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February 14th, 2019

Well now, if I say this took me 13.58, including checking for typos and making sure all my wordplay worked, you’ll understand that, in my opinion, it’ll show up in the greenest green of the SNITCH. I don’t go much faster, but unless I’m very much mistaken, this is not because I can boast of my superior solving skills so much to suggest this is no Thursday stinker. Anagrams that are generously flagged up, words which threaten to be obscure technicalities are nothing of the sort. There is a bit of antique landscape floating around at 17, and a temptation to stretch its modern equivalent to fit, but the setter is generous with the wordplay. Sketchy knowledge of American and Mediterranean geography is required, but scarcely beyond the reach of the average daytime quiz show contestant. Four clues, no less, require a basic knowledge of music, but nothing much beyond what Julie Andrews can instruct you in.
Add a nod to today’s date, and you have a pleasant, gentle grid with a couple of clever twists to keep you entertained.
I have provided explanations and clarifications below with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS. Please press button B
[Button B]





ACROSS
1 A tipster’s manner is confused and not totally clear (15)
SEMITRANSPARENT If you need a more obvious anagram indicator than “is confused” then I fear you may be beyond help! Muck about with A TIPTER’S  MANNER  until the answer becomes (almost?) clear
9 Temporary diversion going all around ruined tel (9)
INTERLUDE Your second, slightly less obvious anagram indicator for the day is “going all around”. Give the letters RUINED TEL to your notional million typewriting monkeys and about 3 of them should come up with the answer straight away. My probability calculation is messed up by there being two Es, but the monkeys aren’t to know that.
10 Tree is full with the mass at its head (5)
MAPLE Read AMPLE for full, and move the M(ass) to the front
11 Grub, not to provide food and support (6)
PILLAR I like this. The grub is caterpillar, remove the word cater (provide food) and there it is.
12 Point small boat across loch (8)
PINNACLE L(och) has PINNACE “across” it. Chambers says pinnace is only loosely a small boat, but also gives three (different) more precise definitions, plus, as antique slang, a whore.
13 Clergyman’s a board member after day one? (6)
RECTOR Clergyman, 6 letters, starts with R.  The wordplay has you remove D(ay) I from DIRECTOR, your board member
15 Scots town, mostly where there’s rubbish chips (8)
DUMFRIES Chips, for our American friends, are not crisps but FRIES. Add DUM by taking most of dump, “where there’s rubbish”. I initially thought dumb for rubbish, but it doesn’t work
18 Something unlikely in telephoto picture? (4,4)
LONG SHOT A double definition.
19 Suspend inhibition (4-2)
HANG-UP Another double definition, the first not requiring the hyphen
21 Support team that’s bottom (8)
BACKSIDE For what it’s worth, I support Spurs, who cheerfully destroyed Dortmund this evening in the Champions League, and are currently nowhere near bottom. But regular readers would know that.
23 Quick break from work in Post Office (6)
PRESTO One of many Italian words used in music notation, which does indeed mean quick. Break from work REST inserted into PO, Ordnance Survey for Post Office
26 Misyoke with this makes donkey very vocal (5)
NOISY Takes some working out. If there’s no ISY in MISYOKE, you get MOKE, a donkey. Cute.
27 Potential lover of beer not heartlessly cutting source of wine (9)
VALENTINE Beer is ALE, not heartlessy NT, both “cutting” VINE, source of wine. Mrs Z has asked me to make it clear that I’m not available for today’s protestations of love.
28 Newspaper operations room where one can go to play (8,7)
NATIONAL THEATRE Organs such as The Times are NATIONALs (as distinct from regionals, provincials or locals). Operations room provides the (surgical) THEATRE



DOWN
1 Captain of slalom team member keeping very quiet? (7)
SKIPPER There might be a technical term for a slalom team member, but just SKIER will do. Insert PP, more music notation for very quiet.
2 Like steel cutlery tons used to cut food (5)
METAL Again, no technical knowledge needed beyond what class of stuff steel belongs to. Food is MEAL, insert T(ons)
3 Strong winds sent a door swinging (9)
TORNADOES Third easy anagram indictor of the day, “swinging”. Rearrange SENT A DOOR
4 A peculiar genus of plants (4)
ARUM  Apparently the cuckoo-pint genus, but also applied to versions of lily. A is –um–A , peculiar is RUM.
5 Attractive at first sight with a note of promise, wearing glasses (8)
SPECIOUS Not, perhaps, the first word you light on from the definition, though Chambers gives “looking good at first sight” amongst its definitions. Note of promise is the ever useful (to setters) IOU; it’s wearing SPECS, glasses
6 Fellow’s got under a million in capital (5)
AMMAN Capital of Jordan (but you knew that). Fellow again is the most generic possible MAN, placed under A M(illion)
7 Looking forward to former setter getting good (9)
EXPECTING Former is EX, your setter not our kind host but PECTIN, used for setting jam and such. Add G(ood)
8 Ancient hero of Florida and Alabama? (7)
THESEUS I like this one too. Unless corrected by our American contingent, Im happy to accept that Alabama and Florida are THE South East United States
14 Study text for play draft on Broadway? (9)
CONSCRIPT All Broadway is doing is inviting another Americanism, draft, which means our answer on this side of the pond, rather than something theatrical as suggested by the rest of the clue. Study: CON, text for play SCRIPT
16 Perhaps Cologne newspaper’s taken in neighbouring country (9)
FRAGRANCE A less esteemed newspaper than our beloved organ is a RAG. Insert into neighbouring (and occasionally invaded) FRANCE
17 Ancient area in 1006, a former principality (8)
MOLDAVIA Trust the cryptic for this one: ancient giving OLD, then A(rea), stick them into the Roman version of 1006 which is MVI, add A from –um–a
18 Chap keeping bar in Mediterranean country (7)
LEBANON At last we need a particular, if random, chap, in this case LEON, who is “keeping” BAN for bar
20 In favour of support involving key pupil (7)
PROTEGE In favour of: PRO, support: TEE, KEY probably the musical one (of 7, plus variants) G
22 Perhaps note authority for decision (3-2)
SAY-SO Another musical note, this time from tonic sol-fa, SO (a needle pulling thread). SAY stands in for “perhaps”.
24 Fast computer link nearly installed in street (5)
SWIFT The computer link is the prosaic WI-FI, which here is only nearly complete, placed in ST(reet), rather generously given in plain.
25 Spot line included in autonomous program (4)
BLOT I was a bit worried about this one, but settled on BOT for “autonomous program” for want of anything better, and chucked in a L(ine)

Times Quick Cryptic No 1288 by Izetti

I'd put this towards the easier end of things, certainly for an Izetti puzzle. The grid was quite empty after a first read through of the acrosses, but the downs were more forgiving and it all clicked into place with a minute-or-so change from my target. It helped that I'm slowly starting to remember that pesky material at 6d, and I was glad to be reminded of the abbreviation at 20d with an easy enough clue. As far as I can see, 11ac is the only real Valentine's Day reference - perhaps fittingly his lover is absent from the grid. So not a great deal of obscurity, but some tricksy cluing and lots of typically smooth surfaces made it all very good fun - many thanks to Izetti!

Across
8 Big bag in room containing antique? (7)
HOLDALL - HALL (room) containing OLD (antique)
9 Entertainment round piano with English artist (5)
OPERA - O (round) P(iano) with E(nglish) R.A. (Royal Academician / artist)
10 Irritable man admits drinking nothing alcoholic (5)
RATTY - RAY (man) admits TT (teetotal / drinking nothing alcoholic)
11 Famous lover in Lincoln getting fat (7)
ABELARD - ABE (as in Abe Lincoln) gets LARD (fat). Abelard and Heloise were lovers in France at the turn of the twelfth century, and their sensational love affair had it all: passion, scandal, a secret marriage, an evil uncle, a series of love letters after a forced separation, and of course a juicy bit of castration thrown in for good measure. In Our Time covered it a while ago if you're particularly interested.
12 Women tend to have misrepresented talent (9)
ENDOWMENT - anagram (misrepresented) of WOMEN TEND. A talent /endowment is a natural gift for something.
14 Guy is vulgar and funny, not half (3)
RIB - RIBALD (vulgar and funny, ditch the second half). To guy / tease / rib, etc.
16 Returning academic gets sign of approval (3)
NOD - DON (academic) return = reverse
18 Remain outside school control (9)
RESTRAINT - REST (remain) outside TRAIN (school)
21 Entertainment event loud and dirty (7)
FUNFAIR - F (forte / loud) and UNFAIR (dirty)
22 Hiding in bedroom, an invisible Arab (5)
OMANI - "Hiding in" the letters of bedroOM AN Invisible
23 Angelic group you and I will appear in (5)
SWEET - SET (group) that WE (you and I) will appear in.
24 Squirm uneasily when entertaining a nobleman (7)
MARQUIS - anagram (uneasily) of SQUIRM entertains/admits A

Down
1 The unknown number holding weird rite as number of ill omen? (8)
THIRTEEN - THE (the) N (unknown number) holds an anagram (weird) of RITE
2 Very happy to be connected, right away (6)
ELATED - RELATED (connected), with R(ight) taken away.
3 Infant born in space near window? (4)
BABY - B(orn) inside BAY (space near window)
4 Walk out after Conservative split (6)
CLEAVE - LEAVE (walk out) goes after C(onservative)
5 Supporting development of trees? That's my job (8)
FORESTER - FOR (supporting) ; anagram (development) of TREES. As the definition refers back to the cryptic, but is not part of the wordplay, this is an example of a "semi-&lit" clue, an "&lit" clue being where the whole clue is both cryptic wordplay "and literally" the definition.
6 Fix material before broadcast (6)
REPAIR - REP (material) before AIR (broadcast). A fabric with a ribbed surface, with "rep" here being etymologically related to "rib".
7 Worker making clock component (4)
HAND - double definition
13 Justifies tirades following hostilities (8)
WARRANTS - RANTS (tirades) follows WAR (hostilities)
15 Cricketer, one in important match being most eccentric (8)
BATTIEST - a cricketer = a bat, courtesy of synecdoche ; I (one) inside TEST (important match)
17 Risk in badly laid-out garden (6)
DANGER - Anagram (badly laid-out) of GARDEN
19 Kentish spirits? Amber-coloured liquids (6)
SERUMS - SE (South East / Kentish) RUMS (spirits)
20 One vehicle unserviceable, making traveller doomed to death (6)
ICARUS - I (ONE) CAR (vehicle) US (U/S = unserviceable, originally a WWII abbreviation)
21 Speedy firm? (4)
FAST - double definition
22 Occupying zoo, great big monster (4)
OGRE - "Occupying" the letters of zoO GREat
A complex puzzle very worthy of its Friday slot, I thought: the top half in particular held me up for a long time, until I finally clocked the hard double definition at 1ac and managed to justify 3dn. Both the latter and 22ac had uncommonly hard wordplay, and I won't be surprised to hear of some Bunging In From Definition going on in the comments.

I do like an atomic symbol clue and 16dn is a very fine specimen of the form, and also Word of the Day to 6dn, but my favourite clue this time around was 17ac. Can he solve it? Yes he can! There's scarcely a less than excellent clue in the mix here though, with one minor eyebrow raise from me at 5dn and its multiple ONs. Many thanks to the setter; and what did all the rest of you like best, then?

ACROSS
1 Musicians in costume (8)
ENSEMBLE - double def

9 Dark scene as small number go inside church (8)
NOCTURNE - NO ["small" number] + TURN [go] inside CE

10 Insider from Acton wrestling to claim prize (8)
OCCUPANT - (ACTON*) ["wrestling"] to "claim" CUP [prize]

11 Soil fan finds truffle? (8)
EARTHNUT - EARTH [soil] + NUT [fan]

12 Source of naval power in Rome gone after collapse (6,4)
ENGINE ROOM - (IN ROME GONE*) ["after collapse"]

14 River current taking out both banks? (4)
ODER - {m}ODER{n} [current]

15 Wind, destructive at the outset, coming in closer (7)
MEANDER - D{estructive}, "coming in" MEANER [closer]

17 Bob, eg British coin: not good (7)
BUILDER - B [British] + {g}UILDER [coin, not G for good]

21 Information at short notice sent back (4)
DATA - reverse AT AD [at | "short" notice]

22 Appliance, left out in the old days for bathroom cleaner? (10)
TOOTHPASTE - TOO{l} [appliance, L for left "out"] + in THE, PAST [old days]

23 Artist ultimately carried weight, though not initially in poor condition (8)
TATTERED - {artis}T + {m}ATTERED [carried weight, "not initially"]

25 A two-page conclusion with one Times supplement? (8)
APPENDIX - A P-P END [a | two-page | conclusion] with I X [one | times]

26 Element in languages voiced by cardinal (8)
TUNGSTEN - homophone of TONGUES [languages] by TEN [cardinal (number)]

27 Regularly target a certain masterpiece? (8)
TREASURE - T{a}R{g}E{t} + A SURE [a | certain]

DOWN
2 Can he con criminal? Most unlikely! (2,6)
NO CHANCE - (CAN HE CON*) ["criminal"]

3 Outbreak of illness starting with revolting contaminated housing? (8)
ERUPTION - I{llness}, "housed" by reversed ["revolting"] NOT PURE [contaminated]

4 Drop ancient historian from audition (4)
BEAD - homophone of BEDE [ancient historian]

5 Log falling on leg in our canal (7)
ENTERON - ENTER [log] falling on ON [leg]

6 Buffoon Mark rejected old woman — that hurt! (10)
SCARAMOUCH - SCAR [mark] + reversed MA [old woman] + OUCH [that hurt!]

7 Secret society controlling racket from South island (8)
TRINIDAD - TRIAD [secret society] "controlling" reversed [from south to north] DIN [racket]

8 Reprimand right for academic (8)
LECTURER - LECTURE R [reprimand | right]

13 Everyone choosing Princess to accept love note (10)
ELECTORATE - ELECTRA [princess] to "accept" O [love] + TE [(seventh) note]. Electra was the daughter of King Agamemnon, thus Princess of Argos.

15 Think to behave diplomatically? About time! (8)
MEDITATE - MEDIATE [to behave diplomatically] about T [time]

16 At a country home being entertained (8)
ASTATINE - A STATE [a | country], IN [home] being "entertained". At being the symbol for element 85 on the periodic table.

18 Refuse to provide exits (8)
LEAVINGS - double def

19 Face headless man, drinking port (8)
EXTERIOR - {d}EXTER ["headless" man], "drinking" RIO [port]. Fortunately RIO is a go-to word for a crossword "port".

20 Sweet and flowing in poetic source (7)
FONDANT - (AND*) ["flowing"] in FONT ["poetic" source]

24 Mistake to ignore leader in church area (4)
APSE - {l}APSE [mistake "to ignore leader"]