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May 9th, 2019

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.


ACROSS
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



DOWN
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.

Times Quick Cryptic No 1348by Tracy

Perhaps a touch on the trickier side today, hard to say sometimes. At any rate, I did Tuesday's just before this in a bit under 7 minutes and was correspondingly over the 10 minutes today, with no major hold-ups except a slight delay at 1d, my last-one-in. But a top-notch puzzle, I thought: some lovely clues, and almost every clue had a good, neat surface, with care taken to add interest to even the more well-trodden of clues. I learnt a couple of things along the way as well, so can't ask for more than that - many thanks to Tracy!

Across
1 In which rail fare may be taken? (6,3)
DINING CAR - cryptic definition, with a misdirecting pun on fare/ticket and fare/food.
6 Start of much work for cleaner (3)
MOP - M ("start" of Much) OP (opus = work)
8 Drink wine in comfort (7)
SUPPORT - SUP (drink) PORT (wine)
9 Excellent joke (5)
CRACK - double definition. Excellent shot = crack shot, etc.
10 Question paper — time running out (5)
ISSUE - TISSUE (paper), remove the T (time running out)
12 Book flight (6)
EXODUS - double definition
14 Solver rapidly worked out “senior cabinet minister” (4,5,4)
LORD PRIVY SEAL - Anagram (worked out) of SOLVER RAPIDLY. From a long obsolete role of managing the monarch's private seal, i.e. for personal documents rather than more official affairs of state. Unfortunately nothing to do with toilets and those seals they sometimes have in hotels (although I suppose this role, had it existed, would have been rather stepping on the soiled toes of the Groom of the Stool). Today, as a cabinet position, the title of Lord Privy Seal is generally combined with being Leader of the House of Commons (or Lords).
16 Disapprove of old unorthodox popes (6)
OPPOSE - O(ld); anagram (unorthodox) of POPES
17 Jelly and cream shortly after seeing that (5)
ASPIC - PICK (cream, shortly = dock last letter) after AS (seeing that)
19 Cost of staple food shown on page (5)
PRICE - RICE (staple food) shown on/after P(age)
20 One feels queen is repelled by insect (7)
ANTENNA - ENNA (Anne = queen, repelled = reversed) by/beside ANT (insect
22 Some original equipment (3)
RIG - "some" of the letters of oRIGinal
23 Hoedown in a brand new northern church (4,5)
BARN DANCE - anagram (new) of A BRAND ; N(orthern) CE (church)

Down
1 Believer in training, not at home (8)
DISCIPLE - DISCIPLinE (training), but not IN (at home)
2 Pinch small drink of spirits (3)
NIP - double definition
3 Snare wild ones crossing over at first (5)
NOOSE - anagram (wild) of ONES crossing/going over O (over at first)
4 King's wife a prince rather upset (9,4)
CATHERINE PARR - anagram (upset) of A PRINCE RATHER.
5 Clergyman's house in Crockford's, perhaps DI overlooked? (7)
RECTORY - DI overlooked in DIRECTORY (Crockford's, for example). I was unaware of Crockford's Clerical Directory, which among other things lists biographies of the 26,000 clergy in the CoE today. The first edition, published in 1858, relied on pre-paid postal returns with the stamps alone costing a whopping £500 (roughly £60,000 today), but the sheer volume of returns meant it wasn't compiled in alphabetical order, and lacked a proper index. I can well see how an overworked Victorian Detective Inspector might have missed the details of a suspect clergyman and his estate.
6 Step ahead, fill the bill (7,2)
MEASURE UP - MEASURE (step) UP (ahead).
7 Fish pasty containing last of haddock (4)
PIKE - PIE (pasty) containing K ("last" of haddocK)
11 Youth in cast concealing slip (9)
STRIPLING - SLING (cast) concealing TRIP (slip)
13 Report of alliance funding siege (8)
BLOCKADE - is the same as a spoken "report" of BLOC (alliance) AID (funding).
15 Saw rambler in empty pub (7)
PROVERB - ROVER (rambler) in P B ("empty" PuB). Saw/saying/maxim/proverb/etc.
17 Played the part of cadet at sea (5)
ACTED - anagram (at sea) of CADET
18 Knocks over box (4)
SPAR - RAPS (knocks) over = reversed
21 Sister in cotton uniform (3)
NUN - "in" the letters of cottoN UNiform.
Well I thought this was a thoroughly marvellous puzzle, with virtually every clue having something something exceptional or interesting about it. The only clue I marginally didn't care for, was 17ac, because I was worried that I might not have found the right synonym for "punch" in the first half, but even there the great surface made it all worthwhile. I guess the barely cryptic and cross-referential 27ac may irk some purists, but personally I loved it. I was tempted to give clue of the day to 6dn because a "triple homophone" feels like some kind of setting achievement, but 16dn edges it for me, with a brilliantly groanworthy misleading definition slotting perfectly into a superbly crafted surface. Chapeau, setter, chapeau!

12 entirely enjoyable minutes on the clock for me, and as I write the second midnight solver appears to have just staggered across the line in almost 40, so I have the feeling this might prove to be a tester. Let me know how you all enjoyed the experience...

ACROSS
1 Objective of criminal carrying weapon (8)
BALANCED - BAD [criminal] "carrying" LANCE [weapon]. That's objective as an adjective, not a noun.

9 Opera, one performed without me love! (8)
IDOMENEO - I [one] + DONE [performed] "without" ME + O [love]

10 Letting go right before audience, person who flourishes (6)
WAIVER - homophone of WAVER [person who flourishes]. Thank goodness only one of these words fits, or else I'm sure I wouldn't have known which to enter.

11 Sort of track something boring, if listened to (3-7)
ALL-WEATHER - homophone of AWL WHETHER [boring | if]

12 It may stand in the way, note (4)
STET - in ST [the way], TE [note]

13 He met Agnes sneakily in the garden (10)
GETHSEMANE - (HE MET AGNES*) ["sneakily"]. My, and I expect keriothe's, FOI.

16 Act to help penurious soldier, 20, to catch Irish girl (4, 3)
POOR LAW - P.O.W. [soldier, imprisoned (the answer to 20ac)] to "catch" ORLA [Irish girl]

17 Punch back of leg and hide (3,4)
BOX CALF - BOX [punch] + CALF [back of leg]

20 Given time, one’s inclined to accept one’s daughter (10)
IMPRISONED - I'M PRONE [one's | inclined] to "accept" I'S [one] + D [daughter]

22 He passed on watch in return for old coin (4)
OBOL - OB. [he passed on] + reversed LO [watch]

23 Alias agent used in part of this country (4,6)
EAST ANGLIA - (ALIAS AGENT*) ["used"]

25 What the righteous have initially got going, gradually (6)
NOSING - the righteous have NO SIN, + G{ot}

26 Cold War leader’s fall within a month ... (8)
ANDROPOV - DROP [fall] within A NOV [a | month]

27 ... a lift to his opposite number? (8)
ELEVATOR - simply enough what Andropov's opposite number during the Cold War, or any other American, might call a lift.

DOWN
2 After a hellish experience, refusing to drink old liqueur
AMARETTO - after A MARE [a | hellish experience], TT O [refusing to drink | old]

3 Daredevil coming up, briefly, to perform again (10)
ADVENTURER - ADVENT [coming] + reversed RERU{n} [to perform again]

4 Something to blow about, primate’s handling large fine (3,7)
COR ANGLAIS - C ORANG'S [about | primate's] "handling" L A1 [large | fine]

5 These linguists are keen gardeners? (7)
DIGLOTS - if you DIG LOTS, you're probably a keen gardener. Probably.

6 Came by bike? Or by boat? Or motorway, if picked up?
RODE - not sure if I've ever seen a triple homophone before! Of, in this case, ROWED [came by boat] and ROAD [motorway].

7 Girl is deaf, missing tips (6)
ANTHEA - {c}AN'T HEA{r}

8 The solver emphatically in good form? (8)
YOURSELF - if you are feeling YOURSELF, you are feeling in good form.

14 Potentially dangerous steps end with cowards running (5,5)
SWORD DANCE - (END + COWARDS*) ["running"]

15 Old bags one put in train, turning up somewhere in Pacific (10)
MICRONESIA - CRONES I [old bags | one] "put in" reversed AIM [train]. I've fallen into the Micronesia/Macronesia trap before now so had to parse this one very carefully, I can tell you!

16 Damage shower, adjusting cold tap: endless grief (5,3)
PRICE TAG - (C TAP GRIE{f}*) ["adjusting..."]. Damage shower as in, something that shows you "the damage", as in to your wallet!

18 Give impression of being keen on probe (4,4)
LOOK INTO - if you LOOK like you're INTO something, you're giving the impression of being keen on it

19 Rarely seen clasps can bind? (7)
ENSLAVE - (SEEN*) ["rarely"] "clasps" LAV [can]

21 Latin local glad as opponent’s showing up (6)
POSADA - hidden reversed in {gl}AD AS OP{ponent}. This is a Spanish-speaking, not a Roman, inn.

24 Shots that some doctors give, bending over (4)
NIPS - some "doctors" provide SPIN, which you will need to reverse here.