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September 21st, 2019

Hi all.  I had to fit this into a number of separate snatched moments, which is unfortunate because it makes it difficult to form any coherent overview of the puzzle.  Based on what I can remember, and a very limited sample size, I would guess it was a whisker above average Jumbo difficulty.  However, there are a couple of clues I can’t quite explain to my satisfaction, 20a and 24d, and one where I’m worrying I may be missing something entirely, 49a.  (Other 27ds may be available.)  I have no doubt you can help!

Choosing favourites is something I often find hard, but not today: I loved 7d.  That was by no means the only clue to bring a smile to my face though.  I could mention 10a or 23d — and, indeed, I just did.  Thanks setter.

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I am posting this blog from Wuhan, China. No, I’d never heard of it either, but it’s one of the largest cities in China, and very modern. Apparently, it once felt less modernized than China’s coastal cities, but it is now one of China’s main high-tech, education, and financial centers. It has long been a transportation hub, because it is in the middle of the long navigable part of the Yangtze River between Shanghai and Chongqing.

Anyway, the crossword. This was a fairly easy number for a Saturday, but many clues, not least 1ac, delighted with their wordplay. I don’t think I can single out a clue of the day when the standard was so evenly high. Does anyone have a favourite? Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Clues are thus, with definitions so. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, then wordplay. (ABC*) means ‘anagram of ABC’. Deletions are in [square brackets]. The blog is in Times New Roman font, as part of a gentle campaign to urge the club site to use a font in which it is easier to tell one’s stem from one’s stern.

Across
1 Minister of Art interfering? (6)
PRIEST – I do not pry, but you pry, or rather thou PRIEST, interfering cleric that thou Art.

4 King backing court worker to provide navigational aid (8)
QUADRANT – QUAD (court), R (king), ANT. Presumably a quadrant is like a sextant, only less so?

10 Belted in clothes? (9)
CLOBBERED – double definition, the second relating to the putting on of clobber/clothes!

11 Food from sea or river that pop's catching (5)
PRAWN – R in PAWN. (Relating to a pawn/pop shop, not the chess man).

12 Preparation one follows for racing at Monte Carlo, say (7)
FORMULA – the racing in Monte Carlo is F1, so 'One' follows 'Formula', geddit.

13 Favour habitual routine with standard input (7)
ROSETTE – ROTE with SET ‘input’. Definition 10 of ‘favour’ in Chambers is “a knot of ribbons worn, eg at an election, to show one’s allegiance”.

14 Graduate behind others returning to dance (5)
SAMBA – MAS ‘returning’, then BA. FOI. I thought of MAMBA which didn’t work, then RUMBA. Took me longer than I’d like to get to SAMBA.

15 Bungling agent turns in later on island (8)
INEXPERT – REP ‘turns’ in NEXT, following I (island).

18 Seaman posted elsewhere cleared out — he's not here (8)
ABSENTEE - AB, SENT, E[lsewher]E ‘cleared out’.

20 Aunt may have had her fill of men in particular (5)
NIECE – [m]E[n] (‘fill of’ men), in NICE (particular). Nice!

23 Lines from distraught colleague leaving LA (7)
ECLOGUE – anagram (‘distraught’) of (COL-E-GUE*), ‘leaving’ out the LA. A form of poetry I know only from crosswords.

25 After thirty days or so without leader, I'll become very busy (2,3,2)
ON THE GO – [m]ONTH is ‘leaderless’, and I is EGO in Latin.

26 Long drink popular primarily among volunteers, once (5)
PINTA – P[opular] ‘primarily’, IN (among), TA. I think of a long drink as something alcoholic in a tall glass with a mixer added, but I suppose a PINTA qualifies.

27 They raise tax, or else supply housing (9)
ELEVATORS – an anagram of (OR ELSE*) ‘supplies the housing’ for VAT. Thanks to Kevin for pointing out that “supply” or “in a supple way” is the anagram indicator, and “housing” indicates containment.

28 One place for seniors in France is hotel in capital (4,4)
REST HOME – EST (‘is’ in France) plus H (hotel), in ROME.

29 Humble dude made American disheartened (6)
DEMEAN – D--E, M--E, A------N, all ‘disheartened’.


Down
1 I set limit on raised hand for fighting? I might (8)
PACIFIST – PACI=I CAP ‘raised’, then FIST=raised hand for fighting.

2 Line on map, I note, spread upwards (7)
ISOGRAM – I, SO, MARG (spread) ‘upwards’.

The definition may be a bit obscure. Wikipedia tells me the word isogram was proposed by Francis Galton in 1889 as a convenient generic designation for lines indicating equality of some physical condition or quantity, but it commonly refers to a word without a repeated letter.

3 Keep down payment where porridge is served and consumed (9)
SUBJUGATE – SUB (payment), JUG (where porridge is served), ATE (consumed). I’ve never seen porridge in a jug, but the clue must be talking about serving prison time in the jug!

5 Puny Victor slipped away, having first endured suffering (14)
UNDERDEVELOPED – (ENDURED*) ‘suffering’, then V[ictor] ELOPED.

6 Pennies in membership fees for kids (5)
DUPES – P in DUES.

7 Plug more suitable for specialist joiner (7)
ADAPTER – AD, APTER.

8 Stuff that could start fire kept in derelict stores (6)
TINDER – hidden answer ‘stored’ in kepT IN DERelict.

9 Generally proportioned American girl spotlighted? (5,2,3,4)
BROAD IN THE BEAM – BROAD, IN THE BEAM.

16 Get into overall after exercise class (9)
PENETRATE – P.E., NET, RATE. To clarify: NET=overall, as in overall/net profit; RATE=class as a verb, as in “how would you class/rate it”.

17 Focuses bottom of picture, with no error at the edges (6,2)
ZEROES IN – ZERO SIN around [picture]E.

19 Is member's name inscribed in live records (7)
BELONGS – N[ame] in BE, LOGS.

21 Eeyore's faulty sight? (7)
EYESORE – ‘faulty’ (EEYORES*).

22 Player one's unlikely to release? (6)
KEEPER – double definition. ‘S/he’s a keeper’!

24 Upstanding husband tweeted champ (5)
GNASH – H, SANG all ‘upstanding’.