Notes for Azed 2,672
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 2,672 ‘Carte Blanche’
Difficulty rating: (4 / 10)
How hard is it to set a Carte Blanche puzzle? Well, you compile a normal plain puzzle, remove the bars and numbers from the grid, and deprive the clues of numbers and enumerations. Job done. If you’re feeling particularly vindictive towards the world in general or solvers in particular, you also arrange the clues in alphabetical order of their solutions. Thankfully, Azed (decent chap that he is) doesn’t do that sort of thing, so his carte blanche puzzles are relatively straightforward.
Don’t be daunted by the lack of bars and numbers! The best place to start is at the top – getting the first couple of across answers and three or four of the first eight or so down ones (the Ximenean unching rules mean that at least eight down answers must start in the top row) is the ideal beginning. If the first two across solutions were (for the sake of argument) of four and eight letters respectively, then you would (a) be able to confidently enter them into the top row of the grid, (b) know that exactly three down solutions ‘hang’ off the first word, with the remaining letter of that word being barred off, (c) know that either six or seven down answers start from the second word, with either one or two letters being barred off, and (d) that the bottom row of the grid consists of an eight-letter word followed by a four-letter word, with a similar number of down clues terminating there. Every time you can establish the position of a bar in the top half of the grid, you can enter a matching bar in the bottom half (eg a bar five cells down in column 1 will be matched by a bar five cells up from the bottom of column 12). Once you get a good toehold, the puzzle starts to become more and more like a regular plain crossword.
Had this been a plain puzzle, I would have rated the clues as being perhaps slightly below average difficulty, but the carte blanche element makes it quite a bit trickier, particularly for those not used to this sort of puzzle (and not used to constructing grids).
After the notes on individual clues I have added a list of the answer lengths for anyone who needs a little extra help.
Clue Writers’ Corner: These days the prize-winning entries for the competitions quite often leave me cold, but there are some notable exceptions, and I wanted to highlight Richard Heald’s recent clue for SONDAGE, “Use of lead perhaps means dog ignoring master needs training”. Firstly, this demonstrates that a clue doesn’t have to be highly complex to win the cup – an anagram of MEANS DOG without the M is nicely straightforward. But there’s a lot else to admire: the surface reading is top-notch, and sounds very natural even when subjected to close scrutiny (I find that many clues fail that test). Something that often spoils potentially good clues is when the wordplay is a letter or two short of delivering the answer, and the writer has to add in a bit that bears little relation to the story being told in the rest of the clue (the mysterious appearance of ‘near Switzerland’ to supply the missing CH on the end of a solution, say); here each word actively contributes to the story. And not only is the definition interesting without being outrageous, the ‘perhaps’ which is required to qualify it (another thing that can spoil a promising clue) transfers its allegiance in the surface reading to the ‘means’, and once more actively enhances the clue. Do I like it? I surely do.
Women chop wood etc and bustle around locally
The usual abbreviation for ‘women’ is followed by a three-letter word meaning ‘to shape, fell or sever with blows of a cutting instrument’. The solution is a dialect word, hence the ‘locally’.
Unseasoned sailor given instruction on being discharged
A four-letter word for a sailor, especially an experienced one, is followed by a six-letter word for ‘[a piece of] instruction’ from which the letters ON have been lost (‘discharged’).
Short book, one of E. European origin
The ‘short book’ is the abbreviated name of a book of the Old Testament.
Fungus holding on in narrow passage
A three-letter fungus is ‘holding in’ that handy two-letter bit of commercial jargon meaning ‘concerning’ or ‘on’.
Love goddess scored, with narcotic drink around
A four-letter word meaning (among many other things) ‘scored’, in the sense that a batsman might have ‘scored’ a century, is contained by a four-letter narcotic drink prepared from the root and stem of a plant of the same name – not to be confused with the Spanish wine that sounds rather similar, the effects of which are generally less dramatic unless consumed in large quantities.
Erstwhile statesman? He’s where ashes are returned
Analagously to ‘after retiring’ having the cryptic meaning of ‘in[side] BED’, the place where HE must be put (before the whole lot is reversed, ie ‘returned’) is indicated by a similar 2,3 expression for ‘where [human] ashes are’. The statesman is Jawaharlal of that ilk, known by the honorific Pandit and the father of Indira Gandhi.
Rabbi’s to recite prayers having left desk
A five-letter Judaical word meaning ‘to recite prayers’ is followed by the nautical equivalent of ‘left’. Midlanders of a certain age (regular correspondent Orange is clearly too young to remember) will know that the answer (with an S on the end) is also what ‘Beer at home’ meant.
Response when changing ends? It should not be overstepped
A four-letter word for a response (or, more commonly, a reflected sound) has its first letter swapped with its last (‘changing ends’), the result being a word from the world of Phil Taylor and Arthur Daley’s arrow-throwing protégé Dafydd, aka ‘Dartagnan’.
Impostor exercises gumshoes
A charade of a four-letter word for an impostor and four-letter present indicative meaning ’employs’ or ‘exercises’.
‘The car is back’? Such may be heard among the Cotswolds
My first though when reading this clue was ‘why among the Cotswolds rather than in the Cotswolds?’, a question which was answered when the Cotswolds turned out to be zoological rather than geographical.
Beardies mostly adorned fuzzily in tufts
Sadly, if – like me -you don’t know that a ‘tuft’ can be a goatee or imperial beard, the clever surface reading may fall slightly flat. The wordplay has an anagram (‘fuzzily’) of ADORNED without its last letter (‘mostly’) being contained by a six-letter plural of a word which can be applied to a tuft of anything used as a brush.
Treats for bears
A double definition clue, although the first one is rather questionable – it means ‘treats’ only in the specific sense of ‘treats to a drink‘.
It may be beside rug devouring scrap of chicken
An &lit, which illustrates that the ‘definition’ in such a clue can legitimately be more of a suggestion. A two-letter word meaning ‘beside’ is followed by a three-letter word for a rug containing the first letter (‘scrap’) of ‘chicken’.
Swinging crowd left in short session lacking a pastor?
A three-letter word for ‘swinging’ that I’ve only ever seen applied to a ‘cat’ (a jazz fan, rather than a feline), a four-letter word for a crowd, and the usual abbreviation for ‘left’ are all contained by an abbreviation (‘short’) of ‘session’.
Ask what goes into late vehicles turning up
A simple ‘hidden reversed’ (sometimes known as a ‘rekrul’), with a definition based on ask2 in Chambers. The wordplay sounds like something what Ernie Wise might have wrote – I’m not at all sure about ‘what goes into’ being used to mean ‘element in’,
Localized blow shows sandbank in its shifting form
An indirect anagram of a very mild form, where a four-letter word is contained by an anagram of itself (‘ in its shifting form’), producing a rather charming dialect (‘local’) term for a blow. The problem is that the four-letter word is shown by Chambers as being a plural, not a singular, so the ‘sandbank’ here should be ‘sandbanks’.
White man in Zambia scattered gnu in frenzy throwing stone
The IVR code for Zambia and an anagram (‘scattered’) of GUN are contained by a four-letter word for the sort of frenzy that might grip a male elephant which is missing (‘throwing’) the usual two-letter abbreviation for ‘stone’.
Eager to be found in poetry of yesteryear? Sounds fishy
The answer, a word which goes back over a thousand years but hasn’t been seen out without a chaperone in the last four hundred or so, is a homophone for fish of various sorts.
(definitions are underlined)
Across: 4, 8, 7, 4, 9, 4, 5, 8, 10 (2 words), 10, 8, 5, 4, 9, 4, 7, 8, 4.
Down: 12, 4, 8, 6, 5, 6, 5, 8, 12, 4, 3-5, 8, 4, 6, 6, 5, 5, 4