January 14th, 2021

Linus van Pelt
  • z8b8d8k

27874 Thursday, 14 January 2021 Unimpeachable

I found this rather easy and whizzed through in 11.31 scarcely pausing for breath and (truthfully) making sure the wordplay worked. Unusually, there is no “hidden” answer, and no every-other-letter clue, and only two anagrams to entertain you. For the longer one, I freely admit I got the answer before checking all the ingredients were there: they are. I’d be interested to know if anyone worked it the other way round.
The Greek valley might raise a few eyebrows, but it’s been here before, and I was a bit uncertain of spelling needed for the South American country and the African city.
The editor/setter must be congratulated for slipping in 14d: I spent much of last evening watching events unfold (again) in the Capitol, in rather more orderly fashion.

Below is my discussion of the clues, showing definitions and SOLUTIONS

1 Family name of Swiss banker taken in by scam (8)
COGNOMEN Originally “the last of the three names of an ancient Roman indicating the house or family to which he belonged; a surname; an epithet or nickname.” So now you know: a familiar word now with a specific meaning. Formed here by CON for scam taking in a GNOME, conventionally of Zurich, and precisely a Swiss banker. So not a river, for once.
5 Lizard in S American region, one moving to prime position (6)
IGUANA The South American region is (French) GUIANA (hence the spelling) home to Devils Island. Move the 1 (I) to the front, the prime position.
10 Achieve prominent publicity making banners? (3,3,9)
HIT THE HEADLINES I sort of get this, since banners are newspaperspeak for HEADLINES, but I’m not entirely sure where the HIT THE comes from. Making? Perhaps it’s just a cryptic definition.
11 Illustrious celebrity entertaining the Spanish Left (7)
STELLAR The celebrity is a STAR, entertaining s in giving space to the (in) Spanish EL and L(eft)
12 Affair of big cat crossing road with last of cubs (7)
LIAISON As a choral singer, I can’t hear liaison without thinking it should have a kyrie in front, but here the big cat is a LION, the road it crosses is the A1 with the last (letter) of cubS providing the rest.
13 Confusion brought about by inspector’s instruction (8)
DISORDER The (Detective) Inspector’s instruction is the DI’S ORDER
15 Liberal leaving place of worship in wooded vale (5)
TEMPE A place I know only from this one, but it’s in Chambers as the valley of the Peneus in Thessaly, praised by the ancient poets for its unsurpassed beauty. It’s in heaps of poetry as a place of outstanding beauty. Here’s Catullus:
From Tempe’s vale next ancient Peneus came,
That fertile vale immortalized in fame!
Where Messos’ blue-eyed nymphs delight to rove,
Tempe o’erhung with many a circling grove!
To get your own economy sized Tempe, take the L(iberal) out of the TEMPLE place of worship.
18 Wizardry of fighting man in rainproof garment (5)
MAGIC Raincoat MAC (what else) and fighting man therein GI
20 Neatly trim thick hair covering current dog (8)
MANICURE My last in' fooled into thinking of haircuts. Thick hair is MANE and the current dog is I (symbol for electric current) and CUR
23 Taking notice of ambassador, say, limiting noise (7)
HEEDING Ambassadors to the court of crossword are HE (His/er Excellency) and say is EG, the two surrounding DIN for noise
25 Gibbon, for one, a senior cleric (7)
PRIMATE The well known identity of apes and bishops
26 Great hopes Berg cultivated about a stage work (3,7,5)
THE BEGGARS OPERA Our first anagram (cultivated), of GREAT HOPES BERG and A. It would have been brilliant if the music for the 20th century version (The Threepenny Opera) had been Alban Berg’s, but it was Kurt Weill’s.
27 Money you and I brought back for evergreen tree (6)
CASHEW Hands up if you knew the source of the yummy nuts was an evergreen. Money is CASH, and you and I backwards produce the EW
28 Cheek of learner leaving lucky creature outside hotel (8)
BACKCHAT Quite cute. The lucky creature is a BLACK CAT, take out the L(earner) and add elsewhere the H(otel)

1 Joint party-giver’s charge for keeping house (6)
COHOST Charge id COST and HOuse is kept therein. Chambers prefers it with a hyphen, as do I, otherwise it’s salmon with a T on the end.
2 Understanding crowd (9)
GATHERING A very simple double definition
3 Eponymous hero’s extremely offbeat greeting (7)
OTHELLO Is Othello a hero? Desdemona had cause to disagree if not for very long. Anyway, extremely OffbeaT plus HELLO for greeting gives the man and his play
4 Woman finally changes sides, finding compound (5)
ETHER Start with your random woman ETHEL and change her L(eft) to R(ight)
6 Good worker everyone held to be brave and chivalrous (7)
GALLANT G(ood) plus ALL for everyone and ANT for the “worker”, as so often.
7 Woman’s name concealed by mature son (5)
AGNES Should be followed by Dei (see 12 above). N(ame) is “concealed” by AGE for mature in verbal form, and tagged by S(on)
8 No-show sailors put on course right away (8)
ABSENTEE Sailors are ABS (Able Bodied) and the course from which you remove the R(ight) is ENTRÉE. I toyed with a D on the end, thinking “put on course” was ENTERED, but it doesn’t work.
9 Witch briefly keeping old Scottish pot for boiling (8)
CAULDRON The witch is a CRONE, cut short as indicated, and she “keeps” AULD for the Scottish version of old.
14 US politician eager to crush Yankee rabble-rousing (8)
DEMAGOGY The surface is undoubtedly today the redoubtable Nancy Pelosi successfully charting the House through Impeachment 2.0. The less exciting crossword version is DEM for American politician (other makes are available) eager: AGOG on top of (NATO) Y(ankee)
16 African city reached by libertine in thirty-one days (9)
MARRAKECH At least one other spelling available, trust the wordplay. MARCH is one exemplar of 31 days, and libertine supplies RAKE therein.
17 Forceful chap I met at sea (8)
EMPHATIC Only our second anagram (at sea), of CHAP I MET
19 Egyptian citizen displays anger, breaking stick (7)
CAIRENE Another slightly unlikely spelling, so again trust the wordplay, anger: IRE inside stick: CANE
21 Outstanding feature primarily of go-ahead Native American (7)
CHINOOK Outstanding feature (in most people) is CHIN. Promarily Of gives the first O, and go-ahead in the sense of giving it provides the OK.
22 Vehicle has got hired to go round old Mediterranean area (6)
LEVANT Formerly the eastern end of the Med. VAN the vehicle has LET the hired round it.
24 English archdeacon’s betting odds (5)
EVENS An archdeacon is styled VEN(erable). Put E(nglish) on the front.

Times Quick Cryptic No 1788 by Mara

A bit the trickier side of things, I found, and despite several clues that seemed familiar from crosswords past there were a couple of sticking points that left me a bit over two minutes over target. Of course, it's never going to be a particularly smooth solve when you have to write out the letters of an anagram like 11d before tutting to yourself - in my defence it's been a long time since I've seen such an exotic creature in real life. I liked the similarly-themed 6d and 12d best. Many thanks to Mara!

1 In action, organ proved successful (9)
DELIVERED - In DEED (action) goes LIVER (organ)
6 Lived with woodcutter from the east (3)
WAS - SAW (woodcutter) from the east = reverse. Useful to remember that to live/exist/etc. = to be, and it crops up quite a lot in its various forms (am/are/is/was/were): we had live = are in yesterday's 15x15, for example.
8 One involved in obvious case (7)
PATIENT - I (ONE) involved in PATENT (obvious)
9 Sombre accent (5)
GRAVE - Double definition, accent as in è
10 Boy in beret mob roughed up for coat (6,6)
BOMBER JACKET - JACK (boy) in an anagram (roughed up) of BERET MOB.
12 Focus on going after US money (6)
CENTRE - RE (on/about) going after CENT (US money)
13 Flier in marina distributed (6)
AIRMAN - anagram (distributed) of MARINA
16 Job found here, modest talent developed (3,9)
OLD TESTAMENT - anagram (developed) of MODEST TALENT
19 Certain leap (5)
BOUND - double definition
20 Roofing material poisonous thing? Stop! (7)
ASPHALT - ASP (poisonous thing) HALT (stop). I think it's fine in everyday English to call a snake poisonous rather than venomous.
22 Charge cut for informer (3)
RAT - RATe (charge) cut = dock the tail.
23 Be careful with drink — that's the thinking! (9)
RATIONALE - RATION (be careful with) ALE (drink)
1 Partake in exercise, fool! (4)
DOPE - to DO P.E. is to partake in exercise
2 Something disappointing, lower (3-4)
LET-DOWN - double definition
3 Leaders in very intense event compete (3)
VIE - "leaders" in Very Intense Event
4 Concerned with giddy period, come back (6)
RETURN - RE (concerned with) TURN (giddy period)
5 Maids got upset over male presumption (9)
DOGMATISM - anagram (upset) of MAIDS GOT going over M(ale)
6 Blow a fair share? (5)
WHACK - double definition
7 Put honey in traps set up to catch baby (7)
SWEETEN - NETS (traps) set up = reversed, to catch WEE (baby)
11 Enter bard, tipsy pub worker (9)
BARTENDER - anagram (tipsy) of ENTER BARD
12 Sock threads (7)
CLOBBER - very neat double definition: hit; kit.
14 Part of Vermont, an American state (7)
MONTANA - "part of" verMONT AN American
15 Geographer's helper on time, finally (2,4)
AT LAST - ATLAS (Geographer's helper) on T(ime)
17 Intimidate daughter, female relative (5)
DAUNT - D(aughter) AUNT (female relative)
18 A little hasty exposing swelling (4)
STYE - "a little" of haSTY Exposing
21 Person regularly paid worker (3)
PRO - P e R s O n "regularly"

Times 27,875: He Floats In The Air With X, Ys and Zs

I didn't find this a pushover, but more to the exotic vocabulary choices rather than anything especially devious about the cluing: the parsings below are largely straightforward. CASCARA went in early but I was rather surprised not to have to amend it before the end; LOI PIONEER even though I had the "ONE" in mind, my brain couldn't get past PHONEME. I especially liked the "early euro trouble" at 28ac and a special award to 23ac for escaping my full comprehension until after submission. A nice Friday puzzle, thumbs up to the setter responsible. And now, over to you in the comments!

1 Tree house in Italy needs a lot of care inside (7)
CASCARA - CASA needs CAR{e} inside. A North American buckthorn with laxative bark

5 Some backed cappuccino, some tea (5)
CUPPA - hidden reversed in {c}APPUC{cino}

9 Tea popular in several hotels? (5)
CHAIN - CHA IN [tea | popular]

10 See tsar perhaps cut by old upper-class — tough (9)
LABORIOUS - LA BORIS (Godunov?) "cut" by O U

11 Swell chaps replacing us in a month (7)

12 At sea, repeat securing unknown yachtsman’s harness (7)
TRAPEZE - (REPEAT*) "securing" Z

13 I go in and start, somehow (10)

15 Pasta shell abandoned by Russian wolfhound (4)
ORZO - {b}ORZO{i}

18 Puts on commercials on the radio (4)
ADDS - homophone of ADDS

20 Queen, regularly uneasy, thrilling as knights sought the Grail? (10)

23 American native with a soft-soled shoe (7)
CREEPER - CREE [American native] with PER [a]. Gonna bet I'm not the only person who submitted this assuming that a "creeper" was just some kind of American bird

24 Note brave men with hearts dropping in remote islands (7)

25 Terribly nice mass, one inspired by Jesus? (9)
MESSIANIC - (NICE MASS*) "inspiring" I. Or possibly just (NICE MASS I*)

26 Wood resin running short (5)

27 A divine cut in America is antelope (5)
ADDAX - A DD AX [a | divine | cut, in America]

28 Country set right after early euro trouble (7)

1 Seaweed in lettuce? That will cause a stink (4,3)

2 Plain type of hospital shoots up (8)

3 Issue of voting system abandoned by British (5)

4 Keenly targeting goal but I aim so badly (9)

5 Motor on old office machine used for meeting in town (6)
CARFAX - CAR on FAX. Easier for Old Oxonians who remember Carfax Cross from their college days

6 Developer surrounding unit with buttress (7)
PIONEER - PIER "surrounding" ONE

7 Way through area on Java? (5)

8 Nervous complaint: spies twitch it has introduced (8)
SCIATICA - CIA TIC, "introduced" into S.A. [it]

14 To the very end of August in Paris managed empty café (1,8)

16 Like a long journey? Yes, and so must get moving (8)

17 I have grub, regularly entering red channel (5,3)
RIVER BED - I'VE {g}R{u}B, "entering" RED

19 Directed to drop advert put on clothing (7)

21 Small iceberg, one getting bigger outside loch (7)
GROWLER - GROWER "outside" L

22 Serious offence outside public house by puzzler (6)
SPHINX - SIN outside P.H. + X [by]

23 Butterfly order with no northern distribution initially (5)

24 Cape songbird down by new university (5)
FICHU - FI{n}CH + U. This is a cape as in a lacy thing worn by women covering the neck and throat