Puzzle at a Glance
Daily Telegraph Puzzle NumberDT 26784
Publication Date in The Daily TelegraphThursday, February 9, 2012
Link to Full ReviewBig Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 26784]
Big Dave's Review Written ByBig Dave
Big Dave's Rating
|Difficulty - ★★★||Enjoyment - ★|
█ - solved without assistance
█ - incorrect prior to use of puzzle solving tools
█ - solved with assistance from puzzle solving tools
█ - solved with aid of checking letters provided by puzzle solving tools
█ - unsolved or incorrect prior to visiting Big Dave's blog
█ - reviewed by Falcon for Big Dave's blog
It may not have been among my favourite puzzles of all time, but my feelings about it are nowhere near as negative as those of Big Dave. I did need his help to understand the wordplay in a couple of places.
Notes on Today's Puzzle
This commentary is intended to serve as a supplement to the review of this puzzle found at Big Dave's Crossword Blog, to which a link is provided in the table above.
1a Sailors following course they may traverse quickly (5,5)
Epsom Downs (which I would imagine might commonly be referred to informally as simply Epsom) is a Grade 1 racecourse near Epsom, Surrey, England. The "downs" referred to in the name are part of the North Downs. The course is best known for hosting the Epsom Derby, the United Kingdom's premier thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies, over a mile and a half (2400m). It also hosts the Epsom Oaks for three-year-old fillies and the Coronation Cup for all ages over the same distance.
A down (usually appearing in the plural, downs) is a British name for a gently rolling hill. In particular, the Downs are two roughly parallel ranges of chalk hills in southeast England. The North Downs extend about 161 km (100 mi) from west to east; the South Downs, about 105 km (65 mi). Both are sheep-rearing areas.
The definition (which is cryptic) is "they may traverse quickly" referring presumably to the speed with which this solution passes through one's system.
13a Short skirts are archaic, that’s it! (7)
In the UK, it is an informal, dated term for Italian vermouth • he poured a gin and it [a cocktail containing gin and Italian vermouth].
Big Dave comments "I didn’t like this on two counts: a) mini only means short when used in context b) It needs to be capitalised if it is to represent Italian vermouth". However, there may be counterarguments on both points. One of the definitions given by Collins English Dictionary for mini is a prenominal adjective meaning small or miniature. And the entry for "it" at Oxford Online (Oxford Dictionary of English) does not capitalise the word (see above).
14a Knockabout Lee Evans recast with dismissal of a very minor character who catches the eye (5-7)
Lee Evans is an English comedian, writer, actor and musician.
23a Rate rib roast a snack? (7)
Rarebit (also called Welsh rabbit) is a dish of melted and seasoned cheese on toast, sometimes with other ingredients.
24a Rome loudly dismissed as a hotchpotch? (9)
Hotchpotch, the British equivalent to the North American term hodgepodge, can mean either (1) a confused mixture • a hotchpotch of uncoordinated services or (2) a mutton stew with mixed vegetables. The wordplay only twigged once I had read Big Dave's hint. The answer to the clue, POTPOURRI, sounds like popery, a derogatory and chiefly archaic term for the doctrines, practices, and ceremonies associated with the Pope or the papal system (or, in other words, Roman Catholicism) • the Anglicans campaigned against popery.
27a Control attempt by sci-fi writer to incorporate a newchapter (10)
There is clearly a minor typo in the clue as it appears in the National Post, with the final two words having been run together.
1d Finish with title taken by the Spanish (6)
El is a Spanish word meaning 'the'.
2d Nameless transgressor covering up hard evidence of fight (6)
In the past, I have seen criticism of clues such as this, which require the deletion of only one of two identical letters from the fodder. Some would argue that "nameless" should imply the removal of all the Ns from the fodder — just as penniless means having lost all one's pennies, not just a single penny.
3d Turn of card forecast slip-up (14)
I have to admit (despite having worked in the field) that I failed to spot the reversed SIM card. A SIM (also SIM card) is a smart card inside a mobile phone, carrying an identification number unique to the owner, storing personal data, and preventing operation if removed [acronym from subscriber identification module]. SIM cards are mandatory in GSM devices but have traditionally not been used in CDMA devices in North American (although they are used in these devices in Asia).
9d Beatle hero Ringo’s ‘gear’ — swinging! (6,8)
Given that gear is a slang term for the male genitals, I thought this puzzle might possibly be a Ray T creation. I wasn't able to find this meaning in any mainstream dictionary, but it is in the Urban Dictionary online (if one digs deeply enough). It may be a euphemism arising from gear in the sense of personal equipment and accoutrements or belongings.
16d ‘East London Eye’ is epic Emin creation (5,3)
I failed to pick up on the fact that "East London" here signals 'cockney'. A cockney is a native of East London, traditionally one born within hearing of Bow Bells (). Cockney is also the name of the dialect or accent typical of cockneys, which is characterised by the dropping of Hs from the beginning of words and the use of rhyming slang, a type of slang that replaces words with rhyming words or phrases, typically with the rhyming element omitted. For example butcher’s, short for butcher’s hook, means ‘look’ in Cockney rhyming slang. Thus a cockney would refer to an "eye" as 'mince' (from 'mince pie'). Big Dave's complaint with the clue alludes to the fact that the slang term for "eye" would be 'mince' and not 'mince pie'.
While Tracey Emin — an English artist and part of the group known as Britartists or YBAs (Young British Artists) — is famous (or notorious) for many creations, I am not aware that mince pies are among them.
Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent appliquéd with names, exhibited at the Royal Academy in London and My Bed (shown at right), an installation at the Tate Gallery consisting of her own unmade dirty bed with used condoms and blood-stained underwear.
20d Plain sailing primarily with Bolt closing on back-to-back records (6)
This is presumably a reference to Usain Bolt who is a Jamaican sprinter and a five-time World and three-time Olympic gold medalist. He is the world record and Olympic record holder in the 100 metres, the 200 metres and (along with his teammates) the 4×100 metres relay as well as being the reigning Olympic champion in these three events.
22d Something unusual about United with Ferdinand at back (5)
I managed to find the solution without having ever heard of this English athlete. Rio Ferdinand is an English footballer (soccer player) who plays at centre back for Manchester United in the Premier League and for the England national football team. Note that the clue manages to include both his team (United) and his position (back).
Key to Reference Sources:Signing off for today - Falcon
 - The Chambers Dictionary, 11th Edition
 - Search Chambers - (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary)
 - TheFreeDictionary.com (American Heritage Dictionary)
 - TheFreeDictionary.com (Collins English Dictionary)
 - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford Dictionary of English)
 - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford American Dictionary)
 - Wikipedia
 - Reverso Online Dictionary (Collins French-English Dictionary)
 - Infoplease (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
 - CollinsDictionary.com (Collins English Dictionary)