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January 3rd, 2019

Perhaps it’s the sheer plethora of extra puzzles over the holiday period, or the sheer horror that was yesterday’s competition sample, but I find I’m not at my quickest at the moment, and this one took 24 and a quarter minutes. There’s an Americanism of sorts, balanced by a Britishism that tends to jar mildly on Americans, but otherwise there’s not much to frighten us tenderer solvers.
17 across gives me the excuse to congratulate NASA on two momentous achievements in 24 hours that certainly moved and thrilled me: their first picture of the snowman in space at Ultima Thule 4 billion miles away and the extraordinary feat of going into orbit round the 500 metre asteroid Bennu, at 1/5 millionth the gravity of Earth. And best wishes to China, attempting shortly to land on the far side of the Moon. Humanity is not all insane politics.
Back to the puzzle: my exposition is coded with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS. Enjoy!
[(click to open)]
Across
1 Territory bordering a pole, oddly? (7)
LAPLAND And we start with a rather nice &lit. Territory is LAND, which “borders” A and the odd letters of PoLe. If we were being picky, we’d say Lapland doesn’t quite border the North Pole, but it’s only just past Christmas so we’ll allow a certain chap-with-a-beard based licence.
5 Barren wife deputising for husband in expedition (5)
WASTE Both mean “unproductive” in Chambers. W(ife) replaces H(usband) in expedition: HASTE
9 Marine vehicle driven to port by a learner (5)
NAVAL The vehicle is a VAN, which when driven to the left gives NAV, add A L(earner)
10 Spooner's secured location, in a few words (5,4)
SOUND BITE Which in Speverend Rooner’s orchard tinglish would be BOUND SITE
11 Yankee on drug adopting Republican line, roughly (7)
HARSHLY First NATO of the day, Y(ankee) tacked onto drug-of-choice HASH containing R(epublican) after L(ine) has been added.
12 Went out with clean 5 across from timberyard (7)
SAWDUST 5 across WASTE becomes pat of the definition. SAW for went out with, DUST for clean
13 Mac's strength of spirit added to general excellence (10)
WATERPROOF In a Mephisto, Mac usually means a delve into the hoots mon section of the dictionary. Not here. Strength of spirit is PROOF, general excellence is WATER. The link is in the phrase (most commonly) “of the first water”: the more gemstones, especially diamonds, resemble pure, clear water, the better. Extended to mean excellence in anything.
15 Charge double, initially, for forage (4)
FEED I think more in the noun sense. Charge: FEE, Double initially D
18 Sort of tale that'll keep you in stitches? (4)
YARN whimsical cryptic definition
20 Victor commanding guards, impossible to pass (10)
IMPERVIOUS Commanding provides IMPERIOUS, which guards our second NATO of the day, V(ictor)
23 Better medic with peculiarly regal bearing (7)
GAMBLER The medic you want here is MB (Medicinae Baccalaureus - Bachelor of Medicine) borne by a variant on REGAL
24 House maybe trades gold (7)
WINDSOR Trades are the WINDS that blow towards the Equator (if I correctly recall my O-level Geography), so a definition by example heralded by “maybe”. Add OR for gold.
25 Concession that man's pocketed in republic (9)
FRANCHISE The republic, currently their cinquième, is FRANCE. Include (pocket) HIS for that man’s
26 Return of goods — deficiency ultimately unclear (5)
FOGGY Follow the instructions. Retut=rn of: FO, add G(oods), 2 of them, and the last of deficiencY
27 Tail-enders in the marathon put a strain on all runners (5)
ENTRY The tail enders of thE and marathoN plus put a srain on: TRY
28 Crowd on balcony when faithful audience is catered for (3,4)
GOD SLOT Was (is still?) the term for the religious bit in broadcasting such as “Thought for the Day” on Radio 4. Balcony is interpreted in its highest (physical) form as GODS, crowd is LOT. Respace.




Down
1 Continually blocking grant to youngster in form (7)
LEVERET Now you need to know that form is what a hare calls its sleeping place, and its young is our answer, and all makes sense. Continually: EVER “blocks” grant: LET
2 Fish cut up with great force (8)
PILCHARD Cut is CLIP, which in a down clue reverses when “up”. The rest comes from with great force: HARD
3 Analyse a singular state (5)
ASSAY A S(ingular) state: SAY
4 Doctor gets our compound — here in US, perhaps (4,5)
DRUG STORE What we on this side of the pond would call a chemist’s D(octo)R GETS OUR is “compounded” in this &littish clue
5 Thrillers incorporating papers women left behind (6)
WIDOWS WOWS are thrillers, papers ID
6 Apprehension from last character that is returning to crack safe (7)
SEIZURE Last character Z (in my alphabet, anyway) that is IE, both reversed and contained in safe: SURE. Apprehension more as in arrest than anxiety.
7 Leave old mate with distress (5)
EXEAT Latin stage direction for one character going off stage. No it isn't (see below). It means "let him go" and is public school pretentious Latin for leave of absence..EX for your old mate, EAT for distress as in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
8 Why a note goes astray in transit? (2,3,3)
ON THE WAY A kindly straightforward anagram of WHY A NOTE
14 Mentioning task for second examiner? (9)
REMARKING A double definition, made easier for me by one of Mrs Z’s former occupations.
16 Puts down free oyster cards, taking car out (8)
DESTROYS Puts down sounds so much nicer for what one does  to poor old ailing Rover. Free indicates anagram, the fodder is OYSTER CARDS minus the CAR bit. You don’t need to know that Oyster Cards are Transport for London’s automated fare paying system, but there, I’ve told you anyway.
17 Momentous contest well-nigh complete (8)
EVENTFUL Contest provides EVENT, and most of complete is FULL
19 Wild rave a politician's caught in (7)
RAMPANT Rave give RANT, insert A MP
21 Against crew changing direction without a second glance? (2,5)
ON SIGHT ON for against (I suppose as in on/against the wall). The crew is an EIGTH with its direction E(ast) replaced by S(outh)
22 Courageous chap's end providential (6)
PLUCKY  The ast of chap plus LUCKY for providential.
23 Raised e-cigarette's casing following blunder (5)
GAFFE In much the same way as we Brits snigger at Germans who fahrt, we’re well aware of our transatlantic cousins’ reaction to FAG, but hey, it’s just a cigarette, guys. E-FAG is reversed and contains F(ollowing)
24 Energy-filled, unrestrained exercise (5)
WIELD Unrestrained gives WILD, fill with E(nergy)

Times Quick Cryptic No 1258 by Breadman

A gentle enough puzzle from Breadman today - I was twelve minutes yesterday and just over half that today (making a welcome change of pace after yesterday's championship crossword!). This is only Breadman's tenth QC offering since 2015, but has been appearing more frequently over the last year. Some tougher ones in that list by the look of past blogs, this however was a very good entryish-level puzzle, with a broad mix of clues, some generous openers, little in the way of obscurity, and a number of nice surface readings to keep it all good fun. Happy new year and many thanks to Breadman!

Across
7 Regular characters in local, flushed, had a row (5)
OARED - "regular characters" in lOcAl, RED (flushed)
8 Popular one in academic period is temporary (7)
INTERIM - IN (popular), I (one) goes in TERM (academic period)
10 Quiet woman on river (7)
SHANNON - SH (quiet) ANN (woman) ON
11 Only altered new fabric (5)
NYLON - anagram (altered) of ONLY, N(ew)
12 Welshman tracks remote maiden where cows are milked? (5,4)
DAIRY FARM - DAI (Welshman) RY (railway/tracks) FAR (remote) M(aiden)
14 Father's dance step (3)
PAS - PA's = father's. A dance step and a dance in its own right.
15 Pack run in the morning (3)
RAM - R(un) AM (in the morning)
16 Church function includes mostly pleasant historical record (9)
CHRONICLE - CH(urch) ROLE (function) includes NIC ("mostly" NICE, i.e. pleasant)
18 Piece of sculpture, disturbed by king, broke into pieces (5)
BURST - BUST (piece of sculpture), disturbed by R (rex/king)
20 Headwear around flat spoiled access for pet (3,4)
CAT FLAP - CAP (headwear) around an anagram (spoiled) of FLAT.
22 Divorcee confines energy outlay (7)
EXPENSE - EX (divorcee) PENS (confines) E(nergy)
23 Man on board eating right seafood (5)
PRAWN - PAWN (man on board) eats R(ight)
Down
1 Significant political party face Republican expert (12)
CONSIDERABLE - CON (political party) SIDE (face) R(epublican) ABLE (expert)
2 A living thing's heart perhaps is beginning to move (8)
ORGANISM - ORGAN (heart, perhaps), IS, M ("beginning" to Move)
3 Last ones in hike off-road stumble upon idyllic place (4)
EDEN - Last ones/letters in hikE off-roaD stumblE upoN
4 English Queen, the fourth to back European city (6)
VIENNA - ANNE (English queen) IV (the fourth) back/reversed
5 He's paid for risky feats, double maybe (8)
STUNTMAN - cryptic(ish) definition with a pun on "double": twice the pay in the surface reading; a lookalike in the cryptic.
6 Showing heart repeatedly, work pal's spoken (4)
ORAL - the heart/centre letters of both wORk and pAL's
9 Clearing bombs from pits, visible upset (12)
MINESWEEPING - MINES (pits), WEEPING (visible upset)
13 Mad Cathy has drunk gin, guiding an aquatic vessel (8)
YACHTING - anagram (mad) of CATHY has an anagram (drunk) of GIN
14 Training copper who tells lies: strange (8)
PECULIAR - P.E. (training) Cu (Copper) LIAR ([someone] who tells lies)
17 Scam that's employed in court (6)
RACKET - double definition
19 Engrossed artist emptied paint (4)
RAPT - RA (artist) empty the letters of PainT
21 Printing error in naughty postcard (4)
TYPO - "in" the letters of naughTY POstcard

Times 27,239: Cutting A Dash

I would describe this crossword as being fairly simply clued, but not in a bad way - there are some belters in the mix today, top of the heap in my opinion being 14ac for the never-gets-old device of significant punctuation; but honourable mentions to some entertaining definitions such as "corn cutter" and "Breton style", more than making up for a few over-crosswordese-y surfaces. Thanks setter!

I got a fair bit of change out of my ten minutes for it though - it feels like quite a while since the hardest puzzle of the week has fallen on a Friday, though I guess this isn't that surprising while we're getting Championship puzzles every Wednesday? Roll on the proper stinkers that will provide me with the comeuppance I so richly deserve, anyway, I say!

ACROSS
1 Vamp never having time for leading lady (7)
EMPRESS - {t}EMP{t}RESS [vamp, stripped of every T for time]

5 Runway with struts? (7)
CATWALK - a cryptic definition, for the sort of runway that models strut up and down.

9 PC rings about source of random artwork on farm (4,7)
CROP CIRCLES - COP CIRCLES [PC | rings] "about" R{andom}

10 Crew's long hair cut (3)
MAN - MAN{e} [long hair, "cut"]

11 Chaperone in Madrid expected lady to come back (6)
DUENNA - DUE [expected] + reversed ANN [lady]

12 Taller ship picked up high priest (8)
HIERARCH - homophone of HIGHER ARK [taller | ship]

14 Beachwear, sort of umber — unusual sort (7,6)
BERMUDA SHORTS - (UMBER*) ["sort of..."] + DASH [—] + (SORT*) ["unusual..."]

17 Check pink revised version (13)
REINCARNATION - REIN CARNATION [check | pink]

21 Inspect boy covering over outstanding work (8)
CASELOAD - CASE LAD [inspect | boy] "covering" O [over]

23 He wrestled with oars, arriving here? (6)
ASHORE - (HE + OARS*) ["...wrestled with..."], semi-&lit

25 Tender chicken for one, not rook (3)
BID - BI{r}D [chicken for one, minus R for rook]

26 Axe poet describing Irish corn cutter (11)
CHIROPODIST - CHOP ODIST [axe | poet] "describing" IR [Irish]

27 Fashion model assuming a Republican title (7)
EARLDOM - (MODEL*) ["fashion..."] "assuming" A R [a | Republican]

28 Yak from heart of Tibet needing whip to avoid area (7)
BLETHER - {ti}B{et} + LE{a}THER [whip, "avoiding" A for area]

DOWN
1 Old bit of Lisbon that is toured by Brussels party (6)
ESCUDO - SC [that is (scilicet)], "toured by" EU DO [Brussels | party]

2 Saw dog restrained by lead (7)
PROVERB - ROVER [dog] "restrained" by PB [lead]

3 Crank primarily collects money in Morecambe (9)
ECCENTRIC - C{ollects} + CENT [money] in ERIC [Morecambe]

4 Nimble mole overcomes resistance (4)
SPRY - SPY [mole] "overcomes" R [resistance]

5 Stop work to phone Italian lady with Yankee (4,2,1,3)
CALL IT A DAY - CALL IT ADA [phone | Italian | lady] with Y [Yankee]

6 Star cast will include European stunner (5)
TASER - (STAR*) ["cast"] will include E [European]

7 Fan drier controls damp in odd places (7)
ADMIRER - AIRER [drier] "controls" D{a}M{p}; not an anagram of DRIER {d}AM{p} as I somehow managed to assume at first...

8 Family owns a housing society in African capital (8)
KINSHASA - KIN HAS A [family | owns | a] "housing" S [society]

13 Short county boxer's married, Breton style (10)
SURREALISM - SURRE{y} ALI'S M ["short" county | boxer's | married]. That would be Andre Breton we're talking about.

15 Waves down close to front, a certain sign of cold weather (9)
HAILSTONE - HAILS [waves down] + {fron}T + ONE [a certain]

16 Forecaster said supporting vineyard's a severe test (8)
CRUCIBLE - homophone of SIBYL [forecaster], supporting CRU [vineyard]

18 Cool leftie is upright person with confidential info (7)
INSIDER - IN [cool] + reversed RED IS [leftie | is]

19 Upset female carrying old books and old tool (7)
NEOLITH - reversed HEN [female] "carrying" O LIT [old | books]

20 Gambler showing improvement (6)
BETTER - double definition

22 It's clear police left uniform on top (5)
LUCID - C.I.D. [police], L U [left | uniform] on top

24 Grave, sort of square old doctor (4)
TOMB - T O MB [sort of square | old | doctor]