Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish (verlaine) wrote in times_xwd_times,
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
verlaine
times_xwd_times

Times 26,297: Wasn't He In Take That?

And a Happy New Year to you all. 2016 seems to have got off to a good start with this puzzle, which I really enjoyed despite doing it (somewhere inside a quarter of an hour) late at night post-festivities. Every clue outstandingly concise while quite often containing an above average level of cleverness, what artistry! And the surfaces are mostly great too. Top marks to the setter from me.

Was happy for 4ac to be a write-in, since 2015 was the year when I moved to Greenwich borough, just down the road from the vessel in question; 20ac was a complete DNK and held me up till near the very end, leaving 18dn to me my LOI even though that's the first abbey I thought of when I looked at the clue (I naturally assumed that this being the Times we'd be looking for somewhere loftier, Tintern perhaps). Hard to choose a COD from this impressive field: I loved 7dn, one of those great clues where everything makes perfectly lucid sense in the superficial reading, but needs to be completely rethought for the cryptic one. But perhaps the crown has to go to 22ac for the neatness of "rearwards then forwards".

Oh and I should own up to the fact that, while I got Merle for 2dn easily enough, when I Googled the name afterwards I was surprised to see a woman's face popping up. For a moment I thought I'd been confusing her with Merle Haggard, until I realised I'd actually been thinking of Milton Berle. Funny how brains (don't) work, isn't it?

Across
1 DUMAS - dead author: ["starts to"] D{eliver} U{nusually} + MAS{s} ["brief" service]
4 CUTTY SARK - old boat: (STRUCK YA{ch}T*) ["out of control", "after chain's slipped" (i.e. minus CH)
9 STRINGENT - tight: STRING {b}ENT [cord | flexed "when first pulled"]
10 OTAGO - where kiwis are: O TAG [old | label] attached with O [ring]
11 PEEWIT - bird: PIT [set] to catch WEE reversed [little "round"]
12 MAINTAIN - keep: AIN'T [isn't "commonly"] guarded by MAIN [chief]
14 EISENHOWER - president: reverse of I.E. [that is "backing"] + E N [opponents at (bridge) table] in SHOWER [disreputable group]
16 ACES - services -- the best: ACE [outstanding] + ["head of"] S{ocial}
19 RELY - bank: R [run] and ELY [see]
20 GARRYOWENS - high kicks: (SWORE, ANGRY*) ["about"]
22 BACKPACK - hike: BACK [rearwards] then PACK [forwards (in rugby)]
23 SNOOZE - nap: SNOO{ker bai}ZE ["that's been cut off-centre"]
26 ANIME - film genre: ({c}INEMA*) ["about to quit" (i.e. minus C) "new"]
27 HARMONICA - organ: HAR{d} MONICA ["short" tough | girl]
28 AUNT SALLY - scapegoat: {t}AUNT ["do not begin" to tease] + SALLY [attack]
29 NYMPH - gorgeous girl: N.Y. [US city] taking M.P.H. [speed]

Down
1 DISAPPEAR - walk: I SAP P [one | fool (given) power] to stop DEAR [favourite]
2 MERLE - Oberon perhaps: L [left] stranded in MERE [lake]
3 SENTIENT - conscious: SENTI{m}ENT ["male is avoiding", i.e. minus M, mawkish emotion]
4 CHEW - champ: C HEW [clubs | fashion]
5 TETRAHEDRA - pyramids (EARTH RATED*) ["fantastic"]
6 YVONNE - girl: V [against] wearing YON N{ighti}E [that | nightie, "extremely"]
7 AVALANCHE - come down heavily on: A VALANCE [a | hanging] for smuggling H [heroin]
8 KNOWN - famous: K N [king (and) knight] wrapping NOW [present]
13 LOW-ALCOHOL - pop might be so: LOW [dejected] with ALL [everything] about C OHO [cold | interjection]
15 SELECTION - choice: S ELECTION [second | vote]
17 SASSENACH - in Scotland, English: SCH [school] accepting A NESS A{ppointed} reversed [a | head | "initially" appointed "from the south"]
18 DOWNTOWN - in Central Park?: W [wife] visiting DOWNTON [an abbey]
21 UPPERS - stimulants: {S----->}UPPER [meal's "starter fully dropping"]
22 BRAVA - excellent woman: BRA [lingerie] + V{ery} A{lluring} ["up front"]
24 OPIUM - number: (10 U{pset} MP*) ["following reshuffle"]
25 ARMY - host: {b}ARMY [off trolley "after bishop's gone", i.e. minus a B]
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