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Goodness me, this one gave me some problems and took me over an hour for the third consecutive day this week. Right at the outset I fell literally into a bear-trap (probably of my own making rather than one intended by the setter) and never really recovered because it put me on the wrong course for several other clues. Even when I sorted out the mess my confidence was shot to pieces. But for all that, once again this week we have a very fine puzzle. For anyone noticing that I am posting somewhat later than in recent weeks, no, I have not been struggling on this since midnight; I went to bed at a sensible hour and then got up very early.
1PARADIDDLE - A RAP (a popular music - rev) + DIDDLE (do). It's a sequence of strokes in drumming.
7BEAR - Double definition. 'Hack' = 'bear' as in to tolerate, manage or cope with something. Putting 'jade' (an alternative double definition) here as my first answer in the grid gave me endless problems q.v. 7dn. A veritable bear-trap!
9BROKEN IN - ROoK (bird half-heartedly) inside BENIN.
10COWARD - RAW (not cooked - rev) inside COD.
11SHOWER - Double definition. The one meaning 'worthless group' reminds me with joy of the wonderful Terry-Thomas as the Major in 'Private's Progress' (1956): "You're an absolute SHAAAR!".
13IDEALIST - Anagram of 'sailed' inside 'it'.
14FRONT OF HOUSE - In a theatre this is everything on the audience side of the curtain as opposed to 'backstage'.
17CRACKBRAINED - CRACK (go) + BRAIN (head) + ED (man on newspaper). 'Out to lunch' is slang for 'unbalanced' or 'stupid'.
20INVEIGLE - Anagram of 'living' and EasE.
21ARGOSY - lARGO (heading off slowly - in music) + SlowlY.
22MANTUA - MA (graduate - Master of Arts) + NT (books - New Testament) + U + A. It's a 17th century gown named from the city in Lombardy.
23NOTIONAL - 'National' (citizen) with one of its As (American capital) replaced by 0 (love - tennis).
25Double definition deliberately omitted.
26ENTICEMENT - twENTIes (two couples in mid twenties) + CEMENT (bonding).
2AYRSHIRE - IRe (endless anger) inside anagram of 'her say'. Last blog I had Angus cattle as the first Down answer; today it's a different breed.
3AUK - A+UK. Stumped me for ages! Finland, Norway, Sweden? What other countries are there in NW Europe?
5DONNISH - NNI (pub - rev) inside DOSH (money). Wasted ages trying to think if 'mash' might be slang for money.
6EXCHEQUER - Sounds like 'ex-checker'.
7BEWILDERING - WILDER (rather extravagant) inside BEING (creature). So having convinced myself that 7ac was 'jade' I had J?W?????ING here and came up with 'jawdropping' for 'stunning' which seemed perfectly reasonable, give or take a hyphen, until I tried to untangle the wordplay. Many a moment was lost here.
8I'm deliberately omitting this Down clue.
12WINDCHEATER - WIND (turn) + C (cold) + HEATER (radiator?).
15ORANGEADE - Anagram of 'an edge or a'.
16MESSIAEN - MESS (jam) + I hAvE + N (new). Olivier of that name, 1908-1992, was a French composer, organist and ornithologist. I'm glad the setter didn’t require us to know his third claim to fame.
19INMATE - IN (ruling,  'in power') + MATE (China plate - CRS).
21ARTIC - ARTICulate (say clearly stopped half way).
24OHM - H (Henry - unit of inductance) inside OM (high honour - Order of Merit).


Mar. 9th, 2012 10:53 am (UTC)
25 minutes, but after a couple of minutes agonising over whether to put in the slightly more likely-looking word (MANTUA) or follow the more standard wordplay (BANTUA) I plumped for the latter. Usually this is a good principle, but not today. Naturally I think this clue slightly unfair but I seem to be the only one to have fallen into this particualar 7ac-trap.
Tricky but high-quality puzzle this. Fortunately I vaguely remembered PARADIDDLE from a brief spell trying to learn the drums as a youngster. I stopped after a few months, much to the relief of my parents.
Mar. 9th, 2012 10:59 am (UTC)
But there isn't a city called Bantua that I'm aware of, and MA seems fine for 'graduate', especially since post-graduate (and not all MAs are) would be a bit of a giveaway. :D
Mar. 9th, 2012 11:08 am (UTC)
I don't disagree with any of that: as I say MANTUA looked much the more probable word and this is why I hesitated. Generally though I have found that favouring my sense of what looks like a proper word leads to mistakes.
Mar. 9th, 2012 02:19 pm (UTC)
This is where a familiarity with the oeuvre of Georgette Heyer comes in handy. The mantua-maker (I think it's a corruption of manteau) is always dunning milady whosit for not having got around to paying her dressmakers' bills. Greatly preferred this to yesterday's and cantered in at about 34 minutes.
Mar. 10th, 2012 07:25 am (UTC)
Snap! For some reason your post wasn't up when I replied or I wouldn't have replicated your comment. Aint it good to know that there's a few Heyer enthusiasts here? I friend of mine is going through a very stressful time and is rereading the entire oeuvre in chronological order to cheer herself up. Yesterday she was on "Pistols for Two" - one I would have missed but she's a completist!
Mar. 9th, 2012 06:42 pm (UTC)
Re: MANTUA. You should read Georgette Heyer. She's great on obscure historical garments. Also, I think I've come across "Mantua-maker" as a kind of ladies' dressmaker in ye olden days. Nice to have a few clues where we ladies have the advantage!