Never knowingly undersolved.

Azed 1883 – Plain (but perhaps not so plain)

Posted by John on July 5th, 2008


Some nice clues, but – dare I say it – one or two whose surfaces are pretty vacuous. As usual, I’m afraid. Azed has produced some wonderful stuff over the years, but nowadays we are increasingly often fobbed off with things that those who post on ‘Times for the Times’ would rip apart. If I had produced ‘Gardens maybe seen in Oxford, first to last’ (HOES, 33ac) or ‘Matching outfits tons witness in new presentation’ (TWINSETS, 4dn) as possibilities for one of Azed’s competitions I certainly wouldn’t have sent them in. These clues are perfectly sound – and Azed can’t remotely be challenged on this score – but what do they mean?

2 (1 in paper) HISTRIONISM – (is trio n) in His M(ajesty)
10 GO-GO – G O twice
11 perforM IN A Sketch
13 NOCTILIO – comp. anag.: [noctilio us] … [locution is]
14 hUsH-hUsH
19 CHAR(E)D – I suppose chard is a substitute for spinach, although Chambers doesn’t seem to suggest this
20 OL(ive) DISH
24 HURTLE presumably, although I can’t quite justify it: the def. is ‘dash'; it seems to be hur(t)l e(nergetically), but does ‘energetically cut’ really give e?
25 SEMESTER – eme for i in sister
27 TWIGLET – leg* in twit
30 USED – another comp. anag.: [Audi sedan] … [used I an ad]
31 GEMSTONE – s in (met gone)*
32 SWEDE – we replaces i in side, except that the clue seems to lead to ‘side’ rather than ‘Swede’
33 HOES – shoe with the s moved to the end
34 PERIGENESIS – (seeing spire)*
2 HOO(d) HA(d)
4 TWINSETS – (t witness)*
5 ROLAND – lo rev. in rand – ref. Sir Roland Hill, the Penny Black man
6 IB. IB. I 0
7 NIGH(t) – simple but very nice
9 SA(W(as))N
12 SHEPHERDESS – she, h in (pressed)*
18 PLU(RIS(e))IE
21 DROUTHS – dr(am) (o tush)*
23 haSTE EVEntually
24 HETMAN – met* in Han
26 MEN E(n)S(a)
28 W AWE – not quite sure about ‘shock and awe’, which seems a vaguely familiar term but is not apparently in Chambers
29 gunGA DIn

10 Responses to “Azed 1883 – Plain (but perhaps not so plain)”

  1. Andrew says:

    I think 24ac is T(enor) in HURLE(d)

  2. Richard Bach says:

    Shock and awe was a buzzword used by the US when bombing Iraq prior to the invasion.

  3. Nestor says:

    Although “Matching outfits tons witness in new presentation” isn’t a classic clue, its surface reading is quite natural. It can be paraphrased as “Ensembles which many people see during new [fashion] show”.

  4. Robin Gilbert says:

    I have to agree with John’s comments on the surfaces of many of Azed’s clues. His wordplay in both definitions and subsidiary indicators is invariably sound and typically brilliant and the fact that he has come up with challenging puzzles week in, week out over so many decades is truly astonishing, but , as John suggests, his clues taken as a whole too often make only feeble sense or even no sense at all. From this puzzle (which in fact offered more good surfaces than usual, I thought), John might also have cited “Fool has leg tangled in sprig”, “Genus of trees? An antelope’s moulted on us”, “Palaver outlaw held, twice lacking final dimension” and several others. It is almost impossible to imagine encountering such wordings anywhere other than in a crossword clue. These contrast starkly with, eg, “Am denied tipple? O tush, confounded dry periods!” “Second-hand Audi sedan? This I flogged with an ad” and “Old moans from troops, regulars in ENSA”, which all have an internal coherence that greatly enhances at least this solver’s enjoyment of the clue.

  5. DFM says:

    You mustn’t expect all Azed’s clues to be like AZ ‘winners’. Given that a winner can take several hours to produce (even for experienced clue-wriers), life would be too short!

  6. John says:

    DFM: Don you’re quite right to imply that, because of the pressure of time, the standard of the clues in Azed’s competitions is generally rather higher than that of his own clues, but my point is not really that Azed’s clues are not as good as the ones he gives awards to, rather that his clues often have very weak surfaces. I know he produces a high standard of output week after week, but so do several other people, yourself included. I find it hard to believe that you would be satisfied with such feeble surfaces as he sometimes produces.

  7. John says:

    Nestor: you say the surface reading of ‘matching outfits tons witness in new presentation’ is quite natural. I would prefer to say that it is just possible to assign some sort of meaning to it. Would anyone who was writing naturally use the word ‘tons’?

  8. Richard Palmer says:

    Regarding 5 down, The postal pioneer was Rowland not Roland Hill so I am afraid this is a duff clue.

  9. nmsindy says:

    Re your point at 6 above, John, I’d seen a distinction between the daily cryptics (using everyday vocabulary) and the advanced puzzles such as Azed which draw on everything that is in Chambers. Surface would not seem so important where the meanings of the words are not known anyway without looking them up.

  10. Fletch says:

    Those examples Robin’s quoted remind me of that episode of One Foot in the Grave where Victor Meldrew’s reading out inane cryptic clues!

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