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
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)
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
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