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 1788 Plain (3 Sep 2006)

Watson solved this puzzle in a bit of a rush, and only came to appreciate its subtleties when re-reading it for the review. Here’s Azed at his aphoristic best in 31a, and boldly tackling HOJETALESLAM at 3d, rather than (as must have been tempting) leaving it to his clue-writing competitors.

Notes to the clues:


16..   Nancy’s alter ego found in a palm tree.  ANITA (an ita).  Not an obscure reference, but a pair of diminutive Annes.

17.    Infamous family headed wild party (or several). ORGIA ((B)orgia).  ‘Headed’ in the sense of ‘beheaded’ (which the Borgias probably also did a lot of). The bracketed part of the clue refers to the precise definition in Chambers.

18.    Hopelessly in love, contrived set-to between the sheets?  BESOTTED (anag. in bed).  A well chosen if rare use of an indirect indicator for the cryptic instruction ‘in bed’.

26.    Drink without politeness, or slight hint of politesse   SLURP (slur + p).  It takes a little thought to work out that ‘slight’ is separate from ‘hint’ in the cryptic reading.

30.    Swain? The old man maybe collars me.  ROMEO (me in roo).  ‘Old man’ being a term for a kangaroo.

31.    Is carping best confined to fools?  NITPICKS (pick in nits).  Simple but elegant, a trademark Azed clue.

34.    Physician challenging church authority uses art deftly.  ERASTUS (anag.).  The reference can be found in Chambers under Erastian.


3.      English moot halls oddly used as setting for Justice, one subordinate to ayatollah. HOJATELESLAM (J in anag.).  Azed makes the best of a tricky light, and ‘oddly’ comes to the rescue of the surface reading.

4.      If going uphill, watch the gear you’re in.  FIT-OUT (if, rev. + tout).  Watson is informed that this is the winning clue from a 1960s Ximenes competition.

18.    One of threesome privy to secret lay beneath plot.  BEDPOST (bed + post).  An elegant reference to the expression ‘between you, me and the bedpost’.

20.    Cushy bed? Luther’s cross.  PLUMCOT (plum cot).  Luther the botanist (see under plum) and Luther the ascetic reformer are neatly combined.

23.    Minim possibly essential to Perlogesi’s terzetti.  SISTER (hidden).  Watson can’t vouch for the authenticity of musical reference, but a minim can be a nun.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. PUSH-OFF (’s Ho. in puff);  6. PEDRO (p + E + R in do);  12. ORIENTEER (anag. + e’er);  13. NINJITSU (in J it in anag.);  14. GOWAN (go wan);  15. OCREATE (o + create);  21. UNSCALES (anag.);  24. DEVEL (devel(op));  29. PRESETS (ET in press);  32. SOLAR CELLS (el in anag.);  33. TREMA (hidden).  Down: 1. PONGA (n.g. in poa);  2. SUNWISE (s + unwise);  4. SUBSOLAR (sola in anag.);  5. FESCUE (S in Fe cue);  7. ETHEREAL OILS;  8. DEBAG (anag.);  9. RESTIVE (re stive);  10. ORLEANS (an in orles);  11. LION (I in Lon(don));  19. EVERTOR (ever + rot, rev.);  22. NOTICE (t in no ice);  25. VEALE (veal + E);  27. REKE (‘wreak’);  30. POSES (e in poss).