Astarte1

QC 1715 by Wurm

This was an extremely easy puzzle from Wurm (whom I think I have only met once or twice before). In fact I do think it is the easiest puzzle I have ever blogged and many thanks therefore for providing a puzzle that even the newest anonoymous beginners should be able to get their teeth into.

As we often say this is one of the main purposes of the Quickie,  to get people to have a go at cryptics and realise that they are not as far out of their reach as they might have thought. I remember when I started I used to stare at a blank 15x15 grid and wonder how I would ever be able to penetrate the surface. Then after a couple of days I was managing to get a few of the clues and before long I was finishing the puzzle regularly. Nowadays the Quickie helps you through those early head-scratching stages so you should be able to be filling in at least some of the grid from the very beginning.

Pretty much sequential solving today, with FOI being 6A and LOI 19D. I think my COD was, for reasons of neatness rather than difficulty, 8D.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it as simply as I can.

Across
6 Swimmer in location without current (6)
PLAICE - PLACE (location) 'without' (i.e. 'outside') I (physical symbol for electric current).
7 Bet here as coin thrown about (6)
CASINO - straight anagram ('thrown about') of AS COIN.
9 Drink around north is bargain (4)
SNIP - SIP (drink) 'around' N (north).
10 7 game allowed to get in way (8)
ROULETTE - LET (allowed) in ROUTE (way). '7 game' is referring to 7A CASINO.
11 Use machete repeatedly with expedition! (4-4)
CHOP-CHOP - You use a machete to CHOP, and if you do it repeatedly you get this colloquial expression for 'hurry up'.
13 Good base for light (4)
GLOW - G (good) + LOW (base).
15 Black rodent irritating child (4)
BRAT - B (black) + RAT (rodent).
16 Become sunnier in resort, we hear (8)
BRIGHTEN - sounds like ('we hear') BRIGHTON (south coast resort).
18 Precious stones found in suit (8)
DIAMONDS - double definition.
20 Prepare some korma kebabs (4)
MAKE - hidden word: 'some' korMA KEbabs.
21 Relative brings us into money (6)
COUSIN - US 'brought in' to COIN (money).
22 Get to the point? (6)
NEEDLE - double definition.
Down
1 One to embrace decisive argument (8)
CLINCHER - double definition.
2 Creature this puma moved across river twice (12)
HIPPOPOTAMUS - anagram ('moved') of THIS PUMA 'across' PO PO (the longest river in Italy 'twice').
3 Beginning to deal with world shortage (6)
DEARTH - D (beginning to Deal) + EARTH (world).
4 Rugby-playing group quietly steal apples (6)
SCRUMP - SCRUM (Rugby-playing group) + P (piano, quietly).
5 Join outfit that protects knight (4)
KNIT - KIT (outfit) 'protecting' N (symbol for the knight in Chess).
8 Tool has blade: hard to smuggle into jail (12)
SLEDGEHAMMER - EDGE (blade) + H (hard) 'smuggled into' SLAMMER (jail).
12 Rower in Tromso arriving (3)
OAR - hidden word: 'in' TromsO ARriving.
14 Large liver OK cooked, but too much (8)
OVERKILL - anagram ('cooked') of L (large) + LIVER OK.
16 Graduate meets fool in plant (6)
BANANA - BA (graduate) + NANA (fool).
17 Stupid and senseless to incarcerate son (6)
INSANE - INANE (senseless) 'incarcerating' S (son).
19 Hero at home entertaining company (4)
ICON - IN (at home) 'entertaining' CO (company).
Astarte1

QC 1705 by Mara

A very enjoyable puzzle for the start to the week. Fairly straightforward as is the Monday tradition but once again I did enjoy quite a few of the clues even though they didn't hold out for very long. 10A, 19A, 12D and 18D I particularly liked with COD probably going to 19A. It was mostly an anagram so the basic device was easy, but it charmed me with the unruffled calm of its surface. Many thanks to Mara for a dose of elegant simplicity.

People have commented in the past that I don't mention my times and I have explained that I usually have difficulty in reading the clues properly so don't see my times as necessarily representative. Other people as well as me have commented on the rn/m similarity which can certainly cause me problems, but today I had a different misreading error which held me up. I think I would normally regard 15A as a simple write-in but today it took me about a minute as I was reading 'flight' for 'fight' and was convinced it had something to do with 'ALOFT'. So that was my LOI and I think my FOI was 5A.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it as simply as I can.

Across
1 Vault, source of water (6)
SPRING - double definition.
5 Piece of Hollywood, epic theatrical show (6)
DEPICT - hidden word: 'piece of' HollywooD EPIC Theatrical.
8 Modern gallery shrouded in gentle compassion (5,2,3,3)
STATE OF THE ART - TATE (gallery) 'shrouded in' SOFT HEART (gentle compassion).
9 Map pinpointing Libya and Nigeria, primarily (4)
PLAN - Pinpointing Libya And Nigeria 'primarily'.
10 Shortened spanner held in hand, removing odd parts (8)
ABRIDGED - BRIDGE (spanner cryptically, i.e. something that spans) 'held in' AD (hAnD with the odd letters removed).
11 A trail way up mountain (6)
ASCENT - A + SCENT (trail).
13 Figure important, though not the first (6)
EIGHTY - wEIGHTY (important) without the first letter.
15 Loss of power, shortage in fight (8)
BLACKOUT - LACK (shortage) in BOUT (fight).
17 Lob some balls, so thrown back (4)
TOSS - reversed hidden word: 'some' ballS SO Thrown 'back'.
19 Recent draw surprisingly inspiring pro footballer (6,7)
CENTRE FORWARD - anagram ('surprisingly') of RECENT DRAW 'inspiring' FOR (pro).
21 Highlight small curl of hair (6)
STRESS - S (small) + TRESS (curl of hair).
22 Hard, but having a go (6)
TRYING - double definition (first as in 'these are trying (hard) times').
Down
2 Plate smashed, bit of a bloomer (5)
PETAL - straight anagram ('smashed') of PLATE (with a cryptic definition).
3 Strong set with nine changes (7)
INTENSE - straight anagram ('changes') of SET + NINE.
4 Not entirely splendid, slimy stuff (3)
GOO - GOOd (splendid 'not entirely').
5 Cleaner put off, man! (9)
DETERGENT - DETER (put off) + GENT (man).
6 Petition putting pressure on chief (5)
PLEAD - P (pressure) 'on' (i.e. 'above' in this down clue) LEAD (chief).
7 Present flow of electricity (7)
CURRENT - double definition.
10 Woman writing a novel thus, Rose (9)
AUTHORESS - A + anagram ('novel') of THUS ROSE.
12 Most important way to welcome foreigner (7)
SALIENT - ST (street, way) 'welcoming' ALIEN (foreigner).
14 Go on holiday? You must be joking! (3,4)
GET AWAY - double definition.
16 Lovely thing diminished, that is (5)
CUTIE - CUT (diminished) + IE (id est, that is)
18 Father has name for seductress (5)
SIREN - SIRE (father) + N (name).
20 Unfashionable openers in our university team (3)
OUT - 'openers' in Our University Team.
Astarte1

QC 1695 by Tracy

This week we are back in the nursery with a very easy puzzle. Pretty much all the answers went in in sequence without much thought and the only thing that held me up (as usual) was my reading eyesight.

FOI was 7A and LOI was 15D (one of the few that didn't go in first time). As usual I have not awarded COD on degree of difficulty but on other aspects and this week I have chosen 7A simply because I like the definition so much. 16A was also elegant.

Although the puzzle was easy several of the clues were very pleasing so many thanks to Tracy for engineering that difficult combination.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can manage.

Across
7 Nasty predator may show little sign of grief (8)
TEARDROP - straight anagram ('nasty') of PREDATOR.
8 Servant: male help (4)
MAID - M (male) + AID (help).
9 Sign of injury from run in country (6)
SPRAIN - R (run) in SPAIN (country).
10 Speed in heats, uncommon (5)
HASTE - straight anagram ('uncommon') of HEATS.
11 Pass round sticky stuff (3)
GOO - GO (pass) + O (round).
12 Chess piece left in class (6)
CASTLE - L (left) in CASTE (class).
14 Novel hat (6)
TRILBY - double definition, referring to the late 19th century novel by George du Maurier.
16 Alternative route after start of digging? (6)
DETOUR - D (start of Digging) + anagram ('alternative') of ROUTE. The whole clue also amounts to a reasonable definition of the answer making this an &lit.
18 Guard southern passageway (6)
SENTRY - S (southern) + ENTRY (passageway).
19 Old vessel, unlit, heading off (3)
ARK - dARK (unlit) minus its heading.
20 Initially glimpsed weaving machine in partial darkness (5)
GLOOM - G (initially Glimpsed) + LOOM (weaving machine).
21 Stoat in mere, swimming (6)
ERMINE - straight anagram ('swimming') of IN MERE.
23 Conceited, sticks around (4)
SMUG - GUMS (sticks) 'around' (i.e. reversed).
24 Sport in Los Angeles annoyed English (8)
LACROSSE - LA (Los Angeles) + CROSS (annoyed) + E (English).
Down
1 Model short-term office worker, delayed (8)
TEMPLATE - TEMP (short-term office worker) + LATE (delayed).
2 Song from Callas, perhaps needing no introduction (4)
ARIA - Maria Callas, one of the most famous opera singers ever, certainly needs no introduction, and without one she becomes ARIA.
3 Bang bell cast in iron (6)
FRINGE - RING (bell) 'in' FE (Fe being the chemical symbol for iron).
4 Result of winning stroke (6)
UPSHOT - UP (winning) + SHOT (stroke).
5 Neglect? Ring embassy (8)
OMISSION - O (ring) + MISSION (embassy).
6 Healthy, some golf in Edinburgh (4)
FINE - hidden word: 'some' golF IN Edinburgh.
13 Utter nothing in between (8)
THOROUGH - O (nothing) 'in' THROUGH (between).
15 Titled lady one's seen in pubs (8)
BARONESS - ONES (one's) in BARS (pubs).
17 Take a long walk with thriller writer, right to the top (6)
RAMBLE - [Eric] AMBLER (thriller writer) with R (right) moving to the top in this down clue.
18 Outline of small two-master (6)
SKETCH - S (small) + KETCH (two-masted vessel).
20 Match in Georgia, then Maine (4)
GAME - GA (Georgia) + ME (Maine).
22 Low northern celestial body (4)
MOON - MOO (low, as in the sound made by a cow) + northern.
Astarte1

QC 1685 by Hurley

Once again life is running away with me so I don't have much time for anything but the usual stats.

Again I felt this was of medium QC difficulty similar to the last one I blogged and certainly a step up from the series that I met in earlier months which seemed to more or less solve themselves. So thank you Hurley for a slightly longer challenge than usual over the morning cup of tea.

FOI was 1A with the very obvious anagram. LOI was 7A because for some reason the key word MENIAL wouldn't come although I could feel it lurking there at the edge of my consciousness. As always I have difficulty choosing a COD as they all seem to be of about the same level of difficulty so I go for the one with the neatest surface. This week the honour goes to 9A.

A special hello this week to invariant_tft. Thank you for your message and for following up. I haven't managed to think too deeply about your little conundrum although I feel I should be able to get the answer. I did study Chemistry at University and took modules in Physics and since following several careers in other directions I have always maintained an interest in science so I feel it should not be beyond me. I'll follow up the reference you suggest when I get a moment and I hope the penny will drop. I saw your SPOILER ALERT and didn't read any further so I imagine if I decide to give up then the answer is disclosed in that message? Either way I will get back to you and tell you either that I got it finally or that I gave up!

Definitions are underlined in italics and everything else is explained just as I see it as simply as I can.

Across
1 Get coat altered in rural building (7)
COTTAGE - straight anagram ('altered') of GET COAT.
5 Instant credit (4)
TICK - double definition.
7 Domestic servant getting new start is friendly (6)
GENIAL - mENIAL (domestic servant) getting a new start.
8 Grape is beset by wet weather (6)
RAISIN - IS 'beset' by RAIN (wet weather).
9 One hoping you buy second drinks for each child (11)
SALESPERSON - S (second) + ALES (drinks) + PER (for each) + SON (child).
10 Busy, cite changes in hours, constant (6)
HECTIC - ECTI (anagram of CITE ('changes')) 'in' H (hours) + C (constant).
12 This decorative item cheers? Not so much, on reflection (6)
TASSEL - TA (cheers) + SSEL (LESS (not so much) 'on reflection').
14 Poisonous reptile disconcerts nude no end (11)
RATTLESNAKE - RATTLES (disconcerts) + NAKEd (nude with no end).
17 Seethe as whiskey taken from bather? (6)
SIMMER - W (whiskey, phonetic alphabet) 'taken from' SwIMMER (bather).
18 Saying nothing about a temperature change (6)
MUTATE - MUTE (saying nothing) 'about' A + T (temperature).
20 Strong reaction in prison (4)
STIR - double definition.
21 Vehicle collecting editor on way back or one used in transaction? (5-2)
TRADE-IN - TRAIN (vehicle) 'collecting' DE (EDitor 'on the way back').
Down
1 Reminder of broadcast line (3)
CUE - sounds like ('broadcast') QUEUE (line).
2 Blunder allowed in one of three (7)
TRIPLET - TRIP (blunder) + LET (allowed).
3 Book finally shortened (5)
ATLAS - AT LASt (finally) 'shortened'.
4 Serious listener, home later (7)
EARNEST - EAR (listener) + NEST (home). I think 'later' here just says that the NEST comes after the EAR and also improves the surface into the bargain, although it is strictly superfluous IMHO.
5 By the sound of it, yarns for formal wear (5)
TAILS - sounds like ('by the sound of it') TALES (yarns).
6 Tell niece, working, to see customers (9)
CLIENTELE - straight anagram ('working') of TELL NIECE.
9 Flavour of pantries, after refurbishment, captivating Mike (9)
SPEARMINT - SPEARINT (anagram of PANTRIES ('after refurbishment')) 'captivating' M (Mike, phonetic alphabet again).
11 No-good prig in cult — who’s to blame? (7)
CULPRIT - CULT with PRI ('no-good' PRIg) inside.
13 Begin extremely late causing alarm (7)
STARTLE - START (begin) + LE ('extremely' LatE).
15 Watch maybe as millions lodged in bank (5)
TIMER - TIER (bank) with M (millions) lodged in it. Watch 'maybe' as other forms of timer are available.
16 Boy with nothing on a Polynesian state (5)
SAMOA - SAM (boy) + O (nothing) 'on' (i.e. 'above' in this down clue) A.
19 Cask from Soviet Union (3)
TUN - hidden word: 'from' sovieT UNion.
Astarte1

QC 1675 by Orpheus

Sorry, nothing at all to say this week except look at the explanations below. I can't stand this awful weather where every keystroke is a miniature expenditure of energy too far so I'm bailing out as quickly as possible.

The usual statistics: FOI 1A, a straight read and write clue. LOI I can't honestly remember but think it might have been 19D. I could see the answer but had to wade through the geographcical cryptic (never my strong point) before writing it in so I think that pushed it back in the queue. As usual for the COD there is no clue that stands out for difficulty so I normally just pick the one whose surface reads most naturally and this week the award goes to 9A. Thanks Orpheus for an entertaining puzzle that was probably about the same medium level of difficulty as the last one I blogged two weeks ago (and just a bit more difficult than the run of very easy fare that I had encountered in the previous few weeks).

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can manage.

Across
1 Appreciative, having this much coal? (8)
GRATEFUL - having a GRATEFUL of coal. (The question mark indicates that you wouldn't normally talk about a 'GRATEFUL' of something, but the possibility can be derived by comparison with established phrases such as a POCKETFUL of mumbles or a SACKFUL of woe).
5 About to demand a strong wooden barrel (4)
CASK - C (circa, about) + ASK (demand).
7 Bag for Falstaff’s wine! (4)
SACK - double definition. Shakespeare's degenerate knight Sir John Falstaff was renowned for his love of SACK, a dry white wine popular at the time.
8 One who conveys news about alcoholic drink (8)
REPORTER - RE (about) PORTER (alcoholic drink).
9 Wobbly: lacking capacity to cross street (8)
UNSTABLE - UNABLE (lacking capacity) 'to cross' ST (street).
11 Reportedly outstanding lyric poem (3)
ODE - Sounds like ('reportedly') OWED (outstanding).
13 Mistakes made by English kings at start of actions (6)
ERRATA - E (English) + RR (kings) + AT + A (start of Action).
16 Groans frightfully, finding skirtlike garment (6)
SARONG - straight anagram ('frightfully') of GROANS.
18 Scottish port involved in Hogmanay revels (3)
AYR - hidden word: 'involved in' hogmanAY Revels.
19 The commercial centre of Banbridge, for example? (8)
DOWNTOWN - Banbridge is a town in County Down, NI, and is therefore a 'DOWN TOWN'.
20 Put off carrying container, a stoppered glass (8)
DECANTER - DETER (put off) 'carrying' CAN (a container).
22 Unemployed superstar given a hearing (4)
IDLE - sounds like ('given a hearing') IDOL (superstar).
23 Boss demanding endless academic application (4)
STUD - academic application = STUDy - remove the end ('endless') and there you have it.
24 Former exam relating to rural life (8)
PASTORAL - PAST (former) + ORAL (exam).
Down
1 Signal from visitor dropping union leader on river (7)
GESTURE - GUEST (visitor) 'dropping' U (Union leader) 'on' (in this down clue) URE (river).
2 A northern church’s attempt to establish origin (8)
ANCESTRY - A + N (northern) + CE'S (church's) + TRY (attempt).
3 Troublemaker sacked for pinching grain husks (9)
FIREBRAND - FIRED (sacked) 'pinching' BRAN (grain husks).
4 Cut Liszt’s first work (3)
LOP - L (Liszt's first) + OP (opus, work).
5 Abrupt old Republican ringing a museum boss (7)
CURATOR - CURT (abrupt) + O (old) + R (republican) 'ringing' A.
6 Pacify son, very small, just into double figures (7)
SWEETEN - S (son) + WEE (very small) + TEN (just into double figures).
10 Unhappy as steward, going in this direction? (9)
EASTWARDS - straight anagram ('unhappy') of AS STEWARD.
12 Well-meaning type taking pet initially over European river (2-6)
DO-GOODER - DOG (pet) + O ('initially' Over) + ODER (European river).
14 First-class male in torn clothing (7)
RAIMENT - AI (first-class) + M (male) 'in' RENT (torn).
15 A Royal Marines orchestra’s form of identification (7)
ARMBAND - A + RM (Royal Marines) + BAND (orchestra).
17 Refined chap set up shelter (7)
GENTEEL - GENT (chap) + EEL (LEE (shelter) reversed, i.e. 'set up' in this down cue).
21 Most superior upper garment (3)
TOP - double definition.
Astarte1

QC 1665 by Teazel

I have had some very easy Monday crosswords in recent weeks. This one was also quite straightforward although I would say it was slightly more difficult than the others. It also contained some very entertaining clues and I enjoyed it a lot. Many thanks to Teazel for a slightly more challenging and more than usually entertaining start to the week.

FOI was the fairly obvious 1A and I think the LOI was 14D not for any reason of difficulty but just because I jumped around the grid a lot and this was the last one I came to. As I say I liked quiet a few of the clues but probably 6D gets the COD for its neat definition.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it as simply as I can.

Across
1 Light fixture (5)
MATCH - double definition.
4 Fish’s small head (7)
SNAPPER - S (small) + NAPPER (head). As in "You look neat, talk about a treat, you look dapper from yer napper to yer feet").
8 Energetic backing for detectives arresting large numbers (7)
DYNAMIC - CID (detectives) 'arresting' MANY (large numbers) all reversed ('backing').
9 Prophet Amos esteemed, to some extent (5)
MOSES - hidden word: aMOS ESteemed 'to some extent', and I guess it's also an &lit. In spite of the history of my avatar given the other week I haven't retained a huge amount of knowledge about the Old Testament prophets although I guess Amos must have thought Moses was a good guy. I also remember from my Bible-bashing days that his little book comes between the other little books of Joel and Obadiah, although that is of course completely irrelevant to the clue.
10 Corruption of grown-up portion, with Ecstasy in it (12)
ADULTERATION - ADULT (grown-up) + RATION (portion) with E (ecstasy) in it.
12 Each solicitor to patronise restaurant (3,3)
EAT OUT - EA (each) + TOUT (solicitor).
13 Consider an affront to be given another errand (6)
RESENT - somebody who is given aother errand may be RE-SENT.
16 Timid hangman’s developed powerful strength (5,3,4)
MIGHT AND MAIN - straight anagram ('developed') of TIMID HANGMAN.
18 Test for car, one following distinctive pattern (5)
MOTIF - MOT (test for car) + I (one) + F (following).
20 Place is curiously distinctive (7)
SPECIAL - straight anagram ('curiously') of PLACE IS.
21 Happy about copper being an element (7)
MERCURY - MERRY (happy) 'about' CU (chemical symbol for copper).
22 Walk over: time to pick up a book (5)
TREAD - T (time) + READ (to pick up a book).
Down
1 Think temperature’s dropped, so intervene (7)
MEDIATE - MEDITATE (think) 'dropping' T (temperature) gives MEDIATE.
2 What Peter Piper did, for example, is hard to say (6-7)
TONGUE-TWISTER - cryptic double definition.
3 In reality, this is unwelcome to hear (4,5)
HOME TRUTH - IN (home) + TRUTH (reality).
4 Certain to keep city safe (6)
SECURE - SURE (certain) 'keeping' EC (city (of London)).
5 After losing the first two, claim point (3)
AIM - clAIM 'losing the first two'.
6 Mail worker no longer in theatre (4-9)
POST-OPERATIVE - a mail worker could cryptically be a 'post operative'. Or maybe I'm being too complicated, maybe it's just POST (mail) + OPERATIVE (worker). But I guess it comes to the same thing really. And so would you be (post-operative, that is) if you were no longer in the theatre (i.e. after an operation). (Sorry if that is over-explaining but I thought it might not be clear to some of the less experienced).
7 Got up in pink (4)
ROSE - double definition.
11 Most fashionable, but comes to an end in river (9)
TRENDIEST - DIES (comes to an end) in TRENT (river).
14 Confused as sharp taste came first (7)
TANGLED - TANG (sharp taste) + LED (came first).
15 Planet extremely hazy and boggy (6)
MARSHY - MARS (planet) + HY ('extremely' HazY).
17 Prayer leader? I am a medium (4)
IMAM - IM (I'm, I am) + A + M (medium).
19 Illness proceeded very rapidly, we hear (3)
FLU - sounds like FLEW (proceeded very rapidly).
Astarte1

QC 1655 by Trelawny

Sorry, no time to say very much this week, too much going on in the world outside the blogosphere.

Another very gentle Monday. One of those ones where I think I might have had a PB under ideal conditions. As it was I got home in about 7 minutes without really trying to bust the clock.

Many thanks to Trelawny for providing another one of those valuable puzzles that gives everyone (I hope?) a boost of confidence at the start of the week.

FOI was the obvious anagram at 7A. LOI was 21D because, well, it was the last clue I came to. And in these gender-fluid times when I read everybody's arguments and see everybody's points of view and just thank my lucky stars that I am reasonably secure in my boring old male heterosexuality and so personally don't have to worry about any of all that (in spite of the influence of my esteemed avatar as mentioned in recent weeks), my COD was 18A for its nimble playfulness.

Can I just say as well many thanks to somebody who has been very kind to me. I hope he knows who he is and I will write him a grateful email shortly but sadly it has just been a very hectic week.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest words I can manage.

Across
1 Very easy task collecting river junk (5)
DROSS - DOSS (very easy task) 'collecting' R (river).
7 Cartel had demolished place of worship (9)
CATHEDRAL - straight anagram ('demolished') of CARTEL HAD.
9 Greek character hiding in handsome garden (5)
OMEGA - hidden word: 'hiding in' handsOME GArden.
10 A close friend beginning to mistrust NATO, for example (7)
ACRONYM - A + CRONY (close friend) + M ('begining to' Mistrust).
11 Noblewoman starts to develop unusual board game (7)
DUCHESS - D + U ('starts' to Develop Unusual) + CHESS (board game).
12 Alerts posh folk, embracing one quietly (7)
TIPOFFS - TOFFS (posh folk) 'embracing' I (one) + P (piano, quietly).
15 Worker returning woman's aerial (7)
ANTENNA - ANT (worker) + ENNA (ANNE (woman) 'returning').
18 Fe-male superhero? (4,3)
IRON MAN - IRON (chemical symbol = Fe) + MAN (male).
20 Sprinted to grab magical device from African country (7)
RWANDAN - RAN (sprinted) 'grabbing' WAND (magical device).
22 Tuna swimming with small relations (5)
AUNTS - anagram of TUNA ('swimming') + S (small).
23 Irish city's sailors producing bottle opener (9)
CORKSCREW - CORK(')S (Irish city's) + CREW (sailors).
24 Knock out jockey regularly — that's strange! (5)
KOOKY - KO (knock out) + OKY (jOcKeY 'regularly')
Down
1 Robot starts to design rocket on its doorstep (5)
DROID - 'starts to' Design Rocket On Its Doorstep.
2 Gloomy about group of actors (8)
OVERCAST - OVER (about) + CAST (group of actors).
3 Climbed like an armadillo, perhaps? (6)
SCALED - an armadillo has scales.
4 Triple jumping — go for it! (3,3)
LET RIP - straight anagram ('jumping') of TRIPLE.
5 I was in charge of foreign land (4)
IRAN - I + RAN (was in charge of).
6 Fashioned himself a European language (7)
FLEMISH - straight anagram ('fashioned') of HIMSELF.
8 Are nitrates changing brewing equipment? (3,8)
TEA STRAINER - straight anagram ('changing') of ARE NITRATES.
13 Long-legged creature burning oxygen (8)
FLAMINGO - FLAMING (burning) + O (oxygen).
14 Fancy putting limit on staple food (7)
CAPRICE - CAP (limit) 'on' (i.e. 'above' in this down clue) RICE (staple food).
16 Detectives imprisoned by lunatic who's barely seen? (6)
NUDIST - DIS (Detective Inspectors) 'imprisoned' by NUT (lunatic). Cryptic definition.
17 After a short time, tout punk rock hairstyle (6)
MOHAWK - MO (short time) + HAWK (tout).
19 Finally clean a pig enclosure that's unpleasant! (5)
NASTY - N ('finally' cleaN) + A + STY (pig enclosure).
21 Farm building lacking roof is well ventilated (4)
AIRY - dAIRY (farm building) minus the first letter (i.e. 'lacking roof' in this down clue).
Astarte1

QC 1645 by Breadman

This was another straightforward crossword which, unusually for a quickie, employed no full anagrams as far as I can see. In fact by my counting there were only two clues that involved an anagram at all which is pretty unusual by any standards. All the rest were mostly varieties of charades and insertions with a couple of very obvious double definitions and a hidden word. But of course, here we are on a Monday, and this is just the sort of fare we need to get us warmed up for the rest of the week. Many thanks to Breadman for doing that job admirably.

Everything went in more or less as it should with 1A being the FOI, although I think the LOI was 22A as I was expecting the whole clue to be involved until the last minute when I decided that 'personal' wasn't pulling its weight. COD? Good question. Nothing stands out for difficulty so this is really a pretty arbitrary decision. I'll go with 12A with no great conviction. It is simply the clue whose surface reads most naturally to me.

Last time out we all had a most enjoyable discussion about avatars. The conversation was still going strong at the end of the day but as I said earlier there is not much point in picking up on comments then as everybody has moved on or gone to bed. So I'll just say here thank you very much to steakcity whose final comment on the day's proceedings was that my "avatar will no longer be scary, although it is beyond my imagination to see her as sexy", which I thought was brilliant. Although in her defence as an older woman (variously reckoned at somehwere between 2,200 and 2,600 years old) she shouldn't give up on her potential. Certainly there is one professional footballer (close to retirement but who did score a penalty at the weekend) who is notoriously renowned for his preference for older women and would probably find her very desirable.

Are there any more loose ends here? I would love to know the mysterious origin of oldblighter's hands for instance, and I did have a go at invariant_tft's initials and failed miserably. If it wouldn't try his patience too much I would love an extra clue for that to try and get closer.

    Definitions are underlined as usual and everything else is explained just as I see it in the plainest language I can manage.

    Across
    1 Expenditure revealed by non-professional (6)
    OUTLAY - OUT (revealed) + LAY (non-professional).
    4 Association of actors depart during emergency externally (6)
    EQUITY - QUIT 'during' EmergencY 'externally.
    8 Father's outside toilet, a levelled area (5)
    FLOOR - FR (father) 'outside' LOO (toilet).
    9 Knife European left on part of loaf (7)
    SCALPEL - SCALP (part of loaf, as in head) + EL (European Left).
    10 Pretend leather (3)
    KID - double definition.
    11 Italian sculptor to give to charity fifty pound ring (9)
    DONATELLO - DONATE (give to charity) + L (Roman numeral for fifty) + L (pound) + O (ring).
    12 Grandma set to retire somewhere in NW France (6)
    NANTES - NAN (grandma) + TES (SET 'to retire').
    13 Key informant is free (6)
    GRATIS - G (key) + RAT (informant) + IS.
    16 Companion, a pilot, chewed a sausage (9)
    CHIPOLATA - CH (Companion of Honour) + IPOLATA (anagram ('chewed') of A PILOT).
    18 Heard local sound of sheep (3)
    BAA - sounds like ('heard') BAR (local).
    19 Insect on soft cheese for a short time (7)
    BRIEFLY - BRIE (soft cheese) + FLY (insect).
    20 Coach tour arranged around Turkey's capital (5)
    TUTOR - anagram of TOUR ('arranged') around T (Turkey's capital).
    22 Personal vessel among smarter yachts (6)
    ARTERY - hidden word: 'among' smARTER Yachts. As far as I can see, PERSONAL doesn't do anything here except fill out the surface a bit. I suppose it diverts the attention for a fraction of a second from the answer but I feel it does that unreasonably as it is not integral to the structure of the clue.
    23 Alcoholic drink's trademark unknown (6)
    BRANDY - BRAND (trademark) + Y (algebraic unknown).
    Down
    1 Old pair of females absent (3)
    OFF - O (old) + FF (pair of females).
    2 Daughter, with rodent moving around, walked on (7)
    TRODDEN - anagram ('moving around') of D (daughter) + RODENT.
    3 Shorten overly remote war film (1,6,3,3)
    A BRIDGE TOO FAR - A BRIDGE put closer together gives ABRIDGE (shorten) + TOO FAR (overly remote).
    5 Fifteen minutes to gain control over military officer (13)
    QUARTERMASTER - QUARTER (fifteen minutes) + MASTER (to gain control over).
    6 Troublemaker the Spanish urge forward (5)
    IMPEL - IMP (troublemaker) + EL (Spanish definite article).
    7 Fearful, Stefan regularly avoided Oriental waters (6,3)
    YELLOW SEA - YELLOW (fearful) + SEA (StEfAn 'regularly avoided).
    9 Star guest primarily vocalised (4)
    SUNG - SUN (star) + G (Guest 'primarily').
    10 Family company in GB meeting artist, a slithery creature (4,5)
    KING COBRA - KIN (family) + CO (company) 'in' GB + RA (Royal Academician, artist).
    14 Asian and Greek character cutting through metal (7)
    TIBETAN - BETA (Greek character) 'cutting through' TIN (metal).
    15 Cautious passage around river (4)
    WARY - WAY (passage) 'around' R (river).
    17 Private documents one returned to Charlie (5)
    IDIOT - ID (private documents) + I (one) + OT (TO 'returned').
    21 Some light, flat-bodied fish (3)
    RAY - double definition.
    Astarte1

    QC 1635 by Trelawny

    Another very straightforward offering for the nursery slopes here.  I know some of the less experienced of you don't like it when bloggers say that but all I am trying to do is put it on a scale so that you have some sort of rough idea of its objective difficulty. It certainly would have been a PB for me If I had been doing exam conditions and my eyes had been brought up to scratch (but I'm afraid I don't really know if my optician is willing to put his fingers anywhere near my eyes again yet). I am sure there will be a lot of "I didn't know people could even type that fast" comments once the leaderboard is up and maybe we will see verlaine or someone like that beating the neutrinos again.

    As a guide to its level of difficulty I can say that for me pretty much all of the clues went in sequentially in Across and Down numerical order. I think the only one that didn't was 23A which I had to pick up on the second pass. From that it follows that FOI was 1A, LOI was 23A and I think that will have to be my COD as well. Many thanks to Trelawny for providing what I hope will be an effective teething ring for the less experienced.

    Can I also just say thank you to all you people who take the trouble to comment. If I get round to it I try to respond to at least some of the comments during the day but often I don't get round to reading them until the evening and by then people have lost interest and moved on and anything I say goes into a vacuum. I would particularly like to thank louisajaney for her unfailingly enthusiastic comments (they always make me laugh with their sheer exuberance) and also whoever it was last time out who commented that my avatar looked like she was wearing a lockdown mask! I hadn't noticed but you are absolutely right. How unintentionally appropriate that is.

    Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can manage.

    Across
    1 Punctuation mark perhaps too irregular (10)
    APOSTROPHE - straight anagram ('irregular') of PERHAPS TOO.
    8 Young lady hugs retreating Frenchman — typical! (7)
    GENERAL - the most frquent French visitor to Crossworld is RENE. Here he is retreating and getting hugged by GAL (young lady).
    9 Solemn robes altered (5)
    SOBER - straight anagram ('altered') of ROBES.
    10 Chilled and cut up, with head removed (4)
    ICED - dICED (cut up) with head removed.
    11 Trendy suit, to a large degree (2,6)
    IN SPADES - IN (trendy) + SPADES (suit).
    13 Theist arranged donations to the church (6)
    TITHES - straight anagram ('arranged') of THEIST.
    14 A republican badly hurt legendary king (6)
    ARTHUR - A + R (a republican) + THUR (anagram ('badly') of HURT).
    17 Before end of sermon, religious leader to speak for ages (6,2)
    RABBIT ON - RABBI + TO (religious leader + to) before N (end of sermoN).
    19 Worry forfeit is regularly ignored (4)
    FRET - FoRfEiT 'regularly ignored'.
    21 Material found in ebony longbow (5)
    NYLON - hidden word: 'found in' eboNY LONgbow.
    22 Caught young woman with dictionary (7)
    LASSOED - LASS (young woman) + OED (Oxford English Dictionary).
    23 What an escapologist might say — I'm sure of it! (3,2,5)
    I'LL BE BOUND - well after the escapologist has said it, there's nothing more to say.
    Down
    2 Powerful fellow supports joke (7)
    PUNGENT - GENT (fellow) supports (i.e. is underneath in this down clue) PUN (joke).
    3 Energetic secret agent captures traitor, finally (4)
    SPRY - SPY (secret agent) 'capturing' R (traitoR finally).
    4 Give in regarding period for abstinence (6)
    RELENT - RE (regarding) + LENT (period for abstinence).
    5 Hand over booze — It'll get you over the border! (8)
    PASSPORT - PASS (hand over) + PORT (booze).
    6 Fix me up with piece of furniture (5)
    EMBED - EM (ME reversed (i.e. 'up' in this down clue)) + BED (piece of furniture).
    7 Thwarted clumsy fraudster pocketing wallet, ultimately (10)
    FRUSTRATED - FRUSTRAED (anagram of FRAUDSTER ('clumsy')) 'pocketing' T (walleT ultimately).
    8 Dazzling girl initially making a mess (10)
    GLITTERING - G (Girl initially) + LITTERING (making a mess).
    12 Criminal or genial local (8)
    REGIONAL - straight anagram ('criminal') of OR GENIAL.
    15 Talk tediously about old hunting weapon (7)
    HARPOON - HARP ON (talk tediously) 'about' O (old).
    16 Recline under mountain pass for sheepdog (6)
    COLLIE - LIE (recline) 'under' (in this down clue) COL (mountain pass). I think COL was a word that was queried by one commenter in a similar context in one of my blogs in recent weeks. Well here it is again and I hope it caused no worries this time around.
    18 Not finishing, freezing cold curry (5)
    BALTI - BALTIc (freezing cold) 'not finishing'.
    20 Loos redesigned for European capital (4)
    OSLO - straight anagram ('redesigned') of LOOS.
    Astarte1

    QC 1625 by Joker

    Back with you later than expected, with 'my' puzzle having been accidentally blogged by Peter a couple of weeks ago during the Times mix-up. Since last time, when I was grateful for a relatively easy puzzle because my Mac was playing up with a horribly flickering screen, I am glad to say that the defect has been remedied entirely under warranty. So many thanks to Apple for sticking by their Ts & Cs and 'doing the right thing'.

    So here I am back with another gentle offering to start the week. A couple of the clues were hardly clues at all (viz. 13A and 3D where we are more or less told what to do in plain English), and there were some straightforward anagrams and charades and one very obvious hidden word. Nevertheless although not all that challenging I really enjoyed a lot of the clues for their humorous construction and surfaces (as you would expect from a 'Joker'). I particularly liked the playful 1A (my COD), 21A for the misdirection referred to in the blog and 7D for its Shylockian imagery. FOI was 8A and LOI 20D.

    Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the plainest language I can manage.

    Across
    1 Thought Lab team blue? Exactly the opposite (10)
    CONSIDERED - if you convert TEAM to SIDE, then the opposite of LAB(bour) SIDE BLUE is CON(servative) SIDE RED.
    8 Plant is favourite — any number I planted in middle of quad (7)
    PETUNIA - PET (favourite) + N (any number) + I 'in' UA (middle of qUAd).
    9 Supporters rush finally forward (5)
    BRASH - BRAS (supporters) + H (rusH 'finally').
    10 Burial place of Thomas Black (4)
    TOMB - TOM (Thomas) + B (Black).
    11 Omelette’s wrong — one sent back everything (8)
    TORTILLA - TORT (legal word for wrong) + I (one) + LLA (all (everything) 'sent back').
    13 Get rid of me over anagramming (6)
    REMOVE - ME OVER 'anagramming'. Must be the most direct anagrind I have ever seen.
    14 Plain girl father initially supported (6)
    PAMPAS - PAM (girl) + PA (father) + S (initially Supported)
    17 Bad robes altered and taken up (8)
    ABSORBED - straight anagram ('altered') of BAD ROBES.
    19 Roman garment of past time on the way back (4)
    TOGA - AGO (past) + T (time) all reversed (on the way back).
    21 American transporter hit in Los Angeles (5)
    LLAMA - LAM (hit) 'in' LA (Los Angeles). Possible misdirection playing on inherent cultural imperialism here, as 'American' does not necessarily mean 'North American'.
    22 Element some uncovered in salty water (7)
    BROMINE - sOMe 'uncovered' is OM. Place this in  BRINE (salty water) and you have element number 35 of the Periodic Table.
    23 Drunk left together with Queen is northern Scot (10)
    HIGHLANDER - HIGH (drunk) + L (left) + AND (with) + ER (Elizabeth Regina).
    Down
    2 Best to make a choice, one mother’s supporting (7)
    OPTIMUM - OPT (make a choice) + I (one) + MUM (mother). 'Supporting' here indicates that this is a down clue and that MUM is 'supporting' the other elements.
    3 Sandown doesn’t have its own beach? (4)
    SAND - take OWN away from SANDOWN.
    4 Head of chapter restricts company for church officer (6)
    DEACON - DEAN (head of chapter) 'restricting' CO (company).
    5 Contradiction’s genuine about object of ridicule (8)
    REBUTTAL - REAL (genuine) 'about' BUTT (object of ridicule).
    6 Speak slowly, line getting to drag on (5)
    DRAWL - DRAW (drag) 'on' L (line) in this down clue.
    7 Miser keeping pile in curious casket (10)
    CHEAPSKATE - HEAP (pile) 'in' CSKATE (anagram ('curious') of CASKET).
    8 Aptly learn swimming, as father treats child? (10)
    PATERNALLY - straight anagram ('swimming') of APTLY LEARN.
    12 Project finished, needing change in the middle (8)
    OVERHANG - OVER (finished) + HANG (cHANGe 'in the middle').
    15 Potential seafront walk is ending in Hove (7)
    PROMISE - PROM (seafront walk) + IS + E (is + ending in hovE).
    16 Like a word, however Balzac uses it (6)
    VERBAL - hidden word: howeVER BALzac 'uses it'.
    18 Small whip cut (5)
    SLASH - S (small) + LASH (whip).
    20 Swindle involving current 50p, say (4)
    COIN - CON (swindle) 'involving' I (symbol for electric current in physics).