Notes for Azed 2,650

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 2,650 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

A puzzle that was late arriving on the Guardian web site (no surprise there) and struck me as being around the middle of the difficulty spectrum.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 27a, “Error made by backward learners (6)”. Nothing too difficult about this clue, but it serves to illustrate how Azed has avoided a potential trap for setters. Had the clue been written as ‘Learners recalled error’, it would have been impossible for the solver to know whether it is the learners or the error that must be reversed to produce the solution; this is an issue when (i) the element to be reversed is a single word, and (ii) the reversal indicator is placed directly between that element and the definition. It is not usually difficult to get round the problem: the reversal indicator can be moved to one end of the clue, eg ‘Error learners recalled’, or a link between wordplay and definition can be introduced, such that the reversal indicator abuts only one element, eg ‘ Learners recalled making error’.


1a American rotter appearing in pulpit, delivering surprise attack (9)
Be careful when entering the solution here – two answers  satisfy the definition and fit with the crossers, but only one can be justified by the wordplay, which has a two-letter abbreviation for ‘American’ and a three-letter cad contained by a word for ‘an early Christian raised reading-desk or pulpit’ (and the name of a character repeatedly played by Sylvester Stallone shorn of its first letter – not OCKY).

11a Gangster swindled, twice out of depth, creating a fuss(5)
A four-letter slang word for a gangster and a three-letter word for ‘swindled’ or ‘deceived’ (as in “you’ve been ???”) each lose the usual abbreviation for ‘depth’, the result being another slang term, hyphenated 3-2. This expression, albeit with an extra ‘h’, is a regular in the Jennings books of Anthony Buckeridge, and a pound to a penny that it applies to a situation created by Jennings, usually with a little help from Darbishire:

“And we really ought to be wearing space helmets too, sir, only there was a bit of a ???-??? the last time we did that,” Jennings added.

“If you ask me, Jen, you’ve gone and landed yourself feet first in the most lobsterous ???-??? since the Wars of the Roses.”

13a Pet I ask nervously about a game, skipping do (6)
An anagram (‘nervously’) of I ASK contains (‘about’) a four-letter board game from which the letters DO have been removed (‘skipping do’).

14a The majority of seabirds in air, flying ‒ they can decimate shoals (6)
The first 60% (‘the majority’) of a word for a group of ubiquitous seabirds (we get plenty of them here and we’re a long way from the coast. How do they know when the farmer’s about to plough the field at the back of our house – are they on Twitter?) is contained by an anagram (‘flying’) of AIR.

15a Orcadian bird: it’s seen returning in local common (6)
The letters ITS are reversed (“it’s seen returning”) inside one spelling of a dialect (‘local’) term for an area of common land; the alternative spelling is also a word for something worn around the neck.

18a Coaches supplying narcotic (6)
A double definition clue which like me you will probably get from the ‘coaches’, a shortened form of the name for the motor vehicles in which factory workers of the early twentieth century would be transported to the seaside for the annual ‘works outing’.

21a Source of news items to expedite, no longer postponed, one assumes? (11, 2 words)
A five-letter word meaning ‘to expedite’ or ‘to hurry on’ is followed by a (3,3) phrase which whimsically might be assumed to represent the opposite of a (2,3) expression meaning ‘postponed’, and would therefore suggest that something described thus was ‘no longer postponed’.

29a Newton’s captivated by thaumaturge, German scientist (6)
The standard abbreviation for the newton (note how Azed has put the word at the start of the clue to avoid any issues with capitalization) is contained (‘captivated’) by a word for a thaumaturge which was used (together with the definite article) by John Fowles as the title of his second novel.

30a Feature of desk, this? Not his, with clumsy DIY (4)
The word THIS has the letters HIS removed (‘not his’) and is followed by an anagram (‘clumsy’) of DIY.

36a Appetizer from a tin slovenly clergyman left unfinished (9)
A neat clue, where an anagram (‘slovenly’) of A TIN precedes a six-letter term for a clergyman (or a shepherd) from which the last letter has been omitted (‘left unfinished’).


3d Trunks that have lasted a success? Gush about that (6)
A two-letter informal term for a success (as in ‘he made a ?? of it’) is contained by a four-letter verb meaning ‘belch’ or ‘gush’, the result being a solution which you might expect to be hyphenated, 3-3, but is given by Chambers as a single word.

4d Indication of disagreement, secret, Home Secretary regularly suppressed (4)
A (4-4) term meaning ‘secret’ has the two letters of the abbreviation for ‘Home Secretary’ deleted from positions 1 and 3 and then from positions 5 and 7 (‘regularly suppressed’).

7d Like the newly born with being ignored bawl when pa’s around (6)
A four-letter word meaning ‘[to] bawl’ has the usual abbreviation for ‘with’ removed and is contained by a three-letter informal word for ‘father’ (“when pa’s around”).

16d A cold curse involving bling gets familiar? (9)
The wordplay here has the letter A (from the clue), the usual abbreviation for ‘cold’, and a four-letter slang variant of ‘curse’ containing (‘involving’) a bit of Cockney rhyming slang for jewellery, usually of the purloined type (‘bling’).

22d I had got in revenue, looking delighted (6)
The contracted form of ‘I had’ is put inside a word for revenue which is more often associated with periodic payment for the use of someone else’s property. Just occasionally my Latin O Level comes in handy, and this was one of those times.

23d Browning? That dallying with EB may have stirred nun’s bate! (6)
A composite anagram, where the letters of the solution (‘that’) and EB can be rearranged to form (‘may have stirred’) NUNS BATE. In the surface reading, EB is of course Elizabeth Barrett, born Elizabeth Barrett Moulton-Barrett. You might think that she would have been known as Betty Barrett Barrett for short, but her family nickname was apparently the rather more succinct ‘Ba’.

24d Between sound opposites of two cross off sound engineer’s contribution? (6)
A rather ungainly clue which involves the standard musical abbreviations for ‘loud’ and ‘soft’ (‘sound opposites’) framing a (1,4) French expression meaning ‘of two’ from which the letter representing a cross (of the saltire form) has been lost (‘cross off’). The solution is hyphenated 4-2.

26d Part of old armour that is originally Roman in short (6)
The standard English abbreviation for the Latin words meaning ‘that is’ (‘that is originally Roman’) is contained by a four-letter word meaning ‘short’.

(definitions are underlined)

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Crossguesser says:

    Sheltered life perhaps (and not watching enough of EastEnders), but I’d never heard of that word for bling at 16d, and had to consult OED to find it.
    Cockneys aren’t particularly good at rhyming, are they?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi CG

      I think that (rather appropriately) it’s more The Sweeney than EastEnders, referring almost invariably to hooky gear obtained by tea leaves in a blag.

      ‘Jewellery’ strikes me as a word probably best left unrhymed.

  2. 🍊 says:

    Completely thrown by 20A not being CHOCOLATE O K!