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TImes 26,401

This will be as minimal as a Derek Jarman film, I'm afraid, as it's Labour Day here and we are going out for yum cha. 43 minutes, good enough for last place on the leaderboard at the moment, but only 3.5 Vs, so not too shabby.


9. ABHOR - A BOR[e] around H
10. RED CARPET - or REDCAR PET? Quirky cryptickish definition, with Redcar being a town in NE England famous for its racecourse and for once belonging to the benighted "county" of Cleveland.
11. COHESION - COHES + I + ON. (HE, His Excellency, is an ambassador, and CO a fellow, um, ambassador, here.)
12. CHALET - CH + A + LET
17. STOLID - reversal of LOT in SID
18. LUKEWARM - U + KEW in L + ARM
20. IN CASE - double definition with an exclamation mark thrown in for good measure
21. BEFALLEN - neo-Biblical allusion to harlotry. Chimes with me after two performances of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast over the weekend.
24. POPPY-HEAD - POP + anagram* of HE'D PAY
25. OCTET - first letters of the five middle words


1. TRAMCAR - RAMC in RAT reversed
3. ORRIS - sounds like 'orace, as it goes
4. GARROTTE - GOT + TE around A + RR (Right Reverend)
5. FAD+E
6. ROADHOUSE - ROUSE around O + AD + H
7. APPLE CHARLOTTE - APP (download) + L + LOT (group) in TEACHER*; the anagrind is "'s assembly", i.e. 'assembly of' [the foregoing], which I think is rather neat.
14. GAINSAYER - GAS around IN + AYER
16. QUEENDOM - QUEEN + DOM ( as in Bede Griffiths)
17. SKIMPY - KIM in SPY, and not SPY in ???
19. MANATEE - AN in MATE + E
22. AMOUR - sounds like 'a Moor'
23. MESH - S in HEM reversed

Quick Cryptic 560 by Mara

I've found some of Mara's puzzles on the tricky side in the past but glancing back at recent ones they have seemed easier of late and this one continues that trend. I shall be interested to read what others made of it. 9 minutes

As usual definitions are underlined in bold italics, {deletions are in curly brackets} and [indicators in square brackets]

8 Immoral woman tucking bread inside jumper (7)
TROLLOP - ROLL (bread) is contained by [tucking...inside] TOP (jumper - clothing)
9 Lift unreliable ultimately, and yet to arrive? (5)
ELATE - {unreliabl}E [ultimately], LATE (yet to arrive). In the sense of lifting one's mood or spirits.
10 Blade turning either way? (5)
ROTOR - Straight definition with palindrome indicator [turning either way]. Of course I know of 'rotor blade' but I'm not sure the words are actually synonymous.
11 Figure horse to be caught by midday (7)
NONAGON - NAG (horse) inside [to be caught by] NOON (midday). Figure with nine sides.
12 Funny fellow doctor? (7)
COMEDIC - CO (fellow - as in "co-pilot"), MEDIC (doctor)
14 Stuff in small canyon (5)
GORGE - Two definitions
15 Demand gold, another colour being sent back (5)
ORDER - OR (gold), RED (another colour) reversed [being sent back]
17 Entire bust encapsulates good figure (7)
INTEGER - Anagram [bust] of ENTIRE contains [encapsulates] G (good). Figure again, this time a whole number.
19 A mine in California is excellent! (7)
CAPITAL - A + PIT (mine) in CAL (California)
20 Robert, lad welcoming bed and breakfast initially (5)
BOBBY - BOY (lad) contains [welcoming] B{ed} + B{reakfast} [initially].
22 Better having left home before party! (5)
OUTDO - OUT (having left home), DO (party)
23 Women off and on in vision at night (3,4)
NEW MOON - Anagram [off] of WOMEN, ON

1 After southpaw's lead, something black - a shiner! (4)
STAR - S{outhpaw's} [lead], TAR (something black)
2 Lowest    Shakespearean character (6)
BOTTOM - Two definitions, the second with reference to the weaver in A Midsummer Night's Dream
3 In bathtub lurks a smudge (4)
BLUR - Hidden [in] {bathtu}B LUR{ks}
4 In old money, wood is scary (5-8)
SPINE-CHILLING - PINE (wood) inside SCHILLING (old money - e.g. the currency of Austria prior to the Euro)
5 Chicken, thing to cook for a wild evening? (3,5)
HEN NIGHT - HEN (chicken), anagram [cook] of THING
6 Firework, a sizzler? (6)
BANGER - Two definitions, the second being a slang word for 'sausage' though oddly it doesn't appear in any of the usual sources.
7 Sound rule costly for Rudolph, say? (8)
REINDEER - Sounds like "reign" (rule) and "dear" (costly)
12 Quick couple of hacks (4-4)
CHOP-CHOP - CHOP x 2 (hacks)
13 Time taken to move around it (8)
DURATION - Anagram [move] of AROUND IT
16 Obligation to accommodate leaders in European Parliament as stand-in official (6)
DEPUTY - DUTY (obligation) contains [accommodate] E{uropean} + P{arliament} [leaders]
18 Ape - giant turning up with bone, shortly (6)
GIBBON - BIG (giant) reversed [turning up], BON{e} [shortly]
20 Black bird for pudding dish (4)
BOWL - B (black), OWL (bird)
21 Pull Tibetan bovine round mountain, finally (4)
YANK - YAK (Tibetan bovine) contains [round] {mountai}N [finally]
Middle of the road puzzle incorporating the most often married Queen of England with possibly the most misquoted film actor (who didn't say "Play it again Sam") and a Norfolk town many will not have heard of. One slightly odd definition at 22A and a rather clunky offering at 24D but fun to solve. It appeared the day after the four-hundreth anniversary of Shakespeare's death of which it made absolutely no mention.

10PACHYDERMATA - (my carpet had a)*; animal classification including elephants and politicians;
11SEABORN - SEA(BOR)N; neighbour=BOR;
13NUTRIA - NUT-IRA; display=air then move "a" to end; fur;
14ZORINO - ZO(RIN)O; RIN from RIN(d); euphemism for skunk;
15TIERS - TI(m)ERS; I think the kids are goats and we're in the mountains;
16AESIR - A-(RISE reversed); are=A; Norse Gods;
17ON,SIGHT - sounds like "on site";
22FATTISM - F-A-TT-IS-M; TT=Tourist Trophy; why is discrimination against fat people a problem for a would-be model?
26IGAPO - I(GAP)O; forest by a river liable to periodic flooding;
28ZANTE - Z(ANT)E(a); maize=Zea; wood is definition;
29MALAGA - AGA-LAM all reversed; rather sweet dessert wine;
30SLIGHT - S-LIGHT; set=settle=LIGHT;
31VIRGULE - VIRG(o)-ULE; crude rubber=ULE; slanting mark;
32SACRAMENTARY - (scary art)* surrounds AMEN;
33TROELY - TR(LEO reversed)Y;
34DISMES - DIS(ME)S; DISS=market town in South Norfolk, home of Thomas Lord who founded the famous cricket ground; old tithes;
2SALUING - ("langu-age" minus "age" plus "is")*; old word for salute;
3ACATES - A(C-AT-(gam)E)S; bought provisions;
5S'DEATH - (the sad)*;
6LEAZE - (s)LEAZE; s=sun;
7SMORED - hidden (want)S-MORE-D(evolution); put out in Perth;
8BARISH - B-ARISH; stubble field=ARISH;
12BOART - BO(g)ART; Humphrey DeForest Bogart 1899-1957 the iconic noble cynic; a rough diamond;
18GLOGG - G-LOG-G; Swedish Christmas drink;
19ASTHORE - AS(T)HORE; darling is definition;
20CALICO - C-ALIC(e)-O; care of=CO;
21SPARRE - S(PARR)E; Catherine Parr 1512-1548 last wife of Henry VIII; old word for bar;
23AISLED - (ladies)*;
24TAINTS - T-AINT-S; one alphabet character=T; isn't=AINT; one alphabet character before T=S; infections; clunky clue;
25INGRAM - ING-RAM; meadow=ING; ignorant;
27GAUMY - GA(UM)Y; smeared;

Sunday Times 4691 by Jeff Pearce

I find that quite a few of Jeff's puzzles share the same overall characteristics - a significant number of nicely constructed but eminently gettable clues, laced with two or three where the answer is something pretty obscure. This one was no exception, with 5a, 2d and 17d all being words way beyond my ken, but the rest of it going in pretty smoothly.

What did make this one different (for me at any rate) was that, whereas usually with Jeff's "unknowns" the wordplay and cross checkers combine to enable me to enter the answer with a fair level of confidence (as indeed was the case with 5a today), 2d and 17d were anagrams and offered no additional signposts - which made it a bit hit or miss (and, of course, I missed!) Not a whinge, more an observation - but I will be interested to see what others thought.

Anyway, much to enjoy (as usual) - with 8d, 27a and 20d being my personal favourites, and 22a stirring unpleasant memories of the worst hangover of my life after a very silly night in Milan!

Definitions underlined: DD = double definition: anagrams indicated by *(--)

1 About to go back to a security organisation - one with several branches (6)
ACACIA - CA reversed (about to go back) + A + CIA (security organisation)
5 Old head has a gin, say, after school (6)
SATRAP - A TRAP (a gin) 'after' S (abbrev. school), giving us a kind of Persian governor of old. New word to me, but mercifully it fell into place OK from the generous cluing and the cross checkers.
9 One can't go off at nights (9)
INSOMNIAC - Gentle cryptic
10 Perth perv returned to dance (4)
REEL - LEER (perv - as in the verb "to perv") reversed (returned). The Perth reference threw me a bit for a while, but I think it is probably a reference to Perth in Australia, on the basis (maybe) "to perv" was originally an Aussie expression, although I think it is now mainstream UK as well (or maybe I just spend too much time with UK based Aussies...)
11 Seat in tree is rare (6)
BREECH - R (abbrev. rare - on a waiter's notepad I suppose) 'in' BEECH (tree)
12 French policeman or criminal armed with information (8)
GENDARME - GEN (information) + *(ARMED) with "criminal" as the anagrind
14 Train Earl to get more canny touring Pennsylvania (8)
ESPALIER - E (Earl) + SLIER (more canny) go round (tour) PA (Pennsylvania)
16 Monkey outside small recess (4)
APSE - APE (monkey) goes round (outside) S (small)
18 Ruined a sculpture (4)
BUST - Neat economical DD
19 During psalm conductor talks foolishly (8)
PRATTLES - RATTLE (Sir Simon of that ilk - conductor) is found inside (during) PS (abbrev. Psalm). Is it just me, or does Sir Simon bear an uncanny resemblance to David Gower (although his square cut is probably not as elegant)?
21 Robert put old tie on American bird (8)
BOBOLINK - BOB (Robert) + O (old) + LINK (tie)
22 Doctor entertains artist with piano and a brandy (6)
GRAPPA - GP (doctor) 'entertains' RA (artist) + P (piano) + A
24 Bats finally settling on stove (4)
GAGA - Last letter (finally) of settlinG + AGA (stove)
26 Short belt - one form of punishment creating a storm! (9)
HURRICANE - HURR{y} (short belt) + I (one) + CANE (form of punishment)
27 Great cricketer becomes more like a judge? (6)
SOBERS - Super DD, featuring Sir Gary (for me the peerless all-rounder) and invoking "sober as a judge" (one of the more misleading similes of our time based on my observations attending dinners at a certain Inn of Court)
28 Flat behind the Spanish cardinal (6)
ELEVEN - EVEN (flat) goes after (behind) EL (the in Spanish)

2 Painting Caruso performing with choir (11)
CHIAROSCURO - *(CARUSO CHOIR) with "performing" as the anagrind, giving us a painting technique involving strong contrasts of dark and light, as I subsequently learned. A DNK for me, and whilst the anagram fodder was clear enough, I ended up opting for what turned out to be the wrong left over letters between the cross checkers - the first of two similar experiences in this puzzle.
3 Class left out of big house (5)
CASTE - CAST{l}E (big house) loses its L (left out)
4 A jolly cleaner goes round one piece of furniture (8)
ARMCHAIR - A RM (a jolly - old slang for Royal Marine which crops up quite often here but nowhere else in the world that I have ever discovered) + CHAR (cleaner) going round I (one).
5 Back in a short while (6)
SECOND - Another neat DD which took me a fair while to spot
6 Swimming manager fills dry bag (9)
TERMAGANT - *(MANAGER) - with "swimming" as the anagrind - 'filling' TT (dry)
7 Grog makes you dim when put under pressure (3)
ALE - If you were to add a P (pressure) on top of ALE, then you'd end up with a word than can mean 'dim'
8 Farm facility with fallen leader, grabbed by criminal mastermind with yen for dodgy deals (7-6)
JIGGERY POKERY - Loved this one, although it was a bit of a brute to parse. PIGGERY (farm facility) with the P transposed to the end (fallen leader) is surrounded by (grabbed by) JOKER (criminal mastermind - Batman's nemesis) + Y (yen)
13 To defeat hunk is an outstanding achievement (11)
MASTERPIECE - MASTER (to defeat) + PIECE (hunk)
15 American left a flashing light outside as a navigator's aid (9)
ASTROLABE - A (American) + STROBE (flashing light) going round (outside) L A (left a). And for the benefit of anyone (like me) who is far more familiar with the (very good) Kiwi wines under the Astrolabe label than with navigation, this is (loosely speaking) a kind of ancient Sat Nav.
17 Stupid angler almost hit pipe (8)
NARGHILE - *(ANGLER + HI{t}) with "stupid" as the anagrind, with the answer being a kind of hookah. Well, the anagram material was clear enough and we had the benefit of four cross checkers, but still I got it wrong (Hangrile somehow looked more plausible!)
20 Blackpool is known for such organs (6)
LIGHTS - DD. The illuminations for which the resort is famed, and the innards that butchers used to sell (at least they did in Somerset when I was a lad - "bag of lights for the cat please"). Nice clue, I thought, but probably tough for our friends from overseas.
23 Quickly take horse from native American (5)
APACE - H (abbrev. horse) is taken from APAC{h}E (native American)
25 Bother sandboy, now and then (3)
ADO - Every other letter (now and then) of sAnDbOy

Saturday Times 26394 (23rd April)

11:25 for this one, solved online on the Sunday morning as I didn't get a chance to do anything crossword-related last Saturday. This seemed to have a lot of GK in it - nearly half the clues seemed to have at least an element of something that might be found in a quiz question. Not that I had a problem with that, but it was noticeable. There was quite a bit of whingeing on the Forum about obscure words, with 1D and 26A getting most of the flak. I remember 1D from history in junior school, and he makes regular appearances in cryptics. 26A I probably learned from earlier puzzles, as it also crops up regularly.

1 Second child of criminal, unfriendly sort (4,4)
COLD FISH - (S child of)*.
5 Keep mum / locked in (4,2)
SHUT UP - double definition.
10 One critical of rubbish transported from the east (9)
DETRACTOR - ROT CARTED (rubbish transported), reversed.
11 Completely finished supper, not leaving odd portions (5)
SPENT - alternate letters of SuPpEr, NoT.
12 One in the dark, being without lighting for a start (4)
UNIT - UNLIT (in the dark), minus the L for Lighting.
13 English officer certainly getting left inside compound (9)
ENCLOSURE - E(nglish) + NCO (officer) + SURE (certainly), with L(eft) inside.
15 Very good group's making comeback with trendy hit (6-4)
PISTOL-WHIP - PI (very good) + LOTS (group's) reversed + W(ith) + HIP (trendy).
17 Judge saw moving film (4)
JAWS - J(udge) + (saw)*. 1975 film (was it really that long ago? I was 12) which was the biggest box-office hit ever at the time.
19 Fur I snatched from wild animal (4)
COAT - remove the I from a COATI (a South American raccoon-like mammal).
20 Lots of water tears through low area (7,3)
BARENTS SEA - RENTS (tears) inside BASE (low), A(rea). Part of the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of Norway and Russia.
22 Rock singer's last to interrupt sound of fiddle? (9)
CORNSTONE - (singe)R inside CON'S TONE (sound of fiddle). "A silicious limestone, favourable to cereal growing" according to Chambers. I'd never come across it before, but guessed it from the wordplay without any difficulty.
24 Spoil vote for left-winger (4)
MARX - MAR (spoil) + X (vote).
26 Wild dog died in front of den (5)
DHOLE - D(ied) + HOLE (den). An Asian wild dog a lot commoner in cryptics than in everyday conversation.
27 Popular school missing top grade: so essential (9)
INTRINSIC - IN (popular) + TRAIN (school) minus the A (missing top grade) + SIC (so).
28 Temporary shelter accommodating a new resident (6)
TENANT - TENT (temporary shelter) around A N(ew).
29 I note speaker's felt full of anger (8)
INCENSED - I + N(ote) + CENSED (sounds like SENSED - felt).

1 Revolting sort captured by 14 (4)
CADE - hidden in the answer to 14D. Jack CADE was the leader of a rebellion against the government of Henry VI in 1450. He lost.
2 Public school heads in row, unusually supporting Liberal party (3,4,4,4)
LET ONE'S HAIR DOWN - ETON (public school) + (heads in row)*, all underneath L(iberal).
3 A bit frantic, desperate to embrace love (8)
FRACTION - (frantic)* around O (love).
4 Scorer in match against South Africa (5)
SATIE - an SA TIE might be a match against South Africa. Erik Satie was a French composer (or scorer as a crossword euphemism).
6 US actor: he is given entertainment award shortly (6)
HESTON - HE'S (he is) + TON(y) (entertainment award shortly). He got an Oscar for Ben-Hur, but never won a Tony as far as I know.
7 Book speculates about rise of informal language, mostly American (3,3,4,5)
THE SUN ALSO RISES - THEORISES (speculates) around [SLAN(g) (informal language, mostly) + US (American), all reversed]. 1926 novel by Ernest Hemingway.
8 Herts town / where snooker player drinks? (7,3)
POTTERS BAR - pretty obvious second cryptic definition, as long as you know the place exists!
9 Number in favour of school punishment one received (8)
PROCAINE - PRO (in favour of) + CANE (school punishment) around I (one).
14 Fellow in drainpipes? One beats up a rather eccentric type (5,5)
SPACE CADET - TED (fellow in drainpipes - 60s fashion, before my time) + ACE (one) + CAPS (beats), all reversed. Definitely my COD, took ages to see how it worked.
16 Without suit, without headgear? How is that significant? (4,2,2)
WHAT OF IT - WO (without) + FIT (suit), around HAT (headgear). One that almost has to be biffed and the wordplay figured out later!
18 Cat in agony, beginning to eat poisonous stuff (8)
PTOMAINE - TOM (cat) inside PAIN (agony) + E(at). The word-of-the-week it seems, spotted in a couple of other puzzles since (e.g. yesterday, but I think it cropped up in the Guardian during the week too).
21 A small seabird seen here? (6)
ASTERN - A + S(mall) + TERN (seabird). A semi-&lit.
23 Consumed all but head of battered ... (5)
EATEN - BEATEN (battered), minus the first letter.
25 ... fish served cold, absolutely delicious for starters (4)
SCAD - initial letters of Server Cold Absolutely Delicious.
Just under the hour for me, so medium difficulty I would suggest.  A couple of leaps of faith with EUPHORBIA and MICRODOT, but nothing too controversial as I recall.  Unless you want to get into a debate about whether Neanderthals were people, which I don't.

Compliments to the setter as usual.  I particularly liked the clues for INTROITS and METAL.  Some lovely surfaces as well, involving naughty girls, furious feminists and badly behaved nurses.  Come to think of it there's also a beautiful woman (or two), a wife on a mattress, a mother-to-be, an Iron Maiden and an incredibly fit fighting nun, so it would seem that all tastes are catered for.

Anyway, down to business.  Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined.  Anagrinds are bolded and italicised.

1 Large bird in rollercoaster (3,6)
BIG DIPPER - BIG (large) + DIPPER (bird)
6 Continental scholar is puncturing hypocrisy on a Friday (10)
AFRICANIST - A + FRI (Friday) + IS inside CANT (hypocrisy)
12 Flash type of coffee (7)
INSTANT - Double definition
13 Twenty-eight countries fear being invaded by river plant (9)
EUPHORBIA - EU (European Union, made up of 28 countries) + R (river) inside PHOBIA (fear)
Will that be twenty-seven later this year?  What's it gonna be guys?
14 Collect fool's confession? (5)
An odd confession, but we are dealing with a fool here.
16 Item on desk, perhaps dear (6,6)
LETTER OPENER - eg Dear Prudence
17 Rebel lad on Nauru smuggling drug (10)
BELLADONNA - Hidden, quite nicely, in reBEL LAD ON NAuru
Nauru is one of two places where Australia conducts state-sanctioned human rights abuses.  The other is PNG, but they told us this week where to stick it.
19 City insiders struggle with it, wondering who one is (8,6)
22 Enterprise perhaps leads with it (8)
STARSHIP - STARS (leads) + HIP (with it)
Not a Trekky myself, but it seems like good harmless fun.
24 Mapmakers move Channel port (6)
OSTEND - OS (Ordnance Survey, British mapmakers) + TEND (move)
25 Bloke is gutted after female stops saying she's pregnant (6-2-2)
MOTHER-TO-BE - HER (female) inside MOTTO (saying) + BE (BlokE, gutted)
26 Sixty minutes with one beautiful woman (5)
HOURI - HOUR (sixty minutes) + I (one)
Did you hear about our Sixty Minutes crew's recent shenanigans in Beirut?  Don't look it up, it's just embarrassing.
29 Outspokenly commend setting (4)
SITE - Homophone (outspokenly) of CITE (commend)
30 Cockney’s searched for round fruit straight from freezer (8)
UNTHAWED - UNTED (Cockney for hunted (searched for)) around HAW (fruit)
32 High-spirited cows briefly invading hospital department (9)
EBULLIENT - BULLIE (bullies (cows) briefly) inside ENT (hospital department)
34 Cash and clothes from the east for Roman poet (9)
LUCRETIUS - LUCRE (cash) + TIUS (suit (clothes) reversed (from the east))
35 Most irritable artist draws between times (8)
RATTIEST - RA (artist) + TIES (draws) between TT (times)
36 Cease tantrum right away! (4)
STOP - STROP (tantrum) without the R (right)
39 Beat extremely thuggish boy (5)
THROB - TH (extremely ThuggisH) + ROB (boy)
40 Mostly unrestricted, then restricts access to surgical procedures (10)
OPERATIONS - OPE (mostly open (unrestricted)) + RATIONS (restricts access to)
42 Quiver, losing heart in large measure (6)
TREBLE - TREMBLE (quiver) losing M (its heart, or middle letter)
44 With leaders away, stop the navy becoming administratively overburdened (3-5)
TOP-HEAVY - TOP HE AVY ("stop the navy" without leading letter of each word)
46 Aroused serene dentist's curiosity (14)
48 Correct Internet Protocol policy on record (10)
DISCIPLINE - DISC (record) + IP (Internet Protocol) + LINE (policy)
49 Naughty girl sang hymn in Cockney argot (7,5)
Actually this might be COD.  Lovely anagram, smooth surface.  Great clue.
53 Group of soldiers beginning to show muscle (5)
SQUAD - S (beginning to "Show") + QUAD (muscle)
54 Reconciled, people finally start reparations (9)
ATONEMENT - AT ONE (reconciled) + MEN (people) + T (finally "starT")
55 Feminist of furious fire, with degree of proficiency in karate (7)
FRIEDAN - (FIRE)* + DAN (degree of proficiency in karate)
56 Wilful crime reported on main road (10)
HEADSTRONG - HEAD (main) + ST (road) + RONG (homophone (reported) for wrong (crime))
57 Royals are working for just over 52 weeks (5,4)
365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, from memory.  And Wikipedia.
1 Bloke's bottom bitten by top dog (5)
BESET - E (bottom of "blokE") inside BEST (top)
2 Individual beneath most solemn memorial (10)
GRAVESTONE - GRAVEST (most solemn) + ONE (individual)
3 Hymns I ultimately learn just for love of it (8)
INTROITS - I + NTR (ultimately "learN jusT foR") + O (zero (love)) + ITS (of it)
4 Annoy class in gym the day before (5)
PEEVE - PE (class in gym) + EVE (the day before)
5 Assistant nurses behave badly, coming back for refill (9)
REPLENISH - SIN (behave badly) inside HELPER (assistant) all reversed (coming back)
6 Version of Bible it hurts to acknowledge (4)
AVOW - AV (version of Bible) + OW (it hurts)
7 Teased wife on mattress (6)
RIBBED - RIB (wife) + BED (mattress)
8 Emily's sister has endless apple dessert (9,5)
CHARLOTTE RUSSE - CHARLOTTE (sister of Emily Bronte) + RUSSE (endless russet (apple))
Emily Bronte has the distinction of writing the worst novel I've ever read.
9 Old people swimming near Shetland (12)
Swimming near Shetland?  No wonder they didn't last.
10 Firm barista uncharitably crosses (7)
STAUNCH - hidden in bariSTA UNCHaritably
11 Residence over the pond containing nothing very unpleasant (10)
VILLAINOUS - VILLA (residence) + IN US (over the pond) containing O (nothing)
15 Waving to spaniel and Siamese cat (4-5)
I hate cats.  There, I said it.  Fortunately no-one reads the Jumbo blog.
18 One involved in Middle Common Room furore about LSD tablet (8)
MICRODOT - I (one) in MCR (Middle Common Room) + ODOT (to-do (furore) reversed (about))
Don't think these ever made it to my little country town, but just to be safe we all got dragged into the local theatre to learn about this evil from an American film called "LSD - Insight or Insanity?"  I was about eight years old.  Now THAT was a trip.
20 Retired people repressing panic in vehicle (6,3)
ESTATE CAR - STATE (panic) in ECAR (race (people) reversed (retired))
21 On-line security measure (7,3)
CLOTHES PEG - Cryptic definition
23 Rivers perhaps happen to go west, north and north east (10)
COMEDIENNE - COME (happen) + DIE (go west) + N (north) + NE (north east)
Joan Rivers, a fairly recent entry to Times crossword eligibility.  Or does that rule not apply to the Jumbo?
27 Posh, well-groomed, talented, and disgusting when dining (9)
UNEATABLE - U (posh) + NEAT (well-groomed) + ABLE (talented)
28 Vatican lost nun, incredibly fit fighter (14)
Fit fighter.  Good one.
31 Slap raised lump on skin without soreness (8)
WARPAINT - PAIN (soreness) inside WART (raised lump on skin)
33 Foolish complaint about the French heeded (6-6)
FEEBLE-MINDED - FEEB (beef (complaint) reversed (about)) + LE ("the" in French) + MINDED (heeded)
34 Questionable adult site in regions north and south (9)
37 A chap tailing smooth PR person (5,5)
PRESS AGENT - PRESS (smooth) + A + GENT (chap)
38 I presented complex decree in advance (10)
41 Aircrew periodically leaves frozen wastes (3,6)
ICE SHEETS - ICE (aIr CrEw periodically) + SHEETS (leaves)
43 Put up with champion (5,3)
STAND FOR - Double definition
45 Father Time drilling fine grassland (7)
PASTURE - PA (father) + T (time) in SURE (fine)
47 Entirely enthused by Toronto's outskirts (2,4)
IN TOTO - INTO (enthused by) + TO (outskirts of TorontO)
50 Perhaps Iron Maiden and others (5)
METAL - M (maiden) + ET AL (others)
And an &LIT to boot.  Lovely clue.
51 French marshal falling out of Channel Island tree (5)
ALDER - ALDERNEY (Channel Island) without NEY (French marshal)
52 Diving bird cropped up as feature of icy waters (4)
BERG - GREBe (bird), cropped and reversed (diving)
Eloquence will be lacking today. Not the cheering hirsute face you're used to on a Friday, with lurid tales of bacchanalia and lightning solves in the wee small hours; I'm here for Monsieur V as he's offered to sub for me next week while I'm defending a trophy over three days on lightning fast greens.
Fridays can be tricky, but this one was no problem and I enjoyed it, not least because 1a was a chemical write-in for me to drone on about, and there are no antelopes. There's a sort of upmarket or Ghengis Khan theme to it, perhaps, with 7a, 11a, 16a, 23a, 5d showing common ground, but that may be an accident.
Half an hour had it done and deciphered ready to wax prosaic below.

1 PTOMAINE - Insert TO MAIN (centre) into PE; D compound. In fact not one compound but a collection of nasty amines like putrescine and cadaverine, formed by bacteria in rotting food or vegetation; 'ptomaine poisoning' is now an obsolete term as it seems the pathogen bacteria do you more damage than their smelly by-products. From Greek ptoma, corpse.
9 QUESTION - QUEST = mission, NO I reversed; D challenge.
10 LAIC - (P)LAIC(E) = fish topped and tailed; D ordinary people's.
11 HORSEMANSHIP - (HAMPSHIRE SON)*; D art mounted. Elegant.
13 BINNED - INN (bar) inside BED (base): D dispensed with.
14 RINGTONE - Anagram of OWING RENT without the W; D alert.
15 VESTIGE - Letter = VEE, insert ST and GI reversed; D shred. At first I had an N as the second letter, having solved 1d with insufficient care, but once I had V as the first letter from 15d I quickly saw the light.
16 WARLORD - WORD = pledge, insert A R(iva)L; D chief.
20 BEGOTTEN - ROTTEN = corrupt, delete R, add BEG = petition; D produced.
22 USABLE - US = American, insert B into ALE = porter; D working.
23 ARISTOCRATIC - no doubt you wrote in the answer and thought 'it's wordplay but exactly how we don't worry about'. ARI = odd letters of A f R a I d, then you insert T for time into SOCRATIC; D elite. It looked at first like old Aristo-tle had something to do with it, but he doesn't.
25 OVAL - O for duck, i.e. 0 at cricket, then LAV reversed; D &lit, the cricket ground in London.
26 CHAPLAIN - Insert PLA(Y) into CHAIN = series; D clergyman.
27 GATHERED - I think this is a DD; one meaning plucked, and one meaning rose, as in gathered speed, although you really need a noun like speed or momentum to make the meaning equivalent. Comments please (I'll trust LJ not to delete them today, as happened on Wednesday when LJ mysteriously duplicated my post and the wrong one with posts was then deleted).

2 TRACTIVE - Of course, as mentioned at 15a, in threw in TRACTION at first, and had to amend it; TRACT = pamphlet, I'VE = the author's; D drawing. Not a common word, although it's fair enough, given the existence of ATTRACTIVE and ATTRACTION.
3 MACHINATIONS - MACHO = male, change the O to an I, (current for old) then NATIONS = communities; D schemes.
4 INFRA DIG - INDIG(O) = short blue, insert (RAF)*; D unbecoming. Abbr. of Latin infra dignitatem meaning 'below one's dignity'.
5 EQUERRY - E = palace ultimately, insert R (king) into QUERY (doubt); D royal aide.
6 DETAIN - ATE = worried, reverse it, insert into DIN = row; D shut up.
7 HIGH - A triple D I think; powerful, superior, and going off like smelly food.
8 KNAPWEED - KNAP sounds like NAP = pile, WEED sounds like WE'D = two of us had; D plant.
12 SETTLE A SCORE - SETTLE = people, as in colonise, A SCORE = twenty, D obtain revenge.
15 VIBRANCY - (BY VICAR N)*; D energy. Or if you prefer, insert N into (BY VICAR)*.
17 AQUATINT - A, T (cat's tail) inside QUAINT (whimsical); D etching.
18 RELEGATE - ER (Queen) reversed, LEGATE for ambassador; D lower in status. As in Aston Villa but not Bournemouth.
19 SNORING - (SON)*, RING = band; D disruptive noise. It doesn't disrupt me, and it's the dog snoring, of course I never snore.
21 THORAX - THOR = God (Norse type), AX = a cross, D where his heart lies?
24 IMAM - AMI = French friend, turned up = IMA, M(ass); D prayer leader.

Quick Crossword 559 by Tracy

Nothing too controversial in this Friday's offering, and for once the number (22a) was a number and not something that numbs!
Thank you to Tracy.

1 Defend comic, pro: STAND UP FOR
Comic = stand-up, pro (in favour of) = FOR
8 Forbid one to leave subdued ceremonial dinner: BANQUET
Forbid = BAN, subdued = QUIET, one leaving gives QU(i)ET
9 Colour Morecambe rock contains: AMBER
Hidden word
10 Employed American editor: USED
American = US, editor = ED
11 Just released, with nitrogen in mixture: BRAND NEW
With = AND, nitrogen = N, all inside mixture = BREW
13 Doctor reversed Conservative’s fungal disease: DRY ROT
Doctor = DR, Conservative = TORY, reversed = YROT
14 United picked up after losing opener: ALLIED
Picked up = RALLIED, losing opener =(r)ALLIED
17 Go round more than is usual, and surrender: ROLL OVER
Go round = ROLL, more than is usual = OVER
19 Fight Pole: SPAR
Double definition
21 At no time lost nerve: NEVER
Anagram (lost) of NERVE
22 Number imbibing drop of sherry, dry: THIRSTY
Number = THIRTY, including drop of sherry = S
23 Type of novel unusual for Maclean: ROMAN A CLEF
Anagram (unusual) of FOR MACLEAN, an &lit clue

2 Attempt to employ girl where leather is processed: TANNERY
Attempt = TRY, including girl = ANNE
3 Part of speech some denounced: NOUN
Hidden word
4 Winning spin, a boost: UPTURN
Winning = UP, spin = TURN
5 Cloths for trousers: FLANNELS
Double definition
6 Steal from popular boy: ROBIN
Steal from = ROB, popular = IN
7 China’s top horse race: CROWN DERBY
Top = CROWN, horse race = DERBY
8 Making a mistake below, wearing conspicuous jewellery: BLUNDERING
Beneath = UNDER, wearing conspicuous jewellery = BLING
12 Man with groom redesigned design embroidered on clothing: MONOGRAM
Anagram (redesigned) of MAN and GROOM
15 Deadlock that is broken by politician, fool: IMPASSE
That is = IE, with politician = MP, fool = ASS inside
16 Church caretaker attacked carrying cross: SEXTON
Attacked = SET ON, carrying cross = X
18 Organ, as it happens, last of tour: LIVER
As it happens = LIVE, last of tour = touR
20 Record find? Not half!: DISC
Find not half = DISC(over)

TLS Crossword 1120 by Talos - April 8, 2016

After the two puzzles immediately preceding this, which were extremely tricky, I should have been on Easy Street here - so of course I made a mistake.  Memo to self:  do not try to do these crosswords when you have to leave for the weekend within the hour. Well that's my story anyway.  My mistake was not, as I originally thought, the unfamiliar author in 9a (which I'd failed to parse at the time of submission), but a careless misspelling of 3d.  Not a typo, just sloppiness.  Once over the sulks, I found this very neatly constructed and an excellent medley of the knowns and the unknowns.  I'll resist the temptation to quote that other Donald - Rumsfeld.  Where appropriate, definitions are in italics underlined.  Answers in bold caps.  42.32

1.  Mystery writer of 19th Century dictionary (7)
COLLINS.  As in Wilkie, the 19th Century author.  Best known for the Moonstone and the Woman in White.  Close friend of Dickens.  Also as in dictionaries - in particular the Gem Crossword Solver, without which I would not be doing this.  Double definition.
5. Play mother with cold and hot drinks option (7)
MACBETH.  MA=MOTHER.  C and H contains (drinks) BET=option.  Giving us the Scottish play.
9.  Way to befriend Afghan war author? (3,6)
PAT BARKER.  When you want to be friends with an Afghan dog (barker) you pat it.  Excellent completely misleading clue.  British writer whose works on the subject of war trauma (Regeneration Trilogy) I did not know at all but should have.
10.  Publish Pinter plays with no end of menace (5)
PRINT.   Anagram of PINTER, dropping the E (no end of [menac]E.
11.  Goethe play not opening gutted Estonian novelist (6)
AUSTEN.  As in Jane.  [F]AUST with E[stonia]N, after removing the guts.
12.  "Be scared, you - - that.  But don't be afraid" (Faulkner) (4,4)
CAN'T HELP.  From The Bear by William Faulkner.
14.  Writer's lodge around cabin in New England (5,5)
NEVIL SHUTE.  Lodge=LIVE reversed (around) with S.  HUT=cabin.  All contained in NE=New England.  I saw the hut and didn't unpack the rest of it until now and I don't suppose I'm alone because it was a bit convoluted.
16.  Briefly study purveyor of nonsense (4)
LEAR.  As in Edward of the limericks etc.  LEAR[N]=study.  He was also a really good landscape artist.
18.  Club knocking vitality out of Elinor or Marianne? (4)
WOOD.  The golf kind of club.  Remove the "dash"=vitality from Elinor and Marianne Dashwood of Austen's Sense and Sensibility.
19.  Father with revolutionary post in Urquhart's workplace (10)
PARLIAMENT.  PARENT=father, containing MAIL=post reversed (revolutionary).  Francis Urquhart, embodied by Ian Richardson, was the wicked PM in BBC tv's House of Cards in the 1990s.  You couldn't possibility comment.
22.  A criminal pair, one case to suit Holmes? (8)
APIARIST.  Anagram of PAIR, 1=one and S[ui]T, (outside letters=case).  In the story collection His Last Bow Conan Doyle brings Sherlock back from his retirement hobby of bee-keeping in Sussex.  But you knew that.
23.  Amis makes first of terribly good notes here? (6)
MARGIN.  For Martin read margin (where the notes might be), replacing the first of T[erribly] with G[ood]. 
26. I wasn't totally fed up with son-stealing idiot (5)
TWIST.  As in Oliver, the Dickens boy who asked for more (not totally fed).  TWIT=idiot, containing (stealing) S[on].
27.  Ian's novel way of making up for mistakes (9)
ATONEMENT.  The 2001 novel by Ian McEwan.  Double def.
28.  Barrel about with maybe Holly or Hazel? (3,4)
NUT TREE.  TUN=barrel, reversed (about).  Hazel=NUT.  TREE, as in a holly.
29.  "The mysterious magnet is either there, buried somewhere deep behind the - , or it is not" (Elizabeth Gilbert) (7)
STERNUM.  From Eat, Pray, Love.  I know of it but haven't read it.


1. Haddock for one likely eaten by noir writer (7)
CAPTAIN.  A character from the Adventures of Tintin by the Belgian writer Herge (Georges Prosper Remi).  I remembered him from my little brother's collection of comic books and annuals (or was it his tv watching?).  Ignore the stuff in brackets - see PB's comment below.  I'd completely missed the point. [ I had no idea where the "noir" came in but on Googling I found that Tintin au Pays de L'Or Noir is the title of one of the volumes, so I think that must be the reference.]
2.  Plant books found in boozer, not hospital (5)
LOTUS.  OT=books in LUS[h]=boozer dropping the H.
3.  When one goes up to call a novice of Saint Clare (8)
ISABELLA.  This was the one I got wrong by putting an E on the end, having skimped on the parsing.  She is a character from Measure for Measure, a play I'm only vaguely familiar with, and is a pious votary of St. Clare.  ISA= AS I reversed (up).  BELL=call.  Then A.
4. Burma-born satirist mockingly ironic on radio (4)
SAKI.  Pen name of H.H. Munro, author of short stories, often with a slightly macabre sadistic twist.  Homophone for "sarky" or sarcastic - appropriate here.
5.  Found recent mail relating to Antonio's work? (10)
MERCANTILE.  Anagram of "recent mail".  I don't immediately recall having seen "found" as an anagram indicator but it wasn't obscure.  Antonio is Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, hence the description of his work.
6. Persons known for seminal true crime book (6)
CAPOTE.  Truman, aka Truman Streckfus Persons, his birth name.  The book is In Cold Blood, an account of the murders of the entire Clutter family in Kansas in 1959 by Richard Hickock and Perry Smith who were later executed.  Brilliant gruesome book I read just once.  I understand the movie is good too but not for me.
7.  Lie about with European Verne novel (in Dutch) (5,4)
ELINE VERE.  Anagram of LIE, E (European) and VERNE.  By Louis Couperus.  Must admit I'd never heard of it but the anagram wasn't too hard to tease out, followed by a visit to Google.
8.  Incentive to support fiery rebel (7)
HOTSPUR.  HOT=fiery.  Supported by SPUR=incentive.  Henry (Harry) Earl of Northumberland.  Character in Henry IV Part I but also known to history.  He sided with Bolingbroke (Henry IV) in deposing Richard II, hence a rebel.
13.  What Mr. Peggotty might try and get for Scrooge? (10)
CHEAPSKATE.  Another Dickens of a clue. Daniel Peggotty, the brother of David Copperfield's nanny, is a Yarmouth fisherman.  Scrooge being the eponymous miser from A Christmas Carol.
15.  It left vision blurred in one such as Holmes (9)
VIOLINIST.  Anagram of IT L[eft] VISION.  And another Conan Doyle clue.  Sherlock scrapes away at his Stradivarius to relieve boredom between cases.
17. Nationality of Jane swinging with apes? (8)
JAPANESE.  Anagram of JANE and APES.  Neat one.
18.  No time to pardon right-on novelist (7)
WHARTON.  Edith, of The Age of Innocence, House of Mirth etc.  Some pretty good ghost stories too.  WHA[t]=pardon, dropping the T.  Then RT and ON.
20.  Can heartless fantasist upset sickly lad? (4,3)
TINY TIM. God bless us, more from A Christmas Carol.  TIN=can.  MIT[t]Y upside down (upset),  Walter Mitty, James Thurber's daydreamer - ta pocketa pocketa (the sound of hitting the keys at Mark Goodliffe speed, in my dreams).
21.  Pen and the person using it, perhaps (6)
WRITER.  Exactly.  Double def.
24.  Lime and the man who created him say (5)
GREEN.  Lime green being the colour and also the homophone of Graham Greene.  In this case the movie (The Third Man) for which he wrote the screenplay, came before the book, and the character Harry Lime was played by Orson Welles.
25.  Trouble having love for university poet and librarian (4)
FOSS.  Take FUSS=trouble and substitute O=love for U and you get Sam Walter Foss, New England poet.

Club Monthly 20187 - April 2016

This blog was compiled on my lovely new Surface Pro 4 tablet/laptop thingy, sitting outside in the Kent sunshine with a nice glass of red; so, apologies in advance for any typos or (more likely) solecisms..

This crossword seems to be a denominational delight, with Hindu, Islam, Christianity, Jews, Romans, Greeks and Marxists all getting a look-in .. it is unusual in another way too, in that it has several answers I biffed.. and it isn't easy to biff a word you've never heard of. I wrote them in quite happily, despite being totally unable to parse them. 4ac, 4dn & 20 dn .. and sorting them out for the blog took me a while. Actually it is another thing I love, about this best of all cryptic crosswords. Some clues are quite normal, and would fit easily into a daily cryptic. Some have horns and a tail; and it is not straightforward telling which is which.

cd = cryptic definition, dd = double definition, rev = reversed, anagrams are *(--), homophones indicated in ""
ODO means the Oxford Dictionaries Online, OED = Oxford English Dictionary, etc.

1. Observe male trailing copper’s deputy (5)
locum - LO (observe) + CU (copper) + M(ale). A useful easy starting clue, well within normal cryptic range...
4. Yellow flowering plant in heavy demand bordering the way round narrow street (6-3)
thorow-wax - ...less so this one though. It is ROW (narrow street) in HOW (the way), all in TAX (heavy demand): T(HO(ROW)W)AX. The plant in question was "once widespread in cornfields," but no longer, like many wildflowers and weeds.
9. Weir injured shag in Scottish inlet (4-5)
fish-garth - *(SHAG) in FIRTH. Shag being a reference to the cormorant family of birds, stop sniggering at the back..
10. Sultan’s monogram painter put on powerful boat (5)
tugra - TUG (powerful boat) + RA (Royal Academician, ie a painter accepted by the Establishment)
11. Baker possibly into quick and funny food: some Australians eat it (9,4)
witchetty grub - CHET (Baker) in WITTY (quick and funny) + GRUB (food). A food beloved of Aborigines and fading celebrities
14. Beginner’s advantage ebbing? (4)
noob - BOON (advantage) rev.
15. Soft and hard sports fabric’s ordered back for run, producing small blister (10)
phlyctaena - another tricky one: P (soft) + H (hard) + LYCRA but with NEAT (ordered) rev. instead of the R(un)
18. Established clear identity encompassing large and small finches (10)
estrildids - EST(ablished) + L(arge) in RID (clear) + ID (identity) + S(mall)
19. Briefly open, like a door by old privy (4)
Ajax - AJA(r) (open, like a door) + X (by). I wasn't aware of the def., a pun on "jakes," but it didn't surprise me. We Brits do so love lavatory humour (though we don't have an "ass" fixation, like some countries.. :-)
21. Sign area on page after paragraph with flowery adornment for later additions (13)
paraleipomena - PARA(graph) + LEI (flowery adornment) + P(age) + OMEN (sign) + A(rea). Technically I suppose the surface reading makes sense, but only just.. could I do any better? No.
24. Old blue painting maybe extended over Miró’s frame (5)
amort - M(ir)O in ART (painting maybe)
25. Hindu teacher graduate, strict one accepting instructor’s lead (9)
maharishi - MA (graduate) + I(nstructor) in HARSH I (strict one). A word applied to a range of Indian gurus who don't at all mean to con people, no way, but still somehow unaccountably end up with numerous Rolls-Royces to ride about in
27. Supreme court figure is only more aloof with answer for case’s conclusion (9)
justiciar - JUST (only) + ICIER (more aloof), with the E replaced by A
28. Island in southern land given to American Indian son of 20 (5)
Nizam - I(sland) in NZ (Southern land) + AM(erican). I'm not sure how accurate this definition really is, Chambers defines it fairly precisely as the ruler of Hyderabad, but I rather disapprove of the whole concept of "royalty" anyway, so let it pass ..
1. Article in Libération (French) about short-lived pain for socialist (4-6)
left-winger - TWINGE (short-lived pain) in LE FR.
2. Casual as army bosses? (3)
cos - COs (army bosses). And 'cos as a casual word for because/as
3. When I doubt something it makes ... a lot of resistance? (6)
megohm - ... ME GO HM .. lovely clue. Really one supposes it should be spelt megaohm, but even though Chambers puts it in under mega-, it leaves out the a. I find this more annoying than I should, I admit; just like pronouncing kilometre to rhyme with gasOmeter, instead of with kiloeverythingelse. KilOgram, anyone? KillOwatt? No, thought not ..
4. Local shoved to the other side, spread across companion (9)
thrutched - CH (Companion of honour) in THRU (to the other side, if you can't spell) + TED (spread). If you spread new-mown grass to dry, you are a tedder. You are tedding. One teds. I did actually know this, once I had reminded myself by poring over the dictionary for far longer than I should have.
5. Carbohydrate ingredients on cereal, mostly yellowish (5)
ochry - OCH (carbohydrate ingredients) + RY(e). Organic chemistry, we do it..
6. Adjust outer tab stop (8)
obturate - *(OUTER TAB)
7. Ring-maker almost secures loose jib, tie being something thorny (3-1-7)
wag n' bietjie - *(JIB TIE) in WAGNE(r), Ring maker.. so not Sauron after all. Afrikaans for "Wait-a-bit," a thorny plant
8. Ten months since ... Caruso’s birthday? (4)
Xmas - X (ten) + M (months) + AS (since). Enrico Caruso was born on 25 February, it turns out, so Xmas is 10 months later! So an &lit.
12. Reveals parking among golf course’s enticements for certain sportspeople (5,6)
trout spoons - OUTS (reveals) + P(arking) in TROON'S (golf course's)
13. In God’s embrace, Christian and I mark ideas about class struggle (10)
marxianism - XIAN (Christian) + I in MARS (god) + M(ark). Pleasant multidenominational clue
16. Year before the writer would scorn the woman who uses vernacular language (9)
yiddisher - Y(ear) + I'D (the writer would) DIS (scorn) + HER (the woman)
17. Contribution from pinch-hitter billed to overturn score-books? (8)
libretti - hidden, rev., in pinch-hITTER BILled
20. Traditional monarch in Victorian days’ latter times upset knight (6)
sovran - ARVOS, rev. + N (knight, in chess). It transpires that our Antipodean cousins call tiffin time "arvo," a convenient shortening of "afternoon" for those who find saying the whole word fatiguing... must be all those 4X. So Victorian means "Australian" for present purposes. A vicious clue, and no mistake!
22. Member meeting first of immigrants in unsettled states (5)
limbi - LIMB (member) + I(mmigrants). plural of limbus, and also of limbo
23. Requirement of faith in judges after chap’s inside (4)
hajj - (c)HA(p) + JJ (judges). Islam, now!
26. Informal apology from more than half-cut drunk (3)
soz - SOZ(zled) (drunk, more than half cut!). Soz is mainly textspeak I suppose

Quick Cryptic 558 by Hurley

I found this a good bit harder today. Coming in at 20 minutes or so, and after an especially speedy Mon-Wed, it pretty much doubled my aggregate for the rest of the week. There was some misleading wordplay along with a couple of bits of relative obscurity (for me at least), and I needed the checkers from the easier clues to make headway. It gradually slotted into place, though, to make a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle, with pretty much all the clues reading very nicely in their own right. I would give mention to 1d, 11d, and 12ac, but I think my favourite was 14ac - I love the word, and the clue conjures up a great little image.

There was also a nice use of the adjective "Titian" that I hadn't come across, although a quick look online shows it to be in fairly common usage. If you happen to be a collector of 1960s red-haired Barbie dolls, you might be expected to know they were officially labelled 'Titian'. How proud he would surely be... oh, by the way, if you're interested and you've got a few minutes, I've just read a very interesting article on 'possibly the most influential painter in history' in the Guardian from a while back (http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2003/jan/04/artsfeatures). Many thanks to Hurley.

I changed the format after the totally botched numbering job of my last effort, in the hope that a bit of copy and pasting might help reduce the error rate!

1 Pastor’s first recruits reorganized his favourite books?
SCRIPTURE: anagram of Recruits and the first letter of Pastor'.
6 Is about time to rest?
SIT: "Is about" means reverse "is", and t(ime).
8 Harry, maybe, holding learner’s chart instrument
PLOTTER: Harry (may be) Potter, and potter holds L. I was ages before hitting on the Harry Potter idea.
9 Strength seen in Crimean War — battling back
BRAWN: very well hidden (seen in) in CrimeaN WAR Battling, going back. Another nice surface.
10 Out of practice — starts to read up suitable texts? Yes
RUSTY: Starting letters of Read Up Suitable Texts Yes.
12 Commanding officer, navy and monarch in tricky situation
CORNER: Commanding Officer is CO; [Royal] navy is RN; and monarch is ER.
14 Man’s glad crone discomfited gossip
SCANDALMONGER: anagram (discomfited) of Man’s glad crone. A very satisfying word, although I needed five checkers (a,d,l,o,r) and a bit of working out before getting it.
16 Examine American country site, vacant
PERUSE: PERU is the country; site when vacant or empty etc. is SE.
17 Teacher in from France — alluring woman
SIREN: Teacher is SIR; EN is French for in.
19 Expect answer: 50 kilograms maybe by sound of it
AWAIT: A for answer; WAIT sounds like weight, which could be 50kg. This one threw me for a bit, I was thinking L for 50 and wondering if K could possibly be short for kilogram. I think I did actually say "aah, wait!" to myself as the penny dropped.
20 Destroyed garden building after threat regularly ignored
TRASHED: SHED is the garden building, and it goes after ThReAt with the even letters removed.
22 Head teachers’ union
NUT: double definition, the other being the National Union of Teachers.
23 Titian added here surprisingly?
RED-HEADED: anagram (surprisingly) of ADDED HERE. This was a new one on me. The OED defines the adjective titian as describing the hair colour favoured by Titian in his paintings - a bright golden auburn (or it can just be red). One of the paintings it cites as an example is Flora, and it is indeed a beautiful painting. It's possibly a personification of the goddess Flora - and thus possibly a bit of a Siren, while we're on the subject, if you consider the dangers associated with an overenthusiastic foraging of flora.

1 Restrain drink mob
SUPPRESS: SUP is drink, to mob is to press (to crowd around, etc.). The nice succinct surface made this tricky - LOI bar one, and I needed the P in Plotter.
2 Group of three, heading off for Brazilian port
RIO: TRIO with the heading off.
3 Husband in sympathy, full of meaning
PITHY: PITY is sympathy, and in goes H(usband). If something is both pithy and zesty, is it peely?
4 French article about prayer editor’s forgotten
UNRECOLLECTED: UN is the french article, RE is about, COLLECT is a prayer, and ED I think we should all know by now. If i ever knew a collect was a short prayer, it's been well and truly forgotten. A short prayer with a single point in mind, there is a bit of confusion over the etymology, but the OED says it derives from collectio, in the sense of collecting, or summing up, the sentiment of a reading of scripture - pithily, you might say.
5 Problem bar going partly for Prohibition?
EMBARGO: another well hidden clue, being a part of ProblEM BAR GOing.
6 Forager: namely, one retaliating
SCAVENGER: SC is short for scilicet (i.e., namely); an AVENGER is one retaliating. Not sure the last time I saw sc. used, in crosswords or out.
7 Distinctive smell of leather — good
TANG: Tan = leather in at least two senses (the colour; to thrash), and g is good.
11 Appears confused over right replacement component
SPARE PART: anagram (confused) of APPEARS, going over/above RT.
13 Island tour extremely popular — I join parent
TRINIDAD: the extremes of TouR is TR, in is popular, I is I and parent is DAD.
15 Active person interrupted by posh Baronet — he’s not convinced
DOUBTER: an active person is a DOER, in goes U and BT, which is presumably the abbreviation for baronet. In a recent survey of over 1,000 baronets, less than a third knew the correct abbreviation for their title. (Possibly.)
17 Flood in resort — note to follow
SPATE: a resort is a SPA, TE follows. I initially wondered if "spare" could somehow mean flood, with "re" as the note, but it can't.
18 Rule northern area, grassy
LAWN: Rule is LAW, N is northern. My LOI, and needed an alphabet trawl to get there, for some reason.
21 Expression of annoyance upset this brick-carrier?
HOD: D'Oh is Homer Simpson's expression of annoyance, turned upwards (upset).

26398 Tie me Knagaroo down, sport.

This could well pass for a TLS with all the arty stuff in it, together with a couple of rather lame cryptics. I’ve thrown in a few extra arty bits in the course of interpretation: see if you can spot Kierkegaard and (having spent a truly excellent evening yesterday in the company of ELO), my reference to one of Jeff Lynne’s.
I rather dawdled through this, trying to make proper sense of everything, and finished only just over 2 Verlaines at 22.56. I had most pause with 18, where I could not reconcile the definition with anything I knew about the English language, eventually entering on wordplay alone and keeping my fingers crossed.
Here’s how I threw the available letters in the air and watched them land in all the right places


1 EDGED went cautiously
Double definition where “made keen” means sharpened.
4 CHERUBINI Composer
That’ll be Luigi, a contemporary of Beethoven and highly regarded by him. A French darling is a CHÉRI, so classy must be U (all that ridiculous Mitford stuff) and a writer about will give NIB backwards.
9 RHAPSODIC effusively prosaic
This is an anagram, “turning out” in which you must first collect the needed letters. H(usband), initially D(ull) and PROSAIC.
10 FROST Poet
Robert, that is, American poet, 1874 – 1963. You may well recognise his
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
It’s also a winter coat in the sense of one scraped off your windscreen in April.
11 YES-MAN an agreeable type
Molly is Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and her final word in her great soliloquy is Yes with an unaccountable capital. It’s also the last word in the book. Husband in the clue is there to provide a generic MAN, not Leopold, which doesn’t fit.
12 STURGEON One providing delicacies
Caviar to the mess sergeant c1945 “This blackberry jam tastes of fish”. Your operator is a SURGEON, and the inserted T comes from Tons
14 LOWER CASE In which I should never appear
To drop luggage would be to lower case. Grammar insists that the first personal singular pronoun should always be in upper case, though couldn’t care less about the rest. e, e, cummings and Archy might disagree, but then one of those was a cockroach.
16 STOIC Philosopher
Search in vain for a named philosopher. Endlessly banal is STOCK without the K (think stock phrase). Admit I (one)
17 SHAWM ancient instrument
An early oboe. One of the many faces of George Bernard SHAW was as music critic: “There are some experiences in life which should not be demanded twice from any man, and one of them is listening to the Brahms Requiem.” The M comes from Marks.
19 NOR-EASTER a blow
As in wind. Refusal NO, festival EASTER, inserted monarch R
21 NOT AT ALL The opposite
To write down in symbols is, or can be, NOTATE. Knock of the end (“almost”), add ALL for everything.
22 EDIBLE it’s not hurting to swallow
A blatant anagram, of I BLEED
25 DEIGN stoop
What you get if you kick the S(ingular) out of DESIGN, plan.
26 OVERSHOOT to go too far
Cricket is conducted in a series of OVERS, and is occasionally a HOOT or laugh
27 YARDSTICK Standard
“Some distance“ rather vaguely converts to YARDS, which is then extended by TICK, informal credit.
28 NUKED devastatingly attacked
The country is the UK, and the backed retreat that protects it is DEN


Cryptic definition, just about. When I was a boy, shops in most towns closed at lunchtime for the rest of the day, hence “beyond, say, one”. Don’t see that much, if at all, in 2016.
2 GRASS Main constituent of lawn
Not if it’s a camomile one, of course. Weed/GRASS /pot etc.
3 DESPAIR Bunyan’s giant
I grew up on a graphic novel (before such things existed) version of Pilgrim’s Progress, so this was a gimme. It’s also an anagram of ASPIRED
4 CODE Established standards
Switch the final two letters of CO-ED. You can’t do that with academy.
5 EX CATHEDRA Officially
To spell is HEX, without H(ard) that’s EX. Worcester is an example of a CATHEDRAL, which you are instructed not to finish. When Popes ( and by extension any panjandrums) speak “from the chair” it’s official.
6 UNFURLS Spreads open
Warm coat is FUR, add L(left), place in a “boiling” sun, or UNS
7 IRONED OUT cleared up
I quite like the conceit of a n internet query being an E_DOUBT. Remove the B(ook) and tack it on to proverbially hard IRON
8 I STAND CORRECTED You’re right
It’s “wrong” provides I ST, and donates - um – AND, fixed the rest. The merest suggestion the setter might be running out of steam.
Alphabetti spaghetti: play with LOCAL IN NE on the side of your plate until you have accounted for all the letters, and that’s how you spell the entry.
15 WEALTHIER better off
Bite the head off a Whippet for a W, decide “thriving more” is HEALTHIER, bite the head off that and substitute the W
18 MUTANTS sports
The wordplay’s easy enough, (dogs MUTTS, a A, passion ultimately N, construct) but the definition is a new one on me, so much so I considered what the misprint might be. Chambers: “an animal or plant that varies singularly and spontaneously from the normal type”. Wiki: “the common usage of the word ‘mutant’ is generally a pejorative term only used for noticeable mutations. Previously, people used the word ‘sport’ (related to spurt) to refer to abnormal specimens.” Not this people.
20 ADDISON Essayist
That’ll be Joseph, 1672 – 1719. Today we’d probably call him a columnist. His advice on extending your family might be “ADD I (one) SON”. Ho ho.
23 BROCK Badger
Derived from the Welsh, just another term for the affable black and white creatures. B(ishop) plus ROCK for to be really exciting.
24 PEAK point
Today’s sound alike, to needle being to pique.

Times 26397 - eventually

For whatever reason, I struggled with this one, especially the NW corner. I'd hoped to have had it solved and blogged by my weekly target time of 10.00 CEST, without leaping out of bed at an uncivilised hour; in the event, it took me exactly the hour to finish it off. It also took me a big sigh to settle for 21a spelt thus, although I see it is an allowable alternative of the anglicised version. Thanks to commentators below for pointing out a few slips, now corrected, I was in haste to be somewhere else.

I'm subbing for Verlaine on Friday - V you are batting for me next Wednesday, just a reminder - so let's hope Friday is less stressful, or I am feeling less dim.

1 LET FLY - Cryptic double definition. With only the T to help me, I took an age to get away from OUT and HIT and SET.
4 ISTANBUL - (BUILT AS N)*, D city.
10 TOECLIP - O inside TEC, then LIP for border; D one puts one's foot in it. My LOI and not a great clue IMO, one puts one's toe in it.
11 UNTRUTH - (H)UNT = look for, heading off, RUTH = holy book, D fiction.
12 NETT - NET = goal, add another T, D clear.
13 KEEP TABS ON - KEPT ABS ON would be didn't fire the sailors, insert an E for the drug, D monitor.
15 SET UP SHOP - SET = solid, UPS = periods of good fortune, HOP = bound; D start trading.
16 LEVER - (C)LEVER = gifted, C stripped; D bar.
18 TROUT - U in TROT; D catch; bit of a vague definition.
19 SOVEREIGN - (GIVEN ROSE)*, D queen perhaps.
21 QUEBECKERS - Although I had QUE I was still reluctant to plonk this in, with its ugly K amidst, but it's apparently allowed. I'd say quebeçois or quebecers and so would quebecers. BECK = stream, inside QUEERS = ruins, as in queers the pitch.
23 BEEB - BE = live, and reversed; D it does broadcasts. I like this one.
26 ASPHALT - ASP = poisoner, HALT = arrest; D surface.
27 FAN OVEN - FEN = flat, insert A NOV; D cooker.
28 ESSAYIST - I see this as ESSAY = shot, try, In Si Tu = odd letters of in situ, D writer. I tried too hard to think of a novelist beginning E_S.
29 SPARKY S = has, shortened to 's, PARKY = cold; D electrician. I thought they were called SPARKS, but it's possible.

1 LUTON - U T = extremely UnkempT, inside LON = West End of London. So D = English town. I recently had a 6 hour lay over with FlyBe en route Bordeaux - Luton - Aberdeen, and made the mistake of leaving the airport for a look round. Never again.
2 TWENTY-TWO - TWENTY = score, TWO sounds like TOO, D rugby players cross that. I think it's the twenty metre line these days?
3 LILT - L (lake) inside LIT (easily made out); D movement of air.
5 STUMP UP - Double definition.
6 ART GALLERY - GALL = bitterness, inside ARTERY = major road; D works here. Nice misdirection.
7 BLUBS - BULB = glower, reverse it, add S(on); D cries.
8 LOHENGRIN - HE inside LONG (extended), R(un), IN (popular); D opera. I like Wagner's music only when there is no singing going on. Is that allowed?
9 SPEECH - PEE(R) inside SCH; D &lit.
14 APOTHECARY - (REACH TO PAY)*, D drug dealer. I liked 'trembling' for the anagrind, made for a nice surface reading.
15 SET-SQUARE - (REQUESTS A)*; D drawing aid.
17 VOICE-OVER - VICE = instead of, insert ('boxing') O= ring, OVER = some cricket; D commentary.
19 ST KITTS - Take the AR middle of STARTS and substitute KIT (strip); D Caribbean Island.
20 VERIFY - (FIVER)*, Y = tip from my, D vet.
22 EXPOS - Ex post offices; D displays.
24 BONNY - BONY = spare, insert N north pole, D fetching.
25 SNAP - Triple definition; shoot a picture, snap as a card game, snap = without warning, as in election.

Quick Cryptic Number 577 by Izetti

Another elegant and interesting quickie from Izetti, by my reckoning slightly easier than his recent puzzles. Of course, there were a few testers - the hardest of the lot for me we’re down to my limited knowledge of geography and crocheted headgear!

There’s quite a bit of tongue-in-cheekiness about the grid too; the onomatopoeic expression took a sec on thought, and 9dn is an example of my favourite clue types. Very enjoyable.

Definitions underlined.

1 Pile not costing much about to be got rid of (4)
HEAP - cHEAP (not costing much) getting rid of c (circa, about).
4 People with aspirations: some know Anna best (8)
WANNABES - hidden in (some) knoW ANNA BESt.
8 Something soft given scope to expand rapidly (8)
MUSHROOM - MUSH (something soft) and ROOM (scope).
9 Name given to river 'ome (4)
OUSE - if on pronounces home as ‘ome, one might also pronounce house (home) as ‘ouse.
10 Lottery is an attraction (4)
DRAW - double definition.
11 Distant object — it had a wren on it (8)
FARTHING - FAR (distant) and THING (object).
12 This writer's angry in Indian city (6)
MYSORE - MY (this writer’s) and SORE (angry).
14 Metallic plate in church, Catholic church (6)
CHROME - CH (church) and ROME (Catholic church).
16 Nudge given to one girl being extravagant (8)
PRODIGAL - PROD (nudge) with I (one) and GAL (girl).
18 Right time to show fury (4)
RAGE - R (right) and AGE (time).
19 Sun hat: head with one (4)
TOPI - TOP (head) with I (one).
20 Having a go at activity on football field (8)
TACKLING - double definition.
22 Awkward date with punk full of booze (6,2)
TANKED UP - anagram of (awkward) DATE and PUNK.
23 Charlatan brings endless humiliation (4)
SHAM - SHAMe (humiliation) without the last letter (endless).

2 English queen to go wrong when given unknown royal attendant (7)
EQUERRY - E (English), QU (queen), ERR (to go wrong) and Y (unknown).
3 Page written on playwright that's contemptible! (5)
PSHAW - P (page) on SHAW (playwright).
4 Court guarded by two officers (3)
WOO - hidden in (guarded by) tWO Officers.
5 Characters may be unclear and I'm confused (9)
NUMERICAL - anagram of (confused) UNCLEAR and I’M.
6 Someone else a hornet upset (7)
ANOTHER - anagram of (upset) A HORNET.
7 German city to become diminished without leader (5)
ESSEN - lESSEN (to become diminished) without first letter (leader).
11 The fridge that's broken may be taken off in lorry (9)
FREIGHTED - anagram of (broken) THE FRIDGE.
13 Demon in ancient prison (3,4)
OLD NICK - OLD (ancient) and NICK (prison).
15 A fellow hugged by mum becomes crimson (7)
MAGENTA - A GENT (a fellow) inside (hugged by) MA (mum).
17 Wine I love to pour into fancy jar (5)
RIOJA - I and O (love, tennis) inside an anagram of (fancy) JAR.
18 Expensive car overturns (5)
ROLLS - double definition.
21 Cold work for one on the beat? (3)
COP - C (cold) and OP (work).

Quick Cryptic 556 by Teazel

I have a long drive today so hope my fellow bloggers will field any questions. Fortunately the crossword was easy - I took longer trying to get the new format to work on an iPad - very difficult to get the puzzle and the keyboard up at the same time - the 'give us feedback line' seeming to make things worse (!).


1. Bright lights - double definition.
9. Graft - hard work. Great (GT) including RAF.
10. Visible - plain to see. Brother or sister (SIB - I presume short for sibling but haven't seen this before) inside VILE.
11. Slither - slide. That girl (SHE) and runs (R) are across (around) illuminated (LIT).
12. Otter - river creature. Sp(OT TER)rier.
13. Bigamy a crime. Important (BIG), AMY.
14. Strand - double definition.
17. Roses - double definition.
18. Maudlin - drunkenly sentimental. This is how Magdalen College in Oxford is pronounced.
21. Despair - have no hope. Anagram (rarely) of PRAISED.
22. Priam - legendary King - Greek mythology - the last king of Troy, killed at its fall. He was father by Hecuba of Hector, Paris, and Cassandra. Stiffly formal (PRIM) holding A.
23. Maiden voyage - trip. Hmm - I see what the setter is getting at but this is the trouble with archaic/literary definitions - the Collins dictionary definition concentrates mostly on the fact that a maiden is a young unmarried female.


2. Reading - double definition.
3. Get the message - double definition.
4. Tavern - pub. Cask (vat) tipped over (TAV), eastern (E), sailors (RN - Royal Navy).
5. In short supply - rationed. Briefly (IN SHORT) and flexibly (SUPPLY - being supple).
6. Habit - costume. Hot (H), somewhat (A BIT) - rather liked this one - COD.
7. Sneered - shown contempt. Be angry (SEE RED) holding a knight (N). I welcome discussion (well, on anything - but this particularly) - is sneered shown contempt or/and showed contempt?
8. Ages - grows old. T(A)n(G)i(E)r(S).
13. Boredom - lack of interest. Communist (RED) inside BOOM.
15. Allying - forming partnership. (A), liberal (L), LYING.
16. Improv - unscripted performance. Enhance shortly (IMPROV)e.
18. Sushi - Japanese dish. Anagram (prepared) of US HIS.
20. Name - one could identify with this - which is a cryptic definition, I think, where the whole clue cryptically defines the answer.

Times Cryptic 26396

A fairly straightforward solve completed in 34 minutes, so just 4 minutes over my target time. I don't think I have ever blogged a puzzle before that didn’t contain a single full anagram and with only one partial one (at 15dn), but there's a first time for everything! Also there's no cricket as far as I can see. All the words were familiar and nearly all the meanings though I had to take it on trust that 18dn is a compound.

As usual definitions are underlined in bold italics, {deletions are in curly brackets} and [indicators in square ones]

1 It measures oxygen expelled by a shooting star (5)
METER - METE{o}R (shooting star [oxygen expelled])
4 Accompanied by worker, one tucked into crusty roll (9)
CROISSANT - I (one) inside [tucked into] CROSS (crusty), ANT (worker)
9 Dozy old man dropping article in sea off Cowes (9)
SOMNOLENT - O (old) + M{a}N (man [dropping article]) inside SOLENT (sea off Cowes - Isle of Wight)
10 Pigment from river talked of in East London? (5)
UMBER - Sounds like [talked of ] "Humber" (river) with its H dropped as by East-enders
11 Beam about runs scored: it's an uncommon thing (6)
RARITY - RAY (beam) contains [about] R (runs scored) + IT
12 Shrewish woman badgered, some might say, a knight (8)
HARRIDAN - Sounds like [some might say] "harried" (badgered), A, N (knight - chess)
14 Examiners of vision book dates, we hear, after work (12)
OPTOMETRISTS - OP (work), TOME (book), sounds like [we hear] "trysts" (dates)
17 Condemnation of end of play touring northern clubs (12)
DENOUNCEMENT - DENOUEMENT (end of play) contains [touring] N (northern) + C (clubs - cards)
20 Shoot farther than university team leader in William's place? (8)
OUTRANGE - U (university) + T{eam} [leader] inside ORANGE (William's place). I assume this refers to William III, Prince of Orange. My history is very rusty and I'm not sure he actually came from the Principality of Orange, but his title did.
21 Character of fruit - superior, note (6)
FIGURE - FIG (fruit), U (superior), RE (note)
23 Farewell from girl in a group of western states (5)
ADIEU - A, DI (girl), EU (group of western states)
24 Pack hoodie, perhaps, with remaining diamonds? (9)
OVERCROWD - OVER (remaining), CROW (hoodie, perhaps), D (diamonds - cards again)
25 Reckless description of match following a strike (3-6)
HOT-HEADED - A straight definition followed by a cryptic one
26 Follow United in future perhaps, taking time off (5)
ENSUE - U (united) inside {t}ENSE (future, perhaps [taking time off])

1 Expand space supporting husky and sled event? (8)
MUSHROOM - MUSH (husky and sled event), ROOM (space).  SOED has MUSH as: A journey made through snow with a dog sledge. I'm not sure that qualifies it as an event as such but I imagine it might be an event in some sort of competition.
2 They must scrub hard without advantage? Cheek! (8)
TEMERITY - T{h}EY [scrub hard] contains [without] MERIT (advantage)
3 Degree of heat moderate in marsupial of adult age? (4,11)
ROOM TEMPERATURE - ROO (marsupial), then TEMPER (moderate) inside MATURE (of adult age)
4 One checking accounts in French port? (4)
CAEN - CA (one checking accounts - Chartered Accountant), EN (in, French)
5 Hospital visitor determined to take deep breaths without obligation (3-7)
OUT-PATIENT - OUT (determined), PANT (take deep breaths) contains [without] TIE (obligation). Nice misdirection here with regard to hospital visiting.
6 Do the impossible: bribe a specific group (6,3,6)
SQUARE THE CIRCLE - SQUARE (bribe), THE CIRCLE (specific group). "The" being a definite article so referring to something specific.
7 How one addressed Shakespeare verbally in dawn poem? (6)
AUBADE - Sounds like "O, Bard", how one might address Bill Shakespeare. I know this word from musical pieces of that name.
8 Man occupying the chair of state (6)
THRONE - RON (man) inside [occupying] THE
13 Keep firm grasp in wrestling? (10)
STRONGHOLD - STRONG (firm), HOLD (grasp in wrestling)
15 Vague upper-class fellow gets thrown over, poor soul (8)
NEBULOUS - U (upper-class) + BEN (fellow) reversed [thrown over], anagram [poor] of SOUL. Our only anagrammatical element today.
16 Nurse accommodated by a supporter, one who's present (8)
ATTENDEE - A, TEND (nurse) inside [accommodated by] TEE (supporter - golf)
18 Luxurious setting for army compound (6)
POTASH - POSH (luxurious) contains [setting for] TA (army)
19 Austere set are in City regularly (6)
STRICT - S{e}T {a}R{e} C{I}T{y} [regularly]
22 Half of them set up publicity for alcoholic drink (4)
MEAD - {th}EM [half of] reversed [set up], AD (publicity)

Times 26395 - Seven years a blogger!

Solving time: 26 minutes

Music: Tchaikovsky, Symphony #6, Fricsay/Berlin Philharmonic

Yes, my first blog was just about seven years ago, April 20, 2009. I was both surprised and thrilled to get the email from our then leader, Peter Biddlecombe, that began: "Thanks to Russel and Jonathan for both volunteering for the Monday slot. I propose to share it between you, with Russel going in to bat first on Monday 13 April, and Jonathan's first posting on the 20th." So it happened that 'kororareka' and 'vinyl1' stepped up to the plate for the Monday slot, replacing 'foggyweb', who has vanished without a trace. Of the weekly puzzle bloggers from that era, it seems like only George Heard and Andy Wallace remain at original posts.

You would think that with all this experience solving and blogging would become routine, but you never know what you're going to get. I well remember the sickness-weakened two-hour solve that eventually sent me to reference books, as well as the sweltering ordeal in my brother's house with no openable windows and a malfunctioning fire alarm. Not to mention all the embarrassing mistakes - pooh sticks, shanks's mare, etc.

Fortunately, all was clear in the present puzzle, and I can promise that my answers are totally correct. At first I thought it was going to be difficult, as I couldn't get anything in the top half, but as I got a few answers in the bottom, I started to pick up a little speed. It proved surprising amenable to biffing in the end, with a few answers entered unparsed.

1BLANKET STITCH, BLANKET + STITCH in different senses, my LOI.
10LORD MAYOR, LORD! (MAY) O.R, where 'gracious' indicates a surprised exclamation.
11SAUSAGE DOG, SAUSAGE + DOG in different senses.
12IRIS, IRIS[h], a chestnut. Experienced solvers will see 'flag' and think 'iris' immediately.
14ACCOUNT, [e]AC[h] + COUNT, i.e. 'matter' as a verb.
19PADRONE, P[lan] + A DRONE.
20IRON, I[n] R[apture] O[ver] N[ewspaper].
21MARTINIQUE, MAR(TI,NI)QUE, i.e. IN, IT backwards in the middle. A write-in if you get the crossing 'q'.
24EMILE ZOLA, anagram of MEAL, I containing LE(Z)O.
26NON-ATTENDANCE, [vacatio]N = anagram of AT ONCE, TANNED. I suppose this sort of terminology has been banned by the EU.
1BACK-SEAT DRIVER, BACKS + EAT + DRIVER in a different sense.
2ADIEU, AD + I.E. + U (the film rating).
4TALLEST, TA(SELL upside-down)T.
5TURNOUT, TURN + OUT, used by metonymy for the assembly itself.
6TIME, double definition.
7HEY, PRESTO, anagram of TYPOS HERE. Rather archaic, the kind of formula a magician in an 18th-century comedy would use.
8GRASP THE NETTLE, double definition.
13HAND IN HAND, another laborious double defintion.
18DRAG OUT, D[uck] + RAGOUT. For once, duck!=0.
19POTTAGE, P(O.T.T.)AGE, although technically speaking a 'page' is an attempt to contact someone, originally done by sending a page into the room calling out the fellow's name.
22QUEEN, double definition, since a queen is a chess piece.
23KERN, hidden in [stri]KER N[aturally]. That would be Jerome Kern, songwriter and composer.

Quick Cryptic 555 by Orpheus

I seem to blog an inordinate number of puzzles where hyphens are conspicuous by their presence/absence and today's crossword doesn't disappoint in that regard, however I'm getting sufficiently used to such shenanigans that I wasn't thrown off the scent and was able to complete the puzzle with a minimum of fuss. A pleasant Quick Cryptic, with one definition each in 3D and 5D possibly not in all solvers' general knowledge.

The puzzle can be found here if the usual channels are unavailable: http://feeds.thetimes.co.uk/timescrossword/20160425/15077/

Definitions are underlined.

1 Rod’s workforce (5)
STAFF - double definition
7 City crest, one Lee devised (9)
LEICESTER - anagram (devised) of CREST + I (one) + LEE
9 Brahmin, possibly, contributing to growth industry (5)
HINDU - hidden in (contributing to) growtH INDUstry. A Brahmin is a member of the highest caste in Hinduism.
10 Pintsize worker’s system of writing (9)
SHORTHAND - SHORT (Pintsize) + HAND (worker). All the usual online references hyphenate "Pintsize".
11 Engine originally in operation for a very long time (3)
EON - E (Engine originally, i.e. the first letter of the word "Engine") + ON (in operation)
12 Cheek only encountered in pub and church (9)
INSOLENCE - SOLE (only) inside INN (pub) + CE (church, i.e. Church of England)
14 Cargo ship about to be protected by military aircraft (9)
FREIGHTER - RE (about) inside (to be protected by) FIGHTER (military aircraft)
16 Initiators of parish enterprise with position in church (3)
PEW - first letters (Initiators) of Parish Enterprise With
18 Old poems about Queen’s supervisors (9)
OVERSEERS - O (Old) + VERSES (poems) about ER (Queen)
20 He collects books left in lodging-place (5)
HOTEL - HE around (collects) OT (books, i.e. Old Testament) + L (left)
21 Up to prior, oddly, to provide source of fragrance (3-6)
POT-POURRI - anagram (oddly) of UP TO PRIOR. All the usual online references give this as one word, not hyphenated.
22 Function as political group? (5)
PARTY - double definition, the first a noun even though it's a verb in the surface reading

1 Field of activity some pursue primarily in this place (6)
SPHERE - SP (some pursue primarily, i.e. the first letters of the words "some" and "pursue") + HERE (in this place)
2 Declaration nun once meant to be broadcast (12)
ANNOUNCEMENT - anagram (to be broadcast) of NUN ONCE MEANT
3 Going red in Netherlands port (8)
FLUSHING - double definition, the second the English name for Vlissingen, (per Wikipedia) a port in the south-west of the Netherlands that was the main harbour for ships of the Dutch East India Company. The port also gave its name to an area of Queens in New York City, part of which will be known to tennis fans as the home of the US Open, i.e. Flushing Meadows. I didn't know the port by any name, hence had to rely on the first definition only, but I see that it had its moment in the crosswording sun in 2008 when it cropped up twice in the Guardian cryptic.
4 Under eighteens — those working underground, we hear (6)
MINORS - homophone (we hear) of MINERS (those working underground)
5 Analyse water flowing through Hampshire (4)
TEST - double definition, the second referring to the River Test, which I think I only know from crosswords. It's apparently good for trout fishing.
6 Card gamepontoon, perhaps? (6)
BRIDGE - double definition
8 Instructs maker of ceramic vessels to get anorak? (5-7)
TRAIN-SPOTTER - TRAINS (Instructs) + POTTER (maker of ceramic vessels), with the definition being (Chambers) "Someone who follows a pursuit or interest that is regarded as dull and unsociable (informal)". I can't see this hyphenated in any of the usual online sources - it's either one word or two - but I doubt this will stop solvers from getting the answer.
13 Status of peer in cricket ground greeting page? (8)
LORDSHIP - LORD'S (cricket ground) + HI (greeting) + P (page)
14 Limp insect nibbling head of orchid very quietly (6)
FLOPPY - FLY (insect) around (nibbling) O (head of orchid, i.e. the first letter of the word "orchid") + PP (very quietly, i.e. pianissimo)
15 Conservative to accept governor’s hypothesis (6)
THEORY - TORY (Conservative) around (to accept) HE (governor, i.e. His/Her Excellency). We usually get HE referring to ambassadors in Crosswordland, but it can be applied to governors, heads of state, and assorted other big cheeses too.
17 Completely pure in heart, so to speak (6)
WHOLLY - homophone (so to speak) of HOLY (pure in heart)
19 Give away retail unit (4)
SHOP - double definition, the first a slang term meaning to betray or inform against

Mephisto 2903 - Paul McKenna

I did this in one fairly short sitting during an break in a play I'm performing in. I have a few question marks around the grid, which usually means gaps in the wordplay, so hopefully those can get sorted out as I write this up. There was a fair amount that went in on definition alone.

It looks like we have another pun on the top row, this time WHITE STORK

Away we go...

1WIGHTS: if an E was added you would have WEIGHTS(training regime) - I've only heard of this referring to an undead, but the first definition in Chambers is to a person
6TORQUE: hidden in wackiesT OR QUEerest - another term for TORC
10PHORMIUMS: anagram of MP and HUMORIST minus T
12SENHORA: SEN(without in music), HORA(dance music)
13ILIAC: IC(in charge) containing AIL reversed. Second time I've seen this term in a crossword recently
14T-BAR: TBA(to be advised), R
16REHEEL: REEL around HE - a snob is a shoemaker in this case
17SETAE: SET(value as in determine the price of something), AE(aged(=)
21FOOTBALLISTS: BAL(balance) LISTS(strips) by FOOT(less dignified end)
23OUNCE: POUNCE(to pink, obsolete) missing the first letter of People
24CAMSHO: CAMO(camouflage shortened) surrounding SH(shorthand)
28GALA: LAG(carry off) reversed, A
29CHILI: sounds like CHILLY
30EIDOLON: anagram of OLDIE, then ON(just after)
31ALEMANNIE: ALE(crosswordland's favorite festival), MAN, NIC(e)
33GARRYA: RAG(banter) reversed, then RYA(rug)
2INEBRIOUS: I then an anagram of N,ROBES around U
3GYNAE: EG containing ANY, all reversed
6TRAILBLAZING: T(hailand),RAIL(scoff),B(British),LAZING - clever long anagram
7RILE: remove VI from VIRILE
8QUIETUS: QU(question),IE,TUS(h) - at least I presume that is the behind intended
9ESC KEY: (th)E, SC(special constable), KEY(chief)
11MISSEL: LESS I'M all reversed
15BATTOLOGY: anagram of GOT,BY,A,LOT
19NONNIES: NOES around INN reversed(Northern)
20OBELIA: decapitate LOBELIA
21FOR,CAT: Papillion was a convict
22STANZA: STAN Laurel of old comedies, ZA
25MEDIA: AIDE,M(ess) all reversed
26HALER: double definition
27ELMS: remove W and H from WHELMS

Times Saturday 26388 April 16

I'm filling in for Andy as per his request below. I found this one pretty straightforward for a Saturday and completed it in 36 minutes.

[I tried posting this several times on Saturday evening but was unable to do so because my "Post to ..." button was greyed out. I assumed this was a general problem with LJ until I saw keriothe's ST blog go up and so I  tried again but without success. I also rebooted everything. In the end I found that I could type in the Subject title and a couple of words in the body of the text and it allowed me to post that succesfully. Then I went into Edit and pasted in the blog as usual and it allowed me to save the edit. Very odd! If anyone has any explanations to offer I'd be most grateful.]

[Added Sunday later: I've now found that having pasted in pre-prepared text ready for posting, if I make any change, like deleting a single word or correcting a spelling error, the "Post to ..." button changes from grey to "live" to allow posting. It's just possible that in all the years I have been posting to LJ I have never tried to use the button before editing the text in some way, so perhaps there's nothing different going on after all. It's all very disconcerting though!]

As usual definitions are underlined in bold italics, {deletions} are in curly brackets and [indicators] in square ones.

1 Favourite cold drinks turned up (7)
POPULAR - POLAR (cold) encloses [drinks] UP reversed [turned]
5 Problem swallowing dessert when lying back in bed (7)
STRATUM - SUM (problem) encloses [swallowing] TART (dessert) reversed [lying back]
9 Cooking method taking a day before patient consumes odd bits of stew (9)
FRICASSEE - FRI (day), CASE (patient) enclosing [taking] S{t}E{w} [odd bits]
10 Throw from field (5)
PITCH - Two definitions
11 One sadly about ninety, whose time is done (2-3)
EXCON - Anagram [sadly] of ONE encloses [about] XC (ninety)
12 Flying    down the touchline? (2,3,4)
ON THE WING - Two definitions
13 Mark sometimes faced   evidence of spillage from vessel? (4-4,5)
PORT-WINE STAIN - Two defintions, the first with reference to a type of birthmark that could be on one's face.
17 Lost flier in the mail, a rare advertisement originally redirected (6,7)
AMELIA EARHART - Anagram [redirected] of THE MAIL A RARE A{dvertisement} [originally]. "Lost" because she disappeared on her last flight.
21 Very great ordinal, one of twelve written about evil ideology, primarily (9)
MILLIONTH - MONTH (one of twelve) encloses [written about] ILL (evil) + I{deology} [originally]
24 Trunk approximately on time (5)
TORSO - T (time), OR SO (approximately)
25 Dance that's sweet, a degree short? (5)
RUMBA - RUM BA{ba} (sweet) [a degree short]
26 A meeting of tongues splashing fluid (9)
SPANGLISH - Anagram [fluid] of SPLASHING
27 Matter of chance, seeing animal close to colony beside lake (7)
LOTTERY - L (lake), OTTER (animal), {colon}Y [close to]
28 Touching line by chap written on bronze (7)
TANGENT - TAN (bronze), GENT (chap)

1 Person smoking a fish (6)
PUFFER - Two definitions
2 Articulate first rule (9)
PRINCIPLE - Sounds like {articulate} "principal" first
3 Librettist welcoming a student (7)
LEARNER - LERNER (librettist) encloses [welcoming] A. Alan J Lerner wrote the lyrics for "My Fair Lady" amongst many other shows. One usually associates "librettist" with opera or oratorio but it can be applied more widely.
4 You must support second issue in argument for Herefordshire town (4-2-3)
ROSS-ON-WYE - S (second) + SON (issue) inside ROW (argument), YE (you)
5 Fish was well past its sell-by date? (5)
SMELT - Straight definition with a cryptic hint which assumes the fish has gone off
6 Bottle up higher, carafe ends on top of newspapers (7)
REPRESS - {highe}R + {caraf}E [ends], PRESS (newspapers)
7 African king is raised as a Rwandan (5)
TUTSI - TUT (African king), IS reversed [raised]
8 Wood stacks round a corner (8)
MAHOGANY - MANY (stacks) encloses [round] A + HOG (corner)
14 Direction taken by spacemen, or the astronauts (5-4)
NORTH-EAST - Hidden in [taken by] {spaceme)N OR THE AST{ronauts}
15 If later regenerating, the beginnings of further existence? (9)
AFTERLIFE - Anagram [regenerating] of IF LATER, F{urther} E{xistence} [beginnings]. The definition is &lit.
16 Party set up right in Scottish estate (8)
BALMORAL - LAB (party - Labour) reversed [set up], MORAL (right)
18 Parrot I breed to assimilate computer technology! (7)
IMITATE - I, MATE (breed) enclosing [assimilate] IT (computer technology)
19 Foreign agent in toxin, perhaps? (7)
ANTIGEN - Anagram [foreign] of AGENT IN
20 Female on top of sombrero, perhaps? Never mind! (2,4)
SO WHAT - SOW (female), HAT (sombrero, perhaps).
22 Ceiling clearly visible, 100cm obscured (5)
LIMIT - LIT (clearly visible) encloses [obscured] 1M (100cm)
23 Refusal to accept good man is bad (5)
NASTY - NAY (refusal) encloses [to accept] ST (good man - saint)

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