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May 3rd, 2019

Totally called it: after a week of fairly relaxed cryptics chez the Times, along comes one that is pretty tough by any standards, with some quite non-obvious wordplay and tough vocabulary including two words that I wouldn't have been surprised to come across in a Monthly Club Special (23ac and 16dn). In practice this didn't take me *too* long, 1ac and 10ac going straight in to be followed by quite a few clues largely biffable from enumeration (12ac, and 20ac and 3dn, neither of which I felt any need to parse until after submission), so the psychological 10 minute barrier, after which all is despair, was not exceeded.

I fully expect some stern diatribes including the words "not in my accent, it doesn't" and some gnashing about 16dn, which I must admit I initially hazarded as being WEANDOTTY; I also stuck MARDI in at 7dn until it became clear that 11ac would work better with an H, so thank all the saints that middle letter was not unchecked. But overall I very much enjoyed this, my favourite clue today being I think 3dn, with its very satisfying "ETHEREAL M". Thanks vey much to the setter for the 23ac!

ACROSS
1 Tags celebrity, one quitting exercises (10)
NAMEPLATES - NAME [celebrity] + P{i}LATES ["one (I) quitting" exercises]

6 Take lead from great boss (4)
UMBO - {j}UMBO [great, minus its "lead"]

10 Small film of chief criminal (5)
FICHE - (CHIEF*) ["criminal"]

11 A canine companion I must follow: one impressing audibly (9)
CHIHUAHUA - CH [companion] I must follow + maybe a homophone of WOWER [one impressing]?

12 When to pay for past 24 hours of audit? (3,2,9)
DAY OF RECKONING - or, literalistically, DAY [24 hours] | OF | RECKONING [audit]

14 Love-potion, extremely acidic, taken by Ulstermen off and on (7)
PHILTRE - PH 1 [extremely acidic] + {u}L{s}T{E}R{m}E{n}

15 Disaster team stopping to drink (5-2)
SCREW-UP - CREW [team] "stopping" SUP [to drink]

17 Nuts about old exhibit, sculptor's first (7)
CASHEWS - CA [about] + SHEW [old (word for) exhibit] + S{culptor}

19 Make up for mistake by Head introducing one (7)
EXPIATE - EX = X [mistake], by PATE [head] "introducing" I [one]

20 Note Universal about to secure bold double act (6,3,5)
LAUREL AND HARDY - LA U RE LAND HARDY [note | universal | about | to secure | bold]

23 Bewilderment caused by this 60s rebel doing a U-turn (9)
PUZZLEDOM - PUZZLE [this] + reversed MOD [60s rebel]

24 Dutch painter has time for second mistake (5)
BOTCH - BO{s->T}CH [Dutch painter (Hieronymus), with "time (T) instead of second (S)"]

25 Bombshell removed from casing for show (4)
EXPO - {s}EXPO{t} [bombshell, removed from its "casing"]

26 Lying PC number twenty-two, extremely corrupt (10)
PROCUMBENT - (PC NUMBER T{wenty-tw}O*) ["corrupt"]

DOWN
1 Crass family, friends and neighbours at the outset turned up (4)
NAFF - take the first letters of F{amily}, F{fiends} A{nd} N{eighbours} and reverse.

2 The details for workers on estate? (9)
MECHANICS - or workers on estate (as in car).

3 Noble exercises for rising when received by exquisite maiden (4,2,3,5)
PEER OF THE REALM - PE [exercises] + reversed FOR, "received by" ETHEREAL M [exquisite | maiden]

4 Damn charger lifting tail (7)
ACCURSE - an ACCUSER is a charger; "lift" the last letter a couple of positions.

5 Shows hosted by Angevin, c'est-à-dire (7)
EVINCES - hidden in {ang}EVIN C'ES{t-à-dire}

7 Nice day for reporting religious leader (5)
MAHDI - dodgy homophone of MARDI [a day in France, including Nice]

8 General depot, but not housing, developed in Seville cover-up? (6-4)
ORANGE PEEL - (GENERAL {d}EPO{t}*) ["developed"]. The outer covering of a Seville orange.

9 Handle collection (9,5)
AUTOGRAPH ALBUM - cryptic def, relying on the fact that a "handle" can also be a name.

13 Dance, lifting bottom in mock revelation (10)
APOCALYPSE - CALYPSO [dance, "lifting bottom (letter to the top)"] in APE [mock]

16 Yawned, struggling to eat too much chicken (9)
WYANDOTTE - (YAWNED*) ["struggling"] to "eat" OTT [too much]

18 False report by Brit, maybe doffing cap (7)
SLANDER - {i}SLANDER [Brit, maybe "doffing cap", i.e. losing its top]

19 Death tally rising after hospital goes from a local area?
ENDEMIC - END [death] + reversed C{h}IME [tally "after hospital (H) goes"]

21 Open University taking lead on nuclear energy (5)
UNZIP - U [university] + N{uclear} + ZIP [energy]

22 Tea-time waffle? (4)
CHAT - CHA T [tea | time]

Quick Cryptic 1344 by Alconiere

I have not come across Alconiere before, but this was excellent. Engaging and elegant without being too difficult. 8 min for me.

Across
1 Regret turning back on footwear vandal (8)
SABOTEUR - Regret is RUE, backwards on the end of SABOT, a kind of wooden shoe.
5 Send out Estonian initially, with German (4)
EMIT - E (beginning of Estonian) + MIT ('with' in German)
8 Legally killed in lethal altercation (5)
HALAL - hidden word: letHAL ALtercation. Great surface,
9 During school time, engaging one as a temp? (7)
INTERIM - during school time is IN TERM, with I inserted.
11 One who uses some simple men terribly (11)
IMPLEMENTER - so I saw the word 'terribly' and assumed it was an anagram, but it's actually a hidden word: sIMPLE MEN TERribly, flagged up by the universal giveaway 'some'.
13 Tory’s inside twice grabbing at the Speaker (6)
ORATOR - Tory's inside is OR, twice is OROR, insert AT.
14 Motors repaired in Norwegian port (6)
TROMSO - Anagram ('repaired') of MOTORS
17 In time, right filling of teeth can be damaging (11)
DETRIMENTAL - ok, a bit of a Russian doll here. R for right is inside TIME, all of which is 'filling' DENTAL (of teeth). Another great surface
20 Red tuna, somehow, is not fancied? (7)
UNRATED - Anagram ('somehow') of RED TUNA
21 Long and yellow, with no tail (5)
CRAVE - CRAVEN is yellow, minus the last letter
22 Crywilling”! (4)
KEEN - double definition
23 Intros from Spanish article adopted by the priggish? (8)
PRELUDES - Spanish article is EL, the priggish are PRUDES

Down
1 London area of note with nothing (4)
SOHO - SOH is a note (doh re mi etc) + O
2 Dance in a Co Mayo town (7)
BALLINA -BALL + IN + A. I was not familiar with the place but the clue is very straightforward.
3 Sacked hotel’s inept switchboard worker (11)
TELEPHONIST - Anagram ('sacked') of HOTEL'S INEPT. Yet another great surface
4 As one college boy (6)
UNITED - UNI is college, TED is boy. Anyone else put UNISON? That also works until you get stuck with 11ac
6 Goodness! Monsieur has raised flag! (5)
MERIT - M for monseiur, flag is TIRE, backwards. Curarist's Other Law (COL) is always look out for part of speech shenanigans. Here the word 'flag' is clearly set up to make you think it's noun, but it's actually a verb. This is a very common device, and COL can be miraculously helpful when you're stuck
7 Old queen involved in cat fight the next day (8)
TOMORROW - O (old) R (queen) inside TOM ROW
10 Novel title Horace thought up? (11)
THEORETICAL - Anagram ('novel') of TITLE HORACE
12 Curious (but appropriate!) duck logo as encouraging message (4,4)
GOOD LUCK - Anagram ('curious') of DUCK LOGO. I genuinely don't know what 'but appropriate!' is doing there. Maybe someone can enlighten.
15 Mother with large, fat duck (7)
MALLARD - MA + L + LARD
16 Worker who joins wife on top of tree (6)
WELDER - W for wife, ELDER is a tree.
18 Royal Engineers appearing in the crowd? (5)
THREE - RE (engineers) inside THE
19 A serviceman’s — or a dog’s — dinner (4)
MESS - double definition.