Mephisto 2412, weekend round-up

Posting a bit early, but I don’t think anyone’s sad enough to pinch these answers and then go to a PO with an 11 p.m. collection …

We’re back round to Chris Feetenby again. I took about 40 minutes in total. As so often, three-quarters of the puzzle was done in about 15 mins, and the last 9 or so clues took the rest of the time. Let’s save a bit of time here by stealing a bit of notation from elsewhere – * means “anagram”. If you don’t object, we might start using it for other reports.

1 WHIPPING,POST – the punishment as well as its location
10 MEGA=game*,LOB,LAST
13 NAARTJE = Trajan*,E – an Afrikaans word for a small orange, so we’re actually in South Africa.
14 TURDOID – rut rev., O in DID. Note careful avoidance of excrement …
16 A,B=black,B=mark,O.T.=Old Testament = illiberal as in “Father X was a bit Old Testament”. Can’t recall seeing mark=B (or A,C,D,E,maybe F I guess) but I like it.
19 NE(GRILL)O – GRILL in one*
21 AERO,GRAM=marg. rev. Non-UK solvers: Aero is a type of chocolate.
25 OIDIA – hidden – “the conidial stage of the vine-mildew and other fungi” if that helps much, and, I see, an anag. of IAIDO – which now has a much better def in C – used to be “A Japanese form of fencing” – swordplay, garden boundaries or stolen goods? The first, it turns out.
29 i.(C)e.,HILL=weather – both mean to make a slope.
30 ERIODENDRON = (redden on Rio)*
31 ELECTRO(=electroplate),MET,Ry.
2 H.E.,CUBA – could maybe have been “Our man in Havana” too …
4 PA,EDOM,ORPHIC=esoteric
7 PARA,SITICIDE – I in (it’s iced)*
8 OSTIO=(is too)*,LE(t)
9 TREE,TO,MATO=atom*
12 STAL(ACT IT)E – a “hanging” in a cave.
18 U(ROME)RE – segment of arthropod body
22 GALIOT – rev. of (OIL in TAG)
28 AIRT – initial letters. Just as I was thinking we’d got through a whole puzzle without using any of those funky Scots words!

Weekend round-up
Times 23,456 7:17
as far as I can tell, no chance was taken to mark this notable puzzle number. By my reckoning, the next “sequence of five”, 34567, will come up in about May 2042. I may still be here to see it.

Indie 6275 (Monk) 15:55 – includes a little bonus for those in the same place as Monk today.
Guardian 23,933 (Araucaria) 16:20 – clever theme, and a devious little red herring to put you off the scent. Attributed to the spooky-sounding “Auracaria” on the Grauniad xwd site!

Times Jumbo 670 17:40
A good day for xwd site mistakes – the Times site has the wrong grid. Three ways to fix it:

  • Print their grid and black out the square where 7D and 19A intersect, plus its 3 symmetrical buddies – 90-degree rotational symmetry in this as in many jumbo grids. Then fix up all the numbers higher than 21 with fine-point red pen or similar.
  • If you have suitable squared paper (or you’re a whizz with tables in your word processor), you can make your own fairly easily with some grid nous and these facts:
    • 90-degree rotational symmetry
    • all answers are on odd-numbered rows/cols.
    • Except for the top row and its 3 symmetry buddies, the blocks are “minimal” – a row with 2 answers has 22 white squares, and a row with 3 has 21. The top row starts with two successive blocks, so 1A starts in column 3.
  • A more tedious method: the Jumbo apparently now uses a set of stock grids like the daily puzzle, so if you look through old Jumbos in the archive, this grid is almost certainly in there somewhere. If you do this, post a comment here with the puzzle number!

13 comments on “Mephisto 2412, weekend round-up”

  1. I just sat down to solve today’s Mephisto, and guess what? They’ve put the wrong grid on the website! At least the Jumbo only had two black squares missing, this one’s not even remotely close!

    I suppose they’ll fix both problems tomorrow, but what a nuisance…

  2. With regards to the use of * for anagram, why not

    < for reversal


    @ for homophone

    too? With a little imagination, the “at” sign looks
    like an ear! At least it does in the font in which
    i’m typing this.


    1. I’m a bit wary of < for reversal, if only because strange folk like me who put in HTML tags by hand can very easily add an extra < or > to an entry by mistake. But <- or <= would probably do the trick. I think I’d like to stick to my TIRE=”tyre” method for homophones – the quotes seem to indicate “say it!” successfully.
      1. Might be a good idea to list all the notations/conventions that you recommend. I love standards — that’s why we have so many of them…

        So far I’ve noted:
        – all CAPS for answer components.
        – fodder* for anagram(fodder)
        – ANSWER=”anser” for homophones
        – anything else?

  3. My personal preferences would be: * = anagram (but shd be specified at the introduction to each post), others to remain in normal English with rev = reversed for such indications after the first which might say reversed (rev). Rationale: the ordinary Joe Bloggs if reading it should be able to understand it.


    1. I agree with the “ordinary Joe Bloggs” bit. Suggestion: as at present, contributors carry on using whatever notation they like. Sometime this week I’ll add a “notation” section to the User Info page, and then give contributors a bit of text they can use to point people to that information if they’re using any notation that might not be understood by a “first time” reader.

      My guess is that “rev.” doesn’t really need explaining – if you can see the answer and the reversed stuff with “rev.” next to it, it’s pretty obvious. Or at least it was to me when I first saw it …

  4. Curiously I had alternative explanations for two clues. In 16ac, I interpreted ‘mark – illiberal’ as meaning BLOT without the L (= Liberal) to give BOT, while in 29ac I thought ‘that is catching the first of cold weather’ meant put IE around the first letter of CHILL.

    In general I seem to find Chris Feetenby the most generous of the Mephisto triumvirate, while Mike Laws’s puzzles tend to give me more trouble than Tim Moorey’s.

    1. I can understand the B(l)OT idea, though I don’t think I’d expect this trick in Mephisto. In ICEHILL, I think you may have a simpler wordplay, and my usual assumption is that the simplest is the one most likely to have been intended by the setter. A good excuse for me to try the offered opportunity to e-mail him and ask…
      1. Good idea, would be interesting to know. If ‘mark’ = B was the intention in ABBOT, though, I’m surprised – as well as the standard M, couldn’t it be anything from A to G, or N, or U (and that’s just GCSEs)? ‘Note’ for A…G is vague enough! What next, “Vitamins in food” (5) = KEBAB or “Letters using both sides” (14) = AMBIDEXTROUSLY?
  5. I agree with talbinho about CF being the most generous of the three, reflected in a solving time of 20:17 for this one. This was aided by the fact that any of the words I was not familiar with could be deduced from the wordplay, so no “need” for Chambers.

    I too had the BLOT minus L breakdown for ABBOT, and as I think CF is more “liberal” with his cluing than TM or ML, it would not surpise me if that was the intention.

    Can’t remember what I thought about ICEHILL, but I do like talbinho’s idea – that’s very neat (and deceptive) wordplay.

    1. Grids: Times xwd club versions were fixed up yesterday.

      Mark = B etc.: I’m less bothered then some by “note” (even after including tonic sol-fa names in the list of possibilities). If river, fish, boy and others can all lead to dozens of possibilities, note and mark don’t seem so bad. The real question is: do these “vague” indications actually stop you getting the right answer? In the hands of a good setter, I don’t think so.

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