Notes for Azed 2,709

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 2,709 Plain

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

The index page on  the Guardian website seems to have got a bit confused about numbering, having jumped last week to ‘2,798’ and clicked over this week to ‘2,799’; the number on the puzzle itself is correct, though. Perhaps I hadn’t fully woken up (which might explain why it took me a long while to spot the ‘hidden’ at 1a), but my progress on this one was less than spectacular. In several clues (eg 12a, 18a, 28d) the definition or wordplay included an uncommon word masquerading as a familiar one The limited linkage between the left and right halves of the puzzle didn’t make things any easier, so I’m inclined to put the difficulty of the puzzle at no lower than the middle of the scale. Those who had performed suitable mental exercises prior to tackling it may well disagree, of course.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 17d, “Endless fresh air in French region, what some of us regret leaving (8)”. The wordplay here involves OZONE (‘fresh air’, a loose sense of the word, given by Chambers) without its last letter (‘Endless’) being contained by the name of a French department. Since the latter ends with an E, the truncated OZON becomes whole again in the solution. Clearly it’s not an error, as the wordplay is entirely sound, but, rather like two answers in one puzzle which start with the same four or five letters, for me it seems mildly unsatisfactory. In my own clues I try to avoid this situation, and there are usually alternatives which include the ‘offending’ word in its entirety. Here, something like “Feel regret over fresh air, something British have left behind” would be fine.


11a Mostly unforeseen rain damaged Aussie tree? (9)
It took me a while to think of the synonym for ‘unforeseen’ which must be deprived of its last letter (‘Mostly’) and placed in front of an anagram (‘damaged’) of RAIN – among the Chambers definitions, ‘relaxed’ and ‘off-hand’ would certainly have got me there quicker.

12a Trot, end of it? It may have obscured hoof (6)
This one may well require a consultation with Chambers, specifically regarding trot2, at which point the first five letters of the solution will suddenly become clear. Is the last letter the end of ‘it’ or of ‘trot’? A question of purely academic interest, to which only Azed knows the answer.

13a Grand euphoria on leaving for Roman holiday treats? (6)
The usual abbreviation for ‘grand’ is followed by a seven-letter word for ‘euphoria’ from which the consecutive letters ON have been lost (‘on leaving’).

18a Less of frequently broadcast Lewis! (5)
Azed has been just a teensy bit naughty here in deceptively capitalizing the word ‘Lewis’ – I’m sure that he would have preferred to ‘hide’ the initial capital at the beginning of a sentence, but it’s hard to see how he could have done that and achieved a surface reading which continued to suggest that Morse’s former sidekick was hogging the airwaves. If you ignore the capital and take advice from Chambers, you will see how the answer fits with the wordplay, where a five-letter word for ‘frequently’ with the letters OF omitted (‘Less of’) combines with a two-letter word for ‘[currently being] broadcast’.

20a Vamp, cocotte, favourite dropped (5)
An eight-letter cocotte has a three-letter word for ‘favourite’ taken away (‘dropped’) to produce a word which equates roughly to vamp2 in Chambers – actually, the Chambers definition, emphasizing the inartistic nature of the latter, makes the two verbs seem closer in meaning than the OED does.

27a River level reduced? Chap’ll net that sort of yabby (5)
The usual abbreviation of ‘River’ and a single letter designating a particular exam, formerly taken by school students in England and Wales, are contained by a three-letter word for a chap (“Chap’ll net that”). Azed is clearly something of an expert on antipodean crustaceans, so I’ll take his word for it regarding the definition.

31a I exude strong odour – nothing against lives containing that (6)
The single-letter representation of ‘nothing’, the single letter for ‘against, and a two-letter word meaning ‘lives’ are put around (‘containing’) a two-letter abbreviation for a strong – and typically unpleasant – odour (‘that’, ie ‘strong odour’).

33a Slip-on, dry, puckering in the middle (6)
The two-letter abbreviation for ‘dry’ in the abstinent sense has a word for puckering put inside; the solution is hyphenated, 1-5.

34a What’ll get such root veg in flourishing – dewiness? (6)
A composite anagram, though not perhaps one of Premier League standard, where the answer (‘such root veg’) and IN can be rearranged (‘flourishing’) to produce DEWINESS. The phrasing of the clue just about works cryptically.


1d Exploit including Custer being trounced with soldiers in old uniform (singular) (12)
A three-letter exploit contains an anagram (‘being trounced’) of CUSTER followed by a familiar three-letter word for ‘soldiers’. The ‘(singular)’ is there because Chambers indicates that when having the required sense the answer is usually in the plural.

2d Rubinstein often includes it added to page in Bach’s score? (8)
The great Polish-American pianist liked to be known as ‘Arthur’ in English-speaking countries (as well as America 😉), but here it is the five-letter name given to him by his parents (ie ‘Rubinstein often’) which contains (‘includes’) IT (from the clue), the combination being preceded by (‘added to’) the usual abbreviation for ‘page’. Bach appears in the definition to show that the answer is the German form of a word for a musical score, being itself defined as “Zusammenstellung aller zu einem Musikstück gehörenden Stimmen”. So there.

8d Protection for warhorse farm fashioned in links (9)
An anagram (‘fashioned’) of FARM is contained by something which consists of multiple links.

10d A raincoat inside a vest is hiding dietary shortages (12)
The four-letter Japanese hempen raincoat last seen in 2,702 makes another appearance (a few days late for those living round here). Here it is preceded by A (from the clue) and contained by another A (also from the clue) and an anagram of VEST IS. There is only one possible anagram indicator, the intransitive participle ‘hiding’. I would suggest that Azed has chosen the ‘least worst’ option which allows the surface reading to work, but it is left to readers to decide where the sole Chambers definition of the verb, “to go into, or to stay in, concealment”, suggests any kind of rearrangement or disturbance.

14d Alchemist’s compound friar briefly included in hot meal, cooked (9)
The ‘friar briefly’ who is to be included in an anagram (‘cooked’) of HOT MEAL is not an abbreviation of ‘friar’ but of ‘brother’.

19d Barges, heavy weight, opening connecting part (7)
A three-letter ‘heavy weight’ is put inside (‘opening’) a word from anatomy for a connecting part, taken directly from the Latin for a bridge (which could in turn be ‘asinorum’ or ‘Fabricius’).

24d Something to recline on I chucked in quarry (6)
The letter I (from the clue) is ‘chucked into’ a word for the object of a pursuit (‘quarry’), more often used to describe the pursuit itself.

28d Harrow, as of old, finally ends off (4)
Another one which will repay a look at Chambers, the definition relating to harrow2. The wordplay has both words in a (2,4) phrase meaning ‘finally’ losing their last letters (‘ends off’).

(definitions are underlined)

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7 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    As a former volunteer Australian, I reached for my Macquarie dictionary. It still took a while, though, because I looked for exactly the word you describe. What I found was a six-letter word with two consecutive ‘rivers’, not one.

    My Macq is not as thick as my Chambers; perhaps an expanded version contains the five-letter variant, but I think perhaps I need a new dictionary.

    (Unfortunately this website won’t allow me to attach a photo)

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Jim, and thanks for that

      The ‘two rivers’ spelling (anyone remember the wrestler Billy Two Rivers from ‘back in the day’?) gets its own entry in Chambers, and a web search seems to confirm that it is the predominant form of the word. I wondered if the ‘single river’ version might be an error, but I did find a couple of sites that gave the two spellings as alternatives, so it seems to be a less common variant. It would also appear that a ??RR?? has twice as much meat on it as a YABBY. Who knew?

      • Jim says:

        Thanks. I should update my dictionary collection, but would also be interested to know how many real Australians would recognise all the words defined in Chambers as “Austr”. A few that I have asked about have met with incomprehension.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          I think the situation is probably much the same as with the ‘Scot’ words: a few that are in common use (Scots: dreich, fash, messages) and a bunch that most Scots know nothing about. I reckon once a ‘geographically qualified’ word gets into Chambers it has the sticking power of a barnacle.

  2. Iain says:

    Thanks for all the explanations.
    I’m still struggling on 5. Can you help please?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Iain

      No folksy number square disciple included in mixed rag (7)

      The usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘square’ and a three-letter word for a disciple (more commonly a male child) are contained by an anagram (‘mixed’) of RAG. The answer is hyphenated, 3-4, and the Chambers entry should explain Azed’s definition.

      Hope that helps