Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 1145 – Ulula by Ikela

Posted by petebiddlecombe on October 6th, 2010


This was a fairly gentle Inquisitor (solved in under an hour) with a pleasant theme for solvers of my generation. Redundant letters provided by wordplay spelled out a “suggested title for a notional third work by a major fgure in his field”. Normally clued answers, in pairs, indicated how and where his major contributions could be identified, and “a name famous in a different field, which coincidentally confirms the name to be written under the completed grid.

The normally clued answers in their pairs were OBSERVER / EVERYMAN, GUARDIAN / CUSTOS, and LISTENER / ZANDER – the three publications and crossword pseudonyms of Alec Robins, who wrote parts of Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword. Like Don Manley as Pasquale today, he was the main voice of Ximenean setting on the not entirely Ximenean team of Guardian setters. He wrote a book of his own – Teach Yourself Crosswords, which was reprinted as The ABC of Crosswords. To confirm my fond memories, I just tried his Guardian 15964, published on 4th April 1981 – a puzzle I almost certainly tackled on the day – at the time I was always pleased to see his name as a sign of a puzzle I’d do well with. Nearly 30 years later, the clues are still scrupulously fair [I’m guessing that “becomes” rather than the correct “become” in 5D is a misprint, as I’ve found other mistakes in the book where it appeared.]. His Zander puzzles in the Listener series played a similar role – not mind-numbingly hard, but good challenges, and his Everyman puzzles (he shared this work with Dorothy Taylor) were a good alternative to the rigours of Azed when I wasn’t always ready for Azed solving. His biggest tribute is that apart from D S Macnutt (Ximenes) he’s the setter most often mentioned as an influence by others, in Azed’s A-Z of Crosswords.

The “famous name in another field” is Brian Close, former captain of Yorkshire at cricket and an anagram of Alec Robins, already bound to be the name to be written under the grid. Below, the excess letters (or a – for the normal clues) precedes the answer, so you can read the fairly unsurprising book title downwards.

Apart from one point of detail below, the only unsolved mystery for me in this puzzle (whose clues lived up to the Robins memories pretty well) is the title – I can’t see what “Ulula” means. Any ideas? See Mike Laws’s comment below – I wasn’t a reader of the Crossword Club mag in 1979.

1 O(B=second-rate,SER.=series)VER
7 T SWAZI – Z in (it was)*
11 E UREMIA = retaining waste – rev. of AIM,E,RUE
12 A HUMIAN = associated with philosopher – HUMA = fabulous bird, IAN = (in a)*
14 EVERYMAN – VERY in rev. of NAME
15 C SANTA FE = US city – CANT = slang, in SAFE = peter
16 H SADE = Hebrew letter – SHADE = nuance
18 Y IND.=Independent,rev. of YOGI – seemingly indicated by “reprinted” in “reprinted ascetic” – this is one clue that I don’t quite understand, having looked up “reprint” in C to make sure I’m not missing something
19 O TOASTER = one proposing – AS = when, in TOOTER = horn
21 U EMEND – E(MENU)D(it)
25 R EURASIA = quite a few countries (nice bit of understatement) – RU in RAISE, all reversed
28 S PEIRCE = pioneer of pragmatism – SPEIR = ask (Scots), C.E. = church
30 E ESAU – see rev.,Au
31 L ROSEOLA – (Rose, Lola Olla) = pair of girls girls updated – Lola is in the list at the back of C and Olla isn’t.
32 GUARDIAN – raid* in GUAN – another strangely-named bird
33 F GOANNA = monitor (lizard) – GOAN = Indian, rev. of FAN = follower
34 T PLISSE = (of fabric) chemically treated – PLIS = slip*, SET = adjusted
35 H ESSIE = Esther, in brief – She’s*, i.e.
36 LISTENER – set* in LINER
1 E OUTSIDE EDGE – OUT = dismissed, then DEED = action in SIEGE
2 BRIAN = “His life was filmed” – the intellect being BRAIN, and the slight twist the two-letter swap to get the answer
3 A EMETIC – MEAT = substance, in Cie. = Fr. equiv. of Co.
4 B RIVAGE = bank – BR(IV)AG,E
5 C EGRET – G in ERECT = standing up
6 O RHYTON = drinking cup – (toy horn)*
7 F SUMMA = treatise – UMMA = body of (Islamic) believers, in SF = Sinn Fein
8 C AIN = own (Scots) – Cain = murderer
9 Z(AND=with)ER(o)
10 R INTERDEALER = old negotiator – (learner tired)*
13 O INDIRA – (radiation – a,t)*
17 S ATHROB – (host, bar)*
20 CUSTOS = a Franciscan superior – CUSTOMS with M(other) removed
22 S MITRAL = relating to a mitre – MISTRAL = wind
23 W DEASLT – (waste, L(oa)D)*
24 O WIENIE = sausage – i.e. in anag. of now, then i.e. again
26 R SHANE = Western – N in SHARE
29 CLOSE – 2 meanings
32 S GAS – rev. of SAGS

21 Responses to “Inquisitor 1145 – Ulula by Ikela”

  1. M(ike La)ws says:

    Ulula was the title of Manchester Grammar School’s magazine, which Alec used as a one-off pseudonym. I’d suggested a set of four to him as a possibility for his next Theme & Variations in the Listener, but he used the theme for “Promises, Promises by Ulula” in the Crossword Club’s magazine dated July 1979.

  2. Quixote says:

    A delight to be reminded of Alec on the same weekend as Azed 2000. And why did I never see before that his name anagrammed into an England cricketer?

  3. anax says:

    All I can say is “Thank you Pete”, for tipping me off about this one. 15×15 blocked puzzles are my game and I can honestly say I’ve never tackled an Inquisitor before (usually, half-way through the preamble, my eyes glaze over and my brain starts to hurt).

    It was difficult to get a start but I eventually spotted a way in at 29d; thereafter a generous bunch of clues fell and I was able to start picking out some of the redundant letters. It was a group of reasonably friendly down answers which hinted at CROSSWORDS(S) as the last bit of the work title, and 14a EVERYMAN (which had held me up for no reason whatsoever) started to firm up the theme’s shape.

    My guess is that these crosswords don’t invite comments along the lines of “Wow, what a clue”; it’s the end product of the solve that matters, and this puzzle was a lovely tribute to the setter who got me started on cryptics. I can even say that it was an extremely pleasant and nostalgic trip, as the “Teach Yourself…” book is the one I bought when I was about 15 years old. To my shame I didn’t even know about the “ABC” version and this actually caused a lot of problems while solving this one, as I ended up with a gap between the E of YOURSELF and the C of CROSSWORDS which slowly filled up with letters which appeared not to make sense.

    I’m not sure if this puzzle will persuade me to tackle more thematics (I’m just not clever enough for them), but it certainly reminds me that the rewards can be huge when you finally get one finished.

  4. nmsindy says:

    Anax, I think there is not that much difference between the skills needed for the thematics compared with the daily cryptics. Devices used in clues are much the same tho grid entry may be more complicated and the puzzle will take longer (we would be disappointed if it didn’t!). The vocab is wider (with Chambers dict the reference) but I think anyone who solves the daily cryptics should be able to solve thematics also and it opens a wider world of puzzling.

  5. petebiddlecombe says:

    Getting my apology in early …

    If Anax does start solving barred-grid puzzles, you can blame me when he adds some of their tricks to his armoury and makes his puzzles even harder.

  6. HolyGhost says:

    I think that the second girl in 31a is LOLA (rather than Olla). I had this down as OL(G)A for a while, until I figured out the “suggested title” for the notional work.

    And it certainly took me more than an hour – I hadn’t heard of Alec Robins before, not looking at the Guardian or Observer puzzles and not dabbling with the Listener until some years after he died.

  7. Ali says:

    Anax ‘just not clever enough’ for thematics? I’ll remember that next time I’m chewing my pen whilst battling with one of his very clever daily puzzles!

    Alec Robins was well before my time, but this nice intro might get me delving in the Guardian’s archives.

  8. anax says:

    It’s very nice of you to say so Ali, but it highlights what amounts to the sense of wonder, in a pungent mix which includes jealousy and envy, I feel when reading reviews of barred thematics. Some setters seem able to produce any type of cryptic puzzle with almost preternatural brilliance; meanwhile we one-trick ponies tend to find a niche where a single ability can be exploited. For the sake of explaining that, I concentrate on trying to write clues which read well. But that’s about as far as my skill level goes.
    I’m sure Mike would agree that this puzzle’s theme is far from complex (that had to be the case for me to solve it – and a super puzzle it is too) but when I see how masters such as Kea can incorporate exquisitely original themes with apparently impossible-to-execute grid fills I find my jaw scraping the lino in envious disbelief; not least because he can follow that up with a 15×15 blocked puzzle which seems to say “This type of puzzle is what I do, and I do it as effectively as anybody”.

  9. kenmac says:

    I didn’t finish this one – I’m glad it wasn’t my week. I finished the grid and found Brian Close but never got a handle on the book title since I didn’t manage to spot all the extra letters. I’ve never done the Everyman crossword and never heard of Zander or Custos or even Alec Robins. Maybe if it was my week I might have put in the effort.

    Smacks a bit of OBN in my opinion.

  10. Mike Laws says:

    That’s unfair. The puzzle was a modest tribute to a modest man who made a major contribution to cryptic crosswords for nigh on fifty years. To dismiss that as old boy network stuff is churlish and ignores the fact that I was trying to introduce a doyen to solvers who weren’t lucky enough to be aware of him.

  11. Quixote says:

    Well said, sir!

  12. nmsindy says:

    I must confess to being quite surprised that kenmac, an experienced blogger of Inquisitor puzzles on this site, had never heard of Alec Robins/Custos/Zander.

    The encouraging thing might be that this might mean kenmac is one of the younger solvers Azed and others are trying to encourage to become involved!

    Personally I remember solving Custos puzzles in the Guardian in pre-Indy days and taking books of puzzles of his on long journeys because you knew the clues would be clear and fair and you’d be very unlikely to get stuck with no dicts to hand. I think he chose Custos as pseudonym as it means Guardian in Latin. Why I’m surprised is that Don Manley’s Chambers manual refers to him extensively and he wrote part of the reissued Ximenes book (a book I’d very strongly recommend to anyone interested in ‘advanced’ crosswords).

  13. Colin Blackburn says:

    Custos was instrumental in getting me into crosswords. His ABC of Crosswords was where I learned the principles formally. I’d also flag up two of his collections, Crosswords for the Addict and Crosswords for the Discerning. These two books, along with Don Putnam’s earlier companion volumes, offer graded introductions to crosswords from armchair cryptics through to tougher thematics.

    I’d like to say thanks to Mike for the tribute.

  14. nmsindy says:

    Those were the very collections, Colin (at #13), that I was referring to at #12.

  15. kenmac says:

    Sorry everyone, I meant no offence. Perhaps I had had too much of a stressful day. As I said, I’m sure if it was my week I would have tried harder. I had also been misled by the OLGA/LOLA confusion noted above and could get nowhere near the book title.

    Mea culpa.

    And nmsindy, old/young is very subjective, how does born in November 1954 fit on your scale?

  16. nmsindy says:

    I’d just about reached the age of reason then, kenmac, so was maybe was just ready to tackle crosswords…

  17. HolyGhost says:

    {composed before Ken’s comment #15}

    I have some sympathy with Ken’s comment at #9 – the puzzle was a touch clubby? Nevertheless, the theme was fair game – a nicely constructed grid with pleasingly located symmetrical ‘special’ entries.

    Even though I’ve never read a crossword book or taken one on holiday, bells were rung by Observer/Everyman, Guardian/Custos, & Listener, tho’ not Zander.

    And I was pleased to find out about Alec Robins (for once I’ll waive my criterion of inclusion in Chambers Biographical Dictionay) … so thanks to Mike L. for his editorial decision.

  18. Hi of Hihoba says:

    This is a very late comment, so I won’t be surprised if it goes unnoticed, but I have sympathy with kenmac too. My “bible” on crossword setters is Jonathan Crowther’s “A-Z of Crosswords” and Alec Robins is not mentioned in any of his three incarnations. I did manage to finish the crossword, but only after some fairly hefty googling, and I have to admit that the Brian Close anagram came to me days after finishing the rest. I have to say that the ULULA reference was really much too obscure except for the cognoscenti!!

  19. nmsindy says:

    Yes, I can see how that happened. Azed’s book which I dip into all the time, is not a history of crosswords as such, but a directory of (current) setters. One of the criteria Azed used was that setters who have passed on were not eligible for inclusion. So no mention for AR.

  20. Colin Blackburn says:

    As nmsindy says Azed’s book only covered living setters, at least when it was written. An authoritative list of Listener Setters is available but it doesn’t give the real names of all setters. Under Zander it only has A. Robins.

  21. petebiddlecombe says:

    Alec Robins may not have his own entry in Azed’s book, but if you read the introduction, he gets his first mention on page 3.

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