Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 — DT 28281

Puzzle at a Glance
Puzzle Number in The Daily Telegraph
DT 28281
Publication Date in The Daily Telegraph
Friday, November 25, 2016
Giovanni (Don Manley)
Link to Full Review
Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 28281]
Big Dave's Crossword Blog Review Written By
Deep Threat
BD Rating
Difficulty - ★★ Enjoyment - ★★★
Falcon's Experience
- 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
- solved but without fully parsing the clue
- unsolved or incorrect prior to visiting Big Dave's Crossword Blog
- solved with aid of checking letters provided by solutions from Big Dave's Crossword Blog
- reviewed by Falcon for Big Dave's Crossword Blog
- yet to be solved


In my books, this puzzle is above 2-star grade in terms of difficulty, being well into 3-star territory — especially the top half.

I invite you to leave a comment to let us know how you fared with the puzzle.

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.

Primary indications (definitions) are marked with a solid underline in the clue; subsidiary indications (be they wordplay or other) are marked with a dashed underline in all-in-one (&lit.) clues, semi-all-in-one (semi-&lit.) clues and cryptic definitions. Explicit link words and phrases are enclosed in forward slashes (/link/) and implicit links are shown as double forward slashes (//). Definitions presented in blue text are for terms that appear frequently.


1a   Those wanting worn-out horse to move /getting/ tools? (12)

Split the solution (5,7) to get a term that could be described by the wordplay taken as a phrase..

Screw[5] is an informal British term for a worn-out horse.

9a   Checking // a complete treatment (5-4)

Going-over[5] (noun) is an informal term for a thorough cleaning or inspection ⇒ give the place a going-over with the Hoover [vacuum cleaner]*.

* The Hoover Company[7] started out as an American floor care manufacturer based in North Canton, Ohio. It also established a major base in the United Kingdom and for most of the early-and-mid-20th century, it dominated the electric vacuum cleaner industry there, to the point where the "hoover" brand name became synonymous with vacuum cleaners and vacuuming in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

"Checking" being a gerund could also presumably be used as a noun with effectively the same meaning as a going-over. However, that would  violate the convention for a double definition that the two definitions cannot be essentially the same.

"Checking" therefore must be a verb, in which case it would mean 'going over' (with no hyphen). As this numeration does not match that given, to my way of thinking this clue cannot be a double definition — although Deep Threat does show it as such in his review on Big Dave's Crossword Blog.

10a   A maiden given massage back /in/ the old country (5)

"maiden"  = M (show explanation )

In cricket, a maiden[5], also known as a maiden over and denoted on cricket scorecards by the abbreviation m.[10], is an over* in which no runs are scored.

* An over[5] is a division of play consisting of a sequence of six balls bowled by a bowler from one end of the pitch, after which another bowler takes over from the other end.

hide explanation

Burma[5] is the former name (prior to 1989) of the Union of Myanmar, a country in southeast Asia, on the Bay of Bengal; population 48,137,700 (est. 2009); official language, Burmese; capital, Naypyidaw.

11a   One given 12 by a letter? (6)

The numeral "12" is a cross reference indicator directing the solver to insert the solution to clue 12a in its place to complete the clue. The directional indicator is customarily omitted in situations such as this where only a single clue starts in the light* that is being referenced.

* light-coloured cell in the grid

A letter[1] is a person who lets*, especially on hire**. [Among my stable of dictionaries, this definition is found only in The Chambers Dictionary.]

* Let[5] is a chiefly British term meaning to allow someone to have the use of (a room or property) in return for regular payments ⇒ (i) she let the flat [apartment] to a tenant; (ii) they’ve let out their house. [I doubt that this word is quite as British as Oxford Dictionaries would have us believe.[3,11]]
** Hire[5] is a British term meaning:
  • to obtain the temporary use of (something) for an agreed payment ⇒ we flew to San Diego, hired a car, and headed for Las Vegas; or
  • to grant the temporary use of something for an agreed payment ⇒ most train stations hire out cycles.
 This phrase "especially on hire" in the definition for letter would seem to imply that there is some subtle distinction between the terms "let" and "hire"; however, that distinction — whatever it may be — escapes me.

12a   Come down with // an agreement (8)

13a   Swell // girl keeping one waiting? (6)

Di is certainly the leading contender for most popular female name in Crosswordland.

15a   Mite in grass // not moving (8)

Grass[5] is an informal British term meaning:
  • (noun) a police informer; and
  • (verb) to inform the police of someone’s criminal activities or plans ⇒ (i) someone had grassed on the thieves; (ii) she threatened to grass me up.
This expression may derive from rhyming slang (grasshopper being rhyming slang for 'copper'). (show explanation )

Rhyming slang[5] is 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.

hide explanation

Sing[10] is a mainly US slang term meaning to confess or act as an informer.

18a   Old-fashioned member of family // dies (6,2)

19a   Threaten // troublemaker, the limit (6)

21a   A fiend troubled the Church, /showing/ bold opposition (8)

"the church" [not just any church] = CE (show explanation )

The Church of England[10] (abbreviation CE[10]) is the reformed established state Church in England, Catholic in order and basic doctrine, with the Sovereign as its temporal head.

hide explanation

23a   Comprehensive // girl having sort of ball inside (6)

In cricket, a lob[5] is a ball bowled with a slow underarm action or, should tennis be your game, a lob[5] is a ball lobbed over an opponent.

26a   Oxford may be so // reprimanded (5)

Once again, Deep Threat and I find ourselves on opposite sides of the double definition divide. This time we reverse positions; I have marked the clue as a double definition while he has not.

27a   Attempt to capture soldiers joining a guerrilla /in/ perfidious conduct (9)

"soldiers" = RE (show explanation )

The Corps of Royal Engineers[7], usually just called the Royal Engineers (abbreviation RE), and commonly known as the Sappers[7], is a corps of the British Army that provides military engineering and other technical support to the British Armed Forces.

hide explanation

Che Guevara[7] (1928–1967) was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia within popular culture.

28a   Priest sorely disposed /to be/ wooer of those of another faith (12)


1d   Picked out, // quoted for the audience (7)

2d   Niger's corrupt // rule (5)

Niger[5] is a landlocked country in West Africa, on the southern edge of the Sahara; population 15,306,300 (est. 2009): languages, French (official), Hausa, and other West African languages: capital, Niamey. Part of French West Africa from 1922, Niger became an autonomous republic within the French Community in 1958 and fully independent in 1960.

3d   Small vehicle // moving to Newgate (9)

A wagonette[5] (British also waggonette) is a four-wheeled horse-drawn pleasure vehicle, typically open, with facing side seats and one or two seats arranged crosswise in front.

Scratching the Surface
Newgate[5] was a former London prison whose unsanitary conditions became notorious in the 18th century before the building was burnt down in the Gordon Riots of 1780. A new edifice was erected on the same spot but was demolished in 1902 to make way for the Central Criminal Court.

4d   Bishop coming to such a wild party /would be/ courageous (4)

In a rarely-seen construction, the setter manages to position the solution in the middle of the clue.

5d   There's very short opening /for/ it in the bar (8)

It[5] is an informal, dated British term for Italian vermouth ⇒ he poured a gin and it.

6d   Little fellow with old books -- // a performer lacking emotion (5)

In Crosswordland, the word "books" is commonly used to clue either the Old Testament (OT) or the New Testament (NT). Often the clue does not specify whether the reference is to the former or the latter. However, today, Giovanni is very precise.

This is a performer in the most general of senses, not necessarily one found on the stage.

7d   After short time a tree is processed /to make/ paper (8)

8d   Newspaper designation /for/ the rabble (6)

The rabble[5] denotes ordinary people, especially when regarded as socially inferior or uncouth ⇒ the British feel no compunction about ushering the gentry into the coach and packing the rabble off to debtor's prison.

I was not previously aware that ragtag[5] — in addition to being an adjective — could also be a noun meaning a disreputable or disorganized group of people ⇒ the ragtag had been organized into some kind of marching order.

14d   Confused female star // was humiliated (4,4)

16d   Company member within the law -- /but/ not without guilt? (9)

"member" = MP (show explanation )

In Britain (as in Canada), a politician elected to the House of Commons is known as a Member of Parliament[10] (abbreviation MP[5]) or, informally, as a member[5].

hide explanation

17d   Pieces of music /with/ staccato playing (8)

A toccata[5] is a musical composition for a keyboard instrument designed to exhibit the performer’s touch and technique.

18d   Walk by the shore, /as/ theologian looking unwell getting about (6)

"theologian" = DD (show explanation )

Doctor of Divinity[7] (abbreviation D.D. or DD, Divinitatis Doctor in Latin) is an advanced academic degree in divinity.

Historically, the degree of Doctor of Divinity identified one who had been licensed by a university to teach Christian theology or related religious subjects. In the United Kingdom, Doctor of Divinity has traditionally been the highest doctorate granted by universities, usually conferred upon a religious scholar of standing and distinction. In the United States, the Doctor of Divinity is usually awarded as an honorary degree.

hide explanation

This walk is taken on the wet side of the shoreline.

20d   One lingering /in/ place surrounded by animals (7)

22d   Notice the German, // a poisonous type (5)

"the German" = DER (show explanation )

In German, der[8] is one of the several forms that the definite article may assume.

hide explanation

The adder[5] (also called viper) is a small venomous Eurasian snake (Vipera berus) which has a dark zigzag pattern on its back and bears live young. It is the only poisonous snake in Britain.

24d   Consecrate // good queen, having introduced oil finally (5)

Good Queen Bess[10] is a nickname for Queen Elizabeth I.

25d   Hard measure /creates/ uproar (4)

"hard" = H (show explanation )

H[2,5] is an abbreviation for hard, as used in describing grades of pencil lead ⇒ a 2H pencil.

hide explanation

The ell[5] is a former measure of length (equivalent to six hand breadths) used mainly for textiles, locally variable but typically about 45 inches in England and 37 inches in Scotland. [I bet the parsimonious Scottish textile merchants purposely hired clerks with small hands!]

Delving Deeper
No wonder this measure created an uproar. No one could agree on how much cloth it represented!

To begin with, six hand breadths surely cannot equal 45 inches (or even 37 inches). Those would be incredibly large hands.

According to Wikipedia, what came to be known as an ell may actually have derived from a "double ell" which would make the ell equal to twelve hand breadths which is far more reasonable.

In fact, Oxford Dictionaries is the only source that I found which claims that the ell derives from the breadth of the human hand. Other sources attribute the measure to the length of the forearm from elbow to fingertip.

According to Wikipedia, an ell[7] is a unit of measurement, originally a cubit, i.e., approximating the length of a man's arm from the elbow ("elbow" means the bend or bow of the ell or arm) to the tip of the middle finger, or about 18 inches (457 mm); in later usage, any of several longer units. In English-speaking countries, these included (until the 19th century) the Flemish ell (34 of a yard), English ell (54 yard) and French ell (64 yard), some of which are thought to derive from a "double ell".

Several national forms existed, with different lengths, including the Scottish ell (≈37 inches or 94 centimetres), the Flemish ell [el] (≈27 in or 68.6 cm), the French ell [aune] (≈54 in or 137.2 cm) the Polish ell (≈31 in or 78.7 cm), the Danish ell (≈25 in or 63.5 cm), the Swedish aln (2 Swedish fot ≈59 cm) and the German ell [elle] (Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Leipzig: 57,9 cm).
Key to Reference Sources: 

[1]   - The Chambers Dictionary, 11th Edition
[2]   - Search Chambers - (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary)
[3]   - TheFreeDictionary.com (American Heritage Dictionary)
[4]   - TheFreeDictionary.com (Collins English Dictionary)
[5]   - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford Dictionary of English)
[6]   - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford American Dictionary)
[7]   - Wikipedia
[8]   - Reverso Online Dictionary (Collins French-English Dictionary)
[9]   - Infoplease (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
[10] - CollinsDictionary.com (Collins English Dictionary)
[11] - TheFreeDictionary.com (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary)
Signing off for today — Falcon


  1. Managed to complete without assistance, but only by bunging in a couple -- 1a and 11a -- so thank you for explaining the wordplay.

    Perhaps a hand breadth is meant to measure the span of extended fingers and thumb. Mine is about 8 inches and I take a large golf glove.

    1. I suppose your suggestion may be possible, but I would expect it to be described as "hand span" rather than "hand breadth".

      The hand (a unit of measurement of a horse's height) is equal to 4 inches being the breadth of a human hand.

      Perhaps Oxford is wring and the breadth of the hand has nothing at all to do with the ell. I can certainly envision a cloth merchant measuring cloth by grasping the leading edge of the cloth with one hand and measuring to his elbow with his other hand, then transferring the point of the cloth that reached his elbow to his first hand and repeating the process. This seems far more likely than repeatedly laying his hand on the cloth to measure hand breadths.