Muffles, using head of hair and bird's feathers (5,4) [HOWLS DOWN]in Thursday's Times cryptic (No. 25,745) gave rise to mixed views in comments on the TftT blog entry: some thought it plain wrong, while others felt doubtful about it, but would be prepared to defend it. I fell into the latter category, up to a point. The ODO definitions of "muffle" include "make (a sound) quieter or less distinct", and Collins English Dictionary Online has "to prevent (the expression of something) by (someone)". It's certainly possible to argue that these definitions could cover the clue's answer: howling down something either makes it less distinct or prevents its expression altogether. But somehow it doesn't feel quite right: howling and muffling are simply too far apart for comfort. Would I have let it through if I'd been crossword editor? I might, but I wouldn't be too surprised if I received some grumbly letters in my postbag.
(select between the square brackets for the answer, or read on)
I recently came across "word up" for the first time in Giles Coren's Eating Out column in Saturday's Times Magazine (where it appeared with an added hyphen). It may be part of younger solvers' everyday vocabulary, but I'd hazard a guess that it will be unfamiliar to at least some older solvers. I'll quote the whole paragraph to give the context.
I was still feeling rough a couple of days later when I met my brother-in-law at Le Gavroche, so I knew I'd need a drink to settle my tum for the feast., The Gavva has reopened after a refit of the kitchen and the installation of a cute little private room with a TV link to a kitchen staffed by the entire cast of MasterChef: the Professionals (Yo, Michel! Word-up, Monica!) and it was my first time here in ages.Here "word-up" is being used as a greeting, and thus matches w♥rdnik's second definition: "Hello." w♥rdnik's first definition, and the one supported by the OED, is "I approve.; I agree." This seems to be the most popular definition, so I find it a little surprising that the only one included in ODO is "listen" (as a "black English" imperative), which comes in at number four in w♥rdnik's list. It will be interesting to see which definition is used when WORD UP first appears as an answer in the Times crossword. (Those who know me will probably be surprised to learn that I've heard of both Le Gavroche (and must have walked by the restaurant, though I've never been inside) and Michel [Roux]; however (and rather less surprisingly), I had to bing Monica [Galetti].)
Monday's T2 Concise crossword (No. 6,356) contained the clue "Vulpine youngster (4,3)", answer WOLF CUB. I haven't been able to find any dictionary definition to support this, and suspect it is just another "Grimshaw" (as in "Sea between Greece and Turkey (8)", answer ADRIATIC). It invites the obvious &lit:
Very bad rendering of "lupine" (7)
Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: definitive