Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 1214: HOWL by Charybdis

Posted by Hihoba on February 8th, 2012


We had to find a writer (1,4) and a work by him, with the first line in the top and bottom spaces and a mournful cry elsewhere in the diagram.

The clues were quite straightforward, and I finished the bottom half in short order. The top half proved rather more problematic as there were a lot of unclued lights about – 8 (rather unattractive) brown answers plus the top row. It was not helped by my initial error in 8D in thinking the answer was MEANDERED (went for a stroll) rather than DAUNDERED. Once that error was corrected, OLD MAN appeared as part of the quotation, and Edward Lear’s  “Old man with a beard” came instantly to mind. E LEAR appears conveniently in the centre of the diagram. I had to check the limerick for the numbers of each type of bird and in full it is:

There was an old man with a beard,

Who said (mournfully) “It is just as I feared! — (17 letters, 6 words)

Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard.”

The brown “nests” contained HEATH HEN, HORN OWL, WOODLARK, TITLARK, EMU WREN, ROCK LARK, SAND-LARK and TAWNY OWL. [Note that there is a Rock Wren, but it’s not in Chambers and there can only be one wren.] In each case OWL is represented by O, Hen by H, Wren by W and Lark by L.

Finally the “nests” are all in the “beard-shaped” quotation indicated in the diagram.

The title HOWL represents the mournful cry and is also the initial letters of Hen, Owl, Wren and Lark. Very clever.

Nice to have a puzzle where Mr Google wasn’t any part of my research! Mr Chambers was, though, for quite a number of unfamiliar words, such as BLET, OCA, DATUK and EAN.

Excellent puzzle from Charybdis, though there are one or two clues that we have reservations about, and one Grauniad-style HOWLer in 42A!













 No.  Answer  Definition: Wordplay
 9  RHEA  Bird: hidden in youR HEAd
 10  WEBER  Some flux (SI unit): WEB (network) + E(mergency) R(oom)
 11  OCTA  One’s indicating not much cloud (1 octa = 1/8 cloud cover): [COAT]*
 12  CONTROL  Management: COOL (reserve) round NT (N(o)T on “vacation” – Chambers has “a voiding” – hence remove the o) + R(ight)
 13  NACHO  Bite from Chihuahua (Mexico): MACHO (butch) with N(ew) for M(aster)
 14  CLOWN  A buffoon: CROWN (sovereignty) changes hands – L for R
 15  ITCH  Long: PITCH (playground) minus P(arking)
 17  DATUK  Malay aristo: DAT(A) + UK
 18  SEND  Transport: S(outhern) + END (terminus)
 20  THEO  Boy: THE + O(ld)
 23  ABYE  Pay the price for: A + BYE (extra in cricket)
 24  RELEARN  Go back to school: REL + EARN (go to work?)
 25  EST  Double definition: self-actualisation programme and E(lectric) S(hock) T(reatment)
 27  NYE  Near obsolete (spelling of nigh): N(ame) + YE (also reference to Nye Bevan – name once heard a lot))
 29  RAD  Double definition: Afraid (Scottish) and excellent
 31  NAE  Scottish (reference to previous clue) certainly not: reverse EAN (Shakespearian for to give birth (bear))
 34  ETUDE  A technical piece (music): [DUET + E(nergy)]*
 36  BEAU  Lover: sounds like BOW
 39  FREE  No charge: FEE (wages) round R (take)
 41  ESPY  Spot: Y (unknown) preceded by (up front) ESP (paranormal activity)
 42  STASI  Polizei!: STAS(h) (horde‘s hidden at last; HOWLER ALERT. A stash is a HOARD not a horde!!) + I (= Charybdis)
 43  MINI  Automobile: M1 (motorway) + N(ew) + 1 (one)
 44  TARTAR SAUCE  There’s something fishy underlying (tartar sauce is used on fish): TARTAR (fierce type) + SAUCE (insolence)
 1  TRINITIES  Triads: TRIES round 1 NIT (clot)
 2  EEL  & lit: EEL is found at Billingsgate near a sole, and sounds like HEEL as pronounced at Billingsgate, which is also found near a sole. If the word “heard” had figured in the clue it would have been an improvement.
 3  RACH  Double definition: Old hunting dog and a white streak down an animal’s face
 4  WENT  Left: WEN (the big city – London was called the great wen) + T(unisia’s capital)
 5  SERB  National: SERvice loses its grip (vice) + B(ritain)
 6  NOLL  Top of head: NO (without) + LL (lines)
 7  OCA  Root veg: hidden in lOCAlly
 8  DAUNDERED  Went for stroll: DEAD reversed round UNDER (below par)
 16  CELT  Eg, a Gael: L(och) surrounded by [ETC]* (ground etc)
 19  EBON  Blackwood? (= black wood): B(ids) in EON
 21  BLET  To become sleepy: B(ishop) + LET (allowed)
 22  YARD  Enclosed area: DRAY reversed
 26  SIESTA  A lie-down: [IS SEAT]*
 28  YEAST  Simple fungi: YEA + ST(one) – I think the definition should be simple fungus – yeast is ONE of a group of fungi
 30  AECIA  Fungal growths: ALOPECIA (hair falling out) minus LOP
 32  AMENER  Double definition: AMENE is pleasant (rare)  and and AMEN-ER maybe approves
 33  JAPAN  A country: PA(nama) in JAN(uary)
 35  ERICA  Heather: AMERICA minus AM (morning flies off from US!)
 36  BEAM  Double definition: Broadcast and a smile
 37  ETAT  State: (S)TATE guillotined and reversed
 38  OSSA  Bones: COLOSSAL minus COLL (embrace) which might loosely be “undated”
 40  EILD  Not providing milk to Dundee (Scottish): [LIED]*

2 Responses to “Inquisitor 1214: HOWL by Charybdis”

  1. RatkojaRiku says:

    Thanks to Charybdis for a most enjoyable puzzle and a brilliantly worked theme, and to Hihoba for the blog, of course.

    I really enjoyed this one, despite the howler at 42A, which I hadn’t even spotted as I solved the clue and read about only subsequent to solving on the Crossword Centre Message Board.

    I saw E LEAR in the middle of the grid early on and guessed we were looking for some of his Nonsense Verse. Alas, there were a lot of unchecked letters in the top half of the grid in particular, which meant that, frustratingly, I just didn’t have enough letters in the grid to be able to identify the verse in question, despite knowing it, without a helping hand from Mr Google. For a long time, I had been barking up the wrong tree, having spotted the tawny o(wl) and so thinking that the reference must be to The Owl and the Pussycat.

    I agree with you that the title was inspired, tying in as it did with the mournfulness and with the initial letters of the birds referred to in the limerick (?) – that was a quite inspired find on the part of Charybdis! I also very much liked the positioning of the nests in the grid to give the impression of the beard.

    My only minor grumble is that the birds were a little bit on the obscure side, even for one with an ornithological bent – I’ve never come across horn owl for horned owl, not to mention the emu wren. However, they are all verifiable in Chambers, and, of course, I understand the constraints that the setter was working within to find birds with the right initial letters that could also be rearranged into the beard shape.

  2. HolyGhost says:

    Neat stuff from Charybdis (who promised to try and “get it write next thyme” on the Xwd message board a week ago), with the birds nestling into the beard shape.

    (Still, an uninspiring limerick, albeit an archetypical one of Lear’s.)

    Thanks Hihoba for the elucidation of the function of “on vacation” in 12a; I’d assumed that NT was the enclitic form “-n’t” of “not” – but yours seems the better reading.

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