Notes for Azed 2,684

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 2,684 Plain

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

This puzzle, which struck me as being slightly above the middle of the difficulty range, contained considerably more than the usual number of clues with which I could take issue, albeit my gripes were for the most part minor (some might even say trivial). There were some very nice surface readings (eg 17a), along with one or two slightly disappointing ones (eg 27d)

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 18d, “Weather’s dull, penetrating wild lilac (8)”. A three-letter word for ‘dull’ is contained by (‘penetrating’) an anagram  (‘wild’) of LILAC, producing an adjective listed without definition under the headword for a familiar noun. There are many adjectives like this, so setters are often called upon to come up with plausible definitions, and it can be very difficult to find one that can be worked into an interesting – or deceptive – clue. OED is rarely helpful, usually falling back on ‘of or pertaining to x’, where x is the relevant noun. So the uncontentious definition of, say, AORTAL (‘Of, pertaining to, or of the nature of, an aorta’), would be ‘of main blood vessel’. However, this is not very promising for the clue writer. Something like ‘of large vessel’ would offer more scope, but what about “large vessel’s”? Well, the apostrophe-s specifically indicates possession – ‘of the king’ and “the king’s” can mean exactly the same thing, and where we’re talking about something tangible (like an aorta), ‘of the aorta’ and “aorta’s” seem pretty similar. Because it is concrete, an aorta can have, for example, a width; however, when it comes to abstract nouns, that isn’t true – but an abstract noun can possess an abstract quality. ‘The fickleness of the English weather’ is the same as “the English weather’s fickleness”, and “x’s” in general is valid for any adjective with the meaning ‘of x’, which is good news for setters.


1a Males round Germany after greens getting bad indigestion (13, 2 words)
A five-letter word for the sort of males that might be seen rutting or partying is put round the three-letter abbreviation for ‘Germany’, with the combination following a five-letter word indicated by ‘greens’. The answer is a (5,8) disease of cattle caused by magnesium deficiency, likely to be  familiar not just to cattle farmers but also to anyone who watched the original series of All Creatures Great and Small and witnessed cows making a remarkable recovery after receiving a magnesium injection from Uncle Herriot. I was dubious about the ‘greens’, but, while there is nothing convincing in Chambers, OED gives a slang meaning of the five-letter word as ‘green vegetables’.

12a Speed trap, one assumes, offering a bunch of tickets (6)
A combination of two three-letter words which might whimsically represent a ‘speed trap’ , or at least a trap for motor vehicles, results in the sort of ‘bunch of tickets’ (albeit now electronic) that one might purchase for travel on the Paris Métro.

16a Trotter, crude fellow occupying centre of scene (7)
A four-letter word for a country bumpkin or an uncouth fellow is contained by (‘occupying’) the three letters at the centre of SCENE. The bumpkin is shown by Chambers as being North American slang, and while including a geographical qualifier would have moved the scene of the surface reading closer to Only Doofuses and Mustangs territory, I do think that one should be there.

19a Versatile tool spread variously to open rotating display stand (13, 2 words)
An anagram (‘variously’) of SPREAD is to be inserted into (‘to open’) a seven-letter rotating display stand (for books or greetings cards in a shop, say), producing a (6,7) term for a  tool that is fairly versatile, though no match for a Swiss Army Knife.

23a Ripple that’s turned land surface as of old (4)
Once again, we have a reversal clue where either element could be the one that needs to be ‘turned’ – it looks more likely to be the ripple, but actually it’s the Miltonian spelling of a word for ‘the surface of land matted with the roots of grass, etc’ which must be reversed to give us a word which can describe agitation on the surface of a liquid, but more commonly means ‘to worry’ or ‘to chafe’.

25a Scoundrel making woman throw up (6)
Every so often, Azed uses ‘woman’ in a clue under the misapprehension that it can be abbreviated to W; in this instance, the clue could be made sound simply by replacing ‘woman’ with ‘women’, thus supplying the W which is followed by a word meaning ‘throw up’.

28a Top-class star group earning ticks and suchlike (7)
A charade of the single letter indicating ‘top-class’ and the name  of a constellation which was also a model of Toyota car lead to a term for an order of Arachnida which includes ticks and mites.

31a One quoted as authority giving famous sign including old cameo (7)
The three-letter name for a sign made using the fingers contains (‘including’) an archaic word for a brooch (‘old cameo’) – a different word with the same spelling is often indicated by ‘that hurts’. The sign was made famous by Winston Churchill in the early 1940s and perhaps even more so by Harvey Smith in August 1971 when he won a second successive Hickstead Derby. As he later observed:

Basically, I had an argument with Douglas Bunn, the owner of Hickstead and one of the judges. I’d won the previous year and I was supposed to have brought back the trophy, but I left it at home. I said it didn’t matter because I’d only win it again. He reckoned I couldn’t. So I went and did it and when I did I turned to him and went: “Up yours.” Because of the incident they wouldn’t give me my £2,000 prize money. But a solicitor wrote to me and said: “You won it, you fight for it.” And I thought, why not? It’s all part of life, isn’t it? It’s talking points. So I brought in photos of Winston Churchill doing the V-sign with his fingers facing both ways, to prove that I could have been showing a V for Victory. And that was it. I was never in trouble. Nothing happened. I got my prize money. Everybody was happy.

32a Being gripped by pain as before granny must (6)
A three-letter pet name for a grandmother is ‘gripped’ by an old (‘as before’) three-letter spelling of a familiar four-letter word for a pain. Unfortunately, Chambers makes it clear that this is a variant spelling only of the verb; since this verb is intransitive, and the verb ‘pain’ is transitive, it can’t legitimately be indicated by ‘pain’.

34a Heading from cover, kestrel flies in confusion (13)
A seven-letter word for ‘cover’, from which the first letter has been removed (ie ‘Heading from cover’), is followed by anagram (‘flies’) of KESTREL. I’m not totally convinced that ‘heading from cover’ can reasonably mean ‘Take the heading from a word for cover’, but even if it can the second element, ‘kestrel flies’, renders the clue unsound. I think I could just about accept “Heading from cover, kestrel flying…”, in other words ‘Remove the first letter from [a word for cover plus an anagram of KESTREL]’.


1d Finding one’s way without pin in brickie’s rubble (4)
A seven-letter word for “finding one’s way” (probably in the dark) has the consecutive letters PIN removed (‘without pin’).

2d Touchdown in Eton footie making one turn red in the face (5)
A double definition clue, the latter word (at least as a noun) probably being considerably more familiar to those of us who didn’t attend Eton College than the former. But what about those words ‘making one’ in the middle? I think that ‘making one’ (‘one’ being the solver) is perfectly ok when a charade, say, is ‘making one’ the solution, but here the two words are the same – 2+2 can ‘make one’ 4, but can 4 ‘make one’ 4? I know my view…

5d Stove got going with charts, or old cresset-holders (11)
An anagram (‘got going’) of STOVE and CHARTS produces a (5-6) Shakespearean term for poles on which torches were mounted. Azed doesn’t explicitly indicate that the word is obsolete, but the term ‘cresset’ is shown by Chambers as ‘historical’, and in Henry IV, part 1, Glendower says to Hotspur:

I cannot blame him: at my nativity
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
Of burning cressets; and at my birth
The frame and huge foundation of the earth
Shaked like a coward

20d Confused state of film, flicker-like? (6)
A two-letter word for a confused state (considered by mathematicians to be of the transcendental kind) and an adjective meaning ‘relating to moving pictures’ (‘of film’) combine to make a word which could accurately be applied to a ‘flicker’, this being ‘the popular name of various American species of woodpecker’.

22d Sarcasm? A cheer follows its conclusion (5)
The last letter of SARCASM (ie ‘its conclusion’) is followed by A (from the clue) and the short form of a six-letter word for a cheer.

24d Harry embraces king as author of poetical pieces (5)
I can’t help feeling that the four-letter word which embraces the usual (chess and cards) abbreviation for ‘king’ means something closer to ‘annoy’ than ‘harry’, but who am I to stand in the way of a good surface? The Austrian poet in question had the forenames René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria (actually that’s more than fore), but thankfully for those writing out party invitations etc he was usually known just as Rainer Maria.

26d To become leader in Times Chancellor appearing in twelfth letter (5)
The single letter representing ‘multiplied by’ (‘Times’) and the two-letter abbreviation for ‘Chancellor of the Exchequer’ are contained by the name of the twelfth letter of the alphabet.

27d Louis’s beloved, a female’s central to his this (5)
A three-letter word for “female’s” is contained by the two-letter French (‘his’, ie “Louis’s”) word for ‘this’, producing the feminine form of the French word for ‘dear’ or ‘beloved’. But while I’ve no problem with “that female’s” or even “female’s” for HER, I draw the line at “a female’s” – it surely has to refer to a specific female. On reflection, I think Azed intended HER to be a noun, so the wordplay translates as “a female is central to…”, but while a ‘she’ can be a noun, this doesn’t change in the objective form (Fielding: “The domino began to make very fervent love to the she”), so ‘her’ is no good as a noun.

(definitions are underlined)

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6 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    22D was my gripe this week. The only unchecked letter was the first (and last), so I knew I had the correct solution, but my Chambers defines it as ‘bitterness’. The derivation is from the Greek for ‘to tear flesh like dogs, to speak bitterly’, but I’m not convinced it has that same sense of bitterness in modern English.

    Otherwise an enjoyable challenge, as ever.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      I’m glad you mentioned that one, Jim, because I didn’t like it myself but I didn’t want my notes to look like a litany of quibbles.

      I think you’re absolutely right about sarcasm, but even if we did accept that it could be an expression of bitterness, the answer is something quite different – it relates to the passage in Ruth 1:20 where Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, both widowed, travel back to Naomi’s home town of Bethlehem. The women of the village say something along the lines of ‘Can this be Naomi?’ to which she replies, ‘Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made me very bitter.’ Very much a bitterness of the soul.

      • Mike Thomas says:

        Hi It goes back even further, to the time of Moses. Exodus 15:23 (The Bible in Living English) says: 23 and they came to Marah and could not drink water out of Marah because it was bitter—that is why it is named Marah, “Bitterness.” Many thanks as usual for your insightful comments.

  2. Hilary Jarrett says:

    Is (or should I say are) ‘greens’ in 1A a golf reference – the greens are grass areas?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Hilary

      It’s a good thought, and in a non-Azed puzzle I might have seriously considered it, but Chambers makes it clear that a ‘green’ is the prepared ground around a golf hole, without any mention of grass, so I don’t think that [golf or bowling] greens = grass works, albeit the name derives from the colour of the grass. However, on re-reading the C entry for ‘green’, I note that in the plural it can be slang for ‘low-grade marijuana’, which (while strictly speaking a definition by example) could equate to GRASS. I think this is probably what Azed had in mind.