I rather enjoyed this quirky number over 18.44, as a break from the drawn-our tension fest that is the American election process. At the time of writing, the BBC is still rather coy about predicting the result, clearly trying not to raise our hopes unduly lest a late surge in Arizona put the kybosh on a Biden White House. CNN is almost, but not quite, breathing a sigh of relief that the House of Orange looks like losing.
It might be just my impression, but there appear to be more multi-word and hyphenated entries that usual, which can be helpful, and a decent smattering of NATO letters to help things along. Only one entry (at 24) was outside my normal ken, but the wordplay left little doubt. Others might be less sure of the spiny character in 1d or the gentleman at 16, but I hope they don’t detract too much from the pleasure of the chase.
My expositions show the clues in italics, the definition also underlined, and the SOLUTIONS just so.
1 Ready to toy with carelessly, my one and only old mop (8,5)
MONOPOLY MONEY The definition suggests play money, and it’d dealt by a mixture (carelessly) of MY, ONE, ONLY O(ld) and MOP. Trust me, it works.
9 Channel, small, across the pond (5)
SINUS Perhaps not the most immediate synonym for channel, but it is a passage through which liquid passes. S(mall) IN U(nited) S(tates), which is across the pond/Atlantic if you’re on this side of it. American solvers, please pretend.
10 Model, short type, with one child of five (9)
MANNEQUIN I think the shortened type is MANNE
R (what manner of word do you call that?) and the (one) child of five is a QUIN
11 Where there are no trees, having abandoned home — good being out of the woods! (2,3,5)
IN THE CLEAR My LOI, wondering whether IN THE PLAIN made any sense. In my local forest, there are no trees in the clearing, and if you abandon the IN home and the G(ood) you end up with a version of our definition
12 Visiting Europe, sought change from S America (4)
PESO Our hidden for today, “visiting” EuroPE SOught. Currency in several S American countries (and the Philippines ), originally piece of eight.
14 Degenerate acquired drug to carry round (2,2,3)
GO TO POT The definition is in verbal form, and the rest of the clue needs to be rejigged. Acquired: GOT and drug: POT carry round: O. Respace.
16 Cheers to the left and right in this country for old statesman (7)
Mustafa Kemal ATATÜRK (the umlaut is optional) pretty much the creator of the modern Turkish state. TATA for cheers runs to the left, then R(ight) is inserted into UK, this country as the home of the crossword
17 Source, I heard, honestly come by (4-3)
WELL WON Source gives the WELL and I gives the sound of WON, either as an affected version of the personal pronoun, or as a roman one.
19 Asian island, a place tucked away (7)
MALAYAN The Island you seek is MAN, into which A place: LAY is inserted
20 Failure to see case for amateurish boat-builder (4)
NOAH Failure to see provides NO (I think) and the case of AmateurisH the rest of the Arkitect.
21 Fix that’s welcome? (3-2-3-2)
HOW-DO-YOU-DO Another fine mess you got me into, or as WS Gilbert had it in aphetic form in the Mikado:
“Here's a how-de-do!
If I marry you
When your time has come to perish
Then the maiden whom you cherish
Must be slaughtered, too!”
Two leads to the same phrase.
24 People after area in abandoned section of plant (4,5)
LEAF TRACE Not that I knew the term, but it’s “a branch from the vascular system of the stem destined to enter a leaf.” I believe the equivalence of people an RACE is still ok, and it follows A(rea) in abandoned: LEFT. Respace.
25 Sounded thrilled to have escaped, gradually having change of heart (5)
OOHED I think this is escaped gradually OOZED with a random change of its middle letter
26 Picture tango, with fellow getting closer (3,10)
THE TERMINATOR Tango is NATO for T, add HE for fellow, and closer (something that effects a close, not “nearer”) gives the rest.
1 My twin girls, eg, excited about king character in Potter book (3,5-6)
MRS TIGGY-WINKLE Beatrix Potter’s endearing washerwoman hedgehog. Equally endearingly, St Tiggywinkle’s is a justly celebrated wildlife hospital charity in Buckinghamshire. Mess about excited-ly with MY TWIN GIRLS EG and K(ing)
2 Group that’s got part of the joint jumping? (5)
NONET Nine musicians, the reverse (jumping) of TENON, half of a mortise and- joint
3 Man with fair promotion prospects given hand by Pole (6,4)
PASSED PAWN Chess is our jeu de jour, a pawn (man) that has made it beyond the line of opposing pawns is in line for promotion to a major piece. Given: PASSED, hand: PAW pole (one of two) N. A propos of nothing much, it is reported that our soon to be ex (I hope so, I do, I do) Tweeter in Chief really did write “Votes cannot be cast after the Poles are closed!”
4 Punch landed: so able to be seen by an old nurse? (7)
LAMPLIT A straight charade of punch: LAMP and landed: LIT and a reference to the “the Lady with the Lamp”
5 Grumble after collecting books in a state (7)
MONTANA After grumble: MOAN collects the N(ew) T(estament) books it adds an A for one of the states actually won by the Orange Moaner in Chief. The "in" is a bit misleading, there just for the surface, I think.
6 Victor leaves work, making time for a holiday (4)
NOEL NATO Victor is removed from work: NOVEL for a holiday probably after a brief respite from lockdown this year
7 Condemned a buyout, yet mostly getting expression of approval (3,6)
YOU BEAUTY An antipodean (and apparently Scottish) expression, here a reworking of (condemned) A BUYOUT and most of YE
8 Royal command following, popular with men fit for service (2,7,5)
IN WORKING ORDER Royal command is KING ORDER, made to follow popular: IN, W(ith) and OR men (Other Ranks)
13 Rely on crab moving a fraction of an inch (10)
BARLEYCORN Another anagram (moving) of RELY ON CRAB for an old measurement equivalent to a third of an inch.
15 Don’t report everything subject to discrimination (4,5)
TELL APART If you don’t report everything, you only tell a part. Respace.
18 One recently arrived dined under gaslight (7)
NEONATE I half feared I was going to have to find out what “gaslighting” really meant, but no, it’s just NEON followed by ATE for dined.
19 Halfway through Hilary maybe tried crudely interrupting Mark and Mike (7)
MIDTERM So is this a play on Mrs Clinton and Mr Pence and someone called Mark during the halfway-through elections? Anyway, for us it’s an anagram (crudely) of TRIED set between Deutsche M(ark) and NATO Mike
22 Every so often, turns head to uncover it (5)
UNHAT The even letters (every so often) of tUrNs HeAd To in an &littish sort of clue, head being the thing that is uncovered
23 Blessed fellow dated you — a sore point! (4)
STYE Blessed fellow being ST, and a dated or antique version of you being YE