Whether it’s because my solving is not currently as regular as I’d like, or because this is a bit demanding will doubtless bee revealed by you, dear readers, but I took 35 minutes to reduce this to its component entries, and even then had two entries I’d not properly worked out. I found, much to my relief, the right side proving more yielding than the left, but our setter threw in plenty of false trails for me to wander down, with some stretchy definitions.
My take on the clues (and some cheerfully offered side commentary) is offered with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS
1 Sauce label revealed, barely (4,5)
JUST ABOUT Three words respaced into two: JUS for sauce, TAB for label, and OUT for revealed
6 Christmas fling? Blonde’s left drink (5)
DECAF I always thought the whole point of coffee was the caffeine hit, in much the same way as skimmed milk is pointless white water. Be that as it may, a Christmas fling would be a DEC(ember) AFFAIR, remove the FAIR blonde (which also seems to render the thing pointless) and you have coffee with its raison d’être extracted
9 Entertainment sees love embraced by a seducer after kiss, originally (7)
KARAOKE Love is the (tennis) 0, the embracing seducer is A RAKE (the A in plain sight) and the whole follows K from the beginning of Kiss
10 Smack boundary, borrowing a little room? (7)
FLAVOUR The first of my post-solve workouts. It is, of course, FOUR as in a cricket stroke to the boundary, with the LAV, little both as in “the smallest room” and perhaps also as indicating an abbreviation. One “borrows” the other, your inclusion indicator
11 Wash a little toddler in seawater (5)
RINSE neatly hidden in toddleR IN SEawater
12 Impossible to pick up lionesses in camouflage (9)
NOISELESS an anagram (“in camouflage”, nice one) of LIONESSES
13 Old story in something close to sepia? (8)
CHESTNUT Once again (see my last blog) I find it difficult to reconcile the shade of my sepia photos with the deep lustrous brown of a decent Castanea fruit, but here we have the supposed colour match presaging the figurative use as an old story, joke or crossword clue. It’ll have to do.
14 Head examiner putting last of children in jail (4)
JUNG Karl jocularly defined, here putting the N at the back end of children into JUG, one of many expressions for jail.
17 Moved up a shade (4)
ROSE I think this is just a double definition, the second being rather loosely given
18 Authoritarian figure I transport to the left (8)
MARTINET The (random) figure is TEN, I is I, transport is TRAM. Read ‘en (right) to the left
21 Slow delivery in breeze picking up catch, opener for Middlesex (5,4)
SNAIL MAIL Chambers give one definition of “SAIL” as “to go through or get through effortlessly” which I suppose would be a (to) breeze. Catch provides the NAIL (as in catch a criminal) and the M comes from the opener for Middlesex. Our setter successfully bamboozled me into thinking cricket for a very long time
22 More generous thief, perhaps, shelling out grand (5)
NICER My Primary school teacher hated the use of nice and chewed me out for it. The deep memory made this hard to solve, but Mr Ellis, nicer could mean “more generous”, so there. It comes here from NICKER (which he would have hated for “thief", too) with his grand (thousand) K removed.
24 Payment keeping train in gear, once (7)
RAIMENT From hymn writer Phillip Dodderidge:
O God of Bethel, by whose hand...
…Give us each day our daily bread,
And raiment fit provide.
Payment is RENT, which keeps AIM for train (as in a rifle)
25 Care, however, taken at first (7)
THOUGHT However: THOUGH plus the first of Taken
26 I suppose you initially might (5)
WELLY My last in. “Give it some welly” justifies might. I can make WELL and “ I suppose” brush up against each other, then all you need is the Y initially from You
27 Totally gone — as may be ceiling? (9)
PLASTERED Two definitions, the first meaning drunk, so I suppose (well) “totally gone”, the second more literal
1 Comedian is fool somewhat lacking: tolerable cracks (5)
JOKER My second post-solve workout: Fool is JERK, lacking its last letter, and tolerable provides the OK which “cracks” its way in
2 Best friend in back of car, passenger getting lip busted (8,7)
SPRINGER SPANIEL This is an anagram (busted) the bits garnered from IN, back of caR, PASSENGER and LIP. For a long time, I thought the first word was STRANGER as in friend you haven’t met yet – I’m not really a doggy person.
3 Chubby little boy, a tot unfortunately scoffing second helping? (8)
AMORETTO One of those bouncy junior Cupids flying around in renaissance art. Anagram (unfortunately) of A TOT “scoffing” MORE for second helping.
4 An ace out at sea? (8)
OCEANAUT A decent &lit, an anagram (at sea) of AN ACE OUT.
5 Old snack: smell it coming up (6)
TIFFIN Last heard of (I think) in Carry On Up The Khyber, though Cadbury’s have recently resurrected their Tiffin bar from my youth. Smell: NIFF, plus IT, all reversed (coming up)
6 Main charity served up something sparkling (6)
DIADEM Another up clue, this time MED for main (sea) and AID for charity
7 Not quite reaching Havana? (5,3,2,5)
CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR Surprisingly antique phrase simply charaded here
8 Anticipation supporting Oxford rowers perhaps, catching rivals in the end (9)
FORESIGHT If you support Oxford rowers, you might be FOR EIGHT. Insert the end of rivalS where it works
13 Turner, Irish guard? (9)
CORKSCREW Another that resisted my blandishments An Irish (prison) guard might be a CORK SCREW
15 Everyone included in check on outskirts of Tirana, the capital (8)
VALLETTA The capital of Malta. Everyone: ALL in check: VET plus T and A from each end of TiranA
16 Distinctive, with rather large dresses (8)
STANDOUT If I remembered that with sometimes clues AND, it would have been easier to work out what goes into STOUT for rather large. Eventually, I did
19 Cold and wet in general, accommodated like sow? (6)
SLEETY Out general is (as usually in this neighbourhood) LEE. Accommodated like a sow he’s placed in a STY
20 Hack getting to grips with right computer (6)
LAPTOP Hack is LOP, right is APT which is in its grip
23 Art as trendy, every other piece highly valued (5)
RATED Every other letter of aRt As TrEnDy