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 1849 Plain (4 Nov 2007)

Few sticking points for solvers this month, and a good introduction to Azed’s style that might tempt some new competitors to have a go. Linking words have been under discussion in the Azed Slip recently, so Dr Watson has highlighted three examples below to show Azed’s preferred use of ‘for’, ‘from’ and ‘as’ as links. Elsewhere there are a couple of echoes of earlier puzzles, including what looks like a justified dip into Azed’s own back catalogue.

Notes to the clues:


17. English in translation of Racine: important matter for Belgian sleuth. CINEREA (E in anag.). There’s only one Belgian sleuth, isn’t there? Hercule Poirot made frequent reference to ‘those little grey cells’ as his preferred tool for case-busting. ‘Cinerea’ is the scientific term for the brain’s grey matter.

22. Gentle snore? It would have been terminal for Bottom. THRUM (2 meanings). A nice double entendre on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Bottom the Weaver is transformed. A thrum is also the end of a weaver’s thread.

27. Whereon beard once grew – swarmed almost. SHINNE (shinne(d)) An obsolete spelling of ‘chin’.

29. Embroidery contains name for organ familiar to doctors. LANCET (n in lacet). The Lancet is the professional newspaper (organ) of doctors. Here’s an example of Azed’s preferred use of ‘for’ as a joining word – after the wordplay and before the definition, indicating that the former is ‘standing for’ the latter.

30. Type of song from heart of fairylands, incorporating elaborate lyric. YODEL (ode in (fair)yl(and)). And here’s an example of ‘from’ as a joiner – after the definition and before the wordplay, indicating that the former is ‘derived from’ the latter.

31. At least 500 herrings, payment to new king, we hear. MEASE (‘mise’). Clearly a homophone, but ‘mise’ with its French pronunciation isn’t an obvious spelling and might take a bit of finding in the dictionary, What the king would do with at least 500 herrings is left to the imagination.


3. Moths ruining raiment daily. LYMANTRIIDAE (anag.). A lovely concise and appropriate anagram that would be hard to better… So much so that Azed has left it unchanged from a previous appearance in puzzle no. 1511 in 2001.

4. Gaff bass and dab. BONER (B + oner). There are many fish to choose from of course, but it’s a pleasure to see three consecutive puns like this.

8. Cheers as Sun King’s entered. SKOL (K in Sol). Another linking word, ‘as’, that goes after the definition and before the wordplay, indicating that the solution is ‘as given by the wordplay’.

9. Skin condition presented by eta, literally. TINEA (i.e. eta = t in e,a). What Dr Watson calls a ‘reverse cryptic’ clue, in that the solution can be read in its own right as wordplay, of which the clue shows the result. This is of course a variant of ‘Gegs’ for ‘scrambled eggs’, a clue Azed is highly critical of, so it’s very carefully handled here, possibly to the detriment of the surface reading.

11. Bacon and mushroom served up, centrepiece of breakfast. SPECK (ceps, rev. + k). A perfectly formed clue that’s still making Dr Watson feel hungry – and a suitable riposte to ‘Gegs’, come to think of it.

21. Blind cave-dweller in posture suitable to his name? PROTEUS (anag.). Proteus is both a cave-dwelling amphibian and the name of a sea-god able to change his shape at will, so ‘posture’ is ‘suitable to his name’ because it shifts the shape of it. Several competitors spotted this opportunity when Azed offered POSTURE-MAKER as the competition word in puzzle no. 508, and scored VHCs with ‘Proteus?’ as the clue (another ‘reverse cryptic’).

25. Spy deployed opposite prompt propaganda campaign? PSYOP (anag. + o.p.). The theatrical abbreviation o.p. is an uncommon one. Dr Watson couldn’t remember seeing ‘psyop’ used in the singular form before, but Chambers lists it.

28. Hooker on top of his (?) game called up for occasion HOUR (ho + RU, rev.). The (?) is required because Rugby Union hookers and hos are pretty unlikely to be found in the same changing-room (legitimately anyway). Solvers who aren’t down with their massive in the ’hood, and worse still aren’t in possession of Chambers 2006 edition, might have missed this bit of recent – though by now fairly mainstream – slang. ‘Ho’ is, sadly, yet another proprietorial and derogatory term for a woman, derived from ‘whore’.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. PHLEBOTOMIST (anag. + B.O. + mist); 10. ROSULA (hidden rev.); 12. TOMAN (i.e. ‘man’s inhumanity to man’); 15. ELTON (L in Eton; Elton John); 15. ALLELE (l in allée); 18 OSTRAKA (tr. in Osaka; see ostrakon); 19. HANAP (h + a + nap); 23. AMATEUR (ate U in anag.); 25. PRIMINE (rim in pine); 32. SHEKEL (H in anag., tin = money); 33. PRESIDENTESS (is, rev. + dente(d) all in press). Down: 1. POT-SHOT (pots hot); 2. HOOP-ASH (pa in hoosh); 5. TUPAIA (up in anag. + a); 6. MALLEATE (leat in male); 7. INTERNET CAFE (anag.); 16. GRUMNESS (GRU + n in mess); 20. AUXESIS; 23. ANELED (last letters in and); 24. MELIK (ends switched in kelim); 26. RAMEN (r amen).