Mephisto 3148 – Take your shoes off, ladies!

I didn’t find this terribly hard, and finished in one sitting on a Saturday night – yes, midnight in the UK is 7 PM in Connecticut.   I didn’t understand one of the answers, but fortunately it was completely checked.    The next morning I looked again, and it was obvious, like so many of these puzzles.    There are some obscure words in the answers, but the cryptics are very helpful, as is usual with Don’s puzzles.    There are also some nice starter clues.

I have been trying to encourage some of the 15 x 15 solvers to try Mephisto – it is not nearly as hard as the Club Monthly Special, which I have never cared for.   The large number of checking letters is really helpful, and enable you to analyze how the cryptic elements work – but you all know that.    Tonight, I am able to offer a full and correct parsing of all the clues, but I am little puzzled by one of the literals. 

1 A French horse stuck in turf — as one unprepared? (6)
UNSHOD – UN + S(H)OD, a perfect starter clue.
5 Talk about having church coffee party (6)
KLATCH – TALK backwards + CH.   You don’t expect to the clue to actually contain the word used in the wordplay – surpise!
9 Dad, say, in amble with aged Poppy’s family (12)
PAPAVERACEAE – PA + P(AVER)ACE + AE.   I admit, I just looked it up in Chambers.
10 Fish in the same place, given external supervision (6)
CARIBE – CAR(IB.)E, where ib. is ibidem, which means….in the same place!
13 Magical old sect group outside college (6)
OCCULT – O(C)CULT, another starter clue.
14 Old boy I call “deficient”, incidentally (6)
OBITER – OB + I + TER[m], as in obiter dictum.
15 Savvy, like student avoiding second drug (6)
ASTUTE – AS + TUTE[e], with our favorite drug.
16 Aid denied to oft-failed bats? (6)
LET-OFF – Anagram of OFT-FAILED minus AID – but where is the literal?   Is this an &lit?
18 Explorer back after troubled rest — it may give anxiety (8)
STRESSOR – Anagram of REST + ROSS backwards.
22 Settle in part of hospital, difficult separation with wife going (8)
25 Match with time-wasting — not the position today (6)
FIXURE – FIX[t]URE.   Fixure is a word from Shakespeare. 
26 Like nerve perhaps being shown by artist friend (6)
28 Part of insect gives different insect trouble swinging round (6)
ANTLIA –  ANT + AIL backwards.
30 Aura round old tribe that is located in north Africa (6)
AGADIR –  A(GAD)IR, the tribe of Gad.   Agadir is a city in Morocco.
31 Fusses when soldiers come in at entrance (6)
ADOORS – ADO(OR)S, another easy one.
32 Sees nice BEd student finally excited with final certificate (12, two words)
BENE DECESSIT – Anagram of SEES NICE BED + [studen]T.   I definitely needed the crossers here.
33 Workers’ guilds not initially considered in business set-ups (6)
ARTELS – [c]ARTELS, a well-known chestnut in either direction.
34 At once old bird comes to cathedral city (6)
1 Superior firm in history to the north by the sea? (7)
2 Ship’s spar gets spray? Not unknown (5)
SPRIT – SPRIT[z].   I’ll admit, I didnt’ get this one for a long time after putting in the obvious answer.
3 Arab cloth of excellent quality plunged into dye (6)
4 Evil spirits parted right away after being summoned up (6)
DEEVES – SEVE[r]ED upside down.
5 African bird, last to ascent to highest point (4)
KROO – ROOK with the K moved to to the top.   I had all kinds of theories how the cryptic worked, but it turned out to be quite simple – nothing to do with K1 in the Himilayas
6 Summon expert to tackle urban areas half falling apart (6)
7 Foremost in the European Union with added weight — a German? (6)
TEUTON – T[he} EU + TON, a rather apt cryptic for the Brexit crowd.
8 Conservative baddy losing head — one generating lots of heat? (10)
11 Keeper of birds treasuring larks (10)
12 Mongrel dog tribes let loose (6)
BITSER – Anagram of TRIBES. 
17 Trip went wrong out of Spain with a knight trapped (6)
ERRAND – ERR(-e,+A N)D, one that many will biff.
19 Bathe, yes? Tricky without a supplier of water (7)
BHEESTY – Anagram of B[a]THE YES. 
20 Old lover with blemish — not one carrying on? (6)
21 Monk could be secluded, not the first or last (6)
CULDEE – Anagram of [s]ECLUDE[d].
23 Having three spiny bits or one in region of the body (6)
24 What could make most be driven to extremity once (6)
EMBOST – Anagram of MOST BE.
27 A thing growing in the garden is stemmed (5)
AROSE – A + ROSE.   This gave me a lot of trouble because I was looking for a Latinate word meaning having many stems  – then I saw it. 
29 “Stars” would exclude one the equivalent of Mars (4)
ARES – AR[i]ES, not a tricky anagram as you might suspect.

13 comments on “Mephisto 3148 – Take your shoes off, ladies!”

  1. I didn’t do the puzzle but noticed the query re 16ac. I don’t have a definitive answer but LET-OFF is a cricketing term, as is ‘bats’, so I suspect you are right that the definition is &lit. Keen cricket followers may be able to explain more. SOED defines a LET-OFF as: Cricket. A batsman’s escape from dismissal when a fielder misses an opportunity to get him or her out.

    On solving Mephistos, long ago I tried them a few times but didn’t make much progress so gave up. Then after a tip-off from Jim that a particular puzzle was more accessible than usual I had another go and managed to complete it, but I’m afraid deciphering obscure words from wordplay and constantly having to check my answers in a dictionary is not my idea of crossword enjoyment so I don’t feel inclined to repeat the experience. Ditto the Club Monthly – not that I have ever completed one of those.

    Edited at 2021-01-03 07:09 am (UTC)

    1. Hi Jackkt, I solve the puzzle on the site a week in arrears, so can check my answers on the site, and reveal them if I’m getting really stuck and dont want to spend too long on the puzzle. Can also look at the blog immediately afterwards and understand the parsing- thanks to Vinyl and any others who do the mephisto blog- i find it very useful as sometimes find them difficult to parse.
  2. I wondered about 4d. In Chambers, DEEVE leads to DEAVE (Scottish, meaning to deafen), which is not what we need here. DEEV (without an E at the end), leads to DIV(3), ‘an evil spirit of Persian mythology’, so that is what we are after. Would the plural be DEEVS?
    1. I agree, I think it should be DEEVS as well. There is a paper online called “The Romance of CAI CAUS, who reigned an hundred and fifty Years, and his going to Mazenderaun to fight the Deeves”. I was able to access it via my university’s institutional login, and it says “A Dive or Deeve is represented in Persian pictures as a frightful monster with horns, tusks, long talons, a tail, etc…” So it seems the author of this paper does indeed spell it as DEEVES. However, I couldn’t find this spelling (‘DEEVES’) in any dictionary. There is a page on Wikipedia which states that the word ‘devil’ is similar to the Persian word ‘deeve’ (search for ‘List of common or similar words in English and Persian’ and look under the entry for ‘D’), but this is just a transliteration of a Persian word, rather than an actual English word. So, in short, I also think that DEEVES is incorrect and it should be DEEVS, but of course, I could be missing something.
      1. Was thinking the same way about DEEVES. Thought 16a might be something to do with cricket, though not in Chambers.
  3. For 16A, I was puzzled enough to write “def = ?” on my solving-copy, but Don’s notes confirmed the &lit – and the fact that this is an example of Mephisto setters using their clues that were winners in Azed’s clue writing contest. This was the winner for 1026, back in January 1992. I think the idea is that oft-failed bats = batsmen are “oft-failed” because they were denied easy opportunities by the bowlers they faced.
  4. I too have “defn?” on my copy for 16A. As an alternative to Pete’s explanation, I took the &lit meaning to be that they are “oft-failed” because they don’t get (are denied) LET-OFFs.
  5. All finished and parsed in under an hour – this was a very accessible Mephisto, I think with typically helpful wordplay, as Vinyl said. I was puzzled by DEEVES until I spotted “severed” for parted. Favourite word was BITSER. The definition “bits of this and bits of that” made me smile.
  6. If I made any they’ve gone for recycling ! I think I saw this off pretty quickly though.
  7. Breezed through this but did check Chambers for DEEVES and was a little unsure, but it couldn’t be anything else. This is one of the most generously-checked grids I have seen!
  8. Thanks as ever for the parsing, vinyl1 – I found this puzzle to be an enjoyable solve. I do have a small, perhaps silly, query though. What does the title “take your shoes off, ladies” refer to?

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