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[sticky post] Call for volunteers

Tim Hall (topicaltim) has been a regular blogger here for the last 8 years, but unfortunately work commitments mean he is no longer able to continue for the time being. Currently he shares Tuesday duties with jackkt for the main Cryptic and also blogs one in 5 Jumbos.

So we have two vacancies up for grabs:

Alternate Tuesdays (starting 23rd Feb - Tim's given me a bit of advance warning, so it's not immediate).
Every Jumbo with number ending 2 or 7 (i.e. every 5 weeks, starting 27th Feb for 1192 published on the 13th).

Please let me know if you're interested - new bloggers most welcome, as well as current bloggers wishing to increase their workload!

STOP PRESS! Marcos Fernandes (fathippy2, who currently does the Jumbos ending 1 and 6) has also got a lot of work and life commitments at the moment and has decided to step down. Penfold, if you're still interested in a spot let me know. First blog will be on 20th Feb for Jumbo 1191 published next Saturday, and every five weeks thereafter.

Saturday Times 26322 (30th Jan)

Apologies for the lateness - I had internet trouble yesterday. Solving time 20:12, struggled to get going at first as I was a bit bleary-eyed from the night before. Bit of a mixed bag with a few easy write-ins, others much trickier. A couple of great cryptic definitions in 21ac and 20dn, and one (1ac) that's just plain wrong!

1 Condemn drink half-heartedly consumed (6)
BERATE - BE(e)R (drink half-heartedly) + ATE (consumed). The definition's just wrong though.
4 Busy organising a third act — about to drop (4,2,2)
HARD AT IT - (a third act)* without the C (about to drop).
10 Confirmation given by demonstrator like Mac? (11)
SHOWERPROOF - PROOF (confirmation) next to SHOWER (demonstrator).
11 Odd bits of aviary's character (3)
AIR - odd letters of AvIaRy.
12 Throw back tailless crustacean (7)
LOBSTER - LOB (throw) + STER(n) (back tailless). Coincidentally I'll be making a lobster risotto tonight for tea.
14 Managers (only one English) gathering to handle releases (7)
EXCUSES - EX(e)CS (managers, with only one E) around USE (handle).
15 Mail coach delivery brought round about exit, maybe (5,9)
STAGE DIRECTION - STAGE (mail coach) + DICTION (delivery) around RE (about).
17 Carried off, horseman reportedly remains for single performances (3-5,6)
ONE-NIGHT STANDS - ONE-NIGHT (sounds like "won" (carried off), "knight" (horseman) + STANDS (remains). This probably had a 95% BIFF rating at least! I certainly didn't bother parsing it before writing it in.
21 I soundly punish one of many in front of pupils (7)
EYELASH - EYE (sounds like I) + LASH (punish).
22 Scrap that's spoken about, going round the houses? (7)
ORBITAL - BIT (scrap) inside ORAL (spoken).
23 Island briefly hit — from east or west (3)
COS - could be COS(h) or SOC(k), hit briefly in either direction. Normally spelt with a K, a Greek island in the Aegean.
24 Car / that can be traded at fixed rate (11)
CONVERTIBLE - double definition.
26 Returning men departed after Dad took off (8)
PARODIED - OR (men) reversed + DIED (departed), after PA (dad).
27 Hasty Republican shifts back in landing area (6)
UNWARY - RUNWAY (landing area), with the R for Republican moved back.

1 By the look of it, killer herb is cook's last (8)
BASILISK - BASIL (herb) + IS + (coo)K. A mythical serpent which could kill with a glance.
2 Port wine given no approval from Berlin (3)
RIO - RIOJA (wine), without JA (approval from Berlin).
3 Start of tense struggle, having lost women's support (7)
TRESTLE - T(ense) + (w)RESTLE (struggle, without the W).
5 There's hearsay evidence of boundary as previously laid down (14)
AFOREMENTIONED - sounds like "a four" (a boundary in cricket) mentioned.
6 Want skilful nurses here in France (7)
DEFICIT - DEFT (skilful) around ICI (here in France).
7 Blast wrongly taken as hint to start (5,4,2)
THAT'S TORN IT - (hint to start)*.
8 Repetitive singer's extremely tough career (6)
THRUSH - T(oug)H + RUSH (career).
9 Likelihood of person catching criminal? (8,6)
SPORTING CHANCE - (person catching)*.
13 Boffin drinks with Queen — it's puzzling (5,6)
BRAIN TEASER - BRAIN (boffin) + TEAS (drinks) + ER (Queen).
16 Source of tune players interpreted? (8)
PSALTERY - (T, players)*, &lit. A medieval stringed instrument.
18 Elevated area kept by deceased sister with distinction (7)
NUANCED - A(rea) inside DEC(eased) NUN (sister), all reversed.
19 Asian Superman needs to stay inside (7)
TIBETAN - TITAN (Superman) around BE (stay).
20 Almost every sheep's outside in proverbially stormy location (6)
TEACUP - EAC(h) (almost every) inside TUP (sheep).
25 Potential killer revealed by blood groups (3)
BOA - B, O and A are all blood groups.

Mephisto 2892 by Don Manley

Second simple puzzle on the trot

4INSECTARY - IN-SEC(re)TARY; worker=bee or ant;
10ORANT - O-RANT; worshipping figure;
11OUTPRAY - (rapt you)*;
12NASTIC - (antics)*;
13REMISE - REM(IS)E; surrender;
14FRONDOSE - FRO(N)DO-SE(en); N from (terrai)N; hobbit=FRODO (Baggins); leafy;
16EMERY - EME-RY; old uncle=EME;
18NIDNOD - DON-DIN reversed; keep nodding;
19PECORA - PE(COR)A; wow!=COR!; ruminants;
21SALOOP - SALOO(n)-P; drink;
24COCKER - two meanings 1=dog 2=(male to male) term of endearment so not quite "pet";
29RETICLES - (recites)* surrounds L; sets of lines;
30ALIYAH - I-LA reversed-HAY reversed; look!=LA!; dance=HAY; take trip to Israel;
31SDAINE - S-DA(I)NE; old word for contempt;
33AGRIN - (ch)AGRIN;
2URAEMIA - U-(area)* surrounds MI; accumulation of waste;
5SOCRED - SOC-RED; socialist=SOC; Canadian party;
7CTENE - C(TEN)E; sort of organ;
8ARIOSO - ARIOS(t)O; piece of music;
9RASSE - hidden (regula)R-ASSE(ssments);
15EGAREMENT - (meet anger)*; confusion;
17ACCORAGE - ACCOR(d)-AGE; old word for cheer;
20REPUNIT - (punter)* surrounds I; 999 for example - the dots in the clue aren't needed;
23PELHAM - (help)*-AM; (horse) bit; also NY subway train in Walter Matthau film;
24CUESTA - CUES-TA; a ridge;
25KAFIRI - KA(FIR)I; nosh in New Zealand=KAI; Afghan;
26VELAR - V-(RALE reversed); from the back of the tongue;
27ACARI - I-RACA reversed; worthless=RACA; mites;

Sunday Times 4679 by Jeff Pearce

A solid sort of puzzle this week - no pyrotechnics but pleasant enough. 7d was unknown to me, but fortunately the wordplay was generous and we were given 60% of the cross checkers.

Thanks to Jeff for an enjoyable offering.

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

1 Choose dry red when touring with English MPs here (6,9)
SELECT COMMITTEE - SELECT (choose) + COMMIE (red) 'touring' TT (dry) + E (English)
9 Controller loses to orderly (7)
REGULAR - REGULATOR (controller) without the TO (loses to)
10 Softly trace around a copy (7)
REPLICA - RELIC (trace) goes 'around' P (softly) + A
11 Penny consumed spread (4)
PATE - P (penny) + ATE (consumed)
12 Everyone's after torn pieces of cloth to make another one (10)
TATTERSALL - ALL (everyone) 'after' TATTERS (torn pieces of cloth) giving another piece of cloth, in this case the check patterned material used for shirts but originally designed for horses
13 Poet takes second to think of Nancy (7)
SPENSER - S (second) + PENSER (to think in Nancy - and elsewhere in France)
15 Absolutely motionless at the games (4,3)
DEAD SET - Answer is clear enough, but I found the exact parsing tricky to pin down. I think it's just a cryptic with "absolutely" giving us DEAD (as in dead centre) and SET coming from the point immediately before a race when contestants are required to be motionless - i.e. "on your marks, set..."
17 Nob is replacing ends of rope and twine in posh tent (7)
MARQUIS - IS replaces EE (ends of ropE and twinE) in MARQUEE (posh tent)
19 Circle lake after a place to sleep (7)
COTERIE - COT (place to sleep) followed by ERIE (lake)
20 Having dodgy locks is when mishaps occur (3,4,3)
BAD HAIR DAY - Mildly cryptic clue
22 Leaders of Kent's new orchestra tackle Ravel (4)
KNOT - First letters (leaders) of Kent's New Orchestra Tackle the thing that might need to be unravelled...
25 Poet, left say, during robbery in Bow (7)
ELEGIST - L (left) + EG (say) in (during) HEIST (robbery in Bow)
26 Sub-standard rocket? (7)
TORPEDO - The "standard" rocket-like weapon of the Sub(marine)...
27 Heather starting work of great importance (5-10)
EARTH SHATTERING - *(HEATHER STARTING) with "work" as the anagrind

1 Axe green areas of Paris to the north (5)
SCRAP - PARCS (green areas of Paris) reversed (to the north - given this is a Down clue)
2 Finally Plymouth Argyle - it's awfully far to go! (5-4)
LIGHT YEAR - *(ARGYLE IT) plus H (finally PlymoutH) also thrown into the mix, and "awfully" as the anagrind. Good to see "The Pilgrims" getting an outing - true stalwarts of the lower divisions of the Football League, with Plymouth apparently being the largest city in England never to have had a team playing in the top flight
3 Biting fish around lake (4)
COLD - COD (fish) around L (lake)
4 Pirate's vulgar song on the radio (7)
CORSAIR - homophone (indicated by "on the radio") of COARSE AIR (vulgar song). I found the urge to do a quick search for rude pirate songs irresistible, but the ones published on the internet all seem pretty tame: I'm sure there must be some good bawdy stuff out there somewhere...
5 Earned ceremony in the sea (7)
MERITED - RITE (ceremony) in MED (sea)
6 Crucial to bring in worker (9)
IMPORTANT - IMPORT (to bring in) + ANT (worker)
7 Volunteers to lead a soldier up lots of freezing trees (5)
TAIGA - TA (volunteers) + AGI (a soldier) reversed (up). LOI and had to trust to wordplay here as this was unknown to me.
8 Earl leads girl to a flashy pad (9)
EPAULETTE - E (abbrev. Earl) + Paulette (girl)
13 Note from doctor, covering one priest in diocese (9)
SEMIBREVE - MB (doctor) 'covering' I (one) + REV (priest), with the whole lot surrounded by SEE (diocese)
14 Prudish girl entertains leader of Quaker's sect (9)
SQUEAMISH - SUE (girl) 'entertains' Q (leader of Quaker's) + AMISH (sect)
16 Plain ties and green buckle (9)
SERENGETI - *(TIES GREEN) with "buckle" as the anagrind
18 Way to gag bird (7)
STRETCH - ST (abbrev. Street = way) + RETCH (gag) giving an alternative to bird for porridge...
19 Key I placed in bed for singer (4,3)
COAL TIT - ALT (key on computer keyboard) + I 'placed in' COT (bed). Why does it always take me ages to link references to "keys" to keyboards?
21 Miserable nurse at end of ward (5)
DREAR - REAR (nurse) after D (end of warD)
23 It's not right to pack flip-flop (5)
THONG - THRONG (pack) loses its R (not right)
24 Yorkshire cricketer dropping a player? That's correct (4)
TRUE - Fred TRUEMAN drops the MAN (player). Whilst the peerless Fred is probably pretty well known to UK folk even amongst the ranks of non-cricketers, he may be unknown across the pond (or in Greece for that matter). A gruff, earthy, pipe smoking character who epitomised Yorkshire Man ("I call a spade a bloody shovel") and one of the greatest fast bowlers ever.

Times Jumbo 1189

Fairly straightforward, I thought. Lovely word at 4dn!

As always, * indicates an anagram.

1 ANTIPODES - it, reversed, + PO, in ANDES
6 APPEALS - APPAL S, around unclE
10 CAPER - double indication (reference to 'cutting a caper')
13 TEACAKE - A in EC, in TAKE
14 ARTICLE - double indication
15 THEOREM - THEM around ORE
16 LIKE NOBODY'S BUSINESS - cryptic indication + definition
17 ERA - ER, + third letter of 'draughtsmen'
18 ESCAPE - double definition, + reference to the film 'The Great Escape'
21 RELUCTANT - RELIANT, with the I replaced by U + CT
23 KOOKABURRA - sounds (roughly) like 'Cook' + 'a borough'
25 OUT OF BOUNDS - cryptic indication
29 AUDEN - first letter of 'unappreciated', in ADEN
31 ORTHODOX - sounds (rather) like 'author docks'
34 DALESMAN - DAN, around ALES + M
39 UNHEALTHILY - (In Hull they appear)*
41 DECOLONISE - (Isolde once)*
43 TRACK SUIT - TRACK, + SUIT (slang for an executive)
45 RIP-OFF - customeR + I P OFF ('smallest possible discount' = 1 penny off)
47 LESSEE - E + E after LESS
49 BAT - tab, reversed
50 STRICTLY FOR THE BIRDS - reference is to the UK TV show 'Strictly Come Dancing'
53 FLORIDA - FRIDAy around LO
54 SHELTIE - IE after SHE + LT
55 ODDLY - O + DD + LoftY
56 NEST EGG - ('gets' in 'gen'), reversed
57 DECIDUOUS - DEC I, + DUOS around U

2 TRACK - double definition
3 PLAIN-SPOKEN - PLANS around I, + PEN around OK
4 DWEEBS - DEBS, around E + W
6 ARTISTE - Hidden in BraveheART IS TErrible
7 PICTURE POSTCARD - cryptic indication
10 CHEESECLOTH - CHEESE (as in 'say cheese!') + CLOTH
11 PORCELAIN - crop, reversed, + ELAINe
12 REMNANT - REMIT, with NAN replacing the I
19 CHORDAL - CHORAL around Delius
24 ANTHONY TROLLOPE - (then or only a plot)*
27 SEXIST - EXIST after S
28 LANDAU - LAND + AU (Au is the chemical symbol for gold)
32 DRESSES - double indication
35 SHANKS'S PONY - SHANKS ('cuts' as in cuts of meat) + fareS + PONY
37 GINGERBREAD - (in greed grab)*
38 FISTICUFFS - cryptic indication, referring to 'dukes' as slang for fists
43 TOBACCO - Cabot, reversed, + CO
46 PUFFING - PUG, around niff reversed
48 PHYSIC - Pharmacy + (shy)* + IC

Times 26,327: Booze Cruise

There really are an unusual number of references to drink and drunkenness in cryptic crosswords, aren't there? It's not just me and my confirmation bias? I can't think what possible connection there could be between the setting/solving community and bibulosity, but there you go. (Actually this reminds me of the last time I encountered the very reverend John Henderson, in a pub by chance it was, when I suggested to him that "Enigmatist" might be Cockney Rhyming Slang for "Brahms and Liszt". Being a noted abstainer from all such vices, he wasn't convinced, but, Brahms, Liszt, Elgar... you've got to admit it makes a weird kind of sense.)

But anyway I doubt today's crossword was done under the influence of lashings of booze, despite 3dn and 20ac, as the word that kept occurred to me to describe it was "meticulous" - every element very neat and clever and in its right place. No difficult vocab for anyone to object to (19dn being a possible outlier), no obscure literary or scholarly references; I must admit that 1ac was was my LOI based on the faulty assumption that it would be one of those bloody cricket references that I can never make stumps nor bail of, but no, even that turned out to be fair and square in the end. So while I personally might prefer them a bit more baroque, this was a model of the setter's art in many ways. Undying kudos to the gentleperson responsible.

COD to 15dn I think: only crosswords can make you completely re-see a word in this way!

1 SORTING OFFICE - that ensures accurate deliveries (as part of the posital service): S{p}ORTING OFFICE ["pressure-free" (i.e. lacking P) cricketing position, say]
9 OCHRE - natural colouring: OCH [north of the border, I'm surprised] + RE [about]
10 INVECTIVE - abuse: INVE{N->C}TIVE [ground-breaking, "centre abandoned" (i.e. losing its middle letter), "receiving constant" (i.e. C, the speed of light)]
11 LABORATORY - workplace: LAB OR A TORY? [a question of political affiliation]
12 ITCH - irritation: {p}ITCH ["opener's dismissed" from field]
14 EXPLAIN - account for: EX PLAN [former | programme] "one's appeared in", i.e. with I inserted
16 DIURNAL - during the day: URN [somewhere to keep tea] drunk by DIAL [tuner]
17 BITTERN - a bird: BITTER N [tart | noun]
19 TIGRESS - Amazon: {e}GRESS [exit "initially barred"] after T{h}I{s} ["oddly"]
20 ALIT - got off: LIT [cheered] after A{ctivists'} ["leader"]
21 AMBASSADOR - delegate: AMASS ADOR{n} [collect | deck "incompletely"] cut by B [British]
24 ENTHRONES - reverences: (["last of"] {rac}E THE NORNS*]) ["destroyed"]
25 INANE - dull-witted: IN{di}AN [Apache for one, "lacking heart"] + E [energy]
26 COMPLEMENTARY - matching: COMMENTARY [review] covering ["50% of"] {peo}PLE

1 SHOULDER BLADES - body parts: (A SOLD{i}ER BLUSHED*) ["not seeing one" (i.e. with I removed), "rude"]
2 REHAB - remedial treatment: reverse of BA{t}HER ["rising" swimmer, "taking time out" (i.e. losing T)]
3 INEBRIATED - wasted: ["stirring"] (DIATRIBE*) about NE [Tyneside]
4 GLISTEN - glow from reflection: IS {los}T ["ultimately"] in GLEN [valley]
5 FEVERED - impatient: FED [agent abroad] that EVER [always] is interrupting
6 INCA - old South American: {CA->->}IN [murderer, "about to be sent down", i.e. with the CA (circa) moved to the bottom of the solution]
7 EXISTENCE - being: (SIXTEEN*) ["troubled"] + ["first couple of"] CE{lebs}
8 KEYHOLE SURGERY - cryptic def, referring of course to an operating theatre and not a playhouse
13 SUGGESTION - suspicion: (SINGS OUT EG*) ["rousing"]
15 PATRIOTIC - loyal: P.A. TRIO TIC [spontaneous movement by three secretaries]
18 NOMINAL - trifling (as in "a nominal fee"): hidden backwards in ["revolutionary"] {p}LAN I'M ON{ly}
19 TRANSOM - timber for doorframe: T{enant's} ["initial"] + RANSOM [payment to deliver]
22 DRAMA - a sensation: RAM [stuff] seized by D.A. [lawman]
23 FROM - sent by: F{O<->R}M [model "with twisted heart"]

Quick Cryptic 499 by Hurley

Not too many hold-ups with this one, despite a deliberately unhelpful capital letter in 3d – by then I had enough checkers not to be searching for French words. Clever turn of phrase in 23a, my favourite clue I think, because of this. LOI in 12d, despite having shell as the second part. For new solvers, chemical symbols are worth knowing; gold (Au), silver (Ag) (3d here) and copper (Cu), are popular, but others crop up too. 20a is also a favourite of setters, though more usually as part of the wordplay rather than the solution.
Thank you to Hurley.

1 Sailors’ song in poor accommodation: SHANTY
Double definition
4 Sound, not smooth, you dread, last of all: THUD
Final letters (last of all) of four preceding words
9 Praising twofold on return a politician: LAUDATORY
LAUD = DUAL (twofold) backwards (on return), a politician = A TORY
10 Mug fellow: ROB
Double definition
11 One welcoming nice port site, redeveloped: RECEPTIONIST
Anagram (redeveloped) of NICE PORT SITE
13 With nothing to wear, relative’s endless publicity: UNCLAD
Relative’s endless = UNCL(e), publicity = AD
15 State’s source of metal almost gone: OREGON
Source of metal = ORE, almost GON(e)
17 Port in Spain unusually bans a siesta before noon: SAN SEBASTIAN
Anagram (unusually) of BANS A SIESTA, before N(oon)
20 Earned regularly before: ERE
21 Religious book for distribution hits Mecca: CATECHISM
Anagram (for distribution) of HITS MECCA
22 Initially liking ukulele, totally engaging instrument: LUTE
First letters (initially) of next four words of the clue
23 Male’s content with one descendant - girl: ALISON
Male’s content = AL, (content as in what is contained), one = I, descendant = SON

1 Fabric Society type needed: SILK
Society = S, type =ILK
2 Article, appealing, SHARP: ACUTE
Article = A, appealing = CUTE
3 Behind time, composer with silver currency half-ignored in Tours bureau: TRAVEL AGENCY
Time = T, composer = RAVEL, silver = AG, half-ignored (curr)ENCY
5 Husband making mistake getting fish: HERRING
Husband = H, making mistake = ERRING
6 First-timer upset editor with objection over worker: DEBUTANT
DE = upset ED(itor), objection = BUT, worker = ANT
7 Regular journey east after defeat: ROUTE
Defeat = ROUT, East = E
8 Chic oil party somehow failing to match claims?: HYPOCRITICAL
Anagram (somehow) of CHIC OIL PARTY
12 Hard cover served up surprise, anguish: NUTSHELL
NUTS = STUN (surprise) backwards (served up), anguish = HELL
14 Conservative opening religious building: CONVENT
Conservative = CON, opening = VENT
16 Some with a style rather rushed: HASTY
Hidden word
18 Wrong answer, teacher!: AMISS
Answer = A, teacher = MISS
19 Old soldiers sign: OMEN
Old = O, soldiers = MEN

A bit of a Brief Encounter this one, at least in my terms, at 13.56. It'll be interesting to see how rapid a fill it is for others, though my experience this week is that the puzzels are getting steadily more straightforward. I suppose it's possible that solvers have cruised through life without encountering Cleopatra's maid or the aquatic creature, but (apart from having to translate "biscuit" into "cookie" stateside) the foodstuff at 17, which I thought might be a bit parochial, seems to be a pretty much universally recognised hazard to brittle teeth. And even the gardener turns out to be the only one I can confidently name. Which is nice. I submit my workings thus:


1 HISS urgent whisper
Greeting can't be anything much other than HI, and Sons gives you the needed two esses
4 ROSE WINDOW ...that's on the Church wall
A teeny tiny quibble - I'm not convinced that "on" is the best preposition. Be that as it may, ROSE is the flower, lady having lost husband is WIDOW, chuck in a N(ame). I initially thought "flower lady" was a rather generous clue for ROSE, but cool reflection says "lady" is needed in the next bit.
9 CAPABILITY So-called gardener
Mr and Mrs Brown named him Lancelot, but the C word stuck to him and floated serenely through history and into my consciousness. "Working" BY I (ONE) CAPITAL into a confused state provides our answer.
10 MOLE Tunneller
Take "trouble" to be a verb, and translate it easily enough to molest. Knock of the ST(reet) way.
11 TITTLE Companion to jot
We can be thankful to the astonishing William Tyndale, producer of the first printed English New Testament, for this felicitous phrase for "really amazingly small things" here referenced. Until the 18th century, the dot on the i was a tittle. Prosaically "name" in the clue is TITLE, and the end of document is, of course T, which you insert.
12 KNEE JERK automatic
"Criminal" instructs you to twist KEEN, and pull translates to JERK
14 SARI dress
From which you can guess, correctly, that Cleo's maid was IRAS, which Shakespeare had no doubt about and which you must reverse.
17 GINGER SNAP biscuit.
The Times biscuit tin houses a pretty small selection, of which this is the one that most requires dunking. Subject the last letter of tiN and all of PRESAGING to "disastrous" rearrangement.
20 APEX Top
Answer provides the A, the rest sounds like pecks, or kisses.
21 GESTATES carries
A mammalian interpretation. Put SET scenery backwards and attach it to a new arrangement of STAGE
23 ON SITE Present for work
Sounds like "on sight", loosely (but not unduly so) interpreting "without preparation"
24 NOELCelebration
And the first name of the awf'ly elegant Mr Coward. The quote at the top of the page is the terribly terribly poignant moment in Brief Encounter when the not-actually-cuckolded husband seeks the answer to a crossword clue from his conflicted wife which turns out to be "romance".
25 FOUR-IN-HAND Carriage
As driven by HRH Prince Philip to an individual championship gold medal in 1982 (sic). Two couples by basic maths are FOUR, and "under control" gives IN HAND. In my experience "in hand" means "I haven't actually started it yet, but I don't want you to know that"
"Wind", as in twist, FEELS FORCE. A very neat clue.
27 TOOL For example, saw
I like this. Not enough right, so it must be TOO L(eft)


2 IMAGINATIVE full of ideas
I reverse engineered this one to MAG (publication) I (I) in 1 (one) NATIVE (local).
3 STARTLING Shocking
The last letter of amounT taken on board by a STARLING definitely a bird
4  RAIDERS Attacking force
Probably the simplest of today's clues: R(ight) and AIDERS (helpers)
5 STICK TO ONES GUNS Don't budge
As in an argument, for exanmple. Keeping armes close is another mildly whimsical interpretation of the phrase
You can safely ignore the apparent footie reference. This is WARY (cautious) with the A missing, and NECK for a bit of bottle, either literally or figuratively
7 DRONE Aeroplane
If not carrying hellfile missiles, it would just be a very expensive executive toy. Managed equates to DONE ("so that's how it's done"). Drop in a R(iver)
8 WREAKCreate
Another soundalike, this time of reek "awful smell"
13 RALLENTANDO Slowing down
Though most conductors I've sung under insist it's Italian for "watch the conductor". One might get DON'T EARN ALL from the letters.
16 THAT'S THAT Emphatic conclusion
Bernard Cribbinsanyone? "..And beneath it is the chap in the bowler hat. And that's that." Also a "trivial" truth, and unless I'm very much mistaken, a tautology.
18 ROTIFER Aquatic creature
"A wheel-animalcule, or member of the Rotif'era, minute aquatic animals whose rings of waving cilia suggest a rotating wheel." So now you know. Knew the word, somehow, and it's relatively easily deduced. I took regular procedure to be ROTE, and in it is IF (provided); add the second R(iver) of the day.
19 PROFILECryptic definition.
I suppose on a police record or such you might be photographed in this (sc profile). Nearly not cryptic at all.
21 GENRE Class
Eco-friendly is GREEN, gently lower the RE (about) to the bottom.
A lockable box is a SAFE, and an almost one is a SAF. Include man's, strictly perhaps his, but here HE.

Quick Cryptic 498 by Orpheus

A well-composed puzzle with some very neatly turned clues.  Nothing obscure or unfair.  Yes, that's still me, except that it isn't of course. Just for some variety I'm ringing the changes with my userpics between now and when I bow out for the time being at the end of next month.  I first put this one up as a tease a few months ago when it appeared that some of the solvers on the other blog didn't know the artist (James Whistler) but I'm sure you do.  Definitions in italics underlined.  Answers in bold caps.

3.  Islander's cry of pleasure welcomed by Venetian painter (8)
TAHITIAN.  AH=cry of pleasure contained in (welcomed by) TITIAN.
7. Oddball's party by dam in river (6)
WEIRDO.  WEIR=dam in river next to DO=party.  I'm always confused which vowel comes first in the dam but it was clear here thank goodness.  Don't even mention that "niche" fellow (Nietzsche and yes I checked it the spelling).
8.  Tory ref's abandoned woodland management (8)
FORESTRY.  Anagram (abandoned) of TORY REF'S.
9.  Head's cloak (4)
CAPE.  Double definition.
10.  Run alongside end of lake (3)
BYE.  Of course!  Our cricket clue.  BY=alongside plus end of lak[E].
11.  Winner, one with a four-wheeled carriage (8)
VICTORIA.  VICTOR=winner plus I=one with A.
13.  See church and expanse of water up North (4)
LOCH.  LO=see (obviously not a word in general use outside crosswordland) and CH=church.
15. Dog in County Kerry (4)
TYKE.  Containment clue Coun[TY KE]rry.  A mongrel, and also in Yorkshire and the N.E. U.S. a mischievous youg lad.
17. Half-hearted evangelist married after conflict (8)
LUKEWARM.  LUKE=evangelist plus WAR=conflict and M=married.
19.  Feel ill when alcoholic drink is spoken of (3)
AIL.  Homophone for "ale"=drink.
22.  Heroic European film (4)
EPIC.  E=European (not English this time) and PIC=film.
23.  Tirade from dreadful sounding ethnic group (8)
DIATRIBE.  Homophone for "dire" (sounds like dreadful) plus TRIBE=ethnic group.
24. Eg armadillo's plates going from back to front (6)
ANIMAL.  "Lamina"=plates back to front.  I skipped it and then returned to it but it was easier than it looked at first glance.
25.  Part-song in which crazy girl tours Rhode Island (8)
MADRIGAL.  MAD=crazy and GAL=girl contains (tours) the State R.I.


1.  Truthfulness of woman going over financial area (8)
VERACITY.  VERA=woman CITY=financial area.  Old fashioned womens' names must be very useful to setters because we often see Una and Ena et al too.
2.  Study painting externally, being keen (6)
ARDENT.  DEN=study surrounded by ART=painting (externally).
3.  Posh fellow taking time away (4)
TOFF.  T=time OFF=away.
4. Book that's difficult to support (8)
HARDBACK.  HARD=difficult BACK=support.
5. Tuft of dangling thread disfigured slates (6)
TASSEL.  Anagram (disfigured) of "slates".
6.  First-class railway - well ventilated (4)
AIRY.  AI=first-class RY=railway.
12.  Motor sport is getting better (8)
RALLYING.  Double definition.
14.  Red priest - a senior one (8)
CARDINAL.  Another double definition.
16.  Person dining around end of this festival (6)
EASTER.  EATER=person dining containing (around) end of [thi]S.
18.  Beetle that's tiny - and mostly revolting (6)
WEEVIL.  WEE=tiny and VIL[e] mostly.
20.  Gunners carry it for a girl (4)
RITA.  The R[oyal] A[rtillery] contain (carry) IT.
21.  Kentish town producing timber? (4)
DEAL.  Double definition, with just a hint of mischievous misdirection towards a part of London instead Kent.

Times 26325

After yesterday's struggle I was fearing the worst, but it proved otherwise; I whizzed through this in 15 minutes (probably 3 Verlaines) with most of it write-in material. 22a and 14d required a minute or two of thought to sort out the 'why'.
And my tablet SIM has suddenly decided to run at warp speed (H+) after two weeks of grinding along on E, (apparently worse than 1G) so I apologise to Senor Vodafone. Keep those shares, I'll be munching through those expensive Gigabytes now.

1 BANANA REPUBLIC - BAN = forbid, (ARENA)*, PUBLIC; D weak state.
9 ENIGMATIC - (MAGNETIC)* around I; D puzzling. Not for long.
10 DWELL - D(ays), WELL = spring; D have one's home. A chestnut, quickie style.
11 DAISY - DAIS = platform, Y = fourth letter of Marylebone; D composite.
12 THE RIVALS - DD; Play by Sheridan.
13 NUGATORY - NUG = weapon, to the left; A TORY; D futile.
15 STATIC - STIC(K) = nearly all stand, around AT; D stable.
17 BODKIN - BOD = person, KIN = relations; D needle.
19 CRANKPIN - CRANK = nut, PIN = fasten; D part of engine.
22 TARDINESS - Insert DINES (eats) into TARS for sailors; D no quality in fast food, you want it sooner not later.
23 CUBIC - CUB young bear, IC(E) nearly frozen; D like solid.
24 ELFIN - Strip two words; (S)ELFI(E), (O)N(E); D charming.
25 TOMATILLO - TO MILL = to grind, insert A T(ime), O = round; D fruit from Mexico.
26 HENLEY-ON-THAMES - (HE THE MANLY ONES)*; the place for rowing, indeed.

1 BREAD AND BUTTER - Sounds like BRED = mated, AND = with, BUTTER = goat; D routine.
2 NAILING - SAILING has S changed to its opposite; D tacking.
3 NIMBY - NIM is a game, that annoying one where you try to be the one to take the last bit. BY = in reserve; D one wanting to protect area, acronym for Not In My Back Yard.
4 ROTATORY - ROT (rubbish), AT, O(old), RY (railway); D turning.
5 PACKET - A PLACKET is an opening or slit in a garment, it could be the entry to a pocket; remove the L; D a lot of money. But not necessarily a pretty penny.
6 BADMINTON - BAD for offensive, as in smell; MINTON posh china; D game. Once I'd been through and past MATE and PAL it clicked.
7 INEXACT - I NEXT (succeeding), insert AC; D lax.
8 CLASS CONSCIOUS - CLASS = group of students, CONSCIOUS = reasoning; D knowing where one stands. A bit obvious.
14 TUITIONAL - Know your crossword birds and antelopes! A TUI is a NZ bird, TONAL = using keys, insert I = current; D teaching's style.
16 FRESHMAN - FRESH = somewhat forceful, and cool; MAN = staff, as verb; D first-year student.
18 DURUFLE - (FLEUR DU)*, nice anagrist 'mal'; D French composer, of whom I had heard.
20 PABULUM - (UP ALBUM)*; anagrist 'ripping'; D bland stuff. From Latin for food.
21 SENTRY - S(TUCK) = S (no tuck = without food); ENTRY = way in; D picket.
23 CATCH - CAT = lash, C, H; D problem being concealed. Topical surface, if not difficult.

Quick Cryptic Number 497 by Grumpy

Nice and straightforward again this morning, with a number of addition or charade type clues. Only hold ups for me were failing to spot the indicator at 5dn (very easy to read over it), and originally trying ILL at 21dn (the lovely 22ac put me back on the right lines). I hope to see many of the regulars come in at their target times over the course of the day!

Definitions underlined.

1 Legislation is effective (4)
ACTS - double definition.
4 Put up with rotten deadlock (5-3)
STAND-OFF - STAND (put up with) and OFF (rotten).
8 Promptly noted, hot rocks (2,3,3)
ON THE DOT - anagram of (rocks) NOTED HOT.
9 Endless disgrace is not real (4)
SHAM - SHAMe (disgrace) without the last letter (endless).
10 Cat seen by bishop in burial place (4)
TOMB - TOM (cat) next to B (bishop).
11 Go round fish in road (8)
TURNPIKE - TURN (go round) and PIKE (fish).
12 Not moving right in a cricket match (2,4)
AT REST - R (right) inside A TEST (a cricket match).
14 A loose woman in the family (6)
AUNTIE - A and UNTIE (loose).
16 Draw near leading characters in Peter Pan swallowed by a fish (8)
APPROACH - first letters (leading characters) of Peter Pan inside (swallowed by) A ROACH (a fish).
18 Small, and frequently yielding (4)
SOFT - S (small) and OFT (frequently).
19 Black gear for two-masted vessel (4)
BRIG - B (black) and RIG (gear).
20 Rude and disrespectful, like sailors from Cowes? (8)
INSOLENT - sailors setting off from Cowes could be in the Solent.
22 Fellow in Indian dress, cold and cynical (8)
SARDONIC - DON (fellow) in SARI (Indian dress), plus C (cold).
23 Creamy dressing somewhere in Ireland (4)
MAYO - double definition.

2 Jailbird with kind companion (7)
CONSORT - CON (jailbird) with SORT (kind).
3 Indian gentleman has openings for Sikhs and Hindus in Bangalore (5)
SAHIB - first letters (openings) of Sikhs And Hindus In Bangalore.
4 Blue pills a doctor conceals (3)
SAD - hidden in (indicated by conceals) pillS A Doctor.
5 Consequences of working at the farm (9)
AFTERMATH - anagram of (working) AT THE FARM.
6 Rough sand put in receptacle (7)
DUSTPAN - anagram of (rough) SAND PUT.
7 Candid leader in front line (5)
FRANK - first letter (leader) of Front, with RANK (line).
11 Lab process in which small bird takes part (9)
TITRATION - TIT (small bird) and RATION (part).
13 Terribly angered! (7)
ENRAGED - anagram of (terribly) ANGERED. An example of an &lit clue, where the whole thing is both wordplay and definition.
15 Childhood in the imagination? (7)
INFANCY - IN and FANCY (the imagination).
17 Parents crossing river in Italian city (5)
PARMA - PA and MA (parents) crossing R (river).
18 Meals cooked in a Massachusetts seaport (5)
SALEM - anagram of (cooked) MEALS.
21 Ailing king departs thus (3)
SIC - SICk (ailing) without the k (king departs).

Quick Cryptic 496 by Flamande

I found this on the easier side - completing in 10 minutes - plus one extra minute for 7dn where I couldn't see the wood for the trees. Very enjoyable though with lots of very apt and amusing word play. If any terms were unknown (10/19 ac perhaps) then they were generously clued.


1. No great shakes - ordinary. Anagram (surprisingly) of GOSH KENT AREAS.
8. Tipped - double definition.
9. Outset - start. OUT, SET.
10. Peri - fairy-like creature. (PERI)l.
11. Well read - knowledgable. Wow (WELL), homophone of red.
12. Adept - proficient. (A)rt, DEPT.
13. Girth - waist measurement. Anagram (wrong) of RIGHT.
15. Thickset - sturdy. S inside THICKET.
17. Toga - Roman habit. TO, (G)reeks, A.
19. Medina - part of old town. According to my friend Wikipedia there's a sacred core which not everyone is allowed to enter - which may explain the 'part of ' - but this is where you come in and give us the benefit of your wisdom. IN, A east (left) of MED.
20. Period - lesson. PE, ROD covering (around) I.
21. Second reading - further parliamentary scrutiny. SE, CON, DREADING.


2. Olive - yellow-green. Duck (O - zero), LIVE.
3. Reprise - encore. Theatre company (REP), RISE.
4. Aid - help. m(AID).
5. Spotlight - draw attention to. SLIGHT around POT.
6. Altar - communion table. A, L, RAT (upwards).
7. Eyewash - nonsense. E, YEW, ASH.
11. Withstand - resist. Anagram (awful) of WIND THATS.
12. Athlete - runner perhaps. Allowed (LET) inside an anagram (after training) of HEAT.
14. Retired - went to bed. RE, TIRED.
16. Chino - cotton material. In SassenaCH IN Oban.
18. Groan - cry of agony. Homophone (audibly) of grown.
20. Poe - American write. PrOvEd.

Times Cryptic 26324

I needed 43 minutes to solve this rather tricky puzzle and extra time to understand some of the clues. My last one in was 14ac where there were only a couple of possibilities for the first part of the word but dozens for the remainder, so it took some working through to come up with something that made at least a degree of sense. I imagine if one knew the term it was probably a write-in but I have never met it before, said with some confidence as a google search of TftT returns no hits on it. There's only one hit on 16dn, as recently as the Jumbo blogged on 16th January and unfortunately I didn't tackle that one, but the answer was easy enough to work out from a combination of anagram fodder and the knowledge that -bane is common in the names of various poisons.

As usual deletions are in {curly brackets} and indicators, where given, are in [square ones]

1 HET UP - PUT (park), EH (what!) all reversed. I think 'park' for 'put' came up on a previous occasion and led to some debate. If in doubt it may help to think in terms of putting something aside until required.
4 MAHOGANY - HOG (corner - as in control or dominate something e.g. one might corner the market for a particular product) + A (area) inside MANY (piles of)
8 GENERALISATION - LISA (girl) inside GENERATION (making)
10 EYES RIGHT - {conferenc}E, YES (of course), RIGHT (Tory). A parade ground command.
11 TROOP - POOR (lacking) + T (time) all reversed
12 MALADY - A + LAD (son) inside [impressed by] MY (brother!)
14 ITCH-MITE - ITCH (long), MITE (item - article, with its last letter moved to the front). New to me.
17 GUNMETAL - GUN (heater - US slang) + METAL sounds like "mettle" (bottle - courage) [say]. 'Heater' for a firearm is something I learned quite recently through crosswords.
18 DAMMIT - TIM (small boy), MAD (raving) all reversed
20 ELBOW - E{vi}L, BOW (weapon). Definition: 'army' crook - ho-ho!
22 SWEATSHOP - Anagram [broadcast] of TAPE SHOWS
24 ORDINARY SEAMEN - Anagram [doctor] of ANNOYS MARRIED E (English)
25 SHAGREEN - SH (not a word!), A, GREEN (coloured). I think I knew this leather product through crosswords but it has only come up once before in TftT and that was in a Jumbo that I wouldn't have done, so maybe I met it elsewhere.
26 TARRY - A + R{ecidivist} inside TRY (judge)

1 HUGGER-MUGGER - HUGGER (person who embraces), MUGGER (assailant). I wasn't sure what this meant but the definition here is 'confused'.
2 TENSE - Two definitions: charged / present
3 PARTRIDGE - {c}ARTRIDGE (shell) with its first letter changed to an unspecified 'P'
4 MALIGN - MA (old lady), LIGN sounds like "line" (row) [on radio]
5 HESITATE - HE (explosive), then I (one) inside STATE (situation)
6 GET IT - Hidden in {messa}GE TIT{le}
7 NEOLOGISM - Anagram [engineer] of LOSING ME enclosing O{ne}
9 A PRETTY PENNY - A{sian} [capital], PRETTY (sort of), PEN (writer), NY (city). 'Pretty' for 'sort of' gave me pause for thought but they can just about pass the substitution test in a phrase such as 'he was pretty/sort of strong for his size'. The definition here is 'millions' which is possibly a little OTT for a phrase that usually just means a large sum of money, so perhaps a question mark would have been in order.
13 LINDBERGH - Anagram [sadly] of G{i}RL BEHIND [I must leave]
15 HEARTBEAT - HE (this man), ART (skill), BEAT (strike)
16 RATSBANE - BAN (outlaw) inside anagram [wasted] of TEARS. My dictionary says it was specifically arsenic but can now be other poisons.
19 KENYAN - KEY (explanation) encloses N (name abbreviated), A, N (north)
21 WRING - R (Republican) inside WING (party branch)
23 HOMER - HOME (in), R {esidence} [originally]

Times 26323 - Two English golfers

Solving time: 26 minutes

Music: Beethoven, Piano Concerto #5, Curzon/Knappertsbusch/VPO

After spending a wonderful afternoon listening to rare records on a system that costs more than a new Ferrari, I came home for a quick dinner and what I hoped would be a quick solve. So it should have been, had I not persistently biffed in the wrong answer and then erased it five minutes later. While the two long ones were nearly write-ins, I got stuck on a few that should have been easy, along with a somewhat problematic LOI.

This is a fairly vanilla puzzle that probably could be solved quite quickly by our top solvers. In many cases, the answer is obvious while the cryptic is somewhat obscure, so those who stop to puzzle everything out and confirm their answer will be slowed down considerably. This setter seems to be a bit fond of Russian-doll style clues, which will take a bit of unraveling.

1HARVEST FESTIVAL, cryptic definition.
9MILWAUKEE, MIL(W(AUK)E)E. Not the first city you think of, either, because it's not exactly on the coast.
11THYMOL, hidden in [fil]THY MOL[ecatcher]. An easily-guessable unknown for me.
13REGARD, RE(GAR)D. I biffed 'remark' and erased it.
15PANTRIES, PANT(R)IES. No telling what the left is wearing.
21ROSEWOOD, RO(S(EW)O)OD, another Russian doll clue. 'Rosewood' could be used to make furniture, although that would be quite pricey these days.
23DOUBLE, a, well, double DOUBLE definition.
26INANE, IN (A[ir]) N.E.
2RALLY, R + [t]ALLY. A problematic clue. Can R or D indicate a party in a UK puzzle, where the parties are L, LAB, and C? Is a 'rally' really a 'track event'? Well, maybe. It seems that the correct answer is really RELAY, RE[p]LAY, based on a specialized meaning of 'replay'. I'm awaiting further enlightenment.
4TAKE, double definition, where the it is verb in the first and a noun in the second.
5EXEMPLAR, EX + E(MP)LAR, i.e. in an anagram of REAL.
6TARSI, TARS(-us + I).
7VIOLINIST, a cryptic definition, I believe, perhaps referring to a possible position as concertmaster?
8LITOTES, anagram of T.S. ELIOT. Never mind the other anagram, we'll let the Guardian have that one.
14GRASSLAND GR(ASS + L)AND. I had biffed in UNADORNED with no checkers, so much for speed solving.
17COL0MBIA, COL + O.M. + B. + IA, where IA is the official postal abbreviation for Iowa.
18TORYISM, TO(R)Y + IS + M[iller].
20OVERDID, O(VERDI)D, where FUSS ONCE presumably means that the 'fuss' meaning of 'do' is now obsolete. Or something.
22WHEEL, WHEE + L[ocated].
24BREVE, B + RE[e]VE.
25BYRE, sounds like BUYER. All solvers should clearly understand exactly what is meant by a byre, a bower, a bothy, and a bawn.

Quick Cryptic 495 by Izetti

A tricky one from Izetti today. I generally attempt to solve the Quickies in clue order - this puzzle required several passes before 7D and (less explicably) 14A yielded. Though my track record of predictions in this regard is poor, I will venture to suggest that this is a hard Quicky (cue an avalanche of personal best completion times from other solvers). The usual smooth surfaces and interesting vocab from this setter.

The crossword can be found here if the usual channels are unavailable: http://feeds.thetimes.co.uk/puzzles/crossword/20160201/13166/

Definitions are underlined.

1 Student event needs a piece of Indian music (4)
RAGA - RAG (Student event) + A. This word has appeared in the main cryptic and Mephisto several times but it's the first time it's appeared in a Quicky and it may well not be familiar to newer solvers. Chambers: "1. A traditional Hindu musical form or mode, a rhythmic or melodic pattern used as the basis for improvisation; 2. A piece composed in such a mode". Not to be confused with ragga, reggae, or ragu.
3 Determined detectives engaged in exploit (7)
DECIDED - CID (detectives) inside (engaged in) DEED (exploit)
8 Detest insider falsely posing as impartial (13)
DISINTERESTED - anagram (falsely posing as) of DETEST INSIDER
9 A divine tot (3)
ADD - A + DD (divine, where DD stands for Doctor of Divinity and divine is to be read as a noun (Chambers: "3. A theologian"))
10 Fab fish (5)
BRILL - double definition, the second being a flatfish related to the turbot (and also making its debut in the Quicky). The slangy fab helpfully gives us a hint that we should look for an informal equivalent.
12 Standing outside front of front of restaurant, see a cloud (7)
STRATUS - STATUS (Standing) around (outside) R (front of restaurant, i.e. the first letter of "restaurant"). I'm assuming that the extra "front of" is an error on the part of the Times.
14 Injured mammals brought back, given resting place (7)
STABBED - reversal (brought back) of BATS (mammals), + BED (resting place)
16 One disadvantaged among close relations (5)
LOSER - hidden in (among) cLOSE Relations
17 Poem in secret language about to be released (3)
ODE - {c}ODE (secret language about to be released, i.e. "code" (secret language) without the letter "c" (an abbreviation for "about"))
20 Halt any fellow out to be a potential spy (1,3,2,3,4)
A FLY ON THE WALL - anagram (out) of HALT ANY FELLOW
21 Ruder person hunting animals will be heard (7)
COARSER - homophone (will be heard) of COURSER (person hunting animals, perhaps most commonly encountered in hare-coursing)
22 Number in favour of storing radioactive element (4)
FOUR - FOR (in favour of) around (storing) U (radioactive element, i.e. the chemical symbol for uranium)

1 Once again distrusts defences (8)
REDOUBTS - RE-DOUBTS (Once again distrusts - this doesn't appear in any of the usual dictionaries as a distinct word, but putting re- in front of a verb indicates that the action is being done again so re-doubts (with or without the hyphen) passes muster). For the defence meaning, Chambers has "A fieldwork enclosed on all sides".
2 Visitor losing energy and puff (4)
GUST - GU{e}ST (Visitor losing energy, i.e. the word "guest" (Visitor) without the letter "e" (an abbreviation for "energy"))
3 Fears engendered by adders possibly (6)
DREADS - anagram (possibly) of ADDERS
4 Ostentatiously smart Conservative seen by bar, twice (6-6)
CLEVER-CLEVER - C (Conservative) + LEVER (bar), repeated (twice)
5 Badly rusted, it becomes rubbish (8)
DETRITUS - anagram (Badly) of RUSTED IT
6 Father of unconventional art form (4)
DADA - double definition, the first how a baby might refer to its father, the second (Chambers) "A short-lived (from 1916 to c.1920) movement in art and literature which sought to abandon all form and throw off all tradition". Famous Dadaists in Crosswordland are Jean Arp and Max Ernst, though in real life I would guess that Marcel Duchamp's Fountain is the best known Dadaist work.
7 Unhealthy as usual, Robin is suffering (12)
INSALUBRIOUS - anagram (suffering) of USUAL ROBIN IS. I had thought for many years that unsalubrious was the word hence that is what I put into the grid (who bothers checking the anagram fodder when you already "know" the answer?). So thanks to Izetti for ensuring that, in the future, my usage of the English language will contain one less solecism (drop in the ocean though that may be).
11 Girl showing alarm in Asia when in trouble (8)
ISABELLA - BELL (alarm) in anagram (in trouble) of ASIA
13 Writer creating characters hard to make out? (8)
SCRAWLER - cryptic definition, encouraging us to think of "characters hard to make out" as inscrutable protagonists rather than messy writing
15 Tamper with fish served up to king (6)
DOCTOR - reversal (served up) of COD (fish), + TO + R (king)
18 Mineral kept by that alchemist (4)
TALC - hidden in (kept by) thaT ALChemist. Hydrated magnesium silicate.
19 Leader of Italy in the past seen as a villain (4)
IAGO - I (Leader of Italy, i.e. the first letter of "Italy") + AGO (in the past). The character in Othello.

Times Jumbo 1187

Solving time of 21:57, and I generally don't get much quicker than that, so very much to one end of the difficulty scale; it was also very concise, and more than a little cheeky in tone, if not quite in ST territory.

Anyway, I'm late posting this, so I will just get on with it and keep my comments equally pithy unless there is something especially noteworthy to say.

1TAP-DANCER - cryptic def.
10ELDER - double def.
13PINK ELEPHANTS - PINK=blushing, ELEPHANTS never forget; old-fashioned phrase for not seeing straight when you've had a few.
15NAIADES - I[sland] in (ANDSEA)*.
16PROVERB - P.R., OVER B[ritish].
17PRESLEY - SLE[w] in PREY. Uh huh huh.
23CALVE - L[iberal] like a troglodyte i.e. in a CAVE. As in the sense in which icebergs are calved from glaciers.
24RAIN GAUGE - Spoonerised GAIN RAGE; as for the device, some love 'em, some hate 'em, I doubt this one will change anyone's mind either way...
25HARBOUR - (BRA)rev. in HOUR.
28BANGLADESHI - AD in BANGLES(as in a charm bracelet), HI!
30IMPERSONATE - (PRAISEMENOT)*; for the definition, think of the 1970s impressionists' TV series "Who Do You Do?".
32EXHAUSTIBLE - S[pace] in (HALIBUT)*, all in the River EXE.
34LEONINE - LEO (star sign), NINE (square of three). Not all Popes, obviously, just the ones called Leo.
36CEREBELLA - franCE REBEL LAnguished.
38FILET - FIL[M], E.T.
41GIANT KILLERS - (ARISKTELLING)*. David in the Bible, Jack in the fairy tale.
45SIERRAS - I ERR in the S.A.S.
49FLAGEOLET - double def., the flute and the bean.
52AVERT - AVE (Maria) foR priesT.
54POSTNATAL - POST and AL[L] contain N[orth] A T[ime].
1TOPNYM - T[ail] O[f] PONY M[ale].
2PENSION PLAN - PENS(=secures), then P (a little money) in (LOANSIN)*.
4CHELSEA - CHE (Guevara, the "red"), [al]L, SEA. Think that makes Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea this year so far.
5RAH - rev hidden in lotHARio.
6BINGO WING - BIN, [elbo]W in GOING. Not entirely pleasant - but undeniably colourfully expressed - modern phrase, usually plural, to describe what happens when one loses the tautness on ones upper arms.
9CHIPPER - double def.
10EXCHEQUER - EX "CHECKER", as it sounds.
11DOUBLE CROSS - DOUBLE(=replica), CROSS(=bridge).
12RATTY - double def.
19GLEANER - [shoppin]G, LEANER.
22BUMBLE - double def. Mr Bumble is the beadle in Oliver Twist.
24RISSOLE - [wrappe]R IS SOLE. Hmmm, I am always reluctant to say something in a Times puzzle is just plain wrong, so let's examine the evidence. Yes, if you look hard enough online, you can find definitions which include reference to pastry, but I've never thought pastry forms part of a rissole: surely that's a samosa or a spring roll or a pasty? Anyway, OED, Collins and Chambers all concur in saying that a rissole is meat of some sort, which is then coated in breadcrumbs before being fried; no mention of pastry. And as my final witness, I call the sainted Delia, who definitely has no pastry in her rissole (and there's a sentence I never thought I'd write). I await other views.
25HELLUVA - HE, LUV in L[ouisian]A.
27THEORY - TORY around He.
29DUTIFUL - D[ogs] U[sually] T[rained] I[n] F[act] U[sing] L[ong].
40ROSELLA - ROSE, (ALL)rev. Never heard of it, but not hard to work out.
42KICK ASS - KICK(=thrill), ASS(=donkey); there'll be spluttering in Tunbridge Wells.
43SENEGAL - G[reece]E in LANES, all rev.
44SPACED - [passenger]S PACED.
45SOFIA - 1 in SOFA. Though the sofa I'm currently sitting on isn't terribly comfortable, as it happens. Just saying.
48EX-CON - cryptic def.
51KOP ="COP".

Mephisto 2891 - Paul McKenna

This was a pretty swift solve on Sunday morning, assisted by there being four wholly-checked entries around the outside of a grid that offers 90-degree symmetry and a smaller number of out-there grid entries.

I wonder if there was an editorial gaffe in 32 down across (oops), either an extra FOR has crept into the clue, or a TO is missing.

Away we go...

5AILING: remove F from FAILING(weakness)
10OPPORTUNE: OPPO(mate) then R, TUNE(frame of mind)
13ICR: hidden in publIC Records. Intelligent Character Recognition, a program that converts images into text. I don't think it's used much now since storing digital images is inexpensive, but in grad school when I was developing an interest in science history, I used this a ton to get text from books on loan
17SLOETHORN: double container - LET(OK) containing 0 all in SHORN
19IMMENSE: MENSE(credit) after 1,M
21SPIRAEA: SEA(throng) surrounding PIR(holy man),A
24DROWSIHED: My niece started primary school this week, maybe I can teach her Spenserian spelling and drive her teachers mad. HIS,WORD reversed before ED
26ERICA: R(obinson),I in ACE reversed. I didn't appreciate the clue at the time - Heath Robinson (who is in Chambers) designed outrageously complicated machinery
28ARM: or 'ARM
29BEASTLINESS: anagram of LESSENS,A,BIT - I think the intention for the beast is not to be a policeman but a butterfly
32EDDISH: ED,DISH(looker)
33SKIRTS: S(society) and then TRICKS reversed missing the C
1POLISH: take DEM away from P,DEMOLISH
3NOOSE: O in NOSE - did you run this one by the fiancee, Paul?
4STUSHIE: a double subtraction - STUART without ART and SHIELD without LD
7LEI: hidden in amicabLE Islanders
8NORWESTER: OR and W in NESTER - a strong drink
9GRYSIE: GR, then (YES,I)*
11STERNCHASER: STERN(unrelenting) then an anagram of SEARCH
21SNEBBE: SN,EBB,(doorhandl)E
25ICENI: ICE, then IN reversed. I don't recall seeing BRASH for crushed ICE before
24:12. The second outing for our new setter, and I for one found it a stiff challenge. I had a sense of engaging with a new and unfamiliar setting mind, and struggling to find the wavelength. Of course I probably imagined this just because it was a bit of a tough puzzle and I knew we had a new setter, but in any event I enjoyed the experience a lot.

There are one or two things in here I don’t entirely like (a bit of looseness here, a questionable abbreviation there) but nothing too egregious, and if they're part of the package that also includes this sort of inventiveness then I’m a buyer. There's some really neat stuff in here, but my favourite clue is 15ac: I enjoy the idea of The Traveling Wilburys being supported by One Direction.

1 Some editors may long to be this advanced
AHEAD OF THE TIMES - if you were editor of the The Bridgnorth, Shifnal and Albrighton Argus (with which is incorporated The Wheat-Growers' Intelligencer and Stock-breeders' Gazetteer) you might long to be head of the Times. It’s only ‘some editors’ though, because the idea would of course fill any self-respecting editor of the Guardian with horror. Edit: this is nonsense. See below for a much more sensible suggestion from vinyl1
9 Career MP out with son, lively little lad?
SCAMPERER - (CAREER MP, S)*. The definition here is by example, and a little bit loose, but the question mark is there to put you on your guard for that sort of thing.
10 A unit of old soldiers boarding vessel
AORTA - A(OR)TA. Here ‘unit of old’ is the TA, now the Army Reserve. The soldiers are, as so often, the other ranks or OR.
11 Such as a superior that’s left for the front
LETTER - L replacing the first letter of BETTER (superior). Another DBE, cunningly concealed.
12 Vampire book or The Remains of the Day?
TWILIGHT - a sort of DD, the second moderately cryptic. Being the father of a 12-year-old girl helped a lot here. I am more familiar with the films starring RPatz (aka Cedric Diggory) and KStew, but I also know there are books and that by common consent the books are much better than the films, whereas with Maze Runner it’s the films that are much better than the books. Or possibly the other way round.
13 Make beloved finish off peeled pears
15 Singer taking large boy band on tour
BOB DYLAN - (L, BOY BAND)*. Great clue!
18 Legal woe that’s affected high-flyer
19 Series of houses upgrading drains
USES UP - contained in ‘houses upgrading’.
21 Sport Gucci’s latest in English clothing outlet
EVENTING - a bit of a matryoshka clue: ENG contains I (Gucci’s latest), and then the resulting EING contains VENT (outlet).
23 See Liberals about fuss over nothing
SOD ALL - I think this is a reversal of LL(ADO)S, where LLS denotes ‘Liberals’. I suppose if LS can denote ‘Liberals’, then if you add another L to it you still have ‘Liberals’, just one more of them. If this is the right reading, there’s something about it that seems not quite cricket to me, but I can’t quite put my finger on what. Edit: more nonsense I'm afraid. I'm really not doing very well this week, am I? See Peter's helpful comment below.
26 Hear blooming riveting woman in 40s?
ROSIE - sounds like ‘rosy’ (blooming). I didn’t know about Rosie the Riveter, so I got this from the wordplay.
27 Plant container of grass on fellow junior
28 A holiday message Pink Floyd release
WISH YOU WERE HERE - DD, referring to the 1975 Pink Floyd album with the distinctive cover depicting two men in suits shaking hands, only one of whom is on fire.

1 What you may do under a bishop? Pardon!
ABSOLVE - A, B, SOLVE. I did, eventually.
2 Call for Congress to give leader the elbow
EXACT - sEX ACT. Cheeky!
3 Condemn drop in value on one’s release
DEPRECATE - DEPRECiATE. A meaning of the word DEPRECATE that seems less in use these days than the ‘belittle’ sense, perhaps because ‘self-deprecating’ has become so common.
4 Alert to danger of Balls going to Greens?
FORE - CD. I’m no golf expert, but if the ball is heading towards the green, you shouldn’t need to shout FORE, should you? Unless it’s the wrong green, I suppose…
5 A way to gate-crash hotel club in Aspen?
HARDWOOD - H(A, RD), WOOD. Another DBE, indicated by the question mark.
6 One following others around royal route
TRAIL - T(R)AIL. I’m not very keen on R for ‘royal’: I’m generally in favour of limiting the number of ‘permitted’ abbreviations. I was going to comment that we don’t want to allow every blinking abbreviation in Chambers in these puzzles, or where will it end for Pete’s sake? But it turns out this one isn’t even in Chambers! It’s in Collins, but with a capital R in ‘Royal’.
7 Spooner’s said Oldman models bloomers
MARIGOLDS - sounds like a Spoonerism of ‘Gary moulds’. Some people don’t like Spoonerisms, but I do, even if they are a bit obvious.
8 Austere hospital screening section
SPARTAN - S(PART)AN. SAN, short for ‘sanatorium’ is a word for a hospital that I know from crosswords.
14 Note female cats leaving town — strays?
DIGRESSES - D, tIGRESSES. Another slightly questionable abbreviation in T for ‘town’. This one isn’t in Chambers either, or Collins, but it is in ODO.
16 Break apart lettering advertising club?
DISCOHERE - or DISCO HERE. Not a word you see every day.
17 Bug or second sickness caused by drink?
SWINE FLU - S, WINE FLU. This clue has coined a term that as a regular sufferer I am definitely going to use.
18 One may be plucked by intellectual in Bow, say
EYEBROW - sounds like “’ighbrow”, don’ it, cor blimey Mary Poppins?
20 Grant-holding head for board of artists
PALETTE - PA(LET)TE. ‘Grant-holding head’ is a neat construction.
22 Support getting topless any minute
24 Very quiet beer outside The Empire?
APPLE - A(PP)LE. When I solved this I thought it was a reference to New York being the Big Apple and the Empire State. But when I thought about it a bit afterwards I realised that this doesn’t really work, if only because one is the city and the other is the state, so I reconsidered. Empire turns out to be a variety of APPLE.
25 Extra capital on switching banks to Rotterdam
MORE - ROME with R and M (the ‘banks to Rotterdam’) swapped.

Saturday Times 26316 (23rd Jan)

Solved in exactly 10 minutes to the second,and on paper, so definitely an easy one. A lot of the wordplay was quite intricate, but it seemed to me that the definitions were often very specific, and a few were quite wordy, so maybe that helped. There was a lot of confident biffing, and a few I didn't parse properly until this morning!

1 Who needs to discharge jet? (11)
FIREFIGHTER - cryptic definition. [ Edit: as mohn2 points out, it's actually a semi-&lit, with FIRE (discharge) + FIGHTER (jet) as the wordplay ].
7 Miss all but the last runner (3)
SKI - SKIP (miss), minus the last letter.
9 Fine distinction made by peacekeepers in politic manoeuvring (9)
PUNCTILIO - UN (peacekeepers) inside (politic)*.
10 I vote for everyone to stop politician’s confusion (3-2)
MIX-UP - I + X (vote) + U (for everyone, film classification), inside MP (politician).
11 Sick in one taxi on the way back — are these to blame? (7)
BACILLI - ILL (sick) inside [I (one) + CAB (taxi) reversed].
12 Building only half used, despite being cool (7)
EDIFICE - ED (half of USED) + IF (despite) + ICE (cool).
13 Put up with yogurt initially like cottage cheese? (5)
LUMPY - LUMP (put up with, as in the phrase "like it or lump it") + Y(ogurt).
15 Playwright about to ring character in Chicken Run? (9)
ORPINGTON - ORTON (playwright) around PING (ring). It's a breed of chicken.
17 Evolutionary pioneer’s success is seen in small river fish (9)
DARWINIST - WIN (success) + IS, inside DART (small river fish, another name for a dace).
19 Study origins of extraordinarily blue star (5)
DENEB - DEN (study) plus initial letters of E(xtraordinarily) B(lue). A blue-white supergiant star in the constellation Cygnus.
20 Meals cut down all round after overabundance of big muscles (7)
GLUTEAL - (m)EAL(s) after GLUT (overabundance).
22 Anger about working silver when another metal was being worked (4,3)
IRON AGE - IRE (anger) around ON (working) + AG (silver).
24 Good deal closed game (5)
LOTTO - LOT (good deal) + TO (closed, like a door).
25 Early part of costume fabricated liner keeping in hoop shape? (9)
CRINOLINE - C(ostume) + (liner)* around IN + O (hoop shape). &lits aren't usually so complicated, but this just about works. A comma after costume would have improved the surface.
27 Work steadily at college to avoid getting second (3)
PLY - POLY (college) without the second letter.
28 Prove modern taste is degenerate (11)
DEMONSTRATE - (modern taste)*.

1 One who’s turned out well following a little work (3)
FOP - F(ollowing) + OP (a little work).
2 Work in charge of collection of old letters (5)
RUNIC - RUN (work) + IC (in charge).
3 Obese throughout the year, so as to cause death (7)
FATALLY - FAT (obese) + ALL (throughout the) + Y(ear).
4 Turkish town girl tops sauce with unusual oil (9)
GALLIPOLI - GAL (girl) + LIP (sauce) + (oil)*. Ancient Turkish port on the Dardanelles strait, now known as Gelibolu. Only familiar to me as the scene of a major battle in WW1.
5 Steak is black in colour (1-4)
T-BONE - B(lack) inside TONE (colour).
6 Wild orpin conceals a minute bellflower (7)
RAMPION - (orpin)* around A M(inute). Orpin is "a purple-flowered broad-leaved stonecrop", but I have no idea how likely those broad leaves are to conceal a rampion!
7 Flirty woman succeeded without clothing size for the smaller figure? (3,6)
SEX KITTEN - S(ucceeded) + EX (without) + KIT (clothing) + TEN (size for the smaller figure?).
8 Puzzling G in preamble is beyond doubt (11)
IMPREGNABLE - (G in preamble)*. Sounds like a defence of some dodgy instructions for a Listener puzzle!
11 Papers are gripped by this person in university office going on strike (7,4)
BULLDOG CLIP - BULLDOG (person in University office) + CLIP (strike). A bulldog is apparently a proctor's attendant at Oxford University. I suppose you'd know if you'd been there. Someone the students don't want to upset by the sound of it!
14 Make of car to experiment with inlaid work (9)
MARQUETRY - MARQUE (make of car) + TRY (experiment with).
16 Simple plant toxin trapping a noble Roman (9)
PATRICIAN - PAT (simple) + RICIN (plant toxin) around A. I'm really not keen on simple for PAT, but I suppose it almost works in the sense of "convenient".
18 Siberian diamonds need cutting (3-4)
ICE-COLD - ICE (diamonds) + COLD (cutting).
19 Free spirit? Fall unconscious! (7)
DROPOUT - DROP (fall) + OUT (unconscious).
21 Substitute copper for one ring in weaving machine (5)
LOCUM - CU (copper) replacing one of the O's (one ring) in LOOM (weaving machine).
23 A cat and a dog from Japan (5)
AKITA - A + KIT (cat) + A. There's a great film about one of this breed called Hachi: A Dog's Tale, starring Richard Gere.
26 Ruminant of arable wetlands (3)
EWE - hidden in "arable wetlands"

Jumbo 1188

Fairly straightforward, with any minor difficulties helped by crossing letters.

47A is interesting as, in my opinion, the solution can be made up in two different ways from the wordplay. I don't know which was the setter's intention.

8 ASCERTAIN - AS = for instance, CERTAIN = sure
13 NOHOW - sounds like KNOW-HOW = proficiency
14 COMPETITION - CO(mpany) = business, PETITION = suit, around M(ale)
15 PRIOR - sounds like PRIER = nosy parker.
16 GEARS DOWN - GEAR = things, S(on), DOWN = not happy. Not an expression for a driving manoeuvre I am familiar with
17 LEWD - LED = ushered, outside W(ife)
18 LITERATE - L(ine), ITERATE = say again
20 ALLIED - ALL = everybody, (v)IED = struggled
24 SHOWPIECE - SHOW = musical, PIECE = composition
26 DIALECT - DICT(ionaries) = reference books, with 2/3 removed, around ALE = word for beer
27 REBEL - REEL = part of film, around B(ishop)
29 RED-LETTER DAY - RED = embarrassed, LETTER = character, alternate letters in DiArY
31 FELLOWSHIP - FELLOWS = senior members of college, HIP = with it
33 THREADBARE - THREE = small number, around A(ntiquate)D, and BAR = pub
38 OLDEN - (g)OLDEN = halcyon
39 UNTWIST - UN = one (French), TWIST = dance
40 SPLENETIC - CITE = refer to, N(ew), E(nglish), LPS = records, all reversed
42 PEDAL STEEL GUITAR - (SATELLITE UPGRADE)*. Another unfamiliar one
44 HUMANE - HUE = character, around MAN = staff
47 COCKEYED - odd letters in ChOiCe, KEY = selected, ED(itor) = leading newspaperman. Alternatively oddly selected letters in ChOiCe, KEY = leading, ED(itor) = newspaperman
49 HERE - HER = a woman's, (programm)E
50 EXPOSITOR - EX POST = former job, around I = one, O.R. = men
52 IDEAL - I = current, DEAL = understanding
54 IMBUE - initial letters in I(nequalities) M(ust) B(e) U(nfair) E(specially)
55 NISSEN HUT - IS, SEN = money, H(ospital), all in NUT = brazil
56 ENTOMOLOGISTS - cryptic definition, with spotted having two meanings
1 WINE GLASS - WIN = succeed, E.G. = say, LASS = girl
2 ISHMAEL - (HAMS LIE)*. This answer also appeared in the normal Saturday Times crossword where the clue was a bit more complex
4 ESCROW - (WORSE)* around C(atastrophe)
5 LEMON SOLE - LEMON = a person often disappointing, SOLE = one
7 RAILWAYMAN - RAN = rushed, around I = one and MA = old woman, which in turn surrounds L(arge), WAY = road
8 AKIN - m(AKIN)g = creation
9 CONTINENTAL QUILT - CONTINENTAL = African, QUIT = desert, around L(eft)
10 RUPEE - hidden reversed in thuggEE PURportedly
11 AGITATE - ATE = worried, around G.I. = soldier and T.A. = army
19 FORESEEN - FORES = warnings, alternate letters in aEgEaN
22 ARROW - (h)ARROW = top school
23 BEAT ABOUT THE BUSH - BEAT = strike, ABOUT = connected with, THE BUSH = remote areas
25 ORDERED - double definition
28 BY HEART - BY = via, HEAR = judge, (cour)T
29 RETROSPECTION - (POETS CORNER I)*, around T(ime). I suppose "spent" is the anagram indicator?
30 RARITIES - R.A. = painter, RITES = solemn acts, around I = one
32 JUST LIKE THAT - JUST = really, LIKE = take a shine to, T(eam), HAT = bowler
34 ANNUL - ANNU(a)L = yearbook
36 LANGUISHING - LING = heather, around ANGUISH = pain
37 SINGLETREE - SINGLE = only one, TREE = elder, perhaps
40 SNARE DRUM - SNARED = caught, RUM = alcoholic drink
41 CLEARNESS - LEARN = find out, in S, SEC = a couple of seconds, reversed. Took a little time to parse this one
43 DICKENS - D(aughter), (s)ICKENS = repels
45 ANTIBES - ANTIS = people against, around B(ooz)E
46 APPEAL - APPAL = shock, around E(verton)
48 ELLIE - (w)ELLIE(s) = boots
51 EDIT - TIDE = course, reversed

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