Never knowingly undersolved.

Azed 1921 – Tips for Eightsome Reels

Posted by petebiddlecombe on March 23rd, 2009


This is one of the easiest of the regular Azed specials for me – even though this explanation may sound complicated.

Each answer can be entered in 16 different ways, which sounds difficult. But apart from the perimeter letters, every letter in the grid is checked, with twenty-five letters “super-checked” because they appear in four answers.  If you ever did the hexagonal puzzles (can’t remember the exact name) in the Puzzler as a kid, you know many of the ropes already.

As soon as you have two answers orthogonally adjacent to each other, you have only two ways of writing them in – as long as there’s only one 3-letter sequence that occurs in both. Remember that it may occur backwards or “round the corner” in one of them. Supposing that sequence is ABC, one answer could have it as ABC?????, ?ABC????, ??ABC???, … ,?????ABC, BC?????A, C?????BA or in reverse CBA?????, …, ?????CBA, A?????CB, BA?????C (I’ve left out the obvious one-step moves).  Words like DETESTED need watching out for (DET and its reversal – see the wrong one and the ES will be the wrong way round. Ditto EDD and DDE which are “round the corner” in this word in two directions.)

The two possibilities in these adjacent answers will both imply one or two possible three-letter sequences in at least three other answers (if the two solved clues are a corner one and its neighbour), and up to six other answers (if neither is on the edge). This should often give you enough information to solve one of the neighbours and settle the entry of the original two. With luck, you’ll solve a couple of “clumps” of clues which you can gradually link together.

Another tip: If you have one corner of solved answer fixed from another answer, then as long as that’s a letter used only once in the answer, you have the diagonally opposite corner too – if one corner is the first letter, the opposite one must be the fifth, whichever way the answer is entered.  And if both of two diagonally adjacent answers are both undetermined at the moment, you’ve gained information if their answers share exactly one letter – but that doesn’t happen very often.

It’s worth crossing out the numbers in the grid as you solve clues, so that you can see which part of the grid to concentrate on.

10 Responses to “Azed 1921 – Tips for Eightsome Reels”

  1. liz says:

    Thanks for the tips, Peter. I’m on the nursery slopes of Azed here and my heart sank seeing this week’s offering. So far I’ve solved one clue. Will look at your blog again in the cold light of day and see if I can make some inroads. Thanks for a way into the mysteries…

  2. Colin Blackburn says:

    As this puzzle doesn’t conform to the requirements of the online applet it doesn’t appear as the “Latest Azed” on the Guardian’s crossword site, last week’s continues to appear there. Instead there is a note with a link to the pdf. This link might appear below if I get the tags right.

    Azed 1921

  3. Peter Biddlecombe says:


    I hope you get some more clues as and when you come back to it. Puzzles like this can dent your confidence – I still sometimes struggle with the crucial clues for the code in Playfair puzzles, even though they’re mostly easy. If you haven’t seen a Playfair yet, worry about it when you get there.

  4. Ali says:

    Cheers for the link Colin. I went looking for this puzzle last night after reading Peter’s tips but couldn’t find it!

    Have never solved one of these before but seem to remember that one of the first ever Listener puzzles I attempted about 8 years ago used this trick. I got absolutely nowhere with that (had something to do with My Fair Lady I think), but I’ll give this a go. I’m guessing that the clues will be a little easier than a Plain puzzle as there’s an element of cold-solving required here.

  5. PaulD says:

    Another tip: Use tracing paper. At some stage you may want to putting some answers down on paper, but, depending on the pattern of those answers, it’s quite possible to put a number of answers in only to find later that they all need reversing.

  6. Sidey says:

    Nice set of tips Peter.

    As I can remember attempting my first one of these, anyone needing a bit of help or encouragement is welcome to mail me telwogan (at) gmail dot com

  7. liz says:

    Well, I’m chuffed! I’ve got half of it out now. Thanks again, Peter. Without your tips and encouragement I would have passed this one by.

  8. Simon Harris says:

    Thanks, Peter. Your post, combined with extensive goading and jeering from Ciaran of the Guardian team, led me to finish my first ever Azed!

  9. liz says:

    I finished too. Very satisfying.

  10. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    Well done both. Next stop Carte Blanche.

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