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Times Cryptic 27170

68 minutes but with one error that I would probably have avoided if I'd remembered to return to it as planned before stopping the clock.  A little easier than yesterday's puzzle for me but that was one I found exceptionally tough.

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Times Quick Cryptic 1201 by Izetti

An excellent QC, in my opinion, as it was quick (8:28) but definitely put up a struggle. Unusually, I had several half answers around the grid at one time waiting for a crossing letter (e.g. 15dn). Dnk the country at 15dn and had some fun at 12dn. COD to 13ac for the surface.

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Times Quick Cryptic 1200 by Mara

My solving time for this was 8 minutes so I'd say it's on the easier side of the balance. Very enjoyable, but unless I've missed it there's nothing special here to mark the publication of  Quick Cryptic 1200.

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Times 27169 - Monster Monday

Well, I struggled mightily with this, getting one wrong and needing to cheat on two, while managing to nod off as well. There were certainly some difficult words, including a medical term I'd never heard of, though it was Latiny enough to be able to work out. As often, the hidden eluded me for ages (the fact that it was some chemistry thing didn't help), while my biggest source of embarrassment - on a particularly embarrassing sort of solve - was my failure to remember what VALETUDINARIAN meant - and to separate it out from the 'valedictory' stable of words, even though I'd read an entry (very carefully, I might add) on it not six months ago.

Maybe everyone else will find it a breeze, but I would say that this is definitely not one for the Quickie brigade.

ACROSS

1 Good girl we're told deciding it's an unfair obstacle (5,7)
GLASS CEILING - G LASS sounds like 'sealing'
9 Greek festival inspires king – it’s something in the atmosphere (5)
ARGON - R in AGON; a Greek festival, such as the one at Olympia, at which competitors vied for laurel wreaths et al
10 Musical style it's rude to sing (9)
BLUEGRASS - BLUE GRASS (rat on someone)
11 The cloth sample on skimpy garments (8)
MINISTRY - TRY on MINIS
12 Leave the neighbouring housing compound (6)
ETHENE - hidden in[leav[E THE NE[eighbouring]; I'd herard of ETHANE but not this stuff
13 Investigator on the booze (8)
REPORTER - RE PORTER (a dark sweet ale brewed from black malt - one of my favourite tipples)
15 Heavy drinks bottles heading for tavern (6)
ROTUND - T[avern] in ROUND ('drinks bottles heading for tavern' is crosswordese for chuck the initial letter of tavern in drinks)
17 Reduce by cooking in two months (6)
DECOCT - DEC OCT; if I was being really honest (something I haven't tried for some time now) I would have to say that I'd never heard of this word. I probably said that last time it came up...
18 Flatter, or fairly flat? (8)
BLANDISH - if something were not that dull, but definitely on the dull side (think Michael MacIntyre doing yet another observational domestic sketch), then you might call it on the bland side, or indeed, 'blandish'. Oh God, I think I've just given him an idea he'll be able to pad out into a 3-minute item...
20 Prickly Scandinavian hero content to leave Norway (6)
THORNY - THOR N[orwa]Y
21 Sordid party game (8)
BASEBALL - BASE BALL
24 View short camera shot, in which a lot is crooked? (5,4)
CRIME WAVE - anagram* of VIEW CAMER[a]
25 Fiddle one misplaced? There it is! (5)
VOILA - VOILA with the I moving about
26 Christian book favouring giving up almost everything (12)
PROCESSIONAL - PRO CESSION (giving up) AL[l]; a book as well as 'Once in Royal David's City' then

DOWN

1 What may qualify school to provide set of rules (7)
GRAMMAR - one of the words that may premodify school, along with finishing and special needs, is GRAMMAR
2 Front of chest in great pain, so could be this? (6,8)
ANGINA PECTORIS - C[hest] IN GREAT PAIN SO* for the heart-related chest pain that my healthy lifestyle has so far kept me safe from
3 Passage south across the Atlantic (5)
SINUS - S IN US
4 Got on vessel in eastern sea (8)
EMBARKED - BARK in E MED
5 Flamboyant old Law Lord entertains (4)
LOUD - O in LUD; it is a sad indictment of modern times that judges are no longer addressed by barristers with their hands pressed against their chests under the lapels of their gowns as M'Lud. Boring old Milord is now the order of the day in the lego-judicial industry.
6 New wig and thong, kinky bedroom gear (9)
NIGHTGOWN - n[ew] WIG THONG*; shame on anyone who went down the leather, wrist-cuff route...
7 Invalid with a nature that's sickly? (14)
VALETUDINARIAN - INVALID A NATURE* for the hypochondriac
8 Get promoted in a post broadcasting (6)
ASCEND - A sounds like 'send'
14 Trained to run race, his performance is telling (9)
RACONTEUR - TO RUN RACE*
16 They could hack off Conservative Brexiteers (8)
CLEAVERS - C LEAVERS (bless 'em - I'd never have joined in the first place)
17 Didn't like touring Croatia's capital, back in Split (6)
DETACH - HATED reversed around C[roatia]
19 Item for traveller knocking on mansion walls (7)
HOLDALL - OLD (knocking on - geddit?) in HALL; walls is the containment indicator
22 Brief verse in French mostly useless (5)
ENVOI - EN VOI[d]; a literary entity that is still commonly found in crosswords - along with EPODES, ELEGIES et al - meaning a short stanza concluding a ballade
23 Demonstrate putting away hot alcoholic drink (4)
MARC - MARC[h]
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. 5A is a perfect example.

This was a very pleasant puzzle of average complexity. It included a memory jog for Saturday Morning Pictures and the cowboy films starring Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, etc. Those were the days!

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

ACROSS

1 Extremist in bizarre rituals is thrown out (5)
ULTRA: (rituals – is)*;
5 Pleased to keep one favoured cereal ingredient (7)
GLIADIN: GL(I)AD-IN; a protein in gluten;
11 Your setter finally tails off? The reverse, lots on offer here (8)
SALEROOM: MOORE(y)-LAS(t);
12 Matrix ducks accommodating extreme Brazilian state (10, two words)
MATO,GROSSO: MAT-O(GROSS)O;
13 Dislike days without a course of action ending in victory (8)
DYSPATHY: D(a)YS-PATH-(victor)Y;
16 Sheep shelter from sun on hill (5)
STELL: S-TELL; S=sun; hill=TELL;
17 Very good old van for youngster or banger from the Gorbals? (4)
PIOY: PI-O-Y(oungster); a firework in Fife;
18 Two notes on long, decorative braid (8)
SOUTACHE: SO-UT-ACHE;
19 Seattle plant succeeded with present and former President (8)
SNOWBUSH: S-NOW-BUSH;
21 Flies back for boring thing in Scotland (4)
STOB: BOTS reversed;
23 Perfume ingredient: get it in Middle Eastern state, no question (5)
ATTAR: (Q)AT(‘T)AR;
26 Spring roll said to be refined (8)
WELLBRED: WELL-sounds like “bread”;
27 Heraldic animals formerly seen in French city square (10)
LIONCELLES: LI(ONCE)LLE-S;
28 Weapon’s protective covering whitish as mentioned (8)
ARMALITE: sounds like “armour”-“light”;
29 Wyn, once a gorgeous lady is Sorbian (7)
WENDISH: WEN-DISH; WEN= old word for wyn;
30 Fox TV’s latest: 9/11 vacuously presented (5)
VIXEN: (t)V-IX-E(leve)N;

DOWN
1 Clapped-out like a brolly (6)
USED-UP: USED-UP;
2 Seasons in the case of Blackpool: rainy or windy! (12)
LABYRINTHINE: (in the bl rainy)*; bl from B(lackpoo)L;
3 Highland forecaster upset by cuts (5)
REAPS: SPAER reversed;
4 Article about large Mediterranean units (5)
ARTAL: ART-A-L; unit of weight, see rotl in Chambers;
6 Record gambling game in cabin (8)
LOG-HOUSE: LOG-HOUSE; Bingo was once known as HOUSE;
7 Insectivore not popular in a south-eastern state (6)
AGOUTA: AG(OUT)A;
8 Short written treatise on area not special for examiner (9)
DISSECTOR: DISS-(s)ECTOR;
9 Is the outline styled as such? (12, two words)
IN, SILHOUETTE: (is the outline)*; nice clue;
10 Head, / one ending in the soup (6)
NOODLE: two meanings;
14 Film unhappy defeat (9, two words)
SHOOT, DOWN: SHOOT-DOWN;
15 University in turn mocks sexual disease? Supposedly (8)
GOUJEERS: GO-U-JEERS; Waggle-Dagger for VD;
19 Quite filling spread with pasty (6)
SALLOW: S(ALL)OW;
20 Rod reportedly became pale (6)
WANNED: sounds like “wand”;
22 Outlaws second-class guys seeking publicity (6)
BADMEN: B-ADMEN; Jack Palance, Lee Marvin, the ones with the black hats whilst Roy Rogers et al wore white
24 Irishman who’s learned nothing lost office (5)
OLLAV: O-L-LAV; office=slang for toilet; I don’t understand “lost” = L
25 Honour given to lecturer, one showing marks on script (5)
OBELI: OBE-L-I;
It was pleasant looking back over this puzzle, which I recall as a(n) 13ing outing, after a week. In the first edition of this blog, I thought that the one clue where I detected a problem still seemed deficient when I came back to it, but Jackkt and Kevin have set me straight. I would guess that most of y’all got through this one in a speedy fashion. I was watching YouTube while I worked it.

There sure were a lot—eight, plus one partial!—of (mangaras)*. Anagrinds are italicized in the clues.

ACROSS

 1 I don’t know bishop in drink, okay (8)
PASSABLE—PASS or “I don’t know” + AL(B)E
 5 American beer had befuddled one supposedly enlightened (6)
BUDDHA—That brew, to speak loosely, would be BUDweiser + (had)*. I sort of like the sceptical “supposedly,” though my impression is that Guatama was on to something.
10 New man cutting top of lip in close shave (4,5)
NEAR THING—N + EARTH[-l]ING
11 Song of soprano that nut producer picks up (5)
PSALM—P(S)ALM
12 Banker head of redundancy put up in temporary digs? (5)
TRENT—T(R)ENT. “Banker” is a word used for a river only in crosswords, cf. “flower”
13 Flirt with nurse I natter about (9)
ENTERTAIN—(EN or “nurse” + I natter)*. As in “entertain an idea.” Sometimes the anagrind is “nurse.” (At first I had RN for "nurse," as I was not familiar with the British term "enrolled nurse" and hadn't bothered to actually work out the anagram. Thanks again to Kevin.)
14 Decide a map needs altering for military adviser (4-2-4)
AIDE-DE-CAMP—(Decide a map)*. This was my FOI. Bit of an echo below. (Did Ondine or Billy Name act as Warhol aides-de-camp? …Sorry.)
17 Fail to understand one teaching classes (4)
MISS—Double definition (and the real thing). Do English schoolchildren still call their (female) teachers “Miss”? What about the male ones? I really want to know.
19 One costly, but ultimately lacking, plan (4)
IDEA—I (“one”) + DEA[-r]
20 Horror story provided by Don King’s stylist? (4-6)
HAIR-RAISER—Har de har har
22 Knight tyrannised after daughter’s gone and proposed (9)
NOMINATED—N is for “knight” (because the king gets the K) + [-d]OMINATED
24 Yearn to have a partner, in practice? (5)
COVET—I should have gotten CO[-]MET a lot more quickly Friday, having already worked this one not quite two weeks ago. My friend Emma is a veterinarian, but I don’t know if she shares her practice.
26 A large group of people going around island (5)
ATOLLHow exactly is this supposed to work? It comes close, but… Lessee. A is A and “large” is L; in between we have a “group of people” going around, LOT <—. There’s nothing to say the A and L are themselves going around (the backward) LOT. Am I missing somethi I don't know why I couldn't see that after the A both L(arge) and LOT are going backwards. D'oh!
27 One plated molar lad cracked around lunchtime? (9)
ARMADILLO—(molar lad + I [or "1" for "lunchtime"])*
28 Equipment associated with school camp (6)
KITSCH—KIT +SCH(ool).
29 Advance publicity awful types ultimately diss (8)
PROGRESS—PR + OGRES + [-dis]S


Down

 1 Travelling up mountain track, perhaps (11,4)
PUNCTUATION MARK— (up mountain track)* I’m not 2’ed to say that this was my LOI, the definition was so carefully camouflaged. I love this trick, which we don’t see often, though probably often enough (you wouldn’t want to ruin the element of surprise).
 2 Fraud finally destroyed yours truly? Oh, that’s awful! (5)
SHAME—SHA[-m] + ME. Of course, all of SHAM is actually there too, but then you’d just be left with E. Still seems a little odd to lop off the M just to add it again, though this kind of thing is done often enough (if not too often. Ha).
 3 New IT update for facility (8)
APTITUDE—(IT update)*
 4 French department learning about head of interior (5)
LOIRE—LO(I)RE
 6 Politician’s anger with posh Lord’s official? (6)
UMPIRE—M(ember of) P(arliament) IRE “with” (coming before it) U for “posh.” “Politician’s anger” has to be read as “Politician has anger,” which always irks me a bit because one so rarely hears this particular elision in real life (as opposed to the contraction of “has” as a helping verb).
 7 Aberrant mad and racist histrionics (9)
DRAMATICS—(mad + racist)*
 8 Governments reshuffling amid transitions (15)
ADMINISTRATIONS—(amid transitions)*
 9 Soldiers might be prepared before one goes off (3,5)
EGG TIMER—Cryptic definition, “soldiers” being little strips of toast for sticking into soft-boiled eggs at breakfast
15 Hot chap doing Rome with a bad temperature (9)
DREAMBOAT—(ROME + A BAD T[emperature])*
16 Give a hand to break up upset cobblers (8)
CLAPTRAP—CLAP + PART <—
18 Party in possibly automatic Golf tailed guard (8)
WATCHDOG—“automatic” is kind of WATCH (hence “possibly”), which has “Party,” or DO, between it and G(olf), or “in” them
21 Finish cut on black, short hair all at once (2,4)
EN BLOC—EN[-d] or “Finish cut” + B(lack) + LOC[-k] or “short hair”
23 Object veterinarian used to restrain bird (5)
DEMUR—The vet is a DR, holding that flightless wonder the EMU
25 Cost of treasure (5)
VALUE—Double definition, though the two are not so disparate as to produce any kind of spark

Jumbo 1345

A puzzle that seemed easier than average with just the one troublesome clue (21A), which fortunately fell on the right side of a coin toss an educated guess. The standouts, at least for this solver, were the two pieces of music that were both composed in my lifetime AND are in my iTunes collection - an occurrence only infrequently seen in the Times crossword. Granted, I'm not the biggest fan of either of the artists concerned but, in a Crosswordland where classical music predominates, it's nice to be thrown a bone every so often, even if not the absolute tastiest. Thanks, setter!

Definitions are underlined, * = anagram, {} = omission, dd = double definition

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This was a struggle. Particularly horrible were the clues with obscure answers which one couldn’t construct with certainty from the wordplay. Yes, I’m looking at you, Carne Ebbas Giant (sic) and Fianne Fáil (sic). Those two I had to google, both to check they were things and to find out how to spell them. In neither case (grumble) did the wordplay unambiguously specify the spelling. Fine if you live in or near that parish, I suppose, but too bad else. And yes, I do know now that the spellings above are wrong.

The rest was tough but doable. I guess my clue of the day is 9ac, for its nice structure and echo of the wonderful TV series. Thanks to the setter.

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 It's Let It Be that concludes this great live event (4)
STET: last letters (“this concludes”) of the last four words.

4 Fish surprises, served with chopped fruit (4,6)
ROCK SALMON: ROCKS / ALMON[d].

9 Rumpole pays out, scrapping over sweetener (5,5)
MAPLE SYRUP: (RUMP-LE PAYS*), having “scrapped” O for “over”.

10 Irish drawn to saint excited reaction (4)
STIR: ST (saint) / IR (Irish).

11 Mountain girl in historic subcontinental region (6)
BENGAL: BEN / GAL.

12 Always travelling west, minister in eastern capital (8)
EVERMORE: REV inside E / ROME, all reversed (“travelling west”).

14 Pass through having taken in Slovakia's capital (4)
VISA: S[lovakia] taken in by VIA (through).

15 Support British on search for swimmer (10)
RIBBONFISH: RIB / B / ON / FISH (search).

17 Cook has minutes to find relish (10)
ENTHUSIASM: (HAS MINUTES*).

20 Mock Shakespeare's ending in Tempest (4)
RAGE: RAG (mock) / [shakespear]E.

21 Letters Heather's about to bring in (8)
LEARNING: LING “about” EARN.

23 Old Greek sailor turning in as consequence (6)
THEBAN: AB “turning” in THEN (as consequence).

24 Good to deliver in box (4)
GRID: G / RID. Chambers gives “grid” as “framework”, which seems near enough.

25 Party girl Formula One founder entertains (6,4)
FIANNA FAÍL: ANNA (not ANNE, obviously, if you know the answer you’re looking for, although in that case you hardly need the wordplay!) “entertained by” F1 / FAIL (founder, as in “sink”). It’s an Irish political party.

26 Mimicking bird, cat who looks for excitement? (7,3)
PEEPING TOM: PEEPING (mimicking a bird) / TOM (cat).

27 Connection used by school in Karachi (4)
LINK: hidden answer.

Down
2 One to elicit pity generated in plays? (11)
TRAGEDIENNE: (GENERATED IN*).

3 Communications device to signal unwittingly (9)
TELEGRAPH: double definition, the second as in “he telegraphed his next move”.

4 Sovereign holds good man to be lawbreaker (7)
RUSTLER: RULER “holds” ST (saint).

5 Figure Caribbean agents may give (5,5,5)
CERNE ABBAS GIANT: (CARIBBEAN AGENTS*). The exact spelling is a punt unless you know the answer. It’s a hillside figure in Dorset.

6 Drink on tick for boss (7)
SUPREMO: SUP / REMO (another name for Riesling, apparently). I didn’t know this name for the grape, but this time the answer was obvious. On edit: forget that nonsense! A sensible parsing suggested in the comments is SUP (drink) / RE (on) / MO (tick).

7 Noise from the herd about race becomes slogan (5)
MOTTO: MOO (noise from the herd) “about” TT (motor cycle race).

8 Message sensibly delivered in this bottle? (5)
NERVE: double definition. The first alludes to signals to or from the brain travelling along the nervous system.

13 Notice eating irons wrongly placed (11)
RESIGNATION: (EATING IRONS*).

16 Remiss to hammer out soaring German air (9)
FORGETFUL: FORGE (to hammer out)  / TFUL (reversal of – i.e. “soaring” – LUFT. It's the German word for the air that we breath).

18 Make firm points to clinch argument (7)
STIFFEN: S[outh], E[ast] and N[orth] around TIFF.

19 Reductive substitution English man used in mass medium (7)
METONYM: E / TONY in M (mass) / M (medium).

21 Set cryptically? That brings advantage! (3,2)
LEG UP: the idea is that “LEG UP” could be a cryptic clue for GEL (set).

22 Bad blood initially denied young heroine (5)
ALICE: [m]ALICE.

Times 27,167: Joculus Riffed

Something of a disaster last night as I clicked submit to post this blog and LiveJournal instantly ate it, beyond any of my attempts at recovery. I have to dash out to catch a train right now... but there was plenty to talk about on this excellent crossword, so I promise I'll return and sort this placeholder out! In the meantime...

ACROSS
1 Goal minders do it (6)
OBJECT - double definition: to mind something is to have an objection to it

4 Rank alongside aphids, ultimately, as parasites (8)
SPONGING - PONGING [rank] alongside {aphid}S

10 Sort of tall beast that’s kept in cellar? (5,4)
TABLE SALT - (TALL BEAST*) ["sort of..."]

11 Assume that one judge must visit French city (5)
DIJON - DON [assume] that I J [one | judge] must "visit"

12 Dashed busy? (9,5)
INSPECTOR MORSE - we've talked in here only recently about how a "busy" is a member of the police force, and Morse code contains many dashes (as well as dots)... suggesting this groanworthy/brilliant pun of a definition.

14 What was taken from Samson and Lot (5)
SIGHT - double definition. Samson was blinded after being shorn; and "a sight" is a lot in some idiomatic uses as, again, I think we've discussed in here recently. "He's a damn sight more friendly than you are," that kind of thing.

16 Grabbing armband, collecting pants (9)
SNAFFLING - SLING [armband], "collecting" NAFF [pants]

18 Something said to be complete, note, within one (9)
UTTERANCE - UTTER [complete] + N [note], within ACE [one]

20 Inadequate person finally found new life, some job (5)
DWEEB - {foun}D {ne}W {lif}E {som}E {jo}B

21 MCC aim: come repeatedly for batting average abroad (5,2,5,2)
COMME CI COMME CA - (MC AIM COME COME*) ["for batting"]. Every schoolboy's favourite response to "Comment ca va?" if I recall correctly, due it being the most fun thing to say.

25 Covered on the inside with wrinkles (5)
LINED - double def

26 Girl fashioned garland, almost new (9)
MADELEINE - MADE LEI [fashioned | garland] + NE{w}

27 Further comment, often too complicated (8)
FOOTNOTE - (OFTEN TOO*) ["complicated"]

28 Beef, for example, from across the pond or canal? (6)
MEATUS - MEAT U.S. [beef, for example | from across the pond]

DOWN
1 Course books containing sign of error troubles publisher (6,4)
OXTAIL SOUP - O.T. [books] containing X [sign of error] + AILS O.U.P. [troubles | publisher]

2 After first of January, one’s having to live in digs (5)
JIBES - after J{anuary}, I'S [one's] having BE [to live] in

3 Mild Liberal getting stick all round (7)
CLEMENT - L [Liberal] getting CEMENT [stick] all round

5 Pan perhaps necessary for recipe — teriyaki? (5)
PETER - hidden in {reci}PE TER{iyaki}

6 Green light’s extinguished: then sleeps (4,3)
NODS OFF - to give someone the green light is to give them the NOD; so NOD'S OFF [green light's | extinguished]

7 Fair distance beyond home? Wrong (9)
INJUSTICE - JUST ICE [fair | distance] beyond IN [home]

8 On the way out, I dispatched award (4)
GONG - GO{i}NG [on the way out, losing its I]

9 Resistance fighter trained in Sparta (8)
PARTISAN - (IN SPARTA*) ["trained"]

13 Helicopters from Richmond bringing winning team perhaps to the Oval (3,7)
EGG BEATERS - egg beaters are an American term for copters, so this is probably Richmond, VA, not the one south of the Thames. Bring BEATERS [winning, team perhaps] to EGG [the oval]. Whew!

15 Duck excessively short tackle (3,4,2)
GET DOWN TO - GET DOWN [duck] + TO{o} [excessively, "short"]

17 One used to call a contact, briefly, before work (4,4)
AREA CODE - A REAC{h} [a | contact, "briefly"] before ODE [work]

19 Raced round like a loony, after a fast time (7)
RAMADAN - RAN [raced] round MAD [like a loony], after A

20 Director finally accepted Zola and his article (2,5)
DE MILLE - {accepte}D + EMIL [Zola] + LE [his (i.e. a Frenchman's) article]. But wasn't it EMILE?

22 Space traveller wasn’t the only one to get in contact? (5)
COMET - if you get into contact with someone you meet them, so multiple people getting into contact could be said jocularly to have CO-MET.

23 Turn out fine in the end: I’m out of Casualty (5)
EVICT - {fin}E + VICT{im} [casualty, losing it's I'M]

24 Scandinavian of note is visiting (4)
OLAF - OF, visited by LA [note]

Times Quick Cryptic No 1199 by Tracy

Apologies in advance for any delay in replying to comments and queries - I bring you this blog from Marbella in Spain, where I am taking part in the Marbella Walking Festival, and have a 20km walk to do before coming back here. I found this a typically neat and concise crossword from Tracy today, with lots of gentle clues that should encourage our less-experienced solvers. Indeed, I thought 7A summed it up exactly. Lots of lovely clues to pick from. I enjoyed 9A but, mindful of where this is hosted, I have to say the highlight for me was the clever 21A. Thanks Tracy! I hope you all found it as much fun as I did and didn't get snookered by the slightly trickier ones. How did you all get on? Oh, and if you care about times, this took me about 5 3/4 minutes.
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Times Quick Cryptic No 1198 by Teazel

A gentler puzzle today from Teazel, hopefully something of a relief after a run of trickier offerings. I tackled this directly after doing Tuesday's 15x and QC, both of which were tough, and was rewarded with something like a PB of 5:08 (at least, I don't remember every breaking the 5 minute mark). Difficult puzzles can be dispiriting for a beginner, but they do make good practice. Every more experienced solver has spent many an hour staring blankly at an almost-blank grid, the optimism after getting that early anagram now a soured, taunting vestige of false hope. I got all bar 22ac with my first read through of the acrosses, which made for a merry feast of biffing come the downs, hence the time. Nice change of pace - many thanks to Teazel!

Across
1 Brand or scar, we hear (6)
MARQUE - sounds the same ("we hear") as MARK (scar)
4 Slice beer ingredient into container (4,2)
CHOP UP - HOP (beer ingredient, with a current tendency to be overused to the point of tasting of pot pourri) in CUP (container)
8 Travelling to old city in west of Ghana (7)
TOURING - TO (to) UR (old city) IN (in) G ( the "westernmost" letter of Ghana). Nicely masked use of "to" and "in".
10 Lines some observer sees (5)
VERSE - "some" of the letters of obserVER SEes
11 Victor Middleton regularly recording (5)
VIDEO - V(ictor), and then the regular/alternate letters of mIdDlEtOn
12 Stuffy, as a bald man is commonly? (7)
AIRLESS - HAIRLESS (as a bald man is), commonly = drop the aitch.
13 Having shed fat, I’m terribly clumsy (3-6)
HAM-FISTED - anagram (terribly) of SHED FAT IM
17 Bill’s relation (7)
ACCOUNT - nice double definition, the second as in a narration/recount.
19 Racecourse is firm, in a way (5)
ASCOT - CO. (company/firm) in A ST. (a street/way)
20 A lake frequently high (5)
ALOFT - A L(ake) OFT (frequently)
21 Decide to do puzzle again (7)
RESOLVE - double definition.
22 Personal ornament that’s over a foot? (6)
ANKLET - cryptic definition, an anklet going above a foot. Ruined my clean sweep, dammit!
23 Small wait for such a clear sky (6)
STARRY - S(mall) TARRY (wait)
Down
1 After car check, I have reason to act (6)
MOTIVE - MOT (car check) I'VE (I have)
2 How hands move without stopping (5,3,5)
ROUND THE CLOCK - gentle cryptic hint.
3 Special clothes, even (7)
UNIFORM - double definition
5 Hang around south coast resort, then run (5)
HOVER - HOVE (south coast resort) then R(un)
6 Not the architectural style of the Pisa tower? (13)
PERPENDICULAR - cryptic(ish) definition. Like Trump's tower (according to Ms Daniels), the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a monumentally disappointing erection.
7 Asleep, after upheaval: a delight (6)
PLEASE - anagram (after upheaval) of ASLEEP
9 Happy one is at a peak as fighter (9)
GLADIATOR - GLAD (happy) I (ONE) is at A TOR (a peak)
14 Characteristic to employ poles for crossing (7)
TRANSIT - TRAIT (characteristic) to employ/engage N(orth) S(outh) (poles)
15 Criticise a parent for hat (6)
PANAMA -PAN (criticise) A MA (a parent)
16 Very hard putting fish into pig-pen (6)
STEELY - put EEL (fish) into STY (pig-pen)
18 Release neckwear for NY assembly? (5)
UNTIE - a U.N. (NY assembly) TIE (neckwear)
I panicked a bit at the beginning of this one, not settling to proper solving for some considerable time, and coming home in 26 minutes, well down the early birds list. If I hadn’t left 9 across unparsed when pressing submit, I might rather more authentically claim I was being diligent in solving properly and not just guessing, but I was relieved when no pink squares showed up. I’ll avoid the risk of being seen as either condescending or pathetic by not saying whether this is hard or easy, but I will venture that this is a decent crossword, with the more arcane words fairly and helpfully clued, though I suppose if you’re really trying you could fluff the anagram at 10.
My conclusions are submitted with SOLUTIONS clues and definitions.
[(click to open)]
ACROSS
1 Platform favourite entertaining everyone (6)
PALLET It’s favourite PET enclosing everyone ALL. And yes, a pallet is a platform, so says Chambers (and if you think about it). Takes me right back to a (long forgotten) schoolboy piece I wrote about palletisation of bricks, when still relatively innovatory, with pictures culled from who knows where, of which I was particularly proud
5 Slur that brings two characters together (8)
LIGATURE Just about a double definition, a mark in music joining two notes  ͡   or two letters conflated to form one Œ – this one’s capital ligature OE.
9 Inadequate sign at entrance to dull entertainment zone (8) 
CLUBLAND The best I can do for this is CLUe as inadequate sign and BLAND for dull, with “at entrance to” as a verbose position indicator.
10 First of Tia Maria’s done for a divine drink! (6)
AMRITA So not nectar, that’s for the Olympian gods, but the Hindu version. Anagram (done) of T(ia) MARIA.
11 Don's conjecture (6)
ASSUME Double definition, don as in put clothes on.
12 Sort to confront Roman maybe (8)
TYPEFACE As exemplified by our own dear Times New Roman. TYPE from sort and FACE from confront
14 Childminder sent for pater when in difficulty (6-6)
FOSTER-PARENT Anagram (in difficulty) of SENT FOR PATER
17 Playing field has offensive smell coming back again (12)
RECRUDESCENT The REC is a playing ground, primarily where Bath RFC plays, (on edit, thanks Brnchn C) RUDE is offensive (see anon yesterday describing Pip) and SCENT smell.
20 Very elaborate punishments — a joke (8)
FINESPUN punishments: FINES, joke: PUN. Chambers defines as “finely spun out; over-subtle”. Ça va.
22 An expression of emotion when that lady's in red (6)
CHERRY The expression of emotion is CRY, and that lady HER. In tells you where to put her.
23 Girl mostly difficult for boy to catch (6)
SHARON Our random name for today. Mostly difficult is HAR(d) “caught” by SON for boy.
25 Harmful substance to be limited? Europe's prime task (8)
EMISSION Much research goes on into the limiting of noxious gases and such from our industries, lifestyles and cows. Europe’s prime is E, and task MISSION. A timely clue given the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
26 Riding attire splits audibly (8)
BREECHES Sounds very like the split version spelt with an A. US solvers might prefer  BRITCHES, but they don’t fit here.
27 Advanced travel needing gas (4,2)
GONE ON Travel GO and the gas NEON.




DOWN
2 Ace endowed with divine favour better than the rest (6)
ABLEST Ace is abbreviated to A, and BLEST, a variant on blessed, is tacked on.
3 Workers in party beneficial to Anglican church (6,5)
LABOUR FORCE The (political) party is LABOUR, beneficial to give FOR and the Anglican Church is the C (of) E
4 Bridged river to the north, having installed some lines? (9)
TRAVERSED The river you want is the DART, navigable as far as Totnes. In Devon, it goes roughly north-west. In the grid it goes north (it’s reversed) and the required lines to install are VERSE
5 Deficient character? Could include a daughter! (7)
LADETTE &lit, assuming a rather dismissive view of the genre. Deficient character gives you LETTER with that R dropped. A D(aughter) is included.
6 Express horror about king getting total possession (5)
GRASP Express horror GASP surrounds R for king
7 A “mini-mountain” of rubbish piled up (3)
TOR Further up the Dart from Totnes, loads of these on the Moor, Hey Tor being perhaps the most impressive, if indeed only a miniature mountain. Rubbish is ROT, which is “piled up” or reversed
8 Reluctant to talk when name is brought up in rift (8)
RETICENT I did try  taciturn, but it’s CITE for name reverses (brought up) in RENT for rift.
13 One exemplifies it formally (5,6)
FIRST PERSON A couple of days ago we had “formally, I triumphed in speech” to a background of protests about one and won not (necessarily) sounding alike. As a punishment, the setters’ union has us make do with a cryptic definition.
15 Priest initially getting to a particular clerical activity (9)
PREACHING The initial letter of Priest getting to: REACHING
16 Fairy nothing other than heartless, a mischievous little thing (8)
PERISHER PERI is the fairy, and SHEER can mean “nothing other than”, from which to excise the heart, or middle letter.
18 Perfect and totally dull — one bound for university! (7)
SINLESS A bit of a bear trap this. The way the clue works is that you take SUNLESS for totally dull, and bind (so to speak) I (one) in in place of U(niversity).
19 A funny person finishing early with extremely operatic piece? (6)
ARIOSO A funny person: RIOT without its last letter plus extremely: SO. An arioso is halfway between an aria and a recitative.
21 Quiet island in critically difficult time (5)
PINCH P is quiet (more music) and INCH an island, usually either Scots or Irish.
24 Whiskey or port? (3)
RYE What the good ol’ boys were drinking. Rye is one of the historic Cinque ports, now about two miles inland
Even after four or more years of weekly Wednesdays, I still look forward to producing a blog, hoping it will test and titillate me (and you) and occasionally involve learning something new. Yesterday's was a good example. Today was a disappointment. I even wondered if I'd printed the wrong puzzle and done the Quick Cryptic. It took me less than 15 minutes with nothing to slow me down, 29a being the LOI after a little thought and a smile at the end. I hope I'm not going to cheese off people who found it hard, if any, but it was unsatisfyingly easy and unmemorable. I'm struggling to find more to say about it, so I'll just unravel the wordplay.
Favourite clue? 13a, of course.

Across
1 Kitchen device to ruin plumbing fitment (10)
DISHWASHER - DISH = to ruin, WASHER is a plumbing 'fitment'. Well, it's just a little circular thing, not much of a fitment.
6 Item is piano tune (4)
PAIR - P for piano, AIR = tune; an item as in a couple.
9 Hell surrounding Biblical city seen by an austere religious follower (7)
PURITAN - UR that old city inside PIT = hell, then AN.
10 Note cut lines — join again? (7)
REMARRY - REMARK = note, is 'cut' then RY for railway lines.
12 Herd straying and straying? Don't follow it (3,7)
RED HERRING -  (HERD)* then ERRING = straying.
13 Something that swoops near the ground, head right back (3)
OWL - LOW = near the ground, move the L to the end.
15 Stop last of dodgy group of settlers (6)
COLONY - a COLON : is a kind of stop, Y = end of dodgY.
16 Exciting about Conservative (not Republican) taking a broad view (8)
ECLECTIC - ELECTRIC for exciting; delete the R, insert a C a bit earlier.
18 Marine marker left by second person returning after start of month (4-4)
LIFE-BUOY - L = left, 1 FEB = start of month, then YOU reversed.
20 Nothing quartet recalled about old instrument (6)
VIOLIN - NIL = nothing, IV = quartet, reverse all and insert O for old.
23 Servant, giving one away, cracked (3)
MAD -  MAID = servant, remove the I.
24 Healthy as a pampered inmate? (2,4,4)
IN GOOD NICK - A pampered inmate could be in a GOOD NICK or jail.
26 Threatening to have party for graduate suffering grief (7)
DOLEFUL - BALEFUL = threatening, replace the BA (graduate) by DO (party).
27 Brand of motor ending in remote display area (7)
MARQUEE - MARQUE = brand of motor car, E = end of remotE.
28 Line chest for a bit of fun (4)
LARK - L for line, ARK for chest.
29 What you get up to in the way of tweeting (4,6)
DAWN CHORUS - Cryptic definition.

Down
1 Party leaders in politics expect information (4)
DOPE - DO = party (yet again!), P E = initial letters of politics expect.
2 Most of certain area offloading millions of unusual paintings? (7)
SURREAL - SUR(E) = most of certain, REAL(M) = area, losing its M for millions.
3 Hunter perhaps reset gin, with transient opportunity for observation (8,5)
WATCHING BRIEF - a hunter could be a WATCH; (GIN)*, BRIEF = transient.
4 One guards small number of competitors (6)
SENTRY - S for small, ENTRY for number of competitors.
5 I creep about, going after each listening device (8)
EARPIECE - EA = each, (I CREEP)*.
7 6 ceding power left transport hub (7)
AIRPORT - 6a was PAIR, lose the P, add PORT = left.
8 Original shell of confectionery recreated in sugary coating (5,5)
ROYAL ICING - (ORIGINAL C Y)*, where C Y = the 'shell' of confectionery.
11 Crumbling Gothic remnant — it's something of an attraction (8,5)
MAGNETIC NORTH - (GOTHIC REMNANT)*.
14 Representation to go up — way to attract Liberal (5,5)
SCALE MODEL - SCALE = to go up, as in scale a wall; MODE = way, L for Liberal.
17 Upset record number entering target country (8)
MONGOLIA - AIM = target, LOG = record, NO = number; insert LOG NO into AIM gives you AILOGNOM, upset it all to get the country.
19 Fine supplier of puzzles, overlooking first one cheating (7)
FIDDLER - F = fine, RIDDLER = one supplying puzzles, remove the first R.
21 Varnish nearly all fine material? Question stopping short (7)
LACQUER - LAC(E) = fine material, nearly; QUER(Y) = question stopping short.
22 Usual trick, hiding ring and military medal (6)
COMMON - CON = trick; insert O = ring and MM abbr. for a military medal.
25 Communiqué given no time in part of military base (4)
MESS - MESSAGE = communiqué, remove the AGE = given no time.

Quick Cryptic 1197 by Joker

Continuing the high standard of recent Quickies, this was tricky in places. I found enough starting points to gradually fill the grid in no particular order, with LOI 5dn. Had to look up the (vaguely familiar) second definition at 17ac, and the (new to me) definition in the middle of 5dn.

Thanks to Joker, and I look forward to finding out how you all got on...

Definitions underlined.

Across
1 Is most of gift in seedy venue related to handouts? (12)
DISTRIBUTIVE - IS with all but the last letter of (almost) TRIBUTe (gift), all inside DIVE (seedy venue).
8 A top mark (5)
ALPHA - double definition.
9 Former partner has to pretend with lady, heartless indeed (7)
EXACTLY - EX (former partner), ACT (to pretend), and outside letters of (heartless) LadY.
10 Fear losing fine musical ability (3)
EAR - fEAR without the f (fine).
11 Trying to prevent train sets being laid out wrongly (9)
RESISTANT - anagram of (being laid out wrongly) TRAIN SETS.
13 Part of Burbank city (5)
URBAN - hidden in (part of) bURBANk.
14 Cruel person beheaded river creature (5)
OTTER - rOTTER (cruel person) missing its first letter (beheaded).
16 Wild eglantine is far from lovely (9)
INELEGANT - anagram of (wildly) EGLANTINE.
17 Only just defeat star seed (3)
PIP - triple definition. The star is one on an officers shoulder, signifying rank.
19 Strange being away from work with strike (7)
OFFBEAT - OFF (away from work) and BEAT (strike).
21 At first, bearings are seized tightly enough. Pour oil on (5)
BASTE - first letters of (at first) Bearings Are Seized Tightly Enough.
22 Unruly old boy upset superstore (12)
OBSTREPEROUS - OB (old boy) with an anagram of (upset) SUPERSTORE.

Down
1 Admiral’s daughter pursued by libertine (5)
DRAKE - D (daughter) then RAKE (libertine).
2 Southern European story with a moral that might be unconnected (9)
SEPARABLE - S (southern), E (european), and PARABLE (story with a moral).
3 Raise stove intended, we hear, for a new layout (13)
REARRANGEMENT - REAR (raise), RANGE (stove), and a homophone of (we hear) "meant".
4 Brute grabbing queen’s bosom (6)
BREAST - BEAST (brute) surrounding (grabbing) R (queen).
5 Managed to amuse oneself cutting board that’s not fixed (13)
TRANSPORTABLE - RAN (managed) and SPORT (to amuse oneself), inside (cutting) TABLE (board).
6 Son got out of enormous bath (3)
VAT - s (son) removed from (got out of) VAsT (enormous).
7 Strange story about the end of expensive seafood (6)
OYSTER - anagram of (strange) STORY surrounding (about) the last letter (end) of expensivE.
12 Against former old Italian food (9)
ANTIPASTO - ANTI (against), PAST (former) and O (old).
13 United Nations is working in simultaneous action (6)
UNISON - UN (united nations), IS, and ON (working).
15 Playing piece has all the actors leave gutted (6)
CASTLE - CAST (all the actors) with the outermost letters of (gutted) LeavE.
18 Crowd in Fleet Street? (5)
PRESS - double-ish definition.
20 Untruth I found in key book (3)
FIB - I inside (found in) F (key) and B (book).

Times Cryptic 27164

Not the easiest of puzzles and on a par with yesterday's rather tricky offering in my opinion as both took me in the region of 50 minutes. Also like yesterday, there were one or two words or meanings previously unknown to me but I managed to complete the grid without reference to aids.

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Times Quick Cryptic 1196 by Orpheus

Just over ten minutes for this one and all the time it seemed pretty tricky. Loi 22ac. Whilst the old timers may sail through, serenely or otherwise, I feel there are a lot of learning opportunities for beginners here. There’s the short form for sickbay, an unusual word for mournful, a gun, a word meaning cunning, a 4 part parse at 25ac and, for those outside U.K., an area of London. Good luck!

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Times 27163 - All you ever get from me!

Time: 35 minutes
Music: Mingus Ah Um

This one was a bit of a biff-fest, as some of the wordplay was rather questionable and many of the answers were quite obvious.  There are a number of clever letter-removal clues, which are always good fun it you can figure them out.   However, some of the clues are rather far-fetched; unless, that is, I fail to understand them correctly.   I certainly don't get at least one, which will provide fodder for discussion, I'm sure.

My time would have been faster if I had not bunged in a misspelt 18 down, making 'aforementioned' quite impossible, even after I had correctly deduced the anagram of 'idea not' and put those letters in their proper places.   If I had been a llittle quicker, I might have beaten my time for tonight's Quickie, which is another story altogether.

Across
1 Mended pliers and another tool to make fake backing (3,7)
LIP SERVICE - Anagram of PLIERS + VICE
6 Press article hidden among manuscripts (4)
MASS - M(A)SS, where the plural of MS is MSS.
9 Run out of good English wood for site with raised beds? (4,6)
ROOF GARDEN - R + O + OF + G + ARDEN, I believe, although I have not seen 'out' = 'o'.  Or maybe 'o/of' is short for 'out of', on the analogy of 'w/o'.  The correct explanation is R.O. for cricket 'Run out'.
10 Elegant edible plant stops short of old railway (4)
CHIC - CHIC[o ry], of course.
12 Distant cousin cultivating the land near isle (11,3)
NEANDERTHAL MAN - Anagram of THE LAND NEAR + MAN, the usual isle.  Maybe not so distant?
14 10 hear about goal (6)
TRENDY - TR(END)Y, where the definition is a cross-reference to CHIC.
15 He gives up clubs formerly associated with the German (8)
CONCEDER - C + ONCE + DER.
17 Fertile academic ringing large one in charge (8)
PROLIFIC - PRO(L I)F + IC.
19 A hybrid tea said to be a talisman (6)
AMULET - A + MULE + T.
22 Bad idea not bringing in supervisors earlier (14)
AFOREMENTIONED - A(FOREMEN)TIONED, where the enclosing letters are an anagram of IDEA NOT.
24 Stand for artist, endlessly calm (4)
EASE - EASE[l], one from the Quickie.
25 Passenger going around with women’s credentials everywhere (3,3,4)
FAR AND WIDE - FAR(AND W I.D.)E.
26 Pack volunteers representative (4)
TAMP - TA + MP, stock cryptic elements.
27 Desert more stormy loch (10)
WILDERNESS - WILDER + NESS, one I think we have seen before.
Down
1 Wealth loses its core attraction (4)
LURE - LU[c]RE.
2 Ward for example toured by publicity person, note (7)
PROTEGE - PRO + T(EG)Em where a 'ward' is not exactly a 'protege', but close enough.
3 Cab boss, English, in east supported by club (6,6)
ENGINE DRIVER - ENG + IN + E + DRIVER, like my 12-degree Ping Rapture 2, for example..
4 It spins five or nearly ten times (6)
VORTEX - V + OR + TE[n] + X.
5 Our beginning or our end, Mass excepted? (8)
CREATION - CRE[m]ATION.
7 Embarrassed when this writer has fooled around (7)
ASHAMED - AS HA(ME)D, where 'had' has its slang sense of 'fooled' - "you almost had me there".
8 Not the best assistant to judge (6-4)
SECOND-RATE - SECOND + RATE, in different senses.
11 Fixing cold-water pump almost makes toilet drier (6,6)
TALCUM POWDER -  anagram of COLD-WATER PUM[p].
13 Family member in stage role swallowing nut (4-6)
STEP-PARENT - STEP + PAR(EN)T.  I admit, I don't get the EN bit, but you don't need to understand the clue to get the evident answer.  'Nut' is printer's slang for the 'en' spacer..
16 Novel devoured by 52 bookworms? (8)
LITERATI - LI(TERAT)I.  Terat- is a combining form meaning 'monster' or 'abnormal'  The clue in the printed paper reads "Novel treat devoured by 52 bookworms", which makes much better sense than the online version.
18 Work problem involves very big animal (7)
OPOSSUM - OP + OS + SUM, one where I carelessly biffed an incorrect spelling by not heeding the cryptic.
20 A good place to tie up the Confederate army? (3,4)
LEE SIDE - double definition, one referring to the famous Confederate general.
21 Abandon Republican trapped by bear (6)
STRAND - ST(R)AND.
23 You might catch guy here running water in northeast (4)
TEES - double definition, referring to the attachment of a guy wire and the river in Yorkshire and sounds like TEASE, 'guy'.

QC 1195 by Hurley

Right, I really liked this puzzle, and found a lot of the clues entertaining and challenging. Unfortunately it shows in my time which was uncomfortably near the 12-minute mark.

Oh I can make excuses. Chief among them being that I haven't even looked at a Quickie since I blogged my last one because if you remember I was having a wobble around the 15x15 at the time and was feeling a bit jaded about the whole prospect of crosswords generally. Well, that has passed, but I still haven't got back into the daily routine of doing the Quickie as well. Nevertheless, if I'm doing the 15x15 every day then to my logic I ought to be able to pick up the Quickie, give it some bread, pat it on the head and put it to bed more quickly than I did today, no matter how long it's been. But I didn't. Maybe I was rusty. Maybe it takes time to get back into the rhythm of the Quickie. But I think that's just making excuses. I just don't think I was up to it. Hope the rest of you found it easier.

But as I say, I enjoyed it and admired a lot of the clues. Thank you and well done Hurley. FOI was 5A (as with so many of the clues today 1A was not far from my mind but on the first pass was somehow just beyond my reach). LOI I think was 14D. Difficult to choose a COD because I liked so many of them, but I'd probably go for 1A itself. Great to see an & lit. in the Quickie, and stuck up there boldly at the top of the table as well.

Definitions are underlined in italics and everything else is explained as simply as possible just as I see it.

Across
1 Name initially used in memoirs wrongly? (8)
MISNOMER - N (name initially) 'used in' an anagram of MEMOIRS ('wrongly') gives MISNOMER, the whole of the clue then acting as a definition of the answer, giving us a rare & lit. clue for a quickie (and in the first clue no less).
5 Judge is French — that’s funny (4)
JEST - J (judge) + EST ('is' in French).
9 Portion, slim, reduced, provided by church (5)
SLICE - reduce SLIM by cutting off its end, add on CE for the Church of England and there you have your portion served up in front of you.
10 One might betray characteristic worry, oddly overlooked (7)
TRAITOR - TRAIT (characteristic) + OR (wOrRy with the odd letters 'overlooked').
11 Flier, ace, associated with this country (3)
AUK - A (ace) plus UK (this country).
12 Talk about troubled teen — be understood (9)
PENETRATE - PRATE is one of those words often used in Crossword Land and not so much anywhere else. Put it 'about' an anagram of TEEN ('troubled') and this clue can easily 'be understood'.
13 A case for frail boat not starting in the water (6)
AFLOAT - A + FL (the 'case' of FraiL) + OAT (boat not starting).
15 Claimant legally keeping cloak (6)
MANTLE - hidden word: claiMANT LEgally.
17 Son currently at Southern headland finding wintry scene (9)
SNOWSCAPE - S (son) + NOW (currently) + S (southern) + CAPE (headland).
19 Drunk very tiresome at start (3)
SOT - SO (very) + T (Tiresome 'at start').
20 Oregon provided diamonds for opening (7)
ORIFICE - OR (Oregon) + IF (provided) + ICE (diamonds).
21 Senseless idea not alerting new entrants first of all (5)
INANE - the initial letters ('first of all') of Idea Not Alerting New Entrants.
22 Cricket score, good — a step up! (4)
RUNG - RUN (a score in cricket) + G (good).
23 One readily deceived a mate? Yes, sadly (4,4)
EASY MEAT - anagram of A MATE YES ('sadly').
Down
1 Mother’s vehicle, a thing of beauty? (7)
MASCARA - MA'S (mother's) + CAR (vehicle) + A.
2 Pong from black liquid at bottom of street (5)
STINK - INK (black liquid, although in my experience you can have other colours) at the bottom of (i.e. underneath in this down clue) ST (street).
3 Maintaining advantage, open main push possibly (3-9)
ONE-UPMANSHIP - straight anagram ('possibly') of OPEN MAIN PUSH.
4 We hear school’s taken in (5)
EATEN - homophone for Croswword Land's favourite educational establishment, ETON.
6 Additional court clip (7)
EXTRACT - EXTRA (additional) + CT (court).
7 Ultimately elegant Celtic language, neat and concise (5)
TERSE - T ('ultimately' eleganT) + ERSE (Celtic language).
8 Potentially catalyst, like this US capital (4,4,4)
SALT LAKE CITY - another straight anagram ('potentially') of CATALYST LIKE.
14 Lot divided by a fellow’s language (7)
LAOTIAN - LOT 'divided by' A gives LAOT. Add on a IAN (a fellow) and there you have it.
16 Implore centre attendant a bit (7)
ENTREAT - hidden word: cENTRE ATtendant.
17 Society with little money for track (5)
SPOOR - S (society) + POOR (with little money). At first I had this as S + CENT (litttle money) giving SCENT which was perfectly plausible. Had I written in ORIFICE when I first thought of it at 20A then I would not have been delayed by this but as it was my reticence meant that my mind started thinking illogically of EDIFICE when I came back to 20A (although somehow still retaining the idea of ORIFICE without actually writing it straight in, and looking back it is only because of the chime with ORIFICE that EDIFICE jumped into my mind anyway even though it has nothing to do with the definition). Nice bit of potential misdirection there but easily avoidable if you solve the clues in the correct order!
18 Where to contest article about North America (5)
ARENA - A ((indefinite) article) + RE (about) + NA (North America).
19 Criticize schedule (5)
SLATE - double definition.

Mephisto 3031 - Don Manley

There were a few traps laid here, at 1 across 7 down and 21 down in particular where there are two obvious (or less than obvious words that kind of fit the clue). I knew the long anagram at 9 across which gave me a good start across the top, and I had read a short story by an Argentinian writer with almost the same last name as the plant at 15 down.  It was the bottom left side that was the last to fall.

Grid watch: 12 by 12, 180 degree symmetry but lots of crossing between quadrants. Rather nice grid I thought.

The first definition is underlined - all definitions are confirmed by checking the entry in Chambers.

Away we go...

Across
1 Prohibition has young hooligan stuck in outhouse (6)
BARNED - BAR(prohibition) and NED(young hooligan)
5 Gift to hospital — holy book (6)
GRANTH - GRANT(gift) next to H(hosptial)
9 Flea perhaps coming to grief in Erica’s teapot (12)
ECTOPARASITE - anagram of ERICA'S TEAPOT
10 Nocturnal animal may be food to a snake (7)
NAGAPIE -  the snake may eat a NAGA PIE
13 Leading Greek character said to be a grass (4)
ALFA - sounds like ALPHA(Greek character)
14 Maybe an old bird perches finally on beast of burden (6)
SCAMEL - (perche)S, CAMEL(beast of burden)
16 Creature from outer space children design (4)
ETCH - ET(extra terrestrial), CH(children)
17 Scripture that may be rendered in a chant (6)
TANACH - anagram of A,CHANT
18 Dung and fibre kept in tin (6)
SHAIRN - HAIR(fibre) in SN(chemical symbol for tin)
22 Robber making return, getting cut short, one captured (6)
REIVER - REVERT(return) shortened, with I inside
23 Anxious and cross when one deemed good displaces king (6)
ANGSTY - ANGRY(cross) with ST(saint, one deemed good) instead of R(King)
24 Snow yet to return (4)
NEVE - EVEN(yet) reversed
27 Show fear, weeping — no yen, little energy (6)
CRINGE - CRYING(weeping) with no Y(yen), then E(energy)
28 Senior not all trainees wanted (4)
AINE - hidden in trAINEes
29 Darling husband taken into a shop (7)
ASTHORE - H(husband) in A, STORE(shop)
30 Troubled ass — indicator reveals disease caused by worms (12)
DRACONTIASIS - anagram of ASS,INDICATOR
31 Municipal officer beginning to cheer in call for round of drinks (6)
SCHOUT - C(heer) inside SHOUT(call for a round of drinks) - a Dutch municipal officer
32 Something that cat sat on tot sits on (6)
SUMMAT - the cat sat on the MAT, with SUM(tot) first

Down
1 Plant with insect gathering prime bit of nectar repeatedly (5)
BENNE - BEE(insect) containing N(ectar) twice - sesame plant
2 A container, yours, decorated with a prickly plant (9)
ACANTHINE - A CAN(container), THINE(yours)
3 Limited number with a skill in the time of the Flood (7)
NOACHIC - NO(number), A, CHIC(skill)
4 Jock’s occasional place of retreat with interior design (6)
DAIMEN - DEN(place of retreat) containing AIM(design)
5 Being received inadequately, weep as of old (6)
GREETE - remove the last letter from GREETED(received)
6 When a river makes more than one bank (4)
ASAR - AS(when), A, R(river) - for those of you new to barred puzzles, get used to ASARS, ESKERS and ESKARS
7 Antelope, one seen in Netherlands and part of Germany once (6)
NILGAU - I(one) in NL(Netherlands), and GAU(germam territorial district)
8 Shrub no longer easy for the female to accommodate (7)
HEATHER - EATH(easy) inside HER(the female)
11 Hunger after salmon in a traditional Scottish dish (8)
PARRITCH - ITCH(hunger) after PARR(salmon)
12 Chance going round avenue you’ll see insect captured (8, two words)
SLAVE ANT - SLANT(chance) containing AVE(avenue). SLANT = CHANCE(slang) is in Chambers, don't think I've seen or heard it used that way
15 Plant I found in cave here unexpectedly (9)
ECHEVERIA - I inside an anagram of CAVE,HERE
18 Old deer springs, keeping time, jumping up (7)
SPAYADS - SPAS(springs) containing DAY reversed
19 Material old-fashioned company’s given to poor actor (7)
GINGHAM - GING(company), HAM(poor actor)
20 This unfortunate woman, getting red, is harangued terribly (6)
AGUNAH - anagram of HARANGUED minus RED
21 Heartless bloke to show great anger spinning round (6)
GYRANT - G(u)Y(bloke), RANT(show great anger)
22 Unruly sort around island behaves rowdily (6)
ROISTS - anagram of SORT aorund IS(island)
25 Sheep on street close by in Scotland (5)
EWEST - EWE(sheep) on ST
26 After a brief time duck becomes dry (4)
SECO - SEC(brief time), O(duck, score of zero in cricket)

Sunday Times 4818 by Dean Mayer

15:24. I didn’t find this too difficult for a Dean Mayer puzzle, which judging by comments on the blogs last weekend is unusual. When this happens, I generally have absolutely no idea why: it’s just that wavelength thing. When I say ‘wavelength’, I don’t mean some sort of mysterious supernatural force (what one contributor here once referred to as ‘mystic Meg’): it is just an observable fact that some find certain puzzles quite significantly easier or harder than others for reasons that are hard to pin down. Sometimes it's because the vocabulary is tricky but this one only has a couple of unusual words.

A good fun puzzle, in any event. There are a couple of usages here that I find rather offensive but I’m not going to play that tune again. There’s also one I don’t understand, to the extent that I’m far from sure I have the right answer. I can't think of anything else though. No doubt it will all come out in the wash.

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

Across
1 New Avengers agent, deadly one
NERVE GAS - (AVENGERS)*. An agent of the chemical variety.
6 Deep pockets right for money
BRASS - B(R)ASS.
9 Lebanon isn’t cut out to be like India
SUBCONTINENTAL - (LEBANON ISN’T CUT)*.
11 What’s wrong with feeling arrogant?
UPPITY - UP (wrong, as in ‘what’s up doc?’), PITY (feeling).
12 Backing identity parade, initially in 20’s strip club
FLESHPOT - reversal of SELF (identity), H(Parade)OT. 20 here refers to 20ac.
14 For a joke, holding on to me
PERSONALLY - PER (for), S(ON)ALLY. A SALLY is, according to Collins, a ‘jocular retort’. This seemed at best vaguely familiar, but certainly likely enough.
16 Junkie husband absent from show
USER - UShER. ‘Show’ seems a bit of an overstatement of the usual instruction to head left or right depending on the answer to the question ‘bride or groom?’
18 Birds around me, not them
EMUS - reversal of ME, US (not them).
19 People still suffer from it
STAGNATION - CD.
21 Funding remainder’s due
ENDOWING - END (remainder), OWING (due). END for ‘remainder’ struck me as a little bit loose while solving, but it’s undoubtedly there in the expression ‘odds and ends’. How would we feel about ‘odd’ defined in the same way?
22 Spa — huge disappointment
BATHOS - BATH is the spa, then OS for ‘outsize’.
25 A domestic row
TERRACED HOUSES - CD, and a very nice one. It’s so neat wondered if it had been done before, and sure enough Dean himself gave us 'those involved in a domestic row' in January of this year. This clue is, to my mind, an improvement on that one.
26 Fresh item of make-up
LIPPY - DD. I wonder how familiar either meaning is to non-UK solvers.
27 Islander’s problem — a coach leaving island
SUMATRAN - SUM (problem), A, TRAiN.

Down
2 End of the crack supply
EQUIP - thE, QUIP. For once ‘supply’ doesn’t mean ‘supply’. There will be a version of that meaning along shortly though…
3 See combat without a break
VACATION - V (see) AC(A)TION. V for vide.
4 Award accepted? One’s rejected
GONG - GOiNG, as in the ‘going rate’ I guess.
5 Irish club needs decoy — what about convict?
SHILLELAGH - SHILL (decoy), E(LAG)H. I remembered there was a word for an Irish club ending ELAGH but couldn’t remember how it started and it took me a while to come up with SHILL for ‘decoy’.
6 Mamma’s face
BREAST - at least I think this is the answer, I don’t understand the first half of the clue.
7 Pour wine after an assortment of starters
ANTIPASTI - TIP (pour) ASTI (wine) after AN.
8 Sad as it is, loner’s condition?
SOLITARINESS - (AS IT IS LONERS)*. Semi-&Lit.
10 More plastic bananas
SUPPLEMENTAL - SUPPLE, MENTAL.
13 Almost slide hands over soap
EASTENDERS - EASe, TENDERS.
15 Journey to the bar and back?
ROUND TRIP - CD.
17 Weedkiller ingredient containing water
PARAQUAT - PAR(AQUA)T. The word was vaguely familiar but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what it meant.
20 Wet, say, after running?
SWEATY - (WET SAY)*. &Lit.
23 Carnivore had endless desire to feed
HYENA - H(YEN)Ad.
24 Fancy wife? Not her
WHIM - W, HIM.

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