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February 24th, 2019

Mephisto 3051 - Paul McKenna

I thought this was a notch up in difficulty in comparison to the last couple of weeks. Paul McKenna has also given us a slightly different grid, 11x13 with three across answers going right across the grid.

Another pun in the top row, this time for OVERTURE.

Definitions can be confirmed in Chambers and are not always discussed - they are underlined in the clues.

Away we go...

Across
1 ____ is able to be seen on French green (5)
OVERT - O(on), VERT(French for green)
5 Cold axeman who’s keen to get a plug, I guess (6)
CHEWER - C(cold), HEWER(axeman). The definition comes from one who chews tobacco which is just about the most disgusting habit I have encountered, and is unfortunately popular where I live. The school I teach at banned it about 10 years ago, but I used to have to deal with students and their revolting spit cups in class on a daily basis. Thanks for reminding me, Paul.
10 Let Romeo tie up fallen star? (11)
METEOROLITE - anagram of LET,ROMEO,TIE
11 A whiff of Mumbai? Live and die curried (5)
BEEDI - BE(live) and an anagram of DIE - "whiff" can mean a cigarette in Chambers. Hmm... chaw, and smokes, will there be a vape before the end of the puzzle?
12 Old suit in lodgings daughter chucked out (5)
BESIT - the lodgings are a BEDSIT, remove the D(daughter)
13 Transport integral to major orders from the east (4)
RO-RO - hidden reversed in majOR ORders
14 Lake monkey, we hear, showing tender softness (7)
LANGUOR - L(lake) then sounds like ANGER(one of the meanings of "monkey" in Chambers)
16 Lie about trooper, say, back to trudge around the Trossachs (6)
TAIGLE - TALE(lie) surrounding GI(trooper) reversed
17 Small box close to unknown classy dog (6)
SHITZU - S(small), HIT(box), beside Z(unknown), U(classy)
19 We mess up willfully still true to form (11, two words)
LITTER LOUTS - anagram of STILL,TRUE,TO
23 Time to celebrate son moving in usherette, or some such (6)
EASTER - move the S in SEATER(usherette)
26 Turkish commander almost let slip trumpeters (6)
AGAMIS - AGA(Turkish commander), then MIS(s) (let slip)
28 Greetings following present Sikh guardian (7)
GRANTHI - HI(greetings) after GRANT(present)
29 Core of unpretentious poems (4)
ODES - the middle letters of MODEST(unpretentious)
30 Heart of harangue in proportion (5)
RATIO - strange to see these two clues side by side, this time it is the middle of ORATION(harangue)
31 A deposit which gets blown — not so much about nothing (5)
LOESS - LESS(not so much) surrounding O(nothing)
32 A fee piously thrown over, certainly ironically (11, three words)
IF YOU PLEASE - anagram of A,FEE,PIOUSLY
33 Special hair dyes in fixed amounts (6)
STINTS - S(special), TINTS(hair dyes)
34 Bette, say, axing male who can’t motivate himself (5)
IDLER - the actress Bette MIDLER missing M(male)

Down
1 Solo players are dismal when opening ends (6)
OMBRES - SOMBRE(dismal) with the first letter moved to the end
2 Without Conservatives city centre declined seemingly forever (8)
ETERNITY - anagram of CITY and CENTRE missing both Cs(conservatives)
3 Flying circus pilots do this concerning fear when Baron flies (6, two words)
RED OUT - RE(concerning), DOUBT(fear) missing B(Baron)
4 John finally trimmed cheap prototype (5)
TOILE - TOILE(t)(John)
5 Conditions of being like Noah’s arks? (13)
CREATURESHIPS - the ark was a CREATURE SHIP
6 Walk over roughly being sadly fashionable but safe anyhow (7)
HOBNAIL - anagram of FASHIONABLE minus SAFE
7 English hurry writ of execution no longer (6)
ELEGIT - E(English), LEG IT(hurry)
8 Eliot rocking on a rocker went pale (9)
ETIOLATED - anagram of ELIOT on A, TED(rocker)
9 Retain at all times flipping wonky paper (6)
RETREE - RET(retain), then EER(at all times) reversed
15 With joint shady tricks gardeners cut into stock to make this (9, two words)
WHIP GRAFT - W(with), HIP(joint), GRAFT(shady tricks)
18 Come to understanding clue a tad differently (8, three words)
CUT A DEAL - anagram of CLUE,A,TAD
20 Uplifting trend over blooming excise (7, two words)
EDIT OUT - reversal of TIDE(trend) then OUT(blooming). The wording here would only work for a down clue
21 Pop on old fur turbans (6)
PAGRIS -  PA(pop), GRIS(old grey fur)
22 Film about site of early growth in Minoan trading places (6)
AMNION - anagram of MINOAN
24 Drove away from Slough round a couple of roundabouts (6)
SHOOED - SHED(slough) surrounding O,O(roundabouts)
25 A nark amongst Nero’s servants (6)
ROSSER - hidden in neRO'S SERvants
27 Carminative “seeds” I bag in the outback? (5)
DILLI - DILL(carminative seeds), I

Sunday Times 4838 by Dean Mayer

11:50. I found this pretty easy for one of Dean’s, but it is typically brilliant in a way I've tried to highlight below.

Significantly though this week’s puzzle isn’t one of Jeff Pearce’s: as Peter Biddlecombe (Sunday Times crossword editor and founder of this site) told us last week Jeff has decided to retire from setting the Sunday Times puzzles.

I always used to think of Jeff’s puzzles as the easy ones, and there’s nothing wrong with that: the art of producing an elegant but accessible puzzle is a fine one and Jeff was always a master of it. In the last couple of years though it seemed to me that he decided – from time to time – to produce a harder puzzle, and occasionally a real stinker. I don’t know that this was deliberate, but some of these difficult puzzles were masterpieces and they enhanced my appreciation of Jeff's setting. So for the full range of puzzles he produced I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jeff personally for many years of solving pleasure.

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

Across
1 Chemist quick to bandage injury
PHARMACY - P(HARM)ACY.
5 One third of twelve still an odd number
ELEVEN - one third of twelve is twELve (why that third, you might ask, well why not?), then EVEN is ‘still’
10 "Town" planes try to bomb
PORT STANLEY - (PLANES TRY TO)*. I assume the quotation marks in the clue are there because the town is officially known as Stanley. It was generally referred to as ‘Port Stanley’ during the Falklands war, I remember.
11 See how business starts to yield high return
LOB - LO, Business. Great clue.
12 Alcoholic spirit?
DUTCH COURAGE - CD. Not for the first time with this setter, I find myself thinking, this is – in retrospect – so obvious, someone must have come up with it before. It’s one of those clues that seems found rather than written.
15 Sweep area, say, as for cigars
PANATELLAS - PAN (sweep), A, TELL (say) AS.
16 Liking one, and possibly not
INTO - I, (NOT)*.
18 Hands clapped themselves?
CREW - this is another brilliant clue. Chapeau.
19 In French, France, for example
NOM DE PLUME - CD. France was the NOM DE PLUME of François-Anatole Thibault. I’ve already used ‘chapeau’… bravo!
21 Equine business, large one, super-secure
LIVERY STABLE - L, I, VERY STABLE.
24 Very good English dish
PIE - PI (very good), E. There is some debate as to whether PI means ‘very good’ or ‘seeming very good’ but both are apparently in usage (I have never personally heard either) so get used to it.
25 Corn and peanuts
CHICKEN FEED - DD, the second figurative.
26 Mock workers at Zurich houses
ERSATZ - contained in ‘workers at Zurich’.
27 Expedition finding that thing in green
CELERITY - CELER(IT)Y.

Down
1 A young creature growing up?
PUPA - reversal of A PUP. &Lit.
2 It’s a pity lines are asymmetrical
AWRY - AW (it’s a pity), RY (railway lines).
3 Fly low across southern desert
MOSQUITO - MO(S, QUIT), O. Hands up if you weren’t trying to think of the name of a desert.
4 Essays about to turn up in university office
CHANCELLORSHIP - CHANCES (essays) containing (about) a reversal (up because this is a down clue) of ROLL (turn), then HIP (in). This is a wordplay masterpiece. What comes after ‘bravo’?
6 Floor plan
LAY OUT - another very neat one. Not a double definition for me because the ‘plan’ version is one word.
7 Bad seat among house’s contents
VILLAINOUS - I think for this one we have to read ‘seat’ as VILLA (which seems a bit of a stretch to me but is not unreasonable and justified if you compare the dictionary definitions), then we have IN with hOUSe.
8 No screwed up sign for ladies?
NOBLEWOMEN - NO, BLEW (screwed up), OMEN (sign).
9 Weightlifter’s bar with handle
BLOCK AND TACKLE - BLOCK (bar), AND (with), TACKLE (handle).
13 Dance back to front? Take off clothes in the end
APOCALYPSE - APE (take off) clothes (surrounds) CALYPSO (dance) with the O (back) taken to the front. AP(OCALYPS)E. Very tricky.
14 Steve Irwin staggered audiences
INTERVIEWS - (STEVE IRWIN)*. The rule in the daily puzzles is that people shouldn’t be used until they’re dead. This for me is an example of the opposite: it’s too soon. No doubt it’s just me and my kids of a certain age but his death was a shock.
17 Plenty of blubber to cut at one time
OPULENCE - O(PULE)NCE. Pule, mewl, greet, keen, remember these obscure words for crying.
20 Playwright from Britain, the real thing
BRECHT - BR, ECHT.
22 Truck is holding me up
SEMI - reversal of I(ME)S.
23 Golf director always welcome in Australia
GDAY - G, D, AY.