Notes for Azed 2,695

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 2,695 ‘Give & Take’

Difficulty rating: 5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Note: for anyone who is completely mystified by how the puzzle works, I would strongly recommend having a look at the fifteensquared blog for the most recent puzzle of this type.

A non-competition ‘special’, and the first Give & Take, I believe, since May 2018; I think the only one I’ve ever blogged was 2,285 (March 2016). This type of puzzle is not a particular favourite of mine, as I don’t really like non-words in a completed grid, but it made a change. I found it hard to assess the difficulty of this puzzle, so I’ve put it smack in the middle of the range for specials – I will gladly adjust the rating if readers feel that I have got it badly wrong. A few points for anyone who hasn’t dealt with one of these before: (i) most of the entries in the grid are not real words, any that are being incidental; (ii) the letter added to a down entry may already occur elsewhere in that entry (eg ‘Seal stations up (4)’ for STSOP, STOP with extra S, POSTS<); and (iii) across answers can be entered as soon as you get them, while you may not be able to enter down answers without some checkers if the wordplay doesn’t pinpoint the position of the extra letter. Don’t forget that the wordplay always leads to the complete grid entry, and take particular care both when entering the across solutions and when recording the additional letters in the down ones.

The next line of the poem does indeed have a relevance to the theme, although it perhaps suggests a rather more reciprocal relationship.

After the notes on individual clues I have included a checklist of the positions from/into which the letters should be removed/added. Let me know if there are any other clues which you would like me to comment on.

Setters’ Corner: A couple of points about puzzles of this sort (Give & Take, Letters Latent). Firstly, the clues should ideally not include ‘link words’ between wordplay and definition, particularly those which suggest equivalence (eg ‘is’, ‘making’), since the outcome of the cryptic wordplay is not the same as the word defined; Azed has generally adhered to this principle here, although there are a couple of exceptions (19a, 21d). Secondly, putting together a puzzle like this is complicated – bear in mind that each entry has to be deprived of/increased by a specific letter as demanded by the required message, and on top of that it is far from easy when setting a puzzle to deal with real words that become non-words. So a fine achievement? If you’re Azed, working without electronic aids, absolutely yes. A similar puzzle from an anonymous setter would impress me much less, though, because grid filling tools such as Qxw, when combined with a little technical skill, make it pretty straightforward to produce puzzles such as this.


1a Preserve youth in wild area (9)
Since I had just started my breakfast when tackling this clue, the answer was starting me in the face! Later on, I’m afraid I found a bit of it on the puzzle. The wordplay has a three-letter youth inside an anagram (‘wild’) of AREA.

10a Pie transformed vapour to expose back abdominal parts (10)
An anagram (‘transformed’) of PIE is followed by a three-letter word equating to ‘vapour’ and a reversal (‘back’) of another three-letter word, this one meaning ‘to expose’ or ‘to broadcast’.

16a Parts of border changing places took shape (6)
The two halves of a four-letter word for a border (the obvious one) are exchanged. This is the only clue where consecutive letters are removed from the defined answer.

22a Cherishing Indian title separating names to coin I omitted (12)
Quite a tricky wordplay, with the four-letter spelling of the ‘Indian title of great respect given to a man’ being contained by two instances of the usual abbreviation for ‘name’ , the whole lot being followed by a word meaning ‘to coin’ (as they do at Llantrisant) from which the letter I has been omitted.

27a Rob to prepare for exams is dropping out (5)
There’s no doubt about the solution to be entered in the grid, supplied by a six-latter word meaning ‘to prepare for exams’ without the letters IS (‘is dropping out’), but the letter missing from the defined answer could be an A or an I – as it turns out, it is an A, but the only way to establish this with certainty is from the quotation. 

31a Fill with mortar, usually replacing one in clayey paste (7, 2 words)
The name for the creamy paste used by potters has the Roman numeral representing one replaced by the abbreviation for ‘usually’. The untreated solution is (5,2).

32a Malaysian wood component of older antiques (7)
Another one where determining the omitted letter is likely to be harder than finding the grid entry, which is hiding in plain sight; it’s the first letter of the untreated answer.

34a Acreage calls on grass (8)
The standard abbreviation for ‘acreage’ is followed by a word meaning ‘calls on’ or ‘consults’.


1d Australian mountain measure: bit of hiking equipment? (6)
The usual abbreviation for ‘Australian’ precedes a four-letter South African word for a hill or mountain and a two-letter unit of measurement used in the printing trade.

2d Scream, soil trembling, simultaneously feeling quake (9)
This is clearly an anagram (‘trembling’) of SCREAM SOIL, but the key to working out the answer is thinking of the stem which is common to several words with earthquake-related meanings and putting it in the middle of the defined answer.

4d What swimmers should avoid, a stretch of broken water rising in middle of rain (5)
Here, the letter A (from the clue) and a three-letter word for a stretch of broken water (which I associate particularly with a sort of tide) are reversed (‘rising’) within the letters in the middle of RAIN. The danger to swimmers is often seen spelt with seven letters, although this five-letter version is more useful to setters and thus may be more familiar to solvers.

6d Monkeys, dark-coloured, to caress, tailless (5)
A three-letter word for ‘dark-coloured’ which also means ‘sorrowful’ is followed by a word meaning ‘to caress with the lips’ from which the last letter has been removed (‘tailless’).

13d Awfully empty, time to stuff meat? It’s used for setting (9, 2 words)
An anagram (‘awfully’) of EMPTY is followed by the usual abbreviation for ‘time’ inside (‘to stuff’) a particular sort of meat, associated with schnitzels. The answer is (4,5).

21d Lecturer involved in mounting rows causing hurt (6)
The usual abbreviation for ‘lecturer’ is contained by (‘involved in’) a reversal of a six-letter word meaning ‘rows’ in the ‘racket’ sense. The ‘causing’ here is an interloper and should be ignored.

24d End of cooling system brought to the fore? One goes after the dealers (5)
A nice example of this type of clue. The sort of cooling system that one might find in a car has the last letter moved to the start (‘End…brought to the fore’).

26d Lesson at Glenalmond? Duck French coming up after Latin (4)
The four-letter word that is reversed (‘coming up’) after the usual abbreviation for ‘Latin’ would presumably describe a duck scored in French cricket, being the French word for ‘nothing’.

(definitions are underlined)

Positions of omitted/added letters


In 1 across the letter is omitted from positions 1 and 4 / 6: 6 / 10: 7 / 11: 1 and 4 / 12: 2 / 14: 2 and 8 / 16: 3 and 4 / 18: 4 and 5 / 19: 8 / 22: 1, 8 and 10 / 25: 1 / 27: 3 / 29: 3 and 7 / 31: 5 / 32: 1 / 33: 3 / 34: 1, 4 and 8 / 35: 7 and 9.


In 1 down the letter is added in position 1 / 2: 1 / 3: 4 / 4: 1 / 5: 3 / 6: 3 / 7: 3 / 8: 5 / 9: 1 [or 2] / 13: 6 / 15: 3 / 17: 3 / 20: 4 / 21: 1 / 23: 6 / 24: 3 / 25: 4 / 26: 2 / 28: 3 [or 4] / 30: 4.

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10 Responses

  1. Cara.lovejoy says:

    I cannot parse 9 down. Any hints?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Cara, and welcome to the blog

      In 9d, the definition is of a four-letter word meaning ‘seeks’ or ‘inquires’. The wordplay has a four-letter dialect word for ‘newts’ containing (‘around’) the single-letter IVR code for Austria.

      The slightly unusual thing about the clue is that the ‘seeks’ and ‘newts’ words are spelt the same, so it could equally well have read ‘Around Austria, seeks newts’.

      Hope that helps.

  2. Jim says:

    I loved this – enough easy ones early on to enthuse me, enough hard ones (bottom-right) to make me tear out clumps of hair – but I cannot make sense of 29 Across. I have the answers around it, the right extra / missing letters, but my solution has an I where I need an R for an anagram of ‘MARINE, Small’.

    I also fell foul of 2 Down, leaping straight to ISO- for ‘points experiencing the same thing’, even though I knew the anagram didn’t work. ‘Soil’ was there, but not ‘scream’, and I hadn’t allowed for an extra letter. I was trying to find a ‘wild area’ ending in ‘-land’ and a shorter preserve with an N missing, but that only added to the sense of achievement when the penny finally dropped.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Jim

      Good to hear that you also enjoyed the puzzle.

      Regarding 29a, you might be about to kick yourself…it is a reversal (‘rebuffed’) of a three-letter word meaning ‘marine’ and a four-letter word meaning ‘small’.

  3. ursula says:

    Think I’ve completed Azed correctly, give or take some wobbly moments.
    First attempt at this type of crossword – no idea how someone can compile such a puzzle – am in awe! Nearly overwhelmed by the down clues (became easier after realising the extra letter could be the same
    as one in the definition answer).
    Sneakily, I found the quotation which helped with all the extra letters.
    Just 21d needed your help (you were my last resort – sorry) but how easy it is when you know the answer. Thank you
    Yippee, no clue to compile.
    Can sleep well now.
    PS I loved this puzzle

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Ursula

      Very good work – this was far from being an easy puzzle, and I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the (expertly crafted by Azed) challenge. In a themed crossword, it’s entirely legitimate to work out the theme (here, the quotation) and use that to tidy up other loose ends – in fact, sometimes it’s just about the only way. I don’t see it as fundamentally different from getting an answer to a clue from the definition and reverse engineering the wordplay. And I’ve no problem with being ‘the last resort’, indeed I see the purpose of the notes as i-dotting and t-crossing, combined with a bit of rambling and occasional mild griping.

  4. 🍊 says:

    Thanks for the ins and outs, and do add my vote for the dislike of non-word solutions
    But, mutter, mutter, linguistic/grammatical thingummies: 22A cherishING -> —MENT.
    And, oh hydrocarbons, where’s a chemist when you need one?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      The thingummy here is a gerund, a cross between a gerbil and a dachshund. Being a verbal noun does give it a particular shade of meaning, but I’m certainly more comfortable with it defining a ‘-ment’ noun than the plutocracy/rulers thing from last week, which I felt was plain wrong.

      I was going to say that my four years spent studying chemistry do come in handy very occasionally, but ‘my four years spent on a chemistry course’ would be more accurate.

  5. JOHN ATKINSON says:

    Phew. That took the whole of the West Ham and Villa games i.e. my whole morning. Not helped by failing to read the clue for 1d correctly, despite my basic knowledge of Dutch. Like you, I dislike non-word solutions, but one has to admire the finished article.

    Time for a lie-down!


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