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100 Responses

  1. Wil Ransome says:

    I don’t understand why last Sunday’s Azed has been dissected. Isn’t it a prize puzzle? That’s what it says in ‘Rules and Requests’. I blog on fifteensquared (as John) and we are told not to publish the blog until the closing date has passed. My blog of this puzzle will appear on Sunday.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Wil, and welcome to the blog.

      I think it is a model which servers solvers of all levels well. The Sunday Telegraph’s Enigmatic Variations is similarly the subject of a ‘hints and tips’ blog on Big Dave’s site on publication day and a full review on fifteensquared after the closing date for entries. It’s important that these wonderful puzzles continue to be available and enjoyed, and that surely means doing all we can (i) to encourage new solvers, (ii) to enhance the experience of ‘regulars’, and (iii) to keep the number of entries as high as possible, this being the key yardstick by which publishers assess a puzzle’s value, and thus its justification for retention.

  2. Johannes says:

    Hiccups / hiccuping as anagram indicator?

    Chambers: “hiccup verb 1 intrans to produce a hiccup or hiccups. 2 intrans to falter, hesitate or malfunction.”

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Sounds good to me! Consider it added.

      • Johannes says:

        Any thoughts on the idea that an anagram indicator should imply a permanent change to the subject?

        • Doctor Clue says:

          I’m intrigued…before I head off on the wrong track, can you give a couple of examples of the sort of indicators that you’re thinking about in the non-permanent category?

  3. Johannes says:

    On the subject of containment indicators..

    I don’t see “during”. It seems to be quite commonly used.

    • Johannes says:

      Also “over” which can mean “so as to cover”.. “covers”/”covering” already being listed.

      • Doctor Clue says:

        Thanks, Johannes

        There are three containment/insertion indicators which I see quite regularly that I have deliberately excluded from the list because I don’t believe that they are sound:

        DURING – This is invariably used in ‘real life’ to express a temporal relationship – ‘during the day’, ‘during an interval’. The OED definition , “Throughout the whole continuance of; hence, in the course of, in the time of. ” makes this clear. If I need an insertion indicator that can stand in for ‘during’, I use ‘part-way through’.

        TOURING – I can’t accept that A ‘touring’ B suggests that A goes round the outside of B. ‘Going round’ is a good alternative.

        TUCKING INTO – I’ve no problem with ‘tucked into’, but the only intransitive sense of the verb is “To make an onslaught upon food” (cf ‘slot’, ‘dig’).

        However, I think there is a good case for OVER. Having a balaclava covering one’s head and a balaclava over one’s head seem like exactly the same thing. I suspect that I may have meant to add it at some point in the past, but it will be going in very shortly!

        • Johannes says:

          Appreciate your thoughts as always!

          Interestingly.. “during” seems to be commonly used for insertion, but I can’t find any example of “over” being used for that purpose. From what I’ve seen it seems to be solely used for reversal, or as a connecting word in a down clue. I was expecting you to be ok with the former but not like the latter!

          This also raises the question, should an indicator be omitted from the clinical data page because it is potentially dubious. I would argue that if the resource is targeted at solvers, then it should include anything they are likely to come across in a clue, regardless of whether it’s 100% fair. “during” definitely seems to fit that requirement.

        • Johannes says:

          Appreciate your thoughts as always!

          Interestingly.. “during” seems to be commonly used for insertion, but I can’t find any example of “over” being used for that purpose. From what I’ve seen it seems to be solely used for reversal, or as a connecting word in a down clue. I was expecting you to be ok with the former but not like the latter!

          This also raises the question, should an indicator be omitted from the clinical data page because it is potentially dubious. I would argue that if the resource is targeted at solvers, then it should include anything they are likely to come across in a clue, regardless of whether it’s 100% fair. “during” definitely seems to fit that requirement. Indicators that you think should be avoided by setters could feature that disclaimer, rather than being omitted entirely?

          • Doctor Clue says:

            I don’t actually like ‘over’ much, and wouldn’t use it myself, but I can see a justification for it. I know that one could argue that in the phrase “a ring on his finger” there is a similar sense of containment, but this is where what we know from the real world tends to influence our interpretation of a word – something being on one’s head is very different from it covering one’s head.

            Your question is a fair one, and I did once start a list of indicators which occur in puzzles but I consider unsound (it’s not just me – I have had support from other solvers regarding the three that I mentioned). The problem is that this would be a separate list, and therefore probably not much help to solvers. I have been reluctant to add any sort of ‘soundness’ column to the main tables, as the vast majority of anagram/containment/deletion indicators would be classed as ‘sound’. I decided when I started the lists to keep it simple and use TablePress; if I had opted for a SQL database I could have generated lists ‘on the fly’, along with some sort of consolidated matrix showing all indicators and their potential uses, sound or otherwise. However, I could still produce such a table based on a one-off data drop.

            It’s fair to say that the individual lists are aimed primarily at clue writers and those seeking support (or otherwise) for indicators encountered in published puzzles, hence the exclusion of certain indicators that I consider unjustifiable.

            I feel perhaps the single matrix (including indicators that I consider unsound but can be found in published puzzles – I can think of quite a few) might be the most useful addition to the site, both for solvers and for me, as it would stop me vetting the same words repeatedly, but I’m very happy to consider alternative suggestions.

  4. Jrsee says:

    Just checking contginment indicators, and I noticed that “inside” was not included. It’s an obvious one (I thought!) – maybe too obvious?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Welcome Jrsee, and thanks for your comment

      ‘Inside’ is actually already in there, but it is listed in the ‘Alternative form(s)’ column of the entry for ‘in’. Taking your comment into account, though, I am minded to give it an entry of its own, since as well as being a preposition it can be a noun, adjective or adverb with meanings different from ‘in’ for the corresponding parts of speech.

  5. Johannes says:

    Came up with an idea the other day, and then discovered it had already been done (of course)

    Interlacing two words to form a 3rd.

    Haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere, as I guess it’s quite a hard thing to get to work, but wonder if it would be nice to mention it here somewhere?

    Work belonging to us interlaced through the night (6)

    I also thought of the potential “taking turns with”. Would that be fair? Would obviously fit a lot nicer into a surface than interlaced.. and seems pretty unambiguous when interpreted as wordplay

    The other thing I wondered is what are the rules? (maybe it’s too rare a device for them to even exist?)
    Do both words have to be interlaced as completely as possible?
    12345 interlaced with ABCDE
    or could this also be acceptable? (with an offset)

    Interested to hear your thoughts!

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Johannes, and thanks for raising some interesting points.

      First of all, let me say that I am very comfortable with the concept of interlacing two words to form another. Indeed, it is something that Azed does from time to time in his clues.

      I think that it merits coverage on a page in this site – perhaps combined with other relatively unusual constructions – but I’ll offer a few thoughts below. Note that in my examples I explicitly give the words to be intertwined, but in practice they would most likely be indicated by other words in the wordplay, eg ‘belonging to us’ for OUR in the OEUVRE example.

      I reckon anything that suggests the two words being interwoven is fine for ABABAB… – interlaced, interwoven, alternating, taking turns etc. So ‘CUE alternating with ASS’ could be CAUSES. Could ‘ASS alternating with CUE’ legitimately produce the same result (BABABA)? My instinct says ‘no’, but on reflection I think it probably could.

      What about ‘COT alternating with ASS’ for COASTS, ie AABBAB (similar to your AB1C2… example)? Definitely not, ‘alternating’ being very specific in its meaning. But ‘COT intertwined with ASS’ could certainly be considered for COASTS, although personally I would prefer ‘COT irregularly intertwined with ASS’ or words to that effect.

      Words such as ‘linked’ offer other possibilities. ‘CUE regularly linked with ASS’ would work for CAUSES, while without qualification a looser connection is suggested, probably just the last letter of the first word passing the first letter of the second – ‘SPOT linked with RING’ for SPORTING (ie [A..A]BA[B..B]) seems ok to me.

      When I have time, I’ll look at putting together a page with some complete examples, but I hope that in the meantime the above may be helpful.

  6. Johannes says:

    Would you say “ending” was a fair “After” juxtaposition indicator and should be added to the list?

    e.g. X ending Y = YX

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Good question! My first thought was ‘yes’, but on reflection I’m not so sure. If X ‘ends’ Y, I think that X is invariably part of Y, eg ‘A fast movement ends the concerto’, rather than being an adjunct, as in eg ‘an interval follows the concerto’. It’s a close thing, but on balance I’m inclined to say ‘no’; I’d be more willing to accept ‘X ending Y’ as meaning that X should be moved to the end of Y, eg ‘section ending play’ for PORTS. Approximate synonyms such as ‘concluding’ and ‘finishing’ strike me as having a similar issue, but I think that ‘X at end of Y’ is fine for YX (‘an interval at the end of the first half’), and I will add it.

      I am also minded to include ‘tipping’ and ‘tailing’, both of which suggest the addition of something (‘tailing’ should be in there anyway with its sense of following closely).

      As always, though, I’m open to argument or expressions of indignation.

      • Johannes says:

        I see the issue now, you’re right that doesn’t seem to quite work when the verb “end” is interpreted like that.

        But how about with this alternate meaning (from OED):

        III.8. transitive. To furnish with an end of a particular kind, for protection or ornament.

        X ended with/in Y would mean X furnished with a tip of Y.

        Edit: oh I see you’ve added “tipped”, I guess this would be a synonym?

        • Doctor Clue says:

          I did consider that definition, but the sole example would seem to indicate that the subject of the verb is the person doing the furnishing, not the thing stuck on, which would be preceded by the preposition ‘with’. That contrasts with the verb tip, which OED has similarly as ‘to furnish with a tip’, but also as ‘to adorn with a tip’, where the tipping thing is the subject of the verb, as the examples confirm.

          It’s certainly borderline, and I’m pretty sure that among the lists on this site you would find several indicators with weaker claims for inclusion. However, I’m inclined to be strict when it comes to juxtaposition indicators, since they don’t contribute very much to a clue cryptically (with the ones that result in XY contributing nothing).

  7. Johannes says:

    Hey there, thanks for the incredibly useful resource!

    Just wanted to suggest the addition of “violated” as anagram indicator.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Johannes, glad you find the site useful

      Thanks for that suggestion. I will add ‘violated’ to the anagram indicator list. I will also add the adjective ‘violate’ (=’violated, defiled’) in the advanced category.

  8. Monk says:

    Good evening Dr Clue.

    Just noticed that, when ordering the Anagram Indicators by function, “wriggles”, alone labelled “Present indicative” rather than the other “Verb indicative(s)”, is concomitantly sandwiched between the last “Past participle” and first “Present participle”. Please consider this missive as an example of audience participlation. 😉

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Good evening Monk, and thank you for your participant missive.

      I have corrected the anomaly; editing the anagrind list reminded me that a while ago I had spotted that there were two identical occurrence of ‘fudge’ (mmmm, fudge), one of which has now been seen to.

  9. Monk says:

    Good day, Dr Clue

    When consulting the juxtaposition-indicator list, it occurred to me that I am all but certain that (for a down clue) I’ve seen “A held up by B” to mean {A< in B} rather than the intended juxtaposition {AB}. To my mind {A< in B} must surely be indicated by "A up held by B" or "B holding/holds A up" because the operand A must be adjacent to its reversal operator "up". Or must it? Is it acceptable to interpret "A held up" as "A held [when it's] up", in a similar way that convention accepts "A B holds" to mean "A [that] B holds". Thank you.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Good day to you too

      That’s an interesting one. I’m confident that I’ve seen ‘held up’ used in just the way you describe, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever given it too much thought. In the phrase ‘large, jolly man held upside-down by chimney’, the mental image created matches exactly what we want from ‘X held upside-down by Y’, ie the man, inverted, in the grip of the chimney. But there is a problem with this – what we are actually being told is not that the man is inside the chimney, rather than he is upside-down and the chimney is maintaining him in that position. Because we know the geometry of a chimney, we infer that the man is inside it, but if we were to read, say, ‘man held upside-down by two chimneys’, we might think again.

      So even if one accepts that ‘upside-down’ could be replaced by ‘up’ without changing the meaning, I feel sure that you are right, and the order of the words is key. ‘A holding B up’ is fine, I think, for either [A around B<] or [(A around B)<], but 'A held up by B' means [AB], or possibly [A< + B] if you accept 'by' for juxtaposition in a down clue (very questionable, I'd say), but not [B< in A]. One of those situations, I reckon, where an apparently confirmatory 'real life' usage is not what it seems.

  10. Monk says:

    Good evening Dr C. In addition to yesterday’s thankfully (very quickly) resolved ‘quirky’ query, might ‘banning’, ‘relieving’ and ‘rendering’ — the last two at the suggestion of esteemed ClueMeister Richard Heald — be similarly added to the expulsion list? Thanks again.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Thanks, Monk

      Ooh, I’ve had to work my brain harder this time…

      First the easy one. ‘Render’, together with its inflections, is clearly an omission. It carries exactly the sense required, and for good measure appears in a winning Azed clue. Approved nem con, and I look forward to using ‘excellent services rendered’ to indicate the loss of ACES.

      ‘Ban’ is one that I’ve looked at before, and on which I’ve previously struggled to make a judgment. On the one hand, I doubt that solvers would have any problem with it; on the other, it seems to me to suggest not being allowed in, rather than being there originally and then kicked out – ‘He was ejected from the ground and subsequently banned’. I’m not keen on the active form, but there are several examples at &lit of the passive being used, and therefore I’m minded to include the past participle ‘banned’. That’s probably illogical, but I like ‘Y banned from X’ more than ‘X banning Y’.

      Now the tough one. I fear I must disagree with the ClueMeister, although I know that the sole example of ‘relieving’ in the &lit archive is from the great man himself. I do feel, though, that on occasion what is acceptable to Azed (where clue writers have the chance to explain their clues) may be less acceptable to solvers who must rely on knowledge or limited works of reference. I am always wary of including indicators which I think are likely to leave solvers struggling to parse a clue even when they’ve got the answer. Chambers gives ‘release’ as a meaning of ‘relieve’, but the object is typically the person being released, with the troublesome thing following the preposition ‘from’. OED does have a ‘chiefly Scottish, now rare’ sense that would fit the bill, but I generally draw the line at ‘rare’ meanings, as they can be hard for solvers to locate. That said, I’m very comfortable with the euphemistic ‘relieved of’ for expulsion, and I also note that ‘relieving’ and ‘relieved by’ are missing from the replacement indicator list, which seems like an oversight.

      I’ll make the updates, and I am of course open to persuasion – though if I saw ‘X relieving Y’ in a clue I’d expect it to mean ‘X replacing Y’, and I think I might be unhappy if it turned out that X was getting rid of Y without taking its place.

      • RJHe says:

        Hi Dr C. Re ‘to release’ as one of Chambers’ meanings of ‘relieve’, I take your point about the object being typically the person seeking release ‘from’ some troublesome thing. Typically, yes … but not exclusively. Surely the object can also be the troublesome thing itself, such as pain (as in my CACOGASTRIC clue to which you refer) or tension (as in my more recent clue to MALIK) … or, indeed, the troublesome surplus letters blighting an anagram? Chambers’ bald definition ‘to release’ makes no such stipulation as to its correct usage, so for that reason surely we can have no objection to the use of ‘relieving’ as a deletion indicator? Your painstakingly compiled indicator lists are valuable tools to clue-writers both professional and amateur (like me), but I wonder: are they intended to be an exhaustive guide to devices that might be encountered in Azed and elsewhere (regardless of perceived soundness/unsoundness), or do they reflect your own personal tastes?

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Hi RJHe

          I did think long and hard about ‘relieves’/’relieving’ but I feel sure that ‘relieving pain’ draws on the OED’s sense 4a, ‘To ease or mitigate (what is painful or oppressive); to render less grievous or burdensome’. There is no mention of elimination, and I don’t believe that pain relief or famine relief result in freedom from pain/famine, only a reduction in severity.

          I think ‘personal tastes’ might be putting it a little strongly, but the lists certainly reflect my personal judgment, right or wrong. I’m sure that I am guilty on occasion of inconsistency, sometimes accepting a bald Chambers definition (particularly with well-established indicators) while at other times actively seeking out clarification of a particular meaning. I have never intended that the lists should be exhaustive in terms of including every device that one might encounter in a published crossword; it did cross my mind at one time that I could include ‘obelised’ indicators, but I felt that would make the lists unnecessarily complicated. Therefore I have simply excluded indicators such as ‘touring’ and ‘during’ because I just don’t think they are sound. There are devices used in some puzzles (such as the ‘lift and separate’, eg ‘suntan’ = s-lash) that I would never use and would not include, even though the solvers of those particular puzzles are usually familiar with the device and happily accept it. I originally put the lists together for my own (decidedly amateur) use – I am delighted that others have found them useful and contributed considerably to their enhancement, but I realize that no two setters will ever fully agree on what is acceptable and what is not, let alone any two solvers.

  11. Monk says:

    Good evening Dr Clue — Was there a specific reason for excluding “quirky” from the anagrind list, despite the relatively recent addition of the v.i. “quirks”? It could reasonably be argued that (in everyday usage) “quirky” is synonymous to “eccentric” or “oddball”, both of which are included therein. Thanking you.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Monk, and thank you

      I do like the odd easy one. The only reason I can think of for the exclusion of ‘quirky’ is that its application was lost in the post! It’s one of those potential anagrinds that ‘feels’ absolutely right, and although Chambers doesn’t offer a definition, the entry in OED indicates a pedigree that few can match (1a: ‘full of quirks or shifts’, 1b: ‘eccentric’, 2: ‘full of twists, turns, or flourishes’). If further evidence were required, it occurs as an anagrind in a winning Azed competition clue. Welcome to the lists, ‘quirky’.

      • Monk says:

        Thank you sir! I’m currently looking at a tray containing a cuppa and some toast, and all I can now think of is a ‘quirky teaboard’ 😉 [PS latest date on indicators content page now requires amendment.]

  12. Monk says:

    Hello Dr Clue.

    In a recent Times puzzle, the wordplay “much fondness” was used to indicate LIKIN[G]. My immediate reaction was that it should have been “much of fondness”. However, I see that neither “much” nor “much of” are included at the CC as last-letter-reduction indicators; presumably this omission is a result of prior consideration. My query is: by the substitution test, could not “much of” be OK, perhaps if augmented by a {pronoun} or {definite article}? See e.g.:

    “He’s eaten much of {his/the} dinner/food/cheese” = almost all of the noun, mass or otherwise; ✔️
    “He’s eaten much food/cheese” = a great quantity of the noun considered as a complete entity; ❌
    “He spent much of {the/his} time” = almost all of the time-period in question; ✔️
    “He spent much time” = a great quantity of time considered as a complete entity. ❌

    That is, could not “much of {pron./art.}” be included?

    Interested to hear your and others’ thoughts on this. Thank you.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Monk, and thanks for a very interesting (and nicely exemplified) observation/question.

      First of all, I think it’s probably fair to say that the omission of ‘much’/’much of’ may in truth be the result of little or no consideration on my part!

      However, ‘much fondness’ wouldn’t be attached to my view of that particular construction. It seems to me that the adjective ‘much’ – similarly to ‘plentiful’, ‘considerable’ etc – doesn’t carry any sense of proportion of a whole, and is invariably applied to a generic noun, eg ‘much firewood’, ‘considerable entertainment’. I would disqualify such adjectives as reduction indicators on both counts.

      As you say, though, the noun form of ‘much’ is a very different matter – with the preposition ‘of’, it is applied to a specific noun and very clearly (as in your examples) indicates proportion. I think that it is therefore perfectly reasonable that solvers should interpret ‘much of lunch’ as ‘much of the lunch that I’m referring to’ (just as in the real world one would understand ‘he spent much of lunch talking about crosswords’ as referring to a specific lunch, and obviously a most enjoyable one). ‘A lot of’ is already in the list, and I believe that ‘much of’ ‘and ‘a great deal of’ should also be there. I’m open to further offers, though that is probably sufficient to establish the principle, which can be extended to a variety of adjective/noun/preposition combinations such as ‘a considerable proportion of’ and ‘a big hunk from’.

      • Monk says:

        Yes, that seems to be it: generic ❌ as opposed to specific ✔️ . Ta muchly, Dr Clue 😉

        • Monk says:

          Thank you for updating a couple of the data lists in the last few hours. Though the lists now very helpfully contain update information, might it help visitors to this wonderful site if you could also add the dates of their _latest_ versions on the main Clinical Date page at That way visitors could at a glance keep abreast of all the latest addenda on the single ‘contents’ page. Many thanks.

          • Doctor Clue says:

            A splendid idea! Consider it done.

            Update: it is done.

            • Monk says:

              Much of thanks! 😀

            • Monk says:

              Good day, Dr Clue.

              Having noted that the date-annotated links to the Data lists at are no longer in alphabetical order, I wonder if it might be an idea to make a virtue of this and to reorder the content page in order of list-modification date, with most recent first?

              Many thanks.

              • Doctor Clue says:

                Thanks, Monk.

                Excellent idea. I’ve changed the dates to YY/MM/DD format and sorted the rows in descending order. I’ve also added the option to sort in alphabetical order of list name. I could sort them alphabetically by default and allow the user to sort by date – which do you think would be preferable?

                • Monk says:

                  Thanks Dr Clue.

                  Perhaps newbies to the site would benefit from a default alphabetical ordering, as regular visitors would know the ropes well enough to change the order trivially. And probably only a handful of us would use the non-default setting to keep abreast of updates on a regular basis!

      • Andy says:

        Hi Doctor Clue and Monk,
        Perhaps as Chambers has ‘To a great extent’ as an adverbial meaning of much then it could be allowed without the of after, although I can not yet thing of a sentence in which it could be swapped?

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Hi Andy

          OED also has ‘to a great extent’, but none of the examples given suggests a meaning which could be described as partitive, rather than the sense which it carries in Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me to a Great Extent”. On reflection, I’m also doubtful about whether ‘to a great extent’ is quite the same as ‘to close to its full extent’ (similar to the ‘much’/’much of’ comparison).

          We’re down to very fine margins here, and there are undoubtedly indicators in the lists which are equally near to the borderline, but I feel that I need slightly stronger evidence to persuade me to add indicators than to remove existing ones. I’ve also looked through the Azed archive, and there are no clues in there which use ‘much’ as a reduction indicator, so I’m afraid that at this point I remain unmoved!

  13. Peter Bissett says:

    General query to all. I own a 12th. edition Chambers (quite elderly now) and a book token acquired at Christmas. As far as I can see on my Google ramblings, the 13th is still the most recent but there are rumours of a possibly imminent 14th. Does anyone have any news of such a tome.
    Thanks for any info.

    Peter Bissett

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Peter

      The latest version is indeed the 13th edition (2016) – note that the 2014 printing should be studiously avoided, since it omitted all the ‘star’ words from the 12th edition.

      When a new edition is published, the various editors adopt it at different speeds, but within 12 months at most I would expect it to be the new standard across the board for Azed, EV, Listener etc.

      I have no knowledge of an imminent 14th edition (paper or electronic), but others will probably be better informed than I. Can anyone tell us if a new edition is in the pipeline?

  14. Andrew Shields says:

    Just seen the following note on your Azed 2688 page:

    The closing date for competition entries has, I understand, been corrected – it is now Monday 8 January.

    Was this communicated anywhere else? I didn’t have time to enter due to the crazy original closing date published with the puzzle, and I doubt I was the only one.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Andrew

      I understand that the revised date was published in the Observer on the following Sunday (ie the day when the comp supposedly closed) – I subscribe to the electronic version so didn’t see the correction, although I had inferred from the original closing date being a Sunday and the results being published on ‘8 January 2023’ that it was probably a failed ‘copy and paste’ job.

      I suspect that you weren’t the only one who didn’t submit an entry, and I know that others dashed something off in order to catch the earliest possible post, only to find that the date had been extended and they could have taken a lot more time over their clues. Not good at all.

      • Andrew Shields says:

        As with the matter last year where the competition rubric was changed, with some very un-Azedlike wording and allowing entry by email, it seems there’s a communication breakdown somewhere along the line.

        My fear for some while has been that the Observer will eventually realise that a substantial amount of newspaper space, plus the budget for prizes, is servicing an audience in the very low hundreds and decide to pull the plug. The recent problems don’t suggest a smooth and harmonious relationship.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Too right about the communication/QA issues! I think you may be underestimating the total number of Azed solvers somewhat, although the proportion of them who purchase a paper copy of the newspaper is, I suspect, very low, likewise the proportion nowadays who enter the clue writing comps. The Guardian has promoted the idea that Azed is something of a national treasure, and there would be an almighty outcry were he to be ‘cancelled’. When he decides to hang up his Chambers, things could change, although as long as the Mephisto is running in the ST I can’t see the Guardian dropping its barred cryptic. When the Sunday Telegraph were planning to drop the Enigmatic Variations, I understand that they intended to replace it with a ‘straight’ barred cryptic.

          • Crossguesser says:

            The Independent on Sunday didn’t think the Beelzebub barred puzzle was worth persisting with. If I remember rightly, Paul Henderson was willing to continue it after the original setter passed away.
            In many ways, newspaper cryptics seem to be in a better state than they once were, especially with the sustained popularity of blogging sites and youtube videos, but falling subscriptions and changes of ownership (eg Telegraph now) make me wonder if puzzles will eventually be slashed to save money. The cryptics I see in regional papers seem to have been bought from companies that can automatically generate puzzles from a database of not very good clues. They are no substitute for the ones set by the brilliant individual setters we’re spoiled by now.

            • Doctor Clue says:

              I know very little about the Beelzebub series, but I gather from Paul Henderson’s blog that he took over from Richard Whitelegg in 1995 and set all the puzzles from 270 to 1358, with the demise of Beelzebub coinciding with the Independent ceasing to appear in paper form – as you say, it was not Paul’s decision to stop production. I share your fears – at the moment the crossword/puzzle editors for the ST/Guardian/Telegraph are ‘old school’, and I don’t see the threat coming from them, but should there be changes in personnel, ownership or direction then barred puzzle aficionados could find themselves left with very little beyond specialist outlets such as the Magpie, the Crossword Club and the Crossword Centre. And probably the Listener, which seems to have achieved ‘protected species’ status.

              • Crossguesser says:

                Apologies, I thought Mr Whitelegg had passed away more recently than that; I didn’t realise PH had set so many.
                My post reads rather gloomily in the cold light of day, so I’m going to resolve myself to enjoying what we’re lucky to have now. Long may it continue!

                • Doctor Clue says:

                  Hear, hear!

                  And the number of online channels now available means that there will always be an outlet for barred puzzles as long as there are people to set them.

            • Monk says:

              Dear Crossguesser (inspired nom de plume, BTW)

              Re your last sentence, today’s newsletter from Crossword Compiler flags the following V11.31 update: “New Feature: Generate Clues, an AI-powered generator for all unclued words (optionally multi-language; internet required, fixed quota) … The new clue generator can handle simple quick/American style clues in multiple languages, but uses a standard GPT (LLM) so quality may vary a bit randomly and there can be omissions. It cannot currently handle cryptic clues beyond simple play on words and (if you are lucky) homophones, nor clues in squares. The new help assistant is a general GPT that also knows the content of the latest help file and website.”

              Might this offer automation of, eg, the Telegraph’s Cross-Atlantic puzzle?!

  15. Monk says:

    Hello Dr Clue.
    Since you occasionally update your Clinical Data lists, might it be possible to add a “Last updated dd-mm-yyyy” comment to each list’s header, so that we may efficiently keep abreast of augmentations and/or corrigenda? Keep up the great work!
    Thank you.

  16. DeeKay says:

    In your juxtaposition indicators list you have “supported by” listed as “after” for a down clue. Should this not be “before” – ie, A supported by B should be A before/above B?

    Excellent lists


    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi DeeKay, and welcome to the site – glad you find it useful

      Thanks for that – well spotted! ‘Supporting’ and ‘supports’ were correctly shown as ‘after’ indicators, but as you say, ‘supported by’ is a ‘before’ indicator which had got labelled incorrectly. Now fixed.

  17. Monk says:

    Hello Dr Clue
    Would you be happy to add:
    [1] ‘gloves’ to the containment-indicator list, as per ‘trousers’ and ‘pockets’;
    [2] ‘models’ to the verb-indicative elements of the anagram-indicator list?
    Many thanks.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hello Monk

      Regarding ‘gloves’, I think the Chambers definition ‘to cover with, or as if with, a glove’ (my italics) is sufficient supporting evidence. OED suggests that in practice it is rarely used figuratively, but I don’t think that matters, and I’m always particularly keen to add an indicator that can masquerade as a different part of speech. Consider it done.

      On that topic, incidentally, I’ve been experimenting with adding a hidden but searchable column to each indicator list, holding the part of speech of the indicator and then an asterisk followed by an alternative part of speech for the surface reading, so ‘gloves’ would get a ‘V*N’; the idea is that one could then narrow a search down to, say, reversal-indicating adjectives which could also be nouns (eg ‘upright’) using the filter ‘A*N’ or all reversal indicators which could be nouns (eg ‘upright’, ‘backing’) by filtering just on ‘*N’. I’m going to set it up on one list to see if it’s helpful.

      I’m not so comfortable with ‘models’, for which the only intransitive Chambers definition is ‘practises modelling’. The Collins def doesn’t do it any favours, saying ‘If someone models for an artist, they stay still in a particular position so that the artist can make a picture or sculpture of them.’ I see that ‘modelled’ (=’shaped’) isn’t in the list, and I will add it, but I’d need a bit more convincing about models/modelling, much as I like the idea of ‘Massage naked models’ for KNEAD.

      • Monk says:

        Hi Dr Clue

        Thanks for the swift and informative reply — that’s glovely news — and, re last example, 🙂

        The part-of-speech column would be an excellent addition to your already wonderful resource. Coincidentally, I almost added to my earlier query a related issue of annotating verbs as ‘VT’ or ‘VI’, though I appreciate that in some cases the T or I form is contextual. In the ASCII lists that accompanied early versions of Ross Beresford’s ‘Tea and Sympathy’, verbs were distinguished thus.

        Before posting here, I’d earlier raised the ‘models’ issue in a clue-tweak discussion with esteemed Clue Meister Richard Heald, who kindly pointed out that: “The first 2 examples here show that Azed is OK with “models” as both transitive and intransitive verb:” All very interesting!

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Hi Monk

          Many thanks for the feedback. If I were starting again, I’d almost certainly do the anagram indicator list differently, though I’m not sure exactly how!

          When I started on the lists, I went through quite a lot of Azed slips looking for candidate indicators that I hadn’t considered. There were quite a few that I felt perhaps Azed had given the benefit of the doubt to that I wasn’t comfortable with. I’d be interested to know what Richard’s own view is about ‘models’ – initially I couldn’t make up my mind whether it suggests taking up a pose or holding one, but on reflection I think it is frequentative (‘he models for a living’, ‘she modelled for Picasso’), hence the ‘practise’ in the Chambers def, with ‘pose’ describing the action itself (C: ‘to assume or maintain a pose’).

          • Monk says:

            Hi Dr Clue

            FWIW, I — along with Serpent/Basilisk/Jack, with whom I happened to speak tonight — am persuaded by your earlier observation re the (expected) stasis of a ‘model’ as the subject of a modelling session.

            Our conversation also raised the query as to why ‘has/having’ is not in the containment list, as the first two definitions of ‘have’ in Chambers are ‘to hold’ and ‘to keep’, and ‘/holding’ and ‘keeps/keeping’ are indeed included therein. Thanks.

            • Doctor Clue says:

              I like the term ‘stasis’, and I think it’s a ‘no’ for ‘models’.

              When it comes to ‘has’/’having’, I suspect that when I originally put the lists together I was unduly influenced by personal preference. I’d always avoided them as containment indicators, essentially on the basis that the shared meaning of ‘have’, ‘hold’ and ‘keep’ relates to abstract possession, but it’s an approach that if taken consistently would rule out a whole bunch of other indicators. There’s an example in OED, ‘A lake, is that which continually hath water’, where containment is undeniable (even by me!). Today sees ‘has’ and ‘having’ being welcomed to the list.

              • RJHe says:

                Hi Dr C,

                Like you, I’m more convinced by ‘model’ as an anagrind when it’s used transitively rather than intransitively. When it comes to anagrinds I suspect Azed relies on his memory and instincts quite a lot instead of consulting the BRB. Two anagrinds that feature occasionally in his own clues are ‘flicks’ and ‘batting’, both used intransitively, but if he checked the Chambers definitions of both I think he’d stop immediately.

                • Doctor Clue says:

                  Hi RJHe

                  I’m sure you’re right about Azed. I must confess that I hadn’t myself checked ‘batting’ before I included it in a clue for a Listener puzzle a few years ago and was quite surprised when it was rejected – until I looked in Chambers! The OED gives intransitive meanings of both ‘bat’ and ‘flick’ which would potentially justify their use as anagrinds, but if they were to be allowed the floodgates would be opened for the likes of ‘bangles’, ‘wagtails’ and a great many more.

  18. Dr. Daniel Price (Saint Vincent): Excruciverbiage Cryptics says:

    Is there room in the world of cryptic clue-setting for “divergent definitions”, which would have a common root but multiple meanings that are different enough to permit use in double-definition (DD) clues? One might surmise that I am a champion of such constructions, given the paucity of words that truly have different origins to their differing meanings.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Dr Daniel

      I assume that we are talking about a clue like ‘Engaged detective’ for BUSY, where both definitions appear under the same headword in the dictionary. Is that correct?

      • Dr Daniel Price (Saint Vincent): Excruciverbiage Cryptics says:

        We are indeed. It also seems to be that this very subject has been discussed recently, if perhaps under a different name. Reduced cognitive capacity, c’est moi.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          The earlier discussion on this site related to counterintuitive definitions rather than what you term divergent definitions (which seems as good a name for them as any). I think it’s a subject worthy of consideration.

          There is a school of thought that in double definition clues the two definitions should be of words which are ‘completely different’ – this typically means that they relate to two separate dictionary headwords (eg stake=pole/stake=bet) or to one dictionary word and one proper noun (eg nice/Nice). This has the unusual (for crosswords) merit of being a very clear line, and it’s hard to argue with any definition pair which stays the right side of it. However, in a dictionary such as Chambers there are words which have been brought together under a single headword with questionable justification, and on top of that there are (as you say) ‘divergent’ meanings of various types, which may relate, say, to a gradual change in the sense of a word (eg devious) or the acquisition of informal/slang senses which bear little relation to the core meaning (eg clock).

          I don’t see a problem with the use of DDs in double definition clues as long as they are fair to the solver, which really means being unambiguous (a consideration which also applies to ‘multiple headword’ double definition clues, but is probably a greater risk with divergent definitions where one sense is informal). I wouldn’t have a problem with ‘Notice face’ for CLOCK, but I would be less happy about ‘Notice timepiece’, which is dangerously close to being valid for both CLOCK and WATCH. I would not accept ‘What baker makes money?’ for BREAD, as it is also a clue for DOUGH.

  19. Satyen Nabar (Dr. X ) says:

    Dear DrC
    Thanks for the wonderfully informative site. What do you think about ‘at’ as juxtaposition indicator?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hello Dr. X, and welcome to the site

      That’s a very good question. It is certainly a horrible word to indicate in a wordplay (it’s not surprising that some setters resort to that old chestnut, ‘bit of a kip’), a reflection of it being an odd sort of word. While Chambers gives many meanings for prepositions such as ‘on’ and ‘in’, the entry for ‘at’ is limited to ‘Denoting (precise) position in space or time, or some similar relation, such as amount, response, occupation, aim, activity’.

      And when you consider how the word is used in practice, you can see why that’s all Chambers is prepared to say. You can be ‘at the table’ but not ‘at the chair’. “He’s at the theatre” suggests that he’s inside, but “I’ll meet you back at the car” could mean either ‘near’ or ‘in’. There are certainly examples in English where ‘at’ might appear to mean ‘beside’, but where exactly is someone who is described as being ‘at the door’?

      As a juxtaposition indicator it isn’t a clear no-no, but I feel the ‘precise position’ thing from Chambers suggests being in the same place rather than nearby, and that is what would prevent me from using it in my own clues.

  20. Monk says:

    Dear DrC

    Though the C&C list on this (wonderful) site has ‘crowds’ as only a containment indicator, two definitions of crowd (vt) in Chambers are ‘to fill by pressing or driving together’ and ‘to compress’; would these not respectively imply both insertion and containment? Or should the former definition have ‘fill’ replaced by ‘make more dense’ — in which case the insertion interpretation vanishes? Thanks.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Monk, it’s a pleasure to welcome a distinguished setter to the site.

      Thank you for your kind comment and the observation/question. By coincidence, I was about to publish a post which inter alia encourages readers to submit suggestions for improvement to the lists, so it’s great to hear from someone doing just that!

      My ‘go-to’ resource on occasions when Chambers offers insufficient clarity is the OED, and its definition 7 for the transitive verb is:

      “To fill as a crowd does, to throng (a place). (The passive of result is to be crowded with; the passive of action to be crowded by.)”

      One example given is “The servile and insincere flatterers‥.who crowded the antechambers of the great Queen.”

      I think that’s a compelling justification for including ‘crowds/crowding’ as an insertion indicator and ‘crowded with’ as a containment indicator, which is what I will do! Many thanks for the suggestion.

      • Monk says:

        Thanks DrC. Only just discovered this reply, so I thought that my Q had gone into the ether. Might there be a way of emailing to an unpublished ‘post (noun)-validation’ address an automated alert to any reply; better still, with a URL back to the original Q? Thanks … and also for the updated lists, of which good use already being made 😉

        • Doctor Clue says:

          Hi Monk

          Excellent idea! I’m going to experiment with a couple of notification plug-ins, but at the very least I will send an email notification to all new commenters when their first posting is approved.

          While I was tidying up a large stack of papers (mainly crossword-related) yesterday, I came upon a couple of sheets on which I had jotted down several new candidate indicators, quite a few of which were not in the lists. I have added the remainder, and I will summarize them in a news post. Favourite: probably ‘mantle’ = ‘to cover’, as I can imagine something like “Touches warm gas mantles (6)”.

          • Monk says:

            Richard Heald, another poster here — also friend, esteemed crossword-tester/solver and cluesmith extraordinaire — and I have often discussed such a construction’s unseen/implicit ‘that’, termed by Richard as a ‘thut’, as in “Touches warm [that] gas mantles”. May we hereby coin this as the [nicely rhyming] term “crosswordese present-indicative wheeze” (CPIW)?

            It’s not such a pernickety point as in plain speech we’d be unlikely to say either “man jacket clothes” or “man that jacket clothes” but rather “jacket worn by man” or “man wearing jacket”. Probably explains why, as a solver, I’m very frequently caught off-guard (with ease!) by the CPIW.

            • Doctor Clue says:

              I must confess that the CPIW (as it shall henceforth be known) is something of a favourite of mine, being of devious mind. It can be used in phrases when the relative pronoun is naturally omitted in English, eg ‘room one occupies’ for RIM, where the surface reading does not need a relative pronoun, eg ‘take back skirts’ for TRAIL, or when the pronoun appears to be part of the wordplay, eg ‘what cream comprises’ (BEHEST). I also like the compound CPIW, eg ‘area cricket ground covers’ for ICE TRACK. I’m not sure that I’m much good at spotting them in other people’s clues, though!

              I can only echo your final description of RJH, although I have never quite forgiven him for (as Azed put it) ‘just pipping’ me in a certain Azed comp 😉

  21. Viresh Ratnakar says:

    Hi, I would like to provide a link to your excellent list in my crossword construction web app ( It would be great if I can get a URL that directly shows *all* the entries (something like instead of the first 100.


    • Viresh Ratnakar says:

      Ah, I had only looked at the anagrams list earlier, but I now see all the other excellent lists as well (containers, letter-picking, etc.). Same request for *all* of them, please—URLs that lead to full lists. Thanks!

  22. Richard says:

    Hello. Your lists of indicators are invaluable for compilers and solvers alike. May I suggest that you consider creating an additional list – this would be for letter replacement indicators? For example “stands in for”, “assumes the role of” etc.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Richard, and thank you for your comments.

      As it happens, I already have a list with around 30 entries which I set up a little while ago but haven’t yet published. It includes your first example but not the second, which I actually used myself in a recent puzzle, so I would have benefited from the list being available too.

      Once the list is published I hope that, as always, readers will contribute their own suggestions in order that I can make the list as comprehensive as possible. Watch this space!

      • Richard says:

        Excellent – looking forward to seeing it. As it happens, I used the second example I gave in a clue I devised yesterday, which is why I had it in mind.

        • Doctor Clue says:

          It is now available for perusal! All corrections and suggestions for improvement will be gratefully received.

  23. Daron Fincham says:

    Just finished AZED 200. Very enjoyable ! Hard to believe I was only 15 when this was published, a pupil at a “bog standard” comprehensive school and can honestly say, that of the 15 guests – apart from the team – I would only have been familiar with 2 of the names – and one of them we didn’t study (not a classical education!)

    On which note , is there a possible typo for 6D ? My Chambers doesn’t have tellet – is it teller ?

    Being a Patrick Leigh Fermor fan and lover of Crete, the best clue was definitely 7D !

    • Doctor Clue says:

      I recall tackling this one before I put it on the site (unlike Azed 1 it hadn’t been filled in by the book’s previous owner), and I thought it was very tricky indeed – certainly harder than quite a few Listener puzzles of recent times. I don’t think it would have been any easier back in 1976, since the ‘guests’ were not figures contemporary with the puzzle.

      I can’t blame the book for ‘tale-tellet’ – that was my transcription error, which I will fix when I remember how to upload the puzzles to the site!

  24. Daron Fincham says:

    I thought I’d have a go at AZED number 1. I found it hard going. 2D and 3D took a while to crack. I failed on 32D – I had wrap, I knew in my gut it was wrong. I only have 2014 Chambers which doesn’t have 38A ?? And I can’t parse 18A. Also, is there a misprint for 7D? I can make it work with a Scottish Slipper, but not clipper. Anyway it was fun. Best clue for me was 28D – very 1970s !

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Daron

      if this puzzle appeared next week, I would probably rate it as 5/5 for difficulty – the earlier puzzles were quite a bit trickier than the more recent ones, and I can’t remember anything like the 2d/3d combo in recent times.

      I think IZZET must have been omitted from Chambers some considerable time ago – OED gives it, along with ‘izzart’ and ‘uzzard’ as alternative spellings of ‘izzard’ (the only version which Chambers still gives).

      18A is tough, and I don’t think Azed would write a clue like that these days. ‘Gammer’ is an archaic/dialect term for an old woman, but it isn’t an agent noun (it’s probably a corruption of grandmother) and therefore the idea that gammers would have gammed is both whimsical and obscure.

      I’m certain you are right about 7D – I took the puzzle from ‘The Best of Azed Crosswords’, which has ‘clipper’, but it’s clearly an error. I’ll put that right – thanks for pointing it out.

      28D is both concise and deceptive, very neat.

  25. Matthew Hudson says:

    Ahead of your notes on Azed 2,615 could I query 16A? The answer is plain to see but nowhere in Chambers can I find this idiom, nor in the OED, nor in the text of Faerie Queene. Am I looking in the wrong place?

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Matthew

      The notes are now published – I’ve picked that clue out for comment in “Setters’ Corner” and I think that what I’ve written there should answer your question, but please come back if not.


  26. David Harry says:

    Best of luck with the site. It looks good and I’m hoping its clinical data section will enable me to put my 12th edition Chambers away for good.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Thanks, David – much appreciated. All contributions to the site will be very gratefully received, as will suggestions for content…I feel there’s more that could usefully be added to the Clinical Data section, but I’m not sure what it is…

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