For the benefit of solvers new to the rigours of the Advanced Cryptic, Dr Watson provides a monthly review of the Observer’s Azed competition puzzle. Dr Watson is a regular Azed competitor. Please post any comments on this review to the Crossword Centre’s message board.

Azed No 1771 Plain (7 May 2006)

Nothing to worry experienced solvers in this straightforward Plain, and newer solvers would have had a very fair chance of completing it.

Notes to the clues:


1.      Bomb in pub jams e.g. cleavers.  BEGGAR’S TICKS (egg in bar + sticks).  The surface could perhaps have been more tastefully worded given the alternatives available for ‘egg’. Cleavers is another name for goose grass.

12.    Fail before end of Lent? It may!  DIET (die + (Len)t, & lit.).  An entertaining ‘& lit.’ for an oft-clued word.

13.    Grainy Scots porridge of rye, centrepiece of lunch.  CURNEY (anag. of rye (l)unc(h)).  Dr Watson couldn’t find much objective support for ‘porridge’ as an anagram indicator (i.e. as a general mixture of things) in Chambers, though it feels ok  ‘Centrepiece’ is also a little loose as an indicator for the middle three letters of ‘lunch’, but it doesn’t stand in the way of solving the clue.

19.    Old bears caught escaping from trapdoor?  HATH (hat(c)h).  A very clever definition that caught out Dr Watson

26.    Plate of worms making me truly heave.  ELYTRUM (anag.).  A revolting image, but used to excellent effect..

32.    Extract from article (Guardian). It may irritate Galloway.  CLEG (hidden).  The first of two political references. Here you have to think of the small breed of horse rather than the strange hybrid of firebrand politician and reality TV contestant.


1.      Major failure of computer language limited by section of team.  BACK TO BASICS (to BASIC in backs)   The definition, referring to the policy drive that helped undo John Major’s government, is more judgmental than that given in Chambers under basic, but is spot on.

7.      Warden striking con – a ‘wicked’ thing. CIERGE ((con)cierge).  Yes, the old puns are the best (apparently).

11.    Last of old tribute king’s gathered in.  DURE (R in due).  Azed disguises the definition as wordplay in a nicely misleading clue..

17.    With it having flown away, tef lay in ruins?  WHEAT FLY (w(it)h + anag. & lit.).  An neat piece of wordplay and a conveniently-lettered cereal combine for an effective ‘& lit’.

18.    Soprano given last word in opera Richard Strauss initially gets out with difficulty.  STUTTERS (S + (Cosi Fan) Tutte + RS).  Less elegant wordplay than the clue above. Here the good idea (Tutte = last word in opera) seems to have been rather forced into the packing material.

29.    This eminence i/c war’s devastated SW America.  MESA (comp. anag.).  Watson wonders if Azed started with an ‘& lit.’ idea, as mesas are a feature of the American Southwest, but settled for the plain compound anagram when the extra letters proved intractable.


Other solutions:

Across: 10. AREA CODE (eac(h) in a rode);  14. SPEIR (sp + E + Ir);  15. PARTERRE;  16. TWEEDLE (twee + anag.);  21. MOTETT (ET in mott(o));  22. BEWRAY (anag. in by);  25. NUTS (2 meanings);  28. STEGODON (no do gets, all rev.);  30. IFTAR (if tar);  31. WIENER (I in renew, rev.);  32. TANTRIST (anag.);  34. SYNTHESIS GAS (anag.).  Down: 2. ERUV (hidden);  3. GERLE (comp. anag.);  4. GANNETRY (ne(sting) in gantry);  5. ROYALS (roy + als);  6. TESTOON (anag.);  8. KEIRETSU (Eire in anag.);  9. STREET SMARTS (anag. in starts);  20. HAP’ORTH (a port in HH);  23. WEETEN (wee ten);  24. CLOWNS (lown in CS);  26. EDDA (E + add, rev.);  27. RENIG (anag.).