Notes for Azed 2,646

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 2,646 ‘Cherchez la Femme’

Difficulty rating: 4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

The last ‘Cherchez la Femme’ was 2,515 (PETRONELLA), although it was not a competition puzzle. On this occasion, I have to say that as soon as I saw that we were looking for an eleven-letter surname (which, it being the competition clue word, is almost certain to appear in Chambers) I correctly guessed the word. I find that solving a puzzle like this is simply a matter of proceeding as normal, entering answers as you get them (in pencil, with an eraser to hand), and then adding a second letter into the cells where clashes occur – so if the second letter of HALF clashed at its intersection with the third letter of STICK, I would put ‘A/I’ in the cell and write the ‘midway’ letter at the side of the grid (in this instance, E – AbcdEfghI). Once I’ve completed the puzzle and identified the name, I then  replace the double letters with the ‘midway’ ones, so in the example I would write in an E, thus making the non-words HELF and STECK. I could have written in an E from the outset, but that can get very confusing, particularly if you’ve gone wrong! When solving the puzzle, always bear in mind that no entry is involved in more than one clash.

I felt that the puzzle was a bit tougher than an average ‘plain’, but certainly one of the easier specials. Right until the end I thought there was only going to be one clash in any given row, but that proved to be incorrect. For anyone who wants to do a quick check, I have listed the row/column coordinates of the cells where clashes occur below the notes.

Clue Writers’ Corner: A correspondent who started writing clues for the competition a couple of years ago recently sent me his entries for comment. Several of these illustrate common traps for Azed competitors and will be the subject of a separate post, but one point that arose related to the presence (or absence) of a full stop at the end of a clue. Convention indicates that a full stop is not required, but if you include one Azed will simply ignore it, likewise if you include the clue number or an enumeration (letter count). Azed’s tolerance extends considerably further, as witnessed by this comment from the slip for AZ285:

…it’s worth sounding again my regular note of warning to those who submit clues entirely in capital letters. It certainly makes for greater legibility (messy scribblers, please note!) but occasionally disguises a proper name which has to be read with a lower-case initial to give sense to the clue.

On the subject of punctuation at the end of a clue, don’t forget about the value of a closing question mark in three related circumstances – when the definition or wordplay element at the end of the clue constitutes a definition by example (as ‘a dish?’ in 9d here, a dish being just one example of the solution), when the definition at the end of a clue is not one you would find in a dictionary (eg ‘describing handbook?’ in 2d here), and in &lit clues where the ‘definition’  is more of a suggestion (eg D P Shenkin’s ‘One to shake up trite profs?’ for ESPRIT FORT).

Note that a clue for this month’s competition doesn’t have to refer to the person; other meanings of the word can also be used (for illustration, see the list of successful clues for CLEMENTINE in 2,279). If you’re going to use the person’s first name as the definition, don’t forget that it will be a definition by example and needs either a question mark or something like a ‘maybe’ to accompany it. Since the word does not appear as an entry in the grid, Azed would allow it to be treated as either an across or a down solution (though personally I would avoid clueing it as if it were a down entry).


1a Californian shrub maiden made room for in travelling carriage (7)
The usual abbreviation for ‘maiden’ (the cricketing term) is contained (‘made room for’) inside a six-letter word for a ‘light open carriage for one or more persons’ or a ‘travelling carriage’.

12a RC brother making point about passion (8)
The answer is constructed by putting a four-letter word for a point (such as a fork might have) around (‘about’) a four-letter word for ‘passion’.

16a Maize patty rail spits right out (8)
The rail here is of the avian kind, and it is ‘spitting out’ the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘right’ (there are in fact two instances of it, and it is the second one which is lost).

27a What’ll clean the decks? Apply for round nozzle, saving time (5)
A three-letter word meaning ‘[to] apply for’ or ‘prosecute’ is placed round a word for a nozzle from which the standard abbreviation for ‘time’ has been removed (‘saving time’).

29a What’s assumed to be valid? It’s introduced by chambers (5)
Nothing too tricky about this one, the letters IT (from the clue) following (‘introduced by’) a three-letter plural meaning ‘chambers’ or gazunders, but I’m a little puzzled as to why Azed didn’t write ‘Chambers introduces it’; the apparently plural noun governing a singular verb in the wordplay might look odd, but for the purposes of cryptic manipulation the noun is treated simply as a singular character string, regardless of number.

31a Antitoxin possibly or antivenom, name lost (8)
An anagram (‘possibly’) of OR ANTIVENOM from which a word meaning ‘name’ has been omitted (‘name lost’); because the letters of this word occur consecutively in ANTIVENOM, there is no need for a second anagram indicator.

32a ‘Blind’ pouches, each taken into account in turn (5)
The usual abbreviation for ‘each’ is ‘taken into’ a three-letter abbreviation for ‘account’ and the whole lot reversed (‘in turn’).


2d Pair up in moderation, describing handbook? (5)
A three-letter word for a pair is reversed (‘up’) inside a two-letter word for ‘moderation’ that is also an interjection indicating surprise. The solution is hyphenated, 3-2.

3d This is a kind of Indo-European ‒ do please read carefully (5)
The wordplay here leads to a (1,4) phrase which might seem to be exhorting someone to read carefully (or to use a photocopier). There is a clash involved which makes finding the answer trickier than it might otherwise have been.

4d Sport lifted spirits, hearts included (6)
The ‘spirits’ here are manifested in the five-letter plural of a name for ‘an aniseed-flavoured spirit of Turkey and the E Mediterranean’; this must be reversed (‘lifted’) before having the usual abbreviation for ‘hearts’ included (in position 2). The ‘game’ is an Anglo-Indian hunting term.

5d It traps river fish, lines aloft in flowing Tees (6)
The ‘lines aloft’ indicate an informal US term for an elevated railroad, which must be placed inside an anagram (‘flowing’) of TEES to produce the 3-3 answer.

7d Before those paying to attend turned up, stand required (7)
A three-letter ‘usually literary’ word meaning ‘before’ and a four-letter word used to describe the number of people attending a game (often seen followed by ‘receipts’) are reversed (‘turned up’).

9d Number taken in by tragic heroine, a dish? (7)
The tragic heroine who ‘takes in’ the three-letter written form of a specific cardinal number was created by Leo Tolstoy and has been portrayed by, among many others, Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh.

17d A stake placed inside tin may be plucked (7)
One of those clues with a relatively obscure answer and a relatively obscure element in the wordplay. The letter A (from the clue) and a four-letter word for a stake in gambling are contained by (‘placed inside’) the chemical symbol for tin. You may be surprised to see Azed indicating a noun using a verb, but as he observed in the slip for comp 354:

I’ve said before that an adjective is an inaccurate (because unfairly misleading) way of indicating a noun (and vice versa of course). I do accept however that a verb (in the appropriate person) can indicate a noun. ‘Barks and is man’s best friend’ defines DOG far more clearly than, say, ‘Furry and domesticated’.

18d Granular deposit ‒ it encases a sweetbread (7)
In something close to a re-run of the preceding clue, here the letter A (from the clue) and a four-letter word for the sweetbread or pancreas (and the surname of the actor who played Perry Mason on TV) are contained by the two-letter abbreviation for a certain sort of appeal much appreciated by crossword setters.

25d Fatty school gets reduced by 50% (5)
I thought at first that we would be looking at the ten-letter name of a school from which the last five letters would be lost, but in fact the wordplay leads to a three-letter term for the sort of school attended by whales or seals, followed by  the word GETS missing one half.

(definitions are underlined)

Clashes occur in the following cells

(row 1, column 4); (1,10); (3,3); (5,7); (6,12); (7,6); (8,9); (9,3); (10,7); (11,1); (12,11).

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11 Responses

  1. Azedophile says:

    I would be interested in your observations on my recently submitted clue for NIGHTINGALE:

    One amid watch deployed in light eg guarding area behind back of garrison
    (n+anag around a; watch=flock of nightingales)

    I’m hoping that not many entrants will define the clue word by its collective noun. Might Azed look upon this favourably?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Azedophile

      There’s plenty to like about this clue, in particular (i) that it’s completely sound, (ii) that the definition is original, and (iii) that the definition and wordplay are integrated to tell a single story. These are all points that will weigh in its favour. The wordplay isn’t particularly deceptive, but the definition compensates for that.

      With the ‘technical merit’ boxes ticked, it’s all about artistic impression, which is a highly subjective thing. Azed has awarded prizes in the past to clues which I thought read quite poorly (I’m not going to cite examples!), so he and I are clearly not always in alignment. What I will say is that if I had written this clue there are two elements which would have given me some concern. The ‘One amid watch’ strikes me as rather unnatural, and I would have looked for an alternative, perhaps ‘Member of watch’. Then the ‘in light eg’ also jars slightly – it has to be there to complete the wordplay, of course, but to my mind it detracts from the overall reading. However, the anagram fodder isn’t much to work with (I have a feeling there may therefore be a few composite anagrams around this month), and I can’t see any obvious means of improvement. ‘Member of watch in confines of guardhouse halting criminal’?

      I hope that makes some degree of sense, but what do I know? Good luck with the clue.

      • Azedophile says:

        Thanks, that’s a very fair assessment. It’s very hard sometimes to know how Azed judges surface readings as occasionally some VHC clues appear a tad clunky -but, as you say, it’s very much a subjective art. In this case, I was somewhat relieved not to have to write a clue for a feathered friend or a trailblazing nurse and hoping that might count in my favour!

        • Doctor Clue says:

          I thought your choice of treatment was excellent, and only my first paragraph was intended as critique.

          The second paragraph was an entirely personal view, and it’s very likely that I would have made the clue worse rather than better!

          If only ‘in’ and ‘to’ had a shared meaning the clue could have been something like ‘Part of watch, awkward thing to wind’.

  2. 🍊 says:

    Oh, what fun! The hardest thing was committing the first words to the grid. It was strange to enter the uncrossed letters first, at least until the 11 letter woman was confirmed. Felt sorry for the poor italic Oscan people, must be hard living life at an angle; and I wonder if Sylvia (what is she?) would be as pleased with torans as garlands? But my word of the week has to be catachrestic 😉

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Perhaps they should relocate to Pisa? Mention of people living in italics immediately put me in mind of this bit from 1066 And All That:

      “The Scots (originally Irish, but by now Scotch) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) and vice versa.”

      I can’t help feeling that finding the right sort of garland for someone who ‘excels each mortal thing’ could be tricky. I’m confident, though, that offering her a crants would constitute a faux pas.

      Yes, ‘catachrestic’ is right up there with ultrarepidation and forswunk 🙂

      • 🍊 says:

        With your mention of (), I’ve just spent far too long trying to find out if Hinge and Bracket ever recorded ‘Who is Sylvia?’

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Well, they were certainly two gentlemen, but I’m not sure they had anything to do with Verona…I’m guessing it wasn’t part of their repertoire?

  3. Daron Fincham says:

    I had Macan for 3d for ages – even though I knew deep down it was wrong (a Sino-European, not Indo- European – and only Macanese is in C.) as the word play was one of those “contest of minds” moments with Azed.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      I thought 3d was decidedly tricky, particularly given that the first two letters were effectively unchecked.

  4. ursula wright says: