9
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Three answers must be thematically shortened before entry in the grid; wordplay gives the shortened version. The contents of one cell in the completed grid should be suitably replaced to highlight the cause of the problem.

crossword grid

Across
1. Kind of drunk around railhead (4)
4. Current law for Holly? (4)
7. About a thousand days in Rome is a tenth for Will (5)
10. Sinister royal supporter lacking 43 to salt (4)
11. Old sovereigns left in large quantities all over the place (6)
13. Panamanian currency investment? Quite the opposite (3)
14. Migrants caught by police officers (8)
16. Member once six foot long (in France) is withdrawn (3)
17. Raced around evergreen tree (5)
20. Oil dicky Elena (5)
21. Grin about embarkation (4)
23. Withdraw from network crossing Ireland (6)
25. Submachine gun found in east England (4)
26. Meerkat gutted for food (4)
27. Gadabout, eccentric in Australia (3)
28. Tragically, debtors got burnt here (5)
29. Say more about father (3)
30. See 21D
32. Papal tribunal where god introduces Old Testament (4)
34. Anne is back for earth pigment (6)
35. Important dates for east EthIopian noble (4)
36. Southend’s dispatches (5)
38. Kind of bloom seen amid naval galleons (5)
40. Executive position held by co-owner (3)
41. Gain used to be adjusted for part of mass (5,3)
43. Carthaginians, lacking coppers, may be studied here (3)
44 To bluster Japanese e.g. 24 as heard on radio (6)
45. Fabric made from matter with soft filling (4)
46. Loud sounds upset sleep, reportedly (5)
47. Ed’s residence is in the Mendips (4)
48. Heartless kings as drunk as newts (4)

Down
1. Asserts two vessels show superior diplomatic ability (13)
2. Ascendent archbishop’s attire (4)
3. Graphic record of GT car in accident (7)
4. Chopping up nine icons for kindling (9)
5. Crusader finally departs for historic port (4)
6. The Spanish zero-rating system (3)
7. Pancake, delivered by Muralitharan perhaps, lacks alternative (4)
8. Deviant damsel I deceive (7)
9. Sect out east mixing light sauces for plant extracts (9,4)
10. Speed nut ignoring injunction is a target (5)
12. Material possibly used in tumbledown diamond mine (5)
15. Without right, reorders itself for screen (7)
18. Six kings, sheltering in croft perhaps, raised baby (6)
19. Safe place to receive new arrangement of musical composition (6)
21,30. Daring Sadie distributed help for bibliophiles. (7,4)
22. Greek physician with a mineral ore (6)
24. A painted ship seen on current scores (9)
27. Disorder salt covered in mould (7)
29. Area containing salt mixture? (4,3)
31. Goddess uplifted range of mountains. (5)
33. Hamilton or Perth, for example (5)
37. Heading northward aboard ship for drinks (4)
39. Shoot characters in Danger Mouse (4)
40. Stores for suit (4)
42. Initially governess is proper (3)

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3
  • $\begingroup$ Is it deliberate that 28 is enumerated as (4) although its space is 5 long? (This seems the wrong way around to be the thing described in the rubric, and otherwise lengths in enumerations seem to match lengths in the grid. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Dec 6 '21 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ 14 looks off as well. $\endgroup$
    – cap
    Dec 7 '21 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan These are indeed simple mistakes. I see that hasn't held you back though. $\endgroup$
    – richardb
    Dec 7 '21 at 9:17
5
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Completed grid:

enter image description here

Answers and explanations (with a few gaps, for which see the "quibbles and confusions" later):

Across

1. SORT SOT around R(-ail) Kind of drunk around railhead (4)
4. ILEX I + LEX Current law for Holly? (4)
7. DISME (M DIES)* [_indirect anagram!] About a thousand days in Rome is a tenth for Will (5)
10. CORN UNICORN minus UNI Sinister royal supporter lacking 43 to salt (4)
11. ALLODS L in LOADS* [indirect anagram! ... and the definition seems off] Old sovereigns left in large quantities all over the place (6) 13. ALB substring of BALBOA; "vestment in Panamanian currency" Panamanian currency investment? Quite the opposite (3)
14. CROSSERS C + ROSSERS [but surely it's ROZZERS not ROSSERS] Migrants caught by police officers (7)
16. TOE TOISE minus IS Member once six foot long (in France) is withdrawn (3)
17. CEDAR RACED* Raced around evergreen tree (5)
20. ANELE ELENA* Oil dicky Elena (5)
21. BOARDING->RING GRIN* Grin about embarkation (4)
23. RETIRE RETE around IR Withdraw from network crossing Ireland (6)
25. STEN substring Submachine gun found in east England (4)
26. MEAT ME(-erk)AT Meerkat gutted for food (4)
27. DAG GAD< Gadabout, eccentric in Australia (3)
28. ILIUM ** debtors are topless (t)owers, you see...** Tragically, debtors got burnt here (4)
29. ADD DAD* [indirect anagram!] Say more about father (3)
30. AIDS see 21d See 21D
32. ROTA RA containing OT Papal tribunal where god introduces Old Testament (4)
34. SIENNA (ANNE IS)< Anne is back for earth pigment (6)
35. ERAS E + RAS Important dates for east Ethiopian noble (4)
36. SENDS south->S Southend’s dispatches (5)
38. ALGAL substring Kind of bloom seen amid naval galleons (5)
40. COO substring Executive position held by co-owner (3)
41. AGNUS DEI (GAIN USED)* Gain used to be adjusted for part of mass (5,3)
43. UNI (-p)UNI(-c) Carthaginians, lacking coppers, may be studied here (3)
44. VAPOUR sorry, don't understand wordplay To bluster Japanese e.g. 24 as heard on radio (6)
45. REPS RES with P filling Fabric made from matter with soft filling (4)
46. PEALS homophone of SLEEP* [indirect anagram, kinda] Loud sounds upset sleep, reportedly (5)
47. HEME substring [but how does the definition work?] Ed’s residence is in the Mendips (4)
48. ASKS (KS AS*) [indirect anagram!] Heartless kings as drunk as newts (4)

Down

1. STATESMANSHIP STATES + MAN + SHIP Asserts two vessels show superior diplomatic ability (13)
2. ROBE EBOR.< Ascendent archbishop’s attire (4)
3. TRACING (GTG CAR IN)* Graphic record of GT car in accident (7)
4. INCENSION (NINE ICONS)* Chopping up nine icons for kindling (9)
5. LARBOARD->LARD don't understand the wordplay, sorry Crusader finally departs for historic port (4)
6. ELO EL + O The Spanish zero-rating system (3)
7. DOSA DOOSRA minus [letters of] OR Pancake, delivered by Muralitharan perhaps, lacks alternative (4)
8. MISLEAD (DAMSEL I)* Deviant damsel I deceive (7)
9. ESSENTIAL OILS ESSEN(-e) + (LT AIOLIS)* [_indirect anagram!] Sect out east mixing light sauces for plant extracts (9,4)
10. CLOUT C + LOUT [but I'm not sure how LOUT is "nut ignoring injunction"; I want it to be something with DO or DONT removed, or similar...] Speed nut ignoring injunction is a target (5)
12. DENIM (D MINE)* Material possibly used in tumbledown diamond mine (5)
15. REREDOS (REORDERS-R)* Without right, reorders itself for screen (7)
18. ARRIVAL (VI R in LARA)< Six kings, sheltering in croft perhaps, raised baby (6)
19. REFUGE R + FUGUE* [indirect anagram!] Safe place to receive new arrangement of musical composition (6)
21. READING AIDS (DARING SADIE)* Daring Sadie distributed help for bibliophiles. (7,4)
22. GALENA GALEN + A Greek physician with a mineral ore (6)
24. TEMERAIRE but why? A painted ship seen on current scores (9)
27. DISEASE SEAS covered in DIE Disorder salt covered in mould (7)
29. ARAL SEA AREA containing SAL* &lit [not sure what happened to the T] Area containing salt mixture? (4,3)
31. SEDNA ANDES< Goddess uplifted range of mountains. (5)
33. TOONS cryptic def; Scots "towns" Hamilton or Perth, for example (5)
37. SUPS UP aboard SS Heading northward aboard ship for drinks (4)
39. GERM substring Shoot characters in Danger Mouse (4)
40. CUPBOARDS->CUPS ddef Stores for suit (4)
42. DUE start of DUENNA Initially governess is proper (3)

What has happened to the highlighted lights?

"All the BOARDs did shrink." (Each instance of BOARD in the answers has been replaced by one of the letters of BOARD, or in one case by nothing at all.)

Why?

"Water, water everywhere."

And what caused this unfortunate state of affairs?

The Ancient Mariner has been cursed for killing an albatross. Another conseequence, as we would find by suitable modification of the yellow square, is that "instead of a cross, the ALBATROSS / about my neck was hung." (I've left it unmodified, contrary to the rubric, for the sake of clarity.)

A few other remarks:

The clues and answers contain a good deal of salt and sea and ships. Also, the words "a painted ship" in 24d also appear in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. (Maybe there are other quotations, but I didn't spot them if so.)

Quibbles and confusions (now including some explanations from OP):

There are several indirect anagrams. Booooo!
11a: surely ALLODS doesn't mean "old sovereigns"? An allod is land that you hold freely; you are maybe sovereign, but the allod isn't. (I did wonder whether maybe there are such things as ALLOBOARDS, but no.) [OP says this was just an error; fair enough.]
14a: surely the cops are ROZZERS, not ROSSERS? [OP tells me ROSSERS is in Chambers, and indeed so it is.]
28a: ow ow ow ow ow. (Maybe I should explain this one for the benefit of anyone who didn't get it, though really you're better off that way. In Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus, Faust gets Mephistopheles to provide him with Helen of Troy as his lover. Seeing her, he exclaims "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships, / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?". Topless towers would be OWERS, don'tcha know, and owers would be debtors.)
44a: this must be VAPOUR which can mean to bluster, but I don't understand the wordplay. (In comments Jeremy Dover suggests that it has something to do with the band The Vapours, who had a hit called "Turning Japanese". Plausible, but still not clear how it works.) [OP explains that this is another terrible, terrible pun: if they're Turning Japanese then they're ... Japanese Turners.]
47a: wordplay-wise this seems like it should be HEME (substring), but I am entirely at a loss as to why that would be "Ed's residence" (and there are no letters of BOARD to expand, not that that seems like it would help). [OP clarifies that Ed is Edmund Spenser. Duh, should have thought of that.]
5d: sorry, don't understand the wordplay here at all. [OP explains that this is TEMPLAR minus TEMP, though I'm still not quite clear why "finally" = TEMP.]
10d: I guess C is "speed" (which I don't much like, but it's pretty common) but I don't see how to turn "nut ignoring injunction" into LOUT. I guess we want to remove DO or DONT or some legal term from a word indicated by "nut", but I don't see it. [OP explains that this was CLIP ON NUT ("clip" = speed, and I guess "on" is a sort of reverse-cryptic thing) with IN and PN -- in + junction! -- removed; I think "injunction" meaning "take IN and a kind of junction, and remove those letters from random places" is a bit too clever!]
24d: of course I see why TEMERAIRE is "a painted ship", but I don't understand "seen on current scores" at all. [OP explains that it's because Turner's painting is on current twenty-pound notes!]
29d: what happened to the T of "salt"? [OP explains that salt -> sal, so another indirect anagram.]
42d: I really don't like "initially" for "first three letters of"...

For the avoidance of doubt, despite the quibbles above this was a fun solve, and the thematic trickery made me smile when I figured it out.

Thanks to Jeremy Dover for explaining, in comments below, things I'd missed in 10a and 9d, and for a plausible suggestion for part of what's going on in 44a. And thanks to OP for explaining all the rest!

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7
  • $\begingroup$ So 10A rot13(corn = salt is coming from corned beef, which is also salt beef). And 44A rot(13incbhe vf fheryl ersreevat gb gur onaq Gur Incbhef, jubfr bar uvg jnf "Gheavat Wncnarfr"), though I don't see how to get the wordplay to work either. 9D is rot13(hfvat gur nooerivngvba yg. sbe yvtug, trggvat gur gjb arrqf rkgen yrggref va.). $\endgroup$ Dec 7 '21 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ You are clearly right about 10a and 9d. You're probably right about 44a, though like you I still don't see how the wordplay works if your suggestion about that one is correct. I've incorporated your suggestions into my answer (with credit, of course). Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Dec 7 '21 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ Didn't the rules state that only 3 answers need shortening/transforming? Shouldn't the rest then be direct answers, instead of anagrams or arbitrary letters plucked out of the answers? $\endgroup$
    – Vilx-
    Dec 7 '21 at 8:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Vilx- This is a cryptic crossword, a type of crossword where every clue involves some sort of wordplay according to a specific set of rules. The shortenings and transformations are an additional gimmick on top of that. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Dec 7 '21 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ Apologies for the number of indirect anagrams, especially 9D which in my head I had completely discarded and rewritten. I did get the memo but seem to have failed to act on it. I realise I need to hone my craft a bit, so thanks for taking the time to comment. A bit of a split of yes, no, maybe (but could do better) on the quibbles. $\endgroup$
    – richardb
    Dec 7 '21 at 11:53

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