I found this quite sticky and, even allowing for time taken to lovingly extract the full measure of each clue (except the troublesome 27 across), my 32.48 is unlikely to set the world on fire. But I think it’s a goodie, with some inspired definitions scattered throughout: I particularly liked the country home, and the &lit at 12 down. At the other end of the scale, perhaps, I found 8 down problematic, with the definition being more of an allusion, though I’m open to persuasion. Most of my slower stuff came in the top left corner, never a good place to find trouble. Perhaps it was Mrs Z watching Masterchef on catch-up that dulled my senses.
While it’s not really crawling with ants, there are two of them in the grid, a mildly unusual feature.
My attempt to unravel the tangled skein of thought is embellished below with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS. Click on Ah, there it is to reveal all[Ah, there it is]
1 Orchestral movement not working, give in (4-3)
DOWN-BOW To draw the bow across the violin starting with the nut or bottom end. Not working (the computer’s ) DOWN, give in BOW (to the inevitable, May be)
5 Farewell speech originally without conclusion? (7)
SENDOFF Hyphenated in Chambers. Speech’s first letter (originally) plus END OFF suggested by without conclusion.
9 Overpriced establishment, bit common (4,5)
CLIP JOINT Not that I’ve ever thought of it that way, but a place where you get clipped, ripped off. I think CLIP as in a bit of film, and (more convinced) JOINT as in held in common
10 Fine total (5)
SHEER One of those swinish double definitions where both words have multiple possibilities. Fine gives you SHEER if you think of 10 denier and therefore practically see through stockings (a gentleman would think thus only fleetingly, of course), total as in SHEER madness.
11 I speed up and give impromptu, impressing conductor finally, Italian maestro (8,5)
GIUSEPPE VERDI Responsible for the music for the latest Audi advert, the one that goes whump boom whump boom whump boom whump boom dee da dee... “Impromptu” is your anagram indicator, sort out I SPEED UP GIVE as your fodder, slip in the R from the end of conductor.
13 In sport, time is going fast (8)
HURTLING Once you remember that HURLING is actually a sport (iománaíocht in its native Irish, believe it or not) sticking a T(ime) in is a simple exercise
15 Doctor on call : exactly the same? (6)
CLONAL “Doctor” (verb) the letters ON CALL
17 Country, note, surrounded by water (6)
POLAND The note is LA, the water is POND. I would do my usual thing of citing the Do, a deer thing, but Hammerstein ran out of imagination at that point and just called it “a note to follow So”
19 Fix trouble — check parts fit (8)
DOVETAIL Clever wording (if I’ve sussed it right). Fix gives DO, trouble is a crossword staple AIL Check is VET, which parts the other two bits. Extra points for dawdling long enough to work that out
22 Inexperienced competitor on river, is one's concern great? (13)
INDUSTRIALIST An inexperienced competitor is a TRIALIST (sometimes with LL, but not here) which leaves the INDUS for the river.
25 Old king and tiresome infants initially play together (5)
TUTTI Musical Italian. TUT is the old king, more formally known as Tutankhamen (other spellings are available). T and I from the initials of the Tiresome Infants
26 Snatch and rip off fastener (9)
CHINSTRAP You need to spot that “off” presages anagram and that SNATCH and (again that intrusive coupler) RIP are your bits. I suppose it fastens the helmet/busby to the head, but it’s a bit loose (as a definition, that is)
27 Plant life no better, all ending the wrong way for animal (3,4)
ROE DEER Ah, right, got it. The plant is REED, then just all the endings of lifE nO betteR, all reversed. Not sussed while solving.
28 Through the ear, visitor took a shot (7)
GUESSED Probably from the Golden Treasury of Homophones Through the Ear 1948 edition. Guest.
1 Avoid nothing (4)
DUCK Can’t believe this was almost my last in. Today’s (faintly) cricket reference for the second definition
2 One complaining when footballer’s grabbed hard (7)
WHINGER A splendidly contemporary clue, echoing three such incidents in British football in the last week. But the footballer’s a WINGER, and H(ard) the grabbed letter.
3 Desirable to roll up sail, out to drop anchor? (5)
BIJOU Easy (-ish) to see that the “rolled up” sail is a JIB, the you have to assume the OU comes from out with the T designated as the word’s dropped anchor. Hmm
4 Insect finding crumb on each set of books (5,3)
WHITE ANT The termite, I believe. WHIT for crumb, EA for each, and NT for our regular scriptural set of books visitor to these parts.
5 Some training relative needs to pen sheep (3-3)
SIT UPS A relative SIS(ter) pens the TUP, a useful (to setters) form of sheep.
6 Architect left residing in loathsome country home? (9)
NASHVILLE We’ll take John NASH, responsible for just about every decent bit of Regency Architecture, add VILE for loathsome with an L(eft) residing therein
7 Stretch too far above ladder (7)
OVERRUN Above: OVER, ladder: RUN as in those 10 denier stockings.
8 Expect trouble — from a catfight? (3,4,3)
FUR WILL FLY There may be trouble ahead. There are variations on the phrase in most dictionaries. The feline allusion is obvious enough
12 One moving quickly to secrete objects, petty larcenist primarily? (10)
SHOPLIFTER A brilliant &lit. SHIFTER interprets one moving quickly, hiding the objects which are the first letters of Petty Larceny Gothick Matt points out you also need the O from objects to make the wordplay work. Cheers!
14 Overwhelming success gets recounted ultimately in fiction (9)
LANDSLIDE The innocent “gets” is there to provide LANDS, the fiction is a LIE, and the remaining D comes from the ultimate letter of recounteD
16 Coming across fish, old mog fed (8)
LOCATING O(ld) CAT (or mog) is fed to the fish LING in a reversal of normal practice
18 Case of demoiselle being into drink, is this? (7)
LADETTE I don’t think an instance of a demoiselle quaffing a drink of LATTE is particularly ladettish behaviour, but hey, this is a crossword clue, and the case of DemoisellE is just DE
20 Star soldier, God of war (7)
ANTARES Soldier is our second ANT du jour, and ARES the (Greek) god of war. And this is the fabulous Uhura singing “Beyond Antares” just for the trekkies among us.
21 Trader more vulgar, might you say? (6)
GROCER More vulgar? GROSSER, sounds like.
23 Problem children (5)
ISSUE A neat little double definition, probably another vintage clue
24 Small and sweet, one's eyed (4)
SPUD S(mall) and PUD for sweet. Eyes are the growing points on potatoes (but you knew that)