Rookie Corner 022 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 022

Beware! by Mitz

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Following closely on the heels of Axolotl, here is the third puzzle from Mitz.  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.

If you have a puzzle you would like to see published here then why not write to me, using the contact page.

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Mitz with another cracking crossword.  This one contained a very long anagram which was expertly composed to give the impression of the Jabberwocky.  Using long anagrams like this is a perfectly acceptable ploy for the setter but solvers are split over whether or not they like them.  The difficulty is that you either spot the anagram very early on and have lots of checking letters for the remainder of the crossword making it much easier to solve or you cannot spot the anagram and you spend ages trying to get enough cross-checking letters to make sense of it which reduces some of the enjoyment of solving.  I was fortunate with this crossword in that seeing the title and the first words of the clue, I immediately knew what the answer was before I had even solved the other clues.  I did not even bother to check that the anagram was correct.


1/1D/19D/8/23 Opening lines of strange verse on bid by slightly wild animal with dead big teeth? Nonsense! (4,7,3,3,6,5,3,4,3,6,2,3,4)

9 Leaves site with 10 mistakes (5)
EXITS – An anagram (mistakes) of SITE X (10).  Whilst using abbreviations in anagrams is acceptable, the requirement here to translate from 10 to X as part of the anagram fodder brings this just to the wrong side of an indirect anagram for me.

10 It’s eerily quiet, backing opponents too much after good sense of humour is lost (5,4)
GHOST TOWN – An anagram (is lost) of GSOH (the abbreviation for GSOH) followed by a reversal (backing) of NW (opponents in a game of bridge) and OTT (too much).  The use of the abbreviation for GSOH is fine as the anagram fodder as the letters to be rearranged come directly from the full expression.

11 Set off without the paper, showing delicacy (5,5)
LIGHT TOUCH – Remove the paper from “Light Touchpaper” – an instruction to set off a firework perhaps.

12 Award try, no good (4)
GONG – A word meaning a try or shot at something followed by the abbreviation for No Good.

14 Multi-bet Andrew placed for someone high up (7)
TIBETAN – The answer is hidden in (placed) MULTI-BET ANDREW.  As a minor point, it is far better to use the present tense for wordplay elements where possible as the words continue to place the answer rather than this having happened in the past.  A similar point occurs in 24a where described is used in the sense of a containment indicator where the present tense describes would be better.

16 Country beauty generously proportioned, but without personal hygiene issue by the sound of it! (7)
BELGIUM – A homophone (by the sound of it) of belle (beauty) jum[bo] (generously proportioned with the body odour – personal hygiene issue).  For a homophone clue to expect the solver to get from generously proportioned to jumbo then remove the BO and then make a homophone of the remaining letters is too many steps to make this a fair process.

17 Hogwash oddly blanked out after unknown arrangement of devil’s nettles (7)
YARROWS – The even letters (oddly blanked out) of hOgWaSh after Y (unknown) and the abbreviation for arrangement.  A minor point but wordplay of definition is frowned upon by some editors.  Definition of wordplay is acceptable.

19 Point of French setter is in a state (7)
DECIMAL – The French for of followed by the abbreviation for California (state) inside which you add a contraction for “setter is”.

20 Chronic fatigue found in working situation – not necessarily a good sign (4)
OMEN – A word describing the situation of something that is working inside which you add the abbreviation for chronic fatigue syndrome.

21 A new international hotel in ruins previously pronounced in Delhi (10)

HINDUSTANI – The abbreviation for hotel followed by the IN from the clue, another word meaning ruins followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviations for New and International.  The previously tells us that the wordplay for “hotel in ruins” comes first in the answer.

24 Lament described worker living initially with grace (9)
ELEGANTLY – Another word for a poetic lament goes around (described) another word for an insect worker and the first letter (initially) of living.

25 It takes daughter 10 to show ass (5)
IDIOT – Inside (takes) the IT from the clue add the abbreviation for daughter and an IO (10).

26 Pounds can be won in transactions here (6,2,6)
BUREAU DE CHANGE – Where you could change pounds sterling into North or South Korean Won.  As a general rule, it acceptable to capitalise a common noun as part of the wordplay to mislead but not to put a proper noun into lowercase!  Don’t ask me why!


1 See 1 Across

2 Maturing drink in silver case (5)
AGING – An alcoholic drink inside the chemical symbol for silver.

3 “Good,” states small French comedian in terminus (3,7)
BUS STATION – The French word for good holds (in) an abbreviation for the United States, the abbreviation for small and the name of a French comedian.  Although we have French in the clue to qualify the comedian, I don’t think that this is sufficient to indicate that the French for good is also used.

4 I go on without a squabble; not starting like a painful extremity (7)
INGROWN – The I from the clue, a three letter word meaning to go or pester without the A, a word meaning squabble and the first letter (starting) of not.

5 3 on 29 born of fierce parents! (4,3)
LION CUB – The chemical symbol for the 3rd element (Lithium) in the periodic table followed by the ON from the clue, the chemical symbol for the 29th element (Copper) and the abbreviation for born.  I wonder how fair is it to expect solvers to know the position in the periodic table of the elements without any indication of what the numbers relate to?  I think child of fierce parents would be better as a definition here.

6 Someone dressed in black understood heroin (4)
GOTH – A three letter word meaning understood followed by the abbreviation of heroin.

7 Stupid goon – smile for selfie, for example (9)
NEOLOGISM – An anagram (stupid) of GOON SMILE.

8 See 1 Across

13 Tradesman Mick’s a mess, devouring classic sandwich, hot? On the contrary! (10)
BLACKSMITH – The abbreviation for a classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich holds an anagram (mess) of MICKS A followed by the abbreviation for hot.  The on the contrary tells us that the wordplay order for including one element inside the other is reversed from how it reads in the clue.

15 Charge suitor without detailed statement (9)
BORDEREAU – Another word for a suitor goes around (without) a word for a charge.

18 Carefully applied pressure to small break – you texted at last (7)
SHIATSU – The abbreviation for small (already used in 3d) followed by a word for a break or rupture in part of the body with the U (you texted) moved to the end (at last).  I am in two minds about whether or not X at last is a sufficiently strong indicator to move the U to the end where it also is a simple positional indicator.

19 See 1 Across

22 Significant heart of Mr Spock, say (5)
ALIEN – The central letters (heart) of SALIENT (significant).

23 See 1 Across

Bits and pieces clues

One of the tools in the setter’s armoury is to build up clues from bits and pieces of other words.  Those bits and pieces can be made up in a number of different ways:


  • If you use abbreviations, they should be generally recognised abbreviations in a major dictionary. The primary reference is Chamber’s dictionary.       For example (using an earlier Rookie Corner crossword, Holiday for H would not be acceptable but Husband for H would be).
  • The abbreviation should stand in its own right. RAF means Royal Air Force, but this does not mean that the setter can use Royal to indicate the letter R or A for air. However, F for force is acceptable as F = Force is an accepted abbreviation in its own right.
  • One of the problems with building up clues with abbreviations is that it is very easy to repeat wordplay elements in the crossword by, for example, using small to indicate S twice in the same crossword. Care is needed to avoid repetition.
  • I believe that the Times particularly has a restricted list of abbreviations that it permits in crosswords. I can see the advantages of this as it introduces greater discipline for setters to ensure that they do not include too many abbreviations and it benefits the solver as there are some very obscure abbreviations – if solving a crossword would you know that Deputy to the Dail is abbreviated TD?
  • If you are using abbreviations as part of the letters to be included in an anagram, it is best practice only to use abbreviations that are directly represented by the letters of the expanded version – G[ood] S[ense] O[f] H[umour] is fine but Entropy for S would not.
  • To many abbreviations and bits and pieces clues can make the crossword feel too scrappy.

Initial letters / final letters / centre letters, etc

  • If you want to start a war between different solvers and setters, this is a fertile battle ground. The way in which you can indicate the opening or closing letters of a word is subject to a wide range of opinions.
  • Those who believe that the cryptic instructions in the clue should give a grammatical set of instructions to solving the clue will take a far stricter view of how such letters should be indicated than those who believe that so long as the intention of the clue is clear, the strict grammatical reading of the clue should not restrict how the letter is clued.
  • The strict view is that, for example, to clue the first letter of the word, you should use a construction such as start of X or X starts. Clues such as “first person”, “start panting”, “begin painting” or “leading parliamentarians” would not be allowed to clue the letter P as grammatically these do not indicate the initial letter of the word even if they give the sense of the first letter. Similarly middle man would not be allowed to clue A as the central letter of man. Other setters and solvers would be happy to accept the less grammatical constructions.
  • Other letter indicators include words such as initially or finally can be used fairly and the only problem with them is that they are hackneyed by overuse!
  • Constructions such as French leader are acceptable as this means leader of the French. However, Silly leader would be more questionable as this does not mean leader of the silly!
  • A curious construction that all seem to accept is an indicator such as “a bit of cake” to indicate the letter C.  Expressions such as this do not actually tell you which bit of the word you use but the accepted convention is that it refers to the first letter unless you use an expression such as last bit of cake!
  • Another form of construction that can cause disputes the use of words ending in head to indicate the first letter of the word – examples include “Gateshead”, “Redhead”, “Egghead”. Even if they do not grammatically indicate the first letter of a word, they are clear and will frequently appear in crosswords.
  • If you are using an indicator for the centre of a word, you must make sure that you are using the central letters.  Centre of gravity is the letter V.  You could not use this to indicate AV, though AVI would be acceptable.

Alternate letters

  • Some clues require you take the alternate letter of a word. The are usually indicated by words such as regularly, on a regular basis, oddly overlooked, second helpings from, etc.
  • Conventionally, this construction is used for either the odd or the even letters but there is no reason why “regular” could not mean every third letter. Some editors will not allow this form of construction though. I have also seen indicators to tell you to take the letters representing prime number letters (prime examples of…) or to use progressively increasing intervals of the letters so that you take the 2, 4, 8 letters, etc.
  • One point to watch is that it is better to use a construction such as X regularly rather than regular X as grammatically this makes better sense of the clue.

48 comments on “Rookie Corner 022

  1. We got the very long quotation quite early on which was a huge help because of all the checking letters it gave us. A couple of new words that we had to confirm, like 15d and 17a. Good level of difficulty and good fun to solve.
    Thanks Mitz

  2. I’m going to reserve judgment until the review. I got the long quote almost straight away, but I came up short on 15D, 18D and 16A. A needed bit of electronic help to sort those out, but there are a few clues I thought were a bit iffy. Could be just me. On the plus side, I thought 7D was clever.

  3. I, also, solved the long quote very quickly. One of the very few that I know!

    Looking forward to the review tomorrow … especially for 16a & 5d.

    Thanks to Mitz for the puzzle!

  4.’ve found this really difficult.
    I was very slow to get the great big long quotation having convinced myself that it had to be something to do with Julius Caesar because of the ‘Beware’ bit at the top. Wrong!
    I still have four total gaps and loads of answers that I can’t explain but have worked on the ‘Miffypops principle’ of ‘if it fits bung it in’!
    One of my great big problems is 5d – 3 on 29?
    I think that I now just have to wait for the review tomorrow.
    With thanks to Mitz and, in advance, to Prolixic.

      1. Oh…I get it now! Thanks, Gazza. That was one of my 53-9-9-39 ones. Not elementary, by any means.

        1. Now the plot thickens – 53-9-9-39? I think I’ll just retire hurt and go away somewhere quiet and dark.

      2. Thank you gazza – I think my answer to your question is clearly ‘not good enough’ but luckily husband has untangled that one for me from what you said.

        1. Don’t feel bad Kath. Without my handy-dandy printout of the relevant information and Gazza’s hint I would never have sorted this out.

          1. Me neither! Thank you very much Gazza. I saw the hint when I dropped in very briefly on Sunday night to see if anyone else was finding this puzzle difficult.

  5. Just finished having been in a local pub where fortunately a mate twigged the quotation, which was off my radar. I think I’ve done a Miffypops, quite a few which for the life of me I cannot parse. Really enjoyed what I could do though, thanks Mitz

  6. I know everyone here is always very polite and they never say anything negative but I read the first clue and immediately lost all interest. I haven’t a clue about nonsense poetry and even less interest. The clue doesn’t even have a good surface reading. Just couldn’t be bothered.

    Sorry Mitz.

  7. Thanks to all for your comments. Like some of you I’m looking forward to Prolixic’s review tomorrow – obviously for different reasons.

    @Pommers: I’m curious – if you were put off at the outset and didn’t feel like attempting any of the puzzle why would you bother to comment at all? How can you feel angrily short changed when BD doesn’t charge for access to his website and nor do any of the setters? For the record, I was actually pretty pleased with the clue for the long solution as it is both an anagram and at least vaguely &lit. And it took about 2 days to get it right. You can’t please everyone all the time I suppose…

    1. To be fair to Pommers, he doesn’t charge for writing his blogs either. He is entitled to a view and he is not the only one who is put off by long quotations being clued by unintelligible anagrams (I have another one waiting in the NTSPP queue by the way). If he said nothing then you would be unaware of this antagonism, which could affect your future as a setter.

      1. Quote … Unquote!

        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.

      2. Entitled to his opinion? Of course. Not a fan of long anagram clues? He won’t be the only one. Doesn’t feel like doing the rest of a puzzle having been put off by 1 across (etc)? Fair enough – I have always been firmly in the “each to his or her own” camp. Don’t think I can agree, however, that his comment was useful or constructive in any way.

    2. 1. I commented because I am an experienced crossword blogger and thought (erroneously) that you might like some feedback.
      2. What’s this “angrily short changed” got to do with the price of elephants? I’m not angry, just didn’t bother to solve your puzzle.
      3 What’s this about charging? Cost me nothing and I don’t suppose BD charged you for the publication.
      4 If you, as a setter, want to write a clue which takes up 49 of the 160 lights in the puzzle then it had better be a bloody good one – this one was less than that. Very clever to anagram it but the surface is meaningless. One look and “Goodnight Vienna”.

      Dave, at the top of the blog, says that we should only make constructive criticism and that’s what I thought I had done. You obviously don’t want it.

  8. I’m not going to do the “British” thing and say sorry first. Mitz, this is your third time out in the rookie corner. Maybe we don’t feel we need to pull our punches quite so much. Pommers is a respected blogger and commenter. As BD says, he is entitled to a viewpoint. Accepting all comments as valid, even if you see them as harsh, is the way you will grow as a setter. And I hope you do grow and blossom and we see more of you in the future.

    1. Thanks very much, Chris, for your measured response. Heaven forbid that anyone would hold back on their opinion – not useful at all. Pommers has made it pretty clear that he felt the dominating clue of this puzzle wasn’t up to snuff – his opinion and he’s perfectly entitled to it of course. I was disappointed that he hated it so much that it rendered him unable to offer any comment on the rest.

      1. Mitz

        I’ll have a go tomorrow. I honestly don’t know what this bit of poetry is all about but you never know. Maybe it will become clear from the checkers – but somehow I doubt it.

        I was short on time today as it’s a Monday. I know BD has the “Rookies Corner” because there’s no Toughie but there’s a prize puzzle on the DT website, the Quiptic on the Grauniad and the usual Grauniad, Indy and FT so I ain’t short of entertainment! By the time I’ve done all that lot maybe I’m a bit shirty!

  9. In fairness to Pommers my first reaction having downloaded the puzzle was at best negative ” bin it”because of 1 etc etc but decided to continue and ignore it but with some checking letters got the “quotation ”
    5d quite clever but for me needed an extra nudge to be equitable and I am sure the surface readings will be addressed rather more eloquently by Prolixic than me
    Ditch the french comedian virtually everybody else has .
    Thanks Mitz

    1. Isn’t ‘friendly argument’ an oxymoron? However, I view this as a valuable discussion all around. I just wish more people attempted and commented on the rookie corner. It’ a great addition to the bog.

  10. Huge thanks, Prolixic, for your characteristically thorough review. Delighted that you enjoyed the solving process.

    With regards to puzzles like this with a long anagram – can I add a third possibility from the solver’s point of view? I received an email from one who gave me a break down of the order in which he solved the clues – he got the long one about two thirds of the way through and described that moment as “The penny drops and the long one falls!” – exactly the kind of reaction I was hoping for.

    A few comments on some general points that you raise:

    Definition of word play = good; word play of definition = bad. To be perfectly honest I have never understood this convention – it has always seemed to me that with cryptic clues there are two ways in: either through the wordplay or the definition, with the one helping and often confirming the other. Some people don’t like it when they have to “reverse engineer” a solution – i.e. get the answer from the definition and then sort out how the word play works afterwards – and I think this is related. I have personally never had a problem with solving clues this way round when it happens like that, so that is possibly why I am sometimes guilty of this breach of convention – you have certainly picked me up on it in previous puzzles as well.

    Tenses in clues. I completely understand your point that the present tense is generally better, as the word play is still in place now. But could it not be argued that the setter constructed the word play in the past?

    Capitalisation. Really annoyed with myself for simply forgetting that currencies are given capital letters – does take the edge off that clue.

    I was also annoyed with myself when someone suggested that a question mark at the end of 7 would have been more elegant than putting “for example”.

    In 3 down, is it not clear in the way the clue is worded that it is the French comedian saying “good”?

    Finally, I am not in the least bit surprised that the two most controversial clues are 5 and 16. To be honest I expected to be hauled across the coals for making the word “born” do double duty in 5, both indicating the “b” of “cub” and being part of the definition, but I do take your point (that was also made in several comments yesterday) that not very many people know the entire periodic table, atomic numbers and all, by heart. My only defense is that there is no clue number 29 in this puzzle, so that ought to have made people think that something else was going on. With regards to 16… well, I suppose I sort of hoped that the humour of the image might help me get away with it! I’ll take that one on the chin if it was a stretch too far.

    Thanks again, everybody, for all your comments.

  11. Thanks very much to Prolixic for untangling my numerous couldn’t do/didn’t understand why answers.
    I have to confess that one of the ones I absolutely couldn’t get was 14a – I know I’m really bad at these but I don’t very often completely miss them for ever – I think it must have been particularly well hidden!
    Thanks also to Mitz.

  12. Done the puzzle today and actually, I thought it was pretty good (apart from you-know-what).. By the time I’d got most of the checkers in I was beginning to get the feeling that I ought to know it but . . . Problem is that one can guess the short words (the, and, in etc) but the rest of the answer isn’t real words at all so how is one supposed to work them out from the fodder? You would probably be surprised by some of the things I came up with. Never mind, resorted to Google.

    Thanks Mitz, but I’d rather see that clue in a Times Jumbo, where it wouldn’t be so dominating, or in a GK perhaps.

  13. Prolixic, I always enjoy your detailed reviews and notes. They help me to understand that clues that I thought were not very good when I was solving the puzzle (because I don’t know any better!) were actually perfectly acceptable. I always learn something new. So many rules and guidelines for rookie setters to absorb that it gives me a new appreciation of how difficult it really is to be a compiler or a blogger and a better appreciation of the skill of the veteran setters who make it look so easy. Thanks for all you do for we mere solvers.

    Mitz, great job! Not just for the puzzle, but for being an enthusiastic part of the conversation. I write for a living, and have my work critiqued on a daily basis by non-writers (civil engineers, actually, who speak a language all of their own) so I know all too well how tough it is to have something questioned that I’ve sweated blood over and thought was pretty darn perfect . It’s not easy to keep smiling through, but it goes with the territory. Keep up the good work!

  14. Back again! Apologies for commenting so late. (I did this Rookie puzzle a couple of days ago, but didn’t have an opportunity to comment. I started to comment earlier this evening, but had to break off.)

    I found this a difficult puzzle, but got there in the end — well, almost. I needed Gazza’s earlier hint for 5d, and Prolixic’s enlightment for the answer to 22d. (Couldn’t think of ‘salient’ — oh dearie me!)

    Once I understood the meaning of ‘3’ and ’29’, 5d was my fave. I also liked 17a, 19a, 21a, 24a, 2d and 13d. I also enjoyed the ‘opening lines of the strange verse’. To begin with, I was rather daunted by it. I was also unsure whether or not it was a huge anagram — that because I wondered if ‘slightly wild’ could be some sort of anagram indicator… I thought the clue was an all-in-one and had a pretty good idea of what it might be. I waited to get some checking letters. All I could remember was the ‘vvorpel blade went snicker-snack’ so had to look up the opening lines (in a book, not Mr Google!). Having the whole quote certainly made the rest of the puzzle much easier.

    I found it frustrating to be pretty sure of an answer but unable to follow the wordplay, as in 3d (although I did pick up on ‘bon’) and 16a (had ‘bel’ but not ‘jumbo’).

    All in all, I thought this was a good effort, so well done, Mitz!

    Especial thanks to Prolixic for the thorough and constructive review. Aside from the problems already mentioned, I did manage to follow the wordplay of the rest of the clues correctly. Although purely a solver, I find the ‘Bits and pieces clues’ most helpful. At the time, I felt that there were quite a few abbreviations in this puzzle, and so was interested to see that The Times restricts the amount that can be used. As for ‘TD’ — had never heard of it but will remember it now!

    Got caught in the spam trap. Released! Good. I’m not an alien…

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