Rookie Corner – 082 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 082

A Puzzle by Acteon

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Acteon sent this puzzle in to Rookie Corner after I met him in The George last month.  What do you think of it?  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.

Our thanks to Acteon for a highly commendable debut crossword in the Rookie corner.  There were a lot of good clues and ideas in the wordplay in this crossword.  In one or two places, the clues were perhaps a little too ambitious but overall the quality was good.


1 Ex dumps men just before church held?  Several of them! (9)
DIVORCEES – Another word for dumps or disreputable places goes around (held) the abbreviation for Other Ranks (men) and the abbreviation for Church of England.  I am not keen on splitting the definition at either end of the wordplay and the construction A B held for B inside A is worthy of Yoda!

6 Take drink without your sweetener (5)
SYRUP – A three letter word meaning to drink around (without) a two letter abbreviation for your.  Views differ on whether without means around.  Without can mean outside and outside can mean around but this is not an equivalence relationship so without does not necessarily mean around!

9 “Sometimes I used this”, narrated Frost? (5)
RHYME – A homophone of rime (frost) to give a verse form sometimes used by the American poet Robert Frost.

10 Government means of funding volunteers to meet unknown soft rock group (9)
TAXPAYERS – The old abbreviation for what is now the Army Reserve followed a letter indicating an unknown amount in algebra, the abbreviation for soft and the rock in the heartland of Australia more correctly known as Uluru all grouped together.

11 Drunken rabble elude Lord Baden-Powell, perhaps (6-9)

13 Poorer quality leaflet tucked inside a manuscript?  Quite the reverse! (8)
FLIMSIER – The letter that for one (a) plus the abbreviation for manuscript inside another word for a leaflet.  The quite the reverse is an indication that you reverse the wordplay instructions in the clue.

14 Cook, for example, tarts?  Eating, I retired (6)
STRAIT – Put the I from the clue inside (eating) the TARTS from the clue to get a narrow strip of water of which Cook is an example.

16 Leaving emails here to hit harder (6)
OUTBOX – Where e-mails that are leaving or being sent are stored split 3,3 might imply that someone hits harder.

18 Sent up a pole in black and white (8)
PARODIED – The A from the clue and a word for a pole inside (in) another word meaning black and white.

21 Soft-ticking watches resynchronise Internet communications, for example (6,9)
PACKET SWITCHING – The abbreviation for soft (already used in 10a so a different indicator should ideally by used) followed by an anagram (resynchronise) of TICKING WATCHES.  I think that the definition here is a little too technical for general use in a crossword.

23 Investigating complaints, he makes frightfully dumb moans (9)
OMBUDSMAN – An anagram (frightfully) of DUMB MOANS.  A minor point but I don’t think that definition makes wordplay quite works.  Wordplay makes definition would be a better order.

25 To make one more quietly certain? (5)
UNIFY – Are you listening carefully, I will say this only once.  If something is certain it may fancifully be described as UN-IFFY.  If you then express this more quietly, you would then reduce the FF (very loud) to F Loud.  I think that with the oblique base word formation and the reduction instruction being unusual, this was a little too ambitious as a clue.

26 Mystified female sat in front of famous puzzle (5)
FAZED – The abbreviation for female followed by the name of a famous cryptic crossword puzzle series.  I think within the context of the crossword blog, it is fair to refer to the name of a well known crossword.  I suspect that for a wider solver-ship, this would require to much inside knowledge of crossword land.

27 Set right and bandaged again (9)
REDRESSED – Double definition, the first as a legal remedy and the second reapplying a dressing.


1 Defied king in raising dead (5)
DARED – The abbreviation for rex (king) inside a reversal of the DEAD from the clue.  In this clue and in 14a, you have a direct lift from the clue into the answer.  Too much of this and the puzzle can seem a bit pedestrian.

2 Peeping Tom’s victory I use indecently (11)
VOYEURISTIC – An anagram (use indecently) of TOMS VICTORY I.  The definition needs the ‘s expanded to “Peeping Tom Is” to get the correspondence between the definition and the answer.

3 Cruel lessons show the spaces between beds and walls (7)
RUELLES – The answer is hidden inside (show) CRUEL LESSONS.  The joys of the English language.  Your challenge is to use this word at least once in general conversation this week!  As befits an unusual word it was clued clearly and simply.  This might have been better as cruel lesson shows so that you have wordplay shows definition but the distinction is a fine one.

4 Head off to where Earl Grey may be served – and food (8)
EATABLES – Remove the first letter (head off) TEA TABLES (where Earl Grey may be served).

5 Young leaders – take great hits (6)
SIXERS – The pack leaders in the cub-scouts and great cricketing hits.  I am not sure that “take” in A take B works with a double definition as a link word.  It cannot works as part of the definition as it would require a verb as the solution.

6 Most sophisticated drone in fixed bearing south (7)
SUAVEST – The abbreviation for unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) inside a word meaning fixed all around (bearing) the abbreviation for south.

7 Nice way could be to take pity (3)
RUE – The name of a road in France (Nice way) and a word meaning to take pity.

8 Tape sent boxed for this type of cheque? (9)
POSTDATED – The abbreviation for digital audiotape inside (boxed) a word meaning sent.  Another Yoda construction of A B boxed to mean A inside B.

12 Sound press skills result in debts (11)
LIABILITIES – A homophone (sound) of lie (press) on a word meaning skills.  Here the clue should be capable of wordplay results in definition, not wordplay result in definition.

13 Take in galley to be sure (9)
FOOLPROOF – A word meaning to dupe or take in followed by a trial print or galley that is used to check for typos and formatting errors.

15 Measured and estimated trapped charged particle (8)
RATIONED – Another word for estimate goes around (trapped) a word for a charged particle.

17 Excelled after elevation central to a splendid revolution (7)
OVERDID – The answer is hidden (central to) and reversed (after elevation) in A SPLENDID REVOLUTION.  I wonder if you could omit the “a” in this clue but then the answer would be slightly off-centre and not exactly central to the letters given! 

19 Bite on cue – cold pie (7)
OCCLUDE – An anagram (pie) of CUE COLD.

20 On the way to this compound, is Rome burned? (6)
ISOMER – An anagram (burned) of IS ROME.  The structure here is to get (on the way to) definition [you have] wordplay.

22 Old penny for this paper chief held steadily (5)
GUYED – The effigy for which a penny is called around bonfire night (not necessarily an old penny) followed by the abbreviation for editor (paper chief).

24 Unknown element gets ahead in company (3)
BIZ – The chemical symbol for Bismuth |before (gets ahead) a letter used to indicate an unknown amount in algebra. As unknown has already been used for a letter (albeit a different one), a different indicator should ideally have been used.

74 comments on “Rookie Corner – 082

  1. Certainly into Toughie time for us. and we ended up with a couple wrong in the SW corner, 24d and 26a. Not knowing the ‘famous’ puzzle did not help. Also need to check a couple of new words, 3d for example and the computer thing in 21a was new although we got it by deciphering the anagram. Our favourite of course is 14a. Lots of clever constructions and a real challenge for us.
    Thanks Acteon.

    1. Thanks and pleased you particularly liked 14a :-)
      From your posting time and Name am I right to infer that you are based in NZ? [Don’t want to jump to conclusions!]
      – ACTEON –

  2. Phew – I found that quite tough – but so much to like.

    Some lovely wordplays and several neat ones which needed a bit more thought than usual.

    Sorry – I forgot to keep ticking the good’uns you had me working that hard.

    11a was my first-one-in (and a tick) – after that the first pass wasn’t all that fruitful but I picked up a few and quickly gained the impression I was dealing with someone fluent in science-tech etc – that helped as things went along. I also had the strong impression that a few crossing letters would make it flow – and indeed they did – but I still had a few er quiet moments (very much not of inner calm).

    I ticked 1a, 9a, 10a (they’ve renamed the rock – that’s non-PC now – it’s just one rock so I took “group” to apply to all the bits and pieces assembled so far – so that’s kosher – and clever misdirection), and 22d

    Probably a stack more deserved a tick or two – eg – at a glance 21a.

    25a I only understood one side – if it’s not just literal.

    No quibbles.

    Looking back I should have done better – eg 2d held me up for a good while.

    Great puzzle – wouldn’t have been out of place in the Guardian/Indy even on a Saturday – as a Toughie it would have made a real what-it-says-on-the-tin one.

    Many thanks.

    1. Thanks Jolly Swagman :-)

      Re. the rock, I knew of what I thought was its alternative (more ‘modern’, more ‘traditional’) name but didn’t realise I had strayed into non-PC territory – I’ll double-check that sort of thing in future. And Yes, your reading of “group” is precisely as I intended.

      25a isn’t just literal but I used a device that I’d never seen in years of solving cryptic crosswords. I’m not sure of the etiquette here so I won’t say exactly what, in case I am spoiling it for others. If someone (BD?) can advise that would be very helpful to me.

      – ACTEON –

      1. Re 25a – following your encouragement to keep trying I finally twigged – nifty – a well-deserved question mark.

        1. As a matter of interest JS for what reason is Ayers now non-PC? Unless it’s derogatory, vulgar or abusive in some way I don’t see why it shouldn’t be acceptable in print.

          1. guessing it’s not politically correct because the aboriginal name Uluru was replaced with the name of a white politician by colonial settlers?

          2. It’s as Dutch says. It’s a bit like Bombay/Mumbai and other places where the name has reverted from the old colonial name back to whatever the indigenous people want it to be called.

            Businesses etc have simply tacked Uluru onto the front of their existing names – ie Uluru-Ayers Rock etc. It’s not high on the list of “how to unintentionally cause offence” but I would only use the old name amongst people I knew well and mainly for humourous effect.

            OTOH I’m sticking with koala bear – rural old timers still say that – but PC is just koala these days.

  3. I enjoyed this a lot – thanks Acteon. As others have said it was certainly in Toughie territory with the NE corner the last to fall for me. Top clues were 11a and 16a. I had a laugh at 12d thinking at first that it was a well-deserved aspersion on the integrity of the Fourth Estate, but having looked up ‘lie’ in the BRB I see that there’s a less libellous explanation.

    1. Thanks Gazza. Pleased that 12d made you smile in the same way it did for me when setting it!
      – ACTEON –

  4. An enjoyable start to Monday morning. I had no problems with the NE corner, the SE corner was the last to fall and that took me just into Toughie time. 11a was my favourite.

    Thanks to Acteon.

    1. Thanks for the feedback crypticsue – much appreciated to hear what you liked and what went in last.
      – ACTEON –

  5. In my opinion this was one of the toughest Rookie puzzles of 2015 and I’m fairly sure that without resorting to electronic assistance for certain of the clues I would not have completed it. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted but I do hope that will not discourage others from attempting the challenge, as there is much to enjoy. I strongly suspect that this was definitely not Acteon/Encota’s first attempt at a puzzle, even if it is his/her debut here.

    There were some superb anagrams (11a, 2d in particular) and clever deceptions (“Cook” in 14a, and “Nice way” in 7d for example) a well as plenty of well-crafted constructions. The surfaces stood up fairly well to scrutiny in most cases.

    Against this, there were a few too many obscurities I felt, such as the abbreviations in 6d and 8d, the terminology in 21a, the “famous puzzle” in 26a and the definition in 3d. “Unknown” was used twice as a device (10a and 24d) which was a pity.

    All of my favourite ticks went to Across clues strangely, but I identified 11a, 13a, 16a and 18a as worthy of special mention.

    Many thanks to the setter but I do hope that his/her future puzzles will be slightly easier!

    1. Thanks Silvanus! Hopefully no offence taken in me not replying to yours quite so quickly – with your detailed and helpful feedback I wanted more time to fully understand it.

      Re. one of your comments, it is my first published puzzle, though I have set one or two for friends, topical ones as leaving presents for work colleagues and similar. Thanks for your comments about the ones that worked well.

      I try and base my overall puzzle style on The Times daily puzzles – with my interpretation of their house rules, including perhaps one or two words a day that will stretch the solver. I like my clues to be deceptive but precise – not quite the ‘full Ximenes’ but nearer that end of the spectrum. I also like to experiment with slightly modified clue types (e.g. 1a). I also found Prolixic’s (I hope I spelt that right) guide incredibly useful as a cross-check, as it appeared to align closely with the above.

      I am very keen to become an at least semi-serious crossword compiler over the next 5-10 years, as I love the challenge! I won’t try running before I can walk though…

      Re. 6d and 8d, I agree with you now I have had a chance to think it through. Though common in the technical press they don’t really emerge from beyond there, especially 8d. Re. 6d the mainstream Press did start using it for a while, then decided ‘drone’ had a better buzz about it.

      I have to confess I loved 21a as I purposely tried to include some near techno-babble in the wordplay, picked an anagrind that I hadn’t seen before but that seemed to work well with that techno-babble. I couldn’t believe my luck when I first created the anagram a couple of weeks back! Sorry you didn’t like it :-(

      I’ve commented on ‘famous puzzle’ elsewhere – I need to watch out for this in future.

      And good spot on the ‘two unknowns’ – I’d missed that entirely. Maize was very kind in trying to dig me out of a hole in his/her comments elsewhere on this page – I’d like to claim that was the reason I was happy with it (though I really had missed it!)

      Thanks again!

      – ACTEON –

      1. Many thanks for the detailed reply, Acteon – I did hope that you wouldn’t leave me out! No offence taken in the slightest. I’m also pleased that you realise that any criticisms are meant constructively.

        I do think you have a makings of a very good setter indeed, for me the surface is always the king and, for a debut published puzzle, yours were pretty good. There are a number of other regulars on here, me included, who share your setting aspirations, and it’s very rewarding to compare notes like this, observe rivals’ styles and clue preferences etc and I’m sure we all learn a lot from each other.

        As Jane has already said, the time you have taken to answer individual comments is extremely admirable, so thank you again.

  6. I’m a bit surprised that the famous puzzle is tripping people up.

    Well dome Acteon, congratulations on putting this together. There are some lovely clues here – I particularly liked including Lord in the 11a anagram. I liked the “soft-ticking” very much in 21a (though I wasn’t sure about the grammar of the anagram indicator – if it’s imperative, shouldn’t it precede fodder?). Clues like 18a are very good, and would be at home in a high-quality newspaper puzzle.

    My last one in was 25a where I was left pondering between two options, one of which eventually made sense – as mentioned above, this has a well-deserved question mark! It’s a fun clue.

    3 down was a new word, and I get to repeat a comment I made last week: “fodder show definition” seems grammatically wrong to me, and you can avoid the whole issue of whether or not it is permissible to use containment fodder as a non-singular entity by saying “Cruel lesson shows”.

    I thought the abbreviations in 6d and 8d were obscure. I sometimes thought the definition did not match the solution exactly, e.g. I really like 16a but it suffers because “leaving” clues a verb. For 2d the answer is an adjective, I think it works if the definition is read as “Peeping Tom is”. 17d and 13d I had marked as the definition being a slightly different shade of meaning than the answer but maybe you can get away with that.

    I wasn’t sure why you need Old in 22d. “Element” (24d) is in the category of “girl” or “plant” – there are rather many to choose from, meaning it is almost certainly going to be a clue where you work back from the answer.

    I appreciated the disguised capital at the start of the sentence in 7d.

    1a just a little odd having the definition split across start and end of the clue. 20d didn’t really work for me, not convinced by the anagram indicator and the “on the way to…” doesn’t really clue a noun. I wasn’t sure the answer in 5d was in the right form for hits – don’t they normally not have the “-er”?

    Not sure how well “to” fits in the cryptic reading in 4d

    These comments are intended well, I hope they are useful to you. I enjoyed the puzzle very much, it was particularly great I thought to see some new ideas being tried out, and the two long clues are excellent highlights. Brilliant stuff, keep it up! And thank you very much for sharing this with us.

    1. Thanks Dutch! Loads of great feedback here for me to think through: I will almost certainly post some more comment(s) once I have thought it all through and probably once the review is posted!

      – ACTEON –

    2. Thanks again Dutch! I’ve now had more time to go through your comments…

      I still haven’t quite understood your point re. 3d. I’ll sleep on that one and hopefully it will come to me in the morning! I opted for the form
      ” show” rather than ” shows”. I can feel that I am being thick here …

      I agree on 6d and 8d – I think I’ve commented elsewhere on this page about them, especially 8d.

      Re. 16a I was pretty pleased with that. The first half of the dd was supposed to be interpreted as ‘Leaving (i.e. departing ones; ones that haven’t left yet) emails (are found) here’. Not sure if that addresses your concern or not?

      You are right re. 2d: the ‘s is absolutely part of the definition (otherwise I wouldn’t be happy with it).

      In 17d, the answer appears in Chambers as meaning no.8 in my copy (though not a common use of the word, I’ll agree!)
      In 13d, I tend to agree with you now I re-visit it. I was taking the Definition in the sense of infallible, which is close but not identical. Darn!

      You are strictly right re. old. My logic wasn’t a pre-decimalisation one, more my suspicion that the going rate is now more like £5 to £10, which is why I tried to wind back time a bit by inserting the ‘old’!

      Re. 24d I fully agree. [I always inwardly groan whenever I see ‘plant’, esp. if in the definition.] This was my attempt to stretch the boundaries a bit on ‘allowable elements’, though I agree this is a stretch too far! Probably the clue I was least satisfied with.

      1a was another go at slightly expanding the allowable clue forms. I can think of just a few clues I have seen in the national puzzles where the definition is split like this, but I do remember being impressed when they appear to work.

      Re. 20d, the anagram indicator is in my copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary as such; I only picked it to fit with the chosen capital city. I tried ‘on the way to’ as a deceptive surface and plausible way to move between Wordplay and Definition (with an attempt at an ‘on the way to the forum’ allusion), though I guess I am muddling that by combining it with (Nero fiddling while) Rome burned. I suspect you are right with your ‘doesn’t really clue a noun’ comment – I had “On the way to (making) this compound” in mind from this point of view. Hmmm.

      Re. 5d on first looking at it I wonder whether I have lost an ‘in’ whilst I transcribed it ready for publication!? I’ll check again in the morning.

      Re. 4d, you are right, I should delete the ‘to’. I hadn’t noticed the surface still reads fine without it. Great idea.

      Fantastically useful – many thanks for taking the time to comment.

      – ACTEON –

      1. Thanks for your detailed reply. 3d, for containment clues, the fodder is normally considered a single entity, so you would say “Pin nail contains a bar” not “Pin nail contain a bar”. Even though there are two words Pin and Nail, it is the combination “Pin nail” that does the containing, and that is singular. Often also true of other wordplay, e.g. anagram fodder. It can be tempting to let the cryptic grammar be determined wrongly by the surface reading (e.g. 12d, where Prolixic picked up on it, and 21a, where he didn’t? – both I think are singular in the cryptic reading).

        16a, yes, I missed seeing leaving as an adjective, nice one!

        Yes burn is in the indicator list, which is not to say it is a great anagrind – to me it didn’t conjure up a jumbling of letters, but i suppose it can.

        I hadn’t seen “on the way to” as “a step towards finding the answer”, though i got the on the way to the forum allusion, and it’s a nice idea disguising compound in this way – but – if i had to have it explained to me, the clue has already lost something, so for me it didn’t work as well as intended.

        5d i just thought the hits were sixes not sixers but i am not a cricket person, or maybe there is another kind of hit, my brb didn’t help much. Ah, I now see you are referring to r(ecipes) in another response, which could be inserted in sixes, I wonder if your clue was not a dd at all but has become corrupted somehow as you suggest, pity..

        Congratulations again and good luck – hope you enjoyed discussing this puzzle, and i look forward to seeing more of you

        1. Hi Dutch, thanks again. Your comment ‘the fodder is normally considered a single entity’ clarifies it for me a lot. I agree at least 80% with what you say: I am trying to see if there’s a way of pushing the bounds slightly here, but (I think) failing. I need to work on this most, I think, as for some reason it doesn’t yet jump out at me as being wrong. Hopefully I will re-read this before making the same mistake too many times in the future!

          – ACTEON –

  7. Started off quite well with the excellent 11a and most of the NW corner, although I had to cheat on 9a and don’t understand that at all.

    The rest of it became much tougher and being short of time worked through what I could fairly quickly and revealed the rest; had I persevered for another half hour or so I think I would have cracked plenty more.

    It’s full of good clues and clever devices. I particularly like the use of ‘s in 2d – possessive in the surface, short for “is” as part of the definition. And although 7d’s use of Nice is quite popular – I’ve used myself – it still fooled me for a while. 25a is nice too but perhaps it would have been slightly fairer to use “less noisy” or “less loud” since really you are removing an F rather than introducing a P.

    Others I liked were 4d, 10a, 16a, 14a – excellent wordplay – and 3d, which seems to me a good use of a relatively easy hidden clue given that the answer is obscure (well it was to me anyway)

    Not sure how 1a wordplay works – it appears that the definition is split between Ex at the start then using “several of them” to pluralise it, but I am probably reading it wrong.

    21a Personally I’ve never heard of but in my book it’s no more obscure than Greek (say) mythology which many professional setters seem to do to death presumably on the grounds that it’s “General knowledge”. Never come across 5d, and don’t get the wordplay for that or 6d.

    17d I don’t think the definition quite works

    Overall I thought it was very good and I would say most of the clues would have worked very well in a toughish (but fair) broadsheet daily puzzle. Look forward to another one day.

    1. Thanks Starhorse! Loads of great feedback here for me to think through: I may post some more comment once I have thought it all through!

      – ACTEON –

    2. Thanks again – I’ve now had more time to take your comments in. I’m pleased you liked my technique in 2d – I like deceptive ‘is it a link word?’ parts to a clue. Re. 25a I tend to agree with you, certainly if I was trying to keep the clue slightly easier rather than harder. And with Prolixic’s review now added I read his use of “ambitious” in the same way as Sir Humphrey says “Is that altogether wise, Minister?” ;-)

      Pleased you liked those you mention above. When I recently found the word in 3d and its meaning (my French – or English – is not good enough to have the word in my general vocabulary) I was delighted to find that there was indeed such a word for that space! I need to be careful or I may stray into Dubwa’s “The French have no word for entrepreneur” territory here…

      Re. 1a, it is exactly as you suggest. I know splitting definitions is unusual but I like to gently push the boundaries – not least as I am concerned that all clue writing will be computerised in time, otherwise.

      I like your train of thought re. 21a and what we are all ‘expected’ to know – you put it more eloquently than me and I am sure I’ll recall it next time I am entering Sisyphus, Prometheus (or even Actaeon ;-) ) into a grid as the solver!

      I noted elsewhere that I am wondering if I lost an ‘in’ in 5d (the wordplay was supposed to be r(ecipe) in the appropriate boundaries) whilst I transcribed the clues ready for publication. I will double-check my notes. The wordplay for 6d is exactly as Prolixic now explains it; the abbreviation used did make it into the popular Press for a while, until they settled on ‘drone’ as having more of a buzz to it.

      With 17d I agree it is an obscure meaning of the word but my version of Chambers has it as meaning no.8.

      Really appreciated the feedback – many thanks!

      – ACTEON –

  8. I thought this was very ambitious. A couple of answers I’d never heard of before and a couple more that I can’t fully parse. And for me, the last five letters of 13D are what one does to verify accuracy and layout, not the galley itself, but I’m probably being picky. incidentally, I was told by an editor not too long ago that the term is outdated and has been replaced. Thanks Aceton. I’m looking forward to the review.

    1. Thanks Expat Chris! I am hoping the ones you can’t parse are not due to compiler error! Re. 13d it seemed to work using Chambers to double-check each part of the clue, but I am almost certainly missing something. I’ll have a quick look again tomorrow.

      – ACTEON –

      1. Galley proof originally comes from the metals trays (galleys) that were used to lay out the type. In this digital age, the more common terms are page proof or uncorrected proof. Page proof is the publisher’s term I’m familiar with. But, having said that, galley proof is still in my Chambers. As I said, I was being picky and no-one else would probably care!

        1. Not lack of caring, Chris. Some of us on the back row were still looking for obscure types of seaworthy vessels or bizarre names for a ship’s kitchen.

  9. Hi Acteon,

    Found this to be very tricky, though with a lot to like. I’m guessing you have a somewhat technical background as I don’t think 21a is a very commonly known term, but I for one am very happy for that type of thing to be included. I had a few quibbles, but I see that they have all been highlighted above so no need for me to restate them.

    It’s a real shame about the PC ambiguity for 10a as I loved the use of unknown soft rock group. I’ll go with 6d as my favourite as it had me completely flummoxed until I twigged it.


    1. Thanks Sprocker! You (like others) also feel that 21a is not very well known so yes, it probably does say something about the world I’ve been immersed in for the past 30+ years. And pleased you liked 6d!

      – ACTEON –

      1. I don’t think there is an issue with the obscurity of the answer given the unambiguous wordplay.

  10. Like Chris, I thought this one was very ambitious and to be honest, I got more relief than satisfaction out of completing it. If I’d abided by Pommers’ law of not writing in anything that I couldn’t parse I’d have a half-empty grid.
    Sorry, Acteon, it’s doubtless my fault rather than yours!
    There were certainly some that I really enjoyed – 11&13a plus 7d but many others either went over my head or demanded too much specialised knowledge.
    Thanks for the challenge, Acteon – I suspect this one was a little off-pitch for the majority of us but I await Prolixic’s review with great interest.

    1. Thanks Jane! Though I’m sorry for the ‘more relief than satisfaction’ ….

      I’ll need to hold back a bit on specialist knowledge, it seems, from both your feedback and that from one or two others. I only used items in one version or another of Chambers but that still allows a bit too much leeway and I guess it is still pretty strong on ‘things scientific’.

      Useful feedback which I will take into account when I create my next one – thanks again!

      – ACTEON –

      1. Very good of you to take the time to reply to all of us, Encota. I was surprised to learn, from your reply to Sprocker, that you are probably not as young as I had assumed you to be! I think I am often guilty of assuming that my ignorance in any particular field is down to a generational ‘thing’ – obviously not – far more to do with the direction life has taken us in and the knowledge that has become second nature as a result.
        By the way – to ask Kath’s usual question – where did your ‘handle’ come from?

        1. Almost all of us, Jane…..Expat Chris and I must be in the Naughty Corner, even though I did make some complimentary comments too !

            1. Hi Chris,

              I just thought it odd that Acteon was making a point of responding to each comment individually…apart from ours!

              1. Ha! I think Acteon is keen to respond, I wouldn’t read too much in the omissions – on the other hand, why did you say…….

              2. I didn’t give it a second thought. I actually didn’t say much at all so there was nothing worth responding to. I’m sure Aceton has other stuff to do….like eat dinner perhaps…. and will be back later.

  11. I enjoyed this a lot. My favourites were 10a, 11a, 16a, 18a, 26a and 17d. Didn’t mind ‘famous puzzle’ – even though I’ve never actually done one! I’m probably in a minority – at least on this site – in finding lengthy anagrams rather tedious, but 11a was a cracker, with a great definition to match; my favourite clue. :)
    On the down side, I have entered 7 from definition alone without yet being able to parse, so I shall look forward to the review for enlightenment re 1a, 25a, 5d, 6d, 8d, 12d and 13d.
    On to details and personally I was okay with ‘unknown’ being used twice, simply because the letter required was different for each; by the same measure, I was unhappy with soft being used to give the same letter in both 10a and 21a.
    I’m glad you had that conversation in The George!

    1. Thanks Maize! It sounds like you agree with several others that some of the stronger clues are my Across ones – I’ll have to check if that’s a systematic problem on my part down to either the way I lay them out, or clue them, or perhaps both..

      With hindsight I feel ‘famous puzzle’ is probably ok for UK nationals and/or those who’ve been in the UK for many of the last 40 years, but otherwise may well be unknown from overseas.

      If I understand the etiquette correctly then it’s not appropriate for me to comment on the unparsed ones at this stage. Happy to after the review, if there’s any chance that I can add anything more.

      I hadn’t noticed the two ‘softs’ when I checked it – I’ll find a better way of double-checking in future, thank you.

      – ACTEON –

      1. I am hoping that your inclusion of the famous puzzle will add appropriate enlightenment to this community – please friends, have a look at the Wikipedia entry on this compiler and the website

        I thought it was a great clue

        I’ve just started doing them as well.

        1. Re the across clues/down clues setting, paradoxically I find there’s an extra swathe of clueing devises available for down lights, which tends to make their clues stronger!

      2. Well I’m certainly UK based, but since I’ve never purchased or subscribed to The Observer and don’t stray much further than the Daily Telegraph, this “famous puzzle” was new to me.

        I suppose it’s the old chestnut as to whether what one person considers famous is regarded in the same way by others.

        Apologies for being unsure of your gender by the way, my mistake for not reading BD’s introductory comments carefully enough.

  12. I thought that was really really difficult.
    I still have two answers that I can’t get in the top right hand corner and one doubtful one in the bottom left.
    I am a ‘technotwit’ or, as pommers would say, ‘technopeasant’ so only got 21a from the anagram – husband explained it – too much information! I liked resynchronise as an anagram indicator.
    I liked 11, 18 and 26a and 22d.
    With thanks to Acteon and, in advance, to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks Kath – pleased you liked some of the clues – especially 26a, I was beginning to get a bit of a complex about that one, reading many others’ “Never Heard Of It” comments. I think it is the only puzzle I would term as ‘famous’ that isn’t simply named after its newspaper (I am a Mephisto fan when I can spare the time, but I’m not sure that’s so well known)

      Though I’m sorry if ‘really really difficult’ meant unenjoyably so?

      – ACTEON –

      1. Thank you for your reply – doing individual replies to every single comment is no mean feat and I’m sure everyone appreciates it.
        No – definitely not unenjoyably difficult – just really really difficult.

  13. Almost finished.
    Still not sure about 5d and 22d.
    For 5d, I think it has something to do with pupils in the last year (6 form?) and some kind of sporty strike?
    22d probably has to do with ropes and sailing things to steady a boat maybe.
    Feel a bit lost.
    But the main thing is that I enjoyed the challenge.
    The two lurkers took a while and 3d is definitely known to me. It’s a small alleyway. Guess it makes sense.
    When I saw 16 and 21a, I thought Acteon was another one of these IT specialists.
    Let me tell you that I have nothing against IT specialists.
    Knew of the puzzle in 26a even if I never had a go at it yet.
    Liked 10a and 14a the most.
    Thought that “black & white” in 18a wasn’t enough to discribe the adjective. Although it is multicoloured, it’s not necessarily b&w.
    I am not a great fan of A = I in 13a.
    Thanks a lot for the challenge. I do like a challenge.

    1. Re 5D…are you familiar with Girl Guides? 22D, you’re on the right track, I think. It’s rather a topical clue, given the time of year.

      1. Hi Chris,
        Do you want to get me arrested? I know nothing about these Girl Guides.
        Kidding apart, still don’t know what 5d could be. Need a proper hint for that one or a “click here” button.
        For 22d, that vowel seems to be the one I guessed but don’t get the parsing.

        1. Hope the review sorted out 5d for you, JL? Maybe not so widely done these days but in the ‘good old days’ youngsters would spend hours making their Guy Fawkes effigies and then push them around the neighbourhood in Dad’s wheelbarrow shouting out ‘penny for the guy’. The money they collected was used to buy fireworks for the big night.

    2. Thanks Jean-Luc! Delighted you enjoyed the challenge. Nice alleyway, perhaps, for 3d? Given your (apparent) South of France location, that is.

      Re. 5d, as I have now commented in response to several others who weren’t convinced by this one, I may have lost an ‘in’ during transcription. I might have meant “Young leaders – take in great hits”, I know I toyed with that for a while, though perhaps I’ve forgotten my own intentions!

      I feel you are strictly right with ‘pied’, I had a pied wagtail in mind. One of those cases where I was prepared to swap strictness for ‘cleanness’ of the surface, perhaps I should not have…

      Re A=I, I thought long and hard about this one as I too am not a fan. However, I then happened upon it in that day’s Times puzzle – yes really! – and thought if they are prepared to use it then so am I. Ximenes would almost certainly be unimpressed but it seems to be ever more common now, especially in some of the more libertarian UK papers.

      Really appreciated the feedback, so my sincere thanks. By the way, did I see you (and one or two of the others who’ve commented here) might be going to the 7th Birthday bash? If yes, I look forward to meeting you there (weather allowing – it usually only takes a couple of inches of snow for the whole of East Anglia to get cut off!)

      – ACTEON –

  14. My tuppence worth. I’m not a fan of commenters dissecting the construction of individual clues too deeply before the review comes up. It does rather cut across what Prolixic spends considerable time doing so very well every week for all of us.

  15. Many thanks for the review as ever, Prolixic.

    I think you meant Robert Frost for 9a, though, surely?

    1. I think he does – TS recommended some of his work recently. I have to say that a lot of it doesn’t 9a!

      1. Hi Jane, agreed – you are right about much of it not rhyming. I vaguely recall being introduced/subjected to some of his work whilst at school, though I had to double-check before submitting the clue.

  16. Many thanks, Prolixic – that answers most of my questions!
    13a – surely the ‘a’ is required to stand in for ‘one’ – otherwise you would have the wrong spelling for the leaflet.
    5d – unless things have changed dramatically since my day, 5ds are patrol leaders – not pack leaders.
    8d – never heard of the full phrase, let alone the abbreviation!
    12d – lie=press. That’s another new one for me.
    25a – never in a million years would I have fathomed that one.

    Definitely a Toughie for me – and for Mr. Google!

  17. Many thanks Prolixic for the review and your feedback – very useful and gives me much to go through in slower time!

    Also, as I put in one of my comments elsewhere, I really appreciated your Guide, not least as its ‘house style’ is closer to the Times/Independent precision that I enjoy.

    There are two items that I’d love to gain clarification on:
    – one is the ‘without’ debate (6d), which I have seen on several occasions and I do follow your logic above. It is in my 2011 edition of Chambers Crossword Dictionary (CCD) though as such an indicator, so I am left a bit confused. Do many people feel the CCD is wrong in this case?
    – the A=I discussion (e.g. 13a), which again I have seen numerous times. Does this purely come down to a paper’s house style, do you think? I am not a fan but relented in this example as it helped the surface significantly. I had also seen it in The Times on the day that I was writing the clue, which I hadn’t recalled seeing there (certainly not often) before – this swung it for me.

    Re. 17a, yes, I thought hard about the ‘a’ then added it for precisely the reason you give.

    Re. your use of the word ‘ambitious’, am I right in reading it along the lines of Sir Humphrey’s, “Is that altogether wise, Minister?”
    Your comment on 12d is probably the one I need to work on most, as I don’t feel quite proficient in getting this right yet. However, two Yodas and only one Ambitious for a first publication – I’ll take that!

    – ACTEON –

      1. Reading “without” as “on the outside of” (which Collins has marked archaic – not sure what the BRB has – normally same and more besides) works with both the carol and the instant clue.

        Arch-ximenean Pasquale has eg in Guardian 26522

        Bereaved man gets fatter without old wife (7) for WID(OW)ER

        On this occasion (it was bound to happen one day) I am inclined to agree with Pasquale. Not a good reason in itself but it certainly gets around a lot.

      2. Thanks Dave. Just been reading the lyrics to the Beatles ‘Within You Without You’ – seeking ‘enlightenment’ from GeorgeH’s words. No luck there, however ;-)

        And thanks Jolly Swagman – definitely useful to hear what you and Pasquale have to say!

        My conclusion at present is that I will continue to use it, as the majority (just) of current UK compilers appear to do so; if there’s an easy way to re-word without dramatically spoiling the surface I will definitely take that option first though. Unless lots of flak results from this post…[tin hat on]

        Thanks all.

        – ACTEON –

    1. Re A for I

      The very first issue in the rubric Cryptic Clue Discussion on DIY COW was about that. It was raised by Rishi (who sets puzzles in India). Anax answered:

      “By strict Ximenean rules it is in fact permissible. Chambers lists A as a dialect form of I (first person) … ”

      but went on to say (my words here) that it isn’t strongly encouraged in many UK dailies.

      Once again my observation would be that it gets around quite a bit. Sometimes one sees some things so often one doesn’t bother to question the justification for them.

  18. Thanks very much to Prolixic for the review.
    I should have got 10a but didn’t – if I’d managed that I’d have got 5d instantly. They were the two I couldn’t do in the top right corner. 25a was the ‘iffy’ one in the bottom right corner and there was no way that I’d ever have sorted that out for myself.
    Thanks again to Acteon.

  19. Thanks again to Acteon for answering each and every comment about his puzzle.
    Thanks also to Prolixic for the analysis.
    Look forward to the birthday bash and by that time some rookies will surely have moved up to the Saturday slot.

  20. Late to the party, but worth turning up. I did find this extremely tricky, and had to resort to cheating at the end, although some of the clues I struggled with I shouldn’t have. It seems from the review that the technical construction is almost right, and most of the learning will be from what style and difficulty people tend to like.
    My favourites were the relatively straightforward 11a and 27a, and having read the explanation I did like what you were trying in 25a – overly ambitious perhaps, but this is the place to do it and find out – and the idea of more quietly going from ff to f is a nice one that perhaps could be used again when the word (uniffy) isn’t so iffy.
    My only dislike was the use of element for Bi – true, perhaps, but there are so many elements that it is almost like using ‘Letter, then another letter’ as wordplay.
    Many thanks to both Acteon and Prolixic.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to give it a go. Re. Bi(smuth), I was embarrassed using it but my aim was (still is!) at least partly to tease out which elements are seen as allowable and which aren’t. I think I have seen C, N, O as a minimum in the Times but after that I lose track – I suspect there are six or so that have appeared there. [As an aside I was recently discussing with an American editor the use of ‘state’ – Ca/Cal, UT, RI etc. it appears we are much more liberal in the UK with its use than they are in the US.]

      Re. the general level of difficulty, I am trying slowly to soften it a bit but it will probably take me two or three more rounds of puzzle feedback to get there. My biggest fear is being accused of having moved into the ‘Cheese made backwards (4)’ camp :-)

      – ACTEON –

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