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I didn't find this particularly difficult, though my time wasn't blazing-Monday-fast either; but I'd certainly rate it on the gentle side, with all the definitions being entirely straightforward and most of the wordplay involving quite basic cryptic operations, a lot of putting X into Y to find Z. There was a hint of the old-fashioned about this too with the vehicular fly, and duffers getting laced, which made me think it might have been the work of an older setter? Perfectly acceptable fare of course, cheers setter!

FOI was 10ac, LOI 19d. My Clue of the Day was probably the comparatively elaborate 2dn, but for once I have an anti-COD, the slur that is the surface of 22ac. The only way I'm going to countenance "light blues good, dark blues bad!" in these parts is if it's just an Orwellian prelude to "light blues good, dark blues BETTER!" Despite, um, the two most recent boat race results...

ACROSS
1 First stronghold to protect an indefinite number after retreat (8)
FOREMOST - FORT [stronghold] to "protect" reversed SOME [indefinite number].

5 Something surgeon provides for pain (6)
STITCH - double def

10 Artefact of Catholic priest being held? (5)
RELIC - R.C. [Catholic], ELI [priest] being "held"

11 Bound to take chaps into extraterrestrial sort of escape (9)
ELOPEMENT - LOPE [bound] to take MEN [chaps], into E.T. [extraterrestrial]

12 The fellow is entertained by Greek following rationalist philosophy? (9)
ATHEISTIC - HE IS [the fellow | is] "entertained" by ATTIC [Greek]

13 Language of love used by wise man (5)
OSAGE - O [love] used by SAGE [wise man]

14 Stand where gateman has returned (7)
ETAGERE - hidden reversed in {wh}ERE GATE{man}

16 A top man, weak initially, is getting aroused (6)
WAKING - A KING [a | top man], W [weak] initially

18 Old soldiers being gathered came to the same conclusion (6)
AGREED - AGED [old], R.E. [soldiers] being "gathered"

20 Food Rosy brought around as a possible first course? (7)
CHOWDER - CHOW [food] + reversed RED [rosy]. Soup is a good first course

22 Oxford will always be beaten (5)
LACED - double def, Oxford as in a shoe. Outrageous surface

23 Glow of one about to engage in 11? (9)
FIRELIGHT - I RE [one | about] to "engage in" FLIGHT [11 = elopement]

25 Conservative head receiving a guy who lives on an island? (9)
CARIBBEAN - C BEAN [Conservative | head] "receiving" A RIB [a | guy]; guy as in "tease"

26 Part of America with no room for trendy goddess (5)
DIANA - {in}DIANA [part of America, with "no room for" trendy = IN]

27 One going quickly turning miserable, star losing love (6)
DASHER - reversed SAD [miserable] + HER{o} [star, "losing" love = O]

28 Diner travelling in carriage prepared to talk to fellow passengers? (8)
FRIENDLY - (DINER*) ["traveling"] in FLY [carriage]

DOWN
1 Confronts having to collect ash container — they may be very hot (8)
FURNACES - FACES [confronts], having to "collect" URN [ash container]

2 Man perhaps writing half of the letters (5)
RALPH - R [perhaps writing] + ALPH{abet} ["half of" the letters]. Reading, writing and arithmetic are the "three R's"

3 A line became hard to sort out, as only fit for computer input? (7-8)
MACHINE-READABLE - (A LINE BECAME HARD*) ["to sort out"]

4 Son — little couple’s beloved one (7)
SWEETIE - S WEE TIE [son | little | couple]

6 Mad golfer keen to wed — a temptation that should have been avoided? (4,2,9)
TREE OF KNOWLEDGE - (GOLFER KEEN TO WED*) ["mad"]

7 Parent upset over boy getting cut in the head (9)
TREPANNED - (PARENT*) ["upset"] over NED [boy]

8 Instruction to give girl corporal punishment here? (6)
HITHER - or else, HIT HER! [instruction to give girl corporal punishment]

9 Great big bully pursuing maiden in the capital (6)
MOSCOW - OS COW [great big | bully] pursuing M [maiden]

15 Cigars given out with ale and port (9)
ALGECIRAS - (CIGARS + ALE*) ["given out"]

17 Dry area sinking into sea somewhere across the Channel (8)
BRITTANY - TT A [dry | area] "sinking into" BRINY [sea]

19 Minimal length after incompetent person cut cloth (6)
DUFFEL - L ["minimal" length] after DUFFE{r} [incompetent person "cut"]

20 Investigator given a ring in awkward situation (7)
CORONER - O [a ring] in CORNER [awkward situation]

21 Not half thin, like many a birthday cake cut up (6)
SLICED - SL{im} ["not half" thin] + ICED [like many a birthday cake]

24 Delighted to take in Jehan’s last for organ (5)
GLAND - GLAD [delighted] to "take in" {jeha}N. Just discovered that Jehan Alain was a French composer and organist, which does help appreciate this clue

Comments

( 54 comments — Leave a comment )
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tringmardo
Apr. 26th, 2019 09:56 am (UTC)
I found this extremely difficult and anyway got the vowels wrong in 15d; never heard of the port. I also was convinced 'moonlight' was correct so got held up for ages with Duffel and Coroner. Also I am not understanding Waking. Is w an abbreviation for 'weak'? If so it is a new one on me. Otherwise it would have to be 'weak initially initially' or somesuch!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 27th, 2019 08:14 pm (UTC)
lucidity
Having two parts of a clue overlap is an acceptable device occasionally used. That would justify the double effect of "initially".

I thought Oxford would always be LUCID. How many centuries since "laced" meant "beaten"? I guessed maybe there was Oxford Lace and D (deceased) was "beaten" rather than only D a draw.

Considered ATONEMENT for 11ac - "a sort of escape" from past misdemeanors? And maybe A TON is not earth-bound?

from Jeepyjay
philjordan
Apr. 26th, 2019 10:29 am (UTC)
I was convinced the happy couple....
....conducted their ELOPEMENT to the CARIBBEAN by moonlight, and as I couldn't find a pencil this morning the grid was wrongly entered in ink. I'd already screwed up by trying to enter OSAGE in the wrong light so it was messy and slow (just over 17 minutes, but a DNF).

That doesn't in any way excuse my incorrect biff of "wakens" - I'd come here for enlightenment from Verlaine as to why Ken's a top man. I'm grateful to him for parsing SLICED though.

As a confirmed atheist, I think I'm perfectly rational.

I had the same FOI/LOI as Verlaine, but, much as I appreciated RALPH, my COD has to be laced, not least since Oxford colleges have lost five of the last six finals of "University Challenge", which is a far more pertinent yardstick than a rowing contest.

I, of course, never went to university at all.
sotira
Apr. 26th, 2019 10:43 am (UTC)
26:00 … very enjoyable, even though it took me about 10 minutes to spot the hidden ETAGERE. I’m sure I must have seen one but was no doubt happy to call it a shelf thingy.

I also took ages trying to decide how to spell ALGECIRAS, despite having spent a couple of days there.

Probably not my best solving day.

Cheers, all
john_dun
Apr. 26th, 2019 11:07 am (UTC)
I was stymied for ages by the SW corner, also missing ETAGERE right until the end, even though I'd looked for a hidden early on. ALGECIRAS came in a sudden inspiration and the spelling seemed to come naturally. I was another MOONLIGHT flit until the CORONER came to my rescue. That helped with DUFFEL. I used to have a duffel coat as a lad. I didn't notice the WAKING deficiency. FRIENDLY took a while too. An enjoyable puzzle on the whole, but it took me 44:55 to solve it. Spotted the parsing of FIRELIGHT just after submitting. Thanks setter and V.
phmfantom
Apr. 26th, 2019 11:10 am (UTC)
40 minutes, but like Phil had 16ac wrong - thought of anagram of WEAK + NS somehow, and than didn't return to clue, as was alread well past my half-hour target. Grinned at 22ac, but shook head at 'only' in 2dn - it is possible to read such a font by eye.
oliviarhinebeck
Apr. 26th, 2019 11:17 am (UTC)
Ralph
I spent quite some time trying to fathom this at the end and gave up so thanks for the parse V. I'd have had all kinds of trouble spelling ALGECIRAS but for a vague recollection from the history of the Peninsular war. Didn't know the composer (an early and conspicuously brave casualty of WWII I now see from Wikipedia). The Jehan I remember is from Jack and the Beanstalk where Jack steals the harp which cries out to "Jehan" for help thus WAKING the giant. 21.19
mauefw
Apr. 26th, 2019 11:40 am (UTC)
11m 34s... but it doesn't count because I took a stab at ALGECARIS. Never heard of the place.
tringmardo
Apr. 26th, 2019 11:45 am (UTC)
I would be very grateful if someone could explain why 'w' is an abbreviation for 'weak' (see my comment above). I can find no justification for this. Am I missing something?
keriothe
Apr. 26th, 2019 11:54 am (UTC)
See my comment above. It’s In Chambers.
(no subject) - crypticsue - Apr. 26th, 2019 11:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - keriothe - Apr. 26th, 2019 11:59 am (UTC) - Expand
I am turning japanese - sawbill - Apr. 26th, 2019 12:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I am turning japanese - keriothe - Apr. 26th, 2019 12:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
sawbill
Apr. 26th, 2019 12:18 pm (UTC)
Don't blame it on the good Times .....
In a rush today and the moonlight provided deceptive illumination.
Thanks all.
johninterred
Apr. 26th, 2019 12:55 pm (UTC)
33:25. A rather slow but steady solve with OSAGE, ETAGERE and ALGERICAS all unknown and a MER at ATHEISTIC. I liked lots of the clues, including RALPH, SWEETIE, DUFFEL and FIRELIGHT, but as a Fenland Polytechnic man LACED has to be my COD. Thanks V and setter.

Edited at 2019-04-26 12:56 pm (UTC)
bletchleyreject
Apr. 26th, 2019 01:24 pm (UTC)
Very slow, in a shade under a hour a half in front of the telly (football, then Michael Portillo in Spain - he went to Barcelona and Valencia but not ALGECIRAS) wth all eventually in correctly.

I parsed 25a slightly differently with 'island?' as def = C [Conservative head] receiving A RIB [a guy] + BE [who lives] on AN [an]. I agree though that 'Conservative head' rather than just 'Conservative' for C is unusual so I think this parsing doesn't quite work.

I liked the simple 'here' def for 8d.

Thanks to setter and blogger
verlaine
Apr. 26th, 2019 05:40 pm (UTC)
It was pleasing that it had a question mark, though, to assuage the pedants who might say that "here" and "hither" should be more distinct than they often are in modern practice...
penfold_61
Apr. 26th, 2019 03:54 pm (UTC)
I never got into any kind or rhythm here and eventually flopped over the line in 20:25.

I've been to Southern Spain often enough to know Algeciras but was left wondering if OMAGE or OSAGE was the language they probably don't speak there.

Nothing else to add other than that I didn't even notice that W for weak might be a bone of contention.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 26th, 2019 04:39 pm (UTC)
MERci beaucoup
I'm OK with biffing, COD, FOI and LOI, but can someone explain MER please ? Is there a glossary somewhere for new or occasional visitors to the site ?

Jim R
z8b8d8k
Apr. 26th, 2019 05:34 pm (UTC)
Re: MERci beaucoup
MER stands for Minor Eyebrow Raise, indicating that the clue looks or feels a bit suspect.
Re: MERci beaucoup - verlaine - Apr. 26th, 2019 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: MERci beaucoup - john_dun - Apr. 26th, 2019 06:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: MERci beaucoup - (Anonymous) - Apr. 26th, 2019 06:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
kevin_from_ny
Apr. 26th, 2019 06:02 pm (UTC)
I went through this very quickly, but I didn't time it. I really never time myself anymore. I had all the needed GK, including ALGECIRAS, from historical accounts of the 1905(?) conference that took place there. And as a result I even know where it is, assuming it's still in the same place. Regards.
john_dun
Apr. 26th, 2019 06:06 pm (UTC)
I suppose it depends on how far the tectonic plates have shifted!
eniamretrauq
Apr. 26th, 2019 09:56 pm (UTC)
Having completed the LHS fairly rapidly, I seized up on the RHS with over an hour gone, and then had to go out. Interestingly I just came in at 10pm and completed the whole RHS in 10 mins. My subconscious must have been working on it all the while.
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