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.
‘Wrong Number’ is one of Azed’s harder specials, though the premise isn’t difficult to grasp, and the result is always satisfying to solve. Clues are located at a different number from their solutions in the grid, though at a light of the same length. Each clue contains a one-word definition of the solution that should appears at that location. The locating definitions are part of the clue and not superfluous to it. What’s more difficult until you get used to it is the nature of clue-writing competition. The asterisked clue (20d) contains a definition, not of the word to be clued, but of the solution, clued elsewhere, to be entered there. The word to be clued must be deduced as the only solution that does not have a full clue.
Azed copes admirably with the constraints of the clue format, ingeniously working in the locating definitions. The clues on average are a little easier than those in a plain puzzle, though understandably they can be convoluted, and there are several bits of deviousness and obfuscation along the way.
In the explanations below the clues are listed as they appear in the puzzle. The notes in brackets indicate where their solutions go in the grid, and the one-word definition that appears in the clue at that location.
Notes to the clues:
2. Bonus from e.g. Alan, excited about what clicker makes up? LAGNAPPE (pp in anag.; 30a, tip). The necessity of providing a locating definition for CASTANET begets an inventive clue, though one better in the cryptic than the surface reading. ‘E.g. Alan’ looks like an indicator for proper name, but is in fact anagram material. A clicker (see click in Chambers) is a printshop worker who makes up pages, hence ‘pp’.
11. Glaswegian revolt is short bludgeon to bind furniture company. SCOMFISH (’s + MFI in cosh; 3d, muffle). A lovely word to discover, even if again the clue makes little sense on the surface. Solvers outside the UK may be unfamiliar with MFI, makers of cheap flat-pack furniture. There’s a joke that dates back to Cecil Parkinson and possibly to Profumo: Q. Why is the government like MFI furniture? A. One loose screw and the Cabinet collapses.
16. Spiders leaving nasty smell, sponge the crap vigorously. ETHERCAPS (anag. inc. s(pong)e; 14d, patches). An entertaining way to work in the definition of LITHISTID.
18. 40 bundles? Och aye, 1,000 board flight without an excess. KEMPLE (K + empl(an)e; 13a, hay) Dr Watson puzzled for a while over how ‘M in keple’ could possibly work here. ‘Excess’, the locating definition for SPILTH, comes close to being excess to the clue’s cryptic requirements.
26. On the job holds middle of dildo joustingly! ATILT (l in at it; 24d, leaning). Such vivid prose could set Azed up for a lucrative sideline in top-shelf novels. Watson Jr. (10) took a look at the clues and said “That’s rude!”. “What’s that?” asked Dr Watson, starting to fold the paper. “There. It says ‘crap’!”
31. Character at start of trunk road, say, one that’s huge. MEGA (M e.g. a; 27d, extremely). It’s often difficult to solve clues in which ‘say’ indicates something other than a definition by example. M is the prefix for motorway names.
33. Item that exercises amateur London orchestra. ALSO (A LSO; 1a, and). The definitions in both this and the locating clue are hard to spot.
6. Gypsy in love once has to acknowledge reverse. ROMANI (in amor, all rev.; 22d, vagrant). Azed uses the locating definition to advantage in an excellent surface.
8. Rips hid it? That’s this periodical scrapped, stuff for the fire. COALITE (comp. anag.; 4d, fuel). The structure of the clue is (intentionally?) misleading, with the italicised ‘this’ looking like it stands for the definition rather than being part of the anagram material. In fact ‘it’ represents the solution, and the definition is separate.
9. Little Mary, tense when harnessed to her mother (not the first). TUMMY (t + (m)ummy; 26a, middle). For elucidation, see little Mary under little in Chambers. Apparently J.M. Barrie’s play of this name caused consternation in Edwardian society for its bold reference to body parts – though it was presumably without the jousting dildo that locates the solution here.
20. Stripped. AMAKOSI (1d, leaders). As the preamble needs to make very clear, ‘stripped’ is not the definition of the word to be clued, but the locating definition of DENUDED, a synonym of which must be included in the submitted clue.
Across: 1. BOLE (‘bowl’; 31a, trunk); 10. USES (hidden; 33a, exercises); 12. ABANDONED (a band 0 + den, rev.; 29a, left); 13. DUGITE (anag. inc. g(n)u; 28a, snake); 15. LODEN (l + anag.; 2d, coat); 23. AGNISE (anag. less one s; 6d, acknowledge); 24. ADORATION (a t in anag.; 12a, love); 28. REDONE (red on e; 23a, repeated); 29. SLITHERED (l in sithe + red; 5d, slipped); 30. TROMINOS (t + anag.; 17d, shapes); 32. CASTANET (cast + a net; 2a, clicker). Down: 1. ETESIAN (initial letters; 8d, periodical); 2. BIRSE (r in bise; 15a, pile); 3. TRAIPSED (’ips in anag.; 32a, trailed); 4. DENUDED (de in anag.; 20d, stripped); 5. LITHISTID (this ti in lid; 16a, sponge); 7. MOCK (initial letters; 10a, sham); 14. ABHORRENT (anag.; 24a, revolting); 17. OBLIGATE (anag. + E; 11a, bind); 19. SECEDES (CE in sedes; 21d, leaves); 21. PABULAR (anag. + lar(der); 19d, feeding); 22. SPILTH (Lt. in anag.; 18a, excess); 24. STELE (hidden; 25d, tablet); 25. TEMED (t E med.; 9d, harnessed); 27. NAIR (n + air; 7d, Keralans).