Congratulations to Azed from Dr Watson on reaching a milestone birthday. The occasion was revealed in the latent letters of Azed no 2363.
1. Pile of plant refuse, etc COMPOST HEAP Dr Watson spent most of the weekend clearing a ton of plant waste that had been dumped in a local playing field, so the competition word had a special relevance, and uncomplimentary definitions came easily to mind.
12. Two French articles interwoven in parts of skeleton ULNAE (une and la interlaced) The unusual wordplay is fairly indicated.
13. Clouds suggesting her sagginess, mama must get upset MAMMATUS (anag.) It’s not entirely clear why these clouds suggest her sagginess, but it appears to be an unkind suggestion of the effects of motherhood.
15. Property initially unlet, rickety? House lacks one (flat too) PENULT (p + anag.) A tricksy sort of definition. ‘House’ and ‘flat’ are both words that comprise a single syllable, and so lack a penultimate one.
19. Cumbrian location, not the first for multinational EBAY ((T)ebay) Dr Watson spent far too long trying to think of a 4-letter Cumbrian town that was a decapitated name of a multinational before the correct interpretation dawned. Tebay is a village close to the M6 and West Coast mainline best known to motorists for its independently owned and critically acclaimed service station.
26. One fully exposed and lacking a suit possibly? Clearly! NUDIST (anag. of (a)nd suit) A beautifully worded clue with a misleading surface reference to bridge that will certainly be the solvers’ favourite of the puzzle. The final ‘Clearly!’ gives the clue a semi-& lit. reading as it’s more than just a possibility that the preceding words describe a nudist.
28. Brussels regular had Parisian frolic EURO-MP (eu (Fr) romp) ‘Eu’ as well as being the Union that Britain is struggling to separate from with any dignity, is the French past participle of ‘avoir’, to have.
7. German captivates this writer, a philosopher’s disciple HUMEAN (me a in Hun) A name for the followers of the great 18c philosopher David Hume.
9. Catches from famous song writer cutting I’m on PAULS (Paul S(imon)) ‘Paul’ is an alternative spelling of ‘pawl’, a mechanical catch in a ratchet. A neat reference to Paul Simon, with ‘cutting’ in the surface reading meaning a vinyl record.
18. Embrocation, one chaps wrapped in cotton fibre LINIMENT (I men in lint) Dr Watson frequently misspells the solution as ‘linament’, and the wordplay here only encouraged this aberrant behaviour.
24. Mark idiot led by a target for promotion as a whole ADMASS (a + DM ass) The solution reminded Dr Watson of the winning clue in Azed no. 500, where competitors submitted a clue to BEFOOL from which two D’s needed to be removed before it could be solved. The clue by D. Ashcroft is “Admass imperative: get fund at others’ expense” (amass, fun; imperative form of ‘am ass’).
25. Ghastly sheatfish etc released from sea I set free LURID (Siluridae less anag.) Rather like last month’s CAPRINAE clue, the solver needs to be up on their Linnean taxonomy to find the relevant family of fauna.
Across: 11. CLART (l in cart); 14. PINNET (i.e. inn in pet; W. Scott); 16. PEANUT (a in PE nut); 20. LEONTINE (anag. + t, all in line); 21. LISTERIA (I in anag.); 24. ANON (hidden); 30. GAMMER (m in gamer); 31. TRAVERSE (tr. a verse); 32. TIMES (hidden rev.); 33. ESNES (sense, re.); 34. DISHONESTLY (dish + anag. in only).
Down: 2. OLLIE ((c)ollie); 3. MANNA-ASH (Anna in mash); 5. SCATTERY (s. cattery); 6. TUMP (m in put, rev.); 8. ELANET (lane in ET); 10. REST CENTRES (St in recent res.); 11. CAPPELLETTI (p pellet in cat + i(t)); 17. GOINGS-ON (go in + anag.); 22. TROVES (s to end in strove); 23. ENMESH (anag. in eh); 27. SEWEL (hidden; see shewel in C.); 29. PROO (pro (f)o(x); hunter = horse).