Mephisto 2455, Mike Laws – a puzzle of two halves

Solving time: 42 minutes

Half of this time was spent strolling through what seemed a very easy puzzle, with at least a dozen clues that wouldn’t be out of place in a daily puzzle. The other half was spent on dictionary searching and clearing up the effect of one of a falsely remembered “barred grid word”. That and my usual theme-blindness meant that I nearly missed something, which needless to say would have helped me avoid a lot of trouble had I noticed it sooner.

At ‘half-time’ I had 23D and 30A left to solve, with checking letters ?AI?A and ??RIA?YO?S. On my first alphabetical trawl through Chambers, I missed SAIVA = member of a sect worshipping Shiva, so 10 minutes for a careful look became 20 by the time I found it. This left me with V?RIA?YO?S, which doesn’t look promising, except as a variation of VARIATIONS. Then vague memories of previous solving disasters came back. Although AIA (27D) is a variation of AYAH (colonial nursemaid), AYA is not, so 27D is MAIA rather than MAYA – I didn’t know the right spelling for the mother of Hermes. See below for the theme which I then spotted.

1 APSARAS – Sara in rev. of spa. A divine water sprite represented as a voluptuous female figure in Hindu temple sculpture
10 INQUISITOR – one’s = I’S in QUIT = leave, all in INOR = ‘wrought iron’ – “grill – that’s what I’d do” is the def. I now see that this is part one of a little theme.
11 S(H=Henry)UR(e),A – a local/regional council in Afghanistan.
18 A(GAM)ID – a member of an Old-World genus of thick-tongued lizards
22 U(A.K.A.)RI – a S AMerican monkey, new to me but the wordplay meant that this or URAKAI was a dead cert.
26 TA(A)L(e) – an old word for Afrikaans
28 TRIP,OLI=oil* – tripoli turns out to be another word for diatomite = ‘powdery deposit’, which added a little spice to this filler word.
30 VARIATIONS – ARIA = solo, in (is on TV)*. With 24A – ENIGMATIC, this is the other half of the theme – Inquisitor in the Independent Weekend mag and Enigmatic Variations in the Sunday Telegraph are two of the “tough vocab plus gimmick” puzzles to consider if Mephisto is getting too easy for you. Mike Laws won’t mind as he edits the Inquisitor series. As far as I can tell, LISTENER is not hidden in the grid anywhere, but I’m half-expecting to be proved wrong.
4 ASH,TON – Frederick A was a dancer before he became a choreographer.
6 STRAPGAME – (E mag, parts) all rev. Strap-game is a more helpful version of fast-and-loose as in “play fast-and-loose” which I’ve just found is not a descriptive expression, as I used to think, but the name of a fairground con-trick involving a belt and a stick.
7 AREAL – A=of (a barred-grid trick I still have trouble remembering), rev. of LAER = laager
8 VOLT,AI(RIS=sir rev.)M – ‘Some potential’ is a very good def. for VOLT – accurate, but in combination with ‘gentleman’, very misleading.
9 EFF,END,I – a title in Turkey and other bits of the Eastern Med., and useful for setters needing an F with friendly letters.
12 HAUTE MARNE – Au in (near them)*. If you can’t remember all those French departments (I can’t either), river names will get you a long way.
14 A(COR = “Well!”,NWOR=worn*)M. A wormlike sea animal with “a proboscis and collar somewhat acorn-like in shape”. Picture of one here
17 SCATT,ER – scatt (also scat and skat) is an udaller’s land tax in Orkney and Shetland. (If you don’t know about udal, you soon will if you keep on doing this kind of puzzle).
19 M(A TAD)OR – didn’t see the wordplay on solving, but am now certain that MOR will be an awkward girl when I look in C – yes, same as mauther / mawther / mawr
21 N,I.R. LIE – Scots word for stunted / niggardly
22 UGRIAN – arguing* with one G=good lost. I still think “no good arguing” has to be ARUIN, but logic bows to cryptic clue convention.
23 SAIVA – the afoementioned devotee of Shiva – A=Academician in rev. of avis – a French word for notice which you can get from the C entry for ‘avis au lecteur’ if you don’t recognise it.
27 M,AIA – mother of Hermes

3 comments on “Mephisto 2455, Mike Laws – a puzzle of two halves”

    1. Clue: Lotus leaf American’s given to mother

      Padma = lotus
      pad = leaf (mainly U.S., as in ‘lily pad’)
      ma = mother

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