The Eightsome Reels

As an ardent cruciverbalist, I couldn’t resist posting this week’s Observer Crossword just to show you one of the interesting variations that Azed comes up with from time to time:


It’s probably a bit small to read  the clues, or even the instructions, but the point to grasp is that the answers are all 8 letters long and they have to be fitted in the squares surrounding the corresponding number. The trouble is that you’re not told which square to start from, or whether the letters are to be entered clockwise or anticlockwise.


The only way I know to start one of these puzzles is to solve several adjacent clues before entering them in the diagram and then see if I can find a way to fit them together on a bit of scrap paper. The structure of the diagram guarantees many checked letters (i.e. overlaps) between neighbouring answers so once you have a few then the subsequent ones get easier to fit in. These puzzles are usually difficult to start though.

Fortunately, however, in this one  I managed to get four  answers quite quickly:

2. As seen in bill fluctuating energy’s prone to fuse?

This is “liquable”, from “qua” meaning “as” in anagram of “bill”+e for energy, meaning able to melt.

3. Army regulation, devious blague open to dispute

Is clearly “arguable” (army regulation=ar+anagram of blague, “open to dispute” is the definition).

8. Easily duped once returning ball is eclipsed by Murray’s `gold’?

A little harder, but the word “once” suggests an obsolete spelling so the answer is “gullable” (“ball” backwards in “gule”, a Scottish form of “gold”, hence the reference to Murray).

9. Libel law curiously subject to decree?

Is “willable” (anagram of “libel law”; “subject to decree” being the definition).

With those four answers to fit in the squares around 2,  3, 8 and 9 I had plenty of checked letters and could find only one way to make it work. The remaining clues fell into place eventually, although it took me well over an hour to finish it on Sunday afternoon.

Nice puzzle though.

In the ongoing Azed competition for budding crossword cluers, I’m not doing so well. I did pick up a “highly commended” for my last clue, in competition No. 1918,  for the word PALAMPORE (a kind of Nepalese bedcover, don’t you know), but From the dizzying heights of 28th place, I’ve slipped down the table to 33rd.  Still, the winning clue for PALAMPORE was a real beauty:

Spread – array of two pages or a meal?

This involves an anagram of “pp+or a meal” with two different definitions of spread in the cryptic part. Very ingenious, and certainly better than my attempt (which I’m ashamed to include). Esteem to D.F. Manley, who wrote this clue and who is heading the Azed Honours Table for this year after 9 competitions.


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