Rookie Corner 034

A Puzzle by Mitz

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today’s entertainment is provided by 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.

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

Congratulations to Mitz with a cracker of a crossword.  The outer two columns form a Nina (WOT NO THEME).  No major issues with the clues except for 16d and a blind spot on my part in parsing 17a for which Gazza’s help was required.

Across

1 Craven Icelandic conflict Germany left until last (6)
COWARD – A famous fishing dispute with Iceland had the D for Germany moved leftwards to the end.

4 It’s plain: Dad’s taking my half (6)
PAMPAS – Put one half of the word MY inside another word for dad’s retaining the s from the “‘s” at the end.

9 Hint of tungsten in potassium? (4)
WINK – The chemical symbol for tungsten followed by the IN from the clue and the chemical symbol for potassium.

10 More unfashionable as well, mirrored 25’s being 5 (6,4)
SQUARE ROOT – …the mathematical relationship between 25 and 5.  A word meaning more unfashionable is followed by a reversal (mirrored) of a word meaning as well.

11 Handle nothing unknown, entering equal (6)
OPENER – The letter for nothing or zero followed by a letter representing any number inside (entering) a word for an equal.  Usually unknown is used for x, y or z and N is clued as number or any number.

12 Awkward jerk goes to Malaysian capital – is he drug-free? (8)
TICKLISH – A three letter word for jerk or spasm followed by the abbreviation for Kuala Lumpa (capital of Malaysia) and the IS HE from the clue without the abbreviation for ecstasy (drug-free).

13 Brand new, evicted from country, threat regularly commences (9)
TRADEMARK – Remove the N (new) from the name of a Scandinavian country and add at the beginning the odd letters (regularly) of ThReAt.

15 Man, a good man, comes back to power in Russia (4)
TSAR – The abbreviation for a man on a chess board followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviation for a saint (good man) are all reversed.

16 Solid signal describing breadth (4)
CUBE – Another word for a signal or hint goes around the abbreviation for breadth.

17 Precise sound of cricket on the radio, I thought! (9)
NIETZSCHE – A homophone (on the radio) of NEAT (precise) and CHIRR (sound of cricket).  Thank you to Gazza for pointing out Chirr as I could not get beyond chirp!

21 Established in low country, mixing gin to have one before flying (8)
NESTLING – The abbreviation for established goes inside the IVR code for Holland (low country) and this is followed by an anagram (mixing) of GIN.

22 Two articles on making a monarch leave to their tune (6)
ANTHEM – An indefinite article followed by the definite article and the MAKING from the clue without A KING (a monarch) leave.

24 Choose to conceal vandalised censer with key that is well known – don’t mention it (4,6)
OPEN SECRET – A three letter word meaning choose includes (to conceal) an anagram (vandalised) of CENSOR and a note from the musical scale (key).

25 It’s played, offering seconds of good, above-board merriment (4)
OBOE – The second letters of gOod aBove bOard mErriment.

26 Quickly and in brief: leader, too heartless (6)
PRESTO – The abbreviation for president (brief leader) followed by the out letters (heartless) of too.

27 Yank talking about common symbol in Sino-Cymric traditions? (6)
DRAGON – A four letter word for yank or pull followed by a word meaning talking about.

Down

1 Initially come in, comparatively fine and dandy (7)
CHIPPER – The first letter (initially) of come followed by a word meaning in or more trendy (comparatively).

2 Rouse white monster, first of klaxons ringing away (5)
WAKEN – The abbreviation for white followed by the name of a monster in with the KR removed (first of klaxons ringing away)

3 Stage in Rio I leave to play guitar (7)
ROSTRUM – Remove the “I” from Rio and follow this by a word meaning to play the guitar.

5 Coffee sailor abandoned, loudly entering our ancestral home (6)
AFRICA – Remove the AB (sailor) from a type of coffee an include (entering) the abbreviation for loudly.

6 Aim of strike, April says, is confused (9)
PARALYSIS – An anagram (confused) of APRIL SAYS.

7 At heart senses the trail is around back (7)
SPONSOR – The central letters (at heart) of senses with another word for a trail around them.

8 Orders: “Urgent! Be first!” – he drops everything (13)
BUTTERFINGERS – An anagram (orders) of URGENT BE FIRST.

14 Nice of headless, misshapen beast into live young lady! (9)
DEBUTANTE – The French (Nice) for “of” followed by a word meaning live inside which you dd a word for a misshapen monster with the first letter removed (headless).

16 Relieve yourself, churchman, but be furtive about it! (5,2)
CREEP UP – A three letter word meaning to micturate followed by the abbreviation for Roman Catholic which have to be made into a reversal clue to give CR + EEP UP.  I don’t think that this clue works as the “!” at the end of the clue does not give a sufficient indication that the solver has to build a reversal clue from the wordplay.

18 Krakatoa’s terrible core gives one a grilling (7)
TOASTER – The answer is hidden inside (core) KRAKATOA’S TERRIBLE

19 Hot poem coming up – acknowledge outside party (7)
HOEDOWN – The abbreviation for hot followed by a word meaning to acknowledge or have around (outside) the reversal (coming up) of a three letter word for poetry.

20 Give penny to the fountain, returning out of interest (6)
DIVERT – The abbreviation for an old penny followed by a reversal (returning) of a famous Italian fountain.  I think that wordplay out of definition is probably the wrong way around.  Definition out of wordplay would work better. 

23 Violet’s 22 is very brief (5)
THONG – How Violet Elizabeth from Just William would pronounce SONG (another word for 22a).  I don’t think that “very brief” works very well as the definition but this may be personal preference speaking.

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36 Comments

  1. 2Kiwis
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    Well that one really had us working hard. A very well constructed puzzle we thought with lots of clever wordplay. 17a was diabolical and we needed all the checkers before we could work out where the definition was. A few chuckle inducing innuendo clues too, eg 16d and 23d. Took us well into Toughie time.
    Thanks Mitz.

  2. gazza
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Very enjoyable and quite tricky (with a Nina to boot) – thanks to Mitz. My favourite, because it made me laugh, was 23d.

    • 2Kiwis
      Posted December 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      We totally missed the NINA until you pointed it out. Thanks.

  3. Alchemi
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this a lot. Especially welcome on one of those frequent Mondays when neither the FT nor Grauinad are worth bothering with.

    One little quibble. I don’t think it good practice to cross-refer to a clue which shares a cell with the answer, as in 23d. It’s a mite unfair on solvers to give them a potential deadly embrace where they can’t solve either clue.

  4. Franco
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Definitely Toughie Territory for me. Looking forward to the review tomorrow for a few explanations.

    23d – Is this Violet the one with the lisp? Still don’t understand it.

    • gazza
      Posted December 1, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      yeth.

      • Franco
        Posted December 1, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Thankth!

        I finally understand!

        We are a bit slow here in the county of “Ethics” – Colchester etc.

  5. Una
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    That was hard ! Feeling a bit dim on this thide of the Irith Thea.

  6. Beet
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Well done Mitz, great clues and a nina to boot. Favourite was 10 across. Someone’s going to have to explain 17 across to me in words of one syllable. Someone more mathematically minded can correct me if I’m wrong but does n mean unknown (11across)?

    • Posted December 1, 2014 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      17a Precise sound of cricket on the radio, I thought! (9)
      What sounds like (on the radio) NEAT (precise) and CHURR (sound of cricket) is the name of a philosopher (I thought)

      11a You are right, N represents any number (as in “where N = 1 to 100”), X, Y and Z are unknowns.

      • Beet
        Posted December 1, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        I would not have got 17a in n years.

        • Posted December 1, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

          My own personal view is that either the definition or the wordplay (or both) should be straightforward and easy to understand.

          • Mitz
            Posted December 2, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

            Not sure I quite go along with that (it will probably not surprise you to hear) – for me misdirection and convolution are the cornerstones of the fun of it all – but I do absolutely believe that both definition and wordplay must absolutely be fair, and in conjunction with each other unambiguous.

            • Posted December 2, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

              A tricky homophone combined with a cryptic definition is bordering on unfair.

  7. Jane
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Relieved to see that people are rating this at Toughie level – I think I’m likely to be admitting defeat! Not sure whether this would be considered a fair comment to make to a new setter but I did find some of the surface-reading hard work eg 14d.

    Thanks for the challenge, Mitz, I’ll look forward to the review tomorrow.

  8. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. Very much in toughie territory. Still left with a few blanks. Although I think I have 1a I have to wait for the review unless it is about that fishy fighting. But yes you can guess I don’t have 1d and 11a yet. Bit tired now. Will continue in the morning. Good night all.

  9. Expat Chris
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    I have not been able to get a toehold on this so far. Hopefully this evening will bring some enlightenment.

  10. Jane
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Well – I’ve finally got the grid filled, although several await the review for verification. At least I did discover the Nina, so that’s a good sign!

  11. Mitz
    Posted December 2, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Morning everyone and thanks for all of your comments. Glad to see that most people have enjoyed it, even if almost universal opinion has it that this is at the harder end of the scale. One day I’ll manage to produce a nice easy one. Maybe…

    Thanks once again to Prolixic – only a couple of issues, it seems, so something’s going right!

    First of all, n = “unknown”. Dave is of course right that when you see the word “unknown” in a crossword clue the first assumption is X, or maybe Y, or perhaps even Z. But I would argue that when “n” indicates a potential range of numbers it is by definition unknown which exact number is being indicated.

    I’m going to stand by 16d: the wordplay indicates PEE RC and it is a down clue, so PEERC = CREEP UP.

    20 – I’m getting a serious sense of deja vu…

    In 22 it was intended to mean “the thing described by Violet’s anthem IS very brief”. Happy to take it on the chin if that doesn’t quite work, but a couple of people have had a chuckle at it so that’s good enough for me!

    Alchemi makes a very interesting point about referring in a clue to another solution that it crosses. I do understand the objection. I wonder what people think about solutions that cover two or more lights that cross – would this be as bad or maybe even worse?

    Finally, 17. The original version was even more vague and my test solvers produced howls of protest. Probably still out of order, but I like homophone clues (I know not everyone does). Last in for most, it seems – I can’t see anything else that would fit the crossers, and the nina also helps. Maybe if I replace “I thought” with “Friedrich”?

    Anyhow, thanks again, all.

    • Posted December 2, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      You are obviously not a mathematician! N is defined in advance, so is not “unknown”.

      • Mitz
        Posted December 2, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        Hmm – my A at ‘A’ Level was quite a long time ago, but even so…!

        “An indefinite, constant whole number, especially the degree of a quantic or an equation, or the order of a curve.” (My emphasis)

        Perhaps “Handle nothing – it’s unspecified, entering equal (6)” would be a little better?

        • Posted December 2, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

          My Honours degree in Mathematics was even longer ago!

          • Mitz
            Posted December 2, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

            If I buy you n pints next time we meet will you forgive me?

            • Posted December 2, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

              Just as long as I can define n in advance!

    • Beet
      Posted December 2, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      I am curious to know what the even more cryptic version of 17a was?

      • Mitz
        Posted December 2, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        It referred to an insect rather than a cricket (definitely unfair – not all insects churr) and there was no exclamation mark warning the solver of the cryptic definition.

        • Beet
          Posted December 2, 2014 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          Is that what exclamation marks are used for? I’ve just been deploying them willy-nilly. Good to know.

          • Posted December 2, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

            Ximenes wrote:

            “As to exclamation marks, I am grateful to a solver who once wrote (none too politely) saying, in so many words, that I sprinkled my clues with them with no other purpose than that of crying out “Aren’t I clever – isn’t that a good one?”. I was irritated, as one is apt to be, at first; but on further thought I had to admit that he had got something. Now I try to use much more restraint in this matter and to use them only when I am really exclaiming or for a technical purpose, to call the solver’s attention to the fact that I’m doing something particularly outrageous, perhaps by deliberately misunderstanding the meaning of a word.”

            • Mitz
              Posted December 2, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

              Lovely!

          • Mitz
            Posted December 2, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule, but that’s what I use them for. Maybe Prolixic or Alchemi can give their opinion?

            • Prolixic
              Posted December 2, 2014 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

              My preference is to use exclamation marks only where there is something in the clue that justifies drawing the solver’s attention to something novel, unusual or outrageous in the clue. Using them too liberally takes away the benefit of using them when their use is justified by the clue rather than the setter thinking that the clue is a particularly good one or thinking that it adds something to the surface reading of the clue.

  12. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 2, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Good morning everyone. Real needed the review for that NW corner. For 1d, I was looking for another c in the middle of the word and 11a I put the o just next to the n. What a mess. Needed BD to get 17a also and 19d and 23d were also left incomplete. Great crossword. Thanks to mitz, prolixic and BD for the entertainment.

  13. Expat Chris
    Posted December 2, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I could not get on the setter’s wavelength at all and eventually gave up with just a handful of clues solved. Thank you to Prolixic for the usual thorough review.

  14. Jane
    Posted December 2, 2014 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Good grief – all my ‘final answers’ were correct! In case anyone’s interested:-
    4a – I went for half of Pamela followed by Pa’s (yes, I know, but it worked!).
    15&16a – bung-ins, I’m ashamed to say.
    17a – another bung-in because it had never occurred to me to try to pronounce the poor chap’s name! Only came up with it because it made an appearance in a puzzle a few days ago and not a lot else would fit.
    21a – I really must print out BD’s list of IVR codes.
    24a – shouldn’t the review have referred to CENSER – not CENSOR? Needed Mr. Google to tell me what on earth it was!
    2d – the monster was a new one on me.
    14d – Sorry, Prolixic, I still can’t parse this one. Could you poss. spell it out more simply – I’m really struggling to parse it.
    16d – well done for the polite interpretation!

    Thank you, Mitz, this is probably the best attempt I’ve ever made at a Toughie and it was well worth the effort.
    Thank you, Prolixic – but you made it sound so easy!!!

    • Mitz
      Posted December 2, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jane,

      So gratifying that you have stuck with it to the bitter end!

      14d: DE (“of” as it would be said in Nice) + (m)UTANT (headless monster) inside BE (live).

      And yes, the word in 24 is indeed “censer”.

      • Jane
        Posted December 2, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, Mitz – all satisfied now!

        Looking forward to your next challenge. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_bye.gif