Independent 5986

Here’s a comparative rarity: an Independent daily puzzle with a preamble, albeit one with only one sentence.  It’s from 23 December, 2005, and the (unexpectedly symmetrical) phrase chosen puts some serious constraints on the rest of the grid.  Hence 14 down (which may not be as poorly checked as you think…) and some slightly recondite vocabulary (that would be 14 down again, alas, inter alia).   But a pretty good Nina, if I do say so myself.

5986puz

Find the seasonal couplet hidden in the solution

ACROSS

1          At crease, college guy awaiting delivery? (2-4)

5          Staff backed excursion along the back (8)

9          Mediterranean group disbars alliance newly formed (8,7)

10        Problem about English modern style (2,4)

12        Nude dancing around middle of ballet cancelled (6)

15        US statesmen? A chap’s trapping one behind a workroom (10)

17        Understand part of dendritic structure (4)

18        Right-winger’s attempt to incorporate love (4)

19        Reliable part of process in recording venue? (5,5)

21        She, possibly, offers a positive vote? I see! (6)

22        Observe article and go red (6)

25        Force in old temples even brought about personal improvement (4-11)

28        Doing robberies? They haven’t a prayer (8)

29        Article ignored by serious fellow (6)

DOWN

2          One supporter’s upset about a catering service (5)

3          We may be overcome by a stunned feeling (3)

4          Distant chap climbing round top of hill in Surrey location (7)

5          Cloudy ceiling partly does for Scottish airport (4)

6          More than one rebellion is adopted by criminal groups (7)

7          Mark of a first-class gossip? (3)

8          Snake in the heather making you run? (9)

11        Early developments sorted out by Morse (7)

13        Don’t rearrange this Beatles song (3,2,2)

14        Curious article turning up in Belgian city (5)

16        Felt to be extreme political group (5,4)

19        Frightening things – runs off, powerless (7)

20        Remove clothing, showing bodies off without right (7)

23        Crew divided deck (5)

24        Vegetables left out of requests (4)

26        Friend or enemy? Leaders are certainly the latter (3)

27        People with limited fare options (3)

PDF of puzzle

Solution

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