Notes for Azed 2,685

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 2,685 Plain

Difficulty rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Definitely one towards the upper end of the difficulty scale, with some nice clues as well as a wordplay or two which stretched the English language to its limits.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 22d, “Grass, coarse and long (not on) Titchmarsh cuts? (6)”. The wordplay has LONG without the letters ON (‘not on’) containing ALAN, indicated by ‘Titchmarsh’. But is ‘Titchmarsh’ not a definition by example, which would normally be indicated as such, eg ‘Johnson, perhaps’ or ‘Johnson?’ for BORIS? One argument would be that the question mark at the end of the clue ‘belongs’ to ‘Titchmarsh’ and should be mentally attached to it by solvers. I’m not convinced by this – if the question mark qualifies anything, it must surely be ‘cuts’; were we to accept this concept, tacking a question mark on the end of any clue would justify a DBE, no matter where the defining word(s) appeared. However, the rationale behind a DBE using a surname or forename to indicate the other half of the combination is that (thankfully) not all Johnsons, for instance, are BORIS, but what about Titchmarshes? How many really famous people are called Titchmarsh. Well, yes, none. How many quite well-known people have that name? I can think of just the sole example, so while it is still technically a DBE, the required name must in practice be selected from a list of one, and I have no problem with the clue at all.


1a Missing the cooler theatre garb (6)
There really ought to be a comma here between ‘the’ and ‘cooler’, because what the wordplay is telling us is that the two-word nickname of a specific prison (ie ‘cooler’) in London must be deprived of its first word, namely ‘The’.

11a A workshop plant, showy: it has ornamental use (9)
A 1+3+5 charade of A (from the clue), a familiar contraction of the term applied to the sort of workshop used by scientists, and a plant, some forms of which are commonly called Michaelmas daisies.

15a Once smitten, is briefly captivated about Romeo (6)
A shortened (about as short as it could get without disappearing completely) version of ‘is’ (‘is briefly’) and a four-letter word meaning ‘captivated’ (in this sense typically seen in the five-letter passive form, eg ‘I was much ????? by it’) are put around the letter represented in the NATO phonetic alphabet by ‘Romeo’. The solution is an obsolete (hence the ‘once’) past participle of a familiar word which is accurately defined by ‘smite’ in the sense of ‘whack’.

27a Amateur non-professional clubs accepted, such as Horace often (6)
The usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘amateur’ is followed by a four-letter word for ‘non-professional’ (or ‘not belonging to the clergy’) into which the standard abbreviation for ‘clubs’ has been inserted (ie ‘clubs accepted’). I think that it is perhaps Horace’s verses to which this term could often be applied, rather than Horace himself.

29a Foreign vehicle making sign when reversing about parking (4)
One of the signs of the Zodiac is reversed around the usual abbreviation for ‘parking’, producing the name of a German car manufacturer. After starting out by making sewing machines, the company produced its first car in 1899, and from 1929 to 2017 was owned by General Motors. For a numbers of years the models of these cars were almost identical to the Vauxhall versions sold in the UK, so one incarnation of the Kadett bore a striking similarity to the Vauxhall Chevette. I have a feeling that my I-SPY book of cars included the Kadett, although it didn’t score many points; I particularly remember two cars from the book which I never spotted during journeys with my parents – the top-tariff Jensen Interceptor, and the DAF Daffodil, which I don’t think to this day I’ve ever knowingly seen ‘in the actual’. 

30a One of oracular pair having half of us on edge (4)
Half of the word US is followed by a three-letter word for an edge, giving a solution that, after last week’s MARAH, takes us back into OT territory. The word, sometimes taken to mean ‘lights’, is invariably found in collocation with thummim (the plural of the Hebrew word for integrity) and used to describe certain objects, the nature of which is not known, worn in or upon the ‘breast-plate’ of the Jewish high-priest, by means of which the will of Jehovah was held to be declared. Their names have in the past been used figuratively, as in WB Robertson’s Dream of the Foolish Virgin (1898):

And stars repeat it‥, The ???? and the Thummim on the breastplate of the night.

32a Target of pussyfoot, using more than half vigour in pursuit of society cupbearer (9)
‘Pussyfoot’ was the name given to American prohibitionist WE Johnson, and his ‘target’ is produced by putting the first four letters of a six-letter word for ‘vigour’ (‘more than half vigour’) after the standard one-letter abbreviation for ‘society’ and the name of the Olympian cupbearer (also a genus of shrubs). Early in his career, Johnson joined the temperance forces and sneakily posed as a brewer of “Johnson’s Pale Ale”, writing to ‘wets’ and asking them how best to defeat prohibition. He received lengthy incriminating replies which he then published. In 1906,  President Roosevelt appointed him special officer in the Indian Service to enforce the law in Oklahoma. Using a hand-picked group of deputies to aid him in stopping the liquor traffic, on one occasion he dumped 25,000 bottles of liquor into the Arkansas River (to the delight of its newt population). His success earned him dangerous enemies among gangs of rum-runners and 7downs. Despite attempts being made on his life and some of his deputies being killed, his crusade continued, with the president extending his remit to all the Indian territories. Having thus added a whole new bunch of barbarous enemies to the ones he already had, Johnson took to conducting his work at night in a very stealthy manner, and was said to ‘pussyfoot’ around under cover of darkness. He subsequently worked for the Anti-Saloon League and the World League Against Alcoholism before eventually retiring in 1930.

33a This crate with lid we’ll get adapted for older wines (5)
A composite anagram, where the letters of the solution (‘this crate’) plus LID WE can be rearranged (‘adapted’) to produce OLDER WINES.


1d In due course composer skewered tasty dish (7)
A two-letter word meaning ‘in due course’ is followed by the surname of the French modernist composer (and author) Erik who influenced the likes of Debussy and Ravel.

2d Fellow taking the waters abroad in local headgear? (8)
A four-letter fellow and the word for ‘waters’ associated with a particular European country make up the word for certain items of headgear in that same country, ie ‘local headgear’. 

4d One involved in unsubtle end suffering relentless force (12, 3 words)
The Roman numeral representing ‘one’ is contained by an anagram (‘suffering’) of UNSUBTLE END, the result being the (4,3,5) name given to the speech made by Otto von Bismarck in September 1862 about the unification of the German territories, after which he became known as the ‘Man of Blood and Iron’.

5d Helmet like this at Bannockburn, say, protects youth (6)
The Scots (‘at Bannockburn, say’) form of a familiar word meaning ‘like this’ (seen in its usual guise at 1d and 25d) contains (‘protects’) a three-letter word for a youth.

6d Bird revered in Egypt raised hiss, not recently (4)
An eight-letter word meaning ‘[to] hiss’ has a four-letter word meaning ‘recently’ removed from it (‘not recently’) before being reversed (‘raised’).

9d Large mollusc from Mediterranean isle yielding form of oil (6)
A nine-letter Mediterranean island famous for playing host to one of Italy’s four active volcanoes (which gives the island its nickname, ‘The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’) is deprived of (‘yielding’) an anagram (‘form’) of  OIL, the result being a generously-proportioned gastropod.

10d Sound like hoodie from e.g. Dundee retaining right (5)
The definition here leads to a verb, meaning ‘[to make a] sound like a hoodie (ie a hooded crow)’. I was dubious about the wordplay, since I think of ‘Dundee’ as the word prefixed to a particular sort of food item (a round and fruity version), rather than having such a meaning when seen on its own, but it would seem that the term can be used in an absolute sense. Who am I to argue with Graham Greene, who wrote in The Ministry of Fear:

He had always liked ????s, especially rich Dundees.

23d Decoys run over individual on leaving (6)
The usual abbreviations for ‘run’ and ‘over’ (both from the world of cricket) are followed by a six-letter word for an individual, from which the consecutive letters ON have been removed (‘on leaving’).

24d Mathematician enveloping us in boastful talk (5)
I can’t help feeling that some of Azed’s recent links between wordplay and definition have tested the boundaries of acceptability a little, and here we have to read ‘enveloping’ as something along the lines of ‘is the result of enveloping’. It is the US from the clue which must be enveloped by a word for boastful talk or bombast.

25d Grappling like this involves a medical man (5)
That two-letter word for ‘like this’ appears again, and here it contains (‘involves’) A (from the clue) and a two-letter letter abbreviation for an undergraduate degree awarded in the field of medicine, though not just to men.

(definitions are underlined)

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13 Responses

  1. Adelaide says:

    Im not sure about 25 – surely you cannot use an offensive word even with the other definition – maybe Im too woke

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Adelaide

      It’s a topic that occasionally crops up on crossword forums, and one on which people have very different views. In my experience, positions tend to become more deeply entrenched (and vigorously defended) the more that the matter is discussed, so I’d prefer not to tackle it here. I would be surprised, though, if the fifteensquared blog for the puzzle doesn’t attract some comment in relation to that particular answer.

      All I will say is that in the lists that I use for setting my own puzzles I have removed any words that I think might cause offence, but a quick look in the Urban Dictionary will reveal plenty more that have connotations which could be considered equally unsavoury. I would not personally have used the word at 25d in a puzzle, although it has no connection to the (now) offensive term with which it happens to share a spelling (but not an etymology); I think it stands out because the offensive meaning is more familiar to most people than the wrestling-related one, but there are other words in Chambers with meanings shown as ‘offensive’ where the same word (not just a word with the same spelling) is considered perfectly acceptable, or indeed essential in order to convey a particular, innocent meaning.

      • Adelaide says:

        Of course it was also used in a recent winner and he then apologised in a slip – personally I have no problem but I was just surprised

        • Doctor Clue says:

          In the clue to which you refer, the book title used established a context which unequivocally ruled out the ‘not the offensive word’ argument.

          I wasn’t surprised at 25, but I knew that controversy was likely to follow!

          PS I have my own views on the subject, as I’m sure all setters and solvers do

  2. Hazel says:

    We found that bottom left corner really tough and agree with your difficulty assessment.

    I don’t really understand why the word “showy” is needed in 11?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Hazel

      That’s reassuring, thank you!

      Initially, I thought the ‘showy’ was there for the benefit of the surface reading, the idea being that ‘plant’ could be seen as referring to equipment/apparatus, but the ‘A’ at the start rather spoils that (it would need to be something more like ‘Showy plant behind a workshop’). Chambers describes the plant in question as having ‘showy radiated heads’, so I think the adjective is just there to narrow the plant kingdom down slightly, while chiming with the ‘ornamental use’ in the definition.

  3. Andrew Shields says:

    Re 29: I have an issue with the use of ‘making’. The construction of the clue is ‘solution making component cryptic parts’. Surely this is the wrong way round? Opel isn’t making P in Leo (rev); P in Leo (rev) is making Opel…

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Andrew

      My observation at 24d was influenced by 29a as well as other clues in recent puzzles. I don’t like this sort of construction, but Azed quite often has the link word or phrase ‘pointing in the wrong direction’. Does 4 ‘make’ 2 + 2? Well, I suppose that 4 is ‘capable of serving as’ 2 + 2, but if you look hard enough in Chambers you can justify just about anything (except deep-fried Mars bars).

      So I don’t like it at all. In comment 9 on the notes for AZ 2,269 (, Richard Heald takes a more forbearing line than I, but I don’t think the construction here would satisfy even those criteria.

  4. JOHN ATKINSON says:


    I did not find this too difficult. It seems anomalous to me that Azed at 29a feels the need to describe the car maker as foreign, despite the paucity of four-letter companies containing ‘P,’ But there is no such indication for 4d. Machtpolitik, indeed,

    Despite that, this was a most enjoyable solve,

    Early versions of the DAF CVT theoretically allowed the same top speed when in reverse as when going forward.

    Mr, Titchmarsh appears in daily cryptics and seems to be acceptable for non-UK solvers. Why not Ladd or Greenspan?

    Best regards. J,

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi John, and thanks for the info

      Perhaps I overstated the difficulty, but although there were no really tough clues, there seemed to me a lot that were well removed from ‘gimmes’, and I think solvers new to Azed might have struggled to get a good foothold.

      I think that if the manufacturer’s cars had never been sold in the UK (Azed taking an unashamedly UK-centric position in his puzzles), then the ‘foreign’ might have been necessary, but I don’t feel that this one needed to be qualified in that way, even though their Fruits are now called Starburst…

      You might appreciate this clue from 2,254 – “States welcoming star of Shane, the musical! (9, 2 words)”.

  5. Coot says:

    Thanks for the blog, Dr C. I was pleased to solve this one although I’m still struggling to fully parse 6d despite your hint (which I had suspected was the construction).

    Re 22d, I agree that a DBE indication isn’t really necessary given the paucity of famous Titchmarshes. My question relates to your point about the relative positions of the QM and the word it is acting on. I wonder if we could interpret it as acting on “Tichmarsh cuts”, with the quizzical emphasis placed on Titchmarsh? I can see that it is more difficult to run that argument for words even further away from the QM.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Coot

      The ‘recently’ is 6d equates to LATE.

      I take your point about 22d, but I think that expecting solvers to place the required emphasis on the name (such that the net effect is on the lines of “some others wouldn’t cut it, but Titchmarsh, perhaps, does”) is a stretch. I’m not convinced that ‘ Persian leaves?’ would be acceptable for LO(cat)ION, but since here the question mark could reasonably apply to the ‘place’ or the ‘leaves’, I agree that the situation is far from cut and dried.