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January 31st, 2019

Thursday, 31 January 2019
Another pleasant Thursday stroll accomplish in 15.47, making sure of the wordplay elements perhaps marginally extending the time. I abandoned that search for certainty with the very last clue, though it turns out it’s much easier than I thought. Funnily (morbidly?) enough, I have recently been using today’s Latin phrase (hopefully well enough known) with reference to the potentially lethal device I carry for the sole purpose of maintaining an upright posture (see below). I was very nearly caught out by the most common of abbreviations masquerading as a proper word at 10a. There are a couple of literary references to test the unwary, though both can be guessed if not known.
For your delight and enlightenment (unlikely, but you never know, I present my SOLUTIONS with their clues and definitions below.

[All will be revealed]
ACROSS

1 Daughter with cosmetic obscuring face, one concealed under bonnet? (8)
DIPSTICK D for Daughter, add LIPSTICK with its “face” obscured. For the benefit of our colleagues across the Western Sea, a bonnet is what you call a hood.
5 Severely criticise event (6)
HAMMER Two definitions, the latter an event if field athletics
9 Small change disrupting her plans (8)
SHRAPNEL An anagram (“disrupting”) HER PLANS. To be honest, I thought this was one of those private definitions known only to family or friends, but ODO has it: simple enough, of course, small bits of metal those annoying, virtually useless small coins cluttering your pocket.
10 Turning away dogs, room’s cleaner (3,3)
MRS MOP Reverse POMS for dogs (Pomeranians) and RM for room. That MRS took me ages to see in my last entry, something of a perennial blind spot. The Mrs Mop referenced in my heading was from ITMA and had two p's, though how you could tell on steam radio I could not say
12 Switching parties in America, proof leads to strong protest (13)
REMONSTRATION Proof is DEMONSTRATION, change the D(emocrat) to R(epublican)
15 Bowled some rubbish, I sweep (5)
BESOM Perhaps the least well known of the three B4letters words for a sweeping device, this one formed either by tying twigs to a stick or attaching B(owled) (today’s cricket) to a “rubbish” version of SOME
16 Mental disturbance? Black out in ferocious weather (9)
RAINSTORM Take B(lack) out of the mental disturbance of BRAINSTORM.
17 Penetrating eye, walking round hospital (9)
THREADING As in threading a needle, TREADING for walking round H(ospital)
19 Still very warm in river (5)
PHOTO That sort of still, with HOT (certainly very warm) dunked into the River PO, one of the setters’ most useful rivers.
20 One perhaps blue enjoying such delight? (1,5,2,1,4)
A WHALE OF A TIME I think this is a kind of cryptic definition, inviting you to connect blue with whale.
22 Say, two or three rupees for coat (6)
PRIMER  Two and three are both PRIMEs, add R(upee) to produce your (under)coat
23 Pasta ration in mess, about one gram (8)
RIGATONI The medium sized tubes of pasta, made from a mess of RATION placed around 1 G(ram)
25 Deny secret agent’s returned, cover blown (6)
NEGATE I like this one, the surface being very pretty defying you to spot it’s a reverse hidden in secrET AGENt
26 Look again for university job (8)
RESEARCH A nice ‘n’ easy twin definition

DOWN
1 Hand out from court not available in area on island (10)
DISTRIBUTE The area is DISTRICT, from which the C(our)T is made unavailable. The island is BUTE, somewhere north of Watford.
2 Knock up a good score (3)
PAR Knock RAP is “up”. In proper golf, I concur it represents a good score in that I’ve only ever beaten it once in proper golf. Jim?
3 Highest-ranking corporal finds love in Sevenoaks, say (7)
TOPONYM “A place name”, which Sevenoaks is. Our corporal is NYM from Henry V; being highest ranking he is TOP with 0 for love. A mildly better version of the clue might have had him find love in Eastcheap, home to the Boars Head Tavern and landlady Nell Quickly: I don’t see why Sevenoaks is the selected place other than serendipity.
4 Caught scarlet woman on meadow in town (12)
CHESTERFIELD  That’ll be HESTER PRYNNE, the adulteress from The Scarlet Letter. C for Caught (cricket 2) and FIELD for meadow. A slightly jarring image: while undoubtedly liaisons of a rumpy pumpy nature may happen in meadows, meadows are rarely found, if at all, in urban settings. Unless of course you know different.
6 A bug is initially stopping contactless transaction (3,4)
AIR KISS Mwah! A bug: IRK IS plus the first letter of Stopping.
7 Police arresting people over room wrecked with one skull perhaps (7,4)
MEMENTO MORI “remember that you must die”. Police are the MET, people are (in approximately 50% of cases) MEN, ROOM “wrecked” gives the O MOR bit and one the – um – I. My daughter recently purchased a walking stick for me with this memento mori on it
8 Not very good as a painter? (4)
ROPY Another double definition, the second a bit of Uxbridge “rather like a rope/painter”
11 Two types of reserve, including chief, not attending (6,6)
TAKING NOTICE The two types of reserve are the ever helpful Territorial Army and ICE, the chief is a KING, and not is NOT. Assemble.
13 Badly handling fog on river — worrying (11)
MISTREATING Fog is MIST (for our purposes, ignoring distinctions), river is R, and worrying is EATING as in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
14 Beggar’s roguish clothing finished with (10)
IMPOVERISH That’s beggar as verb, as in beggar my neighbour. Roguish supplies IMPISH, which surrounds OVER for finished with
18 One probes a part of body most painful (7)
ACHIEST  One I crops up for the third time, this time “probing” CHEST for part of the body. A appears as itself to commence proceedings.
19 Pressure to produce milk, short of time? Calm down! (7)
PLACATE P(ressure) and LACTATE for produce milk, minus its T(ime)
21 Spread pate, leaving half in tin (4)
SPAN Half of PAte in SN (or if you’re being pedantic, Sn) for tin.
24 Poet’s finished — please reply, omitting verb (3)
O’ER (Though you can’t put the apostrophe in). All it is, I think, is radiospeak OVER for please reply minus its V(erb). Took me ages post solve to work out how you got from RS(V)P to o’er. Shouldn’t have bothered.

Times Quick Cryptic No 1278 by Mara

I did Tuesday's puzzle just before this and arrived at a similar time: kicking around the 15 minute mark. I confess to being a bit tipsy, but I doubt that held me up too much. On the contrary, I cheated and clicked on the answer for the final clue on both crosswords with much greater speed than I might have otherwise. I thought the puzzle was pitched quite similarly to Tuesday's, in terms of both difficulty and quality, which is to say tougher and better than average. As the average is very high, that means there should be some relatively good clues, and indeed there were: 10ac, 19ac and 4d were my favourites, but I wouldn't argue strongly against a different selection. Much enjoyed - many thanks to Mara!

Across
1 Weak peers slow to reform (9)
POWERLESS - anagram (to reform) of PEERS SLOW
6 Carried by shoppers, a carrier bag! (3)
SAC - Carried by [the surroundingl etters of] shopperS A Carrier
8 Poisonous element nicer, as improved (7)
ARSENIC - anagram ("improved") of NICER AS
9 Religious leader, a saint and a cult follower (5)
RASTA - R ("leader" of Religious), A, ST. (saint), and A. My LOI, for some reason, just couldn't see it. And so with the alacrity of alcohol I cheated.
10 Very sad trying to maintain fashion (5-7)
HEART-RENDING - HEARING (trying, as in a trial) to maintain/keep/hold TREND (fashion)
12 Housing payment in the future returned, including compensation finally (6)
RENTAL - in the future = LATER, reverse it and include/insert N (compensatioN, "finally")
13 Estate agent, possibly, a character! (6)
LETTER - double definition
16 Instrument is tacky, darn it! (12)
FIDDLESTICKS - FIDDLE (instrument) STICKS (is tacky). I reckon I spent about fourteen minutes trying to work out a "tacky" anagram of "instrument is" to find a dated curse word. So my true solving time must be a little over a minute - that's a PB.
19 Hurt isn't terribly good (5)
STING - anagram (terribly) of ISNT, G(ood)
20 Cost, old penny, seen to change (7)
EXPENSE - EX (old - as in an ex model) P(enny), and an anagram (to change) of SEEN
22 Place left another year, initially (3)
LAY - Left Another Year "initially"
23 Racecourse calculator Aristotle designed! (9)
TOTALISER - anagram (designed) of ARISTOTLE. I really can't be bothered to look up this word. I'm guessing it's broadly equivalent to a turf accountant, but that's possibly wrong. So Aristotle is an anagram of "totaliser", who knew? A man of immeasurable intellect who couldn't totalise the number of teeth in his own head, and totalise that against the number of teeth in his wife's head. Figure that one out if you will.
Down
1 Top dog heard? (4)
PEAK - sounds like ("heard") PEKE (dog - aka a Pekinese)
2 You and I back film (7)
WESTERN - WE (you and I) STERN (back, of a boat)
3 Manage to flee (3)
RUN - double definition
4 Come along with fancy corset (6)
ESCORT - anagram (fancy) of CORSET
5 Plain green, site for development (9)
SERENGETI - anagram (for development) of GREEN SITE
6 Japanese dish — keep quiet about American one (5)
SUSHI - Sh! (keep quiet!) goes about US (American), I (one)
7 Big Ben, possibly, a mistake (7)
CLANGER - double definition
11 Nobleman put in correct lamp at the back (4,5)
REAR LIGHT - EARL (nobleman) put in RIGHT (correct)
12 No judge has us over a barrel in the end (7)
REFUSAL - a no = a refusal. REF (judge) has US over/above A, L (barreL, in the "end")
14 Money coming in cheers monarchs (7)
TAKINGS - Ta (cheers) KINGS (monarchs)
15 Rise like money (6)
ASCENT - as (like) MONEY (cent). The best substitution for money/cent I can come up with is something like "the smart ____ is on such-and-such a thing happening". A better example is welcome!
17 Girl is in time (5)
DAISY - IS inside DAY (time).
18 Legendary king real, surprisingly (4)
LEAR - (un)surprisingly an anagram of REAL
21 Friend removes one from bucket (3)
PAL - take I (one) from PAIL (bucket).