Mephisto 3116 – “His pegleg got woodworm, and broke into three….

Posted on Categories Mephisto

Well, this time I managed to solve it.   That’s the good part, an all-correct grid.   However, I did a fair amount of biffing, and now I have to try to figure out why the correct answers are the correct answers.   It’s a nice problem to have.   Since I haven’t  gotten to the bottom of every clue, some audience participation may be needed.

I didn’t think this Mephisto was that difficult, and there are a lot of easy entry points.   I was able to put in quite a few answers on my first go-rounnd, starting with ‘Circassia’.   After that, it got a little harder, but it always does.  

1 Ask repeatedly about recluse on missing old governor (9)
BEGLERBEG – BEG + L[on]ER + BEG.   More often beylerbey – the “bey of beys”.   O bey!
11 What’s odd about a lot of Asian drink used in plant (7)
WARATAH –  Anagram of WHAT around ARA[k].   A flowering shrub from Austalia, of course.
12 More formal club, very isolated (5)
DRIER – DRI[v]ER, as in what you tee off with.
13 Measure said to be in letters from abroad (4)
PSIS – P.S.I’S, I would think – but maybe not.  Other solvers think is sounds like SIZE, but in Greek the initial P would have been pronounced, and the I would have been given the traditional Continental pronunciation, not the one from the Great Vowel Shift.
14 Sanction a vehicle in perfect condition for river (8)
OKAVANGO – OK A VAN G/O, I suspect – good order?  Chambers indicates ‘go’ means ‘in perfect condition’, but I’d like to see a usage example.  
15 Union etc out to protect male employees (6)
CEMENT – Anagram of ETC around MEN, a definite starter clue.
16 Foreign tongue mostly not acquired (5)
UNGOT – anagram of TONGU[e].  
17 Leader of Remain probing Leave’s superficial showiness (7)
VARNISH – VA(R[emain]NISH, another easy one.
19 Corrected version embarrassed a large number (7)
24 Endless milk is so fantastic for a ravenous appetite (7)
LIMOSIS – Anagram of MIL[k] IS SO, a word we had just a few puzzles ago.
26 A volume’s picked up for parties (7)
ATHOMES – Sounds like A TOME’S.
28 Grass snake’s first and last to waken in the field (5)
SNOUT – S[nake’s} + [wake}N + OUT.  
30 Lighters accepted in carriages (6)
PRAAMS – PRA(A)MS, a type of flat-bottomed sailboat.
31 Old pros see Caribbean island overtaken by South America (8)
SUCCUBAS – S + U (C CUBA)S, where I think the C is textspeak. 
32 School retains lecturer, a woopie (4)
GLAM – G(L)AM.  I’m not sure exactly how the literal works, but the cryptic hands it to you.   Two acronyms, a Well-Off Older Person and Graying, Leisured Affluent Married.
33 Wild fashion regularly on show in a state (5)
IDAHO – [w]I[l]D [f]A[s]H[i]O[n].  
34 Too lax at sea to keep line for aquatic creature (7)
AXOLOTL – Anagram of TOO LAX + L, a salamander popular in crossword puzzles.
35 Call number back catching Golf driver (9)
ENGINEMAN – NAME  NI(G)NE backwards.  Perhaps what you need to solve 12 across?
2 A softly-softly falling out, conciliation brings peace (8)
3 Soiled goods primarily frozen (6)
GRIMED – G[oods] + RIMED.
4 Light beer special for German (5)
LASER – LA(-g,+S)ER.  
5 PM perhaps somehow contained spending limits? (7)
ETONIAN – anagram of [c]ONTAINE[d].  PM, certainly!
6 Arab breaking dodgy habit in Indian republic (7)
BHARATI – BH(AR)ATI, where the enclosing letters are an anagram of HABIT.
7 Whitewash up north for cap on chimney pot (6)
GRANNY – Well, you’ve got me, I just biffed this one.    Double definition, to defeat totally and a revolving top on a chimney.
8 Minister overlooks scheme that’s unpleasant (6)
MINGIN – MIN + GIN, apparently a bit of Scots slang.
9 Aussie car owners shouldn’t drive without it on call (4)
REGO – RE + GO.   Also a section of Queens, watch out for that.  
10 Table argument for strong position in bar (9)
PROTHESIS – PRO -rogue,+THESIS.  PRO + THESIS, where the arsis is the upbeat and the thesis is the downbeat in a bar of music.
15 A crisis evolved in Central America and Black Sea region (9)
CIRCASSIA – C(anagram of A CRISIS)A.
18 A fool’s shown up about carpet marks that are disgraceful (8)
STIGMATA – A GIT’S upside-down around MAT.  
20 F Field and B Silver to get distasteful lodgings (7)
21 US writer coming out? I must come out too (7)
22 Seals step around this (6)
PHOCAS – P(HOC)AS, the stock  Greek word for seal, found in the Odyssey. 
23 Catering staff book for first of classes in evening reception (6)
BOUCHE – (+B,-c)OUCHE.   The food supplied to a nobleman’s retinue.
25 Henry cutting a great deal for Nixon almost gets peace in the Middle East (6)
SHALOM –  S(HAL)OM[e].  
27 Cowslip leaf found around lake (5)
PAGLE – PAG(L)E, an easy one if you trust the cryptic.
29 Person seen in new Cornish resort, topless? (4)
NUDE – (-b,+N)UDE, the obvious answer, even if youu’ve never heard of Bude.

27 comments on “Mephisto 3116 – “His pegleg got woodworm, and broke into three….”

  1. As always many thanks to setter and blogger.
    I have a couple of queries/comments:
    14 ac. If G/O = good order, I don’t think it’s in Chambers.
    32 ac. A woopie is a “well off older person”, a glam (Ch. second definition) is a “greying, leisured, affluent, married person, a class of woopie”.
    7 d. A granny is a Scottish version of whitewash (to defeat totally) and a “revolving top on a chimney pot”.
    10 d. I thought the definition was table (used in the Greek Orthodox Church) and the crytpic was “argument for” = pro + thesis = “the strong position in a bar (music)”.
    25 d. I thought that was Hal in som(e)?
    Grateful to read your comments.
  2. In Chambers “go=in perfect condition” for 14A. I agree with Adrian’s comments above.

    Easy puzzle but not as easy as today’s

    1. I got it from pounds per square inch – the usual measure of pressure before pascal was adopted
      1. I prefer that to PS. However, I think the homophone solution is probably the correct one
  3. Unless that’s an East End version of ‘at ‘ome’, that’s got to be one of the worst homophones I’ve ever heard (pardon the pun). And there’s been a few over the years. I simply don’t understand the need to crowbar arguable homophones into clues. Mr Grumpy
  4. Mid-level difficulty this one I thought.
    Agree with all of Adrian’s points above. Vinyl I can (just about!) understand your desire to finish these things without a dictionary but you’re never going to be able to explain the clues without using Chambers. With Chambers:
    > You look up ‘go’ and find it defined exactly as in the clue
    > You look up ‘granny’ and find it defined exactly as in the clue (twice)
    > You find that a PROTHESIS is a table… and THESIS is defined exactly as in the clue…
    Etc, etc.
    22dn reminds me of how enormously funny my kids find it to say ‘seal, egg’ in French.

    Edited at 2020-05-24 10:10 am (UTC)

  5. I’m with vinyl, although maybe not for the same reasons. Any crossword should be doable without recourse to a paid-for online dictionary. There are enough bizarre words in any free online dictionary to satisfy any setter or solver. I love words, and I’m sure I’d love Chambers too, even though it seems to have its own bizarre take on some words (eg machair last week). But as a point of principle I’m not going to invest in it, as I would be pandering to the acceptance that the crossword is in effect unsolvable without it. I’d rather not complete than use Chambers. It doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to realise the ultimate destination if The Times continues with this elitist approach. It might be a decade or so away, but it can only lead to the demise of cryptic crosswords. Mr Grumpy (and with good reason!)
    1. Barred-grid puzzles (the same goes for Azed) rely explicitly on Chambers and deliberately use the more obscure nooks and crannies of the dictionary. It’s pretty fundamental to what these puzzles are, and as far as I know (I’m a relative newbie) this has always been the case. So unless you’re prepared to buy and use Chambers you are never going to fully understand the clues.
      If you don’t like it, don’t do the puzzles, and leave them for those of us who enjoy the tight precision of the clues, which is underpinned by the close relationship with Chambers. Take 7dn for instance: without Chambers, completely incomprehensible (to me anyway). With Chambers, absolutely crystal-clear.
      I must admit I’m with you on that homophone though…

      Edited at 2020-05-24 10:55 am (UTC)

      1. It’s been the case as long as I’ve been solving barred crosswords (1962).

        Ximenes would not just use Chambers but exploit it. I recall a puzzle in which he highlighted words that were in the dictionary but out of alphabetical order (no computer sorting in those days).

        As K says, if you don’t like it Grumpy go and grump somewhere else!

    2. In answer to Mr Grumpy:

      The Times puzzle and the Mephisto/AZED/Listener are entirely different kettles of fish. Part of the fun of the latter is the discovery of new words and new meanings, and Chambers is an essential part of this. I remember years ago finishing a Listener puzzle in about thirty minutes. Rather than being delighted with myself (as I would have been had I solved the Times puzzle in five minutes) my reaction was to feel disappointed, and to wonder what I was going to do for the rest of the weekend.

      It’s like the difference between 20/20 and Test Match cricket.

      Also, can you clarify what you found bizarre about last week’s machair?

      Edited at 2020-05-24 12:26 pm (UTC)

      1. Well they tell me it’s in Chambers so I must be wrong. But I would have thought that machair is the vegetation/landscape/eco-system found in close proximity to a sandy beach, not the beach itself. It wouldn’t have hurt to start the clue with ‘sandy beach nearby. . .’ on that (incorrect it seems) basis. As for everyone’s other ‘positive’ feedback, fair enough-I’m used to getting shouted down on here. Apologies-I just like occasionally rattling a few cages that’s all. I sometimes think that bad clues are forgiven simply because the catch-all response is ‘Ah, but it’s a Mephisto-it’s ok’. You will have probably gathered that I’m relatively [lockdown] new to the Mephisto. I was expecting a chewy crossword with a different level of wordplay. A lot of it undoubtedly has that, but I cant escape the impression that it’s substantially an exercise in trawling through Chambers? If that’s really all it is, well we can all do that (if one has access to it!). No need to bother with the wordplay until afterwards. Which isn’t really the point of any crossword, is it? Or call me old-fashioned maybe? But ‘it is what it is’ I suppose, and you all seem to be happy with it. Therefore no need to continue being the party pooper, and time to withdraw ungracefully. I think I’ll head off to the machair for a paddle before I submit another incomplete entry for this week. Mr Grumpy
        1. I’m sure no-one intends to shout you down Mr G but turning up in a Mephisto blog and complaining about reliance on Chambers is a bit like going to an Indian restaurant and telling them you don’t like spice.
          1. Yes, even I can see the ludicrousness of that! Ha ha. . .your valid observations on Chambers and Mephisto aside, my general issue is primarily with The Times, which I recognise isn’t totally relevant here. But The Times message board is virtually non-existent, and therefore I ‘gauge the temperature‘ on the worth of their crosswords by what is written on this blog. My wider point is that if I see a blog where perhaps three or four of the clues induce mers and yet it’s still classed as a ‘fine crossword‘, that to me is a contradiction in terms. And when that happens maybe 40-50% of the time, and the setters appear still not to be taking note, well. . .If the setters keep getting a ‘free pass‘ to indulge themselves in their own eccentricities, they’ll keep doing it. I’m not expecting perfection, but there’s no excuse for repeated lazy, ill thought-out clueing. Not in The Times anyway! There-I’ve tried to put it in a nutshell. It’s really no different from the queries that you bloggers yourselves raise, but I’m prepared to say it more ‘directly’ perhaps? I perfectly understand though if it doesn’t get a lot of traction on here. But it’s really the only vehicle available, and setters do read your blogs! Many thanks for your time. (Grump over-I’ll give it a rest for a bit). Mr Grumpy
            1. Well one person’s ‘direct’ is another’s ‘rude’, of course. One of the things I like about the TfTT forum though is that people aren’t afraid to say when they don’t like things. I find the discussions on fifteensquared a bit stultifyingly polite.
              Having said that I don’t agree with your characterisation of the puzzles. 90% of the time when people talk about MERs it’s because they didn’t know about, or consider, a particular aspect of a word’s meaning. It’s very rare that we really catch the setters/editor out.
              I welcome a bit of grumpiness, just be prepared for people to be grumpy back!
        2. You’re kind of missing the point here. I know, as you clearly also do, that the machair is simply the Gaelic word for links – the grassy bit that ‘links’ the land to the beach. The apparent ‘fault’ with the clue lies with the Chambers definition, not with Tim Moorey or the editor, both of whom are bound to work with what’s in the Big Red Book.

          If Chambers had defined ‘machair’ as a Taiwanese turtle, that’s still what they would have had to go along with, since using the Chambers definition is one of the rules of the game for both setter and solver.

          The less said about Machair, the Gaelic soap opera, the better.

  6. I was left with just the NE corner after 45 minutes, but then took ages to crack it, not helped by having an uncomprehending ARGOT at 16A for a while. I’m with K on using the dictionary. I like to understand the wordplay rather than just guess. I liked the surface for VARNISH.
  7. 16 comments on Mephisto might be a record! I enjoyed this one, the two meanings of GRANNY were a fun find, and I always like it when some Aussie slang creeps in (there’s another good one next week).

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