Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 — DT 28306

Puzzle at a Glance
Puzzle Number in The Daily Telegraph
DT 28306
Publication Date in The Daily Telegraph
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Link to Full Review
Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 28306 – Hints]
Big Dave's Crossword Blog [DT 28306 – Review]
Big Dave's Crossword Blog Review Written By
Big Dave (Hints)
crypticsue (Review)
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
As this was a Saturday "Prize Puzzle" in Britain, there are two entries related to it on Big Dave's Crossword Blog — the first, posted on the date of publication, contains hints for selected clues while the second is a full review issued following the entry deadline for the contest. The vast majority of reader comments will generally be found attached to the "hints" posting with a minimal number — if any — accompanying the full review.


The Christmas theme that has been running through the puzzles for the last several days builds to a crescendo today in this offering which appeared in the UK on Christmas Eve 2016.

In many of the clues, the setter merely throws in a superfluous (from a cryptic perspective) reference to Christmas to link the surface reading of the clue to the theme. In a few cases this adds a somewhat meaningful dimension to the clue, in most cases it neither adds nor detracts from the clue, and in at least one case it seriously detracts from the clue.

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   Father with part in panto perhaps -- /it's/ a promise! (6)

This part could have been in any production for the stage or screen. However, to keep with the theme, the setter casts a panto.

Panto[5] is an informal British short form for pantomime[5], a traditional British theatrical entertainment, mainly for children, which involves music, topical jokes, and slapstick comedy and is based on a fairy tale or nursery story, usually produced around Christmas. 

Historically, parole[5] was a promise or undertaking given by a prisoner of war to return to custody or act as a non-belligerent if released ⇒ (i) I took their paroles of honour; (ii) a good many French officers had been living on parole in Melrose.

4a   Rates ski resorts /as/ 'one star' (8)

As an anagram indicator, "resort" is used in the somewhat whimsical sense of 'to sort again' (i.e., to rearrange).

9a   Game in crackers /is/ a puzzle (6)

As an anagram indicator, crackers[3] in a chiefly British slang sense of insane or mad.

Scratching the Surface
A cracker[5] is a decorated paper cylinder which, when pulled apart, makes a sharp noise and releases a small toy or other novelty [such as a game or puzzle] ⇒ a Christmas cracker.

We saw these only yesterday. If you missed the discussion of Christmas crackers contained in the review of yesterday's puzzle (or would like to revisit it) click here.

10a   Moans about fool/'s/ revels (8)

Wassail[5] (noun) is an archaic term denoting lively and noisy festivities involving the drinking of plentiful amounts of alcohol; in other words, revelry ⇒ I arrived in Eastcheap, that ancient region of wit and wassail.

Wassail[5] (verb) is an archaic term meaning to drink plentiful amounts of alcohol and enjoy oneself with others in a noisy, lively way ⇒ he feasted and wassailed with his warriors.

12a   Takes down what is on the Christmas menu (4)

This is another clue in which the setter has introduced a superfluous flourish to make it fit the Yuletide theme. The clue would work with any menu — or even no menu at all. However, the addition does not detract from the clue.

I suppose one might conceivably consider this to be a double definition, with the first being a verb and the second a noun.
  • Takes down // what is on the Christmas menu (4)
13a   Paper decoration // coming from China (5)

Paper chains might be used to decorate a Christmas tree, mantelpiece, etc.

14a   Ice in the drink (4)

I thought I should put a BERG in the drink which, of course, was not at all helpful to the cause. Fortunately, the ice hanging at 7d set me straight.

17a   Waits to do it! (5-7)

Waits[5] is an archaic term* for street singers of Christmas carols.

* Historically (which presumably denotes more outdated than archaic), waits[5] were official bands of musicians maintained by a city or town.

Delving Deeper
From medieval times up to the early 19th century, every British town and city of any note had a band of waites (modern spelling waits[7]). Their duties varied from time to time and place to place, but included playing their instruments through the town at night, waking the townsfolk on dark winter mornings by playing under their windows, welcoming Royal visitors by playing at the town gates, and leading the Mayor's procession on civic occasions.

Town waits or city waits were in former times in England and Scotland the watchmen who patrolled during the night, using a musical instrument to show they were on duty and to mark the hours. This simple task later developed as the waits added more instruments and became more proficient at playing them. These musical bands were often attired in colourful liveries and in some cases wore silver chains. They added dignity to ceremonial occasions.

As a result of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, waits were abolished, though their name lingered on as Christmas waits, who could be any group of singers or musicians who formed a band in order to sing and play carols for money around their town or village at night over the Christmas period. It is these largely amateur musicians who have today become associated with the name 'waits', rather than the historical civic officers and accomplished musicians who represented the original waits.

20a   Gift /of/ new tunic to Robin (12)

23a   Forget start of carol, being confused, /it's/ not written down (4)

24a   Prepares gifts, say, /and/ lots of cards (5)

The first definition is what Santa does before heading out on his Christmas journey.

25a   Small present // that may arrive around Christmas time (4)

... or that arrived overnight in copious amounts!

28a   Steadily // as Christmas guests might once have travelled (2,6)

Although the modifier "Christmas" has been inserted in order to link to the theme, it does seem to work well in this clue as it evokes images on Christmas cards (albeit rather dated ones as crypticsue alludes in her review) showing people travelling by stage coach.

I have marked the latter part of the clue as a second definition (although crypticsue has chosen not to do so in her review). It seems to me that the structure of this part of the clue differs little from the definition in 25a (where there is but one definition).

29a   Commercial song // that one often hears with bells (6)

Is the latter part of the clue a second definition? In her review, crypticsue did not indicate it as such. However, I concluded that it is a cryptic way of expressing "a sound often made by bells".

30a   Part of year that includes the present time (8)

Here we have a cryptic definition consisting of a broad definition (solid underline) combined with cryptic elaboration (dashed underline).

31a   Spirit of Noel follows this? (6)

Blithe Spirit[7] is a comic play by English playwright Noël Coward (1899–1973). The play concerns the socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who invites the eccentric medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book. The scheme backfires when he is haunted by the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife, Elvira, after the séance. Elvira makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles's marriage to his second wife, Ruth, who cannot see or hear the ghost.


1d   Bearing // gifts, we hear (8)

2d   Resort is being rebuilt /in/ 10 across (8)

The numeral 10 combined with the directional indicator "across" is a cross reference indicator directing the solver to insert the solution to clue 10a 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. However, the setter of today's puzzle has chosen to include it even though it is not strictly needed.

* light-coloured cell in the grid

Roister[5] means to enjoy oneself or celebrate in a noisy or boisterous way ⇒ workers from the refinery roistered in the bars.

3d   A dollop // of plum pudding! (4)

Scratching the Surface
Plum pudding[5] is a rich boiled suet pudding containing raisins*, currants, and spices.

* The dish is so named because the pudding was originally made with plums, the word plum being retained later to denote ‘raisin’, which became a substituted ingredient.

We last sampled this dessert as recently as Monday. If you missed the discussion of plum pudding contained in the review of Monday's puzzle (or would like to revisit it) click here.

5d   Figures are cut on them by blades a foot long (7,5)

6d   Point the way the Wise Men came from (4)

I would think that we must classify the latter part of this clue as cryptic elaboration forming part of a cryptic definition. In my view, the clue cannot be a double definition, as the two definitions would lead to a result with the exact same meaning.

What did she say?
In her review on Big Dave's Crossword Blog, crypticsue describes the solution as The compass point indicating the direction of travel undertaken by the Three Wise Men.
Sue, the Three Wise Men came from the East, so they were actually travelling west!

7d   It's suspended when it is very cold at Christmas (6)

The phrase "at Christmas" is a superfluous flourish added to provide a link to the theme.

8d   Touching displays of affection under the mistletoe? (6)

The portion of the clue with the solid underline would be sufficient; the remainder is included merely to link the clue to the Christmas theme and — in my opinion — rather spoils the clue by giving away the answer.

11d   Revises match arranged /for/ today (9,3)

Check the "Puzzle at a Glance" box above to see when this puzzle was published in the UK.

15d   Distribute // the whole first part of the Bible (5)

16d   Article being cut out of yearbook /creates/ void (5)

18d   Time for a mass celebration? (8)

19d   Start off Happy New Year in fancy dress -- // no special venue (8)

A harbinger perhaps of what to expect in puzzles next week!

21d   Pessimistic // doctor cooked bird (6)

"doctor" = MO (show explanation )

A medical officer[5] (abbreviation MO[5]) is a doctor in charge of the health services of a civilian or military authority or other organization.

hide explanation

22d   Pub's bill /for/ wine (6)

Barsac[5] is a sweet white wine from the district of Barsac, a department of the Gironde in France.

26d   Tree // that's inspected by a fortune-teller (4)

27d   She joins Jack climbing nursery slopes (4)

"Jack and Jill"[7] (sometimes "Jack and Gill", particularly in earlier versions) is a traditional English nursery rhyme. The rhyme dates back at least to the 18th century and exists with different numbers of verses each with a number of variations.

Delving Deeper
Several theories have been advanced to suggest meanings for the lyrics to "Jack and Jill". One is that the rhyme records the attempt by King Charles I to reform the taxes on liquid measures. He was blocked by Parliament, so subsequently ordered that the volume of a Jack (1/2 pint) be reduced, but the tax remained the same. This meant that he still received more tax, despite Parliament's veto. Hence "Jack fell down and broke his crown" (many pint glasses in the UK still have a line marking the 1/2 pint level with a crown above it) "and Jill came tumbling after". The reference to "Jill" (actually a "gill", or 1/4 pint) is said to reflect that the gill dropped in volume as a consequence.
Key to Reference Sources: 

[1]   - The Chambers Dictionary, 11th Edition
[2]   - Search Chambers - (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary)
[3]   - (American Heritage Dictionary)
[4]   - (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] - (Collins English Dictionary)
[11] - (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary)
[12] - (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
Signing off for today — Falcon

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