March 12th, 2020

Linus van Pelt

27610 Thursday, 12 March 2020 You remind me of the babe

I thought at first this was going to be tough, not getting 1 across straight away and treating the following clues with rather more suspicion than they warranted. Once I got going, though, I realised it was rather more straightforward, and completed in a little over 20 minutes, a good five minutes beyond the current average. There’s rather a lot of lopping off first or last letters to contend with, and by my count only two anagrams.
On a whim, I entered the middle column into Google, and got a Google Whack, the glory of such a discovery somewhat migrated by the fact that neither word is real, and the result is quite clearly a misprint. So no NINA, then
My workings, should you need them, are presented with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS. Enjoy.

Across
1 Greatly enjoy describing driver well ahead of the competition? (3,2)
LAP UP More of a double definition than anything else, the second the putative case of, say, Lewis Hamilton having a dream race
4 Flower child initially wrapped in flannel (9)
BUTTERCUP In even my lexicon of flora. The first letter (initially) of Child within BUTTER UP, flannel here in the sense of flatter
9 Boy imprisoned by those people, say, makes regular complaint (5,4)
THEME SONG The wordplay is those people: THEM, say: EG, boy: SON inserted. I am indebted to Chambers for “a person's characteristic, often repeated, complaint, etc” for confirmation that it is a thing beyond being “Suicide is painless” or “Stick a pony in me pocket”.
10 Unimaginative slogan of beer-minded Prohibitionist left unfinished (5)
BANAL One with an obsession about the negative effects of one of mankind’s greatest creations might want to BAN ALE. Lop the end off.
11 French are blocking the present item in argument (6)
THESIS I think the definition is just “argument”, leaving “the present article” to account for THIS, and the French art (2nd person singular present tense of the verb to be) providing the ES you need to insert
12 Much of hole is concealed by skill shown by tree expert (8)
ARBORIST Much of hole: BOR(e), IS both inserted into skill: ART
14 Year in party elected to take on most of the complex situation (9)
LABYRINTH The party is LAB(our), and if you can imagine it, being elected it is IN. Insert Y(ea)R and append TH(e) (most of)
16 Song line recalled rumour about island (5)
LYRIC Line gives you L, rumour recalled gives you YRC, and I(sland) fills the missing letter. Chambers comes up with cry….report or rumour, but I’m not sure I’d use it
17 Difficulties with English in school vacation (5)
HOLES School vacations being HOLS and English submitting its E
19 Material in small opening in marine growth (9)
CORPOREAL My last in, convinced I was looking for some sort of fabric. However, small hole is PORE and marine growth is the easy CORAL
21 Knight considering ignoring first sound from horse? (8)
NEIGHING (other horse sounds may be available especially from Mr Ed). In chess, the Knight is N so as not to confuse it with the King. Considering is WEIGHING, ignore the W
22 Amount of work in uniform adopted by soldiers (6)
CORPUS The body of work by an author and such. NATO’s Uniform absorbed by CORPS, your soldiers here.
25 Scout missing special river creature (5)
OTTER A scout, especially perhaps one seeing where artillery shells fall, is a SPOTTER. It’s missing SP(ecial)
26 Lively blackbird without tail seen around religious court (9)
MERCURIAL  MERLE may not be everyone’s version of blackbird, but it’s the one you’re looking for, minus its tail. The religious court is CURIA “the court of the Papal See”
27 Neat and chic, with varying length in a strict sense (9)
TECHNICAL Varying is your anagram indicator, to be applied to NEAT and CHIC. Finish with L(ength)
28 Fact corporation presented to US lawyer (5)
DATUM I trust everyone knows the American lawyer is a District Attorney. Corporation=stomach=TUM

Down
1 Rented one incredible resort to relax (3,2,3,4,3)
LET IT ALL HANG OUT You’ve got rented: LET, one: I, incredible: TALL, resort HANGOUT, Squish together and respace
2 A bit open, but not ultimately ajar (5)
PIECE Open is a verb here: being PIERCE “ultimately ajar” is just R, to be removed
3 Leader concerned with source of money provided in support (7)
PREMIER Concerned with: RE, source of money: M, support: PIER. Assemble
4 Gift sees expression of disapproval over note (4)
BOON Here the note is not random musical, just N. Expression of disapproval: BOO!
5 Rows around galleon’s bow to listen for giant fish (5,5)
TIGER SHARK Rows: TIERS, Galleon’s bow: G, listen: HARK. Squish together and respace
6 Involve the writer in upset over British fuel (7)
EMBROIL The writer is ME, to be “upset” and served with BR(itish) fuel OIL
7 Concentrated amount of work accepted by one European hotel employee (9)
CONCIERGE: A hall porter might well work in a hotel. I didn’t think about it at the tie, but CONC comes from concentrated, as seen on acid bottles in Stinks. One is once again I, amount of work ERG, European just the E
8 Aspiration of refugees capitalism foully mistreated, dispatching force (9,6)
POLITICAL ASYLUM An anagram (mistreated) of CAPITALISM FOULLY minus the F(orce)
13 A French funny man, keeping working, making no money (10)
UNECONOMIC A in French, blatantly ignoring the assumed gender, is UNE, the funny man a COMIC, and working is ON. Assemble.
15 Is enthralled by bullet movement, describing projectiles (9)
BALLISTIC Bullet here is BALL, as Richard Sharpe would recognise, is is IS, and (involuntary) movement is TIC. Assemble.
18 Surprised comments picked up and published regarding desert (7)
SAHARAN I guess you can have more than one AHA as your surprised comments, so reverse them and add RAN for published
20 Pompous nonsense suppressed by institute, not the first (7)
OROTUND Nonsense is ROT, and the rest to surround it is FOUND for institute (the verb) minus its first letter
23 Justification in blocking prize money (5)
POINT And your point is? Prize money is POT, and IN in plain sight is inserted
24 Ethical to deduct marks in exam (4)
ORAL Ethical is MORAL, lop off the M(arks)
RolyToly

Times Quick Cryptic No 1568 by Trelawney

After attempting both of yesterday's puzzles with varying degrees of failure, I was starting to feel like patient zero in the latest twist to the zombie apocalypse whereby the brain is rendered down to a dimly cognizant sludge. Or perhaps it's a hangover. Either way, I found this an excellent initial course of treatment, pitched somewhat towards the easier end with an array of fine surfaces. I got a thoroughly life-affirming 'Congratulations!' a mere three minutes over my target, and I might have been a notch quicker had it not been for spelling 10ac with the final E, overwriting the H and making 6d (my LOI) trickier than it already was. Hearty thanks to Trewlaney!

Across
1 Accepted being sent back to find healthier hot drink? (5)
DECAF - FACED (accepted) being sent back = reversed. Emphasis on the question mark, I'd say, given the use of a chemical solvent to remove the principal attribute of a drink. Chamomile tea is a pleasure, drink that instead.
7 Pitcher of beer for Spooner's dance (9)
JITTERBUG - bitter jug = pitcher of beer, Spooner = swap initial letters. Can be a tricky type of clue to solve. My favourite is the Two Ronnies one about being mad as a hatter.
9 One in vehicle going to old African city (5)
CAIRO - I (one) in CAR (vehicle) going to O(ld)
10 Some crabs in thick green liquid (7)
ABSINTH - "Some" of the letters of crABS IN THick.  Absinte, with French pronunciation, didn't immediately look wrong, making two QCs in a row where I've been dashed by wormwood.
11 Persuaded sculptor to box in gym (5,2)
ROPED IN - RODIN (sculptor) to box in PE (gym). Very neat.
12 Endurance refitting mast in Antarctica, primarily (7)
STAMINA - Anagram (refitting) of MAST IN A (Antarctica, "primarily")
15 Alfred leaves one country for another (7)
AUSTRIA - AL (Alfred) leaves AUSTRALIA (one country)
18 What's demanded by one who lost sleep at church? (7)
REMATCH - REM (rapid eye movement = sleep) AT CH(urch). What a lovely clue.
20 Angela's baked a pasta dish (7)
LASAGNE - anagram (baked) of ANGELAS
22 Seize a former partner, reportedly (5)
ANNEX - reportedly = sounds like AN EX (a former partner)
23 Weather forecaster that can take the pressure? (9)
BAROMETER - cryptic definition, with a pun on pressure = stress for a meteorologist in the surface reading.
24 Work requirement, say (5)
KNEAD - say "NEED" (requirement)

Down
1 Final month with gold furnishings (5)
DECOR - DEC[ember] (final month) with OR (gold)
2 Camden's first bohemians get takeaway from these? (8)
CHIPPIES -C (Camden's "first") HIPPIES (bohemians)
3 Crosses either side of Japan's top water features (6)
FJORDS - FORDS (crosses) either side of J (Japan's "top")
4 Cambridge is happy to exhibit eastern performer (6)
GEISHA - "exhibited" in the letters of cambridGE IS HAppy
5 Scottish town beginning to organise prohibition (4)
OBAN - O ("beginning" to Organise) BAN (prohibition)
6 Urge schoolmaster's top student? (7)
EGGHEAD - EGG (urge = as in encourage, egg on) HEAD (schoolmaster). My LOI, with L also standing for least-favourite.
8 Unfortunately, partner's tan is see-through (11)
TRANSPARENT - anagram (unfortunately) of PARTNERS TAN IS
13 Cook an insect, for example (8)
INSTANCE - anagram (cook) of AN INSECT
14 Nobleman with decoration for body part (7)
EARLOBE -EARL (nobleman) with OBE (decoration)
16 Government cut short course of treatment (6)
REGIME - REGIMEN (course of treatment) cut short = dock the last letter
17 Go on with me up the pub: The King's Head (6)
EMBARK - EM (me "up", reversed) [the = a linkword] BAR (pub) K (King's "head")
19 Pay attention, holding cross that's cursed (5)
HEXED - HEED (pay attention) holding X (cross)
21 Island's small boat (4)
SARK - S(mall) ARK (boat)
verlaine

Times 27,611: Roll Over Rawlplugs, We've Got Wealthier Sponsors Now

Much of the wordplay in this was just brilliant, I thought, and every surface reading a belter. MER at product placements for both Apple and Nintendo but my house is full of their tech so it would be hypocritical to make a fuss.

I'm very glad that we are moving out of the part of the calendar dominated by Championship puzzles into one where we can get completely new crosswords as good as these. In a week that saw the cancellation of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament cancelled due to COVID-19 (alright, virus, you just made this personal) getting such a splendid grid to blog was some much-needed cheer.

8 minutes on my clock, so medium-hard, but never a chore. But enough about me, I'll let the quality of this one speak for itself. Thanks so much setter!

ACROSS
1 Rail is straddled by kid (8)
BANISTER - IS "straddled" by BANTER [kid (as in "kid around")

9 Notice books, bagging present that's tacky (8)
ADHERENT - AD N.T. [notice | (Biblical) books] "bagging" HERE [present]. This particular word clued in this particular way is starting to seem rather familiar, and as such, it was my FOI.

10 Pickle lids turned the wrong way (4)
SPOT - reversed TOPS

11 Newly share out wine getting one's praise (12)
REDISTRIBUTE - RED [wine] getting I'S TRIBUTE

13 Standard sports news being shown (6)
PENNON - P.E. [sports] + N N [(two) news] + ON [being shown]. LOI

14 Clergyman's a boring Charlie? (8)
CHAPLAIN - A "boring" CHAPLIN. Took me an embarrassingly long time to realise how this worked, and that "boring" wasn't actually cluing PLAIN...

15 Walk out, perhaps, then run forward (7)
STRIKER - STRIKE [walk out, perhaps] + R [run]. Forward as in a sportsball player: we had "back" cluing SWEEPER not so very long ago, didn't we? Nice to complete the set.

16 Boater, say, welcoming some home (7)
HABITAT - HAT [boater, say] "welcoming" A BIT [some]

20 Spreading manure? It's what some on farm do (8)
RUMINATE - (MANURE IT*)

22 Funny fellow fed on guava's skin (6)
GAGMAN - G-MAN [fed(eral agent)] on GA. Very very nice deployment of "fed" here, well done setter.

23 Bold to participate in revolt, seizing power (12)
ENTERPRISING - ENTER RISING [to participate in | revolt], "seizing" P

25 A schoolkid's problem covered by Isaac Newton (4)
ACNE - hidden in {isa}AC NE{wton}

26 See you at that party hosting stars (6-2)
TOODLE-OO - TOO DO [at that | party] "hosting" LEO [stars]. TOO for "at that" is another piece of really brilliant cluing.

27 Chic nurse no hugs console (8)
NINTENDO - IN TEND [chic | nurse] "hugged" by NO. I own a Nintendo Switch, and very nice it is too, as is this clue.

DOWN
2 Progenitors going up and down plain (8)
APPARENT - The two progenitors are PA and PARENT, one going up, one going down.

3 The writer's after moving type of verb (12)
INTRANSITIVE - I'VE [the writer's], after IN TRANSIT [moving]

4 Perform just right, spinning around in Hamlet? (3-5)
TAP-DANCE - reversed PAT [just right, "spinning"] + C [around] in DANE [Hamlet?]

5 Hastened to fire rifle (7)
RANSACK - RAN SACK [hastened | to fire]. Another word we see clued in exactly this way quite a lot.

6 That lady in the bath is a high-up leader (6)
SHERPA - HER [that lady] in SPA [the bath]. Leader as in guide, not politician.

7 List from the two of us, very informally (4)
MENU - or ME 'N' U, the two of us, *very* informally indeed. Quite brilliant!

8 IT system with two numbers, the second raised (8)
ETHERNET - ETHER is a number as in a thing that numbs, plus the cardinal number TEN, reversed.

12 The scandal of fees charged in this capital market? (12)
BILLINGSGATE - BILLINGS are fees charged, and make a scandal of it by appending -GATE, Watergate-wise. Billingsgate is a fish market in the capital of the UK. Yet another super clue!

15 Resort on rocks, one in Italy (8)
SORRENTO - (RESORT ON*) ["rocks"], and Sorrento, overlooking the Bay of Naples, is indeed a resort on rocks.

17 Old English walls cold in one church (8)
ANGLICAN - ANGLIAN [old English] "walls in" C

18 Maybe a mite cheeky, keeping a rumpus up (8)
ARACHNID - ARCH [cheeky] "keeping" A, plus reversed DIN [rumpus]

19 Vocabulary of large person who used to be revered? (7)
LEXICON - L + EX-ICON [person who used to be revered?] I've run out of ways to say how much I like all these clues...

21 Tech company needs time to make program (6)
APPLET - APPLE [tech company] needs T

24 Maybe saw money getting raised (4)
TOOL - reversed LOOT