Notes for Azed 2,648

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 2,648 Plain

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

A 13×11 puzzle that was, I felt, a touch above average difficulty. There were several clues which featured relatively obscure answers along with an uncommon word in the wordplay, and a couple of parsings were not straightforward.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 11a, “Approach nurse about place of higher education (5)”. The two-letter abbreviation RN is put around an informal term for a place of higher education to produce a 3-2 hyphenated term for an approach (or an argument). What I want to focus on here is the use of ‘nurse’ to indicate RN, an abbreviation given by Chambers as ‘Registered Nurse (N American)’. It’s universally accepted that an abbreviation can be indicated by the expanded form given in Chambers, eg ‘River’ for R or ‘chapter’ for CH. In addition, abbreviations from other languages can be indicated by their meanings, eg ‘that is’ for IE, and I have no problem with this being extended to any abbreviation which can legitimately stand alone, so ‘computer’ for PC (“He’s got a new PC”) or ‘newspaper’ for FT (“I saw it in today’s FT”). But I struggle to accept indications for abbreviations which cannot appear by themselves in English sentences, such as ‘good man’ for ST (“She’s an absolute St”) or ‘way’ for RD (“It’s a lovely tree-lined Rd”). Even ignoring the fact that RN is given as specifically North American, I certainly wouldn’t myself use ‘nurse’ alone in a clue to indicate it.


12a Toxic substance from timber, mostly sandarac, brought westwards (7)
A four-letter word for ‘timber’ with its last letter omitted (‘mostly’) is followed by a reversal (‘brought westwards’) of a four-letter word of Moroccan origin for the sandarac tree. The answer is one of many alternative spellings for the South American climbing plant strychnos toxifera; Chambers suggests that it might be the name only of the plant, but the OED confirms that it can also be applied to the poison derived from it, usually known in English by a slightly different name.

13a Genetic sequence, inflexible, not shortened inside (6)
A four-letter word meaning ‘inflexible’ (as a will or a fist might be) has the two-letter shortened form of ‘not’ inside.

15a Smallest part of gene that can change back insect’s dorsal surface (5)
If you are not familiar with either the part of the gene which must be reversed (‘back’) or the answer, the bit about ‘change’ should get you to the first three letters of the gene and an educated guess will give you the last two. Those who are not entomologically savvy should turn the word round and check the result in Chambers.

16a Like a type of butterfly that is clear within wood (9)
The usual two-letter representation of ‘that is’ and a three-letter word meaning ‘[to] clear’ (often indicated in puzzles by ‘free’) are contained by a four-letter word for a particular sort of wood.

21a It’s describing e.g. reasoning aright about what’ll make harp go wrong (13)
The hardest part about this clue is probably understanding the definition. The wordplay involves a seven-letter adjective meaning ‘reasoning aright’ being placed around (‘about’) an anagram (‘wrong’) of HARP GO. The Chambers entry for the solution isn’t very helpful, but the answer actually means “consisting of characters or signs, each of which singly represents a complete word”, so it does indeed describe ‘e.g.’. Deciding whether the definition really ought to be “It’s describing e.g. e.g.” is left to the reader as an exercise. I’m not convinced by “what’ll make harp go wrong” – it seems to me a questionable hybrid of “what could make harp go” and “harp go wrong”. 

24a Church shelf to let, not new (7)
The answer is an interesting word (which looks more like a verb) formed by removing (‘not’) the usual abbreviation for ‘new’ from an eight-letter word meaning ‘to ‘let’ or ‘available for hire’.

29a Source of many good tunes playwright takes to heart? (5)
My immediate thought was that we would be seeking a specific playwright, but it is a generic nine-letter term which must offer up its ‘heart’ in order to provide us with the answer, the name of a famous family of stringed instrument makers.

32a Old avenue I omitted in excursion that’s over (5)
A five-letter excursion from which one instance of the letter I has been omitted is followed by the usual (cricketing) abbreviation for ‘over’, delivering an obsolete (hence the ‘old’) term for an avenue. I have a distinct aversion to forms of the verb ‘to have’ being used as juxtaposition indicators (here the apostrophe-s), and I’m not convinced that among the many meanings of the word given by Chambers is one that truly supplies justification.


1d What’ll give computer buyer a sneak preview? A crew’s deployed to limit fret (11)
An anagram (‘deployed’) of A CREW is to be put around (‘to limit’) a word meaning ‘fret’ in the sense of ‘[to] disturb’. I worked in the IT industry for many years without ever coming across this term, although I was on occasion involved with releases of software which were described by paying customers in broadly similar terms.

2d Beefcake identifying aim in Hollywood? (4)
A double definition clue, where the ‘beefcake’ (although its definition in Chambers doesn’t quite tally with the singular solution) will probably be more familiar to most solvers that the US term for goal or base in boys’ games.

3d One touch that helps to counter gravity’s effects (5)
A charade of a two-letter word for ‘one’ and a word for a touch which many will know only because of the children’s game of that name. The solution is hyphenated, 4-1.

8d Allowance rarely in dotage a don’s forgone? (5)
A nine-letter word for ‘dotage’ (or ‘doting’) sheds the letters A DON from the outside (“a don’s forgone”) to produce a common word which is defined using an uncommon sense (shown in Chambers as ‘rare’).

9d Principal left to do up around course (7)
The standard single-letter abbreviation for ‘left’ and a three-letter word meaning ‘[to] do’ are reversed (‘up’) around a three-letter word meaning ‘run’ (verb or noun, take your pick).

10d Vatican treasurers working longer put in some lead for stained-glass windows (11)
An anagram (‘working’) of LONGER is put inside the five-letter plural of a word for ‘a lead rod for framing a pane in a leaded or stained-glass window’ which could be indicated cryptically by ‘humped ruminants avoiding lake’.

19d Some monocotyledons, a group bordering river (7)
Here we have the letter A (from the clue) and a four-letter word for a group or family containing (‘bordering’) a two-letter dialect term for a river much admired by crossword setters.

20d Intestinal parasites? Helper, fit, turning up with one inside (7)
A three-letter term for a helper and a three-letter verb meaning ‘fit’ or ‘equip’ are reversed (‘turning up’) around a single-letter word for ‘one’.

(definitions are underlined)

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4 Responses

  1. ursula wright says:

    As long as the grammar is correct, I wouldn’t worry too much about abbreviations… don’t want to be too pedantic, do we?

  2. Tim Coates says:

    I did question whether an abbreviation such as e.g. could be considered as 21 across. I would have thought that the 21 across characters in English are things like numerals, @ (representing the word at), %, & and so on, and not abbreviations. Are abbreviations really “21 across”? If so a single letter could have replaced “e.g.” e.g. “It’s describing a reasoning aright….” for example.
    Also what’s your view on enumerating 26 across as (9) where the answer can be hyphened or two separate words. I know Azed doesn’t indicate hyphens but is it different when there are both possibilities?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Tim

      I’m a bit dubious about 21a myself, but I think that definitions of the noun such as “a conventional, abbreviated symbol for a frequently recurring word or phrase” are certainly open to the required interpretation. And Azed was a lexicographer by profession…

      Regarding 26a, the definition ‘Least favourable’ makes it clear that an adjective is required, and the answer must therefore be the 5-4 hyphenated form of the word. As you say, Azed treats hyphenated words as a single word for enumeration purposes, so ‘(9)’ is the only option here. Where Chambers indicates that either two separate words or a hyphenated word are valid for the same meaning, eg ‘no one’ and ‘no-one’, then barred puzzle setters will normally provide the less helpful enumeration, so for NO ONE/NO-ONE it would be ‘(5)’. In double definition clues such as ‘Endure stupid person’ for GO ON/GOON the setter can effectively choose which part is the definition and which is the ‘wordplay’, so the enumeration here would be ‘(4)’. I hope that makes sense.