23,500 – time to sort out a couple of points

Solving time 6:44

I enjoyed this puzzle, although there were a couple of clues I didn’t fully understand until writing up these notes. Left side was fairly empty until a lucky quick bit of anagram-spotting for 21 got things moving.

1 JOB’S COMFORTER – with x-ref to 6=TASK. I’ve always been a bit hazy about this expression, which is an old Times xwd favourite. The Wiki article on Job has full details.
10 LAST,STRAW – which is “stalks” as well as a single stalk.
11 OFF,THEM,ARK – start => off seems to be fairly fashionable at the moment
12 STAR – initial letters – “tops” seems a bit odd in an across clue, but I’m not bothered by “heads” for the same purpose and I guess there’s little difference
14 SOUP,CON – a nice piece of “misleading context” where the definition and wordplay components are all not what they seem (assuming you recognise “dash”, the American replacement for “sprint” in (e.g.) “60 meter dash”).
19 C.,AN,TA-TA
21 HARUSPICAL – i.e. relating to a haruspex, a practitioner of hepatomancy. It so happens that I read the same Wiki article a while ago through idle surfing, probably starting from some other divination word.
25 ALLOW – hidden in answer to 8.
26 H,OLEAND(CORN)ER – good “big pieces” wordplay.
1 JINGOISTICALLY – (acting is jolly I)* – time for me to check out who this Chauvin bloke actually was.
3 CATCH A CRAB – “to make a stroke in which the oar either misses the water or digs too deeply, causing the rower to fall backwards”
5 O.B. = outside broadcast,SERVE
7 R((p)URITAN)IA – a fictitious country in works by Anthony Hope – seems a bit like an older version of Borat’s “Glorious nation of Kazakhstan”.
8 S.,WORDS,WALLOWER – more big pieces wordplay, referring to the Hippopotamus song by Flanders and Swann. Altogether now – Follow me follow, down to the hollow, and there we will wallow, in glo-o-o-orious mud”.
13 GRAND PIANO – anag
15 UNS(seen),ELFISH – unseen remained unseen for quite a while – nearly asked for help with this one.
22 COLON – three definitions, one being simply “:”. I understood the alimentary canal reference easily enough, but not “Start of one canal” until guessing correctly just now that a town called Colón (Spanish version of Columbus) might be at one end of the Panama canal.

Social supplement – “Sloggers and betters”
About a dozen of the people who contribute to Times for the Times, Fifteensquared and Tony Sever’s new Times2 RTC blog, and about 5 setters, will be meeting up in a London pub tonight and then dining together. I’m looking forward to this mixture of seeing old friends again and meeting up for the first time with some people I know only through e-mails and blog entries. Beer consumption permitting, a brief report will go up on one of the blogs in a day or two. There may be similar events in future, possibly held outside London.

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