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April 21st, 2019

Mephisto 3059

This puzzle was not attributed, but if the normal order of things was followed, it should be a Tim Moorey Mephisto - it certainly feels like it, since there's a bit of cricket, the usual crafty wordplay, and some pop culture references (though this time I thing I get them).

Oh dear, and in writing this, I just realized it must be Tim Moorey as he appears in one of the answers. Wonder if that threw anyone.

Definitions, the first of which is underlined, can be verified in Chambers.

Away we go...


Across
1 Sailors to meet Italian topless ladies — with any luck! (9, two words)
ABSIT OMEN - ABS(sailors), IT(Italian) then WOMEN(ladies) missing the first letter
11 Catches in practice area (4)
NETS - double definition, with nets being a practice area for cricket
12 Nausea or runs associated with spidery stuff (8)
ARANEOUS - anagram of NAUSEA,OR
13 Lamb made by TV cook needing bit of dill (4)
ELIA - pseudonym of the author Charles Lamb, the TV cook is DELIA Smith, remove the D(ill). A reminder that living people (save the Queen) are off limits in the daily puzzle, living people can appear as entries or worplay elements in Mephisto
14 Constant publicity absorbing state bodies (8)
CADAVERS - C(constant), then ADS(publicity) containing AVER(state)
15 Relish pop of recent times (6)
PALATE - PA(pop), LATE(of recent times)
16 Kind of skirt oddly twee around posterior (5)
TASSE - alternating letters in TwEe surrounding ASS(posterior)
17 Glossing over distant sound (7)
FARDING - FAR(distant), DING(sound)
20 Mean types restricting time for flowers (7)
LOTUSES - LOUSES(mean types) containing T(time)
24 Indian board game is one behind chap playing (7)
PACHISI - IS, I(one) after an anagram of CHAP
25 Depressions turbulent in Tunis after vacation (7)
TROUGHS - ROUGH(turbulent) inside T(uni)S
27 Public disgrace, alas trapping yours truly (5)
ATIMY - AY(alas) containing TIM (the compiler)
30 Mean guy confronting lad in trouble (6)
RIBALD - RIB(guy, tease) and an anagram of LAD
31 Get into a queue shortly for an antiseptic (8)
FORMALIN - shorten FORM A LINE
32 Note Income support racket from before (4)
UTIS - UT(musical note), IS(income support)
33 Binge drinking in public gets ridicule (8)
FLOUTING - FLING(binge) containing OUT(in public)
34 To some extent, one thrifty European country (4)
NETH - hidden in oNE THrifty
35 Cheapskate brought round guide, one to take you for a ride (9)
MISLEADER - MISER(cheapskate) containing LEAD(guide)

Down
2 Book on English party: discuss at length (8)
BELABOUR - B(book), E(English) then the LABOUR party
3 Fired up in argument getting dagger (8)
STILETTO - LIT(fired) reversed in SET-TO(argument)
4 Patriarch lives with one about to get up (5)
ISAAC - IS(lives) with A(one), then CA(about) reversed
5 Discretion is needed on motorway getting taxis! (7)
TACTISM - TACT(discretion), IS, M(motorway) - biological taxis
6 Furious head accepted in religious college (7)
MADRASA - MAD(furious), RAS(headland), A(accepted)
7 Democrat gets welcome up in North American state (6)
NEVADA - D(democrate) and AVE(welcome) reversed in NA(North American)
8 Deer is active (4)
DOES - double definition (deer can be plural)
9 Hard balls reduced runs (4)
NURS - anagram of RUNS
10 Idiot, for example that’s in Air defence speared and wounded (9)
ASSEGAIED - ASS(idiot), EG(for example) then IE(that's) inside AD(air defence). This word always reminds me of W.C. Fields in The Bank Dick
15 Axes partner overlooking English county (9)
PALSTAFFS - PAL(partner), then STAFFS(Staffordshire, English county)
18 Followed meditation working on cast (8)
IMITATED - anagram of MEDITATION minus ON
19 Voters pick mineral (8)
NOSELITE - the voters are NO'S, then ELITE(pick)
21 Spot record sun, nothing less (7)
EPHELIS -  EP(record) then HELIOS(sun) missing the O(nothing)
22 Surround one arresting cake decoration, not the first one (7)
ACCINGE -  ACE(one) containing ICING(cake decoratiion) missing I
23 Bath’s unpleasant smell? Not a word (6)
HUMMUM - HUM(unpleasant smell) and MUM's the word
26 Rock cake inside for head of church (5)
ABUNA - AA(crosswordland's favorite rock), with BUN(cake) inside
28 Weight in India much served up (4)
TOLA - A LOT(much) reversed
29 Mostly hard to get Revolver (4)
IRON - I think this is meant to be a shortening of IRONY or IRONIC leading to the gun
16:56. I did most of this pretty quickly and had all but two clues solved in under ten minutes, but then I hit a total roadblock on 10ac and 2dn and wasted the rest of my solving time staring blankly at them, in increasing frustration. This sort of thing seems to be happening to me a lot at the moment.

I don’t know why 2dn took me so long to see: it’s not that hard, although it is an excellent clue. But without the crossing R I was completely stumped by 10ac. Even with the R I struggled to make any sense of it until I spotted that the word NURSERIES fitted the checkers, at which point I unravelled the wordplay and entered the answer without any idea about the definition.

Not too much by way of obscurity this week: that meaning of NURSERY, perhaps, the mineral, and the very odd-looking word at 8dn. But the crystal-clear wordplay should guide you through… provided you know what a gam is. All in all a very nice puzzle, as we’ve come to expect from Dean. Concise clues with lovely surfaces and some really neat devices. 4dn is a thing of beauty.

Oh, and Happy Easter, of course. I'm not remotely religious but this didn't stop me getting quite upset watching Notre Dame burning this week. You don't have to believe the stories (or know them to Goliath's-birthplace levels of detail) to acknowledge and appreciate their cultural significance and the beauty of a building like that.

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

Across
1 Weakness, say, when love is gone
VICE - VoICE.
3 Downing Street’s first defence? Outstanding
SWALLOWING - Street, WALL (defence), OWING (outstanding).
10 Head back before cycle races?
NURSERIES - reversal of RUN (head), SERIES (cycle). A nursery is a type of horse race, apparently. It’s not in Collins or ODO (other than as a qualifier as in ‘nursery stakes’) but it is in Chambers.
11 Fantasy figure finally in shot
DREAM - DR(figurE)AM.
12 Encouraging one citizen to hold back tears
INSPIRATIONAL - I, NATIONAL (citizen) containing a reversal of RIPS.
14 A university asked for a piece of early music
AUBADE - A, U, BADE (asked). A ‘a song or poem appropriate to or greeting the dawn’ (Collins) hence ‘early’.
16 Trouble giver sadly seen in maturity
AGGRIEVE - AGE containing (GIVER)*
18 Catch some balls before he gets a run
OVERHEAR - OVER (some balls), HE, A R.
19 Drains in house superfluous
USES UP - contained in ‘house superfluous’.
21 Thick, green, and fresh veg grown here
KITCHEN GARDEN - (THICK GREEN AND)*.
24 Open book has become visible
BLOOM - B, LOOM.
25 Conductor returning home (twice) after opera
TOSCANINI - TOSCA (opera) then two reversals of IN (home). Arturo of that ilk, an old-timey conductor who appears fairly regularly in these things.
26 Flash, as exploding cannon does
NANOSECOND - (CANNON DOES)*.
27 Left in charge, do a runner
FLEE - F(L)EE.

Down
1 See sign for “champion
VINDICATOR - V (see, short for Latin vide), INDICATOR.
2 The noise made by my army band
CORPS - sounds like ‘cor!’ (my).
4 German city centre lost in wartime bombing
WEIMAR - (WARtIME)*. Lovely clue.
5 They secure a great deal
LASHINGS - DD. The second definition is one I associate with The Famous Five and ginger beer, but I’ve never read any of the books so this could be entirely spurious.
6 Doing his job should be plain sailing?
ORDINARY SEAMAN - CD. We are so used to seeing this chap in a supporting role as just a couple of letters, it’s nice for him to get the starring role for once.
7 In storm, sail needs perfect quality
IDEALNESS - (SAIL NEEDS)*.
8 Waterproof cover offered by school parking
GAMP - GAM, P. Those of us who crashed and burned in the championship a few years ago by entering OPHOD instead of OGHAM will not forget this word for ‘school’ in a hurry. A GAMP is an umbrella, apparently, which was news to me.
9 Old backing paper
BEHIND THE TIMES - not one that needs much explanation.
13 Mineral water created in London
SERPENTINE - ‘A dark green mineral consisting of hydrated magnesium silicate, sometimes mottled or spotted like a snake's skin’. The lake in Hyde Park is man-made, hence ‘created’.
15 Fall through crack on floor
BREAK DOWN - BREAK (crack), DOWN (knock down, floor). I can see how these things mean much the same thing but I’m struggling to come up with a situation in which they would be interchangeable.
17 Poor way to get praise rejected
PATHETIC - PATH, reversal of CITE. I didn’t know that CITE could mean ‘praise’, but it’s there in ODO.
20 Concert in heart of Brunei hasn’t been cancelled
UNISON - brUNei, IS ON (hasn’t been cancelled).
22 School, boring one
DRILL - DD.
23 Old outlaw in Scottish town
OBAN - O, BAN.