Notes for Azed 2,676
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 2,676 Plain
Difficulty rating: (2.5 / 5)
There was nothing particularly difficult about this puzzle, but even by Azed’s arcane standards there was a lot of stuff dredged from the depths of Chambers, so I think that it must rate as being at least of intermediate difficulty. As befits the closing day of the Ryder Cup (although purely coincidentally), there were a couple of golf-related clues, as well as a rare one for the anglers out there.
Clue Writers’ Corner: As a setter, from time to time one is required to write a clue for a word which breaks down neatly into two parts, such as PALMATE – one may well choose to exploit a happy accident of this sort with a clue like ‘Webfooted friends’ and move swiftly on. However, in a clue writing contest things are very different – what’s blindingly obvious to you will be equally obvious to other competitors, so the use of the two component parts ‘as is’ should be studiously avoided unless your clue is exceptionally clever (which my example certainly isn’t). Personally, I would always look for a different treatment of the answer that avoids at least one, and preferably both, of the words in plain sight.
There is another point relating to solutions which can be neatly divided up: it is generally considered poor form to indicate any element of the answer by using the same sense of that element which it has in the answer itself. Neither PAL nor MATE has any etymological connection with the word which they produce when joined together, but what about ‘Person sharing accommodation boring friend’ for FLATMATE? The ‘boring’ meaning of FLAT has nothing do with the accommodation, but the MATE is exactly the same sort found in FLATMATE, so I wouldn’t use a clue like this. While ot isn’t a hard and fast rule, and I regularly see perfectly serviceable clues that break it (including 10a in this puzzle), it still represents something to be avoided where possible.
6a Antelope, last of species, a pity (5)
The final letter (‘last’) of SPECIES is followed by A (from the clue) and an old informal word for a pity or shortcoming, often indicated in crosswords by ‘wrong’. The answer is both an antelope and the hastily-spoken title of a Pet Shop Boys hit.
10a Jack-fruit? It’s at its best when shrivelled (9)
The bit before the hyphen in the ultra-brief wordplay leads to a name of which ‘Jack’ is a diminutive form, and the bit following results in the name of a particular fruit. The similarly-hyphenated solution describes a fruit which could be kept for up to two years, and
whose wither’d rind entrencht With many a furrow aptly represents Decrepid Age
11a Catching nothing smoothly (5)
A double definition clue, the first originally relating to fishing or whaling vessels which had no fish or oil on board, but now (apparently – my knowledge of angling is decidedly poor) colloquially used to describe an angler’s creel with no fish inside.
14a Sheepdog, a stunner? Absolutely right (8)
A two-letter word from the world of boxing for a ‘stunner’ is followed by a five-letter slang word for ‘extremely’ or ‘absolutely’ (being the Italian for ‘world’ and the Spanish for ‘unadulterated’, and related to one or both) and the usual abbreviation for ‘right’.
17a What’s this bardic craft for? Giving actor fuel possibly (6)
A composite anagram, where the letters of the solution (‘this bardic craft’) and FOR can be rearranged (‘possibly’) to give ACTOR FUEL.
25a Solo assigned to celebrity making comeback (6)
A two-letter preposition meaning (among many other things) ‘assigned to’ is followed by a reversal (‘making comeback’) of a word for a celebrity, often seen preceded by ‘big’. The solution is hyphenated, 3-3.
30a It blows cold, a handicap, no question (4)
If you got this without any checkers then you did better than me. A six-letter ‘term in some sports for the handicap whereby a player allows a weaker opponent (at the latter’s choice of time) to score a point in a set, deduct a stroke at a hole, take an extra turn in croquet, etc.’ (as well as being a rich shellfish soup) has the two-letter abbreviation for ‘question’ removed (‘no question’) to produce the name of a cold continental wind.
33a Sea-trout Welsh will have learnt about (5)
A nice clue, given that the answer is a Welsh name for a sea-trout grilse. The wordplay involves the single-letter abbreviation for ‘Welsh’ having a word meaning ‘learnt’ surrounding it (‘about’). It might seem that the clue would be neater with the word ‘will’ omitted, but the wordplay would then be unsound, since in the cryptic reading ‘Welsh’ requires a verb in the singular, ie ‘has’ rather than ‘have’; Azed has sidestepped this trap for the unwary by using the future tense, where the singular and plural forms are the same.
2d Insecticide making husband peer inside bamboo? (9)
The usual abbreviation for ‘husband’ and a four-letter word for a peer of the realm are contained by a word which could be applied to a bamboo stem.
3d Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, timeless, associated with him recast (6))
This is a neat clue, although personally I would have left the ‘A’ out. The wordplay involves an anagram (‘recast’) of TALE without the usual abbreviation for ‘time’ (‘timeless’) and HIM. Chambers associates the word specifically with Shakespeare, but as with quite a few entries thus qualified it seems to have been used by a number of authors dating back to Elizabethan times.
5d They arrange Jewish marriages, held constant within form of Mishna (10)
A three-letter word meaning ‘held’ (in the ‘possessed’ sense) and the standard abbreviation for ‘constant’ are contained by an anagram (‘form’) of MISHNA.
8d Inconsistent section dominating chamber (6)
The usual abbreviation for ‘section’ is placed above (‘dominating’) a term for a ‘chamber’, aka a jerry, a jordan or a gazunder.
12d I tap in train company in place mentioned (10, 2 words)
The letter I (from the clue) and a three-letter word meaning ‘tap’ (or pretentious odds and ends) are contained by a four-letter word for a train and the standard abbreviation for ‘company’, leading to a (4,6) solution.
15d Grant includes state’s refurbishment of carriage (9)
Adjectives like this can be hard to define in a clue without making the break between definition and wordplay a yawning chasm; as he shows here, Azed is very good at craftily bridging that gap. A four-letter verb meaning ‘grant’ contains (‘includes’) an anagram (‘refurbishment’) of STATE.
18d Protozoa once more found in down! (7)
An exclamation mark in a clue often indicates that the setter has done something mildly outrageous (so it’s no surprise that they are seen on occasion with that implication in Azed’s clues), but in this instance it tells us that the (1,3) French term which contains an old form of the word ‘more’ (‘once more’) is an interjection meaning ‘down!’ or ‘down with!’.
22d Bend in e.g. pectoral, an affliction of old horses (6)
A three-letter geometric word for a bend is contained by a name for the type of organ exemplified (hence the ‘e.g.’) by a pectoral.
(definitions are underlined)