Rookie Corner – 084

A Puzzle by Metman

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a second puzzle from Metman, who learnt a lot from his debut a few weeks ago. 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.

One of the challenges for a setter is to strike a balance between making a crossword to easy and so mind bogglingly difficult that people give up in despair.  Whilst Metman produced a crossword where there were only a handful of issues with the clues, the overall standard of difficulty gave the crossword a feeling of being set in a half-hearted fashion.  I am sure that this was not the case but more attention is needed to ensure that the clues provide the right level of challenge.


8 Hot fluid sounds like grub (4)
LAVA – A homophone (sounds like) of larvae (grub)

9 Disgust concerning dog and Nan going to church (10)
REPUGNANCE – A two letter word meaning about followed by a breed of dog, the NAN from the clue and the abbreviation for Church of England.  The Nan in the clue could have been defined as relative or diminutive relative to provide a little more of a challenge.

10 Quietly supports material to save (6)
SCRIMP – The musical abbreviation for quietly goes after (supports as in follows) a type of material used in upholstery and bookbinding.

11 Turning someone in to get purchases (8)
SHOPPING – A double definition for betraying someone (turning someone in) and what you have purchased.

12 Upset, seethe at a follower of the arts (8)
AESTHETE – An anagram (upset) of SEETHE AT.

14 Intrusion at home by the way (6)
INROAD – A two letter word meaning at home followed by another word for a way or street.

16 Arab leader buried in mire (4)
EMIR – An anagram (buried in) of MIRE.  I don’t think that buried in (even if used in the form of cryptically hidden as an anagram) really works too well as an anagram indicator.  Anagrams of four letter words are not really much of a challenge for the solver unless the form part of a larger wordplay.

17 Pachydermal colour? (5)
IVORY – A colour that is something that an elephant’s (Pachyderm) tusks aremade of.

18 Very keen to take a position within (4)
INTO – A double definition.

19 Career operating on grass (6)
ONRUSH – A two letter word meaning operating followed by a word for a reed or grass.

21 Beg pardon, can I go? (6,2)
EXCUSE ME – A single definition with two very similar related meanings.

23 Effigy burned in the north to refute a misrepresented argument (8)
STRAWMAN – Another double definition.  The second meaning is a logical fallacy that occurs when a debater intentionally misrepresents an opponent’s position to make the opponent’s arguments appear easily defeated.

26 Maybe axis has huge strength (6)
MIGHTY – A word meaning maybe followed by one of the axes on a graph.  I don’t think that might and maybe are directly synonymous without the use a pronoun.  “Will you be going to the shops today” – “I might” or “Maybe”.

27 Anniversary average is safely middle of the road (6,4)
GOLDEN MEAN – A type of anniversary for 50 years of marriage followed by a word meaning average.

28 Sounds as if this God did very little (4)
IDOL – A homophone of idle.  There are a number of points on this clue.  “Did very little” would suggest idled.  Also, putting the definition between the homophone indicator and the word to be altered do not work particularly well.  Perhaps “God is reportedly lazy” would be better.


1 Was his job axed? (7,3)
HATCHET MAN – A cryptic definition of someone who is appointed to carry outan unwelcome task that sound like it might need the use of an axe.

2 Roger ignored Newton and slid up this (8)
BANISTER – The name of the four-minute miler Roger without one of the letters N (Newton).  Normally you would slide down one of these but ignoring Newton’s theory of gravity, you would potentially slide up it!  Perhaps some indication of which of the many people called Roger was required would have been helpful “Roger the runner…” or something similar.

3 Stumble before the French three times (6)
TRIPLE – Another word for a stumble followed by the French masculine singular for the.

4 Stir soup for work (4)
OPUS – An anagram (stir) of SOUP.

5 Every other king onto email only – it’s a disgrace (8)
IGNOMINY – The even letters (every other) of KING ONTO EMAIL ONLY.

6 Obstruct this container (6)
HAMPER – A double definition, the second being a container in which a picnic could be found.

7 Cyclonic onset brings forth a hero (4)
ICON – The answer is hidden in (brings forth) CYCLONIC ONSET.

13 OK Eve tried to recall (5)
EVOKE – An anagram (tried) of OK EVE.  I think that tried as in irritated or afflicted works as an anagram indicator.

15 Unmanned snack bar with charged particle might reduce the workforce (10)
AUTOMATION – Another word for a vending machine followed by a word for a charged particle.  Not the smoothest of surface readings.

17 Inhume an awful savage (8)
INHUMANE – An anagram (awful) of INHUME AN.  An anagram that requires the solver to move only the final three letters of the words is not going to getthe solvers’ pulses racing.

18 A gin is mixed within a flash (8)
INSIGNIA – An anagram (mixed) of A GIN IS after the IN from withIN.

20 Humbug and aggression embraced this dictatorship (6)
UGANDA – The answer is hidden inside HUMBUG AND AGGRESSION.  Perhaps former dictatorship would be been a better choice.

22 Approaching parade, OC in MG (6)
COMING – An anagram (parade) of OC IN MG.  I think that parade as verb to marshal into military order works as an anagram indicator.

24 To reverse to, sound your horn (4)
TOOT – The TO from the clue followed by a reversal of the second TO from the clue.

25 Unhappy, lone at Christmas (4)
NOEL – An anagram (unhappy) of LONE.  The construction of wordplay AT definition is not one that works particularly well.



  1. JollySwagman
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    Hi Metman – thanks for producing this.

    An enjoyable solve with some good ideas being realised – but I’ve got quite a few quibbles – or at least observations which started as potential quibbles – some resolved – others not (which doesn’t mean they can’t be) – actually observations and plaudits included in the same list -sometimes the dividing line is a fine one:

    16a “buried in” as an anagram indicator made me ponder. Using the sense “covered from sight; hidden” we have to think: “hidden by what means” and (as opposed to discovering the usual type of hidden word) conclude that it’s hidden by means of anagramming. OK – I’ll buy that (maybe for tough puzzles only) but I bet you get some quibbles.
    18a Nice wordsplit – I had to read “take” as an instruction to the word “to”. I’m OK with that (at a pinch) – not sure what attitude others will take. “takes” in the cryptic reading is obviously more comfortable but it doesn’t work in the surface reading. Sometimes you can find an alternative which works in both – I can’t think of one off the top of my head.
    19a I can only make a noun out of the answer and a verb to match (in that sense) the definition.
    21a Very easy and rather similar on both sides.
    23a I think I understand this now although the burning effigy side is a bit obscure. Either way I entered the singular and the reveal button gives me the plural.
    26a Got it – maybe there’s a reading as is but “have” in place of “has” might have been more comfortable – both work in the surface reading.
    28a Nifty – but why not just “does little” at the end?
    1d Nice idea – would be more convincing if axe was maybe worked in so as to suggest the job more.
    2d Nice little joke – a question mark or exclamation mark may not be absolutely compulsory with clues like this – but it’s kinder on the solver.
    15d “charged particle” makes the surface a bit surreal – unless I’m missing something.
    18d Nice wordsplit and a convincing surface.
    22d “parade” as an anagram indicator is new to me – based on its military usage – ie a simple verb – parade (get yourselves out there in the right order) – as opposed to “go on parade” – I think it works perfectly well – rather better than many conventional ones in fact.
    24 Not sure why the comma – it messes up the surface. I would have placed maybe a dash between “reverse” and “to” (2nd occurrence) – obviously ximeneans don’t like that – but I’m not interested in their views.

    Hope all that helps.

    Anyway – what matters more is that it was an enjoyable solve. The right-hand-side I found fairly easy – I slowed down a bit on the left-hand-side.

    Many thanks.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 3:40 am | Permalink

      I don’t understand your point about 26A and “have’ instead of ‘has’ being more comfortable. I thought this was a very clear and straightforward clue and can’t for the life of me see why ‘have’ would work at all when axis is singular.

      • JollySwagman
        Posted November 16, 2015 at 5:34 am | Permalink

        Correction. “Have” is needed in the cryptic reading after the first two words have been translated to what is needed in the answer. That *doesn’t* work in the surface reading – where “has” does. “Maybe” doesn’t translate exactly to what’s needed in the answer – so you have to take a step back and run the cryptic reading as a whole – which is where you get a problem.

        If “maybe” could be treated as an exact match to what is needed in the answer “has” could be treated as just a link – and you’re home. Maybe there’s a way to make “maybe” match – I couldn’t think of one.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 5:41 am | Permalink

      Correction re 23a. Maybe I put the E in – not the reveal button. In a big rush just now. Sorry for the confusion.

  2. Expat Chris
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Hmm. I’m on the fence. While I’n not a fan of Rookies over-convoluting clues, I thought 90% of this was too simplistic. I would have liked to have had to work a little harder. I will be interested in what others have to say.

  3. 2Kiwis
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    This certainly did not keep us occupied for very long but we did find it enjoyable. Best for us was 5d where we tried to read too much into the wordplay. We are still a bit puzzled by 23a, especially after reading JollySwagman’s comment above.
    Thanks Metman.

  4. dutch
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Congratulations Metman on putting together your second puzzle, well done. Much of this was very simple but i struggled to complete some of it – NW was my last quadrant.

    I’m not sure I fully understand 23a but I entered the singular, and after JS’s comment I checked the reveal button which also gives me the singular. JS has already given you a lot of food for thought and I’ll try and complement this a little with my experience in the hope that is of some use, leaving the detailed review to prolixic

    Some clues were very good, I was pleasantly surprised at 18a, it would not be out of place in the guardian. I liked the surface of 28a, i was thinking it could be simplified but realise you need the “this” the way you have it constructed. I also liked 26a, not sure I understand the JS comment about “has”, though I did think the “be” bit had no equivalent in the answer.

    “up” instead of down in 2d confused me until I twigged the Newton reference, cute – I agree with JS suggestion of QM. 10a works though “supports” is more elegant I think in a down clue – and another word might help the surface (unless I’m missing something), even something simple like after. With only 1 letter out of place (the e), the answer stares you in the face in 17d. I wasn’t keen on “brings forth” in 7d, thinking there must be plenty of options that would work more smoothly both cryptically and surface-wise. Some clues I really liked in terms of the idea, yet somehow they didn’t quite clinch it for me, like 1d and 17a, which i think would benefit from polishing – good ideas like this are always worth more effort since they can lead to those top knockout clues that can really make your puzzle sparkle

    Congratulations again – I enjoyed doing the puzzle and thank you for sharing it with us. I hope you enjoy all the valuable feedback you will get from this site

    • dutch
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 5:54 am | Permalink

      to clarify 26a, i wasn’t sure whether maybe as an adverb or noun is translated seamlessly into the answer, keen to hear what others say

  5. Maize
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Hello Metman. Last time you told us that you produce about 50 puzzles in 6 weeks. You also promised to do some ‘serious editing’. Did that happen with this puzzle I wonder? I know Big Dave wants us to be positive with our comments, but this seems to need a good deal more editing yet, sorry.
    For me the worst offenders for looking ‘underworked’ were17d and 22d – I think you should try to come up with something more imaginative – believe that every word can be clued creatively! And I must object to 20d which, though clever, should surely have been changed because I don’t think it’s okay to call a developing country a dictatorship when it has moved on so much since those dark days of its past. Sorry.
    However I did like 4d, 5d and 24d.

  6. Beet
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The check all function is correcting my answer for 9 a, which I’m pretty sure is right.

    More comments later, sorry just popped in to point this out for now.

    • Posted November 16, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Mea culpa – now corrected.

  7. crypticsue
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Good in parts – I really liked 2d. When I was solving it, I felt there were too many anagrams but now I’ve been through and marked off the clue types, there really aren’t so I’m not sure how I gained that impression. As others have said the majority of the clues are far too simple especially the extremely obvious 17d which I marked with a large minus sign to indicate the furthest away from a favourite you could get. 28a surely did very little is ‘idled’ ?

    I’ve tried not to be too negative, as there are some parts I really enjoyed but – I look forward to your next Rookie offering in due course. Thanks in advance to Prolixic too.

  8. silvanus
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Oh dear. Big Dave’s introduction gave me a good deal of initial optimism but this dissipated fairly quickly I’m sorry to say. I actually thought your encouraging debut puzzle contained far fewer flaws than this one.

    Maize has hit the nail on the head really, far more work was required at the editing and drafting stage and although there were definitely some good ideas, they were invariably let down by poor clue construction unfortunately.

    There were probably a few too many anagrams (I counted eight) and, of those, several such as 17d and 22d were unwisely clued as such. (17d almost defies the Trades’ Description Act to be called an anagram!). Certain of the anagram indicators were at best dubious too, especially “buried” in 16a, “tried” in 13d and “parade” in 22d. Repetition of devices such as the use of “within” (18a and 18d coincidentally) and “sounds like/as if” (8a and 28a) could have been avoided by better editing.

    There were a few cases as well of elements of the answer appearing too obviously in the clue, e.g. 9a, 19a, 24d. Others have already raised many of the remaining concerns I had.

    I hope that you will take the critical feedback in the right spirit, Metman, I do still think that you have the potential to improve significantly, but this puzzle didn’t provide the evidence for that I’m afraid.

  9. Sprocker
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    My favourite clue was 2d which I thought was absolutely superb, but I’m afraid that has highlighted that you haven’t really shown us your full potential here, and I have to agree with a lot of the comments above. Nevertheless it was still an enjoyable solve as there were some really nice ideas on show.

    One additional point I’d raise is that something that I’ve been picked up on before is the use of anagrams for 4 letter clues – I count 3 of them here – as I’ve now learnt these are best avoided in general as they do make it a bit too easy on the solver.

    Thanks Metman

  10. Hilary
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Dear BRB thank you for rescuing me once again, everything else denied that there was such a word as 23a but there it was. 1a came flowing into my thoughts over breakfast which enabled me to complete that corner. Not sure about several answers and share a lot of the comments that have already been expressed. Interested to see what the Master has to say tomorrow.

    • Maize
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Hilary, you’ve caught me in a critical mood today – could you please say ‘Big Red Book’ or even better ‘Chambers’ – it’s just taken me several minutes on Google finding out what you meant!

      • crypticsue
        Posted November 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        Now if only you’d consulted the Frequently Asked Questions link at the top of the page

        • Maize
          Posted November 16, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          Ha! Well that’s the first time for me.

      • Hilary
        Posted November 16, 2015 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        Sorry I thought that by now most people here would know what BRB meant.

        • stanXYZ
          Posted November 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          The meaning of BRB – Moi Aussi, I thought that all regulars would know it by now.

          Perhaps Maize doesn’t come here apart from Rookie Corner day?

          My thoughts and criticisms on today’s offering from Metman have already been thoroughly discussed above … not much to add really .. apart from the fact that I admire anyone willing to present their compilation to such a critical audience.

          Thanks to Metman,

          ps. Nice weather today – for November!

  11. metman
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    My thanks to everyone who has commented, especially to Jolly Swagman, Expat Chris, the 2kiwis, dutch, maize, Silvanus, sprocker, crypticsue, and Hilary. Each comment is humbly taken on board, and to be honest, I feel a bit ashamed for submitting such a weak puzzle. I do have better ones, but I know I need to go back to the drawing board.
    There were some quite deliberately easy ones included as I like to pop in a few ‘gimmes’ but there were far too many of them which in a way insulted your intelligence. Also, some of the clues were convoluted and cumbersome. I apologise unreservedly. Once again thank you all for your constructive comments, both good and bad.

    • Maize
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Sorry to be so hard on you Metman. Here’s the start of a poem from Ferlinghetti to cheer you up ( possibly! ) which applies to us all:

      Constantly risking absurdity and death
      Whenever he performs above the heads of his audience
      The poet like an acrobat
      Climbs on rime
      To a high wire of his own making…

      • metman
        Posted November 16, 2015 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        Don’t give it another thought Maize, all your comments were valid and I’d rather hear them than not. I liked your bit of verse – where’s me safety net?

    • silvanus
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Hi Metman,

      Your frank comments do you great credit and I think everyone will appreciate that it’s not always easy to accept criticism, however well-intentioned it is. Well done, indeed.

      I hope it’s not a rude or impertinent question to ask, but if you have better puzzles as you say, why did you not submit one of those instead?

      • Metman
        Posted November 16, 2015 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Didn’trealise it at the time-simple as that. Thanks for your sentiments

  12. Kath
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this one – I had it in my head that Metman’s last crossword was very difficult so either he’s taken pity on us or I’ve forgotten.
    I thought the top half was much easier than the bottom.
    I liked 9 and 18a and 1d. My favourite was 24d – simple, I know, but it made me laugh.
    Thank you and well done to Metman. I think anyone who can set a crossword is very clever – anyone who can set a crossword and dare to show it here is very clever and very brave.

    • metman
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Kath – I’m tempted to say ‘Aw shucks’ but I won’t! Very kind of you anyway. I didn’t mind the critical comments at all. Rather that than keeping mum. Wouldn’t learn athing that way.

  13. jean-luc cheval
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    My first thought for 1a was “worm”. Reminded me of the witchery grub that I ate once in Australia. A definite 9a to some.
    That put a damper on the NW corner.
    But getting 1d made me realise my mistake and it did help to finally get 2d.
    Very unfair clue in my humble opinion as the first name without any indication was almost impossible to get. Unless Roger was a champion at sliding down stair railings. And it’s not even down. What an athlete. I probably would have been more comfortable with Matthew as he was a journalist at Capital Radio when I worked for them in London.
    But I like crosswords where I learn things.
    And that was the case with 27a. A bit of Aristotle doesn’t hurt.
    Didn’t know about 23a but it could easily have been “Effigy burned in the south” as an effigy called Caramantra is part of the Provencal culture. We burn it after it’s trial and it opens the Easter festival: “Careme entrant”.
    For 20d, I hope that they have turned the page since Idi Amin. Maybe a date reference like “once” would be more appropriate. But as Kath found the lurker, I’m not going to spoil her fun.
    Thanks for the challenge and look forward to solve your next one.

  14. Jane
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Late getting to this one and I think it’s all been said by others – many of whom are far better qualified than I am to give you useful feedback.
    Well done to you, Metman, for putting yourself in the firing line again, but perhaps you could benefit from cutting back on your output of puzzles (50 every six weeks?!!) and spending more time on fine-tuning the remainder?
    You obviously have talent as a setter and some very good ideas – it’s a shame when they don’t quite come to fruition.
    I’ll look forward to your next one.

    • metman
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      You are quite rightJjane about slowing down. I have done I’m- up to 84 and getting slower. I read about Rufus and his prodigious output and thought that’s what you should do – 10 a week! One a week would probably be much better – my wife might be able to get a word in then! Thanks very much for your time and comments.

      • dutch
        Posted November 16, 2015 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        Rufus has half a century experience, hard to match. I think his experience shows in his elegant simplicity – though I often think that, perhaps as part of the high-output thing, he has clues that might have been improved. These are balanced by absolute gems.

        I hadn’t realised you’ve been so productive. You put me to shame, I can’t seem to get organised. Do you have all your past clues in a data base? you might be able to select from your favourites, polish, and come up with a stunner of a crossword. Get a few people to test solve (I’m happy to do this for you but not 10 a week!) and use their feedback to refine iteratively.

        Slowing down and refining instead does not necessarily create more time for your wife to get a word in, but making sure you do factor such time into the overall equation will no doubt have long-term benefits.

  15. Snape
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Some nice ideas, such as 1d, 2d, 18a and 18d, and 20a, and just a little tidying would have helped these greatly as others have mentioned (the 18s are excellent, and use the same device, which is not one that everybody likes, (but I do), and 20a is not the fairest definition. In 1d the tenses don’t seem quite right – perhaps Axing his job might be better?).
    It is certainly right that a few straightforward clues to welcome the solver in are appreciated, but when using full anagrams it becomes a bit obvious when too much of the fodder is in the same order in the answer.
    12a reads very nicely to me, and I can understand the story of the surface. Perhaps this can be contrasted with a couple where the surface needs work, say 15d and 22d.
    15d, the charged particle seems to be completely unrelated to the story – it is impossible to work out what might be going on. There might be a way of alluding to the fact that the machines charge money “Unmanned snack machine – It’s charged…”, but nothing comes to mind where the cryptic grammar works. Perhaps construct the ‘ion’ in a way that fits in more with a story about a snack machine and jobs being lost? One working = I +ON, possibly? Maybe using the even letters of disown, somehow? Fitting it all into a surface is a challenge.
    22d Maybe the letters mean something, but they didn’t to me – having two lots of two letter initials in anagram fodder of just 6 letters suggests perhaps a different clue type would be better.
    I did enjoy it, and hopefully the good ideas will remain for the next one, with just a slight polishing. Many thanks, Metman, and to Prolixic in advance.

    • dutch
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      nice constructive comments. i agree with 1d – I wondered whether “job” was a potential problem source, can’t remember if you axe a job or a person – you could just have something like “Was he given the axe?” or “Did he get the axe?”

      while I’m at it (sorry!) for 17a I imagined starting with something like “Pachyderm partly in the shade”

      Metman these are just ideas, just thinking aloud, not corrections!

  16. Expat Chris
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Food for thought. I think that what we all try to do, and some succeed better than others, is critique, not criticize.

    The Difference between Critique and Criticism

    • Criticism finds fault/Critique looks at structure
    • Criticism looks for what’s lacking/Critique finds what’s working
    • Criticism condemns what it doesn’t understand/Critique asks for clarification
    • Criticism is spoken with a cruel wit and sarcastic tongue/Critique’s voice is kind, honest, and objective
    • Criticism is negative/Critique is positive (even about what isn’t working)
    • Criticism is vague and general/Critique is concrete and specific
    • Criticism has no sense of humor/Critique insists on laughter, too
    • Criticism looks for flaws in the writer as well as the writing/Critique addresses only what is on the page

    Taken from Writing Alone, Writing Together; A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups by Judy Reeves

    • dutch
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      very nice – the last one is something that i’ve seen before and value highly: criticise (or critique) the creation, never the creator.

      i think the third seems particularly relevant in crossword-land (all are relevant of course)

      Thank you

  17. Kitty
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m only just starting this, so have just cast a quick eye over the comments, trying to avoid spoilers. I’ll be back when I’ve done the puzzle, but wanted to share this with reference to your multitude of puzzles:

    From this article:

    A quick story. In their book Art and Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland tell of a ceramics teacher who announced on the opening day of class that he was dividing the students into two groups. Half were told that they would be graded on quantity. On the final day of term, the teacher said he’d come to class with some scales and weigh the pots they had made. They would get an “A” for 50lb of pots, a “B” for 40lb, and so on. The other half would be graded on quality. They just had to bring along their one, pristine, perfectly designed pot.

    The results were emphatic – the works of highest quality, the most beautiful and creative designs, were all produced by the group graded for quantity. As Bayles and Orland put it: “It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the ‘quality’ group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

    So, you see, you may well be on the path to greatness, Metman :) .

  18. Kitty
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Forgive me if I keep my comments general. My brain is just about fried from a long day, others have commented about specifics, and Prolixic will give his expert assessment tomorrow.

    It only remains for me to say that I enjoyed it, though there remain some question marks. I was slowed down by the lift-and-separate clues which I always forget to look out for in non-DT puzzles. There is lots of potential here, and I’m definitely looking forward to your next one. Thanks, Metman.

    • metman
      Posted November 16, 2015 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      Many thanks for taking the trouble Kitty. I really do appreciate all the analysis. Your story excerpt was interesting and I certainly don’t understand a lot of the ‘niceties’ when it comes to compiling, but it’s clear more care is needed and perhaps, a little more imaginitive thinking. I’ll certainly be trying!.

  19. Beet
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    My favourite clue was 2d because that had the nice twist of sliding up rather than down the banister ignoring gravity. I’d be interested to know Metman if that was your favourite clue too? Were you particularly chuffed with that one when you wrote it? The only advice I can give is that you should aim to feel similarly chuffed with as many of your clues as possible. Although Prolixic has pointed out a few technicalities, I think you have a good grasp of the technical side of things and that’s no mean feat. So now to build on that, the aim should be not just to write a clue where the wordplay works, but to keep thinking of different ideas for wordplay for that word until you have something neat or original in the wordplay or a smooth or funny surface reading. And then once you have the idea, polish it until it is expressed as neatly as you can make it. In my experience, it’s not possible to be chuffed with every clue in a grid and you’ll end up with some that are more workaday, but you should aim for more clues like 2d.

    I’m staggered by your work rate and whereas I will ponder a particular word for days to try to find a way in to a good clue, maybe it would suit you better to write lots of clues for lots of different words, and then picking out some favourites to form the starting point for a grid.

    • metman
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      I agree with what you say Beet and I certainly intend to slow right down and do a lot more polishing. Yes, I did enjoy 2d, but as it has been pointed out perhaps I should have given a hint that the Roger I had in mind was the famous 4 minute miler!. Actually, my favourite was 24d but what I can’t believe is that I let 17d through! People must have thought I was being very patronising but i didn’t look very carefully at the anagram – hey ho

      • Snape
        Posted November 17, 2015 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Do you use a compiling program, such as Crossword Compiler or Sympathy, or do you fill the grids by hand? If you do it by hand, filling 84 grids in that time is beyond my comprehension, before even writing any clues!

        • metman
          Posted November 17, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          I use crossword compiler Snape – takes so long to compose the grid yourself. I did at first but got very useful advice on compiler and some help in coming to grips with it from BD. It’s writing the clues that holds the fascination for me. I can’t recall anything so enjoyable as that!

          • Snape
            Posted November 17, 2015 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

            That’s good – you can afford to be ruthless with your clues. I can suggest a couple of things based on what I do – but bear in mind I’m a beginning rookie too so this is probably a really odd way to do it.

            I would suggest you make a clue database (from the Clue Menu), and also a ‘theme word’ list (from the Word Menu), which is just a list of all the words you have good clues for.

            Go through all your crosswords, and pick out the really good clues. This may be only a couple from each crossword. Perhaps read them out to someone, see if they can make any sense of the sentence at all, to test the surface, or just see if they make you laugh when you see them. If you have really nice wordplay, but the clue doesn’t work yet, perhaps include it with a note that it needs work. Add the clue to the clue database, and the word to the word database, then delete the rest. Be ruthless. Only include the ones you can’t bear to get rid of. You will still end up with a couple of hundred clues which is a very nice start.

            Now start a new crossword – the words in your ‘theme’ list can be given priority. You can either choose them manually, or go for autofill, with the ‘Maximum’ setting on theme list words. You will get more of your words in with Autofill, but keep an eye out for really grotty or obscure words. Now ‘Use clues from database’ and all your good clues will appear! Check to make sure you haven’t got all anagrams, or lots of hidden words, or use the same abbreviation twice and things like that, and you have a good starting point – 10 or so clues are already ones you like.

            I have about 10 puzzles on the go at once, but it takes me so long to actually get the last few clues and check the grammar – some take me months. At the meet-up earlier in the year some very kind people offered to be test solvers, and when I finish one I send it for comments. I am very lucky with mine – they are very helpful and very honest, so I find out when something doesn’t work, and sometimes they offer suggestions that improve the clue markedly. Hopefully people will see the difference in my next ones! I can test solve some if you wish – bearing in mind that I am a pretty weak solver and rarely finish a weekday Telegraph puzzle without lots of hints, so I might be a little slow!

            After a while, revisit all your clues. If you are like me, you will realise that half that you thought were good are actually pretty ropey (and if you get a test solver, they will point out flaws in the other half!), so then you have to work out a way of getting the cryptic grammar to fit in with the surface grammar – and eventually you will have a crossword to submit! After submission you will notice other errors, and you can have a fun game of trying to guess when it will appear, so you can submit a revised version (I don’t want to do this more than once- BD has enough to do!) just before it does. My next one – I’m happy with the clues themselves, but it does have too many anagrams. I have a decent alternative for one of the anagrams – but I will try to leave it as long as possible in case I think of another!

            Anyway, that is all probably an appalling way to do it, but with Crossword Compiler you can at least afford to be ruthless!

            • Metman
              Posted November 17, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

              Many thanks Snape. There’s a lot to take in therebut it sounds very,very interesting. I’m out at present but will go through later. Thanks again.

            • metman
              Posted November 17, 2015 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

              Just got back in and went through your instructions. Great! However, does one need to make a separate list of the words the clues relate to, or can it be done in compiler?

              • Snape
                Posted November 17, 2015 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

                It can be done in Compiler. Go to the Words Menu – choose the bottom option: Word List Manager.
                From the new window, go to the Word List Menu, and choose New List. Call it something, and add your words to it.
                There is a way to transfer all the words in your Clue database to a Word List, but I can’t remember how. I think it explains it in the Help section.

                When it comes to filling the grid, open Fill grid from the Words Menu, click Theme Words from Optimisation on the right, and select your newly created file from the list at the bottom.

                Hope that helps!

      • dutch
        Posted November 17, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        2d – I got there fine from banister plus newton. Then I googled Roger bannister and went DOH went I was reminded who he was. You see a lot of first name stuff in crossword land, the jury’s out. I do think a question mark adds to the clue though, because of the newton bit, even though I’m not a big fan of question marks.

  20. dutch
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for the review Prolixic, full of great stuff – but why “in the north” in 23a? – I was hoping to understand that particular reference. Can anyone help me?

    Apparently many parsed 18a as a “to” taking a position with”in”, i.e. a lift-and-separate (beautifully analysed by JS in the first comment) – I’m not sure it works well as double definition, with the second half being related as well as asking for a verb – which was the intended parsing?

    I took the “with” in the other lift-and-separate (18d) to mean “include in anagram folder”, now see it also works as a position indicator (as in 18a)

    Metman, congratulations once more. You sound dejected, please don’t be. One obvious anagram is hardly a sin, whereas overcomplicating is. I’ve enjoyed the solve and the discussion. I hope the critique has been useful – remember feedback is a gift, and you will find your own way of working

    good luck and looking forward to the next one

    • crypticsue
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      In the north because they burn straw effigies in both Scotland and apparently according to the interweb, in Northern Italy too.

    • metman
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Hi Dutch. I used ‘in the north’ because there was a very memorable film made some years ago, I think it was actually called ‘The Strawman’ where they substituted a poor policeman for the strawman and burnt him instead! This took place in the northern Scottish Isles I believe.

      • Maize
        Posted November 17, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        The Wicker Man is set in Scotland; you may have linked it in your mind with Straw Dogs set in Cornwall.

    • dutch
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      ok that’s great, thanks. guess i missed the movie somehow.

  21. metman
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I certainly do look on the feedback as a gift. I suppose I did sound a little downhearted but the more I read the feedback and looked at the puzzle the more I realised how right most of the comments were. I agrre so much with the remarks made by prolixic regarding the solving difficulty. It’s nice to finish a cryptic where you have had to think a bit but get there in the end – no fun if you have to keep delving into heavy tomes or google all the time. anyway Dutcxh I thank you again for your encouraging remarks.

  22. Encota
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi Metman,

    Bit on the drag this week – busy decorating – so a late comment…

    A gentle solve – it’s nice to have some variety! My favourite clue was 2d with the anti-Newtonian ‘slid up’ part.
    [That, for no apparent reason, reminded me of the English £1 note that used to have Newton sitting with his ‘Toblerone’ beside him ].
    e.g. Anyway, back to the plot…

    Also liked the hidden parts of 5d and 20d.

    Last one in was 18a: I wasn’t sure if you were using within to mean ‘with in’ again here at first, but I think Prolixic has explained that one.

    I think any other points I would have made have already been said – there are some really good ideas here and some clues that are perhaps not taxing enough.

    Finally I don’t think I will ever get to your production level of puzzles – I find I can draft one in a day but then probably spend at least twice as long (on and off) refining it afterwards. I’d be interested to hear what you and others find works for them.

    – ACTEON –

    • metman
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Thanks lot for your kind remarks. Your production rate seems about right and I shall aim to go much slower than that in future.

  23. spindrift
    Posted November 18, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    A bit late on parade this week. We spent the weekend in York visiting my ageing Ps then Monday going to the cemetery to inter my wife’s mother’s ashes with those of her Dad.

    As far as this rookie is concerned then all I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it. More power to your elbow Metman!

  24. Jane
    Posted November 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Only just got the chance to have a look at your review, Prolixic. Many thanks for that – as always it was very fair and constructive.