Never knowingly undersolved.

Azed 1847 – Inquisitors and heretics

Posted by petebiddlecombe on October 28th, 2007


Solving time: say 2 hours in a couple of sessions

It’s intriguing to see the successor of Torquemada and Ximenes dedicating a puzzle to Araucaria, who some strict Ximeneans might want (metaphorically of course) to see roasting in his sanbenito at an auto-da-fé. Azed seems to be practicing what he preaches in the introductory pages of his A-Z of Crosswords book, where he says of the Ximenean and ‘libertarian’ schools:

… to represent the two groups as warring factions is misleading and unhelpful

I suspect the two A’s have enjoyed the odd beer or two together and get on far better than some might think.

I must admit that Playfairs are probably my least-favourite Azed specials – the clues in italics often give me the jitters, and even though they’re supposed to be relatively easy, I often end up only solving one or two, and not having enough coding pairs to work out the codeword. But this one was as easy as I need them to be – the monkey in monkey-puzzle tree (=Araucaria, just in case there’s anyone left who doesn’t know) is an obvious candidate for the group to which the encoded answers belong. And with a little help from Bradford on one monkey, I had five of the six crucial clues solved. I’ll start by reviewing these answers, then the process of finding the codeword, and then I’ll clear up the harder clues among the rest.

1 RHESUS – hidden – if you hadn’t guessed the theme already, this should have given it to you.
5 CHA,C,MA – new word for me, but easy wordplay
20 UA,KARI=raki* – this is the one I cheated on, not quite remembering the right ??KARI word or knowing that Ukraine = UA
32 MAL,MAG=gam rev. – this was the one I didn’t solve until after cracking the codesquare, so we won’t use the coding pairs from this.

With the other clues solved, the coding pairs from the five solved answers are:

1 RH=>BW, ES=>OD
5 AC=>CP, MA=>KY
18 HO=>GN, WL=>UB
20 KA=>AC, RI=>AY
31 SA=>CT, GO=>VT

It seems very likely that MONKEY is somewhere in the code phrase, as it duplicates no letter, and leaves a couple of common vowels unused. So let’s hope that it’s the first of the two words and see where that leads:


Judging by one query I received by e-mail, the weak part of the standard Playfair preamble is the reason why “CR gives SG (and not GS, which RC would give)”. Why?, asked my correspondent. The key point here is that when the four letters are the corners of a rectangle, the rows from which letters come are in the same order for both pairs. So in the sample ORANGESTICK codesquare, CR is a letter from the second row, then one from the first one. So is SG, but not GS. MA=>KY gives us the location of the A, and AC=>CP and KA=>AC must both consist of sequences of letters from the same row or column. As the rest of K’s row is MONE, it must be a column. Now we have:

It’s pretty likely, though not yet certain, that the C is in the “remaining letters of the alphabet” just after the code phrase. As A is in the code phrase, this would imply a 12-letter code phrase without B in it, or a 13-letter one with. Now ponder RI=>AY. As A and Y are in the same row, R and I must be in that row too. Using the “immediately to the right” rule, we get:

Now if you consider SA=>CT and ES=>OD, the latter shows that S and D are on the same row. If the code phrase is 12-13 letters, D must follow C and this locates the S. Then SA=>CT places the T and the phrase must be MONKEY TRAILS. Filling in the rest of the alphabet, this gives us:

As often happens, there’s something funny about the code phrase as well as only using letters once each. In this case, every letter from I to O (except the irrelevant J) is in the code phrase, so there’s a rather surprising gap in the “remainder of the alphabet”.

This is probably about as easy as Azed Playfairs get. For tougher ones, the biggest tip is to fish out the scrabble tiles. Being able to move them around and see which letters you haven’t used yet are both helpful. Now let’s take a look at the remaining clues:

10 OHMIC – him* in oc=only child – a new abbrev. for me
11 CAJOLER – JOLE = archaic ‘jowl’ in Car. = Carolus = Charles
13 SARCOMERE – comer in ears*
14 A,NAP,HORA(l)
15 C(A TAI)AN – tinned = inside can.
25 CLUDGIE – dig* in clue, &lit. – it’s a Scots toilet
29 A,RE-ALLY I think, though I can’t quite see that ally=form to give the “form again” part
30 PAD,UA=Au rev., – ref. The Taming of the Shrew, I’m about 95% certain without the resources to check.
1 BOD,ACH(e)
2 W(HEN)AS – in C., to be = “to occupy a positoin in space”, hence was = occupied position
3 OMMA = ammo rev., TEA = dried leaves – the link between slugs and leaves is very good – Azed is very scrupulous to include “dried”, as “slugs raised on leaves” would probably have been a tougher clue
4 DISPATCH-BOAT – patch in (so bad it)*
6 COMPOUND LEAF – pound in (of camel)* – 4 and 6 make a nice matching pair
8 KERVE = Spenserian spelling of ‘carve’
9 YRENT – = R.N. at regular intervals in YET = still – had ‘wordplay??’ written on my copy and was within a whisker of opening this one to the floor
17 PASTIL = (lit,sap) rev.
18 GA(LWA=law*)Y – or G(ALW=law*)AY, as you please – ref. James Galway, the ‘man with the golden flute’ whose main period of fame was about 1975-85 after he quit the Berlin Phil first flute desk to pursue a solo career.
21 DIE(OU)T – ou = a man (Afrikaans)
23 O.(SHA=has*)C. – another half of a matching pair, this time with 10A, and another new abbrev. for me.
26 TREV – initial letters, ref. Trevor Eve, currently best known for a part in Waking the Dead (BBC TV series).

One question to ponder: Why a Playfair?  Some kind of Carte Blanche or similar would have echoed the Alphabetical Jigsaws that Araucaria invented.

7 Responses to “Azed 1847 – Inquisitors and heretics”

  1. jetdoc says:

    Playfairs being probably my least favourite type of puzzle, I put this one aside after solving the clues, and didn’t get round to the final step. I knew the code phrase had to be ’MONKEY something’; but ‘MONKEY TRAILS’? What an obscure phrase! It is not given in Chambers, which gives nothing between ‘monkey tricks’ and ‘monkey tails’.

    Thanks for a wonderfully clear step-by-step guide to working out the Playfair. I’m glad I wasn’t blogging this one!

  2. DFM says:

    Azed and Araucaria have only been in the same room once (at Sandy Balfour’s launch – I think I tried to introduce them). Araucaria’s deafness and the level of background noise was such that any exchange of words was minimal. Azed also corresponded with Araucaria when he produced his book. Azed’s recent dedication and the comments in his book were made in the eirenical spirit that befits his elderly-statesman image, but don’t for one minute think that his own views on clues aren’t pretty uncompromising, and please don’t think that the two A’s are ever likely to travel a few hundred miles to have a few jokes down at the local. No palsy-walsy Times/Guardian ‘meets’ (horrible word) for them!

  3. DFM says:

    Sorry Azed – I meant ‘elder-statesman’!

  4. linxit says:

    I’m not sure where I went wrong with this one. I finished the grid, and with a bit of help from Bradford’s, got all the monkeys. Then used the exact same logical process to work out the positions of the first few letters, and guessed at MONKEY TRAILS fairly early. Then discounted it as something didn’t fit. After another couple of hours of trial and error I gave up. Damn!

  5. roland says:

    If that was one of the easier Playfairs, I live in dread of anything harder…..

  6. Al Streatfield says:

    I’m sorry if this posting sounds rather crazy.

    I guessed the key-phrase to be “MONKEY TRAILS” and gave up on the puzzle.

    In my opinion, Playfairs, which I love, should not give any clues as to what the key-word is. If you can guess this, then there is no reason to work out how to decode Playfair squares.

    The Listener Notes to Setters agrees with me. It says: “Playfair submissions which give a clue as to the keyword won’t be accepted”, or words to that effect…


  7. petebiddlecombe says:

    Al, you’re quite right about the Listener guidance, but I don’t think all other puzzles have to do the same. If you guessed the whole word with no work on the codesquare then the puzzle was rather wasted, but I suspect there were others like me who got some help with part of the codephrase and used this plus codesquare logic to work out the rest. That might encourage some people who would otherwise shy away from Playfairs to have a go.

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