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Times Quick Cryptic 1240 by Rongo


I needed 16 minutes for this one, prevented from achieving my 10-minute target by delays in SE corner where the answers at 17ac, 20ac and LOI 15dn did not immediately spring to mind. I shall be interested to read how others fared.

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Times 27217 - Race against the cloche?

I have said it before and no doubt I will say it again, but this was a very Mondayish type of puzzle, offering much to biffers and erudite personages alike. If a little too sciency for my taste, at least I had heard of the the supersonic Austrian and he was balanced by some nice ecclesiastical stuff. The award for oddest clue must go to 3 down, which seems to have been generated by machine. The 'Obscure Word Being Clued by an Anagram' brigade will have been sharpening their claws, ready to tear the setter's vegetable patch to shreds, until...until they realised the letters could really go in no other order. Or could they? We shall surely find out.

I polished this off in less than 22 minutes, but I feel that some of the speed merchants may be hovering around the 5-minute mark.

ACROSS

1 Dodgy dealings exposed by astute medical centre (5,8)
SHARP PRACTICE - SHARP (astute) PRACTICE (as in 'Peak', where Sgt Lewis went after Morse's moroseness finally got to him); this would have been my first biff if I started at 1a
9 Throw out slippery customer pinching 10p (5)
EXPEL - X P in EEL
10 Books turned out by peer knowing how sticky liquids flow? (9)
VISCOUSLY - VISCOU[nt] SLY (knowing)
11 Desert transport rejected by male supporter of Oxford Movement (10)
TRACTARIAN - reversal of RAT (desert) CART (transport) IAN (random male)
12 Jacob’s wife? Sounds like Cordelia’s father! (4)
LEAH - sounds like LEAR; you have to worry about Jacob. We are told that Leah (Laban's elder daughter who was fobbed off on Jacob by her dad after he'd waited seven years for the comely younger daughter Rachel) had weak eyes. But if someone slips into your tent on your wedding night and you don't realise it's not the one you've been lusting after all those years, then I think you're the one that needs the eye test, no?
14 Slaughter forest keeper ultimately associated with big cat (7)
TROUNCE - [fores]T [keep[e]R OUNCE; even if David Attenborough wouldn't recognise an 'ounce' if it crept into his tent at night and said it wanted to marry him, there isn't a cruciverbalist worth his or her salt who isn't onto one of these things quicker than a Eurocrat can say 'That'll be 20 billion euros, merci/danke'.
16 Rebel leader locked up by some of the French for ages! (7)
DECADES - CADE (arguably the most famous crossword rebel) in DES (French for 'some')
17 Double-breasted jackets originally exhibited in adverts (7)
REEFERS - E[xhibited] in REFERS
19 Proposition boy soldiers misunderstood at first (7)
THEOREM - THEO (our second random male) RE (soldiers) M[isunderstood]
20 Place and time to strike on green (4)
PUTT - PUT T
21 Member involved in, say, Ulster disturbance a fellow-countryman (10)
COMPATRIOT - MP in COAT (Ulster is a type of coat) RIOT
24 Further issue mostly raised when lacking a hire contract (9)
RERELEASE - REARE[d] is mostly raised, subtract the A to give RERE, add LEASE (hire contract); slightly weird clue, but most will biff it, anyway
25 Dismal swimmer in river (5)
BLEAK - double definition; no, I've never heard of a bleak either [on edit: last Tuesday, Jack wrote against the clue for BLEAK HOUSE: 'BLEAK (fish - a type of carp ), HOUSE (harbour - provide accommodation). An unbiffable clue'. Um, sorry, you were wrong, J!]
26 Battered by elements, survive at end of hike in mountain (7-6)
WEATHER-BEATEN - WEATHER (survive) AT [hik]E in BEN (mountain)

DOWN

1 Magazine proprietors finally left Rugby, say? (9,5)
SPECTATOR SPORT - SPECTATOR (magazine) [proprietor]S PORT (left)
2 For Greeks, a sacred river first of all (5)
ALPHA - ALPH (Coleridge's sacred river, which ran through caverns measureless to man) A[ll]
3 Plant protector only Len put out (10)
POLYTUNNEL - anagram* of ONLY LEN PUT; a clochey thing made of polythene
4 Back minister introducing minority language (7)
REVERSE - REV ERSE
5 Celebrity dips into dictionary — it bears fruit (7)
COSTARD - STAR in COD (Concise Oxford Dictionary)
6 Smooth Federalist leaders symbolise it (4)
IRON - Iron has the chemical symbol FE, which are the first letters of FE[deralist]
7 London resident and European, equally soft-hearted (4,5)
EAST ENDER - a European who was not merely after the UK's money but had more valorous feelings might (if he or she existed) be an E AS TENDER as, well, IAN and THEO for starters
8 Similarly, they beat monks, somehow touring east (2,3,4,5)
BY THE SAME TOKEN - E in THEY BEAT MONKS*
13 Current edible fungus served on board — it’s OK (10)
ACCEPTABLE - AS CEP TABLE (board)
15 Defeat the endless argument supporting deliveries (9)
OVERTHROW - TH[e] ROW on OVER (six balls in cricket)
18 Way Austrian physicist keeps old bear (7)
STOMACH - O in ST [Ernst] MACH
19 Principal girl’s initial attention engaged by speedy drivers? (3,4)
TOP GEAR - TOP (principal) G[irl's] EAR; I'd have thought 'engaged by any driver who didn't want to blow his or her engine' might be more apposite, but, then again, it doesn't have quite the same ring to it
22 One clear about parking being awkward (5)
INEPT - I P in NET (clear)
23 Russian woman missing source of river (4)
OLGA - v[OLGA] gives our random devushka

Mephisto 3040 by Don Manley

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. 1A is a perfect example.

This was a very pleasant puzzle of average complexity. I have minor parsing queries at 20A and 24D. (On Edit: now cleared up in the comments) Quite a smattering of GK required and two London Boroughs clued as something else.

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

ACROSS

1 Certain trees — a number falling over in very high winds (8)
GNETALES: G(TEN reversed)ALES; gymnosperms that possess some angiosperm‐like features.
11 A feudal superior’s right to leave estate (4)
ALOD: A-LO(r)D; Land held by right of freehold (Doomsday Book)
12 One paper with a new retro-looking script (6)
NAGARI: I-RAG-A-N all reversed; a writing system used in India and Nepal.
13 Dweller in hot zone, possibly Indian, catching cold (6)
ASCIAN: AS(C)IAN; a person who lives in the area between the tropics
14 Artistic fabric not unknown in arrangements (5)
ARRAS: ARRA(y)S; a wall hanging made of a rich tapestry fabric
15 Bigwig entertaining children may limit possibility of seeing adult material (5)
V-CHIP: V(CH)IP; a technology used in television set receivers in Canada, Brazil and the United States, that allows the blocking of programs based on their ratings category. It is intended for use by parents to manage their children's television viewing.
16 Firm supports pirates? (7)
COPIERS: CO-PIERS; to pirate is to make illegal copies
18 This writer’s teaching qualification is seen as fix (5)
IMBED: I’M-BED; B Ed=Bachelor of Education; alternative spelling of “embed”
20 Keep walking, making wrong movement through water (8)
TRUDGEON: TRUDGE-ON; The trudgen is a swimming stroke sometimes known as the racing stroke, or the East Indian stroke. It is named after the English swimmer John Trudgen and evolved out of sidestroke. I have no idea why it’s “wrong”
23 Mathematical function, doubly special, conveys a nice feeling (8)
COSINESS: COSINE-S-S; Oh, wouldn’t that be loverly!
25 Rock includes old musical instrument (5)
SAROD: SAR(O)D; a stringed instrument, used mainly in Hindustani music
28 Farmer’s annoyance after grain is minimal (7)
GRANGER: GR(ain)-ANGER;
29 Beloved from Scotland, burning with inner energy (5)
LIEVE: LI(E)VE;
30 One having freedom from recrimination, little devil getting off (5)
UNITY: (imp)UNITY;
31 Pole’s getting nothing in a strange land (6)
ANODAL: A-(land)* surrounds O; an anode is the positively charged electrode by which electrons leave an electrical device.
32 Repair what is left, implanting gold (6)
RESORT: RES(OR)T;
33 Passage of Islamic writing rejecting extreme members (4)
ADIT: (h)ADIT(h); opening into a mine;
34 Climber taking a path ere collapsing (8)
HEARTPEA: (a path ere)*; Cardiospermum or heartseed;

DOWN

1 Importance of life in lawn area that’s been cut (8)
GRAVITAS: GRA(VITA)S(s);
2 An upsetting blemish in one form of motor racing (6)
NASCAR: AN reversed – SCAR; National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing
3 Greek character undermining the Spanish ambassador (5)
ELCHI: EL-CHI; A Turkish ambassador
4 Modify notice, adding a short point (5)
ADAPT: AD-A-PT;
5 Uncle with no teeth, sloppy diner (12)
LUNCHEONETTE: (uncle no teeth)*; a small, informal restaurant serving light lunches.
6 Old group of animals comes to a tarn to be refreshed (12)
ENTOMOSTRACA: (comes to a tarn)*; a historical subclass of crustaceans, no longer in technical use
7 Plant suffering around outermost part (8)
AGRIMONY: AG(RIM)ONY; perennial herbaceous flowering plants
8 Protection against many a wild animal, a zebra possibly? (6)
ZAREBA: (a zebra)*; a thorn fence fortifying a camp or village
9 Vessels collide briefly — engineers brought aboard (6)
CRARES: CRA(RE)S(h); old trading ships
10 Geological stage poses dangers — rock finally crumbles away (4)
RISS: RIS(k)S; The Glacial Stage during which Alpine glaciers descended from the highlands. It followed the Mindel-Riss Interglacial Stage and preceded the Riss-Würm Interglacial Stage
17 Men do not get drunk in North American city (8)
EDMONTON: (men do not)*; capital of Canada's Alberta province (also a district in North London)
19 Limb problem, mild and easy to put right (8)
DYSMELIA: (mild easy)*; congenital disorder of a limb resulting from a disturbance in embryonic development
21 Hairstyle? Sir needs a bit removed from the middle (6)
BARNET: BAR(o)NET; CRS for hair or hair style (Barnet Fair) – another district in North London
22 A pithy expression said to create commotion (6)
FRAISE: sounds like “phrase”;
24 Cruel person had for a time a pugilistic style (6)
SAVATE: cruel person=savage then change “g” to “t=time” (I don’t quite understand the wordplay); a French form of boxing that uses the hands and feet as weapons
26 Disrespectful narrative — some of it near the bone (5)
ULNAR: hidden (disrespectf)UL-NAR(rative); bone in the wrist close to the ulna
27 Princess wearing material that’s clean again? (5)
REDIP: RE(DI)P; material=REP;
28 Sound of lass making rough noise (4)
GURL: sounds like “girl”; to growl in the Grampians
I didn’t notice while working it last week, but this puzzle has a large number (13!) of enclosure clues.

As usual, I went through this in no great haste, taking time to stop and savor (when warranted) the surfaces. Life is too short to biff it away.

I do (gramasan)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clue.

ACROSS

 1 Furniture not completed very quickly (5)
SOFAS — SO FAS[-t]. IKEA only has four letters, so couldn’t have been that…
 4 In trouble, guy is flirt (8)
WOMANISE — WO(MAN IS)E. Guilty as charged! I see “flirt” is an accepted synonym, but I always imagine womanising as going a bit further…
 8 Fancy dinner parties interrupted by a no-hoper? (14)
PREDESTINARIAN — (dinner parties + a)* Who let him in here? It’s only logical that an omniscient God would know who will go to Heaven and who to Hell, so it would seem that the Calvinists would have to be right about this, if you believe in an omniscient God (and the whole separating-the-sheep-and-goats thing). Problem is, the concept of monotheism, a great logical step forward, entailed the notions of this entity’s omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience—which attributes retrospectively introduce incoherencies and contradictions into the tales that were told in earlier epochs about an all-too-human Creator.
10 Before a call, Romeo spoke (6)
RADIAL — R(omeo, as in the NATO alphabet) + A DIAL.
11 Soapstone location found around tea time (8)
STEATITE — S(TEA)( T)ITE. NHO, but it was easy enough to work out. Rather a lackluster surface.
13 European plan beset by harsh conduct (9)
DEMEANOUR — D(E)(MEAN)OUR. “Mean” is a verb here, “I mean to…,” “I plan to…”
14 Makeshift hospital acquired by a physician (2,3)
AD HOC — A D(H)OC You have to work with what you can get.
15 Iron in mouth turned muddy (5)
BEFOG — GO(FE)B <— I don’t get a clear picture from this.
17 Moved beams in to touch wood (5,4)
ABSIT OMEN — (beams in to)* A Latin phrase that didn’t immediately come to mind. That it is an anagram clue, and what the definition is, seem pretty obvious, but the first four-letter word I tried was AMEN.
19 Brown bags for a scholar in Kent (8)
SUPERMAN — “Brown” is SUN (or “tan”), which encloses (“bags”) “for a,” i.e., PER and “scholar,” M(aster of) A(rts).
20 Crook feeds amazing bat (6)
WILLOW — W(ILL)OW. “Crook” with a sense of “ill” was new to me. Australian. It’s a cricket bat, but I knew that.
23 Good friends supply sweet eaten by one daughter (4-10)
WELL-ACQUAINTED — WELL is a “supply,” and QUAINT (somewhat to my surprise) is “sweet,” which is inside ACE (“one”) D(aughter). “We’re well-acquainted,” “We’re good friends”—passes the substitution test, despite an apparent grammatical mismatch.
24 Checked defect in the diamonds (8)
THWARTED — TH(WART)E D
25 Parasite taking shelter by church (5)
LEECH — LEE (“shelter”) + CH

DOWN

 1 Small uniform for a senior cop (5)
SUPER — S + U + PER (“for a”). The latter part we also have in the clue for… SUPERMAN. Looks a bit lazy.
 2 Right to avoid delivery charges? (7,2,6)
FREEDOM OF SPEECH — Cryptic Definition.
 3 Some of us met an amazing composer (7)
SMETANA — Czech, 1824–1884.
 4 Behind comedian, horse (4)
WITH — WIT + H. As in backing, supporting, “I’m with her.” You might have seen the definition as a position indicator at first (I did).
 5 Painter is stopping his work to see financial expert (10)
MONETARIST — MONET + AR(IS)T. Well, maybe for an hour or so, to confer with Georges Petit…
 6 In heaven grandma carries one version of the Bible (7)
NIRVANA — N(I + RV)ANA. A bit unusual to have a surface-connector word opening the clue, with the def. right behind it. It was always the King James Version in my family.
 7 Fried food spread is in line to be cut (7,8)
SPANISH OMELETTE — SPAN, “spread” + IS + HOME, “in,” + LETTE[-r], “line,” cut. “Thought I’d drop a line,” write a letter—but Merriam-Webster defines “line” as “a short letter,” so perhaps “to be cut” could be cut! Kind of hard to give a plausible sense to the surface.
 9 Refuse to accept fire warning (6)
BEACON — BE A CON
12 Rovers player on after Caledonian meeting (5,5)
ROYAL ASCOT — So there was a British comic strip that ran for many years, Roy of the Rovers, about a young footballer. That was news to me, so this was my last one in, though the wordplay is pretty obvious. His name is tacked “on” (above, as is most proper for a down clue) to “after,” here meaning “in the style of,” A LA (we’re ignoring the grave accent, of course, but the French themselves often do so for capital letters) SCOT (“Caledonian”).
13 Corrupt, sleeping over? Endless sex (6)
DEBASE — ABED<— + SE[-x]. I’ve heard it said that Sunday puzzles are often racier than the usual weekday fare. I love this clue.
16 Wild animal area introduced by travel channel (7)
GORILLA — GO (“travel”) + RILL (“channel”) “introduc[ing]” A(rea)
18 Minor hearing about sex (7)
TRIVIAL — TRI(VI)AL. VI being six in Roman letters, or “sex” in Latin.
21 Thickness having to include diameter (5)
WIDTH — WI(D)TH
22 Pool located, but not duck (4)
FUND — F[-o]UND Where is that damned canard?

Jumbo 1353

Nothing exceptional in this one - a steady solve. If I had to choose a favourite clue I think it would either be 57A or 3D.

Across
1 RECORD-BREAKER - double definition, the second slightly cryptic
8 SCRATCHES - double definition
13 LAPEL - LAP = drink, E(motiona)L
14 ON AVERAGE - O.R. = men, around NAVE = part of church, AGE = time
15 SUMMONS - SUM = whole lot, MONS = battle site
16 PUBLIC SECTOR - (CLUB PRICES TO)*
17 FREIGHTAGE - FE = iron around RAG = cheap paper, around EIGHT
18 ICE AGE - I = one, CAGE = prison, around (fir)E
19 PLEASING - PLEA = prayer, SING = render hymn
21 UNSHOD - cryptic definition where an Oxford is a type of shoe
24 GALLIVANTS - GALL = audacity, ITS = it is, around VAN = vehicle
26 INDIAN SUMMER - double definition, the first mildly cryptic with Ramanujan being an Indian mathematician. I had not heard of him
29 PERK - PER = through, (wor)K
30 PRODUCTS - PRO = one paid, DUCTS = channels
31 ARRESTEE - (A STEERER)*
34 RASCALLY - RALLY = political gathering around AS = like and C = Conservative
35 PANORAMA - PANAMA = country, around O = nothing and R = right
36 MUTT - hidden in theM UTTer
39 GO UP IN THE AIR - GO = travel, UP IN THE AIR = unresolved
40 DEMOLISHED - DEMO = protest, LID = cover, around SHE = female
43 INSECT - an IN SECT would be a group for the favoured few
44 VIREMENT - VT = TV = television, reversed, around IRE = anger and MEN = blokes
45 STATUS - STATS = figures, around U = university
49 ACIDULATED - (A CIT(y) LAUDED)* a
51 PROFITEROLES - PROFIT = gain, E = energy, ROLES = functions
53 ILL-USED - I LED = I was first, around LUS(t) = craving
54 TURNSTILE - TURN = performance, STILE sounds like STYLE = elegance
55 AWARE - A, WARE = community in Herts
56 NUMERICAL - NUM = trade union, ERICA = woman, L(eft)
57 GRACELESSNESS - double definition, the second cryptic
 
Down
1 RELAPSING - RELAP = PALER = having less colour, reversed, SING = grass
2 CAPABLE - PA = office assistant, in CABLE = tower (something used to tow)
3 ROLLING PIN - cryptic definition
4 BLOUSE - B(lack), LOUSE = parasite
5 EMANCIPATION - (IM ONE CAPTAIN)*
6 KEEL OVER - KEEL sounds like KEELE = university, OVER = maiden
7 REAL - double definition
8 SWEARING IN - SIN = wickedness, around WEARING = sporting
9 RUSTIC - R.U. = game, STIC(k) = pole
10 TIME-HONOURED - TIME = US magazine, HONOURED = given award
11 HOO-HA - HO, OH = house, both forward and reversed, A
12 SUSPENDER BELT - (LET BEN DRESS UP)*
20 SANCTION - CONTAINS*
22 HOME TRUTH - HOT = passionate, RUTH = woman, around ME = this person
23 PAMPHLET - PA = pop, MP = politician, H = hotel, LET = obstruction
25 LARKSPURS - LARKS = birds, around SPUR = incentive
27 NARRATOR, NAR = RAN = rushed, reversed, R = rex, A, TOR = hill
28 RUN A MILE - RULE = law, around NAM = MAN, reversed and I = one
29 PEREGRINATION - PER(son), E.G. = say, (travelle)R, I = one, NATION = country
32 CABIN CRUISER - (BEAR IN CIRCUS A)*
33 PATENT OFFICE - PATENT = obvious, OFF = not working, ICE = formality
37 REGIMENTAL - R = king, E.G. = say, I = one, MENTAL = mad
38 HISTORIANS - cryptic definition
41 DISASTERS - DIS = rubbish, ASTERS = plants
42 NEBRASKA - NE(w) = modern, BRA = support, SKA = dance music
46 TILLAGE - TILE = hat, around LAG = prisoner
47 BARDIC - BAR = pub, (e)DIC(t) = order
48 ETHENE - E THEN E = drug, followed by same again
50 ISLAM - hidden in rabbIS LAMentation
52 BRIG - alternate letters in BuRnInG
There might have been a bit of a retro feel to this puzzle. Old scientists, old literature, old poets, old playwrights. I liked the fact that the several such that I didn’t know were gettable from the wordplay! Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

My LOI was 1dn, because I had a mental block. I liked 23ac for its disguise, and 19dn for its humour, but I might pick 24ac as clue of the day.

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

Across
1 Cut around bog's high ridge (4,4)
HOG’S BACK: HACK around an anagram of BOG’S.

5 What arithmetician does is brood at university (4,2)
TOTS UP: TOTS (brood), UP (at university).

9 Collar hasn't a zip (3)
NIL: NAIL (collar), less the “A”.

10 Carbon in gas fire, something to keep out the chill (11)
WINDCHEATER: C for carbon, in WIND HEATER.

12 Hide from man who's left school educated (10)
OBLITERATE: O.B. (old Boy, or man who’s left school), then LITERATE (educated).

13 Victor, say, heading for upset after hard game (4)
HUGO: H for hard, U from the heading of Upset, GO is the game.

15 Understood this Latin building style (6)
GOTHIC: GOT (understood), HIC (Latin for “this”).

16 Scoffed after New Age’s recent arrival (7)
NEONATE: ATE (scoffed) after N (new) EON (age).

18 Vent anger on school's Dickensian character (7)
PODSNAP: SNAP on POD. Didn’t know the character, but trusted the wordplay.

20 Conflict not required to see off a group of Nazis (6)
NEEDLE: drop the S.S. off NEEDLESS. Neat device; nasty group!

23 Novice boxes in learner driver? (4)
CLUB: L in CUB. Cute disguise of the definition: golf, not motoring.

24 Seizure by police to get the job done (3,3,4)
FIT THE BILL: FIT (seizure), THE BILL (police).

26 The writer's going to island covered in mud — he's rolling in it (11)
MILLIONAIRE: I’ll (the writer will), then IONA (island), all covered in MIRE (mud).

27 Some work accordingly isn't finished (3)
ERG: the ERG is a unit of physical work, ERGO is a logical or mathematical version of “accordingly”.

28 Lower number follows unspecified one (6)
NETHER: N for unspecified number with a voiced “b”, ETHER is a number with an unvoiced “b”. Cunning! Definition is as in “nether regions”.

29 A sauce eaten by wrong butcher? (8)
ASSASSIN: SASS is the sauce, so put A SASS inside A SIN.


Down
1 The sound of appealing gig (6)
HANSOM: sounds like “handsome”. This was hard to see, because in my ignorance of all things related to horses and carriages, I imagined a hansom cab with its roof and doors was a different, heavier class of vehicle than a gig, which I imagine as light and open. But the dictionary agrees with the setter that hansoms are light two-wheeled carriages.

2 Miss sign probed by one scientist (7)
GALILEO: GAL (miss), LEO (sign), collectively probed by “I” (one).

3 Lovely creature's embraced with irritation (10)
BEWITCHING: BEING (creature) to embrace ITCH (irritation).

4 Church plugs device as a way to avoid issue (13)
CONTRACEPTION: CE in CONTRAPTION. No mention of that other church in this context, please.

6 War writer's love novel rejected (4)
OWEN: O (love), then NEW (novel) backwards (rejected). Wilfred Owen, I assume

7 Posed a gripping problem, something to get your teeth into! (7)
SATSUMA: SAT (posed) plus A, gripping SUM (problem).

8 Knock up meat dish for a tale teller (8)
PARDONER: RAP (knock) backwards (up), then DONER. Reference to one of the Canterbury Tales.

11 One used to flog online business, blocking terrible sanction (3-1-4-5)
CAT-O’-NINE-TAILS: E-TAIL (online business, if you must use this term for it), inside an anagram (terrible) of (SANCTION*).

14 Playwright made great strides, European star (4,2,4)
LOPE DE VEGA: LOPED (made great strides), E (European), VEGA (star). New to me.

17 Cash reduced by bishops, for example (8)
SPECIMEN: SPECI[e] (cash), MEN (chess men, such as bishops).

19 Characters in flannelette, cotton or natty jacket? (7)
DOUBLET: since all three words in the list are spelt with a DOUBLE-T!

21 Its role is to reform lags? (7)
LOITERS: anagram (reform) of (ITS ROLE*).

22 Leave pastry wraps and an amount of drink (6)
FLAGON: FLAN (pastry) wraps GO (leave).

25 Cut a couple of diamonds (4)
DICE: D is the first diamond, ICE the second.

Times 27,215: No W, Jose

This crossword, unless I've seriously dropped the ball, is a NONGRAM, but that didn't stop it from being brilliant, with it being quite hard to discern the location of the definition part in a vast majority of the clues, necessitating much teasing-out of the possibilities from the complex and interesting wordplay. On a number of occasions (chiefly the unknown phrase at 14ac, but also 1dn, 8dn, 20dn, 22dn, 24ac, 25ac...) I basically had to construct the answer piecemeal from bits of the clue before the penny dropped, and I always think a crossword is great when it makes you really work for your supper. Some super vocab in here too - PIAFFE crossing with STAFFAGE, corks! - and just the right amount of quiz-type historical, geographical and Biblical knowledge to be satisfying. Very great respect to the setter indeed.

Quite a few candidates for Clue of the Day as a result; I was very impressed by 10ac (there was an unusual number of high quality homophone clues throughout, in fact) and 22dn, but I think the top award from me really has to go to 4dn where "ragged" contributes to the surface reading if you pronounce it one way, or acts as an anagrind if the other - what a superb &lit clue!

ACROSS
1 Censures concerning academics repeating nothing (8)
REPROOFS - RE PROFS [concerning academics], but with the O repeated

5 One getting in the groove playing lusty lead in story (6)
STYLUS - (LUSTY*) ["playing"] + S{tory}

9 Employees having time for painting accessories (8)
STAFFAGE - STAFF [employees] having AGE [time]. The simplest possible wordplay for quite an obscure word!

10 What can go with a bit of the match broadcast (6)
BRIDLE - homophone of BRIDAL [of the match]

12 William, killed hunting game, tailed grouse (5)
RUFUS - RU [game] + FUS{s} ["tailed" grouse]. That's William Rufus as in William II.

13 Waste no time visiting daughter in decline (3,2,4)
RUN TO SEED - RUN TO SEE [waste no time visiting] + D [daughter]

14 Just past tree, men with the trailer (2,1,5,4)
BY A SHORT HEAD - BY ASH OR [past | tree | men] with THE AD [the | trailer]

18 Swell new offer blocked by pro? That mustn’t happen! (6,6)
HEAVEN FORBID - HEAVE N BID [swell | new | offer] "blocked by" FOR [pro]

21 Best, once again, note, to study inquiry briefly (9)
RECONQUER - RE CON QUER{y} [note | to study | inquiry "briefly"]

23 Take the part of a basin which fills with water (5)
PLAYA - PLAY A [take the part of | a]

24 Horn put out note, holding firm? Hardly! (6)
KLAXON - K.O. N [put out | note], "holding" LAX [firm? hardly!]

25 Canadian native coming across a person with whistle and light (8)
CAREFREE - CREE [Canadian native] "coming across" A REF [a | person with whistle]

26 Job to follow this wild-west hero’s part (6)
ESTHER - hidden in {wild-w}EST HER{o's}. Being the book of the Bible that precedes Job.

27 Sickly after vacation, blames bad diet (8)
ASSEMBLY - (S{ickl}Y + BLAMES*) ["bad"]

DOWN
1 Succeeded in shouting a string of requests etc (6)
ROSARY - S [succeeded] in ROARY [shouting]

2 Irrational blunder deposing leader: one’s executed on the spot (6)
PIAFFE - PI {g}AFFE [irrational | blunder, "deposing leader"]

3 Historic defence beginning when king covered in woad? (5,4)
OFFA'S DYKE - OFF AS [beginning | when] + K [king] "covered in" DYE [woad?]

4 Four endlessly suffering when ragged? (7,2,3)
FIGURES OF FUN - (FOU{r} + SUFFERING*) ["ragged"], &lit

6 Part of engine died: track going uphill (5)
TURBO - OB RUT [died | track], all reversed

7 Ran, directed outside summer shows (8)
LADDERED - LED [directed] "outside" ADDER [summer]

8 Relatives rung by prosecutor and detective (8)
STEPDADS - STEP [rung] by DA [prosecutor] and DS [detective]

11 There’s no chance of that Roy getting off with nursemaid! (2,4,6)
IN YOUR DREAMS - (ROY + NURSEMAID*) ["getting off"]

15 End of yarn still to be picked up (9)
TAILPIECE - homophone of TALE PEACE [yarn | still]

16 Brave of Nancy’s dear old chief to speak out (8)
CHEROKEE - CHER [Nancy's, i.e. French word for, dear] + O [old] + homophone of KEY [chief]

17 Noble bringing in woman who’ll do diagram (3,5)
BAR CHART - BART. [noble] "bringing in" CHAR [woman who'll do]

19 Capital letters at either end on short flyer (6)
ZAGREB - Z A [letters at either end (of the alphabet)] on GREB{e} ["short" flyer]

20 Through stuffing bird, cracks appear (6)
JAPERY - PER [through] "stuffing" JAY [bird]

22 Oscar using something hooked sometimes for a coat hanger (5)
NOOSE - O [Oscar] using NOSE [something hooked sometimes] "for a coat"

Times Quick Cryptic No 1239 by Pedro

A nicely constructed and teasing puzzle with lovely surfaces from Pedro today, with several clues which made me stop and think a bit.... 3a describes what I had to do nicely! Largely it was due to Pedro giving us the chance to go astray... which I duly did. In the end, though, I wasn't held up too much by anything and I still finished under an average time. So, I don't think there is anything unfair or unreasonably difficult, but I've misjudged this before and I'm sure you will tell me if I'm wrong! Apart from the delightful, aforementioned, 3a I enjoyed the luxurious pigsties at 11a, the self-referential 23a, the erroneous vegans at 6d and the bonus of more money at 7d - I was handed a letter informing me of my annual salary increase only yesterday. But COD from me goes to the simple, but smile-inducing, cryptic definition at 16d for reminding me of my grandfather... who was one. So thanks Pedro for the entertainment. How did you all like it?
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Times Quick Cryptic No 1238 by Orpheus

I would have been close to bang on target had it not been for 1d, which I stared at for three minutes before giving up. I must confess to a bit of a mental block when it comes to food-specific birds - ray jays, ling larks, red snapper tits, herring gulls, the list is probably close to endless - but my mistake on this occasion was more a misplaced conviction of what the parsing was. A couple of other unknowns: the river at 5ac and the (thankfully uncommon) 8ac. A good share of other nice clues along the way made this all very enjoyable - many thanks to Orpheus!

Across
1 Way sweetheart goes about showing integrity (7)
HONESTY - ST (street / way) with HONEY (sweetheart) going about.
5 Young creature over in Cornish river (4)
FOAL - O(ver) in FAL (Cornish river)
7 Oarsman involved in argument? (5)
ROWER - pun on row/argument.
8 Publicise young woman’s narrow escape in flight (3,4)
AIR MISS - AIR (publicise) MISS (young woman). I'm now wondering if I've always misheard this... there is such a thing as "a near miss", isn't there? People aren't just saying "jeez, that was an air miss and a half", are they?
10 Diamonds used in specific earrings (3)
ICE - used in the letters of specifIC Earrings
11 Mostly courteous hanger-on initially obeying Communist executive (9)
POLITBURO - POLIT ("mostly" polite/courteous) BUR (hanger-on) O (initially Obeying). I'd spell BUR with two Rs, but either's fine.
13 Goods appeal regularly — it’s absolutely true, they say (6)
GOSPEL - GoOdS aPpEaL "regularly"
14 Skives in casual wear (6)
SLACKS - double definition
17 A French university in part of London? That’s not welcome (9)
UNPOPULAR - UN ("a", French) ; U(niversity) in POPLAR (part of London)
19 Court with old office at the front (3)
WOO - With Old Office "at the front"
20 Girl, one tailing bird in meadow (7)
LETITIA - I (one) tailing/coming after TIT (bird) in LEA (meadow)
22 Call British prime minister going west (5)
BLEEP - B(ritish) LEEP (Peel / PM going westward)
23 Company doctor’s crest (4)
COMB -CO. (company) MB (doctor)
24 Thin coil finally used in transmitter (7)
SLENDER - L (coiL "finally") used in SENDER (transmitter).
Down
1 Bird identified by sinful gent originally in Humberside port (7,4)
HERRING GULL - ERRING (sinful) G (Gent "originally") in HULL (Humberside port). I had Hull, and then assumed it had to be an anagram (originally) of SINFUL and G (Gent, originally). I know, I know. It took me am age just to see there wasn't an R (for 7ac Rower) in those letters, at which point I moved on to wondering how many Humberside ports are called H_RL.
2 Novelty we set up in northern loch (7)
NEWNESS - EW (we "set up") inside N(orthern) NESS (loch)
3 Repository for damaged harp and capes? (9)
SCRAPHEAP -anagram (damaged) of HARP and CAPES. A scrapheap being a repository for damaged goods.
4 Youth leader ahead of time every twelve months (6)
YEARLY - Y (Youth "leader") EARLY (ahead of time)
5 Distant agricultural area? 75% of it (3)
FAR - 75% of the letters of FARM (agricultural area)
6 Farewell from a girl attached to Brussels? (5)
ADIEU - A, DI (girl) EU (attached to Brussels)
9 Spectacular number displays formal headgear (4-7)
SHOW-STOPPER - SHOWS (displays) TOPPER (formal headgear). A number can be a thing that numbs, like a flower is a thing that flows, but here it just means song.
12 Fairish new role accepted by board (9)
TOLERABLE - anagram (new) of ROLE accepted by TABLE (board)
15 Animal minder browbeat a woman’s daughter (7)
COWHERD - to COW = to browbeat ; HER (a woman's) D(aughter). Nice use of shifting tenses of "browbeat": past tense in the surface reading; present tense in the cryptic.
16 A ballad gripping wife and son on every occasion (6)
ALWAYS - A, LAY (ballad) grips W(ife); and then S(on)
18 Pensioner carries it over paved area by house (5)
PATIO -OAP carries/holds IT, reversed/over
21 Bill cricketer picked up (3)
TAB - BAT is a metonym for batsman, or indeed batswoman.
A straightforward enough solve which I marred with a precipitate entry to 12 down, so my time of 15.38 is moot. I had to guess the blouse at 25, though the wordplay was more than kind, and resist the temptation for a slur on an entire nation at 28. The presence of no less than three words for slow (to the point of stillness) lent a rather languid air o the puzzle, though couple of more lively musical answers picked up the pace. Arguably, there is an unusual split definition at 10. My favourite clue wasthe advice to the police (it made me smile).
My standard clue, definition and SOLUTION conventions are observed
[My reasoning]
Across
1 Like bird of old on fruit tree (8)
PLUMAGED Old is AGED and the fruit tree whereon it sits is PLUM. The adjective looks odd until you preface it with some qualifier: brightly plumaged and such.
6 This writer's rubbish is somewhat wicked (6)
IMPISH  More often an expression of impatience, especially with tush, PISH is as also a verb meaning pooh-pooh, hence to rubbish. Add I’M for the writer’s
9 Amount of herring from end of harbour tinned (4)
CRAN You either know it or have learned it today. 37½ gallons, for what it’s worth.  If the end of harbour is tinned it is in CAN
10 Hugest new dwelling by river that can accommodate visitors (10)
GUESTHOUSE Hugest “new” gives you GUESTH which leaves you to find the river OUSE. Chambers has it hyphenated.
11 Ruler who lost his head leading fashionable people a dance? (10)
CHARLESTON A generous historical reference, Charles 1 being the executed monarch as any fule kno. TON, more often just fashion but OK as people of fashion, is tagged on for Strictly’s favourite dance.
13 Baddie’s heading off to create this? (4)
EVIL Baddies don’t come more bad than the/a DEVIL. Do unto him as Richard Brandon did unto Charles 1 (probably) and you produce the Devil’s creation.
14 Isolated fellow who handled Sherlock Holmes stories? (8)
STRANDED You need to know that Arthur Conan Doyle published many of the Sherlock stories in the Strand magazine, so was handled by the STRAND ED.
16 Property — idiots may keep theirs, at first (6)
ASSETS Idiots are ASSES, insert T from Theirs “at first”
18 Sluggish swim with rubbish around (6)
TORPID Swim is DIP, RUBBISH is ROT, concatenate and reverse “around”
20 Scholarly story about the heartless scoundrel (8)
LITERATE Story here is LIE, which takes position about both heartless T(h)E and scoundrel RAT.
22 Stone circle west of China (4)
OPAL Circle O, to be placed west (to the left of) PAL for China (CRS China plate, mate. But you knew that.)
24 Church about to be given sums of cash for formal events (10)
CEREMONIES Church: C(of)E, about: RE, sums of cash MONIES.
26 Like prescription and wrong pills coming from mad chemist possibly (10)
MISMATCHED If you get the wrong pills in response to your prescription...  The anagram needed (“possibly”) is from MAD CHEMIST. Well matched definition and wordplay.
28 Irishman knocking over post (4)
MAIL Our Irishman is LIAM, who is “knocked over”. LIAM our Irishman is the reverse of MAIL for post.  Go to the naughty step if you got [the reverse of] RAIL in a fit of uncalled for stereotyping, where you can join no less than Margaret Thatcher: "You can't trust the Irish, they are all liars" (sic). (Thanks to Bletchley for pointing out my inexplicable reversal of definition and wordplay.. I'd like to keep in aternative notion of rail as a sort of sideways post)
29 Still cold when wearing heavy material (6)
PLACID C(old) enveloped in PLAID
30 Meeting with a suggestion as to how police might trap criminal? (8)
TRYSTING Amusing (unless you’re on the wrong end). The Police might be encouraged to TRY (a) STING to catch the bad’ns



Down
2 Throat gel worked quite slowly (9)
LARGHETTO An anagram (“worked”) of THROAT GEL for the adequately described musical term.
3 After short time whale is seen in holiday location (7)
MINORCA Short time is min(ute, of course) and whale is ORCA
4 Music concert group of countries set up (5)
GIGUE Concert is GIG, and the "set up" group of countries is the EU.
5 According to radio, precipitation is expected (3)
DUE Sounds like DEW, precipitation.
6 Manager occupying temporary accommodation, desperate man stuck inside (9)
INTENDANT Apparently more common in forn parts. Occupying temporary accommodation is IN TENT, insert Desperate DAN of the Dandy
7 Sea god, fat, yellow and soft, surfacing (7)
PROTEUS As well as being a variety of Greek heroes, Proteus is indeed a Sea god, rather fetchingly composed of  SUET (fat), OR (yellow) and P (soft, in music). “Surfacing” in the down clue is your reversal indicator
8 Dodgy behaviour with greeting — there may be something fishy here (5)
SUSHI Dodgy (with or without behaviour) is SUS, and the greeting HI.
12 Alcoholic drink not quite right for child (7)
TIDDLER is the preferred answer. TIDDLEY is your drink, more often tiddly and more often (in your commentator’s opinion) an adjective (drunk) rather than a noun (drink). Take away the end, add an R and you get our answer, more often a small fish or a generic small thing. TODDLER, which I confidently entered, is (IMHO) more obviously a child, but lacks the advantage of having a drink spelled TODDLE?. The nearest I can get is toddy, which doesn’t work.
15 Firm is old-fashioned, keeping order mostly (9)
DEDICATED  Old fashioned is DATED, insert EDIC(t) for your almost complete order
17 Renegotiated rent a bit high ultimately for old country building (5,4)
TITHE BARN An anagram (“renegotiated”) of RENT A BIT plus the last letter of higH
19 Controversial European means to be heard by audience (7)
POLEMIC Our European of choice is a POLE, and a MIC would help him to b heard.
21 Bit of hair giving girl, ten, makeover (7)
RINGLET An anagram (makeover) of GIRL TEN
23 Bottle — something kept in a cabinet, might you say? (5)
PHIAL Our second sound alike clue, this time “file”
25 High time to discard a blouse (5)
MIDDY Midday is high as in noon. Throw away the A for a “loose blouse worn, esp formerly, by women and esp children, having a collar with a broad flap at the back in the style of a sailor's uniform”. Thank you Chambers.
27 Bowler maybe who gets opener dismissed (3)
HAT Who translates to THAT, from which the “opener” is removed.
I see 84 contestants attempted this and 33 got it correct. So, not a piece of cake. I got it right eventually, but not under exam room presssure.
I found this a game of two halves. The RHS went in reasonably smoothly, after a couple of minutes reading through and finding little by way of easy clues to get me going. 4a was my FOI. It didn't then help that I had at first put in RUMINATE for 8d, before seeing the fishy mathematician at 16a.The LHS took longer, but in retrospect I can't see why, there is nothing too nasty about it, I just wasn't on song. Nowhere near a 20 minute romp which I'd have needed on the day.
Maybe because of the lack of on-song mood, verging on headache, I didn't particularly enjoy this, but it is noteworthy for having a Yiddish word I actually knew, which is probably a first.

Across
1 Deliberate snatching is bad treatment (6)
MISUSE - MUSE = deliberate, snatches IS inside.
4 Brilliant odds before racehorse runs (8)
SPARKLER - SP = odds, ARKLE was a racehorse of note, R = runs.
10 One who has it may quickly lose it (5,4)
SHORT FUSE - cryptic def.
11 Perhaps a sett … the setter’s material (5)
DENIM - DEN = perhaps a sett, which is a badger's den; I'M = the setter's.
12 General grounds for curtailment (3)
LEE - I think this is LEES = grounds, as in coffee for example, curtailed.
13 Lumières can’t broadcast without a place to show all their work? (11)
MULTISCREEN - Anagram of (LUMIERES C NT)*, the A you are told to omit.
14 The endless growth in snooker (6)
THWART - TH(E), WART = growth. I think snooker has a more specific definition than 'thwart'.
16 Man responsible for distribution of toxin around centre of Salisbury (7)
POISSON - If you didn't do any statistics or A Level maths, you could still get to the answer from word play I think. POISON = toxin, has S the middle of Salisbury, inserted. Poisson was a French chap who understood about statistical distributions, which I can just about remember learning about, and he also had a Series (or series of series?) named after him, which I never got to grips with.
19 A beastly mother keeping literary retrospective for gifted child (7)
MATILDA - A DAM = a beastly mother, holds on to LIT, then all reversed. Matilda is the title of a book by Roald Dahl about a gifted child.
20 Detective Gadget succeeded inside the CID, for example (6)
SENSOR - S inside SENOR. I am thinking, here SENOR = CID in so far as El Cid was a Spanish señor or Lord. Have I missed the plot?
22 One who introduces expert on Browning? (11)
TOASTMASTER - Cryptic DD, where a toast master would be good at making brown toast.
25 Attempt retiring (3)
SHY - DD.
26 One might see spider on this: howls out loud? (5)
BAIZE - BAIZE sounds like BAYS = howls; a reference to an elongated rest device used on a snooker table, which is of course baize covered.
27 Categorise works evading understanding, ultimately as such (9)
ESOTERICA - Anagram of (CATE ORISE)* where the G is omitted as instructed by "evading understandinG ultimately". "As such" referring to the surface meaning.
28 Occasion that is wrapping up day (8)
EVENTIDE - Cryptic definition that took me ages to see, after lots of present-giving festivals had come and gone. EDIT there's more to this, see parsing by our friend ejected from Bletchley, second comment below.
29 A carriage heading for Scottish cathedral city (6)
AMIENS - I had this quickly, as we pass by the city on the way to Calais often enough, but it could be tricky if you're not hot on French geography. A, MIEN = carriage, S = heading for Scottish.

Down
1 Might Mark blitz clues? (6)
MUSCLE - M, (CLUES)*. a simple clue I made difficult.
2 Singer’s second discussion about sound quality? (9)
STONECHAT - S = second, TONE CHAT = discussion about sound quality, if you like. Know your birds to succeed at crosswords.
3 She’s short with pot belly — that’s Mum! (5)
SHTUM - SH(E), TUM = pot belly. Keep shtum = be quiet, you shmuck.
5 Bent coppers splitting up, say (14)
PREDISPOSITION - Parsed after the event. DIS = coppers, splits PREPOSITION, of which UP is an example.
6 Censorship of the October Revolution? (9)
REDACTION - RED ACTION being a way to describe what went on in November 1917.
7 Move impetuously to sacrifice pawn and foil attack? (5)
LUNGE - PLUNGE = move impetuously, loses a P. LUNGE as in a fencing move with a foil.
8 Harry Truman taking on board current thinking (8)
RUMINANT - (TRUMAN)* takes an IN inside, IN being current. Thinking as a participle adjective, as in 'the thinking man'.
9 Comprehensive school’s first XI linked up with a top forward (4,5,5)
FULL STEAM AHEAD - FULL = comprehensive, S = school's first; TEAM = XI; A HEAD = a top.
15 Frequently outspoken on males: time for a quota (9)
ALLOTMENT - ALLOT sounds like A LOT = frequently; MEN for males; T for time.
17 Evergreen explorer cut down in front of Resolution (5,4)
SCOTS PINE - SCOTT the polar explorer chap loses his last S, then SPINE = resolution.
18 I am one member of nest maybe suited to parrots (8)
IMITABLE - I am = I'M I (= ONE) TABLE, as small tables can come in a nest where they all fit one on the other. Why do they call them Occasional Tables? We use ours all the time.
21 Major operation as Times each year put on finals of puzzles championships (6)
BYPASS - BY = Times, multiplied by; PA = each year, S S = end letters of puzzles championships. A timely reference in the surface.
23 Cast me in a film (5)
ANIME - (ME IN A)*. Anime is some sort of a Japanese cartoon genre I believe.
24 Discharge suspect concealing high explosive (5)
RHEUM - RUM = suspect, insert HE for the explosive stuff. The word RHEUM always makes me think of Peter Sellers as Clouseau asking for a rheum. That was great stuff. Toodle Pip!

Quick Cryptic 1237 by Mara

All quite straightforward, and non less enjoyable for it. My only biff was 21dn, which seemed a reasonable word, and was clued generously. I had made a note to revisit the (on first thought, questionable) synonymity at 16ac, only to have the penny drop. COD to 9dn - great misdirection, and having spotted how the clue worked early, only wished I'd got it sooner!

Definitions underlined.

Across
7 African mammal found in book, a pig (5)
OKAPI - hidden in boOK A PIg.
8 Mother has difficult dog (7)
MASTIFF - MA (mother) and STIFF (difficult).
10 Different era isn't more unpleasant (7)
NASTIER - anagram of (different) ERA ISN'T.
11 Wash first of nightclothes in advance (5)
RINSE - first letter of Nightclothes inside RISE (advance).
12 Find out it's arcane, mysteriously (9)
ASCERTAIN - anagram of (mysteriously) IT'S ARCANE.
14 Head erased from colossal image (3)
PIC - ePIC (colossal) missing its first letter (head erased).
15 Oddly, niece is born (3)
NEE - odd letters from (oddly) NiEcE.
16 Flower spread, a hundred having risen (9)
BUTTERCUP - BUTTER (spread, in its verb sense), C (a hundred) and UP (risen).
18 Former leaders in Chelsea evidently like to do well (5)
EXCEL - EX (former) and first letters from (leaders in) Chelsea, Evident and Like.
20 Quite a few cut, almost everyone (7)
SEVERAL - SEVER (cut) and all but the last letter of (almost) ALl (everyone).
22 Presume needs fixing, above all (7)
SUPREME - anagram of (needs fixing) PRESUME.
23 Negative male in America (5)
MINUS - M (male), IN, and US (America).
Down
1 Climbers — our team's nine, roughly (12)
MOUNTAINEERS - anagram of (roughly) OUR TEAM'S NINE.
2 Service area, carnage (8)
MASSACRE - MASS (service) and ACRE (area).
3 Little car entering Jerusalem in Israel (4)
MINI - hidden in (entering) jerusaleM IN Israel.
4 Leader leaves English county for Italian region (6)
UMBRIA - cUMBRIA (English county) missing its first letter (leader leaves).
5 Alienate new sergeant (8)
ESTRANGE - anagram of (new) SERGEANT.
6 Loud pub, European (4)
FINN - F (forte, loud) and INN (pub).
9 Beaten pro flinches, heavyweight's heading for a shiner? (6,6)
FRENCH POLISH - anagram of (beaten) PRO FLINCHES with first letter of (heading) Heavyweight.
13 Beauty in red rose (8)
REBELLED - BELLE (beauty) inside RED.
14 Surprisingly porcine, old sheep's cheese (8)
PECORINO - anagram of (surprisingly) PORCINE then O (old).
17 Person checking street out (6)
TESTER - anagram of (out) STREET.
19 Manage work in church (4)
COPE - OP (opus, work) in CE (Church of England, church).
21 Very basic electrical unit for siren (4)
VAMP - V (very) and AMP (basic electrical unit). Chambers: "A women who attratcts men sexually, then seduces and exploits them".

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Times Cryptic 27212

I found this very hard and after nearly an hour had completed only about a third of it so I took a short break. On returning I fared much better and knocked off most of what remained in about 8 minutes. It was still a DNF though, as detailed in my blog below, because I put a wrong answer at 10ac and this prevented me solving 7dn.

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Times Quick Cryptic 1236 by Hurley

I really enjoyed today’s puzzle - lots of crinkly parsings and good surfaces but still quick by 15x15 standards. I particularly liked the simple yet chewy 22dn but that was pipped to COD by 15dn.
LOI was 16ac by a country mile - it’s 'crinkliness' took 2 minutes to unravel which just tipped me over the ten minute mark.

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QC 1235 by Breadman

Still not fully back to doing quickies on a daily basis although I have done a few since my last blog. Perhaps this contributed to my completing this in about 9 minutes, as it 'felt' a bit more difficult than that. There were quite a few clues that I thought were tricky but luckily I seemed to be on the right wavelength for them. The result was that several clues that I think I would have normally been consciously piecing together became straight write-ins. Many thanks to Breadman as this gave me a very welcome Monday-morning sense of achievement (no doubt soon to evaporate when the comments start and I realise that everybody else found it easier than I did).

I think I have blogged a Breadman once before and in my ignorance on that occasion I speculated that it might have been his first contribution. Those who know all about these things corrected me though and I now know that he has been contributing for some years although very infrequently.

I think my FOI could have been 1A, but for some reason I started reading the clues at random today rather than starting at the beginning which is most unlike me. In the event I think it was 10A. LOI was, I believe, 15D. There were many clues to like so it is difficult to pick a COD, but I'm going to go for 12A simply because it gave me the greatest 'kick' when I solved it. I'm just such an adrenalin junkie, me.

Deploying my recently fitted NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) on the finished grid yielded... absolutely nothing. But at least I remembered to give it a go. Having said that, perhaps there is somebody out there with a more powerful model who will be able to turn something up. After all, they say that if you look hard enough you can find patterns in anything.

Definitions are underlined, and my thought processes in arriving at the answers are explained just as they occurred to me in the simplest language that I have at my command.

Across
1 Hide criminal Alec deviously (7)
CONCEAL - CON (criminal, as in CONvict) + anagram ('deviously') of ALEC = CEAL.
5 Unknown eight in German vessel on water (5)
YACHT - OK here we go back to school. First lesson: algebra. Unknown quantities in algebraic equations are generally x, y and z. Here we have Y. Second lesson: basic German (counting): eins, zwei, drei, vier, funf, sechs, sieben, ACHT!
8 Basic pool area — blokes converse endlessly (11)
FUNDAMENTAL - FUND (pool) + A (area) + MEN (blokes) + TAL (TALk = converse 'endlessly')
10 Whale heads for ocean reef, cruising around (4)
ORCA - first letters of (heads for) Ocean Reef Cruising Around.
11 Divided pears messily consumed (8)
SEPARATE - anagram of PEARS = SEPAR ('messily') + ATE (consumed).
12 Holiday entertainment reps, at first, comparatively pure (6)
WHITER - possibly a difficult one for the inexperienced. WHIT is short for WHITSUN or WHITSUNDAY, being the Anglican church holiday commemorating Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ's disciples and they started speaking in tongues (glossolalia) and casting out demons and doing all sorts of other crazy things. Probably now mostly remembered in the public consciousness for Philip Larkin's poem (and collection of poems) The Whitsun Weddings. At the time Whitsun was seen as a particularly propitious time for weddings, and Larkin describes a train journey that he makes at Whitsun which coincides with some wedding parties. Apparently the actual train journey that Larkin visualises in his poem never took place, but his description is so vivid that for me this only magnifies my admiration for the man's art. If you haven't read it it is worth it: https://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/whitsun-weddings.


Oops, sorry, I was forgetting the rest of the clue: initial letters of Entertainment Reps ('at first') added on to WHIT gives WHITER.
14 Prize relating to hospital section (6)
REWARD - RE (relating to) + WARD (hospital section).
16 Perhaps rocker broadcast after March, strangely (8)
ARMCHAIR - anagram of MARCH = ARMCH ('strangely') + AIR (broadcast).
18 Edge inside church (4)
INCH - IN (inside) + CH (church).
20 I'm clearly circling island in a fretful manner (11)
IMPATIENTLY - IM (I'm) + PATENTLY (clearly) 'circling' I (island).
22 Problems in Bundestag growing (5)
AGGRO - hidden word: BundestAG GROwing.
23 Male spy, a reddish colour (7)
MAGENTA - M (male) + AGENT (spy) + A.
Down
2 Present topless chest (5)
OFFER - take the top off a COFFER (chest) in this down clue and there you have it.
3 Meeting politician with diplomacy (7)
CONTACT - CON (politician (CONservative)) + TACT (diplomacy).
4 It's a cooker, whichever way you look (3)
AGA - I don't need to explain that an AGA is a type of cooker do I? As in AGA SAGA? And that it is a very short palindrome?
6 Rising schedule restricts club player (5)
ACTOR - another clue that uses the up and down geometry of the down clue. ROTA (schedule) 'rising', and 'restricting' C (club, as in the card suit, particularly in Bridge).
7 Belt for tools, stupidly lost, grabbed by that lady (7)
HOLSTER - anagaram of LOST = OLST ('stupidly') 'grabbed by' HER (that lady).
9 Ruler backing representative in Italian city (7)
EMPEROR - REP (representative) in ROME (Italian city) all written backwards (backing).
11 Taverns manipulated menial person (7)
SERVANT - striaght anagram of TAVERNS ('manipulated').
13 Husband supplying weapons causing damage (7)
HARMING - H (husband) + ARMING (supplying weapons).
15 Pipe Len's half-finished after game of cards (7)
WHISTLE - WHIST (game of cards) + LE (LEN half finished, i.e. the end of LEN is EN, and only half of that is included).
17 Playfully dance and run below headland (5)
CAPER - again the geography of the down clue comes into play: R (run) 'below' CAPE (headland).
19 Loud call by priest emptied underground chapel (5)
CRYPT - CRY (loud call) by PT (PriesT 'emptied', i.e. without the middle letters).
21 Cheese knocking out female Greek character (3)
ETA - FETA (cheese) 'knocking out' F (female) gives the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet.

Times 27211 - Food for thought

Time: 32 minutes
Music: Dave Brubeck, Time Further Out

This was a trickier puzzle than you might expect for a Monday, and if you are missing a few pieces of obscure knowledge you might easily get completely stuck.   I will admit, I was pressed to the limits of what I know, but I have gotten used to that trying to work Mephisto.    Fortunately, if you do happen to have all the knowledge, it was not that difficult a puzzle.

I listened to tonight's music with a new phono cartridge, a Denon DL-301 II that I have just installed.   It's still breaking in, but the music was very lively and I bopped along as I solved.   Sometimes you need external musical rhythm to achieve that mysterious internal solving rhythm.     Brubeck was from California, but he lived in Connecticut for a long time, and there are still people around here who knew him and his family.

Across
1 Money a laboratory’s cut for water vessel (8)
CALABASH - C(A LAB)ASH, easy if you know what a 'calabash' is - it's a tree with a gourd that can be used for a variety of purposes.
5 I work in charge of pursuing British film (6)
BIOPIC - B + I + OP + IC, a rather convoluted construction.
9 Authorise second armed conflict around November (8)
SANCTION -S A(N)CTION, where the one-letter month abbreviations come into play.   What do they do for January, June, and July where, as Pserve_p2 has pointed out, the 'N' for 'November comes from the NATO alphabet.
10 Marker on wine bottle (6)
FLAGON - FLAG + ON, deceptively simple.
12 Army commanders hurried where supplies could be had (7,5)
GENERAL STORE - GENERALS TORE, probably in a jeep driven by an aide.
15 Left that southern city of France (5)
LYONS - L + YON + S.
16 Railway diversion crucial for reconstruction after constant cancellation? (9)
FUNICULAR - FUN + anagram of [c]RUCIAL.  This should be easy because we had this one fairly recently.
18 Meat and fish for a judge in Corsican capital (9)
CARPACCIO - (+CARP -aj)ACCIO.  If you don't know that Ajaccio is the capital of Corsica, you'd better know the meat dish!
19 I fret about what might recycle junk (5)
REFIT - Anagram of I FRET, with the literal referring to a Chinese junk.
20 Disapproval of Conservative Democrat leading country (12)
CONDEMNATION - CON + DEM + NATION, a simple one.
24 Trouble with serious offence over good-looking youth (6)
ADONIS - ADO + SIN backwards, eminently biffable.
25 What will strain old spacecraft chasing the speed of light (8)
COLANDER - C + O LANDER.
26 Fate is satisfied by king (6)
KISMET - K + IS MET, a word adopted from Turkish into multiple languages.
27 Statistics with January not showing the first three figures (8)
STATUARY - STAT + [jan]UARY, unusally explicit for a cryptic - you really do remove the first three letters!
Down
1 Unfinished gateau gets stored initially in container (4)
CASK - CA(S)K[e].
2 Take a dive unclothed for a breather (4)
LUNG - [p]LUNG[e].
3 Cricketers dine when short of time in place close to The Oval (9)
BATTERSEA - BATTERS + EA[t].   I wasted some time with 'bats', which leads nowhere.
4 Ruling starts on this weight of cake (5,2,5)
STONE OF SCONE - STONE + OF + SCONE.
6 Does nothing with days in French islands (5)
IDLES - I(D)LES.
7 Homer’s resting place is suspect if long associated with poet (6,4)
PIGEON LOFT - anagram of IF LONG + POET.   I wasted a lot of time on Homer Simpson, trying to get a piece of furniture.
8 Devote seconds breaking into ice cream van that’s old? (10)
CONSECRATE - CON(S)E + CRATE.
11 I turn rowboat around for fish (7,5)
RAINBOW TROUT - Anagram of I TURN ROWBOAT.
13 Timepieces changing ring, first to one, then a different sound (5-5)
CLICK-CLACK - CLOCK with first I, and then A substituted for O.
14 Very bad men tear into unfinished home (10)
HORRENDOUS - H(OR REND)OUS[e].
17 Funny cartoon about jolly diver (9)
CORMORANT - anagram of CARTOON around RM, giving a bird I have a hard time remembering how to spell.
21 English low-fat cream (5)
ELITE - E +| LITE.
22 Nearly perfect suggestion (4)
IDEA - IDEA[l], one from the Quickie.
23 May I ask you to settle in advance when record’s coming out? (4)
PRAY - PR[ep]AY.   There have been no actual EPs for many years, as far as I know, but they are far too useful to the setters to ever disappear.
Cripes, there were some rude looking words in this month's grid, such that I was afraid to look a few of them up for fear of what I might find. The usual tough and satisfying cryptic workout though, with hardly any vocabulary, apart from 21dn, being found anywhere within a mile of everyday parlance. Excellent work setter!

ACROSS
1 Old fighter accompanying young boxer, maybe, after bribe (7,3)
SOPWITH PUP - WITH PUP [accompanying | young boxer (dog), maybe] after SOP [bribe]

7 Characteristic features of music: one used for article (4)
JIZZ - J{a->I}ZZ. Shame on anyone (me) who didn't know that was the primary definition of the word.

9 Material’s singular wordplay variety (4,4)
SPUN SILK - S PUNS ILK [singular | wordplay | variety]

10 Exclamation from keen old chief I must go after (6)
OCHONE - O CH [old | chief], I [one] must go after

11 Variety of Norwegian meat sandwiches put out cold, to be returned (6)
BOKMAL - LAMB [meat] "sandwiches" KO [put out cold], the whole reversed

13 Scot’s used shares from public limited company — he had to involve Brussels (8)
PLEUCHED - PLC HE'D [public limited company | he had], to "involve" EU [Brussels]

14 Violent dance video played in six minutes in farming clubs (7,5)
MOSHVEI OVDIM - MOSH [violent dance] + (VIDEO*) ["played"] in VI M [six | minutes]

17 Air-arm, at manoeuvres, having the last word in medical equipment (12)
ARMAMENTARIA - (AIR-ARM AT*) [manoeuvres], having AMEN [the last word] in

20 Bulky jacket which at Crécy stops headgear being worn (8)
HAQUETON - QUE [which, at Crecy] "stops" HAT ON [headgear | being worn]

21 Day nurses run after the old, bringing nozzle (6)
TUYERE - TUE [day] "nurses" R [run] after YE [the old]

22 Rounds on warning from motorist that’s oversentimental (3-3)
TOO-TOO - O O [rounds] on TOOT [warning from motorist]

23 Armadillo, following short turning, passed water (8)
XENURINE - reversed NEX{t} [following "short", "turning"] + URINE [passed water]

25 First being to emerge from heavens, spinning endless fire (4)
YMIR - reversed MY! [heavens, "spinning"] + {f}IR{e}

26 Rendered ineffectual, ultimately you and I need such regenerating (10)
EUNUCHISED - ({yo}U + I NEED SUCH*) ["regenerating"]

DOWN
2 Egg carrier with sex appeal, lacking heart, huntsman likewise (8)
OOPHORON - OO{m}PH OR{i}ON [sex appeal | huntsman - each "lacking heart"]

3 Old letter that might have come from anywhere turning up (3)
WYN - hidden reversed in {a}NYW{here}

4 How do charges bundle up organic compound? (5)
THIOL - HI! [how do!] "charges" reversed LOT [bundle "up"]

5 Lottery going by other name involved in very quiet and uneventful draw? (7)
PAKAPOO - AKA [going by other name] "involved in" PP [very quiet] + O-O [uneventful draw]

6 Protective agent for body of racket, fitting on top (9)
PROPERDIN - DIN [racket], PROPER [fitting] on top

7 Trading concern once going places with approach briefly adopted by Yankee (4,7)
JOHN COMPANY - JOHN + PAN [(two) "going" places], with COM{e} [approach "briefly"] "adopted", by Y [Yankee]

8 Spirit shown by fairy, loudly knocked off perch (6)
ZINGEL - ZING [spirit] shown by EL{f} [fairy, "loudly (=F) knocked off"]

12 Most of autumn, bather has to shift fat (5,6)
MAHUA BUTTER - (AUTUM{n} BATHER*) ["has to shift"]

15 Sort of dash by police line one sees normally (9)
EMMETROPE - EM [sort of dash] by MET ROPE [police | line]

16 Tart mixture interfered with catering (8)
CITRANGE - (CATERING*) ["interfered with"]

18 Having one spike most drinks acceptable — no going back (7)
MONAXON - MAX [most] "drinks" ON [acceptable] + reversed NO

19 Airline to fly Bristol to N America (6)
B.A. ZOOM [airline | to fly]. Bristol (City) is rhyming slang.

21 Shot in the arm and leg when captured by movement out of control? (5)
TONIC - ON [leg] "captured by" TIC [movement out of control]

24 Revolutionary fairy tale author, the first to leave music (3)
RAI - {l}IAR ["fairy tale" author, kinda], losing first letter and reversed

Mephisto 3039 - Paul McKenna

Odd-numbered Mephisto time! The grid has 90-degree symmetry with four clues running all the way across the 12x12 grid to stop it from separating into four mini-puzzles. All good fin.

I however made a real mess of this, having been utterly convinced that 1 across was PIDDLES, and somehow coming up with ICE DANCE with a question mark for 2 down. Maybe I was on to the start of a whole new crossword.

I think the pun in the top row is for a place?

Wordplay is hopefully explained, definitions are in Chambers and are underlined.

Away we go...

Across
1 Dwelling in the Borders is taking on direct debit for trifles (7)
PEDDLES - PELE(peel-house, fortified dwelling) 'S, containing DD(direct debit)
7 Silky net I stripped from inside leg armour (5)
TULLE - remove I from TUILLE (leg armour)
11 Always in, so toppled out-going turn (8)
EVERSION - EVER(always) then an anagram of IN,SO
12 Aged manner to perturb (6)
AERATE - AE(aged), RATE(manner, mode)
13 Know about new habit (4)
WONT - WOT(variant of WIT, know) surrounding N(new)
14 Crab on Skegness beach is near place for lobsters (6)
SCRAWL - 'S, CRAWL(lobster pen)
15 University College going through moderate interest in Shakespeare (6)
USANCE - U(university), then C(college) inside SANE(moderate)
16 Doctor here — let’s try keeping active (12, two words)
HARLEY STREET - anagram of HERE,LET'S,TRY containing A(active)
18 Strands in blasted lies about friendly pug (7)
INISLES - anagram of LIES surrounding NIS(friendly spirit)
22 Bug Mike then hide (7)
MICROBE - MIC(Mike), then ROBE(bison hide)
24 Basically broken lines, term for poetry voiced bit by bit (12)
SYLLABICALLY - anagram of BASICALLY, then L,L(lines), and the last letter in poetrY
26 Tree where the King first appeared (6)
TUPELO - double definition, based on Elvis being from Tupelo, Mississippi
27 River that’s been cleared for all produces Chinese tea (6)
CONGOU - CONGO river, then U(cleared for all)
29 Resisting a drink (4)
AGIN - A, GIN(drink)
30 Indian mogul’s nightmare curbing ID on Uzbeki motors (6)
HUZOOR - HOOR(nightmare, difficult person) containing UZ(IVR code for Uzbekistan)
31 Clare, say, one breaking into the middle is beyond the TUC, eg (8)
NONUNION - NUN(Clare), I inside NOON(middle)
32 Keynote article on Middle East (5)
THEME - THE(article), ME(Middle East)
33 Stay away from hen with this? (7)
CUTLASS - CUT(stay away from, as in "cut carbs"), LASS(hen)

Down
1 Softly blow a drop of water (5)
PLASH - P(softly), LASH(blow)
2 Entrance on horse? It’s a pleasure to see (8, two words)
EYE CANDY - EYE(mine entrance), CANDY(horse, heroin)
3 Drone earlier died on top of rocky height, time to escape (4)
DORR - D(died) on TORR(rocky height) missing T
4 Upsets for East Londoner’s wife getting into tossed salad (6)
DWAALS - W(wide) inside an anagram of SALAD.  East London in South Africa in this case
5 Don’t interfere — put only open space up for lease (12, three words)
LET WELL ALONE - WELL can refer to an open space in the middle of buildings, so you can LET(put up for lease) it ALONE
6 African confrère in south-east is to bask in uprising (7)
SENUSSI - SE(south-east) then a reversal of IS, SUN(to bask in)
7 Banking service tucked up, as they say, over a $100 matter (12, two words)
TRUST ACCOUNT - sounds like TRUSSED then A, C($100), COUNT(matter)
8 Around Berlin, etc, a rural dean coming straight in our direction (6)
USWARD - USW(und so weiter, etc), A, RD(rural dean)
9 Heraldic beast is first in detailed fleur-de-lis (6)
LIONEL - ONE(first) in side LILY(fleur-de-lis) with the last letter missing
10 Barely begin endless gush of infatuated Parisienne? (7)
ENTETEE - ENTER(begin) missing the last letter, then TEEM(gush) also missing the last letter
17 Decks with flowers take shape among hollowed, sculpted beams (8)
EMBLOOMS - LOOM(take shape) inside an anagram of BE(a)MS
18 Present minute coffee, say (7)
INSTANT - three definitions (if you consider instant as coffee)
19 Barmy mobile call’s first connected to a clot (7)
EMBOLIC - anagram of MOBILE, then C(all)
20 Mountain elder in Massif Central holding record (6)
ALPINE - AINE(elder) containing LP(record)
21 Shorter of dashes into cushy chamber (6)
PLENUM - EN dash inside PLUM(cushy)
23 Learn about absorbing unknown point of Whisky Galore! (6)
RANZEL - anagram of LEARN surrounding Z(unknown). Recovering stolen goods.
25 Try us when travelling in the Steppes? (5)
YURTS - anagram of TRY,US
28 Thug ignoring difficult white man in Chennai (4)
GORA - GORILLA(thug) missing ILL(difficult)

Sunday Times 4826 by Jeff Pearce

13:18. Nothing too hard this week. The bird at 4dn has come up before, including in a puzzle I blogged some time back, and I remembered it. This is perhaps fortunate because the wordplay strikes me as a little ungenerous. This bird actually seems to be something of a Jeff Pearce favourite: it came up in ST 4691 and 4712, which were both his, and 4328 which may have been (the setters weren’t named in those days but I think Jeff was a setter).

There were a couple of new words to me in here, in the religious thingummy and the scientific unit, but there the wordplay was clear enough. I thought the definition of ‘gambit’ was a bit odd but after further rigorous research (looking it up in Chambers) I concluded it was OK.

So thanks to Jeff and without further ado…

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

Across
1 Compost bin with strange vegetable
STRING BEAN - (BIN, STRANGE)*.
6 Say a heartily dodgy oath
EGAD - EG, A, doDgy. The first of two outings for this word last week.
9 Head off opening compass
AMBIT - gAMBIT. I don’t know much about chess but I thought this was a bit of an odd definition if only on the basis that there is such a thing as an opening gambit, which would be tautological if a gambit was necessarily an opening. However according to Chambers a gambit can be ‘an initial move in any strategy or battle’, which seems close enough even if ‘an’ (as opposed to ‘the’) still suggests it doesn’t’ necessarily have to be the first move. Edit: see below for more learned chess-related commentary that clears this one up.
10 Opening in shortened Swan Lake, perhaps, is a light piece of music
BAGATELLE - BA(GATE)LLEt.
12 Professional who’s polite on Mastermind
CIVIL ENGINEER - if you ENGINEER something, you could be said to ‘mastermind’ it.
14 Looking forward to a serving
AWAITING - A, WAITING.
15 Drunk bishop introduces gambling game
BLOTTO - B, LOTTO.
17 Copy key — primarily for bolt
ESCAPE - ESC (key) preceding APE (copy).
19 Spooner’s blue material advertising dance
HORNPIPE - a spoonerism for ‘porn hype’.
21 Discount extremely ugly dinner table needing repair
TURN A BLIND EYE - (UglY, DINNER TABLE)*.
24 Donkey left in fine pasture
GRASSLAND - GR(ASS, L)AND.
25 Polish right for small flower
RHINE - SHINE with the S (small) replaced with R.
26 Rank kipper, say, beginning to rot
TIER - TIE, Rot. Kipper ties were fashionable in the 70s.
27 Monster can upset vessel
MONSTRANCE - (MONSTER CAN)*. ‘The ornamental receptacle in which the consecrated host is exposed in Roman Catholic churches for the adoration of the people’ apparently. I didn’t know the word but it seemed the only possible arrangement of the letters once all the checkers were in place.

Down
1 Being upset, criticises photo
SNAP - reversal of PANS.
2 She’s on live — with little volume at start of act
REBECCA - RE (on), BE (live), CC (little volume), Act.
3 Shows around in mid-December?
NATIVITY PLAYS - CD.
4 Bird’s up and down movement over bridge?
BOBOLINK - BOB, O, LINK.
5 Inert substance oceanographer carries back
ARGON - contained reversed in ‘oceanographer’.
7 Soldier beginning to leave guy’s unit for force
GILBERT - GI, Leave, BERT. The CGS unit of magnetomotive force, apparently, whatever that is.
8 An old tree is firmly fixed
DEEP-ROOTED - because an old tree will have deep roots. Not a very cryptic clue.
11 Experimenting until a solution is found, pilot ran off with order
TRIAL-AND-ERROR - (PILOT RAN, ORDER)*. Edit: thanks to anon below for pointing out that this is complete nonsense. It is of course 'pilot' for TRIAL, followed by an anagram of RAN and ORDER.
13 Drunk’s after a non-alcoholic drink — perfect
WATERTIGHT - WATER, TIGHT.
16 Jets swirling around in the air?
TORNADOS - another not-very-cryptic cryptic definition.
18 Slaughter horse and worry about it
CARNAGE - CAR(NAG)E.
20 West African left out Spaniard?
IBERIAN - lIBERIAN.
22 Look around lake and an extensive 24
LLANO - L(L, AN)O. 24 being 24 across, GRASSLAND.
23 Nothing more than a pond
MERE - DD.
So here it is my turn again to blog the Jumbo. Hooray! On the plus side, I get 2 weeks to complete the blog. On the minus side, I do the blog not knowing if I've got everything correct... 100% submitted, but will I get the dreaded "With errors" tag? Lol. I hope not, but I got this response with all 3 other prize crosswords I entered the weekend this was published!  Today's (or maybe 2 weeks ago's as you read this) was nicely positioned as not too hard so that people run out of energy or time and give up (which has occasionally happened to me), but with plenty of sweet nougat to savour*. I had to trust to the wordplay for 1A, but otherwise there no unknowns - just some tricky clues. I liked 24A, 52A, 2D, 12D and 23D, but my COD goes to my last one in - 22D. VIP... what a brilliant bit of wordplay! Thanks to our setter for 49 minutes (for me) of entertainment. How did you all like it?

*I'm in trouble. The Missus left a box of nougat which I thought she had aready opened on the desk in the study and I had some while composing this blog. Apparently it was a meant to be a present for an elderly relative! Oops!

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