Mephisto 3231 – Paul McKenna

Greetings, barred-grid fans.

Fun puzzle from Paul McKenna this week, with a pun in the top row that leapt out of the grid and got me off to a good start (even though I know there is some treat in the top row, it is rare that I solve those clues early on).

A message from the Sunday Times Puzzles Editor (and the chap that first recruited me to this site):

Don Manley is stepping down from Mephisto after his 200th puzzle in January, and we are looking for one or more new setters. If you have some crossword setting experience and would like to be considered as a possible contributor, please email

In Mephisto puzzles, definitions (the most obvious of which is underlined) can be confirmed in Chambers, so I will focus on wordplay here.

Away we go…

1 Fine with anything being contested (6)
FOUGHT – F(fine) and OUGHT(anything)
6 Picks holes in pinks (6)
KNOCKS – double definition, though both might require a trip to Chambers. Picks holes in refers to nit-picking or knocking, and a pink is a mechanical knocking noise (definition 3)
11 Fat clique quail when two Conservatives resign (7)
LANOLIN – CLAN(clique) and COLIN(quail) both missing C(Conservative)
12 Trimmed tree near a Spanish village (5)
ALDEA – ALDER(tree) missing the last letter next to A
13 Oilmen are here reversing demand on rogue that’s down 50 per cent (8)
ABERDEEN – NEED(demand) reversed after half of ABERrant (rogue)
14 Complete Papal See in shake-up? It’s a disappointing thing (12, three words)
DEAD SEA APPLE – DEAD(complete) and an anagram of PAPAL,SEE
15 Start of Great Fire that’s troubled teen in times gone by (5)
GRIEF – first letter of Great then an anagram of FIRE. Second definition of TEEN in Chambers
17 Net being new unit of space (7)
ENSNARE – ENS(being), N(new), ARE(unit of space)
20 Old soil English put in pound (5)
BERAY – E(English) inside BRAY(pound with a pestle)
21 Just like Botham in past sending appearance money back (5)
BEEFY – BY(past) containing FEE(appearance money) reversed. Reference to Ian “Beefy” Botham, English cricketer of the 70s, 80s and early 90s
22 I’d get in changes making an instance of selection (7)
EDITING – anagram of I’D,GET,IN
26 Sideways glance taking in priest who declared himself unclean? (5)
LEPER – LEER(sideways glance) containing P(priest)
28 Possibly try courting round lane’s end — drivers prefer to avoid it (12, two words)
TIGER COUNTRY – anagram of TRY,COURTING surrounding the last letter in lanE. The drivers are playing golf
29 Beheaded martyr and saint of little fish (8)
ATHERINE – remove the first letter of saint CATHERINE
30 Hired a Charlie who’s no gent going west (5)
TICCA – A, C(Charlie), CIT(no gent) all reversed
31 Energy behind scene’s moving spirit (7)
ESSENCE – E(energy) after an anagram of SCENE’S
32 Approach mark of femininity with acceptance having priority (6)
ACCESS – the mark of femininity is -ESS, add ACC(acceptance)
33 Right to go against leaving European assembly (6)
EGRESS – CON(against) removed from E(European), CONGRESS(assembly)
1 Rear took off, for example, skywards (6)
FLEDGE – FLED(took off) then EG(for example) reversed
2 Axed from the off Ford left blunder in “The Horse Soldiers”, say (5)
OATER -remove F(Ford) and L(left) from the beginning of FLOATER(blunder)
3 Disfigured denarius not yet picked up (8)
4 Object of expedition to regain most favourable plunder (12, two words)
GOLDEN FLEECE – GOLDEN(most favourable), FLEECE(plunder)
5 Region’s tense, I guess (5)
TIBET – T(tense), I, BET(guess)
6 Massaged joint with advantage within day (7)
KNEADED – KNEE(joint) containing AD(advantage) then D(day)
7 Picked up material for wrapping fruit (5)
NARAS – SARAN(material for wrapping) reversed
8 Rebellious aspirant rendered plot poorly (12, two words)
9 Predator loses strong lots mostly — one’s busy with pram? (7)
KEELMAN – KESTREL(predator) minus STR(strong) then MANY(lots) minus the last letter. Did not know PRAM as barge – second definition in Chambers
10 Reasonably canny about Scots article (6)
SANELY – SLY(canny) surrounding ANE(Scots article)
16 This helps fuel flight, ie journey taken in the past (8)
TRIPTANE – TRIP(journey) and TANE(taken)
18 About one flag (Nationalist) rising from coastal waters (7)
NERITIC – C(about), I(one), TIRE(flag) and N(nationalist) all reversed
19 Take French companies for short look-sees (7)
RECCIES – REC(recipe, take), CIES(compagnies, French companies). I’m so used to R=take in Mephistos that I was looking for EC as a company originally
21 Stick with what’s in satay’s sweet ingredient? (6)
BATATA – BAT(stick) and the inside of sATAy
23 Old griffins run away from gross scene of battle (6)
GRYPES – remove R(run) from GR(gross), YPRES(scene of battle)
24 Answer bishop in clipped style — to that extent, it’s embroidery (5)
ARRAS – A(answer), RR(bishop shortened), AS(to that extent)
25 In Scotland plenty of bums on seats (5)
SONSE – hidden in bumS ON SEats
27 Preposterous constant in father’s reparations (5)
ERICS – preposterous means contrary, so reverse of C(constant) inside SIRE(father)

2 comments on “Mephisto 3231 – Paul McKenna”

  1. I found this hard. I did manage to get the pun across the top quite early on though: these puzzles have taught me that the word ‘pink’ has many meanings, and I remembered this one.

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