Notes for Azed 2,636

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 2,636 ‘Christmas Cards’

Difficulty rating: 4.5 out of 10 stars (4.5 / 10)

As a Christmas ‘special’ this was quite a straightforward solve, both the normal clues and the wordplay in the gimmicked clues being very friendly for the most part. I must confess that I initially counted only 16 ‘card’ clues, and had to check through to identify the other two (both of which work to a degree without the ‘card’, but work better with it). Following the notes on individual clues I have listed the ‘card’ clues; I’ll be happy to indicated where the letters C-A-R-D have been removed in the mutilation process on request.

Note that the entries associated with several of the ‘card’ clues are ambiguous (1d being an example) so be careful when entering the solutions when the wordplay doesn’t uniquely indicate the sequence of letters and the unmutilated answer contains multiple instances of C, A, R or D in the right order (eg  CARICATURED).

One of the ‘card’ words/phrases not in Chambers was unfamiliar to me, while the other is formed from a common word; I’m quite surprised that Chambers doesn’t give the non-thematic two-word phrase, which I doubt anyone will even feel the need to look up.

May I take this opportunity to wish all readers a very happy festive season and to thank them for the comments which they have made through the year. The next Azed will not appear until 1st January (it will be another competition puzzle), so to ensure some cruciverbal activity next weekend I have printed off this week’s Enigmatic Variations puzzle (a scan of which a Telegraph reader has kindly made available to download) ready to be tackled then – it looks as though it will present a good challenge, and the setter’s alias suggests that it may have a seasonal flavour. Hints for the puzzle can be found on Big Dave’s site. Update: it didn’t, in fact, have a seasonal theme, and whist it presented a challenge it wasn’t one that I enjoyed…solving a puzzle like that is a reminder of just how good Azed’s clues are.

Clue Writers’ Corner: I would encourage solvers to have a go at this competition. You need to select any word or phrase of 12 or fewer letters (so not CHRISTMAS CARD) matching the pattern *C*A*R*D*, so ACARIDIAN would be an option, as would BENCHMARKED. There are several hundred possibilities – it’s ok to use one of the words that Azed included in the puzzle, but with so many options I’d be inclined to steer clear of them, and I’d suggest choosing a word that has enough letters to leave you several that will be indicated by the wordplay (CARDY, for instance, isn’t going to offer much scope). When writing clues of this type, be careful about using words to link the wordplay and the definition, particularly those that imply equivalence – “Match is put in box (4)” for CARTONED appears good, with ‘Match’ leading to TONE and ‘put in box’ giving CARTONED, but in effect the clue is saying TONE IS CARTONED, which it isn’t. I don’t expect Azed will disqualify such clues, but they are likely to be marked down. “Match put in box” would be absolutely fine. In Azed’s 18 card-carrying clues, 16 have no linking words and the other two use ‘for’ to join wordplay to definition. If you look at the successful entries in previous Christmas competitions, you will see that Azed tends to favour those with a seasonal theme, and you will also note that veteran competitors usually supply clues that deliver on that score. Certain of Azed’s CARD clues are ambiguous (eg 1d, 16d) in terms of the grid entry, so as long as the letters CARD appear in the right order in your word, and the wordplay indicates a valid sequence of letters remaining after C-A-R-D has been removed, there will be no problem, so ‘Hired three cooks’ is valid for CHARTERED even though the entry could be HTERE or HRTEE.


5a Rapport that is following one, reverse of large quantity (7)
The usual abbreviation for ‘that is’ follows both a single-letter word meaning ‘one’ and a reversal of a word for a large quantity, normally seen in the plural form referring to paper, or things that might be listed at length on paper.

15a What’s fed to cage-birds some observe (6)
I rather like this one, the wordplay consisting of two three-letter words, the first meaning ‘some’ and the other ‘observe’.

20a Taboos including rule for types of litter (5)
‘Taboos’ here can be either a noun or a verb, leading to a four-letter word which ‘includes’ the usual abbreviation for ‘rule’. The word thus produced might appear to come close to satisfying the definition, but it isn’t the answer.

24a Survive cargo: it’s popular with NZ players (4)
This clue is a triple-definition of sorts – each of the first two words leads directly to the grid entry, while the remainder indicate the answer (not to be found in Chambers). The enumeration should be (4, 2 words).

26a Old silver piece: Italian adventurer has one inscribed (5)
The ‘Italian adventurer’ is the family name of the Venetian merchant, explorer and writer who travelled along the Silk Road in the thirteenth century. It has a single-letter word for ‘one’ put inside (‘inscribed’).

28a Fable maybe, quite bloody around its denouement (8)
Words for ‘quite’ and ‘bloody’ are placed around the last letter of ‘Fable’ (‘its denouement’).

30a Horse ran off: cause? (3)
A six-letter word for a small, inferior type of horse bred and used chiefly in Ireland and Scotland has the consecutive letters RAN removed (‘ran off’).

33a They perform at extremes, mark and dash around repeatedly (6, 2 words)
The standard abbreviation (before the days of the euro) for Deutschmark is surrounded by two instances (‘repeatedly’) of a two-letter printing term applied to a short dash (being the name of a letter having the same width).

35a Back away from nettle, receiving first sign of sting? (6)
Here we have a four-letter word meaning ‘[to] nettle’ containing the name of the first letter (‘first sign of’) ‘sting’.

40a Fitted with wheels exorbitantly, not ply (4)
A seven-letter word for ‘exorbitantly’ has the string PLY removed (‘not ply’); the answer is not in Chambers, or in any other dictionary that I consulted, but there are certainly examples of its use on the web and it seems perfectly sensible.


4d Eyes Scotch with a dash of Evian ready on the side? (4)
The plural of a Scots form of ‘eye’ is followed by the first letter (‘a dash of’) ‘Evian’, and the answer is a nautical term.

6d I dropped Margaret shortly, professed happy (5)
One of the many diminutive (‘shortly’) forms of the name Margaret (though not the most obvious), this one contains two instances of the letter I – it is the second of these which must be removed (‘I dropped’). The answer is derived from a 19th century neologism meaning ‘to consider (someone or something) as blessed’.

11d Navy caught at sea? Against Scots mostly (5)
The usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘navy’ is contained by a (1,3) phrase such that it could be cryptically seen as having been ‘caught at sea’ (or in a river).

23d Closure of passage in continent limiting endless journey, long (7)
The name of a continent is containing (‘limiting’) a four-letter word for a journey from which the last letter has been omitted (‘endless’); the ‘long’ is there simply to qualify the journey, there being a somewhat similar word which describes a journey of indeterminate length.

32d Insurgent succeeded in mounting ambition (4)
The usual abbreviation for ‘succeeded’ is contained by a reversal (‘mounting’) of a word for an ambition.

34d Iberian duck in home of goose (not California) (4)
The six-letter ‘home’ of a particular kind of goose (and frankly I rather wish that they had stayed there) has an abbreviation for ‘California’ removed, the result satisfying a mildly cryptic definition.

35d Wretch? I should think so, having forsaken her (3)
A nice one to finish with. A six-letter word meaning ‘I should think so’ is deprived of (‘having forsaken’) the letters HER.

(definitions are underlined)

The clues which must have the letters C-A-R-D removed from their answers prior to entry are:

Across: 1, 5, 13, 15, 17, 20*, 24, 39, 40

Down: 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 16, 18*, 27, 32

*These are the two clues which I initially thought were normal

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13 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    The instructions for this were highly misleading. To say the CARD clues contain cyrptic indications relating to ‘only coincidentally a real word’ implies what is left after removing ‘card’ will be real words, but only by coincidence (unrelated to the definition or clue).

    Having turned here for help only to see that nonsense could be put in, not real words, I don’t think I have any energy left after the disappointment.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Tom, and welcome to the blog

      Mmm, I take your point – it should probably have been phrased the other way around, ie something to the effect that most of the CARD entries were non-words, with any real words appearing only by coincidence.

      Perhaps after a mince pie and a glass of something nice you will feel sufficiently reinvigorated to pick up where you left off…

  2. Blake says:

    I am struggling to satisfactorily parse 36a – I have a 3 letter alternative spelling for a word defined in Chambers as ‘any impediment’ within a 2 letter abbreviation of the Latin meaning ‘aged’. The resulting word cannot be found in Chambers or on the web, at least, not given the meaning ‘the old behaved’. Have I made an error elsewhere?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Blake

      No, your checked letters are correct, but the vowel you’re putting in the middle is the wrong one. The wordplay is actually just ‘accepted nuisance’, giving a single-character abbreviation plus a four-letter noun, and the answer is the past tense of an obsolete word meaning ‘[to] behave’, to be found in Chambers under the infinitive form which shares only the first two letters.

      I hope that’s helpful.

  3. Ursula says:

    Thanks for that re 6d – thought I was going to have to choose between a US-type spelling and a GB one.
    Understand 8d now. Never had asthma so wasn’t familiar with that drug.
    I do like the grammatical correctness of AZED. Should of realized the solutions (hee hee)

  4. Ursula says:

    Enjoyed solving this without your help!!!!!
    For 6 down, though, the hidden letter could be ‘s’ or ‘z’, couldn’t it?
    Oh, think I may need your help, after all…
    8 down – I don’t know the reasoning behind the clue – unless I have the wrong answer…
    I only like to input the answer when I’m certain it is right. Don’t know how you solve AZED so quickly

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Ursula

      I’d like to think that my role is just to dot the occasional ‘i’ and consume the occasional ‘t’ 🙂

      6d – Either ‘s’ or ‘z’ would satisfy the definition, but when it comes to names and their diminutives Azed’s point of reference is the ‘Some first names’ section of Chambers, so the name indicated by ‘Margaret shortly’ must be spelt with an ‘s’.

      8d – I’m sure you have the right answer, defined by the last two words of the clue. The wordplay involves a two-letter word for ‘forward’ (in the adverbial sense) being ‘injected’ into the five-letter name of a drug ‘used to control certain types of asthma and allergic bronchitis’.

      I hope that makes sense.

      PS When you’ve solved as many Azeds as I have, you find that you’re automatically tuned to his wavelength! I often find ‘easier’ puzzles by setters I’ve never encountered before to be considerably more difficult, especially if – unlike Azed – they are not too particular about soundness.

  5. 🍊 says:

    Thanks for the _lue __rangement or_er (sorry, that’s all that I could think of).
    I’m struggling with the uncrossed letters in 24A, 39A, 40A and 2D, despite your hints for some of them.
    I liked the geese; felt good to have an Every(wo)man-type clue!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      You’re welcome.

      24A – The four-letter grid entry means both ‘survive’ (a common usage) and ‘[a load of] cargo’ (considerably less common in the circles I move in). The answer is a (4,4) phrase, the grid entry being the first word of it.
      39A – The wordplay has a two-letter word for ‘Thanks’ containing a five-letter word meaning ‘abide’ or ‘tolerate’. The CARD has been dropped from the outside.
      40A – The wheels are of the sort that might enable you to move a piece of furniture around. I carelessly said that the word for ‘exorbitantly’ had six letters (whoops!) – it has seven.
      2D – ‘Perfect’ is a two-letter (or one letter/one number) designation of something that is first-rate, while ‘answer’ is a three-letter abbreviation. The CARD has been lost from positions 2,3,4 and 6.

      Hope that helps.

      • 🍊 says:

        Ye-es. I had 23A but couldn’t see the kiwi connection. 2D if you anagram the letters, the elves don’t find the answer.
        Should of got others,🤕
        🎉🎄 or 🐑🍬 (depending on your Scrooge factor)

        • Doctor Clue says:

          The game seems to be extremely popular in New Zealand, specifically in ‘schools and gaming venues’. During the latter part of my secondary education the two were one and the same 🙂

  6. JOHN ATKINSON says:


    I am about 3/4 through and enjoying the struggle. I spotted a couple of oversights above. For 40a you give the length as 6, while the pdf gives 5. The grid has only 4 spaces. In your list of across CARDS, you have 8 which I believe should be 5.

    Sorry to nit-pick but I know you prefer things to jive.

    Enjoy the holiday season. Looking forward to another year of Azed and your musings. J.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi John

      Thanks for that – both the PDF and I were of course wrong in our different ways about 40a, the correct length of the grid entry being 4 letters. My only excuse regarding 5 is a combination of small, bold print and my eyesight, but I somehow managed to get it right in the main body of the hints! Both now sorted. Much appreciated, cos as you rightly say I am a stickler for accuracy and encourage correspondents to point out any errors that they spot.

      I similarly wish you a happy festive season and thank you for your comments throughout the year – the site would be very much the poorer without the questions, thoughts and corrections of readers.