Mephisto 3316 – No, no, no, no; no biffing at all!


This one was a bit of a step-up from the easier Mephistos we’ve been seeing lately – John Grimshaw has provided a tougher challenge, with a number of cleverly-set traps for the unwary solver.   I noted them on my copy as I solved, meaning that I wasn’t fooled.     I have learned by now to look carefully at unchecked letters.

I did take a fair amount of time, and I had to look high and low in my well-worn copy of Chambers.    I thought I was doing well when Etruria popped into my head, but I don’t imagine saouari or pitarah popped into many solvers heads.   I ended up having to knock off at midnight and finish on Sunday morning.

And thanks to Mr Purcell for the catchy tune!

1 Weapon control precedes conflict (7)
HANDJAR – HAND + JAR, giving a Persian dagger.
7 Rarely get comfortable before college function (5)
COSEC – COSE + C, where rarely indicates an obscure verb.
11 Farrier working for top end racer? (7)
FERRARI – Anagram of FARRIER, a starter clue.
12 Land north of Rome and once there one’s in a lot of country (7)
ETRURIA – ET (and in Latin) + RUR(I)A[l].
13 Writ wrong in law with Latin for Regina (4)
TOLT – TO(-r,+L)T, a simple letter-substitution clue.
14 I must be beginning to despair in sending old fruitcake (7)
MADLING – MA(-i,+D[espair])LING, another letter substitution clue.
15 Quiet synagogues, Nazareth’s last with fifty gone (5)
SHUSH – SHU[l]S + [Nazaret]H.
16 Request that is accepted by sharp-toothed war ministry? (12)
17 What’s light from Etna? Purplish-pink — in its interior, note (6)
22 In a plane sitting centrally is backed in design (6)
MESIAN –  ME(IS backwards)AN.
23 Rising nation in a mess as presented in G&S? (12, two words)
TIRONIAN SIGN – Anagram of RISING NATION, where the trick is to see the literal and know the expression.
26 Group of fir trees, little ones, not British (5)
27 With very low bow walk near when earl enters (7)
29 Small pig that was quickly skinned (4)
RONT –  [p]RONT[o].   Trap number 1.
30 Be appropriate, like a wagtail by falling water but not river (7)
PERTAIN –  PERT + [r]AIN, a bit of a starter clue.
31 In English, priest caught what Thomas Aquinas is called (7)
ANGELIC – ANG + ELI + C.  Ang is a valid abbreviation for the French Anglice, meaning in English.    Aquinas was called the Angelic Doctor.
32 Regional hack passionate about all sections (5)
HOAST –  HO(A,S)T.   A cough, not a horse.
33 Reproach Benin, secretive about return of work (7)
DYSLOGY – DY SL(GO backwards)Y.   DY comes from Dahomey, the former name for Bening.
1 Slight coughs one gets in early winter (5)
2 Classical giant pilasters Susa only half erected (7)
ANTAEUS – ANTAE + SU[sa] upside down.
3 One of the awkward ones mostly high up (4)
NURD – DRUN[k] upside-down.   Trap number 2.
4 Help with Labour party unionist answer about left (5)
5 Legal expert gentleman elevated over magistrate in project (12)
6 Empty rage against particular type of antibody (6)
REAGIN – R[ag]E + AGIN, with not indication of the dialect form.
7 Doctor discerns free hysterics (12, three words)
8 Ring in right hours following old church service (7)
9 Monkey takes in afternoon in our nut tree (7)
10 Austrian instrument with missing lead in Swiss lab (7)
CITHERN – C([w]ITH)ERN.    You can’t mess this one up, as the H is checked.
17 Army regulation about cutting weight which covers gear in transit (7)
PITARAH – PIT(AR,A)H.    Weight is  meaning number 23 of pith.
18 Genus of molluscs containing round vibrating membrane (7)
MYRINGA – MY(RING)A.   Well, as George Harrison said….
19 One very good English plant coming up, one with hollow leaves (7)
ISOETES – I + SO + E + SET upside-down.
20 Parliament arrest paltry government (7)
LAGTING –  LAG + TIN + G.   I wasted a lot of time with variants of althing.
21 Appearing unshaven is irrational in high-definition (6)
24 Mammal’s covering it with bristles (5)
25 Not new, unknown word of unknown meaning (5)
28 What’s apparently raised outside of Cuzco? (4)
PACO – AP upside-down + C(uzc)O.   A llama, not a nickname for Francisco.

5 comments on “Mephisto 3316 – No, no, no, no; no biffing at all!”

  1. I avoided trap 1 but not trap 2. I thought it was probably wrong and meant to go back to it but I found the rest of the puzzle extremely difficult so by the time I had fought my way through it I forgot. Damn.

  2. Lots of interesting vocabulary. Thank you for such a comprehensive blog. (And all your Chambers-work!)

    I had missed the entry in Chambers for Tironian. But I now see it is there with the subsidiary TIRONIAN SIGN = an ampersand. (23ac). I checked again when I saw your very precise underling of just the “&”.

    Similarly I hadn’t checked ANG from 31ac. So thank you for pointing out it means specifically “In English” – I had wondered what the “In” was doing in that clue.

    Regarding “agin” in 6D: Chambers has it as “facetious” as well as dialect. Collins also adds “informal”. It seems to have become a popular word with political commentators in the UK. I first noticed Jonathan Dimbleby using it a lot in his latter years presenting Any Questions?: “If those amendments were made to the bill, would your party still be agin” etc. I also see from searching The Times that Quentin Letts used it several times in his columns: “Mr Corbyn claimed repeatedly to be agin the ‘born-to-rule-establishment'”.

  3. What does trap1 and trap 2 refer to in the comments. It does not reference any clues in either case.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *