I gathered it was going to be a challenge when my first pass of the across clues came up empty. I did get one down clue first time through, but it eventually turned out to be wrong! It was a slow, thoughtful solve over several hours, but every clue makes sense when you see through it. If only we had a SNITCH for Saturdays, I’m sure it would be glowing red. The clue of the day was undoubtedly 29ac, with special mentions to 30ac and 18dn. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.
Clues are in blue, with definitions underlined. Answers are in BOLD CAPS, then wordplay. (ABC*) means ‘anagram of ABC’, with the anagram indicator in bold italics. Deletions are in [square brackets].
1 Finally, seeing a narrow opening illuminated (6)
GASLIT: [seein]G “finally”, A, SLIT. Apparently, GASLIGHTING is a different thing entirely these days.
4 One unknown couple, outwardly shy, becoming passionate (8)
SIZZLING: I (one), Z Z (a couple of unknowns), all inside SLING (shy, in the sense of throwing).
10 Old jacket sailor put back on board, XL (6,3)
DOUBLE TOP: DOUBLET (old jacket), P.O. (Petty Officer) backwards. The definition is XL, “forty”, the score for this throw when playing darts.
11 College head, finishing early, leaves to the right (5)
To quibble (and why should today be different?), the RECTO definition should be “pages”, not “leaves”. Each leaf has a RECTO (right) page and a VERSO (left) page. But of course, “page” or “pages” wouldn’t fit the surface! On edit: some commentators endorse the reading that “the leaves to the right (of the book opening)” present the recto pages. Fair enough.
12 Difficulties with cryptic clue for setter (5,6)
QUEER STREET: since QUEER STREET could clue SETTER as an anagram. A quaint expression.
14 Right-wingers in reality are not all the same (3)
YET: “right wing” letters of [realit]Y [ar]E [no]T.
15 PM, once about to resign, remains (7)
ASQUITH: QUIT inside ASH.
17 Visitor from afar after lift back, certainly (3,3)
YOU BET: BUOY (as in “lift your spirits”) backwards, then ET (visitor from afar).
19 Non-imperial police forces in London, and Dublin historically (6)
METRIC: MET[ropolitan Police] from London, R[oyal] I[rish] C[onstabulary] from Dublin once. Metric units – metres, kilograms etc.
21 Girl’s portrait: it electrifies retrospective, in part (7)
LETITIA: reverse (“retrospective”) hidden answer (“in part”).
23 Exercise to improve these ratings? (3)
AB’S: exercise your abdominals, or just talk about sailors.
24 Hint not a sensible thing to share? (11)
ADUMBRATION: A, DUMB, RATION. As (dumb?) luck would have it, nearly this same clue appeared only the day before, but it’s still delightful.
26 Language perfect for putting cipher in, mostly (5)
AZERI: ZER[o] (cipher, mostly), inside AI (perfect).
27 Elaborate tent with ultimate in style for birthday? (9)
TWENTIETH: (TENT WITH E*). The final E is the ultimate in [styl]E.
29 Broadcast line containing Tango Tango Alpha Golf Bravo Juliet? (8)
ATTAGIRL: what a beautiful clue! Just put TTAG (Tango Tango Alpha Golf) inside AIR (broadcast), then add L (line).
The definition is “Bravo Juliet” … or another girl of your choice, if you prefer. Sierra, perhaps, I wondered? She is one of the usual suspects in the phonetic alphabet lineup, but you might think of mountain ranges. And, astonvilla1 reminds us that long ago there was a UK TV series titled Juliet Bravo, so Juliet is clearly la fille juste for this clue.
30 Lamb tender, also second rate, offered originally by sly butcher’s (2,4)
BO PEEP: B (second rate), O[ffered] “originally”, PEEP (sly look, from Cockney Rhyming Slang: “butcher’s [hook]”). “Also” is just a filler.
Nice definition – she did indeed tend to lambs, or at least sheep.
1 Zealous bunch work with detective at the Yard (3,5)
GOD SQUAD: GO (work), DS (detective sergeant), QUAD (yard). Another quaint answer.
2 It follows good soak (5)
SOUSE: SO (it follows, as in “therefore”), USE (good, as in “what is the good of worrying?”).
3 Sick leave denied wife (3)
ILL: remove W[ife] from [w]ILL (leave, as in “leave it to your children”).
5 Warriors trained yet displaying lack of devotion (7)
IMPIETY: IMPI (Zulu warriors), (YET*).
6 Guide upset at Arthur’s ripping apart old prophet (11)
ZARATHUSTRA: A-Z (London guidebook, “upset” i.e. backwards), then (AT ARTHURS*). I needed helpers to spell this!
7 Paltry remuneration, first to last, leads to restlessness (5,4)
ITCHY FEET: TITCHY FEE, with the first T moved to the bottom.
8 Annoyed about recommendation at first that’s a little hollow (6)
GROTTO: GOT TO (annoyed), around R[ecommendation].
9 Problem for side having very little to wear? (6)
STITCH: double definition: either a pain in one’s side, or not a stitch to wear.
13 Forcing way inside fence (11)
RAILROADING: ROAD inside RAILING.
16 Hunting around like that is most uncomfortable (9)
QUEASIEST: AS (like) and IE (that is), inside QUEST.
18 Tools placed on skip a security concern (8)
PAWNSHOP: PAWNS (tools) on HOP (or skip or jump). The definition is a security concern, in that you pawn something as security, they lend money. Cute.
20 One doing my job sober gets in a mess! (7)
CLUTTER: the setter is a CLUER, and TT (sober) gets inside.
21 Improviser dispatching poster for campaigner (6)
LIBBER: AD-LIBBER beheaded. “Women’s libber” for example – thanks, Isla, for the definition.
22 Staff collected anecdotes for some future time (6)
MAÑANA: MAN (staff), ANA (collected anecdotes).
25 Periodically debrief suit about foreign department (5)
ISÈRE: alternate letters of “debrief suit”, read from right to left. A department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in eastern France, named after the river Isère.
28 What’s needed for match as well as broadcast (3)
TWO: sounds like (“broadcast”) TOO. Definition as in “it takes two to tango”