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December 2nd, 2018

Sunday Times 4826 by Jeff Pearce

13:18. Nothing too hard this week. The bird at 4dn has come up before, including in a puzzle I blogged some time back, and I remembered it. This is perhaps fortunate because the wordplay strikes me as a little ungenerous. This bird actually seems to be something of a Jeff Pearce favourite: it came up in ST 4691 and 4712, which were both his, and 4328 which may have been (the setters weren’t named in those days but I think Jeff was a setter).

There were a couple of new words to me in here, in the religious thingummy and the scientific unit, but there the wordplay was clear enough. I thought the definition of ‘gambit’ was a bit odd but after further rigorous research (looking it up in Chambers) I concluded it was OK.

So thanks to Jeff and without further ado…

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (THIS)*, anagram indicators like this.

Across
1 Compost bin with strange vegetable
STRING BEAN - (BIN, STRANGE)*.
6 Say a heartily dodgy oath
EGAD - EG, A, doDgy. The first of two outings for this word last week.
9 Head off opening compass
AMBIT - gAMBIT. I don’t know much about chess but I thought this was a bit of an odd definition if only on the basis that there is such a thing as an opening gambit, which would be tautological if a gambit was necessarily an opening. However according to Chambers a gambit can be ‘an initial move in any strategy or battle’, which seems close enough even if ‘an’ (as opposed to ‘the’) still suggests it doesn’t’ necessarily have to be the first move. Edit: see below for more learned chess-related commentary that clears this one up.
10 Opening in shortened Swan Lake, perhaps, is a light piece of music
BAGATELLE - BA(GATE)LLEt.
12 Professional who’s polite on Mastermind
CIVIL ENGINEER - if you ENGINEER something, you could be said to ‘mastermind’ it.
14 Looking forward to a serving
AWAITING - A, WAITING.
15 Drunk bishop introduces gambling game
BLOTTO - B, LOTTO.
17 Copy key — primarily for bolt
ESCAPE - ESC (key) preceding APE (copy).
19 Spooner’s blue material advertising dance
HORNPIPE - a spoonerism for ‘porn hype’.
21 Discount extremely ugly dinner table needing repair
TURN A BLIND EYE - (UglY, DINNER TABLE)*.
24 Donkey left in fine pasture
GRASSLAND - GR(ASS, L)AND.
25 Polish right for small flower
RHINE - SHINE with the S (small) replaced with R.
26 Rank kipper, say, beginning to rot
TIER - TIE, Rot. Kipper ties were fashionable in the 70s.
27 Monster can upset vessel
MONSTRANCE - (MONSTER CAN)*. ‘The ornamental receptacle in which the consecrated host is exposed in Roman Catholic churches for the adoration of the people’ apparently. I didn’t know the word but it seemed the only possible arrangement of the letters once all the checkers were in place.

Down
1 Being upset, criticises photo
SNAP - reversal of PANS.
2 She’s on live — with little volume at start of act
REBECCA - RE (on), BE (live), CC (little volume), Act.
3 Shows around in mid-December?
NATIVITY PLAYS - CD.
4 Bird’s up and down movement over bridge?
BOBOLINK - BOB, O, LINK.
5 Inert substance oceanographer carries back
ARGON - contained reversed in ‘oceanographer’.
7 Soldier beginning to leave guy’s unit for force
GILBERT - GI, Leave, BERT. The CGS unit of magnetomotive force, apparently, whatever that is.
8 An old tree is firmly fixed
DEEP-ROOTED - because an old tree will have deep roots. Not a very cryptic clue.
11 Experimenting until a solution is found, pilot ran off with order
TRIAL-AND-ERROR - (PILOT RAN, ORDER)*. Edit: thanks to anon below for pointing out that this is complete nonsense. It is of course 'pilot' for TRIAL, followed by an anagram of RAN and ORDER.
13 Drunk’s after a non-alcoholic drink — perfect
WATERTIGHT - WATER, TIGHT.
16 Jets swirling around in the air?
TORNADOS - another not-very-cryptic cryptic definition.
18 Slaughter horse and worry about it
CARNAGE - CAR(NAG)E.
20 West African left out Spaniard?
IBERIAN - lIBERIAN.
22 Look around lake and an extensive 24
LLANO - L(L, AN)O. 24 being 24 across, GRASSLAND.
23 Nothing more than a pond
MERE - DD.

Mephisto 3039 - Paul McKenna

Odd-numbered Mephisto time! The grid has 90-degree symmetry with four clues running all the way across the 12x12 grid to stop it from separating into four mini-puzzles. All good fin.

I however made a real mess of this, having been utterly convinced that 1 across was PIDDLES, and somehow coming up with ICE DANCE with a question mark for 2 down. Maybe I was on to the start of a whole new crossword.

I think the pun in the top row is for a place?

Wordplay is hopefully explained, definitions are in Chambers and are underlined.

Away we go...

Across
1 Dwelling in the Borders is taking on direct debit for trifles (7)
PEDDLES - PELE(peel-house, fortified dwelling) 'S, containing DD(direct debit)
7 Silky net I stripped from inside leg armour (5)
TULLE - remove I from TUILLE (leg armour)
11 Always in, so toppled out-going turn (8)
EVERSION - EVER(always) then an anagram of IN,SO
12 Aged manner to perturb (6)
AERATE - AE(aged), RATE(manner, mode)
13 Know about new habit (4)
WONT - WOT(variant of WIT, know) surrounding N(new)
14 Crab on Skegness beach is near place for lobsters (6)
SCRAWL - 'S, CRAWL(lobster pen)
15 University College going through moderate interest in Shakespeare (6)
USANCE - U(university), then C(college) inside SANE(moderate)
16 Doctor here — let’s try keeping active (12, two words)
HARLEY STREET - anagram of HERE,LET'S,TRY containing A(active)
18 Strands in blasted lies about friendly pug (7)
INISLES - anagram of LIES surrounding NIS(friendly spirit)
22 Bug Mike then hide (7)
MICROBE - MIC(Mike), then ROBE(bison hide)
24 Basically broken lines, term for poetry voiced bit by bit (12)
SYLLABICALLY - anagram of BASICALLY, then L,L(lines), and the last letter in poetrY
26 Tree where the King first appeared (6)
TUPELO - double definition, based on Elvis being from Tupelo, Mississippi
27 River that’s been cleared for all produces Chinese tea (6)
CONGOU - CONGO river, then U(cleared for all)
29 Resisting a drink (4)
AGIN - A, GIN(drink)
30 Indian mogul’s nightmare curbing ID on Uzbeki motors (6)
HUZOOR - HOOR(nightmare, difficult person) containing UZ(IVR code for Uzbekistan)
31 Clare, say, one breaking into the middle is beyond the TUC, eg (8)
NONUNION - NUN(Clare), I inside NOON(middle)
32 Keynote article on Middle East (5)
THEME - THE(article), ME(Middle East)
33 Stay away from hen with this? (7)
CUTLASS - CUT(stay away from, as in "cut carbs"), LASS(hen)

Down
1 Softly blow a drop of water (5)
PLASH - P(softly), LASH(blow)
2 Entrance on horse? It’s a pleasure to see (8, two words)
EYE CANDY - EYE(mine entrance), CANDY(horse, heroin)
3 Drone earlier died on top of rocky height, time to escape (4)
DORR - D(died) on TORR(rocky height) missing T
4 Upsets for East Londoner’s wife getting into tossed salad (6)
DWAALS - W(wide) inside an anagram of SALAD.  East London in South Africa in this case
5 Don’t interfere — put only open space up for lease (12, three words)
LET WELL ALONE - WELL can refer to an open space in the middle of buildings, so you can LET(put up for lease) it ALONE
6 African confrère in south-east is to bask in uprising (7)
SENUSSI - SE(south-east) then a reversal of IS, SUN(to bask in)
7 Banking service tucked up, as they say, over a $100 matter (12, two words)
TRUST ACCOUNT - sounds like TRUSSED then A, C($100), COUNT(matter)
8 Around Berlin, etc, a rural dean coming straight in our direction (6)
USWARD - USW(und so weiter, etc), A, RD(rural dean)
9 Heraldic beast is first in detailed fleur-de-lis (6)
LIONEL - ONE(first) in side LILY(fleur-de-lis) with the last letter missing
10 Barely begin endless gush of infatuated Parisienne? (7)
ENTETEE - ENTER(begin) missing the last letter, then TEEM(gush) also missing the last letter
17 Decks with flowers take shape among hollowed, sculpted beams (8)
EMBLOOMS - LOOM(take shape) inside an anagram of BE(a)MS
18 Present minute coffee, say (7)
INSTANT - three definitions (if you consider instant as coffee)
19 Barmy mobile call’s first connected to a clot (7)
EMBOLIC - anagram of MOBILE, then C(all)
20 Mountain elder in Massif Central holding record (6)
ALPINE - AINE(elder) containing LP(record)
21 Shorter of dashes into cushy chamber (6)
PLENUM - EN dash inside PLUM(cushy)
23 Learn about absorbing unknown point of Whisky Galore! (6)
RANZEL - anagram of LEARN surrounding Z(unknown). Recovering stolen goods.
25 Try us when travelling in the Steppes? (5)
YURTS - anagram of TRY,US
28 Thug ignoring difficult white man in Chennai (4)
GORA - GORILLA(thug) missing ILL(difficult)