• jackkt

Times Cryptic 27740

I had problems with this one and needed to set it aside for a short time before returning to it with renewed energy. In the end I got through it without resorting to aids, but I came pretty close to giving in at one stage.

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  • vinyl1

Times 27739 - What Uncle Toby was looking for?

Time: 45 minutes
Music: Albeniz, Iberia

I was definitely off the wavelenght here, and struggled with a lot of the clues.    There is a lot of original cluing here, which makes it difficult to lean on your vast experience and put in the same answer you have put in many times before.    I had a fair idea how most of the clues worked after reading them, but I still took a long time to find the answer.   Having an idea or two does help when you get a checker, which often results in getting nowhere for 20 minutes and then having the answers pour in during the final 10.

Still, it should not have been that hard, and I would not be surprised if the SNITCH ends up at an even 100 or less. 

1 Spark is appropriate around Scottish chimney, on reflection (8)
STIMULUS - SU(LUM)ITS, all backwards.   At least I got lum quickly enough.
6 Uninspired old head of BBC grasping pen? On the contrary (6)
STODGY - ST(O D.G)Y.   I put in the answer, erased it, and then saw how it worked and put it back in.
9 Supporting company agreement after some strain? That is indicator of future prospects (7,6)
FORTUNE COOKIE - FOR + TUNE + CO OK + I.E.   I couldn't read my own K, and thought the second element must be course for a long time.
10 This is the ultimate in blasphemy? (6)
HERESY -  HERE'S Y.    A nice &lit, and a very clever clue.
11 Objective of female coming on board for departures (4-4)
13 Activist theatrical in rage, going wild (10)
15 Unemployed one gets appropriate payment, nothing less (4)
IDLE - I + D[o]LE.
16 Suggestion assistant should postpone article (4)
IDEA - AIDE with the A moved to the end - an inversion of this clue appeared in a recent Mephisto.
18 See Yorkshire river beside event in Sheffield, say (5,5)
LOCAL DERBY - LO + CALDER + BY, a river I've never heard of, but the obvious answer.
21 No shift involving doctor in thirty days (8)
22 Unequivocal gossip gets investment from City (6)
23 What produces reduction of scale in floods more frequently (5,8)
25 Mark, my son, turned to run, losing time (6)
SYMBOL - MY S backwards + BOL[t]
26 Hitch after cat does for small performer (3,5)
TOM THUMB - TOM + THUMB in entirely different senses.
2 Delicate stuff, oil turning up on cheese (7)
TAFFETA - FAT upside-down on FETA.     They're using fat for oil a lot these days, even thought they're not exactly the same thing.
3 Horse carrying pack let loose in town square (11)
4 Start of last over — our players end in ignominy, being dreadful (5)
LOUSY - L(ast) + O + US + [ignomin}Y
5 Family member hurries to get rid of it (7)
6 A French duke brought in twenty pounds for a rascal (9)
7 Reasonable to secure a source of wood (3)
OAK -  O(A)K, a Quickie clue.
8 Ear about to sense upset with great pleasure (7)
GLEEFUL -  LU(FEEL)G, all upside-down.
12 Conciliatory gesture, as it happens, in outside broadcast on farm (5,6)
14 Prejudiced and wrong about African country from which one’s deported (9)
ILLIBERAL - IL(LIBER[i]A)L, where ill is not the first word you think of when you see wrong.
17 Behave as we do after ignoring University opening (7)
19 Vehicle staying outside reduced opening in garage (7)
CARPORT - CAR(POR[t])T.   In the US, at least, a carport is different from a garage, but the cryptic gives you the obvious answer.
20 Coarse stuff from males (7)
BUCKRAM - BUCK + RAM, a cheastnut.
22 Corporation supporting US lawyer in fact (5)
DATUM - DA + TUM, another chestnut.
24 Flutter taken up? There’s an amount to pay (3)
TAB - BAT backwards, one we had recently in the Quickie.

QC 1675 by Orpheus

Sorry, nothing at all to say this week except look at the explanations below. I can't stand this awful weather where every keystroke is a miniature expenditure of energy too far so I'm bailing out as quickly as possible.

The usual statistics: FOI 1A, a straight read and write clue. LOI I can't honestly remember but think it might have been 19A. I could see the answer but had to wade through the geographcical cryptic (never my strong point) before writing it in so I think that pushed it back in the queue. As usual for the COD there is no clue that stands out for difficulty so I normally just pick the one whose surface reads most naturally and this week the award goes to 9A. Thanks Orpheus for an entertaining puzzle that was probably about the same medium level of difficulty as the last one I blogged two weeks ago (and just a bit more difficult than the run of very easy fare that I had encountered in the previous few weeks).

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

1 Appreciative, having this much coal? (8)
GRATEFUL - having a GRATEFUL of coal. (The question mark indicates that you wouldn't normally talk about a 'GRATEFUL' of something, but the possibility can be derived by comparison with established phrases such as a POCKETFUL of mumbles or a SACKFUL of woe).
5 About to demand a strong wooden barrel (4)
CASK - C (circa, about) + ASK (demand).
7 Bag for Falstaff’s wine! (4)
SACK - double definition. Shakespeare's degenerate knight Sir John Falstaff was renowned for his love of SACK, a dry white wine popular at the time.
8 One who conveys news about alcoholic drink (8)
REPORTER - RE (about) PORTER (alcoholic drink).
9 Wobbly: lacking capacity to cross street (8)
UNSTABLE - UNABLE (lacking capacity) 'to cross' ST (street).
11 Reportedly outstanding lyric poem (3)
ODE - Sounds like ('reportedly') OWED (outstanding).
13 Mistakes made by English kings at start of actions (6)
ERRATA - E (English) + RR (kings) + AT + A (start of Action).
16 Groans frightfully, finding skirtlike garment (6)
SARONG - straight anagram ('frightfully') of GROANS.
18 Scottish port involved in Hogmanay revels (3)
AYR - hidden word: 'involved in' hogmanAY Revels.
19 The commercial centre of Banbridge, for example? (8)
DOWNTOWN - Banbridge is a town in County Down, NI, and is therefore a 'DOWN TOWN'.
20 Put off carrying container, a stoppered glass (8)
DECANTER - DETER (put off) 'carrying' CAN (a container).
22 Unemployed superstar given a hearing (4)
IDLE - sounds like ('given a hearing') IDOL (superstar).
23 Boss demanding endless academic application (4)
STUD - academic application = STUDy - remove the end ('endless') and there you have it.
24 Former exam relating to rural life (8)
PASTORAL - PAST (former) + ORAL (exam).
1 Signal from visitor dropping union leader on river (7)
GESTURE - GUEST (visitor) 'dropping' U (Union leader) 'on' (in this down clue) URE (river).
2 A northern church’s attempt to establish origin (8)
ANCESTRY - A + N (northern) + CE'S (church's) + TRY (attempt).
3 Troublemaker sacked for pinching grain husks (9)
FIREBRAND - FIRED (sacked) 'pinching' BRAN (grain husks).
4 Cut Liszt’s first work (3)
LOP - L (Liszt's first) + OP (opus, work).
5 Abrupt old Republican ringing a museum boss (7)
CURATOR - CURT (abrupt) + O (old) + R (republican) 'ringing' A.
6 Pacify son, very small, just into double figures (7)
SWEETEN - S (son) + WEE (very small) + TEN (just into double figures).
10 Unhappy as steward, going in this direction? (9)
EASTWARDS - straight anagram ('unhappy') of AS STEWARD.
12 Well-meaning type taking pet initially over European river (2-6)
DO-GOODER - DOG (pet) + O ('initially' Over) + ODER (European river).
14 First-class male in torn clothing (7)
RAIMENT - AI (first-class) + M (male) 'in' RENT (torn).
15 A Royal Marines orchestra’s form of identification (7)
ARMBAND - A + RM (Royal Marines) + BAND (orchestra).
17 Refined chap set up shelter (7)
GENTEEL - GENT (chap) + EEL (LEE (shelter) reversed, i.e. 'set up' in this down cue).
21 Most superior upper garment (3)
TOP - double definition.

Mephisto 3127 - Don Manley

Greetings all - this was a rather fun puzzle from Don Manley, and I can only see a little bit of scribble in my grid where I had an original incorrect answer at 5 down (I think I confiently put in PRIMPS thinking that PIMPS were abbreviations for PIMPERNELS.

It is an elegant grid this week with 90 degree symmetry.

Definitions (the most obvious of which is underlined) can be confirmed in Chambers, so I am going to be focusing on the wordplay in this blog.

Away we go...

1 Tree with a pole (6)
WABOOM - W(with), A, BOOM(pole)
5 More and more you’ll see this Maori skirt (6)
PIUPIU - PIU(more in music) twice
9 In speech girl favouring a rhetorical device (8)
ANAPHORA - sounds like ANNA(girl), FOR(favouring), A
11 Break up resistance fighting with doom all around (11)
FRACTIONATE - R(the symbol used for resistance in some physics equations), ACTION(fighting) inside FATE(doom)
13 Bishop grabbed by fascinating woman coming round in animal skin (6)
NEBRIS - B(bishop) inside SIREN(fascinating woman) reversed
14 Islander to become ill reportedly (5)
SICAN - sounds like SICKEN
16 Part of England known to Scots (4)
KENT - KEN(known) and 'T
17 Fish landed ultimately on short vessel (6)
DARTER - last letter of landeD, then ARTERY(vessel) missing the last letter
18 Most wise and godly person having a long time inside (6)
SAGEST - ST(saint, godly person) with AGES(a long time) inside
19 According to nature, uncertain or doubtful (6)
SNIFFY - SN(secundum naturam, according to nature), IFFY(uncertain)
22 Religious code of unorthodox maharishi? Not him, somehow (6)
SHARIA - anagram of MAHARISHI minus HIM
25 Fencer’s cry when repeatedly coming back (4, two words)
SA SA - AS(when) reversed twice
27 Organic compound, one to dig out (5)
IMINE - I(one), next to MINE(dig out)
28 Fellow in Highland attire keeping cold and unemotional (6)
PLACID - PLAID(highlander) with C(cold) inside
29 Like a sort of belief — isn’t it cheap somehow? (11)
30 Sacred travelling around about biblical city? I fought for that (8)
CRUSADER - anagram of SACRED containing UR(biblical city) reversed
31 Feature of test — learner has problem get round nailing it (6)
LITMUS - L(leaner) then SUM(problem) reversed containing IT
32 Fabric getting chaps in tangle? The opposite (6)
MOREEN - ORE(tangle) in MEN(chaps)
1 Hooligan after fighting could be this? (6)
WARNED - NED(hooligan) after WAR(fighting)
2 Rendering corrupt couple of musical sections, I celebrate (11)
BARBARISING - the musical section is a BAR, repeat that and add I SING(celebrate)
3 Abstract style of old district (5, two words)
OP ART - O(old), PART(district)
4 Sort me out — big windfall needed? (6)
MOTSER - anagram of SORT ME for a lovely piece of Aussie slang to go with the ART UNION from a few weeks ago
5 Freshens up flowers with water finally poured in (6)
PRINKS - PINKS(dianthus flowers) containing the last letter of wateR
6 Gay rarely getting heard (6)
URNING - sounds like EARNING(getting)
7 Wooden decoration from India artisan fashioned (8)
INTARSIA - I(india) then an anagram of ARTISAN
8 Lots of online groups offering advice to fisherman? (6)
USENET - the advice is USE NET. One of the first places I learned to solve cryptic clues was rec.puzzles.crosswords back in about 1987
10 Mostly support unusual rice diet as contribution to healthy living (11)
BACTERICIDE - BACK(support) mising the last letter, then an anagram of RICE,DIET
12 Fabric that’s fine for hanging up (4)
CIRE - the fine is ERIC, reversed
15 May I moan about people now being deprived of their forests? (8)
YANOMAMI - anagram of MAY,I,MOAN
19 Botanical bit left below stalk (6)
STIPEL - L(left) under STIPE(stalk)
20 Enthusiast, little man being under this illusion (6)
FANTOM - FAN(enthusiast) with TOM(little man) below
21 German attendants could be greasy (6)
YAGERS - anagram of GREASY
22 Shell, one covered in nasty spume (6)
SEPIUM - I(one) inside an anagram of SPUME
23 Time off in German region half wasted (4)
HOLS - half of HOLSTEIN(German region)
24 Sort of wooden local dignitary to put mum off (6)
ALDERN - the local dignitary is an ALDERMAN, remove MA(mum)
26 Leaves Arabia or just one of its countries (5)
QATAR - QAT(tea leaves), AR(arabia)

Sunday Times 4914 by Robert Price - source for the gander

12:28. Another really entertaining puzzle from Bob this week. I particularly liked 12ac, with its deceptive wordplay, and the cryptic definitions. These often attract negative comment but I thought both examples in the long down clues were excellent.

There will no doubt be the usual discussion about homophones like that in 3dn, which works for non-rhotic speakers like me but not for others. If homophones are unacceptable on that basis though they would have to be banished entirely, which would certainly make setters’ lives harder.

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (TIHS)*, anagram indicators are in italics.

1 Fraud helping to hide bank payment
10 Wife’s left at Crewe, due to change train again
11 Share clobber
WHACK - DD. I think of the first sense as just meaning a (large) amount. When intended to mean a share it is usually (always?) preceded by the word 'fair'. Close enough, anyway.
12 Relative of Bonnie wanting half the case about Clyde
NIECE - tricky wordplay here: bonNIE (Bonnie wanting half), ClydE (the case about Clyde). Super clue.
13 One from a huge range of greetings from Kuala Lumpur?
HIMALAYAN - HI, MALAYAN (from Kuala Lumpur?). Note the question mark indicating a definition by example, because there are other places in Malaysia. Unnecessary IMO.
14 VIPs and why they stand at the bar?
NOTABLES - they stand at the bar because there are…
16 Cold youth crossing a river shows great bottle
CARBOY - C(A, R), BOY. This word for a large bottle was familiar but only very vaguely so I needed the wordplay.
19 Cream unfinished fish is next to
20 All over pong surrounds one type of cheese
HALLOUMI - H(ALL, O)UM, I. Aka squeaky cheese, excellent grilled on a barbecue. What did the cheese say when it saw itself in the mirror?
22 Inclined to admit suspect is a mugger
ASSAILANT - ASLANT containing (IS A)*. Another DBE, this time with no indication.
24 Live dance music
BEBOP - BE, BOP (dance).
25 Anxiety about old man’s housing
DREAD - D(RE)AD. This clue uses the same deceptive construction to indicate containment as 20ac.
26 Keep going private say, only with 50 per cent off
27 Who really has the power in emergencies at sea?
2 Work by a setter disguised as light entertainment
3 Nerve of informant in speaking out
SAUCE - sounds like ‘source’. Cue howls of outrage from rhoticists everywhere.
4 The last place one would retire to
5 Loveless, your home turned cold and damp
6 Drier beginning to leak oil mixed with water
TOWEL RAIL - (Leak OIL WATER)*. I was a bit puzzled by this because a towel is a drier, but quis siccat ipsos siccates? As they don't say in Latin.
7 Organ and piano ultimately are not the same
OVARY - pianO, VARY.
8 Providers of support for those with decreasing work?
IRONING BOARDS - CD. I initially thought the second word here would be STANDS, so I put that in, and then when I realised the first word was IRONING I almost didn’t reconsider it, which would have left me with IRONING STANDS. Fortunately I noticed in the nick of time that this was nonsense.
9 Being unsuited, out of one’s depth perhaps?
SKINNY-DIPPING - another CD, and another good one.
15 Unwell, ordered to swallow tablet by doctor
17 Singers of music, keeping time
BLUEBIRDS - BLUE(BIRD)S. ‘Time’ in the prison sense here.
18 You might chew this gum, eating badly
21 Stepping up to pluck the last fruit
RAISIN - RAISINg. Slight MER at ‘fruit’ as a definition here. It is a fruit of course, but the dried characteristic strikes me as pretty fundamental.
23 Cook leaves handwritten text about sandwiches
STEAM - reversal of MS (manuscript) containing TEA (leaves). I got a bit confused here because I considered STEAM but thought that ‘sandwiches’ was indicating ‘tea’, which made it rather tricky to parse the rest.
24 Pipe band’s top revolutionary resistance song
BRIAR - Band, reversal of R, AIR. Also spelled BRIER sometimes, so watch out!

Times Cryptic Jumbo 1451 - I'll have an onion bhaji and some Bombay potatoes please

A perfectly good Jumbo of standard difficulty, for me at least.  I got a little bit stuck on a few at the bottom but still finished in about 40 minutes.  There were some nice touches and a lot of the GK was familiar from previous puzzles. First in was AROUSED and last was EXPONENTS.

If any of my explanations don't make sense then feel free to ask for further elucidation.

Clues are in blue with the definition undelined.  Anagram indicators are in bold italics.


DD: Double definition

CD: Cryptic definition

DDCDH: DD/CD hybrid where a straight definition is combined with a cryptic hint.

&Lit:  "all in one" where the entire clue is both definition and wordplay.

(fodder)* denotes an anagram of the letters in the brackets.

Rounded brackets are also used to add further clarity

Squiggly brackets {} indicate parts of a word not used

Deletions are struck out

Square brackets [] expand an abbreviation or shortening like N[orth]



Athlete runs and runs past point of no return (5)

RACER - R[uns] the R[uns again after ACE.  I liked "point of no return" for ACE.


Purpose encompassed by a stick was stirring (7)



Stupid to accept degree in dialect? (9)



What’s just the thing for the papers? It won't detain court long! (9)

BRIEFCASE - DDCDH  - a brief legal case hearing would be short.


Start off shining, having taken job in tap room? (9,4)



There's no way out of it — this setter's had his day (7)



Spectators compete with bets, blowing silver (7)



“Caught in flying saucer”, he claims (7)

ACCUSER - C[aught] in (saucer)*


Dog lacking ears helps in coursing (4,7,7)

KING CHARLES SPANIEL - (lacking ears helps in)*


Religion without saints returns to African nation (4)

MALI - reversal of ISLAM reversed without S[aints]


Fashionable food store with non-U sort of cheese that can't be got rid of (9)



Looking back, Gap creator sums up (6)

RECAPS - SPACER reversed


Allow fictional computer to become deadly (6)

LETHAL - LET, HAL (from 2001 A Space Odyssey)


One on world tour putting foot on ball (12)

GLOBETROTTER - TROTTER on (after in an across clue) GLOBE


Sack builder who keeps lighting up compulsively? (4-6)



Spoke about new education sector that's free (10)

UNFETTERED - UTTERED around N[ew], F[urther] E[ducation]. Untrammelled is a better word.


Fold following disastrous collapse — it encapsulates English (4,2,6)

FALL TO PIECES - F[ollowing], (collapse it)* around E[nglish]


Westerly to dry fish (6)

TURBOT - TO BRUT reversed


Cash machine charge capped to maximum (2,4)

AT MOST - ATM, cOST. (In case you can't make that out it's COST beheaded).  Don't you hate it when you get to the ATM machine outside the TSB bank and can't remember your PIN number or the sun is shining on the LCD display?


Such as "No standing at the bottom!" in playground? Pupils understood this once! (5,4)



Relative's 'angout (4)



Hung fire, putting life in the balance? (9,9)



Helping of coffee airline sent back (7)

ABETTAL - reversal of LATTE B[ritish] A[irways]


Unleavened bread, brown, for one into self-denial? (7)



Potato pest perhaps keeping its distance (7)

ALOOFLY - ALOO FLY.  Very good indeed.


Would a second cup of this be appropriate? (7,6)



Make hit plays, then perform opera (3,6)

THE MIKADO - (make hit)*, DO


Old writers include two separate notes for those providing explanation (9)

EXPONENTS - EX, POETS with N N bunged in (unadjacent as indicated by separate).  At first I was trying to spot what notes were contained in PENS.


Content fits badly in Express (7)

SATISFY - (fits)* in SAY


Cultivated meadow's beginning to go after variable output (5)

YIELD - fIELD after Y



Funny parasite found under bone on fish (3-8)

RIB-TICKLING - TICK squeezed between RIB and LING


Brisk constable arresting gentleman from the south (5)

CRISP - reversal of SIR in P.C.


Don't put money in plate for rubbish service (6,10)

REFUSE COLLECTION - DDCDH based around a church collection


Scared, run away onto a public walk (7)

ALAMEDA - ALArMED, A.  A Spanish term for a tree-lined path or road, remembered from previous puzzles.


Set too much store by usefulness of deliveries? (9)



Movie world's barrier against old people? (6,6)



Persisted rudely holding Conservative in contempt (10)

DISRESPECT - (persisted)* around C[onservative]


Edited Times articles (5)

ITEMS - (Times)*


I found a partner to adopt computer business, and took off (8)



Endless spiritual ceremony, involving smoke rising and charms (6)

MAGICS - MASs around a reversal of CIG[arette].  Charm / magic as a verb.


The right way is for everyone to be premier (9)

TAOISEACH - TAO, IS, EACH. Every time I encounter a clue for the auld tea-chuck I promise myself I'll remember it so I know how to spell the bally word.  Of course I never do.


Provide support in early stage of life (11)



Capital movements no longer available, becomes dormant (4,3)

NODS OFF - NODS, OFF. Capital as in "relating to the head", off as in "baked beans are off", "I'll have spam instead of the baked beans then".


Union's a joke, mounting case with no right (7)

NUPTIAL - PUN reversed, TrIAL


Nephew's 21st perhaps has hallmark of largest party? (8,8)

RELATIVE MAJORITY - When you're 21 you reach "majority" and a nephew is a relative, so...  RM is an excess number of votes won in an election over a runner-up when no candidate has more than 50%


Indian appetizer picked up for one performing lighter work (6)

BARGEE - sounds like bhaji, a lighter being a barge


Oil know-how picked up in northern India (6)

NEROLI - LORE reversed in N[orthern] I[ndia]


Picked up shirt, left around, to get crown (7)

TREETOP - TEE in PORT all reversed.


Devils yield to temptation, sacrificing maiden on island (7)

SUCCUBI - SUCCUMB without M[aiden] on I[sland


Abuse of whisky to gobble up 20% of money through regular payment (12)

MALTREATMENT - MALT, EAT M{oney} in RENT.  If you see whisky without the E it shouldn't lead you to W from the phoentic alphabet.  This is the second time it has led to MALT in recent puzzles.


Soldier upholding extremist position in spectrum? (11)

ULTRAMARINE - MARINE under ULTRA.  I bet I wasn't the only one to biff ULTRAVIOLET and give myself problems in the SW corner.


Coppers getting offer in barber's shop? (7,4)

SWEENEY TODD - DD, "offer" as in "someone who offs' = killer.  For the uninitiated SWEENEY TODD is the nickname for the Flying Squad (CRS I think).


Plan to invade hills in US winds up? On the contrary (10)



Seconds of bean feast? (7-2)



Deer at the bottom becomes motionless (9)

STAGNATES - STAG, NATES. I've only ever comes across NATES in crosswords.


Ball fired at the crease producing report (8)

BULLETIN - BULLET (ball fired), IN (as in batting)


German spy's confession perhaps lacking right figures of speech (7)

IMAGERY - I'M A GERrY.  I spent too long looking for a word beginning ICH.


Provincial theatre etc facing up to pressure (6)

STRAIN - N[orthern] Ireland] ARTS


Leader of prayers has obligations for devout (5)

PIOUS - P[rayers], I.O.U.s


Surround female and male sheep with pen after shearing (5)

FRAME - F[emale], RAM, pEn

  • brnchn

Times Cryptic No 27732 - Saturday, 1 August 2020. Feast your eyes on these 7dns.

This felt like a typical Saturday offering. When solving on paper, I often look at the clues at the bottom of the page first, and so my FOI was 25dn. I didn’t know the reference at 4dn, but I chuckled when I looked it up!  Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Notes for newcomers: The Times offers prizes for Saturday Cryptic Crosswords. This blog is posted a week later, after the competition closes. So, please don’t comment here on the current Saturday Cryptic.

Clues are blue, with definitions underlined. Deletions are in {curly brackets}.

1 In communist land, conservative almost a sitting duck, perhaps (9)
INCUBATOR – IN CUBA, TOR{Y}. A cute definition: the duck is sitting on a clutch of eggs.
6 Holding this to drink in study? (3,2)
MUG UP – double definition, one literal, the second metaphorical.
9 Drawing room? (7)
ATELIER – cryptic definition … rather unsatisfying, I thought, because I saw the answer early on but wasn’t comfortable until the crossing letters confirmed it.
10 In hearing, judiciously consider African country excellent (3,2,2)
WAY TO GO – WAY sounds like WEIGH, TOGO is in Africa.
11 Constant, endless mob in Circle Line (5)
CHORD – C is the constant, HORD{E} is the mob.
12 Dear old husband maybe mulling things over (9)
EXPENSIVE – EX (old husband, maybe), PENSIVE.
14 Become hard, as quiz questions are? (3)
SET – double definition.
15 Improbable promise of high tea? (3,2,3,3)
PIE IN THE SKY – we’ve seen this idea recently. Now as then, people may question how likely airline food is to feature pies!
17 Seriously engage old aeroplane with no luggage (4,2,5)
COME TO GRIPS – COMET, O, GRIPS. Apparently, the de Havilland DH 106 Comet was the world's first commercial jet airliner.
19 His poetry no-go, his prose uneven? (3)
POE – two forms of wordplay: the odd/uneven letters of P-r-O-s-E, or dropping TRY (go) from POE{TRY}; and a literal definition which seems a rather unkind assessment of his writings!
20 Paid for part of education, covered by two features of card (7,2)
CHIPPED IN – credit cards feature a CHIP and a PIN. Let them cover ED.
22 Gas is round precinct (5)
OZONE – O (round), ZONE (precinct).
24 Like the M25, said to have got built in at intervals (7)
ORBITAL – again, take the odd letters, this time of B-u-I-l-T, and put them in ORAL.
26 Rabbit is more carefree (7)
BLITHER – two definitions: a verb  pronounced with a short I and meaning ‘talk nonsense’, the other an adjective with a long I meaning ‘happier’.

I struggled with the first definition, because I could only think of BLATHER, but the dictionary says BLATHER, BLITHER and BLETHER are all variants of the same word! I took some reassurance from the expression blithering idiot.
27 One appearing in Wagner partial to Bayreuth agent (5)
HAGEN – hidden answer. I didn’t know the character, but he appears in Götterdämmerung, the fourth and last of Wagner's Ring cycle.
28 From a foreign capital, your biscuit (9)
ABERNETHY – A BERNE, THY. Thank you, setter, for spelling this out!

1 One article put in bag, not the last for boy (5)
ISAAC – I (one), then A (article) put in SAC{K}.
2 Smoke rings in rock (7)
CHEROOT – OO (rings) in CHERT.
3 Secures trophy, pocketing pounds? I can’t see it (5,4)
BLIND SPOT – BINDS, POT ‘securing’ L (pounds).
4 The race of Man? (5-6)
THREE-LEGGED – a cryptic definition, with reference to the flag of the Isle of Man. Cute!
5 Top of hill, not the first in series (3)
ROW – BROW, without its first.
6 Old Mexican’s refusal in the morning to get up (5)
MAYAN – NAY in the AM, all needing to “get up” backwards.
7 Guinea’s principal parrots are beauties (7)
GLORIES – G{UINEA}, LORIES. Lorrikeets I know, LORIES I don’t, but apparently they are related.
8 Convert polyester into a new form (9)
PROSELYTE – anagram of POLYESTER. I assumed ‘convert’ was the anagram indicator as I shoved this in, but no … it’s the definition, and ‘new form’ is the indicator.
13 Writers on island puffed endlessly, entitled to payment (11)
PENSIONABLE – PENS (writers), IONA (island), BLE{W} endlessly.
14 Drop brainless type at end of match that may precede Ashes (9)
SACKCLOTH – SACK (drop … a cricketer perhaps). CLOT, {MATC}H. I liked the definition, referring to ‘sackcloth and ashes’!
16 Scholar may disappear into thin air: so? (9)
HISTORIAN – anagram of THIN AIR SO. ‘May disappear into’ is a very unusual anagram indicator.
18 Result once of the functioning of the Dartmoor sewers (7)
MAILBAG – cryptic definition. Apparently prisoners in Dartmoor Prison used to sew mailbags.
19 Support the mad OT character (7)
PROPHET – PROP (support), anagram of THE.
21 Head needs name plate (5)
PATEN – PATE (head), N{ame}.
23 Like an aristocrat, could one say, ahead of his time? (5)
EARLY – an Earl might at a stretch be described as earl-y? We had a pun on earl-y only a few months ago.
25 Tragic character (not Romeo!) that’s slowly trampled by the herd (3)
LEA – LEA{R} is of course the character. The definition refers to Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Quick Cryptic 1674 by Pedro

Nine minutes for me, probably towards the harder end of the spectrum. 1ac and 3dn held me up. 8 dn made me smile.

1 See both wandering into shops, identifying store for a later date (8)
MOTHBALL - anagram ('wandering') of BOTH inside MALL (shops)
5 Female with weapon in ranch? (4)
9 Strength is recalled not having been used? (5)
SINEW - IS backwards + NEW
10 Keen character at the end showing envy after Judge departs (7)
ZEALOUS - Z (character at the end) + JEALOUS minus J for judge
11 Fast-moving pedestrian waves and runs beyond girl (6-6)
13 Analyse speed of light, getting astronomical distance (6)
15 A great many nod off when presented to bridge team (6)
DOZENS - DOZE + N + S (north and south who are a team in bridge)
17 Unprecedented cut in money received by story (12)
20 Wrecked ship? Curiously intact when one’s boarded (7)
TITANIC - anagram ('curiously') of INTACT + I
21 Silly how love and hate both end (5)
INANE - Both words end IN AN 'E'
22 I will leave New Zealand people, returning to travel (4)
ROAM - MAORI backwards minus I
23 Experts favoured limiting constant expectation (8)
PROSPECT - PROS + PET with C inside

1 Chaos seen in Times Square (4)
MESS - hidden word: tiMES Square
2 Brown to depart for a dance (5)
3 Risk enveloping crazier fellows in confusion (12)
BEWILDERMENT - risk is BET, with WILDER MEN inside
4 Point in Cornwall where you’ll see reptile (6)
LIZARD - Double definition
6 A holy man enthralled by E European religious emissary (7)
APOSTLE - A + ST (holy man) inside POLE
7 Be suspicious of some nonconformist rusticated (8)
MISTRUST - hidden word: nonconforMIST RUSTicated
8 To support Conservative in boast is wrong as a reassertion of standards (4,2,6)
BACK TO BASICS - BACK + anagram ('wrong') of BOAST IS with C inside.
12 Small book producer, one doing a run (8)
14 Cheese: actor appearing upset with it (7)
RICOTTA - anagram ('upset') of ACTOR + IT
16 Impudence, sitting on mother’s last item of crockery (6)
SAUCER - SAUCE (impudence) + R (last of 'mother')
18 Permission to go (5)
LEAVE - double definition
19 Run and hide (4)
PELT - double definition

Times 27,737: Gegs Benicted

I wouldn't describe this as super-hard, but it passed Friday muster at least by the standards of this gentle week, with some interesting and amusing constructions amidst a fair few quite straightforward compatriots. I mostly liked the reverse cryptic in 5dn, the elegant cleverness of 26ac, and definition part of the day definitely goes to 18dn. There was also just enough of a GK component about this puzzle to satisfy me; for all of which, thank you, setter!

1 Forced to accept order under contract (8)
PROMISED - PRISED [forced] to accept OM [order (of merit)]

9 Several deliveries arrived crushed (8)
OVERCAME - OVER CAME [several deliveries | arrived]. FOI

10 Briefly turn down side road (4)

11 Performing insect begged for food (4,8)
EGGS BENEDICT - (INSECT BEGGED*). Took me awhile to shake the idea of FLEA something...

13 Decrepit little bird found on step (4,2)
PAST IT - TIT found on PAS. SOI

14 Ravel's standpoint on hospital discipline? (8)
ENTANGLE - if you have an E.N.T. (Ears, Nose & Throat) ANGLE...

15 Weak, though extremely willing (7)
THREADY - T{houg}H + READY. A thready pulse is a weak one, apparently.

16 A dry agency worker's parting shot (7)
ATTEMPT - A TT [a | dry], "parted" by TEMP

20 I'll appear in another novel, perhaps (8)
ANTIHERO - I, "appearing in" (ANOTHER*), semi-&lit. If all novels contained antiheroes this would've been an &lit!

22 Adjust to correct position, touching bottom (6)
RESEAT - RE [touching] + SEAT [bottom]. I started with REBASE in here and this ended up my LOI.

23 Riskily meddle in passionate drama? (4,4,4)
PLAY WITH FIRE - which could alternative be a PLAY that has some FIRE in it

25 Italian banker's Oscar-nominated part (4)
ARNO - hidden in {osc}AR-NO{minated}. A Tuscan river (you can certainly bank on rivers), that flows beneath the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

26 Old papers in many cases (8)
OFTTIMES - O [old] + FT, TIMES [(two) papers]

27 Wasn't emu originally a flier? (4,4)
MUTE SWAN - (WASN'T EMU*). Swans are some of the largest birds that can actually fly, I believe, certainly top ten list material.

2 Find fault with expert in orbit (8)

3 Sir Thomas's quarry bagged by our opponents, sadly (5,3,4)
MORE'S THE PITY - (Sir Thomas) MORE'S, plus PIT "bagged" by THEY

4 Large plugs seen and disregarded (8)

5 Match that professional's taken to heart? (7)
DOUBLES - and the centre of {profe}SS{ional} is, as you see, DOUBLE S

6 Edible seed, many of which would yield paltry sum (6)
PEANUT - many of which are PEANUTS, if you pay which, you can have your choice of monkeys or TftT bloggers

7 Under strain, I move slowly on landing (4)
TAXI - under TAX [strain], I

8 Speculation lacking in celebrant's likely garb (8)

12 An age that's critical during dry season abroad (7,5)
DONKEY'S YEARS - KEY [critical] during (DRY SEASON*)

15 One stirs shortly after meal, papa assumed (8)
TEASPOON - SOON after TEA, "assuming" P

17 Latest spacecraft crossing edge of exosphere on time (8)
TARDIEST - TARDIS crossing E{xosphere} (or perhaps {exospher}E) on T. To describe the TARDIS as a spacecraft is a bit like describing the Titanic as a dinghy, mind you...

18 Where mum joined baby scheme church introduced, with thanks (8)
PLACENTA - PLAN [scheme] has C(hurch of) E(ngland) "introduced", with TA [thanks]

19 Very quiet man's initially made a false deduction (7)

21 Poser trounced in game (6)

24 Decline of oxygen in kiln is concerning (2,2)
AS TO - take an OAST, and "decline" the O(xygen) to the very bottom.