Never knowingly undersolved.

Azed 2047 – “Cherchez la Femme”

Posted by Andrew on August 28th, 2011


Azed last (and I think first) set a special of this kind in June 2008. Tilsit reported finding it very difficult (and I see from the comments that I did too), and I would say the same about this one. I think this is at least partly because of the very high proportion of relatively obscure words – I’d say getting on for two-thirds of the answers – though some of them were guessable from experience or (eventually) deducible from the wordplay and crossing letters. Ten pairs of mismatching intersections may not seem much out of a grid of 144 squares, but the stipulation that “no across or down word in the diagram is affected more than once” means that ten across and ten down answers have to be changed – more than half of both. My technique was to pencil in answers as I (quite slowly, and over several sessions) got them, and ink in the unaffected letters as I identified the mismatches. Because of the ambiguity of what the replacement letter should be (e.g. A/M could give either G or, by “treating the alphabet as cyclical”, T), I didn’t spot the “female forename” until I’d found almost all the intersections.

The affected words, and the letters to be entered, are as follows (it was no great surprise that 1ac and 1dn were affected!):

1a/1d: Vendiss/Foglamp – A
6a/7d: cOurb/Mauvin – N
12a/13d: grUme/Smalltimer – T
15a/5d: lumberLy/spuR – O
16a/9d: bobbinEt/realM – I
22a/23d: palKee/Quaere – N
26a/27d: rItually/Ataxy – E
30a/27d: Ramet/riVel – T
31a/21d: zestY/glenOid – T
34a/29d: Yeasted/efiK – E
giving the appropriately French ANTOINETTE.

1. Freshwater fish is gobbled by hawks? (7) 
6. Old, bent over, held in check (5) 
COURB O[ver] in CURB (check). COURB is an old word for bend or bent, related to “curve”
11. Strip distributed in most of daily papers (10) 
12. Clot that’s horrible Earl therefore cut out (5) 
GRUME GRUESOME less E[arl] SO (therefore)
14. Stops what audience takes to be start of soliloquy? (5) 
TUBAE Homophone of the start of Hamlet’s soliloquy “TO BE [or not to be]”. Plural of TUBA, the name of an organ stop
15. Golly, no go catching grayling, being clumsy of movement (8) 
16. Quick bow, girl circling middle of dress in fine lace (8) 
BOBBINET BOB (quick bow) + [dr]e[ss] in BINT
18. Old soldier among those limping in retreat a long way (5) 
MILES Hidden in “thoSE LIMping” reversed, and two definitions: old soldier and a long way
19. Queer process for preserving the dead (6) 
URNING Double definition – putting bodies in urns and a rare word for a male homosexual, hence “queer”.
22. Litter: take half away in enclosure (6) 
PALKEE [ta]KE in PALE (enclosure, as in “beyond the pale”). Another word for a palanquin.
24. I spoilt cat with a bit of love, such as a stroke (5) 
ICTAL I + CAT* + L[ove]. Adjective from ICTUS, which can mean a stroke or fit.
26. It’s universal in mass meeting following formalities? (8) 
28. English rose’s head wreathed in spotted succulent (8) 
SENGREEN ENG + R[ose] in SEEN (spotted). The sengreen is a succulent plant, aka the house leek or Sempervivum
30. It may result from vegetative reproduction (a term needing explication) (5) 
RAMET (A TERM)* Chambers gives a complicated botanical definition (hence this is perhaps an &lit!) – see also here
31. Essential for prize: style displaying piquancy (5) 
ZESTY Hidden in “priZE STYle”
32. Pecs’re sexier – result of gym with these, working out? (10) 
EXERCISERS (PECS’RE SEXIER less PE)* , with PE = gym, &lit
33. Leader of legions certainly captures castle producing testudos? (5) 
LYRES L[egions] + R (rook or castle in chess) in YES. The testudo formation, named after the tortoise (from its shell) was famously used by Roman soldiers; it’s also, more peacefully, a type of lyre, “said to have been first made of a tortoiseshell”.
34. Milkmaid’s overturned round seat messily covered with froth (7) 
YEASTED SEAT* in reverse of DEY (dialect word for a dairymaid)
1. Alluring dandy’s clothing? It’s extra-bright (7,2) 
FOGLAMP GLAM in FOP. The first part has to be read as “Alluring [that] dandy is clothing”
2. True Arita is erroneously ‘crafted at —-‘ (7) 
ETRURIA TRUE ARITA is an anagram (“crafted”) of AT ETRURIA, &lit as Arita is actually made in Japan (it’s a type of porcelain)
3. Hollow created by big name in broadcasting by quitting (6) 
DIMBLE DIMBLEBY less BY. It’a dialect word for a dell or dingle. Chambers doesn’t give an etymology, but presumably it’s a variant of “dimple”.
4. Slimy sediment from power cable gripped by salt (8) 
SAPROPEL P ROPE in SAL. A word with the delightful etymology of putrefaction + mud.
5. Kick out bastard writing off IOUs (4) 
SPUR SPURIOUS (bastard) less IOUS
7. Like some rays absorbed by the ocean, it colours things purplish (6) 
MAUVIN UV in MAIN. It’s a mauve dye
8. Polite behaviour that is involved in bus and train commuting (10) 
9. Lecturer filling many sheets in field of study (5) 
REALM L in REAM (500 sheets of paper)
10. Book got from library, say, such as poetic miscellany? (5) 
BLENT B + LENT. Past participle of “blend”, which could apply to a miscellany, poetic or not.
13. Nonentity writing up everything on watch? (10) 
SMALLTIMER Reverse of MS (writing|) + ALL + TIMER (watch)
17. Feature of early car, feature that’s often ringed (8) 
BULLNOSE Double definition. The first Morris Oxford was called the “bullnose”, and bulls often have rings through their noses.
20. Number One closed examined cut jewel (7) 
21. Lid on Earl Grey, initially, brewing – like a cup?(7) 
23. Doubt as before? Just so (6) 
QUAERE QUA (as) + ERE (before), &lit. “As before” indicates that QUAERE is an archaic form (of “query”), but is cleverly used again (“just so”) for the wordplay.
25. They tend Queen in grip of stroke endlessly (6) 
26. It’s nonsense, all but the first line (5) 
RIVEL [d]RIVEL. A rivel is a wrinkle – another dialect word
27. Lack of coordination always requires insertion of stent? (5) 
ATAXY TAX in AY. The sense of “stent” used in the surface reading is of a small splint used by surgeons to keep a vessel open, but it’s also a kind of tax,
29. Nigerian cutter turning up navy unloaded (4) 
EFIK Reverse of KNIFE less N. The Efik are people of SE Nigeria.

11 Responses to “Azed 2047 – “Cherchez la Femme””

  1. sidey says:

    Thank you for the comprehensive blog Andrew. Certainly a challenge but a pleasant one.

    The clue for 17d online was “Liverish about wind getting up in Maidenhead?”. Although BULLNOSE was obvious from the crossing letters I haven’t a clue how it could work.

  2. Richard Heald says:

    Very nice blog, Andrew, though the wordplay for 8dn should be I.E. in (BUS TRAIN)*.

    Re your preamble comment about an A/M clash leading to either G or T, Azed was careful to state in his preamble that letters entered could be no more than six letters away from the non-matching letters, so A/M couldn’t possibly lead to T. This knowledge proved very useful to me on a couple of occasions.

  3. Richard Heald says:

    Oh and Azed has set quite a number of Cherchez la Femmes over the past 20 years, including one competition puzzle for CASSANDRA (Azed No. 1220).

  4. nusquam says:

    Thank you for the blog, which explained some mysteries.

    Does the setter make no difference between borrowing and lending (10d)?

  5. Pelham Barton says:

    This took me about double my usual solving time for a plain Azed, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks Azed, and Andrew for the blog.

    Fickle memory tells me that Azed originally had a restriction of up to three letters distant from the letter entered to the letters in clues. Changing this to six allowed the mismatching letters to be any pair from the appropriate partition (odd or even numbered letters of the alphabet), while keeping the letter to be entered unambiguous, as noted by Richard @2.

  6. Bob Sharkey says:

    Sidey, the clue for 17D must have been an inclusion from a previous version that had to be completely rejigged. Obviously the puzzle was then published on-line without the original clue being replaced. I was about 2 thirds solved on-line before spotting the note in the .pdf version. I had already solved the on-line clue so had to rejig it all from my end too.

    The solution was PUCELAGE – (gale (rev.) in puce)

  7. Pelham Barton says:

    nusquam@4 re 10dn:

    The wording of the clue steers us to regard “got” as a paasive participle. The sentences “A book is borrowed” and “A book is lent” cover exactly the same set of possibilities, and this would also be true about a specific book. So as long as we stay in the passive, I have no problems with borrowed = lent. I would be less happy with “borrow” = “lend” as active verbs.

    There are of course other ways in which books can be got from library other than borrowed/lent, such as bought/sold (also equivalents only in the passive) or stolen, but the definition by example is clearly marked by the word “say”.

  8. bridgesong says:

    Andrew, thanks for the very comprehensive blog. Like you, I found this difficult and only managed to finish it on Friday evening, just in time for the Saturday deadline. Unlike you I was able to guess Antoinette fairly early on, and in fact was able to use that to work out where the last few crossing letters must be. Does anyone else think that TUBAE isn’t a very good homophone for TO BE..?

  9. sidey says:

    bridgesong, I think it depends how you were taught Latin. It works the way I was, too-bah sing. too-bee pl. The old ‘Caesar adsum jam forte, Pompey aderat’ doesn’t work the way I was taught, ‘Kaisar adsum yarm fortay…’.

  10. David Mansell says:

    Chambers gives both pronunciations, but Azed’s choice strikes me as very old-fashioned, Church Latin basically. As I was taught it in the 60s “tubae” would be pronounced “too buy” and “to be” would be spelled “tubi” in Latin, if such a word as “tubus” existed in Classical Latin. (I have no idea despite an A at A-level Latin!).

  11. Andrew says:

    Thanks Richard (congratulations on your runaway victory in the annual honours, by the way) for pointing out my error in the wordplay of 8dn – I think I parsed it correctly when I solved it (it was one of the first answers I got) but didn’t check properly when I wrote up the blog.

    Thanks also for pointing out the “not more than six away” rule, which I somehow totally missed when reading the preamble. As you say, noticing this this would have made finding the lady a lot easier.

    On the pronunciation of TUBAE, there are (at least) three ways of pronouncing Latin: ecclesiastical, as used in church music, and basically Italianate, in which it would be TOO-BAY; “Traditional English“, giving TEW-BEE or even CHEW-BEE; and the supposedly historically-accurate version, giving TOO-BUY. As I meant, but forgot, to mention in the blog, I think TO BE is a slightly dodgy hybrid of two of these.

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3 + = six