Rookie Corner – 075 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 075

A Puzzle by Hippo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have our latest new setter.  Hippo has patiently waited for his turn, so I hope you all enjoy his 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.

Prolixic has updated his 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.

Welcome to Hippo, our newest setter.  There were some good clues in this crossword (such as 13a, 16a, 17a, 19a, 7d, 8d, 18d) with an interesting theme.  However, I found that some of the clues were imprecise to the point of making unnecessarily difficult  and less enjoyable to solve.  I managed to solve on an iPad but the intersecting clues mean that this is a crossword that is best solved on paper.


1 Thorburn versus White? (5,5)
CLIFF FACES – The first name of the snooker player Mr Thorburn followed by a word meaning versus.  Versus is a preposition being used to clue a noun and I don’t think you could exchange the two in a sentence.  The definition, if it is a noun does not match the answer and as an adjective is too tangential to fairly lead the solver to the answer.

7 26 of 3 that’s short of hands? (4)
PONY – A slang term for the amount of money represented by 26 of 3 also describes an animal which, when measured in hands, would be short.  I liked the definition here as it is descriptive in a way that the definition in 1a wasn’t.

*9 Weighty 3? (4,1,3)
HALF A TON – A weight that the answer to 3 represents as a fraction of 100.  The definition suggests that the answer is an adjective but the adjectival form would usually be 4-3 though I think you could say I would like a 4 1 3 bag of something.

*10 State before 3? (6)
HAWAII – The part of the USA that precedes 3 in the TV programme.  Fortunately the checking letters precluded my entering Alaska as the 49th State!

11 Plain French one croaked we hear. (6)
UNDYED – The French masculine for one followed by a homophone (we hear ) of died (croaked).  A minor point – full stops are not usually used at the end of clues.

12 Superfluous want in nude display. (8)
UNNEEDED – A word meaning want inside (in) an anagram (display) of NUDE.  As a minor point, as a transitive verb, the anagram indicator should come before the letters to be rearranged.

13 Sneakily call about organising a lift. (8)
CRAFTILY – A three letter word meaning call goes about an anagram (organising) of A LIFT.  One of the best clues in the crossword with a meaningful surface reading, good structure and well defined answer.

16 Place for a hot pot plant? (6)
TRIVET – An item in the kitchen where you would put (plant) a hot cooking pot.

17 Shocked at receiving an indecent shag. (6)
AGHAST – The AT from the clue includes an anagram (indecent) of SHAG.  You could remove the AN from the clue and it would work just as well, if not better.

19 Exotic spread or oil used to improve reception? (8)
EARDROPS – An anagram (exotic) of SPREAD OR.

21 Short term worry for memory. (8)
ANGSTROM – A five letter word for worry followed by the abbreviation for read only memory.  I don’t think that the definition works here.  If the answer is a term for short, the answer should be an adjective but is a noun.  If the definition is “short term”, it does not define the answer.

22 Throw out 23 leader for being hasty. (6)
FLYING – A five letter word meaning throw goes around the first letter (leader) of the answer to 23.  I am not enamoured with out as an indicator to mean that the letters go outside.

24 Call for no gore capturing clean sheep, a lot more than 3 (we hope). (3,3)
OLD AGE – A call used in bullfighting (I cannot immediate find a reference to it meaning no gore) around (capturing) a word which means to cut of dirt-clotted tufts of wool from a sheep.

25 Plant sucker with speed, old city copper gets glory, not half! (8)
SURCULUS – An abbreviation for speed (the abbreviation is not given in Chambers or Collin’s on-line dictionary) followed by the name of a biblical city, the chemical symbol for copper and half of lustre (glory).

*26/5 3, 9 or 1950? (4,7)
HALF CENTURY – A triple definition, 1950 being the midway point in a period of 100 years.

27 English jolly is a bad night for French tout. (10)
EVERYTHING – The abbreviation for English followed by a four letter word meaning jolly and an anagram (bad) of NIGHT.  The “is” in the clue is misleading and unnecessary.  “English jolly has night out with French tout” would have worked more precisely.


*2 3 if provisional. (7)
LEARNER – The Latin numeral for the answer to 3d gives a word meaning provisional when expanded to another meaning as in a provisional licence or driver.

3 10 and 22d. (5)
FIFTY – Add 10 to the answer to 22d.

4 Rank of US lawman apprehending part timer. (5)
FETID – The abbreviation for a US lawman includes (apprehending) the first two letters (part) of timer.  Many crossword editors will not allow part to indicate the selection of an unknown number of letters from a word.

5 See 26 Across.

6 Most of the prince’s problem with management of passing on the throne? (9)
SPHINCTER – An anagram (problem) of TH PRINCES.  A very loose but cheeky definition as the answer is part of the body and does not really manage the act of going to the toilet.

7 Faculty taking an easy ride gives finer grade. (9)
POWDERIER – An anagram (easy) of RIDE inside an word for faculty or ability.

8 Innocence of Ivan abroad for summer in France. (7)
NAIVETE – An anagram (abroad) of IVAN followed by the French for summer.

14 Identifies Welsh flower for display of colour? (9)
FLAGSTAFF – A five letter word meaning identified followed by the name of a Welsh river (flower).

15 Hamper with terrine made without iron. (9)
INTEREFERE – An anagram (made) of TERRINE outside (without) the chemical symbol for iron.

18 The articulated more awkward are bundles of nerves. (7)
GANGLIA – A homophone (articulated) of ganglier (more awkward).

19 Wholesale seems an option. (2,5)
EN MASSE – An anagram (option) of SEEMS AN.  Option as a noun would not be accepted by some editors as an anagram indicator.  I wonder whether option implies any sort of rearrangement of the letters?

20 Shut up one in Winchester, certainly no high flier. (7)
PENGUIN – A three letter word meaning shut up followed by the letter representing one inside a type of weapon of which Winchester is an example, though as a definition by example, ideally this should be indicated.

22 Winks in order of getting a little appreciation. (5)
FORTY – The word that goes before winks as in sleep (there is no indication that this is what is required) from a word meaning in order of followed by TY (though how you get little appreciation to TY is only (according to Big Dave) by it being an unsupported abbreviation for thank you).

23 One in the minority announced why they lost power and most of hope. (5)
YOUTH – The letter that is a homophone (announced) of why followed by a word meaning lost power (the “they” is superfluous) and the first letter of hope.  As most of hope cannot indicate the first letter, I am assuming that the the “lost” is doing double duty as part of lost power and lost most of the letters in hope.

53 comments on “Rookie Corner – 075

  1. After spending much longer on this one than we like to, we were eventually defeated by 7a and 7d.
    As these Rookie puzzles are presented unedited and we can’t know if they have been rigorously test solved, we think it is a mistake to make them as tricky as this one.
    We fiddled around for ages trying to make sense of the theme and even when we got it, had 3d and 22d the wrong way round initially.
    Thanks for the challenge Hippo.

    1. If you’re going to ask rookies to calibrate how difficult their puzzles are, you’re being far too demanding.

      Last week I finished my 400th puzzle and I had very little idea how difficult any of them were (bar a few which I knew to be really difficult) until someone solved them.

      Part of the reason this one’s tough is that some of the clues don’t actually work properly, but I’ll leave it to the reviewer to point out what’s wrong with them. There are a lot of good ideas, but some of them have not been executed as well as they needed to be.

  2. Stunningly good, Hippo. This was packed with superb definitions, invention and wit. I loved it. Too many excellent clues to choose between for a favourite, but I’ll go with 1a, plus the aphorism generated with the rubric.
    2 kiwis – 7a is cockney rhyming slang, and crops up from time to time in British crosswords. With that in place, 7d was perfectly solvable and seemed to me a bit of a fun word. 25a was new and my LOI.
    My only suggestion, apart from the unnecessary full stops (which is just a crossword convention, really) would be that I also found the asterisks unnecessary. Plus, I thought 10a WAS state 3d?
    Many congratulations, Hippo. Brilliant!

    1. I should add that to have attempted this on screen would very likely have been a nightmare. Printing it off onto paper allowed the cross-referencing of clues to make sense.

      1. Hi Maize,
        Many thanks for the kind words.
        I really enjoyed compiling this puzzle. I kept tinkering never quite happy with all the clues. But I had to give up and assign it to the finished bin.
        You were definitely right about needing to see it on paper. When I looked at it on Crossword compiling it looked very messy.
        I use pencil and paper for compiling my puzzles.

  3. Congratulations to Hippo on your debut puzzle. I’m not really a fan of puzzles where clue a refers to clue b which in turn refers to clue c but I liked 14d, 20d and 1a (though I don’t think that Thorburn is really sufficiently well known these days for such a clue). 6d gave me a good laugh.
    Like Maize I think that 10a is the wrong state (rather confusing because the correct state has the right number of letters). Some of the abbreviations used (e.g. speed, a little appreciation) aren’t listed in Chambers.

  4. At first I found this impenetrable, and generally I’m not a great fan of crosswords with so many inter-connected clues, but I slowly warmed to it as answers eventually went in, and the theme was definitely a help towards the end, even if it wasn’t evident until I’d solved over half the clues.

    I can imagine that many Rookie regulars will be tempted to give up on this one, if like me they struggle to find a way in, and with some justification might feel that to solve one inter-connected clue you need another! It certainly felt like an impossible endless loop at times. My route in was to spot the preponderance of full anagrams and part anagrams (I counted ten in total) and work from there.

    The surfaces were an interesting mix from the sublime (e.g. 1a, 7a, 17a, 27a, 14d and 20d) to the extremely clunky verging on gobbledygook (e.g. 24a and 25a). There were also ungrammatical constructions within 18d and 22d, which needed a little more work I felt.

    Utilising the first letter of a down checker as part of the across clue to which it formed part (22a) was a little cheeky, especially when other options could have been utilised.

    25a was a new word for me too, and like Maize I found the asterisks unnecessary and inconsistent – why didn’t 7a have one for example? I also had the same opinion as Maize and Gazza about 10a – I thought it was number 3d too.

    Overall though, I think it’s obvious that a lot of effort had been invested in the puzzle, and I especially liked the use of non-obvious definitions, such as 27a, which is my favourite. Aside from the overuse of anagrams (as one who should know!), it was disappointing that there were very few if any reversals, double definitions or hidden words in the puzzle. The range of clue types was much too narrow in my opinion.

    Congratulations on a very good first effort, Hippo.

    1. Hi Silvanus. Can’t we count those clues like 7a as double definitions? If so, then 26/5 was surely a triple definition, no? And I only counted 4 full anagrams, although I think there were admittedly another 7 partial ones, all ingenious I thought!

      1. My original comment was specifically referring to unthemed, or stand-alone if you prefer, double (or even triple!) definitions, but I take your point, Maize. I still feel though that extra variety in the clue types would have benefited the puzzle.

  5. I found this one to be very tough, but nonetheless enjoyable, with some excellent definitions and misdirections.

    I’d go with 27a as my favourite for the penny drop moment.

    I was also going to pick up on the 2 points that Maize raised about the full stops and 10a. I also don’t think 22a works, and can be further objected to for referencing a clue which it crosses, which was a shame as 22d is so pivotal in the unravelling (and that then also not aided by such an obscure word in 25a).

    Thanks Hppo

  6. I would certainly agree with Silvanus in that I was sorely tempted to give up on this one in the early stages – the apparent cross-referencing of so many clues made my heart sink. Had the puzzle appeared anywhere other than my beloved Rookie corner, I would probably have given it a miss!
    That would have been a great shame as I found much to enjoy and have ‘ticks’ against 7,17& 27a plus 14,20&22d. Not too keen on either 21 or 25a.

    Assuming that I have correctly identified the theme, it really amuses me. There were certainly plenty of times when I stared helplessly at a clue and thought ‘you’ve got to be having a laugh’.

    Well done, Hippo, but possibly you could have made it appear a little less daunting?

  7. It took me a long time to find the key to enter this very convoluted crossword.
    Concentrated on the clues which didn’t sent me back and forth across the grid and I finally got the gist with the 1950.
    After that 9a and 3d were quite obvious.
    Got the wrong ending in 1a until I sorted out the anagram in 8d. That made me laugh. But not as much as 17a.
    In 7a I knew the cockney for this number and loved the “short of hands” reference. I’m obviously much taller.
    New words for me were 21a, 25a and 7d.
    Can’t parse 2d. I still have a provisional licence as it’s not something I do. Valid until 2033.
    Had to cheat on 16a.
    Thanks to Hippo.

      1. Right. Get it now. I was trying to split it Roman for 3 + maybe someone who provides but couldn’t account for the if.

    1. Jean-Luc, when we were ruminating on this one after we had moved on, we did think that you might have been the setter. 27a pointed to your native language and the the setter’s nom-de-plume is the Greek version of your surname. Obviously we were misled.

        1. My other thought was that it could be a reference to hippocampus but now I think I’ve found the perfect one:-
          hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliaphobia (fear of long words – to save you the bother)!

          1. Sure that is absolutely the explanation. We can now let Jean-Luc happily ride off into the sunset on his surname.

  8. Hippo, do you have a “big one” looming, judging from the theme? If so, Happy Birthday (7a doesn’t fit silvanus, that was years ago!)

    I thought the state (10a) related to a famous tv series….same origin, but it makes the “before” work.

    As always with puzzles of this nature, it takes a while to get into it and at first the cross-references can be frustrating, but the puzzle is perfectly doable, although I used help – starting with google for the first word in 1a! I thought some clues were missing something but then the instructions did say the asterisked clues might be partial. I didn’t know 25a, and wasn’t helped there by ( I think ) the use of an abbreviation that is not in Chambers, and I have a 6-letter word for glory, but I don’t know if it’s the intended one – so that was a hard clue.

    I had a suspicion with throne (6d) but hadn’t expected it to be quite so explicit, a good laugh.

    There are some niggles, for example use of “for” as padding in 21a and 8a, and I will leave it to our expert reviewer to comment on these.

    Many thanks Hippo, quite difficult but enjoyable with a few laughs and some very innovative clueing.

    1. Yes, I think you’ve cracked the true intention of 10a, well done Dutch. Several of us fell for the very clever misdirection it seems!

  9. I admit total defeat. I have tried very hard but and
    Everything that I’m about to say reflects badly on me and is, in no way, a criticism of the crossword or the setter but . . .
    I’m not good at crosswords with themes.
    I’m not good at crosswords that have me thinking that I might have an answer only to find that I need to jump to another clue and then another answer etc etc.
    This one was way beyond me and I was grumpy before I even started it so, sorry, to all in general and to Hippo in particular.
    With thanks and congratulations to Hippo for setting a crossword that’s clearly very clever judging from the comments but it’s too clever for me.
    I look forward to the review tomorrow.

  10. I have to concede defeat, I think. I got about halfway, but a lot of that was down to getting hints from the comments, and quite a few were bunged in without what knowing what was going on. I was wondering whether 1a was Jimmy Cliff for a while! (I could put that I can see clearly now that it isn’t, but that wasn’t originally him, so I won’t).
    My favourite was 27a, and the crossword was obviously appreciated by those who could do it, and there was a lot of careful construction work went into it so well done, and many thanks, and I look forward to having it all explained in the review (and having the pennies dropped for me).

  11. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. You made no mention of the theme (can’t recall whether you usually do?). Apart from the obvious ‘forty is the old age of youth, fifty is the youth of old age’ I assumed that the asterisks referred to ‘ha ha ha’ – hence my comment about ‘you must be having a laugh’.

  12. many thanks Prolixic, an excellent and very useful review.

    I had interpreted 16a as a double definition since you can have a trivet plant (one that sits on a trivet), although it doesn’t make for a very good double definition since the two meanings are so obviously related.

    As for the theme, the asterisks all indicate clues for 50. or related to 50. (hence I think they are necessary). Together with the self-reassuring mantra at the top, I had imagined Hippo was having a 50th birthday.

    Thanks again Hippo, my favourites were 7a, 17a, 19a, 6d, 14d. I hope the review will be of use to you, it’s quality feedback.

    1. I guess you must be correct, Dutch – I’d overlooked the asterisk by 2d. Shame, I rather liked the ha ha ha joke!

      1. Don’t know about anyone else, but I’m a bit sad that Hippo hasn’t popped in to say his/her piece.

        1. Don’t fkrget that the Rookies like quite a lot of us, including setters bloggers and commenters have day jobs and. not a lot of free time to comment. As BD has had the puzzle for a while, Hippo could even be on his holidays

  13. Hi everyone and many thanks for all the great tips and comments.

    It was compiled for the landlord of my local, not sure he realised it was a nice thing to do.

    First self improvement step is to get rid of full stops, I spent ages making sure each clue had one – hehe – much easier without them.

    I tried to keep the theme hidden as much as possible so it made some clues tough.
    For example 1 across had a much easier clue to begin with but it had the first letter for a lot of theme words.

    I think I need to get a better hang of grammar after reading Prolixic’s great feedback. I think I might be a little bit too free, trying to make the clue read nicely and not necessarily grammatically correct for the answer (you can probably tell I was a scientist, especially after reading that sentence).
    Totally agree that some of the filler words were unnecessary and will make sure I try and weed out more of them. I tend to use too many words in real life as well.

    I also take what is said about themes working with modern software Vs a nice piece of paper. When I looked at the puzzle in crossword compiler it took me a few minutes to work out what was going on and I compiled it.
    And definitely too many anagrams. They seemed to leap out at me when viewed on the screen.
    Sorry about the confusion between Hawaii and Alaska. Did not occur to me.

    I should be careful with abbreviations, I did not know there was a section in my Chambers.
    But my Chambers is probably almost as old as me, I need a new one.
    A few of my clues in other puzzles have used text shorthand such as ROFL, LOL and TY.
    I will stand by TY but I think S for speed was a little cheeky as it is V(elocity) in physics formulae but it made the clue better (I studied chemistry and firmly believe physics is fudge). I should stay off

    Once again thanks for all the comments

    1. By the way, supported abbreviations are not usually indicated in crosswords, but textspeak, unless it has found its way into the dictionary, should be indicated as such.

    2. Welcome, good to see you drop by, and good to see a fellow chemist. Are most crossword enthusiasts either scientists or in computing?
      I don’t think Chambers has an abbreviations section as such but all abbreviations should be listed – so under s there is Sabbath, saint, schilling, Society, soprano, south, etc, but no speed unfortunately.
      I’ve just started writing clues too, and as I had never solved I had to hunt around for rules and tips and found out how important cryptic grammar is! Don Manley’s Chambers Crossword Manual was very helpful, but Prolixic’s excellent guide on here has since appeared, and that contains pretty much everything you could wish to know. There are all sorts of websites that offer useful articles such as and and anything written by Anax is worth a read.

      1. Some groups of words, like abbreviations and foreign words, were once in separate appendices but were merged into the main dictionary several editions ago.

  14. Three to Hippo for “popping in!”
    I’m sorry that I couldn’t do your crossword – my failure rather than yours.
    I have to ask, as I do all new setters, where does your name come from?

    1. Hi Kath.

      Hippo, indeed.
      I would have liked to have been Aardvark but that was taken (my dad always used to say ‘Aarvark never killed any one’, I have inherited a lot of his silliness)
      Three reasons
      1) Hippos are great
      2) You only see about five per cent of a Hippo, most is hidden under the surface.
      3) We are currently living in Raleigh NC, probably be back in the UK sometime next year. It only costs $35 to have a personalised number plate over here.
      When my car opens its hatch back it looks just like a hippo opening its mouth (I told you I inherited the silliness) and for some reason no one else in North Carolina had yet taken hippo.

      And being in the US is why I was a little late in saying hello.
      The problem with a themed puzzle is if you don’t get the theme they can be a bit impenetrable.
      I really liked the quote, it was my 50th birthday a month before the landlord’s and I think the sentiment is a great way to stay positive

  15. Excellent puzzle – right up my street. I suppose I might not have said that if it had defeated me – which seemed a possibility once or twice. I had a bit of luck guessing 9a and 3d from the enumeration and the crossers I had at that point but that left plenty of work on the other 3a references.

    But that’s cross-references for you. You love ’em if you win – hate ’em if you lose.

    No major quibbles – “speed” for S is certainly a bit cheeky – but I guessed it was what was needed. Personally I regard dictionary support is a sufficient but not a necessary condition – neologisms now arrive thick and fast so dictionaries struggle to keep pace – but there are also a plethora of things such as ROTFLMAO which we can hardly expect dictionaries to cover comprehensively. Common knowledge must surely come first. You have to wonder whether some solvers have a BRB at the ready more with the aim of faulting clues than solving them.

    There’ll never be another setter anywhere near as good as Araucaria – but this was in some ways redolent of some his puzzles. Higher praise I cannot give.

    1. JS – thanks for the great compliment.
      I also hold Araucaria as the pinnacle and to have my name mentioned somewhere near his is the highest honour.
      How are you getting on with cack-handed

      1. I think I’ve already used up my quota there.

        I’m the judge this week on DIY COW.

        The answer to clue is SHADOW CABINET

        Eight hours left for you to get three attempts in.

        1. Problem of being in the US, always 5 hours behind the UK. I already missed it – but another new site for me to explore.
          I did think it would be good to have a place with links to all site such as Big Dave’s and now DIY COW and all the other ones (whatever they are).
          Does one exist?
          You can see I am a bit of noob with DIY crossword sites

          1. Have a look at the links tab at the top of the page. You’ll find exactly what you are looking for

            1. Good Lord in heaven and all the saints! Now how am I going to find time to visit all those sites and keep on top of them, for surely I must!

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