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[sticky post] T4TT 10th Anniversary

As I mentioned a while ago, this blog was first started by Pete Biddlecombe on 3rd December 2005, so we're going to try to have a party in London on Saturday 5th December to celebrate (I don't think a Thursday night would be suitable). I've had a word with the manager of The George Inn at Southwark (same place we went to during and after the Times Crossword Championships), and although he can't let us have exclusive use of the room that close to Christmas, he's happy to host the event and has agreed to reserve a few tables for the afternoon. It's an ideal spot about 100 yards from London Bridge tube station, and just around the corner from the Times offices.

I'll be getting there about midday and will hope to see a lot of you during the afternoon and evening. Everyone's invited and I hope there'll be a few setters and bloggers (or sloggers and betters) turning up. The invitation's also extended to everyone at Fifteensquared and Big Dave's blogs so we should get a good crowd of crossword enthusiasts.

There's also a small satellite event planned in New York City being organized by paul_in_london, vinyl1 and oliviarhinebeck, so if anyone else who's going to be on the US East Coast then wants to meet up with them, drop Paul a message on LJ for the details.

Let me know if you're planning to come along so I get an idea of numbers.

Times 26,267: {N}emesis

A short, sweet and late blog from me again this week, as I managed to poison myself last night (dodgy 22dn may have been involved) so I've spent much of the morning tossing my 3dns, wishing that I could get 15dn from looking after kids, and finding everything 13ac really. Going to go 4dn straightway. Just under 9 minutes to finish this one, so could definitely have been worse for one in my tender condition on a Friday morning. So thanks to the setter for a very fine puzzle, and hope to have recovered by the 5th Dec that I can be in the pub to be berated sternly for repeated dereliction of duty, as I so richly deserve! Now if you'll excuse me I have a sickbed to stagger back to...

1 SCAFFOLDER - one who's got to SOLDER [to join metal parts] outside CAFF [bistro], semi-&lit
6 SCAB - unpopular person with Union: A.B. [Jack] being led by S.C. [special constable]
9 NUT TREE - hazel maybe: NUTTE{r} ["tailed" lunatic] going round RE [about]
10 AGAINST - not for: GAIN [profit] in A ST [a | way]
12 SADHU - holy man: (HAD US*) ["excited"]
13 A BIT THICK - unreasonable: A [article] + BIT [pinched] + THICK [description of thieves perhaps ("thick as...")]
14 ON SPEAKING TERMS - friendly: one mum not so, i.e. "one who is silent is not this"
17 MUCH OF A MUCHNESS - more or less equal: (CHANCE OF US MUMS*) ["somehow"] catching H [husband]
20 WELL KNOWN - familiar: WELL [gracious!] + K{i}N{d} ["regularly"] + OWN [personal]
21 NAPPE - sheet of rock: NAPPE{d} [dropped off "when cut at the end"]
23 TEA LEAF - burglar: (FATE*) ["awful"] after pinching ALE [beer]
24 REIGNED - was number one: homophone of RAINED [dropped "when heard on radio"]
25 HEED - mind: HE{al}ED [better "no longer to have A L{iberal}"]
26 TYPESETTER - ex-Times employee: TYPE [kind] + SETTER [fellow responsible for this puzzle]

1 SANDSTORM - howler affecting visibility: ST [a way] in SAN DORM [hospital | bedroom]
2 ACTED - did something: {ex}ACTED [demanded "after departure of old partner"]
3 FORTUNE COOKIE - biscuit with something in it: FORTUNE [killing, perhaps (as in "make a fortune")] + COOK [doctor] + I.E. [that is]
4 LIE BACK - rest: and to "respond to storyteller in kind" would be to lie back to him
5 EVASION - fencing: EVA'S [girl's] over IO [the moon] + N [new]
7 CONCIERGE - caretaker: (RECCEING O{ld}*) ["ruins"]
8 BATIK - design method: B.A. [graduate] + reverse of KIT ["brought up" equipment]
11 A STITCH IN TIME - prompt repair: AS TITCH IN TIME [like | little chap | home | bird]
15 SICK LEAVE - when working well? on the contrary: SICKLE AVE [old farm tool | welcome]
16 SUSPENDER - band: US [American] appearing in SPENDER [English poet (Stephen)]
18 ALOOFLY - in a way cold: A FLY [a | wing] containing LOO [the smallest room]
19 UNNERVE - rattle: "coming from" {machine-g}UNNER VE{rifiably}
20 WITCH - hexing one: {s}WITCH [trade "bans S{ucceeded}]
22 PINOT - winemaker: reverse of TO NIP ["turning" to | a little Scotch]

Quick Crossword 449 by Orpheus

A mostly straightforward solve this week. I thought 8 across a clever clue, first in its misdirecting surface reading and then in causing me to try think of words meaning accommodate to write backwards. 1 down clearly crampon, but I didn’t know ramp for swindle, so this has to be my crosswordland word of the week. Thank you, Orpheus.

1 CHESS - game; Argentinian revolutionary’s = CHE’S, son = S
4 MARCHER - one taking part in demo; married = M, bowman = ARCHER
8 ANTHILL - cryptic definition
9 MEANS - double definition
10 PRAISEWORTHY - laudable; anagram (sort of) of WISH TO REPAY with final letter of lendeR
12 NORMAN - old conqueror; not = NOR, male = MAN
13 PUT OUT - double definition
16 LIVERPUDLIAN - citizen of Northern town; meat = LIVER, dessert = PUD, anagram (cooked) of IN LA
18 ISAAC - Esau’s father; two accounts = ISA and AC
20 NEMESIS - fate; English blokes knocked back = reversal of E MEN, little sister = SIS
21 PAYMENT - fee; girl = PAM, hospital department = ENT, receiving unknown = Y inserted
22 NANNA - grandmother; bread = NAN, not available initially = NA

1 CRAMPON - climbing aid; caught = C; swindle = RAMP, over = O, new = N
2 EXTRAORDINARY - double definition, as in extraordinary general meeting
3 SHIPSHAPE - double definition
4 MALAWI - part of Africa; hidden in forM A LAW In
5 RAM - double definition
6 HEATH ROBINSON - ingenious cartoonist; moor = HEATH, birds = ROBINS, on = ON
7 ROSE - double definition
11 ROUNDSMAN - person delivering; cartridges = ROUNDS, island = MAN
14 TUNISIA - North African country; is one = IS I, surrounded by fish = inside TUNA
15 SPINET - small harpsichord; anagram (rashly) of I SPENT
17 WIMP - an ineffectual type; Women’s Institute = WI, member = MP
19 CUE - signal; homophone (say) of wait patiently = QUEUE

Access to today's Quick Cryptic

I note that the Times have seen fit to mess about with the Quick Cryptic layout (apparently without warning or consultation)  so that, if accessing it via the button on the Puzzles page and  depending on your device and zoom settings, you may be unable to view some or all of the grid and/or clues, and this will also affect printing the puzzle (using screen print/copy & paste) if, like me, that is your preferred option.

However, traditional access to today's Quickie is available here: http://feeds.thetimes.co.uk/timescrossword/20151127/10827/

If you want to add comments about your access problems and experiences then please do so and I shall pass them on to the Times with my own.

Please note the problems referred to occur when accessing via the Puzzles page button here: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/puzzles/crossword/. When commenting, please mention the operating system, browser and device you are using. I'm using a traditional PC running Windows 7 and Firefox as my main browser, though I have experimented in Chrome, IE and Opera too where things look much the same. The degree of zoom seems to affect whether one sees a single clue beneath the grid or a scrollable list of clues to the right of it. In some views  the bottom row of the grid disappears too.

In the meantime this has been posted by the Puzzles Editor in the Crossword forum

"Hi all,

As you have already seen the Quick Cryptic has been switched over to mirror the format that we've been using for the Latin Crossword. If you're having problems viewing the crossword in the new format, I'd very much appreciate your comments. Please do send any screenshots of display issues to: puzzles@thetimes.co.uk. I'm hoping that the clues should be available side by side shortly.A bespoke print option is being worked on currently and should also be available in the near future.Best wishes,

David Parfitt, Puzzles Editor"

For those wishing to comment on today's Quickie 449 by Orpheus, this has been blogged above by emu66

Club Monthly 20182 - November 2015

This was much harder than last month's! I did have most of it done after an hour, but mopping up the odd bits might have taken nearly as long again. I had trouble pinning down 2dn, partly because there are so many variant spellings, and 25dn which is not in Collins or Chambers, though it is in the ODO. Solvers need to be aware that there is no single reference source for this crossword, as there is for the Mephisto. Quite right too imo, the thrill of the chase is half the fun..
Once again I observe that what took me the best part of two hours has taken Magoo 17mins 25 seconds, that is just an awesome time.

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. Tree has sort of perch in black and gold (7)
BABASSU - BASS (sort of perch) in B(lack) + AU (gold, abbreviation of the latin "aurum") ...aurum still turns up from time to time in other places, besides the periodic table: eg James Bond famously battled Auric Goldfinger
5. You initially should wear pants, boy in Highlands argued (7)
NYAFFED - Y(ou) in NAFF + ED (boy). Not personally a huge fan of boy = any short, male, christian name, but too handy a device for setters to forswear, I think
9. Roll amazes, prepared with unknown cheeses (11)
MOZZARELLAS - *(ROLL AMAZES + Z)  .. z being one of the three standard unknowns
10. Scottish join in brief admission of carelessness (3)
OOP - OOP(s), a word that is in Chambers as an alternative spelling of OUP, but not, remarkably, in the ODO, in Collins or even in the OED
11. Church close to rectory on field subject to drainage (6)
LEACHY - LEA (field) + CH + (rector)Y
12. Old reservists see inside method — and also vote against (4,4)
WAVY NAVY - V (see) in WAY (method) + V again, inside NAY (vote against). The Royal Naval Reserve, maritime equivalent of the TA, had (have?) the same stripes as the regular navy but wavy, hence the term. Some very famous members of the RNR and RNVR, eg Alec Guinness, Laurence Olivier, Ian Fleming, Ben Fogle...
14. Girl so represented in art of Eastern religion (13)
ZARATHUSTRIAN - ZARA (girl: "cheap Spanish clothes shop" more difficult to clue) + THUS (so) + *(IN ART). Zarathustra, more commonly Zoroaster, was a precursor by about 2500 years of L Ron Hubbard
17. Recalled stain covering old hospital photos capturing plant with sword-shaped leaves (13)
XIPHOPHYLLOUS - all rev (except the plant): O(ld) in SULLY (stain) + H(ospital) + HOP (plant) + PIX (photos)
21. Ready in good time once the right pair assembled (8)
23. Cross after brasserie emptied by gong and loud buzzer (6)
BEMBEX - B(rasseri)E + MBE (gong) + X (cross)
25. Journalists brought about change in N Korea (3)
JUN - NUJ (National Union of Journalists) rev. An easy clue but hard to confirm as Jun is not in Chambers (which has chon) or in Wikipedia or Collins or the OED... but it is in ODO and, I'm told, in the Concise Oxford too. Not just hard to find but of vanishingly small value.. roughly one millionth of a Euro! Or about 0.00000072p
26. Plant in medium Yorkshire town mostly not that great ultimately (4,7)
MILK THISTLE - THIS (not that) in M(edium) + ILKLE(Y) (Yorkshire town mostly)
27. Dare perhaps to enter joint after flipping frenzied females! (7)
MAENADS - DAN (Dare, perhaps) in SEAM (joint), all rev. Ahh, Dan Dare.. and Digby.. and the Mekon.. happy days!
28. One knight holding sword back, trapping another in cone-shaped mesh (7)
KEEPNET - so.. N (knight, chess notation) in EPEE (sword) rev., all in KT (another knight, also chess notation from an earlier era). One of my last in, partly because I couldn't work out what the "cone-shaped" was doing there. Collins says: "a cylindrical net..." ODO and OED make no comment about shape. But Chambers does say "cone-shaped." So, not like any of these, then

1. Fish from seat ace watch (6)
BUMALO - BUM (seat) + A(ce) + LO (watch). My first in, eyebrow raisd a millimetre over the rude word but hey, it's the 21stC
2. Dealing informally with sound of snoring stifling a flamboyant vigour (7)
BIZZAZZ - BIZ (dealing, informally) + A in ZZZ, the sound of snoring. This ought to have been an easy clue but I got a bit caught up in the many and varied alternative spellings for this word.. Chambers lists 10 of them. And how many Zs make a snore? More than three, at least when my wife does them
3. Some scepticism as hero overcomes supreme being (9)
SMASHEROO - hidden in scepticiSM AS HERO Overcomes
4. Pulp stripped out of prickly shrub (4)
ULEX - (p)UL(p) + EX (out of, as in deus ex machina perhaps)
5. Repeated invalid answer, getting stick Down Under (5-5)
NULLA-NULLA - NULL (invalid) + A(nswer), twice. A waddy.
6. Rabbis very regularly giving the basics (5)
ABSEY - every other letter of rAbBiS vErY. A variant spelling of ABC presumably designed to confuse children
7. Rug elevated floor area in lift fantastically (7)
FLOKATI - A(rea) + KO (floor) rev. in *(LIFT). A Greek rug, they were all the rage in the late '60s, I seem to recall. Around when Habitat opened.
8. Perjury by Ulster politicians coming back again in Caledonian court (8)
DUPLYING - DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) + LYING (perjury)
13. Dodgy lymphatics possessed by grasping person? (5,5)
ITCHY PALMS - *(LYMPHATICS), a very neat anagram
15. A rock or two held by pin, note (9)
THOLEIITE - THOLE (pin) + TE (note), a drink with jam and bread according to Julie Andrews
16. Preserve following regulation old public transport to convey a judge (5,3)
EXTRA JAM - EX (old) + A J(udge) in TRAM (public transport)
18. Stroke, but not repeatedly, having arms expanding out (7)
PATONCE - ie pat once, ha ha
19. When climbing, stick protection on foot (7)
SABATON - AS (when) rev. + BATON (stick)
20. Cut out and tick uninitiated message boxes (6)
EXSECT - SEC (tick, ie moment) in (T)EXT (uninitiated message)
22. Game business graduate makes dance (5)
RUMBA - RU (game, ie rugby union) + MBA (business graduate)
24. Fur-coated creature visiting fair (4)
ATOK - AT (visiting) OK (fair). A type of skunk, apparently

Quick Cryptic 448 by Corelli

I'm not sure if our esteemed Thursday blogger is around to cover the puzzle today. He may be delayed at a hospital appointment. If nothing has appeared by 1:30 I shall put up an emergency blog. In the meantime I have disabled comments on this thread so as not to confuse the issue.

Okay, it's now 1:40 so here goes. Comments now enabled. This one took me 9 minutes.

{deletions} [indicators]

1 WELSHMAN - Anagram [distributed] of WHEN ALMS. Def: Briton
5 AREA - Hidden in {pol}AR EA{rth}. Def: region
9 SKINT - KIN (family) inside ST (street). Def: desperate for money
10 PRINTER - R (right) inside PINTER (playwright - Harold of gthat school). Def: computer accessory
11 HIGHLIGHTING - HIGH (school), LIGHTING (landing). Def: drawing attention to
13 ALCOCK - A, L (large), COCK (bird). Def: one famously flying the Atlantic - with Brown
15 SPRAIN - RA (artist) in SPIN (whirl). Def: injury
17 SINGLE-MINDED - Two definitions, one straight then continuing into cryptic one. Having one aim / but not marriage evidently
20 THISTLE - THIS (not that), T{all}, L{acking}, E{minence [initially]. Def: national emblem - of Scotland
21 RIGHT - Sounds [enunciated] like "rite" (procedure in church). Def: proper
22 OHMS - O (old), HMS (naval ship). Def: resistance units
23 HELSINKI - Anagram [contrivance] of SHIN-LIKE. Def: capital - of Finland

1 WISH - W (woman), I (one), SH (quiet). Def: aspiration
2 LUIGI - {a}L{l}U{r}I{n}G {a}I{r} [oddly missing]. Def: Italian
3 HOT CHOCOLATE - Anagram [unfortunately] of THE CHA TO COOL Def: also this - with reference back to 'cha', another hot drink
4 AU PAIR - AU (gold), PAIR (couple). Def: help from abroad)
6 RETSINA - Anagram [drunk] of NASTIER. Def: wine. "Wine nastier when drunk" is a brilliant surface reading that perfectly sums up this disgusting drink.
7 ARROGANT - OG (own goal) inside ARRANT (downright). Def: supercilious
8 WITH OPEN ARMS - WITH (using), OPEN (free), ARMS (weaponry. Def: welcomingly
12 FALSETTO - FALSE (mock), OTT (over-the-top) reversed [rising]. Def: high-pitched voice
14 CONFIRM - CON (against), FIRM (company). Def: demonstrate
16 IMPEDE - Hidden in {l}IMPED E{rractically}. Def: hamper
18 EGG ON - A straight definition: encourage, and a cryptic one
19 ETUI - Anagram [bends] of TIE U. Def: case for sewer - as in a person who sews. This is one of those words I know only from years of solving.
22 minutes and 4 seconds, so dragging my feet somewhat. This was a crossword where, I think more than usually, you had to pay very close attention to where the dividing lines in the clues were, with some definitions rather well hidden, and a little smattering of inventive wordplay to think about. I also found in the process that I was only rarely looking for something in the further reaches of the great sea of vocabulary. My last one in 10ac, and I've yet to be convinced I knew one of the meanings used. Without further ado:


1 CLASSICIST  I understand Greek
And straight away we're into spotting where the break comes. You can (I did) spend a while looking for Greek females, but instead you have female=LASS, in charge=IC, is=IS, and all of those inside court=CT
6 NUMB  Powerless to act
One, perhaps signals a definition by example: 1 is a NUMBer. the ER is disposed of by deposing Her Majesty. Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.
9 FORBEAR  desist
Horatius at the Bridge: "And even the ranks of Tuscany Could scarce forbear to cheer". Pro provides the FOR, and stick the BEAR. How long could he stick/bear it?
10 SHADING a grey area...
...or apparently a slight lowering of price. I know something new
Just that, no time in the definition. Loose-limbed players are SUPPLE MEN, with which T(ime) needs to start.
13 OWE  Need to pay
Sounds like oh!, surprise, surprise.
15 INDEED certainly
A word for favoured, IN (ones good books, perhaps) takes a word for action, DEED
16 SCREAMER  headline
Particularly a sensational one, like GOTCHA! for those of us who can remember that far back. Insert M(illions) into an anagram (new) of CAREERS
18 GERSHWIN  Composer
That'll be George then, since Ira wrote the words. Half a European turns out to be GER(man), quiet SH, and success WIN.
20 CHASTE  Maidenly
Pick the letter sequence from churCH A STEreotype.]
23 RAM  A group of stars
Aries in this case. Stick that in your Random Access Memory to double the available definitions
24 SAND MARTIN  bird
I thought this was cleverer than it turned out to be, along the lines of son and Zion, from Tuesday. Not quite that good, but not bad. One way of spelling "smart"  is in 2 stages S AND MART. Tack IN for "home" on the end to ensure you don't spell it with an E.
26 ADVERSE  disagreeable
Our time is, by common tradition, Anno Domimi or AD. A bit from the Bible is a verse.
27 AVENGER  one looking for things to put right
Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Linda Thorson or Joanna Lumley? It's important. A V(ery) plus an anagram (excited) of GREEN
28 LULU  Outstanding person.
One LU is prvided by L(eft) U(niversity), the other by half of LU(ck)
29 ANIMADVERT express censure
This person's is I'M, which is placed within a commercial, AN ADVERT.


1 CUFF  beat
If it's not sofltly, softly, it's F(orte) F(orte). Place CU for copper on the two.
2 AGROUND lying on the bed.
What one gets if one adds together A G(ood) and ROUND for a lot of drinks.
Spent too long looking for the obscure but faintly tintinabulating German horse that was an anagram (out of sorts) of A CHEERLESS PET. Sometimes, it's the easy answer.
4 CURSED  used foul language
Baddies are CURS, and our constant journalist, the EDitor, tags along.
Worth a quarter of a denarius, made up for us from the letters of SE CRETE different
7 UNIFORM  college blazer etc,
Higher education is UNI, and type just about stretches its definition enough to give the FORM
8 BIG HEARTED  generous
To a cruciverbalist, Anti-bigotry is just a collection of letters with BIG at its heart. Liked this clue.
11 AT THE SHARP END  In a (most) difficult position
And a rather more whimsical definition, where the pencil meets the paper. Unless you're using the little eraser to rub out marks you no longer want, of course.
A fingernail's quick does indeed go under. Liked this one too.
17 LINNAEAN  using botanists's classification
Those unfamiliar with the great Botanist might struggle a bit with getting the letters of An ALIEN+N(ame) in the right order, but at least there are not too many alternatives
19 REMOVAL  Transfer (from)
Place E(nglish) inside RM for room, and tack on the people's cricket ground at the OVAL. Currently it's the KIA Oval, but don't fret, it'll be something else soon.
21 SHINGLE building material
One in this circumstance is SINGLE. Wrap it round H(ospital)
22 EMBALM  preserve
Bring your business expert (not that having the letters after your name guarantees that status) into the appropriate ELM tree
25 BRAT  Troublesome youngster
Nice and easy to finish off. Club is BAT, insert a R(un)
Possibly because I was trying to do all three of this set of Qualifying puzzles in pseudo-exam conditions within a timeframe, I found this a bit of a slog; not especially difficult but with plenty of wordplay and not a lot of joy.
It took me too long - 30 minutes - although now I come to explain it, I can't see why. Even if you don't know your Persian kings, play bridge or read Orwell, you can fill in the blanks.

1 DILEMMAS - (MISLED)*, anagrind 'doctor', around MA (old lady); D problems.
5 WEASEL - W(estern), EASEL (piece of studio equipment); D sly character.
9 GAG - Cryptic double definition.
10 DECLARATION - (A CERTAIN OLD)*, D profession.
12 SECULARITY - SECURITY (protection) around LA (US city); D lay state.
13 YAWL - WAY = practice, reversed YAW; L; D sailing boat.
15 ALPACA - ALP A = mountain area; insert A C(ape); D &lit.
16 BEACHED - EACH = a head, per person; inside BED = retirement; D like a fish out of water.
18 CONCERN - C = about, RN = service; insert ONCE = previously; D worry.
20 CHATTY - CATTY = spiteful, around H(usband); D prone to gossip.
23 LUTE - Alternate letters of L o U d T h E; D instrument that minstrel played.
24 REVELATORY - REVEL (party) TORY (politician), 'pen' i.e. insert A, D spilling the beans.
26 DOUBLETHINK - (KEY UNLIKE BOTH)*, anagrind 'Brahms and Lizst'; D irrational inconsistency. Originally from Orwell's 1984. The first time I've seen B & L as an anagram indicator, amusing CRS but possibly not to everyone's taste.
27 OAR - Remove first letters (heads off) of (T)O (W)AR; D member of crew, chap in rowing eight.
28 DEPICT - Hidden word in CELEBRATE(D EPIC T)HEATRICAL; D show.
29 FLANDERS - Double definition; Moll Flanders, 18c heroine, and region of Belgium.
1 DIGEST - ID EST = that is, 'partly written up' = DI EST, insert G: D summary.
2 LOGICAL - Insert serving American = GI into LOCAL = pub; D reasonable.
3 MIDDLE AGES - DD = dukes, insert in MILEAGES = figures on clocks; D historical period.
4 ASCERTAINMENT - AS CERTAIN MEN = when particular people; T = fight at the end; D determination.
6 EXAM - EX A.M. could be 'from the morning' so 'current P.M.' is not so; D testing situation.
7 SPINACH - S(mall), PINCH = amount of salt; insert A: D vegetable.
8 LANDLADY - LY = extremes of luxury; insert AND LAD for youth; D renter.
11 ANTIBACTERIAL - AN, somewhat = A BIT, reversed = TIBA, (ARTICLE)*: D averting complaint.
14 BANANA SKIN - BANANAS KIN is crazy family; fall down on the banana skin.
17 OCCLUDED - (ODD C CLUE)*; D stopped.
19 NO TRUMP - Clue for those of us who play bridge. EDIT see explanation for jackkt below if you are none the wiser.
21 TWOSOME - Sounds like 'too, sum', for also (a) problem. D couple.
22 CYPRUS - Insert P (quietly) into CYRUS (Persian king); D ancient Greek colony.
25 BLOC - Initial letters of B eing L eft O f C entre; D political alliance.

Quick Cryptic Number 447 by Flamande

A nice, straightforward crossword. Even including some unknown references (as the spy and the poet were to me) it should not take so long to solve that fun gives way to inconvenience.

Definitions underlined.

1 Cattle going round English port (5)
COWES - COWS (cattle) round E (English).
8 Wartime leader unwell after Sunday service? (9)
CHURCHILL - ILL (unwell) after CHURCH (Sunday service?).
9 Force smallest possible wage increase? (5)
PRISE - as in, ‘1p rise’.
10 Famous person without talent (7)
NOTABLE - double definition, the second being ‘not able’.
11 Door repaired by your old woman (7)
DOROTHY - anagram of (repaired) DOOR and THY (your (old)).
12 Platoon ordered to carry equipment (7)
BRIGADE - BADE (ordered) with RIG (equipment) inside.
16 Self-important person, and what he needs when using pens? (3,4)
HIS NIBS - double definition, straight then cryptic. My LOI.
17 Type of lettuce that's reduced in very warm weather? (7)
ICEBERG - double definition, straight then cryptic.
20 Capital city rebuilt there, near Afghanistan's borders (7)
TEHERAN - anagram of (rebuilt) THERE, next to outermost letters (borders) of AfghanistaN.
22 Fish starters in top restaurant no longer fashionable (5)
TROUT - first letters (starters) of Top Restaurant, and OUT (no longer fashionable).
23 Early dish, mixture of tripe and peas (9)
APPETISER - anagram (mixture) of TRIPE and PEAS.
24 Representative, a courteous fellow (5)
AGENT - A plus GENT (courteous fellow).

1 In mixed school pupil initially got by (5)
COPED - first letter of Pupil inside CO-ED (co-educational, mixed school).
2 Café employee with a sister in trouble (8)
WAITRESS - W (with), A, and an anagram of (in trouble) SISTER.
3 Perfume put in the post, you say? (5)
SCENT - homophone of (you say?) “sent” (put in the post).
4 The art of comedy? There's something fishy here (5,8)
FUNNY BUSINESS - double definition.
5 Dog that is trailing Antarctic explorer (7)
SCOTTIE - I.E. (that is) after (trailing) SCOTT (Antarctic explorer).
6 Learner doctor bandages one leg, perhaps (4)
LIMB - L (learner) and MB (doctor) surrounds (bandages) I (one).
7 Spy resting in overnight carriage (7)
SLEEPER - double definition.
13 Horny creature and social worker run off together (8)
ANTELOPE - ANT (social worker) and ELOPE (run off together).
14 Western assassin who was a poet (7)
WHITMAN - W (western) and HITMAN (assassin).
15 Heard of my fantastic move abroad (7)
MIGRATE - homophone (heard) of “my great” (my fantastic).
18 One with small part in film run? (5)
EXTRA - double definition, the second referring to a run awarded in cricket.
19 Implied farm animal can carry tons (3,2)
GOT AT - GOAT (farm animal) carrying T (tons).
21 Beer ingredients used by teashop sometimes (4)
HOPS - hidden in (used by) teasHOP Sometimes.

Quick Cryptic No 446 by Mara

A good romp today with Mara - a couple, of long anagrams which always hold me up - but not as long as the LOI intersection of 5dn and 15ac. Some very enjoyable clues (COD 2dn stands out) and a hint of the coming festive season. Typos/corrections may have to wait awhile as I'm off sightseeing in HK.


1. Golden Syrup - sweet thing. Anagram (messing with) DRUGS OPENLY.
8. Hobbies - double definition.
9. Budge - shift. (G)ranite inside BUDE.
10. Mincemeat - pie filling. Cold (C) in an anagram (mixed around) of MEANTIME.
12. Cot - bed. (CO)s(T).
13. Enmity - feeling of hostility. Anagram (turbulent) of MET IN, year (Y).
15. Gallop - fast pace. Girl (GAL) has (with her) cut (LOP).
17. Sin - crime. (S)hoplifting, popular (IN).
18. Rationale - reason. Restrict the amount (RATION), beer (ALE).
20. Enter - come in. Always (EER) carrying books (NT).
22. Extract - remove. Old (EX), bit of land (TRACT).
23. Parson's Nose - tail of fowl. Anagram (cooked) of SONS SON with PEAR.


1. Gabon - African nation. Formin(G A BON)d.
2. Leicester - English city. Homophone (it's said) of not so much - less, to - ter.
3. Easter - Christian festival. Egg(S) inside EATER.
4. Sub - reserve. Bus upwards/backwards.
5. Radical - basic. (C)racked inside RADIAL.
6. Pretty pretty - overly ornamented. Quite (PRETTY) x2.
7. Chimney sweep - one clearing way for Father Christmas. Anagram (mulled) of WINE with MY SPEACH.
11. Tea For Two - duet for a musical. Anagram (dicky) of OFT WROTE A.
14. Monitor - lizard. Can (TIN) in ROOM all upwards.
16. Stress - emphasise. (S)ilken, hair (TRESS).
19. Amaze - to bewilder. A, confusing layout (MAZE).
21. Rio - South American Port. (RIO)t.

Times Cryptic 26264

I thought I was heading for a record time on this one as I solved so many clues at the first reading, but then I hit a wall with the long Down clues unsolved and one of the long Acrosses and it took me a while to get second wind. In the end I completed in 32 minutes but I'd had my sights on a much better result earlier in the proceedings. I'm sorry you've been landed with me on consecutive days but "C'est la vie!" (as they don't say in Nice).

{deletions}   [indicators]

1 FORESTRY - FOR (destined*), {v}ESTRY (room in church) [unstarted]. *On edit: FOR (destined to end up in) seems more likely, as suggested by Ulaca. See his first comment below.
5 ZODIAC - CA (about), I (one), DOZ (dozen abbr.) all reversed [turning]
9 NARCISSI - I (one) inside NARCS (drug agents), IS reversed [backing]
10 STRIPY - RIP (tear) inside STY (low place).  'Low' in the sense of  being squalid.
12 ROUGH JUSTICE - ROUGH (disreputable fellow), JUSTICE (judge)
15 ALIBI - AL{l}, I{n}, BI{t} [never to finish]
16 ROCK SOLID - ROCK (pop music), SOLI (performances), D (daughter). I'd make a point of avoiding anyone who said 'soli' instead of 'solos'.
18 SFORZANDI - The answer was a write-in once I had the Z checker in place but I spent ages trying to identify anagrist here. Eventually I realised it's not an anagram at all but an instruction to substitute S FOR Z AND I in ZION to get the word SON out of it. The definition is 'sudden stresses' and the answer is another Italian word used in musical circles. I don't mind the use of -i for the plural here as I do with 'soli', because it remains a purely Italian word with no direct English equivalent.
19 NASAL - NASA (space agency), L (large). I didn’t know this name for a nose-piece of armour but it seemed safe to assume it was correct.
20 SOLAR FURNACE - Anagram [working] of A CLEAR SUN FOR. This was also a bit of a guess, but what else could it have been?
24 INGEST - Sounds like "in jest" in which many a true word is said to be spoken
25 BELOW PAR - Anagram [badly] of RAP ELBOW
26 NITWIT - An N.I. TWIT might be a fool from Northern Ireland
27 STEM CELL - STEM (stop), CELL (undercover group)

1 FINN - F (fine), INN (pub). A clue that may have escaped from the Quick Cryptic department.
2 RARE - RA (gunners), R{usty}, E{specially} [initially]. Definition: having few matches.
3 SLIVOVITZ - LIV (54 in Roman numerals) inside SOVI{e}T [not European], Z (unknown)
4 ROSE GERANIUM - Anagram [artificially created] of ORANGERIES, UM (sound of hesitation). Another unkown or forgotten answer.
6 OATES - O{r}ATES (makes a speech) [dismissing king]. Titus Oates came up here very recently and was fresh in my mind.
7 INITIALISE - Another clue requiring us to read the answer as a phrase, so in England and Europe the INITIAL IS E. I didn't know the definition 'set to value' here, which I now understand specifically relates to computing. It seemed sort of right though.
8 CLYDESDALE - C (cold), LYE (solution for washing) enclosing anagram [messy] of SADDLE. This fine breed of horse comes up quite a lot.
11 EJECTION SEAT - EJECTION (deportation), SEA (marine), T{ransport} [initially]. I've always called it an 'ejector seat' and my dictionary tells me 'ejection seat' is American usage.
13 JAM SESSION - JAM (preserve), SESSION (hearing). Another from QC Land perhaps.
14 PILOT LIGHT - PLIGHT (difficult situation) encloses I (one) + LOT (good deal)
17 SONIC BOOM - Anagram [unruly] of I SOON COMB
21 ROSTI - S{erved}[initially] inside ROTI (bread)
22 APSE - S (saint) inside APE (primate). And another!
23 ORAL - {fl)ORAL (flowery) [taking the floor]

Quick Cryptic 445 by Hurley

An odd grid, with two clues (11A and 18A) that didn't actually need to be solved because their solutions could be completely filled in via their crossing answers, which always feels like a bit of a swizz. I was held up at the end by the 9A/3D intersection, where in both cases I took words in the clue to be anagram indicators when in fact they weren't. Thanks to Hurley for a not-too-difficult challenge.

The crossword can be found here if the usual channels are unavailable: http://feeds.thetimes.co.uk/timescrossword/20151123/10823/

Definitions are underlined.

1 Staid set's unusual aversion (8)
DISTASTE - anagram (unusual) of STAID SET
5 Agreement leads to peace and calmer times (4)
PACT - first letters (leads) of Peace And Calmer Times
7 Calm Scot, bold internally (4)
COOL - inside letters (internally) of SCOt bOLd
8 Use it to communicate secure policy (4-4)
LAND-LINE - LAND (secure, as a verb) + LINE (policy)
9 Excited, bet after ace appears (8)
AFLUTTER - FLUTTER (bet) after A (ace). I don't think we often see A=ace in either the Quicky or the main cryptic so I didn't spot what was happening here, despite playing card games since I could count to 31. Instead I initially tried to make an anagram of BET AFTER and, having headed down that path, even when the checking letters showed that it couldn't be an anagram I was still looking for a word meaning ace ...
11 Article used in Athens (3)
THE - hidden (used) in ATHEns
13 Get away from ultimately remote southern headland (6)
ESCAPE - E (ultimately remote, i.e. the last letter of "remote") + S (southern) + CAPE (headland)
16 Encourages outsiders in crunch elite races (6)
CHEERS - outside letters (outsiders) of CruncH ElitE RaceS
18 Favourite verse writer, not old (3)
PET - PoET (verse writer) without the O (not old)
19 Unexpected reason to embrace It girl (8)
SENORITA - anagram (Unexpected) of REASON around (to embrace) IT
20 Strive to protect vehicle - silver - in cleric's house (8)
VICARAGE - VIE (Strive) around (to protect) CAR (vehicle) + AG (silver)
22 Secure period of abstinence (4)
FAST - double definition, the first an adjective
23 Place (Old Testament) small land area (4)
PLOT - PL (Place) + OT (Old Testament)
24 When speaking, you're candid about a Pole, for example (8)
EUROPEAN - EUR (homophone (When speaking) of you're) + OPEN (candid) about A. I pronounce "you're" the same as "your", i.e. not quite the same as the EUR at the beginning of "European", but the Internet tells me that that is by no means universal.

1 Announce editor's upset Irish county (7)
DECLARE - reversal (upset) of ED (editor), + CLARE (Irish county)
2 It's tied over in Chelsea ground (8)
SHOELACE - O (over) inside anagram (ground) of CHELSEA
3 Spills liquid on small dishes (9)
SPLATTERS - S (small) + PLATTERS (dishes). I spent much too long thinking that the "small" was giving me the final S in the answer, not to mention assuming that "liquid" was an anagram indicator.
4 Renown oddly ignored for long time (3)
EON - even letters (oddly ignored) of REnOwN
5 Artist's equipment Dad authorised with note (7)
PALETTE - PA (Dad) + LET (authorised) + TE (note)
6 Have discussion about island tree (7)
CONIFER - CONFER (Have discussion) around (about) I (island)
10 Storyteller near court, upset (9)
RACONTEUR - anagram (upset) of NEAR COURT
12 Recluse, not married, to get older evidence from past (8)
HERITAGE - HERmIT (Recluse, not married, i.e. "hermit" without the letter M) + AGE (to get older)
14 Glib talk about a northern dog (7)
SPANIEL - SPIEL (Glib talk) about A + N (northern)
15 Draw an area of land when talking (7)
ATTRACT - homophone (when talking) of A TRACT (an area of land)
17 Fight nationalist who's rising, austere (7)
SPARTAN - SPAR (Fight) + reversal (rising) of NAT (nationalist)
21 Measure of land General brings up (3)
ARE - hidden reversed (brings up) in GenERAl

Times Cryptic 26263

28 minutes for this one. I blogged this as a last-minute stand-in so I haven't written much, but please ask if further explanations are required.

{deletions} [indicators]

1 CAPSICUM - CAP (beat), anagram [rocking] of MUSIC
6 CASBAH - AB (sailor) reversed inside CASH (money)
9 STUN - STUN{t} (wheeze)
10 ACCUSATION - C (conservative) + USA (country) inside ACTION (hostilities)
11 JUST AS WELL - JUST (very recently), AS WELL (too)
13 LEEK - LEE (shelter), {par}K
14 I DARE SAY - Anagram [novel] of IS A{l}READY
16 VIRAGO - A inside VIRGO (sign of a house)
18 ODDISH - DO (serve) reversed, DISH (food)
20 ITERATES - {c}ITES (names) encloses RATE (judge)
22 FAZE - Sounds like "phase" (chapter). My last one in very much aided by realising we probably had a pangram but were still missing F and Z.
24 RENT-A-QUOTE - Anagram [oddly] of NOT A QUEER T (time)
26 BOTTICELLI - B (British), OTT (excessive), ICE (coolness), ILL (poor) reversed
28 DUEL - U (united) in DEL (key)
29 NO BALL - NOB (aristocrat), ALL (everyone). 'Lord's decision' is the definition.
30 DEMERARA - Hidden and reversed in {pe}AR A REMED{y}. 'From the east' indicates reversal.

2 ASTOUNDED - A (answer), then {righ}T inside SOUNDED (seemed)
3 SENATOR - N (new) inside SEAT (constituency), O{verfamilia}R
4 CHAOS - CHA{d} (republic, minus D for Democrat), SO (very) reversed
5 MAC - Two definitions
6 C'EST LA VIE - Cryptic definition with 'Nice' indicating the answer is in French
7 SETTLER - L (learner) inside SETTER (me - or rather him or her)
8 ATONE - ON (working) inside ATE (scoffed)
12 ELYSIAN - ELY (see), {place}S,  IAN (boy)
15 SPHERICAL - Anagram [awkwardly] of RILES CHAP
17 GUEST BEER - Anagram of SURE BET EG
19 INERTIA - IN (ruling), ER (monarch), then {p}A{p}I{s}T{s} reversed
21 ASUNDER - A, S (small), UN + DER (foreign articles)
23 A GOGO - AGO (in the past), GO (travel)
25 AXIOM - A, XI (team), OM (honour)
27 LAD - DAL{i} (painter) reversed

Jumbo 1176 - Placeholder.

Similar to the post immediately below. Only just remembered its due this weekend from noticing the current one is 1178! This usually doesnt matter when I attempt the current one on a Saturday lunchtime. It is now 10:20pm on Sunday, so will have to post tomorrow.

Times 26263 - Not available

I am not available for this blog due to a personal emergency. I have asked Ulaca by email to post the blog, so he should do so. If the blog does not appear as expected, Andy will find a substitute.

Thanks, all.

Mephisto 2881 - Tim Moorey

I got held up a bit in the top right and the middle left, and have one or two wordplay quibbles, which the hive mind may be able to help out with. In case I have an error in here, I'm going to be out of town on Saturday night and Sunday so this is a scheduled post, and I may not be able to correct promptly. Check in the comments!

Away we go...

1QALAMDAN: NADA, Q reversed surrounding LAM(leather, thrash)
7AS IS: the right half of EMPHASIS
10LIEUTENANT: in the US, this sounds like LOO TENANT
13POIS: French for pea, Hawaiian for taro mush
15SMITTEN: reversal of NET, TIM'S
16TWANK: SWANK with S replaced by T
19RHONDDA: ADD,NO,HR all reversed
21UTOPIST: clear from the definition but it took me a while to figure out the wordplay - there are apparently two islands called UIST, inside which you put TOP
23NOWED: knotted - anagram of DOWN,(ti)E
24TO-BRUSD': TOD(fox) carrying BRUS(h) - found in Chambers under TO-BRUISE
26DUENDE: DUE with END inside
28SECS: sounds like SEX
31STEVEDORED: (DROVE)* inside STEED - clever definition, LAST meaning cargo (definition 4 in Chambers)
32TIDE: double-def, think of anythingTIDE for the festival
33CHEDDITE: an all-in-one - CITE surrounding HE and D(ate)D
1QUIP: take the first letter from EQUIP
2ASTOMATOUS: without a mouth - A, SUS surrounding TOMATO
4MEANT: MEAT(game, think hunting) containing N
5DUNKER: DRUNK(whistled) missing the R, then ER
7ANKH: KHAN with the two halves swapped
8SACCADE: reversal of E, DACCA'S
9STINKARD: DRATS reversed surrounding INK(press coverage)
15STUNDIST: I think this is NUTS reversed, then 'D for LORD, IS, T
17LOWERED: remove the first letters from FLOWER BED
18MIDDLE C: since the middle letter of PUCCINI is a C
20NURSLED: NURSED surrounding L
25BOORD: BROOD with the R moved down
27NAVE: EVAN reversed
29SNEE: SEE (phonetic C, close to B) around (garde)N

Sunday Times 4668 by Dean Mayer

14:56. A relatively gentle one from Dean this week, but a very fine and enjoyable puzzle nonetheless.

As ever with Dean there are one or two somewhat loose things in here. For instance I struggled a bit with the definition at 5dn. But if the odd slightly loose thing is the price we have to pay for this sort of creativity then it’s one I’m happy to pay. In fact it's not even a price: it's just a style thing, and on the whole I very much like Dean's style. Even if you don't, there’s nothing in here where the answer isn’t clear from the clue, which is the important thing.

A special mention for 12dn, which one of those clues that are so perfectly formed that they give an impression of having been discovered, rather than created.

1 Adult in robe, a grotesque thing
CHIMAERA - CHIM(A)ER, A. A ‘chimer’ is ‘the upper robe worn by a bishop’. I didn’t know this, so this one went in last, with fingers crossed.
6 Extravagant — or otherwise — officers
ROCOCO - (OR)*, then two COs.
9 Cast so, Iron Duke
ORSINO - the Duke of Something or Other in Twelfth Night.
10 Like Manx cat that oddly has “unnamed” ailment
11 Plastic upon leathery moulded material
14 Cleric, scratching head before long
15 Revive rail company, once buried?
BRING ROUND - BR (rail company, once), IN GROUND.
16 Given tranquillity and ambience, books table here?
RESTAURANT - REST, AURA, NT. One where the definition relies on the context of the rest of the clue to make sense of it.
17 Babe to have sex with husband
RUTH - RUT, H. Ref. Babe RUTH, the baseball player.
18 High Church breaks contract for event
STEEPLECHASE -STEEP (high) LE(CH)ASE. I was puzzled by STEEP for ‘high’, but you just need to think of prices rather than slopes. Similarly you need to think of athletics rather than horseracing for the definition.
21 Derisory quote about right of way
PATHETIC - a reversal of CITE (quote about) to the ‘right of’ PATH (way).
23 New Wave youth turned hooligan
VANDAL - VAN (New Wave), then a reversal of LAD. It seems a bit odd to call a movement from the 60s the VAN today, but it’s there in the name.
24 Journalist run over — that’s run over
EDITOR - reversal or R, O, TIDE. At least I assume this is how it works, but I’m struggling with ‘run’ for TIDE.
25 Sort of plant pot with metal flaps
PALMETTO - (POT METAL)*. 'Flaps' is the anagrind. As usual the word ‘plant’ induced feelings of panic in me. I don’t remember coming across this one but it was easy enough to deduce from PALM.

2 Launch hotel with location online
HURL - H, URL. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, but you probably knew that.
3 One poem found in friend’s home
4 Last of the substandard glue
EPOXY - thE, POXY (substandard). This clue seemed decidedly familiar, and sure enough in January this year we had ‘finally remove poor quality adhesive’. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that two setters can independently come up with a similar idea for this word.
5 Our team captain’s mixed hot water with trifle
A STORM IN A TEACUP - (OUR TEAM CAPTAINS)*. I struggle a bit with the definition here, because ‘hot water’ to me means genuine trouble, which a STORM IN A TEACUP isn't. But I'm almost certainly just being excessively literal-minded.
6 Correct clothing is not close to waterproof
RAINTIGHT - R(AINT)IGHT. Not a word I can remember coming across before. I would say ‘rainproof’.
7 Pass wind when one's left
COL - COiL. Tee hee.
8 Nibbles pieces of meat, swallowing when chopped
12 One toast never translated?
A VOTRE SANTE - A, (TOAST NEVER)*, &Lit. What a brilliant clue.
13 Twig below some trees
15 Flag down first of taxis and look over it
BLUE PETER - BLUE (down), PE(Taxis)ER.
19 Salt’s thrown and left in dump
HOVEL - HOVE (the nautical past participle of ‘heave’), L.
20 Surgeon might remove it with skill?
WART - W, ART. Surgery strikes me as a rather excessive approach to treating warts, but I suppose it might happen.
22 The meat of white turkey? No
HIT - wHITe.

Saturday Times 26256 (14th Nov)

Solving time was around 16 mins, with about a third of that trying to figure out 23ac! When I finally got there I submitted confidently, only to find I'd mistyped 17dn as BLANDINFS. Aarghh! Anyway, this was a fine puzzle I thought, which came under a lot of undeserved stick on the Forum from some people. I'm also in a happier mood as I did manage to solve last week's Listener. I can't say too much about it, but I wish I'd used a pencil!

1 British force with calamitous error in cloud (5)
BEFOG - BEF (British Expeditionary Force) + OG (own goal, calamitous error).
4 Getting even money at first contributes to calm (9)
SMOOTHING - M(oney) inside SOOTHING (calm).
9 Become hysterical in encounter with composer (4,5)
FALL ABOUT - FALLA BOUT (encounter with composer). Manuel de Falla is the composer.
10 Northern home, one virtually dark (5)
IGLOO - I (one) + GLOO(m) (virtually dark).
11 Content to have been sent down? (6)
INSIDE - double definition.
12 American porter, say, one strikingly helpful to sailors (4,4)
BELL BUOY - sounds like "bellboy", a hotel porter. Chambers doesn't say anything about them being American though.
14 Poor Greek character put in nick by policeman (3,4,3)
NOT MUCH COP - MU (Greek character) inside NOTCH (nick) + COP (policeman).
16 Heading off to scale this part of tree (4)
LIMB - CLIMB (scale) minus the first letter.
19 To lose one’s temper is unexpected (4)
SNAP - double definition.
20 Organise the main prison (10)
MARSHALSEA - MARSHAL (organise) + SEA (the main). Former debtors' prison in London, familiar to Dickens fans. His father was sent there when Dickens was 12, and he later based Little Dorrit on the experience.
22 Reveal record to be beaten (8)
DISCLOSE - DISC (record) + LOSE (to be beaten).
23 Didn’t continue with assistance of mike? (6)
PAUSED - P.A. USED (with assistance of mike?). I spent at least 5 minutes at the end trying to decide between PAUSED and LAPSED, which both sort of fit the definition. Took me ages to see the wordplay (and judging from some forum comments I was far from alone in that). Great clue!
26 Coast along, showing where to hold prey? (5)
TALON - hidden in "coast along".
27 Answer I got at in dreadful worry (9)
AGITATION - (Answer I got at in)*.
28 Unable to smoke? Perfect! (9)
MATCHLESS - double definition, although the first shows a certain lack of resourcefulness!
29 An artist to take the breath away? (5)
DEGAS - i.e. DE-GAS.

1 Gets cosy with live sitcom (9)
BEFRIENDS - BE (live) + FRIENDS (sitcom).
2 Gets satiated with female problems (5)
FILLS - F(emale) + ILLS (problems).
3 Old woman was sorry about such delusions? (8)
GRANDEUR - GRAN (old woman) + RUED (was sorry) reversed.
4 Not one sailor returned quickly (4)
SOON - NO (not one) + OS (ordinary seaman, sailor), all reversed.
5 Roof may be paid for by hotelier? (2,3,5)
ON THE HOUSE - double definition.
6 Sweet assistant finally given sack (6)
TRIFLE - (assistan)T + RIFLE (sack).
7 Suicidal upper class recreated in story (1,8)
I, CLAUDIUS - (suicidal, U)*. U = upper class. Historical novel by Robert Graves, also an award-winning TV serial in the 70's. I don't recall much suicide, but there were plenty of murders!
8 Sort of hole in halo (5)
GLORY - double definition. NB the Chambers definition of glory hole makes no reference to the smuttier version - which is a shame as I'm sure they would have made it one of their funny ones.
13 In conversation, speak out, beginning to engage one that’s near (10)
CHEAPSKATE - (speak)* inside CHAT (conversation) + E(ngage).
15 You are out of tune, I tell you plainly (5,4)
THAT'S FLAT - double definition. Not a phrase I've ever used.
17 Book passages naming fictional castle (9)
BLANDINGS - B(ook) + LANDINGS (passages). The setting for a number of novels and stories by PG Wodehouse.
18 Come down stutteringly in a dream world (2-2-4)
LA-LA-LAND - pretty obvious how this one works!
21 Grosbeak, for one, seizes large quail (6)
FLINCH - FINCH (grosbeak, for one) around L(arge).
22 Piece of information is slander — thanks for breaking it up (5)
DATUM - MUD (slander) around TA (thanks), all reversed.
24 Such music is child’s play (5)
SWING - double definition.
25 Stumble over, having drunk too much of this? (4)
PILS - SLIP (stumble) reversed.
I see everyone's already going strong in the comments, and you've been waiting long enough, so no preamble, I'll just postamble below! Thanks setter for an enjoyable Friday puzzle.

1 PICK OFF - identify and eliminate: PICK [tool] + OFF [substandard]
5 CREAM - triple def: take top off / the best / unguent
9 HORDE - crowd: homophone of HOARD [stock up, "according to reports"]
10 LIONHEART - 21 (i.e. Angevin) LION [cat] + HEART{h} [fireside, "tailless"]
11 STIPEND - cleric's income: TIP END [(two separate) limits] set on S [second]
12 PARQUET - hard flooring: PAR [standard] + QU{i}ET [soft "one having been removed"]
13 LUMINOSITY - lustre: IT "stops" ({o}MINOUSLY*) ["bats", "losing old"]
15 BEAK - double def: magistrate / bill
18 ROAD - course: reverse of O.R. [men "backing"] + AD [promotion]
20 PERSIFLAGE - banter: PER SE [essentially], IF LAG [if | jailbird] confined
23 BLOOMER - a flower: and some might toast a (bready) bloomer
24 CRINGED - drew back: C{a}RING ["having no answer", sensitive] + ED [pressman]
25 STILL LIFE - a work of art: STILL [even so] + LIFE [biography]
26 COVEN - in which spelling (i.e. casting spells) is normal: COVEN{ant} [agreement "to exclude a set of a books (i.e. A NT)"]
27 EXERT - make good use of: EX{p}ERT [maestro "when piano's unavailable"]
28 TOPSPIN - way to vary flight: TOP [better] + reverse of NIPS [darts "reflecting"]

1 PER DIEM - daily: PERM [forecast] about DIE [to end]
2 CHEYENNE - tribe: CHE [revolutionary] + reverse of NEY [marshal "raised"] + N{ativ}E ["case of"]
3 OILED - drunken: "contingent from" 9, 10 i.e. {hor}DE LIO{heart} "repelled"
4 FOOTPATHS - trails: (OF TOP HATS*) ["wearing"]
5 COHERE - to appear consistent: H.E. [ambassador] admitted to CORE [centre]
6 ERASURE - cancellation: SURE [inevitable] after ERA [long time]
7 MOTET - vocal work: MOTE [a wee bit] + T{edious} ["at first"]
8 WHISTLER - artist: reverse of REL [relative "turning up"] at end of WHIST [game]
14 SPEARMINT - plant: SPEAR [run through] + MINT [unused]
16 KNEADING - treatment from physio, perhaps: homophone of NEEDING ["announcer's" calling for]
17 A FAIR COP - admission on being arrested: (A PAIR OF C{riminals'} ["first"]*) ["botched"]
19 ACONITE - source of poison: A CITE [a | call] to admit ON [possible]
21 ANGEVIN - from old French province: A{irme}N ["evacuated"] + (GIVEN*) ["bubbly"]
22 AMULET - talisman: reverse of T.A. ["mounted" volunteers] clutching MULE [cross]
23 BASTE - to grease joint: T [time] in BASE [depot]
24 CHEAP - shoddy: CAP [headgear] HE [that man] is wearing

Quick Cryptic 444 by Teazel

Rather too many ‘well, it must be that’, write it in and ask questions later, clues for me this week! All seemed fair, though in the calmness of later analysis, but I’d never heard of busy as a term for detective, and had to check Britannia was indeed an alloy. Crossword only vocabulary this week has to be cove. Thank you, Teazel.

1 BRITANNIA - double definition; pewter type alloy, and the Royal Yacht
6 KEG - cask; kilogram = KG, initially empty = first letter E, inside
8 SAPLING - tree; carol = SING, protecting (surrounding) a place = A PL
9 POWER - might; prisoner = POW, monarch = ER
10 BACON - meat; embargo = BAN, broken by firm = CO(mpany)
12 THRIFT - economy; THe endless = TH, division = RIFT
14 DIVIDE AND RULE - advice for keeping control; anagram (may become) of UNAIDED DRIVEL
16 TRAGIC - most unfortunate; part of record not quite = TRAC(K), broken by serviceman = GI
17 TUTTI - cryptic definition; orchestral direction ‘all’
19 OZONE - gas; ounce = OZ, single = ONE
20 MARLOWE - playwright; month = MAR(CH), depleted = LOW, energy = E
22 PIE - cooked dish; penny = P, that is = IE
23 SANCTUARY - double definition

1 BUSYBODY - guy interfering; apparently a slang word for detective = BUSY, body = CORPSE
2 IMP - troublemaker; single = I, person in the Commons = MP
3 AVIAN - of the birds; a vehicle = A VAN, holds one = I
4 NIGHTWATCHMAN - double definition – nightwatchman being the term for the batsman still in at close of play
5 ASPIRED - aimed; anagram (to change) of DESPAIR
6 KIWI FRUIT - cryptic definition
7 GARB - clothes; not quite covering film star = GARB(O)
11 COVER NOTE - insurance document; bloke = COVE, right = R, pay attention = NOTE
13 DELIVERY - conveyance; free = DELIVER, in the sense of freeing from tyranny, end of day = Y
15 DIGRESS - wander off; anagram (moving) of ridges, south = S
17 TAROT - pack (of cards); nothing = O, in pastry = TART
18 POOP - deck; going up and down => palindromic word
21 OVA - eggs; homophone (some say) of OVER (finished)

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