1. GO WEST – a slightly odd one to start with, I thought, involving two unrelated rather offbeat word pictures: one, the direction you would be taking if you were to go back from Japan to London (not to the US – or HK, for that matter), and the other, the direction we are all taking on our life journey (‘go west’ means to die as well as to be disastrously lost, hence ‘join the majority’). All a bit Nietzschean for first thing of a Monday morning, in a Monty Python kind of way.
4. OLIGARCH – anagram* of RICH GIRL follows O; a slightly 'out of left field' feel to this one too, or is it just me?
10. TOP-FLIGHT – down to earth with a bump?
11. RECAP – ACE in PR all reversed.
12. PERFORMING ARTS – ‘rock music and stage shows, say’; PARTS around ER + FORMING.
14. NIGHT – [k]NIGHT; see ‘piece’ (or ‘man’), think chess.
16. NURSEMAID – I AM SURE* in N and D. Another crypticky one; another question mark (up to four now).
18. GROSGRAIN – ‘A heavy ribbed fabric, typically of silk or rayon’; GROS[s] + GRAIN. I couldn’t get anything meaning ‘repulsive’ in 13 minutes from the GRO** I had written down, which means either I have lived a very sheltered life or I am plain dumb. Watch out for this French interloper’s bastardised scion, ‘grogram’.
20. ANKLE – [r]ANKLE.
21. TAKE THE BISCUIT – snaffle, indeed – a word we should have more of; a double definition.
25. ARIEL – ARI[s]E + L; I’ve read The Tempest, but, if I’m being honest, I couldn’t really make head or tail of it, and always forget who or even what sex (if any) Caliban, Prospero and Ariel are. One of my blind spots, I guess – like having a decent sense of direction, and yet never knowing which way to turn when I get out of Brent Cross Shopping Centre.
26. LOUNGE BAR – LUNGE around O + BAR.
27. DOMINION – DO + MINION (it’s nice to see ‘supporter’ clued by something other than bra, tee or fan – plus, ‘minion’ is another word we don’t get enough of).
28. WINNER – ‘one succeeds’; W[ith] + INNER. My knowledge of darts does not extend much beyond a few Sid Waddellisms (‘There’s only one word for that: “Magic darts!”’), but cursory research suggests that the tiny circle in the middle of the board is referred to as the ‘inner bull’ by some. So, if you take a sip of your pint of lager and tell your mate that you’re going to ‘try an inner’, I reckon that could mean you’re essaying the shot that gets you 50 points. I may have missed the board entirely, in which case just sit back and enjoy Mel and Griff (not to mention, Rowan as Sid).
1. GET-UP-AND-GO – another double definition to get us started on the downs.
2. WIPER – W[ide] + PIER (‘supporter’) with its ‘I’ moved up. ‘Wiper’ is another word we can’t have too much of, ’though I’m not fond of ‘wipes’ as in ‘wet wipes’.
3. SELL-OUT – O in TULLES reversed; now I don’t mind this type of clue a bit, where knowledge of the dodgy French fabric is completely unnecessary to the incorrigible biffer.
5. LET ON – ‘reveal’; another multi-word biff-job. In case you have energy left after the darts clue, it’s ‘singleton’ without its ‘sing’.
6. GERMANE – ‘relevant’; and another prime candidate for biffery; it’s GE[a]R + MANE (as in ‘shock’ of hair).
7. RACETRACK – I was onto this quicker than you can say ‘the Cesarewitch’, but ran out of letters when I’d got as far as ‘RACECOURS’: RACE (‘folk’) + TRACK (‘song’).
8. HYPE – the outside letters of first H[orribl]Y then P[ueril]E.
9. EGOMANIA – this clue is far too long to read, so had to be biffed; for the record, it’s GO in NAME reversed + I + A[dmit].
13. ADVENTURE – VENT in A DURER.
15. GLOBALISM – GO SMALL I* around (‘blown apart by’) B[ig].
17. RUNABOUT – RUN + A + BOUT.
19. GREMLIN – ‘one sabotages’; G + REIN around ML (‘millilitre’).
20. ASSEGAI – (I dedicate this one to Keriothe.) ‘Spear’; I (‘one’) + AGES (‘gets on’) + SA (‘sex appeal’ = ‘it’) all reversed. I know less about assegais than I do about The Tempest, but I think that helps when you do crosswords.
22. HELLO – I thought this was rather cunning, even if the crossers rather gave it away. ‘Surprised response’ (think Leslie Phillips when confronted with a buxom lass); HEL[d] + L[ong] + O[verdue].
23. URBAN – This self-referentialism is a bit Guardianesque for my taste. At least we can thank our lucky stars that the Thunderer’s setters are anonymous, so we can’t get those Puck/Boatman/Arachne references in another setter’s puzzle that remind me of ‘60 Minutes Plus’ episodes devoted to a journalist talking about the life of another journalist. Rant over. Back to the clue – it’s [o]UR (‘nothing overlooked in the Times’s’, i.e. ‘our’) + BAN (‘exclusion’). The literal is ‘of the city’.
24. HAND – also rather cunning (not to mention, a bit conciser than average) and I think my favourite. ‘Audience response’; H[appy] + AND (‘with’).