Notes for Azed 2,655

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.

Note: It’s been pointed out by a forum user that the online version of the puzzle doesn’t include instructions for submitting your entry. They should read:

Send correct solution (one only) and clue to replace definition asterisked (on separate sheet also bearing name and address, securely attached) to Azed No. 2,655, PO Box 518, Oxford, OX2 6WX. Entries should be received by Monday week at the latest. Emailed entries from overseas will be accepted, addressed to £35, £30, £25 prizes and Azed bookplates for the three clues judged best.

You should include both your clue (ie the ‘devilled’ form, similar to the clues in the puzzle) and the undevilled form, with the spacing and punctuation that show each version in its best light, eg


Clue: As craftsmen they are trained in tally, well qualified

Original form: As craftsmen they are trained in the art, so really well qualified

Azed 2,655 Printer’s Devilry

Difficulty rating: 4.5 out of 10 stars (4.5 / 10)

I thought we were probably due a PD, and so it proved. With PD clues, you must forget about the usual rules, because there are no definitions, and no wordplay as such. Each clue tells a little story, but a sequence of letters has been removed and the gap closed up; punctuation may also have been altered, and on occasion spaces added or removed elsewhere. The removed letters will always form a word or phrase which can be found in Chambers. The key to solving a PD clue is to identify the word in the ‘devilled’ (shortened) version which is likely to contain the break. If we look at 32a, “Offered a better deal we pass (4)”, it look as though in order to complete the story we must do something with the word ‘pass’. By telling us the deal was a better one, Azed surely wants us to know that this improved offer was accepted. So if the deal was better than the one previously available, the price would have been lower than it was before, and therefore we will have PA?? ??SS than we would otherwise have done. Do those missing four letters spell out a word that is in Chambers? They surely do.

Remember that Azed will have chosen his words carefully, and each one will be there for a reason. Note also that the word in the devilled version which contains the break may also appear in the undevilled form, eg ma/in could be ‘main drain’ [Indra being the answer]. You may find that with some of the longer entries you have to work out the answer from the checked letters and then reverse engineer the undevilled version of the clue – this is quite normal.

I find Azed’s PD puzzles enjoyable to solve, presenting as they do a very different challenge from the standard crosswords. Below the notes I have included a checklist of the break points, indicating also those clues where a change of punctuation or spacing is involved. Apart from that, I’ve only included notes for a few clues, but I’ll happily provide hints (or confirmation of answers) for any others on request.

Clue Writers’ Corner: It took me a while to work out what makes a good PD clue, but in essence there are two key elements, and I would suggest that those who have not written PD clues before look at the successful entries from the last couple of competitions, for ERATHEM and TORSE.

Unlike conventional clues, where words cannot simply be added simply for the benefit of the surface reading and ‘telegraphese’ is entirely acceptable, the undevilled (full) form of the clue must read as a proper piece of English prose; the devilled version must make some sort of sense, but a cracking undevilled version and an ‘ok’ devilled clue will always beat a clue which reads reasonably well in both forms.

The clue must tell a single story, and there must be enough information to give the solver a reasonable chance of working out the answer – “Should wealthy patron list rooms to work in? (6)” is Azed’s clue for ENDART from the last PD puzzle […patron lend artist rooms…] and gives the solver plenty to work with, but “I list a room” would be both woefully inadequate and very dull.

Don’t forget the bit about the break not occurring at the beginning or end of words, so GO/ON being a contraction of GO AFTER SON or GOT ONE ON would be highly undesirable, while GOT ONE SON would be fine. Although the answer can simply be removed from the middle of another word (as in 11a here, or L[ACER]ATE), it won’t produce a prize-winning clue. And while clues which require wholesale modification, such as Norah Jarman’s remarkable winning entry for MINARET, ‘Bunter-whine starts with ja/w open: “Cease – condone – Wharton, please!’ [Bunter whines “Tarts with jam in are twopence – a second one, Wharton , please!”] were popular at one time, the great majority of successful entries in recent years have thankfully been much simpler in their construction.

Incidentally, for MINARET I preferred the clue that was placed second, Colin Dexter’s rather neat “I ran into a tree first time; examiner expressed hope I’d run into for/est”. I think it’s probably more to current taste.


15a To feed your veg patch, be sure, that’s what you must apply (8)
Like me, your initial thought may be of ‘manure’, but it’s a different word for the same thing that’s involved in the last element of the insertion. A minor spacing change is also involved.

17a Expressing displeasure his voice carried very nasal whine (5)
Two commas feature in the undevilled version, one after ‘displeasure’ and the other following the first element of the insertion, wherein one word becomes three.

19a Such foul plans it’s possible dated over time (8)
One word becomes two here, the foulness of the plans suggesting who might originate such things and the ‘over time’ indicating that they were developed over a significant period.

28a Following cue is a told of how the tribe began (8)
The word that must be split isn’t hard to spot in this ‘one-becomes-three’ clue which suggests a bit of traditional story-telling around the campfire.

31a Forming part of their crest, sagged with heraldic devices (8)
A tricky one – the ‘gged’ turns into three words, the first being a term for ‘two lines drawn from the edge of the escutcheon and meeting at right angles in the fesse-point’, while the ‘sa’ is integrated with the text that precedes it.


2d With new evidence coming to light, the police plan to release mail (5)
I originally thought of ‘bail’ here, and on reflection I wonder if something like ‘judge approves plan to release mail’ would have been more accurate.

7d Asked to recommend a holiday, resaid: ‘Such I’d go for every time’ (12)
Kudos if you worked the whole thing out from the clue, but the exact position of break does suggest itself, as does the the first word of the insertion, based on the three letters before the split and the ‘holiday’.

19d The cake’s nearly finished – who’s going to have thing on top? (7)
It isn’t the production of the cake (the wedding sort, perhaps) that’s nearly finished but the consumption thereof, so only a few final bits remain.

20d In versions affecting lakeside areas of New England (7)
An apostrophe must be inserted in the undevilled form of this one, and of course Azed wouldn’t mention New England unless it gave a very strong pointer towards the location that you’re looking for.

21d I like anything provide by the Taj Mahal but thy favourite (7)
Not hard to spot the break point, or the first and last letters of the answer (which combine with the split word to make two new words), so it’s just a matter of deciding what the Taj Mahal might serve up that could fit in the middle.

26d Are napkins the only way to stop baking everywhere? (5)
The key here is sussing out that ‘napkins’ are the sort usually referred to as ‘nappies’.

(definitions are underlined)

Break Points

[p] = clear punctuation change, [s] = spacing change


1: pa/t [p]; 6: s/old; 11: tar/t; 12: pa/’s [p]; 13: pa/ts [p]; 15: s/ure [s]; 16: no/t; 17: ve/ry [p]; 19: d/ated; 22: se/aring [p]; 23: str/iving; 25: Be/th [p]; 28: cu/e; 30: ver/mination; 31: sag/ged [p,s]; 32: pa/ss; 33: lo/tion; 34: la/med [p].


1: b/aking [p]; 2: ma/il; 3: b/rain; 4: rear/ed [p]; 5: th/en; 7: res/aid [p]; 9: dodg/y [p]; 10: mu/tters; 14: germ/anic; 18: Ger/ry; 19: th/ing; 20: ver/sions [p]; 21: th/y; 24: c/asing; 26: b/aking; 27: Fa/un [p,s]; 28: h/ome.

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28 Responses

  1. 🍊 says:

    Thanks for the gaps! Once I’d marked them in the clues I didn’t find it too tricky 😉

  2. Simon Griew says:

    I do enjoy an occasional PD. Having solved this one with approximately the same difficulty as solving a normal Azed, it made me appreciate what an amazing job Azed has done compiling this. A couple of years ago I tried to compile a PD (blocked rather than barred) – it is very difficult to do without creating some horribly convoluted clues. Creating a puzzle as solvable as this is quite a feat.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Simon

      I agree with everything you say. It’s one thing dealing with a tractable four-letter word, such as the subject of this month’s competition, but longer and less pliant words present a real challenge to clue half-decently – and including two of 12 letters is, frankly, the cruciverbal equivalent of self-flagellation. I think the standard of PD clues which Azed produces year after year is exceptional. I remember solving an Araucaria PD where a number of the answers were thematically linked, which was helpful, but for several of the others it really was just a guessing game as there was no ‘story’ in the clues to guide the solver.

  3. Mike Thomas says:

    Hi Many thanks for your notes they are very helpful, especially the guidance on which word splits. I’m in the ‘I don’t like PDs group’. Doesn’t seem like a crossword to me. This is my first one and I have struggled through and think I’ve nearly finished. Not keen on the undevilled wording in 3d and 7d but there you go. I am stuck on the last two though and any help would be appreciated. 19a I have EMON*ES* and the letters G and T seem to make undevilled sense but I can’t find this word anywhere. It doesn’t help that I still don’t have a copy of Chambers! Same problem with 29d where the crossers give me O*OS and a B seems to make sense in the undevilled version but I can’t find this word either! Do I have errors? Thanks in advance.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Mike

      Well done for fighting your way through, particularly without Chambers.

      You are correct on both 19a and 29d. The former is shown by C as an obsolete form of ‘amongst’, and the latter as vessels ‘designed to carry oil and bulk ore, together or separately’.

      Job done!

      PS I can heartily recommend the versions of Chambers available for Android devices and iPhones/iPads.

      • Mike Thomas says:

        Many thanks. That’s good to hear! Now for the clue writing. I had only my second HC last time so on a bit of a high! I’ll investigate the e-Chambers.

  4. Jim says:

    I am trading my hair out. 1 across is not coming to me, and I keep revising my down clues in the hope of making something leap out.

  5. Daron Fincham says:

    Piece of cake. Loved it !

  6. David Mansell says:

    I thought I had finished but I can’t find a normal word or words which is/are made up of “sag” and the first 4 letters of the entry for 31 across. Any hints?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi David

      The first letter of ‘sagged’ gets attached to the word preceding it in the clue, and the second letter becomes a word in its own right, leaving GGED; the extra text is then inserted between the two G’s. Hope that helps.

      • David Mansell says:

        Thanks very much for that. My knowledge of heraldry was insufficient!

  7. Ursula Wright says:

    Strange because 7d was the first clue I solved. Think I have finished it now – only needing help with the break for 31a – much appreciated.
    Strange also because I think I have solved 3d but the sentence doesn’t make sense to me (not unusual)…strange
    But, as usual, thank you for your help and you have also given me courage to try to create a clue.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Ursula

      Wow! I’m impressed about 7d being your FOI.

      Regarding 3d, having had the chance to review the clue I’m inclined to agree – that second word doesn’t sit very comfortably, though perhaps I am missing something. That said, I’m not sure how it could have been phrased – the ‘most superior’ is necessary to guide solvers to the first word of the four.

      Good luck with the clue – when submitting it, don’t forget to include the undevilled version exactly as you want Azed to read it (in particular the punctuation).

      • MuchPuzzled says:

        Could the apparent second and third words of 3d be a compound, similar to, say ‘farmhand’, where the second word is actually a truncated form of the name of a US college?

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Good thought. I wondered about that too, with the comma then being placed after the first of the four words. A web search suggests that the compound does exist, referring to cowboys, but I can’t find it in any dictionaries, including American ones, and the truncation that you mention doesn’t seem to be a common one.

  8. Hernabi says:

    I detest these PD crosswords and always have done. They’re guessing games rather than crosswords.

    One of the reasons that I’ve regularly purchased ‘The Observer’ for more than forty years has been the Azed crosswords. These PD puzzles make me feel short changed

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Hernabi

      I take your point – special puzzles are not to everyone’s taste, but on average there’s only one PD puzzle every 21 months or so (roughly one puzzle in ninety), and many solvers do enjoy them (myself included). Personally, I’m not at all keen on Playfair puzzles, but I acknowledge that some people feel differently about them, and as long as they only pop up with the same sort of frequency as the PD’s that’s fine with me. Also, the successful entries for PD comps are often from competitors other than the regular winners (or even regular entrants) for those that require conventional clues, which surely can’t be a bad thing.

      • MuchPuzzled says:

        The PD puzzles that I’ve seen previously have usually involved missing letters or substituted letters in otherwise normal clues. I have not come across one of this type before which I did not particularly enjoy solving. If all the clues worked as smoothly as 18d and 32a then it would feel less strained, but given the limitations of the language it must be nigh on impossible to construct a puzzle of this sort without forcing the issue in some of the clues.

  9. Mr Hagget says:

    Having trouble parsing 1 down. I have the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th letters from the across clues and I assume there is only candidate for position 4, but cannot reconcile my answer with the (undevilled) surface clue.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Mr H, and welcome

      Ah, no, there are two candidates, and the less common one is the right one. Ignore the colon, quotation marks and capital A, and think about Azed making the statement as a bridge player.

      Hope that helps.

  10. JOHN ATKINSON says:

    OK I give in. My Chambers is pleading for me to stop scavenging for words beginning with the first three letters of 7d. The only word that nearly fits clashes with the crosser at 22a. To be sure, I guess that means I also need a hintlet to the parsing of 12 and 15 across.

    After the initial read through, the lights eventually came on. FOI 33a which led to 19d and a very enjoyable journey. I can only imagine how convoluted Azed’s thinking is to come up with the likes of 2D!

    A big thank you to both. J.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi John

      I also had to do a search for 7d – I think I could have spent a very long time on it otherwise. The unchecked third and sixth letters are T’s.

      For 12, the prince may well be raving on the balcony from which King Charles III was waving yesterday; for 15, the gap between ‘be’ and ‘s/ure’ must be closed up, and the second of the three new words means ‘fertile’ but also ‘wealthy’. Does that confirm your parsings?

      • JOHN ATKINSON says:

        Thanks. I see 7 now and had worked out 12 and 15 while waiting for the ORT page to cool and dry out – it was 80/26 in the conservatory this morning and the pages were getting sticky!