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Times Cryptic Jumbo No 1307 - 3 Feb 18

Following my previous New Year's Day Jumbo to blog, which was an absolute cracker, I find I once again have a great crossword to decipher and comment on. It took me about an hour, which is well over average, but that was just about a perfectly satisfying level of challenge. Fortunately there were a few (but not too many) easier clues to get us going, but some nice chewy ones too. Some lovely deceptive definitions and noun phrases meant you had to take each word on its merits and challenge any word combinations. Some enjoyable surfaces and some belters of clues. 6d is my favourite, if only because it took me a while to recognise the significance of the number.. which was not a cross-reference to another clue. All in all, a great example of the art of compiling and a lot of fun to solve. So many thanks to our setter. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Give me another one soon! How did you get on with it?

Definitions underlined in italics, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, {} deletions and [] other indicators.
See the answers here...Collapse )
For me this puzzle was hard to start, but once I had a foothold it flowed fairly smoothly. Once I saw 1dn, the NW corner gave up its secrets easily. Hardest was probably the long word at 4dn, where I needed all the helpers to see the answer. Solving online makes anagrams and the like much harder, I find! Overall, about 45 minutes.

Several of the clues had nicely disguised definitions, including 8ac, 17ac, and 3dn. My clue of the day was 11ac, for the musical sound of the answer! Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Anagram indicators are in bold italics. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, followed by the wordplay. (ABC*) means 'anagram of ABC', deletions are in {curly brackets}.

Across
1 Island commander sports angry wound (10)
MADAGASCAR: MAD (angry) SCAR (wound) around AGA (commander).
6 God shows an interest? Not at first! (4)
ARES: take C off CARES to get the Greek god of war.
8 One taking in study connected with old Babylonian region (8)
CONSUMER: CON (study) SUMER (old Babylonian region). Definition relates to taking in food, for example, rather than shopping.
9 Attack same point twice that's on chin (6)
GOATEE: GO AT (attack), then E (east) twice. The chin in question is certainly not mine.
10 Kitchen heater tested in couple's absence (4)
OVEN: take the leading couple of letters off PROVEN. On edit: several commenters point out that the couple of letters removed are PR, short for “pair”=“couple”.
11 Nothing stops rioting in US coastal city (10)
TUSCALOOSA: (US COASTAL*) with another O (nothing) inside. Tuscaloosa is in Alabama, and of course isn’t coastal.
12 Port road morning mist envelops (9)
AMSTERDAM: AM (morning) STEAM (mist) around RD (road).
14 Scotsman involved with extremely datable woman (5)
DIANE: IAN (our canonical Scotsman) inside D{atabl}E.
17 Remaining quietly hidden takes trouble and effort (5)
DOGGO: DOG (to trouble) GO (effort).
19 Shoot at stoat going round at rear of building (9)
GERMINATE: G (rear of “building”), then ERMINE (stoat) going round AT.
22 Stay with drinker for meal before suffering (4,6)
LAST SUPPER: LAST (stay) SUPPER (drinker).
23 Notice me preparing small silver tray for starters (4)
PSST: first letters (starters) of each word. I’ve seen this recently, and both times found it hard to imagine a vowelless answer!
24 Old Cretan at home tucking into grouse (6)
MINOAN: MOAN (grouse) around IN (at home). Minos was the first king of Crete.
25 Badge one gains in manoeuvres (8)
INSIGNIA: I (one) (GAINS IN*). A pedant might observe that “insignia” is plural!
26 Monk secures poor grade in spelling competition (4)
BEDE: D (poor grade) inside BEE (spelling competition).
27 Introducing hard line, write rubbish about athletic contest (10)
PENTATHLON: PEN (write) TAT (rubbish) H (hard) L (line) ON (about).

Down
1 Old farmer's waterproof put on sick lad (9)
MACDONALD: MAC (waterproof) DON (put on) (LAD*).
2 Sheridan version features sinister housekeeper (7)
DANVERS: hidden answer. From the Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca.
3 Artist comes up with sensible framework (8)
ARMATURE: RA (RA=artist, written upwards) MATURE (sensible). If you’d given me ten shots at giving a one-word definition for “armature”, “framework” wouldn’t have been close to making the list!
4 Church and priest hail new sect member (15)
CHRISTADELPHIAN: CH (church) (AND PRIEST HAIL*).
5 Kid left an overcoat (6)
RAGLAN: RAG (kid) L (left) AN.
6 Stagger endlessly on in surrounding area of rainforest (9)
AMAZONIAN: AMAZ{e} (stagger), ON, IN surrounding A (area).
7 Writer's the writer powerless character inspires (7)
EMERSON: ME (the writer) inside {p}ERSON, dropping P for power.
13 Guy following drunk's perilous route (9)
TIGHTROPE: TIGHT (drunk), ROPE (guy).
15 Irritation right inside retina needing treatment (9)
EYESTRAIN: YES (right) inside (RETINA*).
16 More than reasonable fare to Jupiter or Mars? (8)
AMBROSIA: cryptic definition, referring to the food/drink of the Greek gods.
18 Whitish individual tours China and India (7)
OPALINE: ONE (individual) around PAL (China plate=mate) and I (India, in the phonetic alphabet).
20 Stadium beside lake accommodates second team (7)
ARSENAL: ARENA (stadium) L (lake) around S (second).
21 Convert smallest amount for vegetable (6)
TURNIP: TURN (convert) 1P (smallest unit of currency).

Times 26,963: Instant Classic(s)

With hindsight this crossword looks tailor-made for quiz-going Oxbridge classicists and other such insufferably smart-alecky types, and so it more or less proved in the event, taking me 7 and a half minutes on paper.

FOI 1ac (the first word that springs to mind when I look in the mirror every morning), LOI I think 27ac as big band was unknown circa the first century and thus harder for my memory banks to access. Lots of clues here I very much admired but I'll give special mention to the &lit at 12dn, the TLS-tastic "Lawrences", and also to 21dn, where I loved the use of "co-ordinates" and the classical surface adding extra grace to this most classical puzzle in ages.

So to cut a long story short, friends, Romans and countrymen, I thought this was a splendid crossword, but what about the rest of you? Too classical for some, perhaps?

ACROSS
1 Foppish type’s invitation to bird to call? (8)
POPINJAY - or "Pop in, jay!", an invitation to a bird to call (round).

9 Military preparation of Frenchman the last word in craft (8)
ARMAMENT - M AMEN [Frenchman | the last word] in ART [craft]

10 Cancel changes in South Vietnamese festival (4)
STET - S TET [South | Vietnamese festival], stet being Latin for "let it stand", the printer's instruction to leave things as they were.

11 Humiliate MP with a spiced-up union song (12)
EPITHALAMIUM - (HUMILIATE MP + A*) ["spiced-up"]. Another unfair advantage to classicists, perhaps: an epithalamium is a wedding song about what awaits the new bride in the bedchamber, of which Catullus wrote a very famous example. Hymen o Hymenaee!

13 Anecdotes assuming Scottish smoker an old-school sort (6)
ALUMNA - ANA [anecdotes] "assuming" LUM [Scottish chimney = "smoker"]

14 An officer before journey finds close friend (5,3)
ALTER EGO - A LT ERE GO [an officer | before | journey]. That's four or five Latin answers in a row; well, *I* approve...

15 An outhouse on street is hidden (7)
STASHED - A SHED [an outhouse] on ST [street]

16 Secretary brought in recognised writer's block (7)
NOTEPAD - PA [secretary] brought in NOTED [recognised]. The *good* sort of writer's block.

20 Tragic scene of crime sitting in European tradition (8)
ELSINORE - SIN [crime] sitting in E LORE [European | tradition]. Elsinore is of course the setting for Shakespeare's most famous and longwinded play, Hamlet.

22 Indian city accommodates parking for historic location (6)
DELPHI - DELHI [Indian city] accommodates P [parking]. We're back to the classics as Delphi is very famous in that arena, for oracles and such.

23 Navy in Naples restored State (12)
PENNSYLVANIA - (NAVY IN NAPLES*) ["restored"]. The fifth most populous of the United States, capital Harrisburg.

25 Wader again seen on island (4)
IBIS - BIS [again] seen on I [island], a crossword staple bird and clue.

26 Supervised one at sea securing lines (8)
OVERSEEN - (ONE*) ["at sea"] securing VERSE [lines].

27 Old bandleader having Lawrences put away horse (3,5)
TED HEATH - TE DH [both famous literary Lawrences; clever!] + EAT H [put away | horse]. I guess Ted Heath PM was leader of a band in a way, but this is probably Ted Heath the trombonist who was a household name in the 50s, winning the NME poll for Best Band/Orchestra each year between 1952 and 1961: roll over, "Godlike Genius" Liam Gallagher.

DOWN
2 Note group taking month over rental agreement (8)
OCTUPLET - OCT UP LET [month | over | rental agreement]

3 Break during school time is heaven (12)
INTERMISSION - IN TERM IS SION [during | school time | is | heaven]. Sion/Zion is the Promised Land and Heaven on Earth to Jews and Rastafarians alike, I haven't been to Jerusalem personally but I'm sure it's very nice.

4 Old German crossing Bali, free to express great happiness (8)
JUBILATE - JUTE [old German] crossing (BALI*) ["free"]. While the clue is by no means definitionally wrong, I hope no Danes are offended by their Jutlandic ancestors being assigned as German!

5 Cover for face when headmaster breaks jaw (7)
YASHMAK - AS HM [when | headmaster] breaks YAK [jaw]

6 Engaged in protecting cross, one combats evil (6)
AMULET - AT [engaged in] protecting MULE [cross]

7 Patriarch against wearing Hawaiian garland (4)
LEVI - V [against] wearing LEI [Hawaiian garland]. The third son of Jacob and Leah, as keriothe will tell you at the least opportunity, and the progenitor of the tribe of Levites.

8 Rugs taken up for daughter in midlands town (8)
STAMFORD - MATS reversed [rugs "taken up"] FOR D [daughter]. Stamford, Lincs, built by the amazing Romans and then quite big in the middle ages. Insultingly to its good name, I initially pencilled in STAFFORD, oops.

12 Air, extremely assertive, M Lisle’s composed (12)
MARSEILLAISE - (AIR + A{ssertiv}E + M LISLE'S*) ["composed"], &lit, as the aggressive anthem La Marseillaise was indeed penned by M Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle.

15 Followers pursue triallist perhaps (8)
SHEEPDOG - SHEEP DOG [followers | pursue]. Triallist as in sheepdog trials of course.

17 Future minister in rising party hurried to suppress row (8)
ORDINAND - in reversed DO ["rising" party], RAN [hurried] "to suppress" DIN [row]

18 Pithy speaker tense going round pub (8)
APHORIST - AORIST [tense, notably in Greek, another easy one to recall if you're a classicist] going round PH [pub]

19 Man being prepared runs vehicle inside (7)
SERVANT - SET [prepared], R VAN [runs vehicle] "inside"

21 Plato finally co-ordinates knowledge — it's inspired (6)
OXYGEN - {Plat}O + X Y [co-ordinates, on a graph] + GEN [knowledge]. Inspired as in "breathed in".

24 Xmas season to bode ill, ultimately? (4)
NOEL - {seaso}N {t}O {bod}E {il}L

Times Quick Crossword No 1029 by Hawthorn

I think this is my first opportunity to do the blog for a Hawthorn crossword. And it is a very nicely crafted puzzle too. It took me just about an average time, so, by my book, is just about right in terms of difficulty. Of course others may have differing views - please feel free to share! As a quick crossword I thought it was spot on as training for the 15x15, 10a and 12a being prime examples. What is more, we have an abundance of lovely smooth surfaces. I'm hard pressed to pick a clue of the day. 14d was close, as was 15d but I'm going to say 21d for the most amusing surface. Thanks to our setter for a great quickie - I look forward to the next! [Edit: It would appear not everyone found this as straightforward as I did - I must have been on top form when solving it! Nevertheless, I think most agree it was a great crossword, even if some found it a bit too tough].

Definitions underlined in italics, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, {} deletions and [] other indicators.
Click this link for the answers...Collapse )

Times Quick Cryptic No 1028 by Joker

Very nice puzzle from Joker. I came in a notch under my target ten but it felt harder than that when solving and a few were bunged in unparsed. Lots of good clues - I particularly liked the update to the curate's egg at 5d, the bad bridge designer at 11d, and the double definition at 11ac. The two long clues at the top and bottom also both worked very well, and these, along with that trickier 11ac/d crosser, rather directed the flow of things. Much enjoyed - many thanks to Joker!

Across
1 Getting on with building somewhere to stay (8,5)
BOARDING HOUSE - BOARDING (getting on [a plane, etc.]) with HOUSE (building)
8 Polluting car stops working with just half of fuel (6)
DIESEL - DIES (stops working) with EL (half of fuEL). I suppose this definition would have raised eyebrows a couple of decades ago.
9 Scoop small and humble dwelling (6)
SHOVEL - S(mall) HOVEL (humble dwelling)
10 Short tum-tum for percussion instrument (4)
BELL - BELLY= tummy = tum-tum, "short" the final letter.
11 General prevalence of money (8)
CURRENCY - double definition, and a very nice one.
12 Easy to understand cold king in Shakespeare play (5)
CLEAR - C(old) LEAR (king in Shakespeare play)
13 Political organisation to some extent loses the left (5)
PARTY - PARTLY (to some extent) loses the L(eft)
15 Ran quickly — grabbing donkey under constant strain (8)
HARASSED - HARED (ran quickly) grabbing ass (donkey)
17 Some comedian backed protest (4)
DEMO - "some" of the letters in cOMEDian "backed"
19 Part of the eye that’s concerning can start to atrophy (6)
RETINA - RE (concerning) TIN (can), start to A(trophy). Tin for Can is a type of misnomer, which cropped up in a discussion in the 15x puzzle last week. Wiki's entry is worth a look: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misnomer
20 Intelligent British like wet weather (6)
BRAINY - B(ritish) RAINY( wet weather)
21 Act of putting over excellent situation (13)
SUPERPOSITION - SUPER (excellent) POSITION (situation). The curiouser and curiouser world of nature, eh? In quantum physics, superposition describes how a particle exists in many places and in different states at the same time until it is observed, when it immediately becomes sharply defined - Schrödinger thought this idea ridiculous, hence his absurdist idea of a cat being both dead and alive in a box until you open it up and look. What is known is that superposition happens, it's completely crazy, and we don't know really have a clue what that's telling us about the nature of reality.
Down
2 Exist to chase round girl? (5)
OLIVE -  LIVE (exist) to chase/come after O (round)
3 Decide to tackle a crossword a second time? (7)
RESOLVE - or re-solving a crossword.
4 Unlucky Jill has lost Jack (3)
ILL - Jill loses J(ack)
5 Snail, perhaps, having good parts when cooked (9)
GASTROPOD - anagram (cooked) of GOOD PARTS.
6 A person going after Australian sea air (5)
OZONE - ONE (a person) going after OZ (Australian). Using ozone (O3) to describe fresh air (where oxygen is O2) is another misnomer. As the OED says, ozone was "formerly supposed to have a tonic effect and was erroneously believed to be present in fresh air".
7 Reorganisation of SkyTech Limited (7)
SKETCHY - anagram (reorganisation) of SKYTECH
11 Pack instrument for one with bad designs for bridge? (9)
CARDSHARP - CARDS (pack) HARP (instrument). "Bridge" is the card game in the definition, and the thing you cross in the surface reading..
12 Stately home abroad serving up two teas and ultimate in tiramisu (7)
CHATEAU - The two teas are CHA and, er, TEA, and then the ultimate letter in tiramisU.
14 Incandescent tirade about squandered aid (7)
RADIANT - RANT (tirade) going about an anagram (squandered) of AID.
16 Quick-moving US soldier gets in beer (5)
AGILE - GI (US soldier) goes in ALE (beer)
18 Run after chap for fruit (5)
MANGO - GO (run) after MAN (chap)
20 Transport is mostly broken (3)
BUS - BUSt (broken, mostly)
There’s a fair bit of religion is this one, which made it easier for me if annoyinger to others. Perhaps the most likely bone of contention is the Bible story at 14d, beloved of both schoolboys who (used to?) know where all the naughty bits are to be found and of artists who know a good excuse for soft core porn when they see it.
In the course of 20 minutes, I managed to create one pink square through a careless not-properly-parsed entry, but otherwise found few hold ups, the most hold uppy being in the South East corner. A pleasant enough solve, then, with the pretty 24a earning my nomination for CoD, with a side order of 22d just for mentioning the mighty Spurs and the team from whom they nicked their manager.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot:. Clues, definitions, SOLUTIONS



Across


1 Pass on music, performing key records (3,4,5)
POP ONE’S CLOGS A cheerful one to start with, one of the many euphemisms for die. The music is POP, performing is ON, the key is ESC (top left) and records LOGS.
9 Shell that is fired from an unlikely source! (5)
CONCH There is a slight, but not critical blurriness about this one. The (sea) SHELL is derived from “firing”  the IE (that is) from CONCHIE, short for conscientious objector, who would be an unlikely source of the sort of shell you’d fire from a 5.5 inch gun howitzer, which I think I could still successfully do.
10 Mason not having drink with jazz singer (3-6)
DRY WALLER Not the secretive sort, just the sort that actually builds things. Not having a drink: DRY. Jazz singer: Fats WALLER
11 Old plaque languishing years in obscurity (8)
OPAQUELY O(ld) anagram (languishing) of PLAQUE and Y(ears).
12 “Grateful” recipient, because helped initially by God (3-3)
ASH-PAN The tray under the grate (ho-ho). Because: AS, H(elped) initially, God: PAN.
13 Trifle to bolt when there’s some to be eaten (8)
FLEABITE My error, with too many Es. Only now do I see how it works, as I had assumed Some to be eaten was BITE and I can’t spell FLEA. So really it’s some: A BIT “eaten” by bolt: FLEE. Careless, sorry.
15  Religious book it’s essential to plan my holiday around (6)
HYMNAL Some of you will be glad not to root around in your list of obscure OT prophets. Instead it’s hidden (essential to) in pLAN MY Holiday backwards (around)
17 Judge way of addressing relative smart (6)
JAUNTY Just J(udge) plus one of the variations on what one calls one’s parent’s sister, AUNTY.
18 Staff officer’s underwear: button it with a twist, finally (5,3)
BRASS HAT Underwear: yup, its BRAS, followed by a setter’s temptation to scatology neatly resisted in this season of Lent by cluing it as button it: SH plus A plus (twis)T. Well done!
20 As foremost of Magi, perhaps, lives far from the others? (6)
WISEST If you remember your nativity plays (an indecently short time ago this year’s day-after-Ash-Wednesday) the Magi, or wise men, came from the East, so our far away candidate IS in the WEST.
21 Creep from floor, point, and rise (8)
KOWTOWER an anglicised version of the Chinese for bow to the floor given an agent –ER. Floor: KO (what boxers do even if not Chinese) point W(est) (making a second appearance in two clues) and rise: TOWER.
24 Are Godot’s cast waiting here? (5,4)
STAGE DOOR: I like this one: an anagram (cast) of ARE GODOT’S with a pleasingly self referential feel to it.
25 Type of work that is providing current (3-2)
SCI-FI That is: SC (short for scilicet, “namely”) plus that is: IE (again, see 9) providing: IF and (electrical) current: I.
26 Rows of plain stone, on order, can hardly wait (6,6)
GARTER STITCH, hyphenated in my Chambers, but not here. The word “stitching) after “plain” is to be understood, as that’s what our answer is, in knitting. The Order is the most noble one of the GARTER (honi soit, and all that) stone is ST, and can hardly wait gives ITCH


Down

1 Methodically shoot film: fine turned up very loud (4,3)
PICK OFF  Or “to cause to 1ac”. Film: PIC, fine: OK (reversed) and very loud: FF
2 Kept a sauce and last of brandy specially: time to bake? (7,7)
PANCAKE TUESDAY Arriving two days late, but an anagram (specially) of KEPT A SAUCE AND plus (brand)Y. In my house, it was time to fry, but I suppose you could bake if you didn't mind missing out on the tossing bit..
3 Vessel turned up carrying pardon for statesman (5)
NEHRU First Prime Minister of India. EH (pardon) in an upturned URN
4 Group from earth settled on Mercury finally (8)
SODALITY Earth: SOD (stop sniggering at the back) plus settled ALIT plus (Mercur)Y
5 Places where you can pick up loaf? (4)
LAYS Can be either noun or verb, sounds like LAZE (loaf).
6 Artificial body parts useless as legs, certainly (5,4)
GLASS EYES An anagram (useless) of AS LEGS plus certainly: YES
7 It’s hardly dressing down, having make-up near to hand? (4,2,3,5)
SLAP ON THE WRIST A low level telling off. Make-up: SLAP, “near to hand” for the rest.
8 Engineer’s brief alarm about career (6)
BRUNEL If alive today would be undoubtedly giving Elon Musk a run for his money. Brief alarm BEL(l) surrounding career: RUN.
14 Woman with university degree about to become David’s wife (9)
BATHSHEBA A favourite, it’s-alright-it’s-in-the-Bible-honest subject for artists down the ages, since David first talent-spotted her while she was bathing. I’ve only just realised I didn’t parse this one (too distracted, perhaps) but it’s BATH (university) BA (degree) surrounding SHE, the eternal woman.
16 Mail worker set our letters on postbox (8)
ARMOURER Sneaky definition. Set gives you ARM (I suppose as in arm/set a bomb), our gives - um - OUR, and the letters on a UK postbox are (since 1952?) ER.
17 Worshipping a particular way, I pray in different languages (6)
JEWISH The two languages are French and English.
19 Small lake sort of makes for dull film (7)
TARNISH I think we’re meant to think of a sort of small lake being tarn-ish.
22 Heads for Tottenham versus Southampton — easily the one to watch (2,3)
TV SET Derived from the first letters of words 3 to 7 of the clue. Who am I to disagree?
23 Hint that litre will go in jar (4)
JOLT Hint gives JOT via the tiny Hebrew letter yod (and the Greek iota) to mean something very small. Include L(itre).
Another challenging Wednesday, with some fine clueing and smart wordplay, enhanced, or spoilt (depending on your knowledge, or lack of it) by a couple of "general knowledge required" answers which were otherwise hard to guess from the wordplay. It took me 21 minutes and I had to check 18a and 25a afterwards to be sure I was right.
CoD awards to 26a and to 5d for the fine anagram and relevant surface.



Across
1 Officer’s plan again to retreat (6)
WARDER - to REDRAW is to plan again, reverse it.
5 Tribe has bewildered language expert (8)
HEBRAIST - (TRIBE HAS)*.
9 Looked at team getting embarrassed after trick (10)
CONSIDERED - CON = trick, SIDE = team, RED = embarrassed.
10 Island for the nobs featured in back issue of periodical (4)
GUAM - U = upper class, for the nobs, inserted into MAG reversed. US run island in the Pacific which Rocket Man has his beady eyes on.
11 Reduce something bloody, having got back in time (8)
DEROGATE - GORE something bloody, reversed inside DATE = time. At first I was trying to parse it with RED and AGO but not so. I thought derogate meant detract from, or deviate, but I can see reduce is a 'more or less' synonym.
12 Endless chatter around a fellow's clubs (6)
LATHIS - TAL(K) reversed then HIS = a fellow's; a lathi is a heavy stick used by angry policemen in Asian countries, and often found in crosswords.
13 Sheep runs that may hold water (4)
EWER - EWE, R.
15 This person is probing your old-fashioned food content (8)
THIAMINE - I AM (this person is) inside THINE (your, old-fashioned). Vitamin B1, otherwise properly named 2-[3-[(4-amino-2-methylpyrimidin-5-yl)methyl]-4-methyl-1,3-thiazol-3-ium-5-yl]ethanol.
18 Poet’s line, one on compassion (8)
LOVELACE - LOVE = compassion, L(ine), ACE = one. I looked at *O*E*A*E for a while with so many options and no poet springing to mind (you will recall I cultivate my ignorance of poetry). Apparently Richard Lovelace was a Cavalier poet and socialite who, when in jail for a year, penned that well known bit about 'stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage'. In your dreams, chum, they were quite effective else you'd have escaped.
19 Bed or mattress? It may be found in here (4)
DORM - Slightly hidden word in BE(D OR M)ATTRESS.
21 Affected by bugs, get cold after first day of month (6)
SEPTIC - SEPT 1 followed by C.
23 Melting tarmac starts to restrict some vehicles (8)
TRAMCARS - (TARMAC)* then R S = initial letters of Restrict Some.
25 Magical power of weaver in story spoken of (4)
MANA - This wins my Obscure Double Definition Homophone of the Year Award. MANA can mean a few things, one of which is supernatural power in Pacific cultures; Pronounced MAR-NA, it sounds the hero of 'SILAS MARNER: the Weaver of Raveloe', the full name of the book by Geogre Eliot. I had never heard of the magical power and I didn't know Mr Marner was a weaver; apart from that... and *A*A would tempt you to bung in SAGA on the basis of 'story spoken of'.
26 Priest and French actor performing? It's uplifting (10)
LEVITATION - LEVI the priest, Jacques TATI the French actor, ON = performing. A refreshing change from the usual priest abbreviations and ET for French 'and'.
27 Base established — cycle around it? (8)
PEDESTAL - PEDAL around EST.
28 Perversion is admitted by unfortunate male (6)
SADISM - Insert IS into SAD M(ale).

Down
2 Pole’s few lines of poetry (5)
ANODE - AN ODE even I can see would be a few lines of poetry. ANODE being one pole of a battery, the other being the cathode.
3 Sure to be upset following party conversation (9)
DISCOURSE - DISCO = party, (SURE)*.
4 Spoke favouring reform — not Conservative (6)
RADIAL - RADICAL = favouring reform, drop the C.
5 Several faiths TV represented in a religious celebration (7,8)
HARVEST FESTIVAL - (SEVERAL FAITHS TV)*. Nice one.
6 Short chum sits on meadow, squashing one plant (8)
BUDDLEIA - I knew today's plant, having one, a butterfly bush, in the garden. BUDD(Y) = short chum, LEA = meadow, insert I.
7 Strong tastes, first to last, creating uncomfortable feeling (5)
ANGST - TANGS would be strong tastes, drop the T from front to end.
8 Trader giving one artist supply (9)
STATIONER - (ONE ARTIST)*. Not the first time we've had a stationer recently.
14 With something large in the environment, lose out completely (9)
WHOLESALE - I see this as an anagram of LOSE inside WHALE = something large in the environment.
16 Resolved to restrict cold with health-giving ingredients (9)
MEDICATED - Insert C for cold into MEDIATED = resolved.
17 Inscribed within church window maybe see knight (8)
LANCELOT - If you BIFD this and didn't parse it, go down a snake. A LANCET (apart from being a top medical journal) is a slim, pointed church window or arch. Insert LO for 'see'.
20 Love appearing in underwear in funny shows (6)
PANTOS - Put O into your PANTS.
22 Traffic needs to speed up heading for Edinburgh (5)
TRADE - DART = speed, up = reversed, E(dinburgh).
24 Cheats and criminals caught out (5)
ROOKS - CROOKS have their C removed.

Quick Cryptic 1027 by Rongo

A puzzle of average difficulty (I predict). What it lacks in cunning, it makes up for in wit - several surfaces raised a smile (14ac, 4dn and 22dn get a mention, but especially 23ac). My LOI was 9dn as I couldn’t decide if it was an arm or a leg that was required!

Thanks to our setter.

Definitions underlined.

Across
1 Profit-seeker’s hat, the thing in front of a catalogue (10)
CAPITALIST - CAP (hat) then IT (the thing) in front of A and LIST (catalogue).
7 Possibly a quotation of at the most one million (5)
MAXIM - MAX (at the most), I (one) and M (million).
8 Work history, looking after patients coming to US casualty department (6)
CAREER - CARE (looking after patients) and ER (emergency room, US casualty department).
10 Venomous creature like viper, at heart (3)
ASP - AS (like) and middle letter of (at heart) viPer.
12 Top Gear where carport is typically built? (9)
OVERDRIVE - cryptic definition; a carport is a canopy structure built over ones drive.
13 Way to follow sailor overseas (6)
ABROAD - ROAD (way) follows AB (able bodied, sailor).
14 Switch between two positions, as leg got twisted (6)
TOGGLE - anagram of (twisted) LEG GOT.
17 Touch down before team secures 50 for decisive win (9)
LANDSLIDE - LAND (touch down), then SIDE (team) surrounding (secures) L (fifty).
19 Some of clever ruses go wrong (3)
ERR - hidden in (some of) clevER Ruses.
20 Despicable person embracing Conservative is bigot (6)
RACIST - RAT (despicable person) surrounding (embracing) C (conservative) and IS.
21 Flake of hard skin almost touching soft skin on head (5)
SCALP - all but the last letter of (almost) SCALe (flake of hard skin) with P (piano, soft).
23 Float around without hearing organs in brave style (10)
FEARLESSLY - FLY (float) surrounding (around) EARLESS (without hearing organs).


Down
1 Similar approach, not finishing Bible story (10)
COMPARABLE - all but the last letter of (not finishing) COMe (approach) and PARABLE (bible story).
2 Disease often connected to small cow or chicken (3)
POX - cryptic definition; small-, cow- and chicken- are all types of pox.
3 Fair lottery excited mob a lot (7)
TOMBOLA - anagram of (excited) MOB A LOT.
4 Minion’s facial bruise with the edges not visible (6)
LACKEY - bLACKEYe (facial bruise) missing the first and last letters (with edges not visible).
5 Keep quiet on Socialist scrap (5)
SHRED - SH (keep quiet) and RED (socialist).
6 UN regime reformed foundation for Pavlova (8)
MERINGUE - anagram of (reformed) US REGIME.
9 Method of wiring limb in alternative therapy (10)
TELEGRAPHY - LEG (limb) inside an anagram of (alternative) THERAPY.
11 Maybe mother’s personal assistant hiring fee (8)
PARENTAL - PA (personal assistant) and RENTAL (hiring fee).
15 Supervise selection from Shinto verse epic (7)
OVERSEE - hidden in (selection from) shintO VERSE Epic.
16 Manage to secure short period in office when it’s cold (6)
WINTER - WIN (manage to secure), then all but the last letter of (short) TERm (period in office).
18 Perhaps react with disgust, energy and animosity (5)
SPITE - SPIT (perhaps react with disgust) and E (energy).
22 The man dismissed from Ashes is a fool (3)
ASS - he (the man) removed (dismissed) from ASheS.

Times Cryptic 26960

I needed 27 minutes for this,  so for once on my blogging day I am within my target half-hour. I have perhaps a little more than usual to say about some of the clues, so I shall spare you a lengthy preamble and just cut to the chase.

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Times Quick Cryptic 1026 by Tracy

Long anagrams and literary clues notwithstanding, I managed this entertaining puzzle just within my 'quick' category. The literary clues just happened to hit on my limited knowledge and I was equally lucky with the hermit and system of weights.


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Some weeks ago it was proposed I think in the Daily Cryptic blogs that we should have a competition to find the best short story composed by using all the words in a particular solution. When I saw this I gave myself a ritual smack on the head, as I had had this idea years ago and had never suggested it (although I had toyed with doing it occasionally, but never with enough resolve to complete the task). But then again, I don't imagine the idea is really particularly novel, and I guess people have been idly thinking about such a thing since the dawn of the age of crosswords. Certainly, when I used to work in Advertising, people used to get very het up about being 'original' and 'creative'. But the best creative types were the ones who realised that it had all been done before and that there was nothing new under the sun. In fact, the motto that I took away from those days and which I still find applicable to practically everything I do in life is: "All of life is cut & paste." It works particularly well with parties. Was there a particular bottle of wine or something that you took as a gift to the last one you went to that everybody just loved and thought was great? Well don't sweat about what to take to the next one, just cut & paste!

But having got through this puzzle fairly quickly I found myself playing around with the words, cutting and pasting them, and this was the result.

Mr 8A and his 13A 10A were enjoying a holiday in County 9A. They heard there was a showing of some old 6D at the local picture house, but when they got there they found this had been replaced by a really 1D comedy act called 2D. The highlight of this act was a 16A:

"I've decided to give up asking rhetorical questions. I mean, what's the point?"

So you can tell how bad it was.

In the interval they went to the bar, and as they were the only people there the barman easily had the 5D job in the house. They ordered a 4D 21A, a 7D of some wicked-looking 19D and a tuna 17A, but the show was so tedious that they felt they were just going to 22A by staying and so they left.

Arriving back at their B & B and emboldened by their drinks they thought it would be a 3D to surprise one of the other guests, a 15D and his 13D, so they entered their bedroom 12D and...

Waking up suddenly, the other guest grabbed a shoe and, flinging it towards the door called out: "Get out of here, you 14As-in-the-grass!

Very 11A, they left. In a 18D they arrived back at their own room, 1A and 20A soundly.

As mentioned above, the puzzle was really a return to the nursery slopes for me. I remember practically all the Across clues going in without any trouble, and I only had a minor attack of 'breeze-block' (see recent blogs) towards the end of the Down clues. So not quite a PB for me, but fairly close at around 6m 30s.

But straightforward does not mean uninteresting, and many thanks to Hurley for an entertaining set of clues (and another setter to add to my portfolio). FOI was, in the natural order of things, 1A, and LOI was 5D (and I can't help thinking that, given the answer, that was just the way the setter had designed it!) I think that's probably my COD as well.

Definitions are underlined in italics. Cryptic parsing is explained just in the way it occurred to me as it wriggled through my consciousness in the clearest English I can muster.

Please forgive any typos, as just as I was doing my final proof-read my wife warned my that I have to vacate this room pretty much immediately for the cleaning lady. See you later!

Across
1 Retire with some wine? (3,3,4)
HIT THE SACK - sack is a type of wine that is often drunk in Crossword Land, along with hock, port, Asti, tent (but vide infra at 11D for use of another sense of the word), retsina et al..
8 Fixing car, I’m no expert on radio! (7)
MARCONI - anagram of CAR I'M NO ('fixing').
9 Lose weight? Finish off attempt in Irish county (5)
SLIGO - when you lose weight you SLIM. Take the 'finish' off of this and you have SLI, and an attempt can be a GO (as in 'ave a go, 'Arry!)
10 Frenchman in safety vest (4)
YVES - people you meet in Crossword Land are often Ian or Mac if they come from Scotland, and Dai, Evans or Rees if they come from Wales. The usual two inhabitants of France are René and, as here, YVES, hidden in the rest of the clue: safetY VESt.
11 Contrite writer I provided with shelter (8)
PENITENT - PEN (writer) + I + TENT (shelter). Not a wine in this case therefore. But the clue would also have worked quite nicely if it were "Contrite writer I provided with wine". The only problem would be that we would all probably be falling over from the surfeit of alcohol-based clues we had consumed. In fact, I have counted 4 others, so it would have comfortably given us our '5 a day'!
13 Descendant touring Channel Islands finding another one (5)
SCION - a descendant is a SON, and if he 'tours' the CI (Channel Islands) you end up with a SCION.
14 Meander in South with no clothes on cut short (5)
SNAKE - S (south) + NAKEd (with no clothes on, cut short).
16 Old northeastern ship is a joke (3-5)
ONE-LINER - O (old) + NE (northeastern) + LINER (ship).
17 Soften, ultimately calm, English Lieutenant (4)
MELT - M (ultimately calM) + E (English) LT (Lieutenant).
20 Dropped off pelts needing treatment (5)
SLEPT - anagram of PELTS ('needing treatment').
21 Trading centre in island provides drink (7)
MARTINI - a MART is a trading centre, and adding on IN and I (island) brings us almost to the half-way point with one of our 4 much-needed refreshments.
22 Fail this time here after finally missing the cut (3,7)
GET NOWHERE - NOW ('this' time is the present, as opposed to 'another time' in the past or the future) + HERE gives NOWHERE. Place this after the last letters ('finally') of missinG thE cuT and what do you GET? You get GET NOWHERE!
Down
1 Overacting, his antics maybe miff you initially (5)
HAMMY - 'overacting' looks initially like a present participle but here it is doing the job of an adjective (if someone is overacting, they are 'hammy'). 'Initially' indicates that we should take the initials of the rest of the clue: His Antics Maybe Miff You.
2 They brought gifts, new items, here, for exchange (5,4,3)
THREE WISE MEN - may I introduce the Magi, arriving a little late (our Christmas decorations haven't quite made it to the loft yet, but they have definitely reached the landing and are sitting there gathering my wife's impatience like a layer of toxic dust. Or even as well as a layer of toxic dust). Anagram of NEW ITEMS HERE ('for exchange').
3 Furious about onlooker’s first jeer of derision (4)
HOOT - HOT (furious) about O (Onlooker's first).
4 Giving extra flavour, special, with sugary coating (6)
SPICED - SP (special) + ICED (with sugary coating).
5 Extremely easy insult about attempts to hit coconut? (8)
CUSHIEST - there are only a few things that one usually 'has a shy' at rather than just 'throws something' at. The only two I can immediately think of are cricket stumps and coconuts. So here we are taking some SHIES at the hard, brown, hairy fruit that I am told are stuffed with MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), one of the latest food fads (see 'bulletproof coffee'). An insult is a CUT (as in the unkindest cut) and if this is put 'about' SHIES (attempts to hit coconuts) you get CUSHIEST (extremely easy, although for me the most difficult of the day (vide supra)).
6 Crushed teen crime via series of films? (6,6)
CINEMA VERITE - anagram of TEEN CRIME VIA ('crushed'). I suppose this is the ancestor of what we find wall-to-wall on our TV screens nowadays, so called 'reality entertainment', which I always think of as a double misnomer as it is neither reality (how can it be with high-tech camera crews following every move?) nor entertainment (it is as dull as the proverbial). A bit like that other double misnomer, 'common-law wife'. As a live in lover a CLW was never a wife and neither did she have her rights enshrined in common law. This week's competition: answers on a postage stamp please! How many other 'double misnomers' can we think of?
7 Source of stout courage? (6)
BOTTLE - double definition, the first one just a little bit cryptic.
12 Silently forward: hint to European (2,6)
ON TIPTOE - if you go forward, you go 'ON'. As in onwards and upwards. Add a TIP (hint) + TO + E (European) and there you have it.
13 Partner in second Post Office application (6)
SPOUSE - S (second) + PO (Post Office) + USE (application).
15 Not entirely relevant language (6)
GERMAN - if something is relevant it is GERMANE, and if it loses its last letter it perhaps becomes 'not entirely' relevant, and also GERMAN.
18 Star circle oddly ignored for moment (5)
TRICE - just do what it says - ignore the odd letters of sTaR cIrClE.
19 Hombre who stashes drink (4)
BREW - hidden in homBRE Who.

Times 26959 - A new Olympic sport?

Time: 20 Minutes
Music: George Lloyd, Symphony #8

I suppose easy Monday is back, provided you are thoroughly familiar with butterflies, Indian religions, and cookery.   If not, you may have to rely on relatively straightforward cryptics to give you the answers.   In any case, experienced solvers are going to fly through this one.   My time was in part due to lack of knowledge, and a bit of inaccurate spelling.   But in the end, really quite simple, giving me time to turn to Mephisto.

I had not played the Lloyd piece for a long time, and I have to say he is not the finest British music has to offer.   He would, however, make an interesting cryptic clue, along the lines "Composer confused old PM", but probably few people would understand the wordplay.


Across
1 Unusually fab, iconic name for a series (9)
FIBONACCI - Anagram of FAB, ICONIC.   The gateway to some interesting parts of math.
6 Gone to get a meal from an Italian? (5)
PASTA -  PAST + A.
9 One corrupting prophet ensnares French noble (7)
SEDUCER - SE(DUC)ER.
10 Half the rally place advert for passengers (7)
CARLOAD - CARLO[w, eire] + AD, or something along those lines.   I have to admit I just biffed this one, and got the cryptic only by doing research
11 Heading for London, group is trouble (5)
UPSET - UP + SET, a Quickie clue.
13 What’s lab beaker if mistreated? (9)
BREAKABLE - anagram of LAB BEAKER.
14 Widespread disturbing pain vexes (9)
EXPANSIVE - anagram of PAIN VEXES
16 Burden of working with America (4)
ONUS - ON + US.
18 Attempt to keep old system of weights (4)
TROY - TR(O)Y.
19 Left making improvements, removing black text (9)
LETTERING - L + [b]ETTERIING.
22 Nearly run over brownish-grey butterfly (9)
BRIMSTONE - BRIM + STONE, where 'brim' is a verb.
24 Pop concert books joint (5)
GIGOT - GIG + O.T.   One I DNK, but the cryptic is absolutely clear.
25 Ancient religion’s home is in Jamaica (7)
JAINISM - JA(IN, IS)M, one I just biffed.
26 Good film for an actor: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, say (7)
VEHICLE - double definition.
28 Courteous man entertaining English author (5)
GENET - GEN(E)T, far from a 'gent'.
29 Drug agent is suspect plant (9)
NARCISSUS - NARC + IS + SUS.   'Narc' is actually the Romany word for 'nose', and indicates a police spy, but crosswords are not the place for historically correct word usage.

Down
1 Split with female’s certain (7)
FISSURE - F IS SURE.
2 Shoot mate in Chicago (3)
BUD - double defintion, one US slang, as we don't have chinas over here.
3 What attracts smokers — nearly ten outside one small building (8)
NICOTINE -  N(I COT)INE.   For usage of 'cot' to mean 'cottage', check out the poetry of Coleridge.
4 What some substitute for chocolate over cutting sugar, perhaps (5)
CAROB - CAR(O)B.
5 Like wet weather to increase, making river into lake (9)
INCLEMENT - INC[-r,+L]EMENT, a chestnutty letter-substitution clue.
6 Father on the continent imports British wig (6)
PERUKE - PER(UK)E.
7 Present flags in support of squadron’s foremost flyer (4,7)
SNOW BUNTING - S[quardon] + NOW BUNTING.
8 Formal speech where one usually sleeps (7)
ADDRESS - double definition.
12 Belief in lie after drink is taken (11)
SUPPOSITION -  SUP + POSITION
15 Where Douglas is stirring semolina with force (4,2,3)
ISLE OF MAN -  anagram of SEMOLINA + F, a place that is seldom fully named in the crossword, usually appearing as 'Man' or 'IOM'.
17 Iron is hung all over the place in a Chinese system (4,4)
FENG SHUI - FE + anagram of IS HUNG
18 Mug finding something amusing about British prison (4,3)
TOBY JUG - TO(B)Y + JUG
20 Conjecture about origins of the latest chicken (7)
GUTLESS - GU(T[he] L[atest])ESS
21 String player needing no book for help (6)
ASSIST - [b]ASSIST
23 Young fish always around loch (5)
ELVER - E(L)VER, a stock fish in US puzzles.
27 Reduced price for lettuce (3)
COS - COS[t]

Mephisto 2997 - Paul McKenna

Woohoo - the script is working again! We can bulk reproduce crossword clues with abandon.

I had a hard time with the last few fiddly bits of this puzzle.  Most of the long answers were easy to get at with wordplay, and a quick spotting of the potential for the pun at the top to be STAKE A CLAIM helped me out tremendously. There's still a few wordplays I'm a little up in the air about, maybe those will sort themselves up as I type this out.

Definitions are underlined

Away we go...

Across
1 Right to assess wood cut for BBQ, perhaps (5)
STEAK - (asses)S, TEAK(wood)
5 Liberal point on according rave review (7)
ACCLAIM - L(liberal), AIM(point) next to ACC(aacording)
10 Dependable sort returning dress, fairly upset about daughter (10, two words)
GIRLFRIDAY - RIG(dress) reversed then an anagram of FAIRLY around D
11 Try hard to plough in historic fashion (4)
HEAR - H(hard), EAR(plough)
12 Relax” — song to dominate utterly (7)
LIEDOWN - LIED (German song), OWN(dominate utterly)
14 Holm is historically obstructed (5)
ISLET - IS, LET(obstructed)
16 Tuning peg inserted in fixed musical instrument (6)
SPINET - PIN(tuning peg) in SET(fixed)
17 Exodus finally seen in choice festival of liberation (6)
PESACH - (exodu)S in PEACH(choice)
18 Protected animal is disturbed in a brook beside duck (9)
ARMADILLO - MAD(disturbed) in A RILL(brook), O(duck)
21 Fancy term for paratactically set and in continuance (9)
ASYNDETON - I think I have this right - an anagram of (practicall)Y,SET,AND then ON(in continuance) with the whole being the definition
24 What stands in front of hearth in a study? (6)
ASHCAN - H(earth) in A, SCAN(study) and another definition that is the whole clue
26 Flipping arrogant gasp with respect to following departure (6)
HOPOFF - POH(arrogant gasp) reversed, then OF(with respect to), F(following)
28 Zulu guzzles out of tin holders (5)
ZARFS - Z(zulu, NATO alphabet) then SNARFS(guzzles) missing SN(tin)
29 Eliot bemused by translator’s poem (7)
TRIOLET - anagram of ELIOT with TR(translator)
30 Cross with one starting to complain about animals (4)
ZOIC - ZO(cross, hybrid animal) then I, C(complain)
31 I ran with tailor fittingly making what looks long short (10)
IRRATIONAL - anagram of I,RAN,TAILOR
32 Paradigm of western dress? Don’t change it, sunshine (7)
STETSON - STET(don't change it), SON(sunshine)
33 Sound argument from which ma’ll break free mug (5)
GOLEM - another one I'm trying to wrap my head around - Sound has to indicate GO, but I'm not sure how. The rest is LEMMA(argument) missing MA.  As pointed out in comments, GO can mean to sound a bell or a gun to start a race, so that was my bad.

Down
1 School teaching year shows difference in pitch (7)
SCHISMA - SCH(school), ISM(teaching), A(year)
2 She crosses a line in Parisienne’s very old hat, right? (10)
TRESPASSER - TRES(very), PASSE(old hat), R
3 Fairness would be sovereignty without right (7)
EGALITY - REGALITY missing R
4 Soak vessel upside-down in large bowl (6)
KRATER - RET ARK all reversed
5 Wholly excessive people will dig in here? (9)
ALLOTMENT - ALL(wholly), OTT(excessive) containing MEN(people)
6 Worked on a boat unprepared to be heard (6)
CREWED - sounds like CRUDE(unprepared)
7 These beaches could be packed solid (5)
LIDOS - anagram of SOLID
8 Fusses about spinning fail for Sturgeon (4)
ADOS - A(about), then a reverse of SOD(fail in Scots is a turf or sod)
9 Gosh! Chinese people turned up mimic (5)
MYNAH - MY(gosh) then HAN(Chinese people) reversed
13 Lollard with fabulous felicity gaining frequency (10)
WYCLIFFITE - W(with) and an anagram of FELICITY containing F(frequency)
15 Near indifference over anonymous fashion in poet’s sobriquet (9)
APATHATON - APATH(y) (indifference) on top of A(anonymous), TON(fashion) - edit: I had messed up the wordplay in the original post
19 Paper which is not read can curl (7, two words)
LOOROLL - LOO(can), ROLL(curl)
20 Fellow in shifting focus on mobile refuse (7)
OFFSCUM - F(fellow) inside an anagram of FOCUS, then M(mobile)
22 Ultimate in rearing previously earnest foster-kids from Fife (6)
DAULTS - ULT(ultimate) inside SAD(earnest) reversed
23 Bleeding “Circle of Life” (6)
OOZING - O(crircle) O(of), ZING(life)
24 We resist Article 50 being overlooked from upcoming opening (5)
ANTIS - AN(article) then L(50) removed from SLIT(opening) reversed
25 European run out aboard Geordie coaler (5)
CROAT - RO(run out) inside CAT(coaler)
27 Shocking manager losing the second half (4)
DIRE - DIRE(ctor)
14:26. Nothing terribly difficult this week, but there were a few unfamiliar words and phrases to slow me down a little. Quite a lot of unfamiliar words actually, making for an interesting puzzle, but there was always something else in the clue to help get to the answer. I like puzzles like that.

So my thanks to Jeff, and without further ado, here’s how I think it all works.

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (THIS)*, anagram indicators like this.

Across
1 Group of subs run over to crowd
WOLF PACK - reversal of FLOW, PACK. From ODO: ‘a group of people or things that operate as a hunting and attacking pack, in particular a group of attacking submarines or aircraft’. This concept seemed vaguely familiar, but I’ve no idea how.
5 Is about to eat a short meat sausage
SALAMI - reversal of IS containing A LAMb.
10 Post contains Howell’s first move
STANCHION - (CONTAINS, Howell)*.
11 Old-fashioned hairstyle worn by Fifties youth
DATED - DA, TED. The DA or Duck’s Arse is a hairstyle I know about because my dad apparently had one in his youth. If I didn’t know about it for that reason I would almost certainly know it from crosswords.
12 Fish on a line is just right
IDEAL - IDE, A, L.
13 Spread on plate for Goldilocks?
BUTTERCUP - BUTTER as a spread seemed OK but I was puzzled by ‘plate’. Collins to the rescue: ‘a cup or trophy awarded to the winner of a sporting contest, esp a horse race’. A BUTTERCUP is (Collins again) ‘any of various yellow-flowered ranunculaceous plants of the genus Ranunculus‘, and goldilocks is ‘a Eurasian ranunculaceous woodland plant, Ranunculus auricomus‘. So there you have it.
14 Sweet American sailor’s an old comic
GOBSTOPPER - a GOB is ‘an enlisted ordinary seaman in the US Navy’, apparently, and TOPPER was a comic that ran until 1990, when it merged with The Beezer.
17 Blue feathers
DOWN - DD, and a bit of a chestnut.
19 In Margate but backing City
AGRA - contained reversed in ‘Margate’.
20 Is cheddar this tough?
HARD CHEESE - not the hardest clue ever seen…
22 Snazzy racing driver’s a cause of much debate
HOT BUTTON - HOT (snazzy), BUTTON (Jenson, racing driver). A HOT BUTTON topic is a controversial one. I can’t think of an issue like that at the moment.
24 It’s refreshing to be returning home, sleeping like a baby
TONIC - IN is in COT, hence sleeping like a baby, geddit? The whole lot reversed.
26 Catch nasty whiff around governor
NABOB - NAB (catch), reversal of BO.
27 Ran to get 50 in over
COMPLETED - COMP(L)ETED.
28 We would change in Malaysia to tour this country
SWEDEN - S(WE’D)EN. A SEN is a 100th of a Ringgit, as you know.
29 Productions of Potter may use this epic metamorphosis in dramatic performance
PIPE-CLAY - PLAY containing (EPIC)*.

Down
1 Including trendy names “Which” is put out with gas appliances
WASHING MACHINES - (NAMES WHICH GAS)* containing IN (trendy).
2 Hire back of hotel and relax
LEASE - hoteL, EASE.
3 It’s appropriate to surmise taking top off
PECULATE - sPECULATE.
4 At first childish lady is missing Barbies — grow up!
CLIMB - first letters of ‘childish lady is missing Barbies’. The CLIMBing here is being done by some kind of plant.
6 Doc visits a green prince
ANDREW - A, N(DR)EW.
7 Choir take off for something to eat after Jerusalem
ARTICHOKE - (CHOIR TAKE)*. If you put ARTICHOKE after Jerusalem, you have a Jerusalem ARTICHOKE, which is a completely different plant, so is the ARTICHOKE of the answer still there to be eaten? Hmm.
8 Broadcast newspaper’s political interviewer film
INDEPENDENCE DAY - homophone (‘broadcast’) of “Independent’s”, DAY (Robin, one-time BBC political interviewer).
9 Spooner’s engineer used leg to hurt gatecrasher in bed
KNOTWEED - how the Reverend might have said ‘Watt kneed’.
15 Here’s food for the peckish
BIRD TABLE - CD.
16 Rehearsal of first part of play in Priest’s church
PRACTICE - PR(ACT I), CE.
18 Minor invention with changing key before rest
WHITE LIE - (WITH)*, E, LIE.
21 Judge eating doctor’s roll
RUMBLE - RU(MB)LE. Think thunder.
23 Raised multinational computer company’s popular “cloud” many times over
NIMBI - reversal (raised) of IBM, IN.
25 Finally obstetrician is given a detailed story about birth
NATAL - obstetriciaN, A, TALe.

JUMBO 1306

many, many thanks to Mohn2 for pointing me to the "magic" script and notes on getting it to work in Safari so that I could blog this puzzle in glorious technicolor with 5D Dolby surround sound.

Clues are in blue and therein definitions are underlined and anagram indicators emboldened.  Hopefully everything else in the explanations will make sense.

There were a few unfamiliar words in here which took my time to a shade over an hour inclduing taking notes and figuring out parsings so by my reckoning we're in slightly tricky territory here.

First in was ARNO, last was NEWLY-WED

Across

1

Run down and tired horse originally looked energetic next to sheep (10)


RAMSHACKLE - HACK L(ooked) E(nergetic) after RAMS

6

Gamble involving everyone Asian with a passion for dance (12)

BALLETOMANIA - BET around ALL then OMANI A

14

Bloke briefly in a US city consuming hot fish (7)


ANCHOVY - Russian doll time... H[ot] in COV{e} in A N[ew] Y[ork]

15

American with friend in NATO, for example (7)


ACRONYM - AM[erican] around CRONY

16

Swiss citizen given information by Welshman? (7)


GENEVAN - GEN EVAN

17

Wading bird lives in the same place to the west (4)


IBIS - IS with IB (ibid being Latin for "in the same place") to the West of it.

18

Make all-out effort, producing a little music (6)


STRAIN - DD

20

Ministerial friend entertaining old Times proprietor (8)


PASTORAL - (Lord) ASTOR in PAL

24

Effective ruler on whom the monarch may turn his back? (3,5,6,3,6)


THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE - CD

25

Bakery product member dropped in condiment container (7)


CRUMPET - M.P. in CRUET

26

The last word about warty amphibian, we hear, or worm (8)


NEMATODE - AMEN reversed then a homphone for toad

27

Duck first of objects thrown out of vehicle? (6)


SCOTER - SCOOTER with O(bjects) removed.  If you haven't heard of a scoter, it looks like duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck...

29

Drop scone? It may make this on the floor (7,7)


PANCAKE LANDING - CD of sorts

31

Knight leaves Cornish resort with male groom, perhaps (5-3)


NEWLY-WED - NEWLY{n} W[ith] ED

34

Status of property built by army doctor right beside sea (8)


MORTMAIN - M.O. R[igh]T MAIN. You don't need me to tell you that mortmain is the status of lands or tenements held inalienably by an ecclesiastical or other corporation.

36

Mystery writer chewing the rag at Ischia (6,8)


AGATHA CHRISTIE - (theragatischia)*

39

Carpeting for evaluation (6)


RATING - DD

41

Ugly old woman in bed beginning to eat game (8)


CRIBBAGE - BAG in CRIB E(at).  The daddy of card games if you ask me.

43

Accident involving veg in first half of meal (5-2)


SMASH-UP - MASH (mashed potato) in SUP{per}

46

Remain aliveconduct tidy performance of 1930s song? (4,4,3,4,8)


KEEP BODY AND SOUL TOGETHER - DD, the second presumably a reference to the 1930 song by Ruth Etting.  The song and singer were both unknown to me, indeed I didn't even know the supposedly more famous versions by Coleman Hawkins in 1939 and by Amy Winehouse and Tony Bennett in 2011.  I do, however, have the excellent Joe Jackson Album of that name.

47

Relating to sound half of N African dish swallowed in a brief moment (8)


ACOUSTIC - {cous-}COUS in A TIC

48

Work hard in attempt to secure prize (6)


TROPHY - OP H in TRY

49

Man or woman ringing about fiddle (4)


SCAM - SAM around C[irca]

53

Two women cutting keys for an imposing building (7)


EDIFICE - DI and FI in E C E

54

Demanded move to block former press chief (7)


EXACTED -ACT in EX ED

56

Watchman’s funeral? (7)


LOOKOUT - DD, the second, I'm guessing, as in the phrase "If he wants to go out with Keeley that's his lookout / funeral".

57

Actively opposed worker striving for effect (12)


ANTAGONISTIC - ANT AGONISTIC

58

Soldiers in new red masks — one working on shift, perhaps (10)


DRESSMAKER - R.E. in (redmasks)*

Down

1

Level-headed about little girl’s spasmodic twitch (9)


REALISTIC -RE ALI's TIC

2

Armed man’s outstanding feature, say, aristocratic in bearing (7-6)


MACHINE-GUNNER -CHIN E.G. U in MANNER

3

Gangsterone who wrote poems (4)


HOOD -DD. I assume we're talking about Thomas Hood (23 May 1799 – 3 May 1845) who wrote "The Bridge of Sighs", "The Song of the Shirt" and "There Was a Young Man from Nantucket".

4

Method of communication confusing their cat, say — ESP? (14)


CRYPTAESTHESIA - (theircatsayesp)*, another term for ESP, but then you knew I was going to say that.

5

Grassland: source of enjoyment in the Hollywood area (3)


LEA - E(njoyment) in L[os] A[ngeles]

7

A small number crossing river, one flowing through Florence (4)


ARNO - A NO around R[iver]

8

Buddhist monk’s current movement keeping Muslim leader’s feast? (10)


LAMMASTIDE - LAMA'S TIDE around M(uslim)

9

How we may combine to collect present, in short (8)


TOGETHER -TO GET HER{e}

10

Girl left outside vault giving sovereign support (11)


MONARCHICAL -MONICA L[eft] around ARCH

11

New law over misguided introduction of this rock plant (9)


NAVELWORT -N + (lawover)* + T(his). A wild flower that grows in walls, stony banks and rocky areas, particularly in shade or damp places.

12

Area in E London to search for relative (4)


AUNT - A[rea] {h}UNT

13

Hand-out given to poor actor in former PM’s birthplace (8)


GRANTHAM - GRANT HAM.  For the uninitiated, Margaret Thatcher was born in the "picturesque" midlands town of Grantham.

19

Language fellow used about one propping up bar! (8)


ALBANIAN -ALAN around BAN on top of I (one)

21

Husband rings father about start of Liverpool game (4-2)


HOOP-LA - H[usband] OO +PA around L(iverpool).  I wrote this answer in at 7:41 on Saturday 27th Jan.  At 7:45 Liverpool's televised F.A. Cup game against WBA kicked off.  Spooky.

22

Intuitive feeling of Conservative opening popular allocated work (8)


INSTINCT - C(onservative) in IN STINT

23

Resentfully envy and petition Barnaby? (8)


BEGRUDGE - BEG RUDGE

28

One in HMP stole sheep originally, the devil! (14)


MEPHISTOPHELES - I in (hmpstolesheep)*

29

Finally free in afternoon, what gamblers go for in Welsh town (8)


PEMBROKE - (fre)E in P.M. + BROKE (as in go for...)

30

What the setter has, being a drudge! (8)


DOGSBODY - DD (setter as in English, Irish or red rather than crossword)

32

Keep an eye on the hands — lest they do this? (5,3,5)


WATCH THE CLOCK - CD based on the idea that if you don't watch your workers they'll become clock watchers (i.e. naff off home at bang on 5).

33

Alert eccentric in court battle (8)


WATERLOO - (alert)* in WOO

35

It’s shattering, what a reluctant wind player may do! (4-7)


MIND-BLOWING - DD, one whimsical

37

Girl turns out to be murder victim (6)


ISABEL - IS ABEL

38

Eats with last of escapees, back inside: it’s boring (10)


DREARINESS - DINES (escapee)S around REAR

40

Health worker, one who believes criticism is accepted (9)


THERAPIST - THEIST around RAP

42

Turncoat’s article put away with mail (8)


APOSTATE - A then ATE (put away) after POST

44

Bounds of archaic poem kept in safe? (9)


PERIMETER - RIME in PETER.  I originally had this a PARAMETER but couldn't figure out what an ARAM might be.

45

Like extensive wanderings? Yes, a don’s travels (8)


ODYSSEAN - (yesadons)*

50

Variable film supported by a character in Patras (4)


ZETA - Z E.T. on A

51

Saw second maiden cast off long dress (4)


MAXI - MAXI{m}

52

Nautical spar that’s never bust? (4)


BOOM - Boom and...

55

Beetle making staff sit up? (3)


DOR -ROD reversed
After the mystery clues of the previous Saturday, this was a straightforward solve. I took a wild stab at the botany clue, and took the setter at his word for the geography clue, but everything else was within my ken. I sidetracked myself for a while with an unjustified (and wrong!) guess at 21ac, but the rest was smooth sailing. Around 30 minutes on the clock I would say.

My clue of the day is 16dn. I will forevermore see that word with the fruit inside! Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Anagram indicators are in bold italics. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, followed by the wordplay. (ABC*) means 'anagram of ABC', deletions are in {curly brackets}.

Across
1 Time to run demo and finish out of sequence (6,9)
FOURTH DIMENSION: (TO RUN DEMO FINISH*). To physicists, three dimensions of space and one dimension of time make up the four-dimensional space-time continuum. Let's agree to ignore string theory and its hypotheses of extra dimensions too small to see!
9  Most ancient item, left to the front as focus of interest (9)
LODESTONE: the OLDEST ONE is the most ancient item. Move the “L” to the front.
10  Romeo lives with woman in palace: it’s a step up (5)
RISER: R for Romeo, IS (lives), ER (woman in palace).
11 It makes one sick, withdrawing article in city (6)
EMETIC: EC(1) is the postcode for the City of London. Insert ITEM backwards.
12  Sponsor about to secure one plant (8)
ANGELICA: your sponsor is an ANGEL, I for one, CA for about.
13 Fellow rambler returning after time (6)
TREVOR: T for time, then ROVER “returning”.
15 Grow roughly fifty for the first time in grounds (8)
ESCALATE: start with ESTATE (grounds), and replace the first T by CA (roughly) L (fifly).
18  Cut police launches here (8)
DOCKYARD: DOCK (cut), {Scotland} YARD (police).
19  The way papers burn (6)
STREAM: ST (street / way), REAM (lots of paper). Nice to put the definition alongside paper, so it’s hard to see the intended meaning. Good work, setter!
21 Insubstantial odd slices of veal with holes (8)
VAPOROUS: VA (the odd letters of VeAl), then POROUS (with holes). I guessed ETHEREAL, which was a hindrance not a help!
23  Notice surrounding layout of hedges, staggered (6)
AMAZED: MAZE inside AD.
26 Telling stories mostly in Greek houses (5)
LYING: hidden answer, indicated by “houses”.
27  Flexible items for test carried back by porter (9)
ADAPTABLE: You need BAT and PAD for the cricket test. Put them backwards inside ALE.
28 Dash for one, scrambling up mountain track (11,4)
PUNCTUATION MARK: (UP MOUNTAIN TRACK*).

Down
1 Choirboy maybe briefly gets up after Fiona and Hazel (7)
FILBERT: FI (Fiona), then TREBL{e}, (the choirboy), backwards (up). Had no idea filbert means hazel(nut), but it looked like a word that fitted the helpers.
2 Excessive burns doused periodically (5)
UNDUE: alternate letters of b U r N s  D o U s E d.
3  The setter's on for blocking grumpy evidence (9)
TESTIMONY: TESTY (grumpy), blocked by I’M (the setter’s) ON.
4 Fate of party, a short time after upset (4)
DOOM: DO (party), MO (short time) backwards (upset).
5 Humble state keen to be represented in pickle (8)
MEEKNESS: (KEEN*) inside MESS (pickle).
6 Minister to fly over home counties (5)
NURSE: RUN (fly) backwards (over), then SE (home counties).
7 Found popular part of US to house retired soldier (9)
INSTIGATE: IN (popular), STATE (part of US) around IG (GI retired).
8  Tell island about the missing hotel (7)
NARRATE: ARRAN (island) backwards (about), then T{h}E (dropping “hotel” from “the”).
14 Freak, not counting overs in nets (9)
EXCEPTION: EXCEPT (not counting), then O (overs) netted by IN. “Freak” is perhaps a bit stronger than “exception”, but they have a similar flavour.
16  Superior fruit eaten by an android (9)
AUTOMATON: U (superior) TOMATO (fruit), inside (eaten by) AN.
17  Talked of steep ditch causing furore (8)
BROUHAHA: BROU sounds like “brew”, a HAHA is a ditch with a concealed wall.
18 Expand day cover, avoiding November (7)
DEVELOP: D (day), E{n}VELOP missing N for November.
20 Wed perhaps feeble, overthrown, undersized king (7)
MIDWEEK: DIM backwards (overthrown), WEE (undersized), K (king).
22  Republican battle lacking leader that's fair (5)
RIGHT: R (Republican), {f}IGHT.
24  Head of zoo takes age caging black animal (5)
ZEBRA: Z{oo}, ERA (age) around B (black).
25 West African nation, or part of E African one (4)
MALI: MALI in the west, {so}MALI{a} in the east.

Quick Cryptic 1024 by Mara

Sorry this is a bit late. I overslept, Friday being the new Saturday in this house. 8 minutes for me this morning. This is a good demonstration of the wonderful and infinite world of anagrinds, i.e. words indicating the presence of an anagram. As you see they can be convoluted, gathered, poor, sliding, strange, desperate, fancy or complicated. And when you think you've seen them all, they will come up with a new one.





Across
1 Note down the highest score ever? (6)
RECORD - double definition
4 A peak volume (6)
AMOUNT - A + MOUNT
8 Credit quote convoluted: it involves going through hoops (7)
CROQUET - CR (CREDIT) + anagram ('convoluted') of QUOTE
10 Figure seen on middle of sofa regularly (5)
OFTEN - middle of 'sofa' is OF, figure is TEN.Thrown by the word 'regularly' which normally commands us to go looking at alternate letters
11 A couple of kings happy to retire for real (5)
PUKKA - A + KK + UP all backwards
12 Dog lead (7)
POINTER - double definition
13 Vegetable gold, black and green, I gathered (9)
AUBERGINE - AU is gold B is black, the rest is an anagram ('gathered') of GREEN I
17 Poor Jack is in depressed condition (7)
LOCKJAW - anagram ('poor') of JACK, inside LOW (depressed)
19 Risk sliding around close to crevasse, for one going down mountain (5)
SKIER - Anagram ('sliding') of RISK, around E (close to, i.e. end of, 'crevasse')
20 Square, primarily, in proper solid shape (5)
PRISM - S (first letter of 'square') inside PRIM.
21 Report result of tight vote? (7)
RECOUNT - double definition
22 Unlikely flier, one strange bird! (6)
PIGEON - PIG (unlikely to fly) + Anagram ('strange') of ONE
23 Evaluate female equine? (6)
ASSESS - Female ass. I guess we put this as a cryptic definition

Down
1 Intervening in desperate scrap, judge finally sums up (6)
RECAPS - anagram ('desperate') of SCRAP with E (judge finally) 'intervening'
2 Grandfather maybe witnessing activity of bored employee? (5-8)
CLOCK-WATCHING - GRANDFATHER is a type of clock + WATCHING
3 Regret overheard gibe, and waffle (7)
RHUBARB - LOI for me. RHU- sounds like RUE ('overheard'), BARB is jibe
5 I wander uphill to see native New Zealander (5)
MAORI - I ROAM backwards ('uphill' for a down clue)
6 Latest out, umpteenth I fancy (2-2-3-6)
UP-TO-THE-MINUTE - anagram ('fancy') of OUT UMTEENTH I
7 Holding tureen is complicated (6)
TENURE - anagram ('complicated') of TUREEN
9 Outstanding spinner has trophy, perhaps, to lift (3-6)
TOP-DRAWER - spinner is TOP, trophy is REWARD, lifted (backwards)
14 Small animals in nonconformist groups (7)
INSECTS - IN + SECTS
15 Mistake students raised (4-2)
SLIP-UP - Students are PUPILS raised (backwards)
16 Gaol's opening: despicable type is free! (6)
GRATIS - G + RAT + IS
18 Massive job mujaheddin must keep up (5)
JUMBO - hidden word, backwards jOB MUJaheddin

Times 26,957: Inna Gadda Da Vida

I did this likeable puzzle on paper while feeling woozy from eating one too many Oreos, alright, alright, quite a few too many Oreos, and in such a sugar-discombobulated state my time on the timer was a shade over the 9 minute mark. FOI was 20ac, LOI 22dn once the L in 21ac became available.

As crosswords go it's simply but effectively clued but with a nice sprinkling of wit and surfaces that make you think "ooh, that's clever". As you will know if you are long-time reader I really like clues that seem aware of their context and as such I really enjoyed 26ac, 5dn and 19dn which are all above averagely "crosswordy"; I'll give 19dn my Clue of the Day award, by a nose.

The long answers around the edge were also all interesting phrases and tantalisingly close to being thematic with one another. Compulsory minor quibble to avoid looking like a complete brown-noser: 25ac is a bit archaic and/or a barred puzzle type word - cursory investigations make me believe its modern meaning is something completely different than "stink". But overall, much enjoyed, and many thanks to the setter!

ACROSS
1 Joy seemingly from sweets one's found in row of shops (5,8)
FOOL'S PARADISE - FOOLS [sweets] + I'S [one's] found in PARADE [row of shops]

9 Something uplifting from rubbish men (5)
ROTOR - ROT O.R. [rubbish | men]

10 Expel university staff, mostly cutting charge (9)
RUSTICATE - U STIC{k} [university | staff "mostly"] cutting RATE [charge]

11 Refusal to inhabit Bel Air curiously impractical (10)
INOPERABLE - NOPE [refusal] to inhabit (BEL AIR*) ["curiously"]

12 Lawyer’s right to prolong rest, wanting one (4)
LIEN - LIE {i}N [to prolong rest, "wanting" I (one)]

14 Heartless demagogue made choice to be loyal (7)
DEVOTED - D{emagogu}E + VOTED [made choice]

16 Flipping veteran sneakily conceals trap (7)
ENSNARE - hidden reversed in {vet}ERAN SNE{akily}

17 Marks in sum docked, after number's very low (7)
NOMINAL - M IN AL{l} [marks | in | sum "docked"], after NO [number]

19 Gather in most of tough clothing (7)
HARVEST - HAR{d} VEST ["most of" tough | clothing]

20 Speaker's blunt and cross (4)
ROOD - homophone of RUDE [blunt]

21 Diner's complaint, given pink articles used in bodega? (10)
SALMONELLA - SALMON [pink] + EL LA [two Spanish grammatical articles]

24 Restriction initially withdrawn for take-off (9)
IMITATION - {l}IMITATION [restriction, "initially withdrawn"]

25 Stink outside of malodorous object returns (5)
MIASM - reverse all of M{alodorou}S + AIM [object]

26 Trouble is to do with anagram helper (4,9)
GOOD SAMARITAN - (IS TO DO + ANAGRAM*) ["trouble..."]

DOWN
1 Offer put in exchanged for refund: it's an enticement (9,5)
FORBIDDEN FRUIT - BID [offer] put in (FOR REFUND IT*) ["exchanged..."]

2 Wrong note is better (5)
OUTDO - OUT DO [wrong | note]

3 Windy river, confined in another river (10)
SERPENTINE - R PENT [river | confined] in SEINE [another river]

4 Show resistance, then support strike (3-4)
AIR-RAID - AIR R [show | resistance] then AID [support]

5 Pardon a crack about bishop (7)
ABSOLVE - A SOLVE [a | crack] about B [bishop]

6 Heading for insolvency again, one has a large bill (4)
IBIS - I{nsolvency} + BIS [again]

7 Get rid of animal, in decline after a period (9)
ERADICATE - CAT [animal] in DIE [decline], after ERA [a period]

8 Primitive criminal alarmed, then arrested by old lady (11,3)
NEANDERTHAL MAN - (ALARMED THEN*) ["criminal..."] arrested by NAN [old lady]

13 Scientist and epicure missing grand opening of restaurant (10)
ASTRONOMER - {g}ASTRONOME [epicure "missing" G for grand] + R{estaurant}

15 A beastly noise in verse, with Carol scatting (9)
VAMOOSING - A MOO [a | beastly noise] in V with SING [verse | Carol]

18 Element's gripping during overtures (4-3)
LEAD-INS - LEAD'S [element's] gripping IN [during]

19 Day aboard boat with maiden, no relative to know? (7)
HOMONYM - MON [day] aboard HOY [boat] with M [maiden]

22 Rested in spare time (5)
LEANT - LEAN T [spare | time]

23 Drop round for sweet food (4)
SAGO - SAG O [drop | round]
Solving time:  10:14 - I thought I was going to be easily under 10 minutes but I was held up by the place name, the body artists and the thing that went in the soup. Odd little puzzle, this one, there is one clue that is what some call &lit, but I like Tim Moorey's definition of an "all in one" where the whole clue is both the definition and the wordplay.  This of course makes it difficult to underline the part of the clue that is the definition, but I'll give it a go - at least the automatic generator code thing is working again for me.

Definitions are underlined in the clues, wordplay is hopefully explained

Away we go...

Across
1 The Swiss dressed smarter than all others (8)
SWISHEST - anagram of THE,SWISS
9 Checked loud pitter-patter, might you say? (6,2)
REINED IN - sounds like RAIN DIN
10 Pasta, port, and no end of fizzy drink (8)
RIGATONI - RIGA (port and capital of Latvia), then no end of TONIC water
11 Swap halfpennies and farthings, perhaps? (8)
EXCHANGE - the coins are EX CHANGE
12 Poor relative from New York going into pottery centre (5,5)
STONY BROKE - the relative is an NY BRO inside STOKE
14 Drugs agent buried in frozen Arctic (4)
NARC - hidden in frozeN ARCtic
15 Dog trainer's assistant runs after large poodle ultimately (7)
HANDLER - HAND(assistant) then R after L, (poodl)E
17 Learner of French involved in dangerous activity (7)
STUDENT - DE(of, in French) inside STUNT(dangerous activity)
21 Singular item of clothing linked to ancients principally (4)
TOGA - TOG(singular of TOGS) then A(ncients) with the whole being the definition
22 Office staff on leave before end of August (10)
DEPARTMENT - MEN(staff) on DEPART(leave) then (Augus)T
23 Designer using short rags with holes in? (8)
TATTOOER - TATTER(s) - rags, with O,O (holes) inside
25 Train wherein I visited dining car? (8)
INITIATE - or IN IT I ATE
26 First of fibs by annoyin' tale-teller (8)
FRANKLIN - F(ibs) then RANKLIN' - one of the tellers of the Canterbury tales
27 Woman finally visiting a region abroad (8)
GEORGINA - (visitin)G then an anagram of A,REGION

Down
2 Drink — small amount — gentleman regularly refused (5,3)
WHITE TEA - WHIT(small amount) then alternative letters in gEnTlEmAn
3 Among children, a boy is mature (8)
SEASONED - SEED(children) containing A SON
4 No half-term upset in school (4)
ETON - NO, and TE(rm) all reversed
5 Head of Theology accompanied by different senior dons (5,2)
TRIES ON - T(heology) then an anagram of SENIOR
6 Loose screw in the firearm (10)
WINCHESTER - anagram of SCREW,IN,THE
7 Maybe anteater in garden, say, hiding head (8)
EDENTATE - garden of EDEN, then (s)TATE
8 Meat insufficiently reduced in price? (8)
UNDERCUT - or UNDER CUT
13 Buns someone from Belgrade brought round with a funny filling (5,5)
BREAD ROLLS - SERB(someone from Belgrade) reversed containing A, DROLL(funny)
15 Talented person's curry concoction? (3,5)
HOT STUFF - double definition
16 Close on agreement, after raising late drink (8)
NIGHTCAP - NIGH(close on) then PACT(agreement) reversed - I see one of these in my present
18 Leave fish ball accompanying stew (8)
DUMPLING - DUMP(leave), LING(fish)
19 Sister worried, getting picked up in Warwickshire town (8)
NUNEATON - sounds like NUN EATEN
20 Mean fight shortly taking place near boxing venue (7)
SPARING - SPA(r) near a boxing RING
24 Boozy type reveals how to be a complete loser (4)
WINO - if you WIN ZERO you are a complete loser.  Trust me, I'm an expert.

Quick Cryptic No 1023 by Pedro

A lovely little QC this morning from Pedro, taking me less than 10 minutes to solve, so my best time for a while, but full of interesting stuff.  Following yesterday’s discussion of first letter abbreviations started by Nick_the_Novice in his blog, there are plenty of examples here – and after the first couple, I coined the term HOLA! to describe them in honour of Nick – see 18a for the first use.

I continue to look for interesting facts about the numbers that I blog, but I fear I am destined not to find much with numbers ending in 3.  The best I can do here is to point out that 1023 is the smallest number made up of four different digits!

There is a potential NINA in the fifth row of the grid, but probably accidental.

My word of the day (WoD) is ABOUT FACE and my clue of the day (CoD) is 20a.  Interesting to see if you all found this easier than usual, and thanks to Pedro for an entertaining but gentle work out.

Across
7  I make assessment, providing cross (5)
IRATE – I (I) and RATE (make assessment) to provide that sort of cross, as in angry
Flattens designs (4,3)
LAYS OUT – Double definition, the first with a number of possible interpretations, such as how a pugilist might lay out (or flatten) his opponent, and the second referring to laying out a design or sketch.
10  Not too bright about location of Taj Mahal? Here’s a plan (7)
DIAGRAM – DIM (not too bright) around (or about) AGRA, the city location of the famous marble mausoleum in India
11  Dismissal involves 50 becoming careless (5)
SLACK – SACK (dismissal) includes L (Roman numeral for 50)
12  Improving electrical safety after new close shave (4,5)
NEAR THING – EARTHING is a way to improve electrical safety, after N{ew}.
14  Agreement, heading off item of legislation (3)
ACT – The agreement is a {p}ACT from which the heading (first letter) has been removed
15 See odd parts of Ghent (3)
GET – Odd letters from G{h}E{n}T.  See and GET are synonymous in expressions such as ‘get / see the joke’ or ‘get / see the point’.
16  A fight expert comes round following reversal (5-4)
ABOUT-FACE – A (a) BOUT (fight) and ACE (expert) come around F{ollowing}.  F is a legitimate abbreviation for following according to my online Chambers, and is another example of the first letter abbreviation controversy that was discussed in yesterday’s blog.  ABOUT-FACE will be familiar to anyone who has drilled on a parade ground, where it is a common drill command ‘inviting’ military personnel to make a 180-degree turn, or a reversal.
18  Rocketry experts taking line regarding nose (5)
NASAL – The rocketry experts are NASA taking L{ine} – another of those pesky first letter abbreviations.  I just did a check, and according to Chambers, every single letter in the alphabet (A through to Z) is a legitimate first letter abbreviation for something, in many cases for several or many things.  In tribute to Nick_the_novice who raised this yesterday, I am going to coin the term HOLA! (Harrumph Opening Letter Abbreviation) to describe these from now on (if I remember)!
20  Lose lustre: rather like small mountain lake? (7)
TARNISH – A TARN is a small mountain lake, and something that is rather like that might be described as being TARN-ISH.
22  Poison distributed in scare (7)
ARSENIC – Our first anagram of the day, indicated by ‘distributed’ of [IN SCARE]
23  Relative giving vague directions, perhaps, losing last two (5)
UNCLE – Giving vague directions might be described as UNCLEAR.  Lose the last two letters as instructed to give the name of a close relative.  The ‘perhaps’ is there because there are other ways of being unclear other than giving vague directions.

Down
1 Meeting might not proceed before locating this ulterior motive (6,6)
HIDDEN AGENDA – A cryptic definition
What may prevent you seeing waterfall? (8)
CATARACT – Double definition, the first posed as a question.
Look equal (4)
PEER – Classic two-word double definition, obeying Rotter’s First Law of Cryptics – two-word clues are nearly always double definitions (there are exceptions that prove this law).
4  Man I arranged to host first of London University’s ex-students (6)
ALUMNI – Anagram (arranged) of [MAN I] containing (hosting) first letters of L{ondon} U{niversity}.
Vision certainly accepted by rowers (8)
EYESIGHT – Certainly is YES and this is accepted by (inside) EIGHT,  An EIGHT is a name given to a team of rowers in an eight-oar boat (as in the annual boat-race between Oxford and Cambridge)
6 Bright star, one seen at Stratford, on the rise (4)
NOVA – The river at Stratford is the AVON (hence Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare), which is reversed to give the name of a transient astronomical effect that causes the sudden appearance of a bright, apparently new star.
Assume command, putting an end to game of roulette? (4,3,5)
TAKE THE WHEEL – Cryptic clue – if one took the wheel being used, any game of roulette could not continue without a replacement
13  Hard splitting dog and Siamese here? (8)
THAILAND – H{ard} (a legitimate HOLA!) splitting TAIL (dog, as in the transitive verb sense of to dog or to tail) and AND (and).  Siam is a formerly used exonym for THAILAND, whose people are still referred to as Siamese in some quarters.
14  A bit of plumbing in church?  If absolutely necessary (2,1,5)
AT A PINCH – A (a) TAP (bit of plumbing) IN (in) CH{urch}.  AT A PINCH is an expression meaning ‘in case of a necessity or emergency’.
17  Sudden movement in operations to make lenses (6)
OPTICS – The sudden movement is a TIC inside OPS (operations).  OPTICS is the science of light, or the plural of OPTIC, an old name for a lens, telescope or microscope
19  Call for help over feeling less than well? (2-2)
SO-SO – Call for help (SOS) followed by O{ver} (yet another HOLA!).  If feeling less than well, one might describe one’s condition as SO-SO.
21  King exiled in decisive battle (4)
ROUT – R (king, another HOLA! this time from the Latin R{ex}) and OUT (exiled).
 

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