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I wish I could say I "was brilliant" as per 9ac, but this one outlasted lunchtime for me, so a little harder than some I’d say.

For discussion purposes, the clue of the day will surely be 18dn. Has anyone seen this device before?  Otherwise a nice solve, although the long clues at 1ac and 1dn held me up. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, then wordplay. (ABC*) means 'anagram of ABC'. Deletions are in [square brackets].

1 Fair idea, say, settled heretical one (14)
EGALITARIANISM: EG (say) / ALIT (landed) / ARIANISM (a heretical sect, familiar in this crossword club if rare elsewhere).

9 Was brilliant in golf, then made a mess (9)

10 Community leader to go on endlessly (5)
RABBI: RABBIT endlessly.

11 Almost left magical place, back in wild (5)
GONZO: GON[e] (left, almost) / OZ backwards. I can’t imagine I would have much sympathy for Gonzo Journalism.

12 Fancy coral and gold adornment for the cloth (3,6)
DOG COLLAR: anagram (“fancy”) of (CORAL GOLD*).

13 Handle British money on tick (8)
MONICKER: MO (tick) / NICKER (British money: a nicker is a pound).

15 Quality of vessel with stone from the east (6)
TIPTOP: POT PIT all backwards (“from the east”).

17 Extra swell? Quite! (2-4)
NO-BALL: NOB (swell) / ALL (quite, as in “quite finished”). I didn’t realise this was today’s cricketing clue until the helpers showed the answer!

19 True love overwhelms singular stage hero (8)
PROSPERO: PROPER (true) / O (love), all “overwhelming” S (singular).The hero of The Tempest.

22 Drinks and drugs experience going both ways (5,4)
ROUND TRIP: ROUND (drinks) / TRIP (drugs experience).

23 Listen to the French horn (5)
BUGLE: BUG (listen to, usually secretly) / LE (“the” in French).

24 Mind introducing new terms (5)
NOUNS: N (new) in NOUS. “Nous” sounds more like “common sense” to me, but Shorter Oxford specifically includes “mind” as a definition.

25 Prying about the setter's conspicuous quality (9)
NOISINESS: I (the setter) in NOSINESS.

26 Supply moving elfin girl is present (8,6)
STOCKING FILLER: STOCK (supply) / anagram (“moving”) of (ELFIN GIRL*).

1 Sign union's promised to hire staff somewhere in Herts (10,4)
ENGAGEMENT RING: ENGAGE MEN (hire staff) / TRING (somewhere in Herts). I should have got this sooner, with or without knowing there was such a town as TRING.

2 Rising star drinking mixed gin in European city (7)
AVIGNON: anagram (“mixed”) of (GIN*) in NOVA backwards (“rising”).

3 Keen on catching Mahler's last prelude (5)
INTRO: INTO (keen on) “catching” R, the last letter of [mahle]R.

4 Short notice to include game (8)

5 Like ring topped with cool colour (6)
INDIGO: IN (cool) / DIG (like) / O (ring). Assembled as instructed.

6 Drugs business jerks earlier sped up (9)
NARCOTICS: NAR (RAN is sped, “up”) / CO (business) / TICS (jerks). Again, assembled as directed.

7 Replacement programme drops current story (7)
SUBPLOT: SUB (replacement) / P[i]LOT (programme, dropping “I” for current).

8 Cook comes with crisp or golden chip (14)
MICROPROCESSOR: anagram (“cooks”) (COMES CRISP OR*) / OR (golden).

14 Copper on drug affair turned up dead ends (4-2-3)
CULS-DE-SAC: CU (copper) / LSD (drug) / ESAC =CASE (affair) “turned up”.

16 Saturated fat (8)
DRIPPING: double definition.

18 Fit to include half of rulers’ praise (7)
BOUQUET: BOUT (fit) holding half of QUE[ens’]. Unusual to see part of the wordplay involving a double transformation: first change “rulers” to QUEENS, then cut it in half. Is this kosher?

20 For one leader of gang, place for punishment that could become life? (3,4)
EGG CELL: EG (say) / G[ang] (the “leader”) / CELL (place for punishment). I got hung up thinking the second word would be HELL.

21 State of book, one containing old letter (6)
BRUNEI: B (book) / RUNE (old letter) / I (one).

23 Coming round, I love British or Russian food (5)
BLINI: I / NIL (love) / B (British), all “coming round” (backwards).


( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 9th, 2019 12:18 am (UTC)
Drat! Misinterpreted 1a and had EGALITARIANIST. 50:22 WOE. I share your doubts about 18d. It was my LOI and I only got there through crossers and then reverse engineered it. Was a bit unsure about NOUNS, but followed the wordplay. Rest of the puzzle was tricky but fair. Thanks setter and Bruce.
Feb. 9th, 2019 12:35 am (UTC)
Re: "Vocal changes"?
I remember now (having completely forgotten until you mentioned it) that I agonised over 1ac. 'Heretical one' suggests ARIANIST (an Arian person), and you have to connect the phrase 'heretical one' with the beginning of the clue (so it becomes 'heretical idea') for ARIANISM to work. But 'fair idea' had to be the definition, or else the word 'idea' wasn't doing anything, so in the end I settled on ISM. It's a nasty trap though!

Edited at 2019-02-09 12:37 am (UTC)
Re: "Vocal changes"? - john_dun - Feb. 9th, 2019 12:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: - keriothe - Feb. 9th, 2019 01:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - john_dun - Feb. 9th, 2019 06:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 9th, 2019 12:27 am (UTC)
18:28. I'm not sure the device at 18dn is particularly unusual. Indirect anagrams are a no-no in Times puzzles, but this sort of double transformation is fairly standard I think. From a pragmatic point of view (and deciding whether these things are 'fair' or not should I think always be governed by pragmatism) 'queen' is at worst the second word you're going to think of when 'ruler' is indicated, so it seems fair.
I have been trained by these things to know that Arians are heretics. It's hopelessly obscure really, isn't it? You end up accepting this stuff as 'crossword knowledge' but if I were King of Crosswords I think I would ban it. SA for it is first on the ban list though.
I am very familiar with the term GONZO journalism, and associate it strongly with Hunter S Thomson, but those two statements exhaust my knowledge. Perhaps I should read Fear and Loathing. Or perhaps I shouldn't. Advice welcome.
It's worth making BLINIs yourself. It's very easy.
Feb. 9th, 2019 01:55 am (UTC)
...Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. See next comment.
Feb. 9th, 2019 01:53 am (UTC)
Fear and Loathing
Would definitely recommend Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 as a brilliant introduction to US politics, back in more innocent, democratic times. (Is this the first time in history 'innocent' and 'democratic' have been used to describe Richard Nixon?) But I guess it depends on your sense of humour and whether you enjoy a particular style of writing.
Found the puzzle very hard, 40 minutes, no quibble about 18 down. COD was 1dn for me: saw it and thought it was going to be a tiny town in England somewhere, but it turned out to be a straightforward double-bluff.
Feb. 9th, 2019 02:15 am (UTC)
I went offline after about 25', and I suppose I finished over lunch and submitted off leaderboard, so I must have taken quite a while; I don't remember why. Like Keriothe, I was reminded by John that I spent some time dithering over T vs. M at 1ac, and like him was convinced by 'idea'. I used to know something about Arianism, probably the most important 'heresy' in Christian history: the idea that Christ is not a co-equal member of a trinity (you might wonder what less important heresies there might be; you might indeed). Milton and Newton were evidently Arians.
Never read any Thomson, never will; all I know about him is the GONZO tag, and that he's the model for Duke in 'Doonesbury'.
Is a dog collar adornment?
Feb. 9th, 2019 02:39 am (UTC)
Re your last sentence, Kevin, I wouldn't say it is.
Feb. 9th, 2019 02:41 am (UTC)
61m 57s
Thank you, Bruce for PROSPERO and NO BALL. They were the two clues I had question marks over from last week. Ticks for MONICKER, ENGAGEMENT RING, MICROPROCESSOR and BOUQUET with COD to ENGAGEMENT RING. 18d, for some reason, didn't hold me up.
Feb. 9th, 2019 05:27 am (UTC)
Another caught out by 1ac here and a bit surpised to find that ARIANIST is not listed in any of the usual sources, but on reflection, what would the word "Arianist" convey that's not already covered by "Arian"?
Feb. 9th, 2019 06:01 am (UTC)
Indeed; or 'Tractarian', 'establishmentarian', 'latitudinarian', ... But would that stop a setter?
Feb. 9th, 2019 07:17 am (UTC)
The Alexandria Triplet
I found this hard, taking 70 minutes over it. LOI. was BLINI. COD to NO-BALL. The crossers gave me GONZO, but it's not a word I've ever used, except for the Muppet. I did know but had forgotten about the journalism but thought ithe word may be in use in North America to mean 'crazy'. I've always felt that ARIUS, like Origen earlier, was unfairly anathematised. His views were commonly held both in Antioch and Alexandria. Athanasius was too dogmatic on a topic where the questions are best not asked. He got his MONICKER on the creed though. That's me excommunicated too! A tough but fair challenge. Thank you B and setter.
Feb. 9th, 2019 07:47 am (UTC)
Re: The Alexandria Triplet
Arius made one serious error in his battle with Athanasius; he died first.
Feb. 9th, 2019 07:53 am (UTC)
Blankety Blank
A blanket of blanks for me with this puzzle. Very hard I thought.
Possibly I was lacking in inspiration after a trip to watch Blackheath play rugby. At what point does beer hinder the solving process?
As I've little to say about the puzzle,I'll leave you with some interesting facts about Blackheath, a club so old it predated the formation of the original associations:
Blackheath Football Club is a rugby union club based in Well Hall, Eltham in south-east London.

The club was founded in 1858 and is the oldest open rugby club in the world since becoming open in 1862. "Open" in this context means that membership was open to anyone, not merely those attending, or old boys from, a particular institution (e.g. a school, university or hospital). It is also the third-oldest rugby club in continuous existence in the world, after Dublin University Football Club and Edinburgh Academical Football Club.[citation needed] The Blackheath club also helped organise the world's first rugby international (between England and Scotland in Edinburgh on 27 March 1871) and hosted the first international between England and Wales ten years later – the players meeting and getting changed at the Princess of Wales public house. Blackheath, along with Civil Service F.C., is one of the two clubs that can claim to be a founder member of both The Football Association and the Rugby Football Union.
Feb. 9th, 2019 08:20 am (UTC)
RE: Blankety Blank
I find that one pint of beer actually speeds up my solving process, and two pints are no hindrance. The third one is the problem (and four is my limit !)
Re: Blankety Blank - jerrywh - Feb. 9th, 2019 11:24 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Blankety Blank - davidivad1 - Feb. 9th, 2019 12:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Blankety Blank - jerrywh - Feb. 9th, 2019 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Blankety Blank - davidivad1 - Feb. 9th, 2019 04:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Blankety Blank - john_dun - Feb. 9th, 2019 05:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Blankety Blank - paulmcl - Feb. 10th, 2019 06:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 9th, 2019 08:25 am (UTC)
I have "LIKE TREACLE" scrawled on my sheet, so I'm grateful that others are calling this one hard! An hour and 57. I can see on my sheet the faint "T" at the end of 1a heavily over-scored with a correcting "M", so anyone who jumped the wrong way has my sympathy.

In the end, though, barely a question mark adorns my margins, so I must've found it all pretty fair. I think 23d BLINI was my last one in—for some reason I always think they're Italian, plus I'd carelessly written in NOISYNESS at 25a, and had to get as far as writing BLYNI down before I clocked what I'd done. Oops.
Feb. 9th, 2019 08:37 am (UTC)
There's a hole in my....
....BOUQUET. There was a hole in the grid until the very last moments, but I felt the clueing device was perfectly OK.

Slow to get going, but then ploughed through steadily. Never considered Arianist fortunately, so wasn't tied in knots at 1A.

I didn't much care for "mind = nous" though, regardless of the dictionary. Far too loose for my liking.

TIME 14:44
Feb. 9th, 2019 09:47 am (UTC)
30:07. So it wasn't just me who found this trickier than usual, then. I have "Lots of chewy ones!" written on my copy. INDIGO, MONICKER, NO BALL and BOUQUET are all flagged as being a bit devious. I too puzzled over IST or ISM for 1A, but the "idea" led me to the right answer. I liked DRIPPING but COD to ENGAGEMENT RING. Thanks Bruce and Setter.
Feb. 9th, 2019 11:06 am (UTC)
29:23 but with one wrong. TINTIP for TIPTOP. I knew it was wrong but with the 30 minute mark approaching and serious doubts over Bouquet and Prospero I bunged it in.

Feb. 9th, 2019 11:31 am (UTC)
1ac is a bit iffy I thought. I settled for ism mainly because it is in Collins but ist .. isn't. Having read the comments above, I suppose it is OK

My criteria for a clue are very straightforward: is it solvable, and is it fair? Can't see a problem with 18dn on either head, though the surface is a tad unconvincing. I try never to rely on "unwritten rules," if only because they vary between crosswords anyway.
Feb. 9th, 2019 12:46 pm (UTC)
I wasted time on 18d trying to get RUL into the solution somehow; but that was my problem, not the setter's. So it was perfectly fair in my opinion (and solvable). But your criterion of fairness--my criterion, too, for that matter-- isn't particularly straightforward, after all. One solver's GK is another's esoterica, etc.
If I recall correctly 19ac is your favorite Shakespeare hero.
(no subject) - jerrywh - Feb. 9th, 2019 03:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 9th, 2019 12:19 pm (UTC)
If I can solve it and parse it it's perfectly fair to me. I must have had some difficulty with this though because I see I took nearly half an hour over it. BOUQUET coincided with last weekend's very grudging Times obituary for the actor Clive Swift. He was the put-upon Richard Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances whose wife Hyacinth insisted on pronouncing the name "bouquet". The obit neglected to mention his role in the Barchester series among other omissions and the fuller version that ran later in the week was not much better.
Feb. 9th, 2019 02:09 pm (UTC)
I found this very tough but a fat fingered subpllt instead of subplot meant my 1hr and 24 mins of struggle was in vain anyway. Nouns and monicker were particularly troublesome.
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