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April 28th, 2019

Greetings from the heart of the Cévennes region of France. I wrote most of this before my trip began, fortunately. It’s rather late here and I just realized that it’s already dimanche. And I have to get up early!

The last time I blogged, we had MIXED DOUBLES, and this time DOUBLE CROSSER, with a pair of short-phrase answers beginning IN-A, two appearances of both “American” and Russia, plus twenty-first-century geopolitical fun couple Putin and… Sigh. (If setters are going to explicitly mention a certain person who is already constantly imposing himself on our consciousness, why does it always have to be on my watch?)

I do (sargnaam)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

 1 Women’s little ways? (6)
BROADS — ”B-roads” being secondary roads, I guess, so being “little.” No one uses this term in earnest in the twenty-first century.
 5 Kind of hot on holiday (2,1,3)
IN A WAY — IN (“hot”) + AWAY (“on holiday”)
 9 Star in decline eggs on wicked knight (9)
SUPERNOVA — Stars go out with a bang. This is OVA (“eggs”) “on” (most properly, following what is there before it) SUPER (“wicked,” as a superlative) N (“knight,” in chess notation—because the king has first dibs on the K).
10 State party joiner leader shunned (4)
11 Very good fee for copy (6)
PIRATE — PI (“Very good” being “pious,” in the sense of sanctimonious) + RATE (“fee”)
12 American street full of houses? (8)
BROADWAY — CD, alluding to theatrical houses
14 Case of acne isn’t terrible (8)
INSTANCE — (acne isnt)*
16 Famous fiddler never covers Queen (4)
NERO — N(ER)O  I bet he wasn’t very good at it, either.
18 Flipping staff hanging around old entrance (4)
DOOR — DO(O)R <—
19 Citizen taking the pee out of Trump? (8)
RESIDENT — [-p]RESIDENT. DBE. Hmm. Another reference to the real-estate mogul alluded to in a Sunday Times cryptic last month. Apparently, he’s also the president of something. A story linking him to an unusual use of urine has not been established as fact. On a more serious note, “citizen,” besides the strict legal definition, can also mean merely an inhabitant of a certain conurbation, so this is okay.
21 Flowery types of knickers (8)
BLOOMERS — Self-evident, no?
22 One charging power of Putin in hearing (6)
RUSHER — Joke on the surface meaning deleted. Might sound like “Russia” to someone.
24 When to be visited by flash old prophet (4)
AMOS — A(MO)S, AS being “when” and a “flash” a MOment.
26 American detective in force (9)
OPERATIVE — DD. What, you Brits don’t call a “detective” an “operative”? Never?
27 Pure charlie and speed (6)
CHASTE — C(harlie) + HASTE (“speed”)
28 European female: fair, but decadent (6)
EFFETE — E(uropean) + F(emale) + FETE (a “fair”). I’m sure I first became acquainted with this word when Nixon’s veep Agnew pronounced his famous condemnation of those who opposed the Vietnam War as “an effete corps of impudent snobs,” a catchy phrase that actually was—like “nattering nabobs of negativism”—the creation of his speechwriter, William Safire.

 2 This exotic model’s full of herself! (7,4)
RUSSIAN DOLL — CD. Another ref to the Russkies. This is beginning to look suspicious.
 3 A record held by a hotel close to Gaza (5)
ALPHA — COD! A(LP)HA. The “record” (LP) being “held by” (between) A + H(otel), and then you have [-Gaz)A.
 4 Officer gets near criminal … (8)
SERGEANT — (gets near)*
 5 continuously having an argument (2,1,3)
IN A ROW — A DD, though the first sense is more common for the phrase, I think, than the second.
 6 Wild graduate upset with single daughter (9)
ABANDONED — BA <—, AND (“with”), ONE (“single”), D(aughter)
 7 Time to grow up? (3)
 8 Cheat who signs off with two kisses? (6-7)
DOUBLE-CROSSER — (Too obvious to explain.)
13 Organisation great men ran badly (11)
ARRANGEMENT — (great men ran)*
15 They’re shelled stores I, over time, rebuilt (9)
TORTOISES — (stores I + O, “over” + T, “time”)*
17 Electronic tag? (8)
USERNAME — CD. I kept trying to think of something beginning E-. This was my LOI!
20 In sight of fine men, one buzzing about (6)
23 One dead tough (5)
25 Who cares what comes after 1000? (3)
MEH — M being 1000 and EH being “what[?]”

Mephisto 3060 Paul McKenna

Unless you’re very experienced you are unlikely to solve a Mephisto without using Chambers. The idea is that you use the precise wordplay to derive an answer that you then verify in the dictionary. 3D is a perfect example.

I found this a straightforward puzzle but have parsing queries at 7D and 22D

The 1A-6A pun is “dynasties”

In the clues, definitions are underlined. Wordplay explanation is followed by very helpful comments.


1 Duke slightly off dead-centre hits celebratory events (7)
DINNERS: D-INNERS; the INNERS are the spaces around the bullseye;
6 Chip shot’s ending close to a bed of roses? (5)
TEASE: (sho)T-EASE; chip=TEASE;
10 Chap who’s becoming a success, smashing doors with it (9, three words)
A,GOOD,SORT: A-GO-(doors)-‘T; it=’T;
12 Containers left unsafely herein (4)
TUNS: hidden (lef)T-UNS(afely);
13 Prompt wrapping is “on trend” for Raymond Blanc’s cooking (7)
15 Sparrows fool fish (8)
16 Look after dull swabby (5)
MATLO: MAT-LO; swabby=sailor;
17 Pastry leaf where nothing goes right (4)
FILO: leaf = foil then move the “o”;
18 Bloody concerned with niece and rent being awry (11)
INTERNECINE: IN-(niece + rent)*;
20 Practically passing credit withdraw from the art world (11)
21Wanting tips for each offence harass grass (4)
TEFF: TE(e)-(o)FF;
23 Supposed bringer of good luck to team scoring first in tie (5)
25 Question Cupid about backing inflexible one (8)
EROTESIS: ERO(SET reversed – I)S;
28 Boobscomplaint (7)
RICKETS: two meanings;
29 Partial to a pint out of barrels? Spooky (4)
EERY: (b)EERY; barrels=B;
30 Having three bits to cut back or use differently (9)
TRIMEROUS: TRIM-(or use)*;
31 Is confusingly complex system what obscures the view? (5)
SMAZE: ‘S-MAZE; smoky haze;
32 Nibble you don’t see much now — supply ten such (7)
CHESNUT: (ten such)*; old word for chestnut that we used to roast on an open fire


1 Yes for a Muscovite corporation’s immutable point (5)
2 Difficulty in characteristic group composition (7)
NONETTE: NO(NET)TE; difficulty=NET; characteristic=NOTE;
3 Note lout accepting good fortune locally — bat’s face may show it (8)
NOSE-LEAF: N-O(SELE)AF; SELE=dialect for good fortune;
4 This is an act of cleaning up preposterous trend (4)
EDIT: TIDE reversed; preposterous=reversal indicator;
5 Spiced rum is honest confederate’s quirk? (11)
SOUTHERNISM: (rum is honest)*;
6 Translator poorly represents bit of birdsong (5)
TRILL: TR-ILL; translator=TR;
7 Previously sufferin’ similar (4)
AKIN: I can’t find “aking” for suffering in Chambers
8 Squeal and squeal finding free spirit (9)
9 Last of these rather tangle in places causing a mess (7)
EYESORE: (thes)E-YES-ORE; rather!=YES!; tangle in places=ORE (dialect for seaweed);
11 It’s nice shifting blame virtually in the manner of eg lab worker (11)
SCIENTISTIC: (its nice)*-STIC(k);
14 New design with arm in the way of a spoon (9)
GANDERISM: (design + arm)*; spoon=fool=gander;
17 We spin yarns about leaving base first in disorderly fashion (8)
FIBSTERS: (base + first – a=about)*;
18 ____, its cure gets complicated (7)
ICTERUS: (its cure)*; jaundice;
19 Greek character, demagogue, is a fundamental constituent (7)
NUCLEON: NU-CLEON; CLEON=Athenian General; either a proton or a neutron, considered in its role as a component of an atomic nucleus
22 Poet’s grievous euphemism for damn concerning (5)
DEERE: DEE-RE; I can’t see DEE=damn;
24 Street supporting choice cattle-fair (5)
26 It’s at the heart of reports air-traffic control put up (4)
OCTA: (rep)O(rts)-ATC reversed; one eight of the sky in weather reports for airports
27 No longer cut a cynical facial expression endlessly (4)
SNEE: SNEE(r); old word for cut