Notes for Azed 2,711

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 2,711 Plain

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

A plain competition puzzle which I probably made harder work of than I needed to, but I would still rate it as close to the middle of the difficulty spectrum. It struck me as being a perfectly good crossword, though perhaps lacking the élan of Azed’s very finest. The word ‘about’ appears as a containment indicator in no fewer than four clues, which seems to me like three too many.

Clue Writers’ Corner: There are certain ‘tricks’ that setters have to enable them to improve a surface reading without destroying the cryptic reading of a clue; these can  come in very handy on occasion. Azed uses some of his favourites in this puzzle:

  1. Words linking the wordplay to the definition, or vice versa. In 15d, the wordplay is ‘getting’ the definition, while in 18a, the definition is ‘showing’ the wordplay; without these linking words the clues would make no sense.
  2. Foreshadowing a wordplay element such that it can be referenced later in the clue. 5a is a good example of this, where the ‘Scotch stuff’ serves to introduce a word which does not become actively involved in the wordplay until it appears as ‘that’ at the end of the clue. The succinct version of the clue, ‘Glittering secretive about Scotch stuff’, is meaningless.
  3. Using a pronoun to represent the solution, eg “I’m fat” for LARD. Plenty of examples here, including the ‘it’ in 3d (standing in for an adjective) and 4d (for a noun). The ‘She’ in 33a has two purposes – to represent the answer and to indicate that it is a feminine form.

If you’ve got a got a promising clue that nearly works – but not quite – then if you’ve run out of options in terms of changing individual words, look at how the clue might be rephrased to get round the problem. If you still can’t fix the issue, then it is probably time to ‘park’ that idea and try something else. You can always come back to it, but there’s no point submitting a clue which you know is unsatisfactory, no matter how much you like the concept.


5a Glittering Scotch stuff – secretive about that (7)
A three-letter word for ‘secretive’ contains (‘about’) a Scots word meaning ‘[to] stuff’ (‘that’, ie ‘Scotch stuff’)

10a Couple of queens or a threesome? (9)
The question mark here really belongs to the ‘couple of queens’, suggesting a (4,5) phrase which equates to the (4-5) solution. In my youthful days (and long, long nights) of playing three card brag, we used to call this sort of threesome a ‘prial’ (though at the time I had no idea of its derivation, nor of how it was spelt, assuming that it was probably ‘prile’), with a prial of 3’s being the best hand of all (its happy arrival far too often coinciding with all the other players being dealt complete rubbish).

12a Sugary enzyme contained in blood vessel, right inside (8)
A (2,4) phrase meaning ‘contained in blood vessel’ (I would have preferred ‘contained by’, otherwise why bother with ‘contained’ at all) has the two-letter abbreviation for ‘right’ put inside.

16a Harsh tax north of the border about clear (8)
A five-letter Scottish tax (or a device to keep a bodily vessel such as that in 12a open) contains a word meaning ‘[to] clear’ (often indicated in cryptic clues by ‘free’).

18a One in suit showing the human body back to front (5)
‘Human body’ is probably one of the less familiar meanings of the word which is not to be turned the wrong way round but is to have the last letter (its back) moved to the start (its front); a more familiar meaning would be ‘the world’.

23a System for weighing left page caught in publicity (5)
Here the ‘left page’ doesn’t lead to two single-letter abbreviations, rather the two-letter abbreviation for the left-hand page of an open book. This is contained by (‘caught in’) a word for ‘publicity’, this one often indicated in cryptics by ‘broadcast’. The answer is the abbreviation referred to in the postamble.

27a Iris, not the character to lead in folk dance (5)
The name given to a type of English folk dance is deprived of its first letter (‘not the character to lead’) in order to produce the answer.

32a SA chap involved in disturbed matter with English, a minor affair (9)
A two-letter informal South African word for a man is contained by (‘involved in’) an anagram (‘disturbed’) of MATTER, the whole lot being followed by the usual abbreviation for ‘English’.

34a Will’s beetle we released from prong? (4)
The consecutive letters WE (from the clue) are released from a six-letter word for a type of prong used in cookery, the result being a Shakespearean word – this is Azed, so we can be pretty sure that the ‘beetle’ is not a relation of Alexander, but what Alexander chose to do after Nanny mistakenly opened the door of his match-box house.


2d Start of hole in tooth causing anxiety (7)
A cryptic mindset is generally very helpful when reading clues, but here I saw ‘Start of hole’ and immediately translated it into H. As I eventually worked out, that isn’t what needs to be put inside a four-letter word for a tooth, instead it is a term for the starting point of a hole at golf.

3d Note Mac’s ball comes in – it’s not appropriate for wicket (7)
A Scots word for a ball ‘comes in’ (ie ‘arrives inside’) the sort of note that might be found in a wallet. The definition is intended to suggest that the (4-3) adjective which results would be inappropriate to describe a wicket gate.

4d Lung infection about over – it lasts a very long time (5)
The acronym applied to a respiratory disease first identified in 2002 contains (‘about’) the usual cricketing abbreviation for ‘over’. A cycle of 6,585 days (and eight hours) might seem astronomical enough, but in Babylon the answer here was the name given to the number 3,600, and thus (supposedly) to a period of 3,600 years, although a contrasting view that it consisted of 3,600 days has been proposed in order to rationalize the seemingly incredible statements of Berossos with regard to the lengths of the reigns of the antediluvian kings of Babylon.

9d Non-professional, i.e. amateur, I’ll appear in left centre (4)
The usual abbreviation for ‘amateur’ and the letter I (from the clue) are contained by the theatrical abbreviation for ‘left centre’.

15d Resentment about wretch getting trading licence (8)
A five-letter word for ‘resentment’ or ‘vexation caused by wounded pride’ contains (‘about’, once again) a word for a wretch or a despicable person.

20d Give a ticking-off for singular mess (7)
In its plural form, the singular answer can be a mess, or nonsense; as it appears here, it means something along the lines of ‘[to] give a ticking-off’, although I think that might suggest something rather milder. It is usually seen as the verbal noun, eg in this snippet from the TLS:

Sir John French, CIGS, came down for open day at ‘The Shop’, gave everyone a ???????ing for slackness and indiscipline, and shortly afterwards retired the Commandant.

25d Liquors (Scotch) making pound by the sound of it (5)
The homophone could be for ‘beers (English)’ as well as ‘[to] pound’ (the required meaning of the latter is confirmed by Chambers).

26d Heads for the Levant, food containing hint of spice (5)
I was less interested by ‘Heads for’ as a first letter selection indicator than ‘Start of’ in 2d, ‘TL’ being an unlikely start to a word (‘Tlingit’ notwithstanding). An informal term for food contains the first letter (‘hint’) of SPICE; the second definition in Chambers for ‘Levant’ makes it a perfect fit in this clue, by dint not just of its sense but also of its age.

(definitions are underlined)

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2 Responses

  1. Orange says:

    Argh! The SE corner went ‘orribly wrong as I entered a reasonable (to me) synonym at 20D; my sensibilities being far too delicate for the correct answer 🤥

    • Doctor Clue says:

      😲 I imagine that the very thought of writing such a word in the grid would be sufficient to send you into a swoon.