I went to 18.27 with this one, hampered at the last by a misplaced letter in a crossing clue which made the author at 10 cross impossible to work out. Once sorted, the guy was familiar enough. There’s a decent balance of lightweight arts and sciences stuff, though some of the geography might give pause for solvers.
We’re gearing up to celebrate the passing of the old year embraced in a version of tier 4 that has got some extra bits included, such that locally kids will not be returning to school next week. Epping Forest district rarely manages to be top of anyone’s league, but apart from Basildon it has achieved that unwanted greatness, and the stay indoors advice does at least seem to be both necessary and heeded. From behind closed doors I wish you as fine a hogmanay as can be managed, and the very sincere wish that 2021 will bring early liberation and wellbeing.
Meanwhile, here’s my analysis of a decent enough gentle stroll of a puzzle, with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS
1 Can’t hope to change something in Whitehall (8)
CENOTAPH The Whitehall example of an “empty tomb” is the focus for the annual Remembrance Parade, with wreath laying by the great, good and ordinary. It was briefly under threat of vandalism by the iconoclasts of anti-slavery and anti-empire movements. It’s designed by Edward Lutyens and built of Portland stone, but for our purposes the setter asks us to construct one by change-ing CAN’T HOPE
9 Naive, taking no coin to pub (8)
INNOCENT The pub is an INN, to which you take 0 (no) CENT (coin).
10 Author’s appeal to remain (8)
SALINGER JD of that family, responsible for Catcher in the Rye. Appeal is S(ex) A(ppeal) and remain LINGER
11 Stop-go manoeuvre in snow (4,4)
STEM TURN “A turn performed by stemming one ski and bringing the other ski down parallel with it”. Obviously. Anyway, stop gives STEM , and go gives TURN, as in it’s your go to roll the dice.
12 St Paul’s type, perhaps, man racked with tension (10)
MINNESOTAN It helps if you know where St Paul is (it’s actually the capital of Minnesota), and ignore the apparent reference to the “least of the Apostles”. Take racked as the anagram indicator, and apply to the letters of MAN and TENSION.
14 Passing mention had effect on nothing (4)
OBIT Cute definition. Had effect BIT attached to 0 (nothing) in the appropriate order
15 Plainly written name in iced cake (2,5)
EN CLAIR N(ame) turns up in the confectionary fashioned from choux pastry, cream and a (usually) chocolate flavoured icing. That’ll be an ECLAIR
17 Poet in turn welcomed by fat cat (7)
LEOPARD The poet you need is Edgar Allen POE, “quoth the raven” and all that. Turn (reverse) him and smother him in LARD for fat.
21 Verse with a line to alter (4)
VARY Simple. Just V(erse) with A R(ailwa)Y line
22 Innovators recycling DNA at grave (5-5)
AVANT GARDE recycling prompts an anagram effort, this time using the letters of DNA AT GRAVE
23 Member of drug squad? No, another branch (5,3)
SPEED COP Well I suppose a policeman detecting drugs might be a speed cop, but a traffic policeman going after motorists going a mile or more PH over the limit certainly would be.
25 Behind this door, books are essential (8)
INHERENT If you are behind this door, you are IN HERE. NT for New Testament is common in these parts for “books”.
26 Shape up to buy a suitcase (3,1,4)
GET A GRIP Wondering if “get a (6?) pack” might be a thing slowed me at this point, but while the GET A is right for “buy a” the suitcase is a GRIP.
27 Avoided players given cards at ground (8)
ESCHEWED Players for our purposes are opponents at bridge, E(ast) and S(outh), then ground provides CHEWED
2 Forcing payment without a fight (8)
EXACTION I think this is the version of EX that means without (as in ex dividend) plus ACTION for fight
3 Unusual exam conceals one trap (8)
ORIGINAL An exam might be an ORAL, here “concealing” I (one) GIN (trap)
4 Old ship’s slow movement leaving loch (4)
ARGO We had L for Loch a couple of days ago, and here it I again instead of the more common Lake. It leaves LARGO, a musical slow movement to leave Jason’s ship in Greek myth. The golden fleece gig.
5 Woman’s clothes said to be shaggy (7)
HIRSUTE Sounds very much like HER SUIT and means hairy.
6 Detention of gunman finally in act of disposing of body (10)
INTERNMENT Just take the last letter of gunman, and introduce it to INTERMENT for burial, disposing (neatly) of a body
7 In shadow, exercise without feeling the power in the sun? (8)
PENUMBRA You could pass Geography exams by drawing an illustration of the moon producing a partial eclipse shadow, which is what this is. PE is execise, NUMB is without feeling, and the (Egyptian) power in the sun is RA.
8 Off on holiday here, stuck originally between two short men? (8)
STANSTED For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the M11, in Essex (UK) Stansted is London’s third, fourth or possibly 5th airport mostly used by such as Ryanair, Easyjet and such on holiday flights. S(tuck) (originally) is caught between two random men STAN and TED, both (short) abbreviations.
13 Part of vital passage where island crop is transported (6,4)
SPINAL CORD “Transported” signals an anagram, here of ISLAND CROP. Not wholly convinced by the “vital passage” definition, which is more suggestive of the spinal canal through which the cord passes, but it will have to do. Took ages to stop looking for a trachea or windpipe.
15 Imagine no end of malice against one guru (8)
ENVISAGE Just realised I biffed this. The malice in question is ENVY with no Y end, and one guru is I SAGE
16 Brother briefly security-checked in ship (8)
CORVETTE Setters take a bit of a liberty in their selection fo exclamations to lead to COR. Here its (o) brother. Sevcurity checked is VETTED, again without its end (briefly)
18 Possible source of Conference’s sparkling repartee (4,4)
PEAR TREE It helps if you know that a Conference (with capital) is a type of pear. Then the sparkling (anagram) of REPARTEE is easy to work out.
19 At a certain angle, church is gleaming (8)
RADIANCE It helped me to remember that a RADIAN is pretty much the same as a degree when measuring angles. Add C(hurch of) E(ngland).
20 Record one bogey at the start holding golfers up — in play, one’s squeezed (7)
BAGPIPE. So, record is EP (extended play), one is I and bogey at the start is B. The golfers are the P(rofessional) G(olfers’) Association. Assemble as instructed and turn the whole lot upside down (“up”)
24 Sweet, part of lunch occasionally? (4)
CHOC Today’s hidden (part of) is in the last clue. Not hard to spot.