Notes for Azed 2,716

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 2,716 ‘Spoonerisms’

Difficulty rating: 5.5 out of 10 stars (5.5 / 10)

‘Spoonerisms’ is one of my favourite variations, giving Azed full rein to exercise both his skills and his wit, though I know that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. This one produced several smiles along with the occasional “D’oh!”.

Most Azed solvers will have encountered a Spoonerisms puzzle before, since the most recent one was only last Christmas. The hardest things with these puzzles are (i) getting your head round how the two different clue types work, and (ii) dealing with the occasional oddity (see below). For the type ‘A’ clues, always remember to write in the answer (which will normally have no definition), not the spoonerized version. What I term a ‘type A’ clue (‘definition’ is a spoonerism of the answer) is one like this:

Sailor pub crawl to wind up in exchange deal (9) – BARTENDER [END in BARTER, ‘definition’ leads to ‘tar bender’ a spoonerism of the answer)

while a ‘type B’ (definition part of clue must be spoonerized) is like this:

Eat up messily what could be made of shoal (5) – TAUPE [anagram of EAT UP, un-spoonerized definition is ‘what could be shade of mole’)

Generally, the spoonerisms are consonantal and involve two words exchanging sounds, but occasionally they can be vocalic (eg 17a), involve just one word (eg 22d) or involve more than two words (eg 20d) – these exceptions can be hard to spot and therefore to solve. A little bit of creativity in pronunciation will be required every so often. And just sometimes the ‘subsidiary indication’ in a type A clue can simply be a definition of the answer (eg 23d).

The wordplays (subsidiary indications) always lead to the answer to be entered in the grid.

The way to approach the clues is to look at whether there is anything on view that can readily be spoonerized (and probably looks a little unusual) – so in “Jean’s to mock such as Dixie going topless”, we can be pretty sure that “Jean’s to mock” will translate to “Means to Jock” (ie a Scots word for ‘means’), and we have a type B. If we can’t find anything spoonerizable in the clue, then it’s going to be a type A. In general, the type B clues are easier to solve because once you identify the ‘real’ definition they can be treated as normal clues.

A few notes on individual clues follow, after which there is a list of clues showing clue types.

Clue Writers’ Corner: Competitions of this type invariably result in some clues being submitted which are of the wrong type and will therefore stand no chance of success. For Spoonerisms puzzles, Azed always requires a type B clue. Let’s assume that the word to be clued was DASHER. What is needed is a spoonerized definition of the answer, and a wordplay which leads to the answer. So our real definition could be ‘One scooting about’, the spoonerized version being ‘One booting a scout’, with the associated wordplay ‘has red curls’ (anagram of HAS RED). The full clue is ‘One booting a scout has red curls’. Not likely to garner any laurels, I grant you, but it does satisfy the brief. Note that the treated words do not have to be consecutive in the clue, and other words (here the ‘a’) can also get involved.

The key to a good spoonerism clue is coming up with an original definition. It doesn’t have to be succinct or show pinpoint accuracy – if you look at the published clues for comp 2551, you will see the sort of thing that is likely to do well. If you are setting a complete spoonerisms puzzle, the wordplays should generally be relatively straightforward, but when it comes to competitions Azed’s judgement is influenced by the quality of a clue rather than its ready solvability (as long as it’s sound, of course), so I would avoid anything which is trivial to solve.

Note: As correspondent John has pointed out, the competition word appears as two separate headwords in Chambers, the second one being an alternative spelling of a word more often seen with four letters. The first thing to say is that whilst Azed has chosen in the puzzle to define the first entry, this is irrelevant when it comes to the competition; the requirement is to supply a clue to the grid entry, and competitors can choose whether they with to use the first or the second headword when producing their definition (just as with, say, BUNG in comp 2495). But if you do choose the second, be careful to get the right meaning of the four-letter word of which it is a variant. The point John makes is that the alternative spelling is not listed at the entry to which readers are referred. The lack of the cross-referring entry is of no significance – typically Chambers only groups variants with similar spelling (presumably in order to save space) and rarely (for the same reason, I suspect) refers back to variants that have their own entries. If one looks, for instance, at basil2 in Chambers, one finds ‘same as basan‘, but the entry for basan makes no reference to ‘basil’. So you can choose either of the two distinct senses of the word at 26d. Incidentally, the definition which Azed has given us seems to be lacking an ‘or’ in the middle.


1a Silly fool is working at last, evasive about lines, slow ebb restored (12)
An excellent clue to start with. The wordplay has a three-letter word for ‘evasive’ containing the usual abbreviation for ‘lines’, this combination being followed by an anagram (‘restored’) of SLOW EBB, while the definition leads to words of 5 and 7 letters  which are a spoonerized form of the answer (so it’s a type A).

10a S. African male, one attacking, regretted advance (5)
The wordplay in this type A is straightforward, a charade of a four-letter word meaning ‘regretted’ and the usual abbreviation for ‘advance’. The next step when solving the clue is almost certainly to look up the pronunciation of the resulting word in Chambers and then work back to the (2,6) phrase produced by the elements either side of the comma. However, as a correspondent has kindly pointed out, the two-letter word in this phrase is not pronounced oo or as in ‘zoo’ but ō or əʊ as in ‘beau’, so the spoonerism is faulty. I’ve come across that word many, many times in puzzles and never considered that it might be pronounced in other than the obvious way, so I’ve learnt something today! A clue along the lines of ‘I declare attacker regretted advance’ would work.

12a Maybe Mort’s found hanger with front missing? (5)
The definition in this type B isn’t too hard to work out, but you may not be familiar with the last meaning of ‘hanger’ given by Chambers which leads to the six-letter synonym that must lose its first letter (‘with front missing’).

16a A lot of planned devious items will hide them (4)
The wordplay in this type B is slightly odd – the ‘them’ makes it clear that it isn’t a ‘hidden’, but the alternative – an anagram (‘devious’) of ITEMS without (‘will hide’) M – would require “‘m” to be a short form of ‘them’, and Chambers doesn’t support this. I refuse to believe that Azed intends us to ‘lift and separate’ THEM to produce THE M.

25a Gold I found concealed in mine stores (6)
All the difficulty here is in identifying that it is a type B and then working out that only the first two words are involved in the definition.

31a Sum involved in crime – bit of cash for bloke in Fed once? (6)
A three-letter word meaning ‘[to] sum’ is contained by a word for an offence, particularly of the moral variety. Have the European Football Championships improved your knowledge of Slovenian geography? If not, then – like me – you may find yourself googling a four-letter proper name to check the definition in this type B.

32a River showing signs of slick, sleep in dhow? (5)
The usual abbreviation for ‘river’ is followed by a word which could mean ‘showing signs of slick’. Initially I was a bit dubious about the spoonerized definition in this type B, but the OED gives ‘muddy’ as the first meaning of the answer.

34a Be informed of end of Scotch, finished with life finally (5)
This is a type A, where a charade of a word meaning ‘finished’ and the last letter (‘finally’) of ‘life’ combine to produce a word which can be spoonerized as a (4.3) phrase. The ‘of Scotch’ equates to ‘for Scots’.


2d Such pints’ll spoil one pugilist – not sign to the fight once (6)
Here we have a type B, and a composite anagram, where the answer plus PINTS can be rearranged (‘spoil’) to form ONE PUGILIST.

3d Entrance in meadow having sheep on the sheltered side (7)
The wordplay has a four-letter word being contained by a three-letter one, while the type A ‘definition’ leads to a (3,4) phrase comprising a word for a sheep in its second year and a nautical term meaning ‘on the sheltered side’.

6d Worker demolished loaf? Very weak to be in debt (7)
A three-letter word for a proverbially busy creature is followed by an anagram (‘demolished’) of LOAF in this type A clue. Chambers suggests that the answer contains only two syllables, but when the answer is spoonerized it leads to a (6,3) phrase where the syllable (and hence the word) at the end remains unchanged .

8d Rock bed with sex to importune? Not so (5)
This spoonerism of the monosyllabic answer here is a little bit strained, with the second element of the (4,2) ‘definition’ being its last two letters. The wordplay has a seven-letter word meaning ‘to importune’ being deprived of the consecutive letters SO (‘not so’).

19d Tea urn’ll answer Scotch for John, one brewed inside (7)
A cracking definition in this type B, where the usual abbreviation for ‘answer’ and a Scottish form of ‘John’ have an anagram (‘brewed’) of ONE inserted (‘inside’).

20d Amateur appearing in short run, dark as tongue? (7)
The usual abbreviation for  ‘amateur’ is contained by a word for a short run, and the definition, which owes everything  to Henry Williamson, is my favourite type B of the lot.

(definition parts of clues are underlined)

Checklist of types


1: type A (spoonerized entry); 10: A; 11: A; 12: type B (spoonerized definition); 13: A; 15: B; 16: B; 17: A; 18: B; 21: A; 25: B; 29: B; 30: B; 31: B; 32: B; 33: A; 34: A; 35: A.


1: A; 2: B; 3: A; 4: B; 5: B; 6: A; 7: B; 8: A; 9: B; 14: A; 19: B; 20: B; 22: A; 23: A; 24: A; 26: definition of competition word; 27: B; 28: A.

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25 Responses

  1. Doctor Clue says:

    My apologies that a couple of comments on this puzzle have got marked as spam and put into the bin, which has meant a delay in them being manually retrieved and published.

    Some time ago I received several spam comments containing the term ‘3D’ (you may be ahead of me on this…). I added that term to the list of elements for the spam checker to look for, but I now see that it was only a matter of time before a legitimate comment was posted which contained ‘3D’ – or ’13D’, or ’23D’ (because only a partial match is required). All should be sorted now.

    PS Just received my first spam comment written entirely in Latin. Whatever next?

  2. Fiona Potter says:

    Hi, I’m stuck on 14d, (is it rule player)?,and have ?all?e for 24d….and is 35ac trainspotter. 3d causing me a headache, I have LEG????. I suspect I’ve gone wrong..any help would be appreciated!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Fiona

      Your checkers are all correct. 35ac – yes (for the spoonerism, swap the first two letters of the 5 letter part with the first two of the seven letter part). The ‘reserve’ in 14d is ICE. 24d is the one that Daron was having some problems with – the spoonerized version is ‘meal ah’. In 3d, the sheep is a ‘teg’.

      I hope that’s enough to get you moving forward.

  3. Daron Fincham says:

    Could you explain 24d. for me, please ? What’s the alas ?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Daron

      For the spoonerism to work, based on the pronunciations given by Chambers, the food needs to be the four-letter word for ‘the food taken at one time’ and the ‘alas’ must be AH. Chambers suggests that this interjection can express pretty much any emotion that one chooses, if not explicitly sorrow; OED, though, shows it as an expression of sorrow, lamentation or regret, which fits the bill. The Chambers definition of AY suggests that it would be more satisfactory, but the spoonerism would then be faulty.

      Does that make sense?

      • Daron says:

        Thanks. Hadn’t noticed the second definition in Chambers for the entry (with a pronunciation like the country). My bad. Kind of makes sense, but it’s a pretty West Spoonerism imo.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Just to complicate things further, OED shows the ‘country’ word as being pronounced so it would rhyme with ‘Crawley’, which would gives us AW for ‘alas’; Chambers says that AW can express disappointment, but I don’t think that’s what Azed intended unless he is so familiar with the word that he didn’t need to check its pronunciation in Chambers (where it rhymes with ‘barley’). Although nowhere in the puzzle does it state that Chambers is the primary reference for pronunciations…

          I do agree about that clue. For the setter to find 18 words which will fit in the grid and can be spoonerized to produce real words is no trivial challenge, so it’s always likely that one or two of the Type A’s will be slightly unsatisfactory.

          • Daron says:

            Well the public school boys who edit the OED might say Mawley, but I’ve never heard anyone pronounce it that way.

            I’m not carping about the puzzle. I know it’s hard for the setter and that some Spoonerisms will be testing. I just like the ones that make me laugh out loud. 🙂

            • Doctor Clue says:

              Just to be clear, the OED pronunciation related to the Indian gardener rather than the African country.

  4. RJHe says:

    What did you think of the clue to 23dn, which had a definition of the answer where a subsidiary indication should have been? Would you regard it as an error on Azed’s part?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi RJHe

      Strictly speaking, it doesn’t break the ‘rules’ of themed puzzles, since it is accepted that ‘subsidiary indication’ (or ‘wordplay’) can take the form of a definition (as it always does in a ‘double definition’ clue). I did note this with regard to 23d – “And just sometimes the ‘subsidiary indication’ in a type A clue can simply be a definition of the answer (eg 23d)” – but, upon reflection prompted by your question, I believe that it runs contrary to the spirit of ‘Spoonerisms’ clues, and given how easy a cryptic wordplay would have been to produce (eg ‘Turbulent priest started rush forward’), I’m inclined to think that it was indeed an oversight on Azed’s part. What was your view?

      • RJHe says:

        Careless oversight, I’d say, rather than lazy cop-out. When compiling 35 clues in a relatively limited space of time, I suppose it’s easy for Azed to momentarily lose sight of the way a Spoonerisms clue is supposed to work, particularly when the definition part is itself a form of wordplay. I seem to recall him making a similar “error” in one of the clues in his last Spoonerisms puzzle.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          That’s my feeling too – if I were going for the cop-out option, it would be with something like RHYTHM. And yes, in 2,688 (Xmas 2023) – ‘Questionable act, taking votes for lignite (9)’ for PAPER-COAL.

  5. 🍊 says:

    Hmph! As usual, thanks for the ABBA. What hard work though — 5D I’m definitely not!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      While ‘Spoonerisms’ may be divisive in a Marmitey way, I’m getting the feeling that there are rather more solvers on the ‘hate’ benches than on the other side of the cruciverbal chamber.

      • Crossguesser says:

        When it comes to Azed’s Spoonerisms Specials, I’m definitely a lover not a fighter! Admittedly some of that love comes from the relief at any Special not being Printer’s Devilry 🙂 but I do enjoy the extra playful punning that the letter swaps allow.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Hi CG

          That’s good to hear! I’d say my feelings about Spoonerisms were broadly similar – I’m prepared to accept the 18 Type A’s (which place a lot of strain on the setter as well as the solver) for the pleasure of the 17 Type B’s. I’ve pondered over whether there is an alternative to the Type A’s, but I can’t think of anything which would differ significantly from the Type B’s and still fit under the ‘Spoonerisms’ label.

  6. Iain A says:

    Hi Doctor C, could I ask for some help with 14D? I am worried I have crossers wrong.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Iain

      Formality in data processing course? Location dreadful (10)

      The word for ‘formality’ that goes into a two-letter abbreviation is often indicated in cryptics by ‘reserve’, and the combination is followed by a word that might describe a course of eg bricks. The answer is hyphenated, 4-6.

      Hope that helps. It’s one of those type A’s where you have to exchange a pair of consonontal and vocalic sounds (eg BROAD BEAN -> BEAD BRAWN).

  7. John says:

    Yes thanks – so we can use it then

  8. John says:


    Chambers gives 2 definitions for the word we are to clue – but the 2nd alternative is a version of another word – but is not verified when you go to the source word – is this an error on Chambers do you think? Hope that makes sense – trying not to give much away

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi John

      Thanks – that’s an excellent question which I felt deserved to be answered in the main blog. I hope that I have dealt with it satisfactorily!