Notes for Azed 2,644
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 2,644 Plain
Difficulty rating: (3 / 5)
This was a bit like the curate’s steak – tougher in some parts than others. Overall, I thought it probably earned a difficulty rating just a whisker above the middle of the range. I am very grateful to Roslyn for providing the scanned copy of the puzzle which enabled me to tackle it, as tradition demands, over breakfast.
Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 10d, “Entering here wronged fool gets redress (8)”. OK, hands up everybody who was expecting a solution that meant something like ‘remedy’ or ‘atonement’. I was, and I’m always on the lookout for deceptive definitions. This clue illustrates one of the key areas where setters can entirely legitimately misdirect solvers, by using an ambiguous definition where the context established by the surface reading leads the solver straight up the garden path before the wordplay, and perhaps the checked letters, lead to the penny dropping. When setting a clue, one of the first things I look for is a synonym which offers the potential to mislead – if you are writing a clue for BETEL, a definition like “leaf that’s chewed” doesn’t leave much scope for trickery, but a little more investigation reveals that ‘pan’ is a synonym, and suddenly it becomes easier to mislead than not! ‘Empty bain-marie, check round pan (5)’, perhaps.
12a Head of US college accepts university process for recycling fuel? (5)
A US college slang term for the president of such an institution contains the usual one-letter abbreviation for ‘university’. The answer is a word made up from the first letters of the two chemical elements involved plus bits from ‘reduction’ and ‘extraction’, I am reliably informed. Well, actually I got the information from Wikipedia, so it could be that the alternative explanation given by Chambers is correct.
15a Sandy’s extended shortened speech? (4)
An eight-letter word for ‘speech’ loses its last four letters (‘shortened’) to produce a Scots form (hence the “Sandy’s”) of a word meaning ‘extended’.
16a Wild canine about to die, put back in wretched quarters (7)
A five-letter wild dog indigenous to the Deccan plateau of India is put around (‘about’) a reversal (‘put back’) of a word meaning, inter alia, ‘to die’. I did refer to Chambers to confirm the answer, but frankly it just sounds so right that I probably needn’t have bothered.
20a One born to serve couple finding new position in Aussie tavern (5)
A familiar word which in Australia can, according to Chambers, be applied to a public house has a consecutive pair of characters (‘couple’) shifted to a different place (‘finding new position’).
23a Songbird, something heard circling over high place (8)
A five-letter word for ‘something heard’ is seen here surrounding (‘circling’) the usual cricketing abbreviation for ‘over’ and a two-letter adverb meaning ‘[on] high’. The three-letter verb from which the noun derives can certainly (and, in crosswords, often does) mean ‘to hear’, but is the noun actually ‘something heard’. The jury, as one might say, is still out.
26a SA antelope, one in circular path, tailless (5)
The Roman numeral for ‘one’ is contained by a term for the sort of circular path that might be followed by a planet, lacking its last letter (‘tailless’).
32a Fungus displayed by pimples, on inside (7)
You’ll probably need most of the checked letters in this unless you know either the fungus or the five-letter plural of a six-letter word for a whitish pimple inside which the letters ON (from the clue) are positioned.
34a Fool in front of painting no longer puts blobs on? (7)
A three-letter fool who makes regular cruciverbal appearances is followed by a plural noun that Chambers gives as meaning paints or painting of a particular kind. The sense of ‘sully’ indicated by the definition involves a catachrestic usage which seems to be traceable to Benjamin Disraeli and specifically his novel Sibyl:
“Yes, I mourn over them,” said Sybil, “the deep convictions that made me look forward to the cloister as my home. Is it that the world has ??????ed my soul?”
1d Amphibians born mostly abroad in half of great river (10)
The usual abbreviation for ‘born’ and an anagram (‘abroad’) of MOSTLY are contained by the first three letters (‘half’) of a great river and a dispatcher of many white vans.
4d/5d Stake on gee-gee coming in behindhand (but not last), … (6) / … One such, last in race, having pound on (5)
The first of these linked clues has a shortened (it couldn’t really be any shorter) form of ‘on’ plus the letters represented by ‘gee-gee’ coming into a word for ‘behindhand’ from which the last letter has been omitted (‘but not last’). The second has the final letter (‘last’) of ‘race’ being followed by an informal term for a pound, and the ‘one such’ refers back to the ‘gee-gee’. It’s interesting to see that Azed has used ‘on’ here to indicate that the second element follows the first; I believe that ‘on’ can legitimately be used to indicate any of the four possible juxtapositions (before/after in across/down clues), but I also feel that in down clues its use to indicate ‘B following A’ (as here) should be avoided since it is counterintuitive.
6d What’s the point of upending earth, scraping it for food? (8)
This is probably the hardest clue in the puzzle to parse. The answer to the question “What’s…?” is: a three-letter word for a headland (‘the point’), a single-letter shortened form of the word ‘of’ (‘of’), and a reversal (‘upending’) of a four-letter word for the den of a wild animal (‘earth’). The ‘it’ in the definition references the ‘earth’ in the wordplay.
8d Bum having to be persistent when denied work (4)
A two-word (2,4) phrase meaning ‘to be persistent’ has the usual two-letter abbreviation for ‘work’ removed (‘denied work’), yielding the sort of bum that originated in the US but can now be seen elsewhere.
9d Delicacy, bit left uneaten with section removed from goose’s head (7)
A three-letter ‘bit left uneaten’ combines with the name formerly given (somewhat confusingly) not to a goose but a gannet, from which the letter S at the beginning has been lost (‘section removed from…head’).
14d Literal translator came across early female playwright’s fragment of tragedy (10)
A three-letter word meaning ‘came across’ is followed by the possessive form of the first name of a Restoration playwright whose surname was Bern (not the first time Azed has featured her) and the first letter (‘fragment’) of ‘tragedy’. There is a similar word which would fit with the checkers but which satisfies neither the wordplay nor the definition.
21d Scot taking legal possession I’ll have to think about (7)
The letter I (from the clue) has a word meaning ‘to think’ outside (‘about’). The solution sounds like the sort of word that might be found in the works of Sir Walter, and so it proves.
24d What may be full of chocolates, some milk that one’s opened (6)
The five-letter term for ‘some milk’ calls to mind all those TV adverts from the Milk Marketing Board, in particular the ones with the catchphrase ‘Drinka ????? milka day’. Fresh milk also ‘had a lotta bottle’, and housewives were asked the telling question “Is your man getting enough?” They weren’t responsible for the milk-stealing Humphreys though – that was Unigate. A single-letter word for ‘one’ has ‘opened’ (ie split) the carton.
25d Charged particle ‒ what’s done when opening current is switched? (6)
A six-letter term for something that’s done (or something that film directors are supposed to shout at the beginning of a ‘take’) has its first two letters, which form the abbreviation for a particular type of electric current, exchanged (‘when opening current is switched’).
(definitions are underlined)