How anyone expects a coherent blog from me this evening after the ridiculously improbable progression of Spurs into the Champions League Final I cannot tell, but I’ll try. I polished this off in 17.09, which is a relief from the last couple of days of extended and faulty solving, but the clues are fine and fair and there is enjoyment to be had. I will leave it to my fellow contributors to reveal the obscurities I didn’t really notice. No Ninas to be found, not by me anyway, though I like the idea of a purloined lift at row 5, the professional scaremonger at row 12, and the recall of the not-all-that-long-ago gee-gee lasagne scandal at column 10.
Three clues involve illegal substances, which is a suspiciously high count, but our setter seems to be uninfluenced by their presence.
I have set forth clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS and hope that my still-spinning wits have not produced too many misprings.
1 Black wood — it shows rot (10)
BALDERDASH I didn’t find the DASH bit of the clue until now. Black gives you the B (none of this KYMC rubbish in the Times) and the wood is ALDER. The – (in plain sight) completes the answer. Sometimes punctuation is important.
7 Move head, given tablet for swelling (4)
NODE Last in. Move head NOD, tablet the (almost invariable) drug of setter’s choice E.
9 Chap's in a seedy place doing some bonding (8)
ADHESIVE Chap’s (the apostrophe is important...) becomes HE’S (.... but you can drop it now). Insert into A DIVE for a seedy place
10 What's offered by a letter's opening and a letter's opening (6)
RENTAL The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to practice rightly dividing the Word of truth, which practice you need here. The iterated phrase in the clue is intended to deceive, but you will put the divide after the first “letter’s”, and then opening gives you RENT, and A Letter’s opening gives you AL
11 Hot, sweet bread without its middle (6)
STOLEN Can’t resist it: this is a genuine Tweet from hashtagrealDonaldTrump 3 days ago
“Despite the tremendous success that I have had as a President, including perhaps the greatest economy and most successful first two years of any president in history, they have stollen [my emphasis] two years of my (our) presidency (collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back…” How prescient of the famously illiterate President to point us to our answer.
13 Leave rocky peak, one that goes up and down (8)
ELEVATOR First anagram (rocky) of the day, using LEAVE and adding TOR for the peak
14 Person picking up drinks, heading for carousal in sister's place (12)
CONVALESCENT I constructed this from the wordplay before working our what the definition meant. Drinks are/is ALES, heading for carousel obviously C, and sister’s place CONVENT. Assemble sensibly
17 Left gilded vessel in honoured position (12)
LAUREATESHIP L(eft) plus gilded AUREATE plus vessel SHIP
20 Drug made less pure? That's a blow (8)
UPPERCUT Our setter’s E tablet is (among other things ) an UPPER. If adulterated, made less pure, drugs are CUT. So I’m told.
21 Paper trail from the right higher power (3-3)
SUN-GOD The Times’ dear sister paper as here indicated is the SUN, add DOG for trail reversed (from the right).
22 Youngster to receive support, it's settled (4,2)
PAID UP Youngster is PUP, “receiving” support AID
23 Worrying individual member is to block VIPs (8)
ALARMIST Member (as in limb) gives you ARM and the VIPs “blocked by ARM are the A-LIST
25 Court favourite spotted making grammatical error? (4)
SEED For court favourite think tennis rather than royal pet. Spotted would be SAW, but might be written as SEED through grammatical solecism
26 Running men out, need close of play? (10)
DENOUEMENT Our second anagram, the crickety phrasing needing no knowledge of cricket. Use the letters of MEN OUT NEED. The denouement in the play is when Poirot reveals the butler did it
2 Test car wheel cased in metal (8)
AUDITION The car is an AUDI (other marques are available), the wheel (‘s shape) gives you O, which you place in the metal TIN
3 Outstanding fellow drops off second daughter (3)
DUE (as in owing). The fellow is a DUDE who loses his second D(aughter)
4 Be in power shower, by the sound of it (5)
REIGN Sounds like rain, shower
5 Not getting on, sea legs needing to develop (7)
AGELESS Our third anagram, of SEA LEGS. The definition needs a bit of lateral thinking. But not much.
6 Food that could be made with more haste? (9)
HORSEMEAT Food? “In England, is generally given to the dogs, but in France supports the population”, as Johnson almost said. An anagram, our fourth, indicated by “could be made with”, of MORE HASTE
7 New patron saint almost amazingly fair (3-8)
NON-PARTISAN “Amazingly” anagram 5, The letters you need are N(ew), PATRON and SAIN, which is almost saint.
8 Fierce woman to prove tedious (6)
DRAGON A tedious woman, fierce or otherwise, might DRAG ON
12 Sensible grade by teacher of French is put up (5-6)
LEVEL-HEADED For grade, Chambers gives “an inclined or level stretch of road or railway” as an Americanism, but I’ve met it in the home of railway engineering. Anyway,, it’s the LEVEL version we need, then HEAD for teacher, and ED from the reverse of the French of, DE
15 Place for rocket in a boring meal and stuff (9)
LAUNCHPAD A is boring (into) the LUNCH meal, and stuff(ing) is all right for PAD
16 Kind of stock car out of energy (8)
LIMOUSIN A kind of cow, for our purposes a fully stretched limo without its E(nergy)
18 After vacation, enliven school board (7)
ENTRAIN First vacate EnliveN for the EN, then add TRAIN for school, verb rather than noun
19 Work the writer took for something stupefying (6)
OPIATE Our druggy setter indicated yet another mind altering substance as the OP (work) I ATE
21 United supporters turning up in a mess (5)
SNAFU Situation Normal, All Fouled (other epithets are available) Up. US military slang (see also fubar). U(nited) FANS (supporters) are turned up. The surface has a certain current resonance in Manchester, methinks, but Tottenham’s fans are (believe me) also in an altogether different more emotional kind of mess.
24 Silent film's ending with sign of uncertainty (3)
MUM An easy finisher: film’s ending is M and UM is the uncertain sign.