Mephisto 2409 – Chris Feetenby (+weekend round-up)

Solving time 21:15 – Chambers used for last word (17A)

As this is our first posting on Mephisto, here’s some brief information about the puzzle. Mephisto is a puzzle in the “advanced cryptic” tradition of the Ximenes and Azed puzzles in the Observer. In the past, Mephisto was a single setter, as at the Observer, but for the last ten years or so, three setters have shared the role, and appear in rotation. They are Chris Feetenby, Mike Laws, and Tim Moorey.

For those able to do the Times crossword and seeking a tougher challenge, Mephisto is a good first step along the road that leads to the Listener and Magpie puzzles. The “zero’th” step along this road is to buy a copy of Chambers, the standard reference dictionary for all UK-published advanced cryptic puzzles. Based on my fairly limited experience of Mephisto to date, it seems on average to use fewer of the obscure words in Chambers than Azed, and some clues are similar to those you might encounter in the tougher Times puzzles. Those who add a puzzle like Mephisto to their daily paper diet should find daily paper puzzles easier with the resulting bigger vocabulary, as long as you still do them as frequently as you did before.

If you’re new to this kind of puzzle, you have lots to learn, so don’t worry about trying to emulate quick solving times or seeing if you can finish without Chambers. My posts about Mephisto will give details about clues using difficult words or techniques – clues that I think an experienced Times solver could solve without looking anything up won’t be discussed.

One thing to get used to is a different type of grid – ‘barred’ rather than ‘blocked’. Every square contains a letter, and the grid size is 12×12 rather than 15×15 – so these puzzles are more likely to be built around long words like “cashew-apples” than long phrases like “on top of the world”. There’s also more ‘checking’ than in daily paper puzzles – about three-quarters of the letters in each answer are checked, rather than about half. This helps you find the more difficult words that you may not know yet.

Mephisto is a prize puzzle, so the postings will appear the following Sunday.

This puzzle is a good starting point – there are not many really weird words, and it illustrates quite a few things that happen often in this kind of puzzle.

10 CONSTITUENCY – replace A=one in CONSTANCY=faithfulness with “I Tue”. Note that “one” can mean A as well as I (which doesn’t happen in the Times puzzle), and that although this sort of replacement happens sometimes in daily paper cryptics, it happens rather more often in “advanced cryptics”.
11 HAD,A,L(ower) – “had” is a Scots form of “hold”. As Chambers is published in Edinburgh, it has lots of Scots words.
14 AL((mora)L,G)IVER – all-giver is a Miltonian name for God. Chambers has many words from Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton and other writers, so you’ll see many of these. You’ll also tend to see “tight” definitions like “Milton’s God” which help you to see that you definitely have the right word when you find it in Chambers.
17 Pre(Ve.)e – pree = try is Scots again
20 MA(N)NA – mana is supernatural power in Maori (and I think in some other Pacific island languages)
26 SEEDTIME = rev. of emit dees – “dee” = euphemistic form of “damn”.
1 I,C(H)OR – cor = a Hebrew measure – you’ll see more of these, and three others arementioned in the Chambers entry for this one.
2 INDE,PEn,DEN,CY – straightforward – just note that IVR abbreviations like CY=Cyprus are often used.
6 VUGGY – voe (from the Shetlands) and vug (from Cornwall) are both quite popular adv. cryptic short words if the setter needs a V.
7 UNOVER,THROW=anag of worth,N – easy enough but an example of a word that seems possible but you’ve probably never seen in real life.
8 Sc.,LERO,TI,UM – you’ll see lots of words from sciences
12 ACERACEOUS – anag. – here’s another, and there are lots of words like this meaning ‘belonging/relating to some group of plants’ – you’ll learn endings like -aceae and -aceous and put them in the same mental list as -ation and -ment.
22 STEEN = to line (e.g. a well) with stone.

Weekend round-up
Times 23,438 – 4:02 – nearly that rather elusive sub-four clocking
Independent 6257 (Scorpion) 15:40
Guardian 23,915 (Bunthorne, for the very last time) 10:25 with Chambers used for a couple of answers
Times Jumbo 667 – 15:55

2 comments on “Mephisto 2409 – Chris Feetenby (+weekend round-up)”

  1. Wow, you’re on form this weekend! My somewhat less formidable times are as follows:

    Mephisto 2409 – 26:57, with 4 answers checked in Chambers.
    Times 23438 – 9:50, rare for me to go under 10 minutes, especially on a Saturday.
    Guardian 23915 – 16:11, again, 4 answers checked in Chambers.
    Times Jumbo 667 – 31:46
    Azed 1797 – approx 45 mins in two sessions, used Chambers from the start.
    Sunday Times 4197 – 8:58

  2. Here’s my own weekend round-up. I guessed the Times was rather on the easy side for a Saturday, but this was my best time since resuming the puzzle, so pleased with the effort.

    Times 23438 – 7:40

    Guardian 23915 – 20:32 – managed to get this correct without resorting to the BRB, but learnt some new words along the way that I did look up afterwards.

    Times Jumbo 667 – 40:42

    Sunday Times 4197 – 10:42 – I am sure I can get quicker on this puzzle, once I get used to the style.

    Azed 1797 – 21:05 – used the BRB from the start, but I always do on Competiton Puzzle week (want to get the clue word as quick as possible!). The last 5 minutes of the time spent on one clue that took me ages to suss out!

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