Rather as Sunday’s match between Everton and Tottenham (in truth, a rather dull affair) was overshadowed by a gruesome injury to Everton’s Gomes (one of those where the TV shows no replay), this crossword, a pretty ordinary but pleasant enough offering, is dominated for me (and for a few others, by the look of the leaderboard) by an unkind VARiation and no less than three (light) red cards at 16. I sincerely hope that a subsequent review rescinds the (light) red cards, as the FA did for poor, distraught Heung Min Son whose tackle inadvertently led to the aarrrgh moment and a sending off. I can’t claim to have worked through the rest at any kind of Championship speed, taking 23 minutes and some. Most other early solvers are in the quick bracket, suggesting this is not particularly tough.
I have attempted elucidation of the clues, some digressions, and clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS displayed à la moi.
1 What keeps the old folk mobile? (3,4)
BUS PASS A barely cryptic cryptic definition. In the UK, at least local authorities provide pensioners with a pass for free bus travel.
5 Stay with reactionary American while away (7)
SUSPEND Reactionary American is US backwards, and while away (verbal phrase) SPEND (time, 22 minutes I’ll never get back with a not-mistake mistake)
9 Back with leader moving east in old Portuguese possession (3)
GOA Back as in in the past gives AGO, move the A to the right unntill it won’t go any further. Goa is a state in India still called Goa, which has had many owners including the Portuguese from 1510 -1961
10 Impulsive Yank soon antes up (11)
SPONTANEOUS The Yank here is not American, despite the deceptive capital, but an anagram indicator. Your anagrist: SOON ANTES UP
11 Catch half-decent fish (8)
ENTANGLE Half of decENT plus ANGLE for fish. I lost time trying to plaice haddock or somesuch. Not my COD
12 Almost panic, getting award for way of cooking (6)
FLAMBÉ I take it panic would be FLAP, knock off the P, add the OBE award. Stands for Other Bu**ers’ Efforts, I believe, [Jack correctly points out that should be MBE, which is a shame as my comment doesn't work]
15 Rebuked in hearing and carried away (4)
RAPT Our first homophone, rapped being rebuked and carried away in the sense of ecstasy
16 Restriction on amphetamine usage? (5,5)
SPEED LIMIT Right, here we go. Chambers gives SPEED as slang for amphetamine, but a simple online search confirms that “amphetamine is an ‘upper’, or stimulant” and both speed and upper have equal representation in lists of slang terms and synonyms. If an UPPER LIMIT is not a restriction I’d like to know how, and I invite the Editor to comment and/or remove my pink squares.
18 Theft by the Tories? It’s a plot! (10)
CONSPIRACY I believe in an election period we should refrain from political jibes, but my oath, it’s tempting. CONS short for Conservatives/Tories, PIRACY for theft.
19 What snooker player does the wrong way round in bar (4)
STOP A snooker player POTS backwards. So to speak
22 Old man’s attempt to make some dough (6)
PASTRY Old man PA, keep the ‘S, add TRY for attempt
23 Spot child eating fly (8)
SMIDGEON I’ve been watching Masterchef, and it’s sometimes difficult to see how the spot of gravy in the middle of a dish looking like a squashed fly counts as a meal over which Marcus Waring goes intio raptures. You get the picture conjured up by the literal. The wordplay gives MIDGE (fly) tucked into (by) SON (child)
25 Without money in Tehran, terribly distressed (11)
HEARTBROKEN Without money is BROKE, and you must surround it with an anagram (terribly) of TEHRAN. That the Iranian currency is the Rial is interesting but of no use here, nor, perhaps (being 0.000023 pounds sterling, in Tehran
27 Idiosyncratic member of parliament having name for Liberal (3)
OWN I think idiosyncratic as in “he’s his own man”. Regulars wil know that OWLs gather in Parliaments, change the L(iberal) to N(ame). Another tempting bit of politicking.
28 Paint Hope nursing men brutish at heart (7)
PORTRAY There is a famous painting called Hope by G F watts, which is apparently Barak Obama’s favourite, but there’s nary a brutish man in sight. Still, if you convert Hope into PRAY, remember that hereabouts men are OR (other ranks) and chuck in the middle T of brutish, you’ll get your verbal paint.
29 Rest of university engaged in lie (7)
RESIDUE I’m a bit iffy about lie as a synonym for reside, but Shakespeare thought lie meant lodge or pass the night (Chambers) so that will do faux de mieux (I guarantee someone will come up with mieux). Anyway, RESIDE, throw in U(niversity)
1 In nightmare perversely argue with two bishops (7)
BUGBEAR An anagram (perversely) of ARGUE with two B(ishops)
2 Put thus St Mary is a very clever person (6-5)
SMARTY PANTS One of those clues which invuites you to make up your own clue to stick in the grid. If SMARTY is PANTS it gives you ST MARY. I think “pants” may well have already reached the point where it only means “rubbish” in crosswords, and will do for ever.
3 Soldier perhaps catching disease far away (6)
ABSENT Where you see “soldier, perhaps” you ought to think ANT straight away. Add in the very horrible Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, which led to 4.4 million cows of the British herd being slaughtered from the mid-nineties, and an UPPER LIMIT (restriction – just saying) of 30 months age on cattle entering the food chain.
4 Loot harbour, causing misery (10)
SPOILSPORT Misery as in a person. SPOILS for loot, PORT for harbour
5 Name of third-born registered in Somerset House (4)
SETH Adam and Eve’s replacement for Abel, found in SomerSET House
6 Ley lines set out in a confused manner? (8)
SENILELY An anagram (set out) of LET LINES which took me so long to work out I wondered if – um -…wossname
7 Novelist recalling old church (3)
ECO Umberto of that lineage here O(ld) CE (church of England) “recalled”
8 Dictator’s parentage in dispute (7)
DISSENT Our second homophone, indicated by “dictator’s”, as in said by. Parentage is DESCENT
Rum methods wife deployed — don’t tell anyone (4,3,4)
MUMS THE WORD Sorry everyone, complete screwup (it was getting late). An anagram (deployed) of RUM METHODS W(ife). Thanks Olivia!
14 Gun manufacturer said to be an honest broker (10)
PEACEMAKER Our third homophone, this time of PIECE (gun) MAKER
17 Wheeler-dealer’s stage performance? Flipping rubbish! (8)
OPERATOR Perhaps the smooth one described by Sade. Your stage performance is OPERA and ROT for rubbish is “flipped”
18 Policemen’s ball held here? (3,4)
COP SHOP One word in Chambers. Differently spaced and punctuated, it’s cops’ hop
20 Amends article skewering coppers (7)
PENANCE Arguably what you might do to make amends. The article “skewering” PENCE for coppers is AN
21 Who’s head of Mafia family? Legendary old Greek (6)
ADONIS You need to give a pithy reply to the question in the first part of the clue and knock out the spaces
24 Mob must be mad, losing billions (4)
ARMY The version of mad you want is BARMY, from which you delete B(illions)
26 Broadcast is just what bald Cockney needs? (3)
AIR It’s at least possible that our follicly-challenged Eastender is perfectly content with his shiny pate, but he still has no ‘air.