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February 18th, 2018

Not too tricky by Dean's exacting standards, and with some lovely stuff. Several generously clued cryptics (9a, 11a, 20a and 12d) enabled me to fill in quite a few squares on a first quick skim through, getting me off to a flying start. Things got a bit trickier after that, but I managed to cross the finishing line without feeling that I needed a good lie down (my usual state after a Dean Mayer puzzle).

The usual wit and elegant cluing are on display throughout the puzzle. In particular, I thought the farm animals device at 3d was very nice, 7d was extremely neat, and 5d was an absolute gem.

I remain somewhat uncertain about the last detail of the parsing at 2d, and look forward to being put straight on that. Anyway, here's how I think it works...

Definitions underlined: DD = double definition: anagrams indicated by *(--): omitted letters indicated by {-}

Across
1 A power described by simple physicist (6)
AMPERE - A then P inside MERE (power described by simple) giving us Andre-Marie of that ilk
5 Partnership for one out of loyalty (8)
ALLIANCE - EG (for one) comes out of ALL{EG}IANCE (loyalty)
9 All showers are relaxing here (6,4)
NUDIST CAMP - Gentle cryptic - where those who bare all go to, um, hang out...
10 Drop anchor in low river (4)
MOOR - MOO (low) + R (river)
11 Those involved in a domestic row (8,6)
TERRACED HOUSES - Cryptic definition turning on the two meanings of "row"
13 School maiden has to discharge gas (8)
SCHMOOZE - SCH (school) + M (maiden - cricket abbrev.) + OOZE (discharge)
14 Country chap’s anecdotes (6)
GUYANA - GUY (chap) + ANA (anecdotes). Ana (as a standalone word rather than a suffix) was new to me, but with the GUY being clearly clued (and the crosscheckers) it couldn't be anything else
16 A short tug, and snake gets rodent (6)
JERBOA - JER{K} (short tug) + BOA (snake)
18 Playing fragile old French organ (2,6)
LE FIGARO - *(FRAGILE) - with O (old) also in the mix - and "playing" signalling the anagram, giving us one of the two French papers of record
20 Is it overly sweet? (6-4,4)
UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE - Jokey cryptic based around "overly"
22 Almost completely stop (4)
QUIT - QUIT{E} (almost completely)
23 Sit back after cast angrily voice complaint (10)
LARYNGITIS - SIT reversed (back) 'after' *(ANGRILY) with "cast" pointing to the anagram
24 A plea for help to tackle leading cause of cancer (8)
ASBESTOS - A SOS (A plea for help) goes around ('tackles') BEST (leading)
25 Pass light over empty stage (6)
ELAPSE - PALE reversed (light over) + S{tag}E (empty stage)


Down
2 Hair growth over parting is bound to be longer (9)
MOUSTACHE - O (over - cricket abbrev.) inside (parting) MUST (is bound to be) + ACHE (longer). At least, that's what I originally thought - which gave me a bit of a problem as I cannot equate ACHE with LONGER (as opposed to LONGING or LONG). Maybe it works by having MUST just from "is bound", with "to be longer" giving us ACHE (I suppose one who is a 'longer' has an 'ache'). Or maybe I've completely missed the point (far and away the most likely explanation...)
3 Funny English farm animals (7)
EPIGRAM - E (English) + PIG & RAM (farm animals), with FUNNY here being a noun rather than an adjective. Very nice.
4 Highly courteous when one goes for a project (11)
EXTRAPOLATE - EXTRA POLITE (highly courteous) but with the I replaced by an A (when one goes for A)
5 Bookshop may sell this in all the best branches?
(1,8,2,4)
A FAREWELL TO ARMS - "All the best" gives us A FAREWELL, and "branches" gives ARMS. Gorgeous clue, I thought.
6 See power cut off (3)
LOP - LO (see) + P (power)
7 It supplies our occupying forces (7)
ARMOURY - OUR is inside (occupying) ARMY - & Lit, I believe
8 Split open part of head (5)
CLOVE - DD, the second referring to (e.g.) a clove of garlic
12 In which large sums of money are wasted? (4,7)
HIGH FINANCE - Cryptic turning on "wasted" being a term for "high" (as in stoned)
15 Places for young railway workers on train (9)
NURSERIES - NUR (railway workers - the old union that was dissolved in 1990) 'on' SERIES (train)
17 See red hair (7)
BRISTLE - DD
19 Old lady wants it — a cold dish (7)
GRANITA - GRAN (old lady) + IT A (wants it - a), giving the Italian sorbet-like treat
21 Is mother initially proud of us? (5)
POURS - P (first letter of - 'initially' - P{roud}) + OURS (of us). Do people still say "I'll be mother" when pouring tea? Not a phrase I've heard in years, in which case this might be a bit of a mystery to younger solvers. Or maybe I just tend to sit down with people pouring wine rather than tea.
23 In elevator with missing female (3)
LIT - LI{F}T (elevator with missing F{emale}). As for the definition, whilst solving I had a vague feeling that both IN and LIT are terms for "drunk", but post-solve research failed to validate the IN bit of that theory. However, if you read far enough down the Chambers entry for IN (now there's dedication for you) you come across "alight".

Not counting two special blogs in June 2011 when Mike Laws died, this is my 250th Mephisto blog. My first was puzzle 2489 that appeared in the paper on 11th May 2008. Bar crosswords have been my favourite type of crossword since I was introduced to Ximenes circa 1962 and Mephisto shortly after that. Throughout that time the overall standard of the puzzles has been a credit to the setters and I must thank them for the many hours of pleasure that they have given me.

Back in 1962 it used to take me 3 or 4 elapsed days to complete a puzzle. Over the years, my times gradually improved to today’s 40 to 80 minutes – so keep practicing if your new to this and struggling a little. 

This puzzle is middle of the road. I love 34A. In the blog, the definition in the clue is underlined and followed by the answer; the parsing; any comments

ACROSS

4 US artiste’s exceptional vocal range (9)

TESSITURA: (us artistes)*; 

12 Ghost of relation coming to Hamlet initially (5)

HAUNT: H(amlet)-AUNT; 

13 Mucky substances — fellow sure getting messy (7)

MANURES: MAN-(sure)*;

14 The picture is “too much” — if this? (4)

EPIC: hidden (th)E-PIC(ture); 

15 The Yorkshire boy backslides — one with foster parents (4)

DALT: T’-LAD reversed; 

16 Dirty old fool with something greasy (6)

ASSOIL: ASS-OIL; 

17 Old home with idle talk about “brothel” (6)

BAGNIO: O-IN-GAB all reversed;

18 A novice disturbed us, making us blush? (9)

VINACEOUS: (a novice)*-US; Rosé d’Anjou presumably; 

19 Mark day for a match, check outside (9)

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