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April 20th, 2019

Well, nothing easy about this one, although it is all solvable. Certainly there was no biffing for me – each clue required work to unravel. I only got two answers on my first pass, and slowly struggled through the rest. LOI was 19dn. I still have one clue, 12ac, unparsed as I start the blog! Well done indeed, setter!

There were too many good clues to nominate a clue of the day. I liked 1ac, 1dn, 7dn and many more. PS: now I’ve finally deciphered 12ac, I’m going to put it in a category by itself, and ask whether you all loved it or hated it!

Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, then wordplay. (ABC*) means 'anagram of ABC'. Deletions are in [square brackets].

Across
1 Report men wearing stockings: caught in the act! (4,2,6)
BANG TO RIGHTS: BANG=report, OR=men, “wearing” TIGHTS=stockings.

8 Repair of concrete fencing not everyone wanted at first (7)
RENEWAL: REAL=concrete “fencing” NEW=the first letters of Not Everyone Wanted.

9 Liberator’s shame is recollected (7)
MESSIAH: “re-collection” of (SHAME IS*).

11 Sound introduction to science encyclopedia? (7)
VOLUMES: VOLUME=sound, as in “turn the volume/sound up”. S is the introduction of S[cience].

12 Boy who’s lost both parents, or lacking sight of one of them? (7)
PHANTOM: the boy who lost his parents might be ORPHAN TOM, and “lacking OR”, that makes him PHAN TOM! A sighting of either of his dead parents would of course also be a PHANTOM.

13 It’s dangerous to consume canned beef (5)
TOXIN: OX in TIN, aka “canned beef”.

14 Liquid hotter — not running (2,3,4)
ON THE TROT: “liquify” (HOTTER NOT*).

16 One’s hardest defeat: on the floor! (5,4)
LEVEL BEST: BEST=defeat, “on” LEVEL=floor.

19 Articles dipped in warm salt water that nanny did? (5)
MAAED: the MED is the warm salt water. Insert the article A twice.

21 Let out room Oscar has got in a state (7)
VERMONT: RM is an abbreviation for room, Oscar the phonetic name for the letter O. Put them in VENT=let out.

23 An element of revulsion after personnel turned away (7)
RHODIUM: take HR=personnel and “turn it away”. Then add ODIUM.

24 Like a hand recalling web designers? (7)
SPIDERY: a cryptic definition, relating to shaky handwriting.

25 Somewhat overwhelmed by Balmoral, maybe, finding the place haunted (7)
HABITAT: I’ve seen a Balmoral HAT as part of Scots dress, but didn’t know the name. Insert A BIT=somewhat.

26 Visit, at home, one indebted to doctor for energy and strength (7,5)
STAYING POWER: STAY=visit. IN=at home. GP=doctor. OWER=one indebted, i.e. owing. Assemble.

Down
1 King who sang by accident’s heard in three countries (7)
BENELUX: I didn’t know BEN E. King, but of course did know some of his hit songs as lead singer of The Drifters. LUX sounds like “Luck’s”.

2 Reporter’s cardinal sin, dropping in plugs (7)
NEWSMAN: NEWMAN is the Cardinal. “Plug” with SIN, after dropping the IN.

3 Contract that’s far-sighted (9)
TELESCOPE: double definition. The first definition jarred with me initially, but “telescoping” can, I guess, describe either opening (extending) or closing (contracting) the optical device. Chambers says specifically ‘closing’, so ignore me.

4 Deservedly get to cover number one in music chart again (5)
REMAP: REAP=deservedly get, M=number one (first letter) in Music.

5 Be unused, perhaps, to rage (2,5)
GO SPARE: another double definition.

6 Do bird? Third time, not second, for conman (7)
TWITTER: TWISTER=conman has two T’s. Replace S for “second” by a third T for “time”.

On edit: there is interesting discussion in the comments below on why the definition should be “do bird” rather than “conman “. I thought that “time, not second” must mean change S to T, not vice versa, so that pointed me to the answer. Even more subtly, if you were to read the wordplay as saying change the third T to an S, the result should be TWITSER!!

Still, like the commentators below, I admit I don't enjoy clues where you come away thinking, "I'm still not really sure which end of the clue is the definition"!

On further edit: I think this clue is unambiguous, although with the tricky definition ("do bird" meaning "imitate birdsong") and the cunning editing instructions, it's undoubtedly a challenging clue!


7 Coward’s acts, as it happens, concealed by soldiers (7,5)
PRIVATE LIVES: I thought of Nöel Coward at first glance, but it took a long time to think of the play.

10 Obligation to accommodate politician after seat, his disastrously lost (6-6)
HUMPTY-DUMPTY: HUMPTY=a type of seat. DUTY=obligation, “accommodating” MP=politician.

15 Odd trip south coach can take (9)
TUTORSHIP: “odd” arrangement of (TRIP SOUTH*).

17 Short change perfect pest (7)
VARMINT: VAR[y] = change, MINT = perfect.

18 Places to go and see? Not exactly (7)
LOOSELY: LOOS=places to go (nudge, nudge). ELY=see.

19 Night light to display behind dish briefly (4-3)
MOON-BOW: MOON=display behind. BOW[l]=dish.

20 Fellow celebrity (7)
ALISTER: the celebrity might be an A-LISTER, so the definition is this random fellow.

22 Wear for the first time fashion clothing line (3-2)
TRY-ON: TON=fashion, “clothing” RY=railway line. I’m not sure the definition is consistent with the hyphen in the answer. I would think a try-on is a scam or such like, to try on is to wear for the first time.