Never knowingly undersolved.

Azed 1919 – Azed for beginners

Posted by petebiddlecombe on March 15th, 2009


Solving time: 27:40, with Chambers used for the last three – 25/26/27.

As promised, I’m going into more detail than usual to help solvers who are unfamiliar with Azed puzzles to use this one as a learning exercise (after solving at least part of it on your own, I hope). This seems a pretty easy Azed, especially for those of my age – there are a few 1960s/70s people in it.

If you want to try the puzzle, there are links to it in the comments.  If these fail at some point in the future, searching for a puzzle numbered 1919 on the Guardian crosswords site should find it.

Don’t attach too much significance to the number of times I used Chambers – I’ve been doing these since 1981 and if I get really lucky, I know or can work out enough of the obscure words to finish the puzzle without opening the big red book – which nearly happened here. I also got lucky time-wise because only one of the last few words I had to find had an unchecked first letter (27D) – if you’re strict with yourself and only use the paper version, these can burn up quite a bit of time if you have to hunt for them. If you’re starting Azed, the “knowing the words already” kind of luck may be in short supply. But if my memory is right, I did finish my first attempt at an Azed puzzle, though it took me huge parts of an Easter vac weekend when I should really have been revising for my finals, and lots of checks of both Chambers and Chambers Words. This was something like three or four years before I finished the Times daily puzzle on my own – the better checking in Azeds means you’re less likely to be stuck in a corner where two clues intersect and you can’t see either one.

The first thing to remember with these (well maybe the second after “beg/steal/borrow Chambers“) is that there are only a few tricks that are any different from a daily paper cryptic crossword. So you know the techniques already. The biggest hurdle seems to be moving from guessing words from definitions and then making the wordplay fit afterwards, to much more often working out a possible wordplay that makes something that might be a word, then looking in C (every barred-grid solver’s unofficial abbreviation for Chambers) and discovering that it really is a word, even if it has some improbable-looking feature like starting with SB or CT.  A fair amount of the time, the wordplay in Azeds uses components less obscure than the def – Azed seems to follow the Ximenes principle that easy words should generally get hard clues and vice versa.  Just in case it matters, I’m using the 2003 edition of C to write this – I doubt there are any differences from 2008 that matter.

There’s some more general advice after the analysis of the clues.  If you’re completely new to Azed, you might want to read this now, then maybe have another look at the puzzle before you’ve seen too many of the answers.

1 WHITE-KNUCKLE – W=”start of war”,then (the lick nuke)*. I don’t think I got it first time, but from checking letters. Note from this one that Azed does NOT bother about hyphens when giving you the answer lengths. It doesn’t happen in this puzzle, but if an answer has multiple words, you’re only told the number of words. So MAN-EATING TIGER would be (13, 2 words), not (3-6,5). Most other barred-grid puzzles follow the same practice.
9 REVERIE – er = sign of hesitation in “sporting Don” = Revie. Azed is going back to the 1960s/70s and remembering the manager of Leeds, England and the UAE.
10 SOIL – I in SOL=sun, with ‘spot’ (veb.) as the def. Almost a daily paper clue, this one.
11 EXERT – E+rev. of (T Rex) = former pop group – back to the 60s/70s again!
13 SCANTY – mug=CAN – “a drinking-mug” is a def. for can in C. And this ‘mug’ is “treated like swine” by being put into STY. Same deal as daily paper tricks “overdrawn” = inside RED or “retired” = inside BED.  An easy answer clued with quite tricky wordplay.
14 APTERIUM – a bare patch on a bird’s skin, and (I trap emu)*. A new word clued with a pretty clear anagram. One trick to use with Azed is to identify likely word-endings from Latin and Greek, and use them to reduce the anag or other possibilities. Here, -IUM might have been guessed.
16 KNEIPE – a students’ beer house in Germany. PI=confusion (look it up – pie3) reversed inside KNEE=joint. I was lucky here as I knew the word – back in my promenading days, when a few players from the still East German Dresden Staatskapelle happened to walk past the standard post-concert pub, one of them spotted us and said something like “Ah – sie sind in der Kneipe”. And they sat down and had some beers. (Apologies for any dire Ger. grammar.)
17 ISSUE – the {frontal = facade} is lacking, in woven fabric = tissue
18 FENBERRY – which turns out to be another word for cranberry – so “one of those reduced to a jelly?”. There are some words like BERRY which can follow an astonishing number of other words. So although this was a new word, I wrote it in confidently. With the help of course, of 1970s pop star Bryan FERRY, surrounding ENB or BNE = “Ben shivering”.
21 LACUNOSE = (A counsel)* – another from common word-endings, I think. I knew lacuna = gap, so lacunose = pitted was plausible.
25 SMAIK – MA in SIK(e) – as you can guess, a sike (or syke) is a Scots ditch. I didn’t know the latter so other SI?E words seemed possible, so I scanned the SMA- entries for this.
26 LIPPEN – LIP=cockiness,PEN=writing (unusual def. but in C). Completely new word, so looked it up – probably didn’t have LIP then, not knowing the def/wordplay split. The def. is “to expect Burnsian” – words coined by poets are a staple of Chambers, as are Scots words. The introductory “One has” is one of various ways of saying “the answer is” which you can see in some Times clues, for instance.  Quite hard this, though pen=writing is the sort of thing you learn to predict as you read more and more C defs.
28 HONEYBAG = a receptacle for sweet stuff – well obviously when you suspend your disbelief that such a word exists. In fact where the bee keeps its honey. Wordplay is straightforward – ebony* in HAG=crone. And if ‘sweet stuff’ makes you think of honey you’re nearly there.
30 HYDRIA = H,dairy* – an ancient Greek vase for water. I’m pretty sure I got this from a punt on HYDR- as the beginning, with a checking I or A making the remaining choice.
31 ENSUE – hidden backwards in “Odysseus never”. Subtly done as the def “(thus to) succeed” is in the middle of the clue, but the clue makes sense.
32 SLEY = “reed for weaving” – new word for me, but I was fairly sure that the Royal Horticultural Society HQ or “garden centre” is at Wisley, which has the WI nicked = cut from it.
33 DEL(I)VER – apart maybe from digger=delver, this is a daily paper clue.
34 MEDDLESOMELY – models* inside medley*. Should be fairly easy – “in trifling fashion” is an adverb, so -LY is a strong favourite for the end, and the two anag. indicators should be easy to identify
1 WRECKFISH – (SKIF(f), CREW)*,H. Worked backwards from -FISH I’m pretty sure.
2 HEXANE = HE(X)ANE(y) – the unknowns are X and Y, and the poet is Seamus Heaney. You will get quite a range of people, real and fictional, but as a Nobel prize winner, SH shouldn’t be too hard. -ANE is a common ending for chemicals, and probably hydrocarbons specifically.  As noted in the comments, HEXENE is a potential “trap” solution which fits checking letters and def. but not the wordplay, so remember -ENE for the chemicals as well as -ANE.
3 TERAI – (the air – H)* – a ventilated hat from India. Recognised from other barred-grid puzzle appearances.
4 KIPPER = (s)KIPPER – apart from the verb sense of kipper, daily paper stuff again.
5 NESTOR – the Kea (naughty NZ parrot) genus, as xwd pseudonym anoraks well know – Roger Phillips, Kea in the Listener, is Nestor in the Indie.
6 UNCE from (d)UNCE – dunce = “one in the corner” from the traditional place where the lad wearing the pointy hat had to stand. Those economical Scots apparently spell ‘ounce’ with only four letters.
7 KONISCOPES = Co. in pokiness*. If you’re lucky enough to know that konis is Greek for dust, this one must be a doddle, but -scope from the “gauge” in the clue should be guessable for most of us, and I probably had the K in place when this one was tackled.
8 LITUUS – a Roman trumpet. Wordplay is rev. of util(e) = “endlessly useful”, then U/S = unserviceable (sometimes clued as “useless”, which can be hard to understand if you try to make it into “use with no e”, as I used to before I understood. Of course that would actually be “useeless”, even if Azed went in for that kind of caper)
10 SARSEN – a bit of Azed coarseness here, which he’s not above. “bottom crudely” is ARSE, and tin = Sn for S(ARSE)N – a block of sandstone as seen at Stonehenge.
12 EVEN-HANDED – Heaven*, d-den*.
15 MESENTERY = ME,SENT(E)RY – with E=”what’s central to diets”. Apparently this is slightly wrong – a mesentery, although associated with your intestines, is really a peritoneal fold. Fair enough but for me some of the medical and other scientific terms are only there to join the more interesting stuff together, so I can’t get that excited about Azed’s or Chambers’s mistakes on some of these. I think Azed gets the blame on this one – the truth is there if you read the C def carefully.
19 BRIERY = I in berry* – with a bit of spelling license, brambles are obviously briery.
20 SMOYLE – old form of “smile”. MO=doctor replacing T=temperature, in style=kind.
22 AUBADE = a song for dawn, and ghastly pun on “O bard”.
23 CLAVES – cl. = class, Aves = birds. CLAVES are wooden cylinders in the percussion section – as seen here
24 SEQUEL = followers = suite. Very subtle def. Wordplay is Qu=queen in SEEL = blind (verb.) Complex stuff but I think I had all but the Q from checking letters.
27 PANIM – a Miltonian version of paynim = heathen. First half of panislam = the Muslim world, then M=millions.
29 YILL = a Scots form of “ale” – think of Billy Connolly as the Big Yin = Big One. A new word for me, but the wordplay is easy – Y=Yen,ILL=”needing treatment”.

Some more tips:

There are some clichés in barred grid puzzles – the equivalent of stock daily paper stuff like journalist=ED or artist=RA. One comes from “on the way to being drunk” as a def for ON. This allows both drunk=ON, and the use of ‘on’ as an anagram indicator. Just watch out for this kind of thing as you go on, especially if you spot a surprising treatment of an innocent little word like ‘on’.

There are also various short words that fill grids – this puzzle’s TERAI, with 5 useful letters, is maybe a barred-grid ERATO, but there are plenty of otherse like DEAR/DEARE/DEERE and the bard’s mysterious EALE.

Unless you already know Azed’s rules for setting (unlikely if you’re still reading this), don’t assume that you do. We can see from a couple of clues above that the definition need not begin at the beginning of the clue or end at the end (some will tell you that it has to). Some may tell you that Azed never uses indirect anagrams. Not true! He’s happy to use them if he believes that the anagram fodder can only be one thing. Example: Turk’s cap, name Jerome doubly retains in a way! (6) – if you see that “Jerome doubly” identifies Jerome K Jerome of ‘Three Men in a Boat’, you can remember or discover that the K stands for KLAPKA. (The cap is a KALPAK.) Very different from the bad kind, like  ‘Frolic of drunken nobles (5)’ = SPREE by way of peers* (but not earls* or lords*). That said, the strict conditions mean that Azed indirect anagrams are very rare.  Don’t worry about trying to learn all the Azed rules until/unless you go in for the monthly clue-writing comp, but remember that his approach is on the strict side – no cryptic-def-only clues, no nouns as anagram indicators, no “padding” for the sake of the surface only, and no Gateshead=G or indeed=”in deed”.  The effect is the same as the ultimate point of all the rules – when you get an answer in Azed, you can usually see why it’s the answer, and the chance of an alternative is very small indeed.  I’d like to say “always” rather than usually, but the fiendish wordplay means that most Azed bloggers end up asking for help with a clue or two, so don’t worry if this happens to you with a few answers – just don’t ink those ones in until you have all the checking letters – and always make sure you can see a def before committing yourself – the defs in Azed clues are very clear, though possibly one of many choices in C.)

It’s well worth browsing the comprehensive & lit. website. This archives all the ‘slips’ in which Azed lists successful clues in the clue-writing contest.  If you’re new to this kind of puzzle, just pick some random slips (for Plain puzzles) and have a look at the variety of treatments used for the same word.  Medium-length ones are good as the long and short ones tend to be mostly one or two clue-types.  Here’s a sample for upbraid – with some fairly predictable schoolboy humour among the quoted clues.

There’s no requirement, of course, to use my hair-shirt “paper version of C only” approach with references.  I certainly didn’t when learning to do these puzzles.  Back then, Chambers published books like the Crossword Completer, Back-words, and Anagrams, which presented the words in Chambers in useful orders, sorted by word-length.   These days, the help they gave you is available in the CD-Rom (2003 version) or online version of Chambers (The books are still around, though their long-term future must be in doubt).  The electronic ones cost more than a copy of the dictionary though, so a dictionary plus Backwords might be a good combo. Backwords is the most-thumbed of my old copies – it list words by alphabetical order of their reversals, so you can look words up by the end instead of the beginning. Not always much help with things like -ITE though, and the set of words in these books never seemed to be 100% complete.  Other reference books like Brewer and the ODQ can come in handy sometimes, but if you can read this you can just use Google.

Let’s take a quick look at a distinctive Azed clue type – the compound anagram. This is from No. 1916 a few weeks ago:

Aversion therapist treats this with trips (4)

You might have noticed already that all the letters in trips are in therapist.  Take them out, and you have the letters you need to make HATE=aversion.  “treats this with trips” tells you that (TRIPS + the answer) gives you the letters you need for THERAPIST.  There are variations in the way comp anags get written, but the basic idea is, in our notation,  (A + B)* = C, where A or B is the answer.   Watch out for two words or word groups in the clue with shared letters and the right difference in length to provide the answer, and indications of one thing being combined with another, with something like ‘this’ to indicate the answer.

Last point: remember to look at all of Chambers – in particular, the “Some First Names” appendix provides material for tricks with the meanings of names.

10 Responses to “Azed 1919 – Azed for beginners”

  1. Colin Blackburn says:

    Thanks for the long and detailed blog, Peter. I decided to give this one a go last night after your post. I didn’t finish it but I did solve all but six answers without Chambers. At that point I would normally have used Bradford’s to tease out the last few answers.

    I’d echo some of your comments in that I got this far not through an extensive vocabulary of obscure words but rather an analysis of Azed’s word play and looking at likely word forms. For instance, I pencilled in the LY of 44ac assuming it would be an adverb. I occasionally made mistakes, RIBERY instead of BRIERY (Ribes are currants and gooseberries rather than brambles it turns out, and RIBERY doesn’t exist as a word). I also wrote in CLAVIA instead of CLAVES only corrected when I saw 44ac.

    Words such as APTERIUM, WRECKFISH, FENBERRY and KONISCOPES all had fair word play leading to highly probably answers that were usually confirmed by checking letters. For instance, with APTERIUM I knew that words starting with PTER* were related to wings and that gave me half the word for free.

    I’d also echo Peter’s sentiment that people give Azed a go, even if you often don’t complete a daily cryptic you can still manage to logically solve most of an Azed and ultimately complete a whole one with a bit of help.

  2. bridgesong says:

    I echo Colin’s appreciation of this very helpful blog. I often find that I can finish the weekly Azed more quickly than the Saturday prize puzzle in the Guardian. There may be more obscure words, but the barred structure of the grid means that there are fewer unchecked letters, and it is usually possible to work out answers from the wordplay and then confirm them by reference to Chambers.

  3. mhl says:

    Thanks for this excellent and very useful post, Peter – it’s certainly something I’ll keep bookmarked as a resource for people who think that the Azed is out of their reach. Perhaps you could include these links somewhere, so that people using this as a tutorial in the future can easily find the original puzzle:

    [Java applet],,-24042,00.html

    [PDF version]

    Your point about how strictly Azed keeps to his rules is very important, I think. I found the puzzles much easier after repeatedly reading the introduction to his A to Z of Crosswords since it enormously cuts down the possible interpretations of the clues.

  4. Andrew says:

    Another vote of thanks from me for this excellent blog. As Peter says, this was definitely at the easy end of the Azed scale: I did almost all of it in less than half an hour without help from Chambers, with only SMAIK being unguessable and needing a search. I got both 1ac and 1dn early on (definitely working back from FISH for 1dn), which as always was a big help.

    It will be interesting to see if any Azed virgins tried this puzzle as a result of Peter’s “have a go” suggestion, and if so how they found it.

    By the way, I notice that yet again there are a couple of mistakes in the enumerations in the PDF version of this week’s puzzle (24ac and 31ac), though no mis-numbered clues this time. Also the website has suddenly started describing the Azeds as “set by Plain”.

  5. Colin Blackburn says:

    I had a little bit of help with SMAIK through local knowledge. While sike is often credited as a Scottish word, like many other Scottish words it is more generally North British. Sike is common in County Durham, common enough that my house is called Curlew Sike (or Curlew Syke to BT). There’s even the tautological Syke Burn close by.

  6. liz says:

    Thanks for this excellent blog, which I will bookmark for future reference. I used to find Azeds almost impossible but have recently started to enjoy them. This puzzle was the first I have ever managed to complete (leaning heavily Chambers), although I did have HEXENE for HEXANE at 2dn, as a result of not understanding the wordplay.

    I agree that these puzzles aren’t necessarily harder than some of the Saturday cryptics — although they certainly seemed that way to me in the beginning. What I have eventually come to understand is that they provide a different sort of satisfaction, fewer ‘aha!’ moments perhaps, but a definite pleasure in the intricacies.

    Many thanks again to Peter for providing such a detailed explanation of how these puzzles work. I’m sure I’ll be referring to it often!

  7. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    Thanks for confirming that at least one of my target audience found it useful. I’ve reduced the need to remember this article by giving it the “Tips for solvers” tag.

    HEXENE/HEXANE is a nasty one – I guess you just spotted HEXENE first from checking letters and confirmed the def. That’s usually enough but nasty things like this can happen. On reflection, -ENE is maybe even more common than -ANE for hydrocarbons.

  8. liz says:

    Thanks Peter. Not simply a useful blog, but a very generous one, I thought.

    You are right re HEXENE/HEXANE. I got carried away finding something that seemed to fit the def and forgot about the poet altogether.

  9. Ciaran McNulty says:

    Thanks Peter, I tackled Azed for a change today and managed to finish it for a change. It has made me think I ought to buy Chambers though!

  10. Mark Thakkar says:

    Belated thanks for posting this, Peter – I’ve just noticed it, and will pass it on to the undergrads I’ve been teaching crosswords to this term.

    I took a second longer than you, but didn’t use Chambers at all, and as a result (with guesses all over the place) got two answers wrong: GLEY instead of SLEY at 32ac, and PUNIM instead of PANIM at 27dn. I should have been able to get the latter, but didn’t think of PAN-ISLAM. WISLEY is news to me.

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