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September 1st, 2019

Hello from PDX! Our Airbnb is very nice, with antlered animal skulls arrayed all around the living room, with a real stuffed jackalope head taking pride of place! Very homely. Anyway I thought this was an excellent MCS, hard in a TLS-y kind of way to make a change from finicky scientific words with a superabundance of zeds and exes in them. Herein we need a passing acquaintance with Shakespeare, Flaubert, Stevenson and Huxley, as well as a classical actor and some pretty interesting sociological and anthropometric personages. Even so my COD was probably 13ac for the inventive jollity of "Taxus-Ulmus grafts". All in all I had a great time and remain convinced that the MCS is, just as its name suggests, one of the consistent highlights of the TCC month. Thanks to the setter and I'll be getting cracking onto September's offering as soon as I'm safely ensconced back in California...

ACROSS
1 Chauffeur says chef has regular absences (4)
SYCE - S{a}Y{s} C{h}E{f}

3 Judges protecting intellectual property with very good software, a source of material for Panama (5-5)
JIPPI-JAPPA - J J [(two) judges] "protecting" IP PI [intellectual property (with) very good] + APP A [software | a]
This is an Ecuadorean palm fibre from which Panama hats are made. If you thought Panama hats were made in Panama you've got another think coming!

9 Subordinate officer wearing cap seizes good part of fisherman’s catch (7)
LINGCOD - NCO [subordinate officer] "wearing" LID [cap] "seizes" G [good]

11 Folio’s replacement for line in wrinkly hag’s description of ronyon (4-3)
RUMP-FED - RUMP{l->F}ED [wrinkly, with L = line replacing F = folio].
Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3: "Aroint thee, witch!” the rump-fed ronyon cries."

12 Clutching spike, endlessly attack sociological writer (9)
MARTINEAU - "Clutching" TINE [spike], MARAU{d} ["endlessly" attack].
Harriet Martineau, perhaps the first female sociologist, notable works including "Illustrations of Political Economy" (1834)

13 Straw bundles for some Taxus-Ulmus grafts? (5)
YELMS - the Taxus being the YEW, and the Ulmus the ELM, splice them together to find the answer.

14 Forensic anthropometry is to occur right up to the time of working period (12)
BERTILLONAGE - BE R TILL ON AGE [to occur | right | up to the time of | working | period]
Bertillon is referenced in The Hound of the Baskervilles as being an even greater expert than Holmes, that's how great a criminologist he was.

18 Waltz Matilda’s sulking about diminished melancholy (4,3,5)
HUMP THE BLUEY - HUMPY [sulking] about THE BLUE{s} ["diminished" melancholy]

21 Wife to judge the weight of hoisted cloth (5)
WHEFT - W HEFT [wife | to judge the weight of]

22 Piercing rock backing was profitable and is welcomed by half of Iron Maiden (9)
DIAPIRISM - reversed PAID [was profitable] + IS "welcomed" by IR{on} M

24 Historically, a hundred are incapable of umpiring (7)
CANTREF - double def'fed with CAN'T REF [are incapable of umpiring]

25 Oscar in works for a famous actor? (7)
ROSCIAN - (OSCAR IN*) ["works"]. Roscius was a famous Roman actor of the 1st century BCE. I used to catch a bus home through Crystal Palace past a blue plaque dedicated to Ira Aldridge, the 19th century theatre's "African Roscius".

26 Meat wagon utterly pointless before strange band of urchins? (10)
AMBULACRUM - AMBULA{n}C{e} [meat wagon, with all of its compass points subtracted] + RUM [strange].
Not multiple urchins, but the radial band in the shell of an echinoderm allowing its tube-feet to protrude.

27 Light carriage opposed by Huxley’s second novel? (4)
CHAY - because Huxley's second novel was Antic Hay, anti-chay, do you see?

DOWN
1 Flaubert’s novel strike in Russian-style wrestling (8)
SALAMMBO - LAM [strike] in SAMBO [Russian-style wrestling]

2 Film-related item seldom seen without it containing burnt corpses? (8)
CINERARY - CINE [film-related] + RAR{it}Y [item seldom seen, minus IT]

4 Provide with rear shade in the East End (5)
INDUE - or 'ind 'ue [rear | shade] as pronounced by someone dropping all their aitches.

5 For each marooned sailor, a hotel in Indian subdistrict (9)
PERGUNNAH - PER GUNN A H [for each | marooned sailor | a | hotel]
Ben Gunn was marooned for years on Treasure Island, during which time he naturally developed an obsessional craving for cheese.

6 Smackers slash old, ugly mischief-makers (5-8)
JIMMY O'GOBLINS - JIMMY [slash, as in Jimmy Riddle] + O GOBLINS [old | ugly mischief-makers]. Lots of Cockney rhyming slang in this puzzle! For apparently this is a rhyme for "sovereigns". And you thought the occasional dodgy homophone in the 15x15 was bad...

7 Cock, very loud, interrupting nap (6)
PIFFLE - FF [very loud], "interrupting" PILE [nap]. "Cock" as in "nonsense".

8 Type of sugar parties put in beer (6)
ALDOSE - DO'S [parties] "put in" ALE [beer], straightforwardly enough

10 Double curl in it, a variant of hair growth (13)
CRINICULTURAL - (CURL CURL IN IT A*) ["variant"]

15 Petrifying chapter, even though I had one friend standing up (9)
LAPIDIFIC - reverse all of C IF I'D I PAL [chapter | even though | I had | one | friend]

16 After slander, current successor backed governor’s office (8)
MUDIRIEH - after MUD [slander], I [current] + reversed HEIR [successor]

17 Who said to follow the van shedding load? Extremely cheeky mice may show what’s to come in it (8)
MYOMANCY - MY O{ld} MAN [from the 1919 music hall song, minus LD = load] + C{heek}Y

19 African rhino caught in grip of soaring alpha predator of the skies (6)
KWACHA - C [caught] "in grip of" reversed A HAWK [alpha | predator of the skies]. Rhino as in (Zambian/Malawian) money, of course.

20 Perhaps Munro and Corbett inverted pods used for dyeing (3-3)
NEB-NEB - Munro and Corbett are two BENs, put them together and reverse.

23 Twentieth-century player of piano music arranged by Gold (5)
ARRAU - ARR. [arranged] by AU [gold]. Chilean virtuoso pianist Claudio Arrau.

Mephisto 3078 - 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. 16A is a perfect example.

The PM Pun is “concentric”

I solved this relatively quickly with quite a bit of biffing. However, when I came to write the blog, I discovered that I have a problem parsing 11A, 15A, 22A, and 6D – all comment welcome. I’m starting to wonder if I’m getting too old for this.

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

ACROSS

1 Agree dupe got off (7)
CONSENT: CON-SENT;                                                       
6 Run through local village causes sprain (5)
WRICK: W(R)ICK; local village=WICK;
10 Satisfying grub by itself this gives second power (10, two words)
SQUARE,ROOT: SQUARE-ROOT; satisfying=SQUARE; grub=ROOT; by=multiply; second power is the product of two equal terms so nine is the second power of three
11 Rummy WPC, one Stellenbosching last oil-producer? (7)
GINGILI: GIN-GILI; rummy=GIN (cards); I can’t see the rest of it. Stellenbosching means moving sideways
13 Beautiful being by island (4)
PERI: PER-I;
15 Line for fencers points where egg and bacon is de rigueur? (5)
LORDS: I can’t see “line for fencers points”; the definition from which I biffed the answer is a reference to the “egg and bacon” tie worn at Lord’s by MCC members
16 Scrap self-catering isle’s recycling (7)
SCISSEL: SC-(isles)*
17 Fine pretence in truth (4)
FACT: F-ACT;
18 Odd afterthought on wood — cut from behind (9, two words)
RUMP,STEAK: RUM-PS-TEAK;
21 Visitor to the local, we hear, supposed cutting complaint right (9, two words)
GUEST,BEER: sounds like “guessed” + BEE(f) + R;
22 In Memphis almost break a drum (4)
GAFF: I don’t understand the cryptic;
23 Power in the grim portent to freshen a room up perhaps (7)
REPAPER: RE(P)APER;
26 Grass is circling a heap of spuds (5)
STIPA: S-(A-PIT) reversed;
29 Final judgement is indicative, say, in review (4)
DOOM: MOOD reversed;
30 Girl endearingly pressing peevish male in the Covenanters (7)
HILLMEN: H(ILL-M)EN;
31 Eg, aerosol chap from Bristol and smart with it (10, two words)
SPRAY,PAINT: SPRAY-PAIN-‘T; Bristol dialect SPRAY=chap;
32 Flaggy Ozarker at heart is a dumpling (5)
GYOZA: hidden (flag)GY-OZA(rker);
33 Some rat misused funding system? (7)
MAESTRO: (some rat)*; Italian equivalent of EFTPOS; settlement system rather than funding;

DOWN

1 Charlie’s chunter is irritating stuff (5, two words)
CS,GAS: C’S-GAS;
2 Tsipras’s character borders on noxious for conventuals (4)
NUNS: NU-N(oxiou)S;
3 They’re stories, however you read them (5)
SAGAS: reference palindrome;
4 Fine fabric rolled up (4)
ERIC: CIRE reversed;
5 Booze price’s let off (9, two words)
TRIPLE,SEC: (price’s let)*;
6 Seek place to go to stop following fallout from shearing shed? (7)
WOOLFAT: again, I can’t see the cryptic; lanolin;
7 Learned lecturer leaving repeat (7)
ITERATE: (L)ITERATE;
8 Dairy supply she cured within safety standard (10, two words)
CURD,CHEESE: CE surrounds (she cured)*; CE=the mark that shows that electrical equipment meets European safety standards;
9 Trump’s behind wildcat strike involving English (7)
KEISTER: (strike + e)*;
12 Brooding at home bear a Conservative (10)
INCUBATORY: IN-CUB-A-TORY; “bear” for CUB strikes me as definition by example;
14 Safe to pretend this’ll keep you warm and dry (9)
PETERSHAM: PETER-SHAM;
18 Old parliament clothes antipodean scruff (7)
RIGSDAG: RIGS-DAG; the national legislature and the supreme decision-making body of Sweden
19 Wise guy raising family — joyous cry — well (7)
MAFIOSO: FAM reversed – IO-SO;
20 Squally ____ could give you special trauma (7)
SUMATRA: S-(trauma)*;
24 A wit upsetting columnist? (5)
ATLAS: A-SALT reversed;
25 Afford the littlest doughnut? (5, two words)
RUN,TO: RUNT-O;
27 Pitcher Pistol Pete packs (4)
OLPE: hidden (pist)OL-PE(te);
28 Session over in shed (4)
EMIT: TIME reversed;