How about if I say I found this slightly easier than my average, clocking in at 17.53? It does contain a few community pet peeves, with race and nation regarded as equivalents (though it does clue an appropriate word), the assumption that cockneys are not aspirational, a rather unusual word which may be new to some, and an item of priests’ attire that the laity get confused about and, of course, a couple of birds just to annoy limerick writers.
But there’s some decent clues in the thing, including a good scattering of anagrams, the one for the first clue being particularly useful for making sure you can spell it. No hidden today, no homophone (dodgy or otherwise) and no every other letter clue, just to prove it can be done.
I have italicised the clues, underlined the definitions, and BOLDLY CAPITALISED the solutions.
1 Groups at sea moving cargo ship alee (13)
ARCHIPELAGOES An anagram (moving) to start with, using CARGO SHIPS ALEE. Perhaps the slightly odd “alee” is a bit of a giveaway.
8 Short trip — female's eaten cheesy food (4)
TOFU Since it’s made from bean curd, I would say only the appearance is cheesy. Shorten your trip: TOUr, and make it eat F(emale).
9 Man's symbol is such rubbish — painter lacking skill primarily involved (10)
TRIPARTITE The technical term is a triskelion, dis – um – armingly defined by Chambers as “a figure consisting of three radiating curves or legs, as in the arms of the Isle of Man”. No matter, it’s got three parts, and the wordplay gives rubbish: TRIPE with painter: ARTIST minus S(kill) primarily involved, ie included.
10 Make slight adjustments to great piece of music (4-4)
FINE TUNE A great piece of music might be a fine tune. Please note the setter avoided the stray A that I’ve just put in. Credit where due.
11 Cast to include unusual material (poor stuff) (6)
SHODDY Cast is SHY, include ODD for unusual, for our answer. As well as being an adjective, shoddy is a noun for poor quality material or cloth.
13 Vulgarity of Eastender's jollity outside hotel (10)
EARTHINESS All Eastenders drop their haitches in popular myth, so their jollity, or HEARTINESS is unaspirated but includes H(otel)
16 Bad folk not half getting the bird (4)
RUFF I assume the bad people are RUFFIANS, so cut them down to half their size. The one we’re looking for to accommodate 21d is the (infamous ruff cockney) sandpiper
17 Wartime colonel no leader, ineffective (4)
LIMP Colonel Blimp first emerged in the inter war years in a David Lowe cartoon, but took on a life of his own as a reactionary establishment figure making often preposterous statements. Today’s (or is it already yesterday’s) Gammon characters are pretty much direct descendants. The Powell and Pressburger version, in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is a rather more sympathetic figure, embodying (un)common decency. All we need to do is the remove name’s leader, the B.
18 In a language accessible to a few — hence pride may be hurt (10)
ENCIPHERED The Colonel Blimp in me still thinks it looks better taking a Y, but since it’s an anagram (may be hurt) of HENCE PRIDE it can’t (and Chambers agrees)
20 Stage in development of some workers at home getting sign of approval (6)
INSTAR So “the form of an insect between moult and moult” or more precisely of an insect (such as an ant) larva. You may not know this, so rely on the wordplay, where at home gives IN and a sign of approval is a STAR (because tick doesn’t work).
22 University given commendation, put at a higher level (8)
UPRAISE U(niversity) and PRAISE for commendation
24 Had a pork-pie reluctantly? (3,4,3)
ATE ONE’S HAT A cryptic suggestion, pork pie being (as well as a CRS lie) a smallish hat. Reluctantly because a) you promised to do so if you were proved wrong and b) they usually taste horrible and are hard to chew.
26 Nibblers taking bit from the front of clerical garment (4)
MICE The bit you take from the AMICE - a strip of linen or a furry hood or a cloak or wrap (ask your local priest) – is the front A.
27 Fails to hold secret, separate, social occasions (6,7)
DINNER PARTIES This is constructed from fails: DIES, secret: INNER and separate PART. The first “holds” the other two. I spent time working that out because dinner and parties are also separate social occasions and I wanted the clue to make sense.
1 Revolutionary crowd, one interrupting a race, creating outrage (11)
ABOMINATION You should know by now that “revolutionary” means reversed. So your crowd is MOB/BOM, your one is I, and both “interrupt” A NATION. Nation and race are not the same thing, discuss. Unblimpishly, please.
2 Reason radioactive substance is boxed (5)
CAUSE Even I know that a radioactive substance might well be Uranium. Put its symbolic U in a box or CASE.
3 Meddling, confusing virtue with sin (9)
INTRUSIVE I like this as an anagram (confusing). It uses VIRTUE and SIN.
4 Onset of enmity has you, red-hot, turning up making wicked stare (4,3)
EVIL EYE So the onset of envy is E, you is/are YE, and red-hot produces LIVE, all of which gets “turned up”. Chambers lists burning and other hot things under live
5 One President or another turning crazy in a second (5)
ADAMS John was the 2nd and his son John Quincy the 6th POTUS. Turn (reverse) MAD for crazy in A and S(econd)
6 Contract somehow exposes our national church (9)
OUTSOURCE That sort of contract. Exposes gives OUTS, and the rest is OUR C(hurch of) E(ngland)
7 Rested part of the weekend (3)
12 Disagreements in terrible residence, very loud inside (11)
DIFFERENCES Surprisingly (it looks too long) an anagram (terrible) of RESIDENCE and FF for very loud (music).
14 I had to bypass hole in urban area in rain (3,2,4)
TIP IT DOWN A matryoshka. I (ha)D bypasses (goes round, I suppose) PIT for hole. both enclosed in TOWN for urban area.
15 Opera star being tricky — one creates divisions (9)
SEPARATOR Another anagram (being tricky) of OPERA STAR
19 Pay that is horrible — there's mutinous activity about that (5,2)
COUGH UP That is horrible translates to UGH, and COUP for mutinous activity is placed about it.
21 Hesitation about temptress as partner for 16? (5)
REEVE Mrs Ruff (see 16a). Hesitation, when it’s not um, is ER. Reverse (about) it, and add, EVE once again calumniated as a temptress. I cherish a commentry on Geneis which avers that Eve should have rebuffed the snake using "the sacred and imperishable words of Scripture". Pity the Gideons hadn't got round to palcing a copy in her bedside table.
23 Confession of one fancying men and women in poetic pieces (5)
IAMBI The Times gets a bit woke with the confession I AM BI from the person doubling their chances of a date on a Friday night. I will resist the temptation to write up the blog in iambic pentameters.
25 A bit of a creature with egg hatching out (3)
TAD Well, it had to be once the T and D were in place, and I used time wondering whether we had to find a way of removing “pole”. Instead, let the taddie reach its adult form as a TOAD and remove the egg shaped letter, exercise for the student to guess which one.