The pair, identified only as Wallace and Gromit, mistakenly climbed into the boot of a taxi for their ride into Manhattan. It appears that on arrival neither the driver nor the couple's chaperon for the visit, the animated-film director, Nick Park, remembered to let them out.
Even by the standards of New York, the welcome for Wallace and Gromit was inhospitable in the extreme. They were trapped in the taxi boot for 36 hours, suffering from the bumps and bounces of the Big Apple's potholes, until their discovery yesterday morning.
Police could not comment on what induced them to take to the trunk, as car boots are described here, in the first place. Unconfirmed reports suggested, however, that Wallace and Gromit have several unusual quirks: it was rumoured that they were only six inches high, are made of clay and have illusions of Hollywood stardom.
Particularly puzzling, however, are rumours that Wallace, a toothy-looking man with a taste for Wensleydale, and Gromit, who may be a dog, were also in possession of a motor- cycle and sidecar. It is believed they were too frightened to make the journey themselves into Manhattan.
Considerable relief was expressed by Mr Park, who also offered explanations regarding Hollywood and suggested he and his friends were in New York to promote their latest venture: a US version of a Wallace and Gromit video entitled The Close Shave. A Close Shave indeed and not at all a Grand Day Out. Publicity for the pair is now unlikely to be a problem, because the search became hot news on the city's radio airwaves all weekend.
The two Britons were spending yesterday recovering from their traumatic episode, a publicist said: "They are a bit battered." The heroic taxi- driver, meanwhile, turned down the offer of a $500 reward.