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Times Quick Cryptic 1290 by Mara

I was pleased to finish just inside my target 10 minutes today having found last week's batch of puzzles a little more difficult than usual. I hesitate to say there's nothing too tricky here but I shall be interested to read how others fared.

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Most unusually I snuck under 18 minutes for this one, which furriners might find a bit tricky with a fairly recondite Scotch county popping up. There's also a fairly obscure word for genie, which might bother those who do not waste fantastic amounts of time, as I do, playing Scrabble. I think my last in was probably 1 down, as it is a word I'm not sure I've ever heard of. Well, that isn't quite true, as I have heard of it (of which more below), but have never seen this orthographic varietal. I'm not sure if the Chinese tea will catch anyone out - it's certainly not one of the commoner ones, of which my favourite, in case any of you will shout me yum cha one day, is bo lei (pu'er in Mandarin).

ACROSS

1 Prevent Chopin initially plugging one of his compositions? (8)
PRECLUDE - C in PRELUDE. Here's one that was so nice that Mangy Benditoy nicked it.
5 Fluid movement popular woman talked of (6)
INFLOW - IN FLO. Who, but who, is called Flo these days, pray?
10 Terribly sad, to marry and scorn an old county (4,3,8)
ROSS AND CROMARTY - anagram* of SAD TO MARRY SCORN. Terrific name for a region that has had more identities than Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets.
11 Former writer’s ultimately excessive outlay (7)
EXPENSE - EX PENS E
12 Accountant keeping a set of books at work (7)
CANTATA - A NT AT in CA. Here's a nice one from Johann Sibelius Bach.
13 Convenient-sounding cover for the Grand National for example (8)
HANDICAP - sounds like HANDY CAP
15 Source of light say backing sort of shelf (5)
LEDGE - LED EG reversed
18 Verse from sacred song mostly used in school class (5)
RHYME - HYM[n] in RE (Religious Education, bless it). Did you know that John Steinbeck always spelled this 'ryme'? I know this and many other useless facts about the man those who knew how to criticise but didn't know how to write something people wanted to read hated, and fully intend to spend a holiday in Salinas and the surrounding area boring the pants off fellow Steinbeck aficionadi, as we argue about all manner of things, not least whether aficionadi is a real word resulting from a genius for coinage (the Master was very keen on this) or just a silly affectation by those with more enthusiasm than learning.
20 Character by river absorbing current source of nourishment (8)
NUTRIENT - NU I in TRENT (river somewhere in the centre of England)
23 Learner kept by Aussie mate, one getting down to work at last? (7)
COBBLER - I liked this. L in COBBER. G'day to all the Bruces and Sheilahs out there! Oh, yes, in case you were wondering a shoemaker (Schumann was his name) works at a last.
25 Get boat refurbished in part of workshop (7)
BOTTEGA - GET BOAT*
26 Do what’s required, as distributors should (7,3,5)
DELIVER THE GOODS - Boom! Boom!
27 Spirit served by club employee in part of UK (6)
DJINNI - DJ IN NI (Nr'n Ir'n - capital Belfast)
28 Fish is available outside entrance to regimental HQ (8)
GARRISON - R in GAR IS ON

DOWN

1 Stitch finally made runner fall (6)
PURLER - PURL (knitting thingie) [mad]E R. I've heard of come a cropper, but not come (or make) a purler. Maybe it's a northern thing. Talking of which, here's Giggsie scoring an absolute pearler. And what a rug!
2 Docile pet initially not minding a walk in the park (4-5)
EASY-PEASY - EASY (as in 'easy to control') P EASY (as in 'I'm easy')
3 Erudite king with study facing north (7)
LEARNED - LEAR DEN reversed
4 Daughter feeding magistrate’s duck (5)
DODGE - D in DOGE (the head honcho in Venice)
6 Trivial old bird in northern lake (7)
NOMINAL - O MINA in N L
7 Female councilLOR NAttering in the centre (5)
LORNA - hidden in the chirpy councillor
8 Foot-traveller means to get on river (8)
WAYFARER - WAY FARE ('how did you fare, my doge?') R
9 Eccentric person’s first-class pool (8)
CRACKPOT - CRACK POT (as in a lottery)
14 Perverse artist in land without university (8)
CONTRARY - RA in CO[u]NTRY. 'Perverse and foolish once I strayed, but yet in love he sought me; and on his shoulder gently laid, and home, rejoicing, brought me.' Now there's poetry!
16 Day a surgeon flapped, posing risk (9)
DANGEROUS - D + A SURGEON*
17 Richly woven cloak originally worn by Catholic press chief (8)
BROCADED - C in BROAD ED
19 Wake up in French quarter — outside as it happens (7)
ENLIVEN - LIVE in EN ('in' in French) N (quarter)
21 Number in which vocalist misses start, holding note (7)
INTEGER - TE in [s]INGER
22 Strong man’s woman, possibly, and male issue (6)
SAMSON - SAM (as in the great Sam[antha] Stosur) SON
24 Spicy dish from US port? No more (5)
BALTI - BALTI[more]. I got to series 3 of The Wire before giving up. Not sure the prog did a lot of good for Maryland tourism.
25 Sound sort of tie a chap assumed at first for tea (5)
BOHEA - sounds like BOW HE (a chap) A[ssumed]
Unless you’re very experienced you are unlikely to solve a Mephisto without using Chambers. The idea is that you use the precise wordplay to derive an answer that you then verify in the dictionary. 11A is a perfect example.

Help needed to parse 28A and 25D please

In the clues, definitions are underlined. Wordplay explanation is followed by very helpful comments.

ACROSS

4 Fenced with royal support so to speak (9)
PALISADED: sounds like “palace aided”;
10 Driver has week in Glasgow, thoroughly wet there (5)
DROUK: DR-OUK; driver=dr; week in Wick=OUK;
11 Leader retiring can secure backing re early transitional period (7)
AZILIAN: (k)AZI-(NAIL reversed); can=toilet=kazi then remove “k”; secure=NAIL;
12 Reveal lady’s bust (8)
DISBOSOM: DI’S-BOSOM;
13 Shock as before leaving New York is concerning (4, two words)
AS,TO: ASTO(NY); shock as before=ASTONY;
14 Sulphur left out, paint mostly blended as before (5)
YMOLT: (mostly – s)*; s=sulphur; paint=anagrind;
15 Makeshift court house during stoppage accepted (6)
CUTCHA: CUT-CH-A;
17 Character well-informed on refined oil in tin (7)
UPSILON: UP-S(oil)*N; tin=Sn;
20 Take tea before noon and you fancy ceremony with it (7)
CHANOYU: CHA-N-(you)*;
22 Adult view in Pennsylvania shows a clumsy type (7)
PALOOKA: P(A-LOOK)A;
27 Potter role put in play (7)
PLOUTER: (role put)*;
28 Ma in concert edition was very unsettled (6)
YO-YOED; YO-YO-ED; no idea how MA=YO;
29 Kid tucking into last pieces of delicious sponge cake (5)
SCONE: (delicious)S-CON-(spong)E;
31 Growth in wine-making? Look in France and Florida (4)
FLOR: F(LO)R; FR=France; FLOR=Florida;
32 On Metropolitan line, former chief’s one up front (8)
EXARCHAL: EX-ARCH-A-L; chief=ARCH; line=L;
33 Flatter fairway, champion’s flourished (7)
FLANNEL: fairway=CHANNEL then change CH=champion to FL=flourish;
34 Master bitten by dog — what language! (5)
TAMIL: TA(M)IL;
35 Journal agreed Hard Times novel for comic (9)
JOKESMITH: J-OK-(h times)*;

DOWN

1 Morse with two idiots wanting leads (9)
IDDY-UMPTY: (d)IDDY-(n)UMPTY; supposedly dot-dash in Morse code – we learned dit-dah;
2 Creased skirt in reproduction, nothing excluded (6)
CRIMPY: C(RIM)-o-PY; skirt=RIM; reproduction=COPY;
3 Indifferent couple of broadcasts heard (4)
SO-SO; sounds like “sew-sew”;
4 General coming from local, left in charge (6)
PUBLIC: PUB-L-IC;
5 Jam sandwiches soft for a little girl (7)
LASSOCK: L(ASS)OCK; soft=fool=ASS;
6 Southern Ireland introduces rolling maul that’s feigned (7)
SIMULAR: S-I(maul)*R;
7 Relish removing top recently? Long ago (5)
ALATE: (p)ALATE;
8 Record damned poet’s revealed (8)
DISCLOST: DISC-LOST;
9 Former simply vile rule ignored (6)
EATHLY: EA(r)THLY;
16 A row right away over the French watercolour (9)
AQUARELLE: A-QUAR(r)EL-LE;
18 Timber producer okays different screening type (8, two words)
SILKY,OAK: (okays)* surrounds ILK;
19 Illicit whiskey (term for it even in Chambers) (7)
POTEENS: PO(T-EEN)S; T from (i)T; even=EEN; chambers=POS; once tasted never forgotten;
21 Bugle-call from large room on American Long Island (7)
HALLALI: HALL-A-LI;
23 One vote’s nothing for this looker (6)
APOLLO: A-POLL-O; the most beautiful god;
24 Shelter mentioned earlier taking cases (6)
SUCCAH: SUC(CA)H;
25 Join pieces of wood, say, dropping over for ditch outwork (6)
TENAIL: T(re)E-NAIL possibly?; don’t understand this cryptic;
26 Dismal / old blunt head in Lancing (5)
MORNE: two meanings
30 Units on a royal ship (4)
OHMS: O-HMS;
I don’t remember feeling this one was particularly hard, but I was unstressed and unpressed for time, so no momentary difficulty felt frustrating. There were plenty of chewy bits to savor, including one word that was totally new to me, and finding such by decryption is one of the great pleasures of these exercises.

I do (garnasam)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.



ACROSS
 1 Wildly belt more radical party member (7,8)
LIBERAL DEMOCRATHey, di Blasio, it’s not nice to hit a woman! (belt more radical)* (Sorry, that was a little local humour.)
 9 Sexy and glitzy, not ugly essentially (7)
AMOROUS — [-gl]AMOROUS
10 Praise honourable answer hospital enters (7)
HOSANNA — HO (SAN) N A (“Hon” being “honourable” and A “answer”) This will not take a prize for the most plausible surface.
11 Place key on seat (4)
SITE — SIT is “seat” (believe it or not; English dialect, and we’ve been thru this before), the “key” being E (four sharps!)
12 Vehicle close to crash with lorry (5-5)
ROLLS-ROYCE — (close + lorry)*
13 Sleeping male is surrounded by insects (7)
DORMANT — DOR(M)ANT. That’s the dor beetles. (The Dors?)
15 Can of cocktail? (7)
SLAMMER — DD
17 Holy man graduates without mortar board? (7)
MAHATMA — Two Masters of Arts flanking (“without” in cryptic-crosswordese) HAT (the quirk meaning “mortar board” is a DBE)
19 She might have helped with fertility problems found in A&E (7)
ASTARTE — A START (“found”) E
20 Too much of this and she’ll have to stitch up your trousers! (10)
SEAMSTRESS — CD, with a straight definition included—some may call it a semi-&lit, go right ahead
22 Aquatic bird seen briefly over mass of ice (4)
BERG — GREB[-e] <—
25 Swag stuffed aboard transports close to Kiev (7)
BRAVADO — (aboard)* carrying [-Kie]V
26 Smelly old dons hit yours truly after beginning of seminar (7)
NOISOME — NO I is “hit” (“number one”) and “yours truly” is ME, donned by O(ld) after S[-eminar]. This does get the prize for the most convoluted clue today.
27 I turn and circle Crete at sea (8,7)
ELECTRIC CURRENT — (turn + circle Crete)*. Wow, and we have “As” as a definition below.

DOWN
 1 Young guys protecting European stars (5)
LEADS — L(E)ADS
 2 Brow rubbed with cloth, being by this? (9)
BLOWTORCH — (Brow + cloth)* and an &lit, for real! In a way, I just this evening—Blogday Eve—finished solving this one. I got the wordplay easily enough, so I had the answer. But I couldn’t see how the definition was supposed to work. Well, one might rub (the more usual word would be “wipe”) one’s brow with (a) cloth (a handkerchief, say) when exposed to heat and perspiring. And a blowtorch is darned hot. Whew!
 3 Fleece or jumper with a bit of khaki? (4)
ROOK — ROO + K
 4 A way to punch hooligan and survive (4,3)
LAST OUTRun faster than him? L(A ST[reet])OUT
 5 Old beer in case from Harrods expires (7)
EXHALESHow sad… EX + H(ALE)S
 6 Attentive person in the employ of Eton alumnus? (9)
OBSERVANT — O(ld) B(oy) SERVANT
 7 Hot under collar after giving a lift to queen with long legs (5)
RANGY — “Angry” with R moved forward
 8 Somewhat geared to changes, ultimately adaptive (2,1,6)
TO A DEGREE — (geared to)* + [adaptiv]E
13 Half of France’s gloomy, but fit to be leased (9)
DEMISABLE — DEMI + SABLE (in the sense of “black”). DNK this word. Now I do. Hurray!
14 Witness where cricket side might play six-footer (9)
ATTESTANT — A TEST + ANT (a “test” being a kind of cricket match… but you knew that)
16 Communication system that’s a bit dotty? (5,4)
MORSE CODE — CD. Har har.
18 First-class cases old magistrate deduced (1,6)
A PRIORI — A(PRIOR)I
19 As Racine’s plays (7)
ARSENIC — (Racine’s)* Excellent clue.
21 A thing seen behind ship tossing and turning? (5)
AWAKE — DD, cleverer than most!
23 Caller made a speculation on radio (5)
GUEST — “Guessed”
24 He might do sailor’s knots and I might draw (4)
TIER — DD. My LOI, although, as four-letter DDs go (the worst kind of clue, am I right?), this is an easy one. I was at first distracted by the different pronouns (why?) for the two parts, and there is no significance to it’s being a particular kind of knot that is specified.

Jumbo 1365

An even briefer blog than usual, I'm afraid, as my computer is on the blink and I'm hoping to get this published before it completely packs in. This one was of average difficulty, with a bit of luck required for 24A and 33D if you didn't know the words.

FOI 1A, LOI 24A.

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This seemed fairly straightforward for a Saturday. I finished comfortably over lunch. There was a good helping of clever wordplay, and lots of gravy. I liked 12, 17 and 27ac, and 16, 19 and 24 dn. Does anyone want to nominate their clue of the day?

Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, then wordplay. (ABC*) means 'anagram of ABC'. Deletions are in [square brackets].

Across
1 Tot's initial reprimand for crying (7)
TEARFUL: T[ot], EARFUL.

5 Blimps regularly track aircraft (7)
BIPLANE: Odd letters of “blimps” are B-I-P-, then LANE.

9 Brief all guards in Washington, first line of defence (7,4)
CURTAIN WALL: CURT (brief), then ALL “guarding” IN WA. Chambers gives “curtain wall” as a non-loadbearing one. Not sure why that’s the first line of defence. Perhaps the Wikipedia version is clearer: A curtain wall system is an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural, utilized to keep the weather out and the occupants in.

10 Stop someone telling joke (3)
GAG: double definition.

11 Ran out of drink and cursed, half-cut (6)
LAPSED: LAP (drink), [cur]SED.

12 Officer pulling wings off lady beetle and termite (8)
ADJUTANT: AD (lady, minus “wings”), JUT (beetle, as in “beetle-browed”), ANT.

14 Volatile vet is fearless and forceful (4-9)
SELF-ASSERTIVE: anagram (“volatile”) of (VET IS FEARLESS*).

17 Anxiety about millions leaving huge country (13)
CONSTERNATION: C (about), [m]ONSTER (huge, minus M for millions), NATION.

21 Oddly neglected fiances kiss saucy amateur (8)
INEXPERT: even letters of “fiancés” are -I-N-E, then X (kiss), PERT.

23 Quiet old man hiding in an under-fire vessel (3-3)
ASH-PAN: SH (quiet please, this is a library) and PA, all “hiding in” AN. Clever definition.

25 Badly want to lose weight (3)
ILL: [w]ILL (want), losing W (weight). The definition is “badly”, as in “ill/badly treated”.

26 Father got us bananas, much in demand (6-5)
SOUGHT-AFTER: anagram (“bananas”) of (FATHER GOT US*).

27 Man perhaps stops crazy fool (7)
MISLEAD: ISLE (… of Man, perhaps), inside MAD.

28 Sanctimonious, before experiencing pain (7)
PREACHY: PRE, ACHY.

Down
1 Grab food and beer, heading off (6)
TACKLE: TACK, [a]LE.

2 Poor sap treated suitably (7)
APROPOS: anagram (“treated”) of (POOR SAP*).

3 Order gal to feel pulse (9)
FLAGEOLET: anagram (“order”) of (GAL TO FEEL*). Not a pulse I knew, I confess.

4 Feline couplings can be heard (4)
LYNX: sounds like LINKS.

5 Make revolting violet-coloured biscuit (6,4)
BRANDY SNAP: BRAND (make, of car for example), reversal (“revolting”) of PANSY (violet-coloured).

6 Maud sheds clothes after endless lager and spicy rice (5)
PILAU: PIL[s] (“endless” lager), then [m]AU[d] (“without her clothes”).

7 Answer four consecutive letters about a new currency (7)
AFGHANI: A (answer), then FGHI (consecutive letters) around the letter A and N (new).

8 Without leaders we might see an age of maturity (8)
EIGHTEEN: drop the first letter of each word, giving [w]E, [m]IGHT, [s]EE, [a]N.

13 Pretty good routine that holds attractions (10)
FAIRGROUND: FAIR (pretty), G (good), ROUND (routine).

15 Restore control over country (9)
REINSTATE: REIN, STATE.

16 Mostly working with university, in one's element (8)
ACTINIUM: ACTIN[g] (working, “mostly”), then U (university) in I’M (one is).

18 Winds up unnecessary contracts (7)
NEEDLES: NEEDLES[s].

19 Advancing relatives turn up gaping and twitching (7)
NEPOTIC: NEPO (OPEN=gaping, “turned up”), then TIC (twitching).

20 Greener gym conserves power (6)
ENERGY: hidden answer.

22 Dads ultimately get some stick (5)
PASTE: PAS (dads), [ge]T, [som]E.

24 Tea party excluding Bohemian fellow
CHAP: CHA (tea), then P[arty].
A complex puzzle very worthy of its Friday slot, I thought: the top half in particular held me up for a long time, until I finally clocked the hard double definition at 1ac and managed to justify 3dn. Both the latter and 22ac had uncommonly hard wordplay, and I won't be surprised to hear of some Bunging In From Definition going on in the comments.

I do like an atomic symbol clue and 16dn is a very fine specimen of the form, and also Word of the Day to 6dn, but my favourite clue this time around was 17ac. Can he solve it? Yes he can! There's scarcely a less than excellent clue in the mix here though, with one minor eyebrow raise from me at 5dn and its multiple ONs. Many thanks to the setter; and what did all the rest of you like best, then?

ACROSS
1 Musicians in costume (8)
ENSEMBLE - double def

9 Dark scene as small number go inside church (8)
NOCTURNE - NO ["small" number] + TURN [go] inside CE

10 Insider from Acton wrestling to claim prize (8)
OCCUPANT - (ACTON*) ["wrestling"] to "claim" CUP [prize]

11 Soil fan finds truffle? (8)
EARTHNUT - EARTH [soil] + NUT [fan]

12 Source of naval power in Rome gone after collapse (6,4)
ENGINE ROOM - (IN ROME GONE*) ["after collapse"]

14 River current taking out both banks? (4)
ODER - {m}ODER{n} [current]

15 Wind, destructive at the outset, coming in closer (7)
MEANDER - D{estructive}, "coming in" MEANER [closer]

17 Bob, eg British coin: not good (7)
BUILDER - B [British] + {g}UILDER [coin, not G for good]

21 Information at short notice sent back (4)
DATA - reverse AT AD [at | "short" notice]

22 Appliance, left out in the old days for bathroom cleaner? (10)
TOOTHPASTE - TOO{l} [appliance, L for left "out"] + in THE, PAST [old days]

23 Artist ultimately carried weight, though not initially in poor condition (8)
TATTERED - {artis}T + {m}ATTERED [carried weight, "not initially"]

25 A two-page conclusion with one Times supplement? (8)
APPENDIX - A P-P END [a | two-page | conclusion] with I X [one | times]

26 Element in languages voiced by cardinal (8)
TUNGSTEN - homophone of TONGUES [languages] by TEN [cardinal (number)]

27 Regularly target a certain masterpiece? (8)
TREASURE - T{a}R{g}E{t} + A SURE [a | certain]

DOWN
2 Can he con criminal? Most unlikely! (2,6)
NO CHANCE - (CAN HE CON*) ["criminal"]

3 Outbreak of illness starting with revolting contaminated housing? (8)
ERUPTION - I{llness}, "housed" by reversed ["revolting"] NOT PURE [contaminated]

4 Drop ancient historian from audition (4)
BEAD - homophone of BEDE [ancient historian]

5 Log falling on leg in our canal (7)
ENTERON - ENTER [log] falling on ON [leg]

6 Buffoon Mark rejected old woman — that hurt! (10)
SCARAMOUCH - SCAR [mark] + reversed MA [old woman] + OUCH [that hurt!]

7 Secret society controlling racket from South island (8)
TRINIDAD - TRIAD [secret society] "controlling" reversed [from south to north] DIN [racket]

8 Reprimand right for academic (8)
LECTURER - LECTURE R [reprimand | right]

13 Everyone choosing Princess to accept love note (10)
ELECTORATE - ELECTRA [princess] to "accept" O [love] + TE [(seventh) note]. Electra was the daughter of King Agamemnon, thus Princess of Argos.

15 Think to behave diplomatically? About time! (8)
MEDITATE - MEDIATE [to behave diplomatically] about T [time]

16 At a country home being entertained (8)
ASTATINE - A STATE [a | country], IN [home] being "entertained". At being the symbol for element 85 on the periodic table.

18 Refuse to provide exits (8)
LEAVINGS - double def

19 Face headless man, drinking port (8)
EXTERIOR - {d}EXTER ["headless" man], "drinking" RIO [port]. Fortunately RIO is a go-to word for a crossword "port".

20 Sweet and flowing in poetic source (7)
FONDANT - (AND*) ["flowing"] in FONT ["poetic" source]

24 Mistake to ignore leader in church area (4)
APSE - {l}APSE [mistake "to ignore leader"]

Times Quick Cryptic No 1289 by Tracy

What a neat and entertaining QC from Tracy today! I enjoyed it a lot. Read and admire the concise and smooth surfaces. Plenty of practice of the A + B clue type but, unusually, only two partial anagrams and no hidden words. No obscure vocabulary but a couple of testing clues. I particularly liked 8A, 17A , 22A and 18D for the gentle(?) introduction to how devious a setter can be. Lots of other fun too. 1A, 22A, 5D and, my COD, 20D all gave me a smile. 9A and, appropriately, 15A my last two in, this took me over a minute longer than average. So not on the easy side. How did you all get on? Not too many tales of woe, I hope - this is a QC cracker. Thanks, Tracy, for the fun. [Edit: There is one clue (see below) that a lot of people struggled with and disliked, earning a not-so-coveted Golden Raspberry from commenters. Bad luck, Tracy].
Read all about it...Collapse )

Times Quick Cryptic No 1288 by Izetti

I'd put this towards the easier end of things, certainly for an Izetti puzzle. The grid was quite empty after a first read through of the acrosses, but the downs were more forgiving and it all clicked into place with a minute-or-so change from my target. It helped that I'm slowly starting to remember that pesky material at 6d, and I was glad to be reminded of the abbreviation at 20d with an easy enough clue. As far as I can see, 11ac is the only real Valentine's Day reference - perhaps fittingly his lover is absent from the grid. So not a great deal of obscurity, but some tricksy cluing and lots of typically smooth surfaces made it all very good fun - many thanks to Izetti!

Across
8 Big bag in room containing antique? (7)
HOLDALL - HALL (room) containing OLD (antique)
9 Entertainment round piano with English artist (5)
OPERA - O (round) P(iano) with E(nglish) R.A. (Royal Academician / artist)
10 Irritable man admits drinking nothing alcoholic (5)
RATTY - RAY (man) admits TT (teetotal / drinking nothing alcoholic)
11 Famous lover in Lincoln getting fat (7)
ABELARD - ABE (as in Abe Lincoln) gets LARD (fat). Abelard and Heloise were lovers in France at the turn of the twelfth century, and their sensational love affair had it all: passion, scandal, a secret marriage, an evil uncle, a series of love letters after a forced separation, and of course a juicy bit of castration thrown in for good measure. In Our Time covered it a while ago if you're particularly interested.
12 Women tend to have misrepresented talent (9)
ENDOWMENT - anagram (misrepresented) of WOMEN TEND. A talent /endowment is a natural gift for something.
14 Guy is vulgar and funny, not half (3)
RIB - RIBALD (vulgar and funny, ditch the second half). To guy / tease / rib, etc.
16 Returning academic gets sign of approval (3)
NOD - DON (academic) return = reverse
18 Remain outside school control (9)
RESTRAINT - REST (remain) outside TRAIN (school)
21 Entertainment event loud and dirty (7)
FUNFAIR - F (forte / loud) and UNFAIR (dirty)
22 Hiding in bedroom, an invisible Arab (5)
OMANI - "Hiding in" the letters of bedroOM AN Invisible
23 Angelic group you and I will appear in (5)
SWEET - SET (group) that WE (you and I) will appear in.
24 Squirm uneasily when entertaining a nobleman (7)
MARQUIS - anagram (uneasily) of SQUIRM entertains/admits A

Down
1 The unknown number holding weird rite as number of ill omen? (8)
THIRTEEN - THE (the) N (unknown number) holds an anagram (weird) of RITE
2 Very happy to be connected, right away (6)
ELATED - RELATED (connected), with R(ight) taken away.
3 Infant born in space near window? (4)
BABY - B(orn) inside BAY (space near window)
4 Walk out after Conservative split (6)
CLEAVE - LEAVE (walk out) goes after C(onservative)
5 Supporting development of trees? That's my job (8)
FORESTER - FOR (supporting) ; anagram (development) of TREES. As the definition refers back to the cryptic, but is not part of the wordplay, this is an example of a "semi-&lit" clue, an "&lit" clue being where the whole clue is both cryptic wordplay "and literally" the definition.
6 Fix material before broadcast (6)
REPAIR - REP (material) before AIR (broadcast). A fabric with a ribbed surface, with "rep" here being etymologically related to "rib".
7 Worker making clock component (4)
HAND - double definition
13 Justifies tirades following hostilities (8)
WARRANTS - RANTS (tirades) follows WAR (hostilities)
15 Cricketer, one in important match being most eccentric (8)
BATTIEST - a cricketer = a bat, courtesy of synecdoche ; I (one) inside TEST (important match)
17 Risk in badly laid-out garden (6)
DANGER - Anagram (badly laid-out) of GARDEN
19 Kentish spirits? Amber-coloured liquids (6)
SERUMS - SE (South East / Kentish) RUMS (spirits)
20 One vehicle unserviceable, making traveller doomed to death (6)
ICARUS - I (ONE) CAR (vehicle) US (U/S = unserviceable, originally a WWII abbreviation)
21 Speedy firm? (4)
FAST - double definition
22 Occupying zoo, great big monster (4)
OGRE - "Occupying" the letters of zoO GREat
Well now, if I say this took me 13.58, including checking for typos and making sure all my wordplay worked, you’ll understand that, in my opinion, it’ll show up in the greenest green of the SNITCH. I don’t go much faster, but unless I’m very much mistaken, this is not because I can boast of my superior solving skills so much to suggest this is no Thursday stinker. Anagrams that are generously flagged up, words which threaten to be obscure technicalities are nothing of the sort. There is a bit of antique landscape floating around at 17, and a temptation to stretch its modern equivalent to fit, but the setter is generous with the wordplay. Sketchy knowledge of American and Mediterranean geography is required, but scarcely beyond the reach of the average daytime quiz show contestant. Four clues, no less, require a basic knowledge of music, but nothing much beyond what Julie Andrews can instruct you in.
Add a nod to today’s date, and you have a pleasant, gentle grid with a couple of clever twists to keep you entertained.
I have provided explanations and clarifications below with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS. Please press button B
[Button B]





ACROSS
1 A tipster’s manner is confused and not totally clear (15)
SEMITRANSPARENT If you need a more obvious anagram indicator than “is confused” then I fear you may be beyond help! Muck about with A TIPTER’S  MANNER  until the answer becomes (almost?) clear
9 Temporary diversion going all around ruined tel (9)
INTERLUDE Your second, slightly less obvious anagram indicator for the day is “going all around”. Give the letters RUINED TEL to your notional million typewriting monkeys and about 3 of them should come up with the answer straight away. My probability calculation is messed up by there being two Es, but the monkeys aren’t to know that.
10 Tree is full with the mass at its head (5)
MAPLE Read AMPLE for full, and move the M(ass) to the front
11 Grub, not to provide food and support (6)
PILLAR I like this. The grub is caterpillar, remove the word cater (provide food) and there it is.
12 Point small boat across loch (8)
PINNACLE L(och) has PINNACE “across” it. Chambers says pinnace is only loosely a small boat, but also gives three (different) more precise definitions, plus, as antique slang, a whore.
13 Clergyman’s a board member after day one? (6)
RECTOR Clergyman, 6 letters, starts with R.  The wordplay has you remove D(ay) I from DIRECTOR, your board member
15 Scots town, mostly where there’s rubbish chips (8)
DUMFRIES Chips, for our American friends, are not crisps but FRIES. Add DUM by taking most of dump, “where there’s rubbish”. I initially thought dumb for rubbish, but it doesn’t work
18 Something unlikely in telephoto picture? (4,4)
LONG SHOT A double definition.
19 Suspend inhibition (4-2)
HANG-UP Another double definition, the first not requiring the hyphen
21 Support team that’s bottom (8)
BACKSIDE For what it’s worth, I support Spurs, who cheerfully destroyed Dortmund this evening in the Champions League, and are currently nowhere near bottom. But regular readers would know that.
23 Quick break from work in Post Office (6)
PRESTO One of many Italian words used in music notation, which does indeed mean quick. Break from work REST inserted into PO, Ordnance Survey for Post Office
26 Misyoke with this makes donkey very vocal (5)
NOISY Takes some working out. If there’s no ISY in MISYOKE, you get MOKE, a donkey. Cute.
27 Potential lover of beer not heartlessly cutting source of wine (9)
VALENTINE Beer is ALE, not heartlessy NT, both “cutting” VINE, source of wine. Mrs Z has asked me to make it clear that I’m not available for today’s protestations of love.
28 Newspaper operations room where one can go to play (8,7)
NATIONAL THEATRE Organs such as The Times are NATIONALs (as distinct from regionals, provincials or locals). Operations room provides the (surgical) THEATRE



DOWN
1 Captain of slalom team member keeping very quiet? (7)
SKIPPER There might be a technical term for a slalom team member, but just SKIER will do. Insert PP, more music notation for very quiet.
2 Like steel cutlery tons used to cut food (5)
METAL Again, no technical knowledge needed beyond what class of stuff steel belongs to. Food is MEAL, insert T(ons)
3 Strong winds sent a door swinging (9)
TORNADOES Third easy anagram indictor of the day, “swinging”. Rearrange SENT A DOOR
4 A peculiar genus of plants (4)
ARUM  Apparently the cuckoo-pint genus, but also applied to versions of lily. A is –um–A , peculiar is RUM.
5 Attractive at first sight with a note of promise, wearing glasses (8)
SPECIOUS Not, perhaps, the first word you light on from the definition, though Chambers gives “looking good at first sight” amongst its definitions. Note of promise is the ever useful (to setters) IOU; it’s wearing SPECS, glasses
6 Fellow’s got under a million in capital (5)
AMMAN Capital of Jordan (but you knew that). Fellow again is the most generic possible MAN, placed under A M(illion)
7 Looking forward to former setter getting good (9)
EXPECTING Former is EX, your setter not our kind host but PECTIN, used for setting jam and such. Add G(ood)
8 Ancient hero of Florida and Alabama? (7)
THESEUS I like this one too. Unless corrected by our American contingent, Im happy to accept that Alabama and Florida are THE South East United States
14 Study text for play draft on Broadway? (9)
CONSCRIPT All Broadway is doing is inviting another Americanism, draft, which means our answer on this side of the pond, rather than something theatrical as suggested by the rest of the clue. Study: CON, text for play SCRIPT
16 Perhaps Cologne newspaper’s taken in neighbouring country (9)
FRAGRANCE A less esteemed newspaper than our beloved organ is a RAG. Insert into neighbouring (and occasionally invaded) FRANCE
17 Ancient area in 1006, a former principality (8)
MOLDAVIA Trust the cryptic for this one: ancient giving OLD, then A(rea), stick them into the Roman version of 1006 which is MVI, add A from –um–a
18 Chap keeping bar in Mediterranean country (7)
LEBANON At last we need a particular, if random, chap, in this case LEON, who is “keeping” BAN for bar
20 In favour of support involving key pupil (7)
PROTEGE In favour of: PRO, support: TEE, KEY probably the musical one (of 7, plus variants) G
22 Perhaps note authority for decision (3-2)
SAY-SO Another musical note, this time from tonic sol-fa, SO (a needle pulling thread). SAY stands in for “perhaps”.
24 Fast computer link nearly installed in street (5)
SWIFT The computer link is the prosaic WI-FI, which here is only nearly complete, placed in ST(reet), rather generously given in plain.
25 Spot line included in autonomous program (4)
BLOT I was a bit worried about this one, but settled on BOT for “autonomous program” for want of anything better, and chucked in a L(ine)
A reasonably tough puzzle, I thought, with some 'well that's probably what he means' type definitions, and more than the usual number of debatable homophones. 1a passes muster, but 22d less so, and 8d definitely dodgy IMO. Nevertheless, some witty clueing and complicated parsing for the non-biffer to enjoy. It took me about forty minutes to solve and be satisfied I'd seen what was going on.
It's a toss up between the witty definiion at 21a and the corny 17d for my CoD.



Across
1 Organiser of defence to hold out for a hearing (4)
OFFA - Chap who organised his Dyke. sounds like OFFER = hold out. Offa was King of Mercia from 757 to 796, so he had plenty of time to get it done.
3 Notice drag performer: one looked up to for a time? (5,5)
CLOCK TOWER - Clock = notice, see; a TOWER tows something.
10 Time mostly occupied with cast struggling to learn lines? (9)
FORGETFUL - T, FUL(L), after FORGE = cast. Surely you forge a piece of metal into shape, or you cast it with liquid metal, they're not the same thing? If I had a Chambers here I'd check.
11 Research key WWII triumph (5)
DELVE - DEL the delete key, VE Victory in Europe. I was tempted to have the key of D and recall the famous WWII Battle of Elve, but the battle was fake news.
12 Fellow stressed but in good form? (7)
HIMSELF - I see this as a sort of double definition, where himself is used as a stressed form of HIM, and in the reverse of the idea 'he's not himself today' meaning he's not in good form. In my 15 years in Ireland I did meet real people who addressed me with the opening "is it yerself?" when it fairly obviously was me they were meeting. Frank Carson used to make a joke of this Irishism in his stand up act. Or was it Hal Roach? They were both hilarious.
13 French person’s back at the races, perhaps, taking in run (6)
BRETON - If you had a BET ON you could be backing a horse at the races; insert R for run.
15 In which one’s had secret set of cards (10,5)
CONFIDENCE TRICK - Confidence = secret, trick = set of cards.
18 Girl’s offer counters Trust mostly battering Establishment (4-3-4,4)
FISH-AND-CHIP SHOP - FI'S = girl's; HAND = offer, CHIPS are counters, HOP(E) = trust mostly. Biff time, unless you're the blogger.
21 Dish served piping? Charming woman serving Americans (6)
HAGGIS - HAG meaning witch, a charmer, GIs serving Americans. Nice def.
23 Fury after not counting number of shots (7)
BARRAGE - RAGE after BAR = not counting, as in 'all bar two' for example.
26 Standpoint that is often right (5)
ANGLE - Double def, it could be a right angle.
27 Pasta turning cool if sliced with short knife (9)
FETTUCINI - IN (cool) IF with CUTTE(R) inserted, all reversed. IN I CUTTE F.
28 Stop using sticks for cycle accessories (10)
KICKSTANDS - KICK the habit, STANDS = sticks, e.g. in vingt-et-un.
29 Travel writing on reflection that’s bad, if inspired (4)
SMOG - GO = travel, MS = writing, all reversed.
Down
1 Not prepared to mess with quartet of females? Touché! (3,3,4)
OFF THE CUFF - Anagram of F F F F TOUCHE.
2 RAF officer: eccentric old square (5)
FORUM - FO = Flying Officer, RUM = eccentric.
4 What player shown red card has is unusual (9)
LEFTFIELD - if you're shown the red you're sent off so you have left the field. Is OK as one word as an adjective.
5 Star maybe lecherous, lifting trousers (5)
CELEB - Hidden reversed in MAY(BE LEC)HEROUS.
6 One passes on dry clothes, smarter than anything (7)
TIDIEST - I DIES inside (clothed by) TT = dry.
7 Graceful, is going to want to secure Oscar (9)
WILLOWISH - WILL WISH = is going to want; Insert O for Oscar.
8 Is sorry about deception auditor’s picked up (4)
RUES - A nearly homophone IMO; RUES sounds like RUSE (deception) except for me they sound like ROOZE and ROOSE.
9 Arab dated second person — the first person back at home (6)
YEMENI - YE = dated (old) second person, ME = first person, IN reversed.
14 Leading team jump with hoop around gym (10)
SKIPPERING - SKIP = jump, PE = gym, RING = hoop.
16 Locating back from places exotic, being this? (9)
NOSTALGIC - (LOCATING S)*, the S being the back from places.
17 Didn’t officially join in cry from angler breaking record? (9)
COHABITED - CD is the record; insert what an angler may cry, OH A BITE!
19 Capital for redevelopment is large (7)
ALGIERS - (IS LARGE)*.
20 Rise briskly and tip over (4,2)
PERK UP - I'm thinking, a PERK is a tip, an extra benefit, and UP can mean over, as in 'your time is up'. Maybe there's a better thought out there, though.
22 It follows funk broadcast in European city (5)
SOFIA - SO = it follows; FIA perhaps sounds like FEAR = funk. I visited Sofia in 1968 in a Morris Minor convertible, and was unimpressed, it's probably quite nice now.
24 Man with a cross to bear: that’s self-evident (5)
AXIOM - IOM for the Isle of Man, has A X = cross in front.
25 Rating that’s worth more than a ten? (4)
JACK - A double def, JACK tar being a naval rating, and a jack being higher than a ten in cards. I had RANK at first for no particular reason then couldn't justify it when blogging.



Times Quick Cryptic 1287 by Pedro

I was a bit worried that I was in for a slog today, with none of 1ac, 1dn or 6dn jumping out at me, but things soon sped up. In the end, it would probably have been a very quick solve had I not had to stare at 2dn for well over a minute before guessing. I could see how the clue worked, and obviously had all the checkers, but I didn't know the word and it took an unaccountably long lime to find the correct synonym for 'pull'. I thought 10ac was a stinker as well; a long charade which exposed a gap in my GK, and that I had to investigate post-solve.

We have a couple of lovely anagrams to admire - 16ac and 5dn - well hidden by unusual indicators and misleading surfaces. My COD is 18ac in which I struggled to separate the wood from the trees! Thanks Pedro!

Definitions underlined.

Across
1 Bits of corn in church for bird (9)
CHAFFINCH - CHAFF (bits of corn), IN then CH (church).
6 The writer gets help backing newspapers etc. (5)
MEDIA - ME (the writer) and AID (help) reversed (backing).
8 Strange thing to have driver, perhaps, for entertainment venue (5-4)
NIGHT-CLUB - anagram of (strange) THING, then CLUB (driver, perhaps).
9 Drop of whisky leading to a series of exciting events (5)
DRAMA - DRAM (drop of whisky) then (leading to) A.
10 Betting quantity of ice beside the French river is source of water (9)
SPRINKLER - SP (starting price, i.e odds, betting), RINK (quantity of ice), LE ('the' in French) and R (river).
12 Creature I am slipping into waterway — not the first (6)
ANIMAL - I'M (I am) surrounded by (slipping into) cANAL (waterway) without its first letter (not the first).
13 Roald recalled excellent flower (6)
DAHLIA - DAHL (Roald) then a reversal of (recalled) A1 (excellent).
16 Located an oddball, according to tales (9)
ANECDOTAL - anagram of (oddball) LOCATED AN.
18 Tree feller around middle of copse (5)
MAPLE - MALE (feller(!)) surrounding (around) the middle letter of coPse.
19 Performer with story about British DJ’s accessory (9)
TURNTABLE - TURN (performer) and TALE (story) surrounding (about) B (British).
21 One very quiet in US city, being chilly (5)
NIPPY - I (one) and PP (pianissimo in musical notation, very quiet), inside NY (New York, US city).
22 Theatre guys taking time — about a year — for revenge (9)
REPAYMENT - REP (theatre), MEN (guys) and T (time), all surrounding (about) A and Y (year).

Down
1 Game giving some American a start (7)
CANASTA - hidden in (some) ameriCAN A STArt.
2 Pulls up under a divine area (6)
ASGARD - reversal of (up) DRAGS (pulls) underneath A. Dwelling place of the gods in Norse mythology.
3 Bed not overturned after a lot of fun (5)
FUTON - reversal of (overturned) NOT after all-but-the-last letter of (a lot of) FUn.
4 Zero energy extracted from river (3)
NIL - 'e' (energy) deleted (extracted) from NILe (river).
5 Herb had years to build shop (12)
HABERDASHERY - anagram of (to build) HERB HAD YEARS.
6 Out to lunch, like one at tea party? (3,2,1,6)
MAD AS A HATTER - double definition, the second referring to a Lewis Carrol character.
7 Telephone fault, and when it should be fixed by? (8)
DEADLINE - cryptic definition, the telephone fault being a 'dead line'.
11 Medicine in quantity of water coming up sweet (8)
LOLLIPOP - PILL (medicine) inside POOL (quantity of water), all reversed (coming up).
14 I lament needing treatment for illness (7)
AILMENT - anagram of (needing treatment) I LAMENT.
15 Book imported by old and musty firm (6)
STABLE - B (book) inside (imported by) STALE (old and musty).
17 Spotted bananas (5)
DOTTY - double definition.
20 Funerary inscription yielding a tear (3)
RIP - double definition.

Times Cryptic 27272

49 minutes. Another mix of easy answers and occasional words or meanings bordering on the obscure, but on the whole I found it more straightforward than yesterday's offering and I have no complaints. I wonder how others fared?

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Times Quick Cryptic 1286 by Breadman

Just ticked over 10 minutes - held up by a 13 letter anagram of a boxer I could only dimly recall and my final crossing clues of a US filmmaker I didn’t know and, loi, a Japanese poem which sounded like something else and which was cleverly clued. Having said all that I quite enjoyed this - the clueing must have been tilted towards the QC as it all flowed pretty well. I wonder if this will be a marmite puzzle - I’m interested in hearing of your experiences.

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QC 1285 by Teazel

I think this is the third blog in a row that I have come up against Teazel, and I also seem to remember that my first ever blog was on one of his puzzles. So he feels like an old friend now and today's puzzle is probably the most lively one I have ever blogged (from him or anybody). Full of entertaining clues, including a couple of clever misdirections as well as two clues that I found a bit questionable as you will read. I really enjoyed it, so many thanks for a 10-minute (medium difficulty) work-out. It really was great fun.

FOI was 5A I believe, and my LOI was the lovely 22A, which was also my COD on a day when there were several good candidates. Coming in close behind were 8A, 16A, 20A, 3D and 9D.

As an aside, a few weeks ago I referred to CID (I think) as an acronym. Kevin (I believe it was him) rapped my knuckles on the basis that an acronym has to be pronounced in general usage as a word rather than as a series of letters, as in UNESCO, or NASA, or FIFA. I acknowledged his comment and owned up to loose usage as that was my understanding as well. However I heard on the radio the other day the string of letters 'MTCSA' referred to as an acronym in a comedy programme. In fact, in that context it was set up as a self-referential joke as the letters stand for 'Mysterious and Therefore Cool-Sounding Acronym'. So I thought I would check up on it in the dictionary and it seems after all that an acronym is simply a string of initial letters, whether it can be pronouced as a word or not.

So having straightened that out I deployed my own acronym, the NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter), which yielded no results.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can manage.

Across
1 Things people are going to say? (8)
GOODBYES - cryptic definition. GOODBYES are what people who are going (i.e. leaving) will say. I don't think the syntax quite works, but it is such a neat idea that I feel it would be churlish to complain.
5 London statue painful to put back (4)
EROS - SORE backwards ('put back').
8 Persevering, even if difficult terrain (13)
THOROUGHGOING - can be rewritten as THO' (even if) ROUGH GOING (difficult terrain).
10 Edged forward, with hooter? (5)
NOSED - hooter = slang for nose. Reminds me of a dear friend now departed who had a very big nose. I once mentioned to someone that he had passed my room and "put his nose round the door", to which the reply was "not all of it, surely?"
11 A little European larva (7)
TADPOLE - nice bit of misdirection here if you only had the last checker 'E', as I did, in which case you might have started looking for a 6-letter word meaning 'little', onto which you could tack E for European. As it is the parsing is TAD (a little) + POLE (European).
12 Profit from one number by country-and-western singer (4,2)
CASH IN - I (one) + N (number) 'by' CASH (late lamented C&W singer Johnny). I never cared for his music much until he started producing some very thoughtful stuff towards the end of his life, most notably for me an excellent cover of Nick Cave's 'The Mercy Seat'.
13 Compete to block drunkard in Russian council (6)
SOVIET - VIE (compete) 'blocking' SOT (drunkard).
16 Popular, Castro, but no Christian (7)
INFIDEL - IN (popular) + FIDEL (Castro, the late Prime Minister and latterly President of Cuba). OK, the defiintion is 'no Christian', but it could equally well be 'Christian', as the word INFIDEL is also used by Muslims to describe non-Muslims.
18 Fit in curve round lake (5)
BLEND - BEND (curve) 'round' L (lake).
20 Person consulted appearing uninterested in listening (8,5)
SOUNDING BOARD - if you are listening to the words SOUNDING BOARD you could hear them as SOUNDING BORED (appearing uninterested).
21 Crazy food for squirrel (4)
NUTS - double definition.
22 Drink beginning to befuddle Dame Edna (8)
BEVERAGE - a lovely misdirection. The first thing any self-respecting solver would do here would be to pick out 'befuddle' as an anagrind and attempt to apply it to DAME EDNA as anagrist. This even remains feasible after you have all the vowels as checkers [sorry, this is incorrect - see comment by templarredux below] and then you are left with the unpromising Scrabble selection of D, M, D, N. At this point the light should dawn as you realise that Dame Edna's surname is Everage, and if you take B (the 'beginning to' Befuddle) and put it in front you get BEVERAGE.
Down
1 Board work harmoniously (3,2)
GET ON - double definition.
2 Players sit: boos break out (7)
OBOISTS - straight anagram ('break out') of SIT BOOS.
3 No puritan, keen on American women? (5-6)
BROAD-MINDED - BROAD is American slang for a woman. If you are keen on American women, therefore, you might always have them on your mind, and so might be said to be BROAD-MINDED.
4 Crews have no head for heights (6)
EIGHTS - take the 'head' off Heights and you have EIGHTS (rowing crews).
6 One impaled on terrible horn — its? (5)
RHINO - the definition is 'ITS?', as the horn on which one is impaled could be that of a RHINO. This is another clue where I don't think the syntax quite works. I (one) 'impaled' on an anagram ('terrible') of HORN. Except that to my mind it is the 'terrible horn' that is impaled on 'one', given that it is the I that goes right into the middle of RHNO rather than the other way round.
7 Section of, say, people in street (7)
SEGMENT - EG (say) + MEN (people) in ST (street).
9 I obliged Ben to arrange feature of hotel room (6,5)
GIDEON BIBLE - a lovely little anagram (of I OBLIGED BEN ('to arrange')) and pleasing definition. Is it still the case in these godless times that the Gideon Society manage to sneak a bible into every hotel room? I must look for one and check next time I'm in a hotel.
12 Edges into study, bright red (7)
CRIMSON - RIMS (edges) in CON (study).
14 President to refuse to allow a Japanese art form (7)
IKEBANA - the two most common presidential visitors to Crossword Land are probably ABE (Abraham Lincoln) and IKE (Dwight D Eisenhower). Here we have IKE (president) + BAN (to refuse to allow) + A = IKEBANA, the Japanese art of flower arrangement (in case you didn't know).
15 With power thrust forward and fall precipitously (6)
PLUNGE - P (power) + LUNGE (thrust forward).
17 Quickly grabbing uniform for opera (5)
FAUST - FAST (quickly) 'grabbing' U (uniform).
19 Avoid Santa Fe Trail city (5)
DODGE - double definition, the second one being Dodge City in Kansas.

Times 27271 - Call me Deacon Blues

Time: 40 minutes
Music: Carmen Highlights

I have to admit this was a bit of a biff-fest, as I quickly discovered that this setter tended to use simple and obvious literals, often a single word.  Many of the longer answers were obvious once one or two checkers were present, and in they went.   It is only as I came to write the blog that I realize how casually I tossed in the obvious answer.

Another feature of this setter is rather loose usage of language.   Is a 'maestro' a 'virtuoso'?   Can a Spartan be described as 'austere'?   Is 'E' hallucinatory?   Does a 'fisherman' use a lobster pot?   Well, not exactly.

Tonight's two long answers may cause some solvers trouble.   Had I not researched the origin of the South African currency unit, the rand, I might have come a cropper; as it was, I was able to get the most difficult part of the word, and just had to put the remaining letters in likely places - look what I found!   This is what I have been doing in my attempts to solve Mephisto without reference books, but unlike Mephisto not every letter is checked.   But if the word looks like it's correctly formed in the target language, it's likely to be correct.

Across
1 Scot left during talk with, say, another Scot? (10)
GLASWEGIAN - G(L)AS + W + E.G. + IAN - what could be simpler?
6 Dandy clutching large bomb (4)
FLOP - F(L)OP.   Formerly, a 'bomb; was a big success in UK theatrical slang, but the US version seems to have taken over.
9 Society role played by an austere old Greek (7)
SPARTAN - S + PART + AN.
10 Authorise retired military engineers to lock up prisoner (7)
EMPOWER - EM(POW)ER, where the enclosing letters are a reversal of our old friends, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
12 Executive area in feeding-place finally in regular use (10)
MANAGERIAL - MAN(A)GER + [f]I[n]A[l]L[y].
13 Instrument from east associated with this country (3)
UKE - UK + E.  Not particularly valid in Connecticut, but I see the intent.
15 University academic, a Times subscriber, perhaps? (6)
READER - Double definition, an Oxbridge title.
16 Malign ward supervisor entertaining at home (8)
SINISTER - S(IN)ISTER.
18 Cultural traits unexpectedly shown by current clubs (8)
ARTISTIC - anaagrm of TRAITS + I + C.
20 Fine-tune first of devices used in a fair (6)
ADJUST -  A(D[evices])JUST.
23 Large vessel initially unpopular with sailors (3)
URN - U + R[oyal] N[avy].
24 Self-educator executed turn with American car (10)
AUTODIDACT - AUTO + DID ACT.
26 Italian fellow’s extremely cool sound reproduction (7)
CLAUDIO - C[oo]L + AUDIO.
27 Amount of writing covering European leader’s ancestry (7)
LINEAGE - LIN(E)AGE.
28 Study used by English prime minister in the past (4)
EDEN - E + DEN.
29 Throw rest out, returning most important fisherman’s trap (7,3)
LOBSTER POT - LOB + anagram of REST + TOP backwards.
Down
1 A big blow when visitor rejects hallucinatory drug (4)
GUST - GU(E)ST.   Even I know that ecstasy is not a true hallucinogen.
2 A graduate with a research room in the Birmingham area? (7)
ALABAMA - A LAB + A MA....not the Birmingham you were expecting?
3 Intelligence steward deployed having worked in S African region (13)
WITWATERSRAND - WIT + anagram of STEWARD around RAN.
4 He may have a hissy fit — look! (6)
GANDER - Double definition, the first one allusive.
5 Mimic provided with Italian wine, possibly, before meal (8)
APERITIF - APER + IT + IF.
7 Case in which canon takes formal wear (7)
LAWSUIT - LAW + SUIT.     Besides being an eccleisiatic title, 'canon' refers to the one of the laws of the church.
8 Maintain right for union leader to perform (10)
PERPETRATE - PERPET(+R,-u)ATE, a simple letter-substitution clue.
11 Old man developed seaside land for social venue (6,2,5)
PALAIS DE DANSE - PA + anagram of SEASIDE LAND.   Thanks to the Kinks for this one.
14 Fantastic, one taking pledge — an older relative! (5-5)
GREAT-UNCLE - GREAT! + UNCLE, that is, the pawnbroker.
17 Curios thus gathering round maestro? (8)
VIRTUOSO - VIRTU (O) SO.   'Virtu' refers to a group of artistic objects.   However, a 'maestro' is chiefly a conductor, while a 'virtuoso' is an instrumentalist.
19 Charge for carrying horse resting in shade (7)
TONNAGE - TON(NAG)E.
21 Release a French set finally missing end of prep (7)
UNCLASP - UN + CLAS[s] + [pre]P
22 Mature persons a police officer has arrested in the last month (6)
ADULTS - A D(ULT)S.   The officer is a Detective Sergeant, and the month is pre-WWI business English, now obsolete.
25 An achievement, having units of poetry recited (4)
FEAT - I believe this is supposed to sound like 'fit', even though speakers around the world use wildly different vowels in both words.   Er, sounds like 'feet'.   I sometimes miss an obvious one.

Mephisto 3049 - Don Manley

I made a pretty quick start on this but somehow got convinced that TAIAHA was not only a bird, which it is not, but fitted the wordplay at 21 down, which it certainly does not. Chalk it up to a big brain day for me!

Definitions can be confirmed in Chambers, and are generally not going to be explained. The first definition is underlined in each clue.

Away we go...

Across
1 Latin-American in USA cutting his grass (5)
PANIC - HISPANIC(Latin-American in USA) missing HIS. Second definition of GRASS in Chambers
5 Chief servant of explorer down under keeping quiet (7)
TAPSMAN - Abel TASMAN(explorer down under) containing P(quiet)
10 Element of sung Mass needs change — Latin omitted, American included (6)
EVOVAE - EVOLVE(change) with the L(Latin) removed, and A(american) inserted
11 The weather, listener admitted, is frightening (6)
SKEARY - SKY(the weather) containing EAR(listener)
12 Dublin’s crossword compiler? A dog! (11, two words)
IRISH SETTER - A crossword compiler in Dublin could be an IRISH SETTER
13 Essay don constructed about epic poem (8)
ODYSSEAN - anagram of ESSAY,DON
16 Plant with burs left in shelter (5)
CLOTE - L(left) in COTE(shelter)
17 Whole performance attracting little interest at first (6)
INTACT - ACT(performance) with INT(interest) before
18 Women beset by coldness of manner and fustiness (6)
FROWST - W(women) in FROST(coldness of manner)
20 Idler to gossip, therefore kept on the outside (6)
STALKO - TALK(gossip) with SO(therefore) surrounding it
23 One contemplating acquiring a rifle (6)
MAUSER - MUSER(one contemplting) containing A
26 This writer’s seen going around in brown fabric (5)
TAMIN - I'M(this writer's), reversed inside TAN(brown)
29 A supreme newly built temple (8)
SERAPEUM - anagram of A,SUPREME
30 Greasy stuff gets a young animal stuck in channel (11, two words)
GALAM BUTTER - A, LAMB(young animal) inside GUTTER(channel)
31 Good Swiss writer — rough judgement being “rarely read these days” (6)
GHESSE - G(good) then Herman HESSE, author of Steppenwolf amongst others. I had thought he was German but although he was born in Germany he lived much of his life in Switzerland
32 Silly person had briefly to be treated with medicated cloth once (6)
STUPED - STUPE(silly person), 'D
33 Black deer spotted in Scottish town (7)
JETHART - JET(black), HART(deer). A Gaelic term for JEDBURGH
34 Perform somersaults in river? A farce (5)
EXODE - DO(perform) reversed inside the river EXE

Down
1 Patronise silly supporter of former South American president (9)
PERONISTA - anagram of PATRONISE
2 Protein I had detected in a French wine (6)
AVIDIN - I'D(I had) inside A, VIN(French wine)
3 And also not wanting whisky — not needing to drink it (6, two words)
NOR YET - RYE(whisky) inside NOT
4 Strutting leader, idiot in that long garment (7)
CASSOCK - COCK(strutting leader) containing ASS(idiot)
5 The man wears casual shirt, making one chuckle (5)
TEHEE - HE(the man) inside a TEE shirt
6 Like, for instance, a metallurgical test (5)
ASSAY - AS(like), SAY(for instance)
7 Bristly clique of upper-class types, almost all bad (8)
SETULOUS - SET(clique), U(upper-class types), then LOUS(y) (bad)
8 One sailor and another endlessly depressed (6)
MATLOW - MAT(e) (sailor) LOW(depressed)
9 Old-fashioned awards as special treats (6)
ARETTS - anagram of TREATS
14 Antiseptic medic tries out, without sulphur content (9)
CETRIMIDE - anagram of MEDIC,TRIES without S(sulphur)
15 Fatty substance, as is evident in spiritual leader (8)
CALIPASH - AS inside CALIPH(spiritual leader)
19 Move to join another plane offering speed for carrying flyer (7)
RABATTE - RATE(speed) containin BAT(flyer) - a geometric plane
21 Suppressing exclamation of surprise, capture a rare bird (6)
TAKAHE - AH(expression of surprise) inside TAKE(capture)
22 Charm of a stubborn person taking time (6)
AMULET - A, MULE(stubborn person), T(time)
24 Hopes possibly to pen ewe finally? (6)
SHEEPO - anagram of HOPES containing the last letter of ewE... and all-in-one clue where the wordplay is also the definition of an Australian sheep herder
25 A Parisian female upset and embarrassed must be toughened up (6)
ENURED - UNE(one, in French) reversed, then RED(embarrassed)
27 Computer network used with little hesitation in physics unit (5)
WEBER - WEB(computer network) ER(little hesitation). The unit of magnetic flux
28 Female to deteriorate a bit once (5)
FRUST - F(female), next to RUST(deteriorate)

Sunday Times 4836 by Dean Mayer

24:39. A magnificent toughie from Dean this week, I thought. A lot of the difficulty here is in the definitions, which often use secondary and/or oblique meanings of words. As is often the case with this setter, there’s a lot of playing with word meanings to make unexpected connections and fool the solver. There are also some fairly obscure terms, some of which I knew but none of which sprang to mind with great ease, but everything is fairly clued and all in all I found this a really enjoyable and thoroughly satisfying solve. Proper crossword nourishment and just the sort of challenge I like to see on a Sunday.

There are a couple of Dean’s trademark simple but absolutely brilliant clues in here. 5dn is an absolute doozy, for instance: it’s a clue that gives the impression of having been not so much written as discovered. Great stuff.

So many thanks to Dean for a really superb puzzle, and here’s how I think it all works…

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

Across
1 I like this pub. It appears on some maps
ISOBAR - I, SO (like this), BAR. Weather maps, to be precise.
5 Old man’s weakness — old variety of pinball
PACHINKO - PA (old man), CHINK (weakness), O. I had never heard of this Japanese game so I had to rely on the wordplay. CHINK isn’t the first synonym for ‘weakness’ you’re likely to think of but the checking K was very helpful.
9 Waster wanting something worthwhile on the house
GOOD-FOR-NOTHING - GOOD (something worthwhile), FOR NOTHING (on the house).
10 Buzz first over moon
CALLISTO - CALL (buzz, as in ‘give me a buzz’), IST, O. Jupiter’s second largest moon.
11 Cellist gutted after awful show?
DIRECT - DIRE, CellisT. I’m not entirely sure about ‘show’ for DIRECT. Shouldn’t it be ‘show the way’ or something similar?
13 Drive home after accident, no doubt
FOR CERTAIN - FORCE, RTA, IN. RTA for ‘road traffic accident’ was new to me, but the answer was obvious.
15 Bullet shot
SLUG - DD. The second definition relates to whisky or similar.
16 Part of back is supporting neck
KISS - contained in ‘back is supporting’.
17 See prize increase
APPRECIATE - a triple definition, I think. To see the point, to appreciate, value, prize, and to increase in value.
18 Like skin turned out?
ASLEEP - AS, reversal of PEEL.
20 Stood our ground? Is that great?
OUTDOORS - (STOOD OUR)*. The great outdoors, of course.
22 Serious crime providing a dodgy dealer’s proceeds
CAPITAL OFFENCE - or CAPITAL (proceeds) OF FENCE (dodgy dealer).
24 Fly is not flying around dump
JETTISON - JET (fly), IS contained in a reversal of NOT.
25 Brownie hurt crossing river
SPRITE - SP(R)ITE. A couple of unusual equivalences made this one tricky for me: ‘hurt’ for SPITE (nothing wrong with it, just not immediately obvious) and the perhaps obscure ‘brownie’ for a type of elf or sprite who does household chores at night.

Down
2 Witnesses to rising sea, being at sea
SIGNATORIES - (TO RISING SEA)*. A slightly odd definition here, in that the SIGNATORIES to a contract are really distinct from the witnesses. But there’s no doubt that witnesses sign too!
3 Footwear accessories line, one stocked by chemist
BOOTLACES - BOOT(L, ACE)S. I wasted a bit of time here trying to think of famous chemists beginning with B (which I had from 1ac). I couldn’t make BOYLE fit and failed to come up with any others, before I saw the answer from the definition and it became clear that the less exalted meaning of the word was required.
4 In lift, hide American redhead
RUFUS - reversal (in lift) of FUR, then US. We had a dog called RUFUS when I was a kid. He was a black Labrador.
5 It is what it is
PERSONAL PRONOUN - because ‘it’ is one of these. Wonderful stuff.
6 Old measure made with wood?
CLOG DANCE - CD. I’m a bit puzzled by ‘old’ in this clue, but I suppose there’s no doubt that the CLOG DANCE is old by comparison to, say, the floss. Edit: actually I think it's the word 'measure' which is being described as old. Both Collins and ODO mark this meaning of the word (dance) as archaic.
7 One given task, mostly divine stuff!
ICHOR - I, CHORe.
8 Constant part of family
KIN - K (constant), IN (part of). K is the Boltzmann constant or the velocity constant. I suspect the former is intended because it’s in Collins (marked as American) and ODO whereas the latter is only in Chambers.
12 Pirate in combat announced attack
COUNTERFEIT - COUNTER (combat), sounds like ‘fit’ (attack).
14 Returns to harvest fruit
REAPPEARS - REAP PEARS.
15 His new right to keep name gets man over the line
SHIPOWNER - (HIS)*, POW(N)ER. ‘Shipping line’ is a term for a shipping company, so the ‘man over’ (in charge of) such a company would be…
19 Are spades blocking door?
EXIST - EXI(S)T.
21 Words in plural form
TIFFS - I think the idea here is just that having ‘words’ is having an argument, and TIFFS is a plural. Not the strongest clue in this puzzle, IMO. Edit: Nonsense! It's really very clever. 'Words' would give you TIFF. So TIFFS is the plural of 'words'. And the surface is about grammar. Now one of my favourite clues in the puzzle, so apologies to Dean
23 Fear the sound of a blade
AWE - sounds like ‘oar’. Cue a chorus of complaints from rhotic speakers and others. When I say these words they sound identical though, which is conclusive proof that the clue is sound.
A Jumbo that was straight as a die but at least the STAB in 13dn was nothing to do with pinks or punts this time. I seem to remember being held up at the end by the drug cocktail at 29dn/32ac for a bit at the end, no doubt due to my own innocent and clean-living nature. Clue of the Day to 34dn as I did like the misleading "hinder" for "back", in a puzzle that was mostly too Crosswords 101 for my personal tastes. Thanks to the setter, and hopefully this found an audience in those looking for a not too cryptically labour-intensive puzzle for their weekend!

ACROSS
1 Vessel has slate on lip (8)
SAUCEPAN - PAN [slate] on SAUCE [lip]

5 Settle down in Arsenal's opening match (6)
ALIGHT - A{rsenal} + LIGHT [match]

9 Calm down, please: official’s inside (4,3)
EASE OFF - hidden in {pl}EASE OFF{icial}

14 Modish poem contains a line on worker, perhaps without style (11)
INELEGANTLY - IN ELEGY [modish | poem] contains L [a line] on ANT [worker, perhaps]

15 Doctor knocked back drink, once again dispatched everywhere (11)
OMNIPRESENT - reversed M.O. [doctor] + NIP RE-SENT [drink | once again dispatched]

16 Confidence bound to be picked up (5)
TRUST - homophone of TRUSSED [bound]

17 Clouds having been formed containing radioactive element, note (7)
NEBULAE - (BEEN*) ["formed"] containing U LA [radioactive element | note]

18 Novel with fantastic genre to flog in bulletin (9)
NEWSFLASH - NEW [novel] with SF [fantastic genre] + LASH [to flog]

19 Abnormal sort of water in Derwent's banks (7)
DEVIANT - EVIAN [sort of water] in D{erwen}T

20 Send on deployment of troops, say, following Thirty Years War? (4-11)
POST-REFORMATION - POST RE FORMATION [send | on | deployment of troops, say]

22 Used to give support, at first (6-4)
SECOND-HAND - HAND [to give], SECOND [support] at first

23 Depict resistance fighters on edge, retreating (6)
MIRROR - R O.R. [resistance | fighters] on reversed RIM [edge]

25 Condescend to listen to EU citizen (4)
DANE - homophone of DEIGN [condescend]

28 Crazy whirl upstaging enchanting event? (9,5)
WALPURGIS NIGHT - (WHIRL UPSTAGING*) ["crazy"]

30 A lot of craft to satisfy a welcoming crowd (8)
FLOTILLA - FILL A [to satisfy | a] "welcoming" LOT [crowd]

32 Venomous man, a day tripper (8)
ACIDHEAD - ACID HE A D [venomous | man | a | day]

34 Hinder false advertiser, one offering advice (4-4,6)
BACK-SEAT DRIVER - BACK [hinder (as in, more hind)] + (ADVERTISER*) ["false"]

37 Make unclear, short publicity text (4)
BLUR - BLUR{b} ["short" publicity text]

38 Heartless fool screening film in old age (6)
NINETY - NI{n}NY ["heartless" fool] "screening" E.T. [film]

39 Admitting depression, crooks joining church recover (10)
CONVALESCE - "admitting" VALE [depression], CONS [crookes] joining CE [church]

43 Subject promises to settle coastal area, being quarrelsome (15)
CONTENTIOUSNESS - CONTENT IOU'S NESS [subject | promises to settle | coastal area]

45 Vain Englishman and American crossing river (7)
POMPOUS - POM [Englishman] and U.S. [American] "crossing" PO [river]

47 Mobile phone with charm and a reluctance to innovate? (9)
NEOPHOBIA - (PHONE*) ["mobile"] with OBI [charm] and A

49 Agreement to embrace John? Nothing is impossible (2,3,2)
NO CAN DO - NOD [agreement] to "embrace" CAN [john] + O [nothing]

51 Crustacean luckily protecting back bones (5)
ULNAE - hidden reversed in {crustac}EAN LU{ckily}

52 It's almost the end in sentence (4,7)
HOME STRETCH - HOME [in] + STRETCH [sentence]

53 The writer's to offer books without forethought (11)
IMPROVIDENT - I'M PROVIDE NT [the writer's | to offer | books]

54 Singular art including most blue (7)
SADDEST - S [singular] + ADDEST [(thou) art including]

55 Person managing to seize one unoriginal type (6)
COPIER - COPER [person managing] to "seize" I [one]

56 Kid by cool water experiencing heat (2,6)
IN SEASON - SON [kid] by IN SEA [cool | water]

DOWN
1 Awkward son went off the straight and narrow (7)
STILTED - S TILTED [son | went off the straight and narrow]

2 A French ass, say, mostly loud and clear (11)
UNEQUIVOCAL - UN [a French] + EQUI{d} [ass, say, "mostly"] + VOCAL [loud]

3 Reader's issue with English agreed by school (9)
EYESTRAIN - E YES [English | agreed] by TRAIN [school]

4 Unnatural profit, in a way, with vodka and beer? (7,3,5)
AGAINST THE GRAIN - GAIN [profit] in A ST [a | way] with THE GRAIN [vodka and beer (as opposed to THE GRAPE]

6 No republican initially changing sides? He won't (8)
LOYALIST - ROYALIST [no republican], changing his initial letter from R(ight) to L(eft), and becoming someone who won't change sides, in a semi-&lit kind of way.

7 Blooming head of theatre and choir take off (5,9)
GLOBE ARTICHOKE - GLOBE [theatre] + (CHOIR TAKE*) ["off"]

8 It helps musician to grin, with funk playing (6,4)
TUNING FORK - (TO GRIN + FUNK*) ["playing"]

9 Entitle army corps to pull back holding detainee (7)
EMPOWER - reversed REME [army corps] holding POW [detainee]

10 Note what's up in the papers? (5)
SHEAF - reverse all of FA EH'S [note | what's]

11 Frank, mostly sensible, is running (11)
OPERATIONAL - OPE{n} RATIONAL [frank, "mostly" | sensible]

12 Pretty female making an impression (8)
FETCHING - F ETCHING [female | making an impression]

13 Go crazy, in a spin (4)
STAB - reversed BATS [crazy]

20 Castigate attempt at humour, to a degree (6)
PUNISH - PUN ISH [attempt at humour | to a degree]

21 Go off northwards after car, I hear (7)
AUDITOR - reversed ROT [go off] after AUDI [car]

22 I'm not interested in female item of clothing (2,4)
SO WHAT - SOW HAT [female | item of clothing]

24 Maybe what could make inventor pour ale (8,7)
RELATIVE PRONOUN - (INVENTOR POUR ALE*) ["could make..."]

26 Inclusive approach gets old man aboard Britain's new vessel (14)
BIPARTISANSHIP - PA [old man] "aboard" (BRITAIN'S*) ["new"] + SHIP [vessel]

27 Children's writer's block has no end (6)
BARRIE - BARRIE{r} [block "has no end"]

29 Throw up, at first, on new drug (7)
UNHORSE - U{p} on N HORSE [new | drug]

31 Goddess, we're told, is like a carrier of blood (6)
VENOUS - homophone of VENUS [goddess]

33 One learner guided around in class is ignorant (3-8)
ILL-INFORMED - I L LED [one | learner | guided] around IN FORM [in | class]

35 Loveless letters penned by thick aristocrat (11)
VISCOUNTESS - N{o}TES ["loveless" letters] "penned" by VISCOUS [thick]

36 Pragmatic criminal in court takes fellow in (10)
UNROMANTIC - (IN COURT*) ["criminal"] takes MAN [fellow] in

40 Echo behind cattle car (9)
LIMOUSINE - E [Echo] behind LIMOUSIN [cattle]

41 Kind of leaves a prison in this way (8)
ACANTHUS - A CAN THUS [a | prison | in this way]

42 Responding with original, moving chapter (8)
REACTIVE - CREATIVE [original], moving its C [chapter] to a different place in the word

44 Not dressed in rubbish fabric (7)
TABARET - BARE [not dressed] in TAT [rubbish]

46 Two versions of small figure to placate (7)
SWEETEN - S WEE [two versions of small] + TEN [figure]

48 Eats meal briefly, in rush (5)
HASTE - HAS TE{a} [eats meal "briefly"]

50 Regularly in toupee? You must be joking (4)
NOPE - {i}N {t}O{u}P{e}E{e}
I wish I could say I "was brilliant" as per 9ac, but this one outlasted lunchtime for me, so a little harder than some I’d say.

For discussion purposes, the clue of the day will surely be 18dn. Has anyone seen this device before?  Otherwise a nice solve, although the long clues at 1ac and 1dn held me up. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, then wordplay. (ABC*) means 'anagram of ABC'. Deletions are in [square brackets].

Across
1 Fair idea, say, settled heretical one (14)
EGALITARIANISM: EG (say) / ALIT (landed) / ARIANISM (a heretical sect, familiar in this crossword club if rare elsewhere).

9 Was brilliant in golf, then made a mess (9)
GLITTERED: G for golf, LITTERED.

10 Community leader to go on endlessly (5)
RABBI: RABBIT endlessly.

11 Almost left magical place, back in wild (5)
GONZO: GON[e] (left, almost) / OZ backwards. I can’t imagine I would have much sympathy for Gonzo Journalism.

12 Fancy coral and gold adornment for the cloth (3,6)
DOG COLLAR: anagram (“fancy”) of (CORAL GOLD*).

13 Handle British money on tick (8)
MONICKER: MO (tick) / NICKER (British money: a nicker is a pound).

15 Quality of vessel with stone from the east (6)
TIPTOP: POT PIT all backwards (“from the east”).

17 Extra swell? Quite! (2-4)
NO-BALL: NOB (swell) / ALL (quite, as in “quite finished”). I didn’t realise this was today’s cricketing clue until the helpers showed the answer!

19 True love overwhelms singular stage hero (8)
PROSPERO: PROPER (true) / O (love), all “overwhelming” S (singular).The hero of The Tempest.

22 Drinks and drugs experience going both ways (5,4)
ROUND TRIP: ROUND (drinks) / TRIP (drugs experience).

23 Listen to the French horn (5)
BUGLE: BUG (listen to, usually secretly) / LE (“the” in French).

24 Mind introducing new terms (5)
NOUNS: N (new) in NOUS. “Nous” sounds more like “common sense” to me, but Shorter Oxford specifically includes “mind” as a definition.

25 Prying about the setter's conspicuous quality (9)
NOISINESS: I (the setter) in NOSINESS.

26 Supply moving elfin girl is present (8,6)
STOCKING FILLER: STOCK (supply) / anagram (“moving”) of (ELFIN GIRL*).


Down
1 Sign union's promised to hire staff somewhere in Herts (10,4)
ENGAGEMENT RING: ENGAGE MEN (hire staff) / TRING (somewhere in Herts). I should have got this sooner, with or without knowing there was such a town as TRING.

2 Rising star drinking mixed gin in European city (7)
AVIGNON: anagram (“mixed”) of (GIN*) in NOVA backwards (“rising”).

3 Keen on catching Mahler's last prelude (5)
INTRO: INTO (keen on) “catching” R, the last letter of [mahle]R.

4 Short notice to include game (8)
ABRIDGED: BRIDGE in AD.

5 Like ring topped with cool colour (6)
INDIGO: IN (cool) / DIG (like) / O (ring). Assembled as instructed.

6 Drugs business jerks earlier sped up (9)
NARCOTICS: NAR (RAN is sped, “up”) / CO (business) / TICS (jerks). Again, assembled as directed.

7 Replacement programme drops current story (7)
SUBPLOT: SUB (replacement) / P[i]LOT (programme, dropping “I” for current).

8 Cook comes with crisp or golden chip (14)
MICROPROCESSOR: anagram (“cooks”) (COMES CRISP OR*) / OR (golden).

14 Copper on drug affair turned up dead ends (4-2-3)
CULS-DE-SAC: CU (copper) / LSD (drug) / ESAC =CASE (affair) “turned up”.

16 Saturated fat (8)
DRIPPING: double definition.

18 Fit to include half of rulers’ praise (7)
BOUQUET: BOUT (fit) holding half of QUE[ens’]. Unusual to see part of the wordplay involving a double transformation: first change “rulers” to QUEENS, then cut it in half. Is this kosher?

20 For one leader of gang, place for punishment that could become life? (3,4)
EGG CELL: EG (say) / G[ang] (the “leader”) / CELL (place for punishment). I got hung up thinking the second word would be HELL.

21 State of book, one containing old letter (6)
BRUNEI: B (book) / RUNE (old letter) / I (one).

23 Coming round, I love British or Russian food (5)
BLINI: I / NIL (love) / B (British), all “coming round” (backwards).
 

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