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October 19th, 2019

Well, that was too hard for me! Two clues had wordplay that could be used to confirm the (unknown) answer, but for me weren’t specific enough to construct it. Several other answers I biffed, and will have to try to work out the wordplay so I can finish this blog. We’ll see how I go! It was a shame, I thought, because there were many clues, even the unknown 13dn, where one could work out the answer with the aid of the wordplay and checkers and with a sense of triumph.

Several comments on last week’s blog pointed out the problem with 16ac. Although they were all careful to avoid spoilers, it’s worth a reminder that we try not to say anything relating to competition puzzles until the deadline has passed.

My clue of the day was 5dn, where I saw the answer and noted that I would have to look up the relevance of Newcastle for the blog. It turned out to be a nice surprise! Thanks to the setter for a very challenging puzzle.

Clues are blue, with definitions underlined. (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 Reduced visibility with large eye shade (5)
HAZEL – HAZE, L[arge].

4 Big loans arranged by on-line control centre (6-3)
SIGNAL-BOX – “arranged” (BIG LOANS X*), where X is “by”.

9 Push on taps to obtain drink in pub? (4,5)
MILK STOUT – TOUT (push) after MILKS (taps).

10 Great enthusiasm to blow over (5)
GUSTO – GUST, O[ver].

11 Chap needing transport periodically when on breaks (6)
JOHNNY – JOY (transport) ‘broken by’ -H-N-N (the alternate letters of ‘when on’).

12 Stick around with girl after five to get the tube (4,4)
VENA CAVA – CANE (stick) backwards (around) with AVA (girl) after V (five). The two vena cavae are large veins that return deoxygenated blood from the body into the heart.

14 Girl in club’s second tango in the dress (6-2-2)
MOTHER-TO-BE – MO (second), then T (tango) in THE ROBE (dress). (Just cracked the parsing now.)

16 Synthesiser’s small volume expanded by twin buttons? (4)
MOOG – oops. A milligram (MG) is a weight, not a volume. Z8b8d8k described this in the comments as a “category error”. That sent me off to explore the internet, until I finally gave up trying to understand what those philosophers are talking about! Anyway, I assume the two buttons are O-O.

19 Cutting short Scotsman’s shirt (4)
SARK – SARK[y] is cutting, as in sarcastic. I could think of several words that might mean “cutting” or near enough, and had no idea which one gave “shirt” in Gaelic, so I looked this one up.

20 Welshman taking cruise after year in the country (5,5)
IVORY COAST – IVOR, Y (year), COAST (cruise).

22 Swears it’s wrong for woman to give orders (8)
WAITRESS – (SWEARS IT*) ‘wrong’. The woman you give orders to, not the one you take orders from. (Hint: that’s your wife!)

23 City’s silent pledge after missing the final (6)
MUMBAI – MUM (silent), BAI- (‘missing the final’ L from ‘bail’).

26 Muscle linked to hip or tongue (5)
LATIN – LAT (latissimus dorsii muscle), IN (hip).

27 Jack maybe to ask for comb (5,4)
COURT CARD – COURT (ask for), CARD (comb, used to prepare e.g. wool for spinning). In card games, kings, queens and jacks are court cards.

28 Quietly detests being involved in key software trial (5-4)
ALPHA-TEST – P, HATES in ALT.

29 Symbol in, perhaps, Persian he backed to preface poem (5)
MOTIF – the Persian ‘he’ is a TOM. Turn him around and put him in front of the crossword setter’s most well-used poem.


Down
1 English press probing old PM’s instruction to coachman? (4,5)
HOME JAMES – E, JAM (press) ‘probing’ HOME’S (Sir Alec Douglas-Home, that is). Home, James was apparently a 1928 silent movie. I knew the quote but not its source.

2 Bet revolving around husband’s love (5)
ZILCH – ZIL (Liz, Bet, Betty, Elizabeth ‘revolving’), C (around), H (husband), all giving love (zip/nada/zilch).

3 Spellbound lover in forest led astray with yarns (8)
LYSANDER – (LED, YARNS*) ‘astray’. The character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

4 Drop clock setting (4)
SPOT – triple definition!

5 Contracted Newcastle disease, possibly, after consuming last of our port (10)
GOTHENBURG – GOT (contracted), HEN BUG (Newcastle disease), ‘consuming’ R (last of ‘our’). I dreamed up all sorts of theories about what ‘hen’ had to do with ‘Newcastle’, but I now discover it’s a highly contagious poultry disease, aka a hen bug. Very clever!

6 An eagle hadn’t every second passed over the sea (6)
AEGEAN – A-E-G-E-A-N- are the alternate letters of ‘an eagle hadn’t’.

7 Brazilian steps put of van as boos reverberating (5,4)
BOSSA NOVA – (VAN AS BOOS*) ‘reverberating’. Blame it on the Bossa Nova!

8 Cross book’s dispensing with English language (5)
XHOSA – X (cross), HOSEA (book), without the E. An ethnic group from South Africa and their language.

13 Poisonous plant in a way welcome — almost blessed (10)
STAVESACRE – ST (way), AVE (welcome), SACRE[d] ‘almost’. Didn’t know of the plant.

15 Vegetable roll and one pint before work (6,3)
TURNIP TOP – TURN (roll), 1 (one), PT (pint), OP (work). I constructed this, but had trouble believing it’s a vegetable. I looked it up. It is.

17 Hear about double celebration, arriving in force for one returning (3,4,2)
GET WIND OF – TWIN (double) DO (celebration), all in F (force) EG (for one) ‘returning’. For a while I thought ‘double’ might be TWO, and was trying to make GET WORD OF.

18 Get used cents in gold: most unusual (8)
ACCUSTOM – CC (cents) in AU (gold), then (MOST*) ‘unusual’.

21 Inspiration for stars raised in a form of football academy originally (6)
URANIA – IN A RU (a form of football), all ‘raised’), then A[cademy]. I think this is the first time I’ve seen Rugby Union admitted as football in the Crossword! Usually it’s just ‘a sport’. Anyway, Urania was, in Greek mythology, the muse of astronomy.

22 Girl is going to, may never quite finish (5)
WILMA – WIL[l], MA[y]. Not sure I’m convinced I’ve understood this!

24 Cracker that’s filled maybe automatically (5)
BEAUT – hidden answer.

25 Still avoiding eastern desert (4)
QUIT – QUIT[e]. On edit, thanks to isla3, QUI[e]T is a better fit to "still".