Rookie Corner – 094

A Puzzle by Encota

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Encota has decided to use this name rather than Acteon, so this is actually his second Rookie puzzle – I hope you enjoy 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.

Many thanks to Crypticsue for standing in last week as last Monday was the first day of my new job (hello to any readers who also work at Shoosmiths out there).

As in his previous incarnation, Aceton provided a tough challenge with detailed wordplay.  Perhaps some of the definitions were a little too lose.  As a general rule, the more complex / devious the wordplay, the more precise you need to be with the answer.  There was a good mixture of clue types and novelty clues but four anagrams in a row in one part of the crossword was overegging the pudding somewhat!

Although intended to be easier than his last crossword I certainly found it harder by several degrees of magnitude.


1 Highlighted a hazard in charger? (10)
ASTERISKED – The A from the clue and another word for a hazard inside another word for a horse or charger.

7 Conceivably stare at “Man bit dog” leader (4)
OGLE – The answer is hidden (bit) of DOG LEADER.  For the cryptic grammar to word correctly, this would have to be “bit of” or “bitten by”

9 Mixed school bags, member state figured (8)
COMPUTED – An abbreviation for a mixed sex or co-educational school includes (bags) the abbreviation for a Member of Parliament and the abbreviation for the state of Utah.

10 “Times are a changing”: local campaign result, for one? (6)
BYPASS – A two letter word for times or multiply followed by a four letter word meaning “are a changing” (I think that the wordplay leads to the ing form not the word required in the solution)Perhaps the definition is a little too oblique?

11 My clue: “Sports college” (6)
LYCEUM – An anagram (sports – as in frolics) of MY CLUE.

12 Red’s bike crashes – into this, maybe? (8)
KERBSIDE – An anagram (crashes) of REDS BIKE.

13 Their sides often make 21 if cubed? (4)
DICE – A cryptic definition of something thrown in a game whose numbers add up (in a regular one) to 21 and whose opposite faces always equal 7.

15 Keys fell in opening of theatre awards (10)
TONALITIES – A word meaning fell inside (in opening of) the plural of a word for theatre awards.  Perhaps the insertion indicator “in opening of” is a little too much – in or opening on their own would work but “in opening of” jars slightly for me.  Perhaps Keys fell during theatre awards might be better.

18 Remove protective marking provided year after Calendar Girl? (10)
DECLASSIFY – Split 3,4 the first part of the answer may indicate the lady appearing in December (Calendar Girl) followed by a word meaning provided and the abbreviation for year.

20 Storytellers’ review then take out smoke, perhaps (4)
SAIL  – Reverse (review) a word for fibbers or storytellers and remove (out) the abbreviation for take. I am not too keen on splitting a noun “smoke-???? and requiring the solver to find only the missing part from the word given.  Also the more complex or devious the wordplay the sharper the definition has to be.

21 Recollects girl one found in plugs for nasal tissue (8)
ADENOIDS – Reverse (recollects) a two letter name for a girl and the one from the clue and put the letters inside another word for plugs as in advertisements.

24 Keep safe for ‘special circumstances’ using key chain (6)
ESCROW – A three letter word for a computer key followed by a word for a chain.

26 Again, telephone engineers relaxed? (6)
REDIAL – The two letter abbreviation for the Royal Engineers followed by a word meaning relaxed which gives you a reversal clue for the final four letters.

27 Potentially lethal this roll for Stalin’s police chief’s starter (8)
LISTERIA – The name of Stalin’s police chief with the first letter replaced by another word for a roll.

28 Rosy – Lee quits Chelsea, otherwise (4)
ELSE – Remover the letters for another word for tea (Rosie-Lee) from the Chelsea.

29 Wails from the unfinished city exits (10)
THRENODIES – The first two letters (unfinished) of the followed by the name of a US city and another word meaning exits or comes to the end of life.


2 Film’s main development involves tiny roles (9)
STORYLINE – An anagram (involves) of TINY ROLES

3 Record pair absorbing MnO orally? (5)
ELPEE – The phonetic spelling of LP.  The letters MNO would be absorbed by L[MNO]P.

4 Hints at and supports the growth of changing boy into man? (9)
INITIMATES – Another word meaning supports the growth of with the CUB (boy) changed to TIM (man).

5 Hide child’s family (7)
KIDSKIN – Another word for a child with the ‘s added followed by another word for family.

6 Smooth but irritated could be so described, half-heartedly? (5)
DEBUR – If irritated is rubbed up, this gives a reversal clue with only half the central letters removed.

7 Spots beneath Post Office up-and-down counters (9)
OPPOSITES – The abbreviation for Post-Office reversed and then in its normal form (up and down) followed by another word for spots or locations.

8 To that extent overshadowed by light, shone brightly (5)
LASED – A two letter word meaning to that extent inside (overshadowed by) a type of low-energy light source.

14 Inelegant, gnarled – this old chestnut?  No, wild rose! (9)
EGLANTINE – An anagram (gnarled) (and old chestnut of a clue) of INELEGANT.

16 Unholy Noel prays for church helper (9)
LAYPERSON – An anagram (unholy) of NOEL PRAYS.  I can say with some authority that the answer is not a church helper but a church member which experience tells me is an entirely different thing.  In any church 75% of the congregation are of no help whatsoever, 20% help and 5% hinder.

17 Typify in motion – empties 10 (9)
EPITOMISE – An anagram (in motion) of EMPTIES IO.

19 Dodgy urinals surrounded by water (7)
INSULAR – An anagram (dodgy) of URINALS.  Four anagram clues in a row is three too many!

22 N.B. Might be described in full as such hesitation? (5)
DWELL – Expand the meaning NB in its full form to note well and you have a musical note and the well.

23 Hope teacher training earns pounds not shillings (5)
INLET – Another word for the days given to teacher in England and Wales (apologies to foreign solvers) with the S (shillings ) replaced by an L (pounds).

25 Softened any set of principles (5)
CREED – Double definition – to cree is to soften.


  1. 2Kiwis
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    We have had three of us working on this one for a loooong time and are still three answers short of completion These are 6d 10a and 20a. There are another couple eg 4d where the full parsing is not yet sorted. We will put it aside for subconscious cogitation while we have our evening meal.
    Certainly a significant challenge both with definitions and wordplay.
    We will report on further progress, if any, later.
    Thanks Encota.

    • Maize
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      One better than me, 2kiwis. I’m stumped on 22d, 25d, 24a and, like you, 20a. Any hints with those first three would be welcome!
      6d was very good, I thought, but not in BRB, though it is in Collins online. 10a is quite whimsical, but the first word in the clue is a big help…

      • Maize
        Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        Okay, it’s just 22d and 20a now, if anyone has any hints please!

        • JollySwagman
          Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

          It’s clues like 20a that really float my (unmotorised) boat.

          • Jose
            Posted January 25, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

            JS. We all know the answer, but how do you parse it? Presumably it’s an anagram (review) of a synonym for ‘storytellers’ (as in fibbers) – but how does the wordplay get rid of the R? Or am I on the wrong track completely?

            • Maize
              Posted January 25, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

              Nice hint, JS. Jose, as indirect anagrams are strictly verboten, I’m guessing that review means reversal here, but the R deletion is still beyond me.

              • Jose
                Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

                M. Point taken – about indirect anagrams being verboten (I have seen them before, however) – but if it isn’t the anagram of the ‘storytellers’ synomym we both seem have in mind, what word is it that you are having difficulty removing the R from?

                • Gazza
                  Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

                  It’s not an anagram it’s a reversal (review) with the R taken out.

                  • Jose
                    Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

                    Thanks G – got it now. Had a mental block – convinced myself that ‘review’ must be an angrind.

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        OK. For 22d; that is one where we are still struggling with the parsing but are pretty sure from the wordplay that we have the right answer. 25d. We found an obscure meaning of the first four letters in the clue in BRB which works with ‘set of principles’ being the definition. For 24a the first three letters are a computer keyboard key. The answer word is somewhat obscure too. Cheers.

        • crypticsue
          Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

          22d I can parse but can’t see how the solution fits the definition

          • JollySwagman
            Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

            I read that as NB = note (=D) well

          • Gazza
            Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

            22d is a musical note (translation of Nota) followed by translation of Bene. The answer means to hesitate or linger.

            • silvanus
              Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

              But it’s clued as “hesitation” not “hesitate”, isn’t it?

              • Gazza
                Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

                The BRB has the noun as a pause or hesitation.

              • JollySwagman
                Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

                Eg Collins (as a noun)

                a regular pause in the operation of a machine

                It’s from the mechanical or engineering side of the world.

              • silvanus
                Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

                Ah, thanks.

        • Maize
          Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

          Thanks! Think I’ll bung in a synonym for hesitate for 22d and come back to 20a at lunchtime.

        • JollySwagman
          Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

          25d – I got that from Mrs Bradford – can’t find it in any online dictionaries so I presume the BRB has it – she must have got it from somewhere.

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      Hi 2Kiwis and thanks for the feedback. Like others it sounds like you felt it was too tough. I am going to write a less tortuous one next time!

  2. crypticsue
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I’ve only had one of me working on this and found it extremely difficult – I have words in all the boxes but there are more than a couple where the parsing eludes me. I did like 26a and 22d, once the pennies had dropped as to how they worked.

    Thanks to Encota for the challenging start to Monday morning – and thank you to Prolixic in advance for the explanations I may need if I still can’t work out the ‘missing’ parsing by tomorrow morning.

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      Thanks crypticsue. I take it really seriously when experts such as yourself use words like ‘extremely difficult’ – I think I now recognise English understatement when I read it! I will work on a hopefully more enjoyable / less ubercryptic one for next time. Pleased you liked 26 and 22! And thanks for your advice of sticking with one pseudonym – I’m only Encota now!

  3. JollySwagman
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    High octane stuff there Encota – must be the toughest puzzle I’ve done for a while – plenty of smiles though. You’re surely no rookie.

    21a was my first one in and I had quite a good run from then on until with about 25% still to go I slowed to a crawl.

    I’ve got letters in all the holes now and I’m fairly sure they’re right but there are a few where I only understand one side of the clue. I’ll await the blog (I hope you supplied annotations) for explanations.

    One I googled – 23d – I wasn’t familiar with that element of teacherspeak – it wasn’t around in my day – not sure if parents know it too – even if so maybe it’s a UK thing.

    I ticked 9a, 18a 28a, 14d but many others were tickable.

    23d maybe could have done with a DBE indication – I don’t believe in the ximenean requirement that every DBE needs to be blatantly indicated – but that’s a tough one without such an indication – well hidden – but it might have paid off better had the key word been better known.

    This is a highly professional product – I’m sure you are well aware of how you could have made a few clues a little easier had you wanted to play to the gallery. As it is this would sit well in one of the really tough slots such as Guardian/Indy Saturday (well – they used to be) or DT Toughie Friday (I’m thinking Elgar mainly).

    There were some difficult words (eg 24a, 29a) but no wild obscurities.

    Terrific work – many thanks.

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Thanks JS! I was watching/listening to the track ‘Octane Twisted’ on YouTube when I read your post earlier – so your first line particularly made me smile!

      I need to think about your second 23d comment: I thought the def featuring as BRB definition 2 was enough but you’ve got me wondering…CCD seems to have the def and my answer as mutual ‘synonyms’ I thought? I’ll double-check but won’t comment more here before the review.

      Thanks again


  4. Snape
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    A lot was a bit too tough for me, but sensibly there were some nice easy entries scattered about, mainly in the form of total anagrams. Some nice original anagram indicators, (which I had doubts about until I looked them up – fair play), and some beautifully worked clues, I think the best ones have a surface which tell a story, and I liked 1a and 19d.

    I did spend quite a time looking through word lists trying to find answers that fitted, but gave up on a few and revealed the answers (mainly in NE and SW) – plenty I can’t parse, and a couple I can neither parse nor spot the definition, unfortunately, so will have to see.

    It may be that the suggestion is just to tighten up both the definitions and the wordplay slightly – in 2a, it is close to brilliant, but I couldn’t quite see comp ed as a school (just a comp?), or to school. Maybe it is a common abbreviation I just don’t know, though. I do look forward to the review though, I may be missing a lot of brilliant clues.
    Thank you, Encota.

    • Gazza
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      I think the school in 9a is a co-ed.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Mixed school is CO-ED
      It bags MP and UT

    • Snape
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Ah, thank you, I’d seen comp, and assumed Utah was member state. No doubt there are lots of other things that have passed me by.

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Sorry you found it a bit too tough, but pleased you liked 1 and 19! Hopefully you were happier with 9a following the discussion above? – I’m not quite sure how to read ‘close to brilliant’!? [It has a slight air of one of my ‘favourite’ phrases: ‘almost unique’ [=not unique] ;-) ]

      And I’ll aim to set a ‘less hard work’ one next time! I’d had previous feedback that some of my definitions were too much of a giveaway whatever the wordplay said, so I’d tried to work on that a bit in this puzzle. With hindsight that’s probably why most people are saying this is harder than my last when I thought otherwise. But if you’re struggling to spot the definitions then I’ve clearly gone too far!


      • Snape
        Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t worry about the toughness on my account – I’m probably about the weakest solver on here. I make a real big effort on Rookie Corner, and I use all available electronic help I can, and it usually gets me close to finished. With 9a, I thought I must be missing something, but what it was I got wrong. What makes a brilliant clue (for me) is entertaining wordplay, a definition you have to tease out, and a story in the surface. The surface wasn’t quite perfect (what has a member state got to do with school bags?) but it wasn’t nonsense either. 1a I thought was brilliant because the surface was so clear (and relevant, as Cyborg pointed out).
        I think Silvanus made a good point about 29a. It is a word that I didn’t know, and is not in the dictionary or thesaurus under wail so probably needs to be more precise. The th is fine, but there are many cities in the world, so picking the right one was going to be difficult. I think the less well known the word, the more precise the cluing needs to be, a la Giovanni. However, that is a tiny point. The fact that I haven’t got many of them is a reflection of my inexperience/lack of talent at doing crosswords. I suspect most or all are completely fair, and I’m looking forward to the explanations.

  5. Gazza
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I thought that this was a proper Toughie – thanks Encota. There are a couple where I still don’t fully get the parsing but I’ll carry on pondering. Top clues for me are 26a, 3d and 19d.

    • Jose
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      G. 20a: got the answer, but still stuck with the parsing. Presumably, it’s an anagram (review) of a synonym of ‘storytellers’ (as in fibbers) – but how do we dump the R? Or am I on the wrong track altogether?

      • Gazza
        Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        R is the abbreviation for ‘take’ (once used on doctors’ prescriptions).

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Gazza for the feedback and for the clues you liked. I’m particularly pleased you liked 3d, as that felt a slightly different style of clue (for me at least).


  6. silvanus
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Hi Encota,

    Your first puzzle was very tricky indeed, and I remember pleading for something slightly easier next time, but this one was even harder! For me, when puzzles are this tough the enjoyment factor is greatly diminished unfortunately.

    For ages, I had only a few anagrams solved plus a couple of other answers and progress had stalled completely. Slowly I managed to solve the whole of the left-hand side, but parts of the right I found completely impenetrable and reluctantly I sought electronic help in the end. I still can’t parse several, but unusually for me I’m not that bothered.

    I know that you’ve gone on record previously as saying that you don’t like/do easy clues (or words to that effect) and I think this puzzle definitely showed that! Several like 7a, 18a, and 3d seemed to have clever if ambitious ideas that were not adequately clued however. I didn’t care much for the padding in 7a and 14d either.

    To give the solver a little help when the answers are obscure, “US city” would have made 29a a tad less difficult. I believe 24a is not a verb except in the US.

    I have ticked 1a (nice use of “charger”), 13a, 21a and 5d as my favourites, but I do wish I could have enjoyed the experience more than I did.

    Many thanks, Encota.

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      Hi Silvanus and thanks for the feedback; sorry you didn’t find it enjoyable :-( When I wrote this one I thought it was about 10% easier than my previous – but clearly I am not yet a good judge of such things (With hindsight I think acting on other previous f/b I received – that it would be worth disguising my definitions more – has had the opposite effect. I should have realised that!) I don’t mind including some easier clues and will definitely use more in my next submission.
      – Encota –

  7. Cyborg
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I’ll just pop up to say that 1a is the best clue I’ve seen for ages. Very appropriate after all the exploding hoverboards over Christmas.

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      Great feedback – thanks Cyborg!

  8. Jose
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Excellent crossword! Firstly, Encota is an anagram of Acteon – why the change? Don’t be deterred by people commenting about the clues being ‘difficult’ or the answers ‘obscure’ – these cryptics are supposed to be challenging, not easy. You may be a ‘rookie’ regarding quantity of crosswords published (2) but regarding compiling them – something of an expert I reckon. Let’s have a few more.

    • silvanus
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      There is a balance to strike between easy and challenging. The best puzzles are those that find the right balance. If esteemed bloggers/reviewers like Crypticsue and Gazza have deemed it tough, that means that it goes beyond “challenging” for the average solver.

      • Jose
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        Silv. Yes, agreed – it was tough, very tough and that’s easy to ascertain without the confirmation of esteemed bloggers. I’m a pretty average solver and it took me right to the extreme of my capabilities – I did complete it (eventually) but I’m still not fully sure about the parsing of a couple of the clues even after reading the review. Certainly too hard/unconventional to appear on the back page of the DT, where it would probably merit 6 or 7 stars on the difficulty scale. I also agree that the regular/established setters need to strike a balance between too easy and too challenging. But Encota isn’t a regular setter (not yet, anyway) on the DT and perhaps this ‘rookie’ (a misnomer in this instance, methinks) isn’t aiming at the ‘average solver’ but wants their compilations to get straight into the Toughie or Stinker category – which is where this particular one probably belongs.

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jose and thanks for the feedback! I do feel I need to submit a more straightforward one next time – not least to prove (to me) that I can! I know as a solver I do enjoy hunting down that obscure definition / abbreviation / trick that one finds in The Listener / Azed / Mephisto-like puzzles; I also have come to realise that most other cryptic solvers don’t!
      Thanks again for the f/b and encouragement.

  9. Beet
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    SOrry this is off topic as I haven\’t yet tackled this but wanted to flag to everyone that Big Dave\’s site, the NTSPP slot and in particular Mitz\’s recent David Bowie puzzle all get a shout-out in the Guardian today

  10. dutch
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Left with 20a, but have to go now

    Obviously an “advanced” puzzle with very inventive clueing, well done Encota.

    • Dutch
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Ah just realised 20a as I stepped into the car – take=R(ecipe). But how does the def work?

      • silvanus
        Posted January 25, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        “Smoke” is an (obscure) example of the answer.

        The BRB suggests it is only valid when hyphenated with the answer however.

        • dutch
          Posted January 25, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

          Ah, thanks – not an example that sprang to mind

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      Hi Dutch & thanks for the positive feedback.
      I am reading “advanced” as meaning ‘probably a bit too complex’ – let me know if I’ve misread you!

  11. Maize
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Than you Encota for a fascinating and inventive puzzle. My experience was one of the first few clues – including those 7 anagrams – going in pretty quickly, then there were the Goldilocks clues when I was absolutely loving it – they included 1a, 13a, 26a, 3d and 7d; these were brilliant – like a second Radler puzzle inside 48 hours! Then lastly were a few I found very hard indeed (see above); too hard for me, frankly.
    So hopefully that feedback is useful. Definitely harder than your last puzzle but I’ll leave it to you as to whether or not you prune those most difficult clues. As has been said before, the joy of Rookie Corner is the variety!

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Hi Maize – really pleased you liked it! You may be right, I should perhaps simplify the toughest few (so long as I am sure which ones they are!) Like I have said to one or two others, if You find some clues too hard then I’ve gone too far. As I said in my first post this evening, I thought I’d made it very slightly easier this time and have clearly misjudged that!
      Thanks again.

      • Maize
        Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

        More than liked it – loved it!
        If you have a look again at 20a, 22d, 23d and 25d you might be able to see why I (and some others) found them so hard.
        Hope that’s helpful, very much looking forward to the next one. :)

  12. Sprocker
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi Encota,

    I’m afraid I found this to be well beyond my capabilities, even after resorting to electronic assistance. After an unhealthy amount of cheating, I’m also left totally flummoxed by quite a number of the clues – I shall await Prolixic’s unravelling with interest! I’ll go with 26a as my favourite, partly as it was the only clue I could get unaided that wasn’t an anagram, but also for a great penny drop moment.

    From the comments above it looks like this has gone down well with the more expert solvers, so congratulations on that. :good:

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Hi Sprocker and thanks for the feedback. As I’ve said elsewhere in posts this evening, I am definitely going to write a less tortuous one for next time!

  13. Jane
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Definitely one for the ‘big guns’ – I was struggling once I got past about 10 of the clues. Even now, I am still short of 6d&10a – the answer to the latter could well mean that my attempt at 8d is wrong as well!
    So many question marks against ones I can’t fully parse that it’s positively embarrassing – I shall await Prolixic’s review with a great deal of interest.
    Picking from the ones I do understand, I would agree with Sprocker on 26a for favourite.

    Apologies, Encota, I really did try hard!

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jane & thanks for the feedback. I’ll (fire up Sympathy and) start writing a less tortuous one later this evening!

  14. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Holy Moses!
    Just came to have a quick peek at what has been said so far.
    I must admit that I am totally lost and still have 10 to go and can’t make any sense.
    Glad to see that I am not the only one to find it tough.
    What I did so far has been enjoyable. The four consecutive anagrams in the down clues helped a lot.
    I shall keep trying when I get a minute.
    In the meantime, thanks to Encota.

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jean-Luc and thanks for the feedback on what you’ve solved so far. [When I first saw 10 and Moses in the same posting I was expecting some Commandments to follow!]
      I did notice that grouping of anagrams in the Down clues when doing late checks on the puzzle and almost changed one, but by that stage had got too attached to all of them!
      And I will definitely start setting a less tricky one ready for next time…

  15. Encota
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Wow, what a wide range of comments so far – thanks all! For those that found it too hard such that it became less enjoyable, I apologise: I will definitely specifically write an easier one for next time. And for those that loved its difficulty – well, I am so pleased you liked it!

    I won’t add any clue-specific comments or explanations before Prolixic’s review tomorrow (even though tempted following some of the discussion in some earlier posts today…).

    I created and submitted this one very soon after my previously published one (where I suppose I did declare my love of the Azed puzzle, so I guess I do like tough crosswords). I actually thought I’d made this one 10% or so easier than last time – but clearly what do I know? – as pretty much all of your feedback says otherwise!

    I’ll now try and add one or two comments to individual posts above where I can without giving away specific clues.

    And thanks again for the feedback! Oh, and hope to meet some of you at the Birthday bash on the 30th? It has come round so quickly!

    – Encota –

  16. Expat Chris
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t commented on the puzzle yet because I am still stubbornly battling with the last few (well 10, actually). Just want to say that to Encota that your upbeat and positive attitude to all the comments to date is terrific and bodes very well for what is, I am sure, going to be a solid future as a setter.

  17. Snape
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    Thanks to Prolixic for the review, which I found very informative – and I will make a note of during as an insertion indicator. I had wondered whether it only applied to time, not words.
    The two where I’d not spotted the definitions were 20a and 23d. 20a was tough, but 23d was due to only looking at Collins rather than opening the BRB, so entirely my fault. 3d and 22d were very clever, and I’d missed what was going on.

    I mentioned this in one of my comments in a previous RC puzzle, so apologies for repeating myself, but if you find yourself with 4 anagrams in a row, for example, flipping the grid so acrosses become downs and vice versa scatters them around (I assume this is straightforward in Sympathy?) Of course, you have to make sure none of your other clues are down-specific, say, and that you don’t suddenly lump all your lurkers together, but it is worth considering.

    I liked JS’s comment about playing to the gallery. I see you’re cracking on with that – well worth doing, it will show your versatility, and then you can tailor your puzzles to whoever will be solving them. Many thanks again.

    • Encota
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Great advice on trying to flip the crossword, I hadn’t thought of that. Yes, Sympathy does do this – I will give it a try and see the overall effect, including how many direction-specific clues it breaks!

  18. crypticsue
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks to Prolixic for explaining the ones I really couldn’t see even after several separate goes at looking at the clues and head-scratching.

    Encota – I have some thoughts for you on difficulty etc but haven’t got time to type them out now so I’ll try and find you on Saturday afternoon

    • Encota
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Hi crypticsue,
      That would be fantastic – thanks, look forward to it.

  19. dutch
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Many thanks Prolixic for a great review of quite a difficult puzzle.

    Encota, I agree completely with Prolixic that some of the definitions appear intentionally and unnecessarily obscure or loose – there were a few occasions when I wasn’t sure an answer was right until it satisfied the checkers. Ideally be devious with wordplay or definition, but not too often with both. Though having said that, the only one I really struggled with was smoke, so the puzzle was clearly doable and I could parse everything (or almost – on reading the review I realised I had bunged in 4d without extra thought, so thanks for that Prolixic!). I’m not sure I’ve seen reverse clueing in the wordplay before, very nice (and a very important QM after relaxed!). I did not notice the anagrams in a row since I did not solve them in that order – so that did not detract at all for me. I had to google Stalin’s police chief, and for this puzzle I needed my brb. Some interesting anagram indicators, all works I think. I wasn’t keen on “if cubed” in 13a (if?), and I thought NB involved an extra step in translation NB to Nota bena to Note well. I can’t find “lase” meaning “to shine brightly” in brb, maybe it’s in other dictionaries.

    Thanks again for a very clever puzzle

    • dutch
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      forgot to say I think NB is ok, given you indicate the first step

    • Encota
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      Hi Dutch – many thanks for the valuable f/b, especially the ‘mess with A or B but not both’ advice (I paraphrase!). Re. ‘if cubed’, my logic was that ‘other dice shapes are available’ – I recall kids at school with octahedra and worse – hope that makes sense.
      Re. ‘lase’ I agree with you entirely – I just pulled up my explanation in sympathy to remind me what I noted at time of writing the clue: “One could rightly say that a laser could shine at any power level, but colloquially it’s ‘seen’ as being particularly bright, so felt ok.” I reckon I’ve got James Bond and Austin Powers to thank at least in part for that! And re. Beria, I added in my notes ‘perhaps one of the 20th Century’s most sinister characters’.
      Finally, thanks for the positive feedback on the reverse clueing in the wordplay – though perhaps two in the same puzzle is ott, viz. ‘laid back’ in 26A and ‘rubbed up the wrong way’ in 6D.

      • dutch
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

        i don’t think two reverse clues in wordplay is OTT, except perhaps in the sense that you might wish to save these gems and clue them sparingly, one a puzzle – as well as trying not to repeat devices maybe – anyway, it didn’t bother me. Dice – I think you can assume cubes as per brb, that is a good clue that can be polished.

        Thanks again, I enjoyed it very much

  20. Jane
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Well – that was a revelation Prolixic, many thanks for your explanations.
    10a simply passed me by (!) and I don’t possess a dictionary that gives the answers for 3,6&8d – nor the verbal form of 25d. The copy of the BRB I ordered was apparently returned ‘undelivered’ so I’m still waiting.
    Didn’t have a clue about the ‘sail’ in 20a and the info. about the dice was new as well.
    No wonder I had a struggle with this one!

    By the way, Prolixic, loved your comment re: 16d. :yahoo:

    • Encota
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jane,
      If by any chance you have an iPad then the Chambers Dictionary app is very good to have as well. Not perfect – the search facilities could be improved – but I think it’s very good (especially at £7.99 or similar when I bought it). I wouldn’t be without it now.
      And that’s coming from someone who owns hardback versions of at least four editions of the dictionary (and there are probably a couple more in the attic that I have forgotten about)!

      • dutch
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        agree, the app is brilliant and i depend on it

        • Jane
          Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

          Thanks guys but – no, I don’t have an iPad. None-tech person here who only just about copes with a laptop and a really old-fashioned pay-as-you-go mobile!

          By the way, Encota, one that I actually didn’t have any problem with was 23d. I’m familiar with ‘inset’ days and there’s a Hope Inlet in Darwin, Australia which Mr. Google found quite easily!

  21. Expat Chris
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Of the ones that remained unsolved, the only one I feel bad for not getting was 6D. I got as far as ‘defur’ , trying to make something of a reversal of ruffled without two of the inner letters. 10A and 23D were lost causes for me. I suppose people there do campaign for bypasses but I would never have thought of that. And I have never heard of 23D. I still don’t understand the hope/inlet connection, I’m afraid. Still, I enjoyed the challenge even though I failed to even bring the finish line within sight. Thanks, Encota, and thanks to Prolixic for the enlightenment.

    • Encota
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Hi Expat Chris and thanks for the f/b. With 6D I had the phrase “rubbed up the wrong way” in mind when I wrote it!

      Hope means inlet – it is hiding in the BRB as definition 2, I think. Though I can’t say it’s a word I use verbally every (or any!) day ;-)



      • dutch
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        just to clarify, def 2 for hope

        • Encota
          Posted January 27, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink


  22. Beet
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Hi Encota

    I still had half a dozen missing after a lunchbreak and a train ride home working on your puzzle. This puts it at the more difficult end but not a complete outlier – you would be in good company with the toughest toughies and the difficult weekend puzzles. Lots to enjoy and if difficult puzzles are your thing there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Apart from a few tiny things that Prolixic has pointed out, the wordplay was mostly fair so the difficulty wasn’t a result of any iffiness in your clues. But I see above that you have promised us an easier one and I look forward to that as it will be more within my capabilities.

    Local campaign result – well I guess so but this was an oblique def. as Prolixic says. It would have been ok I think coupled with easier wordplay. I think one thing to keep an eye on if you are aiming for easier (and your natural instincts as a setter tend towards being difficult) is the balance between your wordplay and definition. If the definition is elusive or obscure make the wordplay easy. If you have an obscure word or unusual structure as part of the wordplay then make the definition straightforward. Here the wordplay was lovely but tricky, so a nice simple def would have helped solvers out if you had been feeling in generous mood.

    I didn’t have a crossword to hand when solving so I didn’t know cree, inset day, smoke, stalin’s police chief, threnody, debur, eglantine (not a chestnut to me! that part of the clue threw me), inlet = hope?, or dwell as a noun. That’s not to imply any criticism of obscure words but just to give you an idea of what I found obscure as these words all may be familiar to you. Obviously something to keep your eye on if you do want to make an easier crossword, but it’s easier said than done if they’re all familiar to you and it didn’t occur to you that they would be obscure. I was amazed in my last puzzle that lots of people didn’t know “buff” meaning muscular, so sometimes as a setter you don’t even realise you are using an “obscurity”.

    That’s just some thoughts if you are aiming for an easier puzzle next time, but if you want to keep doing the difficult puzzles that come naturally then there’s still plenty to enjoy. I liked 1a, 26a and 19d.

    • Encota
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Hi Beet & many thanks. I will particularly take what you say in your second paragraph to heart! Re. your 3rd para., I agree it’s hard to know what might or might not be familiar (the film Slumdog Millionaire comes immediately to mind!)

  23. Starhorse
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Came to this late and like others found this tough, though I can understand those who are up for the tougher puzzles enjoyed it. I’ve not read every comment above so apologies if this has been raised already. If 13a is implying 21 is 7 cubed then unfortunately that doesn’t work. 7 cubed, i.e. 7 x 7 x 7, is 343. 21 is 7 tripled.

    • Maize
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      If you have a die handy, Starhorse, count its dots…

    • Encota
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Hi Starhorse, thanks for the feedback.

      With 13a my logic was different to your arithmetic above – though the QM was trying to infer that the maths appears wrong. My logic was that DICE, if cubed (=cube-shaped, other dice shapes are available) have dots on them then these will typically total1+2+3+4+5+6 = 21 (again, other dice variants are available though I wouldn’t claim to own any).



      • Starhorse
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        OK, fine. It was Prolixic’s comment (mentioning the opposite sides adding up to seven, which as he says they always do) which made me wonder if your logic was 7 x 3; I assumed he world have seen your parsing. .

        And yes Maize, I can definitely add the numbers 1 to 6; ’twas a fundamental part of my accountancy training some years ago :smile:

        • Encota
          Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

          No problem – thanks for double-checking :-)

  24. Encota
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Hi Prolixic, a short note to thank you very much personally for your analysis above. I loved your insight on church matters re. 16D and the relative helpfulness of the layperson and your associated %s [it brought to mind one of my favourite oxymorons – Helpdesk – which many organisations appear only to get 50% right (i.e. they’ve got a desk ;-) ]

    I particularly appreciated your advice on:
    – using bit/bite/bitten (I sometimes confuse myself whether I mean the verb or noun when using ‘bit’). I was so keen on trying to create the infamous headline ‘Man bites dog’ or near equivalent that I took one step too far!
    – using ‘during’ in my Tonies clue (15A) – that improved it significantly, thank you
    – in 20A avoiding the part noun ‘smoke-‘. I fell for the Chambers Crossword dictionary having ‘smoke’ for a type of sail and didn’t check back in the BRB. Horrified (ok, that’s slightly OTT!) to find yesterday it was only in there as smoke-sail…
    If you’ve time I’d be really interested in your views on the use of slightly more obscure abbreviations – I’m thinking of r (=recipe = take), v (=vid.=see) which seem to often appear in The Listener / Azed / Mephisto clues but appear to be rare or non-existent in most of the national dailies (I am almost certain this is true for The Times; not so sure of all others but can’t recall seeing them). Are there written/unwritten rules available somewhere?

    Thanks again for your feedback which, combined with everyone else’s feedback, has given me some great tips.


    PS As an aside re. 10A, out here in East Anglia bypasses seem to be a (the?) major feature of local politics for villages/towns on main roads. Some villages are filled with STOP THE BYPASS signs and others with WE NEED THE BYPASS NOW! (in roughly equal proportions, as far as I can make out). My logic was that one result of the local campaign is one, i.e. the Bypass. As you say, it’s too oblique!

  25. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Prolixic for the review and explanations.
    Managed to finish the bottom with 23d being bunged in but, as Jane, didn’t get 3,6,8 and 10. Especially the latter as I was trying to make it end in peal as in bell changes.
    Talking about the church, I wonder who could be the 5% that hinders our valued reviewer:
    Is it the child crying during baptism? Or people coughing during the sermon? For my part I keep sneezing. Must be allergic to something.
    Thanks again to Encota.

    • Jose
      Posted January 27, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      J L-C. It’s probably those who leave their mobiles switched on causing loud, echoing ring-tones to interrupt the sermon!

  26. Riggles
    Posted January 31, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    So here is my first visit to Rookie Corner, inspired by all the discussion on Saturday at the birthday bash.

    This grid is harder than most of the DT back pagers, no?

    As well as the clues involving some of the more obscure words, I certainly struggled with 20A, as I did not know an accepted abbreviation for ‘take’.

    Very educational and I look forward to the next one, plus I’ve got all the past ones to ingest. I shall have to try to resist while I’m at work!

    • Encota
      Posted February 2, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      Hi Riggles,
      Thanks for the feedback & great to meet you in person last Sat. It’s funny with r (=recipe, Latin) for take – I first saw it in a Mephisto about 30 years ago and had no idea what it was going on about. After a while they lodge in your brain and you can almost not remember back past before you knew it, if that makes sense. I don’t think it is allowed in many (any?) of the dailies, though I may be wrong. The Times doesn’t allow it, I’m pretty sure.