2 = DUO -- DU (sounds like [picked up] "Due"), O sounds like "au"
3 could it be WAGES ? -- W(ith) plus AGES (times aka periods/eras) [not at all sure of that one]
4 is a real snorter. I think I'll go and sow some bean seeds and ponder on it.
#2 Could it be "two"? two = pair, au = O but tw/wt for "due to"??
Is it me or is the Times getting more obscure?
There seems to be an increasing trend for the clue itself to form part of the solution (unlike, say, in a two-part cryptic). Clue 5 in #18 is an example, where "He'd" is part of the anagram but also refers to the solution.
Re #21: #4 - brilliant!
Off to the veg plot...
Me too, nothing's growing mind, just been too cold and that's in the Thames valley.
Thinking about this a little more, maybe the problem is that the setters are taking increasing liberties with fairness (that is, by making life unreasonably difficult for the solver). Any serious crossword addict will have come across the name Ximenes, who set puzzles for The Observer and was widely credited with establishing exacting standards for compilers (particularly of fairness). There's an excellent summary of his approach here.
I often wonder what a non-native speaker would make of the traditional UK crossword. I'm not aware that the French, say, have such puzzles, as the only ones I've come across are straightforward general-knowledge ones. If this is the case, it's a great pity, as French lends itself so well to punning and wordplay.
Speaking of French puzzles, the fellow that ran my French class handed out this teaser one day. For a beginner like me, it took a long while to solve.
Monsieur A sends the following note to a colleague, Monsieur B:
p ci _____ à _____Venez sans
Monsieur B replies:
What's going on?
The menu is unfortunately lost to history...
Well done, Jonathan.
I always liked the description of cryptic crosswords as mental masturbation. I used to do the Times crossword every day but Araucaria in the Guardian always left me with lots of blank squares.
Araucaria I could do, it was Bunthorne who had me foxed.
I give in with #27 JV.