March 18th, 2020

Times 27615 - back to normal, unlike my life.

After ten weeks of blogging the 2019 TCC puzzles retrospectively, each of which many of our community had seen before (if not remembered!), I'm now back on track with this quirky and medium difficulty midweek offering from our setter. It was one of those puzzles with several clues where I had faint pencilled-in answers at first, not totally convinced I was on the right path, until seeing the parsing which convinced me I was right even though the definition seemed iffy; for example, 11a, 18a, 25a, 5d. I put in NUN for 26d as obvious but did have to resort to Wiki to confirm this was a Biblical chap.

We shall have plenty of time in coming months for more crosswords, as we're staying home alone except for essential things like golf, (without any clubhouse socialising), country walks and minimal shopping. All bridge clubs and Arts Society events are cancelled already, and our visits to family in London are now on WhatsApp only. We could be worse affected; I hope you all see it through without tragedy or too much tedium.

Across
1 The best lubricant for a bed's surface (7)
TOPSOIL - TOPS (the best) OIL (lubricant).
5 Record publicity about coffee (7)
PLATTER - PR around LATTE, that whitish liquid which some sad people think is a worthwhile form of coffee.
9 Passion of republic once ousting English (3)
IRE - EIRE (old name for the Republic of Ireland) loses its first E.
10 Magician in exhibition centre, one given to exaggeration (11)
NECROMANCER - NEC (the centre near Birmingham) ROMANCER one who has an exaggerated or overblown view of something.
11 Lowly enemy in a period between actions? (8)
MEANTIME - MEAN (lowly) TIME "the enemy" in proverbial sense.
12 Row with almost everyone about old-fashioned system of society (6)
FEUDAL - FEUD (row) AL(L) almost everyone.
15 Catches in preparation for cricket match (4)
NETS - double definition. A practice session for a cricketer is called a 'net' because the batter and bowler or bowling machine do it in an area surrounded by a net to stop the ball.
16 One cast left in hovel with oppressive atmosphere (10)
STIFLINGLY - Insert I FLING (one cast) into STY (hovel).
18 Tedious person holding fair opinion in newspaper survey? (4,6)
BOOK REVIEW - Insert OK (fair) into BORE (tedious person) add VIEW (opinion).
19 Phone soundwhat you get when engaged? (4)
RING - double definition.
22 Naughty rebel captures queen (6)
RISQUE - Insert QU (queen) into RISE (rebel).
23 Perhaps man with heart. as you might say, getting girlfriend? (8)
CHORDATE - CHOR sounds like CORE (heart) then DATE = girlfriend. A chordate animal (like man) has a dorsal nerve chord, among other features.
25 Study stretch of land by river — a problem affecting movement here? (11)
CONTRACTURE - CON (study) TRACT (stretch of land) URE (River Ure a river of 74 miles length, in Yorkshire.)
27 Stuck in chair — knitting needle (3)
IRK - hidden in CHA(IR K)NITTING.
28 Feature of monastic life certainly after Mass (7)
TONSURE - SURE after TON a mass.
29 Hat — no as-you-were instructions when it's back to front (7)
STETSON - NO STETS reversed
Down
1 Skinny French chum must get in substance needed for growth (7)
THIAMIN - AMI (French friend) goes into THIN (skinny). Thiamin or thiamine is Vitamin B1.
2 Pa's neurotic about preliminary safety procedures (11)
PRECAUTIONS - (PA S NEUROTIC)*.
3 Like some fancy stuff old sailors had (6)
ORNATE - O (old) RN (sailors) ATE (had, to eat).
4 See firm reason for alternative to car? (10)
LOCOMOTIVE - LO (see) CO (firm, company) MOTIVE (reason).
5 Get wind up in game (4)
POOL - LOOP (wind) reversed. A string can loop around / wind around something.
6 Pointed article about upset in Oxbridge and suchlike (8)
ACADEMIA - All reversed, AIMED (pointed), A, CA (about).
7 Twitch irregularly — or regularly — with this (3)
TIC - alternate letters of T w I t C h.
8 Country-style game introducing meeting (7)
RURALLY - RU (rugby union) RALLY (meeting).
13 Number gathered around November — stars and VIPs (11)
DIGNITARIES - DIGIT (number) around N for November then ARIES = stars.
14 Our father's working beyond closing time? (5,5)
AFTER HOURS - (OUR FATHER S)*.
17 Two squares have each run up in fancy dress (8)
FROUFROU - FOUR FOUR would be two squares, in each the R for run has gone "up".
18 Knight coming to court drinking hot soup (7)
BORSCHT - BORS (either of two knights in Arthurian legend), the H for hot into CT for court. Soup usually made from beetroot in Ukraine and other Slav countries.
20 Bit of food and drink — kilo the female's put on must be hidden (7)
GHERKIN - HER and K for kilo inserted into GIN the drink.
21 Country match starting late by church (6)
GREECE - AGREE (match) "starts late" = GREE, add CE the Church.
24 Line in earth where river has disappeared (4)
OCHE - OCHRE (earth) loses its R, the line e.g. from where darts are thrown at the board.
26 Joshua's father's sister (3)
NUN - double definition, apparently Nun was Joshua's father in the Bible (1 Chronicles 7:26)