Notes for Azed 2,657

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 2,657 Plain

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

This was the sort of Azed puzzle which I suspect will not have given regulars too many problems but might have proved tricky for those less familiar with his little idiosyncrasies. Overall it seemed to lack the élan of Azed’s very finest, and there was a degree of repetition, most notably of ‘disheartened young’ to indicate YG.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 8d, “Hide from downpour (4)”. Not so long ago I clued the plural of this word as ‘Hides buckets’, and it is one which lends itself nicely to a double definition clue, a type which adds variety to a crossword but should, I believe, be used sparingly – a couple in any puzzle is quite enough. The most important thing to my mind is that the two words being defined should either be homographs, ie (as with this clue) they appear as separate headwords in Chambers, or the two senses referenced in the clue should be plainly distinct. I don’t therefore consider ‘Tense finish’ to be a satisfactory clue for PERFECT, since both meanings clearly share the sense of completion associated with the Latin verb perficere from which they derive, although you could argue that the clue still provides two different routes to the answer; I certainly have no issue with ‘Boots have these drugs’ for UPPERS. Otherwise it’s just a matter of finding two definitions which can be combined in an interesting way; if there are multiple headwords in Chambers, the definitions in the clue certainly don’t have to match exactly, so for SLATE, a clue like ‘Dull dark blue carpet’ would be entirely acceptable. Triple definitions, eg ‘Twist greatly impressed US Army’ for SLEW, should be used with extreme frugality – about one a year is probably enough.


1a Common weed of various colours, deep round inside (8)
A four-letter adjective meaning ‘of various colours’ (Browning’s piper being thus described) contains a reversal (’round’) of a word meaning ‘deep’, as a voice might be. The answer contains a couple of hyphens, while the word ‘weed’ seems particularly appropriate.

7a Fabulous tree, one inhabiting downs? Certainly not (4)
When you see ‘certainly not’ or the like in a clue, it usually means that you must infer the opposite of what has been previously stated. Here it could have meant that rather than ‘one inhabiting downs’ you should read ‘downs inhabiting one’, but in this instance it is just a single word which must be ‘turned round’, so a one letter word meaning ‘one’ is to be put inside (‘inhabiting’) a word which is the polar opposite of ‘downs’.

11a Horse painter setting aside barrel inside for farrier’s scraps (5)
There are not too many horse painters to choose from in crossword land – if it’s not Munnings then it has to be George ??????, famed for his depictions of horses but classified in his lifetime as a sporting artist and thus excluded from full membership of the Royal Academy. The solution is produced from his surname by omitting (‘setting aside’) the usual abbreviation for ‘barrel’; since this letter occurs twice in the name, and both instances are ‘inside’, Azed might have written the clue as ‘Horse painter setting aside one barrel for farrier’s scraps’.

14a Form of help cutting monstrosity as abandoned, cable system (7)
An anagram of (‘form of’) HELP is contained by (‘cutting’) a five-letter word for a monstrosity from which the consecutive letters AS (at the end) have been lost (‘as abandoned’).

17a Search in litter for portion of dead tissue (6)
Chambers gives ‘litter’ as “a state of confusion and untidiness with things strewn about”, so ‘in litter’ very accurately indicates an anagram.

28a The old rise in line dressed grandly (7, 2 words)
An obsolete three-letter word meaning ‘[to] rise’ or ‘to mount’ must be inserted into an anagram (‘dressed’) of LINE. The solution is (2,5).

29a Deep sound ordinary in piccolo? The opposite (5)
This clue works almost identically to 7a, with the usual abbreviation for ‘ordinary’ being contained by the Italian word which means the opposite of ‘piccolo’.

30a Classical poet, one that disappeared mysteriously (5)
Marcus Annaeus is known for his only surviving work, De Bello Civili, a historical epic describing the war between Julius Caesar and Pompey. It stops abruptly during book 10, with Caesar fighting for his life, which suggests that the author was waiting for a further call from the commissioning department of the BBC (or their Roman equivalent) which never came. The name by which Richard John Bingham was commonly known has become synonymous with mysterious disappearances and periodic sightings, most recently (46 years on) in a Buddhist commune in Brisbane.


1d Collage showing chemist finally serving prince in place of king (7)
The surname of a French chemist and microbiologist must have its last letter (‘finally’) changed from the usual abbreviation for ‘king’ (in a monarchical context) to the one for ‘prince’. A hyphen is also inserted.

2d Travel as young often do? I love going round the old world (9)
The letter I (from the clue) and a three-letter word for ‘love’ in the sense of ‘zero’ are put round the Latin word for the Earth.

6d Mugs spoke up about what’s central to knowledge (5)
A four-letter word meaning ‘spoke’ is reversed (‘up’) around (‘about’) the middle letter of (“what’s central to”) ‘knowledge’. Both the definition and the answer are slang terms for the same things.

16d Night-time attack happened, catching one stiff (8)
A four-letter word for ‘happened’ contains (‘catching’) the Roman numeral for ‘one’ and a word that means ‘stiff’ in a Paul Hollywood kind of way, describing something that has ‘fallen’ during baking. The product is a term for a night attack derived from the Spanish word for a shirt, a result of the attacking party’s practice of wearing shirts (though not with numbers, names or advertising material for betting firms) over their armour as a means of mutual recognition.

20d The first always comes last after spirit has left (7)
A slightly convoluted wordplay has a four-letter word meaning ‘comes last’ following a two-letter spirit and the standard single-letter abbreviation for ‘left’. The nones and the ides were less predictable, but this chappie was always ‘the first’.

23d Mount rode up, showing overlapping piece of armour (6)
The combination of “a hill or ancient mound formed from the accumulated debris from earlier mud or wattle habitations [in Arab lands]” (‘mount’) and a three-letter word meaning ‘rode’ or ‘had a seat on’ is reversed (‘up’)  to produce the answer.

24d Cooked pastry base shouldn’t be like this, very like an omelette (first off)! (5)
A word describing the sort of bottom abhorred by Mary Berry is formed by putting a two-letter word for ‘very’ in front of a four-letter word, appropriate to describe an omelette, from which the first letter has been removed (‘first off’).

25d Like votes when cast under being distributed (5)
The definition here makes reference to the name of a vessel used for holding tablets, lots, or balls in the process of voting or casting lots, originally in ancient Rome.

(definitions are underlined)

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5 Responses

  1. MuchPuzzled says:

    The winning entries for the Printer’s Devilry puzzle #2655 are published in today’s Observer. The second winner is quite elegant, whilst the third seems to refer to Edmund Hillary and his sherpa companion whilst on a surface reading misdirects one to thinking of Hillary Clinton. So far, so good.
    However I am absolutely baffled by the winning entry which in its undevilled form would give rise to “…was SOUNPACOFIT and…”. I can find reference to “COFIT” which seems to be a French method of preserving food, but am still at a loss to decipher this. Can you please enlighten?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi MP

      I do think it would help if the undevilled versions were given in the slip, at least for the prize-winning entries. I believe they should read roughly as below:

      1. The meal served was so unfit – and a trifle cold.

      The meal was soup, a confit, and a trifle (cold).

      2. I feel busts a lot, but I know I need treatment so I’m willing to pay
      for it.

      I feel BUPA costs a lot, but I know I need treatment so I’m willing to pay for it.

      3. Hillary expertly wound up several guys – that one she riled badly.

      Hillary expertly wound up several guys that one sherpa coiled badly.

      I hope that makes things clearer.

      The full slip is available on the Crossword Centre web site. I was delighted to see the names of more than one regular commenter among those listed – well done to them!

  2. Andy says:

    Thanks, as always, for the comments. It can only be one word given I have al the crossers, but I cannot parse 12d.
    PS I think you may have inadvertently given part of the answer in the comment on 16d

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Andy

      Thanks for the pointer regarding 16d – probably my most common error is putting the word from the answer rather than the word from the clue! It’s the sort of thing I never pick up when I do a read-through prior to hitting the ‘Publish’ button. I’ve now changed it.

      Re 12d, it’s an insertion of one five-letter word into another, the first being an archaic word for a giant (he appeared in his alternative four-letter form three weeks ago) and the second being the body with which Fleet Street is synonymous, albeit there are very few gentlemen or ladies thereof remaining since the exodus initiated by Rupert Murdoc.