December 17th, 2020

Linus van Pelt
  • z8b8d8k

27850 Thursday, 17 December 2020 Say no more.

A pretty whizzy solve today after yesterday’s championship swine, which occupied me more or less straight through for a second or so under 13 minutes. Even the plant at 16 was familiar enough for me not to concern myself over whether it was pink in colour (it isn’t, just a member of the family of plants called pinks), and while I wasn’t sure of the cavity in 13 the setter was kind enough to include it as a “hidden”, safe enough to guess.
I did quite like the one clue with a slightly unusual construction at the end of the set, to which I’ll give my clue of the day.
It (and the rest) I have unravelled below, with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS

Across 
1 Valets turn grey at Versailles occupant's extended household (6,1,5)
MÉNAGE A TROIS A valet is in Woosterish terms just a man, so here MEN AGE (turn grey). AT is in plain sight, then a bit of Franglais gives you the Versailles occupant ROI with an English possessive ‘S. “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” How we gasped!
8 A first-class average reflects weakness (7)
ANAEMIA A plus first class AI and average MEAN reversed (reflects)
9 Stop drinking broth laced with beer if short of energy (5,2)
SOBER UP Broth is soup, this one laced with BEER minus one E(nergy)
11 Loosen black tile occasionally that's on the house (7)
FREEBIE Loosen is FREE, then B(lack) and the even letters (occasionally) of tIlE
12 Pitch close to perfection, for example (7)
PATTERN Pitch gives you PATTER if you think of it as a market trader’s pitch. Add the last letter (close) of perfectioN
13 Organ transplant's helping bone cavities (5)
ANTRA Today’s hidden in orgAN TRAnsplant’s. the indicator is “helping” as in a helping/slice/portion of cake. An antra is a cavity in some anatomical sense, though I’ve seen it in other settings.
14 Make concrete target, providing front piece of yellow (9)
OBJECTIFY Target is OBJECT, providing is IF, and the front piece of Yellow is – um - Y
16 Sort of pink bird confronting tiny daughter (9)
CHICKWEED 
I got (tiny) WEE D(aughter) quite quick
But the bird took much longer to click
Was it CRANE, CROW or CHOUGH?
No, it’s easy enough
Even astro_nowt’s heard of a CHICK
19 Spoke briefly about hot Biblical site (5)
SINAI Spoke (briefly) gives you SAI(d), into which you insert IN for hot. Think current, hip, happening.
21 Impresario who’s trained crew (7)
SHOWMAN Careful to make it the singular. An anagram (trained) of WHO’S plus MAN for a verbal crew.
23 Unpredictable grass invading Morecambe perhaps (7)
ERRATIC ERIC Morecambe, of –and Wise fame is common enough in these corridors. Turn grass into RAT by thinking of a snitch.
24 Round, plump and purple (7)
OROTUND Round is O, plump is ROTUND, and together they make “pompous, grandiloquent” language, or purple prose, if you will.
25 Dash across European court area (7)
HECTARE Dash is HARE, E(ueropean) is its usual single letter, and CourT abbreviates. Assemble.
26 How a free port transported seal? (12)
WEATHERPROOF Looks like an anagram, confirmed by “transported”. Use the first 12 letters of the clue


Down
1 Most tight locks save energy close to aqueduct (7)
MEANEST Tight as in tight-fisted. MANES from locks, “save” E(nergy) and wait for the close (that word again of aqueducT
2 Chap flies up over Ibiza, avoiding unknown African state (7)
NAMIBIA Chap is prosaically MAN, and flies up just means reverse it. Then add IBIZA without the “unknown” Z.
3 Embellishment in bar once thrown in fireplace (5,4)
GRACENOTE A musical term (hence in bar) and an anagram (thrown) of ONCE in GRATE for fireplace.
4 Storyteller's revolutionary main work (5)
AESOP  My first in, a reverse (revolutionary) of SEA for main plus OP(us) for work
5 Unemotional old boy in trio ruined opening of concert (7)
ROBOTIC O(ld) B(oy) in a “ruin” of TRIO plus the opening of C(oncert)
6 Poet's put up in islands belonging to Mediterranean state (7)
ISRAELI LEAR, our poet, with his ‘S is reversed (put up) in I(sland)s
7 City hospital is cold, when toured by a dictator (3,9)
SAN FRANCISCO SAN for hospital, then IS plus C(old) “toured” by Generalissimo FRANCO, from the days when people liked to be called dictators.
10 Cheapskate woman supporter accepts new cash limits (5-7)
PENNY-PINCHER PENNY is our random woman, PIER our support, with N(ew) and C(as)H limits.
15 Hardy hero's cool, pinching grand lawman's post (9)
JUDGESHIP Hardy’s hero (complete with his ‘S) is JUDE the Obscure. He’s cool, becoming HIP, and pinches (inserts appropriately) a G(rand)
17 Elemental form is uppermost in poet's heart (7)
ISOTOPE My last in, once I had divested myself of the idea that this might be a mythical elemental or spirit. IS in plain sight, TOP for uppermost, and OE to enclose both from the heart of pOEt
18 Arrive as stated at absorbing question: is it a fruit? (7)
KUMQUAT I completely misparsed this when solving, thinking the QUA came from “as”, but that’s not it. KUM is a homophone (as stated) of come, arrive, AT is in plain sight, and question provides the “absorbed” QU.
19 Teacher loves drinking a tiny amount, producing wind (7)
SIROCCO Back in the day, we all called our teachers SIR (or if the appropriate cues were there, Miss). Loves are of the tennis variety, two 0s, and the tiny amount they “drink” is CC
20 Northern spouse is missing her very much (3,4)
NOT HALF N(orthern) plus ones OTHER HALF or spouse minus the HER bit.
22 Reminder: start to get undressed? (5)
NUDGE Perhaps the wittiest of today’s clues: if the start to Get was undressed it would be in the NUDE
RolyToly

Times Quick Cryptic No 1768 by Izetti

Bit of a chewy one today from Izetti: I did yesterday's just beforehand in 7 minutes and this in 13. I was held up slightly at the end at 6d/16ac, but the grid was half empty after a first pass of all the clues with tricky bits dotted around the place. Izetti is a master of concision, but will then sometimes pad out part of a clue with extra words that can really throw you off the scent. So not a puzzle to be dispirited by if you found this a struggle, especially given some obscurity thrown in for good measure. Savour and enjoy, or lick your wounds and learn, a top notch puzzle either way - many thanks to Izetti, and best wishes for a merry Christmas!

Across
1 Bodily parts in bears (8)
STOMACHS - double definition
6 Eastern fellow set about getting title (4)
NAME - E(astern) MAN (fellow) "set about" = reversed
8 Piece of gym equipment making one smile (4)
BEAM - double definition
9 Word of prayer when beset by minor physical disability (8)
LAMENESS - AMEN (word of prayer) beset by LESS (minor). I'm open to an example where less = minor: "of less importance" does not equal "of minor importance" (which this comment is).
10 Centaurs conjured up in an ancient civilisation (8)
ETRUSCAN - anagram (conjured up) of CENTAURS. Etruscan art is well worth checking out, and centaurs do feature in it given the influence from Greece, which adds to an already nice clue.
12 Listeners hear sounds? Only some (4)
EARS - "only some" of hEAR Sounds
13 Merchant taking around wine with skill (6)
TRADER - "taking around" = reverse RED (wine) with ART (skill)
16 Something full of holes presenting a problem? (6)
RIDDLE - double definition, the first being a coarse sieve: I have an old one, and used it for a garden path during the summer. And now I know what it's called.
17 Wartime food plans suffering a setback (4)
SPAM - MAPS (plans) "suffering a setback" = reverse. Dates to 1937, and it remains a luxury foodstuff in South Korea.
18 Vessel coming to area to dock (8)
SUBTRACT - SUB[marine] (vessel) coming to TRACT (area)
21 Cast provided with a humble dwelling (8)
BUNGALOW -BUNG (cast) provided with A LOW (a humble)
22 Bird descended in America (4)
DOVE - double definition. It looks like an archaism, forgotten on one side of the pond, a bit like "gotten", but the OED says the "modern dialect past tense dove is apparently a new formation after drive, drove, or weave, wove." I'll keep saying dived for a bit I suppose, but I do prefer dove.
23 The fellow given notice — and the boss giving it? (4)
HEAD - HE (the fellow) given AD[vert] (notice/bill) - also BOSS gives the answer. Useful to remember that definitions only usually come at the very start or end: here the "and the ... giving it" are best seen as linkwords to the definition, similar to 8ac, for example.
24 Excellent leader trained dog (8)
AIREDALE - AI (A1 = excellent) and an anagram (trained) of LEADER. A1 for excellent originally applied to wooden ships, being "first-class in respect of both hull and fittings": the OED cites the Reg. of Shipping for 1800, "The Vessels marked A are of the First Class...The Materials of the Vessel with the Figure. 1 are of the First Quality." So there we are.

Down
2 Middle of battle interrupted by little message (5)
TWEET - TT ("middle" of baTTle) interrupted by WEE (little)
3 Silent relation (3)
MUM - double definition
4 Pain somewhere in the mountains with one getting cold (5)
COLIC - COL (somewhere in the mountains) with I (one) getting C(old)
5 Class of Marines sorted out (7)
SEMINAR - anagram (sorted out) of MARINES
6 One won't be able to understand characters in a book (9)
NONREADER - cryptic definition: the surface misdirects you to think of unrelatable characterisation; the cryptic refers simply to the letters that comprise the book. Made trickier as I've only seen non-reader with a hyphen and meaning someone who chooses not to read, rather than being nonliterate, but Collins has both senses and is unhyphenated.
7 Slight fog starts to roll away over lake — there's a wind (7)
MISTRAL - MIST (slight fog) and "starts to" Roll Away going over L(ake). A crossword staple improved by a very nice surface.
11 Crazy Greek character climbing — old and free from injury (9)
UNDAMAGED - MAD (crazy) NU (Greek character) climbing = reverse, AGED (old)
14 Pure art somehow bringing great joy (7)
RAPTURE - anagram (somehow) of PURE ART
15 Bird ascended, everyone having turned up (7)
ROSELLA - ROSE (ascended) LLA (ALL = everyone, "turned up"). I see this has cropped up a few times, and somewhere quite recently I think, but I'd still completely forgotten this very attractive Australian parrot.
19 Someone bending over in part of garden? (5)
BOWER - double definition, the second being a shady recess in a garden. The bowerbird, which constructs a very impressive bower for courtship, seems to be (for me) much more memorable than the rosella.
20 Polite, like some servants? (5)
CIVIL - double definition-ish: the second as in civil-servants.
22 Edward oddly missing out as member of family (3)
DAD - odd letters missing out of e D w A r D.
verlaine

Times 27,851: The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Clue-sic

Straightforward by Friday standards, with a lot of clues that I think of as Cryptic Jumbo-type constructions, nothing too fancy or frivolous. FOI 4ac, LOI 23ac. I mostly liked the "always ignores over" device in 17dn. Not much more to say on this last blog before Christmas except thanks to the setter, and what are the rest of you all hoping to find in your stockings next week?

ACROSS
1 Franc note in money box (6)
COFFIN - F F in COIN

4 Low life, right one, very loud air force female (4-4)
RIFF-RAFF - R I FF RAF F

10 State without change, silver, say, and gold (7)
PLATEAU - PLATE + AU

11 What holds oil left in glacial formation (7)
DRUMLIN - DRUM L IN

12 Painful phase of tachycardia (4)
ACHY - {t}ACHY{cardia}

13 Bold player playing disgracefully (10)
DEPLORABLY - (BOLD PLAYER*)

15 Spot sort to use a keyboard (5-4)
TOUCH-TYPE - TOUCH [spot, as in a spot of milk in one's tea] + TYPE [sort]

16 In Scotland, hit old wild dog (5)
DINGO - DING + O. Didn't have much sense of DING as being a Scottish word, but apparently so...

18 Billions invested in English medical implant (5)
EMBED - B "invested" in E MED

19 Amazed a bridge player in front of a packed crowd (9)
AWESTRUCK - A WEST in front of RUCK

21 I count on us flying non-stop (10)
CONTINUOUS - (I COUNT ON US*)

23 Not quite all slip home (4)
GAFF - GAFF{e}

26 Is filling a requirement for strong flavouring? (7)
ANISEED - IS "filling" A NEED

27 Sweet bunch, for example with no opportunity to speak outside (7)
NOSEGAY - E.G., with NO SAY outside

28 Prize article mostly secure in box, perhaps (8)
TREASURE - A SUR{e} in TREE

29 Regularly turn nasty and difficult (6)
TRICKY - T{u}R{n} + ICKY

DOWN
1 Company prospector’s casing a source of oil (5)
COPRA - CO + P{rospecto}R + A

2 Fancy garlic, perhaps? This may have gone off with exposure (9)
FLASHBULB - FLASH [fancy] + GARLIC [bulb], plus cryptic definition

3 One reportedly burns tough goat (4)
IBEX - I + homophone of BECKS [(watery) burns]

5 Humour’s eluding oddball (7)
INDULGE - (ELUDING*)

6 Chemically treat disease I found in yellow fruit (10)
FLUORIDATE - FLU + I "found in" OR DATE

7 Freely commercial library (2-3)
AD-LIB - AD [commercial] + LIB(rary)

8 Like to succeed in ornamental knitting (9)
FANCYWORK - FANCY [like] + WORK [to succeed]

9 Carve cathedral charmingly (6)
CUTELY - CUT ELY

14 Lack of quality in footwear messes with soles finally (10)
SHODDINESS - SHOD [in footwear] + DINES [messes] + {sole}S

15 Biting fish swallowing angler’s last insect (9)
TRENCHANT - TENCH "swallowing" {angle}R + ANT

17 Like a pain, one our logic always ignores over admitting answer (9)
NEURALGIC - {o}NE {o}UR L{o}GIC, "admitting" A

19 In pieces and sure to be put together somehow (7)
ASUNDER - (AND SURE*)

20 Horse — one Queen ordered (6)
EQUINE - (I QUEEN*)

22 Local resident having no time to be green (5)
NAIVE - NA{t}IVE

24 What fighter may carry out through following cunning (5)
FLYBY - BY [through] following FLY [cunning]

25 Title — Serbia’s and Russia’s leaders carry it (4)
TSAR - T{itle} S{erbia} A{nd} R{ussia}, semi-&lit