Notes for Azed 2,713

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 2,713 Plain

Difficulty rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Based on relatively recent history, I’d say that this plain puzzle was slightly above the average difficulty level. It was a pleasant enough solve, although I felt that several clues were not up to Azed’s usual high standards.

Setters’ Corner: This week I’m going to look at clue 24a, “Casualty transport serving some maimed evacuees (7)”. In the interests of clarity, I’m not going to beat about the bush regarding the answer to this straightforward ‘hidden’, MEDEVAC being concealed in the last two words. A couple of days ago, correspondent RJHe expressed some surprise that I had not remarked on 17a in last week’s puzzle, where CAD (‘old errand boy’) plus IE produces CADIE (‘Messenger from Scotland formerly’), since the two words are etymologically very similar. In fact, some dictionaries suggest that one is an abbreviation of the other. This constitutes a serious weakness in a clue, and could even be described as mildly unfair, since if you don’t know one of the words you’re unlikely to know the other.

Today’s clue could not be described as unfair, but it’s weaker than Watney’s Red Barrel – MEDEVAC is simply a contraction of ‘medical evacuation’, with ‘evacuation’ and ‘evacuees’ being far too similar. Setters should be careful to avoid clues where the answer and a word in the wordplay share an etymology, particularly if (as in the CADIE clue) they appear as the same part of speech (both nouns in that instance) and there is a similarity in their meaning. Try to avoid using two words which Chambers shows (i) under the same headword (eg TOP as part of the wordplay for TOP HAT),  or (ii) as having the same root (eg POT in the wordplay for POTASH). It is generally considered acceptable to use two meanings of the ‘same’ word in double definition clues, as long as they are completely different and lead specifically to the answer. The clue ‘Rat on lawn’ for GRASS fulfils these criteria – although the definitions are of the same word, the first sense involves a contraction of ‘grasshopper’, rhyming slang for ‘shopper’, which has then evolved into a verb.


4a Russian spy unit treads westward, extremely racist? Not I (8)
A reversal (‘westward’) of a five-letter word meaning ‘treads’ (verb or noun) is followed by a word applied to an extreme racist, from which the letter I has been omitted (‘not I’).

10a A male child at home with little energy requiring treatment for flu (10)
A five part (1,3,3,2,1) charade, comprising A (from the clue), a word for a male, an informal word for a little lad or a small amount, a crossword favourite for ‘at home’, and the usual abbreviation for ‘energy’ (‘little energy’).

11a Set out to capture castle, a blow of old (7)
An anagram(‘out’) of SET containing (‘to capture’) a word for the sort of castle that moves (albeit only in prescribed directions) produces an obsolete form (hence the ‘old’) of a familiar word.

13a Trumpeter maybe showing off abandoned by king (4)
My initial interpretation was that a five-letter word for ‘showing off’ or ‘ostentation’ was to be deprived of the standard abbreviation for ‘king’ as used by Magnus Carlsen et al. This works perfectly well, but as David Mansell has pointed out, Azed undoubtedly intends us to get to the same result by removing the consecutive letters KING from an eight-letter word meaning ‘showing off’ or ‘bragging’. The definition is by example (just as ‘setter’ is a definition by example of DOG, since dogs come in many different varieties), hence the ‘maybe’.

15a Coarse fellow, Henry or Bill, in poetry (4)
A three-letter ‘coarse fellow’ is followed by the usual abbreviation for…well, not ‘Henry’ but ‘henry’. And the definition is a Spenserian (suggested by ‘in poetry’) word for a ‘bill’ or headland. Setters (of the non-canine kind) are allowed to deceptively capitalize words which in the cryptic reading of a clue should start with a lower-case letter, but I find it unsatisfactory. There’s a thought that it’s okay with nouns, because they are on occasion seen with initial capitals when they appear at the start of a sentence; this strikes me as a poor argument, and I would be hard pressed to come up with a sentence beginning ‘Henry…’ which concerns the SI unit of inductance. Much better if you can ‘hide’ the capital by putting a word such as ‘Stokes’ (for ‘S’) at the beginning of a sentence in your clue.

19a Spell of contact sport? It’s murder (6)
Here the wordplay leads to a (2,4) phrase which loosely corresponds to ‘Spell of contact sport’, the first part being a two-letter abbreviation for a particular contact sport. The question mark is definitely required, as this is not an expression that you would ever hear in real life and the order of the elements from the wordplay must be changed.

26a Sri Lanka, southern, mostly producing skinny layers (8)
The IVR code for Sri Lanka is followed by a seven-letter word meaning ‘southern’ missing its last letter (‘mostly’).

29a Dance music performed by singers out of bounds? (4)
A six-letter words for ‘singers’ (shown by Chambers as ‘esp N Am’ and much more familiar in the UK as an adjective) is stripped of its first and last letters (‘out of bounds’).

32a Javanese mulberry? Erect one alongside highway mostly (8)
A two-letter word meaning ‘erect’ is followed by a single-letter word for ‘one’ and a word for a highway, shorn of its final letter (‘mostly’, an unnecessary repetition from 26a).


2d Dame’s place once for Scots chemise (4)
The ‘Dame’ here is the remarkable Sibyl Hathaway, who ruled her island from 1927 to 1974, including a period of occupation between 1940 and 1945. Cars are banned from the island’s roads, with only tractors, bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles allowed; ironically, there were no hedgehogs on the island to benefit from this restriction until they were introduced in the 1980s.

3d Name in floor peg? It reveals fault in timber (8)
The usual abbreviation for ‘name’ is contained by a two-letter verb with its origins in the boxing ring, having the approximate sense of ‘[to] floor’, and a five-letter word for a pin in the side of a boat to keep the oar in place.

4d Night owl resolute about work (7, 2 words)
A five-letter word meaning ‘resolute’ contains the usual abbreviation for a Latin word meaning work. The enumeration is incorrect – while the answer could be (4,3), that would require a definition which led to a verb; here the answer is clearly a noun, and the corresponding word is hyphenated, 4-3, so should be enumerated as (7).

7d Modern trendy, joker in Rhine heading north (7, 2 words)
Another misleading capitalization, this time of ‘Rhine’. A three-letter ‘joker’ is contained by a reversal (‘heading north’) of what is just another spelling of the West Country word ‘rhine’, meaning a ditch or watercourse. I don’t know what RJHe would think, but I don’t like this – it’s much the same as using, say, ‘sett’ to indicate SET.

9d Erstwhile footie star to take dinner out weekly? (4)
We are not looking for the surname of an ‘erstwhile footie star’ from which a four-letter word meaning ‘to take dinner’ must be removed (‘out’), rather the first name of a French World Cup winner who was named FIFA World Player of the Year three times between 1998 and 2003 and is known to his footballing amis as ‘Zizou’. The definition is again by example, so the question mark is required.

17d A lady mostly dressed in sacking? A dazzler often (8)
An anagram (‘dressed’) of A LADY without the last letter (‘mostly’, for the third time this week) is contained by a word for sacking in the material sense.

20d Canoe? One difficult to understand sailor holds up (7)
A single-letter word for ‘one’ and a four-letter word meaning ‘difficult to understand’ or ‘gloomy’ are contained by a reversal (‘up’) of an abbreviation often seen in crosswords indicated by ‘sailor’. There’s a problem here, though – as Monk pointed out on this site a couple of months ago, in a situation like this where the sailor is being reversed but not the other stuff, the operand and the indicator must be next to each other – so the X in ‘X Y holds up’ must be reversed, while ‘X Y up holds’ (so here ‘One difficult to understand sailor up holds’) is the way to indicate that only the container, Y, is to be reversed.

22d Idle chat from peevish old fellow cop ignored after noon (6)
An eight-letter ‘obsolete or dialect’ word for a spider or a peevish person (spiders being well known for their peevishness) has the consecutive letters COP removed (‘ignored’) and is preceded by the usual abbreviation for ‘noon’. Strictly speaking, I suppose, ‘peevish old fellow’ should be ‘old peevish fellow’, since the ‘old’ is there to show that the word is obsolete, but I don’t think it really matters.

26d Rosette, dear in e.g. Savoy (4)
A ‘buy two get one free’ sort of clue, where the third definition is again by example, since not every ???? is a Savoy.

(definitions are underlined)

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7 Responses

  1. RJHe says:

    Re ‘Rhine’ for ‘reen’ in 7dn, I see nothing wrong in principle with defining a word by using a variant spelling of the same word (though I agree ‘set’ for ‘sett’ seems weak). We see the likes of ‘ray’ for ‘re’ all the time … and would you deny, for example, the brilliance of Roger Hooper’s first prizewinning clue for the horrible CUCURBITAL: “What makes ‘gourdy’ when defined by coot et al?” [curb in cuit + al, & lit.]?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      I just feel that for one person (the setter) to spell the same word in two different ways is unnatural, and to do it in a single clue is perverse. Though not unsound, of course.

      I’m not over-keen on that CUCURBITAL clue, but maybe that’s because I don’t fully understand the definition. The wordplay does seem stretched. I think if TW Mortimer’s entry had borrowed from Mr Hooper’s clue to become something along the lines of “Swelling in ankle et al – ‘gourdy’?” I would have preferred that.

  2. Jim says:

    A problem with 20d is that the answer refers not to a canoe but a kayak. In the latter one sits with a double-ended paddle; a canoeist kneels and uses a paddle with a single blade. The difference is like using ‘motorcycle’ as an example of ‘car’, in that the seating position is completely different and the twice as many wheels are involved.

    It could only have been more offensive to a paddlesports enthusiast if the word ‘oar’ had somehow been included.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Jim

      I quite understand your indignation as someone who is clearly well versed in the topic, though I don’t think we can blame Azed, at least only indirectly in his capacity as a former lexicographer. Chambers gives ‘kayak’ as ‘an Inuit seal-skin canoe; a canvas, fibreglass, etc canoe built in this style.’, and the OED has ‘The canoe of the Greenlanders and other Eskimo; Any canoe developed from the Eskimo kayak, used for touring or sport.’ I’ve come across Chambers entries relating to topics that I’m reasonably knowledgeable about where the definitions are decidedly iffy (though not the one for ‘éclair’, I hasten to add), but there is always a risk that when ‘boiling things down’, as dictionaries have to do, accuracy will be lost. The OED does say that ‘canoe’ is ‘sometimes understood to be any vessel propelled by paddles’. Ultimately, Chambers is the primary reference for Azed, so in purely cruciverbal terms I don’t think the clue is unfair.

      • Jim says:

        Fair enough. Since OED seems to accept Mississippi gambling steamboats as ‘canoes’, Chambers does seem remarkably specific.

  3. David Mansell says:

    Surely 13a is an eight letter present participle {showing, not show) deprived of “king”.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi David, and thanks for that

      Having found a satisfactory parsing for the clue, I looked no further, but the alternative that you suggest is not only equally valid but is, I’m almost certain, what Azed intended. I shall update the notes accordingly.