Notes for Azed 2,653

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 2,653 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

I found the difficulty of this one hard to assess – a large number of obscure solutions, but most of them clearly signposted by the wordplay. I marked fewer clues that normal for comment as I solved the puzzle, so I’ve given it a rating just below average. It was a bit of a surprise to see what is essentially the same word appearing as the answer to two clues (2d and 26d) – something to be avoided by setters wherever possible.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 14a, “With a belly to stuff, that’s me tucking in (5)”. A dialect word meaning ‘with a belly’ results from ME being put inside a word meaning ‘to stuff [out]’ or ‘to pad’, the point of interest here being the wordplay. I’m not comfortable with active forms of ‘tuck in’ being used to indicate insertion (you don’t tuck in to bed unless you’re very hungry indeed), but even putting that to one side the wording seems a little cumbersome. As a setter, it’s always worth looking at a few alternative phrasings of clues like this in order to get the one that sounds most natural (as long as it’s sound, of course) and, where possible, that eliminates any superfluous words such as the “that’s” in this clue. Here, I think something like “With a belly to stuff, Azed tucked in” would be just a little more succinct.


11a Pants of a kind, number available in XX? (6)
I thought at first that perhaps ‘XX’ here was intended to be ‘XXL’, with the XL indicating OS, but in fact what we have is a two-letter abbreviation for ‘number’ being contained by a word which describes XX on the basis that they are capital Greek letters rather than Roman ones.

13a Quail, once done, one we brought on (7)
A four-letter word meaning ‘done’ is followed by a single-letter word for ‘one’ and the letters WE (from the clue); the ‘daunt’ meaning of ‘quail’ (rather than the solution) is shown by Chambers as ‘archaic’, hence the ‘once’.

15a Column moulding including dark ornament (on top often) (7)
A three-letter word meaning ‘dark’ or ‘sorrowful’ is ‘included’ inside a four-letter word for a large moulding, which can also be spelt with five letters and describes a doughnut, though not the sort you should try to fill with jam. The answer is an ornament typically worn on a hat.

20a House with filthy hovel, about right as lodging for poet (6)
The usual two-letter abbreviation for ‘house’ is followed by a three-letter ‘filthy hovel’ containing (‘about’) the standard abbreviation for ‘right’. The word appears in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene:

 Yeeld me an ?????? mongst the croking frogs,
And harbour here in safety from those rauenous dogs.

29a Indian tree, one put with a different genus from the east (5)
A single-letter word for ‘one’ is followed by a reversal (‘from the east’) of the name given to the maple genus, producing a tree from the betel nut family.

32a M for mooch (4)
The first definition in this double definition clue comprises just a single letter. I’ve no problem with ‘C’, say, being used to indicate ‘see’, and while I would have my doubts about ‘I’ for ‘India’, I’m glad to see Azed embracing the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. The second definition relates to a slang word of uncertain origin, dating back to the nineteenth century. As Edgar Wallace wrote in The Lady of Ascot:

I believe in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay and no ???ing


2d Unfriendly Scots needing to relax after fine (6)
The usual abbreviation for ‘fine’ is followed by a word meaning ‘to relax’ or ‘to abate’, almost invariably used in the context of pain or disease. The answer is one spelling – Chambers offers only three, but the OED has more than thirty to choose from – of a Scots word meaning ‘estranged, cold or unfriendly’.

4d What footpad was into, clumsy, bagging little weight (7, 2 words)
A five-letter word meaning ‘clumsy’ contains the two-letter abbreviation for an avoirdupois weight rarely encountered these days (though frequently consumed north of the border). The solution describes the sort of crime that a highwayman lacking an equine partner was reduced to; his mounted counterpart could aspire to something at a more elevated level (8, 2 words).

5d Word stuck on chest after piece of work? It denotes high-achieving organization (11, 2 words)
A four-letter word for, well, a word is placed before (‘stuck on’) a three-letter word for a chest, and the combination is put after a four-letter word for an occasional piece of work or an odd job.

10d Boy certainly hugs flirt jiggling her knick-knacks once (11)
A three-letter word for a boy is followed by a word meaning ‘certainly’ which contains (‘hugs’) an anagram (‘jiggling’) of FLIRT. The solution is given by Chambers as hyphenated, 4-7, but it looks more like two words that the Bard simply juxtaposed, resulting in their sole appearance together in Antony and Cleopatra:

Say, good Caesar,
That I some ???? ??????? have reserved,
Immoment toys, things of such dignity
As we greet modern friends withal, and say
Some nobler token I have kept apart
For Livia and Octavia, to induce
Their mediation, must I be unfolded
With one that I have bred?

16d Loo drain needs fixing: it’s said to be bung as before in Perth (8)
A straightforward anagram and a rather more complicated definition. Chambers refers to the proverbial use of the solution (the “it’s said to be” bit), and ‘bung’ is an Australian (‘in Perth’) slang term for ‘dead’; initially I thought the ‘as before’ was unnecessary, but I see that the latest edition of Chambers shows the term as ‘obsolete’.

19d Riddle about soak coming up ‒ devoid of ideas? (7)
A three-letter setters’ favourite meaning ‘[to] soak’ is reversed (‘coming up’) inside a dialect word for a strainer used for milk – I’m not sure I would be inclined to purchase my daily pinta from anyone who routinely used a riddle for the job, particularly if they were also keen gardeners.

23d Old 3-D film, damn mixed type (6)
One of the many euphemistic substitutes for ‘damn’, this one relating to the first letter of the word, is followed by a printer’s word for a confused mixture of type. The term for a 3-D film was coined by the wonderful Dilys Powell in 1953, a play on the use of ‘weepie’ to describe a tear-jerker. The boom in 3-D films, which included The House of Wax starring Vincent Price, lasted just a couple of years , but it led to conventional films being described for a while as ‘flats’ or ‘flatties’.

26d Stranger in Edinburgh given meal regularly with room (5)
A three-letter word meaning ‘given [a] meal’ is regularly interspersed with the usual abbreviation for ‘room’ and the solution is…another of those variations on the word already seen as the answer to 2 down, this time in the role of a noun.

(definitions are underlined)

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