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Times 26731 - The Lonely Sea and the Sky
Capybara
ulaca
A pretty standard Mondayesque offering, with a bit for everyone, including a mathsey bit which I've heard of but would be hard pushed to explain. But that's pretty much me and maths in a nutshell. I'd also heard of the poem and amazed myself by being able to recite the first two lines, even if I got the seventh word slightly wrong. But I think you'd have to be a bit of a pedant to get it right. A good challenge after a boozy evening with friends - quote the first line of this poem and fill the blank in this Reg Dwight song: 'Daniel is ****** tonight on a plane'. 24 minutes.

ACROSS

1. ARCHAIC - CHAI[r] in ARC.
5. GRAMPUS - SUP reversed on GRAM. Nagoya's football club used to have eight of these cetaceans.
9. SCURVIEST - S A CURVIEST.
10. VISTA - ST in VIA.
11. RICER - R + ICER. Not heard of this N. Am. word defined by Oxford as 'A utensil with small holes through which boiled potatoes or other soft food can be pushed to form particles of a similar size to grains of rice.'
12. FUSILLADE - US + ILL in FADE. 'Deviation in the air' describes my golf shots admirably, and sounds so much better than slice, which is what we hackers call our 'fade'.
14. PLAIN CHOCOLATE - INCH O' COLA in PLATE.
17. ACHILLES TENDON - A VERY COLD DEATH*.
21. STOP WATCH - STOP WATCH. Come on then, how many of you bunged in 'slow coach'? TOP in SWATCH.
23. PLANK - PLAN[c]K. Heard of this 'un.
24. IGLOO - [b]IG + LOO.
25. FRIGIDITY - F + RIGIDITY. If I was given to such pronouncements, I would say there was a whiff of sexism about this. As it is, I love it.
26. TUMBLER - a whimsical clue with very modest pretensions.
27. TIE-DYED- - [pictur]E in TIDY + ED.

DOWN

1. ASSERT - sounds like 'a cert'.
2. COUNCIL - UNC[o] in COIL. Unco can mean strange as well as very.
3. ADVERBIAL - VARIABLE + D*.
4. COEFFICIENT - CO + EFFICIENTLY. Would that all scientific clues were clued so generously!
5. GET - TEG reversed.
6. ANVIL - hidden. I got a 'treble treble' with ANVILLED in Scrabble yesterday, so watch out for the verb.
7. PASSATA - S + A in PASTA. A tomato paste I've never heard of.
8. SEA FEVER - EA + F in SEVER for the Masefield encomium to life on the ocean wave.
13. SHORT-SHRIFT - R in SHORT SHIFT. We had this phrase the other day.
15. OENOPHILE - PI[g]EONHOLE*.
16. DAY SHIFT - well, if you cross the date line you change day.
18. HOODLUM - LOUD* in HOM[e].
19. OPACITY - A + Y in OP CIT.
20. OKAYED - KAY in OED. Kay pops up in Malory's Morte Darthur, most notably in Book 4 with Gawain, Arthur and Gryfflet to defeat those pesky northern kings.
22. WHORL - WHO + R + L. My last in, even though I now use a fingerprint to access my iPad. Well, when it works.
25. FAR - FAR[e]. Last by name and very possibly last by nature...

Times 26701 - Right up Fry's Alley?
Capybara
ulaca
I nodded off and took a phone call during this one, but the fact remains that it was harder than your average Monday and will, I can confidently predict, have nudged Keriothe's Monday graph a nanopoint north. Since I did it a little while ago, I have forgotten almost everything about it, but I am glad at least that I was able to parse everything, which is more than can be said for Saturday's - which I have just finished - where 1d still eludes me. 48 minutes, with the excuses already noted.

ACROSS

1. DEBRIEFED - BRIEF in DEED. In my experience, 'brief' well describes the average grasp of facts possessed by the gun-for-hire we glorify with the title of barrister. I am pleased to see that Oxford is in agreement with me: 'a summary of the facts and legal points in a case given to a barrister to argue in court'.
6. SCOTS - initial letters of Separate Clubs On The Scene; I have a strong aversion to the word 'race', preferring group, nation, people or anything else in the semantic vicinity. I AM grumpy today...
9. APHASIA - HAS (experiences) in APIA[n].
10. NOMINEE - NO + MINE + [futur]E.
11. TONIC - initial letter of Indian + C after TON.
12. RAM RAIDER - two forms of low-life, one urban, one rural.
13. SUTURING - US reversed + TURING.
14. BRAE - alternate letters of BaRrAgE.
17. EVEN - double definition.
18. UNDERCUT - UNDER (subject to) + CUT.
21. MICROWAVE - MICRO + WAVE.
22. CLINK - two slang terms for jail (clink and bird); K (rooK's last letter) on CLIN (cling minus the G)
24. HANDS UP - HANDS (as people working on a boat) + UP.
25. EXTINCT - INC in TEXT* (anagram).
26. PISTE - ST in PIE.
27. LATERALLY - if you turn up to a tennis match late, you might see no early rallies, just a late rally, or two.

DOWN

1. DEALT - DEAL + T.
2. BEHIND THE SCENES - if you cause someone to lose their temper on a regular basis, you may be said to be behind their scenes. (I'm not sure these clues improve by being explained...)
3. INSECURE - take DUO out of IN [du]E C[o]URSE and make an anagram (signalled by eccentric) of the residue.
4. FLAGRANT - GRAN in FLAT. Sorry, no explanation this time.
5. DYNAMO - a reversal of MANY in DO; if a shrink said 'dynamo' to me, I'd respond 'Kiev'. Probably do the same with 'chicken' too, come to think of it.
6. SAMPAN - a reversal of MAS + PAN.
7. OMNIDIRECTIONAL - DOCTOR IM IN ALIEN*.
8. SMEARIEST - ARMIES SET*; I can imagine Stephen Fry talking for 20 minutes about this word. Moving right along...
13. STEAMSHIP - HIP preceded by TEAM in SS, where 'crew coming aboard' is Crosswordese for 'stick a word meaning something like crew in the letters SS, because then they are in the ship, or, "on board"'. By an extraordinary coincidence, SS actually stands for 'steamship'. Go fig, as some people like to say, usually with a !.
15. INHERENT - HE + RENT after IN (as in 'Trump is in').
16. MERCATOR - there's no doubt that some of those medieval dudes had cool names, Gerardus's being amongst them; we track the cartographer down here by placing a MERC on top of a reversed ROTA.
19. MOUSSE - yes, um, a mousse is a dessert and also the stuff that some people put in their hair (or locks).
20. CARPEL - reversed hidden in 'poLE PRACtically'.
23. KITTY - a whimsical number to finish with, playing upon the fact that a female cat is called a kitty, at least until it is done, it is.

Times 26677 - Half a Dozen Chappies Looking for an Emperor
Capybara
ulaca
A very pleasant Monday offering with a smattering of European clues with the potential to stretch the grey matter of those who cry with Aguecheek that they wish they had followed the arts! My favourite was 3 down for the cunningly concealed definition of a very serviceable word, even if it is too frequently associated with those who enjoy the sound of their own voice more perhaps than others do. 5 down was also rather good, I thought, as an example of a charade that had you looking for the definition at the wrong end of the clue. I'm not sure about you, but as I get more experienced at these things, I find the charade type of clue perhaps the hardest. 21 minutes.

ACROSS

1. DOWNRIGHT - DOWN + [f]RIGHT; already the setter has got some of us looking for the answer at the wrong end.
6. COWES - 'port in island [of Wight]'; 'of Jersey' might be taken, in context, to stand for "cow's", which sounds like the town.
9. GOING FOR A BURTON - 'making final exit'; if you criticised Richard Burton's performance in, say, The Sandpiper, you might be accused of 'going for a Burton'. The derivation of the expression may be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_for_a_Burton
10. SUPPLY - SUP + PLY.
11. SEA TROUT - S + [R in EAT OUT].
13. PIRANDELLO - OP reversed around IRAN + DELL for the Italian writer best known, in the English-sparking world, at any rate, for the play 'Six Characters in Search of an Author', which I have seen, but forgotten, as I do most plays.
14. STAB - a hidden clue.
16. SINE - S[h]INE.
17. CONTRIBUTE - CO[i]N + TRIBUTE.
19. HAPSBURG - a reversal of GRUBS + PAH (Blackadderese for ugh!)
20. LEASED - A in an anagram* of LEEDS.
23. SPEECH THERAPIST - PS THIS PE TEACHER*.
24. EASES - [t]EASES.
25. CONCERNED - CONCERN + ED.

DOWNS

1. DEGAS - EG (for one) in SAD (blue) reversed.
2. WHIPPERSNAPPERS - WHIP + PER (a) + SNAPPERS.
3. REGALING - E + GAL in (wearing) RING.
4. GOOD - O in reversed DOG.
5. TRADE PLATE - 'early number features on it' (the temporary number plate given a vehicle before it is registered); TRAD + EP + LATE.
6. CRUSTY - a double definition, one referring to bread, the other to a cantankerous individual.
7. WITHOUT QUESTION - 'certainly'; well, I think a poll can consist of statements, but obviously the setter doesn't!
8. SAND TABLE - STABLE around (clothing) AND (with) for the sort of thing one can imagine General Melchett using to show approximate positions of expected slaughter zones.
12. DEMOCRATIC - 'popular' in the sense that representatives are elected by the people, if in no other; another charade: DEMO + C ('about' - that most versatile ingredient in the setter's kitchen) + RAT + IC.
13. POSTHASTE - POS (Petty Officers) + H in TASTE.
15. LIVEWARE - L + A REVIEW* for a particularly ugly word to describe nerdish types by analogy with software.
16. ABACUS - A + C in A BUS; 'one flew east, one flew west, one flew out of the Quickie nest...'
21. DATED - alternate letters in DeAd TrEnDy.
22. BEAN - BEA[t] (as in 'dead beat') + [maratho]N.

Times 26233 – The Referee’s Decision is Final
Capybara
ulaca
A gentle way to ease into the new week with a weird dance and a weird painting, but little else to bother the seasoned solver. Talking of which, many congratulations to Mark Goodliffe for snaffling the prize for the eight consecutive year at the Times Crossword Championships, and to a host of other bloggers and commenters for sterling performances, not excluding Mohn (fifth place), the three Jumbo bloggers (Helen Ougham, Simon Hanson and Fat Hippy – all well up there), Verlaine and Tony Sever, who all got through to the Grand Final. Keriothe, Topical Tim, Andy Wallace (Linxit) and the Mighty Penfold also performed admirably by finishing in the top 30 (correct me if I’m wrong) in their heat to gain an exemption from qualifying for next year’s edition. Actually, I note that only one of these is not a blogger, so, You Know Who, O Mighty One!, we look forward to receiving your wit and wisdom on a regular, formalised basis sharpish. Not on my watch, mind!

20 minutes plus change for me on this, decidedly, non-Grand Finalesque offering.

ACROSS

1. HULA-HULA – whenever I read ‘dance’ (or ‘ted’) I think of our Jimbo, who I am sure has assayed this measure in his long Terpsichorean career. The initial letter of Held Under Local Auspices, repeated.
5. SHADOW – HAD in SOW.
9. ABUNDANT – A BUN in AD + ANT.
10. STIFLE – a nicely hidden hidden.
12. SECCO – S + EC + CO. Those with a passing knowledge of Latin or wine will gather that this has something to do with dryness. ODO specifies that something as ‘the technique of painting on dry plaster with pigments mixed in water’.
13. EARTHWORK – [primitive]E + ARTWORK around H[igh].
14. LONG-STANDING – you read ‘pine’ you think LONG soon enough, just like those Norwegian Blues and their fjords.
18. CUMULONIMBUS – an anagram* of SUMO CLUB IN M[alib]U.
21. DESERT RAT – TAR reversed after DESERT.
23. EVADE – NEVADA without its borders > EVAD + E. I’m banking on this being the clue where people will come to check the parsing and make this thankless task worth it by saying “Thanks, mate, I really had no clue until you explained everything”. Or not.
24. MEAGRE – M + EAGRE, where the latter means much the same as ‘bore’, as in the wonderfully named Severn Bore. All to be found on the western side of the border, of course.
25. ECSTATIC – E + STAT[e] in CIC.
26. CRYING – Y in C + RING.
27. GLADSOME – GLADSTONE (the chap who befriended ladies of the night as part of his service to his country, or just to annoy Victoria Regina perhaps; who know why men do these things?) with the TON (fashion) changed to OM (Order of Merit).

DOWNS

1. HOARSE – [alask]A in HORSE.
2. LAUNCH – UN in LA + CH. Not overly taxing.
3. HYDROFOIL – F[ine] + OIL after HYDRO (hotel). Not being much of a Renaissance Man or a New Man, the meaning of ‘hydro’ as ‘a hotel or clinic originally providing hydropathic treatment’ completely passed me by when solving. But so much does that I didn’t bat an eyelid.
4. LANDED GENTRY – LANDED + G + ENTRY. Not too taxing either.
6. HITCH – I’d have thought one would do it to obtain a life, not merely to a lift, but then of course, on the other hand, one could do it to the word string ‘a lift’, so I think this clue passes muster, even if it probably wouldn’t be champion at the Cryptic Definition of the Year Awards, and may, I’m sad to say, not even be asked back for the following year’s festivities without first having to go through that process which the Mighty One and others are now quietly sniffing at.
7. DAFFODIL – F in LIDO and FAD, both reversed.
8. WRECKAGE – WAGE (as in ‘wage war’, which Julius Caesar was always doing when he wasn’t making ablative absolutes) around RECK (an old word for ‘heed’, used only in negative and interrogative contexts, know ye not?).
11. ARITHMETICAL – MIRACLE THAT I*.
15. NAUSEATED – DEAN reversed around U + SEAT.
16. ACADEMIC – a slightly under strength double definition.
17. EMISSARY – a slightly underwhelming (am I being unduly harsh, is my Scottish blood boiling at a perceived injustice?) clue: E + MISS + RY (trains) around A.
19. TATTOO – a whimsical clue in which that which can be etched on your torso can also be that which is sounded drum-wise for evening roll-call.
20. RESCUE – RUE around ESC; ESC, together with (breaking off to have a quick look at my keyboard) DEL, ALT, ENTER and quite possibly SHIFT, is commonly clued by ‘key’.
22. RERUN – RE + RUN. My lips are sealed – I have said enough for one day.

TIMES 25258
Capybara
ulaca

This was a fairly typical Monday offering with enough about it to give pause to all but the most expert solver. I managed it in 45 minutes with one wrong and a bit of a guess at my last in, wondering how a lion might be an idol. Or maybe I got that wrong too. We shall see...   

ACROSS

1 OPTIMISE - OP + IM in SITE* - a nice one to get us started.

5 H + OB+N+OB - 'after hours' was the giveaway here.

9 SAD + D+LE+RY - I was racing round the Isle of Man when I should have been casting my mind back to recall what it was like to exercise temperance.

10 TATTOO - 'looking back' is the reversal indicator and 'over' is the cricketing abbreviation O, so O + O (old) + TT (times) + AT reversed.

12 FIBRILLATION - I rather liked this, and the word itself tickles my fancy in a Ken Doddish kind of way; FIB + ILL in RATION.

15 Would it make you cry if we cut this?

16 SWAZILAND - anagram of LIZA[R]D and SWAN for the HIV-ravaged country with the lowest life expectancy in the world.

18 SNOWDONIA - NOW + DON in S[k]I[h]A[t] - 'now' for fashionable may be downright ugly but it's in the dictionary.

19 CHIEF - no excuse at all for writing 'thief', as the wordplay - and word order - makes it crystal clear that the felon not only loses his head but gets crowned with a 'c' for good measure, 'van' doing its opposite of rearguard thing.

20 SQUASH (press) LADDER (run in tights) - I hated these things (squash ladders not tights) as I always seemed to be near the bottom.

24 I'll follow the setter and make this an omission clue.

25 DELEGATE - [syndicat]E + LEG + in DATE - a little lifting and separating is all you require to attend this event.

26 EA(S)TER - if it's not a cooker then it's an eater, though both are in short supply in Blighty after the poor insects couldn't scramble in all that rain.

27 SKITTISH - many will have just bunged this in, but for the record it's SH for mum (as in 'mum's the word') enclosing KIT (clothing) and a reversed verbal model (TIS).

DOWN

1 OUSE - there must be dozens of River Ouses in England; one of them is supplying today's non-dodgy homophone.

2 TI(D)E - thanks to dictionary.com for coming up with the 'turning point' definition (AKA 'a critical point in time'), even if it doesn't quite convince me, when all I could think of was the 'alternate rising and falling of the sea' meaning.

3 MULLIONED - LION in MULE + D[iamonds] - a number of factors contributed to this being my last in, not least the fact the word itself was so unfamiliar as to be functionally unknown. Anywyay, in crossword land, when a mule isn't being a hybrid it's being, as here, a woman's slipper, and when diamonds aren't being ice they are being a minimalistic Mephistoesque D. Then there's the lion. The best I can come up with for him, after extensive Googling, is the feline that appears to be worshipped along with his mount, the goddess Amba, in Hinduism. Oh, and if a window or screen is mullioned, it contains a vertical division.

4 SURPRISINGLY - another that many will bung in from the checkers. For the record, it's P + RISING in SURLY.

6 The down omission

7 NITRIC ACID - IC in TRAIN* + CID - I sometimes wonder why God gave us all this excess Nitrogen if he knew what we were going to make of it.

8 BROWNED OFF - another phrase I like for some reason, probably because I feel like this quite a lot of the time. It's BROW + NE + DOFF.

11 CLEAN AND JERK - yet another phrase that rather tickles my fancy, and thus gets my COD, even if it's sister event in the weightlfiting discipline has an even raunchier name. One of my favourite moments in the Olympics was when the North Korean pocket battleship of a female weightlifter, weighing 100 pounds, made it onto the podium at her final attempt behind a Chinese and a Japanese who looked, for some reason, far better nourished. It's an anagram of DANCER and ANKLE containing J[udge].

13 POSSESSIVE - 'controlling' as in helicopter parents. With a daughter just starting at boarding school in England, that would make my wife and I Skypelicopter parents. This time we have POSSE as the company for a change chasing [ad]VISES*.

14 BINOCULARS - was it only me who thought of the dog called Colin in Baldrick's rotten borough being interviewed by Vincent Hanna? Probably. Glasses is the literal, and BARS around COLIN + U* the wordplay.            

17 INCLEMENT - our second, I think, letter substitution clue, where R becomes L.

21 I'm going scratch this one too.

22 TAX+I - like the muggins that I am, I put Bali and only got the real answer when I stopped to work out the wordplay and saw that tax meant try.

23 Hidden omission.