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 sets his stiffest and most rewarding challenge for a long time. Dr Watson found this harder than the ‘April Fool’ puzzle earlier in the year, although here at least there are no deliberate traps, apart from a tripping hazard at 30 across. The preamble needs to be read with care, and then re-read, as there appears to have been a printing error in the reference to ‘untreated answers as they appear in the diagram’. In fact all solutions have to be treated before entry – the acrosses with a letter missing wherever it occurs (a standard Letters Latent), and the downs with a single letter inserted or appended at some point. All clues lead in their definition to the untreated form of the solution and in their wordplay to the treated form. This might have caused difficulties for less experienced solvers, and even long-serving ones would have to look back to 1986 to find another example of the ‘Give and Take’ formula (no 718). There are two further small points. First, the footnote refers to ‘three proper names clued’: strictly correct, but there are four, including 1 across, in the grid. And second the preamble mentions the quotation as omitting six words, when (according to both ODQ and the source) it omits five.
There’s certainly enough information to get started, however, and once the working of the clues is determined the puzzle is a joy to solve, with inspired cluing, the wow-factor of some of the letters latent solutions, and above all the slowly unfolding quotation and theme.
There can’t be many thirteen-letter protagonists referenced in ODQ, so some solvers may have guessed very quickly who it was, and most should have got it with only a few letters entered at the east end of 1 across. To relieve the suspense, it’s Winnie-the-Pooh (with I’s latent), and the quotation comes from the episode where Pooh asks Owl to write a birthday greeting to Eeyore because his spelling is Wobbly. ‘It’s good spelling but it Wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places’. In the puzzle this is reduced to the highly appropriate ‘It’s good … but … letters get in the wrong places’.
In the notes below the omitted letters in across solutions and added letters in down solutions are in brackets.
Notes to the clues:
15. Glorious location, ultimate for camping abroad: New England. G(OO)DW(OO)D (last letters). A very impressive excising of half of the word's letters. ‘Glorious Goodwood’ is the popular name for the famous horse-racing event. ‘Ultimate for’ as an indicator of all four last letters is a little loose.
16. Experienced sailor to get soaked in waterway? The opposite. SEA (D)OG (ea in sog). Afrit’s advice to setters to ‘always mean what you say’ is here logically extended to ‘mean the opposite of what you say the opposite of’, in other words the opposite of ‘sog’ in ‘ea’.
23. US criminal tucked into gourd, a sort of W. Indian dish. PEPPER PO(T) (perp in pepo). It’s remarkable to see a word with such letters latent potential appearing in the grid in this way. Only one of the four P’s is an additional letter in a down clue.
25. Parisian streets housing local art following no code? RU(L)E(L)ESS (es in rues). The contents in the wordplay comes from ‘tu es’, the French translation of ‘thou art’.
30. Chatterbox runs after e.g. porter. (T)A(TT)LER (ale + r). One of the easier clues in the puzzle, but this may have been a deliberate trap for solvers using Bradfords, where ‘babbler’ is one of the first entries under Chatter(box). If the solver assumes (B)A(BB)LER, then the quotation takes that bit longer to find.
31. One named for Ste. Jeanne maybe, hot, in the groove. CHAN(T)AL (h in canal). This is the one proper name as indicated in the footnote that is found in Chambers, in the Some first names appendix, where its derivation is given.
32. Acting at a distance, call rig breaking up after start of typhoon. T(E)L(E)RGICAL (t + anag.). And here’s the formation with a standard suffix, the entry in Chambers being telergic.
33. ‘Skilled pilot’ encapsulates one flying officer in this? AI(R)FO(R)CE (I FO in ace, & lit.). Azed has mentioned several times in the Slip that he regards ‘& lit.’ treatments perfectly legitimate in letters latent clues, and here demonstrates it with some style. Dr Watson would question the lower case ‘flying officer’, which Chambers doesn’t support, but an excellent clue, nevertheless.
20. SA actress, her success is set in Tennessee. THER(G)ON (her go in TN). Dr Watson didn’t immediately associate Charlize Theron with South Africa having only come across her in Hollywood roles, but Azed has clearly done his homework.
24. What can produce semitones? Piano, always upright, can if bashed out. PY(A)CNA (p + ay, rev., + anag.). Here’s the ‘classical plural form’, of the Chambers entry pycnon. Azed goes out of his way in a longish clue to make the wordplay transparent, but for some reason disguises, or at least ambiguates, the plural in the definition.
Across: 1. W(I)NN(I)E-THE-POOH; 11. S(T)EA(T)I(T)E (sea i.e.); 12. THRI(SS)EL (E in thrill(l)); 13. (G)UNSLIN(G)ER (line in anag.); 14. BI(O)T(O)PES (p in bites); 17 AMIA(B)LE (I in a male); 19. O(U)TP(U)TTING (pt. tin in anag.); 28. (E)SSAY(E)R (say in Sr); 34. GRO(SS)NE(SS) (2 meanings); 35. A(G)ENTS-(G)ENERAL (nest, rev., + era all in anag.). Down: 2. NEPI(E)T (pie in net); 3. NAG(T)APIE (t in naga + pie); 4. E(I)XPO (e + i’ + anag.); 5. HI(N)STIE (hins tie); 6. E(T)SDA (hidden rev.); 7. P(H)LUM (ph(y)lum); 8. ORIGIN(E) (I gin in ore); 9. HEE(W)LS (l wee in sh!, all rev.); 10. OL(R)DE-WORLDE (lord, half rev., + anag.); 11. SUBS(O)TRATAL (sot rat in LA bus, rev.); 18. AERA(N)TOR (a + ran to in ER); 21. N(P)OCAKE (cop, rev., in nake(d)); 22. DUL(L)IA (dull + A1, rev.); 26. SPI(C)T (s Pict); 27. SAC(E)S (ace in SS); 28. (S)AYRE (say re).