verlaine

Monthly Club Special 20,240: Pooh Dreams

A quick look at the completed grid for this one should be enough to tell you if you are going to love or hate the Monthly Club Special: some people just won't want to painstakingly construct words like QESHM, WAG-N-BIETJIE and LOK SABHA out of seemingly unpromising word-grist and that's alright, it's not compulsory. But for those of us irresistibly drawn to these most insane-looking vocab lattices, there were many feats of virtuosically devious cluing to enjoy. I personally loved the pair of beloved anthropomorphic animal clues at 12ac and 7dn, but will maybe assign COD to 27ac: "an economy... in the red" is just lovely. Thank you so much setter and apologies to readers that I didn't define all of the below words. I assure you that a trip to the dictionary will be very enlightening, though, if anything still baffles...

ACROSS
1 Rubenesque in the rear, in turn sharply cut at the middle (6)
ZAFTIG - AFT [the rear], in ZIG{zag} [turn sharply, halved]

4 Recalled a short school vacation, having to sunbathe in Indian house (3,5)
LOK SABHA - reverse all of: A HOL{s} with BASK in

10 Aussie bounder played on maiden’s vacillating (9)
PADYMELON - (PLAYED ON M*)

11 Following one back, His Majesty arrives at Iranian island (5)
QESHM - reverse SEQ., + H.M.

12 Friend to bear down — head to the back (3)
OWL - take LOW [down], and move the first letter to the end. Friend to Winnie the Pooh.

13 Possible source of snag developing from bite, eg in jaw (3-1-7)
WAG-N-BIETJIE - (BITE EG IN JAW*). This is a plant with thorns that "snag" passers by, and not, as I had originally surmised, some kind of wildlife that Australians make sausages out of...

14 Stage door that is closed after game (6)
SCRUTO - SC. [that is] + TO [closed] after R.U.

16 One bent on self-study returning home, crossing Bow Street (7)
NARCIST - reversed IN "crossing" ARC, plus ST

19 Catch Young Conservative, coming from the Right, cheers echoing? (7)
COPYCAT - COP [catch] + Y.C. + reversed ["coming from the right"] TA

20 Revolutionary ideas I’ve partially endorsed (6)
VISAED - hidden reversed in {i}DEAS I'V{e}

22 One promoting growth that’s short blathering about several inches (11)
GIBBERELLIN - GIBBERIN{g} "about" ELL [several inches]

25 Scots brace themselves, winter approaching: the earliest signs (3)
TWA - T{hemselves} W{inter} A{pproaching}

26 Test team moving up the order a US Rastafarian (1-3-1)
I-AND-I - INDIA is the test team; move the final A up in the order to find a Rastafarian word for "us".

27 An economy, originally in the red maybe finding future (9)
OENOMANCY - (AN ECONOMY*). Oenomancy being divination by wine, one can find the future in either the white OR the red...

28 Perform boring joke, song and dance for food in Asia (4-4)
GADO-GADO - DO [perform] "boring" GAG, + ADO [song and dance]

29 A Finnish company in retreat — no way out of Africa (6)
AIKONA - reversed A NOKIA. This is the Bantu for "no (way)!" Horizons broadened.

DOWN
1 Opening in one way not a thing to start on perhaps (6)
ZIPTOP - ZIP [not a thing] + TO + P{erhaps}

2 Soak once in pool, quietly going about, freezing point outside (6-3)
FUDDLE-CAP - {p}UDDLE [pool - P(iano)] + CA. [about], surrounded by F.P.

3 One waits initially for Frenchwoman to fill kettle, possibly (5)
IMMEW - I + W{aits}, "filled" by MME.

5 Vote in noble men, disposed to be universally kind (14)
OMNIBENEVOLENT - (VOTE IN NOBLE MEN*)

6 Sally’s taking time out, rounding up quiz’s regulars for rising Mexican artist (9)
SIQUEIROS - SOR{t}IE'S, "rounding" U{p} Q{u}I{z}, and reverse the whole of that

7 Brush perhaps with law at first turning to judge’s volunteer enforcers (5)
BASIJ - that's BASIL Brush; turn the L (for L{aw}) into J(udge)

8 Mark is running in trousers: they won’t support his legs (8)
ARMRESTS - M(ark), "trousered" by ARRESTS [is running in]

9 Drink to pay for: support measuring system (4-4-6)
SLUG-FOOT-SECOND - SLUG FOOT SECOND [drink | to pay for | support]

15 Ruining in the past a branch of the family? (9)
UNCLEWING - or UNCLE WING

17 Yours truly to follow, being old and fully stretched (2,7)
IN EXTENSO - I NEXT ENS O [yours truly | to follow | being | old]

18 Sheltering in Perth in Ashes venue, none leaving, none departing (8)
SCOGGING - in S.C.G. [Sydney Cricket Ground], O [none]; plus G{o}ING [leaving, O (=none) "departing" from that]. Scog means to shelter in Perth, Scotland.

21 Was modelling younger head of ancient goddess in wood? (6)
SATYRA - SAT [was modelling] + YR + A{ncient}

23 Not allowed to have a single name hurt, previously (5)
BANED - BAN{n}ED but with only one N for N(ame).

24 Man regularly taking to north’s provinces (5)
NOMOI - I.O.M. ON [Man | regularly taking], read from south to north
verlaine

(no subject)

I totally forgot this was a Friday and submitted in 5 minutes something before realising my error. Oh well, no harm done! I did find a lot of the clues very, as they say, biffable from a couple of crossers, but they were mostly rather nicely turned, so no grousing from me tonight. COD to 27ac which made me chuckle, and I also very much appreciated the historical &littery of 15dn. Thanks setter for a nice puzzle!

In other news - topicaltim and I are getting an online quiz league team together, wanna join? It would totally suit someone who just wanted to dip their toe into the murky waters of quizzing for the first time, and would require only a sporadic commitment to logging into Zoom and answering questions for half an hour on the occasional evening. If you are even half interested, definitely hit us up! The honour of Times for the Times is at stake...

ACROSS
1 A fine considerably limits current liaison (6)
AFFAIR - A F(ine) FAR "limits" I. Why is "I" the symbol for current, I suddenly thought to myself? Apparently it was the choice of M. Ampere, and stands for current Intensity.

4 Diner supplied sandwiches, building support (8)
SCAFFOLD - CAFF "sandwiched" by SOLD [supplied]. Much easier to get from the definition than by struggling with the cryptic, I'd have thought.

10 Left old friend casing clubs in the area (7)
LOCALLY - L(eft) O(ld) ALLY, "casing" C(lubs)

11 Find spice regularly in the Orient? Nothing's simpler (7)
EASIEST - S{p}I{c}E in EAST

12 I don't give a fig about southern party (4)
BASH - BAH! about S(outhern)

13 Bloke's not entirely likeable group's breaking camp (10)
HISTRIONIC - HIS NIC{e}, broken by TRIO

15 Happy union's no-score draw? (4,5)
LOVE MATCH - suggesting something different when converted into sportsese.

16 Baby carriers, say, losing temperature, one concludes (5)
UTERI - UT{t}ER, concluded by I [one]

18 Noble Oscar shed clothes (5)
BARON - O(scar) "clothed" by BARN [shed]

19 Custody battle ended shortly after flu got out of control (3-2-4)
TUG-OF-LOVE - OVE{r}, after (FLU GOT*)

21 Pity old queen having to face cross physicist (10)
RUTHERFORD - RUTH [pity (old)] + E.R. + FORD [cross]

23 Stuck first of borrowed money in Oslo (4)
BORE - B{orrowed} + ORE. A krone is divided into 100 øre, not that you see many of those any more.

26 Deadlock: four leave showing no emotion (7)
IMPASSE - IMPASS{iv}E

27 Catty Pope? (7)
LEONINE - as in Leo IX

28 For which tours are organised? (8)
EUROSTAR - (TOURS ARE*), semi-&lit27

29 Let special medical team cut open Marxist? (6)
RENTED - E.N.T. "cut open" RED

DOWN
1 A German tabloid's taken over with no preparation (2-3)
AD-LIB - A + reversed BILD

2 Husband abandons razor perhaps that preserves his dignity? (4-5)
FACE-SAVER - FACE-S{h}AVER

3 Indulged in odd places between jobs? (4)
IDLE - I{n}D{u}L{g}E{d}

5 Fastest runner caught — he can't stand up (7)
CHEETAH - C + HE + reversed HATE [can't stand]

6 Doubt about chopped ice in packs for boxing (10)
FISTICUFFS - reversed IF [doubt "about"] + IC{e} in STUFFS [packs]

7 Drink drug in round tin (5)
OCEAN - E in O CAN

8 Dick, not working, takes female out for a short time (9)
DETECTIVE - DE{f->T}ECTIVE

9 Pool worker one goes in to look up in Times (6)
TYPIST - I "goes in" reversed SPY, in T, T

14 Copier a chap uses in novel (10)
AMANUENSIS - A MAN (USES IN*)

15 Large individual, Edward VII acquiring name as this (9)
LIBERTINE - L I BERTIE "acquiring" N, semi-&lit

17 Green film about operating organ (9)
ECONOMIST - ECO MIST "about" ON. Organ as in periodical

19 Lifted plump cheese to find crisp material (7)
TAFFETA - reversed FAT + FETA

20 Swill King George brought up, breaking wind (6)
GARGLE - reversed G.R. "breaking" GALE

22 Wax cylinder recorder (5)
TAPER - double def

24 Editor recruits staff to do what he does (5)
EMEND - ED "recruits" MEN, semi-&lit

25 Forty winks? Just under twelve (4)
DOZE - DOZE{n}
verlaine

Monthly Club Special 20,232: Strip Jack Naked

Those who don't like these puzzles could do worse than to point at the run of down answers from, say, 10dn to 16dn: UREDINIOSPORE, ANOBIIDAE, DAIDZEIN? Give us a break! Random bits of science jargon and words from Oceanian languages are not my all-time favourites it must be said, but the cluing here makes it all worthwhile. Let me point at 1dn, 2dn and 21dn as fine specimens, and if you are a connoisseur of the saucy surface, then 1ac and 23dn may qualify. Strip Poker is a well-known game but I wonder if anyone has ever tried Strip Solving? If they wanted to make the 50th Times Crossword Championships live forever in infamy, it's certainly an idea...

Thanks to the setter for another entertaining one!

ACROSS
1 Are pants down? Cringes (5,2)
SUCKS UP - SUCK [are pants] + SUP [down]

5 Primate’s entreaty to stare (3-3)
DOG-APE - or else an injunction: "DO GAPE..."

8 Once needing fare suspended before opening promotion (9)
AHUNGERED - HUNG ERE [suspended | before] "opening" AD

9 Frowned on finding a meal ticket enclosed in letter (3,2)
MAL VU - A L.V. [luncheon voucher] "enclosed in" MU

11 Henry runs to leave bouquet and ritual drink (5)
HAOMA - H + A{r}OMA

12 One maybe inclined to carp over pics I distributed (9)
PISCIVORE - (OVER PICS I*)

13 Juicy extract from a book on bachelor boy is gripping (8)
LABDANUM - A NUM. [book (of the Bible)] on B "gripped by" LAD

15 Calculus authority is getting on with integration finally in paper (6)
AGNESI - AGES, with {integratio}N in, + I [paper]

17 Persist with gas ring setting (6)
CHATON - or CHAT ON [persist with (as in continue to) gas]

19 Scotland’s own rock band with fine welcome in Hamilton, say (8)
HAEREMAI - HAE [Scottish word for "own" (as in "have")] + R.E.M. + A1

22 Old red mouse, tail lopped by daughter, turned white! (9)
CHEMICKED - CHE [old red (as in Communist)] + MICKE{y} [mouse, "tail lopped"] by D

23 Asian cigarettes from another time originally in double packs (5)
BIDIS - BIS [another time], "packed" by I{n} D{ouble}

24 Having been climbed all over and nagged, casting off chain (5)
IVIED - {ch}IVIED, though what kind of monster wouldn't spell it "chivvied"?

25 Recent arrival from New York having fled Caucasus state jail briefly (9)
CHECHAQUO - CHECH{ny}A + QUO{d}

26 Keen for network of leaks, perhaps, to be turned over (6)
BEWEEP - reversed PEE WEB. Which is nice!

27 Public place to browse retro artefact enhancing exhibits (7)
NETCAFE - hidden reversed in {art}EFACT EN{hancing}

DOWN
1 Copy’s Catholic, not Orthodox, giving causes for complaint (13)
STAPHYLOCOCCI - (COPY'S CATHOLIC*). Credit where it's due, that's a very nice anagrist/anagrind combo.

2 Physicist might fail without dubnium (7)
COULOMB - COUL{d b}OMB

3 Stingily, periodically withheld a set of symbols (5)
SIGLA - S{t}I{n}G{i}L{y} + A

4 Hazards that have turned up separately in world tour (8)
PERIPLUS - PERILS that have reversed UP, non-consecutively, in

5 Smart tips for unexpected upset leading to knockout (6)
DUDISH - Reversed U{nexpecte}D, + DISH [knockout]

6 Drug, eg, I’m taking finally after troubling Victoria’s old dentist (3-6)
GUM-DIGGER - (DRUG EG I'M {takin}G*)

7 Sport for Italy in China being without allies? (7)
PALLONE - PAL [china] + LONE [being without allies]

10 Transmitter of disease in flowers, ten planted in rows opening beyond river (13)
UREDINIOSPORE - 10 "planted" in DINS PORE [rows | opening], beyond URE [rive]

14 In one abode, a frightfully boring family (9)
ANOBIIDAE - (IN I ABODE A*)

16 Health supplement from day one kept in wood dresser at home (8)
DAIDZEIN - D + I in ADZE [wood dresser] + IN

18 Mixed material from answer, something dropped quietly in general (7)
ALEPINE - A + PIN [something dropped quietly] in LEE [general (Robert E.)]

20 African runner furious as required to take in oxygen (7)
MADOQUA - MAD QUA [furious | as required], taking in O

21 One lifting cases in Pensacola, Cody and Kansas? (6)
SKYCAP - reversed P{ensacol}A C{od}Y K{ansa}S, and a very clever semi-&lit, a skycap being an American airport porter

23 Item of underwear, right away, shed, revealing chest (5)
BAHUT - B{r}A + HUT
verlaine

Times 27,365: Candy Is Dandy But Knickers Are Quicker

I made a bit of a hash of this tough puzzle (my stamp of Friday approval is ungrudgingly bestowed) by bunging UNDERWEAR in optimistically for 7dn and then not being able to make much more progress in that corner until I'd revisited my assumptions. But this was far from the only clue that was cleverer than it looked at first, with misleading definitions, unconventional cluing word orders, and parts of the answer clued by semi-invisible particles up the wazoo.

Great work by the setter in other words. With blowhards, porn, textspeak, pregnancy, beatniks and the aforementioned undercrackers all making an appearance, this had a punk rock air to it, so almost inevitably it will prove to be the work of a venerable pre-war setter with an excellent sense of humour. Hard to choose a Clue of the Day really but let's plump for 1dn, combining madcap wordplay with a splendidly evocative surface. A1!

ACROSS
1 Writer penning line badly who's a show-off (8)
BLOWHARD - BARD [writer], penning L [line] + WHO ["badly..."]. I took a while to agonise over whether BOW was any kind of writer, taking something HARD clearly being taking it "badly"...

5 Concealed attack in case of antebellum President (6)
AMBUSH - A{ntebellu}M + BUSH [President]. FOI

10 Part of insect rolling on stomach (5)
NOTUM - reversed ON, plus TUM [stomach]. I'm not much of an entomologist but I assumed a notum was something related to backs, and so it proved.

11 Steps across theme park's greatest attractions? (9)
BESTRIDES - or a theme park's BEST RIDES.

12 A lot of extra troops by port reversing tank? (9)
RESERVOIR - RESERV{e} ["a lot of" extra troops] by reversed RIO [port]. What percentage of the time is "port" RIO at this stage, I wonder?

13 Number one's appeal (5)
ISSUE - I'S SUE [one's | appeal]

14 Rogue cop wearing blue material flicks food (7)
POPCORN - (COP*) ["rogue..."] "wearing" PORN [blue material]. Flicks as in "the movies".

16 On TV outfit's regressive look (6)
REGARD - RE [on] + reversed DRAG [TV (as in transvestite) outfit]

18 Much of fast car could be used for scrap (6)
FRACAS - (FAS{t} CAR*) ["could be used for..."]

20 Tinker with tailless shrimp filled by wife (7)
TWIDDLE - TIDDLE{r} ["tailless" shrimp] "filled by" W [wife]

22 Means of transport to get case of merchandise through part of America (5)
CAMEL - M{erchandis}E "through" CAL [California, part of America]

23 Repression having Sally in poor spirits (9)
CRACKDOWN - a "sally" is a CRACK and "in poor spirits" is DOWN.

25 Attached to main character in little US novel (2,3,4)
ON THE ROAD - ON [attached to], plus HERO [main character] in TAD [little]. Bunged in unparsed once the D appeared, during the home straight.

26 School's picked up, as courses enjoyed? (5)
EATEN - homophone of ETON [school]. Good use of the ambiguous meaning of "courses".

27 Guard losing November and December's fare (6)
TURKEY - TUR{n}KEY [guard, "losing November = N"]

28 Careless king dropping a line, one dispatched officially (8)
EMISSARY - {r}EMISS [careless, "king (= R) dropping"] + A RY [a | line]

DOWN
1 Clean out rank stews in hostelry over time (8)
BANKRUPT - (RANK*) ["stews"], in reversed PUB [hostelry] + T [time]

2 Ring a determined, revolutionary plotter (5)
OATES - O [ring] + A + reversed SET [determined]. Titus Oates, the fabricator of the Popish Plot.

3 Place to study epic writer, and pass on cracking style (8,7)
HOMERTON COLLEGE - HOMER [epic writer], and COL LEG [pass | on] "cracking" TONE [style]

4 Problem with drink? This helps you get dry (7)
RUBDOWN - RUB [problem] with DOWN [drink, as a verb]

6 Expecting trouble and scorn, kissing men abroad (7,8)
MORNING SICKNESS - (SCORN KISSING MEN*) ["abroad"]. Expecting as in "pregnant". I was fooled by the clever definition into thinking the first word would be MARKING. Somehow.

7 Lingerie one's lowered with colour that's not popular (9)
UNDESIRED - take UNDIES [lingerie], lower the I [one] to the bottom, and add RED [colour].

8 Equipment for anglers I see brought up to speed (6)
HASTEN - NETS AH [equipment for anglers | I see!], all reversed

9 One taking interest in the solver’s texting, indeed! (6)
USURER - in UR [txtspeak for you're], SURE [indeed!]

15 Safe old poem's cutting edge (9)
PERIMETER - PETER [safe] that RIME [old poem] is cutting.

17 Rule of Republican, for one French city (8)
REGNANCY - R EG NANCY [Republican | for one | French city]

19 Area with dry, rocky peak (6)
SECTOR - SEC TOR [dry | rocky peak]

20 Leading couple in Fame turning up in Russia once? (7)
TSARDOM - take STARDOM [fame] and reverse its first couple of leters only. Close to LOI as TSARDOM is a very hard word to see in crossers!

21 A fee quoted for what solicitors do (6)
ACCOST - homophone of A COST [a fee]

24 East German capital erected in Roman port (5)
OSTIA - OST [east (German)] + reversed A1 [capital]. I thought OSTI was the East German but of course that's an Ossi, so I'd have been very baffled indeed had I not known my Roman ports well enough to happily biff them in. Very nice to see foreign languages utitlised in the wordplay beyond the standard "the French".
verlaine

Times 27,354: The Laconian Muse

A not overly strenuous (by Friday standards) puzzle to cap off a not overly strenuous crossword week. There was a fair bit of low (ie good) cunning to the wordplay here, but essentially, if you're comfortable with putting words inside other words or occasionally taking them out or jiggling them around, you have all the tools required to solve this puzzle.

Maybe it's not just me who sometimes finds shorter clues harder than the ones that give you plenty of information to work with? Here if you didn't see the answer straight away, you might be in a bit of trouble on any given clue. I made a rod for my own back by throwing in an only partially convincing stab at 15ac, and ended up with a time of around 8 minutes. I liked the "single-digit growth", the tricksy "I can see what the answer must be but how does it work?" clue at 20ac, and the generally highly convincing surfaces throughout. Thanks to the setter!

ACROSS
1 Ring head about one dope (6)
OPIATE - O PATE [ring | head] "about" I [one]

5 This writer's pursuing very old man's case (8)
VOCATIVE - I'VE [this writer (ha)s], pursuing V O CAT [very | old | man]

9 Marine line's pump (8)
PLIMSOLL - double def

10 Woman possessed a nut found among bananas (6)
MAENAD - A EN [a | nut], found among MAD [bananas].
A "nut" is another word for the printing "en" (that's half of an "em").

11 Does salt always stick to this big dish? (4,6)
MAIN COURSE - a double def of a sort. A salt being a sailor, the main being the sea: if you squint you can just about see how a "salt" would always stick to a "course" across the "main".

13 Second pin number maybe in A&E (4)
AIDE - I.D. [pin number maybe] "in" A and E. First one in.

14 In Yorkshire, the tavern that provides lifts? (1-3)
T-BAR - or alternatively punctuated, t'bar, where a Yorkshireman might go for his pint.

15 Yield from a mine drilling copper overdue (10)
CAPITULATE - A PIT [a mine] "drilling" CU LATE [copper | overdue].
I made heavy weather of this one by bunging in ACCUMULATE at first...

18 Former Bond loaded with what's needed for passion (10)
EXCITEMENT - EX CEMENT [former | bond] "loaded" with IT [what's needed]

20 Twice loses unemployment benefit? Just that! (4)
DOLE - DO{ub}LE [twice] "loses" U.B. for a synonyms of U.B.

21 Runner goes around a Munro (4)
SAKI - SKI [runner] "goes around" A, to arrive at H.H. Munro, who may have died in 1916 but who is still a regular habitue of Crosswordland.

23 Bar culture somehow related to consumption (10)
TUBERCULAR - (BAR CULTURE*) ["somehow"]

25 Ray comes across right word to help concentration (6)
MANTRA - MANTA [ray] "comes across" R [right]

26 To surpass in work, I trust mobile (8)
OUTSTRIP - in OP [work], (I TRUST*) ["mobile"]

28 Firm in the past briefly occupying island (8)
CONCRETE - ONC{e} [in the past "briefly"] "occupying" CRETE [island]

29 Missing leader, draws lots (6)
OODLES - {d}OODLES ["missing leader", draws]

DOWN
2 Where to put post and support shrub (6,3)
PILLAR BOX - PILLAR [support] + BOX [shrub]

3 A recluse hosts male welfare worker once (7)
ALMONER - A LONER [a | recluse] "hosts" M [male]

4 I must display energy in different ways (3)
EGO - E + GO [energy "in (two) different ways"]. Last one in.

5 A piece of oral evidence turns up describing part of mouth (5)
VELAR - hidden reversed in {o}RAL EV{idence}

6 Committee adviser bridles at pundit (11)
COMMENTATOR - COM. MENTOR [committee | adviser] "bridles" AT

7 Single-digit growth worried one in the end (7)
TOENAIL - (ONE*) ["worried"] in TAIL [the end]

8 Food item with rocket on top (5)
VIAND - V-1 [rocket] + AND [on top]
Not 100% sure about the substitutability of AND/on top? But the gist seemed clear enough...

12 Arrange scores or bust judge (11)
ORCHESTRATE - OR + CHEST RATE [bust | judge]

16 Author's lyrical work lacking effort (3)
POE - POE{try} [lyrical work, "lacking TRY (= effort)"]

17 Garrulous, like a TV lunatic absorbing atmosphere (9)
TALKATIVE - (LIKE A TV*) ["lunatic"] "absorbing" AT [atmosphere].
Would've thought that "atmosphere" would've been "ATM"? But oh well...

19 Fatuous one follows papers to do with hearing (7)
IDIOTIC - I [one] follows I.D. [papers] + OTIC [to do with hearing]

20 Put off foreign one wearing old hat (7)
DAUNTED - UN [foreign (= French) one] "wearing" DATED [old hat]

22 Last pair abandoning fashionable, ill-fated mission (5)
ALAMO - A LA MO{de} ["last pair (of letters) abandoning" fashionable]

24 Audibly demonstrates contempt for sauce (5)
BOOZE - homophone of BOOS [demonstrates contempt for]

27 Sort of square rings on top of that (3)
TOO - T [sort of square] + O O [(two) rings]
verlaine

Times 27,317: I Want My Mummy!

Woof, this one felt proper Friday hard, and this coming after a week of pretty hard puzzles. To qualify that, about half of it was rather straightforward, but then you've got the explosion in a dictionary factory that are 1ac, 8ac, 25ac, 1dn, 7dn, 20dn. I am used to this kind of thing due to manfully tacking the Monthly Club Special 12 times a year but I won't be surprised if some people are completely stopped in their tracks. I got CONGERIES rather quickly due to dear old HP's memorable description of a Shoggoth as "a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles", but I took forever on the rest of the top half, not getting anywhere at all with 1ac (having no real inkling about a Lincoln being a car), biffing in a foolish placeholder TONICS for 9ac and not being able to see REAL tonic, in the unusual word at 8ac, for many tumbling thoughts of NEOTERIC, NEOGENIC, NEOLOGIC, etc etc. 2dn was my last one in, in the event, and becomes my clue of the day just because I was so well and truly suckered by the "currency" definition; without the crossing W I was convinced it had to be something like NICKELS or NICKERS or whatnot.

So well played setter, you win this round of the game and I tip my hat to you! Close to a Championship Finals level puzzle, to judge by the bruising I took...

ACROSS
1 Organ case of tin work one judge installed in Lincoln, perhaps (7,3)
CANOPIC JAR - CAN OP I [tin | work | one] + J [judge] "installed" in CAR [Lincoln, perhaps]

6 Water-carrier — originally plain Aquarius in Latin (4)
PAIL - P{lain} A{quarius} I{n} L{atin}

8 Recent spirit raiser using scientific principles (8)
NEWTONIC - NEW TONIC [recent | spirit raiser]

9 Musical sounds mostly performed by skaters in seconds? (6)
SONICS - ON IC{e} ["mostly", performed by skaters] in S S [(two) seconds]

10 Former city business manager (4)
EXEC - EX EC [former | city]

11 Oddball tennis hero, one not really brilliant? (10)
RHINESTONE - (TENNIS HERO*)

12 Some slips of actors through that act (4,5)
IPSO FACTO - hidden in {sl}IPS OF ACTO{rs}

14 Michael's ascended, reportedly in confusion (3-2)
MIX-UP - homophone of MICK'S UP [Michael's | ascended]

17 Son put bracelets on, and drag, while walking (5)
SCUFF - S CUFF [son | put bracelets on]

19 Workers mature cheese out of British live collection (9)
MENAGERIE - MEN AGE {b}RIE [workers | mature | cheese, minus B = British]

22 Refuse building permission for concrete shelter (10)
BLOCKHOUSE - BLOCK HOUSE [refuse | building permission]

23 Mirror either side of small recess (4)
APSE - APE [mirror] either side of S [small]

24 Like "Samson’" English choir arranged (6)
HEROIC - (E CHOIR*)

25 Curtain's level in opening (8)
PORTIERE - TIER [level] in PORE [opening]

26 Unknown vehicle's back for service (4)
NAVY - reversed Y VAN [unknown | vehicle]

27 Excited stir after early Christian city sacrifices old religious foe (10)
ANTICHRIST - (STIR*) after ANTI{o}CH [early Christian city, minus O = old]

DOWN
1 Disorderly collections of eels, that is admitted (9)
CONGERIES - CONGERS [eels] with I.E. [that is] "admitted"

2 Currency to have when splitting bill? (7)
NOWNESS - OWN [to have] when "splitting" NESS [bill, as in "Portland Bill"]

3 Auditor's part behind with payments, reportedly, shillings down (5,3)
INNER EAR - a homophone of IN ARREARS [behind with payments], minus S = shillings

4 Lords and ladies give up preaching? (4-2-3-6)
JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT - the flower, or, unhyphenated, to JACK IN [give up] THE PULPIT [preaching]

5 More wildly adventurous food (6)
RASHER - double def

6 Cut up rubbish material (9)
PINSTRIPE - reversed SNIP [cut] + TRIPE [rubbish]

7 Fish caught round north and centre of Greenland, eaten by half Inuits (7)
INCONNU - C O N {gree}N{land}, "eaten" by INU{its}

13 Dealing with smells outside of offal plant (9)
OLFACTORY - O{ffa}L + FACTORY [plant]

15 Go back into press's first books for a previous case (9)
PRECEDENT - RECEDE [go back] into P{ress} + NT [books]

16 Beer in cantina and island clubs of holiday isles (8)
BALEARIC - ALE [beer] in BAR [cantina] + I C [island | clubs]

18 A glowing hot lake across channel rises in crater (7)
CALDERA - reverse all of A RED LAC [a | glowing hot | lake across channel, ie in France]

20 Accompanying groups dancing around pier in India (7)
RIPIENI - (PIER IN I*) ["dancing around"]

21 Church starting a tea dance (3-3)
CHA-CHA - CH [church] + A CHA [a | tea]
verlaine

Times 27,281: More Than Parts Of Which Are Excellent

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!

ACROSS
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]

DOWN
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}
verlaine

Times 27,251: 28ac was a write-in!

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...

ACROSS
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!]

DOWN
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]
verlaine

Times 27,221:

ACROSS
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"

DOWN
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"]
verlaine

Monthly Club Special 20,217: The Gory Locks Zone

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?]

DOWN
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