Never knowingly undersolved.

Azed 1,882 “Cherchez la Femme” – Tough search

Posted by tilsit on June 29th, 2008


This was probably Azed at his toughest and I am grateful to Peter B and the Cryptonuts for helping fill-in my gaps.

First things first. As with all out-of-the ordinary puzzles, read and understand the preamble, it will give you all the information you need. One thing which sets apart Azed’s specials from the Listeners and suchlike is that the preamble always does say what it means – I have yet to meet one that is oblique or vague.

The first words: “All clues are normal” – that sends a frisson of relief down my spine. Then comes the rubric about the intersecting answers. I think for the purposes of this puzzle, we can leave that until after everything has been solved.

Armed with my trusty clutch pencil and rubber, I set off cold solving and whenever I find a clash, both letters are entered with a slash.

10 across seems a good place to start with an anagram and it comes out as OLIGOCLASE. The next clue looks good as well – a hidden answer – and CERRIS, which I knew to be a type of oak, was added to the grid.

A glance back at 6 across shows that is obviously an anagram too – SATYR.

21 across is a nice simple clue GENERATOR. Another hidden answer at 26 across. 34 across is a straightforward anagram as well.

After the initial inspection of the acrosses I have about eight or nine answers so time for a look at the downs. These clues don’t seem as obvious as the Acrosses, though 3 and 12 look good for starters.

It’s time for Chambers and Bradford’s to be wheeled out. Of course the difficulty here is that some interesting answers clash, so you can’t always assume that what you have willbe of help with the answer in the other direction. Anyway, here are the answers;-


ACROSS (*) = Anagram (R) = Reversal (CD) = Cryptic def


1 NACARAT N/A = not available A in CART



11 CERRIS Hidden between fenCER RISkily

13 AZTEC AZ = 50% of me TEC (short for detective)

14 AL PASTO This threw me for a while but is in effect a nice simple clue. Azed often uses a bit of polysyllabic grandiloquence to spice up a definition and this is no exception. Trat = trattoria = restaurant in Italy. A L = One Lira PAST = ended Duck = O


17 TRIED DIRT (R) with E (the ultimate in tolerance!)


21 GENERATOR GEN (Lowdown) + ERATO (The Muse of lyric poetry) + R

24 AREAR ARAR = The sandarach tree with E (back from glare) inside

26 MEOW Another favourite clue. Hidden between Romeo weeping.


30 ARTEX This clue caused me a few problems. The solution seemed OK to me, but the indications are a bit odd. I presume it means “Is former husband” in the second person, as in ART + EX. Where the “in church” fits in, I’m not sure.

31 STATAL TA TA in SL (The heart of CzechoSLovakia – usually in hackneyed crossword clues OSLO is usually defined as found in the middle of Czecholslovakia, but not this time)

32 GUILLOTINE Not sure why “maiden” is in this clue. LOT + IN inside GUILE.. Nice clue if the maiden can be justified.


34 DRY BEER RYE BREAD less A (*)


1 NICAD AND (*) with I C inside. Azed uses the C = SEE device twice in this puzzle (at 20 down as well). However, I am left wondering whether there should be a homophone indicator or is there an abbreviation for C equalling SEE? Couldn’t see one in Chambers.






7 ALBE ABLE with centre reversed. I had ARTY here for a while, so was held up with intersecting clashes.

8 TATAMI TATAMI when reversed reads I’M A TAT which is also the definition. Very clever clue.

9 RECEDED Can reindeer be defined as DEER? DEC inside DEER (R)

12 STEGANOPOD SEAN GOT(*) + POD I knew that dolphins come in pods but not seals, I thought they came in rookeries, like penguins.


18 AGA SAGA Not Anthony but Joanna Trollope – the “Queen of the Aga Saga”. See . A GAS + AGA. Another fine clue.

20 ROBOTIC B inside O C (see again) RIOT (*)

22 LECTIN C inside LET IN

23 TEEPEE Tp = Troop

24 REDLY D inside RELY

27 WALER A Rissaldar was a hussar in India who often rode a horse called a WALER, imported from New Zealand.

28 WEFT F inside WET

You can now see there are ten clashes.


A/C 1/2 B
I/O 10/4 L
B/Z 13/7 A
B/D 16/1 C
I/M 17/8 K

N/L 21/22 M
X/D 30/25 A
T/P 31/23 R
L/F 32/28 I
Y/C 34/20 A


So “la Femme” is Black Maria!

Very enjoyable, very tough and thanks to Azed.

I shall see you all in seven weeks.


16 Responses to “Azed 1,882 “Cherchez la Femme” – Tough search”

  1. Paul B says:

    If you find a blog for last week’s Indy Prize puzzle on your travels, let me know. I’m off to the pub to watch the football.

  2. Andrew says:

    I’m glad it wasn’t just me that found this one hard: it took me several sessions over the week to get through it (in fact I didn’t finish it until after I’d done 1883).

    30ac – I think the reference is that “you are” is often said as “thou ART” in ecclesiastical language.

    32ac – the maiden was a type of guillotine used in Scotland.

    “Black Maria” is the card game now more commonly known as Hearts (since its inclusion in versions of MS Windows). It’s also called “Chase the lady”, which is a kind of translation of “cherchez la femme” (I thought I’d even seen it called that, but can’t find any reference to it now).

  3. tilsit says:

    Thanks Andrew – I meant to clarify the “Black Maria ” references, so thanks for doing it for me.

  4. Andrew says:

    Re “see”=C in 1dn and 20dn – Chambers defines SEE as “The third letter of the alphabet (C, c)”. I haven’t checked them all but but it does seem that the spellings of consonants (e.g. “bee”, “ef”, “zed”) are all there; the vowels presumably “spell themselves”.

  5. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    Having being credited for help, I must admit that the “Cherchez la femme” = “Find the lady” point passed me by, even though I’ve spent many hours of my life playing Black Maria – 20-odd years ago it was very popular in my part of the Proms queue.

    With clash puzzles like this I play safe from the start and write little letters in checked squares until I’m sure that both answers agree. As the phrase emerged there were times when I looked at the clashes I still needed to find, the squares that could provide them, and the implications about the letter in that square in the unsolved clue. I think this got me two or three of the last half dozen or so answers.

  6. Chunter says:

    No wonder I found this one difficult. The special instructions were (and are) missing from both the interactive and print versions.

  7. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    The Guardian site has a pretty dire record on presenting puzzles with special instructions. Azed puzzles on the site (and the Guardian dailies now, I think) always include a “click here for a printable PDF of this puzzle” link. This gives you the puzzle EXACTLY as printed in the paper, complete with instructions.

  8. Chunter says:

    But the font size used in the PDF for the instructions is so small that (for me at least) they are difficult to read either on the screen or on paper. I’d also much prefer a bigger font for the clues.

  9. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    I’m only describing what’s available! For me at least, the printed PDF clues are larger and clearer than the “Print version” clues. And small instructions are better than none.

    By all means send feedback to the Guardian about improving the print version so that while still using only one A4 page it has full information, a decent font size, and none of that guff about “Gunga Din should be in italics”. But don’t hold your breath …

  10. Chunter says:

    My previous remark was aimed at anyone from the Guardian who is reading this discussion. I should have also said that I am obliged to you for pointing out that the PDF has all the necessary information. Not thinking very clearly at the moment – various real-world problems to deal with.

  11. Andrew says:

    The Guardian Crossword Editor’s monthly newsletter regularly has to apologise for the problems on the site, saying the software they use is “not fit for purpose”. Reading between the lines I assume the Powers That Be are not prepared to spend any money on imroving the service.

  12. Roland says:

    You have to be quick in this game. Just because you delete a post on this site does not guarantee that it will not be seen (principally by those copied into one’s own e-mails). Plenty of people have already agreed with my earlier comments on this site, which is why I politely invite you to reproduce them without censorship. Ximenean “rules” are pretty worthless unless they are deployed appropriately. A site so obviously tailored to suit the requirements of pedants should be among the first to recognise this.

  13. neildubya says:

    Your comment was deleted because it was abusive. In response to your point about bias in the Azed comp, here are some statistics (courtesy of Pete Biddlecombe):

    The 36 1st/2nd/3rd places this year have been shared between 27 people. Only one person has won first prize more than once, and only about 6 of the 36 have won more than one of these places. Manley and Dexter, the obvious “Oxford cronies”, are in equal 6th and equal 8th, which I suspect they both think is pretty disappointing. Awards down to HC have gone to about 100 different people over the year, and about
    65 have had at least a VHC. (See ).

  14. petebiddlecombe says:

    Just to be crystal clear: ‘obvious “Oxford cronies” ‘ reflects the tone of the deleted posting from ‘Roland’, not my own opinion. My own pretty limited experience of Azed competitions showed that Azed thought the same about my clue-writing as I did – for some reason I could dream up good Printer’s Devilry clues but struggled with the plain ones. So I have two PD VHCs, and three HCs for non-PD clues. I think I entered two or three PD contests and about half a dozen others.

    (The comments about the annual table rankings are after 12 of 13 competitions, so the numbers will be slightly different when the last one is added.)

  15. nmsindy says:

    Names in Azed prize lists are familiar because the numbers entering have fallen a bit in recent years. The standard of clues is incredibly high (they are also very difficult) so I’d guess competitors spend quite a while drafting and redrafting. While I’ve not had time to enter in the last year or so, I have got 15 HCs (thanks to John Tozer’s site I know the exact number!) but never a VHC since I began to enter about four years ago. What I could always see though was that the clues which got the HC were better than those that did not. So I’d say Azed’s judging is perfectly fair and I think in a poll some years ago he was voted favourite setter by setters.

  16. Alan O'brien says:

    I think Azed made a small mistake.
    7D ALBE became ALAE – but ALAE is a word, probably summit to do with wings. The preamble said that only non-words were found after altering them. It slowed me up for one second.

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