Rookie Corner 020 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 020

Reel Them In by Brigster

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Brigster returns to Rookie Corner with a themed puzzle.  As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Brigster with another themed crossword teeming with cinematic references in the clues and the solutions.  A lot of work had clearly gone into this crossword and there is a lot of accomplished cluing and good misdirection.  A few points on the cluing here and there to note but overall these did not detract from the enjoyment of solving it although in places it did make is a trickier crossword to solve than his previous one.


1 Maybe Ealing comedy of “W” with British bias (8)
SUBURBIA – An anagram (comedy of) of UU (“W”) BR (British) BIAS.  There is a fine line between giving all the letters that have to be rearranged in the clue and creating an indirect anagram where the letters have to be obtained by other means.  Getting BR from British is acceptable as it is a direct abbreviation (cluing it as old transport company would be indirect).  My concern here is that getting from “W” as a homophone to UU is just on the wrong side of what it is fair to expect the solver to get as the letters to be rearranged are themselves defined cryptically.

5 Watch company with point in better place (6)
CASINO – Include the abbreviation for North (point) in the name of a watch manufacturer.

9 Sling dog out of The Ladykillers’ quarters (8)
LODGINGS – An anagram (out) of SLING DOG.  The Ladykillers took lodgings in the film to hide their criminal activities.

10 Lamb ushers harbouring surprise attack (6)
AMBUSH – The answer is hidden in (harbouring) LAMB USHERS.

12 Could be in the starsautographs (5)
SIGNS – A double definition of astrological star signs and autographs as a verb.

13 Cast away in sci-fi hit, a troublemaker (9)
ALIENATED – A noted sci-fi hit starring Sigourney Weaver followed by the A from the clue and a 1950’s teenager often associated with being a troublemaker.

14 Evil girl following Bond woman (6)
MALICE – The Bond woman here is his now deceased boss followed by the name of a girl.

16 Master-actor Swinton and dancing girl (7)
MATILDA – … who waltzes in the Australian folk song.  A two letter abbreviation for Master followed by the name of the actress Ms Swinton (who appeared as the white witch in the Chroniles of Narnia).  The actor here is misleading as it should be actress.  Tilda is also a contraction of the answer.

19 In death, Al Pacino starts trading thoroughly (2-5)
IN DEPTH – Swap (trading) the A (first letter of Al) with a P (first letter of Pachno) (starts giving the first letter indicator) in “In Death”.

21 Scrooge unknown after wretchedness (6)
MISERY – Another word for someone who is a scrooge followed by the letter representing something unknown.

23 Gets around piece in print with cartoon spectacles (9)
ENCIRCLES – The name of a space or piece used in printing and the description of OO (how a cartoonist would draw spectacles).

25 Film-noir – darker negative over exposed (5)
GENRE – The answer is hidden (exposed) and reversed (over) in DARKER NEGATIVE.  As “film-noir” is a definition by example, this should have been indicated in the clue.

26 Big picturelittle picture (6)
AVATAR – A double definition of the blockbuster movie and what an avatar represents.

27 Arthouse half-measure, first in my thematic scourge (8)
MCCARTHY – Inside the MY from the clue add CC (measure) and ARTH (half of arthouse), the first telling you to put CC before ARTH.  I think that the definition here is a little too indirect and obscure to fairly lead the solver to the answer.

28 Split-ends in Hanks biopic mishmash (6)
SCHISM – The last letters (ends) in HankS biopiC followed by an anagram (mash) of MISH.  The use of wordplay that requires you to lift and separate a single word to give the required wordplay is frowned upon by some editors.  A little like the use of the word INDEED to tell solvers to put another word in DEED.  Some editors dislike having the definition and wordplay forming part of the same word, even if separated with a hyphen.

29 No Pretty Woman, as Maude in Harold & Maude twixt partners (8)
SLATTERN – Maude is the latter rather than the former of the two names.  Put the latter in a pair of Bridge partners for the answer.


1 Picture & sound effect in South Pacific? (6)
SPLASH – A double definition of a noted film starring Tom Hanks and a mermaid and the sound something would make landing in any body of water (including the South Pacific).

2 Heavy Bafta is one, with protector (9)
BODYGUARD – Another word for an organisation such as Bafta and a word for a protector.  As the second part of the wordplay is also a synonym for the whole, it would be better to try and find a less direct synonym for guard.

3 Scoffs things under The Orient Express (5)
RAILS – What does the Orient Express and any other train run on?

4 Churl & I sound off about The Third Man (7)
INGRATE – The I from the clue and another word meaning sound off around the third letter of man.

6 Imam on set directed old fossils (9)
AMMONITES – An anagram (directed) of IMAM ON SET

7 One Night in Paris as Nanook of the North (5)
INUIT – The letter representing one followed by the French word for night.  As Nanook of the North is a definition by example, this should be indicated.

8 Like Snakes On A Plane? No way! I hid, terrorised (8)
ORPHIDIAN – An anagram of ON A P[lane] I DID, the no way telling us to remove lane from plane.

11 Some deft illumination flickering on a screen (4)
FILM – The alternate letters (flickering) in part of (some) DEFT ILLUMINATION.  Using the alternate letters in only part of the words given is unusual but it is clearly indicated.  More importantly, however, it seems to me that the word flickering is here doing double duty as part of the wordplay and also part of the definition which is not permitted.

15 Praise topless 11 about Nicholas & Alexandra, maybe (9)
IMPERIALS – An anagram (about) of PRAISE ILM (the answer to 11D with the first letter removed).

17 Viewer, possibly used to gentler characters (9)
LORGNETTE – An anagram (used characters) of TO GENTLER.

18 Road movie is swayed laterally (8)
SIDEWAYS –  … an Academy award winning road movie.  An anagram (laterally) of IS SWAYED.  I am not sure that laterally gives a good anagram indicator and it is, in any event, a synonym of the answer.

20 21d man on record (4)
HELP – … an example of a musical.  A two letter male pronoun followed by a type of record.

21 Pepe or Gigi noted 25a (7)
MUSICAL – A film genre involving notes that a played of which Pepe or Gigi are examples.

22 African Citizen Kane, up around New York (6)
KENYAN – An anagram (up) of KANE around the abbreviation for New York.

24 Wall Street sequel :- King in the money (5)
CRASH – … what followed the Wall Street boom.  An abbreviation for King inside another word for money.

25 Pearl & Dean flick ‘Two Soldiers’ (5)
GIANT – GI and ANT give the soldiers.  The film starred James Dean.  The pearl indicates that this was an excellent movie having won an Oscar!


Continuing our foray into the arcane world of cryptic cluing, this week we will look at one of the staples of the cryptic clue, the anagram.

With a basic anagram clue, the wordplay gives you a series of letters to be rearranged and an instruction to jumble them up to find the definition.  In some discussions of anagram clues, the letters to be rearranged are referred to as the fodder and the instruction to rearrange them as the anagrind (anagram indicator).

A straightforward anagram clue might be:

  •  Nestle theme composed in a song by Tom Lehrer (3, 9). Rearranging (composed) the letters NESTLE THEME gives you The Elements.

Anagrams are relatively easy to clue given the number of on-line anagram sites that will enable you to find suitable anagrams (and crossword programs such as Crossword Compiler also include this facility).  The danger, however, with many beginners (and some not so beginners) is to overload a crossword with anagram clues.  As Gazza sometimes says, he gets worried when he has to take his shoes and socks off to count the number of anagrams in a crossword!  There is no hard and fast rule to the number of anagram type clues in a crossword but as a rule of thumb, in a crossword with 28 to 32 clues, I would try (not always successfully) to include no more than 6 anagrams (including clues where only part of the solution is an anagram).  In some of the crosswords that Beam sets in the Telegraph Toughie series, you will find no anagram clues.  I think that the Times is the only crossword with a house policy of limiting the number of anagram clues in a crossword.

Anagram indicators

Anagram indicators should convey a sense of having to rearrange the letters.  These can be obvious such as composed or less obvious such as “supply” (meaning in a supple manner rather than give or provide).  One rule that some editors impose is that the anagram indicator should not be a noun as this cannot convey movement.  Therefore “Letters to be rearranged organisation” on its own would not be considered a fair anagram even though it conveys a sense of movement as organisation is a noun.  However “organisation of letters to be rearranged” would be considered acceptable.  There can be a wide range of views on whether a word is a suitable anagram indicator!

The anagram indicator usually comes before or after the letters to be rearranged but it is also acceptable to have a clue of the form “A mixed with B gives C” where the anagram indicator (mixed) comes between two sets of letters to be rearranged.

Letters to be rearranged

The letters to be rearranged can be two or more words and can include abbreviations such as British for BR).  However, the general rule of thumb is that all of the letters to be rearranged must be clearly visible in the clue.  Where you have to perform an additional step to get to the letters, you start straying into the realms of the indirect anagram – a cardinal sin for setters!  I will look at these below.

It is permissible to use conjunctions with the letters to be rearranged in the form “A and B mixed gives C”.

Indirect anagrams

The indirect anagram is one of the cardinal sins of setting a crossword.  An indirect anagram is an anagram where the letters to be rearranged are not clearly given in the clue.  These can come in many forms.

For example:

  • Couples dancing in French capital (5) would be an indirect anagram. Although the answer here is obvious, the solution, an anagram (dancing) of PAIRS, requires the solver to think of a synonym for couples, the letters of which then have to be rearranged to give the required answer.
  • Countrymen rearranged pebbles on the beach (7) is harder to guess. An anagram (rearranged) of SHINGLE (pebbles on the beach) gives ENGLISH as the answer.

The same care with indirect anagrams has to be taken with abbreviations.  For example, British for BR is acceptable but the same letters clued as “old transport company” would be indirect (even British can be open to interpretation as British can be abbreviated B or BR so that the solver has to decide which letters are used to make up the answer).  Some setters will take the view that the abbreviation should begin with the same letter as the full word so that “second” for S would be usable but not “entropy” for S.  Other setters may only use single letter abbreviations.  As a general rule, as soon as you start defining part of the letters to be rearranged cryptically (other than by a direct abbreviation) you are straying into the indirect anagram territory.

Subtractive anagrams (also referred to as augmented anagrams)

Some anagram clues will give you the letters to be rearranged and then tell you to remove one or more of them before making the anagram.

  • Cleric operates badly without any drugs (6).       The answer is an anagram (badly) of OPRATS, both letter Es (drugs) having been removed.

Subtractive anagrams can be a source of disputes.  There are a few basic points to watch:

  • Some editors like the letters to be removed to be given directly in the clue and not defined cryptically.       Therefore if you wanted to remove the letters RIM from the letters to be rearranged, you should include rim in the clue and not say, for example, “edge removed from X”;
  • Where two or more letters have to be removed and they do not appear in the same order as in the clue, then a secondary anagram indicator should be included to indicate this. For example, “Distinctive quality of absurd non-violent environmentalism (9)” requires you to remove the letters of violent from environmentalism and make an anagram from the remaining letters to give MANNERISM. However, as the letters of violent appear in a different order in environmentalism, some editors will require a secondary anagram indicator to indicate this. Compare this with: “Illicitly, can he go out of rate of exchange arrangement like the Cayman Islands? (3,4). The letters in HE CAN DO OUT are rearranged (illicitly) and removed from RATE OF EXCHANGE and an anagram (arrangement) of the remaining letters gives TAX FREE;
  • Some people like to see a secondary anagram indicator if the letters to be removed are in the same order in the letters to be rearranged but those letters are not contiguous; and
  • Some editors will not allow complex subtraction anagrams in a daily crossword.

Compound anagrams

Consider a clue of the form “Such cars, when repaired, could make our racers mad (8)”.  The answer is ARMOURED.  This type of clue requires you to find the word which, when combined with CARS in an anagram (when repaired) makes the phrase “OUR RACERS MAD”.  To solve this type of “compound” anagram type of clue you remove the letters of CARS from OUR RACERS MAD and find an anagram of the remaining letters.  These types of clue are not very popular with solvers as they are difficult to spot and even more difficult to solve.

The most common indicator of this type of clue is a word like “this”, “these” or “such” followed by another word and an anagram indicator and then a phrase that follows, sometime with its own anagram indicator.

Build your own anagram clues

A more recent form of clue requires the solver to building their own anagram clue.  For example, the clue “Perhaps a trap might be made from this ruin (3,5)” gives the answer RIP APART (ruin). The answer reads as an anagram clue to find the “A TRAP” in the clue.  The anagram indicator, that the solver has to supply, is added to an arrangement of A TRAP.

32 comments on “Rookie Corner 020

  1. It is not a theme that we know much about but with a lot of effort (and considerable time) we did manage a completion. Last two to yield were 1a (magnificent misdirection) and 27a which certainly came from left field. Really hard for us, really clever and a lot of fun.
    Thanks Brigster

  2. Well this certainly makes up for the lack of a Monday Toughie! Thanks to Brigster for the entertainment and the imaginative wordplay. I particularly liked 1a, 23a, 29a and 25d.

  3. I have three left to solve, and a few I still have to fully justify….but what fun this is! Loving it. 1A is masterful. Back later.

    1. Expat Chris,

      Just as a matter of interest – I thought you lived somewhere over the Pond?

      This comment of yours is timed at 10:32 AM – BST.

      Welcome to the Insomniacs Club!

      1. Yes I am “Stateside” and five hours behind the UK. I’m almost always up around 4am, unfortunately. Cup of tea, the crossword, and the dawn chorus start my day. But since I telecommute from my home office, I can sneak in a lunchtime nap!

  4. The last one (14A) just clicked. Congratulations to Brigster. I really enjoyed this. Looking forward to the review.

  5. The cinema is definitely not my specialist subject and I am not very keen on themed crosswords.

    So, I am very surprised to have finished it and even more surprised to have thoroughly enjoyed it.

    NIce One, Brigster! (Who is your publicist on the Guardian?)

    Favourites: Quite a lot of them!

  6. I have yet to discover what my specialist subject is but it certainly isn’t cinema!
    I’ve really enjoyed what I can do but still have lots of gaps and don’t understand some of my answers.
    Top right and bottom left corners are OK – the problems are in the other two.
    The thing that’s bugging me more than anything is being unable to get 1a which seems to be not only everyone’s favourite but also the key to that corner.
    Will keep trying but I think I know when I’m beaten so will look forward to the review.
    Thanks Brigster.

    1. 1a – “W” = a double “U” in the anagram fodder together with …. all the other bits.

      I lived in Ealing … many happy years ago!

  7. Lovely puzzle Brigster. I’m a great Ealing fan and this was a treat. Some excellent cluing throughout.

    That was tough! I really enjoyed most of it, and there were a lot of clever and amusing clues.

    However, although I eventually got all the answers, I am still perplexed by the wordplay for 1a, 27a, and 4d, and will wait with bated breath for the review. I also found the wordplay for 28a, 29a, 11d & 15d rather too convoluted for my taste, and, if I have understood it, I don’t think 22d works as it is not Kane upside down round NY. It is an anagram of Kane round NY and “UP” is surely not an anagram indicator. Still, that it not meant to detract from a well constructed and entertaining puzzle.

    Many thanks to Brigster for a challenging diversion on a wet, wet Bank Holiday.

    1. Well, it’s not a prize puzzle so here goes. The way I interpreted 27A was to take the first half of the first word in the clue, precede that (first) with a small metric volume, and put the whole inside the two letters for my, the answer being a notorious American who ruined the careers of many a film actor.

      1. Thanks very much, Chris. That makes sense, and puts that one too firmly in the “too convoluted for my taste” category.

  9. Thanks to all so far for the comments. Dave, in Chambers the 11th of many,
    many definitions of ‘up’ is ‘in an excited state’.

    1. Ah, yes! It’s very unlike me to miss that sort of innuendo. Thanks very much, Brigster.

  10. Thanks Brigster ,much appreciated despite my aversion to themed puzzles .1a personal favourite amongst some quite tough stuff .Cheers

  11. @ Prolixic

    Thanks as always for your very thorough review.

    RE 16: “actress” is a rather old fashioned term. Most female actors, and I’m sure Ms Swinton will be among them, prefer the non-gender specific term.

  12. Thanks Prolixic for your thorough review. I agree with most of your points but as Mitz has pointed out, use of the gender specific ‘actress’ is frowned upon by some. Ms. Swinton herself, I think, would be the first to complain.
    I didn’t have ‘flickering’ doing double duty in my mind (but I missed out a question mark after ‘on a screen’).
    The solutions to 1.5, 10,12 14,16,21,26 and 28 across and to 1,18,20,21 and 25 down are all the names of films (I don’t count 2d as the film is The Bodyguard) .
    Innuendo (Comment 10b) has nothing to do with it at all.

    1. Don’t those of us who abhor the use of the non-gender specific term have a say? It’s up there with “chair” as a nonsensical compliance with so-called political correctness. What next? Do we adopt the American spelling of perfectly good English words?

      1. I think the main point in crosswording terms is not one of political correctness, simply accepted usage. According to Collins: “The term ‘actor’ is almost universally used nowadays to refer to people of either gender who act.”

        Elsewhere I think it comes down to the personal preference of who is being talked about. If a female board member is happy to be referred to as the chairman of a meeting then that is her choice; if a female film star refers to herself as an actor, then that is hers.

      2. Hi Dave, I sympathise with you but then someone pointed out to me that we don’t say ‘doctoress,’ so why should we say ‘actress.’ In the fullness of time, no doubt the Oscars will default to Best Male (and Female) Actor. It’s probably just my hormones, but I prefer actresses to actors.

  13. Not sure I know where to begin. I managed to complete most of this, but needed the answers for 23a and 26a.I went sadly wrong. I had the wrong answer for 11d, which meant I couldn’t get 16a. Also had ‘at’ instead of ‘in for the first word of 19a, and that resulted in my having ‘waysides’ (which did puzzle me) instead of ‘sideways’, and meant I couldn’t get 23a and 26a. I couldn’t parse 13a, 28a, and 8d. Finally, last night I did see StanXYZ’s hint for the ‘W’ in 1aand that was most helpful. Surprisingly enough, I did manage to arrive at 27a correctly!

    I did enjoy what I could do, and there were many laughs along the way. Cinema is not my forte, but I didn’t resort to Google as my PC was running a back-up and I’ve learned from bitter experience to leave it alone to get on with it!

    Many thanks Brigster. I’m afraid I really didn’t do this entertaining puzzle justice.

    I would be lost without Prolixic’s review. (My paper copy is covered in notes.) So a very big thank you and much appreciation to Prolixic. Would-be setters must be finding the insightful ‘foray’ into the cluing of the anagram invaluable. As a solver it, it is fascinating. At this point in time, and bearing in mind things like copyright, it is probably a very big ask… but it would be lovely if one could print this and the others. In the meantime, bookmarking pages suffices.

    1. I will ask Prolixic if he would like to gather all the notes into one document, and then we can publish it with a downloadable pdf option.

      1. That is most kind of you, Big Dave. It would be great if it were possible. I really do appreciate it. Thank you very much.

    2. I would be happy to produce this. Rather than having to keep updating a PDF each week, could I suggest that it awaits a natural conclusion to the notes. It will be several weeks before the different clue types have been covered (and I usually don’t know what I will cover until I have reviewed the crossword and want to say something more arising from points I have spotted).

      1. That’s perfect! Yes, it does seem best to wait until you’ve completed your opus. Looking forward to the end result. Thank you very much indeed for your kindness.

  14. Only just caught up with this one, although I have commented elsewhere. I do like film, so I thought this one was great, even if I do prefer actresses to actors (see above!).

    The only real problem I had was for ‘W’ = double u in an anagram, but that is a small point. Overall, a great puzzle; let’s hear more from Brigster!

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