Enigmatic Variations 1532
HOW? by Vagans
Extra letters give the partial quote by SYDNEY SMITH, [HOW] CAN A BISHOP [MARRY]? HOW CAN HE [FLIRT]? THE MOST HE CAN SAY [IS, ‘I WILL SEE YOU IN THE VESTRY AFTER SERVICE’].
For some reasons bishops are fair game when it comes to actresses, or at least jokes about them, and wisecracks generally. And as a bish, I reckon that’s a good thing! When you wear the whole contents of a wardrobe for a living, anything that keeps your feet on the ground is worth its weight in gold.
Sydney Smith was a famous cleric of the nineteenth century who could easily have become a bishop, but got the wrong side of Lord Melbourne (in the days when the PM personally made the choices) and became a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral instead. His prolific wit, though, gave him a reputation as a humorist that exceeded anything he would have attained from the Bench, and his quips figure strongly in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
A crosswording friend drew my attention to them and it was perhaps inevitable both that Smith made a bishop the butt of one of them, and that I would choose it as the subject of a crossword: “HOW CAN A BISHOP MARRY? HOW CAN HE FLIRT? THE MOST HE CAN SAY IS I WILL SEE YOU IN THE VESTRY AFTER SERVICE”.
Now I was married well before I turned my collar round, but I can certainly agree with the general sentiment that once you are in this sort of public office, not only can you float away from reality, but it can also be surprisingly difficult to “be yourself”. So three cheers for Smith and a happy marriage – and even a bit of appropriate flirting – to any younger bishops out there who would like that to be their future.
On the puzzle itself, I’ve learned that I tend to make the way into my crosswords too oblique, so as the Numpties spotted I chose to be very generous with the message, though I still couldn’t resist including some recherché words in the grid. (“Last used in the fourteenth century, I suppose” was one friend’s comment on SCANTLING when it appeared elsewhere…) But when so many solvers (and setters) use electronic dictionaries and finding aids for these sorts of puzzle I feel that’s fair game, as long as the clues themselves are fairly constructed. The cryptic representation of SEE YOU IN THE VESTRY wasn’t the easiest one to spot, but I tried to put it in a reasonably obvious place, and anyone who looked up the quotation would have got there pretty easily I hope.
But one last quip from Smith as he is far more fun to read than me. Most of his bon mots weren’t about religion, but he did comment that his friend Henry Luttrell’s idea of heaven was eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets!
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.