April 1st, 2020

Times 27627 - "the first thing I do of a morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue".

Well, this is a fine puzzle, and I suspect not as far up the SNITCH as last Wednesday's stinker; it took me about half an hour, plus a few diversions into Wikipedia and elsewhere for enlightenment and amusement while writing the blog. Difficulty seems to vary between the quickie-level 12d and 16d, to the devilish 26a and clever 5d. Of course, if you had 21d in, the first letter of 26a gave you an easier task. But I didn't see 21d first.
The setter has taken a bit of geographical licence with 20d, as pointed out below, but the factually correct answer doesn't parse. And of course, I spent a few minutes refreshing my memory with quotes from 11a; I wish she was alive today to comment on The Orange One and other contemporary goings-on (she'd be 126 now).

Across
1 Half of flipping idle workers getting stick (7)
DISTAFF - ID(LE) reversed = DI, STAFF = workers. I relied on the wordplay here. A distaff is a stick used in weaving, and separately means relating to the female side of things (the meaning I knew from weddings in church).
5 Polish hero the limit for Caesar? (7)
RUBICON - RUB for polish, ICON for hero.
9 Where set of keys may be found by relative opening grave (4,5)
BABY GRAND - Grave = BAD, into that put BY GRAN. Took me too long to see you needed the BY as well as the relative.
10 Slam meat in oven (5)
ROAST - Double definition, slam meaning criticise.
11 Oscar, trophy unusually bagged by more sinister wit (7,6)
DOROTHY PARKER - DARKER = more sinister, into that put (O TROPHY)*, the O for Oscar. I like many of her alleged quotes, although in her day many of them must have been regarded as pretty risqué. So here's another one: "Q. What's the difference between an enzyme and a hormone? A. You can't hear an enzyme."
13 Rascally plot — assign book to top shelf? (3-2,3)
PUT-UP JOB - double definition, one putting JOB the book up on a top shelf.
15 Last of water filling pinkish kettle (6)
CORRAL - (WATE)R inside CORAL = pinkish. Kettle as in confine, like the police do to deomonstrators.
17 Muppet, classic character ends in film clip: Kermit say? (6)
NUMPTY - NU (Greek letter), M P T Y = ends in filM cliP KermiT saY.
19 Inattentive member briefly getting in touch (8)
CARELESS - CARESS = touch, insert LE(G).
22 Hearts directly affected with core of flower power (13)
HYDROELECTRIC - (H DIRECTLY CORE)*.
25 Odds cut on fairy, I feel, spirit creating storm? (5)
ARIEL - Alternate letters of f A i R y I f E e L. As in The Tempest.
26 Bright blue rings stolen ultimately, sucker! (9)
QUICKSAND - I went round the houses, determined to fit in SKY when I saw the K from 23d, before having a reboot and thinking of another meaning of blue. QUICK = bright, SAD = blue, insert N from stoleN.
27 Official taken in by centre forward, in short (7)
REFEREE - I scratched my head for a while trying to explain this. I think it's simply that REF, short for referee, occurs hidden in centRE Forward.
28 Daisy exhausted, riding bicycle initially in wrong gear (7)
GERBERA - Take E R B (exhausted riding bicycle initially) insert into (GEAR)*. I knew this daisy; there must be as many types of daisy as there are daisy clues in crosswords.
Down
1 First time out, useless opener dismissed — a liability? (4)
DEBT - DEBUT loses the U = useless opener dismissed.
2 Ready for the press, businessman's banking foundation (7)
SUBEDIT - SUIT = businessman, insert BED = foundation.
3 Boring thing, a pistol taking head off (5)
AUGER - A LUGER loses its L.
4 Party hosts ending on floor, one over the eight perhaps? (8)
FRACTION - FACTION (party) has R (end of floor) inserted.
5 Still spoiler on rear of vehicle painted with coloured substance (3-3)
RED-EYE - RE (on) DYE (coloured substance) has E (end of vehicle) inserted.
6 Song in simple Venetian tune (9)
BARCAROLE - insert CAROL into BARE for simple.
7 Lovely thing, solver? (7)
CRACKER - double definition.
8 Turn tail as troubled student of life (10)
NATURALIST - (TURN TAIL AS)*.
12 Undecided where rocket should go (2,2,3,3)
UP IN THE AIR - double definition, one prosaic, and dead easy.
14 Reader mightn’t stand this heat in the kitchen, perhaps? (9)
POTBOILER - A pot boiler could be heat in the kitchen, and a potboiler is an often sub-standard novel churned out quickly for money. I was astounded to see recently on Richard Osman's House of Games that Barbara Cartland wrote 723 books in her lifetime. How many were potboilers?
16 Fielder's skill easily picked up (8)
CATCHING - double definition, one like a virus.
18 Stomach provided here? (7)
MIDRIFF - Apart from the definition, I think this is about IF (provided) being hidden in the word midrIFf. EDiT it's slightly cleverer than that, as our gothic friend points out below; IF is in the 'mid' of RIFF.
20 Cockney’s thus entertaining ladies, maybe, in Kaliningrad, say (7)
ENCLAVE - I knew Kaliningrad, once known as Köningsberg, was a part of Russia separate from the main motherland, but I was taught (and Wiki agrees) it's an exclave not an enclave. It's surrounded by both Poland and Lithuania, so isn't an enclave in either. However, this pedantry aside, the answer required for the clue is ENCLAVE, where LAV (the Ladies) goes inside 'ENCE a cockney version of hence meaning thus.
21 On-set film panel marking celebrity (6)
PLAQUE - Double definition. I think the on-set film part refers to dental plaque on your set of teeth.
23 One collecting things up, philanderer beginning to repent (5)
RAKER - RAKE = philanderer, R = beginning to repent.
24 Was summing up abridged old poetry collection (4)
EDDA - ADDED = was summing, up, drop the final D (abridged).