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 1775 Plain (4 Jun 2006)

Azed is the master of deception, as this puzzle demonstrates. There are some prime examples amongst the clues of misleading contexts and definitions that tinker with the different parts of speech, as well as some deliberate exploiting of the conventions of wordplay.

Notes to the clues:


1.      Woman’s body is holding baby after start of conception.  CHASSIS (c + has + sis).  The trick here is the disguising of the charade as a container-and-contents by choosing ‘is holding’ as a synonym for ‘has’. It’s a nice choice of definition, too (joc. slang as Chambers puts it).

6.      Reservoir which (following such, say) yields Japanese verse. TANKAS (tank as).  Again the device is disguised. The words in brackets appear to be indicating something that part of the solution must follow, but in fact are making the indication of ‘as’ more precise (i.e. ‘as’ means ‘which’ when it follows ‘such’). Watson suspects it’s an attempt to mislead rather than clarify.

14.    A picaresque sea creature, large, aboard ferry, sir dismembered.  ROMAN À TIROIRS (manati in ro-ro + anag.).  The image is so vibrant that Watson missed the rather egregious definition initially. ‘Dismembered’ seems an exaggeration of what’s happened to ‘sir’ at the end, though the word is quite ok as an anagram indicator.

21.    Rod, perhaps, in centre of fishing vessel  HULL (2 meanings).  Yes, it’s the ‘perhaps’ you need to beware of. Azed betrays his vintage – and that of his solvers? – with a reference to the 1970s comic Rod Hull of Emu fame. The hull couldn’t be the centre of a fishing vessel, but Hull could be a centre for fishing vessels.

28.    Musical afternoon – Nine deployed.  ANNIE (a + anag.).  Not too difficult if winsome singing orphans are your thing, though Dr Watson recalls a review with the title "Annie? Get your gun."

29.    Some horses, we hear, on which hands are revealed?  BAIZE (‘bays’).  Let’s just say Bridge players should get it.

30.    Computer girl engaged in writing for ladies.  MADAMS (Ada in MMS).  Watson got the reference to Ada Lovelace (see ADA in Chambers), but couldn’t find MMS or a viable alternative solution. Did Azed somehow intend Adam in MS?


2.      Yobbo hostilities only applied to member of cabinet. HOON (2 defs., HO + on).  Given Geoff Hoon’s role as Defence Secretary in the Iraq war, Azed could possibly have made more of the acronym HO. For those who don’t keep up with Cabinet reshuffles, he’s now Minister for Europe.

3.      Gibbon, a fellow included in short Roman title.  SIAMANG (a man in Sig.).  Dr Watson hasn’t seen a Gibbon clue for ages: he used to be a bit of a favourite with Times setters a few decades ago, either to indicate ‘ape’, or in a recondite reference to Roman history.

9.      Judgement required in leaving ground, heading skyward?  ARRET (terra(in), rev.).  It’s fairly clear that ‘terra(in)’ and not ‘terra’ is the intended reversal.

18.    What’ll protect the head in Uganda bloke’s put on.  CHAPEAU (chap + EAU).  If you were wondering where the EA came from, you may need to know that U is Uruguay.

20.    Blossom covering border – a riot.  MAYHEM (may hem).  A perfectly executed charade, and Dr Watson’s favourite clue of the puzzle.

23.    Couple starting battle, Hastings perhaps.  BANDA (B and A).  This might have been Watson’s favourite but for the feeling of smugness induced by solving it. It’s clever in both the literal deconstruction of the wordplay, and the misleading reference to Hastings Banda – the former president of Malawi remembered for his accessorising with a fly-whisk as much as for his repression of dissent.

25.    Blank panels? How dictionary labels them is about right!  ORBS (r in obs)  Chambers is definitely recommended for this clue, in which the given definition of orb2 is an (obs) one.

Other solutions:

Across: 11. HOMIE (O mi in he);  13. FLARE (L in fare);  16. CALICLES (anag, in sec, rev.);  17. SQUAMAE (qua in anag.);  19. TORN (hidden);  20. MOKOS (0 in anag. less s);  23. BALANCE (BA lance);  24. GOODYEAR (goo + a in dyer);  27. ROUGH-AND-READY;  31. ASSURED (anag.).  Down: 1. CHRISTOGRAM (Ch + anag.);  4. SENE (Sene(gal));  5. SETAE (e in eats, rev.);  6. TAILBOARDS (anag.);  7. AFRITS (frit in as);  8. KAIL-RUNT (ail in anag.);  10. SESSILE-EYED (anag. in seed);  12. CACAO BEANS (anag.);  15. SURROUND (anag. in sound);  22. DOONA (do on a);  26. ADZE (d in ’aze).