May 13th, 2020

Times 27663 - no flooring me with this one.

Another Wednesday with a reasonably straightforward puzzle, made easier by the grid shape with four long clues around the edges. All four went in early on, once I'd accepted that the preserve required could be not just the ordinary sort. After 20 minutes or so I was left with just 7d to parse, the answer being clear enough, and 16a to fill in. I had to check for the American usage of this, which at least is signposted in the clue, as it certainly has a different meaning in UK (or France for that matter). I know my dog breeds but if you didn't, 22d might require some guesswork. You get some good anagram workout practice at 1a and 26a.

EDIT: the SNITCH is showing now at only 80, although some below seemed to find it more difficult. There were certainly some clunky surfaces, not least 26a, but I am surprised how many didn't know the dog breed. Interesting that so far none of our US residents had heard of the usage at 16a ! But it is in Collins.

1 Oncology nerd is confused about one branch of physiology (13)
9 Poison in canned beef (5)
TOXIN - OX (beef) inside TIN (can).
10 Significant distance for vehicle with slope underneath (9)
WHEELBASE - W (with) HEEL (slope) BASE (underneath).
11 A pal around Oriel, struggling to improve (10)
AMELIORATE - A MATE has (ORIEL)* inserted.
12 Song musician at first cut from role in West Side Story (4)
ARIA - Maria, as played by the lovely but tragic Natalie Wood in WSS, loses her M (musician at first).
14 What appears on disc of Mozart produced in Australia (7)
16 American stalls in Quebec during break (7)
PARQUET - PART = break, insert QUE (abbr. for Quebec). I put this in from wordplay and checkers then looked it up to find out that although PARQUET is a wood block flooring in UK, it can mean the stalls area of a theatre (or a theater) in America.
17 Great anger with object returned in bulk (7)
MADNESS - END (object) is reversed inside MASS (bulk).
19 Rest live outside university (7)
RESIDUE - U inside RESIDE. A chestnut if ever I saw one.
20 Right to remain head of negotiations (4)
LIEN - LIE (remain) N (head of negotiations).
21 Oppose United and, later, European entering formal agreement (10)
COUNTERACT - CONTRACT (formal agreement) has U and then E inserted at the relevant places.
24 Fuss follows despot giving away drug for every ruffian (9)
DESPERADO - DESPOT loses his POT (drug); PER = for every, ADO = fuss.
25 Tent was initially of poor quality fabric (5)
TWILL - T W (initial letters of tent was) ILL (of poor quaity).
26 Our hydrangea’d turned out rudely vigorous (5-3-5)
1 Preserve former electric vehicle, topless car built outside LA (5,9)
EXTRA MARMALADE - EX (former) TRAM (electric vehicle) AR (topless CAR) MADE (built) with LA inserted.
2 Pot from southern US states (5)
DIXIE - Double definition.
3 Am I not able to prize open-ended support? (10)
CANTILEVER - CAN'T I (am I not able) LEVER (prize).
4 Sind badly disrupted by conflict moving to the centre (7)
INWARDS - (SIND)* has WAR inserted.
5 Just taking off hot record for dance (3-4)
ONE-STEP - HONEST (just) has the H (hot) removed, then EP = record.
6 Unctuous and cunning when wife’s over (4)
OILY - Oily becomes WILY if you replace the O (over) with a W (wife).
7 In short, what could be railway operating every month (4-5)
YEAR-ROUND - YR being short for year, turn it round to get RY which is short for railway. Get it?
8 Go with crew to record how ministries are structured (14)
DEPARTMENTALLY - DEPART = go, MEN = crew, TALLY = record.
13 One looks for mine to do well without time in company (10)
PROSPECTOR - PROSPER = do well, insert C(T)O = time in company.
15 Dispatch worker maybe with commercial furniture item (9)
ADDRESSER - AD (commercial), DRESSER a furniture item.
18 Accept opening with church (7)
STOMACH - STOMA (opening) CH (church).
19 In a poor state getting bad wound in the navy (3-4)
RUN-DOWN -  (WOUND)* inserted into RN (Navy).
22 A small cat and a big dog (5)
AKITA - A, KIT, A. Breed of large dog, of Japanese origin.
23 Exercise before game for World Cup team, perhaps (4)
PERU - PE (exercise) RU (Rugby Union).