DT 27986

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 27986

Hints and tips by 2Kiwis

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *** – Enjoyment ****


New Zealand’s native flax plants grow very well and abundantly in the area where we live. At this time of the year they put forth spectacular flower shoots that grow to a height of 3 metres or more. As well as delighting us they also supply a great pre-Christmas feast for lots of nectar-eating birds.
We have just arrived back from a few days in Wellington in time to tackle this delightful as ever Jay puzzle.

Please leave a comment telling us your thoughts.


1a     Put up with appearance (11)
COUNTENANCE : Double definition. The first a verb, the second a noun.

9a     Device requiring a trade-off to include parking (7)
ADAPTER : An anagram (off) of A TRADE with P(arking) included in the mix.

10a     Outrages and risks being ignored by leader (6)
ANGERS : Take a word meaning risks or threatens and remove its first letter.

12a     Good, if backed in money, for a shark (7)
DOGFISH : An informal four letter word for money contains G(ood) and a reversal of IF.

13a     Universal rate applied to most of journey is a notable achievement (7)
TRIUMPH : The abbreviation for universal and the rate of travel used by those countries which have not yet changed to metric, follow a synonym for a journey minus its last letter.

14a     Score 100, retiring before church (5)
NOTCH : An informal word for one hundred is reversed and then the abbreviation for a church.

15a     Two rings interrupting wielding of hatchet is cause of pain (9)
TOOTHACHE : An anagram (wielding) of HATCHET contains two ring-shaped letters.

17a     Go-getters — you may be shocked by their charges (4,5)
LIVE-WIRES : In a literal rather than a metaphorical sense an electric charge will be present.

20a     Time invested in patient perhaps showing social status (5)
CASTE : Another word for what a patient may be to a medical practitioner, contains (T)ime.

22a     Considering victory grand after struggle (7)
VIEWING : A three letter word meaning to struggle, then another three letter word meaning a victory, and the abbreviation for grand.

24a     Pose a threat to force covering raid, oddly (7)
IMPERIL : Take a word meaning to force or drive forward and include in it the first and third letters of raid.

25a     Person who criticises Queen chasing bargain (6)
SNIPER : Another word for a bargain or cheapie precedes Her Majesty.

26a     Endeavour shown by office worker in a series of races (7)
ATTEMPT : An office worker employed on a casual basis splits A from the clue and a series of races as held on the Isle of Man.

27a     Bits of NHS see merit in reorganisation (11)
SMITHEREENS : An anagram (in reorganisation) of NHS SEE MERIT.


2d     African egg producer‘s a person unable to face reality (7)
OSTRICH : A double definition, the second is a metaphorical use of the word based on a somewhat apocryphal behaviour habit of the bird.

3d     Leading light bowling short in new pitch (5,4)
NORTH STAR : An anagram (bowling) of SHORT is inside N(ew) and another word for sticky black pitch.

4d     Praise retired officer covering area (5)
EXALT : The retired officer used to be a lieutenant, and the abbreviation for area appears in the middle of the answer.

5d     Distress pine, stripping top (7)
ANGUISH : Find a synonym for pine or waste away and remove its first letter.

6d     Energy lost in production of ice cream material (7)
CERAMIC : An anagram (in production) of ICE CReAM after one of the abbreviations for energy has been removed.

7d     Giving nothing with collusion (4,2,5)
HAND IN GLOVE : A word meaning giving or passing over and then nothing as the possible score of a tennis player.

8d     Aim to put coating of grease into pastry (6)
TARGET : A pastry or open topped pie contains the first and last letters (coating) of grease.

11d     Material produced by Lancashire clergy? (11)
CHEESECLOTH : Lancashire here is a type of dairy produce and is followed by a collective term for the clergy.

16d     Pig-headed old boy at home in Texas perhaps (9)
OBSTINATE : The abbreviation for old boy, then a word for what Texas is an example of contains a word meaning at home.

18d     Country doctor must welcome one servant back (7)
VIETNAM : An animal doctor includes the Roman numeral one, and is followed by the reversal of a male personal attendant.

19d     Cat with favourite dog (7)
WHIPPET : This cat is often many-tailed and then a synonym for favourite.

20d     Does better with bronze winch (7)
CAPSTAN : A word meaning does better than, and then bronze as a colour.

21d     Head of religion involved in fiddles does a runner (6)
SCRAMS : A word for fiddles performed by a con-man includes the first letter of religion.

23d     Defile former king getting rid of fourth in line once (5)
GORGE : The ruler who preceded ER has the fourth letter of line removed from his name the first time it occurs.

22a was our last in. Having a V already there as a checking letter, we assumed this was the ‘victory’ of the wordplay until the penny dropped. Our favourite today.

Here is a pic of a flax plant in flower as we were sure someone would ask.

Quickie pun      mull  +  timid  +  hear  =  multimedia


  1. Miffypops
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the quickie pun. My sanity has been restored. A nice workaday puzzle from Jay today. A juicy anagram at 27ac and a lovely use of two rings with a hatchet job at 15ac. Thanks for the flax picture. You are correct, I would have asked and so would others. Thanks for the review and thanks to Jay for the puzzle. One question today. Is it still snow or are we scattering ashes? They do appear to be the same.

    • Bluebird
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Yes, well I put ” muse” for 1a in the quickie, so I had no chance………

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        We started off with ‘muse’ too but abandoned it when 2d would not work with E as first letter.

    • Kitty
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      15a is different in the masochist’s edition:
      Two rings interrupting hatchet work is cause of pain.

      I wasn’t sure about work as an anagram indicator but figured it usually messes up everything.

  2. Bluebird
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I thought this was pretty straightforward, but I had no knowledge of that meaning of defile (stopped geography at 14) and thought capstan was that mushroom shaped thing cemented to the dock that you tie boats to with ropes………http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/icon_redface.gif considering I have a lot of naval relatives, this is bad.
    What is that thing called? And do I remember seeing it on my father’s fag packets?

    • Michael
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink


      • Bluebird
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        How rude!

        • Kitty
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          You’ve been given a load of bollards now, Bluebird, so I guess that answers your question :) .

          • Bluebird
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

            Yes, Kitty, we only need a dog now and everything will be fabulous!

    • Bob H
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Possibly a bollard

    • Spook
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Definitely a bollard and the fag packet would probably be Capstan Full Strength.

      • Bluebird
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        Oh yes, I knew that was the brand, but what was in the picture – bollard or capstan? I shall have to go and look, now….

  3. Michael
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Very enjoyable but quite tricky – I didn’t know the alternative meaning for ‘defile’ for 23d, my BRB app helped me out there.

    I also couldn’t work out the Quickie Pun, in fact I probably wouldn’t have got it in a month of Sundays – so thanks for that!


  4. Bob H
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Could not get one across even with the hints and all the checking letters. Not a word I have ever used. It actually sounds a bit like something an old fashioned headmaster would use when telling boys off for not wearing caps. Fav 19 d
    Otherwise 3/3* for me. Oh to be in 2kiwi land right now. Dull and dammp in Gloucester.

    • 2Kiwis
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Sorry about the hint for 1a. We did think it was a bit vague but could not come up with anything clearer at the time.

      • Miffypops
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        A clip of William Blake’s Jerusalem being sung?

  5. Rabbit Dave
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    3*/4*. Another fine crossword from Jay, which was nicely challenging and great fun. 11d was my last one in and favourite.

    Many thanks to Jay and the 2Ks.

  6. Spook
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Great crossword from Jay SW caused a bit of a delay, but ***\*** for me favourite clue must be 15a.
    Many thanks to the 2Kiwis.

  7. dutch
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Many thanks 2Kiwis, nice to see the flax pic.

    Plenty to like today – I liked the 3 long ones (not 1a!), 7d (giving nothing with collusion), 11d (material) & especially 27a (bits of NHS) with its great surface and cute answer.

    I also liked 13a (universal rate), 22a (considering victory grand), 3d (leading light bowling..), but my favourite is the quirky 19d (cat with favourite dog)

    I wasted time trying to think of a 4-letter officer to reverse (4d) and had bunged in “high” in 17a for no good reason which had me puzzling over the country (18d) for a bit.

    Liked 15a but wasn’t sure “cause of” was accurate.

    Many thanks Jay

  8. pete
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Really enjoyable challenge. I have never heard of the alternative meaning for defile before either,learn something new everyday.

  9. Kitty
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Mostly the usual good Jay fun. I’m not sure the cryptic grammar quite works for me in 10a and I think I had another hmm which I’ve now forgotten. No matter.

    I found West and East quite different today, making steady progress in the direction of the setting sun, but struggling more towards sunrise. I don’t think that was because the task in hand was harder, more that I’d become tired.

    In the end I availed myself of three hints, having lost the will to carry on, so extra special thanks to the 2Ks today. Thanks to Jay also.

    • Kitty
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      I’ve just realised that my 10a is also different. I was given:

      Sees red due to risks being ignored by leader

    • Kitty
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Seems the poor suckers who solve on tablets may have been issued the draft version by the DT. The full list of differences:

      10a Sees red due to risks being ignored by leader

      14a Score 100 – back before church

      15a Two rings interrupting hatchet work is cause of pain

      17a People who may be shocked by their charges

      22a Considering victory good after struggle

      27a Bits of NHS see merit in ruins

      7d Giving nothing in collusion

      20d Does better, getting bronze winch

      23d Defile former king getting rid of fourth in line

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for all those Kitty. There are so many that we don’t think we will bother adding them all to the blog, but it is good that you have put the list here for people to refer to.

  10. Jane
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Another good one from Jay, 4* for enjoyment.
    Just pushed over the 2* time as I fell into the same ‘V’ trap as 2Ks at 22a and wasn’t familiar with the meaning of ‘defile’ as used in 23d.
    I would imagine that 15a raised a rueful smile from poor Spindrift!
    Best for me were 11&20d.

    Thanks to Jay and also to 2Ks for an excellent review. I had looked up a pic. of the flax after reading your intro. but must have found one taken later in the year as it had much denser flower heads. It was referred to as a Cabbage Plant – I assume it’s the same variety?

    • 2Kiwis
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      We think you might have come across our Cabbage Tree, (Cordyline australis). They also grow in our area. We have half a dozen or so of these too on our property. They are vaguely related to the flax in that they are both technically grasses but the cabbage tree has a trunk, much like a palm, which the flax does not have and their flowers are quite different.

  11. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Great crossword from Jay today.
    Lots to like.
    The Lancashire clergy and the African egg producer made me laugh.
    Liked the surface in 7d ( giving nothing) and 27a ( bits of NHS).
    The only downside was the three clues with truncated words were all jammed in the NE.
    The toughie is fun too. From Sparks I believe. Early solvers should have a go.
    Thanks to Jay and to 2ks for the review.

    • Hanni
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Yey Sparks! I love Sparks. Double fun for me today.

    • Kitty
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Like your avatar I do.

  12. Hanni
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:11 pm | Permalink


    Lovely as always from Jay. No real hold ups. Quick check that 20d was what I thought it was…it was. My pencil dispatched 27a into a beautiful little letter circle….although in hindsight that was quite an easy anagram and therefore maybe I didn’t need to. Who knows?

    No favourite clue but a general feeling of satisfaction throughout after a busy morning of riding out twice. God the thrill of a TB! Nothing else matches them.

    Quick meeting and off to see child type things ‘play’.

    Many thanks to Jay and to the 2Kiwis for a beautifully written and illustrated blog.

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Hi hanni,
      Totally agree with you.
      I’m a thorough bred too.
      I can show you my pedigree http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_yes.gif

      • Kitty
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        I think Jane may be right about you, JL!

        • jean-luc cheval
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          Well !
          What do you expect?
          If someone hands me a perch, I certainly will take it.

          • Jane
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Permalink


      • Hanni
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        To quote MP…Golly bongs!

    • Kitty
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Hi Hanni. I can’t wait to hear all about the play :) .

      • Jane
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Me too. I wonder whether Mary and Joseph will manage to remain civil to one another for the entire performance?!!
        Either way, I hope the narrator is on fine form. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_good.gif

    • Miffypops
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Miffypops knows. 27ac definitely did not need a pencil of any colour or size. No circles needed to be written out. Nor even for 3D, 6d or 15ac. All doable in your head.

      • Hanni
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        You’d be amazed at the anagrams I haven’t got today MP! Right must get going.

      • Merusa
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        Wrong! I needed to write all of them out today, does that mean I’m stooopid?

        • Miffypops
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

          Of course not. You are lovely Merusa

  13. Heno
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Jay and to the 2 Kiwis for the review and hints. A very enjoyable puzzle from Jay as usual. No major holdups. Some really good clues. Favourite was 12a,made me laugh. Last in was 23d. I think that some of the setters have been listening to Ian Dury. Today we had smithereens and not long ago smidgen the :-) So Was 2*/3* for me.

  14. spindrift
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    on yesterday’s blog i complained of 15a & heeded Jane’s advice to go to the dentist. I’ve been & now I’m one tooth less & £80 out of pocket!

    • Jane
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Well done, you! At least you can now enjoy a merrier Christmas. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_good.gif

    • Miffypops
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Only £80? Bargain. My dentist charges that just for walking through the door

      • Jane
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        Maybe you should go to see him instead of expecting him to make house calls?

      • spindrift
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        if i’d known i was going to be £80 I’d have reverted to the string attached to the kitchen doorknob like they did in the comics of my youth.

        And yes MP I am a tight Yorkshire Git – £80 could have bought me a 2 week holiday in Skeggy when I were a lad.

  15. Beaver
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Going for a **/*** today, as usual one * behind the 2K’S.I too thought that a capstan was the ‘mushroom shaped piece of solid metal that boats were tied to at docks, but on checking the said object on the front of a packet of Capstan-full or medium strength, it shows rope/chain looped around the ‘mushroom,as for a winch.
    Anyway, plenty of sparky clues today, liked the surface read of 3d, and 11d brought a titter-good replacement for Feta in a greek salad if you can’t find the real thing ,Thanks to the 2K’s for the blog and pics, I ‘m sure there are a couple of flax plants in a decorative border arrangement on Beaumaris front just before the pier.

    • Jane
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Thought they looked familiar, Beaver. I’ll check them out when I’m in ‘town’ tomorrow!

  16. omar
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Good and enjoyable for me – 1a was last in, 11d my favourite! ***/****

  17. Paso Doble
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Good crossword from Jay today, so thanks to him and thanks to them (The 2 Antipodeans of course)…We agree with the ***/**** assessment.

  18. Brian
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyable but quite tough. 21a and 26d both defeated me so had to resort to the excellent hints.
    Have arranged to play golf tomorrow morning just in case it’s a Ray T.

    • Jane
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Don’t worry if rain stops play tomorrow, Brian – it isn’t a Mr. T day.
      By the way, I think you must have your a’s and d’s confused!

  19. Jaylegs
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Nice puzzle **/*** ? Last in 5d Favourite 27a ? Pet hate at the moment ” predictive texting” especially when it is not selected, but thinks it knows best anyway ? Thanks to the 2x Ks and to Jay

  20. Vancouverbc
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    ***/***. Two sittings required to crack this and needed lots of electronic help – defile, who’d of known? The SE corner gave me most trouble and until the 2Ks hint for 20d it wasn’t going to happen. Thanks to them and the setter for a tricky workout.

  21. Shropshirelad
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Pretty much standard Wednesday fare from Jay – enjoyable and good fun. I’ll agree with our antipodean bloggers and go for 22a as my favourite.

    Thanks to Jay for the puzzle and the 2K’s for their review.

  22. Venator
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    What a superbly balanced teaser today.
    The compiler demonstrates that there is no need to be fancy, or an egoist, to test, amuse, & finally satisfy his audience, whatever their level of crossword solving competence.
    Well done & thank you.

  23. Merusa
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I loved this, so many good clues. Loved 11d, 12a, 7d … forget it, can’t list them all. There is no way I can choose a fave.
    I had to look up “defile” in the thesaurus, never knew that.
    Thanks, Jay, for a super puzzle. Yes, 2Kiwis, I was all set to google the flax plant! Thanks for a great review.

    • Merusa
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      P.S. Is there anything I can do to have this remember my name and email? Or do I just have to continue writing it in every time?

      • Angel
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        As I have said several times, I am frustrated by the same problem. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_wacko.gif

  24. silvanus
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I found this slightly easier than either of the previous offerings this week, and everything went in fairly smoothly.

    Difficult to choose a favourite as nothing really stood out, but I’ll just edge towards 11d.

    Many thanks to Mr. Mutch and to the 2Kiwis.

  25. Young Salopian
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t realise that the tablet version was different until I read Kitty’s comments above. I don’t think it spoiled the puzzle, and it was quite solvable in the electronic form. I thought this was a very well-balanced backpager from Jay, as is fast becoming the norm. Many thanks to him and 2 Ks for their excellent blog. 2*/3* from me today. I too thought 22 across was the pick of some very good clues.

    • pommers
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      Back in the day when I was the regular Wednesday blogger (2011/12) Jay was often referred to as “The Wednesday Wizard” so I suspect that “fast becoming the norm” isn’t really doing him justice. I reckon he’s one of the top three DT setters and this was certainly one of his best efforts. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_good.gif

      • Young Salopian
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        That comment was certainly not meant as an insult, quite the reverse. I’m sure every setter goes through peaks and troughs. I was inferring that Jay has been setting a high standard for some time, but I take your point which is well made.

        • pommers
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

          Didn’t think you were being even slightly insulting. Just thought you might not know how long Jay has been around and revered..

          BTW, top DT setters for me are Jay, RayT and Petitjean, in whatever order you care for but top of the Telegraph stable is the Sunday Supremo, Virgilius

        • Shropshirelad
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          Yep, one of my favourites as well. He is a very clever setter as he always has just the right balance in his puzzles to encourage people cutting their teeth on cryptic to stretch that little bit further.

          Nice to see old Slowpoke back pommers

          • pommers
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

            Told you the mouse was just having a holiday. In case you didn’t know, Jeremy Mutch also sets for the FT occasionally as ORENSE.

            • Shropshirelad
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

              Thanks pommers – I’ve tried some of his puzzles but I don’t get on his ‘wavelength’ very often in that guise. So I do find them a challenge.

              Perhaps when you ‘do’ a particular setter’s puzzles on a regular basis – you get that ‘wavelength’ moment. Having said that, I’m always challenged by any setter in any publication http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_smile.gif

      • Kath
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        I agree – Jay is brilliant. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_good.gif

  26. Una
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    A nice Wednesday challenge .Not too easy and not too hard.

    The Flax shown by the Kiwis also grows on a strip of reclaimed land stretching into Dublin Bay , where one can walk the dog without a lead for a mile or so, about twenty minutes from where I live..The views are fantastic at any time of year.

    With thanks to Jay and the Kiwis.

  27. 2Kiwis
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Good morning everyone. Nice to see you all (or most of you anyway) have been behaving yourselves while we have been asleep. Enjoy what is left of your Wednesday while we get on with out Thursday.

  28. Sheffieldsy
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed this. Favourite by a mile was 7d. Like Vancouverbc this needed two sittings, the second on the bus to town to celebrate
    Mrs Sheffieldsy’s birthday (21 again, since you ask). 3/3 for us. Thanks to the Two Kiwis and Jay.

  29. Hanni
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    STRAW AND ORDER…A modern Nativity play.

    Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even…the cast of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

    We open in a court of law where the High Court Donkey judge, wearing a tie, is presiding over ‘The case of the Mad Cows’. The accused are lead into the dock (wearing overly realistic udders), mooing loudly as the sheep jeer them from the gallery. The charges are read out..10 counts of ‘Providing unsatisfactory milk to the sheep’. All at once the cows up-rise and charge at the judge, annoyed by this the sheep leap from the gallery and fight with the cows. Spilling into the dark streets of Bethlehem they nearly knock into a passing motorbike carrying and an aviator wearing Joseph and his pregnant wife.

    Feeling sorry for the couple, the cows decide to help them and they go around town trying to get a room as there is no NHS. Sadly there are no rooms, not even at the highly rated on Tripadvisor Premier Inn. A kindly farmer who had been drinking offers them his stable, with free WiFi.

    At this point, the Virgin Mary who has been glowering at husband, is heard to to say, “Yeah well your dad’s a bl***y Mackem, so what do you know”?

    Meanwhile in a galaxy far far away, 3 wise queens (late cast change), some inappropriately dressed cheerleaders, 2 stormtroopers and C-3PO have heard about the birth. Making their way to Bethlehem, presumably with Satnav, they are blocked by the sheep. The sheep insist they prove they are clever by making them take part in Mastermind…sample question…”How do you set a Sky box to series tape Strictly Come Dancing”?

    Nobody remembers their lines, they begin to bicker and a very stressed looking teacher intervenes as the narrator puts her head in her hands.

    For no obvious reason in the history of Bible stories, we cut to a hotel room where the sheep are arguing about what to watch on TV, Twilight or Masterchef the Professional (they are cooking lamb remember), and only a few of the sheep believe in vampires. Off stage we hear loud voices as 6 shepherds burst into the room dressed as what I can only describe as cartoon special forces. Think towels on heads, sunglasses, walkie-talkies, binoculars and rather realistic looking high power guns. They quickly round up the scared looking sheep.

    “Charlie bravo, flash bombs not needed”!

    “Ten four, all sheep accounted for”!

    At this point I was beginning to see a few flaws in the plot…were the shepherds actually terrorists? Were the sheep fugitives? Who knows.

    Anyway we go back to the stable where Jesus is proudly holding the demonic looking Jesus as a girl in the audience pipes up “He’s got my doll”!

    I’m not sure what happened next as I was doubled with laughter but I looked up to see the angel Gabriel on stage with the rest of the cast wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful new year. The angel Gabriel also helpfully reminded us all not to put videos of this on any social media sites. Ironic given that the cheerleaders were hash-tagging everything to Instagram.

    The story of the birth of the Son of God ended with Mary snatching the child from her husband and smiling.

    Some thoughts..this was a touching performance that didn’t require any stretches of the imagination whatsoever, so long as you were blind drunk during it, I wasn’t. No traditional Carols were sung but we did have one about a sausage…”I had a sausage, I lovely little sausage, I put in the oven for my tea…”

    My daughters only comment on the whole thing after was…”I did try and warn you”. Yes you did.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to break my mid week drinking rule as I need to forget quite a lot of what I saw this afternoon.

    • Rabbit Dave
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      Wow! That’s made my day. It would have made a brilliant Monty Python sketch in days of yore.

      Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Hanni.

    • Kitty
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Strawfully funny. Thanks Hanni.

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Sounds fantastic.
      I’m sure you will have great fun watching it on the day.

      • Jane
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        Hate to tell you this, JL, but I think today was THE day!

      • Hanni
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

        It was today J-L. My mum, who attended, didn’t speak for nearly an hour afterwards. I’m on my second glass of wine and my child type thing kept muttering something about “Never again”.

    • Jane
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      You definitely deserve that drink! The narrator probably reckons that she does as well!

    • Merusa
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

      What a riot, superbly narrated, Hanni. I could not stop laughing, you must have been hysterical.
      (Autocorrect just changed my Hanni to Hannibal)

      • Miffypops
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        I would leave it at Hannibal next time Merusa

        • Hanni
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

          Thanks Miffypops. Sweet as always. I’ve been called worse this week. Bitch troll from hell and Philyis leap to mind.

          • Miffypops
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

            Phyllis? Doesn’t that begin with Sy?

            • Hanni
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

              Once again MP….there are no words. Unbelievable. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/icon_rolleyes.gif

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      Totally agree with RD – both Mrs SL & I have now stopped rolling around the floor and dried the tears of laughter pouring down our cheeks. We would like to thank the teaching staff and pupils of the school for giving us our first great laugh of the season. I’m pretty sure that they’ve used ‘Team America – World Police’ as their inspiration.

      Thanks for sharing that with us Hanni – you’re a star http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_rose.gif

    • pommers
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      That sounds brill, wish I could have seen it. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_yahoo.gif

  30. mre
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Good evening everybody.

    Pleased to have finally put my recent poor form behind me and actually completed a puzzle for a change. Overall found it fairly tough but highly enjoyable and agree with the reviewers ratings.

    I thought that 1a (for which I initially wrote in FORBEARANCE but fortunately soon realised that was wrong) and 27a were good clues but my favourite has to be 11d which was last in and which I’d pretty much resigned myself to not solving.


  31. Dave
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for helping me learn to do the Telegraph Crossword! Really appreciate you explaining how to work out the clues…they do vary in difficulty from day to day though! I am slowly getting there and am pleased to have completed several now without your help! ……….but they are rare occasions!

    • 2Kiwis
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Dave. Good to have you aboard.
      As we have lots of Daves already on the site it might be a good idea to adjust your site name a little to avoid confusion.
      Look forward to hearing regular reports on your progress.

    • Miffypops
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      I always say that regularly solving the quickie crossword will help immensely with the critic. I often spot the definition get the answer and work out the wordplay later.

    • Rabbit Dave
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Another Dave! It must be by far the most common (and best!) moniker on this blog.

      Welcome and keep on commenting.

  32. Gwizz
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Hanni that was magnificent! I loved it.
    As for the crossword, yep, once more a puzzle of class from Jay.
    No real problems; 15a was my favourite and 3/3* overall.
    £80 for an extraction? Cheap at half the price! I’m not sure my dentist would even open the front door for that sort of money…
    Thanks to Jay, and to the 2K’s for the review.

  33. Kath
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Really late which is possibly (hopefully?) why I found this quite difficult.
    Got up early – made comprehensive list of remaining things to buy and went into town – lost list in second shop – oh dear! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_sad.gif
    I think I’ll just gloss over the rest of the day until eventually I had a go at the crossword.
    Brilliant as usual – 3* difficulty and 4* for enjoyment.
    Couldn’t get 1a for ages which didn’t help.
    17a was one of those that meant different things to me – go-getters being people out for themselves and who cares for the rest and live wires being very animated people. Got there in the end.
    20d is one of those words that I know exist but have never really known what it means.
    27a had to end in ‘ments’, didn’t it – no.
    2d was my last answer.
    I liked 15 and 25a and 8 and 11d. My favourite was 19d.
    With thanks to Jay and to the 2K’s.

    • Kath
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      PS I did feel a bit sorry for the poor ostrich sitting in a blizzard!

  34. Angel
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Out all day but so nice to come home to a glass of grape juice and a switch-off session over today’s entertaining offering. TVM Jay for a terrific puzzle and 2Ks for your hints which I enjoyed reading after the event. No stand-out favs but several gently challenging clues. ***/****. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_good.gif

  35. Framboise
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Jay for a splendid puzzle which I found much easier than yesterday’s and Monday’s. Really liked 19d, probably because of our late lovely greyhound Merlin from Battersea Dog’s Home which accompanied us to India where he was nicknamed The Maharajah… 2*/4*. Entertaining review from the 2Kiwis, merci to them. I loved Hanni’s narration of this modern nativity play, what a hoot!
    Could not get the Quickie’s pun in spite of trying pronouncing aloud the three first across clues many times so was put out of my misery by the 2Kiwis, merci again.

  36. Maggie
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the help. Love the view behind the flowers. Favourite 19a – yes, I like the easy ones.

  37. Tstrummer
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    I do love a Jay on Wednesdays. He’s always challenging, but never obtuse and I generally learn something new from him every time; today it was the alternative meaning of 23d. Many, many wonders and hard to pick a favourite, but after some pondering, here are the results of the South London jury: in 3rd place, 3d; 2nd is 7d and Top of the Pops (cheers all round) is 11d. Many thanks to Jay and the Ks. 2*/4*

    BTW MP, did you check out the link I posted yesterday? You had the right album, but the wrong track – and definitely the wrong performance. Hoped you liked anyway. I love it

    • Miffypops
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 1:19 am | Permalink

      yup. I had a listen. Great song. Great vocal. Prefer Coyote from The Last Waltz. But for the sublimest track ever. I Could Drink A Case Of You. I will never tire of Carrie from Blue either

      • Tstrummer
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 2:09 am | Permalink

        Great vocal, exquisite guitar playing, really exquisite, and lyrically magnificent – how she takes the story of Amelia Earhart and weaves “her” experiences into it is magical. A lesson to all us wannabe writers. Coyote is great, of course, and Blue is an outstanding album throughout, although Hejira is still my favourite.

  38. judetheobscure
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    Yes, another Jay fan here. I make a point of getting the Wednesday DT but only get the others if I have spare time or if there’s something newsworthy (as it happens, Tim Peake’s journey to the ISS would fit that bill today).
    Lots of lovely clues. As someone else said, nothing obtuse, and finished by the end of the day. Therefore 2*/4* for me.

  39. Cornishpasty
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Ashamed to say I needed the hint for 17a, had love works in my head; never heard of the Cheddar Defile!

  40. JR
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I didn’t look at/solve this crossword till last night (Thurs) and it contains a mildly interesting anomaly, so I’m going to don my pedant’s hat if I may (I’m sure some of the regular pedants may have spotted it also). 26a. The fodder “series of races as held on the Isle of Man” is used in the clue for TT in the answer ATTEMPT. In the Pedant’s Guide to Crosswords on here (which is a collection of gripes about errors found in crosswords) it states that the TT (Tourist Trophy) is categorically not a race but a time-trial! Personally, I’m with the setter on this one – the TT events can correctly be described as races (albeit in the form of time-trials). After all, their official title is “Isle of Man TT Races”. Feel free to contradict.