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 1853 Plain (2 Dec 2007)

This puzzle gets the solver off to an good start with a generous number of ‘hidden word’ clues, and doesn’t stray far beyond what can be found in Chambers, but completing it is still a challenge. Azed finds more opportunities than usual to disguise definitions and wordplay in some tricky clues, and includes an especially awkward pair of cross-checking solutions at 9d and 19a.

Notes to the clues:


11.    Like plankton, first of countless swallowed by a sei (aha!), un peu upset!.  EUPHAUSIACEAN (c in anag.).  The clue flaunts an egregious anagram, but Azed has to be commended for an entertaining treatment of a difficult word. Chambers (2003) indicates  that the solution is a noun, not an adjective, and Dr Watson guesses Azed overlooked the n.

12.    Interbank rate crucial in capital I borrowed.  LIBOR (hidden).  They don’t come much more straightforward than this. The clue was probably written before the Northern Rock business, as that would have made an ideal reference.

19.    Indian prohibition on even bits of nipa.  BANIA (ban + alternate letters)  One half of the troublesome pair of clues. Bania is only found in Chambers under banyan, and isn’t cross-referenced. Dr Watson guessed the answer then looked for the solution under Ban (which Watson had mis-remembered as an Indian magistrate), only to be disappointed.

26.    A host receives Earl So-and-so without warmth?  MEANY (E in many).  Two hard-to-spot definitions: ‘a host’ for ‘many’, and the last three words for the solution.

27.    Dispatch conveys latest from front line.  HASTE (has + last letters).  This clue is also difficult to deconstruct, with ‘conveys’ deliberately masquerading as a container indicator. Azed isn’t keen on constructions like ‘latest from front line’ where they appear in the middle of a clue, because the number of words contributing last letters is ambiguous, but putting it at the end of the clue seems to be ok.

30.    One creating ‘Liberté et Fraternité’ could give it this, Tante.  FREER (comp. anag.).  The clue doesn’t make complete surface sense but the opportunity to seamlessly join definition and wordplay is well taken.

31.    Those Scotch new miniature bottles, retrograde.  YONT (n in toy, rev.).  It takes a few passes to see how this works. ‘Toy’ is miniature as in poodle, ‘bottles’ indicates the container device, and the ‘those Scotch’ gives the definition.


4.      Cunning employee of Barnum and Bailey?  CARNY (2 meanings).  For both the meanings of ‘carny’ used here Chambers offers the alternative spelling ‘carney’. Although the length of the light precludes the second solution, Azed usually avoids this sort of ambiguity through the wordplay. CARNEY was given as the competition word in puzzle no 607, and none of the clues listed in the Slip is a  double definition, but unfortunately Azed doesn’t comment on the subject there, only describing the clues as ‘rather uninspired’.

5.      First indication of hurricane due devastated plain? By no means.  HUED (h + anag.).  Another camouflaged definition, starting at ‘plain?’.

9.      A sidestep by Jonny W., maybe? Very precise.  PERJINK (per jink).  ‘A’ for ‘per’ is an old trick that still catches Dr Watson out. Here it’s combined with the rather obscure ‘jink’ (a rugby move that Jonny Wilkinson might perform) to create an equally obscure Scottish adjective. And without BANIA, the checked letters PER-I-- offer a wide range of possibilities. The combined problems held Dr Watson up longer than usual.

17.    Monsieur entre deux rues recast as bottle turner.  REMUEUR (M in anag. of rue, rue).  Having suggested last month that Azed prefers a linking ‘as’ to come after the definition and before the wordplay, Dr Watson now finds the rule is more flexible, and indeed the ‘as’ makes perfect sense in its role here.

25.    Old fiddle? This scam could produce most scare.  ROTE (comp. anag.).  Oh, no, it couldn’t! It looks like either an oversight or an slip at the printers (less likely since, as far as Dr Watson is aware, the Observer doesn’t edit Azed’s puzzles) has caused an extra S to be added into the compound anagram material, which should presumably be ‘most care’.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. DROW (word, rev.);  4. CHEST (hidden);  8. SPUE (p in sue);  13. HORST (hors + t);  15. INCONDITE (on dit in anag.);  17. REED-PIPE (anag. in ripe);  18. EGEST ((coll)eges + t);  21. RANDOMLY (anag.);  24. QUERCETUM (quer(y) + anag.);  28. ANTIQUITARIAN;  29. NEEM (hidden).  Down: 1. DELIVERYMAN (livery in named, rev.);  2. RUIN AGATE (I in runagate);  3. WHOOPS (2 meanings);  6. ESPIÈGLERIE (anag. in Erie);  7. SINTERY (inter in (ge)ys(er), rev.);  8. SCOOP (hidden);  10. ENTREATMENT (men in anag.);  14. SAPI-OUTAN (piou(s) in Satan);  16. SENSATE (sens ate);  20. AWEARY (ea in awry; see kam);  22. DENIM (mined, rev.);  23. ACHAR (H in a car).