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 1814 Plain (4 Mar 2007)

The references in this puzzle span an impressive range from Crécy to the Cold War (as imagined by Ian Fleming), touching Milton, Marie Antoinette, Churchill and Alfred Hitchcock on the way. One couldn’t possibly come away from it not feeling mentally exercised.

Notes to the clues:


10.    Clad in winter finery its author couldn’t see? Dye replica reproduced.  ICY-PEARLED (anag.).  A reference to Milton’s blindness. The word is found in the (to Watson’s mind slightly overwrought) poem On A Death Of A Fair Infant Dying Of A Cough.

14.    Marie Rose may envelop such a rogue with iodine.  SCAMPI (scamp I).  Dr Watson, never having come across ‘Scampi Marie Rose’ on a menu, obviously needs to get out more.

16.    Mister C’s inexactitude?  CRETISM (anag. & lit.).  A very neat & lit. referring to a quotation from Winston Churchill, that euphemises a lie into a ‘terminological inexactitude’, as a comment on the conventions of Parliamentary language. However it’s not a clue Azed can take direct credit for, being G. Perry’s winner from an Azed competition of 1984.

21.    Tiny sheep plunged into water. PEEWEE (ewe in pee).  Dr Watson notes, having had the Tippex out, that the clue also leads to WEE-WEE (ewe in wee), if ‘water’ is taken as the definition.

32.    Poetical, or the opposite.  INVERSE (in verse).  A clue that shouts ‘& lit.’, but isn’t.


1.      Wild flower: scout’s equivalent gathers 50, cut roughly.  GILTCUP (L + anag. in gip).  The problem here is tracking down the link between ‘gip’ and ‘scout’. They are both university hall-servants (presumably they still exist), one at Cambridge, the other Oxford.

4.      What you’d find terminally significant at Crécy? The bow – such a one?  YEW (last letters).  A long route to a short solution. Crécy (1346) was another victory for English longbowmen.

8.      Shell plates (pair).  EPIPLASTRA (anag. & lit.).  A trebly satisfying clue: an & lit.; a precise definition; and a rare victory over a recalcitrant scientific term.

15.    Unnoticed but crucial character acting without money deposited in small plate.  MACGUFFIN (ac(tin)g in muffin).  Dr Watson vaguely associated this term with Alfred Hitchcock, whom Chambers confirms as its originator. Having grown up with this sort of film, it’s a bit disappointing to realise that all those microdots were just a plot device…

20.    Arsenic compound one of James B’s enemies combined with erbium.  ROSAKER (Rosa K + Er).  …Talking of which, there’s a conveniently-sized encryption device at the centre of ‘From Russia With Love’, where James Bond and Rosa Klebb memorably slug it out.

22.    Queen with what another recommended throwing to the French worker!  ERGATE (ER + gâte(au)).  Now Watson can’t escape the mental image of Marie Antoinette tossing cream cake from the windows of Versailles.

25.    Church accepts fabric of one kind or another.  CREPE (rep in CE).  A semi-& lit. clue, with ‘another [fabric]’ as the definition.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. GAMAY (a in gamy);  5. HIPSTER;  12. TWICE-LAID (WI + anag. in tid);  13. TROOP (r in too p);  17. ALA (hidden);  19. TROCAR (r in to car);  24 ERM (hidden);  26. ARNAUTS (Ar. + a in nuts);  27. NEARLY (n + anag.);  28. INFRA (infra(grant));  29. OBJET D’ART (ob. jet dart);  31. APOSTOLISE (anag. in  a pose);  33. TENOR (E in anag.).  Down: 2. MYXOEDEMA (m + anag.);  3. APTOTE (tot in ape);  5. HAIRST (anag. + t & lit.);  6. PLECTRE (p + lect(u)re);  7. SELAH (s + hale, rev.);  9. REDIA (redia(l));  11. ARRIÈRE-BAN (’arrier + anag.);  18. REALTOR (real tor);  23. CANTLE (an in anag.);  24. ENOKI (comp. anag., & lit.);  30. ROT (2 meanings (German for red)).