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50 Responses

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 😉

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.


  14. 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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