January 6th, 2020

Ulaca de Milo

Times 27553 - It's That Bird Again!

Pretty much where I left off in 2019, puzzle difficulty wise, with this pleasant offering doing nothing to disturb any swallow-like creatures who might be constructing their nests in soft cliff material and digging in for what looks likely to be the long haul in Crosswordland. 24 across was rather cunning and my last in.

12'52" for me, so presumably the real speedsters like Magoo, Verlaine, Aphis and Starstruck will be sniffing out PBs, with a disproportionate number of clues having the solution at the front.

ACROSS

1 Where you might see film star making first appearance? (5)
ONSET - ON SET
4 Magistrate perversely rejecting current plan (9)
STRATAGEM - anagram* of MAG[i]STRATE
9 Study by unit head is being prepared (9)
READINESS - READ I (unit) NESS (head)
10 Better sort of dash back — joiner’s outside (5)
AMEND - ME (EM reversed) in AND (conjunction, AKA joiner)
11 Arrogant yuppy regularly lacking compassion (6)
UPPITY - [y]U[p]P[y] ('yuppy' lacking letters in a regular fashion) PITY
12 Ideal citizen displaying love for autocratic leader (8)
NOTIONAL - NATIONAL with the A (initial letter of A[utocratic]) replaced by O (love)
14 Dodgy, being at the mercy of cards one’s dealt (9)
UNDERHAND - UNDER (being at mercy of) HAND
16 Jewellery I found in Scarlett’s place (5)
TIARA - I in TARA (Scarlett O'Hara's pad down Atlanta away)
17 Flop as lover after heart transplant (5)
LOSER - LOVER with S for v
19 Monk’s date needing massage? I’ve no idea (4,3,2)
DONT ASK ME - MONKS DATE*
21 Protection from decay and drugs surrounding one (4,4)
RIOT GEAR - I in ROT (decay) GEAR (drugs); a lot of coppers in Hong Kong wear this these days, even if most of them seem to have lost their warrant cards
22 Make pretty sailor stick around (4,2)
TART UP - TAR PUT reversed
25 Raise embezzler’s case before European court (5)
ERECT - E[mbezzle]R E CT
26 End the heartless destruction of minaret (9)
TERMINATE - T[h]E MINARET*
27 Submission of monarch, held by resistance (9)
DEFERENCE - ER in DEFENCE
28 Mollified, stopped to let Charlie out (5)
EASED - [c]EASED

DOWN

1 Novel, one we both know well (3,6,6)
OUR MUTUAL FRIEND - double definition (DD)
2 Troublemaker pitches tent, moving south (5)
SCAMP - CAMPS with the S moved to the front
3 Laugh about women’s idle talk (7)
TWITTER - W in TITTER
4 Go after religious adherent in speech (4)
SEEK - Sounds something like 'Sikh'
5 Returner of questionnaire gloomy after change at top (10)
RESPONDENT - DESPONDENT with R for D; there's a pattern emerging here, I reckon
6 Asserts aristocrat is sheltering enemy of the revolution? (7)
TSARIST - hidden answer in [asser]TS ARIST[ocrat]
7 Environmentalist to sponsor bill in Washington (9)
GREENBACK - GREEN BACK; these are still legal tender in the US, even though they haven't been issued since 1971. Best hold on to them for their rarity value, mind.
8 Corporation with origin in the forties? (6-3,6)
MIDDLE-AGE SPREAD - a fairly accessible cryptic definition
13 Son and another boy, summer visitor (4,6)
SAND MARTIN - S AND MARTIN; and winter...
15 Dump detective overturning rival’s operations (7,2)
DISPOSE OF - DI (detective inspector) FOES OPS reversed
18 Pen-pusher said to be one who corrects what’s wrong (7)
RIGHTER - sounds like 'writer' to most Brits at least
20 Greed, a weakness holding painter back (7)
AVARICE - RA reversed in A VICE
23 Backing rapid alternative to buses? (5)
TRAMS - SMART reversed; as in 'She directed the show at a smart pace'
24 Sovereign with nothing on (4)
FREE - Our cunning DD, where 'nothing on' refers to appointments