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April 6th, 2018

A puzzle that could turn out to be a bit Marmitey I suspect - there is some truly audacious and ingenious cluing in here, but full enjoyment may depend on tolerance for quirky homophones, slightly Libertarian envelope-pushing and not one but two clues that felt to me like the wordplay was topsy-turvy (6dn and 18ac, the latter of which I'm still too tired to completely understand - help!)

Admittedly I was probably not in the best frame of mind for it, having (a) this week just started a new job in Bromley that is very promising but has an early start, necessitating a punishing 6am wakeup call every morning and (b) yesterday evening having returned from a viewing of Bergman's utterly depressing 1963 film "Winter Light" about, as so many of them are, the deafening silence of God in the face of human suffering. I did it on paper in an unexciting time, let's say about quarter of an hour, much of it spent at the end thinking that 18ac had to be CURTAIL even though that did seem very weird, but that 16dn probably couldn't be PALIKIR, the mighty capital of the Federated States of Micronesia, no matter how much I love knowing its name for quiz purposes.

The clues that didn't baffle my exhausted brain are very brilliant though and I think this puzzle probably has many more potential laugh-out-loud moments as average, and also satisfied my interesting vocab and erudite GK requirements (I very much liked the Debussy clue, and the Italian tenor too, made me feel very classical). Thumbs up to the setter - so what did everyone else think?

ACROSS
1 Blue shed on hill (8)
DOWNCAST - CAST [shed] on DOWN [hill]

5 Stores spoken of somewhere in SW London (6)
BARNES - homophone of BARNS [stores "spoken of"]

10 Car maintenance business? It doesn't make much (7,8)
SERVICE INDUSTRY - car maintenance is SERVICE, business is INDUSTRY, as a whole phrase a SERVICE INDUSTRY doesn't generally produce goods

11 Trash rough sketch after fuss (10)
FLAPDOODLE - DOODLE [rough sketch] after FLAP [fuss]

13 Italian tenor losing line in musical (4)
GIGI - GIG{l}I [Italian tenor (Beniamino), losing his L for line]
Hope this clue didn't remind anyone else of the epoch-shatteringly bad Bennifer movie...

15 Invitation to copy talks without constraint (4,3)
LETS RIP - sounds like "LET'S RIP", which could be an invitation to copy software or what have you

17 Small seals close to shore showing cunning (7)
SLEIGHT - SLIGHT [small] "seals" {shor}E

18 Dock replacing terminal with large screen (7)
CURTAIN - CURTAIL [dock] replacing its last letter with... um, N for large? Think I'm missing something

19 An agreement earlier in the day to back religious figure (7)
MADONNA - AN NOD AM [an | agreement | earlier in the day] reversed

21 German playwright has British cast to be authentic
ECHT - {br}ECHT - German playwright (Bertolt) losing his BR for British

22 Meeting, not for reorganising plant (10)
MIGNONETTE - (MEETING NOT*) ["for reorganising"]

25 Only a little time at the top for this officer? (6-2-7)
SECOND-IN-COMMAND - humorously misconstrued, if you only spend a single second in command, you've been a very short time at the top

27 Bolts used for front parts of cars (6)
DASHES - double def

28 Maybe Cupid’s period of influence precious, we say (8)
REINDEER - homophone of REIGN DEAR [period of influence | precious, "we say"]

DOWN
1 Such extremely penetrating new fluid is what bowl contains (7)
DISHFUL - S{uc}H "penetrating" (FLUID*) ["new"]

2 County, in short, that’s declared? (3)
WAR - the country is WARwickshire, and war is something that gets "declared"

3 Cooked sliced ham about right for a December festival
CHILDERMAS - (SLICED HAM*) ["cooked"] about R [right]

4 Deal with old shirts piled up (3,2)
SEE TO - O TEES [old | shirts] reversed

6 Row away from river to get fit (4)
AGUE - A{r}GUE [row, losing its R for river]

7 What vanilla has? Very close! (7,2,2)
NOTHING IN IT - {va}NIL{la} has NIL in it

8 Pen on table for writer of elegance (7)
STYLIST - STY [pen] on LIST [table]

9 America’s masculine representation, one for export (5,3)
UNCLE SAM - (MASCUL{i}NE*) ["re-presentation", after I has been "exported" out of the equation], &lit or semi-&lit

12 Sweet white wines no great shakes? (11)
AFTERSHOCKS - AFTERS HOCKS [sweet | white wines]

14 Top player’s aim, playing with England (7,3)
LEADING MAN - (AIM + ENGLAND*) ["playing"]

16 Listener's commonly getting the shakes in small cup (8)
PANNIKIN - homophone of PANICKIN' ["listener's" commonly, getting the shakes]

18 Needing evening out, stopped around mid-afternoon (7)
CREASED - CEASED [stopped] about {afte}R{noon}

20 One changes finale in Debussy piece, but not the opening (7)
AMENDER - END [finale] in {l}A MER [Debussy piece, "but not the opening"]

23 Recess in cliff-side road, corner half obscured (5)
NICHE - {cor}NICHE [cliff-side road, losing half the word COR{ner} from the start]

24 Competitive, the last to move up, one of two that could be capped (4)
KNEE - KEEN [competitive], with the last letter moving up into second position. Knees come in pairs and can have kneecaps or even be kneecapped.

26 Measure of land is for more than one (3)
ARE - the plural form ["for more than one"] of IS

Quick Cryptic 1064 by Joker

Managed to make this one take 10 minutes, but it's hard to see why, given how most of the parsings seem to be X + Y. A bit of a quibble with 9ac, but nothing particularly sneaky. The only one to need much thought in the parsing was 23 ac, but it was easily biffed first. I anticipate some above-average times..?


Across
3 Paper ties tear badly (8)
TREATISE - anagram (badly) of TIES TEAR
7 Approached artist for something to make a picture with (6)
CAMERA - CAME (approached) + RA (Royal Academician,i.e. artist)
8 Conservative pamphlet’s become shorter (8)
CONTRACT - CON + TRACT
9 Island nation bans a whisky (4)
MALT - MALTA minus A. Technically if it 'bans' A, it should be MLT
10 Structural rod is not quite level (3)
TIE - Level is TIER, not quite complete.
11 Show daughter is nearby (8)
DISCLOSE - D + IS + CLOSE
13 Vagrant’s lost millions in trick (4)
TRAP - TRAMP minus M for millions
15 Partly swollen stye in part of the eye (4)
LENS - hidden word swolLEN Stye
17 Angled to include home that’s completed (8)
FINISHED - FISHED with IN inside
19 Fool’s not left with girl? (3)
ASS - Girl is LASS, minus L for left
22 Further a London orchestra (4)
ALSO - A + LSO (London Symphony Orchestra)
23 Initially moved a boring plant with long-lived orange flower (8)
MARIGOLD - M + A + RIG (boring plant, as in oil rig) + OLD. Took a while to spot this. I always panic when it's anything to do with plants, not being any kind of gardener. RIG is a nicely hidden element.
24 Large mass of party rejected number of votes cast (6)
DOLLOP - DO (party) + POLL backwards
25 Witches struggle in a city (8)
COVENTRY - COVEN + TRY

Down
1 Hanger-on in airborne soldiers’ base? (8)
PARASITE - PARA (airborne soldier) + SITE
2 Man in charge around court is frantically active (6)
HECTIC - HE + IC (in charge) all around CT. 'Frantically' looks suspiciously like an anagrind, so wasted some time trying to make an anagram of 'active'.
3 Audibly changed direction in diplomatic understanding (4)
TACT - Sounds like ('audibly') TACKED
4 Genius that is returning playing tennis (8)
EINSTEIN - EI (that is, backwards) + anagram (playing) of TENNIS
5 Object sailor has to receive (6)
TARGET - TAR is a sailor, GET is receive
6 Bag a quick bite to eat, but not beginning to nibble (4)
SACK - SNACK without N (first letter of nibble)
12 Unsatisfactory film development on the side (8)
OFFSHOOT - OFF + SHOOT
14 Great dislike of a particular interpretation (8)
AVERSION - A + VERSION
16 Like the oceans seal’s swimming around in (6)
SALINE - anagram ('swimming') of SEAL with IN in.
18 Means of securing unravelling pleats (6)
STAPLE - anagram ('unravelling') of PLEATS
20 Milk pudding son wants earlier (4)
SAGO - S + AGO
21 Whirl round headless toy bear (4)
EDDY - TEDDY minus the head.