DACHA /DAH.cha/ n. a Russian holiday house or cottage, often far from luxurious
Also spelled DATCHA, it should be easy to pick in the grid with clues like..
Country house for summering
Russian country home
Black Sea bungalow
Cottage for Putin
The dacha has played an important and robust role in the cultural history of Russia. Over the course of several centuries it transformed from its medieval FEUDAL origins as a ‘manor’, into its slightly snooty-nosed BOURGEOIS phase as a ‘summer house’, on through the turbulent BOLSHEVIK regime and the corresponding rise of the KOLKHOZ (a communal farm), and into modern times, where its cultural place is eloquently described by the School of Russian and Asian Studies…
But for many Russians, the dacha is still a simple home-away-from-home. Every weekend, many don large rubber boots (резиновые сапоги) and weed and care for their vegetable patches. They eat shashlik (a kind of barbeque on skewers), play outdoor games, go for walks and just relax. At night, they retire to what usually amounts to a simple wooden shack, often lacking running water and electricity. To many, this is a “return to the soil,” to their roots and the ways of their forefathers. Although some scoff at this ramshackle Russian tradition, both supporters and scoffers alike will agree that the dacha is an important part of народность (Russianness).
And there you go. You even learned SHASHLIK (also SHASHLICK or SHASLIK) to boot!
Let’s finish off with an interesting little episode of Moscow Out that will summarize some of the things you’ve just read and also give you a better feel for the modern dacha…
I just love the history of Russia, and one day I’m going to talk to you about it for an entire month! Whether you like it or not ;-)
APSE /aps/ n. a large recess in a church that is usually semicircular in shape and often covered with a highly decorated half-dome
As always, you can learn a few more things about a word by thinking about the clues that are often given for it, and then doing a little bit of research…
Part of St. Paul’s
Altar spot, perhaps
I also got a chuckle out of a clue I once encountered for this word: [Area under a semidome]. I wondered how on earth the editor could possibly expect the average crossword solver to be familiar with calculus ;-)
Architectural structures which resemble an apse in some way are often described as APSIDAL. A good example of an apsidal structure is an EX(H)EDRA (pl. EX(H)EDRAE or EX(H)EDRAS), which is a semicircular seating area usually set into an external face of a building.
Some churches have a small secondary apse on either side of the main apse. Such an apse is called an APSIDIOLE. Here’s a picture of a mummy apse with her two baby apsidioles…
Confusingly, today’s word is sometimes also used interchangeably with the word APSIS (pl. APSIDES), which is an astronomical term referring to a point of either closest or furthest approach of an orbiting body. These points, which are known as the PERIHELION and APHELION respectively, are often connected by an imaginary line called the line of apsides, which I just thought I’d mention in passing.
P.S. An architectural structure with three apses, like the one I showed you above, can be described by Collins/CSW/SOWPODS players as TRIAPSIDAL, or TRIAPSAL. North American Scrabblers however, must refer to such a thing as ‘an architectural structure with three apses’.
AGORA /uh.GOR.uh or AG.er.uh/ n. an open marketplace or assembly area for public gatherings in Ancient Greece pl. -E or -S
Nothing too tricky in the clues you’re likely to see for this one, although you might learn something new from the last clue in the list…
Ancient assembly area
Forum : Rome :: ____ : Athens
Although I have long been familiar with the word agora, it didn’t occur to me until today that it is the source of the word AGORAPHOBIA, which can be read off literally as a fear of open public places. It’s obvious when you think about it, but perhaps I never have.
Today’s word has another meaning too: an Israeli monetary unit equal to one hundredth of a SHEKEL. This meaning gives rise to the less familiar plurals AGOROT and AGOROTH.
If you don’t believe me, just read the fine print…
And if you thought I was going off on a bit of a tangent there, I bet you can’t guess how I’m going to weave this little fellow into the conversation…
This eerie looking plant is commonly known as a MANDRAKE, but its formal name is the MANDRAGORA. Get it?
LANAI /luh.NIE/ n. a living area, such as a roofed patio, porch or veranda, built onto the side of a house, especially in Hawaii
Today’s word should be pretty easy to spot in your favorite newspaper puzzle, with clues like…
Patio off the tiki room
Breezy room in Hawaii
That is assuming, of course, that you’re up to speed on Hawaiian geography (not Word Buff territory I’m sorry!), and in particular that you know the names of the main Hawaiian islands.
And speaking of Hawaiian islands, I should also mention in passing that Lanai (with a capital this time) actually is one!
This Lanai is often better known as The Pineapple Island.
You might also occasionally encounter a clue like [Florida room], and wonder what this has to do with Hawaii. Nothing. This clue relates to the fact that in some parts of southern US, especially Florida, a lanai refers to “a screened-in enclosure that is attached to the back of a house and very often includes a swimming pool”. Like this one…
But personally, I’d much prefer to chill out in the Hawaiian version.
OGEE /OH.jee or oh.JEE/ n. an architectural molding having an S-shaped cross-section
At last you have a name for those funny bendy bits in arches…
and other fancy thingies…
Like most crosswordese, ogee is generally clued straightforwardly with hints like [S-shaped molding], [Arch type], or [Molding shape]. But you will occasionally encounter a nasty, like Brendan Emmett Quigley’s rather ambiguous [Distinctive profile].
While researching today’s word, I also stumbled upon another couple of pieces of armory for the word gamer’s arsenal.
First was OGIVE, which often refers to ‘a pointed or Gothic arch’ (adj. OGIVAL), and also shares a complex lineage with ogee that I won’t attempt to reproduce here.
Second was SIGMOID, which I finally got around to looking up today, and which is usually used to mean ‘S-shaped’.