Notes for Azed 2,704

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 2,704 Plain

Difficulty rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

After the problems of piecing together last week’s jigsaw, we return to normality with a standard puzzle which had the needle on my difficulty meter hovering around the middle of the scale. A pleasant enough solve, although it didn’t perhaps display the élan of Azed at his very best. Having said that, he’d given himself quite a few tricky words to deal with.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 31a “Poet’s racket to reverse penury (4)”. It’s pretty clear that we need to reverse one four-letter word to produce another, with the familiar one for ‘penury’ being the one that runs backwards and the Spenserian one for a clamour being the answer. But couldn’t it equally well have been the other way round? It certainly could, and I’m not at all keen on this sort of clue, where only the checkers tell you which is the correct answer. The ambiguity only arises in specific circumstances: if one half of the ‘equation’ consists of multiple words, then that must be the wordplay, so in ‘Course going round a hill (4)”, the answer can only be ROTA (A TOR reversed). Likewise, all is clear when the reversal indicator is at one end of the clue and can only apply to the element next to it, eg in ‘Prevent vessels overturning (4)” for STOP (POTS reversed), or when the indicator splits the two elements but can only apply to one, as in “Bar returns containers (4)”, for POTS (STOP reversed). But the clue “Mistake returning beer (4)” is equally valid for SLIP or PILS. When you write a clue where one word is reversed to produce another, read it over and decide whether it could reasonably lead to two answers. If so, it is not usually hard to fix the issue – the previous clue could be written as “Beer returned in error” (for SLIP) or “Beer decline reversed” (for PILS).


12a King and prince showing symptom of disease? (5)
Well, it was either going to be an abbreviation for ‘king’ followed by the name of a prince, or the name of a king followed by the abbreviation for ‘prince’. It turned out to be the former, with the prince being one made famous by Alexander Borodin, with a little help from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov.

14a Red wine – treat flooring behind where it’s served maybe (9)
A two-letter word meaning ‘treat’ and a four-letter type of flooring (an informal shortening of a longer word) follow a three-letter term for the sort of place where red wine might well be served. 

17a Lied to deviously, universal where love is thin (6)
An anagram (‘deviously’) of LIED TO with the single character  representing ‘love’ (in tennis and other sports) being replaced by the usual abbreviation for ‘universal’ (ie ‘universal where love is’).

19a Senile Scots finish vermouth, and same again (6)
The same two-letter verb that appeared in 14a, here indicated by ‘finish’, is followed by two instances (‘vermouth, and same again’) of the two-letter informal term for the sort of vermouth which, along with gin, was part of a popular combo in the 1930s.

21a African folk, name occurring in old crews (6)
The usual abbreviation for ‘name’ is contained by (‘occurring in’) an old spelling of a word for crews or ‘sets of people constituting one side in a competitive game’.

28a Rhyme to learn hurriedly, favour on leaving (6)
A four-letter word meaning ‘to learn hurriedly’, as one might do in preparation for an exam, is followed by a four-letter word for a favour or blessing from which the consecutive letters ON have been removed (‘on leaving’).

33a Soprano, see, with little or no accompaniment (5)
The usual abbreviation for ‘soprano’ combines with a four-letter Italian interjection meaning ‘see[!]’ to produce another word taken straight from the Italian language and applied, according to George Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, to recitative which constitutes ‘the simplest form of Declamatory Music, unrelieved either by Melody or Rhythm, and accompanied only by a Thoroughbass.’ Sounds lovely.


3d Glutton getting bill in NY that’s taken in spin (9)
A five-letter informal word for a banknote of a particular denomination in the US (it has a very similar sense in the UK as well, but here it would be a ‘note’ rather than a ‘bill’) contains (‘[ha]s taken in’) a four-letter word meaning ‘spin’ (and the name given to type of a lively dance). The solution is (4-5), and seems somehow incongruous in ‘a person who freely indulges his or her appetite for eating and drinking’.

4d Water pot that’s inclined to crack in Scotland, we hear (6)
For the second time recently, Azed includes a homophone clue where the solution has an alternative spelling which is actually the same as that of the ‘soundalike’. I can see why he has gone down the Scottish route (inanimate objects are generally not inclined to gossip or talk idly), and a look at the definition of the intransitive verb ‘crack’ in Chambers will tell you all you need to know, but the clue didn’t leave me with a warm feeling.

6d Overseas conscript favoured most of service taking in Cuba (6)
A two-letter word meaning ‘favoured’ is followed by a four-letter word for ‘service’ deprived of its last letter (‘mostly’) containing (‘taking in’) the IVR code for Cuba.

7d Like silky patterned fabric Jerry put round his middle (6)
The five-letter word indicated by ‘Jerry’ is shown by Chambers as ‘derogatory’, and is the sort of term that (regardless of my own views) I avoid in my puzzles. It is put round the middle letter of JERRY (ie ‘his middle’).

9d Holy objects possibly required as boy marries (7)
A 3+4 charade given by the last two words of the clue lead to a pretty horrible word to define. It occurs as various singular versions in 16th and early 17th century oaths, and in The Merchant of Venice, Gobbo uses this plural form “By God’s ??????, ’twill be a hard way to hit.” It seems likely that it is a corruption of saintite, an obsolete spelling of ‘sanctity’.

13d Led astray in serious self-denial, unlikely to be thrown (10)
An anagram (‘astray’) of LED is sandwiched between a three-letter word meaning ‘serious’ and a four-letter term for self-denial of the dietary kind. The answer is hyphenated (6-4) and is an adjective to which jockeys in the Grand National would undoubtedly aspire.

16d Specify number among left-overs and trimmings (9)
A four-letter word meaning ‘specify’ and the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘number’ are contained by (‘among’) a dialect word, popular with crossword setters, for fragments, particularly those left over after a meal.

23d Viol leading dance causing collywobbles (6)
Another setters’ favourite, this time the two-letter Shetland viol, is followed by the sort of dance that you might associate with turkeys in the 1900s, the result being an informal, and highly expressive, term for a funny tummy.

25d Supplier for old soldiers providing a packing case, second to last (6)
A (from the clue) is followed by a five-letter word for a packing case wherein the the second letter has been moved to the end (‘second to last’).

30d Spanish dagger disembowelled one roughly (4)
A three-letter word which is often interchangeable with ‘one’ has its central letter removed (‘disembowelled’) and is followed by a familiar two-letter abbreviation meaning ‘roughly’. The ‘Spanish dagger’ is unlikely to cause much harm to anyone except gardeners who take a closer look at one of its leaves than they ought to.

(definitions are underlined)

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