Notes for Azed 2,633

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 2,633 Plain

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

The puzzle only just arrived on the Guardian web site in time for my breakfast, and I thought that while there weren’t any particularly tough clues when taken as a whole it was of above average difficulty. 

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to take a look at clue 26d, “Writer of poetry: listening releases bits of it near the end”. The cryptic aspect of the clue is discussed below, but the point I want to make here concerns the surface reading: Azed has come up with a wordplay which produces the surname of a poet, but the ‘it’ means that satisfactorily integrating a definition such as ‘poet’ is pretty much impossible (“Poet: listening releases bits of it near the end” makes no sense). In such situations, one needs to look at a definition which ‘hands over’ to the following clause a thing (that could be referred to with the pronoun ‘it’) rather than a person (which would require ‘him’ or ‘her’). Hence the ‘writer of poetry’, which solves the problem neatly.

1a Scottish expert bagging fortune, making complete turn (7)
A four-letter adjective with a meaning of ‘expert’ north of the border, and a more widespread meaning of ‘second-hand’, containing (‘bagging’) a word for fortune, usually seen these days prefixed by mis- or suffixed by -less, results in a (1-6) hyphenated solution.

14a Fruit lad oddly planted in desert? It’s disappeared (6)
An anagram (‘oddly’) of LAD is placed (‘planted’) in a word for ‘desert’ from which the consecutive letters IT have been removed (“It’s disappeared”).

15a Approve belly? That depends(7)
A charade of a four-letter verb (more often encountered as an interjection) and an informal term for a belly, and a definition which is on the loose side – ‘That’ refers to the answer, while the word ‘depends’ needs to be interpreted as ‘hangs down’, a sense which Chambers gives as ‘rare’, although OED says that it is ‘now chiefly in literary use’.

17a Arrangement of psalms? Rev tries ’em out around Church (12)
It’s probably easier to work out the (7,5) result of an anagram (‘out’) of REV TRIES EM being put around the abbreviation for a church of a specific denomination than it is to find the solution in Chambers. As Azed says, it appears at the entry for its second element, but even there it is hidden under the entry for the alternative form whereof the first word is ‘common’.

21a Preparing eggs without fish in grate for locals (4)
A ten-letter word for a particular way of preparing eggs has the name of a  fish of the cod family much prized by crossword setters removed (‘without fish’) to produce a dialect (‘for locals’) word meaning ‘[to] scratch’. Azed has been a bit naughty here, as he is suggesting that the verb meaning ‘to prepare eggs’ is intransitive when it is not. Starting the clue with “Preparing (eggs)…” wouldn’t work, but I think “Way of preparing eggs without fish in grate for locals” would be fine.

22a Spicy sauce served with children for cruel deity (6)
Here the four-letter term for a Mexican sauce containing chilli and chocolate (and for a small furry animal – the term, that is, not the sauce) is followed  by (‘served with’) the usual abbreviation for ‘children’, the solution being the name of a Semitic god to whom children were sacrificed.

28a A large quantity poured out in small copper flask (7)
I could argue that this was an indirect anagram, since the fodder to be ‘poured out’ consists of FLASK plus the chemical symbol for copper. But I won’t. Azed appears to have included ‘small’ in order to indicate that the representation of ‘copper’ is a short one, but since it isn’t an abbreviation I’m not sure about this. I think that something like “Copper flask rattled a lot” would be clearer.

31a Twit taking in Latin, a gentle youth  (6)
The ‘twit’ here is twit2 in Chambers, meaning ‘to upbraid’, and the answer is inextricably linked in  my mind with Byron’s Harold.

On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing Hours with flying feet.

32a USN battalion inquires about former president shortly (7)
A four-letter word meaning ‘inquires’ around (‘about’) a diminutive form of the first name of the sixteenth president of the United States, the battalion in question being of the construction type (hence the name by which its members are known).

34a Swelling? Doctor with ring cut half of it (7)
A seven-letter word for a particular sort of medical doctor has the letter of the alphabet shaped like a ring removed (‘ring cut’) and is followed by half of the word ‘it’. The ‘swelling’ relates specifically to rising or swelling in waves, as the sea might do.

2d Mother, trim with ending of exercise (5)
Like the twit in 31a, the mother here is mother2 in the big red book. A synonym for ‘trim’ is followed by the last letter (‘ending’) of the word ‘exercise’.

3d The old linger, brooding over losing ring (4)
An eight-letter word meaning ‘brooding over’ (an unfamiliar – to me, anyway – transitive form, the intransitive version meaning ‘remaining suspended in the air’ being  more common) loses a ring, but unlike that cut by the doctor in 31a this is the letters RING.

5d Naughtily pair recreate fun involving two pairs (12, 2 words)
The solution here is (6,6), and I think that the ‘fun’ in the definition is probably a bit of a stretch. The answer refers to a group comprising two pairs, as in this extract from Rolf Boldrewood’s A Colonial Reformer:

A ?????? ?????? composed of George, his mother, sister, and Mr. John.

9d Table loaded with extremes of largess, without a single weak part (7)
I thought at first we might be looking at the first and last letters (‘extremes’) of ‘largess’ being combined with an anagram (‘loaded’) of TABLE, but then realized that they were in fact to be inserted into a five-letter word for a table, particularly of the sort used in rituals.

11d Half’s rough team member, a Rugby thug? (8)
The capital R in ‘Rugby’ rather gives the game away here (but it would have been unfair on solvers not to include it). An anagram (‘rough’) of HALFS is followed by a word for a team member, and the thug was particularly hard on Tom and Scud. Despite being expelled for drunkenness, with a little help from George MacDonald Fraser he subsequently rose through the ranks of the British Army and received a knighthood, although his collection of unappealing character traits remained untrammelled. His success probably owed much to his three professed natural talents of horsemanship, aptitude for foreign languages, and fornication. Though not all at the same time.

20d Fine ladies taking off Dutch decking (7)
A nine-letter word for ‘fine ladies’ has the two-letter abbreviation for ‘Dutch’ removed, producing a word for the parallel planks of a pontoon bridge, always seen in this plural form. Incidentally, the chap who lays them is known as a ????? man.

26d Writer of poetry: listening releases bits of it near the end (5)
A seven-letter word for ‘listening’ has the letters I and T separately removed ‘near the end’, producing the surname of a major English poet of the twentieth century. The degree he received from Oxford may have been third class, but his mind was a couple of classes higher. His best-known poem is probably the one now usually known as “Stop all the clocks”, the reading of which in Four Weddings and a Funeral brought its author to the attention of a new audience. He was a very quotable author, among his best lines perhaps being “A professor is someone who talks in someone else’s sleep.” and “Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.”

27d It’s craggy in the Cairngorms, but climbing follows short section (4)
A word meaning ‘but’ is reversed (‘climbing’) after (‘following’) the usual abbreviation for ‘section’, and the solution is a Scots word for ‘steep’.

29d Soft down fluttered, as listeners perceive? (4)
A homophone clue finishes things off this week, the answer sounding like (‘as listeners perceive’) a word meaning ‘fluttered’.

(definitions are underlined)

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7 Responses

  1. Blake says:

    16d is troubling me. I have a solution, in Chambers ‘to conquer in war’ and see the cat reference but still cannot entirely parse the clue.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Blake

      It is not the first definition given in Chambers under tom[1] (ie ‘the male of various animals, esp a cat’) that you need but the second, referring to the sort of thing found in Tom Tower at Christ Church, Oxford. The resulting four-letter word is put inside another four-letter word meaning ‘something done’, leading to the solution which you have identified.

  2. Doctor Clue says:

    Hi Steve

    I think that I probably should have picked that one out for comment, so I have now added it to the notes above. Hope that helps.

  3. Steve says:

    I have the answer to 15ac and the word play from the first two words of the clue, but how does the definition work?