Notes for Azed 2,642
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 2,642 Plain
Difficulty rating: (2.5 / 5)
The number of clues which I marked as being worthy of comment as I solved the puzzle suggested that it was perhaps just a little north of average difficulty, but as I wrote these notes I concluded that it was probably bang in the middle of the range. There was quite a high proportion of archaic or obsolete words, although as one expects with Azed it was possible to work them out from the less obscure aspects of the clues combined, where necessary, with the checked letters.
Clue Writers’ Corner: This month’s competition word is shown by Chambers as being both an adjective and an adverb, which means there is no risk of defining it as the wrong one! I expect to see a lot of anagrams among the successful entries, so be a little wary of the most obvious ones. There will also be plenty of &lits, with the adverbial sense of the word lending itself to being indicated by ‘thus’, ‘as’, how’ or ‘so’ – as illustrated by these clues from Messrs Manley, Dixon, Henderson and Young for SUBORDINATELY from comp 1,967:
As in ‘B-role’ duty possibly [anag &lit]
How you might see drone busily at work [anag &lit]
Conform readily (no buts) thus [anag &lit]
Yank used Tony Blair so? [anag &lit]
Note, though, that two of the three prize winners and many of the VHCs for that comp were not &lits, so normal wordplay + definition clues still have a good chance of success. A top-notch &lit will beat all comers, but a top-notch conventional clue is the next best thing.
11a Exercise position, one of healing abandoned by Tory (5)
A single-letter word for ‘one’ is followed by an eight-letter word meaning ‘of healing’ from which the consecutive letters TORY have been lost (‘Tory abandoned’).
12a King with prince exhibiting austerity? (5)
The king takes the form of his monarchical abbreviation, while the prince owes his fame to Alexander Borodin and the opera bearing his name, the libretto for which Borodin adapted from the fourteenth/fifteenth century Russian epic The Tale of ????’s Campaign. At the time of his death in 1887 the opera was incomplete – it was finished off by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov and received its première in St. Petersburg in 1890.
16a Non-speaking film star portrayed as twit in press (6)
A three-letter ‘twit’ is contained by a verb meaning ‘to lean’ or ‘to press’; the star comes not from the age of silent movies, nor is he Harpo Marx, rather (at least in his first incarnation) the son of Red Brucie and Bright Bauble (both of Glamis).
23a Artist muses, what one might call a bit down in the mouth (6)
The usual abbreviation indicated by ‘artist’ and the number of Greek Muses combine to form a word which is a real horror to define – I think Azed has made a very good fist of it, but I’m less happy about ‘Muses’ having been deprived of its initial capital letter.
29a Foreign agent in committee with gallery confronting king (9)
Here we have a charade of a three-letter abbreviation, the five-letter name by which a gallery in Madrid is commonly known, and the same king who featured in 12a.
31a Large predator accounting for duck on Scottish island (5)
The valid uses of ‘on’ as a juxtaposition indicator seem to provoke a good deal of debate, but it is I think universally accepted that ‘A on B’ can indicate BA in an across clue and AB in a down clue. The island is to be found in the Firth of Clyde and the duck in cricket scorebooks.
32a Engraving maybe daughter posted in Scotland (6)
Since Chambers is the primary reference for the puzzle, this clue is fine (the solution being found in the Big Red Book under a headword ending in ‘ll’), although it really shouldn’t be. The engraving is named after the artificially produced form of iron occasionally used for printing illustrations, and the solution is a past tense which as far as I can determine appears just once, in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 24:
Mine eye hath play’d the painter and hath ?????’?,
Thy beauty’s form in table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein ’tis held,
And perspective it is best painter’s art.
In modern English, this is usually rendered as ‘engraved’, so in reality the wordplay and the definition are just variations of the same word.
33a Judge taking amusement after retiring in private room (6)
A three-letter informal term, a shortening of a word for ‘pleasurable occupation of leisure time; an amusement or sport’, is reversed (‘after retiring’) in a word for a private room which will be no stranger to solvers.
2d Tree moss from New England in its native environment (5)
A two-letter abbreviation is contained by another abbreviation, this one representing the ‘native environment’ not of the moss but of New England.
4d Root layers, twisted, old, with endless imbalance (6)
A three-letter obsolete word meaning ‘awry’ (‘twisted, old’) is followed by a word for ‘imbalance’ (something that a partisan or a bowl displays) from which the last letter has been omitted (‘endless’). That ‘twisted’ word is to be found in Chambers under an alternative form beginning with a ‘k’, where it is shown as being ‘Shakespearean’, although he spelt it ‘kamme’.
5d Grand family manager employs ten mostly in grand family historically (12)
A four-letter word for ’employs’ and the word TEN (‘from the clue’) missing its last letter (‘mostly’) are contained by the name of an English noble house, among the estates owned by which is ‘Brideshead‘, as seen in the 1981 television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel.
15d Novella that is distinguished by blue ribbon in shop (9)
The usual abbreviation for ‘that is’ and one of the same length for ‘teetotal’ are put inside a word for a shop. The ‘blue ribbon’ was a small strip worn by certain abstainers from alcoholic beverages, as a means of mutual recognition, and as a public indication of their principles. ‘To take the blue ribbon’ meant ‘to abstain from alcoholic drink’, and the ‘Blue Ribbon Army’ was the name given to an association of such Total Abstainers. Those last two words immediately make me think of Dr Jock McCannon, memorably played by Graham Crowden in the BBC’s A Very Peculiar Practice, but that will only mean something to those familiar with the programme.
19d Abstract pictures, daubed, central couple disposed of (6)
The word PICTURES has the two letters in the middle removed (‘central couple disposed of’) before being rearranged (‘daubed’). The wordplay does rather suggest that the rearrangement takes place before the loss of the central characters, but even if interpreted that way it can still arguably deliver the solution.
22d Mite unpacked present in course of Christmas, getting up (6)
The word ‘present’ is deprived of all but its first and last letters (‘unpacked’) before being put inside a reversal (‘getting up’) of a synonym for ‘Christmas’.
24d Fragment of ancient poetry’s measure, stirring (5)
At first glance I thought there might be two wordplays here, but in fact it’s just the one – the first letter (‘Fragment’) of ‘ancient’ being followed by a term for a division of a line of poetry (“poetry’s measure”).
26d Old swindler regarding set up (5)
That familiar piece of commercial jargon meaning ‘concerning’ and a word meaning ‘[to] set’ are reversed (‘up’), producing ‘a cant term for a Londoner who formerly bought coals of the country colliers at so much a sack, and made his chief profit by using smaller sacks, making pretence he was a country collier.’
27d No longer observe special rule book (4)
The standard single-character abbreviation for ‘special’ plus a word for a book of rules for determining the Church office for the day combine to form an archaic spelling of a familiar word meaning ‘[to] observe’.
(definitions are underlined)