Notes for Azed 2,712

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 2,712 Plain

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

Another ‘plain’, and another puzzle that seemed to me very close to that green band at the centre of the difficulty spectrum.  My thanks to Roslyn for providing a scan of the crossword in its absence from the Guardian website; when I wrote these notes it still hadn’t made an appearance, so there is a possibility of transcription errors in the clues due to manual entry – let me know if you spot any! 

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 6d, “Irani bowling introduces lifted trajectory – it’s intended to disconcert opponent (8)”. An anagram (‘bowling’) of IRANI contains (‘introduces’) a reversal (‘lifted’) of a word meaning ‘trajectory’, the result being the sumo wrestler’s version of the mandatory stare-in at every boxing world championship weigh-in. There are two points that I want to make about the clue. Firstly, the question arises from time to time about the validity of references made in clues to specific personalities – is ‘Tyson?’ acceptable for FURY? In my view, absolutely. But could it also indicate MIKE or FRANK? The fact that I’ve come up with those alternatives means that they came readily to my mind, but how many of the hundred people surveyed would consider them ‘Famous Tysons’? I think MIKE is still fine, since his fame persists, but FRANK is probably remembered now by only cricket fans of a certain age. The question a setter must ask themselves is how the majority of solvers are going to react when they work out the answer – is it ‘Aaah!’ or ‘Huh?’. Here the point is irrelevant – Ronnie Irani wasn’t exactly a household name even in his 1990s heyday, but you don’t need to know who he is in order to solve the clue. The other point this clue raises is how far a setter can stretch synonymity to produce a pleasing surface reading; I know well that feeling when you can’t find a synonym that fits the context and then when you’re about to give up hope you find one in a thesaurus that seems perfect. Consider it very closely! Do the two words really share a meaning? Thesauri include many words for things which are similar but definitely not the same, and you need to think carefully about whether you are being fair to the solver. I think that Azed has pushed things a bit too far here with ‘trajectory’, which seems quite different in meaning from the word it indicates. It’s always worth trying the ‘swap’ test – can you think of a sentence where one word could be replaced by the other without significantly changing the meaning?


1a Abrasive tool limits unsightly smirch in sailor’s hobby (12)
The tool, which might be orbital or belt, contains (‘limits’) an anagram (‘unsightly’) of SMIRCH, and those familiar with the hobby from TV antiques programmes may know it by a similar nine-letter name. Incidentally, I’m no keener on ‘unsightly’ as an anagram indicator than ‘ugly’; they seem quite different from something like ‘disfigured’, which clearly suggests something that was in one state before being twisted into another form. 

9a Clan group turned up behind Scots manor? (4)
A reversal (‘turned’) of UP follows (‘behind’) a Scottish shortened form of a familiar four-letter word for a room in a house or for a manor-house.

12a Old-style lentils etc in soupes à l’étrangère? (6)
My first winning Azed competition clue featured an anagram in French, and here we have ‘à l’étrangère‘ indicating a rearrangement of SOUPES. I’m not sure that in French the phrase carries any sense of being ‘at large’, so it probably needs to be translated into ‘abroad’ before being interpreted cryptically.

18a Clubs provided with money for repetition of parts (6)
The clubs are the sort often wielded in puzzles by bellicose Maoris, and they are followed by (‘provided with’) the usual single-letter abbreviation for ‘money’.

23a What’s enfolding shrimati, see? I’m this ———— possibly (5)
A composite anagram &lit, where the letters of SHRIMATI SEE are a potential rearrangement (‘possibly’) of IM THIS plus the solution. If you replace the blank with the answer, then the entire clue constitutes a (reasonably) sensible statement. The word ‘enfolding’ sits a little uneasily in the cryptic reading of the clue.

29a Court damns miscreant, one riding to hounds (8)
A three-letter word meaning ‘[to] court’ and an anagram (‘miscreant’) of DAMNS combine to produce the answer. I’m not convinced my ‘miscreant’, although it’s always interesting to see an indicator being used that I haven’t encountered before; I would probably have favoured ‘ruffian’ or ‘criminal’. I’m also doubtful about whether the transitive relationship of the solution to ‘foxhunter’ through ‘huntsman’ holds good,  but these are minor quibbles since the clue seems perfectly fair.

32a Head surrounded by escort going round old Jewish ascetics (7)
A four-letter ‘head’ (and a monstrous loch) is contained (‘surrounded’) by a word meaning ‘[to] escort’, and the whole lot is reversed (‘going round’).

33a The old mount special area, heart turning over (4)
The ‘special’ here does not lead to S, rather it qualifies the area as being one that is designated for a specific purpose. The resultant word has its middle letters swapped (‘heart turning over’) to produce the solution, given by Chambers as ‘obsolete’, hence the ‘old’.


2d Sweet treat on marble? Skater may perform this (7)
A  charade of a four-letter ‘sweet treat’ and a ‘large or choice marble’ produces a skating term for a step from either edge on one foot in one direction to the opposite edge on the other foot in an opposite direction. This should on no account be confused with the Mohawk, a step from either edge on one foot in one direction to the same edge on the other foot in an opposite direction. Don’t try either at home.

3d Essayist’s harsh attack about capital (6)
A four-letter word for an attack contains the usual abbreviation for ‘upper-case’, shown by Chambers as representing ‘upper-case, ie capital’. It’s an odds-on chance that an ‘essayist’ will turn out to be Charles Lamb, aka Elia, and so it proves here.

5d Muslim of glorious memory has endless bubbliness (5)
The word HAS without its last letter (‘endless’) is followed by a word for ‘bubbliness’ that you might think has also lost its terminal character, but the three-letter form is an alternative spelling given by Chambers. The meaning given by that volume to the answer will explain the definition.

7d Shrines for holy ones, erected like Gaudi’s masterpiece mostly? (6)
Like the word which is going upwards (‘erected’) here, the masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi is unfinished. He started work on the ??????? Familia in Barcelona in 1883, and less than a quarter of the building was finished at the time of his death in 1926. The Spanish Civil War brought construction to a halt, although it was restarted in the 1950s and the thing is now more than half complete; another hundred years or so ought to do the trick, although it seems that some of the biggest constructional challenges remain. In 2010, what there is of it was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

10d Source of oil is shortly found in pork lard (6)
One of those clues that may involve getting the answer from the definition and working back to understand the wordplay, where a shortened form of ‘is’ is contained by (‘found in’) a word for lard made from pork fat, which isn’t shown by Chambers or OED as being obsolete but which I don’t remember coming across in Delia’s Complete Cookery Course.

11d Small monkey, one dashed off by Venetian master (4)
A two-letter word meaning ‘one’ is removed from (‘dashed off’) the name given in English to Tiziano Vecelli, the great Italian Renaissance painter who features in a rather fine limerick of my acquaintance, which I won’t include here for fear that it might prove a touch too risqué for the sensibilities of one regular correspondent 😉.

15d Beauty husband cut, a composite – great mishap (8)
An informal word for a beauty (along the lines of ‘peach’) with the usual abbreviation for ‘husband’ removed (‘cut’) is followed by the name of a familiar plant belonging to the Compositae (see the definition of ‘composite’ in Chambers).

19d Short blades and so on alternating with call for help (6)
The letters of a three-latter abbreviation meaning ‘and so on’ and  a three-letter appeal for help are regularly interwoven (‘alternating’) to produce the answer.

20d RC decoration encountered around part of Yorkshire? (7)
A three-letter word meaning ‘encountered’  contains (‘around’) the sort of thing that you would be very disappointed not to see if you booked a holiday in a particular area of Yorkshire.

27d Second-rate tea, black – gosh! – with running water added (5)
A charade of the usual abbreviation for ‘black’, a two-letter exclamation of surprise (ie ‘gosh!’), and a dialect word for running water which frequently flows through cryptic clues.

28d Belief in supposed force? Nothing to uncover – ask away (5)
The single letter representing ‘nothing’ is followed by a seven-letter word meaning ‘to uncover’, from which the consecutive letters ASK have been omitted (‘ask away’).

(definitions are underlined)

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11 Responses

  1. RJHe says:

    The etymological similarity of the answer to 17ac and the word used by Azed to form its first three letters is a weakness that I’m surprised you didn’t remark upon, and is surely a topic worthy of discussion in a future Setters’ Corner?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi RJHe, and thanks for that

      I’m rather surprised myself that I didn’t comment on it! They are basically the same word, one probably just an abbreviation of the other; like you, I see this as a major weakness, the more so because their similarity goes beyond etymology. I’m more sympathetic to (say) a double definition clue where the two senses are completely different, as well (ideally) as the parts of speech, eg ‘Denounce pot’ for GRASS – I don’t know what your view would be.

      I will make a note to cover the topic the next time something similar comes up – though I’m more than happy to include views from others on subjects like these, as there is a major risk that I will pick out the same points time and again while completely overlooking others (that I may not even have thought of).

  2. Orange says:

    Ha ha.
    I’ve added a swoon to my next yarn just for you.

  3. Maggie says:

    As a New Zealander, can I please point out that the Māori “clubs” clue in 18a would need to be misspelt to get the correct word for the definition. Nor is it spelt with s as the plural. Just sayin’.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Maggie

      Thanks for that. I’m always particularly interested to hear about things that most solvers take for granted in puzzles which turn out to have no place in the real world. Of course, the clue is ‘valid’ (and fair) in the sense that Chambers gives the -i spelling and doesn’t explicitly state a plural, which means that -is can be inferred. Can I assume that the version ending in ‘e’ is the correct spelling? I don’t think I’ve ever used the word in a clue (it’s a bit too much of a ‘regular’ for my liking), but I’ll make a particular point of avoiding that version. It will continue to appear in other cryptics, I have no doubt!

      • Maggie says:

        Yes, the accepted word in Te Reo ends with an e. That’s how it is in all Te Reo dictionaries. There is a word that ends in i but that is a transliteration of “merry” as in merry Christmas. Again, no plural. In Te Reo, the plural is shown by the article: he (a), te (the) ngā (the, plural). Sorry to be pedantic, but I’m a beginner student of the language and I like to get it right. 😀

  4. JOHN ATKINSON says:

    Thanks to you and your reader. Took me a while to print but i succeeded.

  5. JOHN ATKINSON says:

    Hello. The website is only offering last week’s 2711. I cannot exactly nip out to buy a paper. Do you have a scan you could post?

    Thx in advance.