Rookie Corner 061 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 061

A Puzzle by Hasslethymi

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have another puzzle from Hasslethymi.  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.

Prolixic has prepared a document entitled “A brief guide to the construction of cryptic crossword clues” which can be downloaded, in pdf format, from the Rookie Corner index page or by clicking below.

Download asa Word file

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

Hassletheymi returns with another accomplished crossword, his fourth, which continues to show his promise as a setter.  Comments on the clues are set out below.

One thing that is encouraging is the way in which comments on the blog, largely by other Rookies but also by others, are beginning to analyse the clues and the grid and offer their thoughts on the wordplay.  This is a healthy development and shows how well the Rookie Corner is developing as we all learn together.  I may, from time to time, comment on the comments but remember that my view on a clue may be one among  many.  I will try to indicate where views differ and where I am expressing a personal preference.

Comments have being made on the triple and double unches (consecutive squares in the grid where the letter does not intersect with another answer).  Triple unches are almost never seen in grids published in the national papers.  Double unches are frequently seen, even at the start of words although I believe that the Times grids prohibit the use of double unches at the beginning of a word.


1 Spooner’s sweet guy standing just in front of the sofa? (6,5)
COFFEE TABLE – Swap the initial letters (Spooner’s) of toffee (sweet) cable (guy or rope).  Spoonerisms are a clue type that divide solvers but are a perfectly valid word of wordplay for setters to use.  Perhaps two in the grid was over enthusiastic.  One of the problems with Spoonerism type clues is that there are very few ways to clue them.  Here, perhaps, you could have had “Sweet guy exchanging introductions standing just in front of the sofa”.  This would avoid the (sometimes unjustly levelled charge) that the Reverend Spooner would never have said that.

7 Fool is clearly grossly evasive at heart (3)
ASS – The central letters (at heart) of cleArly groSsly evaSive.  I think that the singular at heart works here.  At hearts would not work and I think that the at heart can fairly relate to all three words in the clue.

9 Roughly chopped celeriac with useless part discarded (5)
CIRCA – An anagram (chopped) of CELERIAC after removing the ELE (useless part discarded).  Useless part may be too imprecise.  As others have pointed out, useless core would have been better.

10 Regulate power (9)
INFLUENCE – Double definition.  If the first is regulate as in to control, then the two meanings are closely connected as in order to regulate, you have to have the power to do so.

11 Musicians put together alternative cabinet in conjunction with artist (9)
ORCHESTRA – A word sum (put together) of a word that indicates an alternative, another word for a cabinet and the abbreviation for an artist.

12 Meal is essentially still unchanged (5)
LUNCH – The answer is hidden (essentially) in STILL UNCHANGED.  Whilst words to indicate a hidden word such as at heart or centrally would require the exact central letters, my view is that essentially does not impose this constraint on the setter.

13 Eno’s Dr Awkward’s one for word play (10)
PALINDROME – “Eno’s Dr Awkward’s one” reads the same forwards and backwards as an example of this type of wordplay.  Presumably the surface reading is to an imaginary musical piece by the composer Brian Eno so the surface reading makes some sense.

17 Key found after sailor’s discharge (10)
ABSOLUTION – The abbreviation for an able bodied seaman (sailor) followed by a word meaning key or something that gives the answer.

22 Remove gold from austere design and put back in place (5)
RESET – An anagram (design) of AUSTERE after removing the chemical symbol AU for gold.  If design is being used as an imperative verb, it should be before the anagram letter.  If it is being used as noun, not all editors would accept a nounal anagram indicator

23 Gary is doubly frustrated about second rate argument (4-5)
ARGY-BARGY – An anagram (frustrated) of GARY GARY (doubly) around the letter representing second-rate.

25 Astronaut’s covering area with diamonds, perhaps (9)
SPACESUIT – Another word for an area followed by what diamonds are an example of in a deck of cards.

26 Leave follow bronze dance (5)
TANGO – A two letter word meaning leave goes after (follow – this should have been following) another word meaning bronze (as in sitting out in the sun).

27 Biblical character‘s fate (3)
LOT – A double definition of the man whose wife was turned into a pillar of salt and another word for fate.

28 Signalling collapse for Spooner’s camping equipment (8,3)
SLEEPING BAG – Swap the initial letters (Spooner’s) of bleeping (signalling) sag (collapse).


1 Two firms working to get protective cover (6)
COCOON – The abbreviation for company twice (two firms) followed by a two letter word meaning working.

2 Ceramic supplied by Ali once, following dismissal (8)
FIRECLAY – The original surname of Mohammed Ali after (following) a word meaning to dismiss someone (I don’t think that dismissal is the right word here as this is a noun being used to clue a verb.)

3 Delete weird answer that’s oddly lacking (5)
ERASE – The even letters (oddly lacking) of wEiRdAnSwEr.  The words oddly lacking can apply to two or more words in the clue but for the construction to work, you have mentally to remove the space between words (otherwise you are deleting the even letters in the second word) and it is perfectly acceptable to set the clue in this way.  However, as this can be a source of confusion, it is probably better to ensure that you are removing the odd letters in both words without having to take the space into account in counting which letter are to be removed or having to close the words up.

4 Writhed like a pervert (7)
TWISTED – A double definition, the second defining the moral corruption of a pervert.

5 Polish with Austrian links originally with old New York city (7)
BUFFALO – A four letter word meaning polish followed by the first letters (originally) of Austrian and links and the abbreviation for old.

6 Let nubile eccentric be in high spirits (9)
EBULLIENT – An anagram (eccentric) of LET NUBILE.

7 Arrival of the first light cannot begin to provide shelter (6)
AWNING – Remove the first letter (cannot begin) from a word meaning the arrival of first light.

8 Guard the Lord? (8)
SHEPHERD – A double definition, the second being a reference to the description of the Lord in Psalm 23.

14 Lack of suitability as tenpins tumble (9)
INAPTNESS – An anagram (tumble) of AS TENPINS.

15 Sheila, sir, perhaps partially brought about retaliation (8)
REPRISAL – The answer is hidden (partially) and reversed (brought about) in SHEILA SIR PERHAPS

16 Handle raising hit crucifix (8)
DOORKNOB – Reverse (raising) bonk (hit) and rood (crucifix).

18 Standing as utter nonsense (7)
STATURE – An anagram (nonsense) of AS UTTER.  As a noun, nonsense would not find favour with all editors as an anagram indicator.

19 Frivolous at university, so start smoking (5,2)
LIGHT UP – A word meaning frivolous followed by a word meaning at university.

20 Lion taking time to be oblique (6)
ASLANT – The name of the lion in the “Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” followed by the abbreviation for time.

21 Tennis legend pursuing crazy case for bionic man (6)
CYBORG – The name of many time Wimbledon and world tennis champion from Sweden after (pursuing) the outer letters (case) of crazy.

24 Stick racket being performed (5)
BATON – Another word for a piece of sporting equipment followed by a word meaning being performed.  I am not convinced that a bat is a synonym for the required word in the solution!

33 comments on “Rookie Corner 061

  1. That was good fun. It took us about the same time as a mid-week back pager which is where we quite like Rookie Corner puzzles to be. We do not object to Spoonerisms and appreciated the two here. Not so keen on the triple unches though. However they did not present any problems with getting the answers. We particularly enjoyed working out the wordplay for 13a.
    Thanks Hasslethymi

  2. A straightforward solve – don’t palindromes have to be words that make sense which ever way round they are read? – I don’t think this works for 13a if that is the case.

    Thanks to Hasslethymi.

  3. I really enjoyed this – not too difficult and an interesting variety of clue constructions.

    Having two Spoonerisms in one puzzle might be over-egging the pudding a tad, especially as the second one is not the strongest!

    I don’t think that the use of “dismissal” (noun) to clue the verbal first part of the answer in 2d works unfortunately. “Dismiss” would be fine, but would necessitate re-wording the clue.

    My favourite was 13a, which I didn’t spot to start with.

    Many thanks Hasslethymi (Ashley).

  4. Some good ones in here – particularly liked 23&25a plus 7d.
    Spoonerisms always fill me with dread but these were reasonably easy to work out although I’ve never heard of that term for signalling collapse!
    Must confess that I didn’t really care for 13a – I was surprised to see it given the favourite slot by other commenters.

    Many thanks, Hasslethymi – hope we hear more from you.

  5. At times I have felt that some Rookies seem to be trying too hard to produce a ‘toughie’, to the detriment of the clueing, but I agree with the 2Kiwis that this one was pitched just right. I liked it a lot. Perhaps two Spoonerisms in one puzzle is one (or even two!) too many, though. I am not able to parse 13A, although the answer was obvious from the checking letters, and 9A does not quite work for me. Other than that, I thought it was a very good effort indeed. 23A is my favorite. Thanks, Hasslethymi.

  6. I can really do without Spooner clues and two in one puzzle is definitely two too many, especially as neither of these are much good as the Spoonerisms are meaningless.

    Favourite was 25a and least favourite was 13a.

    Overall it was enjoyable so thanks Hasslethymi.

  7. Well done Hasslethymi!

    A well-balanced puzzle, very nicely avoiding the normal rookie trap of making things way too difficult, with accurate and innovative clueing! My favourites were 9a (roughly chopped..), 13a (Eno’s..), 4d (writhed..) and 14d (tenpins). Some nice constructions too, I like “New York city”, “sweet guy”, “austere design” (though some people don’t like nounal anagrinds). I didn’t know the lion, but could solve then look it up. I have a few very minor niggles, I would have preferred heart to be plural somehow in 7a, in 12a some people like essentially to mean the exact centre, I’d prefer following in 26a and I agree with silvanus regarding dismissal in 2d, but all that is small stuff compared to the rest of the puzzle!

    The 2kiwis are quite right concerning triple unches, I’ can’t remember seeing them in a puzzle before, double unches are common but never at the start of a word like 15d. Didn’t prevent solution though. I don’t remember seeing two spoonerisms either but I don’t think that is a crime.

    Congratulations, most enjoyable, thank you for sharing this with us!

    Look forward to the next one

  8. I enjoyed this and found the wordplay smooth and precise. I didn’t parse 13a until I saw the comments and this one seems to be a love it or hate it clue. I’m not a fan (probably because I didn’t spot it!) but since it’s many people’s favourites then it was definitely worth including. My favourite was 23a because it is a great word. Thanks Hasslethymi

  9. That was good fun and not too taxing for a Monday morning.
    I liked 23 and 25a particularly.
    I don’t mind spoonerisms but I do think they have to be funny like the one in the Saturday guardian prize. It had me in fits.
    I think the direction to remove letters in 9a could have been a bit more precise like “useless core discarded”.
    Thanks to Hasslethymi.

  10. Thanks to everyone for the very useful feedback. I will rein in the Spoonerisms from now on. (I’ve always been amused by them and happen to have been getting my Year 7 pupils to create them around the time of writing the puzzle, so must have had them on the brain.)

    Apologies for the error in 26A, for which ‘following’ was intended, not ‘follow’. 13A was a tricky one to clue, as couldn’t work out how to fit in the definition without giving too much away. Was fun to create, nonetheless.

    One thing I put in deliberately to see if anyone might have an opinion on is 3D. Does it matter if I have ‘oddly lacking’ when there are two words, i.e. if only really the ‘weird’ is ‘oddly lacking’ or does the syntax mean that the ‘AnSwEr’ part is valid? Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Ashley,
      I certainly didn’t have a problem with 3d – thought it was rather clever, actually!

    2. I didn’t have a problem with 3D either – fine to include two words in the fodder as long as the are together – in fact I gave this clue a tick because I likes the surface, especially “delete weird answer”

      1. I looked up dr awkward, seems they are a band, does Eno have anything to do with them? It’s an interesting clue, at first I read “Eno’s dr awkward’s one” as “Eno’s dr awkward is an example” but of course you need the “one” as part of the example! – it parses beautifully. Of all the examples you might pick, I’m curious why you picked this one, is there any particular reason?

    3. Even/odd constructs that involve two (or more) words are less contentious if the leading word (words) has (have) an even number of letters – say EeRy AnSwEr.

      1. Yes, though here he has “oddly lacking” which fits the surface rather nicely…

    4. No reason to rein in spoonerisms, but they are pretty hard to nail. The glaringly obvious wordplay instruction needs to be balanced by some deceit and then you need to find something that provides humour and a penny dropping moment (or pdm).

  11. Thanks Hasselthymi, I thought this was an enjoyable solve, with a nice level of difficulty. I see that the other commenters have already mentioned everything I was going to say in terms of a couple of minor issues, so I won’t restate them here. Ref 3d then I’d say that is totally fair game to use oddly lacking referencing 2 (or more) words – I’m pretty sure that’s a reasonably commonly used construct.

    I for one am in the ‘liked’ camp for 13a, but it’s clearly a bit of a marmite clue! My favourite was 23a.


  12. Very good! Well done and thank you, Hasselthymi.

    As others have mentioned I felt that 13a and the two Spoonerisms were weak. I don’t mind Spoonerisms per se, but they need to have clear and preferably amusing meanings both ways round. Nevertheless those minor issues didn’t detract from what was a very enjoyable puzzle with a nice balance of clues.

    I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert in this sort of detail, but I agree with Sprocker that 3d seems fine as you are specifying omitting the odd letters from an 11 letter phrase.

  13. I have this problem of not being able to look back as I do it on line and you are all talking about 3d and 13a and I don’t remember what they are .
    I though the level was just right, like the Kiwis and Sprocker.I noticed all the triple unches but they didn’t prove to be a problem.
    Before finishing I noted the following “likes”: 1,4, 5 and 8d and 23 and 25a.
    I can’t see what crufix has to do with 16a.
    I hate spoonerisms.
    Thanks Ashley Smith, and congratulations on a very successful debut.

    1. It’s actually Ashley’s fourth visit to Rookie Corner according to BD’s index, Una, so his debut was quite some time ago now!

  14. 16d – assume you mean down as there isn’t a 16a – is two reversals. The first four letters reversed are another word for a cross or crucifix.

  15. I enjoyed this one very much.
    I don’t get 13a – only put it in as it was the only thing that would fit with everything else!
    I also don’t get my answer for 9a, assuming it’s right.
    No problems at all with 3d and no problems with Spoonerisms either – I know I’m in the minority but I like them – they usually make me laugh.
    I liked both the Spoonerisms. My favourite was 23a.
    With thanks and well done to Mr Anagram.

  16. This was enjoyable and I was able to complete it, which is rare, so happy days.
    I particularly enjoyed the bottom left corner, but I think my favourite would have been 9a had you had Jean-Luc as your test-solver beforehand – part didn’t really work, but it was a great idea.
    Regarding the Spoonerisms, I agree with Rabbit Dave, the phrase needs to have meaning both ways round (however ridiculous!),
    and certainly in the second one, the two Spoonerised words seem to have been just been clued separately.
    13a was again a great idea, but is the problem that ‘one’ is doing double duty? Perhaps Eno’s could have been omitted?
    As to the alternate letters, would it also be OK to have the ‘odd’ letters of one 5-letter word (say), then the odd letters of a second 5-letter word – even though two letters would be consecutive in the overall phrase?
    Thanks Hasslethymi.

    1. Snape, I don’t understand your thinking for 13A. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I thought all of the first four words would be needed for the complete palindrome.

    2. Yes, I think I’m wrong, but I can still explain my thinking! Dr Awkward would still be a palindrome without the Eno’s and ‘s one. So ‘Dr Awkward’s one’ would indicate a definition by example – however I see that it works equally (or doesn’t, depending on your point of view) with them included. I was looking at the definition as ‘one for wordplay’, and I was wrong.

      1. Goodness, I’m in trouble if I can’t even parse my own thoughts. I think I was thinking that ‘one’ might be both part of the wordplay, and an indicator of definition by example, rather than ‘one for wordplay’ being the definition.

      2. 13a – It is an interesting clue – you can read the “one” in more than one way, which I think adds to the charm of the clue (see my comment @10) – but the parsing works (only) with “one” inside the palindrome.

  17. Thanks again to all for the excellent advice and particularly to Dave and Prolixic for the time and effort put into everything. I’m particularly pleased to have discovered the rule about not using a noun as an anagrind, which will help with my future setting. The advice about the odd/even constructs was most useful too.

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