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 1836 Plain (5 Aug 2007)

Mostly straightforward clues and only a few references make August’s puzzle just about manageable as beach material, though a few solvers may still be shaking the sand out of their dictionaries as this review is published.

Notes to the clues:


11.    Like Big Brother celebs left entombed?  C-LIST (l in cist).  The definition is spot-on, but the clue is the trickiest of the puzzle with its indirect insertion indicator (a cist being a type of tomb), and its solution located at the entry for C in Chambers. ‘See C in C.’, as the explanation might say.

13.    Fine key opening ebony box.  LOGE (log + E).  Another unconventional clue. ‘Fine’ gives ‘log’ and ‘box’ provides the definition, leaving ‘key opening ebony’ to stand for ‘E’, a sort of double indicator, although Azed would say ‘key’ on its own would not have been precise enough (and ‘Fine English box’ would have been the fourth use of that abbreviation in the puzzle).

15.    It’s eaten with soup course – hang around.  SIPPET (PPE in sit)  Chambers gives enough information to make clear the link between ‘PPE’ and ‘course’. Oxford graduates and undergraduates should have got it straight away.

22.    Old thief showing what he (Tom) stole, run in. PRIG (r in pig).  The reference to the rhyme ‘Tom Tom the Piper’s Son’ somehow lacks Azed’s usual deft touch.


1.      Hour’s comedy on radio, old and new – a killer.  HITMAN (h ITMA n).  Only the longest serving Azed and Ximenes solvers may directly recall the BBC radio comedy ITMA (‘It’s That Man Again’), which finished its run in 1949, though its legendary status saves it from being too obscure.

6.      Religious system that aims to convert.  TAOISM (anag.).  A lovely clue perhaps more Zen-like than Tao-like in its succinctness.

21.    It involves many folds – I go crazy with ram straying, independent.  ORIGAMI (anag. + I).  The two anagram indicators make the cryptic reading a bit unwieldy, especially as the ‘ram’ doesn’t really stray in any of the senses indicated by Chambers.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. POSTHASTE;  10. POINT AFTER (a ft in pointer);  14. KISS-ME (anag. in (po)ke);  17. DISHOME (I sh! in dome);  18. TOKENISM (ok in anag.);  20 AVON (av(i)on);  23. SALTIERS (tier anag. + m); 25. INJELLY (J in I nelly);  29. SOOGIE (so for b in bogie); 30. ERYNGO (r(ocker)y in anag.); 31. TORT (r in tot);  32. ALBAN (hidden);  33. ONE-WORLDER (0 + L in new order);  34. I NEVER DID (E Verdi in anag.).  Down: 1. POCKET-PISTOL (pocket + anag.);  2. OBLIGOR (lig in 0 bor);  3. TOSSY (S,S in toy);  5. STASI (is at S, all rev.);  7. STOPOVER (P o’ in stover);  8. BEGEM (beg ’em);  9. PRETENSIONED (anag.);  12. MEDIA (idem, rev., + A);  16. SKIJORER (anag.);  19. SLYER ((Hen)ley anag. in SR);  23. SLIP-ON (lip in nos., rev.);  24. TIRADE (r in anag.);  26. NO-ONE (noon + E);  27. LEARE (Lear + E);  28. TYLER ((s)tyle + r).