Never knowingly undersolved.

Azed 1,888 – Printer’s Devilry

Posted by Andrew on August 10th, 2008


Printer’s Devilry puzzles are an interesting and enjoyable change that Azed produces from time to time. I thought we’d had one fairly recently – it turns out I was thinking of the 2007 Christmas puzzle, which had some PD clues. Solving PDs requires different skills from other types: for a start there’s no definition in the clue to latch on to (perhaps a small flaw in the format?). My usual two-pronged approach for getting started is (1) try to find a word in the clue that is obviously out of place; and (2) look at rest of the clue to try to get hold of a sensible meaning. (The rubric “every passage, when completed, makes sense” is important.) I usually start off on the shorter answers, as they are often easier to detect, leaving the longer ones until a few crossing letters, especially at the start or end, are available. The first few answers I found in this puzzle were 7ac, 15ac, 17ac, 23ac, 34ac and 17dn. I think there was a mistake in 26ac.

For the details of each clue below, I’ve shown the answer, followed by the “undevilled” passage with the answer capitalised, and then sometimes an additional comment.

1 REWAREWA It’s ‘All Systems Go’ as the cREW ARE WAiting for Countdown Rewarewa is a tree in New Zealand (Maori word)
7 CUPID She lay in the sunny meadow, chewing a butterCUP Idly
11 TELEVERITE In my search for the best hoTEL EVER I TEsted lots for the tourist guide
12 ASSISI Given come-hither looks it’s surely not forward to make a pASS, IS It? This is the “familiar place name” that doesn’t appear in Chambers; most familiar, at least to me, when preceded by the words “St Francis of”.
14 ENDRIN Lifelong teetotallers won’t succumb to aliEN DRINking habits
15 ROSEATE In Polynesia taRO’S EATEan with many meals Taro is “a plant of the Arum family widely cultivated in the islands of the Pacific for its edible rootstock”
17 ANIS My new air-con system replaces the fAN I SOld
18 STERNER That monSTER NERo comes to mind when a classical fiddler is mentioned
19 INTERTARSAL Hauling on the paINTER, TARS ALl helped to make her fast The painter here is a rope, and “her” refers to the ship that the tars are working on
23 ATELIER Uneaten meals on many a paper plATE LIE Rotting
26 CYAN I like the look of the soup – do you FanCY ANy? I presume this is a slip-up – there’s one N too many in the devilled version.
29 INSTATE AgaINST A TElling remark an effective riposte is difficult
31 AGOUTI Stewing steak in a rAGOUT, It’s best simmered with spice and veg
32 UTOPIA Drug-dealers toUT OPIAtes for the wretched addict
33 SALMANASER Producers give specialized role reverSAL MAN A SERies of female parts A large wine bottle named after an Assyrian king mentioned in 2 Kings 17-18
34 EXIES Putting her sEXIESt robes on increased her allure, she knew
35 ASTRINGE The trawlers fished off the coAST, RINGEd with nets
1 REAR His skill with the ball is puRE ARt in motion This should have been easy, but somehow I had a blind spot with it and it was the second last one I got
2 ESSONITE Going to pot, lESSON I TEach degenerates into bedlam
3 WESSI One with money-making proWESS Is personally enriched An inhabitant of former West Germany, in contrast to an OSSI from the East
4 RESALE Outraged reader fiRES A LEtter off to the press
5 ELITE As often in a second reEL IT Ends with our hero in trouble A reference to movie cliffhangers
6 AVESTA Young rebels often hAVE STAid parents they want to escape
7 CENSE Does a supersoniC ENSEmble produce inaudible results?
8 URDU Careless cleaners poUR DUst all over the place
9 PIRANA I had to sell the shoP I RAN At a loss
10 DENDRON If you want to gladDEN DRONes, suggest days of idleness
13 TESTRIL Underhand tactic evident in conTEST RILes affected drivers An obsolete name for a sixpence
16 RELATING Venus was given orders by Jove, and many moRE LATIN Gods likewise
17 ANATASE Deb met her dream mAN AT A SEAson’s top event The first one I got: after seeing “deb” I spotted the end of “season” and the rest followed easily, even though it’s not a common word (it’s a mineral, and not, as I first guessed from the ending, an enzyme)
20 NEROLI I have never been offered fiNER OLIves at a cocktail party
21 RETINA There’s nothing like opening good claRET IN Amorous twosomes The last one I got: I puzzled over it for ages with no success, then left it for a couple of hours. As often happens in such situations, the answer was then completely obvious.
22 RASTER (The competition word)
24 IOTAS At start of a rIOT A Stone was thrown
25 INUST Having persuaded our friends to their cause they hope to wIN US Too
27 YAPON There’s many a young girl wants daddy to buY A PONy for her This follows all the rules, but it seems a slight blemish the way “buy” appears in both versions
28 RUME For big fellows forming scRUM, Ears will often get mangled The big fellows turn out to be Rugby players
30 EALE Those going to sEA LEave loved ones at home

10 Responses to “Azed 1,888 – Printer’s Devilry”

  1. Duggie says:

    Thanks Andrew, for all the hard work. This is an excellent dissection of a puzzle which leaves me lost in admiration for the setter. It may need a long time to solve, but think of the time the setter must take. Just composing a decent tie-breaker entry took me ages. And think how much longer it would take if there had to be a definition in each clue! I agree it would be nice, but it’s almost asking the impossible. Well spotted the extra N in the CYAN clue! I hadn’t noticed it.

  2. Colin Blackburn says:

    Re the extra N. It is worth checking the Crossword Centre’s message board for alerts to mistakes in Azed puzzles. Bear in mind though that the puzzles are never discussed before the solution is published. See link.

  3. Mick h says:

    The lack of definition always leaves me a little dissatisfied by a PD puzzle, despite my great admiration for Azed’s ability to fill a puzzle with them. I just don’t like completing a crossword with strings of letters whose meaning is irrelevant.
    Apart from the added challenge to the compiler, the other objection that has been raised is that definitions can make a PD puzzle too easy. One way round this might be to put definitions in the wrong clues, but I suspect most solvers wouldn’t actually bother to match them all up. Tricky one.

  4. nmsindy says:

    Yes, I’m also lost in admiration for the setter – an incredible feat to fill a grid with these. I think the format is well-established now and it’s a different type of puzzle worth its place. There’s no definition but the context of the clue gives hints most of the time.

  5. Richard Heald says:

    Many people seem to find PD without definition unsatisfactory, but I think the aesthetic beauty (and perhaps even the solvability) of a PD clue would be fatally compromised by the need to incorporate a (frequently unwieldy) definition. As Nmsindy says, an well-written PD clue should provide enough hints to allow the solver to figure out what might be missing – but then, not every setter writes PD clues as well as Azed.

  6. Mick h says:

    Of course the clues give hints as to what’s missing, but only by suggesting the new words to be created – none of the clues bears any relation to the meaning of the word to be entered in the grid. That’s why I say it is in the end just a string of letters – albeit one that has to exist in Chambers.

  7. DFM says:

    Richard Heald, our new joint champion, is spot on. PDs aren’t about definitions — they are about something quite different and at their best are extremely pleasing. Anyone who finds the lack of a definition unsatisfactory is completely missing the point. My first Ximenes PD took me six hours to unravel and I made a mistake. This latest Azed puzzle was quite tricky in parts, and began to remind me of that experience nearly 40 years ago!

  8. mhl says:

    This was the first Printer’s Devilry crossword that I’ve tried to do, and although it took me ages to get started at all there were lots of wonderful “a-ha!” moments once I got the hang of it. For some reason the last answer I got (after quite a while) was RUME, even with all the checking letters…

    Trying to write any clue worth submitting was a nightmare, though – I had a couple that I thought were OK before I noticed the note about preference being given to those with the more difficult word break positions around the inserted word. Then my attempts to fix them got out of control very fast.

  9. Colin Blackburn says:

    For those new to PD clues Scrabble tiles can help in playing about with word breaks and spacing.

  10. Richard Palmer says:

    I thought this was a superb puzzle. It’s incredibly hard to compose an entire grid of PD clues, particularly the long words. I would guess only about 1 in 10 of eight-letter words can be split in a sensible way for a PD clue, and an even smaller proportion of 9-, 10- letters or more. As a result, most PD puzzles have a few clues that read very awkwardly, but here all Azed’s clues were good with a high proportion of brilliant ones.

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