1 Post Lar? (7)
BOLLARD – Lar ‘in BOLD’! – Clearly this would be a gimmick of some sort, and not something I expected to solve without plenty of checking, and even then I feared it might prove hard to deduce the reasoning. In the end I got it with an A and D in the grid by considering ‘post’ synonyms, and think it is a fair and clever clue, exploiting a slight, but clear, indirectness.
5 Head over heels, desperate to wear finest stone (7)
PERIDOT – DIRE in TOP, all rev
9 Before the end of Rigoletto, bass part held back by great big noise (9)
MAGNIFICO – FIN rev in MAGIC + O – I always admire a clue which uses a (heteronymic) homograph, like ‘bass’ here. This is the sort of answer that I might have just filled in three years ago without checking the wordplay (I had the G and I’s checked), but I certainly bothered to confirm it, and not just because I didn’t know the word outside the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody.
10 Strike loudly, bearing lower (5)
WHANG – W + HANG – My most worrying entry in all the puzzles. I was neither certain of the meaning of WHANG (which I know colloquially as ‘throw’) nor whether ‘lower’ was a synonym for ‘hang’. When I held my number up it was partly because I was convinced no other word fitted the checking letters, and had a bad second or two when I subsequently thought of WRANG.
11 Set off to catch man, clever, not a cheat (13)
THIMBLERIGGER – HIM + (A)BLE in TRIGGER – I was quite pleased to know this was a word, though I couldn’t have said that it related to the old sleight-of-hand trick.
13 Brave protagonist behind cape, eager to remain nameless (8)
CHEROKEE – C + HERO + KEE(N)
15 Discomfort running, might this be? (6)
STITCH, 2 defs – Actually I’m still not sure about this. At the time I thought it an &lit, the whole referring to both a jogger’s pain and a needlewoman’s error, but now I’m inclined to think that the last four words refer to a ‘running stitch’ as an example.
17 Jacket exposed at the front, assign pockets (6)
REEFER – E(xposed) in REFER
19 From here, drive anger out, a difficult issue? (8)
TEENAGER – TEE + ANGER* – well-constructed, very misleading clue.
22 Prepared for battle, and striking? (7,2,4)
Omitted for you to work out – easy one at last.
25 Sect ending in boxing ring (5)
CLANG – CLAN + G – I believe I call ‘boxing ring’ here a ‘lift and separate’…
26 Same agent arranged for Liberace, say (5,4)
STAGE NAME – same agent* – not a great choice of stage name, as it was Liberace’s real surname!
27 Asian I’m sure put in the shade (7)
TIBETAN – I BET in TAN
28 Conceive it, say, as something to bury (7)
HATCHET – “HATCH IT”
1 Fail to attack (4)
BOMB, 2 defs
2 One was gifted, finding opening in shelter (7)
LEGATEE – GATE in LEE
3 Party enters perfect defence (5)
ALIBI – LIB in A1
4 Baby on the ball? (8)
DRIBBLER – 2 defs
5 Soft tripe that’s to be disdained (6)
PHOOEY – P + HOOEY – this was the one, the clue that 3 of the top 6 finishers and several other finalists got wrong. The huge problem, apart from the slightly obscure answer and misleading definition (‘that’s to be disdained’) is that even if you deconstruct correctly you need to find a –O–E– combination meaning ‘tripe’, and you’re unlikely to think of using a vowel in the middle. For myself, having looked at this for over a minute on its own at the end, I was quite pleased to come up with PHONEY, which could be something to be disdained, perhaps – while HONEY might have enough meanings to include ‘rubbish’; it was while I was writing it in that I realised it wasn’t quite good enough, and now that my brain had the PH- beginning, it was able to supply the correct answer. I have great sympathy for all those who tried PHONEY.
6 Amended appeal to round number, after partners secured by bishop (9)
REWRITTEN – E/W in RR + IT + TEN
7 Current man on board (7)
DRAUGHT, 2 defs
8 Ocean predator rights wrong, saving English ship (5,5)
TIGER SHARK – E in RIGHTS* + ARK
12 Mouse minded to hide in tree, given no more time (7-3)
SCAREDY-CAT – CARED in SYCA(more) + T – a brilliant clue in my opinion, using lots of quite fair but unobvious parts to give a seamless and misleading surface. I was lucky to get this cold, having decided that ‘mouse’ in the sense of a timid person would be the definition. Perhaps it’s because my children have been watching so much Tom & Jerry that MOUSE led to CAT in my mind.
14 Slip open, inspiring whisper (9)
OVERSIGHT – SIGH in OVERT
16 Memorial of Circe, not Aphrodite (8)
CENOTAPH – (Cir)CE NOT APH(rodite) – some purists dislike ‘of’ to indicate a hidden, but I think it’s fair enough
18 Young animal, born ram, we reared (3,4)
EWE LAMB – B + MALE + WE, all rev – I found this easy given the definition and enumeration
20 Giant curly thing in porker, twisted (7)
GOLIATH – TAIL in HOG, all rev – the ‘curly’ is just compiler generosity, or a sort of shared joke, as it’s only in a pig that the tail is curly traditionally.
21 Inventor — one blasted off to orbit Pluto (6)
EDISON – DIS in ONE* – with a D in the grid and the word ‘inventor’ this went straight in, but again I bothered to check that the wordplay worked. Very neat surface.
23 Take lid off vessel with temperature static (5)
INERT – (l)INER + T
24 One wing allowed to remain (4)
LEFT, 2 defs – a bit of a worry, with the multiple fits for –E–T and the somewhat vague first definition; I decided that if LEFT wasn’t intended, it was at least completely defensible, and stopped worrying.
PETER BIDDLECOMBE adds:
A very tough puzzle for me, made tougher by my somewhat hurried arrival
for the final. I think 13A was my first answer. I retired hurt after
about two thirds of this one to try No. 2, which turned out to be even
worse for me. 10A was hard to be really sure about and I think was my
last answer in this puzzle. One of my few good moments was spotting
PHOOEY as a better answer for 5D just after PHONEY was written in.
Helen Ougham mentioned “honeycomb tripe” as an unfortunate false
justification that she’d thought of. Solved without full wordplay: 9,
11, 12, 21.