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Times 27,281: More Than Parts Of Which Are Excellent [Feb. 21st, 2019|05:05 pm]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
The kind of puzzle that makes setting look effortlessly easy when of course know it's very hard indeed; pretty much every clue here combines perfect marriages of wordplay and surface with a magician's talent for misdirection, and it's even a pangram too. The best Friday crossword in ages for my money, bravo to the setter! FOI 11ac, LOI the cunning 4dn, as I finally realised I wasn't
needing to justify RISES = "picks up"; I scraped in just under the 10 minutes bar, but it was a close run thing.

Clue of the day, and runner up COD, to 7dn and 15dn; both only fully parsed after submission, but both amazing. But 7dn pips the brilliantly maintained surface of the park keeper thanks to its beautiful "Duke of Wellington". Beginner cluers might assume that you can have a random "of" floating about "to improve the surface" but of course you really can't, and the moment of noticing that it provides the S after "BOOT" was pure cruciverbal joy. And then "fair" fits perfectly with the queen and "porter" so well with the Duke of W. Just a perfect clue really, in a really stonking puzzle. Up with this kind of this thing!

1 Time to put up and shut up, almost (7,2)
QUARTER TO - QUARTER [to put up] + TO [shut up, almost]. "To" as in "he pulled the door to".

6 Brief to raise over a drink (5)
COCOA - COC{k} ["brief" to raise] + O A [over | a]

9 Refurbished front of tourist base in resort (7)
ANTIBES - (T{ourist} BASE IN*) ["refurbished"]

10 Very little right to be said about sisters (7)
SORORAL - SO [very] + R ["little" right] + ORAL [to be said]

11 Retriever after day’s lost more ground? (5)
FINER - FIN{d}ER [retriever, after D for day is "lost"]

13 Sophisticated weapon to burn and fail disastrously (5,4)
SMART BOMB - SMART [to burn] + BOMB [fail disastrously]

14 Daughter has one final letter — the long version — made shorter (9)
DOWNSIZED - D OWNS I ZED [daughter | has | one | final letter - the long version]. As opposed to just Z, the short version.

16 Underground river no longer flows from the mouth (4)
STYX - homophone ("from the mouth"_ of STICKS [no longer flows]

18 Not exactly cut out for work with canines (4)
CHEW - C HEW [not exactly | cut out]. Canines as in teeth, not dogs.

19 Unusual map is only for those seeking gold? (9)
OLYMPIANS - (MAP IS ONLY*) ["unusual"]. Gold as in medals, here.

22 Surrounding some bridge, modest collection of plants (9)
SHRUBBERY - surrounding RUBBER [some bridge], SHY [modest]. Bridge the card game.

24 Jump, but don’t bounce? (5)
CLEAR - double def. Clear as in "get over"; don't bounce like a cheque doesn't.

25 Exercise before small drink (5-2)
PRESS-UP - PRE S SUP [before | small | drink]

26 Get down a word in French, the first word penned (7)
UNMOUNT - UN MOT [a word, in French], "penning" UN [the first word (of the previous)]

28 SE Asian hotel talked of providing commercial extra (3-2)
TIE-IN - homophone ("talked of") of THAI INN [SE Asian | hotel]

29 Chestnut kid keeps in grand Indian dish (5,4)
ROGAN JOSH - ROAN JOSH [chestnut | kid] "keeps in" G [grand]

1 Yard arresting very loud English drunk (7)
QUAFFED - QUAD [yard] "arresting" FF E [very loud | English]

2 Top class training makes us fit (3)
APT - A P.T. [top class | training]

3 TV set, advanced, with knobs (8)
TUBEROSE - TUBE ROSE [TV set | advanced]

4 Picks up brown coat leader of hospital body’s dropped (5)
RUSTS - {t}RUSTS [hospital body's, with its leading letter "dropped"]

5 Regularly taking position, boy’s outside ready (2,5-2)
ON STAND-BY - ON [regularly taking] + STAND [position] + B{o}Y. "On" as in "on medication".

6 Rotten egg scoffed? His wasn’t all bad (6)
CURATE - CUR ATE [rotten egg | scoffed], semi-&lit. Referring to the proverbial curate's egg.

7 Fair queen possibly shunning Duke of Wellington and porter (3,4,4)
CAR BOOT SALE - CAR{d} [queen possibly, "shunning" D for Duke] + BOOT'S [of Wellington] + ALE [porter]

8 One on train fell after receiving large punch (4,3)
AXLE BOX - AXE [fell] after "receiving" L [large], + BOX [punch]

12 Spoils were even, say, this time (3,5,3)
NEW YEAR'S EVE - (WERE EVEN SAY*) ["spoils..."]

15 Raising tip of your sword, strike down Australian park attendant? (9)
ZOOKEEPER - reverse all of: {you}R + EPEE [sword] + K.O. [strike down] + OZ [Australian]

17 Astronaut on reflection best among the stars (8)
SPACEMAN - reverse all of: CAP [best] among NAMES [the stars]

18 What’s replaced septic tanks, finally? (7)
CESSPIT - (SEPTIC {tank}S*) ["replaced"], &lit

20 Tax period (7)
STRETCH - double def

21 Fight organisers with issue the cause of weak interaction? (1,5)
W BOSON - WBO [fight organisers] + SON [issue]. Fortunately basketball player Zach Randolph, aka Z-BO, seems to be both a peaceable sort and singular rather than plural, or else this clue might have proven to have two possible answers!

23 Guy on ornate litter? (5)
YOUNG - (GUY ON*) ["ornate"]

27 Something mysterious appearing periodically in outflow (3)
UFO - {o}U{t}F{l}O{w}
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Times 27,251: 28ac was a write-in! [Jan. 17th, 2019|11:06 pm]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
An agreeable middle-of-the-road solve, with a few odd elements that resulted in Minor Eyebrow Raise, but mostly entirely enjoyable. 28ac would have been a rather cryptically labour-intensive clue were it not for the fact that you can write it in from the first half, especially if you happen to be in Berkeley at the time. (Was anyone among our readership solving in or near Morecambe today?) See also 15ac, an interesting surface somewhat marred by the fact that if you don't biff PLUTOCRAT from a 9 letter clue beginning "Cartoon dog..." you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

A couple of fairly familiar seeming clue structures (13ac, 26ac, 9dn...) were more than balanced by some much more interesting constructions (14ac, 16ac, 2dn...). COD from me to 12ac because it's a really good word that reminds me somewhat queasily of my college days, nicely cryptically put together. Thanks to the setter for some decent Friday fare. What did the rest of you like or not like? Talk amongst yourselves until we 28-accers finally wake up tomorrow...

1 Insults and criticism for cosmetic (8)
LIPSTICK - LIP [insults] and STICK [criticism]

5 House ending in riot after radical likely to win (3-3)
RED-HOT - HO [house] + {rio}T after RED [radical]

10 Cattle displaying little imagination? (5)
STOCK - double def

11 Additional people arrived to welcome British comedian (9)
MORECAMBE - MORE CAME [additional people | arrived] "to welcome" B [British]

12 Implied backsliding in plan to leave town (9)
RUSTICATE - reversed TACIT [implied] in RUSE [plan]

13 Influence seeing dismissal of foremost performer (5)
ACTOR - {f}ACTOR [influence, "dismissing" its first letter]

14 Sounding nice and posh: no hype, sadly (7)
EUPHONY - (U [=posh] NO HYPE*) ["sadly"]

16 The French taking over from Victor in leading obscure group (6)
LEAGUE - {v->LE}AGUE [obscure, LE "taking over from" V]

18 Set membership fee after rebuffing disagreement (4-2)
BUST-UP - reversed PUT SUB [set | membership fee]

20 Waste surrounding hospital — to what end? (7)
WHITHER - WITHER [waste] surrounding H [hospital]

22 Forced peace-lover to accept war ultimately (5)
DROVE - DOVE [peace-lover] "to accept" {wa}R

23 Something stinking about note in second church melody (9)
PLAINSONG - PONG [something stinking] about LA IN S [note | in | second]

25 Person’s attention given to obsession about Lima (9)
EARTHLING - EAR [attention] given to THING [obsession] about L [Lima]

26 Legal to be guillotined, though dreadful (5)
AWFUL - {l}AWFUL [legal, to be "guillotined" - off with its head!]

27 Expression of enthusiasm about effect of sun in nature study (6)
BOTANY - BOY! [expression of enthusiasm] about TAN [effect of sun]

28 US University: fool recalled another getting one letter wrong (8)
BERKELEY - BERK [fool] + YALE [another (US university), reversed, and with one letter different!]

1 One indicates upsetting material about South American prison (5,3)
LASER PEN - reverse REAL [material] about S [South], plus PEN [American prison]

2 Religious minister not coming in earlier (5)
PIOUS - P{rev}IOUS - REV [minister] "not coming in" PREVIOUS [earlier]

3 Be courageous in facing razor blade? (4,2,2,3,4)
TAKE IT ON THE CHIN - an over-literal reading of the phrase meaning "be courageous"

4 Actors wary about start of major review in a negative way (7)
COMPANY - COY [wary] about M{ajor} + PAN [review in a negative way]

6 What’s the point of shouting? (11,4)
EXCLAMATION MARK - cryptic def, the "point" here referring not to an objective but to a punctuation symbol

7 Keen to swamp me with remorse, providing uncomfortable fact (4,5)
HOME TRUTH - HOT [keen] "to swamp" ME, plus RUTH [remorse]

8 Eggs should be going up in your hypothesis (6)
THEORY - ROE [eggs] should be reversed in THY [your]. Isn't a theory famously distinct from a mere hypothesis?

9 Author’s indication of alternative source (6)
ORWELL - OR WELL [indication of alternative | source]

15 Cartoon dog runs into a potential enemy. One could bankroll the movie? (9)
PLUTOCRAT - PLUTO [cartoon dog], plus R [runs] "into" CAT [a potential enemy (of a dog)]

17 Stuffy air around origin of rich friend aiming to save money (8)
FRUGALLY - FUG [stuffy air] "around" R{ich} + ALLY [friend]

19 Spot flag, an excellent example (6)
PIPPIN - PIP PIN [spot | flag]. Not 100% sure how a PIN is a "flag" - Collins has it as "the rod of a golf flag", or maybe we're just talking about some kind of marker?

20 Limits to wider view in dispute (7)
WRANGLE - W{ide}R + ANGLE [view]

21 Clearly providing an example of this (6)
ADVERB - cryptic definition, "clearly" being an example of an adverb

24 Meat product not available? Running short, entirely (5)
OFFAL - OFF [not available] + AL{l} ["running sort", entirely]
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Times 27,221: [Dec. 14th, 2018|07:00 am]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
1 Doctor nearly retiring during great plague (8)
EPIDEMIC - MEDI{c} [doctor "nearly"] reversed inside EPIC [great]

9 Crime of America's neighbour probed by police (8)
HOMICIDE - HOMIE [America's neighbour] "probed" by CID [police]

10 Screen star's taken stimulant (8)
SUNSHADE - SUN'S HAD E [star's | taken | stimulant]

11 Instrument untouched by a learner (8)
VIRGINAL - VIRGIN [untouched] by A L [a | learner]

12 Cynical society promising to depose leader (10)
SUSPICIOUS - S [society] + {a}USPICIOUS [promising "to depose leader"]

14 Pie crust somewhat greyish (4)
ECRU - hidden in {pi}E CRU{st}

15 Misdeed from person selling hot stuff (7)
OFFENCE - OF FENCE [from | person selling hot (= stolen) stuff]

17 Inquire about graceless, stuffy behaviour (7)
PRUDERY - PRY [inquire] "about" RUDE [graceless]

21 Insouciant Cockney's dangerous (4)
AIRY - 'AIRY ["Cockney's (= unaspirated)" dangerous]

22 Indecently intimate around cowboy, perhaps (10)
IMPROPERLY - IMPLY [intimate] "around" ROPER [cowboy, perhaps]

23 Servant who could be Eritrean (8)
RETAINER - (ERITREAN*) ["could be..."]

25 Right conman losing diamonds one returns in court (8)
RECEIVER - R [right] + {d}ECEIVER [conman "losing (D for) diamonds"]. As in the returner of serve in a tennis court.

26 Blade twirls at intervals in fight (8)
STILETTO - T{w}I{r}L{s} in SET-TO [fight]

27 Roguish card player's collected funds for campaign (3, 5)
WAR CHEST - ARCH [roguish] that WEST [card player] has "collected"

2 Seasonal food that's excellent and poor (4, 4)
PLUM DUFF - PLUM [excellent] and DUFF [poor]

3 Good behaviour missing in pupil (8)
DISCIPLE - DISCIPL{in}E [good behaviour, "missing IN"]

4 Returning actor's seized with kissing sound (4)
MWAH - reversed HAM [actor] has "seized" W [with]

5 The Old Vic performing something woolly (7)
CHEVIOT - (THE O VIC*) ["performing"]

6 Shanghai almost needs a port manager (10)
IMPRESARIO - IMPRES{s} [shanghai "almost"] needs A RIO [a | port]

7 Small boat touring lake's top (8)
PINNACLE - PINNACE [small boat] "touring" L [lake]

8 Abroad, I will surmount a terrible resentment (8)
JEALOUSY - JE [abroad, I] will surmount A LOUSY [a | terrible]

13 Dancing the can-can, I laugh loudly (10)
CACHINNATE - (THE CAN CAN I*) ["dancing"]

15 Wrongful arrest claimed by large speaker (8)
ORATRESS - (ARREST*) ["wrongful"] "claimed" by OS [large]

16 Wood collected for treatment (5, 3)
FIRST AID - FIR STAID [wood | collected]

18 Food with lots of calories for singer (8)
DIETRICH - DIET RICH [food | with lots of calories]

19 Anarchic sellers tailored stocking for everyone (8)
RULELESS - (SELLERS*) ["tailored"] "stocking" U [for everyone]

20 Bird to fight twice (7)
SPARROW - SPAR ROW [to fight, to fight]

24 Damage statuette with no head (4)
SCAR - {o}SCAR [statuette "with no head"]
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Monthly Club Special 20,217: The Gory Locks Zone [Nov. 1st, 2018|07:18 am]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
Simply a virtuoso puzzle and I'm only sorry that this proved such a busy month that I never found time to sit down and give it the many hours of sweet tortuous agony that I deserved. So many clues that I thought were well above averagely brilliant - 1ac, 2ac, 3ac, 18ac, 22ac, all of which contain cryptic devices of exceptional originality... and that's just the pick of the across clues. Some marvellously delayed penny-drop moments e.g. at 1ac, but I'll give my COM (Clue of the Month) to 16dn for its achievements in this field.

So so hard, but just brilliant too. Thanks setter! Up with this kind of thing!

1 Royal couple making double echo over disturbing broadcast (8)
QUONKING - QUEEN + KING [royal couple], making its EE [double Echo] into O [over]

5 Ghost essentially appearing where feast is cut short, twice? (6)
BANQUO - {gh}O{st}, appearing at the end of BANQU{et}, &lit

10 One who “maximises” each height, height embracing possibly dull lives (15)
APOPHTHEGMATIST - A POP [each] + HT HT [height | height], "embracing" EG MAT IS [possibly | dull | lives]. One who "maximises" as in, "constructs maxims".

11 Reclusive teen and I stun pollsters on short walk (10)
HIKIKOMORI - I K.O. MORI [I | stun | pollsters] on HIK{e} ["short" walk]

13 Hardly an Arabian man suggesting forgiveness? (2,2)
AS IF - Asif is a masculine Arabian name, literally meaning "forgiveness".

15 Demolish ickiest of human settlements (7)
EKISTIC - (ICKIEST*) ["demolish..."]

17 Previously checked Poles were going out (7)
SNEBBED - S N [(both) Poles] + EBBED {were going out]

18 Related partial U-turn of CTC to those sending signals? (7)
COGNATE - hidden reversed in {charli}E TANGO C{harlie}

19 Desire abnormal purge after census (7)
LUSTRUM - LUST RUM [desire | abnormal]

21 Born fairly recently, having heart defect, feeling cold in some parts (4)
NESH - NE{wi}SH [born fairly recently, with defective "heart"]

22 Part of gullet in oryx, one without parents taking irregular turns? (10)
OROPHARYNX - interleave ORPHAN [one without parents] with ORYX irregularly

25 Not having enough excitement to grip European, a road somewhere in Bedfordshire (8,7)
LEIGHTON BUZZARD - LIGHT ON BUZZ [not having enough excitement] to "grip" E [European], + A RD [a | road]

27 Opening of Bard’s own Shakespearean club (6)
BALLOW - B{ard} + ALLOW [own]

28 Poet’s rule about verse is extremely bombastic? (8)
SOVRANTY - about V [verse] is SO RANTY [extremely bombastic?]

1 Caribbean provincial, apparently one subjected to suppression (7)
QUASHEE - also humorously suggesting "one who is quashed"

2 Mixed-load carrier with breadth limited by wheel shapes (3)
OBO - B [breadth] "limited by" O O [(two) wheel shapes]

3 Relaxed briefly under exotic khaki and white pines (10)
KAHIKATEAS - AT EAS{e} [relaxed "briefly"] under (KHAKI*) ["exotic"...]

4 Bring up Canadian media theorist, then dismiss leftcentre prophet (5)
NAHUM - M{cl}UHAN first reversed, and then losing L C [left | centre]

6 Nanny’s answer affected toff (4)
AYAH - A YAH [answer | affected toff]

7 Royal attendant overlooking leader keeps inches away, lifting blackcurrant plant (6-5)
QUINSY-BERRY - {e}QUERRY [royal attendant "overlooking leader}] "keeps": INS [inches] + BY reversed [away "lifting"]

8 Terrible discomfort, losing every third in multiple divisions (7)
OCTOFID - (DI{s}CO{m}FO{r}T*) ["terrible..."]

9 Left my aunt to go north, collecting East Germany’s fabulous ash (8)
YGDRASIL - L + I SAY [left | my aunt!] reading from south to north, "collecting" D.R. [= Deutsche Reichsbahn, East Germany]

12 Combination of likes and gripes in a form of chess (11)
KRIEGSPIEL - (LIKES + GRIPES*) ["combination of..."]

14 Rude noise that’s surprising famous person upending huge wine bottle (10)
BELSHAZZAR - RAZZ AH SLEB [rude noise | that's surprising! | famous person] reversed

16 Opposite of his little snags? (8)
CHEERIOS - The opposite of "hi" being "cheerio", then pluralise! Snags and cheerios are both Antipodean words for sausages.

18 Cross meeting lack of firmness in jaw (7)
CONFLAB - CON [cross] meeting FLAB [lack of firmness]? Unless it's C ON [cross | meeting], but I would have thought cross was more likely to be abbreviated as X...

20 Erase fifth letter in a jumble involving third square in anagram form? (7)
MIXEDLY - MEDL{e}Y [a jumble, with its fifth letter "erased"], "involving" IX [third square, after I and IV]

23 Catering chain sinking billions into turning drink container round (5)
PUBCO - sink B [billions] into reversed CUP ["turning" drink container] + O [round]

24 Jerk with resistance measures switching extremes (4)
SHMO - OHMS [resistance measures], swapping its first and last letters

26 Glaswegian personal trainer shedding two layers? (3)
AIN - {tr}AIN{er}, losing not just its first and last letters, but its second and penultimate too
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Times 27,041: Glass Half Empty / Glass Half Full [May. 18th, 2018|07:39 am]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
A straightforward puzzle by recent standards, with a not unpleasant mid-20th-century feel about it. I did it on paper, untimed, but I felt it was neither egregiously easy nor particularly difficult anywhere, and would guess I'd have clocked in at 7-8 minutes ish.

My FOI was 13ac (any other well-known three letter places in India?), my LOI 24ac because of its slightly more elaborate wordplay, compared to the rest of the puzzle.

I liked the low-level general knowledge requirement infusing the puzzle - nothing too obscure, but you do have to know an old prime minister, poet, author or archbishop when you hear one. And the (probably accidental) juxtaposition of the gloomy and happy fellows in the thirteenth row, which gave my blog its title today.

COD to 14dn, not a hard clue (although it took me a little while as I was looking for synonyms for "engaged, betrothed" at first) but I like the quaintness of the term and it put me in a happy reverie. Thanks to the setter, and also for going a little easier on us after Tuesday's festivities. Good to see those of you I did see at the George!

1 Backward-looking archbishop is issue for TV announcement (4,6)
TIME SIGNAL: reverse all of LANG IS EMIT [archbishop | is | issue]. Cosmo Gordon Lang was Archbishop of Canterbury at e.g. the time of the 1936 abdication crisis.
Not sure how many time signals you get on TV in these days of ubiquitous mobile phones, but I assume they used to be happen and be very useful in the day?

6 Publisher wants opening chapter to be a stunning success (4)
COUP: OUP [= Oxford University Press = publisher] wants a C [chapter] at the front

9 Old king keeping dry for the most part in carriage (7)
CARIOLE: COLE [old king (in the nursery rhyme)] keeping ARI{d} [dry "for the most part"]

10 Let down after US agent returned behind schedule (7)
DEFLATE: after FED reversed [US agent "returned"], LATE [behind schedule]

12 PM very familiar with good fashion (10)
WELLINGTON: WELL IN [very familiar] with G TON [good | fashion]

13 Area at end of journey somewhere in India (3)
GOA: A [area] at end of GO [journey]

15 Couple of eggs — potentially boring tea (6)
OOLONG: O O [two eggs] + LONG [potentially boring]

16 Tighten up legal agreement (8)
CONTRACT: double def

18 Manoeuvring honestly or sneakily? (2,3,3)
ON THE SLY: (HONESTLY*) ["manoeuvring"]

20 Sports ground with companies backing game (6)
SOCCER: reverse all of REC COS [sports ground + companies]

23 Bit of scale revealed by fish (3)
RAY: double def. RAY as in doh-ray-mi-fah, the second note of the diatonic scale.

24 Degrees needing particular days — be avoiding one month for collection (10)
DOCTORATES: DATES [particular days], collecting OCTO{be}R [one month, but with BE "avoided"]

26 Left-wing sphere without love set about deep thinker (7)
BROODER: reverse all of RED O ORB [left-wing | sphere, "without" (as in outside of) O for love]

27 Sportsperson digesting very quiet team talk from him? (7)
SKIPPER: SKIER [sportsperson] "digesting" PP [pianissimo = very quiet]

28 Remainder to despatch? Put first bit to the back (4)
ENDS: SEND [to despatch], its first letter moved to the end

29 Possibility for “mint”: create money (10)
REMITTANCE: (MINT CREATE*) ["possibility for..."]

1 Food — one who looked overfed? (4)
TUCK: double def with Robin Hood's famously fat friar friend.

2 Feel astonishment meeting line produced by poet (7)
MARVELL: MARVEL [feel astonishment] meeting L [line]

3 Well as he'd done, it's out of order to be conceited (7-6)
SWOLLEN-HEADED: (WELL AS HE'D DONE*) ["it's out of order"]

4 Author with endless dynamism about to pen end of tale (6)
GREENE: reverse ENERG{y} ["endless" dynamism] and have it "pen" the last letter of {tal}E.
Graham Greene surely must be the author to have made most appearances in cryptics due to his helpful letters. Are there any other contenders?

5 Rider in habit, not cold (8)
ADDITION: ADDIC{t}ION [habit, losing its C for cold]

7 I start to grimace a lot — a nasty sort of pain (7)
OTALGIA: (I G{rimace} A LOT A*) ["nasty"]

8 Inferior writers presenting author with samples (10)
POETASTERS: POE [author] gets presented with TASTERS [samples]

11 Philosopher loud with obsequiousness when meeting bunch of celebrities (13)
FUNCTIONALIST: F [loud] with UNCTION [obsequiousness] meeting A-LIST [bunch of celebs].
How many functionalist philosophers can you name? I've got Hilary Putnam. All rather bleeding-edge for someone weaned on Plato and Aristotle, though no doubt refuted already too.

14 Intending to go on to the match? (10)
HONOURABLE: cryptic def referring not to any sporting fixture, but to one with "honourable intentions", i.e. to marry the girl, not just waste her time. Sounds rather old-fashioned now I try to articulate it.

17 A wagon with beer brought round, offering a choice (1,2,5)
A LA CARTE: A CART [a | wagon] with ALE [beer] brought round. Set menus aren't that much of a thing any more are they? At least not in the shabby circles I move in.

19 Your clothes designer brought up something hidden under the neck (7)
THYROID: THY [your] + DIOR reversed [mid-20th-c fashion designer Christian, "brought up"]

21 Reduce price of pile in exhibition centre that's mounted up (7)
CHEAPEN: HEAP [pile] in NEC reversed [(Birmingham's) exhibition centre, "that's mounted up"]

22 What's good in Paris — Tuilleries's latest thing, excellent garden feature (6)
BONSAI: BON [what's good in Paris] + {tuillerie}S + A1 [excellent]

25 Indian having long passage sealed off at either end (4)
CREE: {s}CREE{d} [long (written) passage, topped and tailed]. A usual suspect in crosswordland, due to the convenient letters. I remember by grandfather having a copy of the Bible in Cree, which was a thing of great alphabetic wonder.
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Times Cryptic 27,035: [May. 11th, 2018|12:51 am]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
1 What township police would need? (5)

4 Vessel’s very unusual coupling hooks (6,3)
LOVING CUP - V, "hooked" by (COUPLING*) ["unusual"]

9 North Eastern hotel, full up, sadly offering no accommodation (9)
UNHELPFUL - (NE H FULL UP*) ["sadly"]

10 Absurd sentimentality about distant land (5)
GONZO - GOO [sentimentality] about NZ [distant land]

11 In private, I agree to receive Republican minister (4,9)
HOME SECRETARY - HOME [in] + SECRET [private] + AY [I agree] "to receive" R [Republican]

14 Large piece of skin ought to be put back evenly (4)
HUNK - the even letters of {s}K{i}N {o}U{g}H{t}, reversed

15 Company department whose business is first to pick up? (4,6)
CALL CENTRE - cryptic def

18 Flowers a symbol some mostly abandoned (3,7)
MAY BLOSSOM - (A SYMBOL SOM{e}*) ["abandoned"]

19 Place such as Washington wouldn’t do for everyone (4)
LIEU - LIE [such as (George) "I cannot tell a lie" Washington wouldn't do] + U [for everyone]

21 Position, say, in which murder committed (6,7)

24 Demanding return of books: we’re disgusted (5)
TOUGH - OT [books] reversed + UGH! [we're disgusted]

25 Who, perhaps, uses it’s elaborately turned out? (5,4)
DRESS SUIT - DR [Who, perhaps] + (USES IT'S*) ["elaborately turned out"], &lit.

27 One that can suddenly drop a clanger, speaking in cheap theatre (5,4)
PENNY GAFF - PENNY [one that can suddenly drop] + homophone of GAFFE [a clanger, "speaking"]

28 Ship touring Caribbean’s in race (5)
SWISS - SS [ship] "touring" WI'S [Caribbean's]

1 Cases of hitherto ugly, half-forgotten Hanoverian mares appearing in fabulous horse race (10)
HOUYHNHNMS - H{ithert}O U{gl}Y H{alf-forgotte}N H{anoveria}N M{are}S

2 Old man’s audible exclamation of contempt (3)
PAH - homophone of PA [old man "is audible"]

3 Russian department closing after student departed (6)
OBLAST - LAST [closing] after OB [= old boy, student departed]

4 Body drawing from biography about girl (4,5)
LIFE CLASS - LIFE C LASS [biography | about | girl]

5 Brussels throne room turned up treasure (5)
VALUE - EU LAV [Brussels | throne room] reversed

6 Row when entering eg on a fancy here? (2-2,4)
NO-GO AREA - OAR [row], when entering (EG ON A*) ["fancy"], semi-&lit.

7 Civil engineer incorporating fellow’s jolly design (5,6)
CANDY STRIPE - CE [civil engineer] "incorporating" ANDY'S TRIP [fellow's | jolly]

8 One holding chair for piano opposite (4)
PROF - FOR P [for | piano] reversed

12 Reserve ready for the match? (5,2,4)
MONEY TO BURN - cryptic def, money to burn being money you have in "reserve", that theoretically you could happily take a "match" to...

13 Needs about a pound when daughter’s going places (10)
REQUISITES - RE [about] + QUI{d} [a pound, "when (D for) daughter's going"] + SITES [places]

16 Behold ring being used to bind each type of folder (5-4)
LOOSE-LEAF - LO [behold] + O [ring] + SELF [being] used "to bind" EA [each]

17 Whacking small boy could end in outcry (8)
ALMIGHTY - AL [small boy] + MIGHT [could] + {outcr}Y

20 The works of O Henry missing from promotions? (6)
OPUSES - O + PUS{h}ES ["(H for) Henry missing from" promotions]

22 Girl climbing a mountain finally needing a hand up (5)
NADIA - A {mountai}N reversed ["climbing"], + AID [a hand] reversed ["up"]

23 Over from a spinner (4)
ATOP - A TOP [a | spinner]

26 Reading maybe for which one has no time (3)
UNI - UNI{t} [one "has no (T for) time"]
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Times 26,987: Not To Be Confused With Neville Shunte [Mar. 16th, 2018|09:00 am]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
1 Monkey beginning to descend tropical tree (8)
TAMARIND - TAMARIN [monkey] + D{escend}

5 Exile foreign ruler possessing good English (6)
EMIGRE - EMIR [foreign ruler] "possessing" G [good], + E [English]

10 Sleeper in tent with 150 flies around? You need this! (6,9)
INSECT REPELLENT - (SLEEPER IN TENT + CL*) ["flies around"], semi-&lit

11 Drop litres in mouth before Christmas, when year’s out (7)
GLOBULE - L [litres] in GOB [mouth], before {y}ULE [Christmas, minus Y = year]

12 What may come with making me a lord (7)
EARLDOM - (ME A LORD*) ["making..."], semi-&lit

13 Some mathematical iterations, they ought to be learned (8)
LITERATI - hidden in {mathematica}L ITERATI{tions}

15 Foul rubbish gathering at home (5)
TAINT - TAT [rubbish] "gathering" IN [at home]

18 City’s losing to Newcastle initially, bringing crowd together (5)
PRESS - PRES{ton}'S = "city's", subtract TO and the first letter of Newcastle.

20 Knocked back unknown gloop outside solitary drinker’s study? (8)
OENOLOGY - Y GOO [unknown | gloop] "outside" LONE [solitary], all reversed

23 Dawning of new progressive movement (7)
NASCENT - N ASCENT [new | progressive movement]

25 Novelist halved year’s rest (7)
SHUTEYE - SHUTE [novelist Nevil] + YE{ar}

26 Bucket contains rags dad recycled (4,4,3,4)

27 Serve without stiffness (6)
SUPPLY - double def - the two halves of which are pronounced rather differently, though!

28 Supports family making headwear (8)
BEARSKIN - BEARS KIN [supports | family]

1 Patient sorting of silver, dividing incomplete samples (6)
TRIAGE - AG [silver] "dividing" TRIE{s} ["incomplete" samples]

2 Revolutionary Soviet cum “capitalist” (9)
MUSCOVITE - (SOVIET CUM*) ["revolutionary"]. Capitalist as in one who lives in a capital city, and well might you surround that with quotation marks, sirrah!

3 One isolated from Conservative Left entering new employment (7)
RECLUSE - C L [Conservative | left] "entering" REUSE [new exmployment]

4 Possible source of drugs turned up E’s and whizz (5)
NURSE - reversed E'S + RUN [whizz]

6 Digger’s long period in American’s shed (4,3)
MOLE RAT - ERA [long period] in MOLT [shed, at least the way the Americans spell it]

7 Excessive desire to have browser — Google’s first up (5)
GREED - DEER [browser] + G{oogle}, the whole reversed

8 Grounds for incarcerating one male judge (8)
ESTIMATE - ESTATE [grounds] "for incarcerating" I M [one | male]

9 Cephalonia’s interior is steaming — get as far from the sun as possible (8)
APHELION - ({c}EPHALONI{a}*) ["is steaming"]

14 Renegade contessa finally set for the future without duke (8)
APOSTATE - {contess}A + POST{d}ATE [set for the future, minus its D for duke]

16 Warm corner in valley by old well (9)
INGLENOOK - IN GLEN [in | valley] by O OK [old | well]

17 Boiling uniform with fastening sleeves (2,2,4)
UP IN ARMS - U [uniform] with PIN ARMS [fastening | sleeves]

19 Design aid: tool for drawing street for page (7)
STENCIL - {p->ST}ENCIL [tool for drawing, but with a ST for street instead of its P for page]. Of course a verlaine never uses a pencil, doing even his barred puzzles in pen, and he has never regretted it. Well maybe once or twice.

21 Wash three articles from the Continent (7)
LAUNDER - LA UN DER [three articles from the Continent, two French, one German]

22 Soul singer’s lead part in Evita (6)
PERSON - S{inger}, the lead part thereof, in PERON [Evita]

24 Stint as captain stretching over months (5)
SKIMP - SKIP [captain] "stretching over" M [months]

25 Charming American uplifted by welcome (5)
SUAVE - US [American] reversed, by AVE [welcome]
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Times 26,981: Priests and Cannibals, Prehistoric Animals [Mar. 9th, 2018|08:03 am]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
I'm going to say this *wasn't* the long-awaited pure stinker, but looking at the current state of the leaderboard, it does appear to have met the requisite level of difficulty for a Friday, and the Snitch confirms that it has pushed most solvers so far over well over their average time. For my part I finished just over the 10 minute park, held up in particular by a couple of clues: 2dn where I hesitated over PIE having anything to do with confusion, and my LOI 19ac where I stared long and hard at _O_R_T drawing a blank before resorting to an alphabet search. Rather embarrassingly as the very first thing I'd thought on my first pass over the clue was "6 letters, solver, could be HOLMES".

My FOI was 15ac, rather strangely as I couldn't have told you what the word actually means before today, but having thought of the DG, the answer fell quickly into place. The bottom half of the puzzle was then completed without too many speed bumps, and then I returned to finish off the top, which I have to say would probably have been just as easy if the anagram at 1ac had resolved itself immediately in my mind. As it was, the initial T plus the enumeration was certainly enough to biff the rest in.

I think the vocabulary level of this puzzle is just right for a good Times 15x15, some lovely rare words without resorting to anything dredged up from the lightless depths of the dictionary into which only setters of barred puzzles dare venture. The surfaces are all fine and dandy too without anything jumping out at me particularly. I'll give my COD to 1dn despite the egregious wrongness in the wordplay: toast is for life not just for myrtilus000's breakfast! Thanks to the setter.

1 Only part of the problem is eg the fibre-optic, sadly (3,2,3,7)

9 Act timidly as cat’s-paw (9)
PUSSYFOOT - more or less a double def

10 Lower barrier enclosing empty space (5)
BASER - BAR [barrier] "enclosing" S{pac}E

11 In method of access, university going for good pay back here (6)
AVENGE - AVEN{u->G}E [method of access, mutatis mutandis]

12 Benefit includes free new playing field (8)
GRIDIRON - GIRO [benefit] "includes" RID [free] + N [new]

13 Sound quality of wood finally being turned (6)
TIMBRE - TIMB{E<->R} [wood, mutatis mutandis]

15 Head of BBC wearing curious sleeve that shouldn’t unravel (8)
SELVEDGE - DG [head of BBC] "wearing" (SLEEVE*) ["curious"]. This is a distaff rather than a sword word, so unfamiliar to a macho type like myself, but it is literally the edge on a woven fabric that prevents unravelling.

18 Rabbit’s little problem: caught by predator (8)
CHITCHAT - HITCH [little problem] "caught by" CAT [predator]

19 No time for wildly enjoyable event about to be hosted by prize solver (6)
POIROT - RIO{t} [wildly enjoyable event, m.m.] reversed, "hosted by" POT [cup]

21 Top up, backing partner to drink litre (8)
PULLOVER - UP reversed + LOVER [partner], to "drink" L [litre]

23 With unfulfilled potential, chap starts to question universal education (6)
MANQUE - MAN [chap] + Q{uestion} U{niversal} E{ducation}

26 Report of British members losing way in German League (5)
HANSARD - HANSA{rd} [report of British members (of parliament), losing RD = way]

27 A guilty man, I cried uncontrollably after charge withdrawn (9)
PARRICIDE - (I CRIED*) ["uncontrollably"] after RAP [charge] reversed

28 Book on unfinished temple has unusual origin (15)
PARTHENOGENESIS - GENESIS [book] on PARTHENO{n} ["unfinished" temple]

1 In part of ship, breakfast food served around wrong time of day? (7)
TOPMAST - TOAST [breakfast food] served around PM [wrong time of day (for breakfast food)]. I must interject here that if you only eat toast for breakfast you are not living live the verlaine way...

2 Type that’s confused about way in mountain track (5)
PISTE - PIE [type that's confused] about ST [way]. I hesitated over the definition of "pie" here but it can mean "an indiscriminate mixture of printing types", so there you go. Viz also the Magpie barred puzzle magazine perhaps (in a good way).

3 Be transported by a cigar, strange hallucinogen (3,6)
FLY AGARIC - FLY [be transported] + A + (CIGAR*) ["strange"]

4 Jump round ring; shouldn’t one jump through it? (4)
HOOP - HOP [jump] round O [ring], semi-&lit

5 One seabird in trap where people surf? (8)
INTERNET - I [one] + TERN [seabird] in NET [trap]

6 Fix smart girl and yours truly up (5)
EMBED - DEB + ME [smart girl | yours truly], the whole reversed

7 Is ready to edit royal film (4,5)
EASY RIDER - (IS READY*) ["to edit"] + ER [royal]

8 Wine-producing area has some striking iron deposits (7)
GIRONDE - hidden in {strikin}G IRON DE{posits}

14 Addict under control in a month (9)
MAINLINER - IN LINE [under control] in MAR [a month]

16 Opposed to solitary confinement, ignoring small infringement (9)
VIOLATION - V [opposed to] + I{s}OLATION [solitary confinement, "ignoring" S = small]

17 Pointer the continental snake tailed (5,3)
LASER PEN - LA [the "continental"] + SERPEN{t} [snake "tailed"]. Now that I go to London Saturday crossword meetups once or twice a month I see quite a lot of the setter Serpent, and a good time that always is too.

18 Nick is landed with hard work (3,4)
COP SHOP - COPS H OP [is landed with | hard | work]

20 Greek hero seen oddly in America (7)
THESEUS - S{e}E{n} in THE US [America]

22 Surprised reaction about publication in market town (5)
OMAGH - OH! [surprised reaction] about MAG [publication]. Not sure if the market is the first thing that springs to mind when considering Omagh, but presumably it does have a good one?

24 Throwing game drops ball and walks out (5)
QUITS - QU{o}ITS [throwing game, "dropping" O = ball]

25 Queen boards large sailing ship (4)
BRIG - R [queen] "boards" BIG [large]
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(no subject) [Feb. 23rd, 2018|12:48 am]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
1 Revolutionary essence derived from turning over leaf (5)
FOLIO - OIL OF [essence | derived from], reversed by either "revolutionary" or "turning over": does this clue really need both? I'm sure someone will explain.

4 Play down what's frequently pinched by lapsed criminal (4-5)
SOFT-PEDAL - OFT [frequently] "pinched by" (LAPSED*) ["criminal"]

9 Old monitor's spoken of finance office (9) (4)
EXCHEQUER - homophone of EX CHECKER [old | monitor, "spoken of"]. FOI.

10 Believer in return of a former ruler (5)
RASTA - A TSAR [a | former ruler], reversed

11 Updated method backed by fighting force (6)
MODERN - MODE [method] backed by RN [fighting force]

12 Germanic aggressor once shot during stay at hospital (8)
VISIGOTH - GO [shot] during VISIT [stay], at H [hospital]

14 She's on set, maybe to KO a couple of staff (10)
STUNTWOMAN - STUN TWO MAN [to KO | a couple of | staff]. LOI.

16 Implement not small enough? (4)
TOOL - TOO L = TOO LARGE = not small enough

19 What distinguishes regulated from deregulated crossing (4)
NODE - "regulated" differs from "deregulated" because it has NO "DE"

20 Reclusive elector's ID defective (10)
CLOISTERED - (ELECTOR'S ID*) ["defective"]

22 Gave up supporting English after recurrent arguments (8)
FORSWORE - FOR [supporting] + E [English] after reversed ROWS ["recurrent" arguments]

23 Setback for both Irish and East European competitors (6)
RIVALS - reverse both IR [Irish] and SLAV [East European]

26 Treatment from stylist, extremely clever devil (5)
CRIMP - C{leve}R + IMP [devil]

27 Preacher's an active type, full of charm (9)
GOSPELLER - GOER [an active type], full of SPELL [charm]

28 Dairy product made by prudent race (4,5)
SAGE DERBY - SAGE [prudent] + DERBY [race]. Not a cheese I'm very familiar with but it looks very distinctive, a kind of marbled green effect!

29 Colour of any two short bananas (5)
TAWNY - (ANY TW{o}*) ["bananas"]

1 Man with secret order to release mother and child (9)
FREEMASON - FREE MA + SON [release | mother (and) child]

2 Top copper's held up, that's clear (5)
LUCID - LID [top] in which CU [copper] is held up

3 Make too much of frequency of deliveries (8)
OVERRATE - In cricket, an OVER RATE could be the frequency of deliveries

4 Comfortable, as Carol should be after change of heart
SNUG - a carol should be SUNG, swap the middle letters.

5 Chemical from laminate child regularly picked off (6,4)
FORMIC ACID - FORMICA [laminate] + C{h}I{l}D

6 Standard family fare at teatime? (6)
PARKIN - PAR KIN [standard | family]

7 After course, my side's bearing no shame (9)
DISHONOUR - after DISH [course], OUR [my side's] "bearing" NO

8 Restraint for dog while a shopper's absorbed (5)
LEASH - hidden in {whi}LE A SH{upper}

13 Party received standard warning of potential takeover bid? (5,5)
JOLLY ROGER - JOLLY [party] + ROGER [received]. The definition part refers to the standard, as in flag, that warns seagoers that they may be about to be boarded and taken over by pirates.

15 Limited stress good for junior (9)
UNDERLING - UNDERLIN{e} ["limited" stress] + G [good]

17 In the course of last year, foolish daughter's seduced (3,6)
LED ASTRAY - in (LAST YEAR*) ["foolish"], D for daughter

18 Vociferous march by conservationists (8)
STRIDENT - STRIDE [march] by NT [conservationists]

21 Stolen goods ultimately disposed of (6)
SWIPED - {good}S + WIPED [disposed of]

22 Defendant's third book essential in court case (5)
FACTS - {de}F{endant} + ACTS [book]

24 Radiant silver-blue (5)
AGLOW - AG LOW [silver | blue]

25 Grey area reserved (4)
ASHY - A SHY [area | reserved]
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Monthy Club Special 20,208: Explosion in the Scrabble Tile Factory! [Feb. 1st, 2018|01:03 pm]
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
Greetings all, the appearance of a new Club Special reminds me that I need to post up a blog of the last one. This puzzle is a curious beast (I find): the wordplay is scrupulously fair, and would not feel much out of place in a daily 15x15, but of course the vocabulary is hopelessly obscure, such that if you can get any of it from a couple of checkers you're a better solver than I am, Gunga Din. So there's a lot of toil and trouble that goes into solving one of these, as you try to locate something, anything that could be indicated by the wordplay that has any chance of being a real word. It's all good clean fun, but I wouldn't want to do it more than once a month.

A big part of the enjoyment I think is discovering what all these ridiculous words actually mean, and I have annotated most of them with their definitions below. I'm not sure how much utility assimilating them into one's personal lexicon would provide, but we don't do crosswords because it's useful, really, do we?

1 Fly right into blow dealt with axe (2-6)
OX-WARBLE - R [right] into (BLOW + AXE*) ["...dealt..."]
An ox-warble is a pesky fly that produces a swelling (of the same name) on the back of an ox.

9 Within one year, not prepared to back land-tenure (8)
RYOTWARI - within I YR [one | year], RAW TO [not prepared | to], all "back"
A ryot was a peasant farmer on the Indian subcontinent. Ryotwari was a system by which the British oppressors collected taxes from the ryots, as far as I can make out.

10 Five removing cape run quietly over, uncloaked (2,6)
IN QUERPO - {c}INQUE [five, removing C for cape] + R P O [run | quietly | over]
"En cuerpo" seems to be Spanish for "out of formal dress", or "without a coat" and apparently if you're English you can spell this almost any way you like.

11 Pound, perhaps, short over time, dividing notes in threes (8)
TERZETTI - reversed EZR{a} [Pound, perhaps, "short", "over"] + T [time], "dividing" TE TI [(two) notes]
A terzetto is a trio, making terzetti "threes".

12 Peeler’s half dislodging plug in nut plant (10)
MACROZAMIA - MAC{ad->ROZ{zer}}AMIA. A peeler is a ROZZER, take the first half and use it to replace the AD [plug] in MACADAMIA to discover another plant.
A genus of Australian cycads. Presumably quite large.

14 I stand for a second in game, playful if wary (4)
ALFA - second letters of {g}A{me}, {p}L{ayful} {i}F {w}A{ry}.
A in the international phonetic alphabet. The very subtle definition part makes this my COD.

15 Female comic agreed gags: she had victims in stitches (7)
DEFARGE - F [female] that (AGREED*) ["comic"] "gags".
In Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, a tricoteuse who, Fate-like, encodes in her knitting the names of people to be killed.

17 Rare solemnity in dispatching pupils once attendant’s released slip (7)
OBSEQUY - OBS [pupils once] + EQU{err}Y [attendant, who has lost ERR meaning "slip"]
Obsequies are funeral rites and solemnities; the singular form is rarely seen.

21 Involving vital element, poisonous with lead removed (4)
OXIC - {t}OXIC [poisonous, with leading letter removed]
Something relating to oxygen.

22 Do next task, arranging places for drying out (5,5)
DETOX TANKS - (DO NEXT TASK*) ["arranging"]
Aka detoxification centres, rumours of verlaine's intimate acquaintance with which over the years are greatly exaggerated.

23 One used to extract sap keeping stone in beak once (8)
JUSTICER - JUICER [one used to extract sap] "keeping" ST [stone]
An old word for a maintainer or administrator of justice. Beak is of course slang for a magistrate, as in "up before the beak".

25 What regularly angry hosts work on by not having relatives for dinner? (8)
EXOPHAGY - EH A{n}G{r}Y [what? | "regularly" angry] "hosts" OP [work] on X [by]
Exophagy is the etiquette among polite cannibals stating that one should not eat one's own kinsfolk.

26 Stand up for Scotland? Government department not getting in way (8)
MISTRYST - M{in}ISTRY [government department, "not getting IN"] + ST [way]
To disappoint by not keeping an engagement, i.e. to "stand someone up", in Scotland.

27 Vulture, one flying through area for last of carrion (8)
ZOPILOTE - ZO{n->PILOT}E. Take ZONE, an area, and replace the last letter of {carrio}N with PILOT [one flying].
A smaller American vulture, most notably a turkey buzzard or urubu.

2 Ten with aversion to certain insects — and salt (8)
XANTHATE - X [ten] with ANT HATE [aversion to certain insects!]
A salt of xanthic acid, which I hope is as yellow as it sounds.

3 Brief possibly pornographic song that has makings of rock (8)
ADULARIA - ADUL{t} ["brief" possibly pornographic] + ARIA [song]
A transparent orthoclase feldspar, named for the Adula group in the Alps.

4 Keen at first to have a go at climbing Highland tree (4)
BIRK - K{een} + RIB [to have a go at], "climbing"
A Scots birch.

5 Rhetorical question somewhat tame to readers, on reflection (7)
EROTEMA - hidden reversed in {t}AME TO RE{aders}
A rhetorical question; basically just the Greek word for "question".

6 Bearing old vase and vestment girl holds cross (7-3)
JOURNAL-BOX - O URN + ALB [old | vase + vestment] that JO [girl] holds, plus X [cross]
A box or bearing for a journal; a journal being that part of a shaft or axle which is in contact with and supported by a bearing. It'll come in handy one day I'm sure.

7 Rounded characters, etc, mostly mean a large measure of intelligence (8)
NASTALIQ - NAST{y} ["mostly" mean] + A L IQ [a | large | measure of intelligence]
Persian cursive script. As well as rounded characters it has long horizontal strokes.

8 Big wheel in bird enclosure, not area having young plants (8)
VIVIPARY - VIP [big wheel] in {a}VIARY [bird enclosure, not A for area]
Viviparity, that is to say producing bulbils or young plants in the flower clusters.

13 Parrot-fashion, digitally remastering CD, got lazy, repeating last bit (10)
ZYGODACTYL - (CD GOT LAZYY*) ["remastering..."]
Having two toes in front and two toes behind, in the manner of a parrot. It's all the fashion these days, I understand.

15 Yellow pack arriving in birthday post (8)
DOORJAMB - OR JAM [yellow | pack] arriving in D.O.B. [birthday]
The sidepiece or post of a door. Quite a crossword when this is the least obscure word.

16 Junk food is hard to get in Dutch province (8)
FRIESISH - FRIES IS H [junk food | is | hard]
Of the Dutch province of Friesland.

18 Bow, once, before prince related to Byzantine governor (8)
EXARCHAL - EX-ARC [bow, once] before HAL [prince]
Of an exarch, which is a Byzantine provincial governor, especially of Italy.

19 Strip title from UK, ninth and last in fencing, sadly (8)
UNKNIGHT - (UK NINTH {fencin}G*) ["sadly"]
To divest of knighthood.

20 Religious guru, celebrity, unknown beyond confines of establishment (7)
STARETZ - STAR [celebrity] + Z [unknown] beyond E{stablishmen}T
A holy man or spiritual advisor in Russia, also spelt starets.

21 Purple emblem from board game, one played for longer (4)
GOLP - GO [board game] + LP [one played for longer]
A purple roundel in heraldry. Check your own family coat of arms!
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