Notes for Azed 2,631

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 2,631 Plain

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

After last week’s Playfair shenanigans we’ve got a standard plain puzzle this week, and one which I thought was very close to average difficulty. Several nicely constructed clues, and very little with which I could take issue.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 25d, “Backs measure up, with attractive charm (5)”. The whole clue is covered in the notes below, but what I wanted to pick out here was the use of ‘attractive charm’ to indicate SA. On several occasions I have seen people on the crossword forums grousing about the use of what they consider outdated terms such as this one, or ‘daily’ to indicate CHAR, or ‘posh’ for U. Whilst I have no sympathy with their rationale – these words and expressions are still very much a part of our language – it is fair to say that a number of these devices also fall squarely into the box marked ‘hackneyed’, and for that reason I try to avoid them in my clues wherever possible.  The currency of the terms is of little or no relevance in my view – yes, I’ve seen ‘daily’ for CHAR more than enough times, but the same applies to ‘bit of a kip’ for AT and ‘jolly’ for RM. I don’t have an issue with setters using words and phrases from the past (surely that’s part of the fun of crosswords), or indeed the occasional SA or IT, but I do like to see originality (combined, I need hardly say, with soundness) outweighing banality, which is one reason why I like Azed’s puzzles so much.

Across
1a Field grass, luxurious, mum plucked in pampas, grown wild (8)
What is contained in the anagram (‘grown wild’) of PAMPAS is a four-letter word meaning ‘luxuriant’ from which a two-letter interjection meaning ‘hush’ (ie ‘mum’) has been removed (‘plucked’).

12a Ivy hugged by priest, shame abandoned (5)
The ‘ivy’ which is contained (‘hugged’) by the usual two-letter abbreviation for ‘priest’ is the Japanese name for Aralia cordata or spikenard, a perennial producing new shoots each spring which are blanched and eaten as a vegetable. The ‘abandoned’ indicates that the solution is shown by Chambers as ‘obsolete’.

14a Slack ropes left hand cast off (6)
The anagram indicator here is ‘off’, while the fodder is the standard abbreviation for ‘left hand’ plus CAST.

15a Short time getting into network? This’ll facilitate that (6)
A two-letter word for a (very) short time ‘gets into’ a four-letter word for a network (eg of blood vessels or nerves), and the definition is perhaps a little loose but not, I think, unreasonable.

16a Sacred object I wrapped in robe (6)
The robe or gown in which the letter I must be wrapped is more commonly spelt with -eau on the end.

18a Jacques maybe in service struggling for non-melodic parts (11)
The ‘Jacques’ here will I’m sure be familiar to more mature solvers, but not necessarily to those of tender years. His films featuring the wonderful comic creation Monsieur Hulot were hugely popular both in his native France and internationally, and Rowan Atkinson has acknowledged that the existence of Mr Bean owes more than a little to his having watched Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday at the age of 17. In this clue his surname is contained by an anagram (‘struggling’) of SERVICE.

24a Celebrated statute completed, according to hearsay (6)
I’m not a great fan of homophones, and I wasn’t much taken by this one, although reading ‘statute’ as ‘statue’ didn’t help. The solution sounds like two words meaning ‘statute’ and ‘completed’.

26a Sucker switching ends in little stream (6)
The word for a sucker or sapling which must have its first and last letters exchanged is more familiar as the name given to a device for turning a rudder or the surname of a Manchester man famed for his dancing girls.

27a Slight Italian gents doffing cap (6)
As correspondent Jim points out in his comment below, the clue as it stands doesn’t work. It should read “Slight Italian gent’s doffing cap”.

Down
2d Feldspar lay around, mostly uninteresting one (8)
The wordplay here is of slightly devious construction, a four-letter word meaning ‘uninteresting’ without its last letter (‘mostly’) and a single-letter word for ‘one’ having another word for a lay or song outside (ie ‘around’).

6d My siesta gives this, of minimum significance (6)
My reason for having a siesta is that it gives ?? ????.

7d Old Etonians, say, following trend turned up with a topper on (6)
A two-letter word meaning ‘following [the latest] trend’ is reversed (‘turned up’) and has the letter A and a three-letter word for a top hat (aka a chimney-pot hat) put above it.

9d Late exploit at extremes, enough said (possibly) (8)
Surrounded by a four-letter word for an exploit (ie ‘[with] exploit at [the] extremes’) is a Shakespearean interjection of uncertain meaning and uncertain spelling. In King Lear, Edgar says “Dolphin my Boy, Boy, ****”. Since Edgar is at that time in the role of crazy, half-naked beggar ‘PoorTom’, his rantings are in any event largely unintelligible.

11d Graceful Linda, six, in new guise (11)
The ‘six’ here refers directly to the solution at 6d.

20d What may be flourished in a moiety of leavetakings? (6)
An &lit, the wordplay indicating that an anagram of the solution can be found (‘what may be flourished’) in one half (‘moiety’) of the word ‘leavetakings’.

21d Posset shows this, one appearing in nasty mixture after end of bottle (6)
This one can be viewed as either a conventional clue or what Ximenes termed an ‘offshoot &lit’, where the whole clue provides the definition but only part of it serves as the wordplay, here the section which I have not underlined. The wordplay has the Roman numeral for ‘one’ appearing inside a word for a nasty mixture, the whole lot following the last letter (‘end’) of ‘bottle’.

22d Ray, dead, stripped of hood, led away (6)
The usual abbreviation for ‘dead’ is followed by an eight-letter word meaning ‘stripped of hood’ (as a monk might be) from which the letters LED have been removed (‘led away’). The answer is hyphenated, 3-3, and rather like the term ‘Bombay duck’ suggests a different type of critter entirely.

25d Backs measure up, with attractive charm (4)
A nicely-disguised break between definition and wordplay, the latter involving  a measure (5½ yards) being reversed (‘up’) and combined with a two-letter abbreviation for ‘attractive charm’.

(definitions are underlined)

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2 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    I don’t know if it is my outdated dictionary, but I needed Signore to be the plural of “Italian gents” to make 27A work. My Chambers says it is masculine singular or feminine plural, but ‘“gents” would end “-i” or “-s”. Am I missing something?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Jim

      You’re absolutely right. I remember wondering about this clue when I solved it, but it wasn’t one that I marked for comment and I forgot to check ‘signore’ in Chambers. I was also puzzled by the use of ‘cap’ rather than ‘caps’ (multiple gents with just a single cap?), and I feel pretty sure that both issues stem from a single cause – a missing apostrophe. I believe that “gents” should read “gent’s”, and I will update the notes accordingly.

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