Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 — DT 28305

Puzzle at a Glance
Puzzle Number in The Daily Telegraph
DT 28305
Publication Date in The Daily Telegraph
Friday, December 23, 2016
Giovanni (Don Manley)
Link to Full Review
Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 28305]
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


This certainly must be the easiest Giovanni puzzle that I have ever encountered.

The Christmas theme continues today. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings — will we get the Christmas Eve puzzle?

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.


7a   Described // ancient British resident in heroic exploit? (8)

A Pict[5] is a member of an ancient people inhabiting northern Scotland in Roman times.

9a   Number // classically in exile (6)

This is one of the most clever hidden word clues that I have ever come across. The number ELEVEN is hidden in eXIle in the form of a Roman numeral (classically).

Having correctly deduced the solution solely from the checking letters, my initial approach to explain the wordplay was to look for a Symphony No. 11 entitled Exile. The closest I could come was Symphony No. 1, Op. 17, Exile[7], the first symphony by American composer Alan Hovhaness.

10a   Celebrity // that looked down on humble birthplace (4)

Matthew 2:1-2
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
11a   Blasted to Saturn as // space travellers (10)

12a   Mother in big building /is/ one serving drinks (6)

14a   Silly // things on the festive table (8)

Crackers[5] is an informal British term meaning:
  • insane ⇒ if Luke wasn’t here I’d go crackers; or
  • extremely angry ⇒ when he saw the mess he went crackers.
A cracker[5] is a decorated paper cylinder which, when pulled apart, makes a sharp noise and releases a small toy or other novelty ⇒ a Christmas cracker.

Delving Deeper
Christmas crackers[7]—also known as bon-bons—are part of Christmas celebrations primarily in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper with a prize in the central chamber, making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper [candy wrapper]. The cracker is pulled by two people, which causes the cracker to split unevenly, with one person holding the centre chamber of the cracker where the prizes are contained. The split is accompanied by a mild bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a shock-sensitive, chemically impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun).

Crackers are customarily pulled at the Christmas dinner table or at parties. Typically the contents of a cracker are a coloured paper hat; a small toy, small plastic model or other trinket and a motto, a joke, a riddle or piece of trivia on a small strip of paper.

15a   Like Scrooge, // liable to cause pain (6)

Ebenezer Scrooge[7] is the focal character of Charles Dickens' 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the book, Scrooge is a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas.

I thought the second definition may have been the whimsical invention of the setter, but I discover that it does appear in some of my British dictionaries, though in none of my American dictionaries.

Stingy[10] is an informal term [possibly British] meaning stinging or capable of stinging.

17a   African // finishing at end of month repeatedly (6)

A Berber[5] is a member of the indigenous people of North Africa, among whom are the nomadic Tuareg.

20a   This writer's going round church with holy // Christmas fare (5,3)

"this writer's" = MINE (show explanation )

It is a common cryptic crossword convention for the creator of the puzzle to use terms such as (the or this) compiler, (the or this) setter, (this) author, (this) writer, or this person to refer to himself or herself. To solve such a clue, one must generally substitute a first person pronoun (I or me) for whichever of these terms has been used in the clue.

Today, the setter has made the scenario slightly more complicated by making "this writer" possessive producing "this writer's" which must be replaced by "MINE".

hide explanation

"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

Pi[5] is an informal British short form for pious.

Mince pie[5] is a British term for a small round pie or tart containing sweet mincemeat, typically eaten at Christmas. My initial reaction on seeing this definition was that it is hardly British, but on further reflection I came to the realization that I would call this delicacy a mincemeat tart.

22a   Brussels sprouts? // Good and never sent back by son! (6)

"good" = G (show explanation )

The abbreviation G[10] for good likely relates to its use in grading school assignments or tests.

hide explanation

23a   It may be strange to us, a Latin // greeting (10)

24a   Location /with/ pull, attracting any number (4)

The letter n[10] is used (especially in mathematics) as a symbol to represent an indefinite number (of) ⇒ there are n objects in a box.

My initial — and incorrect — attempt to parse the wordplay in this clue led me to TUG (pull) containing (attracting) N (any number) giving me TU(N)G. A bit of research revealed that Tung[7] is the name of a village in Cambodia and a couple of villages in India which I concluded was pretty obscure — even by Giovanni's standards.

25a   Trouble // ends in Christmas boozers being overwhelmed by hard drink (6)

"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

26a   Fellows serving lord, // chaps in Belgian location? (8)

The city of Liège[5] is the capital of the province of Liège in eastern Belgium. Formerly ruled by independent prince-bishops, the province became a part of the Netherlands in 1815 and of Belgium in 1830.

Historically, a liegeman[5] was a vassal who owed feudal service or allegiance to a nobleman.


1d   Plants // Scotsman placed in lavatory (8)

Ian[7] (also Iain) is a name of Scottish Gaelic origin, corresponding to English/Hebrew John. It is a common name for a Scotsman — and especially so in Crosswordland.

The gents[5] is an informal British term for a men's public toilet. 

A gentian[5] is any of several species of plant found in temperate and mountainous regions, which typically has violet or vivid blue trumpet-shaped flowers. Many kinds are cultivated as ornamentals, especially as arctic alpines, and some are of medicinal use.

2d   Row /in/ Roman river, avoiding its middle (4)

The Tiber[5] is a river of central Italy, upon which Rome stands. It rises in the Tuscan Apennines and flows 405 km (252 miles) generally south-westwards, entering the Tyrrhenian Sea at Ostia.

3d   Student's beginning school /creates/ emotional tension (6)

4d   Month men put away // ornament (8)

"men" = OR (show explanation )

In the British armed forces, the term other ranks[5] (abbreviation OR[5]) refers to all those who are not commissioned officers.

hide explanation

As the definition, "ornament" is a verb.

5d   A rebel converted having absorbed gospel? // Extraordinary (10)

Mark[5] is the second Gospel in the Bible.

6d   Exhibition centre with sailor /providing/ sweet drink (6)

The National Exhibition Centre[7] (NEC) is an exhibition centre located in Birmingham, England. It has 20 interconnected halls, set in grounds of 611 acres (2.54 km2) making it the largest exhibition centre in the UK. It is the busiest and seventh-largest exhibition centre in Europe.

"sailor" = TAR (show explanation )

Tar[5] is an informal, dated nickname for a sailor. The term came into use in the mid 17th century and is perhaps an abbreviation of tarpaulin, also used as a nickname for a sailor at that time.

hide explanation

8d   Take away // the cad getting drunk (6)

Scratching the Surface
Cad[3,4,5,10,11] is a dated informal (British*) term for a man who behaves dishonourably, especially towards a woman her adulterous cad of a husband.

* Among my regular stable of dictionaries, only Collins English Dictionary characterizes this term as British.

13d   A consumer, I munched // turkey at Christmas? (4,6)

16d   Close gap when running // to achieve personal success (2,6)

18d   Possibly wonder about one exuding love /becoming/ famous (8)

"love" = O (show explanation )

In tennis, squash, and some other sports, love[5] is a score of zero or nil ⇒ love fifteen. The resemblance of a zero written as a numeral (0) to the letter O leads to the cryptic crossword convention of the word "love" being used to clue this letter.

Although folk etymology has connected the word with French l'oeuf 'egg', from the resemblance in shape between an egg and a zero, the term apparently comes from the phrase play for love (i.e. the love of the game, not for money).

hide explanation

19d   Servant // upset home interrupting dinner maybe (6)

Menial[5] (noun) is a dated term for a domestic servant.

21d   Book // is excellent, that's surprising (6)

"excellent" = AI (show explanation )

A1[4][5] or A-one[3] meaning first class or excellent comes from a classification for ships in The Lloyd's Register of Shipping where it means equipped to the highest standard or first-class.

Of course, one must complete the decryption by replacing the Arabic number "1" with a Roman numeral "I".

hide explanation

Ah[5] is an exclamation used to express a range of emotions including surprise, pleasure, sympathy, and realization ⇒ ah, there you are!.

Isaiah[5] is a book of the Bible containing the prophecies of Isaiah (and, it is generally thought, those of at least one later prophet).{Main text* }

* Isaiah[5] was a major Hebrew prophet of Judah in the 8th century BC, who taught the supremacy of the God of Israel and emphasized the moral demands on worshippers.

22d   Look -- // is this a seasonal bird? (6)

I debated over how to mark the second definition. In his review on Big Dave's Crossword Blog, Deep Threat shows it as merely "a seasonal bird". After some deliberation, I have decided to go with "is this a seasonal bird?" reasoning that this is a rhetorical way of denoting "what may be a seasonal bird for some people".

24d   Something that could now be decorated // in street (4)

For me, this proved to be a case of "hiding in plain sight". I can't believe how long it took me to notice this bit of arboreal ornamentation.
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)
[12] - CollinsDictionary.com (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
Signing off for today — Falcon

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