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June 14th, 2018

I don’t think I really want to admit how long this took*, but it was simply ages. A partial excuse is that the execrable Love Island was playing in the background (don’t ask). But I think it’s also because it’s a bit of a cracker with some excellent and fresh-looking clues (though with a few run-of-the-mill bits scattered throughout). There might be a story in the grid about a transvestite official in flimsy red silk underwear and a lot of make-up (and a surprisingly masculine hat) being carried  to a Gay Pride demo in the middle of town, singing about not regretting anything while under the influence. But I don’t think that counts as a Nina.
I eventually unravelled everything (I think) and present it here with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS
*Oh alright, 40 minutes, longest of the week so far.


Across
1 Clothing becomes a zombie? (6)
UNDIES Well, yes. Zombies are the undead, so in the process of becoming one, one un-dies.
4 Very fine service held in turn by energetic type (8)
GOSSAMER Service is MASS. Held in turn means you must reverse it in the clutches of GOER, your energetic type.
10 Green stuff, the ultimate in style on woman’s accessory (7)
HERBAGE The last letter of stylE on HER BAG, woman’s accessory
11 What Marxists, without vote, destroyed? (7)
TSARISM  &lit of quality. Anagram (destroyed) of MARXISTS without the X (vote). “They've shot the Tsar. And all his family. Oh, that's a savage deed. What's it for?”
12 Not the first to follow some lamb (4)
RACK Knock off the first letter of TRACK, follow
13 Appears to include some verse for beauty (10)
COMELINESS You can be forgiven for entering SEEMLINESS, which is as good an answer, but it’s COMES for appears enveloping LINES of verse.
15 Cause obstruction and be evasive? Nothing original in that (9)
STONEWALL Be evasive is STALL, insert 0 (nothing) NEW (original)
16 One says horses eat sparingly at odd intervals (5)
GRAZE Not an odd letter clue, but a sounzlike (one says). Some horses are GREYS.
18 Civic leader in Scots region always moving backwards (5)
MAYOR Foxed me for ages,  though it was the obvious answer. Take the Scottish region of MORAY and move the AY (always) part way back.
19 Childish amusement is best, as one is taken by surprise (9)
PICKABACK Best gives you PICK,  then as one is (when) taken by surprise gives ABACK. Not necessarily childish? (Discuss)
21 Community hub in west of Lewes, for example (4,6)
TOWN CENTRE Oh, now, this is clever. LEWES is a TOWN whose CENTRE is W(est). So if you will, the W(est) of LEWES is...
23 In extremes of volume, backing excellent singer (4)
PIAF No. Not V and E, but P and F, soft and loud in music notation. Add “in” AI “backing” for the legendary Edith.
26 Egyptian gem, not British, put on old woman as beautifier (7)
MASCARA  I think a SCARAB is the only exclusively Egyptian gem I know. Remove the B(ritish), nearly always a good idea, and tack on to MA, your old woman
27 Struck with small glove (7)
SMITTEN Wow, an easy one! S(mall) plus MITTEN
28 Rage shown by not half fierce newcomer (8)
STRANGER Rage is clearly ANGER. Add STR as half of a word that could mean fierce. I offer you strait, strict, and strong.
29 Quiet place to take hallucinogen (6)
PLACID PL for place and ACID for Timothy Leary’s hallucinogen of choice, LSD


Down
1 He used to teach an assortment of pronouns (5)
USHER The (rather small) assortment of pronouns is US and HER.  Bet you didn’t know that’s an old term for a teacher.
2 Woman priest unknown in guide (9)
DIRECTORY (Almost)  sadly, our woman is our old friend and possibly England’s Rose DI. The priest is a RECTOR, and the unknown is Y.
3 The spirit of melancholy (4)
ELAN Right there in the front-middle  of mELANcholy. “Of” is all you’re getting to suggest inclusion. “Life is but a melancholy flower” (sung to the tune and in the style of "Frere Jaques”
5 Porridge no one eats? (7)
OATMEAL No one eats because there’s 0 AT MEAL
6 Announced maximum size increase that’s for closure of letter (7,3)
SEALING WAX If you say CEILING (maximum) you hear SEALING, and add WAX for size increase, as in ....and wane
7 One clad in extra silk (5)
MOIRE Unaccountably my last in. 1 (one) in MORE. I knew that was silk, I did, I did.
8 What's available for upmarket southern cooking? (4,5)
RUMP STEAK Ferociously hidden anagram (cooking) of UPMARKET and  S(outhern). Another pretty decent &lit
9 Iron Lady's headgear (6)
FEDORA This time the lady is DORA and iron, of course FE. Of course, Maggie never wore one, as she couldn’t abide the idea of fedora states of Europe.
14 Her clean-up arranged in mischievous spirit (10)
LEPRECHAUN  Hooray! An obvious anagram (“arranged” – how much more explicit do you want) of HER CLEAN-UP.  Still took me an unconscionable amount of time.
15 Arab doctors turn up occasionally (9)
SOMETIMES A fabulous total reveres, of SEMITE MO’S. Arabs are Semites too, and some (military) doctors are Medical Officers
17 Reverting to the ancient Bible — one's in Greek (9)
ATAVISTIC Today’s word you knew but not what it meant. Nothing to do with blue aliens, but what it says.  The Bible here is the King James AV, add 1S for ones and insert in ATTIC for Greek
19 Battery food item one throws up? (7)
PANCAKE I think this is just a CD, battery referring to the source of eggs one mixes with flour and milk, fries, tosses and scrapes up of the floor.
20 Church to be put up in the shade (6)
CERISE Church is the common enough CE (Church of England) and you derive RISE by squinting a bit at to be put up (in). Insert part a into part b
22 Almost want head of state to be less silly (5)
WISER  And here’s ‘ER in Windsor. Almost want is WIS(h). In the case of a certain other head of state, I fear it’s a forlorn sentiment
24 Brandy distiller initially penalised (5)
FINED FINE is common or garden French brandy. Add the initial D of Distiller
25 Raised edge on large tablet (4)
PILL  Edge is LIP, “raise” it and attach a L(arge)

Times Quick Cryptic No 1113 by Marty

Sorry, I don’t have a time for this as I was disturbed mid-solve, but it felt relatively normal, possibly even quick for me looking back.  I had one clue where the answer appeared obvious, but the parsing took longer – see below (19d).

I haven’t a lot of experience blogging Marty puzzles, so I can’t comment on whether or not this is typical of him, but I enjoyed 10a and 1d, either of which would make a good CoD.  WoD has to be GNUS (or possibly UNCTION).  I used to think I was decisive, but now I can’t make up my mind!

I hope you all enjoyed this.

Across
7  Somewhat absurd, using this language (4)
URDU – A nice easy hidden (somewhat) to get us going – in {abs}URD, U{sing}.  This was my FOI.
8  Give wading bird protection on flight? (8)
HANDRAIL – HAND (give) and RAIL (wading bird) to give the name of protection used on a flight of stairs.  Flight is often used as an alternative to stairs in Crosswordland.
US writer’s visa returned, opened by medic (6)
ASIMOV – VISA reversed (returned) and containing (opened by) MO (medic, abbreviation of Medical Officer).  ISAAC ASIMOV was born in Russia, but became an American, and was famous for Science Fiction and popular science writing.  His most famous work was the FOUNDATION series, and his short story ‘Nightfall’ was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1964 as the best short science fiction story of all time – well worth a read!
10  Headgear for pig?  It’s of no consequence (2,4)
SO WHAT – A SOW HAT would be headgear for a pig, and the clue works as a kind of double definition and cryptic at the same time.
11  Pick up present for audience (4)
HEAR – To HEAR something is to pick it up, and sounds like HERE (present) with ‘for audience’ signalling the homophone
12 Someone entitled to organise rep, I feel? (4,4)
LIFE PEER – Anagram (to organise) of [REP, I FEEL].  A LIFE PEER is someone entitled, i.e. with a title, such as Baron / Baroness.
15 Use sparingly any goose that’s been cooked (2,4,2)
GO EASY ON – Anagram (that’s been cooked) of [ANY GOOSE]
17  Dry and dreary routine linked to bachelor (4)
BRUT – B{achelor} and RUT (dreary routine, as in stuck in a RUT).  We’re talking here about wines with a low sugar content, rather than the men’s cologne of the same name.
18  Quietly furious one’s stealing from work (6)
PIRATE – P (quietly) and IRATE (furious).  We are talking here about someone who publishes a work without the authority of the owner of the copyright, rather than a swashbuckler.
21  Cross parent coming in to beat government official? (6)
TAXMAN – X (cross) and MA (parent) inside (coming in to) TAN (beat).
22  Thro’ it, he flourished, previously (8)
HITHERTO – Anagram (flourished) of [THRO’ IT, HE]
23  Trotsky maybe has returned for Christmas (4)
NOEL – LEON (Trostky’s first name) reversed (has returned)

Down
1 Magician on island, rich, having abandoned US (8)
PROSPERO – PROSPERO{us} (rich having abandoned (discarded) US).  PROSPERO is the character in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ who practices magic whilst exiled on a small island.
2  Theorem musician holds up part of year (6)
SUMMER – Reverse hidden (holds up – in a down clue) in {theo}REM MUS{ician}
Noble quality of larch, wound round with ivy (8)
CHIVALRY – Anagram (wound round) of [LARCH] and [IVY]
4  Good group of students: they’re native to Africa (4)
GNUS – G{ood} and NUS (group of students – National Union of Students}.  GNU is an alternative name for Wildebeest (black or blue sub-species) which are native to Africa.  “I'm a g-nu
I'm a g-nu, The g-nicest work of g-nature in the zoo”
Stop draft (4,2)
DRAW UP - Sorry, I seem to have missed this in the early hours, so adding in now as an edit to the original blog.  As nearly always, with a two-word clue, we are looking for a double definition, and DRAW UP fits the bill.  To stop is to draw up, or draw to a halt, and to draft a paper / argument / plan etc., is to draw it up.  Simples!
Oral exclamation of support (4)
VIVA – VIVA (from viva voce) is an oral examination, but VIVA can also mean ‘long live’, an exclamation of support.
13  Do top of face with ointment (8)
FUNCTION – F{ace} (top of face) and UNCTION (ointment) for a do or function – ‘I was at a black-tie do / function only last week’
14  Australian bird the French boy copied (8)
EMULATED – EMU (Australian bird) LA (the in French) and TED (boy)
16 Ottoman commander with short Thai girl (6)
AGATHA – AGA (Turkish or Ottoman commander) with THA{i} (short Thai)
17  Pupil once turning eleven, no good for sport (6)
BOXING – OB (old boy, pupil once) reversed (turning) with XI (eleven in roman numerals) and N{o} G{ood}
19  Wader I put on twice (4)
IBIS – I (I) and BIS (twice).  Bis is a Latin prefix or suffix relating to the second instance of a thing.  It is also used in musical and accounting notation to indicate a thing or item that is to be repeated.  I have to confess that I forgot to remember this and had to look it up post-solve, although I think I must have known it at some time.
20  Arriving in good time – not quite 12? (4)
EARL – One arriving in good time would be EARL{y} (not quite removes the last letter).  An EARL could be one example of a Life Peer (the answer to 12 across), but a life peer could be of a lesser rank.  The ‘not quite’ isn’t related to the hierarchy of peers, but is there to indicate dropping the last letter of EARLy, so is part of the word play, not part of the definition.