In the spirit of Fifteensquared, this is the answer key to my first cryptic crossword!
As a reminder, a cryptic clue generally consists of a dictionary definition and a secondary indication (usually wordplay) of the correct answer. In the following solutions, I've highlighted the dictionary definition hidden in each clue in bold.
|Example||RAGED||A gym leader in Cinnabar was inflamed (5)|
I'll then explain how the rest of the clue leads to the right answer, as well as how each clue relates to the puzzle theme.
|7a||BARBELL||Angry Bibarel destroyed one-pound weight (7)|
An anagram of BIBAREL after removing the letter I ("destroyed one"), plus L ("pound"). The anagram indicator is "angry".
Bibarel is a Pokémon that can be found in the Obsidian Fieldlands in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
|8a||AILMENT||Received draught intended for negative condition (7)|
A homophone of ale meant ("draught intended"). The homophone indicator is "received".
The surface reading suggests an item like a Full Restore used in the Pokémon games to cure status conditions. The British spelling of draught/draft is partly in service of the surface reading; the influence of Harry Potter has made it more common in Canadian and American English when referring to potions and elixirs like those used in Pokémon.
|9a||GOOD-NATURED||Jolly well suited ultimately to go after flora and fauna (4-7)|
Breaks down into GOOD ("well"), and D ("suited ultimately", meaning the last letter of suited) after NATURE ("flora and fauna").
Natures in Pokémon are characteristics that increase one stat at the expense of another stat. "Jolly" is a good nature to have for certain Pokémon on a competitive team.
|11a||KIND||Type disadvantage primarily follows lineage (4)|
The letter D ("disadvantage primarily", meaning the first letter of disadvantage) following KIN ("lineage").
Pokémon types have strengths and weaknesses against each other; for example water-types are good against fire-types and ground-types are not effective against flying-types. Because Pokémon evolutionary lineages tend to share types, they also tend to share their type advantages and disadvantages.
|13a||ALPHA||Dominant peak of area (5)|
A charade of ALP ("peak") and HA ("area")
The surface reading suggests Mount Coronet, the dominant geographical feature of Hisui. The answer references Alpha Pokémon, larger- and stronger-than-normal Pokémon that serve as minibosses in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
|15a||GRIT||Stony resolve (4)|
Pun on two definitions of grit.
Similar puns are present in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, as the items Grit Dust, Grit Gravel, Grit Pebble, and Grit Rock are used to raise Pokémon's effort levels in a given stat.
|16a||NOTCHES||Cuts tumblestone to catch child? (7)|
An anagram of STONE surrounding ("catching") the letters CH (abbreviating "child"). The anagram indicator is "tumble" although, as the question mark acknowledges, it's slightly dubious to need to split apart a compound word in a cryptic clue.
A tumblestone is a raw material used when crafting Poké Balls to catch Pokémon with.
|17a||AMNESIA||Memory loss means a name is confused (7)|
An anagram of A NAME IS. The anagram indicator is "confused".
The character Ingo in Pokémon Legends: Arceus suffers from amnesia after being transported through time and space from the Unova region.
|19a||WARY||Cautious of battle decision (4)|
A charade of WAR ("battle") and Y (abbreviating yes, a "decision").
Trainer battles in Pokémon Legends: Arceus end with a stylized wordmark reading "Battle decided".
|21a||START||Spookiest artifact conceals origin (5)|
Concealed in spookieST ARTifact.
Three artifacts — the Adamant Crystal, Lustrous Globe, and Griseous Core — are used to change the legendary Pokémon Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina into their Origin Formes. Of these, the one associated with the Ghost-type Giratina is probably the spookiest.
|22a||EPEE||Sword repeats point about Pokémon starter (4)|
The letter E ("point", as in the compass point east) repeated three times on either side of ("about") P ("Pokémon starter", meaning the first letter of Pokémon).
|26a||CRYSTAL BALL||Lustrous Globe (7,4)|
Cryptic definition — "Lustrous Globe" is just a funny way of saying "crystal ball".
As mentioned above, the Lustrous Globe is a key item associated with the legendary Pokémon Palkia.
|29a||EDITION||Version exclusives? To begin with, supplement lacks announcement (7)|
The letter E ("exclusive to begin with", meaning the first letter of exclusive), then ADDITION ("supplement") lacking the first two letters AD (meaning "announcement").
Historically, Pokémon games have been released in groups of slightly different versions, such as Pokémon Red and Blue, Pokémon Gold and Silver, and Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. The primary difference between versions in the same generation are Pokémon that can be caught in one game but not the other; these Pokémon are referred to as version exclusives. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is somewhat unique in that it is not paired with a second version (or supplementary DLC), so there are no version exclusives getting in the way of catching 'em all.
|30a||PHONIER||Phione evolution rumour: tip is more fraudulent (7)|
An anagram of PHIONE, then R ("rumour tip" meaning the first letter of rumour). The anagram indicator is "evolution".
Phione is a semi-mythical Pokémon which can be bred from, but strangely does not evolve into, Manaphy. False rumours and urban legends were common in the early days of Pokémon before reliable and comprehensive sources of information developed on the internet.
|1d||ARAGON||A dragon without a leader makes historic country (6)|
The letter "A" is directly lifted from the clue, then DRAGON minus the first letter ("without a leader"). Aragon was a medieval kingdom that unified with Castile to form modern Spain.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes place in Hisui, a region loosely based on 19th-century Hokkaido. According to in-game legend, it was created by Arceus alongside the deities of time and space — which are revealed to actually be powerful Dragon-type Pokémon.
|2d||RECON||Another trick for gathering information? (5)|
Pun — if a trick is a con, is the second time you do it a re-con?
The ultimate goal of Pokémon Legends: Arceus is to perform research tasks to collect information on all the Pokémon, which are compiled into the Pokédex.
|3d||CLAN||Family heads to calm lightning-affected nobles (4)|
Formed from the first letters of ("heads to") Calm Lightning-Affected Nobles.
In the Pokémon Legends storyline, five "noble Pokémon" have become frenzied due to lightning-like energy from space-time rifts. The heads of the Diamond and Pearl Clans help you calm these nobles by providing you necessary items to set up boss battles.
|4d||EAST||Beasts short of coasts where the sun rises (4)|
Obtained from BEASTS by taking away the first and last letter ("coasts").
The sun rises in the Cobalt Coastlands, so the "beasts" could refer to Purrloin, Murkrow, or the other Pokémon found in the approach to the shoreline.
|5d||ULTRA||Greater part of beautiful tradition (5)|
Hidden ("part of") beautifUL TRAdition.
The Ultra Ball is an improved version of the Poké Ball used for catching Pokémon.
|6d||SENDER||One who posts mission in southeast river (6)|
Constructed from END (in the sense of goal or "mission") inside the letters SE ("southeast") and followed by the abbreviation R ("river").
The surface reading could refer to Arezu or any of the NPCs who request your help in the Crimson Mirelands surrounding the rivers in southeast Hisui.
|7d||BLACK AND WHITE||Sharply divided about old-fashioned graphics (5,3,5)|
Double definition; can refer to moral lines or early TV.
The clue references the controversy over Pokémon Legends: Arceus's somewhat dated-looking visuals. The answer references the fifth-generation games Pokémon Black and White.
|9d||TIME TRAVELLER||Person from the future crafts rare item to level, disregarding zero electricity (4,7)|
Anagram of RARE ITEM TO LEVEL, after removing ("disregarding")the letter O ("zero") and one of the Es (short for "electricity"). The anagram indicator is "crafts".
The main character in Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a time traveller, having fallen through a space-time rift to a world of the past. Item crafting is a mechanic in the game, although admittedly rare candies that raise a Pokémon's level are not craftable.
|10d||AMPS||Current maps inaccurate (4)|
Anagram of MAPS. The anagram indicator is "inaccurate". Amps are a measure of electric current.
Because Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes place in the past, "current" maps of the Sinnoh region only vaguely resemble the regions depicted in the game.
|12d||DECOY||Distraction from the last month expressing dismay (5)|
Charade of DEC (the "last month" of the year) and OY ("expressing dismay").
As mentioned in my introduction, I've been using Pokémon Legends: Arceus and cryptic crosswords like this one as a distraction from recent events.
|13d||ABETS||Everyone entering STAB moves helps (5)|
The letter E (abbreviating "everyone") in the middle ("entering") of an anagram of STAB. The anagram indicator is "moves".
In competitive Pokémon, STAB stands for same-type attack bonus, referring to the 1.5x damage boost moves get when used by a Pokémon of the same type. All else being equal, it's better to use a STAB move than a non-STAB move, which helps when trying to predict what options an opposing trainer might select on their turn.
|14d||ADMIT||Random rifts drop odd characters to accept (5)|
Obtained by deleting the odd-numbered characters of rAnDoM rIfTs.
The surface reading references the randomly-occurring space-time rifts that bring the main character (and others) to the setting of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. The main character briefly struggles to gain the acceptance of the people in Jubilife Village.
|15d||GEESE||Birds glide vacantly around — look up! (5)|
The letters GE ("glide vacantly", meaning glide with its middle letters removed) set around SEE ("look") spelled backwards ("up", since this is a vertical clue).
The inclusion of ride Pokémon in Pokémon Legends: Arceus allows you to glide around, vacantly or otherwise, with the help of the flying-type Braviary.
|18d||DATA||Information vaguely written up (4)|
The phrase A TAD ("vaguely" when used adverbially, as in a tad familiar), spelled backwards ("written up", since this is a vertical clue).
The Pokédex is notoriously filled with vague and occasionally dubious descriptions that resemble Pliny the Elder's writings more than it does a modern encyclopedia. The Pokédex in Pokémon Legends: Arceus is literally written up as a book.
|20d||RECOIL||Concerning loop leading to self-inflicted damage (6)|
A charade of the abbreviation RE: ("concerning") and COIL ("loop").
Several moves in Pokémon inflict recoil damage on the user. On the rare occasion when a battle devolves into a repetitive loop of healing and status moves, one of the combatants will eventually run out of available moves and use Struggle, which is one such move.
|23d||PALLID||Friend cap lacks intensity (6)|
A charade of PAL ("friend") and LID ("cap").
This clue is a stretch to relate to Pokémon, but "friend cap" could be interpreted as referring to the limit of 6 Pokémon you can carry with you at a time. This limit feels less stringent than it does in other games, since it is easy to switch them out at the camps scattered across the region.
|24d||KYRIE||Sacred words from the end of legendary shield-bearer (5)|
The end of valKYRIE. The Kyrie eleison is the common name of an important prayer in some Christian denominations.
The surface clue is suggestive of the legendary Zamazenta, the cover mascot of Pokémon Shield.
|25d||TALON||No getting up after taking half of Metal Claw (5)|
NO spelled backwards ("getting up", since this is a vertical clue) after the latter half of meTAL.
The surface clue references the Pokémon attack Metal Claw.
|27d||TING||Metallic noise and lossless glint? Variant! (4)|
Anagram of GLINT after removing L (standing for "loss", so "lossless" suggests its removal). The anagram indicator is "variant".
Shiny Pokémon are rare variants with unusual colours. When a Shiny Pokémon appears in the wild or from its Poké Ball, it is accompanied by a sound effect and a flash of light and stars.
|28d||LOPE||Run from training under large officer (4)|
The initialism PE ("training", as in physical education) after ("under", since this is a vertical clue) the letters L (short for "large") and O (short for "officer").
The surface clue refers to Zisu, the captain of the Galaxy Team Security Corps, who can be optionally battled at the training grounds.
Eagle-eyed solvers may have already noticed the thematic message spelled out by the top and bottom rows of the puzzle: ARCEUS LEGEND.