January 2nd, 2021

Jumbo 1473

A fairly straightforward solve, with no outstanding clues. If pressed for a favourite I would probably choose 30A.

My best wishes to all readers for a healthy and happy 2021!





ACROSS
1 Rex one with physic cured fast (10)
HYPERSONIC – (R{ex}, ONE, PHYSIC)*

6 Cut dead polar bear (4-8)
COLD-SHOULDER – COLD = polar, SHOULDER = bear

14 Fix again with reference to a parking place (9)
REAPPOINT – RE = with reference to, A, P = parking, POINT = place

15 Example given in current understanding (5)
IDEAL – I = current, DEAL = understanding

16 Checked where gold tester initially had it outside (7)
AUDITED – AU = gold, DIED = had it, around T{ester}

17 Crime a seaman mentioned with one charged (7,3,7)
ASSAULT AND BATTERY – ASSAULT sounds like A SALT = a seaman, AND = with, BATTERY = one charged

18 Thick-skinned sort making cash (5)
RHINO – double definition

19 Old diet adjusted to create muscle (7)
DELTOID – (OLD DIET)*

21 British bombshell in France and county here (6)
DORSET – DORS = British bombshell, ET = and, in French. “County here” as a definition is even more appropriate for me as the puzzle was solved and this blog post is being written in Dorset!

22 Decorative tiles made by girl, given time and energy (8)
TESSERAE – TESS = girl, ERA = time, E = energy

24 Cosy situation Johnson accepts in human rights group (7)
AMNESTY – AMY = Johnson, around NEST = cosy situation

26 Be marked, cut by one Bavarian with sword (8)
SCIMITAR – SCAR = be marked, around MIT = with in German and therefore in Bavaria, and I = one

27 Alfresco meal and walk in park (6)
PICNIC – double definition

30 Present ploy at last decisive in long-term investment (6,5)
TROJAN HORSE – cryptic definition, where investment = siege

32 One likely to behave unpredictably in firing-line? (5,6)
LOOSE CANNON – cryptic definition

33 Volatile Scot in Irish melodrama (11)
HISTRIONICS – (SCOT IN IRISH)*

35 Unselfish in good position in box (11)
CONSIDERATE – ONSIDE = good position, in CRATE = box

37 Soak companion after anorak returned (6)
DRENCH – DREN = NERD = anorak, reversed, C.H. = companion

38 Shabby old magistrate a revolutionary (3-5)
DOG-EARED – DOGE = old magistrate, A RED = a revolutionary

39 Rubber man shot approaching ancient city (7)
MASSEUR – MASSE = shot (in billiards/snooker), UR = ancient city

42 Switch positions occasionally (3,3,2)
OFF AND ON – double definition

44 Staff without rupees suffer from hunger (6)
STARVE – STAVE = staff, around R = rupees

46 Blaze contained in mile radius ultimately circulates (7)
MINGLES – M = mile, INGLE = blaze contained (in a room, according to Chambers), {radiu}S.

48 Language used by Magwitch in Dickens (5)
HINDI – hidden in {Magwitc}H IN DI{ckens}

49 Government department troubled over idealistic Conservative MP (10,7)
DIPLOMATIC SERVICE – (OVER, IDEALISTIC, C, MP)*

51 Points raised badly needing to be accepted by Scottish bank (7)
BRAILLE – BRAE = Scottish bank, around ILL = badly. Nice definition

52 Pleased haze at last is clearing (5)
GLADE – GLAD, {haz}E

53 Aggressor making trouble between two creatures (9)
ASSAILANT – ASS, ANT = creatures, around AIK = trouble

54 Poetic technique nothing but repeats (12)
ALLITERATION – ALL = nothing but, ITERATION = repeats

55 Printed notepaper? (5,5)
SHEET MUSIC – cryptic definition

DOWN
1 Not moving like cannonball (4,3,4)
HARD AND FAST – double definition

2 Mountain up north on small maps (5)
PLANS – PLA = ALP = mountain, reversed, N = north, S = small

3 Exalted god, universal, seen in Proust reworked (9)
RAPTUROUS – RA = god, PROUST* around U = universal

4 Hand detected in reference work is overlooked (7)
OMITTED – O.E.D. = reference work, around MITT = hand

5 Sang canticle as passionate about Scots hooligan (7)
INTONED – INTO = passionate about, NED = Scots hooligan

7 Past it and into next valley? (4,3,4)
OVER THE HILL – double definition, the second mildly cryptic

8 Trick left soldiers in prehistoric tomb (6)
DOLMEN – DO = trick, L = left, MEN = soldiers

9 Mesomorphic villain on stage (8)
HEAVYSET – HEAVY = villain, SET = stage

10 Erudite men sat around — judge not well? (13)
UNDERESTIMATE – (ERUDITE MEN SAT)*

11 Party time — couple runs for more nuts (7)
DOTTIER – DO = party, T = time, TIE = couple, R = runs

12 Do anaerobic exercises — one knows where one is with it (5,6)
RADIO BEACON – (DO ANAEROBIC)*

13 Capital the enemy surrounds in woodland boundary (10)
TIMBERLINE – TIME = the enemy, around BERLIN = capital

20 Good drive out in Channel to find shellfish (9)
LANGOUSTE – LANE = channel, around G = good and OUST = drive out

23 Distress signal used by news boss in isolated position (8)
MAROONED – MAROON = distress signal, ED = news boss

25 Louts still heading north — Soho in uproar (6)
YAHOOS – YA = AY = still, reversed, SOHO*

26 Path round assumed by sun that's sweet (8)
SORBITOL – SOL = sun, around ORBIT = path around

28 Man, carrying on, average or unique? (9)
NONPAREIL – NEIL = man, around ON and PAR = average

29 This writer slow to introduce uniform method (6)
MEDIUM – ME = this writer, DIM = slow, around U = uniform

31 Moor for example with nameless wild plant (7,6)
AFRICAN VIOLET – AFRICAN = Moor, for example, VIOLE{n}T = wild

33 Work hard on magic to stop monster showing an aversion (11)
HYDROPHOBIA – HYDRA = monster, around OP = work, H = hard and OBI = magic

34 Tuber thus contains little tasteless stuff going round belly (5,6)
SWEET POTATO – SO = thus, around WEE = little and TAT = tasteless stuff, these around POT = belly

35 Nurse without fear obtains security device (4,6)
CARD READER – CARER = nurse, around DREAD = fear

36 Cup tie score excited one not keen on Union (11)
EUROSCEPTIC – (CUP TIE SCORE)*

40 My singers resolved to show effective integration (9)
SYNERGISM – (MY SINGERS)*

41 Cherish husband, an elderly person (4,4)
HOLD DEAR – H = husband, OLD DEAR = elderly person

43 Cool guy mentioned letters from admirers (3,4)
FAN MAIL – FAN = cool, MAIL sounds like MALE = guy

45 Final word mine in each pub (7)
EPITAPH – EA = each, P.H. = pub, around PIT = mine

46 Stone in French museum not to be missed (4-3)
MUST-SEE – MUSEE = French museum, around ST = stone

47 Tap on barrel from glutton feeding drunk (6)
SPIGOT – SOT = drunk, around PIG = glutton

50 Geordie mother is taken round to see holy men (5)
IMAMS – IS around MAM = Geordie mother
  • brnchn

Times Cryptic No 27858 - Saturday, 26 December 2020. Fill it au poivre?

This was a rather challenging, quirky puzzle. With many clues, I needed to look closely at the clue after I found the answer, to make sure I understood the definition, or the wordplay, or both! It took me rather longer than usual, but it was all solvable although there may be some slow times.

5ac was my favourite clue, among many candidates. My LOI was 10ac, but mainly because it took me longer than it should to apply the golden rule of I.T. support: when all else fails, read the instructions!

I think the hardest clue was actually 14ac, where the answer was unfamiliar to me, and the wordplay is in French. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle. Let’s take a look.

Notes for newcomers: The Times offers prizes for Saturday Cryptic Crosswords. This blog is posted a week later, after the competition closes. So, please don’t comment here on the current Saturday Cryptic.

Clues are blue, with definitions underlined. Deletions are in {curly brackets}.
Across
1 Worst and best places to interrupt journey (3,5)
PIT STOPS – PITS=the worst, TOPS=the best. Lovely clue!
5 A neighbour to a Queenslander, maybe, briefly making comeback (6)
ANSWER – New South Wales neighbours Queensland (although the border has been shut to stop the spread of the virus). So, we want A N.S.W.-ER.
10 True value to dip (5)
SOUSE – SO=true, as in “Tis not! Tis so!”  USE=value, as in “What’s the use of that?”
11 China do it — then we start to trade differently (9)
TWENTIETH – anagram (differently) of IT THEN WE T(rade). An obscure definition: china is the traditional way to mark a twentieth wedding anniversary, with “do” meaning “party”.
12 Very quietly coming up with advantage, initially telling (9)
APPRISING – A(dvantage), PP=very quietly, RISING=coming up.
13 Having odd bits cut out spoiled that work of art (5)
PIETA – the even letters (odd bits cut out) of sPoIlEd ThAt.
14 Establishment that dispenses, as the chef might say, with fruit, mostly (7)
AUTOMAT – the chef might serve his spécialité AU TOMAT(e), non? I found this clue a bit mind-bending, both for the French wordplay, and because I didn’t know what an automat is. On further edit, thanks to gypaetus44 for telling us that TOMATE is feminine, so the chef might say AUX TOMATES, and to others for going on to point out that we therefore need to separate the wordplay: the chef might say AU, as in 'au gratin', and the truncated fruit could just be a plain English TOMAT(o).
16 Put out drink for returning African runner (6)
REEBOK – KO=floor, BEER=drink, all ‘returning’. I tried for a while to turn Nile (African runner of a different kind) into ELIN, but to no avail.
18 Her Majesty gets a grand to give ruffian (6)
TOERAG – TO: E.R. - A G(rand).
20 Power source, along with others, put in expertly (3,4)
WET CELL – ETC in WELL. Easy, once you see it. Took me a while.
22 From what we hear, girl could be this sort of radical (5)
ETHYL – sounds like Ethel.
23 Minister’s request apt surely to be misconstrued (3,2,4)
LET US PRAY – anagram (misconstrued) of APT SURELY.
25 Female taking leave in sort of cordial working arrangement (9)
FLEXITIME – F, then EXIT in LIME.
26 Treacle to cook that’s fine! (4-1)
GOOD-O – GOO=treacle, DO=cook.
27 Obvious inventor’s right (6)
PATENT – double definition.
28 Sort of terror about to overwhelm model (2,2,4)
AS IT WERE – AWE=terror, RE=car, all ‘overwhelming’ SIT=model.

Down
1 Conference potentially inviting Nobel laureate in Asian city (8)
PESHAWAR – SHAW in PEAR. I saw ‘conference’ and immediately thought ‘pear’, although the only varieties of pear I know outside the Times crossword are Williams and Packham. I didn’t know whether G.B.Shaw had received a Nobel prize, but of course he had – in 1925.
2 Batter in a sulk after he’s out (5)
THUMP – THE HUMP would be a sulk. Remove HE. Another clue it took me a while to see.
3 All this, and more, in one large, rambling novel (3,12)
THE SILMARILLION – anagram (rambling) of ALL THIS MORE IN I(=one) L(=large). It’s by J.R.R.Tolkien, and I will now immediately forget that (again).
4 Nationalist conveniently put on dazzling display (7)
PATRIOT – PAT=conveniently put, RIOT (of colours, for example).
6 After polite refusal, rather a lot becoming ugly (3,1,6,5)
NOT A PRETTY SIGHT – maybe there’s more than one way to read this, but I’ll go with: NO, TA=polite refusal, PRETTY=rather (Chambers’ second definition for ‘pretty’ as an adverb), SIGHT=a lot (Chambers’ seventeenth(!) definition for ‘sight’ as a noun).
7 Blue net, for example, I used to catch duck (9)
WOEBEGONE – WEB=net, E.G.=for example, ONE=I, all ‘catching’ O=duck, in the cricketing sense. Another I had trouble seeing.
8 Warm up with run — then what to have for lunch? (6)
REHEAT – R=run, EH=what?, EAT=have for lunch. I couldn’t see the parsing, so I put the answer in and postponed that chore till now.
9 Chap vicar can turn to? (6)
VERGER – REG=a random chap, REV=reverend=vicar; all ‘turned’.
15 Such a grin, maybe, having got the most champers? (9)
TOOTHIEST – a cryptic definition playing with the idea that if ‘champ’ is ‘eat’, ‘champers’ could be ‘teeth’.
17 Objective at heart? To do extra setting is mine! (8)
CLAYMORE – C=objeCtive ‘at heart’, LAY MORE=do extra (table) setting.
19 Miss leading to defeat mainly for French (6)
GALLIC – GAL=miss, LIC(k)=defeat.
20 Daft onlooker after leaving name has now left (7)
WITLESS – WIT(N)ESS loses N=name, gains L=left.
21 Reinforce bad news from the butcher’s? (4,2)
BEEF UP – ho ho.
24 River or bay — or at least sound (5)
RHONE – sounds like ROAN=a bay horse.
verlaine

Times Cryptic Jumbo 1479: Times-Xwd-Times Vaut Bien Une Mess

A very chucklesome Jumbo indeed with some laugh out loud moments in its quirky idea-pictures. Having just concluded the parsings I remain very tickled by 51dn's un-I, a hardcore version of the not-we, but I think my COD shall remain 15ac with its grimmest of checkout carts. Big props also to the GK content, I think 13ac, 54ac, 6dn, 8dn, 9dn and 45dn in particular are a classy cut above. Many thanks to the setter for such top-notch Jumbotainment and sorry this blog comes a little late! Bank holidays and their potential impact on my schedule have become a thing of increasing mystery since I moved to California. Is it Washington's birthday yet?

ACROSS
1 Advance across delta by small boat (9)
OVERDRAFT - OVER D by RAFT

6 Maybe US criminals had briefly to be imprisoned (7)
PERHAPS - PERPS, "imprisoning" HA{d}

10 To start with alibi for example is a defence (5)
AEGIS - A{libi} E.G. IS

13 Distance often affected a proclamation from the French (5,2,6)
EDICT OF NANTES - (DISTANCE OFTEN*). Paris vaut bien une messe, n'est-ce pas?

14 Uncomfortable with allies failing to eat meal (3,2,4)
ILL AT EASE - (ALLIES*), "eating" TEA

15 Glass changing hands in this checkout cart (7)
TUMBREL - take a TUMBLER, and swap its L and R (hands). "Checkout" as a euphemism for death, here!

16 Working twenty-four hours? At first no — twelve (7)
NOONDAY - ON DAY [working | 24 hours], with NO at first

17 Put down duke, a powerful ruler, to be unmarried (7)
DEPRESS - D + E{m}PRESS

18 Relaxed, one’s agent finally very adequate (12)
SATISFACTORY - SAT [relaxed] + I'S FACTOR {ver}Y

20 Wickedness in dog suggested? (10)
WRONGDOING - reverse cryptic, wrong doing = (DOING*) = IN DOG

23 He gambles debtor is concealing reserve (5)
DICER - DR "conceals" ICE

24 Leap to one’s feet and refuse to move (5,4)
STAND FAST - idiomatically, "stand fast" is to refuse to budge; literalistically, it might be to stand up quickly

25 Old woman’s herbal therapy? (7)
MASSAGE - or MA'S SAGE

26 Bill tends to cry, in comprehensive victory (1,5,5)
A CLEAN SWEEP - AC LEANS WEEP [bill | tends | to cry]

28 Unwise to fail to fill in old exercise books (11)
INEXPEDIENT - DIE [to fail] "filling" IN EX P.E. NT [in | old | exercise | (Biblical) books]

30 Being August, start to sweat on US borders (11)
STATELINESS - S{weat}, on STATE LINES

32 Thoroughly learn something for party that is of top quality (11)
MASTERPIECE - or else to MASTER your party PIECE

34 Each group of diners wants food so (7)
EATABLE - EA TABLE, semi-&lit

36 Brave daughter, relatively short? (9)
DAUNTLESS - D + AUNT-LESS

38 Busy giving the pot this? (5)
ASTIR - and one could be busy giving the pot A STIR

39 Judge member of cast going through lines uncooperative (10)
REFRACTORY - REF + ACTOR "going through" RY

41 Before Mailer, nothing American is unbelievable (12)
PREPOSTEROUS - PRE [before] + POSTER [mailer, as in one who mails (a letter)] + O US

45 In defence, good for the French to drink wine (7)
BASTION - BON "drinking" ASTI

46 Reveller losing head: he’s waking others? (7)
AROUSER - {c}AROUSER

47 Farm workers ending in embarrassment, colouring (7)
PIGMENT - PIGMEN + {embarrassmen}T

49 Unworldly, one union trapped in cycle of decline? (9)
SPIRITUAL - I T.U. "trapped" in SPIRAL

50 See lecturer in swimming pool here? (7,6)
LEISURE CENTRE - (SEE LECTURER IN*)

52 Departs school, coming back famous (5)
NOTED - reversed D ETON

53 Compel men for cell to be stripped (7)
ENFORCE - hidden in {m}EN FOR CE{ll}

54 Oliver’s horse has smooth flanks (9)
IRONSIDES - IRON [smooth] + SIDES [flanks]. Cromwellian cavalry units

DOWN
1 Greek character and others one’s assumed nameless (7)
ORESTES - REST [others], "assumed" by O{n}E'S

2 Magician left without female contrived to be mystifying (11)
ENIGMATICAL - (MAGICIAN LE{f}T*)

3 Put off find (not mine) (5)
DETER - DETER{mine}

4 Two equal parts? Not hard at all, with a fodder plant (7)
ALFALFA - {h}ALF + {h}ALF + A

5 Drop of water shortly for plant (3)
TEA - TEA{r}

6 City in revolution at first pretty backward, rejecting both sides (9)
PETROGRAD - P{retty} + {r}ETROGRAD{e}. Better known today as St Petersburg, though it's been Leningrad too

7 Live on the edge (6)
RESIDE - RE: SIDE

8 First Murderer’s speech: I make peers sick, drinking my soup — and the monarch (2,1,2,8,6)
AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER - (I MAKE PEERS*), "drinking" MY BROTH, + E.R. [HM the queen]. Not the First Murderer from Macbeth, but the one from the Bible, disavowing knowledge of the whereabouts of Abel

9 Shame about horrible noise in tank (7)
SALADIN - reversed ALAS + DIN. Looks like the Alvis Saladin was a six-wheeled armoured car designed in the 50s

10 Coming across page, not fond of Shelley? The exact opposite (9)
ANTIPODES - coming "across" P, ANTI-ODES

11 Serious wizard in Tyrone, say, worshipped figure (6,5)
GRAVEN IMAGE - or GRAVE N.I. MAGE

12 Maybe young member of family has not got on flight (5)
STEPS - STEPS{on}

16 Fail to understand why coin toss doesn’t produce result? (3,4,4,2,4,2)
NOT MAKE HEAD OR TAIL OF - and a whimsical scenario wherein the headness or tailness of an actual coin toss cannot be determined

19 Regain consciousness, nearly safe following powerful shot? (7)
SURFACE - SUR{e} + F + ACE

21 Spooner’s finest clothes not regularly seen at the bar (5,4)
GUEST BEER - Spoonerism of BEST GEAR

22 One is taken in by a most peculiar philosophy (6)
TAOISM - I "taken in by" (A MOST*)

23 Tug on left side circling southern approaches (5,4)
DRAWS NEAR - DRAW [tug on] + NEAR [left side], "circling" S

24 Sort of wave, going round one way in chapel (7)
SISTINE - SINE, "going round" I ST

25 Trees start off sale, unplanned? (7)
MAPLESS - MAPLES + S{ale}

27 Creature pouched in the afternoon biting us, very upset (6)
POSSUM - P.M. [in the afternoon] "biting" reversed US, SO

29 Corrupt sheriff’s assistant half-cut at wild party (7)
DEPRAVE - DEP{uty} at RAVE

31 Probable left-winger’s broadcast is fantastic (11)
ANTIFASCIST - (IS FANTASTIC*). Of course, as some right-wing commentators are at pains to tell us, perhaps it's the people who hate fascism the most who are the real fascists? (Spoiler: they're not.)

33 Turned out and applied to keep most of treasure (11)
EXTROVERTED - EXERTED "keeping" TROV{e}

35 Made happy to have meal, if I must be in the garden (9)
BEATIFIED - EAT IF I, (must be) in BED [the garden]

37 Act with elegance on radio, one admits (9)
TURNSTILE - TURN [act] + homophone of STYLE

40 Large amount, definitely brother’s cut (7)
TONSURE - TON + SURE

42 Drink more extravagantly as commander (7)
SUPREMO - SUP + (MORE*)

43 Subjects for painting that shouldn’t be dropped (7)
SITTERS - double def: a sitter is a very easy catch

44 Monkey’s mistake (6)
HOWLER - double def

45 Perhaps Higgs’ two children, one missing a sex chromosome (5)
BOSON - BO{y} + SON

48 Assume visitors are short of time (5)
GUESS - GUES{t}S

51 Someone other than me, as it were, educated here? (3)
UNI - or, the opposite of I, the UN-I

Sunday Times Christmas Cryptic 4935, by Robert Price — What, no figgy pudding?

This wonderful puzzle seemed like the largest helping of seasonal cheer I had anywhere at one time this year (besides when I gave another spin to Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart). If an answer here isn’t holiday related, the clue most likely is.

Usually, I like for there to be at least a few really long answers in a Jumbo, and none here exceed 14 letters, but I didn’t mind, as this made room for more wordplay and witty nuttiness.

I indicate (a ram sang)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.
ACROSS
 1 Currently empty, which place holds a panto? (4,5)
SNOW WHITE — S(NOW)(W[-hic]H)ITE
 6 In future return to one’s family perhaps (10)
HOMECOMING — “In” is HOME and “future” COMING.
12 Taking in “The Queen” calls for doubles (7)
RINGERS — RING(ER)S
13 Fugitive and criminal donning false beards (9)
ABSCONDER — CON, “criminal” in (beards)*
14 Took out fruit starter to defrost (5)
DATED — DATE+D[-efrost]
16 Mates start so badly as dinner hosts (12)
TOASTMASTERS — (Mates start so)*
17 Happened to be, in the main, carol singing (10)
WASSAILING — WAS, “Happened to be” + SAILING, “in the main,” the bounding main
19 They’re not still opened at Christmas? (9,5)
SPARKLING WINES — CD
22 Jars of duck in a festive hamper (8)
AMPHORAE — A + (hamper)* with O, “duck” i.e. 0 inserted… wins my Creative Anagrind Prize
24 A travelling inn to mark as holy (6)
ANOINT — A + (inn to)*
25 Those engaged in passion that’s nothing next to God’s (10)
LOVEMAKERS — LOVE, “nothing” in tennis + MAKER[’]S, “God’s”
26 Hides from king, protected by religious ritual (5)
MASKS — MAS(K)S
29 Rolling drunk eating last of sherry trifles (4)
TOYS — S([-sherr]Y)OT<=“rolling”… brilliant reversal indicator, with this surface
30 Flexible period up to the beginning of Yule (8)
STRETCHY — STRETCH, “period” + Y[-ule]
32 Cross about interrupting drinks for selfies? (9)
SNAPSHOTS — S(SPAN<=“about”)HOTS
34 Grimace about cold, wearing headgear over whiskers (9)
MOUSTACHE — MOUE “about” H(C)ATS<=“over”
35 Occasion I’d start to enjoy late in the day (8)
EVENTIDE — EVENT, “occasion” + ID, “I’d” + E[-njoy]
36 Mark heavenly light, no time to tour around (4)
SCAR — S[-t(ime), + C, circa, ”around”]AR
39 Lustful reveller’s day shortly before year ends (5)
SATYR — SAT(urday) + Y[-ea]R
40 Drag one behind reindeer’s tail, helping to secure it (10)
IRRITATION — I + R, “reindeer’s tail” [also its head!] + RATION, “helping” holding I, “one”
42 Picked up after vacation, Xmas leftovers (6)
EXCESS — X[-ma]S
44 Reluctance to stir greatly enhanced husband’s stuffing (8)
LETHARGY — (greatly)* with H(usband) stuck inside… runner-up for Anagrind of the Week
46 Sweet kid hurt his leg dancing tango (7,7)
TURKISH DELIGHT — (kid hurt his leg)* + T, “tango” in the NATO phonetic alphabet… with an expertly camouflaged anagrind
48 Temper can test endless stores stocking gifts (10)
TANGERINES — T(ANGER, “temper”)IN + [-t]ES[-t]
49 Drunken support a stranger talked of (12)
BACCHANALIAN — “Back an alien”
53 Warm starter’s left to finish off (3,2)
EAT UP — [-h]EAT UP
54 Grease” number disco regularly cuts dead (9)
LUBRICATE — L(nUmBeRdIsCo)ATE
55 Signal to consume one’s home cooking (7)
CUISINE — CU(I[’]S)(IN, “home”)E
56 Advent plant swallowed by a reindeer almost (10)
APPEARANCE — A + P(PEA)RANCE[-r]… ♪ “You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer…”♪
57 Carols about child, good for vocal gatherings (9)
SINGSONGS — SING(SON)(G)S Americans call these “singalongs.” What else would you sing but a song?

DOWN
 1 Christmas favourite a northern celebrity mostly hosts (5)
SANTA — S(A)(N)TA[-r]
 2 Going beyond blatant: Herod maybe? (10)
OVERTAKING — OVERT, “blatant” + A KING, “Herod, maybe?”
 3 Lead off dance with solo song. That’s a bloomer (8)
WISTARIA — [-t]WIST + ARIA
 4 Trimmed final present, just the wrapping’s not right (5)
INAPT — [-f]INA[-l] + P[-resen]T… neat combo of opposite subtraction methods
 5 Like a veteran’s relations heading off to Mass (2-7)
EX-SERVICE — [-s]EX + SERVICE, “Mass”
 6 Punch a panto villain (4)
HOOK — DD
 7 One poking his nose in heard something fruity (6)
MEDLAR — “meddler”
 8 Seasonal messages addressed by posters (9,5)
CHRISTMAS CARDS — CD So obvious, you could miss it!
 9 Out to lunch and might miss evening service (8,4)
MIDNIGHT MASS — Seems rather late for lunch! (and might miss)*… and another very clever anagrind
10 Lover given layer of cake with more almonds (7)
NUTTIER — NUT, “Lover” + TIER, “layer of cake”… Other nuts are equally seasonal, so I find the omission of a question mark anomalous here. Having, or giving, fruitcake on Christmas is an international custom. Why?
11 Sort of Christian object Santa unwrapped (10)
PROTESTANT — PROTEST, “object” + [-S]ANT[-a]
15 A son fills orders and cleans roasting tins? (9)
DEGREASES — DEGRE(A)(S)ES
18 Many bits cooked maybe, eg turkey primarily (8)
MEGABYTE — (maybe eg t[-urkey])*
20 Suffering relative who gives advice periodically? (5,4)
AGONY AUNT — CD A sad reminder (no doubt unintended) of John Prine, whom we lost this year… yep, to Covid-19.
Dear Abby, dear Abby / My fountain pen leaks / My wife hollers at me and my kids are all freaks / Every side I get up on is the wrong side of bed / If it weren’t so expensive I’d wish I were dead / Signed, Unhappy
Unhappy, Unhappy / You have no complaint / You are what your are and you ain’t what you ain’t / So listen up buster, and listen up good / Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood
21 That’s the third person who’s not wanted fruit (10)
GOOSEBERRY — DD, the first being a reference to the expression “play gooseberry,” which The Phrase Finder says is “mostly limited to the UK and even there is somewhat archaic,” tracing it back as far as “the glossary of the English author Mary Palmer’s A Dialogue in the Devonshire Dialect, 1837.” “When ‘play gooseberry’ was coined…it referred to someone acting as a chaperone to a couple.… More recently the expression has come to refer to anyone who is present as a third party to a couple who would rather be alone”—in this latter sense, it is equivalent to the American “be the third wheel.” The chaperone “had to be present and within earshot of the romantic couple but had also to pretend to be otherwise occupied. If this scene was played out inside a home the pretext might be sewing or reading a book; if outside it might be picking flowers or fruit. ‘Playing gooseberry’ began as ‘playing gooseberry picker’.”
23 Feelings of tension as crackers start to snap (10)
SENSATIONS — (tension as)* + S[-nap]
27 Food and drink for one waiting at last (6,3)
SCOTCH EGG — SCOTCH, “drink” + EG or e.g., “for one” + [-waitin]G
28 A little Santa’s left leg? (8,6)
STOCKING FILLER — DD, one a typically jocular but atypically terse CD
31 Old king eating seconds inspired by the pureed this? (8)
CHESTNUT — CNUT ingesting [S(econds) inhaled by (the)*]… Which this clue is not, at least. It seems to desperately want to become, through some Christmas miracle, a full-fledged &lit, and I’ve underlined the whole thing to keep everyone happy. Apart from the wordplay—definition-wise—a leap of faith seems to be involved in connecting the answer with the mash consumed by this monarch (or is there some tradition that links them?); but the fact that this is a dish popular during the holidays provides the needed bridge, for this puzzle.
33 Take the lead and look good feeding the old a traditional dish (9,3)
STARGAZEY PIE — STAR, “Take the lead” + GAZE, “look” + Y(PI)E… and that’s Brit slang for “good,” short for “pious” and implying smugness and hypocrisy, inside an ancient definite article. (On checking my guess, I found that this isn’t the most common spelling, with the first E.) This was my LOI, having never heard of the… amazing Cornish confection. Honestly, the sight of fish heads sticking out of a flaky crust (as if staring at the celestial sparklies) does not cause my mouth to water (rather, my stomach to turn), mais à chacun son goût. There is a charming folkloric story about the 16th century origin of the delicacy in a town by the name of Mousehole, whose citizens were saved from starvation two days before Christmas when fisherman Tom Bawcock brought in a stupendous catch… But y’all surely know all about it!
34 You may hang this note outside broken toilets (9)
MISTLETOE — M (toilets)* E
37 Optimistic finally about red nose, it is put to work (4-6)
ROSE-TINTED — The Legend of Rudolph in a nutshell. ([-abou]t red nose it)* 
38 Reason to switch plan for ultimate rejoicing (10)
EXULTATION — “Reason” is “explanation”; swap “plan” there for “ult” and you’re ♪ on your way… ♪
41 Meals from a method that needs boxes (9)
TAKEAWAYS — TAKE(A)(WAY)S, &lit;
43 Suggests a Latin number to separate foxtrots? (8)
ADVANCES — A + D(V)ANCES
45 Gutless knight in panto sporting knitwear (4,3)
TANK TOP — (panto)* involving K[nigh]T A garment seen in my profile picture. (But I am not a cowardly chevalier in a holiday play.)
47 Concerning curved pipe, last blown for a biblical patriarch (6)
REUBEN — RE, “concerning” + U-BEN[-d]
50 Pure energy required to feed large family (5)
CLEAN — CL(E)AN
51 Christmas leaves one with struggles (5)
IVIES — I, “one” + VIES, “struggles” Decorating with holly and ivy was once held to ward off evil spirits.
52 Really long Christmas tree (4)
PINE — DD
New RCA
  • vinyl1

Mephisto 3148 - Take your shoes off, ladies!

I didn't find this terribly hard, and finished in one sitting on a Saturday night - yes, midnight in the UK is 7 PM in Connecticut.   I didn't understand one of the answers, but fortunately it was completely checked.    The next morning I looked again, and it was obvious, like so many of these puzzles.    There are some obscure words in the answers, but the cryptics are very helpful, as is usual with Don's puzzles.    There are also some nice starter clues.

I have been trying to encourage some of the 15 x 15 solvers to try Mephisto - it is not nearly as hard as the Club Monthly Special, which I have never cared for.   The large number of checking letters is really helpful, and enable you to analyze how the cryptic elements work - but you all know that.    Tonight, I am able to offer a full and correct parsing of all the clues, but I am little puzzled by one of the literals. 

Across
1 A French horse stuck in turf — as one unprepared? (6)
UNSHOD - UN + S(H)OD, a perfect starter clue.
5 Talk about having church coffee party (6)
KLATCH - TALK backwards + CH.   You don't expect to the clue to actually contain the word used in the wordplay - surpise!
9 Dad, say, in amble with aged Poppy’s family (12)
PAPAVERACEAE - PA + P(AVER)ACE + AE.   I admit, I just looked it up in Chambers.
10 Fish in the same place, given external supervision (6)
CARIBE - CAR(IB.)E, where ib. is ibidem, which means....in the same place!
13 Magical old sect group outside college (6)
OCCULT - O(C)CULT, another starter clue.
14 Old boy I call “deficient”, incidentally (6)
OBITER - OB + I + TER[m], as in obiter dictum.
15 Savvy, like student avoiding second drug (6)
ASTUTE - AS + TUTE[e], with our favorite drug.
16 Aid denied to oft-failed bats? (6)
LET-OFF - Anagram of OFT-FAILED minus AID - but where is the literal?   Is this an &lit?
18 Explorer back after troubled rest — it may give anxiety (8)
STRESSOR - Anagram of REST + ROSS backwards.
22 Settle in part of hospital, difficult separation with wife going (8)
ENTRENCH - ENT + [w]RENCH.
25 Match with time-wasting — not the position today (6)
FIXURE - FIX[t]URE.   Fixure is a word from Shakespeare. 
26 Like nerve perhaps being shown by artist friend (6)
RAMATE - RA + MATE.
28 Part of insect gives different insect trouble swinging round (6)
ANTLIA -  ANT + AIL backwards.
30 Aura round old tribe that is located in north Africa (6)
AGADIR -  A(GAD)IR, the tribe of Gad.   Agadir is a city in Morocco.
31 Fusses when soldiers come in at entrance (6)
ADOORS - ADO(OR)S, another easy one.
32 Sees nice BEd student finally excited with final certificate (12, two words)
BENE DECESSIT - Anagram of SEES NICE BED + [studen]T.   I definitely needed the crossers here.
33 Workers’ guilds not initially considered in business set-ups (6)
ARTELS - [c]ARTELS, a well-known chestnut in either direction.
34 At once old bird comes to cathedral city (6)
TITELY - TIT + ELY. 
Down
1 Superior firm in history to the north by the sea? (7)
UPCOAST - U + P(CO)AST.
2 Ship’s spar gets spray? Not unknown (5)
SPRIT - SPRIT[z].   I'll admit, I didnt' get this one for a long time after putting in the obvious answer.
3 Arab cloth of excellent quality plunged into dye (6)
HAIQUE - H(AI + Q)UE. 
4 Evil spirits parted right away after being summoned up (6)
DEEVES - SEVE[r]ED upside down.
5 African bird, last to ascent to highest point (4)
KROO - ROOK with the K moved to to the top.   I had all kinds of theories how the cryptic worked, but it turned out to be quite simple - nothing to do with K1 in the Himilayas
6 Summon expert to tackle urban areas half falling apart (6)
ACCITE - AC(CIT[ies]E. 
7 Foremost in the European Union with added weight — a German? (6)
TEUTON - T[he} EU + TON, a rather apt cryptic for the Brexit crowd.
8 Conservative baddy losing head — one generating lots of heat? (10)
CALEFACTOR - C + [m]ALEFACTOR.
11 Keeper of birds treasuring larks (10)
AUSTRINGER - Anagram of TREASURING.
12 Mongrel dog tribes let loose (6)
BITSER - Anagram of TRIBES. 
17 Trip went wrong out of Spain with a knight trapped (6)
ERRAND - ERR(-e,+A N)D, one that many will biff.
19 Bathe, yes? Tricky without a supplier of water (7)
BHEESTY - Anagram of B[a]THE YES. 
20 Old lover with blemish — not one carrying on? (6)
EXTANT - EX + TA(i)NT.
21 Monk could be secluded, not the first or last (6)
CULDEE - Anagram of [s]ECLUDE[d].
23 Having three spiny bits or one in region of the body (6)
TRIACT - TR(I)ACT,
24 What could make most be driven to extremity once (6)
EMBOST - Anagram of MOST BE.
27 A thing growing in the garden is stemmed (5)
AROSE - A + ROSE.   This gave me a lot of trouble because I was looking for a Latinate word meaning having many stems  - then I saw it. 
29 “Stars” would exclude one the equivalent of Mars (4)
ARES - AR[i]ES, not a tricky anagram as you might suspect.