Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010 (DT 26120)

This puzzle, attributed to Rufus, was originally published Thursday, December 24, 2009 in The Daily Telegraph

Introduction

Those who read the "pedigree" data above, will have noted that this puzzle was published in the U.K. on Christmas Eve. Not only does this explain the rather unseasonable theme of the puzzle, it should also assist in solving many of the clues. The puzzle is full of typically British (although not entirely unknown in Canada) Christmas traditions such as pantomimes and Christmas crackers.

I must say that it was definitely not the easiest puzzle that I have ever encountered. However, I did manage to complete it - but not without taking a few excursions down dead end streets.

Today's Glossary

Some possibly unfamiliar abbreviations, people, places, words and expressions used in today's puzzle

champers - noun informal, chiefly Brit. champagne

cracker - noun 1 a paper cylinder which, when pulled apart, makes a sharp noise and releases a small toy or other novelty

crackers - adjective informal, chiefly Brit. insane; crazy

Idle Jack (or sometimes, seemingly, Jack Idle) - Jack, the idle apprentice, a character in the pantomime Dick Whittington and His Cat

Festive Board - a part of a meeting of Free Masons devoted to social activities and partaking of refreshments

OS - abbreviation 4 (as a size of clothing) outsize [British term for what in North America would generally be called plus-size (or sometimes big and tall in the case of men's clothing)]

panto - noun Brit. informal a pantomime

pantomime - noun 1 Brit. a theatrical entertainment involving music, topical jokes, and slapstick comedy, usually produced around Christmas

Robinson Crusoe - one of the popular themes for British pantomimes

scarper - verb Brit. informal run away

wait - noun 2 (waits) Brit. archaic street singers of Christmas carols

Today's Links

Libellule's review of today's puzzle may be found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26120].

Commentary on Today's Puzzle

4a Where Cinderella goes at end of panto, away on coach (3-5)

Since a "coach" could be a stage (short for stagecoach), it is a bit ironic that Cinderella would go OFF-STAGE "on coach". I did wonder whether this meaning for stage might be specific to North America, but this would not appear to be the case.

9a Lucky things to find in crackers? (6)

Although I can see no real connection to Christmas crackers, might this this be a reference to Lucky Charms breakfast cereal? I'm not sure whether this product is even sold in the U.K.

14a Party includes a number in religious group (4)

While both party and set can denote a group of people, I certainly don't believe the terms are interchangeable. Thus, I experienced some difficulty in getting my mind around the fact that they could be considered synonyms. One thesaurus defines party as "a band of people associated temporarily in some activity" (e.g., "they organized a party to search for food") and set as "an unofficial association of people or groups" (e.g., "the smart set goes there"). I suppose these words might be about as closely related as are the words herd and flock, both of which denote a collection of animals - but one would speak neither of a herd of sheep nor a flock of cattle.

17a Trio with stable bearings (5,4,3)

The THREE WISE MEN clearly had directions (bearings) to the stable. Since an anagram of miens (a word meaning bearings) is found in Three Wise Men, I thought that the answer itself might be an anagram. However, I was unable to find one.

31a Pantomime character off course (6)

As I recall, this pantomime character was shipwrecked when the ship on which he was travelling was blown "off course".

7d Come to life in an all night party (6)

Even after convincing myself that this "all night party" is not a rave, it took a while to get my mind around the wordplay in this clue. The definition is "come to life" for which the solution is AWAKEN. The order of the wordplay is inverted and must be read with an appropriate pause to convey the sense intended by the setter; i.e., "in an, all night party" which instructs us to put WAKE (all night party) in AN. While many may think of a wake as a visitation or "a watch or vigil held beside the body of someone who has died" (occurring prior to a funeral), in Ireland a wake is "a party held after a funeral" - one that presumably may last through the night.

15d Kind of ribbon used for decorations (5)

After wrestling with party and set at 14a, I'm having even more difficulty here with ribbon and medal. Unless I am misreading the clue or missing some nuance, this clue seems to be suggesting that a "ribbon" is a MEDAL. According to Oxford, a medal is "a metal disc with an inscription or design, awarded for achievement or to commemorate an event" and a ribbon is "[a long, narrow strip of fabric] of a special colour or design awarded as a prize or worn to indicate the holding of an honour". A medal is a decoration and a medal may have a ribbon attached to it (in fact, it may have both a ribbon bar and a suspension ribbon). Loosely speaking, the ribbon might be considered to be part of the medal or decoration. The ribbon bar may sometimes be worn without the medal. Oh well, perhaps ribbons and medals are close enough to pass for each other in Crosswordland.

27d Winter coat, perhaps (4)

Perhaps being Canadian, I opted for a thick winter coat, wrongly thinking that the solution might be SNOW. Keep in mind that winters are much milder in Britain, so you will need a much thinner coat.

24a Just an unknown feature on the tree (5)

While a FAIRY is not something that I would particularly associate with Christmas, and certainly not something that I ever recall seeing on a Christmas tree, apparently this is a popular Christmas ornament judging by the number of hits that a search for "Christmas fairy ornament" returns. While I detected no evidence to suggest that this is a particularly British custom, I suppose that the use of fairies in this manner would hardly be surprising based on their general popularity in today's culture.

"Merry Christmas To All, and To All a Good Night" - Falcon

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