for ‘mass’ is found inside (‘within’) a five-letter word meaning ‘maximum’ from which the first letter has been removed (‘first off’).
30d Orcadian estate of a kind without superior character? (4)
I must admit that I got the solution here and worked back to the five-letter word meaning ‘of a kind’ that is to be deprived of its initial letter (‘without superior character). I think that ‘of a particular kind’ would probably constitute a better indication.
(definitions are underlined)