3968 Babes by Aedites

Aedites moved into double figures this week with his tenth Listener, four of which have been numerical puzzles. In true all-rounder fashion, this week’s puzzle had a circular grid, and although the answers were shorter than average, with just five letters each, some tricky vocabulary made this a pleasant challenge.

The quotations around the middle and outer ring, appropriate for the week in which Valentine’s Day fell, read:  WHAT ARE LITTLE GIRLS MADE OF, and ROSES ARE RED VIOLETS ARE BLUE SUGAR IS SWEET AND SO ARE YOU. The inner ring read LEA SAL RAE DEE, these being four examples of “little” girls.

All answers have 5 letters.

CLUES
1 American check to a French nerve gas
TABUN TAB (American word for CHECK) + UN (French word for A)
Band regularly plays to team
LYTTA Every second letter in pLaYs To TeAm
Cave's endless space holding books
ANTRE NT (New Testament ie books) inside ARE(A) (endless space)

2 Card game with seven pieces for one
SOLOS SOLO (Card game) + S (seven)
Either direction of entry could be justified here
Drop volunteers after clean out!
GUTTA TA (volunteers) after GUT (clean out)
Rarely pay using coin from French
SOLDE SOL (coin)+ DE (French word for OF)

3 Arbitrary decree while arrested by instrument
UKASE AS (while) inside UKE (instrument)
Seaweed containing iodine provides ending for painful condition
ALGIA ALGA (Seaweed) containing I (iodine)
Stabilising fin comes from Saskatchewan bomb
SKEGG SK (Saskatchewan) + EGG (bomb)

4 Bandage one hundred in resort
SPICA I (one) + C (hundred) inside SPA (resort)
Otic swellings are mostly distressing
TRAGI TRAGI(C) (ie mostly distressing)
Pips before food at one
ACINI AC (before food) + IN (at) + I (one)

5 Gulls returned about the calf
SURAL LARUS (Gulls), reversed
Pen stroke
CRAWL Two meanings
Scots distressed in the French city
LILLE ILL (Scottish word for “distressed”) inside LE (French word for “the)

6 Absent despot backs cult member
RASTA A (Absent+ + TSAR (despot), all reversed
Alternately, that's Arabic silk for a dress
TASAR TAS (every second letter of ThAt’S) + AR (Arabic)
Small trench sown in the middle
RILLE Middle letters of (D)RILLE(D) (sown)

7 Pharaonic measure concerning people
REMEN RE (concerning) + MEN (people)
Strangely rimed molecule with twice the number of atoms
DIMER Anagram of RIMED
Will's challenge in whatever manner for example
ASSAY AS (in whatever manner) + SAY (for example)

8 Grey coin of little value
LIARD Two meanings
Spanish hamlet modifies a deal
ALDEA Anagram of A DEAL
Stomachs nothing before dough!
OMASA O (nothing) + MASA (dough)

9 Each extremely variable
EVERY EVER( extremely) + Y (variable)
Leak five English grouse
PEEVE PEE (Leak) + V (five) + E (English)
Ordinary smooth stone? What a shame
OHONE O (Ordinary) + HONE (smooth stone)

10 American killed official newsman
OFFED OFF (official) + ED (newsman, ie editor)
Jaguar at one time holding Burmese title
OUNCE ONCE (at one time) containing U (Burmese title)
Put off freed eccentric
DEFER Anagram of FREED

11 Attached directions to former hazard
SEWED S + E (South + East ie directions) + WED (former hazard)
Gregson had to consult Chambers to confirm that “wed” = “wager (obs)”, and “wager” = “hazard”
Club with incisiveness
WEDGE W (with) + EDGE (incisiveness)
Old character with bone has moral significance
ETHOS ETH (Old character) + OS (bone)

12 Avoid advantage held by girl
EVADE  AD (advantage) inside EVE (girl)
Kentish division curtails stick
LATHE LATHEE (stick), with last letter removed
Rob continually returns about it
REAVE EVER (continually), reversed, containing A (it)

13 Admit film distributor without resistance
ENTER RENTER (film distributor), minus first R (resistance)
Black colour disturbs Weald
DWALE Anagram of WEALD
Orange-brown bill has no tip
TENNE TENNER (bill), less last letter
In Chambers, “tip” can mean “the furthest part”, hence the last letter

14 Branch left in twisted bracelet
ARMIL ARM (branch) + [I (in) + L (left)], reversed (ie twisted)
God to move away in a broad and slow manner
LARGO LAR (God) + GO (move away)
Spenser's covering base in the figurative world
VEALE E (base) inside VALE (the world, figuratively)

15 Lose letter in river
LEESE ES (letter ie “S”) in LEE (river)
One such river flows from Luton to the Thames
Shine left metal filings
LEMEL LEME (Shine) + L (left)
Steel plate lacking in delicate fabric
TULLE TILLE (Steel plate), less I (in)

16 Mosstrooper deduced proposition
RIDER (two meanings, one being “deduced proposition”)
Old saddle measure in Kent, for example
SELLE ELL (measure) inside SE (Kent, for example)
Rice upsets a girl!
ERICA Anagram of RICE, + A