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March 25th, 2019

Music: Bizet, Carmen Suites, Markovich/Lamoureux
Time: 28 minutes

I had a hard time getting started, finding few short, easy clues, but once I got going I biffed nearly all the longer answers.  Only if I got really stuck did I try to puzzle out the cryptic.   With long clues for long answers, the cryptic can be very difficult to figure out, and if you don't need it, why bother?    For the purpose of general amusement, I have bolded all the clues I biffed.

The music has been sounding much better lately, as I have taken to cleaning each record before playing it.   I had gotten lazy and was thinking, well, this doesn't sound any better than CD.   For doing the blog, I am listening to a CD, on the computer, the Foo Fighters 'Wasting Light'.   I'm not sure if I like it, but since I am able to get lots of CDs for fifty cents or a dollar around here, I am trying all the music I missed to see if it is any good.   A lot of it isn't.

Across
1 Small drinks on behalf of church team taking orders (5,5)
SALES FORCE - S + ALES + FOR C.E, a stock Cramer is always touting.
6 Junk plans to head west (4)
SPAM - MAPS backwards, a starter clue.
9 Brief message backing TV fundraiser Henry’s left (7)
NOTELET - TELET[h]ON backwards.
10 Got up tired, having lost energy (7)
WAKENED - W[e]AKENED.
12 Temporary pianos evenly sited round old university (3-2)
POP-UP - P(O)P(U)P, yes, lots of pianos!
13 Like interpreter to invoice hosts in August, on returning (9)
BILINGUAL - BIL(IN + AUG backwards)L.
14 Head of printing house fetched back painter (not English) behind picture book (10,5)
PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM - P[rinting] HO[use] + GOT backwards +  RAPHA[e]L + BUM, with the English slang meaning of 'bum' rather than the American - this is the Times of London!
17 Varied resources here to cover French study update (9,6)
REFRESHER COURSE - RE(FR)ESHER COURSE, where the enclosing letters are an anagram of RESOURCES HERE.
20 A hundred and fifty European books, romantic? (9)
CANDLELIT - C AND L + LIT, not NT or OT for once!
21 ‘‘Jaws’’ bound to be shown in empty cinemas (5)
CHOPS - C(HOP)S.   I'm not really sure what sense of 'jaws' is intended here, but the cryptic is obvious enough.   Feel free to discuss!
23 Salute archbishop opening mine (7)
PLAUDIT - P(LAUD)IT, for once not Ven, but a specific archbishop, the one who caused a lot of trouble in 17th-century England, and was beheaded after being attainted by the Long Parliament,
24 Less smooth make-up runs, hard to stop (7)
ROUGHER - ROUG(H)E + R.
25 Pine tea chest's contents (4)
ACHE - hidden in [te]A CHE[st].
26 Saw old man in a hotel with the general manager (10)
APOPHTHEGM - A(POP)H + THE G.M.   I really needed the cryptic for this - I knew the words, but my attempts to spell it would have been risible.
Down
1 Abrasive guide appears around North Dakota (9)
SANDPAPER - SA(N.D.)PAPER, wherre the enclosing letters are an anagram of APPEARS.   Our constructor appears to favor enclosing anagrams.
2 Decline rent at university (3-2)
LET-UP - LET + UP, 'decline' as in not rain so much.
3 The French turning up cut down outside support under their own steam (4-9)
SELF-PROPELLED - LES backwards + F(PROP)ELLED.   Parsed only for the blog.
4 Love to live in credit some weeks (7)
OCTOBER - O + C(TO BE)R.  Likewise.
5 Maybe Jersey Beer erected plant (7)
COWSLIP - COW + PILS upside-down.
7 ID of superior doctor in NW London area (3,6)
PIN NUMBER - PINN(U MB)ER.   Never heard of Pinner, but I didn't need the cryptic anyway.
8 Perfect lines to fill little volume (5)
MODEL - M(ODE)L, that is, a milliletter with a poem inside.
11 Bouncer to try to win dodgy hearing (8,5)
KANGAROO COURT - KANGAROO + COURT.   I always tend to write 'kangeroo', which gave me trouble with PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM until I sorted it.
15 Composer on holiday with another, eating nut (9)
OFFENBACH - OFF (EN) BACH, where 'nut' is a slang term for the printer's measure.   Offenbach is one of two enclosing composer pairs, the other one being Verdi/Monteverdi.
16 Eddy, top conductor, hogging large mike (9)
MAELSTROM - MAE(L)STRO + M.
18 Unfortunate Tory leader packed in spring summit (7)
HILLTOP - H(ILL T)OP.
19 Some sailor upset pest controller (3,4)
RAT TRAP - PART TAR upside down.   It would have been amusing to clue a specific part, like 'sailor's leg'.
20 Coconut oil prepared right away, primarily from this (5)
COPRA - C[oconut] O[il] P[repared] R[ight] A[way].   Are you so used to 'right away' meaning 'remove the R' that you tried to do just that?
22 Buff coach horse every so often (5)
OCHRE - [c]O[a]C[h] H[o]R[s]E, my FOI, in my quest to find a clue I could solve easily.

A great collection of anagrams here. I think that six clues were straight anagrams (including all four of the long 13-letter clues) and another two involved them. There were also I think three double definitions of which five definitions were straight and only one cryptic. Most of the other clues were straight insertions, which made for a pretty straightforward puzzle overall. Having said that I found it very entertaining as all the anagrams (and indeed all of the clues) were very pleasing with natural surfaces and didn't feel strained at all (apart from 2D perhaps). Many thanks to Izetti therefore for a very neat and entertaining start to the week.

I have no idea of time as I was just getting into my stride when the BT engineer came to call and I spent the next half hour with him diagnosing that the reason one of my telephone lines had gone down was that a fox had eaten it. But as I say it felt pretty straightforward and there may well be a few PBs out there.

My FOI was the hidden word at 1A and my LOI was 15D (reversing SIR was obvious to me but then revesing BED seemed more difficult for some strange reason). COD would be one of those neat anagrams but it's difficult to choose between them. I probably liked 6D best in the end.

My NATRAF (Nina And Them Radar And Filter) twitched slightly when it spotted the beginnings of a story being told in the final grid:

DAMASK AMUSES ROGUE'S GALLERY

And then if you ignore the hyphen of 'SIT-IN':

SIT IN UNTAKEN SARCOPHAGUS

Which reminds me of one of my father's favourite sayings. If you sat in his chair in front of the TV when he got up and left the room for a moment he would invariably say upon his return: "Would ye jump into my grave as quick?"

And then we have:

AVERAGE THOSE, THE PARTY'S OVER and SINGER SEVENS

Reading downwards we have:

DIREST CASTES MIGHT HAVE BEEN STERN CHARADE

And also:

GRUMPIEST MILITIA TASTE STEAK AU POIVRE SAYING DEBRIS

Or perhaps the long anagrams are giving some sort of BREXIT commentary:

ROGUES GALLERY - THE PARTY'S OVER, MIGHT HAVE BEEN STEAK AU POIVRE

As I say, it all sort of nearly makes sense. But not quite. Which makes me believe it's all just a bit of a coincidence after all. Or maybe Izetti is just playing around with me. Like Hamlet and Polonius:


Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
Polonius: By th' Mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.
Hamlet: Or like a whale.
Polonius: Very like a whale.

Definitions are underlined as usual and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can manage.

Across
1 Madam, a skirt will contain this material (6)
DAMASK - hidden word: maDAM A SKirt
4 A maiden exploits charms (6)
AMUSES - A + M (maiden) + USES (exploits).
8 A group of undesirables regularly goes wild (6,7)
ROGUES GALLERY - straight anagram ('wild') of REGULARLY GOES.
10 Something wicked about Italian making protest (3-2)
SIT-IN - SIN (something wicked) 'about' IT (Italian).
11 Eccentric aunt with range of knowledge left on the shelf? (7)
UNTAKEN - UNTA (anagram of aunt ('eccentric')) + KEN (range of knowledge).
12 A group's cash thrown into a stone box (11)
SARCOPHAGUS - straight anagram ('thrown') of A GROUPS CASH.
16 Girl in time seen to be ordinary? (7)
AVERAGE - VERA (girl) 'in' AGE (time).
17 That group of map-makers featured in article (5)
THOSE - OS (Ordnance Survey - map-makers) 'featured in' THE (article).
18 Hearts broken with poverty — expect no more fun (3,6,4)
THE PARTYS OVER - straight anagram ('broken') of HEARTS + POVERTY.
19 Entertainer, one who got things stitched up! (6)
SINGER - double definition, one cryptic. The name of SINGER was once to sewing machines what HOOVER is to vacuum cleaners.
20 Ball game in uniform aboard ship (6)
SEVENS - SS (Steam Ship) with EVEN (uniform) 'aboard'.
Down
1 I'd flipped over, repose being most terrible (6)
DIREST - DI (I'D 'flipped over') + REST (repose).
2 What would excite them? Big heaven? It never came to pass (5-4-4)
MIGHT-HAVE-BEEN - straight anagram ('what would excite') of THEM BIG HEAVEN.
3 Hard back (5)
STERN - double definition.
5 Fighting force initially might, it’s likely, if trained in advance (7)
MILITIA - take the initial letters of Might It's Likely If Trained In Advance.
6 Take a previous, re-cooked, meat dish (5,2,6)
STEAK AU POIVRE - straight anagram ('re-cooked') of TAKE A PREVIOUS.
7 Remaining, not time for speaking (6)
SAYING - STAYING (remaining) minus T (time).
9 Tum suffering with gripes making one most irritable (9)
GRUMPIEST - straight anagram ('suffering') of TUM + GRIPES.
13 Tea awfully dear — it's a travesty (7)
CHARADE - CHA (tea) + RADE (anagram ('awfully') of DEAR).
14 Classes of people left out of grand buildings (6)
CASTES - CASTLES (grand buildings) minus L (left).
15 Rubbish in plot upset gentleman turning up (6)
DEBRIS - DEB (BED (plot) 'upset') + RIS (SIR reversed, or 'turning up' in this down clue).
17 Liking decorum (5)
TASTE - double definition.