Mephisto 3318 – As a matter of fact, I can!

Posted on Categories Mephisto

I don’t usually find the Paul McKenna puzzles too difficult, and I got through this one in about 90 minutes.   It was most helpful that I saw erubescences almost immediately, and grotesquerie was not far behind.   You’ll do well with all those crossing letters.   A few bits of Cockney culture, an 18th century poet, a touch of Judaica, and before long I was done.     I did waste a lot of time on lytta, the only possible answer, before deciding to look up worm and read through all the definitions – aha!


1 Country house: term for family area (5)
KENYA – KEN + [famil]Y  + A.   Ken is slang from the Regency period, possibly of Romany origin.
5 European local found during search (7)
10 ____ is leaving requisite ogres formed extravagantly (12)
GROTESQUERIE – Anagram of REQUISITE OGRES without IS.   The literal is not underlined, because it already is!
11 Vehicle’s condition in reversal of career (9, two words)
ESTATE CAR – E(STATE)CAR, where the enclosing letters are RACE backwards.
13 Tower possibly to be advised by King (4)
T-BAR – T.B.A. + R.   This would be To Be Announced in the US.
15 No longer stop children finding boggy ground (5)
LETCH – LET + CH, where no longer indicates an archaic sense of let.
16 Please pray they’re exceptionally quiet at the front (7)
PRYTHEE –  Anagram of THEY’RE with P at the front.
17 Who lack conviction in Greece’s capital? First couple are deported (4)
HENS – [at]HENS.   The literal is about the 10th meaning.
18 Millions getting stuck into hot toast is tops (6, two words)
AT MOST – Anagram of TOAST around M.
21 Collectors of pollen range across acres (6)
23 Rab C’s one about wife in bedroom (4)
BAWR – B(A,W)R.  The literal means a Scots word for a joke, which is what we get from putting together these abbreviations.
24 Local population name child who does the chasing over denial (7)
DEMENTI – DEME + N + IT backwards.
26 Attorney left backing worm (5)
LYTTA – ATTY L backwards, where the literal involves an obscure meaning of worm.
28 Equipment mostly with current ground worker (4)
KIWI –  KI[t] + W + I.   A non-flyer in the NZ Air Force.
29 American chap I see clutching mug like a tumbler? (9)
30 Busy butlers on tap, these define some kings (12, two words)
PEARL BUTTONS – Anagram of BUTLERS ON TAP, with a cultural reference most solvers will know.
31 I try Pope or one of his ilk (7)
ESSAYER – Double definition – Pope’s poems included the Essay on Man, the Essay on Criticism, etc, etc.
32 League’s first use of anything not involving line (5)
1 Rising wit sure to host grand assemblies (7)
KGOTLAS – SALT (G) OK upside-down.   If you suspect it starts with KG-, you won’t have many words to chose from.
2 Blushes as Bruce’s scene flops following eccentricity (12)
ERUBESCENCES -Anagram of BRUCE’S SCENE following E.
3 Remark about a moth spreading out (9, three words)
NOT AT HOME – NOT(anagram of A MOTH)E.
4 Dragonflies chase around before going up (7)
AESCHNA – Anagram of CHASE + AN upside down.
5 Up-to-date telly’s about overturning solemn settings (6)
F-STOPS –  FST (PO upside-down)’S.   Up to date in the 1990s, that is, but this is The Times.
6 Noun replacing quiet feeble sort is potty (5)
NUTTY – (-p,+N)UTTY.
7 Born with money? Supplier of beneficial oil (4)
NEEM –  NEE + M.
8 We’re inseparable as one in unchanged group comes out on top (12, two words)
SIAMESE TWINS – S(I)AME SET WINS.    I couldn’t parse this while solving.
9 As used by poet, meat wagon is boring now (5)
12 Atmosphere in restaurant (4)
AURA – Hidden in [rest]AURA[nt].
14 Club’s polled about starter (9, two words)
SHORT IRON – SHOR(TIRO)N.   A wedge, a 9, an 8…..
19 Somewhat unlikely having it for special shawl (7)
TALLITH – TALLI(-s,+’T)H, a rather convoluted letter-substitution clue that is only possible in Mephisto.
20 Trollop grins for locals around independent Earl (7)
TRAIPSE – TRA(I)PS + E, where traps is indicated as dialectical.
22 Pay up for spitfire (4)
ETNA – ANTE upside-down.
23 Pigeon bit first marsh-dweller (6)
BITTUR – BIT + TUR, which  is a pigeon pea.   The answer is a variant form of bittern.
24 One on benefit spotted cat climbing curtain (5)
DRAPE – E + PARD upside down.
25 In a worthy way, awkwardly only involving Baron (5)
NOBLY – Anagram of ONLY around B for baron.
27 Wind leads to bloating — offensive release assured (4)
BORA – first letters of B[loating] – O[ffensive] R[elease] A[ssured].   If you know your cars, you’ll know all these winds.

18 comments on “Mephisto 3318 – As a matter of fact, I can!”

  1. Yeah, me too! Pretty obvious pun this time!
    I don’t know my cars, but I knew the wind.
    And I didn’t quite “get” “Rab C’s one” until now, but sure… tell me another one.

  2. “Can you finish?” Paul McKenna’s top line pun – no I couldn’t, so thank you very much for your explanations:

    9d HERSE. I got herse was a form of hearse (a funeral car = “meat wagon”), but was then trying to link it with the agricultural tool “harrow”, as something to do with “boring” holes, which was all wrong – thanks!

    23d BITTUR. I wasn’t able to find anything about TUR = pigeon pea. My Chambers has TURBIT = “domestic pigeon”. So I wondered about “Tur-bit”, with “bit first”, was “bit-tur”.

    24d DRAPE. I spent ages trying to do subtractions from LEOPARD as the “spotty cat”, before I realised that PARD was also a leopard. I feel I am still not quite there with “one on benefit” = “E”. I know it’s something about the word “ONE” has a “benefit” (ie advantage) over the word “ON”, of the letter “E”. Could someone cleverer than me spell out how I am to read that part of the clue?

    1. 23ac. Apologies. I can see PIGEON PEA = DAL (or dahl or dhal). Then online “split pigeon pea” is “toor dal”, or “tur dal”. Don’t know if “pigeon” is short for any of those.

    2. Not saying that I, an American, can fully explain it, but Collins has for E “9. | a. a person without a regular income, or who is dependent on the state on a long-term basis because of unemployment, sickness, old age, etc | b. (as modifier) | E worker | See also occupation groupings”

      1. There’s nothing I can find in Chambers that suggests the American usage you cite. I wonder whether there is another explanation? I too spent a long time playing with LEOPARD and wondering whether LO could have been removed. In the end I put in DRAPE with a ? by the clue.

        Overall I found this one a hard slog to finish.

        1. I cited a British usage, and said I am not familiar with it because I’m an American, but I found it in Collins. There’s no need to look any further, as that definition clearly is the one intended here.
          (I still have not obtained Chambers but am sometimes finishing these things lately without it.)

            1. Yes, guess I’m just being perverse.
              In any case, I can’t tell you anything about whether the definition in question can be found in Chambers, or how to find it.
              It would be quite odd if Chambers justified that clue in some other way, with another definition that fits so well being found in Collins.

            2. Here you go. I just got Chambers on my iPhone. Under E, I find this:
              « In advertising and marketing, a person who has no regular income or who is dependent on state benefit »

      2. The last bit there does not pertain to this sense of E (whose derivation remains mysterious) but to telecommuting.

  3. Many thanks to both setter and blogger.

    May I suggest for 23 d:
    Turbit is a form of pigeon and the clue tells us to put “bit” first to give bittur (which, as Vinyl says, is a term for a bittern, i.e. a bird who lives in marshes).

  4. Took me a little longer than the last few weeks, though I got the pun earlier than usual. I also saw the K and G and thought “it will be that KGOTLA word again”.

  5. Utterly baffling. I’ll leave you to it. Most of the answers seem to be beyond obscure. Well done for those who made it.

  6. Hello all. I just wanted to leave a comment to thank you all for this blog/forum… whatever it is. I’m not a big puzzler but I’ve always wanted to be able to do crosswords. I have found that the Times Quick Cryptic is about the level I can handle. Could never manage it in the times you all post on here… if I ever manage one in one sitting, it normally takes me 45 minutes to an hour but I usually do 5 or 10 minutes here or there.

    My lovely mum carefully cuts the QC out of the times for me, and saves them all up to hand over to me when we manage to get together. I’ve got a huge stash of these little slips with them all on which I gradually work through. I normally get through about 1 a week.

    Anyway, the real purpose of this comment is to say thank you to everyone for these write ups – I don’t have the solutions to the crosswords and, even if I did, they wouldn’t have the explanations of the parsing for me to learn from. I’ve just finished a puzzle from 2022 and the comments for that one were closed; quite when I’ll get round to this one, I’ll never know. Anyway, like I said, just wanted to express my gratitude as you have all helped me to get a grip on solving these beautiful puzzles and I always love reading all the comments when I finish one, to see how my skills stack up against the experts! Alle the best to everyone, from

    Dave the Novice

    Additional – I have just noticed I think this particular post is for a regular 15 x 15, not the smaller one which I work on Apologies. I was just looking for somewhere to leave a comment.


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