March 4th, 2020

Times 27603 - third TCC semi-final puzzle. Extra fruity?

Well, the first semi-final puzzle I blogged was easy enough, last week's was a stinker, and this one I thought was just a bit peculiar. As if set by someone not on our usual radar, or maybe it was just me not on the wavelength. I struggled, and would have failed miserably if I'd reached that stage of the TCC. I spent nearly 45 minutes getting to the point of finishing and understanding it all. Not helped by my stupidity at the simplest of clues, 26d. In retrospect, there's nothing that hard and only one kind of jam I didn't know about. For some reason, the clue at 11a gets my top vote.

1 Preserve old pot in felt backing (5,3)
EXTRA JAM - Well this was not my FOI, far from it. I needed all the checkers to be sure it was 'something JAM' as I suspected, and then plump for EXTRA as fitting the letters. Afterwards I looked up EXTRA JAM to see if it is a Thing, as Wiki indeed confirms. Mandatory more fruit than your regular jam. To get there, you take EX = old, then reverse JAR = pot inside MAT= felt.
5 A wild animal died, being trained? (6)
ABOARD - A, BOAR, D(ied). On a train, so aboard, I presume.
10 A huge order for ships (5)
AVAST - A VAST = a huge. AVAST means stop in pirate speak.
11 What about increased charges for running water? (9)
EUPHRATES - I like this clue. EH? = what, about UP = increased, and RATES are charges.
12 Aggressive and fierce — any shocked? (2-3-4)
13 Wartime saboteurs receiving medal for battle (5)
SOMME - OM (Order of Merit) inside SOE Special Operations Executive in WW II. EDIT as pointed out below, we need a MM (Military medal) not an order of merit, to get the necessary mix of Os and M&s with SOE.
14 In elevated post, it’s late in the day to tuck into some breakfast (7)
TOPMAST - PM (late in day) inside TOAST for some breakfast.
16 Sort of pin you find in numbers? (6)
SAFETY - Double definition, Safety pin, and safety in numbers being a well known phrase.
18 Good on minister, shortly leaving the board (6)
DIVING - DIVIN(E), G for good.
20 Short skirt that’s taken in very loud yellow (7)
SAFFRON - SARON(G) has FF = very loud inserted. A sarong is a lot more than a skirt, but I believe it can be worn as one.
22 American people who have time for the Oscars? (5)
OSAGE - I think O's are Oscars here, and AGE = time. the Osage are an American Nation or tribe.
23 Go to pieces, some by Spanish composer (4,5)
FALL APART - Manuel de FALLA, he of 'El Sombrero des Tres Picos' ballet fame, and PART = some.
25 Old beast I noticed that could be heard on the way (9)
STEGOSAUR - ST (street), EGO (I) SAUR sounds like SAW = noticed. Old indeed, 155 million years or so. I'd never seen it without the final -US on its end, but I see it's allowed, fitting along with the likes of DINOSAUR.
26 One bird eaten by another one (5)
HERON - How long did it take me to see this was a hidden word clue? Too long! I was busy putting a bird called a RO inside HEN and various other silly ideas. But here it is; ANOT(HER ON)E.
27 Delight, as it were, as rescue vessel breaks through earth (6)
DARKEN - ARK inside DEN (earth). DE-LIGHTEN = make darker. Groan.
28 Clapped-out drier beginning to erode on the bottom (8)
DERRIERE - (DRIER)*, E (beginning to erode), RE (on). First time I think seeing 'clapped-out' as an anagrind.
1 Waste last of the burger (big one!) I was consuming (8)
EMACIATE - E (last of thE) MAC (as in a Big Mac), I ATE. I think Big Macs should be challenged under the Trades Desription Act, they're not nearly big enough to be called big. Just saying.
2 He grovels now as duke is coming down (5)
TOADY - TODAY has its D for duke moved down.
3 A tentative lover’s foolish ranking of preferences (11,4)
4 One book stolen from church: worker suspended (7)
ABEYANT - ABBEY loses a B, then ANT for worker. More often used as IN ABEYANCE than abeyant, I think.
6 After stretch on couch, priest full of energy for flock (5,2,1,7)
BIRDS OF A FEATHER - BIRD (prison term, stretch), SOFA (couch) FATHER with E inserted.
7 Change round hour and position indicator (9)
ALTIMETER - ALTER around TIME. Position in terms of height, if not location.
8 Dredger expected river to be full of stone (6)
DUSTER - DUE, R, insert ST for stone. Took a while to see how these are synonyms, but I think it's to do with 'dredging' or 'dusting' something e.g. with flour or sugar.
9 Short of money on these drugs (6)
UPPERS - double defintion; if you're on your uppers, you're broke.
15 Craft needing personal attention, you understand? (9)
PRIVATEER - sounds like 'private ear', i.e. personal attention. A privateer is a privately armed ship commandeered by a government, says Collins.
17 Succeeded in a resolution of ancient case (8)
INSTANCE - anagram of ANCIENT S, the S for succeeded.
19 Humbug attracting endless reverence? That’s a laugh (6)
GUFFAW - GUFF (humbug), AW(E) = endless reverence.
20 Scottish footballers once with demand for unrestrained expenditure (7)
SPLURGE - SPL (Scottish Premier League, abolished in 2013), URGE (demand).
21 Very experienced drunk (6)
SOUSED - SO (very), USED (experienced).
24 Jointly decide to get me off inadequate drug (5)
AGREE - Inadequate is MEAGRE, remove ME and add E the drug.