Notes for Azed 2,673

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 2,673 Plain

Difficulty rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

I felt that this one was definitely a little past the middle of the difficulty spectrum. There may not have been any very tough clues, but there were quite a few tricky ones, including a couple which strayed close to the borders of fairness, at least by Azed’s high standards.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 5d, “Casks pouring out stream (6)”, where a simple anagram (‘pouring out’) of STREAM produces a word shown by Chambers as ‘hist’ (ie historical). Words thus qualified are not disused, but they are likely to be employed today only in a historical context, so ‘villein’, say, is most likely to appear in a discussion of the feudal system. The variant spelling of ‘cask’ for ‘casque’ (a head covering or helmet) is, however, obsolete – it is shown as such by Chambers. Is it allowable to omit the qualification of an obsolete word when it is defining a historical solution, on the basis that an old definition implies an old solution? I’m perfectly prepared to accept, say, an American spelling of a word to imply another Americanism, eg ‘color’ for ‘gray’, but this seems very different to me. Some editors don’t approve of the use of obsoletisms in definitions, arguing that ‘old cask’ should indicate that an old word for a barrel is required, not a word matching an old meaning of ‘cask’; I don’t subscribe to that view (it’s something often seen in Azed’s clues), but I do think that some form of qualification is needed here, eg “Casks formerly pouring out stream”.


6a Hunting dog? Much older one in sport (7)
A four-letter archaic (‘much older’) term for a hunting dog is contained by a word meaning ‘sport’ in the sense of ‘[to] wager’.

14a Bluff that’s most ingenious separated from rest (5)
A nine-letter word meaning ‘most ingenious’ is deprived of (‘separated from’) the consecutive letters REST.

17a Treat to sexual advances? Husband replacing second can (7, 2 words)
A glaring example of the ‘missing comma’ issue, here between the last two words of the clue. A very English (3-4) equivalent of the North American slang term ‘can’ has the usual abbreviation for ‘husband’ replacing the one for ‘second’. The definition of the (3,4) phrasal verb may look slightly odd, but because it is transitive something like ‘Make advances’ fails technically and ‘Make advances to’ fails aesthetically.

18a Old suckers and weeds (5)
The old word for people who are easily duped may not be familiar, but the word for ‘weeds’ will be if you imagine it as ‘weeds out’.

23a Scotsman’s pants, little height in the legs (5)
A rather nice imitative Scots word for ‘pants’ or ‘gasps’ is produced by putting the single-letter abbreviation (‘little’ being superfluous but harmless) for ‘height’ inside a four-letter word which shares all but one letter with the ‘legs’ which it indicates.

27a Processed ham, tinned, not tough – one bought to do the job? (6)
An anagram (‘processed’) of HAM and TINNED from which a three-letter word for a tough has been removed (‘not tough’). The definition is perhaps a little loose, but we know what Azed is driving at.

29a Rock at sea, ever avoided one by one (5)
Very similar to 14, here we have a nine-letter word meaning ‘one by one’ from which the consecutive letters EVER have been removed (‘ever avoided’). The answer has a nautical sense of ‘to sway, rock or bound’.

32a Like crude style of pop, lively, catching current fashion (7)
A three-letter word meaning lively containing (‘catching’) a four-letter word for the current fashion (almost exclusively seen in the expression ‘all the ????’), the result being an adjective describing a type of music that has gone through various incarnations since the 1960s; while Tom Robinson was singing in the late 70s that he was glad to be lively, The Clash were proudly affirming “We’re a ?????? band / We come from ??????land’.


3d Hummel overseas providing bit of elegance in ringtone (5)
The first letter (‘bit’) of ELEGANCE is put into an informal term for the sort of ringtone which has multiple melodies, making it so much easier on the ears of fellow train travellers. I ought to remember by now what hummel means, but I always have to look it up; this is an Australian version.

4d Sweet-smelling powder, once an advantage when sex is involved (6)
A four-letter word for an advantage (which I associate these days only with handicaps at horse racing – ‘horse x has a five pound ???? with horse y’) has the Roman numeral representing six inserted (‘involved’). I think this latter element is a step too far – I’ve no problem with ‘sex in Rome’ for VI, but straight ‘sex’ doesn’t seem appropriate.

6d Implant one inserted in reverse of strong horse above bone (7)
The Roman numeral for one is put into a reversal of a three-letter word for a short-legged, strong horse, and the combination is followed by a word for a particular part of the human body. Is it a bone? My limited anatomical knowledge tells me that that your thigh bone’s connected to it, and it’s connected to your backbone, but that’s a ??? bone, not just a ???.

13d What growing gymnosperms show, decay, hard, in mantles (10)
A common three-letter word for ‘decay’ and the usual abbreviation for ‘hard’ are contained by a word for the large, square mantles worn in ancient Rome, the plural of a seven-letter word.

16d Savage article, namely one forming leader (8)
A five-letter word for an article has the standard two-letter abbreviation meaning ‘specifically’ and a single-letter word for ‘one’ preceding it (ie it has the latter elements ‘forming [a] leader’).

19d Versatile opener? Grandmaster dispenses with his first around start of event (7)
The grandmaster here owes his lasting fame in large part to his 1972 World Championship match with Bobby Fischer which was set against the backdrop of the Cold War, albeit when a slight thaw had started to set in. After his surname has shed its first letter (‘dispenses with his first’), it is set around the initial letter (‘start’) of EVENT. 

22d Watch of traditional design, one scaling heights? (6)
A single-letter word for ‘one’ is followed by a reversal (‘scaling’) of the name given to a region in the Levant which is often seen with ‘Heights’ following it.

26d Secret union (5)
This was a tricky answer to get without a letter or two, the ‘secret’ (adjectival) meaning from its first entry in Chambers perhaps being slightly more familiar than the ‘union’ sense under the second headword, but it’s, er, a near-run thing.

28d Parisian landmark? It was grand as part of artistic education (4)
The sort of landmark that Azed is referring to is exemplified by the one known locally as ‘La dame de fer’ (we had one of those back in the 70s and 80s, although she was a cheval of a very different couleur).

(definitions are underlined)

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5 Responses

  1. RJHe says:

    Interesting – you say you’re prepared to accept the American spelling of ‘color’ used to indicate eg ‘gray’, and yet you object to the old Roman spelling of ‘sex’ being used to indicate the similarly Romanized ‘VI’. What’s the difference, pray tell?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      The reason is the same one that prevents me from accepting ‘pain’ for TARTINE; ‘pain’ is not given by Chambers as meaning ‘bread’, and ‘sex’ is not given as meaning ‘six’ – the former is only listed as an element of ‘pain au chocolat’, and the latter only as a combining form, so they are not themselves part of the language as delimited by Azed’s primary reference. Chambers does, though, have an entry for ‘color’.

      I should add that I would, of course, also accept ‘colour’ for GRAY, since this spelling is shown by C as ‘esp N Am’; I was going to say that the use of ‘color’ would avoid any potential ambiguity with GREY, but then I remembered this comment from the slip for AZ 1104:

      “278 entries, over half with PARTNER for PARDNER, presenting me with the biggest unexpected quandary for a long time. The clue, you may recall, was ‘Standard split set back US spouse possibly’, the fourth letter being, unintentionally but typically, unchecked. How many of those who had PARTNER paused to wonder about that ‘US’, and how many, having paused, assumed some sort of error on my part and thought no more about it? My initial inclination was to be strict – until elements of self-doubt started to creep into my mind, ‘Pardner’ is described by Chambers as American slang for ‘partner’, and the word ‘spouse’ is anything but slang. Though not specifically American, ‘partner’ is not un-American either, so describing it as ‘US’ does not preclude its use in other Englishes (or does it?). Anyway, I weakened, though a lot of you who should have known better can consider yourselves fortunate that I did!”

      A better ‘US/US’ example might be this one from yours truly : “Wake when honor students start putting calculators away? (9)”

      • RJHe says:

        I’d completely forgotten about Pardnergate – well remembered!

        I understand the distinction you make between ‘color’ and ‘sex’, but see no reason why basic foreign words, regardless of whether or not they’re in C, can’t be used in definitions without being indicated as such. It was a delightful PDM the first time I saw ‘sex’ = ‘VI’ in a clue, although it’s a bit of a chestnut now of course. Re ‘pain’, Azed clearly has no problem with that either, judging by his clue to BAGUETTE in puzzle No. 1,989: “Pain of a sort to seize troubled tutee” (and yes, I had to dig deep to find that example!).

        Generally speaking, it always pleases me when setters go the extra mile to find like-for-like definitions to avoid using the clunky likes of ‘as before’, ‘locally’ or ‘in Perth’ etc to indicate restricted usage. In one puzzle I solved just this week I was happy to see LASSIE defined by ‘quean’ instead of the more usual ‘Jock’s girl’.

        Nice clue to AFTERMATH BTW.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          First – and very much foremost – let me say that I agree unreservedly with everything you say in your third para. I would rather see a slightly questionable, but inventive, definition or construction rather than the trite and (to echo your word) clunky stuff that we see in so many puzzles. I’d like to think that we both fall into the ‘try to be original’ category.

          In the Azed clue which you found (good work!), the ‘of a sort’ is quite sufficient to make it acceptable to me; on reflection, I’m not even sure that I have a problem with ‘pain’ on its own. I can’t believe that many solvers have neither learnt basic French nor encountered ‘pain au raisin’ or ‘pain au chocolat’, but while in the days of Ximenes all but a handful of solvers would have received a classical education, I don’t think that’s true any more. I wouldn’t be keen on “Hook I put outside college” for UNCUS.

  2. Mark Z says:

    I agree with your criticisms of several of these clues. I completed this by myself, but needed your analysis of, say, 4d to fully understand. So , 3/5 is probably a fair ranking. But I found this a lot easier than 2,672. I finished that but needed your hints – for which, thanks!