23,520 – Italia! oh Italia!

Solving time : 7m58s – Not a great time, given clues that are generally lucid and give one a fair chance – but a couple of the answers require serious knowledge, or good crosswording assumptions…
I enjoyed this puzzle, but not so much when I was worrying that I would never be able to come up with a solution to fit 3 down. But I stayed 6ac, studied the 13ac wordplay and eventually said “17ac”.
This grand tour took in Athens, Arabia and Portugal but kept returning to Italy (24, 3, 26, 18).

Across

1 DECK L(E)EDGE, &lit – A lovely clue, especially now I have rechecked what this solution means (“the raw or ragged edge of handmade paper…”). The extra E is given by “guillotine, ultimately”.
6 CALM, hidden, &lit – ‘Break’ is normally used as a wordplay indicator to mean ‘obstruct’. i.e. ‘enter’ (eg 18d), but here I suppose it indicates that “tropical monsoon” breaks up the word CALM (with a space).
12 (c)ENTER – “Key” as in ‘use a keyboard’. Last one for me following a struggle with 3d.
13 (K)ING(‘s) (B)ENI(n) (h)OUS(e) – an appropriately ingenious piece of wordplay.
17 T(HATS + MOREL)IKE + IT – a very concise wordplay for a complicated wordplay structure; a curmudgeon might claim that “it” needs to do double duty for the definition to be precise.
21 CA + CA(n) + O – California can be CA, Cal or even Calif.
23 ALI BABA, initials &lit – the surface a bit too much of a giveaway. Initial &lits are the easiest to write.
24 ANIMATO, anag of Mantovani minus N V – Likely assumptions about Italian words were to get harder than this…
25 (y)”ORICK’S” i.e. ORYX – there is a question about whether the sound of a nonsensical string like ORICK’S is really relatable to the longer word (e.g taken to absurdity, what would the pronunciation of OUGH be?), but here I think it is unarguable, and very amusing.
26 PORTUGUESE, anag guts + Europe – great anagram.

Down

1 D + INNER SET – never easy to have to interpret one word in the clue (“clique”) as a non-dictionary phrase in the answer. Good clue.
2 COME + T – I’m no expert in planes, trains & automobiles, but thankfully the wordplay was blatant.
3 LASER + (r)ENI + AMISS (rev) – If, like me, your knowledge of Italian art history and history does not extend to the name of a Baroque painter or the nickname of the Republic of Venice, then this clue is an almighty struggle. With almost all the checking, eventually assumptions from Latin and comprehension of 77% of the wordplay allowed a confident entry. Phew
5 G + DUG LEI (rev) – The clue surface seems a bit awkward despite the clever wordplay. Surely the actor should be “greatly appreciated”, and I wonder if Garland was once capitalised as an actor?
8 T in SHAM (rev) – I am pedantic enough to dislike the punctuation of “Teachers’ leader” as an indicator for T from the letter-string TEACHERS, but it’s easy.
15 AB for R in VIRILITY – I was lucky to immediately get this from the definition, as substitution wordplay is rarely speedy to dissect.
16 SOTTO VOCE, cryptic definition – A nice pun on volume, and Dante’s only significance is his Italianness.
18 REGAN in (f)OO(l) – Nice surface, nice clue – easy definition AND wordplay.
20 PL + AT + (symp)O(sium), &lit – reference to Plato’s Symposium

10 comments on “23,520 – Italia! oh Italia!”

  1. Being both rhotic and in favor of going to theater, I didn’t spot the “heart of America” and just guessed eater. Same thing happened with 24A: I’d seen the Italia theme already and just filled in AGITATO ignoring the rest of the wordplay.

    So two mistakes. And a chance to (re)learn two lessons.

  2. The link to “Baroque painter” is broken because of a missing double-quote at the end of the URL. Looks like the blog software tries to treat it as a local link as a result.
  3. 5:42 here, mainly from spotting La Serenissima from “Venice” and (2,11). Apart from the “bright light”, the wordplay didn’t get a look-in. But still managed to waste some time considering “Donkey” as the first word of 1D. Instant cryptic definition clue for you: “Democratic donkey or Republican elephant? (5,6)”. Also got 15D quickly, the same way.
  4. I just don’t get this. What is meant by ““tropical monsoon” breaks up the word CALM (with a space)”? How is the word CALM broken up? If “tropical monsoon” is broken up you can get “calm”, but the wording of the clue would then need to be along the lines “what tropical storm becomes when it breaks”, which of course is silly.
  5. Slow on this one at 11:54 (slow at RTC too! – so generally having an off day). At least my art history studies made 3d a doddle (wordplay and all). (Impressed by Peter B’s 5:42!)
  6. What I mean is that the appearance of CALM in ‘tropical monsoon’ is broken up by a space between L and M so it appears as ‘tropi(CAL_M)onsoon’. Yes, as I tried to explain, it’s not normal crossword clue usage, but I can see that it could be a fair reading.
  7. I appear to have progressed into back-number puzzles that I have already attempted at some indeterminate time in the past. You don’t forget La Serenissima in a hurry nor the Deckle Edge. Which is good becaause I think they stumped me first time round.

    Some “easies” omitted by Mr Magoo:

    9a Downfall making (sin seem)* terrible (7)
    NEMESIS

    10a Make use of plan, largely in escape route (7)
    EX PLO(T) IT

    14a Possible (venal deeds)* unknown in among saints? (5,6,4)
    SEVEN DEADL Y S IN S. An &lit including an anagram, an algebraic term and a word from the clue surrounded by holy persons.

    20a Poor (gripe)* about wicked advantage given only to a few (9)
    PRI VILE GE

    4d Together by bedroom? Sex inside to follow (2,5)
    EN SU IT E

    7d Show regret where a game soldier is given Ecstasy (9)
    A POLO GIS E

    11d Near result of cash squeeze? (5-8)
    PENNY-PINCHING. Where near = tight = miserly?

    19d English inclined to keep grand and stylish (7)
    E LE G ANT

    22d Want to party wildly, going on from clubs (5)
    C RAVE

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