Notes for Azed 2,674

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 2,674 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

A 13×11 puzzle, and (as my granny might have said) a bit of a funnyosity. A lot of anagrams (15 in 36 clues), and a lack (in my opinion) of the élan that pervades Azed’s finest. Overall, I thought the difficulty was around the middle of the range, but I’m prepared to be challenged on that.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 8d, “Drunk riles TTs in benders (8)”. This clue provides an interesting counterpoint to last week’s “Casks pouring out stream”, where ARMETS, a historical (but not obsolete) term for certain helmets, was defined by ‘Casks’, an obsolete spelling of ‘casques’. Here we have a simple anagram (‘Drunk’) of RILES TT, leading to an obsolete term for sixpences, with ‘benders’ being an obsolete slang term for the same coins. Azed has included nothing in the clue to indicate that we are dealing with discarded words, and I’ve got no problem with that – they would have been in use at the same time, and both are readily verifiable in Chambers. Are the two clues fundamentally different? Perhaps not, but I’m a lot happier when one obsoletism indicates another – to borrow Richard Heald’s description from a recent comment, a true ‘like-for-like’ definition.

Incidentally, the term ‘bender’ seems to relate to the ease with which a silver sixpence could be bent; the name was also at one time applied to a shilling, with some idea that when bent twice in opposing directions and viewed from the side, it would resemble the letter S. But why would you want to be bending your loose change? And surely a silver threepenny-bit would be even easier to bend? My favourite word for a sixpence is ‘tizzy’, but in crossword clues its plural form is no good.


1a Some swine, solid, filling pubs (8)
A four-letter word for the sort of (solid) figure often seen on motorways accompanied by many similarly-shaped associates but no workmen is put inside (‘filling’) a word for ‘pubs’.

12a Guy one can read carefully penning ultimate in counsel? (10, 2 words)
An &lit, where the whole clue stands as an indication of the (5,5) solution, the wordplay involving an anagram of GUY ONE CAN containing (‘penning’) the last letter (‘ultimate’) in COUNSEL. Does ‘read carefully’ imply a wholesale rearrangement of the preceding text? Anything but, I would have thought.

14a Holy scripture rendered in shorthand, mostly wrong (7)
I thought we were in for yet another anagram here, but in fact the wordplay has a two-letter abbreviation for ‘shorthand’ (with the oblique stroke in the middle ignored) being followed by a word meaning ‘wrong’ (in the ‘going wrong’ sense) from which the last letter has been omitted (‘mostly’).

16a One gets to fiddle around, increasingly crazy (7)
I think the ‘around’ here is dangerously close to doing double duty – the Roman numeral representing one gets a six-letter verb put outside (‘around’) it, but I’m not sure that ‘fiddle’ on its own is sufficient to indicate the latter; ‘fiddle around’ would be much better

21a Burst out in what was formerly cultivated, fundamental (11)
An anagram (‘out’) of BURST is contained by an obsolete (‘was formerly’) word meaning ‘cultivated’ (as opposed to wild).

22a What makes volume some superseded source of news? (4)
Regular readers will know that one of my favourite Azed clues is ‘My letters could make lad sad’ for LASS (LAD with ‘L AS S’  being SAD); the gimmick used in this clue is the same, but the aesthetic effect, sadly, is not. If you split the solution up as 1+2+1, then a four-letter word for a volume (or a big book) having 1 2 1 results in SOME. The ‘superseded’ is there because the name of the agency was changed in 1992.

29a No trumps not right for misguided competitor (6)
A six-letter word for ‘misguided’ has the abbreviation for ‘no trumps’ replacing the single-letter abbreviation for ‘right’ (ie ‘No trumps not right’).

33a Repair funds once chaps invested ladies squandered? Not I (8)
A three-letter word for ‘chaps’ is contained by an anagram (‘squandered’) of LADIES from which the letter I has been removed (‘Not I’). There really does need to be a comma between ‘invested’ (=’surrounded’) and ‘ladies’ in order for the wordplay to make any sense.


1d Supplementary deeds in Scotland support landlords (11)
A 4+7 charade of a verb meaning ‘support’ and a term to describe landlords.

2d Trumpeter, one playing all but final duet (5)
A single-letter word for ‘one’ is followed by a word for ‘playing’ (of the sort that might go on in a casino) missing its last two letters (‘all but final duet’).

6d Student getting bad mark when taking in endless vacation (7)
A four-letter word for a disfiguring mark is ‘taking in’ an informal four-letter word for ‘vacation’ without its last letter (‘endless’).

9d Vague impression that’s not on – does it suggest what’s selfless? (4)
One of the language’s greatest gifts to setters is the apostrophe-s combination, which, quite apart from reading very naturally, can be shorthand for both ‘is’ and ‘has’. Here it is the former in the surface reading and the latter in the wordplay, where a six-letter word for a vague impression ‘has not’ the consecutive letters ON. Azed has given us a preview of the (in this instance, hyphenated) solution in 33a.

10d Shortening silky dress fabric pair at first lifted (6)
A clue where if you’re not familiar with the solution or the dress fabric then you are, to use a cruciverbal term, stuffed until you can get some crossing letters and have a guess. The fabric (a French term deriving from the name of the village in the Pyrenees where it was first made) has its first two letters reversed (‘pair at first lifted’). The village may be small – population in 2015 a mere 176 souls – but it has also given its name to a type of mineral water.

18d Post-Xmas gift from Spain – orangey hue about right (7)
As in 10d, we have a relatively obscure word as the solution and another one in the wordplay. The IVR code for Spain is followed by a five-letter word from the world of heraldry describing an orange-brown or bright chestnut colour (tawny) containing (‘about’) the usual abbreviation for ‘right’.

19d Wherein to cook ragout? See local toil in total spread (7)
A three-letter dialect (‘local’) word meaning ‘toil’ is put inside a word for ‘total spread’, such as a bridge might have.

26d Proclaim last of banns? Not OK spanning that ancient festival climax (4)
In Azed puzzles I quite often come across new words which I rapidly forget (how many types of filamentous worm can one be expected to remember?), but the (3-3) dialect word meaning ‘to proclaim the banns of marriage of (a couple) in church for the last time’ is one that came up a few months ago and has remained firmly lodged in my memory ever since (probably at the expense of something much more important). That word has the containing (‘spanning’) letters O and K removed, producing a word for the eighth day after a festival. Azed has chosen not to tell us that the ‘banns’ word is dialectal, which I’m prepared to overlook, but what I can’t accept is a transitive verb (which this is) being indicated as though it were intransitive.

(definitions are underlined)

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11 Responses

  1. 🍊 says:

    Dialect or not, OUT-ASK remains my favourite new-to-me word from AZED. Chambers says that it’s transitive, but I still don’t know what the object would be: the congregation, or perhaps the bride (‘are you sure about this, dear? this is the third time of asking’).

    Oh, and everyone can feel good about their speed, as I’ll always finish last!

    • Crossguesser says:

      Aspel? That time he was inundated with children’s letters and had to take time off with exhaustion.

  2. Fiona Potter says:

    Hi doctor, I’m stuck on 7a, ?t?b? and 9 d, ??ti, also 26d ut??, and 32a, s??e?
    Any hints would be gratefully received!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Fiona

      I think you’ve put the fabric in at 10d rather than the shortening/abridgement.

      For 26d, the six-letter ‘banns’ word from which the framing O….K must be removed begins OUT-A??

      For 32a, had the votes been negative they would have been NOES.

      Hope that helps.

  3. Ursula Wright says:

    Hello Dr Clue

    I think this week’s Azed must be graded as ‘very easy’ because I finished it in about 2 hours – usually 2 days. The amount of anagrams helped significantly. Had to check with you that I had 22a and 29a correct, though.
    I’m not complaining…

    Thank you.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Ursula

      I think that you must have been in top form, because it certainly wasn’t a simple puzzle, even allowing for all those anagrams. I could be persuaded that it was a 2 rather than a 2.5, but I wouldn’t go any lower than that. As I solved the puzzle, I marked 16 clues for comment, which is what I would expect for a puzzle in the middle of the difficulty spectrum.

  4. Hazel says:

    I’m not happy with 10 d – how does “pair at first lifted” imply that we need to swap the first two letters?

    I’m also with you re anagrams – rather a lot for one crossword!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Hazel

      I take your point, and I would probably have griped about this clue myself if I hadn’t already complained about several others! I’d have no problem with ‘last pair lifted’ to indicate that the last two letters should be moved (together) to a position closer to the top, but I think that it’s quite a stretch to get to ‘inverted’ from ‘lifted’ (or ‘rising’, or anything that suggests collective movement to a higher position). I’m not even sure that ‘pair at first’ is the same as ‘first pair’ – something on the lines of ‘pair swapping places at start’ would surely work better.

      • Mark Z says:

        Or does “Pair at first “ refer to the 1st two letters of the alphabet? I’m not sure it makes more sense, but that’s what I thought at first.

        I’m with Ursula – this was a 2 or 3 hour puzzle, not a 2 day job.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Hi Mark

          I’m pretty sure Azed is exploiting the Chambers def of ‘at first’ as ‘at the beginning’ to make ‘pair at first’ equate to ‘pair at the beginning’. The alphabet suggestion is a reasonable one, but it’s not the sort of thing I’ve ever seen Azed do.

          Ha! Fair enough – it definitely sounds as though I overestimated the difficulty of this one…I’d had a flu jab the day before and wasn’t feeling at my bushy-tailed best, so my perception of the puzzle may have been owed less to Azed’s deviousness than to my slightly febrile state.