Notes for Azed 2,708

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 2,708 Plain

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

This wasn’t the easiest Azed, but it was a long way from being the most difficult, with several ‘hiddens’ and some straightforward anagrams helping to smooth the solver’s passage. Having considered the clue for 17a at some length, I can only conclude that it is faulty.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 14a, “Cry from anonymous boat (4)”. I very recently had an electronic conversation with a correspondent about types of &lit clue and – lo and behold – Azed has provided an example of one subspecies here. In the ‘true’ &lit, such as Colin Dexter’s “Item gran arranged family slides in?” for MAGIC LANTERN, the entire clue serves both as a cryptic indication of the answer (in this example CLAN ‘slides into’ an anagram of ITEM GRAN) and as a definition of it – due to the nature of such clues, this will rarely, if ever, be a succinct ‘dictionary-style’ definition, rather an indication of the solution. A top-notch &lit clue is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the clue writer’s art, but the intrinsic difficulty of producing them often manifests itself either in strained wordplay – the &lit can contain superfluous words as long as they do not adversely affect the cryptic interpretation – or extremely ‘loose’ definitions.

The clue here is not a true &lit, and indeed it could be considered to be a simple definition + wordplay clue, the definition being ‘Cry’. However, there is no doubt that the words ‘from anonymous boat’ enhance the definition, and the question mark at the end serves to indicate that the cry might or might not come from an anonymous boat. This is therefore a clue of the type which Ximenes termed an ‘offshoot &lit’, where the entire clue serves as the definition of the answer but only part of the clue leads cryptically to it.

Across

12a Wild Irish robber getting cut in loot (8)
A four-letter word meaning ‘[to] cut [the outer surface of]’ is contained by a word meaning ‘[to] loot’ or ‘to violate’.

16a Acid that ruins coutil (6)
My first thought was that ‘Acid’ was an inaccurate definition, but since Chambers gives a meaning of the answer as ‘containing [a particular] acid’, then I suppose that it could be argued that  ‘having the properties of an acid’ could come to much the same thing. In any event, I tend to be relaxed about slightly questionable definitions when the wordplay is as simple as the one here.

17a Falconer’s charge, one held in three lines (7)
I do my breakfast solve without Chambers, checking as necessary after (replete with Toastie) I retire to the blogging room. For this clue, I wrote in an answer ending in L, assuming that the result of the Roman numeral representing ‘one’ being ‘held in’ a six-letter word for a male hawk would turn out to mean ‘a group of three lines’. I realised my error when 13d produced a clash at the intersection of the two entries, but whilst the ‘three lines’ could potentially supply either the answer or an alternative six-letter spelling which would be ‘holding’ the ‘one’, there is no bird of prey which fits the bill (no pun intended). Chambers does offer a nine-letter hawk which could produce the required answer by the omission of EL (or LE), but the wordplay as it stands can’t account for that. Something like “Three lines – turned out one such has been released from falconer’s charge” would work [TIERCELET – L(in)E].

19a Carmen, say, individual life-force around opera’s denouement (4)
The last letter (denouement) of ‘opera’ is contained by the three-letter word from Chinese medicine for an individual’s life-force (as well as being a letter of the Greek alphabet). Bizet’s opera was based on a novella by Prosper Mérimée, who got the idea from a story told to him by the Spanish Countess de Montijo. He wrote to her, “It was about that ruffian from Málaga who had killed his mistress, who consecrated herself exclusively to the public. As I have been studying the Gypsies for some time, I have made my heroine a Gypsy.” She remains so in the opera, but is arguably only a heroine in the non-judgmental sense of ‘the central female character in a story, play, film, etc.’

21a Brilliant performer topping bill, taking wing with luminance (7)
A four-letter word for a performer who tops the bill contains a two-letter (US) term for a wing which gives a building a particular shape and the standard abbreviation for ‘luminance’.

26a Reticent nursemaid, thoroughly contained (8)
Both the solution and the nursemaid come from France, with the latter containing a three-letter word meaning ‘thoroughly’, or ‘completely’, as seen in phrases such as  ‘decked ??? or ‘rigged ???’.

28a Case, note, leading to jail (6, 2 words)
A five-letter word for a zoological, botanical or anatomical sheath and the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘note’ produce a (3,3) slang term for jail. Incidentally, Azed will never use ‘note’ to indicate an arbitrary letter between A and G; I suspect that his view is similar to mine, that it would be akin to using ‘letter’ to indicate a single character between A and Z.

31a Necklace for Roman (4)
A neat clue, a familiar two-letter word meaning (among many other things) ‘for’ being followed by a two-letter abbreviation applied to people or things associated with a specific religion.

32a One applying pressure or trailing calamity? I’d back off (8)
The letters OR (from the clue) are here following (‘trailing’) an eight-letter word for ‘calamity’ or ‘extreme suffering’ from which a reversal (‘back’) of ID has been removed (‘off’).

33a Instalment as before controls a wee bittie mixed (old) (13)
The sort of controls that would be helpful when riding a horse combine with four-letter words for a small portion (Scots) and for ‘mixed’ (an old past participle of an archaic word). The ‘as before’ on this occasion does not indicate an obsolete term but is actually part of the definition.

Down

2d Chef after removing tail brought round hot salmon (4)
A rather prosaic term for a chef is deprived of its last letter (‘removing tail’) and put round the usual abbreviation for ‘hot’.

4d Estates of a kind, special, landed with time in a bundle (11, 2 words)
The two-letter abbreviation for ‘special’ and a three-letter word meaning ‘landed’ are followed by a five-letter word for a bundle ( sometimes surgical, sometimes consisting of fruit) into which the usual abbreviation for ‘time’ has been inserted. The solution is (5,6), and the estates in question are the sort that would be the subject of a will.

5d Tough apparently, and long (6)
Another neat little clue, the two-letter abbreviation for ‘apparently’ preceding a four-letter word meaning ‘[to] long’.

6d Molluscs? There’s adult out in lake swimming with purpose (11)
The first part of the entry is an anagram (‘swimming’) of the usual abbreviation for ‘adult’, OUT IN, and the usual abbreviation for lake. A four-letter word for an aim or purpose brings up the rear.

9d What’s left of joint cut short? (5)
A double definition clue, where a misspent youth (or, indeed, misspent adulthood) could be helpful in identifying the rolled-up piece of cardboard, often culled from the flap of a cigarette packet, which would form the butt of a special, handcrafted cigarette.

10d Cheerful maestro lifts his stick for this (6)
Another double definition clue; the second word is hyphenated and the first is not, but there is rather too much etymological similarity between the two for my liking.

13d Being shy, one constant in make-believe, hiding head (9)
The Roman numeral representing ‘one’ and the usual abbreviation for ‘constant’ are contained by an eight-letter word for ‘make-believe’ from which the first letter has been deleted (‘hiding head’).

22d Musician as once found in catalogue (6)
The Latin word for ‘as’ (only found these days in phrases such as the one for ‘as above’) is contained by a familiar four-letter word for a catalogue.

26d Lancaster’s pierced by his first (rare) outburst (5)
Those ‘of a certain age’ shouldn’t have any problems with this one – it involves the first name by which a major Hollywood star from the last century was universally known containing (‘pierced by’) the first letter of ‘Lancaster’ (ie ‘his first’). The solution is a rare noun form of a common verb.

(definitions are underlined)

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