April 5th, 2020

Mephisto 3109 - Don Manley

Greetings all.  Hope everyone is safe and well!

It seems interest in the Mephisto has been picking up over the last few weeks which is awesome, it is definitely a puzzle that takes longer to solve than the dailies, and takes a real investment into care with wordplay and an opportunity to visit the nether reaches of the dictionary.

One of the Mephisto setters told me that the setters have control over their grids, and this grid used by Don Manley is very attractive - there's very few short answers, and the long answers running down the sides allow for the grid to be filled up as a whole.

Since definitions (underlined) can be verified in Chambers, I will be focusing on the wordplay here, unless there is something specific.

Away we go...

Across
1 What may be expected by seaman around entrance to harbour? (6)
PHAROS -  A very nice all-in-one where the entire clue is the wordplay and definition, in this case PAR(what may be expected) and OS(ordinary seaman) surrounding the first letter of Harbour
6 Bill and Ernie maybe as music-makers (6)
NEBELS - NEB(beak, bill) and the golfer Ernie ELS
11 Sort of division in place about to make room for British (8)
LOBATION - LOCATION(place) with C(circa, about) replaced by B(British)
12 Ditch US President — not a hint of good in him (4)
REAN - Ronald REAGAN missing A and G(good)
13 Developed superior style of writing (6)
UPROSE - U(superior), PROSE(style of writing)
14 Golden hair concealing a powerful female speaker? (8)
ORATRESS - OR(golden), TRESS(hair) containing A
16 Fellow gets hot in foreign city (5)
GHENT - GENT(fellow) containing H
17 King in spectacular drive (5)
ARDRI - hidden in spectaculAR DRIve
18 Slippery aircraft boarded by duke (7)
GLIDDER - GLIDER(aircraft) containing D(duke)
19 The French dishes put back in layers (7)
STRATAL - LA(the, in French), TARTS(dishes) all reversed
22 My very good procession (5)
CORSO - COR(my), SO(very good)
25 Sharp sounds from small children needing double love (5)
TOOTS - TOTS(small children) with a double O(love)
28 One getting estate in English meadows — endless grass around (8)
RELEASEE - E(English), LEAS(meadows) inside REED(grass) missing the last letter
29 Papal court’s subject to mood swings with leading trio dismissed (6)
CURIAL - MERCURIAL(subject to mood swings) missing the first three letters
30 Bear up north runs into river (4)
DREE - R(runs) inside the river DEE
31 Like some art couple displayed around the French home (8)
PLEIN-AIR - PAIR(couple) surrounding LE(the, in French), IN(home)
32 One bird at end of hall as architectural feature (6)
LIERNE - I(one), ERNE(bird) after the last letter in halL
33 Rodent, one suffering with swelling (6)
AGOUTY - A(one), GOUTY(suffering with swelling). For newer Mephisto solvers A = 1 is not permitted in the daily but is fair game here
Down
1 Using too many words, as poet can, I’ll fancy (12)
PLEONASTICAL - anagram of AS,POET,CAN,I'LL
2 Hard men yell expressing a fear (6)
HORROR - H(hard), OR(men) then ROAR(yell) without (expressing) the A
3 Sailor on attack to start as before (6)
ABRAID - AB(sailor), RAID(attack)
4 Seal turning around ducking head (5)
OTARY - ROTARY(turning around) missing the top letter
5 Without wife as source of strength (5)
SINEW - SINE(without), W(wife)
6 Absence of employment will shortly get brought up (7)
NOUSELL - NO USE(absense of employment), 'LL
7 Right from the beginning bod is rolling around with mirth (8)
BIRTHDOM - anagram of BOD and MIRTH
8 Journalist admitting blemish expressed feeling (6)
EMOTED - ED(journalist) containing MOTE(blemish)
9 Something wrong in liquid that fulfils vital biochemical role (6)
LYSINE - SIN(something wrong) inside LYE(strong alkali solution)
10 Scientific technique that could make me cry and protest (12)
SPECTROMETRY - anagram of ME,CRY and PROTEST
15 Row after bishop, vile type, is behaving more like a naughty child (8)
BRATTIER - TIER(row) after B(bishop), RAT(vile type)
18 Georgia, beautiful lady, collected money for French government once (7)
GABELLE - GA(Georgia, the state), BELLE(beautiful lady)
20 Insect parts lout half rips apart (6)
TORULI - anagram of LOUT and RI(ps)
21 Noisy Scottish men turning up come into view not having succeeded (6)
ROARIE - OR(men) reversed then ARISE(come into view) missing S(succeeded)
23 Reuse a repaired network (6)
RESEAU - anagram of REUSE,A
24 Think it appropriate to raise charges ahead of modern technology (6, two words)
SEE FIT - reversal of FEES(charges) then IT(information technology)
26 Tree chopped landing on area in village (5)
ALDEA - ALDER tree missing the last letter, then A(area)
27 Take down unstable bridge lacking breadth (5)
DERIG - anagram of BRIDGE missing B(breadth)

Sunday Times 4896 by Robert Price - off the grid

8:38. Not a difficult puzzle but a fun solve, partly because of the unusual grid: apart from the long ones across and down the middle all the answers are eight-letter words, and if you can solve all of those then you will have thirteen of the fifteen letters of the long ones. Of course I didn’t do it like that: I got both the long ones quite quickly and constructed the rest of the puzzle around them. The result was effectively four mini-puzzles, of which I found the one in the NE the trickiest.

A high standard of clueing, as we’ve come to expect from Bob. He’s particularly good at a smooth surface reading, which I confess is something I don’t tend to notice most of the time because I have trained myself to ignore it. One of the nice things about doing these blogs is the opportunity (indeed obligation) to go back and appreciate these finer aspects properly, and this puzzle is a doozy from a surface-reading point of view. I mean just look at 5dn, to pick just one of many.

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (TIHS)*, anagram indicators are in italics.

Across
1 Minister takes tea, no milk, no sugar
CHAPLAIN - CHA, PLAIN. I’m not sure I’d refer to unsugared black tea as ‘plain’ but it’s clear what’s intended.
9 Publication to pass on material
ORGANDIE - or ORGAN (publication) DIE. A cotton fabric that appears fairly regularly in crosswords.
10 Frequency with which everyone mocks easy victims
FALL GUYS - F, ALL, GUYS.
11 Nice game, not hard to get fifty in
PLEASANT - take a PHEASANT (game), remove the H and replace it with L (fifty). Continuing the theme after a PARTRIDGE in the previous day’s jumbo.
12 Sportsman with others regularly skipped algebra
WRESTLER - W, REST, aLgEbRa.
13 They ask for payment on board expresses
INVOICES - IN (on board a boat for example), VOICES.
14 Goons mixed up with gangster in funny business
STRANGE GOINGS-ON - (GOONS GANGSTER IN)*.
20 Stun somewhat like Bond’s DB5?
ASTONISH - Bond’s DB5 being an Aston (Martin) of course.
21 Hard plays periodically put on under canvas
INTENTLY - IN TENT (under canvas), pLaYs.
22 A tip circulated about the clubs being dismal
PATHETIC - (A TIP)* containing THE, C (clubs).
23 Exciting fish adds variety in the van
KINDLING - KIND (variety), LING (fish). ‘In the van’ means in front.
24 Rogue whose son makes footwear
SNOWSHOE - (WHOSE SON)*.
25 Couple visiting a French city’s finer points
NICETIES - NICE(TIE)’S

Down
2 The chair might include one toilet break
HEADREST - HEAD (the toilet on a boat), REST.
3 Old gym buddy with special rates
PALESTRA - PAL, (RATES)*. Collins has ‘in ancient Greece, a public place for exercise in wrestling and athletics.’ It marks this spelling as American, as opposed to the English PALAESTRA, but Lexico (the ODE) has it as just an alternative spelling.
4 A match with no start gun, bats or breathing gear (8)
AQUALUNG - A, eQUAL, (GUN)*.
5 Out of bounds? Birdie after getting past it
NO SPRING CHICKEN - NO SPRING (out of bounds, ho ho), CHICKEN.
6 Taco filling used in desert sweetmeat
MACAROON - M(tACo)AROON.
7 Proceeds from a social, around five shillings
ADVANCES - A, D(V)ANCE, S.
8 It’s plastic lining stone sides of open ditch
JETTISON - JET, (ITS)*, OpeN.
14 Quickly shut up about instruments one breaks
SHARPISH - S(HARP(I)S)H.
15 Run over by French comedian riding cycle
ROTATION - R, O, TATI, ON (riding). A reference to Jacques TATI.
16 Rhubarb is not to French taste, perhaps
NONSENSE - NON (not to French), SENSE (taste, perhaps). NON means ‘no’ in French but it translates as NOT in phrases like ‘tu viens ou non?’, and 'sinon' means 'if not'.
17 Sort of drink from India, drunk chilled mostly
ISOTONIC - I, SOT, ON ICe.
18 Surmounting obstacle is skinny runner’s challenge
GAUNTLET - GAUNT (skinny), LET (obstacle). A reference to the phrase ‘to run the GAUNTLET.’
19 Plenty whine after going outside
OPULENCE - O(PULE)NCE.