My experience this week is that the crosswords have been getting steadily easier, with this one requiring 15’ 15”. However, I am very aware that there are entries here that may not be in everyone’s Commonplace Book, so I’ll endeavour to shed light into the darker corners. Almost inexplicably, 24ac was the one that tickled my funny spot, but 1ac was my first in and 23d my last, so pretty much a steady top to bottom solve.
I provide you with clues, definitions, SOLUTIONS and occasional snippets of real or imagined knowledge.
1 Woman in physical game losing heart (4)
RUBY Most games are physical, but perhaps few more physical than our target RUGBY. Remove the G at its heart.
3 One taking stock of fine tune (5,5)
GOODS TRAIN Arguably a double definition, but with different spacing. A fine tune is a good strain.
9 Men coming in wept, losing energy before a beastly fight (7)
CORRIDA The common men around here are O(ther) R(anks). Place them in CRIED (wept) without E(nergy), tack on an A, and you have the Spanish for bullfight. Nothing do with Ai no Corrida, which is a Quincy Jones song lamenting the lack of toilet facilities on Spanish trains, and takes its title from a very naughty Japanese movie.
11 Criticism about goddess, mostly seen as an upstart (7)
PARVENU I think this is RAP for criticism, via reproof, reversed and followed by (mostly) the goddess VENUs
12 Mostly old T-shirts not right for candidates being interviewed? (9)
SHORTLIST This is a melange (not right) of OLd (mostly, again) and T-SHIRTS
13 Bit of seed or stone found in meal (5)
TESTA Might be a new word to non-botanists, but it’s ST(one) in the meal TEA. Not derived as you might expect, but from the Latin (indeed it is the Latin) testa, a shell.
14 One has money, foolishly beginning to squander great riches (4,8)
CASH REGISTER An anagram of S(quander) GREAT RICHES
18 Instinctive behaviour something that Dr Jekyll acquired? (6,6)
SECOND NATURE Jekyll’s alter ego was Mr Hyde, as if you didn’t know.
21 Stars in decay, about to be got rid of (5)
ARIES The constellation, dental decay CARIES, without its C for circa, about
22 Legendary weapon no longer having quality, we hear (9)
EXCALIBUR Squint a little and you’ll think EX CALIBRE might mean no longer having quality. Aurally squint a bit more and its Arthur’s magic sword.
24 Earthy substance is better than greasy one (7)
TOPSOIL Split, it tops oil, as in the second part of the clue.
25 Almost completely flat-chested? These can puff out clothes (7)
BUSTLES Our drollery suggests flat-chested might be BUSTLESS, but only almost, so without its last S
26 In St Martin, going about, see one helping another (10)
MINISTRANT Don’t be fooled by the (almost) appearance of the good Samaritan, just treat IN ST MARTIN as the “going about” anagram fodder
27 Foreign characters overthrowing country, wasting little time (4)
ETAS That’s Greek foreign. And its STATE backwards without one of its T(ime)s
1 Vehicle heading off with wine — one carrying holiday supplies? (8)
RUCKSACK The vehicle is a TRUCK losing its 2heading) and the wine is SACK, a superannuated word for Spanish dry whites.
2 Unrobe us, after adjusting cloak (8)
BURNOUSE An anagram (after adjusting) of UNROBE US. It’s an Arab hooded cloak.
4 Arab female, wife discarded on island (5)
OMANI A female WOMAN, minus the W(ife) stuck onto an I(sland)
5 What delegate did in place is recorded in legal document (9)
DEPUTISED PUT (place) IS (is) within DEED (legal document).
6 Rearrange restaurant furniture maybe to secure competitive advantage (4,3,6)
TURN THE TABLES Two definitions, one whimsical
7 Reluctant to declare — side lacking guts (6)
AVERSE AVER is to declare, and if you take the guts out of SIDE you are left with SE.
8 Like an identifying word and number given to female learner (6)
NOUNAL Ah, more grammar: it’s the adjective derived from NOUN. And it’s NO (number) given to random female UNA and L(earner)
10 Petitions between meetings being read out (13)
INTERCESSIONS Sounds a lot like INTER SESSIONS, which might mean between meetings.
15 Good dog snatching length of cloth — one anxious to please (9)
GROVELLER That’s G(ood) plus ROVER, our generic dog, with ELL our measure of cloth interpolated. An ell can be anywhere between 18 inches and 54 inches.
16 Shelter protecting maiden, courageous explorer (8)
HUMBOLDT Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von was al that and more, and Wiki claims: “more places and species are named after Humboldt than after any other human being.” The shelter is a HUT, with M(aiden) and BOLD for courageous contained.
17 Flowers making Easter so special (3,5)
TEA ROSE A neat and timely anagram (special) of EASTER SO.
19 Gong unexciting, inadequate with echo (3-3)
TAM-TAM Unexciting is TAME, “inadequate” encourages you to delete the E, “echo” commends repetition.
20 Apple seed, something sharp at one end (6)
PIPPIN PIP (seed) plus PIN
23 Rising opera company has deserted Latin (5)
CUBAN As in Latin American. The Opera is Verdi’s NABUCCO, home of the reserve Italian National Anthem “Va Pensiero”. Rip away the CO(mpany) and invert it (rising)