Rookie Corner – 079 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 079

A Puzzle by Moonlapse

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have a second puzzle from Moonlapse. 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 back to Moonlapse with his second crossword.  This one avoided many of the obscurities in the solutions that the first one contained but in one or two places perhaps went a little too far in its efforts to deceive the solver or, in the case of 5d, a mile or two over the line!  What I find interesting in this crossword is that there are only a small number of clues where there are serious issues but they tend to cast a larger shadow over the remaining clues and reduce the enjoyment of the whole. 


1 A calm cur has been barking, claims farmer (9,6)
AMBULANCE CHASER – An anagram (barking) of A CALM CUR HAS BEEN.  An excellent clue to begin with with a well disguised definition to a well indicated anagram and a plausible surface reading.

9 Meditation in nuthouse rightly exposed (7)
THOUGHT – The inner letters (exposed) of NUTHOUSE RIGHTLY

10 Ostentatious swagger of party on Spanish coast (7)
BRAVADO – The name of part of the Spanish coastline – Costa ***** followed by a two letter word for a party.  Perhaps Spanish coast might more correctly indicate “costa”.  Maybe “Spanish costal area” might have been better.

11 Slough welcomes soldiers – ten contracted? (9)
SHORTENED – A four letter word meaning slough or cast off includes (welcomes) the abbreviation for Other Ranks (soldiers) and the TEN from the clue.  Better than the original clue given the sensitivity over the Middle East.

12 Sneak shackled by villainous idlers (5)
SIDLE – The answer is hidden (shackled by) VILLAINOUS IDLERS.

13 A side’s the same on the other side? (4)
AXIS – The A from the clue followed by the Roman numerals for 11 (side) with and S (from the ‘s).  I am not sure that the definition matches the answer.  Perhaps “A side’s possibly reflected about this”

14 E.g. diamond Sara returned, finding Italian dishes (10)
CARBONARAS – The chemical element of which diamond is a form or example followed by a reversal (returned) of the SARA in the clue.  The answer is the name of the sauce but may be applied loosely to the names of dishes.

18 Connoisseur of stars imprisoned by subterranean guard (10)
GASTRONOME – A prefix meaning “of stars” inside a fairytale creature who might be a subterranean guard or a garden ornament!

19 A side’s half a continent (4)
ASIA – The A from the clue followed by half of the word side and the final a from the clue.

21 Former volunteers and politicians in packs (5)
TAMPS – The abbreviation for the former Territorial Army followed by the abbreviation (in the plural) for members of parliament.

23 Humbled Edward, known for his modesty? (9)
CHASTENED – Split 6, 3 this implied a modest man called Edward.  The root of the wordplay and the definition are somewhat similar and a greater separation between them would improve the clue.

24 Embellishment: a roll perhaps (7)
ROULADE – A double definition, the first being a musical embellishment.

25 Night of free choice? (7)
TWELFTH – From Shakespeare’s play whose sub-title is “What you will” or the ******* Night.

27 Foolish to have us prefects harassed insolently (15)
DISRESPECTFULLY – A five letter word meaning foolish includes (to have) an anagram (harassed) of US PREFECTS.


1 Appropriate subject (3)
APT – A double definition.  If the subject referred to is “games” or another word for “PE” then the clue does not work as there is no wordplay for the initial A in the answer.

2 Ecology‘s brief history, unamplified? (9)
BIONOMICS – A shortened form of biography (history) followed by a shortened form of “no microphones” (unamplified).

3 Slurred Got ale? drunkenly (6)
LEGATO – An anagram (drunkenly) of GOT ALE.  Chambers gives one definition for the solution legato.

4 Out and proud, with some success at least (3,2,4)
NOT IN VAIN – The opposite of out followed by a word meaning proud.  Perhaps some indication that you need the opposite of out would be fairer to the solver.  Presumably out and proud… would do this.

5 Like a rag man, could be mayhem, bedlam! (5)
EMBED – The least said about this clue the better!  The undefined answer is hidden in MAYHEM BEDLAM but with no hidden word indicator.  The “a rag man” being an anagram of anagram does not help but greatly hinders.

6 Cooling device a celaphopod might find unsatisfactory? (4-4)
HEAT-SINK – Split 5,3 and of the cephalopods that produce ink as a defensive mechanism would find this unsatisfactory.  The typo in cephalopod did not help solvers here.

7 Burn received from hag’s cauldron (5)
SCALD – The answer is a homophone (received) of letters inside (from) HAGS CAULDRON.  I can see how this works but the clue looks like it contains an error as the word could have been inside hags caldron.  Also I am not keen on taking homophone from groups of letters that are not words in their own right but this is more of a personal preference.

8 State Street I secure for the lying state? (5,6)
RHODE ISLAND – A homophone (state) of Road (street) I Land (secure).  The lying state indicates that the state is not really what it claims to be though I see from comments that it originally was!

11 Dotty elders will drink anything to get blotto (11)
SLAUGHTERED – A five letter word meaning anything inside an anagram (dotty) of ELDERS.

15 Pompous jerk drove up scholars first (9)
BOMBASTIC – Reverse (up) a word meaning drove followed the plural abbreviation for scholars and a word meaning a jerk or twitch.

16 Soothing cask of Ensign bitter (9)
RESENTFUL – A word meaning soothing around the outer letters (cask) of Ensign.  I don’t think that the wordplay really works here is cask appears to be doing double duty to get the outer letter of ensign and as a containment indicator as en does not appear as an abbreviation for ensign.

17 Death of familiar Queen guitarist seen in city (8)
BRISBANE – Split 3’1 4, this may imply Bri[an] (May) (Queen guitarist) is dead.

20 Provided sandwiches in case rises in usual state (6)
ITSELF – A word meaning provided includes (sandwiches) a reversal (rises) of a word meaning in case.

22 Hammers savages found in shopping centres, understandably (5)
MAULS – A homophone (understandably) of malls (shopping centres).  I don’t think that the savages here adds much.  Hammers savagely would be better but the clue would work just as well without it.

23 Tawdry appearance of the man in Balmoral (5)
CHEAP – A two letter word for the man inside an item of clothing of which Balmoral is an example.  The use of a question mark to indicate that Balmoral is a definition by example would be helpful to solvers here.

26 Product of radiance and opportunism (3)
HAY – This is made whilst the sun shines according to the proverb extolling opportunism.

89 comments on “Rookie Corner – 079

  1. I feel I should offer a pre-emptive apology for 11a – I did ask for it to be changed prior to publication, in the light of Prolixic’s comments a few weeks ago on a similar clue, but the original seems to have made it through. Please read nothing into it, except perhaps that I am sadly oblivious to wider issues when trying to write a piece of pure wordplay. Hope you all enjoy the rest.

  2. There seems to be a mistake with the clue for 7d. It seems to work for us if the alternative spelling is used for the last word in the clue but not as it stands.
    We found it quite a struggle and at this stage still have not managed to work out 17d. Other urgent duties are calling so we plan to come back to it later. Some really tricky definitions, 1a for example that took much cogitation. A real mind bender.
    Thanks Moonlapse.

    1. I fell asleep at about 6 o’clock for a couple of hours so consequently am wide awake now. Wasn’t going to comment until I’d got as far as I could, which will take a while I too am finding it really tricky, and some I have got without parsing – however 1a was my second one in and I got it through the definition, which is an absolute corker, I really enjoyed it. Hopefully I’ll be back, but thanks for now.

    2. Stacking the last of next year’s firewood supply and getting it all covered up did the trick and we managed to sort out 17d. Needed a bit of googling along the way too.

    3. 7d is an attempt at a “lurking homophone” so the spelling is not crucial to the solution. That said, I may have avoided it had I been aware that there was an alternative spelling which would make a straight lurker…

      1. Interesting clue type. Is this used in any of the big national crosswords, can anyone advise?

  3. Phew! Moving directly from Rufus to this one was a real culture shock. There is some very clever stuff here and I enjoyed the struggle. There’s still one clue (5d) that I can’t fully parse and I wonder whether ‘celaphopod’ in 6d is meant to be cephalopod. The clues I liked best were 23a, 2d and 26d. Thanks to Moonlapse.

    1. yes, I wondered if the spelling mistake was intentional! or if there was some beast I didn’t know, but I couldn’t find any celaphopods…

  4. Very nice. Quite testing for me but I got there in the end.

    1a VG – I failed to lift and separate until all the crossers were in.
    9a Tricky – held me up – but perfectly fair.
    11a Updated version’s fine but I liked the original – nice twist in the def. Are we talking taste issues on account of some things in the news recently?
    18a Initially I thought “he’s spelt it wrongly” – ie on the answer side – then I realised what you’d done on the WP side. Clever.
    23a A bit same-on-both-sidesy I thought – maybe I missed something. Plus – shouldn’t “know” read “known”?
    26a I wanted “silly” not “dilly”. Collins online gives the latter as Aus/NZ slang. In 40 (long) years I’ve never heard it – but then I do lead a very sheltered life.
    2d Nifty
    5d You’ve got me there – I biffed the answer OK but can’t twig the reason.
    7d Already discussed above – the caldron spelling would have been better I think.
    15d Very nifty – took me a while to twig the WP – which I liked very much.
    23d I would never insist on universal DBE indication but a QM (or suchlike) there would have been a kindness – for me at least.

    Thanks for a fun workout.

    1. 18a – probably falls foul of that chap’s rule about etymological connection. But it does read “known” so far as I can see. :) It was always meant to, at any rate.
      26a – I noticed this after submission, but Chambers gives no indication of its being specific to Aus/NZ, so I seized on it. :)
      5d -I wasn’t tremendously happy with it as it doesn’t contain a definition, except loosely by analogy. In my explanation sheet for BD I said it was an attempt at a meta clue. As “a rag man” is an anagram of anagram, so 5d is “5d-ed” in the clue.
      23d – I cannot solve this clue :) What is DBE and what is QM?

      Thanks for otherwise encouraging comments. :)

      Edit: and re 11a, nothing specific but I did realise after submitting that my use of the replaced word was particularly on the nose given that it was applying directly to soldiers themselves. BD tells me that TG setters have been avoiding the word completely, in any context, for over a year now.

        1. Ironically you actually used a dbe to perfection in 14a to define carbon! (that’s an EM in comment parlance in case anyone says you needed one somewhere)

          1. Ok so let’s gloss over the way I failed to spot the abbreviation for question mark, particularly given our common interest here ;)

            Fair comment, I can tell you that for some reason I thought the capitalisation of Balmoral would be enough, having evidently completely forgotten that it’s also a castle!

            1. Can we all remember that since day one it has said at the top of the blog “crossword clues explained in plain English”. This is what has differentiated this site from all others. If you mean “definition by example” then say so. Other terms that are discouraged include anagrind for anagram indicator and inserticator for insertion indicator. Jargon is what puts new people off from many subjects, so don’t let crosswords be one of them. Thanks.

  5. Although I quite warmed to the first Moonlapse puzzle, I’m sorry to say that, for the most part, I found this an unenjoyable slog. I was three or four clues short of completion, after several hours of struggle, when I read the following discouraging comments from the setter:

    1. 7d is an attempt at a “lurking homophone” so the spelling is not crucial to the solution
    2. 5d -I wasn’t tremendously happy with it as it doesn’t contain a definition

    These comments made my heart sink to be honest, and made me far less inclined to prolong the struggle, so I made use of the electronic assistance provided by BD to fill in my remaining gaps in the grid, something I’ve hardly ever done in over nine months of tackling the Rookie puzzles on here.

    For me, too many clues tried to be too ambitious (i.e. 25a and 26d), and were either unfair on the solver (5d and 7d cited above are clear examples of that) or were verging on the indecipherable. I don’t wish to be totally negative, as I did like the anagram in 1a, but very little else enthused me I’m afraid!

    I did so want to like your latest effort, Moonlapse/nOvus, but perhaps it suited others’ tastes rather than mine. Thanks for the obvious effort that went into the puzzle.

    1. Can’t win em all. :) Sorry you didn’t enjoy it. I’ll cop to 5d, I liked the idea but I couldn’t make it work properly, and I should have abandoned it rather than press it beyond the limits of fairness. But I don’t think there’s anything too outrageous about 7d. Some clues are homophones and some clues are lurkers. I just made one that was both. Instead of scanning the clue for the letters that make the answer, you can hear the answer if you say the phrase out loud. Though as I have said the alternative spelling was an unnecessary source of confusion. :)

      Thanks for giving it a crack though. Hope you’ll enjoy the next one.

    2. I persisted with the 1a anagram until it gave itself up and settled down for what I thought, based on that, was going to be a really enjoyable puzzle.

      But then I got 3d from another anagram – unfortunately the answer refers to a whole passage of music that is played smoothly, which may include “slurred” notes – but it does not mean “slurred” as such. And then I was on 7d, so beginning to be unsure. Biffed 8d without fully parsing it – seemed a bit odd starting and finishing with the same word – and then got stuck for quite a while. Having revealed 2d and 6d without having any idea how they parse I decided this is definitely one to leave to see what the official review makes of it rather than try to comment in detail.

      Having revealed a few more my gut feeling is that there are some very good ideas in here – the two 11 clues for example are excellent, 15d too – but a lot of it needs polish.

      Thanks for sharing this though, as Silvanus says a lot of effort goes in to producing these.

  6. Still working on the parsing for a few, but I have a completed grid. I thought there were some excellent clues here, including 1A my favorite for the smile when I solved it), 23A, 2D and 4D. There are also several that I have a question mark (QM) against. Put me in the “what’s that all about?” camp for 5D. The homophone indicator in 8D (if that’s what it is) is one I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

    11A gave me pause because of the immediate visual image it conjured up. Even if my printout shows the corrected version, I thought the content was insensitive in light of what’s going on in the Middle East.

    I found the puzzle tricky but I did enjoy it for the greater part. Thanks, Moonlapse. I look forward to enlightenment in the review.

  7. The clues I liked largely outweighed the ones I didn’t. So for me it’s a winner.
    Liked the construction of 15d (pompous jerk) and 20d (provided sandwiches)
    I thought the reference in 25a was clever but the top prize goes to 11d (dotty elders).
    Wasn’t too keen on 17d (queen guitarist) to be reduced to these two letters. If I parsed correctly. 5,6,7 and 8d didn’t do it for me either.
    Thanks to Moonlapse. Practice makes perfect. I look forward to the next one.

        1. I think it’s 3 letters for the familiar name of the guitarist followed by ‘s plus a word for death?

        2. I parsed it as the possessive if a three letter abbreviation (familiar) for Brian followed by a four letter word meaning dead, the whole giving a city.

          1. But does it mean dead? I thought “cause of death” would have been better. Don’t tell me – I expect the BRB also has dead – t’others don’t.

  8. Imagined I was off to a great start when the penny dropped re: 1a – although I’d been wallowing in the realms of agricultural workers for a while! All those first letters in – must be an easy ride from here on in? Wrong, wrong, wrong.
    That was really hard work, Moonlapse, but I found much to savour. Notables for me include 1,11&23a plus 2,4,20&26d.
    I did feel that perhaps you strayed too far into ‘must make this as complicated as possible’ territory on occasions but, overall, it was an excellent puzzle. Many thanks – and I’m still laughing over 1a!

  9. Many thanks Moonlapse

    Well, definitely toughie time, and a long toughie time at that. Quite a few terms I was unfamiliar with and had to look up (including claims farmer, which is beautifully included in the surface). Many comments have already been made. I saw 5d 5d-ed, but I missed the anagram anagram, which now explains the “like” at the start of the clue, very clever but I expect this will be lost on virtually every solver – so how do you make a good idea like this more accessible? Not sure your homophone lurker worked either – if you do go that way, I think you need to really spell out the homophone indicator – I just saw it as a crude spelling error (like celaphopod), which is obviously not what you want.

    To add my own comments, which I hope you find useful (of course these are the humble opinions of just one person): I think the multiple letter, multiple word “exposure” in 9a is insufficiently indicated. 10a, I think the one word for spanish coast is meaningless by itself, hence this synonym fails for me. 14a, the answer is only a dish when it is combined with pasta, until then it is a sauce – this synonym also fails for me. 23a I agree with JS, the two halves seem too closely related. 27a, I didn’t know this word for foolish, but excellent surface. 1d, I’m not completely convinced subject works as a def but others might be ok with this – I realise the answer = subject to = prone to but to me that doesn’t mean the answer = subject =prone. I missed the reference to “lying” in 9d – what’s that about? 11d, had to check “anything”, very nice. 16d, I thought the use of “cask of” is a bit of a stretch – would you use tin, can, bottle of? they’re all containers. The verbal forms (tinned, canned, casked) would all work fine. I would have liked a question mark for 26d – I don’t think the answer is a product yet in the expression – “potential product” would work better for me. 13a – the answer does not necessarily imply the same on the other side but the QM might cover that, as might a “perhaps” or “maybe” which I would have preferred. Clue might benefit from a verb (reflected, appearing) at the beginning of the def, as it stand the ‘s is almost doing double duty.

    Lots of great clues. I ticked 1a,11a,12a,18a, 19a,21, 24a, 25a, 27a, 2d, 3d, 4d, 11d, 15d, 17d, 22d and 23d (though in the latter I agree with JS – the DBE needs a QM)

    Hard work though…

    Many thanks

    1. 9d, the state is not an [second word of the answer], so the answer lies! Have to shower and get to work, hope to skive off enough to address other comments a bit later :)

      1. ah – thanks – i think it’s called the ocean state or something. Thinking about the clue, lying feels like a step extra, obviously you don’t need it, so the question is – does it add or detract from the clue? There’s the trap of trying to put in too many cute things.

        1. The surface I was gunning for was a kind of totalitarian vibe: the corrupt, lying state is closing off streets, I secure State Street for them. :)

    1. I have long used the latter as a name on message boards and was using it here long before I submitted a puzzle to RC. But I didn’t want to use it as a setter pseudonym, so I picked something else. I have a friend who’s a big Doctor Who fan who tells me that there are some DW fans who love it so much they actually dislike nearly all of it as it normally fails to meet their impossibly high standards. I have a similar relationship with heavy metal, which can be amazing if done right but is usually crass and monotonous. The Swedish band Opeth is a glorious exception to this rule, and their song “Moonlapse Vertigo” is one of my favourites.

      1. I did give Opeth a try, nOvus – lasted about three minutes into the Youtube clip! If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather look upon Moonlapse as that sweet little yellow fellow who sometimes forgets whether he’s meant to be waxing or waning.

        1. Well, yes, I realise it’s an acquired taste :) I have no time at all for that style of singing otherwise, but those guys make it work for me!

  10. Eek – I got so distracted by this puzzle, I almost missed a funeral. Made it just in time, albeit in my flip flops. Now to do the school run and on to the wake.

      1. How very true, Kath. However, I do hope that the wake doesn’t involve too much alcohol – Dutch’s pirouette move could be fatal in flip flops.

  11. I gave up, unfortunately, and cheated a lot to fill in the bottom half. I can’t fully comment, as there are many I can’t parse. As far as I can see, there are lots of nice ideas that haven’t quite made it to the perfect clue, sometimes through a lack of precision – for example 2d was a great idea, but I would have thought something like ‘reason for no amplification’ was better than ‘unamplified’, which would have taken me (if I’d spotted it!) to notmiked. My favourite was still 1a for the definition (although I did think you’d coined it yourself!) but it fits nicely in with what is a pretty obvious anagram.
    Hopefully next time you can polish the good ideas, I look forward to it. Many thanks.

  12. My brain was feeling a bit scrambled before I read the comments – there’s so much that I don’t understand – all the initials such as DBE, QM – this is one for the people who really know what they’re talking about.
    I have just about finished this now but it’s taken ages, I still have four gaps and lots of answers that I can’t sort out properly.
    I really liked 25a and 4, 11 and 26d. When I ‘get’ a few more I’m sure there will be others.
    Well done and congratulations to Moonlapse – anyone who can set a crossword gets a from me.

    1. I reckon QM is question mark. As for DBE – the only possibility I could come up with is double entendre, possibly way off beam!
      Why do we always assume that those who write in such shorthand are ‘people who know what they’re talking about’? Even the poor setter didn’t understand the comment that was being made!

    2. DBE = Definition by Example, I believe, Kath, although the only time I’ve seen it abbreviated before today is in the case of Judi Dench and co when honoured by Her Maj!

    3. yes, definition by example – normally the answer is an example of the definition (e.g. “girl” clueing “anna” or “vehicle” clueing “car”). If you decide to reverse that (as with Balmoral in 23d), you should really indicate that with a “perhaps” or a “maybe” or a “QM” (which you now know means question mark).

    4. Not sure this will get through – seem to be problems with the site again!

      Thank you Silvanus & Dutch – think I understand more clearly now. However, I didn’t actually have any problem solving that particular clue so I wonder just how necessary an indicator was in this instance? Just as well I don’t have any ambitions to become a setter, although I do put together the odd quiz for my Birding Group – you critics would have a real field day reviewing those!

  13. Hi Moonlapse and thanks for your very hard and very creative puzzle. You have definitely not played safe! I suspect you will get quite a few notes in the review… Unfortunately my first few in were in the NE corner which included some of the worst offenders, so it took me a while to gain confidence in the rigour of your clueing and to trust it. E.g. the spelling of cephalopod – ouch!
    Once I did though, I really enjoyed some of the clues – especially 11a, 11d and 18a. Get your grammar watertight and keep that creativity then wow! You’ll be brilliant!

  14. Thanks, nOvus. I managed about half of it and will try to do the rest tomorrow. Particularly liked 1A and 9D thus far.

  15. Is there anyone still around who can clarify 8D for me? The earlier “explanations” have left me totally confused” I took a simplistic approach. I saw ‘lying’ as some kind of homophone indicator and came up with Rhode (street = road ) + I land (island when spoken) for ‘I secure’ in the clue. Assuming State to be the definition, this gave me Rhode Island.

    1. The only extra bit you have not got is that the name of the state could be called a lie as it is not actually an island.

    2. I went down a similar route but used ‘state’ as the homophone indicator to give rhode=street + I land=I secure. Confess that the ‘lying’ went over my head but I guess it does infer that the state is telling porkies!

    3. The definition is “the lying state” because Rhode Island is not an island. The first word is an instruction, ie: Say, “road I land.” :)

      1. Good grief – you mean I almost got it right? Think I need to pour myself a large drink and take time out to recover from the shock.

        1. From Wiki, but you can find the same information elsewhere.

          Despite its name, most of Rhode Island is located on the mainland of the United States. The official name of the state is State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which is derived from the merger of two colonies. Rhode Island colony was founded on what is now commonly called Aquidneck Island, the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay, and included the settlements of Newport and Portsmouth. Providence Plantations was the name of the colony founded by Roger Williams in the area now known as the city of Providence.

          1. Presumably ‘Lying State’ is a whimsical term of your own invention, nOvus? I can’t find it on t’internet…

            1. I misread the clue – thought it was “Laying state” – lots of chickens on Rhode Island – innit?

              1. Didn’t misread it (reading specs on) but, when the checker from 1a made me think of Rhode for the first word, I did briefly wonder whether it was a spelling mistake – especially after the one at 6d!

  16. Sorry to be so late, was out achieving a respectable podium finish in a Back to the Future themed quiz. This was so tricky that I haven’t got to the bottom of much of the parsing, so difficult to comment. My favourite was 4d – that ” out and proud” leads to “not in / vain” is a lovely spot.

  17. Thanks all for comments/patience/resistance of the urge to mock the spelling error/advice etc. The crux seems to be that I am still erring on the side of trickiness in my attempts to avoid producing a read and write puzzle, which are almost as uninspiring to solve as too difficult ones. I shall endeavour to recalibrate. :) I am reminded of a comment one of the TG setters made, to the effect that he didn’t set out necessarily to create difficult puzzles, he was just trying to avoid obvious or cliched indicators. But clearly there is a balance to be found. Glad 1a was largely enjoyed as that one was a labour of love, I think I went through four or five different clues, most of them godawful, before I stumbled on the phrase “claims farmer”.

    1. Don’t soften them on my account. When I write:”Quite testing for me but I got there in the end”, that’s not a criticism – it’s a compliment – it’s exactly how I want them – a good tussle, and then I get to win in the end.

      OTOH (= on the other hand) I kick myself now; 1a is definitely one to savour. What I wrote above about lifting and separating is wrong – it was the opposite that was needed. Hammering away at “farmer” as a definition left “claims” spare – an unlikely linkword on reflection but easy to (lazily as I did) assume that was its role. Challenge that assumption and straightaway you have “claims farmer” and the game’s up – fail to and you have one of those terrible “doh” (why didn’t I see that?) moments. That’s a great form of misdirection – a bit like the “inviting your opponent to make a mistake” approach in chess.

      You’ll be able to dine out on that one for a while.

      Thanks again.

    2. I think that you would benefit greatly if you could find at least one or two people willing to test-solve your creations (I’m assuming this doesn’t happen currently?) and provide critical input before releasing them on the world at large. Easier said than done, I know, but I’ve been extremely fortunate to have Beet and Sprocker fulfil this role for me and their assistance has been invaluable.

      Speaking from personal experience, there is a natural tendency to become too close to one’s own product and not necessarily be aware of those deficiencies and flaws which others can spot more readily. Basic points such as spelling mistakes, enumeration errors etc can easily be missed without an independent pair of eyes, but, more importantly, to be told when clues don’t work or are unfair on the solver is incredibly beneficial, even if one doesn’t always agree!!

      I wouldn’t concur that “read and write” puzzles are always uninspiring, as the extremely loyal following for Rufus’s DT Monday back-pagers, myself included, bear testimony. Provided that the crossword is well-constructed, entertaining and has excellent surfaces, I don’t mind if the answers go in quickly. It is often useful to remember that potential solvers do not always have limitless hours to spend attempting to decipher the more ambitious or convoluted puzzles, and so, if they are pitched at too difficult a level, there is a real risk that the intended audience will decide their time is better spent doing something else.

      1. Well said, Silvanus. Rookie Corner not only gives our newcomers the opportunity of considered criticism from the likes of Prolixic but also the chance to engage with other Rookies and become each other’s ‘eyes’.
        Long may it continue.

  18. Many thanks Prollixic, great review.

    I read 22a as a double definition(hammers/savages?) + homophone, and I agree, having 2 defs doesn’t add a great deal to the clue.

  19. Spot on with the review again, Prolixic.
    nOvus, these comments are gold dust for you – I’ll be look forward to your third appearance very much indeed!

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I had made a couple of errors – 13a I’d repeated the 19a answer (same as the other side) and I’d taken the parsing of 1d to be A P(oin)T.
    22d – I would have preferred ‘hammers’ to be removed, rather than ‘savages’ – I think the latter is a better definition of the answer.
    16d – think there’s a slip up in the answer given in the review!
    Looking forward to the next offering from Moonlapse – that glorious 1a will be a hard act to follow!

  21. Thanks for the review Prolixic,. I think in your preamble “What I find interesting in this crossword is that there are only a small number of clues where there are serious issues but they tend to cast a larger shadow over the remaining clues ” sums it up perfectly. So many of us started off with the excellent 1a, and then were disappointed to find it tough going.

    BD – re. your note about jargon. I certainly had no idea you don’t like abbreviations such as dbe, QM, EM etc. Personally I use them simply because it’s quicker than typing them in full, but fair enough, I see where you are coming from. But in any specialist topic/interest there’s bound to be some jargon isn’t there? The phrase “definition by example” whether abbreviated or not is jargon in itself, hence the need for Prolixic’s excellent guide linked above.

    1. Those abbreviations are fine in explanations of the wordplay intended to be passed to, for example, the person reviewing a puzzle, but the experience levels of those reading these comments vary between beginner and expert, so plain English should be used whenever possible.

      I have seen reviews on other websites that list a whole load of jargonistic terms, along with their explanations, in the prologue just so that the reviewer can use gobbledegook like (GOTALE)* and MOB<< to "explain" the wordplay.

  22. Thanks, Prolixic, for the usual great review. I had printed the crossword out soon after it was posted so my 11A read ‘ ten decapitated’. I saw the earlier comments and that a change had been made so checked the on-line grid and it still said decapitated (and still does). I did not go further and check the print-out version, however, which had been updated. I wondered why I was the only one who was perturbed by the wording of the clue! I think perhaps my confusion with 8D is in part due to the word State always (and rightly so) being capitalized here when it refers to one of the 52 so I thought the first word of the clue was the definition.

    1. Hi Chris,
      You weren’t the only one perturbed by the 11a clue. However, by the time I (and presumably many other UK solvers) came to print this out, Moonlapse had already posted the first comment which seemed reasonable enough.

  23. Big Dave, last couple of times I’ve logged on here I’ve had a notification of malicious malware being blocked by my antivirus systems. Could be a coincidence but thought I’d let you know.

  24. Thanks very much for the review Prolixic. Sorry for the late reply but I’ve had sole charge of 25 pounds of boy-energy all day which doesn’t leave much scope for posting. I’ve finally found a few minutes while he’s distracted by both food and videos. :) And thanks to all for additional comments and suggestions today.

    On, “mauls”, I think that just “hammers” would provide the better surface than just “savages”. And quite right, Jane, in 16d “cask of” was a containment indicator for the abbreviation of Ensign, “en”. Perfectly true that eg bottle would have been both a better indicator and given a better surface.

    Also, 20d appears to lack a definition in the review: “in usual state” should be in blue. I had 23d as definition “tawdry” with “appearance of” being the containment indicator.

    I do have another couple of completed grids which now need some clues, but I will have to ignore some pressing priorities to get them submitted in the near future, such as getting a proper job :)

    Right, back to small jigsaws and noisy toys. Cheers all.

    1. Thanks for popping back in, nOvus – sounds like you’ve already got a ‘proper’ job, although I doubt the pay is much good!
      16d – as it seems that ‘en’ is not an accepted abb. for ensign, perhaps you could have worked something out along the lines of it being the first and last letters of the word?
      23d – your definition was exactly as I’d assumed.
      22d – still think that ‘savages’ would have been the word to leave in. Something/body that’s been mauled has definitely been savaged but the same having being ‘hammered’ would seem to imply being hit – not quite the same thing?

  25. Thanks to Prolixic for the analysis.
    Had some time free on Monday and downloaded the Indy crossword No 9046 from Lohengrin. 4d EMBED: Journalist penning military base’s exploits initially. There doesn’t seem to be a definition for the word either. Very strange.

    1. It’s &lit (and literally so) – EMBED can be a noun these days – meaning an embedded journalist – war correspondents etc.

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