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QC 1335 by Joker

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Definitions underlined in italics, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, {} deletions and [] other indicators.

7 Secret language of fish — English? (4)
CODE - COD (fish) + E (English).
8 Unethically taking a medicine initially by mouth (8)
AMORALLY - A + M (medicine initially) + ORALLY (by mouth).
9 Fix up couple again (6)
REPAIR - RE-PAIR (couple again).
10 Dull field study (6)
LEADEN - LEA (field) + DEN (study).
11 Roman sea horse (4)
MARE - MARE = sea in Latin.
12 Where batter needs to stand to rise (8)
INCREASE - in cricket the batsman, or batter, stands IN the CREASE.
15 Uncalled for to provoke Nazi police (8)
NEEDLESS - NEEDLE (provoke) + SS (Schutzstaffel, Hitler's notorious bodyguard and special police force).
17 Bivalve left in river (4)
CLAM - L (left) in CAM (river).
18 Go along with sector changes (6)
ESCORT - straight anagram ('changes') of SECTOR.
21 Noticed big ship in Mediterranean (6)
MARKED - the ARK was a big ship, and here it is 'in' the MED(iterranean).
22 Concerned with large ship round cape that goes flat out (8)
RECLINER - RE (concerned with) + LINER (another large ship) 'round' C (cape).
23 Endlessly examine horses at breeding farm (4)
STUD - STUDy 'endlessly'.
1 All the press reports Conservative too old? (8)
COVERAGE - C (conservative) + OVER AGE (too old).
2 Discussion with girlfriend, perhaps about English book (6)
DEBATE - DATE (girlfriend, perhaps) 'about' E (English) + B (book).
3 Very fine hotel supported by British Airways? (8)
HAIRLINE - H (hotel) 'supported by' (in this DOWN clue) AIRLINE (British Airways? - the interrogation mark is because alternative airlines are available).
4 Bird, female bird (4)
FOWL - F (female) + OWL (bird).
5 Is able to copy small snack (6)
CANAPE - CAN (is able) + APE (to copy).
6 Bill used regularly to be sad (4)
BLUE - BiLl UsEd 'regularly' = BLUE.
13 Just after money for expensive fabric (8)
CASHMERE - MERE (just in the sense of 'only') 'after' CASH (money).
14 Spies finally remove surveillance (5-3)
STAKE-OUT - S (spieS 'finally') + TAKE OUT (remove).
16 Error removed from V-1 missile sketch (6)
DOODLE - DOODLEBUG (nickname for the V-1 missile during WWII) with BUG (error (in computer programming)) removed.
17 Dead body of rook in a group of trees (6)
CORPSE - R (rook as in chess piece) 'in' COPSE (group of trees).
19 Oven-cooked dish starts to smoke the embarrassing way (4)
STEW - intial letters of ('starts to') Smoke The Embarrassing Way.
20 Some unfortunate fish (4)
TUNA - hidden word: unforTUNAte.

QC 1325 by Grumpy

The blog is here but I am not. I am away celebrating a wedding and extending it into a long weekend so I am solving and posting as quickly as possible in between the festivities and the sightseeing. Necessarily brief therefore.

Just under 10 minutes for me and I think I would have been quicker in normal circumstances, so relatively straightforward. Thanks to Grumpy for an entertaining cup of tea.

FOI should have been 1A. An obvious anagram but the letters wouldn't whirl around fast enough in my mind first time around. As it was I think it was 9A. Then for some reason I didn't write in 8A straight away even though the definition leapt out at me so in the end it was the LOI that I came back to and tapped in last thing.

The neatest clue to my mind was 7D, so that is my COD.

Not even a twitch on the NATRAF needle.

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

1 Associates could make it fail-safe (10)
AFFILIATES - straight anagram ('could make') of IT FAIL SAFE.
8 Outlaw leader revealing career in financial sector (7)
BANKING - BAN (outlaw) + KING (leader).
9 Anger about loud weapon (5)
RIFLE - RILE (anger) 'about' F (loud (musical annotation)).
10 Young man from the right English valley (4)
DALE - DAL = LAD reversed (young man 'from the right') + E (English).
11 Orange for high-ranking bureaucrat (8)
MANDARIN - double definition.
13 The solver's breakfast finally includes good dairy product (6)
YOGURT - YOUR (the solver's) + T (breakfasT 'finally') 'including' G (good).
14 Coming back to dry fish (6)
TURBOT - TO (to) + BRUT (dry, as in Champagne) reversed ('coming back') = TURBOT.
17 Switch positions from time to time (2,3,3)
ON AND OFF - double definition, the potential positions of a switch being 'ON' and 'OFF'.
19 Resident in Highlands cottage? (4)
SCOT - hidden word &lit: HighlandS COTtage, and of course the whole clue is a potential definition of a Scot.
21 Not standing for mendacity (5)
LYING - double definition.
22 Bore, extremely unpopular, stopped outside (7)
ENDURED - ENDED (stopped) 'outside' UR (the extremes of UnpopulaR).
23 Still like clones? (3,3,4)
ALL THE SAME - double definition.
2 Cricketer feeling funny (4,3)
FINE LEG - straight anagram of FEELING ('funny'). For the non-cricketers 'FINE LEG' is a fielding position at a fine angle behind the batsman's legs, as opposed to SQUARE LEG who stands square to the batsman. This is also where the 'Square Leg Umpire' stands to get a good view of any potential run out at the striker's end.
3 Flower from the Emerald Isle? Not quite! (4)
IRIS - IRISh (from the Emerald Isle, but 'not quite' with the end chopped off).
4 Dressed and ready to drive? (2,4)
IN GEAR - double definition.
5 Exhausted solicitor accepts rough ride (5,3)
TIRED OUT - TOUT (solicitor) 'accepting' IRED (anagram of RIDE ('rough')).
6 Fly around Finland's capital — until now (2,3)
SO FAR - SOAR (fly) 'around' F, the capital letter of Finland.
7 Restraint said to be put back (10)
REINSTATED - REIN (restraint) + STATED (said).
8 Pal completely ignoring lead singer in the Fifties (5,5)
BUDDY HOLLY - BUDDY (pal) + wHOLLY (completely, ignoring the 'lead').
12 Extravagant lord with a pig? That's novel (8)
PRODIGAL - straight anagram of LORD A PIG ('novel').
15 Two beastly males providing stiff fabric (7)
BUCKRAM - BUCK + RAM (two 'beastly' males). I seem to remember some stage description in Shakespeare describing "two knaves in buckram suits".
16 Father Edward's first in wood once more (6)
AFRESH - FR (father) + E (Edward's first) 'in' ASH (wood).
18 You may hear a tidier girl (5)
ANITA - homophone: A NEATER (a tidier).
20 Missing leader conceals date in Rome (4)
IDES - hIDES 'mising its leader' gives the famous Roman date (as in the Ides of March).

QC 1315 by Izetti

A great collection of anagrams here. I think that six clues were straight anagrams (including all four of the long 13-letter clues) and another two involved them. There were also I think three double definitions of which five definitions were straight and only one cryptic. Most of the other clues were straight insertions, which made for a pretty straightforward puzzle overall. Having said that I found it very entertaining as all the anagrams (and indeed all of the clues) were very pleasing with natural surfaces and didn't feel strained at all (apart from 2D perhaps). Many thanks to Izetti therefore for a very neat and entertaining start to the week.

I have no idea of time as I was just getting into my stride when the BT engineer came to call and I spent the next half hour with him diagnosing that the reason one of my telephone lines had gone down was that a fox had eaten it. But as I say it felt pretty straightforward and there may well be a few PBs out there.

My FOI was the hidden word at 1A and my LOI was 15D (reversing SIR was obvious to me but then revesing BED seemed more difficult for some strange reason). COD would be one of those neat anagrams but it's difficult to choose between them. I probably liked 6D best in the end.

My NATRAF (Nina And Them Radar And Filter) twitched slightly when it spotted the beginnings of a story being told in the final grid:


And then if you ignore the hyphen of 'SIT-IN':


Which reminds me of one of my father's favourite sayings. If you sat in his chair in front of the TV when he got up and left the room for a moment he would invariably say upon his return: "Would ye jump into my grave as quick?"

And then we have:


Reading downwards we have:


And also:


Or perhaps the long anagrams are giving some sort of BREXIT commentary:


As I say, it all sort of nearly makes sense. But not quite. Which makes me believe it's all just a bit of a coincidence after all. Or maybe Izetti is just playing around with me. Like Hamlet and Polonius:

Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
Polonius: By th' Mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.
Hamlet: Or like a whale.
Polonius: Very like a whale.

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

1 Madam, a skirt will contain this material (6)
DAMASK - hidden word: maDAM A SKirt
4 A maiden exploits charms (6)
AMUSES - A + M (maiden) + USES (exploits).
8 A group of undesirables regularly goes wild (6,7)
ROGUES GALLERY - straight anagram ('wild') of REGULARLY GOES.
10 Something wicked about Italian making protest (3-2)
SIT-IN - SIN (something wicked) 'about' IT (Italian).
11 Eccentric aunt with range of knowledge left on the shelf? (7)
UNTAKEN - UNTA (anagram of aunt ('eccentric')) + KEN (range of knowledge).
12 A group's cash thrown into a stone box (11)
SARCOPHAGUS - straight anagram ('thrown') of A GROUPS CASH.
16 Girl in time seen to be ordinary? (7)
AVERAGE - VERA (girl) 'in' AGE (time).
17 That group of map-makers featured in article (5)
THOSE - OS (Ordnance Survey - map-makers) 'featured in' THE (article).
18 Hearts broken with poverty — expect no more fun (3,6,4)
THE PARTYS OVER - straight anagram ('broken') of HEARTS + POVERTY.
19 Entertainer, one who got things stitched up! (6)
SINGER - double definition, one cryptic. The name of SINGER was once to sewing machines what HOOVER is to vacuum cleaners.
20 Ball game in uniform aboard ship (6)
SEVENS - SS (Steam Ship) with EVEN (uniform) 'aboard'.
1 I'd flipped over, repose being most terrible (6)
DIREST - DI (I'D 'flipped over') + REST (repose).
2 What would excite them? Big heaven? It never came to pass (5-4-4)
MIGHT-HAVE-BEEN - straight anagram ('what would excite') of THEM BIG HEAVEN.
3 Hard back (5)
STERN - double definition.
5 Fighting force initially might, it’s likely, if trained in advance (7)
MILITIA - take the initial letters of Might It's Likely If Trained In Advance.
6 Take a previous, re-cooked, meat dish (5,2,6)
STEAK AU POIVRE - straight anagram ('re-cooked') of TAKE A PREVIOUS.
7 Remaining, not time for speaking (6)
SAYING - STAYING (remaining) minus T (time).
9 Tum suffering with gripes making one most irritable (9)
GRUMPIEST - straight anagram ('suffering') of TUM + GRIPES.
13 Tea awfully dear — it's a travesty (7)
CHARADE - CHA (tea) + RADE (anagram ('awfully') of DEAR).
14 Classes of people left out of grand buildings (6)
CASTES - CASTLES (grand buildings) minus L (left).
15 Rubbish in plot upset gentleman turning up (6)
DEBRIS - DEB (BED (plot) 'upset') + RIS (SIR reversed, or 'turning up' in this down clue).
17 Liking decorum (5)
TASTE - double definition.

QC 1305 by Oink

I believe this is the first time I have blogged an Oink puzzle. Pleased to meet you, Sir or Madam, and I enjoyed your puzzle very much. I think because the 'handwriting' was unfamiliar I read it through first time without filling in much, but all went in pretty quickly after that and provided a very gentle start to the week, with everything fitting in quite smoothly in just under 7 minutes.

FOI was 5A I think. Should have been 1A looking back, but it was so obvious that I couldn't see it first time. I believe my LOI was BATHE, because once I got into my stride most of it happened quite sequentially. No particular clue stood out for difficulty so my COD goes to 8D for smoothness of surface and general tidiness.

I am very pleased to report that at some point towards the end of the week before last I managed to catch up with all my 15x15s. When I tell you that my two standout clues were "Line that stops tongue moving, twisted in knots? (8)" (27243) and "
Online dealer; as announced (9): (27246), you will realise how long I had been letting them stack up. I am sure there must have been a load of better clues during the accumulated backlog of 20-30 puzzles but those are just the random two that really stand out for me as I look back. Maybe now I can get back to doing the QC daily as well.

And while I am on the subject of favourite clues I wonder if this might be an excuse to invite everybody to post their all time golden nuggets? I always find that sort of thing fascinating (but I realise I may be in a minority and all the rest of you have been there before and find it a bit boring).

While I am at it though I do remember that when I first started doing this blog somebody posted one of their favourite clues. I thought about it briefly and moved on, intending to come back to it later but now I realise I completely forgot. If you can remember who you were would you mind posting it again? I think it had something to do with a square.

Finally I did remember to whip out my NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) at the end and scanned the final grid, but I could detect no evidence of unusual activity.

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

1 A country pile? (8)
HAYSTACK - cryptic definition.
5 Henry’s in great pain (4)
ACHE - H (Henry) 'in' ACE (great).
9 Timid chap getting married by river (5)
MOUSE - M (married) + OUSE (Yorkshire river).
10 One who weeps about resistance fighter (7)
BRAWLER - BAWLER (one who weeps) 'about' R (resistance).
11 Occasionally arrange fundraising event (3)
RAG - 'occasional' letters of aRrAnGe.
12 Partner is in trouble, that’s become apparent (9)
TRANSPIRE - straight anagram ('in trouble') of PARTNER IS.
13 Briefly follow popular Soviet leader (6)
STALIN - STAL (STALk (follow) 'briefly') + IN (popular).
15 Remarkable dramas in Indian city of old (6)
MADRAS - straight anagram ('remarkable') of DRAMAS.
17 England going mad? That’s the impression (9)
ENGRAVING - ENG (England) + RAVING (going mad).
19 Legal profession's drinking den (3)
BAR - double definition.
20 Primate's a partisan, it’s said (7)
GORILLA - sounds like ('it's said') GUERRILLA (partisan).
21 Sum to put back (3,2)
TOT UP - TO + TUP (PUT backwards).
22 Travel in part of Hebrides (4)
RIDE - hidden word: HebRIDEs.
23 Beyond compare, as House of Lords when empty? (8)
PEERLESS - an empty House of Lords would have no PEERS in it and so could be described as PEERLESS.
1 Reporter's funny bone (7)
HUMERUS - sounds like ('reporter's') HUMOROUS (funny). But I would say this is hardly a clue really at all because that is why the upper bone of your upper limb is popularly referred to as your 'funny bone' anyway.
2 Immature, year-old gnu heading north (5)
YOUNG - Y (year) + O (old) + UNG (GNU 'heading north' in this Down clue).
3 Tear city hall apart in dramatic fashion (12)
THEATRICALLY - straight anagram ('apart') of TEAR CITY HALL.
4 Emergency committee needs firm support (5)
COBRA - CO ('company', commonly used in Crossword Land to mean a 'firm' although in strict legal terms a firm is a partnership as distinct from a company) + BRA (support).
6 Coal miner runs after dog (7)
COLLIER - COLLIE (dog) + R (runs).
7 Strange place for an eagle, they say (5)
EERIE - sounds like EYRIE ('they say'), an eagle's nest.
8 Servant's amusement causes serious offence (12)
MANSLAUGHTER - MAN'S (servant's) + LAUGHTER (amusement).
14 Terribly enraged? (7)
ANGERED - anagram &lit. ENRAGED 'terribly' = ANGERED, of which the whole clue is also a possible definition.
16 Fights about European difficulties (7)
SCRAPES - SCRAPS (fights) 'about' E (European).
17 Keen to be a long time in Her Majesty's embrace? (5)
EAGER - AGE (a long time) 'in ER's ('Her Majesty's') embrace'.
18 Fatuous characters in Twain anecdote (5)
INANE - hidden word: TwaIN ANEcdote.
19 Bill turned up with ambassador to have a swim (5)
BATHE - BAT (TAB (bill) 'turned up' in this Down clue) + HE (His or Her Excellency, formal title of an ambassador).

QC 1295 by Hurley

Another skeletal blog from me this week I am afraid. Too much going on in real life for me to spend much time on it. Gradually managing to clear my backlog of 15x15s I am glad to say as I thought I was losing my appetite for them (down to about 10 now from 20).

This was a medium difficulty puzzle with straightforward cluing, no question marks and all pretty much according to Hoyle. Thank you to Hurley for a good ten-minute work out with the morning lifesaver.

FOI was 1A, LOI was 12D I think (so obvious that I couldn't see it at first) and COD goes to 5A as being the most succinct and economical clue on offer IMHO.

No readings on the NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter).

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

1 Acts badly after work at keyboard getting the same parts? (8)
TYPECAST - anagram of ACTS ('badly') = CAST, put after TYPE (work at keyboard).
5 Produced money, we hear (4)
BRED - homophone for BREAD (slang for money, as in "Hey, don't be such a real heavy breadhead, Man!")
9 Custom from American era (5)
USAGE - US (American) + AGE (era).
10 Personal target leading to footballer’s error (3,4)
OWN GOAL - almost a double definition, a personal target possibly being one's 'OWN GOAL'.
11 Coming in holding that isn’t regularly amusing (12)
ENTERTAINING - ENTERING (coming in) 'holding' TAIN (ThAt IsN't 'regularly').
13 TV feature perhaps recalled in tuneful air, eastern (6)
AERIAL - reversed ('recalled') hidden word: tunefuL AIR EAstern.
15 Warn about edges of route in overcrowded area (6)
WARREN - WARN 'about' RE (edges of RoutE).
17 Unexpectedly gave a car next, spending too much (12)
EXTRAVAGANCE - straight anagram ('unexpectedly') of GAVE A CAR NEXT = EXTRAVAGANCE.
20 Advance payment showing sincerity (7)
EARNEST - &lit. + double definition. The first definition of EARNEST in this context is 'advance payment', which incidentally implies an intention to pay the remainder (thus 'sincerity'). So EARNEST means a type of 'ADVANCE PAYMENT', and also 'SHOWING SINCERITY' but also means 'ADVANCE PAYMENT SHOWING SINCERITY'.
21 Introduction of secure, healthy, source of gas (5)
SHALE - I think this is what all the fracking controversy is about isn't it? Getting gas from shale? Anyway, cryptically it is S (introduction of Secure) plus HALE (healthy, as in 'hale and hearty').
22 Guy from Egypt he obliges (4)
THEO - hidden word: EgypT HE Obliges.
23 Find beer possibly as favour (8)
BEFRIEND - straight anagram ('possibly') of FIND BEER = BEFRIEND.
1 He could be tough, lacking love? (4)
THUG - anagramatic &lit. Anagram of TUGH (TOUGH 'lacking' O (love)) = THUG, and then the whole is a possible definition of a THUG.
2 Shellfish that’s uncooked put into empty pan (5)
PRAWN - RAW (uncooked) in an 'empty' PaN'.
3 Sweet having me in calmer race, somehow (5,7)
CREME CARAMEL - straight anagram of CALMER RACE ('somehow') with ME inside.
4 Unruffled sound from cow in south (6)
SMOOTH - MOO (sound from cow) in STH (south).
6 Having climbed moor? That is right, it’s more spacious (7)
ROOMIER - ROOM = MOOR ('climbed' in this down clue) + IE (id est, that is) + R (right)
7 Tipping hat, one overseeing man, hard-working (8)
DILIGENT - DIL = LID (hat) 'tipping' + I (one) + GENT (man).
8 Nasty stain mars a chair arm initially — protective cloth found (12)
ANTIMACASSAR - anagram ('nasty') of STAIN MARS A + C + A (Chair Arm 'initially').
12 MP should get back in here (4,4)
SAFE SEAT - cryptic definition. An MP should manage to get back into a SAFE SEAT at an election.
14 One working no longer referring to Scottish island (7)
RETIREE - RE (referring to) + TIREE (Scottish island). I have a personal gripe with words like RETIREE and ATTENDEE. I know these words are in general usage but they annoy me because to me 'ER' (or 'OR') has always been a nominative suffix and 'EE' an accusative or dative suffix. Thus a mortgagor mortgages property to a mortgagee. An employer employs an employee. A payer pays money to a payee and so on. The result is that I religiously refer to people going to conferences as attenders and people who are retiring as retirers (unless, I suppose, they are being forced to retire against their will) and get funny looks from everybody.
16 Disconcert painter, non-drinker, extremely likable (6)
RATTLE - RA (painter, member of the Royal Academy of Arts) + TT (teetotaller) + LE ('extremely' LikeablE).
18 Pursue ornament with engraving (5)
CHASE - double definition.
19 Care for those experiencing niggling delays at first (4)
TEND - Those Experiencing Niggling Days 'at first' (i.e. initial letters).

QC 1285 by Teazel

I think this is the third blog in a row that I have come up against Teazel, and I also seem to remember that my first ever blog was on one of his puzzles. So he feels like an old friend now and today's puzzle is probably the most lively one I have ever blogged (from him or anybody). Full of entertaining clues, including a couple of clever misdirections as well as two clues that I found a bit questionable as you will read. I really enjoyed it, so many thanks for a 10-minute (medium difficulty) work-out. It really was great fun.

FOI was 5A I believe, and my LOI was the lovely 22A, which was also my COD on a day when there were several good candidates. Coming in close behind were 8A, 16A, 20A, 3D and 9D.

As an aside, a few weeks ago I referred to CID (I think) as an acronym. Kevin (I believe it was him) rapped my knuckles on the basis that an acronym has to be pronounced in general usage as a word rather than as a series of letters, as in UNESCO, or NASA, or FIFA. I acknowledged his comment and owned up to loose usage as that was my understanding as well. However I heard on the radio the other day the string of letters 'MTCSA' referred to as an acronym in a comedy programme. In fact, in that context it was set up as a self-referential joke as the letters stand for 'Mysterious and Therefore Cool-Sounding Acronym'. So I thought I would check up on it in the dictionary and it seems after all that an acronym is simply a string of initial letters, whether it can be pronouced as a word or not.

So having straightened that out I deployed my own acronym, the NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter), which yielded no results.

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

1 Things people are going to say? (8)
GOODBYES - cryptic definition. GOODBYES are what people who are going (i.e. leaving) will say. I don't think the syntax quite works, but it is such a neat idea that I feel it would be churlish to complain.
5 London statue painful to put back (4)
EROS - SORE backwards ('put back').
8 Persevering, even if difficult terrain (13)
THOROUGHGOING - can be rewritten as THO' (even if) ROUGH GOING (difficult terrain).
10 Edged forward, with hooter? (5)
NOSED - hooter = slang for nose. Reminds me of a dear friend now departed who had a very big nose. I once mentioned to someone that he had passed my room and "put his nose round the door", to which the reply was "not all of it, surely?"
11 A little European larva (7)
TADPOLE - nice bit of misdirection here if you only had the last checker 'E', as I did, in which case you might have started looking for a 6-letter word meaning 'little', onto which you could tack E for European. As it is the parsing is TAD (a little) + POLE (European).
12 Profit from one number by country-and-western singer (4,2)
CASH IN - I (one) + N (number) 'by' CASH (late lamented C&W singer Johnny). I never cared for his music much until he started producing some very thoughtful stuff towards the end of his life, most notably for me an excellent cover of Nick Cave's 'The Mercy Seat'.
13 Compete to block drunkard in Russian council (6)
SOVIET - VIE (compete) 'blocking' SOT (drunkard).
16 Popular, Castro, but no Christian (7)
INFIDEL - IN (popular) + FIDEL (Castro, the late Prime Minister and latterly President of Cuba). OK, the defiintion is 'no Christian', but it could equally well be 'Christian', as the word INFIDEL is also used by Muslims to describe non-Muslims.
18 Fit in curve round lake (5)
BLEND - BEND (curve) 'round' L (lake).
20 Person consulted appearing uninterested in listening (8,5)
SOUNDING BOARD - if you are listening to the words SOUNDING BOARD you could hear them as SOUNDING BORED (appearing uninterested).
21 Crazy food for squirrel (4)
NUTS - double definition.
22 Drink beginning to befuddle Dame Edna (8)
BEVERAGE - a lovely misdirection. The first thing any self-respecting solver would do here would be to pick out 'befuddle' as an anagrind and attempt to apply it to DAME EDNA as anagrist. This even remains feasible after you have all the vowels as checkers and then you are left with the unpromising Scrabble selection of D, M, D, N. At this point the light should dawn as you realise that Dame Edna's surname is Everage, and if you take B (the 'beginning to' Befuddle) and put it in front you get BEVERAGE.
1 Board work harmoniously (3,2)
GET ON - double definition.
2 Players sit: boos break out (7)
OBOISTS - straight anagram ('break out') of SIT BOOS.
3 No puritan, keen on American women? (5-6)
BROAD-MINDED - BROAD is American slang for a woman. If you are keen on American women, therefore, you might always have them on your mind, and so might be said to be BROAD-MINDED.
4 Crews have no head for heights (6)
EIGHTS - take the 'head' off Heights and you have EIGHTS (rowing crews).
6 One impaled on terrible horn — its? (5)
RHINO - the definition is 'ITS?', as the horn on which one is impaled could be that of a RHINO. This is another clue where I don't think the syntax quite works. I (one) 'impaled' on an anagram ('terrible') of HORN. Except that to my mind it is the 'terrible horn' that is impaled on 'one', given that it is the I that goes right into the middle of RHNO rather than the other way round.
7 Section of, say, people in street (7)
SEGMENT - EG (say) + MEN (people) in ST (street).
9 I obliged Ben to arrange feature of hotel room (6,5)
GIDEON BIBLE - a lovely little anagram (of I OBLIGED BEN ('to arrange')) and pleasing definition. Is it still the case in these godless times that the Gideon Society manage to sneak a bible into every hotel room? I must look for one and check next time I'm in a hotel.
12 Edges into study, bright red (7)
CRIMSON - RIMS (edges) in CON (study).
14 President to refuse to allow a Japanese art form (7)
IKEBANA - the two most common presidential visitors to Crossword Land are probably ABE (Abraham Lincoln) and IKE (Dwight D Eisenhower). Here we have IKE (president) + BAN (to refuse to allow) + A = IKEBANA, the Japanese art of flower arrangement (in case you didn't know).
15 With power thrust forward and fall precipitously (6)
PLUNGE - P (power) + LUNGE (thrust forward).
17 Quickly grabbing uniform for opera (5)
FAUST - FAST (quickly) 'grabbing' U (uniform).
19 Avoid Santa Fe Trail city (5)
DODGE - double definition, the second one being Dodge City in Kansas.

QC 1275 by Teazel

I am afraid I am still very tied up with sorting mother out after her fall, but have now thankfully got her installed back home with appropriate care.

I am not even finding time for the 15x15 at the moment which grieves me greatly.

Bare bones stats therefore today.

Time: no idea. Done in odd minutes between sorting out carers and talking to various agencies on the telephone, but it felt like a very straightforward puzzle. Could easily have been a PB under better circumstances. As it is, thank you Teazel for a puzzle that provided a few minutes of welcome respite from less pleasant tasks.

FOI was 1A as you would expect in a puzzle of this sort. Same for LOI 22D.

As I did not feel any clue stood out in terms of difficulty I choose 15D as as my COD as being the neatest clue on show.

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

NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) revealed nothing.

1 I had energy put into slim lamp (9)
SIDELIGHT - I'D (I had) + E (energy) 'put into' SLIGHT (slim).
6 Make meal shortly for Bill’s companion? (3)
COO - COOk (make meal) 'shortly', i.e. with the end chopped off. This gives 'Bill's companion', but perhaps the definition needs a bit of explanation to those of a younger age? Certainly 'to bill and coo' was a phrase I heard from my parents' era although I don't think it was ever used in anger (or in love for that matter) by me or my contemporaries when growing up. I believe it comes from the behaviour of doves, who join their bills (i.e. 'bill') when pairing off, and of course they also make the cooing sound ('coo'). So two people sitting together and kissing would be said to be 'billing and cooing' like doves even though the noises that they made might have been quite different from those that doves make. In time the phrase came to be applied more generally to the activities of lovers doing the sorts of things that they do when getting to know each other properly (after having been formally introduced, naturally).
8 Recipe for stubborn creature finally changed (7)
FORMULA - FOR + MULA (MULE, a stubborn creature, 'finally changed').
9 Keep away from a big gap? (5)
AVOID - A + VOID (big gap).
10 I send teen off in order to become competent (4,4,4)
FIND ONES FEET - straight anagram of I SEND TEEN OFF ('in order').
12 Point at which we cried (4)
WEPT - WE + PT (point).
13 Bob’s aspiration? (4)
HOPE - cryptic definition, Bob HOPE being a famous American comedian, now deceased and therefore the proud possessor of a Golden Entry Ticket to the great Crossword Land Theme Park in the sky.
17 Free latte was remarkably a universal provision (7,5)
WELFARE STATE - straight anagram of FREE LATTE WAS ('remarkably').
20 Pack of something jammy perhaps — love to tuck in (5)
TAROT - TART (something jammy 'perhaps', as alternative forms of tart are available), with O (love) 'tucked in'.
21 Charity event, collecting old clothes? (3,4)
RAG WEEK - RAG WEEK is a traditional student charitable event, and I suppose conceivably the participants could spend the week collecting RAGS (old clothes) for their favourite charities. So I see this as a straightforward cryptic definition.
23 Bricklayer’s tool to take in hand, not large (3)
HOD - HOLD (to take in hand) with the L removed (not large).
24 Communist design to attract alien, from here? (3,6)
RED PLANET - RED (communist) + PLAN (design) + ET (extra-terrestrial = alien).
1 Furniture up till now not quite complete (4)
SOFA - remove the last letter ('not quite complete') from SO FAr (up till now).
2 Little rodents in sleeping area freeze (7)
DORMICE - DORM (sleeping area) + ICE (freeze).
3 Look at university for boy (3)
LOU - LO (look [at] (in the bibilcal sense: "And Lo! They were sore afraid..." etc.)) + U (university).
4 Knotty old lady? (6)
GRANNY - In the Boy Scouts if you messed up your reef knot (a very secure knot) you would probably end up with a GRANNY knot (a very insecure knot that would likely slip and allow your companion to fall to a horrible death down whatever bottomless ravine you were trying to negotiate, resulting no doubt in a severe reprimand from Akela). So a straightforward cryptic definition.
5 Statement of the obvious? It settles the matter (5,4)
THATS THAT - Well, THAT IS, undeniably, THAT, and it does indeed settle the matetr.
6 Near a hundred are defeated (5)
CLOSE - C (100 in Latin numbers) + LOSE (are defeated).
7 Toy did move about, a curious thing (6)
ODDITY - straight anagram of TOY DID ('move about').
11 Heartless drive on farm vehicle that runs one down (9)
DETRACTOR - pluck out the heart from DrivE and then add the most obvious farm vehicle (i.e. not the combine harvester). DE + TRACTOR.
14 Sound of tiny feet — new example (7)
PATTERN - somehow, tiny feet always PATTER don't they? + N (new) gives PATTERN.
15 Tic could be this regularly? (6)
TWITCH - a nice little &lit. If you TWITCH regularly, you have a TIC. But if you take 'regular' letters from TwItCh you also have 'TIC'.
16 Notice adverse traffic light and lose temper (3,3)
SEE RED - SEE (notice) + RED (adverse traffic light).
18 Ruled out being tempted (5)
LURED - straight definition of RULED ('out') = LURED.
19 Take off small outfit (4)
SKIT - S (small) + KIT (outfit). Take-off in the sense of a humorous piece.
22 Hair preparation used by Nigella (3)
GEL - hidden word: NiGELla. Hopefully not used while she's cooking or you might get more than a hair in your soup. Oh, but I suppose it can't be THAT Nigella, as she hasn't yet earned her Golden Ticket to the Crossword Land Theme Park has she?

QC 1265 by Teazel

Thank you for all the good wishes for my mother who is still recovering in hospital after her New Year fall. Once again I am writing this in a hurry before going to keep up my end of the family visiting effort, so it will necessarily be brief.

I was breezing along nicely until I hit CARLISLE, which stumped me for a couple of minutes. Strange, because I normally do hit Carlisle in reality annnually while travelling up to Scotland (although I have not been to the Gathering mentioned in the commentary at 18D for many a year). You might think therefore that it would spring naturally to my mind as one of the most obvious clues, but unfortunatley not today. I can only put it down to distraction from knowing that I have to finish this as quickly as possible before racing down to St George's Tooting to perform my filial duties. Unfortunately the helipad facilities are not available to me although the comings and goings of the air ambulance provide an interesting occasional distraction through the window by my mother's bed.

My FOI was the straightforward anagram at 1A and my LOI was 8A as alluded to above. I thought that although the clues were for the most part straightforward (nearly all definitions or anagrams of one sort or another) there were several neat and natural surfaces. I liked the CAMOUFLAGE/GUACAMOLE link, and I liked 'Sporty Spice' who made an anonymous appearance at 3D, but in the end I have chosen 22A as my COD. Many thanks to Teazel for an entertaining Monday morning cup of tea.

Briefly switching on my NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) yielded no results.

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

1 Great crime, yet minor, in some way (8)
ENORMITY - a straight anagram to kick off with: YET MINOR 'in some way' = ENORMITY.
5 Time to secure such a hotel room? (4)
TWIN - T (time) + WIN (secure).
8 Stocking material on vehicle for city (8)
CARLISLE - CAR (vehicle) + LISLE (stocking material).
9 They look east, certainly (4)
EYES - E (east) + YES (certainly)
11 Relative is a pawnbroker (5)
UNCLE - indeed he is. In the heyday of pawnbroking (whenever that was), if your straitened circumstances unfortunately led you into the arms of the guy with three golden balls (shades of George Lazenby in O.H.M.S.S.), then your euphemistic explanation might be that you were going to visit your 'uncle' to touch him for a loan.
12 Eloquent person with year in chapel (7)
ORATORY - ORATOR (eloquent person) + Y (year). Chapel as for example the Brompton Oratory just down the road from me near the museums.
13 Station us in school (6)
EUSTON - US 'in' ETON, Crossword Land's favourite school.
15 Look, try force twice to end session (3,3)
LOG OFF - LO (look, in the biblical sense) + GO (try, as in "'ave a go 'Arry") + F + F (force twice).
18 Is adolescent able to eat here? (7)
CANTEEN - &lit: CAN TEEN ('is adolescent able') to eat here (in the CANTEEN).
19 Ruffle little stream after opening of fishing (5)
FRILL - RILL (little stream) after F (opening of Fishing). Reminds me of my father who, although not a religious man, requested on his death bed: 1. that his body should be buried and 2. that we should sing 'By Cool Siloam's Shady Rill' at his funeral, both of which wishes we duly respected.
21 Exuberance in Brazil’s first city (4)
BRIO - B (Brazil's first) + RIO (city).
22 Profanity of son becoming tedious (8)
SWEARING - S (son) + WEARING (becoming tedious).
23 To be very angry is the fashion (4)
RAGE - double definition. Fashion as in 'all the rage'.
24 Congenial diner fly worried (8)
FRIENDLY - straight anagram: DINER FLY 'worried' = FRIENDLY.
1 Sweat, drinking small quantity in bar (7)
EXCLUDE - EXUDE (sweat) 'drinking' CL (centilitre, a small quantity).
2 Who’s rich, hiding someone at Elsinore? (5)
OSRIC - hidden word: whO'S RICh. Osric is a minor character in Shakespear'e Hamlet which takes place at Elsinore Castle in Denmark.
3 Girl finished tidy bit of bowling (6,4)
MAIDEN OVER - MAIDEN (girl) + OVER (finished). In cricket, a 'maiden over' is a spell of six balls from a single bowler in which the batsman fails to score any runs. In the score book this will appear as six dots like the 'six' face of a die. Often in cricket parlance a bowler is said to be 'tidy' if the batsmen find it difficult to score runs off his bowling. Hence a maiden over is indeed a 'tidy bit of bowling'. Pronounal and nounal apologies to any female cricketers out there. Please take no offence. None was intended.
4 High (ouch!) in fat (6)
TALLOW - TALL (high) + OW (ouch!).
6 Route one should follow? Excellent (3,2,2)
WAY TO GO - double definition to my mind, although the question mark may suggest that the first definition is meant to be cryptic. In my eyes the question mark is just a device to make the surface a bit smoother, although alternative opinions will no doubt be available.
7 A street in New York is unpleasant (5)
NASTY - A + ST (a street) 'in' NY (New York).
10 One way to hide fluorine, in mashed guacamole (10)
CAMOUFLAGE - anagram of GUACAMOLE ('mashed') with F (chemical symbol for fluorine, the ninth element in the Periodic Table) mixed in there as well.
14 After moral offence, monarch is collapsing (7)
SINKING - SIN (moral offence) + KING (monarch).
16 Everyone intervenes between female and male — who takes the blame? (4,3)
FALL GUY - F (female) + GUY (male) with ALL (everyone) in the middle ('intervening').
17 Write this in! (6)
ANSWER - Hmm. OK, that's what I've done...
18 Brace specially, to toss this? (5)
CABER - anagram of BRACE gives CABER, a big, heavy tree trunk that is 'tossed' in a celebrated competition in Highland Games meetings in Scotland, the most famous example of which is probably the annual Braemar Gathering.
20 Old walls may be so, I contended (5)
IVIED - I + VIED (I contended).

QC 1255 by Hurley - Bookends Theme

Doctor! Doctor! I feel like a pair of bookends!

Punchlines on a postcard please. Or a posted comment will do.

It's just that I have realised (I suppose it is pretty obvious really) that having done my first ever blog on Monday 1st January, I am now also doing my final one of the year on Monday 31st December. Which sort of makes me feel like a pair of bookends to 2018.

I wish I had time to sit and try and dream up a punchline myself but I haven't. I am afraid that this blog is being written in very rushed and chaotic circumstances as my mother has just had another fall and I've had to oversee her admission to hospital and the looking after of her dog and the updating of the family as to her condition etc etc so necessarily this is being squeezed into a few multitasking minutes. I therefore have no reliable record of my time although it definitely felt on the easy side, with quite a few anagrams and at least two hidden words slipping into position without any trouble at all.

So many thanks to Hurley for providing a puzzle that was not too difficult for me to blog on this day wheh I really don't have a lot of time to devote to it. FOI was 7A because it sort of jumped out to me as a straight write-in, even though 3A was not far behind. I believe in fact that the solve was so smooth and went so according to plan that the LOI was 21D just as God intended. COD is difficult as none of the clues held me up for very long, and none of them quite had the ideal combination of smooth surface with neat device, but I think I'll go with 3A. I also liked 1D for the neat internal definition of 'LENT', but as referred to above the surface felt a bit strained and unconvincing to me.

Expecting some possible external trimmings on this last day of the year, I did deploy my NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) but unfortunately it didn't bleep at all.

Hope you all had an excellent Christmas and don't take the foot off the gas until early on Tuesday morning! A happy and enjoyable New Year to all!

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

3 Gauche — after time play fewer roles? (8)
TACTLESS - T (time) + ACT LESS (play fewer roles). Not like Michael Caine then if you have been listening to his autobiography "Blowing The Bloody Doors Off" on the radio recently. A wonderfully felicitous title in my humble opinion.
7 Given food — or a hat! (6)
FEDORA - pretty much what it says: FED (given food) + OR + A.
8 Warning doctor in front of Northern Ireland Conservative (8)
MONITORY - MO (Medical Officer (an army doctor)) + NI (Northern Ireland) + TORY (Conservative).
9 Supporting daughter, means to cross river (4)
FORD - FOR (supporting) + D (daughter). 'Means' here is in the sense of 'way'.
10 Regret trick, sending out son (3)
RUE - RUSE (trick) minus ('sending out') S (son).
11 Describing part of car raised unexpectedly in northeast (8)
NEARSIDE - EARSID = anagram of RAISED ('unexpectedly') in NE (northeast). Might have been a neat twist if it had appeared in the NE corner of the crossword, but in fact it is in the NW.
13 Republican one backed in Nevada city (4)
RENO - geography was my worst subject at school and geography clues are therefore amongst those that I fear most in crosswords. No problem with this one though as even I have heard of it. R (Republican) + ENO (ONE 'backed').
15 Finally gets sweet juice from part of plant (4)
STEM - take the last letters ('finally') of getS sweeT juicE froM.
17 Before game, referring to male in plot (8)
PREMATCH - RE (referring to) + M (male), placed in PATCH (plot).
19 President’s gamble, ignoring odds (3)
ABE - ABE (Abraham Lincoln) is probably the most frequent presidential visitor to Crossword Land. Ignore the odd letters of gAmBlE and there he is.
22 Small brick carrier in trainers? (4)
SHOD - S (small) + HOD (brick carrier). There is a question mark at the endof the definition as alternative varieties of footwear are available.
23 Substitute with good reputation (8)
STANDING - STAND IN (substitute) + G (good).
24 Like carrier not in correct path (6)
ASTRAY - AS (like) + TRAY (carrier).
25 Purveyor of nonsense botched weld: drat! (8)
TWADDLER - straight anagram ('botched') of WELD DRAT.
1 Suggestive of embarrassed-looking love, provided for time (8)
REDOLENT - RED (embarrased-looking) + O (love) + LENT (provided for [a] time).
2 End row for a change? That’s amazing! (6)
WONDER - straight anagram of END ROW.
3 Part of operetta, mediocre, uninspiring (4)
TAME - hidden word: operetTA MEdiocre.
4 Building material firm, new, supported by Greek island (8)
CONCRETE - CO (firm: in Crossword Land no distinction is made between the technically separate legal entities of a Co. (company) and a firm (partnership), although I do know people who use the terms interchangeably in the real world as well so maybe it's just my anal legal background kicking in) + N (new) + CRETE (Greek island).
5 Reformer left university over article? Right (6)
LUTHER - L (left) + U (university) 'over' (in this down clue) THE ((definite) article) + R (right).
6 Island story’s beginning with Biblical boat (4)
SARK - more geography. But luckily another place I have heard of. S (Story's beginning) + ARK (Biblical boat).
12 Referring to British measures, air mile, pint at first changed ... (8)
IMPERIAL - straight anagram ('changed') of AIR MILE + P (Pint 'at first'). Stones, pounds, ounces, hundredweight, tons (as opposed to tonnes), furlongs, rods, chains and perches and also grains, scruples and gills and a lot of other lovely words besides were all part of our lamented (but thankfully not entirely late as yet) Imperial weights and measures system.
14 ... inch also, recollected guy (8)
NICHOLAS - straight anagram of INCH ALSO ('recollected').
16 Girl received by Managing Director supplied with staff (6)
MANNED - ANNE (girl) 'received' by MD (Managing Director).
18 When classes show items worth having (6)
ASSETS - AS (when) + SETS (classes).
20 Difficult situation in street our group brought up (4)
STEW - ST (street) + EW (WE (our group) reversed, i.e. 'brought up' in this down clue).
21 In bag, a recommended seaweed product (4)
AGAR - hidden word: bAG A Recommended. A type of jelly derived from seaweed and much-used as a neutral culture medium in microbiology and also as a thickener in certain foodstuffs (but hopefully not both at the same time).

QC 1245 by Izetti

Oh dear, I think I made a bit of a meal of this one. Managed it in 10 minutes but I feel as though I should have been posting a PB down around the 6-minute mark. All the clues were going in pretty easily and then I snagged on the final 3 or 4, with every one turning out to be a smack on the head job. I think it was just my speed vertigo (referred to several months ago in this blog) that slowed me down. Sometimes when I think I'm going well (by my own standards) and that a good time might be coming up my brain freezes. I'm sure it happens with a lot of people, and I am also sure that it is something that will disappear with experience and practice.

But hey! Many thanks to Izetti for a challenge that proved for me to be tougher than at first appeared. It was fun, with 1A going in straight off the bat. 5D was my LOI in spite of the fact that I could feel in my bones that SAILOR was the definition and that the Henry we were talking about was the eighth one, but the cogs didn't mesh immediately so I moved on and came back to it later. Foolish child. I am also ashamed of not getting 19A straight off, chemist that I am, and I think that my COD has to be that or the aforesaid 5D, with 19A pinching it for the smoother surface and clever definition.

Deploying my NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) yielded no results.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as it appears to me in the simplest language I can muster.

1 Enjoyable experience of a big swimmer from a previous era? (1,5,2,1,4)
A WHALE OF A TIME - A WHALE (big swimmer) + OF A TIME (from a previous era - as when we describe a film or book or similar work that seems a bit dated as being 'very much OF ITS TIME').
8 A knight with additional decoration somewhere in Northern Ireland (6)
ANTRIM - A + N (knight as abbreviated in chess) + TRIM (additional decoration) gives the northern Irish county.
9 Hesitation about time of abstinence? Back down (6)
RELENT - RE (hesitation (ER) reversed (about)) + LENT (time of abstinence). As when I asked somebody the other day if they were ready for Christmas and they told me "No, we're giving it up for Lent".
10 Gloomy, having eaten hard fish (4)
SHAD - SAD (gloomy) having 'eaten' H (hard).
11 Any number in peculiar top hats and skimpy female attire (3,5)
HOT PANTS - N (any number (algebra)) 'in' HOT PATS: an anagram ('peculiar') of TOP HATS.
12 What sounds like common bird sound (5)
CHEEP - homophone for CHEAP (common).
13 Old car not starting creates fury (5)
ANGER - an old car is a BANGER, and if it doesn't start it becomes ANGER.
15 Pair to perform at front of one church in rehearsal (8)
PRACTICE - PR (pair) + ACT (to perform) + I (one) + CE (church (of England)).
17 Boy comes to end of the big book (4)
TOME - TOM (boy) + E (end of thE).
19 I? I love to eat (6)
IODINE - can you see the underlining? It's very small isn't it? I is the chemical symbol for iodine, element number 53 in the periodic table. I + O (love) + DINE (to eat) = IODINE.
20 Pussy is crossing avenue — caution! (6)
CAVEAT - CAT (pussy) 'crossing' AVE (avenue).
21 Insincere toad sadly thinking of no one else? (13)
INCONSIDERATE - straight anagram of INSINCERE TOAD. I really liked this because it worked so well on the surface and in the solution. I even considered it as a COD, but for all its smooth surface it was in the end a pretty straightforward anagram.
2 Female just on the scene, turning up with honoured companion (5)
WENCH - NEW (just on the scene) 'turning up' (i.e. reversed in this down clue) gives WEN. Add on CH (Companion of Honour, therefore 'honured companion') gives the solution.
3 Shorten a span (7)
ABRIDGE - A + BRIDGE (span).
4 Wood used in model-making (3)
ELM - hidden word: modEL Making.
5 Sailor Henry's was a Spanish Catherine (5,4)
FIRST MATE - Henry VIII's first mate was Catherine of Aragon, a 'Spanish Catherine'.
6 A US lot losing heart unfortunately in Oklahoman city (5)
TULSA - anagram of A + US + LT (LoT 'losing heart').
7 Bloke receiving Communion finally in church (7)
MINSTER - MISTER (bloke) 'receiving' N (CommunioN finally).
11 Joy has to keep quiet and languishes (9)
HAPPINESS - to solve this HAS must 'keep' (i.e. hold inside) P (quiet) and PINES (languishes) giving HAPPINESS.
12 Vehicle with nothing on? That's funny! (7)
CARTOON - CART (vehicle) + O (nothing) + ON.
14 Manage to communicate, that's clear (3,4)
GET OVER - double definition. As in getting a point over and getting over a hurdle.
16 Cloth seen in porch in Oxford (5)
CHINO - another hidden word: porCH IN Oxford.
18 This writer has a set of religious books planned (5)
MEANT - ME (this writer) + A + NT (New Testament, a set of religious books).
20 Hero in police department (3)
CID - as in El Cid. I think originally 'Cid' meant 'Lord'. But I think this became his nickname and how he was known eventually, and he became quite a battlefield hero. So I think in the end Cid equates happily to hero. Almost a double definition except CID in the police sense is an acronym not an actual word.