Notes for Azed 2,640

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 2,640 Plain

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

I thought this one was of significantly above average difficulty – no particularly tough clues, perhaps, but quite a few that required teasing out.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 10d, “Be subjected to officer commanding rude men being drilled (9, 2 words)”. Nothing too tricky about this clue, the wordplay involving a two-letter abbreviation for Commanding Officer followed by an anagram of RUDE MEN, but the point of interest here is the definition. The answer is a phrasal verb which can only be used in a transitive sense, just like many others such as ‘get over’ – you have to get over something, you can’t just ‘get over’. It might at first glance appear that ‘be subjected’ would serve as an acceptable definition, but this cannot take an object – in order to adequately define the solution, ‘be subjected to‘ is required. There is a very easy test when you are setting puzzles, which involves substituting your proposed definition for the answer in a meaningful sentence. Is ‘gave preference’ a valid definition of ‘favoured’? Try replacing ‘favoured’ in “He favoured his younger son” with ‘gave preference’ and you will readily find out.


2a Ultimate in rank assuming first place, a shocker (4)
The wordplay here requires the solver to move the last letter (‘ultimate’) of a (loose) synonym for ‘rank’ to the start (‘assuming first place’). You might think of ‘rank’ in this sense referring to a particular location, but Chambers confirms that it can also describe the vehicles that are waiting there.

12a Edible fish, maigre churning mud with rain (10)
A three-letter word for the maigre (a large Mediterranean food-fish), and also a place where you might get a drink, is followed by an anagram (‘churning’) of MUD and RAIN.

17a Like some windows, crumbled, one on inside (9)
Like me, you may well get this one from the definition rather than the wordplay, which has the Roman numeral for ‘one’ and ON (from the clue) inside a word meaning ‘crumbled’.

18a Piece of parchment, variable length? Old one (4)
The first letter (‘piece’) of ‘parchment’ plus a three-letter word for a variable measure of length (probably most often seen in the expression “give him an inch and he’ll take an ???”) produces an obsolete (hence the ‘old’) term for a roll of parchment (the ‘one’ referring back to the ‘piece of parchment’ in the wordplay).

23a Mother recalled a Spanish broom, for instance (6)
A five-letter word for ‘mother’, as used by ancient Romans and boys at public schools, is reversed (‘recalled’) and gets an A (from the clue) tacked on the end, yielding ‘a name for various desert switch-plants, either papilionaceous or caesalpiniaceous [fine words both], including Spanish broom.”

24a Like RNVR, open to attacks fended off (4)
A ten-letter word meaning ‘open to attacks’ has the consecutive letters FENDED removed (‘fended off’). The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) is known as the ‘Wavy Navy’ on account of the rank stripes (rings) on officers sleeves being wavy rather than straight; the answer here is strictly speaking solely a heraldic term, but I think the definition is perfectly fair.

28a E. Anglian birds fiddle with wings over the Atlantic (7)
A charade of a four-letter word for a fiddle (of the dishonest kind) and a three-letter word from ‘across the Pond’ for a wing of a building which gives the overall structure a specific shape when viewed from above. The answer is a Shakespearean hapax legomenon, found in The Tempest, where Caliban says:

I’ll bring thee
To clustering filberts and sometimes I’ll get thee
Young ??????? from the rock. Wilt thou go with me?

It has been suggested that this is a Norfolk name for the bar-tailed godwit, although there appears to be little evidence to support this (and how, you might ask, would Shakespeare have known the term). It could supposedly also be a misprint for ‘staniel’, a kestrel. I would have thought that ‘sea-mell’ (a sea mew or a seagull) was an equally likely candidate, and at least one ‘translation’ of the play into modern English gives “I’ll catch seagulls for you on the rocks.”

31a Severe colic suffered in the trenches in places (6)
I got this one from the first of the two definitions, a complaint which I associate with a particular sort of water administered to infants in order to relieve its symptoms. It is also a dialect (hence the ‘local’) version of a word for a small ditch. The restorative water was invented in 1851 by William Woodward and initially marketed with the slogan “Granny told Mother and Mother told me.” Prior to the removal of alcohol (3.6%) from the recipe, Woodward’s maximum recommended dose of the stuff contained an alcohol content equivalent to five tots of whisky for an 80kg adult. It was only in 1992 that Britain mandated that alcohol be removed from the product, which I imagine gave boozy ankle-biters a cause to, er, complain.


1d Contest among varied rose beds made flat in a way (12)
A four-letter informal word for a contest (only in more recent editions of Chambers, but a contraction that has been in common use for many years) is contained by an anagram (‘varied’) of ROSE BEDS, the solution being a botanical term meaning ‘flattened from front to back.’

3d Police officer that’s lost her leg (4)
A seven-letter slang term for a police officer (dating back to the nineteenth century) has the consecutive letters HER omitted (“that’s lost her”) in order to produce the leg.

7d Large salmon tavern served in country spot (7)
The usual three-letter cruciverbal synonym for ‘tavern’ is contained by a dialect word for a pimple (ie ‘country spot’), the result being a name for the king-salmon as well as the Californian, Columbian, or Chinook salmon of the North Pacific coast.

8d One interested in lumber once, grubby, but not if old (5)
The wordplay here involves a familiar seven-letter word meaning ‘grubby’ having an archaic form of ‘if’ removed (‘not if old’). The definition hinges on the archaic slang sense of ‘lumber’ (see lumber4 in Chambers), ‘pawn’, as in the shop with the balls outside…

9d Stale pud, still turning up, I swallowed (5)
…and the definition in this one refers to pud2 in Chambers, a paw, fist or hand. A word meaning ‘still’ (or ‘yet’) is reversed (‘turning up’) around the letter I (‘I swallowed’), producing an archaic word for a fist. This clue is ambiguous, since that ‘I’ could potentially slot into the second or third position, thus making alternative spellings of this word, but to fit with the crossers it must go into position 2.

15d Tea-time treat – creating intense shudder for Spooner? (9)
Azed uses Spoonerisms sparingly, but here we have a small, heart-shaped (5-4) delicacy containing currants that the reverend gentleman might have turned into a sharp tremor.

21d See one former Persian ruler leaving university in his royal headgear? (7)
The letter of the alphabet with the name ‘see’ is followed by the Roman numeral for ‘one’ and the name of a ruler of Persia from which the usual single-character abbreviation for ‘university’ has been omitted (‘leaving university’). There were three of these chaps, but the most famous is the first of them, accorded the epithet ‘the Great’, who ruled the Persian empire from 522BC to 486BC. 

25d Outdated unit not fit for purpose in fuel (5)
 A two-letter abbreviation for ‘unserviceable’ (‘not fit for purpose’) is contained by a word for a fuel (or indeed various broadly similar fuels) in common use. Whether the unit is ‘outdated’ is perhaps open to question, but it does belong to the CGS (centimetre-gram-second) system, which has largely yielded to SI (the International System of Units), wherein the tesla fulfils a similar role.

(definitions are underlined)

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7 Responses

  1. Andy says:

    As ever, a nice reflection on the clues (and, as always with Azed, some new words to me). But I can’t parse 5d – presuming I have the correct solution (I have all the crossers so only 2 letters to add). Would appreciate your wisdom!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Andy

      It’s a very ‘Azedy’ clue, of the sort sometimes called a ‘semi &lit’ or an ‘offshoot &lit. The wordplay consists of everything except the words in brackets, and tells us that IS A BUM plus the last letter (‘term’) of ‘vocab’ can be rearranged (‘possibly’) to produce the answer (‘this’). The whole thing constitutes a definition of a sort, since the solution suggests the use of ornate and somewhat unidiomatic English learnt principally from books, and the addition of ‘(from clerk)’ is intended to give a degree of additional clarity.

      Hope that helps!

      • Andy says:

        Of course – many thanks – it was the ‘term’ for terminal that I was missing (rather than thinking it was somehow part of the definition, and then failing to understand how an anagram of ‘this’ was part of the solution!). I might have gotten there if it was phrased ‘Is a bum term in vocab possibly this? Still learning esp re: &lit clues … so your help is much appreciated!

  2. MuchPuzzled says:

    I have just seen the published solution for Azed 2637, for which comments are closed on here, so am posting my query here. 24d) is given as LAIRY, whereas I had LAWRY referencing the Australian cricket captain Bill Lawry, as in L-AWRY to fit the subsidiary indication. Is this a misprint or am I off the beaten track again?
    Am also struggling to make sense of the winning entry for ‘gastrosopher’!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi MP

      I close each set of Azed Notes for comments after two weeks in order to limit the amount of spam – I’ve no problem with receiving a legitimate comment such as yours on a later post.

      Regarding 24d in 2637, I fear that there is no misprint. The wordplay is L-AIRY, and the ‘at the Gabba’ in the definition indicates the Australian origins of the answer. I see where you are coming from with LAWRY, but the biggest problem is that ‘awry’ and ‘offhand’ are too far apart in meaning. Bill Lawry predated sledging, but in any event his torpidity at the crease would probably have made him more sledged against than sledging, and I also don’t think Azed would have indicated LAWRY in such a vague way (something like “Aussie batsman Bill” would have been the minimum requirement). I would agree, though, that the definition in the clue left room for various interpretations.

      The judging of competition clues is a very subjective thing, and I often disagree with Azed’s podium placings. The winning clue for GASTROSOPHER was Mr Leyland’s

      I’d review the greasy spoon with withering terms? Right!

      The wordplay is worthy of detailed inspection. The ‘I’ at the start represents the solution, so “I’d review” means “The answer would revise” or “The answer would be an anagram of” the rest of the wordplay. The ‘with withering terms’ indicates that the last letters (‘terms’) of the preceding words are ‘withering’ (decaying away), so the anagram fodder is TH GREAS SPOO plus R, the abbreviation for ‘right’. This gives GASTROSOPHER.

      The clue is an &lit, so the whole thing stands as a definition of the answer. A gastrosopher would certainly be likely to review the local greasy spoon (“a cheap, shabby, often grubby cafe”) disparagingly, so the definition is pretty sound.

      I think it’s ok as a clue, though there are a couple of elements I’m not keen on. Firstly, one reviews things ‘in withering terms’ not ‘with withering terms’ (the former gets 2,200 Google hits while the latter gets 2). Secondly, “I’d review” in the wordplay just doesn’t feel right, and strikes me as having been shoehorned in to fit with the rest of the clue. I’m not convinced that it is sound – something like “I’m suffering in the greasy spoon…” would surely have been preferable.

    • MuchPuzzled says:

      Thank you very much for this.

      Unfortunately with the “LAIRY” solution, its another case of my Chambers being out of date as the only (Australian) definition it gives for the term is “a flashily dressed man” and makes no reference to anything vocal. I am going to have to stop sending these in until I get the latest Chambers – which is already 7 years old – how long before a further revision?

      A very clear explanation of the winning entry, which for myself was well needed as I still find the &lit clues difficult to decipher. I thought all 3 winning entries were highly convoluted, and was naturally disappointed that my own, being my best ever attempt, would be disqualified on the basis of my error at 24d).
      Interestingly, none of the winners picked up on the capricious nature of the term “gastrosopher”, whereby someone might normally title themselves as a “gastronome” or even a “gastronomer”, whereas outside of the industry calling oneself a “gastrosopher” would probably be regarded as toe-curlingly pretentious. I attempted to capture this in my definition part of my clue by using “Posh foodie” to puncture the conceit! Alas it was not to be!

      • Doctor Clue says:

        The Chambers entry is not as clear as it might be – the headword ‘lair’ is followed directly by ‘obs Aust sl’, so all forms of the word thereunder are covered by that qualification, hence the word ‘lairy’ and its meanings of ‘Loud, ‘Aggressive’ and ‘Insolent’ are also tagged as obsolete Australian slang.

        I have noticed that Azed seems to look increasingly favourably on convoluted clues – I suspect that one reason for this is that such clues have a much greater chance of being entirely different from all the other competition entries, which inevitably makes them stand out when you are judging 100+ submissions. Regarding the true meaning of ‘gastrosopher’, even the examples of its use in OED do little to make it clear, and when it comes to puncturing a conceit using a definition in a clue it’s important that the subtlety isn’t wasted on the judge…