Notes for Azed 2,694

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 2,694 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

During the solve, I felt this puzzle was pretty close to the middle of the difficulty range, though when I wrote these notes I decided that it was perhaps slightly towards the easier end of the spectrum. No ‘ladies of the night’ this week, but an unusual feature was the inclusion of two clues (25a and 20d) which featured no wordplay in the conventional sense. The competition clue word has made a previous appearance as one half of a ‘Right & Left’ in AZ comp 2131.

I will allow myself a brief plug for this month’s prize puzzle at the Crossword Centre, Annus Mirabilis, which is one of mine. It has a theme, but the clues are all normal and of Azed-ish difficulty, so it can be treated as a ‘plain’ – though once you’ve completed the initial grid-fill, the rest should fall into place quite readily. A PDF version is also available (note that it doesn’t include the information about how to enter the competition, only to be found through the first link).

Clue Writers’ Corner: Sometimes one finds oneself needing to indicate a single letter in a wordplay, perhaps something like F or K that doesn’t form part of many short words. A way of dealing with such a situation is to use a single-letter selection indicator. The big advantage of this is that it gives you a huge range of options from which to choose one which fits nicely into your clue – ‘source of funds’, ‘closer to half’, ‘opener for Kent’, ‘end of week’ etc. It’s a device I use a lot in my own clues, but I would urge caution when it comes to Azed competitions. Firstly, it adds three words to the clue, when an abbreviation – ‘force’ for F or ‘king’ for K, say – would only add one, and secondly because it can be seen by the judge for what it is, an opportunity to introduce a word into the clue which is there simply to contribute one letter. Plenty of successful competition clues have included single-letter selections, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that they should be studiously avoided, but I would recommend looking at alternatives and, if you do decide to use one, try not to make it too obvious – this can be done either by combining it with another element in the clue, eg ‘best end of neck’ for STARK, or by misdirection, eg ‘lead from roof’ for R.


1a Winger maybe, balanced in part furthest from finishing (12)
The first part of this 4+8 charade is a term applied to a player in various sports, such as soccer or hockey, whose main role is at their own end of the pitch, while ‘balanced’ has the sense of ‘not leaning in one direction  or the other’. The definition probably doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny, while the solution should be enumerated as (12, 2 words).

12a Health, disposing of last two bumped off (5)
A seven-letter Gaelic interjection meaning ‘[good] health!’ is deprived of its last two letters.

13a To macerate, man cut with chopper (5)
A funny-looking verb is produced from a four-letter word for a man, missing its last letter (‘cut’), followed by a term for a chopper; why Azed has not indicated that this is the North American spelling of the word I know not.

17a Fatty stuff Greek character enclosed in cover (5)
A Greek letter familiar to geometricians is contained by (‘enclosed in’) a word for a cover.

25a A dependable guy? A view not universally held! (5)
There isn’t a wordplay as such here, but if you get the informal word for ‘a good, trusty person’ you will understand where Azed is coming from.

27a Seats mostly searched from back to front (4)
A five-letter word meaning ‘searched’ has its last letter removed (‘mostly’)  before being reversed (‘back to front’).


4d Rest dithering around, one heads north making way across border (6)
Not the easiest clue to parse, the cryptic reading being something like “with an anagram (‘dithering’) of REST outside (‘around’), a single-letter word for ‘one’ goes in front of (‘heads’) the usual abbreviation for ‘north'”. The ‘way’ is a narrow outside passage between Scottish houses.

5d Derelict, touching failure (6)
The wordplay is a charade of that ubiquitous bit of commercial jargon meaning ‘concerning’ (ie ‘touching’) and a four-letter word for a failure of the sort often predicted on Juke Box Jury. The required meaning of the definition ‘derelict’ is ‘neglectful of duty’, which is shown by Chambers as ‘chiefly N Am’ – I’ve certainly never seen it used in that sense on this side of the pond.

6d Oriental porcelain I found by the sea, timeless (5)
The letter I (from the clue) is followed by an eight-letter word meaning ‘found by the sea’ from which the consecutive letters TIME have been omitted (‘timeless’).

8d Certain categories? Lot once accepted (4)
A quick look at ‘lot’ in Chambers will reveal the required ‘historical’ synonym, to be followed by the usual abbreviation for ‘accepted’.

10d Affluent rulers, smart, left court rolling within (10)
The answer here is not the plural which one could be tempted to write in without fully parsing the clue, but a collective term formed by by putting the usual abbreviation for ‘left’ and an anagram ‘rolling’ of COURT within a four-letter word meaning ‘fast’ or ‘smart’.

11d Radical in medley creating super record (10)
A four-letter word for a root (‘radical’) is put inside a word for a medley, usually encountered as a verb describing what one might do at a party. The answer is hyphenated 4-6 and describes the sort of record introduced in the 1970s which includes not just two tracks, but additional instrumental versions or, more recently, remixes thereof.

20d Pacific islander unchanged after being brought up (7)
Again, there is no wordplay to speak of, simply an indication that if the answer were to be reversed (‘brought up’) it would remain the same, ie it is a palindrome.

21d Better-looking woman’s one captivated after James turns up? (7)
A rather hippopotamian wordplay has the Roman numeral representing ‘one’ being contained (‘captivated’) by a possessive pronoun meaning “[that] woman’s”, this combination following a reversal (‘turned up’) of the first name of a famous comedy actor with the surname James (ie ‘James…?’). The first bit would only really work if the three-letter word meant ‘woman’ rather than “woman’s”, since “woman’s one captivated” could then translate to ‘woman has one captivated’; as it stands, one has to infer a comma after “woman’s”.

23d Évian added to wine? It damages hock (6)
A three-letter term for a resort such as Évian is followed by a word for wine (which might be heard there). This is a nice clue, although I don’t like the gap between ‘Évian’, and the question mark which indicates that it is a definition by example; I would have preferred ‘Évian perhaps added to wine?’ or similar.

24d Cadogan maybe, earl wearing ’Arry’s topper uptilted (6)
The usual abbreviation for ‘earl’ is contained by (‘wearing’) a reversal (‘uptilted’) of a (3,3) term for a ‘topper’ which has suffered aitch-dropping such as might ‘appen at the ‘ands of a cockney (ie “Arry’s”). A particular form of the item in question is termed a ‘Cadogan’, as it was copied from a Chinese porcelain wine dispenser in the collection of Lord Cadogan. It has no lid, and was filled upside down through a tube running from the base into the upper part of the interior, which allowed it to be turned the right way up without any escape of liquid. Despite the function implied by the name, the near-impossibility of effectively cleaning the things means that they were probably only ever used for holding the hot water used for making other drinks.

28d Explanation of Latin text (section in course) (5)
A little care is required here if you’ve got all the checkers, although the answer that might spring to mind doesn’t satisfy the definition or the wordplay, the latter involving the usual abbreviation for ‘section’ being contained by a word for a course or passage, although nowadays usually the cost of same.

29d Dug round in dock (4)
The round letter of the alphabet is contained by a word meaning, among other things, ‘[to] dock’ or ‘[to] cut (hair) square across’, producing an answer defined by dug2 in Chambers.

(definitions are underlined)

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18 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    Cannot make any sense of 15a. Letters I?RIXA don’t seem to resolve into two words meaning anything😡

    • Crossguesser says:

      Chambers Word Wizard will help you:

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Alan

      The ‘cross letters’ are an acronym of ‘Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum’ (with J’s as I’s). Chambers lists the (2,4) Latin answer in the alphabetical position of the complete phrase (ie not under the first word) – it refers to a defence in Scots law, where words spoken during an argument or fight were not admissible as evidence of defamation. It’s not in Collins or OED, but Google will find it.

      Hope that helps

      • Alan says:

        Doctor Clue. Thanks, even with a wet towel round my head most of that is Greek to me! Must try harder.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          I probably could have been a little clearer! John 19:19-20 says “Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’…the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.” Most crucifixes feature a plaque containing the letters ‘INRI’ in reference to this. The answer appears in Chambers immediately after INRI.

  2. Tim Coates says:

    Thanks for the Annus Mirabilis Doc. I’m just about done and I’ve got the theme. How could I forget as an 11 year old on holiday in a European country watching the lead up (I hope that’s not a spoiler). I’ve been doing the Crossword Centre’s puzzles for over a year now and enjoy the challenge (reminds me of my Listener days). Many smooth and misleading surfaces which I thoroughly enjoyed as well as the end game. Cheers.

  3. 🍊 says:

    Ha!Took me longer than usual this week. Not helped by putting TS rather than CY at the end of 11d. Yes, yes, I know _now_ that the construction doesn’t work, but I have a 🐝 in my 👒 about the definition and the answer being the same (here my lack of a classical education shows) linguistic/grammatical thingummy.
    If the definition was ‘jump’, then the answer shouldn’t be ‘leapING’, if you see what I mean.
    So I was caught thinking that 11d-CY is a group or class (of affluent rulers); and 11d-TS are the people themselves. *sigh*

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Oh 🦌! My first thought when tackling that clue was, based on the definition and the anagram part, that the answer would be the TS word, but the wordplay meant that it had to be the CY version. I think your point about the grammatical thingummy is correct – I’m not at all convinced that ‘lions’ alone would be valid for PRIDE, and I feel that the def here really should (as you suggest) be something like ‘group of affluent rulers’. Your complaint is therefore UPHELD.

  4. Alastair says:

    I raised an eyebrow when I read that “across border” is to be read as Scottish. Sitting here in Edinburgh, I wonder what border I should be crossing…

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Alastair

      A very fair point. I think setters based in England do tend to take an English-centred (I would have said ‘Anglocentric’, but then I looked it up in Chambers) view, which is hard to justify. Surely a UK puzzle should ‘work’ based on the solver being anywhere in the UK, so ‘across border’ is extremely vague, although ‘north of Border’ and ‘south of Border’ strike me as being fine. But what about ‘Newcastle area’ for NE? Irish solvers might just about be ok with this, but would probably be thinking of a different Newcastle, while for those in mainland Britain I suspect ‘Aberdeen area’ would be much more accurate. Personally I try to steer well clear of that sort of relative geographical reference. Several years ago I used the clue ‘Doctor in SW England surprisingly bathed nurse’ for FOSTER and elicited a (mild) rebuke from a solver in Cornwall!

      • MuchPuzzled says:

        Could you please explain how this “nurse = FOSTER” clue actually works? It makes no sense to me, which may explain why I cannot even start your other puzzle which I would rename as “No Way In” given the apparent lack of anagrams to get started on it!

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Hi MP

          ‘To foster’ is ‘to bring up or nurse’, and ‘Doctor Foster/Went to Gloucester/In a shower of rain./He stepped in a puddle/right up to his middle/and never went there again.’ I wasn’t putting it forward as a great clue, but as an example of how a setter can unwittingly court geographical controversy.

          There are six anagrams in there (a couple of them involving additional components) and two ‘hiddens’ (one reversed).

          • MuchPuzzled says:

            Thanks for that! I knew the foster=nurse definition, but have never heard of the Dr Foster rhyme – deprived childhood I guess 😀

  5. Mark Z says:

    Definitely the easiest for several weeks, but no hiddens. Of the past 5 (including this), I think only 2,692 had hidden solutions. Generally I find that I get the hiddens into the grid early, which makes the puzzle easier. So this is a bit of an anomaly.
    I stumbled upon 13a when looking up 26d!

  6. JOHN ATKINSON says:

    Hello. I enjoyed this and agree with your difficulty rating. Without your notes, I would not have solved 1a. “Farthest from finishing” certainly does not apply to Imola.

    Congrats on your Annus Mirabilis. The first three circled letters I had were Vs where I nearly gave up. When the third goal went in, my father leapt from his chair and (accidentally) rattled the budgie’s cage causing a flurry of feathers!

    I find the Centre’s monthly puzzles to be hit and largely miss but your AM was goldilocks.


    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi John, and thanks for your kind comments about Annus Mirabilis. I’m a notoriously bad judge of the difficulty of my own puzzles – just after I’ve set them they seem ridiculously easy, then when I get the proof back from the crossword editor a few months later they seem horribly tough…thankfully, when the proof of this one came through I was able to solve it! And those budgie feathers – I should think they were all over…

      Regarding 1a, Chambers does define the answer as ‘the xxx part of a racecourse or track farthest from the finish’, but the qualifying word that I have (necessarily) omitted here is important, and ‘finish’ and ‘finishing’ are by no means the same thing.

      • RJHe says:

        I’d like to echo John’s praise for Annus Mirabilis, which hit the back of the net for me too. It contains everything I look for in a puzzle: a clever execution of a relatively straightforward theme, and clues with misleading (but always fair) definitions and wordplay, and surfaces that gleam like Jules Rimet. Apart from the Crossword Centre, where can we find more of Phylax’s work?

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Thanks, RJhe – that is high praise indeed, and very much appreciated. I have several pseudonyms, but insufficient ideas to keep even one alter ego in regular employment! There’s nothing in the pipeline at the moment, but as and when a puzzle is published I’ll allow myself to slip a mention into the blog.