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January 17th, 2019

There’s rather a pleasant spread of general knowledge in this one in the sense that you probably have most of it knocking around not too far from the surface: places, people, flora, fauna, astronomy and medical stuff all being well below the level expected of (say) University Challenge, and in general, the wordplay being kind enough if you have to scrape around for the answers. I trundled through in 21.38, with 17 down resisting to the end only because I misread the first word of the clue as “any”. All in all, a calming antidote to the frenetic politics of the day, though 19 conjured up unbidden that extraordinary shot of the Tangerine One presiding over a table laden with fast food goodies on silver platters, presumably all stone cold by the time the victorious Clemson University Tigers got their teeth into them. We live in weird times.
3 across is unusual in that it has two perfectly good answers not resolved by the wordplay. Otherwise, I present my findings as usual with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS
[Click for enlightenment]


Across

1 Vow of all trusty henchmen at the start (4)
OATH So we start off with a take the first letters clue, Of All Trusty Henchman
3 Mediterranean islander is swopping halves for stars (5,5)
CANIS MAJOR Take your Med islander, in this case a MAJORCAN, add the IS, split down he middle and swop over the two halves. No particular reason why it shouldn’t be the Minor version until 7d resolves the ambiguity.
9 Chap in Scottish resort’s spoken of postal system (7)
AIR MAIL The resort is Ayr, the chap therein is male, speak them out loud and ink in the result
11 Traveller to Hebridean islands crossing river (7)
TOURIST It’s TO (given in plain view) UIST (there are two of them, North And South, hence the plural) with R(iver) inserted. Think it works.
12 Pipes, say, relaid after landlord’s latest complaint (9)
DYSPEPSIA An anagram (relaid) of PIPES SAY tacked on to the last letter of landlorD
13 Animal that's long occupying heart of Sahara (5)
HYENA  Well, it doesn’t actually occupy the Sahara, but you need the middle two letters (heart) of saHAra and YEN for long to be inserted
14 Meadow and fen almost completely rank (5,7)
FIELD MARSHAL Meadow supplies FIELD, fen MARSH and completely (almost) supplies AL(l)
18 Record view about contest with you once (7-5)
SEVENTY EIGHT Before vinyl span at 33⅓ or 45, shellac whizzed round at 78 rpm, challenging steel needles to extract recorded sound. Here our construction is view: SIGHT around contest: EVENT and YE representing you, as the clue says, once.
21 Far East city's very big area including a ski centre (5)
OSAKA Very big (OutSize) A(rea) containing the centre of sKi
22 Job-holder has to copy across fifth suggestion? (9)
APPOINTEE Clever this. Copy is obviously APE, the rest is provided by imagining the fifth suggestion would be POINT E
24 By end of round, Rocky's knocked out (7)
DRUGGED End of round, plus RUGGED for Rocky ignoring the capitalisation
25 Get ready to fence section of kitchen garden (2,5)
EN GARDE Today’s hidden, fairly transparently, in kitchEN GARDEn. Perhaps helped by the split staying the same
26 Current number one in golf, masterful in play (4,6)
GULF STREAM A long-winded indication for G from Golf, plus an anagram (in play) of MASTERFUL
27 Old secretary left item in Hatton Garden? (4)
OPAL Hatton Garden is both a street and area synonymous with the jewellery (especially diamond) trade, so might contain opals, O(ld) PA (secretary) L(eft)



Down
1 Cricket sides not consistent? (2-3-3)
ON-AND-OFF Effectively two definitions, though the first leads to an unhyphenated version
2 During the day, hives maybe given whitewashing (8)
THRASHED Hives here not the bee residences, but nettle RASH and other itchy inflictions. THE D(ay) doesn’t ask you for a specific, just to wrap the letters around the RASH
4 Range in the end lacking finish (5)
ATLAS In the end is AT LAST. Knock off the end for the mountain range opposite Gibraltar (and quite a lot east and west)
5 Travelling home, time flew: it’s strange! (2,7)
IN TRANSIT Home provides IN, T(ime) continues, flew gives RAN, and a strange version of IT’S gives SIT
6 Very tempting argument and how it developed (13)
MOUTHWATERING The anagram fodder to be developed is ARGUMENT + HOW IT. Took me  a while (and some helpful crossers) to organise.
7 Saw user maybe as clubbable type? (6)
JOINER A double definition the first from a tool of his trade
8 Furniture-maker's revolutionary new aromatic oil (6)
RATTAN Not this time the person, but the material used derived from climbing palms of the same name seen in varieties of wickerwork. We derive it from N(ew) ATTAR (as in of roses) combine and reversed (revolutionary)
10 End user began originally to go after a cattle breed (8,5)
ABERDEEN ANGUS Took me until this point to see that it’s no more than an anagram of END USER BEGAN tacked on to an initial A
15 A Greek swimmer brings in wrong sign for czar (9)
ALEXANDER LEANDER nightly swam across the Hellespont (a tricky minimum of 1.2 kilometres) for love of the fair Hero. Add the A, insert an X (sign for wrong) and you end up with one of two Czars
16 Politically loaded material has a good supporter penning it (8)
AGITPROP A G(ood) supporter: PROP surrounds IT
17 Airy number with details every so often (8)
ETHEREAL Number in the sense of something that makes numb produces ETHER, to which you add the even letters of dEtAiL
19 Greyhound stadium's favourite snack (3,3)
HOT DOG I think the clue splits as indicated, with the (red hot) favourite greyhound being the HOT DOG. That way you avoid arguments about hot dogs being more favoured than (say) salmonella burgers, pies or prawn sandwiches.
20 Offhand and cold as usual, ignoring our lot (6)
CASUAL C(old) plus As USUAL, disposing of US: our lot
23 Mary's portrait of two Athenian characters (5)
PIETA A pieta is a depiction of Mary cradling her deceased son: we need Π and Η (that’s pi and eta to you) to construct our version.

Times Quick Cryptic No 1268 by Howzat

I'm feeling about as slow today as johninterred is feeling quick, but I'd still say this was tricky enough - I threw in the towel around the twenty minute mark and clicked on the the answer to 21ac. Unable to see any wordplay, I should probably have realised it had to be a cryptic definition, but as it was I was miles off. Tough but tasty bits elsewhere: I'm thinking the well hidden anagram at 10 ac, the lovely reversal at 11ac, 9ac as well, and generally very pleasing fusions like Morecambe bay and black and blue. Top notch puzzle - many thanks to Howzat!

Across
1 They could get all mates fired at sea? (5,8)
FLEET ADMIRALS - anagram (at sea) of ALL MATES FIRED, with the definition referring to the ability of an admiral to fire an underling. I had "first admirals" for a bit because my inability to count letters was allied with an ability to make up ranks in the navy.
8 Some drool over sexy Romeo and Juliet, say (6)
LOVERS - "some" of the letters of drooL OVER Sexy
9 A gin's knocked back in old Greek city (6)
SPARTA - A gin is a trap, so knock back/reverse A TRAP's. "Gin" has a number of now obsolete meanings along the lines of skill/craftiness, from the same root in French as "ingenious" and indeed "engine", long before engine came to (primarily) mean machine. The OED compares "engine" with "malengine", an attractive noun for deceipt/fraud/guile. So with "guile", it looks like engine and malengine meet full circle.
10 Here's a dog — keep out! (4)
PEKE -anagram (out) of KEEP. Very nice!
11 Under pressure, fools around (8)
STRESSED - Desserts (fools), around = reverse it. Like it!
12 Faced a 50 lead, perhaps (5)
METAL -Met (faced) a L (50). And again, but I think I'll stop gushing now.
13 Money needed for cornets? (5)
BRASS -Double definition
15 Encroaching navvies I suspect (8)
INVASIVE - Anagram (suspect) of I NAVVIES
17 Italian citizen leaving front of Morecambe bay (4)
ROAN -ROMAN (italian citizen), ditch the M (front of Morecambe). Roan/bay being the colour of animal fur.
19 Talk fast in poker (6)
JABBER - Double definition. I nearly convinced myself that a "gabber" was a poker of some sort.
20 Primate to call Father on return (6)
APEMAN - NAME (call) PA (father) return/reverse.
21 Spots complaint associated with kindergarten? (6,7)
GERMAN MEASLES - Cryptic definition, nice enough, beat me! Pun on spies/spots, and "kindergarten" does also allude to things Teutonic.

Down
2 Free toilets close to home (5)
LOOSE - LOOS (toilets) E (closing letter of homE)
3 Beginning to slip off harshest mountain (7)
EVEREST - SEVEREST (harshest), with the beginning letter slipping off. Edit: Kevin has a better parsing below.
4 No credit given to stupid, pompous type? (3)
ASS - Another letter removal: CR = credit, deduct it from CRASS (stupid)
5 I'm taken up with the Queen in black and blue (9)
MISERABLEMI (I'M "taken up"/reversed) with ER (the queen) inside SABLE (black).
6 Ways to come from Greek island mentioned (5)
ROADS - Sounds like (mentioned) RHODES
7 Mail from landlords? (7)
LETTERS - double defintion
11 Sister working to inspire senior to keep going (7,2)
SOLDIER ON - SR. (sister) ON (working) to inspire/has inhaled OLDER (senior). Edit: as silverwaver spotted below, it's OLDIE for senior, not OLDER.
12 Order fruit after a lot reduced (7)
MANDATE -DATE (fruit) after MANY (a lot), reduced = dock the last letter.
14 Items subject to inflation? Bread is, surprisingly (3,4)
AIR BEDS - anagram (surprisingly) of BREAD IS. Missed this when solving, but yet another very nice clue.
16 Almost completely worthless collection of recordings (5)
ALBUM - almost/most of the letters of ALL (completely); BUM (worthless)
18 Saw US lawyer in advancing years (5)
ADAGE - saw/axiom/maxim/adage - DA (District Attorney/ US Lawyer) in AGE (advancing years)
20 A church service (3)
ACE - A CE (Church of England), service as in tennis. Very neat.

Times 27,251: 28ac was a write-in!

An agreeable middle-of-the-road solve, with a few odd elements that resulted in Minor Eyebrow Raise, but mostly entirely enjoyable. 28ac would have been a rather cryptically labour-intensive clue were it not for the fact that you can write it in from the first half, especially if you happen to be in Berkeley at the time. (Was anyone among our readership solving in or near Morecambe today?) See also 15ac, an interesting surface somewhat marred by the fact that if you don't biff PLUTOCRAT from a 9 letter clue beginning "Cartoon dog..." you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

A couple of fairly familiar seeming clue structures (13ac, 26ac, 9dn...) were more than balanced by some much more interesting constructions (14ac, 16ac, 2dn...). COD from me to 12ac because it's a really good word that reminds me somewhat queasily of my college days, nicely cryptically put together. Thanks to the setter for some decent Friday fare. What did the rest of you like or not like? Talk amongst yourselves until we 28-accers finally wake up tomorrow...

ACROSS
1 Insults and criticism for cosmetic (8)
LIPSTICK - LIP [insults] and STICK [criticism]

5 House ending in riot after radical likely to win (3-3)
RED-HOT - HO [house] + {rio}T after RED [radical]

10 Cattle displaying little imagination? (5)
STOCK - double def

11 Additional people arrived to welcome British comedian (9)
MORECAMBE - MORE CAME [additional people | arrived] "to welcome" B [British]

12 Implied backsliding in plan to leave town (9)
RUSTICATE - reversed TACIT [implied] in RUSE [plan]

13 Influence seeing dismissal of foremost performer (5)
ACTOR - {f}ACTOR [influence, "dismissing" its first letter]

14 Sounding nice and posh: no hype, sadly (7)
EUPHONY - (U [=posh] NO HYPE*) ["sadly"]

16 The French taking over from Victor in leading obscure group (6)
LEAGUE - {v->LE}AGUE [obscure, LE "taking over from" V]

18 Set membership fee after rebuffing disagreement (4-2)
BUST-UP - reversed PUT SUB [set | membership fee]

20 Waste surrounding hospital — to what end? (7)
WHITHER - WITHER [waste] surrounding H [hospital]

22 Forced peace-lover to accept war ultimately (5)
DROVE - DOVE [peace-lover] "to accept" {wa}R

23 Something stinking about note in second church melody (9)
PLAINSONG - PONG [something stinking] about LA IN S [note | in | second]

25 Person’s attention given to obsession about Lima (9)
EARTHLING - EAR [attention] given to THING [obsession] about L [Lima]

26 Legal to be guillotined, though dreadful (5)
AWFUL - {l}AWFUL [legal, to be "guillotined" - off with its head!]

27 Expression of enthusiasm about effect of sun in nature study (6)
BOTANY - BOY! [expression of enthusiasm] about TAN [effect of sun]

28 US University: fool recalled another getting one letter wrong (8)
BERKELEY - BERK [fool] + YALE [another (US university), reversed, and with one letter different!]

DOWN
1 One indicates upsetting material about South American prison (5,3)
LASER PEN - reverse REAL [material] about S [South], plus PEN [American prison]

2 Religious minister not coming in earlier (5)
PIOUS - P{rev}IOUS - REV [minister] "not coming in" PREVIOUS [earlier]

3 Be courageous in facing razor blade? (4,2,2,3,4)
TAKE IT ON THE CHIN - an over-literal reading of the phrase meaning "be courageous"

4 Actors wary about start of major review in a negative way (7)
COMPANY - COY [wary] about M{ajor} + PAN [review in a negative way]

6 What’s the point of shouting? (11,4)
EXCLAMATION MARK - cryptic def, the "point" here referring not to an objective but to a punctuation symbol

7 Keen to swamp me with remorse, providing uncomfortable fact (4,5)
HOME TRUTH - HOT [keen] "to swamp" ME, plus RUTH [remorse]

8 Eggs should be going up in your hypothesis (6)
THEORY - ROE [eggs] should be reversed in THY [your]. Isn't a theory famously distinct from a mere hypothesis?

9 Author’s indication of alternative source (6)
ORWELL - OR WELL [indication of alternative | source]

15 Cartoon dog runs into a potential enemy. One could bankroll the movie? (9)
PLUTOCRAT - PLUTO [cartoon dog], plus R [runs] "into" CAT [a potential enemy (of a dog)]

17 Stuffy air around origin of rich friend aiming to save money (8)
FRUGALLY - FUG [stuffy air] "around" R{ich} + ALLY [friend]

19 Spot flag, an excellent example (6)
PIPPIN - PIP PIN [spot | flag]. Not 100% sure how a PIN is a "flag" - Collins has it as "the rod of a golf flag", or maybe we're just talking about some kind of marker?

20 Limits to wider view in dispute (7)
WRANGLE - W{ide}R + ANGLE [view]

21 Clearly providing an example of this (6)
ADVERB - cryptic definition, "clearly" being an example of an adverb

24 Meat product not available? Running short, entirely (5)
OFFAL - OFF [not available] + AL{l} ["running sort", entirely]