Notes for Azed 2,638

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 2,638 Plain

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

A pleasant solve, the difficulty seeming to me just a tad below average. The ‘possibly unfamiliar trade name’ is found at 19d, although it will not be unfamiliar to anyone who shares (or even exhibits a  fraction of) my enthusiasm for a particular type of food.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 7a, “Eric, maybe, not employed in Lidl emporium (4)”. Azed quite frequently, as here, bolts a second definition onto a normal clue. This clue would work perfectly well without the first two words, but he has chosen to add a reference to a member of the Monty Python team and the co-creator of The Rutles. Modern crossword editors are apt to reject this type of thing, as much as anything because of the space constraints increasingly constraining printed puzzles, so although such a clue adds a bit of variety and gives the solver additional direction towards the solution I would in general advise steering clear when setting for newspapers, although clues with an extra definition – or an extra wordplay – are absolutely fine when it comes to Azed competition entries..


1a Drinks knocked back, including round, in early youth (8)
A four-letter word meaning ‘drinks [by licking up]’ is reversed (‘knocked back’) around (‘including’) a four-letter word for a round [thing]. The ‘early’ is there to qualify the definition ‘youth’, since the solution is shown by Chambers as ‘archaic’.

11a Peasants skin a chicken, to be stuffed with sage finally (9)
A four-letter word meaning ‘skin’ (or ‘to cut down’) is followed by A (from the clue) and a three-letter word for a chicken, into which the last letter (‘finally’) of ‘sage’ has been ‘stuffed’.

12a Transfer a lot in computer’s memory for arts degree (4)
The solution here is both an abbreviation for a particular type of arts degree and a word which Chambers defines as “to transfer a large array of bits between different locations in a computer’s memory.” I spent many years working in IT without ever coming across this word, but that is probably no great surprise as it turns out to be the name of a bitmap graphics terminal developed at Bell Labs in 1982. At that time I was working on PDP-11  telex systems and knew little of graphics devices. Hands up all those who remember telexes. Well, you must at least remember fax machines. No? You’re having me on. Anyway, the name of this particular device was derived from the second syllable of the term for the bit-block transfer operation that was fundamental to the terminal’s graphics capability. I have seen it suggested that the verb dates back to the 1970s, so it may already have been in use when the device was named.

14a Contract closed after shock (7)
A two-letter word meaning ‘closed’ (as a door might be) follows a word for ‘to shock’ or ‘to horrify’.

15a This opens in composition…as in opera maybe? (4)
A composite anagram &lit, where the solution (‘this’) plus OPENS when rearranged (‘in composition’) can potentially produce (‘maybe’) AS IN OPERA. The whole clue represents the definition.

16a French tradespeople aroused ire opening large works (8)
An anagram (‘aroused’) of IRE is inserted into (‘opening’) a five-letters word for large works, particularly of the written or filmed sort.

26a Manure to touch up a bit of horticulture (4)
The three-letter word for ‘touch’ required here (the ‘up’ has been added purely to improve the surface reading) has six entries in Chambers, the most common probably being ‘pretentious odds and ends of little real value, eg in an antique shop’. The ‘bit’ of horticulture is simply the first letter of the word.

32a Occupants of reptile house, close together, shut up inside (9)
A five-letter verb meaning ‘to close together’, most commonly seen these days as a related seven-letter adjective and applied to ranks, has a four-letter word meaning ‘shut up’ or ‘enclosed’ inside.


1d Music heralded our queen’s arrival – see special Arab coat (4)
A spot of general knowledge is needed here, the reference in the definition being to a brief but lively passage for oboes and strings from Handel’s 1749 oratorio Solomon that featured in the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony at the point where James Bond (Daniel Craig) went to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace. The wordplay has the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘special’ being followed by the term for an outer garment made from a Syrian cloth of the same name.

4d Weakling, poorly raised, in endless poverty (6)
A three-letter word for ‘poorly’ is reversed (‘raised’) inside a four-letter word for poverty from which the last letter has been omitted (‘endless’).

5d It’s avoided in some diets, stuff with (unequal) parts switched (6)
A six-letter word meaning ‘[to] stuff’ has its last four letters exchanged with its first two, ie ‘with (unequal) parts switched’.

9d The French embracing love in Rome getting end away – they softened (8)
There’s a continental flavour to this clue, where a three-letter French word for ‘the’ is put around (’embracing’) the Italian (‘in Rome’) word for ‘nothing’ or ‘nothingness’ with its last letter removed (‘getting end away’). The past tense is used in the definition because the answer is shown by Chambers as not only ‘medical’ but also ‘archaic’.

18d Curved roof timbers, we her, forming a cross (4)
A homophone for a relatively uncommon six-letter word for curved timbers which, when deployed in pairs, support the roof of a particular type of house that should on no account be confused with the sort having an A as their third letter rather than a U.

19d Tea-time treat? It has middle of chocolate (double) coating on (4)
The wordplay here tells us that the solution (‘It’) involves two instances (‘double’) of the central character in (‘middle of’) the word ‘chocolate’ surrounding (‘coating’) that two-letter piece of commercial jargon meaning ‘on’ or ‘concerning’ familiar to all cruciverbalists.

24d Scottish institutes, after time belonging to that lot (6)
The five-letter word that follows the usual abbreviation for ‘time’ (‘after time’) is not an unfamiliar Scottish word that has the meaning of ‘institutes’ but rather a familiar word that is indicated by a meaning of ‘institutes’ known only to the Scots – this is a trick that Azed comes up with every so often, but I know from experience that crossword editors don’t like it (though I can’t see why, as it seems perfectly legitimate).

29d What may occupy base? Not much turns up (4)
A reversal (‘turns up’) of a (1,3) phrase meaning ‘not much’ or ‘very little’. It is left to the reader to take a view on the legitimacy of the definition.

(definitions are underlined)

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7 Responses

  1. MuchPuzzled says:

    What is surprising about AZED’s puzzles is the variance in difficulty between the clues, so that often you think something is going to be more complicated than it actually is. 1d) is an absolute stinker of a clue, whereas 2d) is a write-in.

    I don’t agree with your interpretation of 12a where I think the definition is “arts degree” and this is obtained by transferring an “L” (for “lot”) into a 3-letter word for a very loose definition of “computer’s memory” (or at least a very small part of it!). The graphics terminal you have referenced is a piece of hardware, such that in order for that definition to work it would have to read “TransferS a lot…” or more appropriately “TransferRED” (past tense). Either way the clueing strikes me as somewhat suspect.

    13a) is the one baffling me and is making me realise that I have to update my Chambers from my 1988 edition! I have a solution that means “to sip” but which is not indicated as being “poetic”, and which contains a 3-letter word for prohibition but the surrounding “drunk” does not work, unless it is an abbreviation for “little”? Can you advise please?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi MP

      I’d say that the point about varying chewiness of clues is true of almost all barred puzzles, since setters usually offer solvers a few easy clues to help them to get started. I would agree, though, that the number of difficulty ‘notches’ between Azed’s simplest clues and his trickiest ones is higher than for most, if not all, other puzzles, not least because his toughest clues are often, like 1d here, somewhat unconventional.

      I perhaps should have made my remarks about 12a a little clearer. The wordplay is, as you suggest, ‘arts degree’ (technically it isn’t a second definition because as an abbreviation it would have to have been ‘called out’ as such in the instructions). The definition is “Transfer a lot in computer’s memory”, and the meaning that Chambers gives for the word is “to transfer a large array of bits between different locations in a computer’s memory”, so Azed’s definition is very accurate (but it may not be in your edition!). I’d not come across the word before, and I was therefore interested in its derivation – I think the question of whether the device or the verb came first may be somewhat chickeny/eggish. I’ll update the notes to clarify.

      I’ve looked in the oldest edition of Chambers that I own, and the solution (shown as ‘archaic or poetic’) for 13a is there, but it is under the headword ???ATION. The wordplay involves a three-letter word meaning ‘drunk’, which is hidden in Chambers under the headword ??GHT (I think you’ve got the right word given your remark about ‘little’), containing a three-letter word for a prohibition (which I suspect you have also correctly identified). Hope that’s helpful.

  2. Steve says:

    I’m not sure of the wordplay in 20a. It appears to want a 3-letter word for ‘nurse’ included in rearranged letters of ‘grinder’, but I can’t make that work.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Steve

      The answer is only 9 letters, so it’s the two-letter abbreviation for a nurse with a specific sort of registration (now I believe known as a Level Two nurse) which needs to go inside the anagram.

      Hope that helps.

      • Steve says:

        That was a typo, I meant a 2-letter word! I could only think of RN, I hadn’t realised the alternative. Thanks for the explanation.

  3. JOHN ATKINSON says:


    Like you, after 40-some years in IT I had never heard of 12a, but I think the clue is fair. In the early 80s I was tasked with setting up the first PC in the Manchester office of a well-known firm of accountants. One time I found the senior tax partner in my office. He wanted to know how to remove the actual disc from a 5 1/4 inch floppy. believing it needed to be unsheathed like an LP!

    A belated Happy New Year to all. J.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi John

      I’ve no problem with the clue either, Azed’s definition being more than adequate given the definition in Chambers.

      Yes, amazing how many bits of tech have come and gone over the intervening years – a good proportion of the population won’t remember floppy discs at all, let alone the truly ‘floppy’ sort. We knew what a gigabyte was in those days, but only by reputation.