Rookie Corner – 106 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 106

A Puzzle by Arepo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have another new setter. Is Arepo a fan of the reverse of his alias?  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.

Bravo to Arepo with a excellent debut crossword.  There are only a few minor points in an otherwise perfectly executed crossword.  Views will always differ on long anagrams.  In this puzzle, once 21d was solved and 27a gave away that the long anagram was also a play, you did not need to solve the long anagram.


1 Semitic character entertaining fancier organisation with small animal and large animal (7,8)
AFRICAN ELEPHANT – The letter A in the Hebrew alphabet includes (entertaining) an anagram (organisation) of FANCIER followed a small insect.  Some editor may not accept a nounal anagram indicator such as organisation.

9 Quite the opposite of Paradise City and co – music you can dance to! (5)
DISCO – The name of the city in The Divine Comedy that contains the lower circles of hell followed by the CO from the clue.

10 One finds difference in potential participant in democracy taking care of officer with fatigue (9)
VOLTMETER – Another name for a elector around (taking care of) the abbreviation for lieutenant and the abbreviation for a debilitating disease.

11 Every other turn in hot trends overlooked (7)
UNNOTED – The even letters (every other) in TURN IN HOT TRENDS.

12 Criticise long style (7)
PANACHE – A three letter word meaning criticise followed a word meaning long or pine for.

14 Pantry boy hosting king and queen (6)
LARDER – A three letter word for a boy includes (hosting) a one letter abbreviation for king and this is followed by an abbreviation for the current queen.

15 Notice to move out, with nothing for a lawyer (8)
ADVOCATE – A two letter word for a notice followed by a word meaning to move out with an O (nothing) replacing )(for) the A.

17 Opponents’ mockery of blonde with a title (8)
ENNOBLED – Opponents in a game of bridge followed by an anagram (mockery of) BLONDE.

19 Encountering force, thespians’ leader quits their profession (6)
FACING – The abbreviation for force followed by what thespians do without the T (thespian’s leader quits).

22 Out away from huge drink measures (5,2)
SIZES UP – A word meaning huge has the OUT removed followed by a word meaning drink.

23 See 2 Down

24 Moving? Too menial to be moving (9)
EMOTIONAL – An anagram (to be moving) of TOO MENIAL.

26 A way to send a message if you’re late (5)
OUIJA – A cryptic definition of the means by which a seance can be conducted and through which the departed can send messages.

27 Where one might see 21 or 2 1d 23 put on hat, later getting involved with Etonian (8,7)
NATIONAL THEATRE – An anagram (getting involved) of HAT LATER ETONIAN.


1 See 2

2/1D/23 Near end, insane, drug-crazed son rattled off line from 21 (11,3,12,3,4)

3 Task entailing extreme toil? That’s a laugh (7)
CHORTLE – A word meaning a task includes entailing the outermost letters (extreme) of toil.  Cryptically, extremes of toil would work better.

4 Western state‘s agreement not to talk about eastern state (6)
NEVADA – The abbreviation for a non-disclosure agreement around (about) the abbreviation for Eastern and the abbreviation for the state of Virginia.

5 Father and daughter in silly construction with seats for frogs (8)
LILYPADS – A two letter word for father and the abbreviation for daughter inside an anagram (construction) of SILLY.

6 Olive’s filling Popeye’s head with confused emotion, wanting love (7)
PIMENTO – The first letter (head) of Popeye followed by an anagram (confused) of EMOTION with the O (wanting love).

7/25 Protest when part of play is removed (3,3)
ACT OUT – A word for part of a play and a word for removed.  I am not entirely convinced that the answer means to protest.

8 Fish and egg ingested by revolutionary in Eastern European region for athletic endeavour (5,6,4)
THREE LEGGED RACE – A Russian doll clue.  Inside a word for a revolutionary or communist include the name of a slippery fish and the egg from the clue.  Put all of these letters inside the name of an old region of Eastern Europe.

13 Musician has wine to take in first (11)
CLARINETIST – The name of a type of wine include (to take) the IN from the clue with the letters representing first following.

16 Animal reportedly learned to please the masses (3,5)
RED PANDA – Homophones (reportedly) of a word meaning learned and word meaning to please the masses.

18 Samurai philosophy‘s romantic vow to support presidential dynasty (7)
BUSHIDO – The vow mistakenly believed to be said during the marriage service (actually is it I will) underneath (supports) the name of two recent US presidents (father and son).

20 Phenomenal climber bearing flower (7)
ANEMONE – The answer is hidden and reversed (climber) inside PHENOMENAL.  Perhaps the cryptic reading would have read better as It climbs in phenomenal flower.

21 Melodramatist allowed to produce play (6)
HAMLET – A word for a melodramatic actor followed by a word meaning allowed.

25 See 7

36 comments on “Rookie Corner – 106

  1. This was one of those puzzles that we stared at blankly for some time with nothing leaping out at us. Then all of a sudden 1a came, rapidly followed by the 2d 1d combination which was enough to put us on the wavelength and it was all plain sailing from there. We had noted how the setter’s name could be reversed but if it is significant for this puzzle we have missed something. Nice level of difficulty and good fun.
    Thanks Arepo.

  2. Well, I have a full grid, albeit with some help for the first letter of 19A. 20D was the last one in. Sadly, I can’t say I enjoyed it. I have never studied Hamlet, so 1/2/23 was an inspired guess dredged up from odd crossword memories and rthe checkers in 2D. I got the 15-word answers and then didn’t pursue the parsing. Too much effort involved. I don’t understand the rationale for 4D or the fatigue part of 10A. . My preferred clues by far were the succinct ones…12A and 26D. Thanks Arepo, but not my cuppa.

    1. 4d involves the abbreviation for non-disclosure agreement (we did a lot of those with visitors at work) and the fatigue is ME (chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis – you can see why the abbreviation is in more common use)

  3. Well I enjoyed it, it didn’t take me that long to solve and I can parse it all. I don’t think you need to have studied 21d in order to get the long down anagram sorted as it is a well-known phrase easily spotted once you have the first word of 1d and a few checking letters in 2d.

    A nice mix of clues and for once I didn’t have to remember how to spell the flower in 20d!

    Thanks to Arepo – hope we see more puzzles from you soon – and thanks also to Prolixic in advance for the review.

  4. I thought this was absolutely brilliant, and was slightly surprised that the first two comments weren’t more effusive in their praise!
    Upon seeing the long quotation at 2/1d/23, I went looking for the play at 21d. The line in question is probably best known as the title of Tom Stoppard’s play, but is of course taken from the final scene of 21d, when just about everybody’s dying. It’s kind of funny really. Maybe because this, and the other long entries, fell quickly I didn’t have my pleasure quite drawn out long enough – whilst for others unfamiliar with the quote there would be an opposite reaction. That’s an age old quandary with long quotes but we’d better get used to it as a week of all things Shakespeare falls upon us!
    Hard to pick out favourites, I lked them all – 1a, 12a, 26a, 8d are just some of those that I liked a lot. I would also say that to even attempt all those long entries whilst still a Rookie shows great courage – you pulled them off brilliantly, Arepo. One minor quibble, I didn’t think the definition for 7/25d fitted – isn’t that ‘act up’?
    And as for the name, I’m presuming that’s from the famous made up name in the Sator square – Pompeii’s and the world’s first ever crossword? The wiki is here folks:

  5. Thanks for the puzzle, Arepo. Like Expat Chris I liked the more succinct clues (12a, 14a, 26a, 21d), but I also enjoyed 18d and 6d (my favourite, for the excellent surface). I’m not a fan of very long anagrams and I can’t believe that anyone will solve the 33-letter one here from scratch rather than from the enumeration – which is a shame in a way, because the setter has obviously put a lot of effort into trying to make the fodder as meaningful as possible.

  6. Well done Arepo!

    Yes, I think I know what Gazza means: I solved the long anagram from the enumeration after just a few checkers and felt mighty relieved that I didn’t have to work it out from the wordplay – but at the same time I felt like I had done the setter an injustice, it can’t have been easy putting together that anagram fodder. The long anagram gave me 21d straight away.

    I solved this fairly quickly with much delight. Like Maize, I thought it was brilliant. I really like the clues where you used pairs of some sort, 1a, 14a, 6d, 5d, very clever. I had to check the european region and the samurai philosophy, but it was all very clear from the word play.

    My one, single niggle was I wasn’t sure the nounal reversal indicator worked (climber), albeit in a down clue. But maybe the review will say its ok.

    Congratulations, an amazing debut

  7. Yes, very well done.
    I thought this was very accomplished. I think the comments above sum it up – when there are very long and interlinked answers, there are always comments that it is slightly less satisfying because the grid can suddenly go from nearly empty to pretty full very quickly, but this should be balanced by there being just as many who love to see themes in the puzzles. There were a few non-Xim indicators, (I thought the nounal indicators were fine, I’m less keen on the constructs like ‘First letter’ to show l, but everyone has slightly different personal tastes).
    I think I got all of the long ones from the enumeration and definition, then parsed after, which is a slight pity as Gazza and Dutch have pointed out. The wordplay was nice in each, though – perhaps the surfaces could tell a clearer story, for perfection.
    I agree with 6d as the favourite, a great surface, and a nice PDM definition, with 16d and 26a close behind. 24a also worked well, and was my first one in. 10a gets an honourable mention too for managing to not make the definition obvious in a really tricky word. I also liked 18d, (needed electronic help, though), although I think it is like IC=99, perhaps technically incorrect (I will?) but fine in reality.
    Many thanks, looking forward to the next one.

    1. Hi Snape. Apart from ‘I do’ being a Crosswordland standard, my understanding is that either version in a wedding service is fine – depending of course on what question you get asked!

      1. I think it was Ronnie Corbett who told the joke: It was a very happy day for me when my girlfriend said ‘I do’ because I didn’t think she did.

  8. Another excellent Rookie debut I thought, maintaining the recent extremely high standard, although I suspect the setter has set puzzles elsewhere before, just not here.

    The surfaces were generally superb, but like Gazza and Expat Chris I did prefer the more concise clues than those like 10a. I didn’t know the Semitic character or the Samurai philosophy, and wasn’t able to parse 4d until I saw Dutch’s comment above. I haven’t heard of that abbreviation previously, and I’m not convinced it’s in the wider public domain. “Eastern European region” in 8d slightly jarred (I think “old European” would have been better), but that’s more of a personal preference. Google proved that “Paradise City” is actually a real place, and that it’s to be found in 4d, I’m sure that wasn’t just a coincidence?

    Lots to admire overall, especially the following clues, 1a, 12a, 15a, 17a, 26a, 16d and 20d which all gained Silvanus ticks.

    Many thanks indeed, Arepo, I hope that you’ll be entertaining us again very soon.

    1. It will come as no surprise that I totally agree with all Silvanus’ comments.

      Many thanks to Arepo for the puzzle; to Prolixic for the review; and to Silvanus for saving me from having to type the same comments as his!

  9. Great Rookie.
    The quote only came once I had enough checkers and only because I remembered Tom Stoppard’s play. Forgot it was from Hamlet.
    Very enjoyable solve and favourite is 6d as well.
    Thanks to Arepo.

  10. Thought that, given the 2/1d/23 combo, 21a and 27a, we were going to get a themed puzzle here but then it all got extremely random which rather spoilt the enjoyment for me.
    Didn’t know the semitic character or the Samurai philosophy and couldn’t make sense of the parsing of 9a, beyond the fact that it would be difficult to dance to that particular Guns n’ Roses track!
    7/25 didn’t quite work for me and I certainly wondered whether anyone would actually have been able to work out the Tom Stoppard play title without taking a leap of faith.
    I’d agree with Gazza and Expat Chris that the more succinct clues were the most successful and my list of ticks corresponds with Gazza’s except for the fact that I also rather liked 5d – it was probably my favourite.

    Thanks Arepo – I’ll be interested to see your next puzzle.

  11. lots of great stuff here in the “vanilla” clues, but the puzzle does collapse somewhat once the either incredibly easy write in/ or not-depending-upon-whether-you-know-it biggie goes in. I agree that hardly anyone is going to unpick the fodder of a 30-odd letter long anagram.
    I noticed that “egg” was in the word-play for 8d which made that pretty straightforward too, although the letter count is a bit of a giveaway in its own right. Beards will wag about “tl” in 3d, I imagine.
    A very impressive grid-fill; I look forward to the next one from Arepo, hopefully with the difficulty knob cranked up a bit. This is the first Shakespeare puzzle I’ve done in what promises to be a Bardtastic week

  12. Interesting that solvers seem to not really like long quotes at all, whether or not this was a good example of the genre (and I should say it was).
    Yet most top setters seem to have had a go at this from time to time – certainly Araucaria and Don Manley have in the same long anagram form – do people think setters shouldn’t, I wonder?

    1. I wouldn’t categorise long quotes as simply as like/dislike personally.
      This particular quote is so well known as to have become the title of a play in its own right, and the gaetway clue was a bit of a gimme. The Z in the fodder was also a bit of a freebie.
      Possibly two factors tend to be in focus:
      1, a long quote is almost always clued by an anagram, and however much polish and relevance the setter applies to the surface, the fodder is unlikely to be unpicked by most solvers
      2. the quote cannot have a standard degree of difficulty, since for many solvers it will be unknown, and for others a write-in.

      This is just my opinion, and should not detract from a smashing grid-fill by Arepo, but I think that long answers such as this are better used in jumbo grids.
      I think mitz used “twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe” in one of his puzzles either here or in the DIY corner in the Graun and a debate stemmed from that, as I recall.

  13. Very accomplished. Now I’m not personally a big fan of split answers but on the other hand I totally admire someone who can construct a grid containing 4 fifteen letter answers around the edge and fit in a quote like R & G which contains quite a lot of unfriendly crossers. And apart from 19d, which I didn’t know, perhaps there weren’t a load of obscurities as a result.

    I agree with others about 7/25d. Being very picky 26a I think really the answer is where the message is sent to by the late person rather than the way of sending it, but the idee behind the clue is brilliant and a definite penny drop moment. Phenomenal spot for 20d – I have a few of them in a pot at the front of my house in which I planted crocuses, so goodness knows how they got there!

    I also agree about the general issue of working out the long clues from crossers and enumeration rather than wordplay. i.e. once the answer’s in you want to get on with the next clue rather than spend time working out the parsing.

    Thanks for posting Arepo, look forward to the next one.

    1. Re 26 I was just delighted that Arepo had avoided the chestnutty French and German agreements clue route

  14. I thought this was very good, with a lot of great clues. I’d agree with a lot of the commenters that the succinct clues were the best.

    I’ll also put myself in the ‘not a fan of very long anagrams’ camp, but don’t think that detracted from an enjoyable solve.

    I’ll go with 6d as my favourite.

    Thanks Arepo!

  15. Nice puzzle – thanks Arepo. I can add yet another voice saying you are at your best when most succinct. As for the long anagrams, I really admire the skill in constructing them, but it is true that they’re not the most fun to unpick.

    My favourites are 14a, 5d and 6d.

    Thanks again Arepo – I look forward to your next one. Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for the review.

  16. :phew: I think that’s the trickiest Rookie Corner that I remember – maybe I have a short memory.
    I almost gave up when I’d been trying for ages and had the wonderful total of four answers.
    Anyway I “persevated” on and off for most of the day in between doing other things and have now finished it apart from 19a – it would have been apart from 20d but have now read CS’s comment and got that one which means that my 19a is wrong. Oh dear – I give up.
    At the risk of sounding terribly ignorant I had no idea that the long 2/1d/23 was from 21d. Oh dear, again.
    I’m with the others who liked the shorter clues best although I really liked 1a, eventually.
    I don’t understand my 9a or a couple of others.
    I liked 12 and 26a and 3 (love the word) and 16d. I think my favourite was 5d.
    Well done and thank you to Arepo and thanks in advance to whoever does the review.

    1. 19a is a nice clue – the abbreviation for force, then what a thespian’s job involves, minus the first letter of thespian. I didn’t parse 9a either. 5d was good, although I would have had it as 4,4.

  17. Many thanks, Prolixic, not least for sorting out the ones that had proved to be stumbling blocks when it came to parsing. The Hebrew alphabet doesn’t figure largely on my personal horizon, neither does The Divine Comedy or the ‘agreement not to talk’.
    More ‘stuff’ that I need to remember!

  18. Hi Arepo and thanks for the crossword!

    Overall: a nice puzzle; wordplay very accurate – well done! Some of the surfaces are perhaps a little ‘crossword-ese’ – this may be something to work on for your next one.
    LOI: 13d. Favourite clues 24, 20, 21 for their clean surfaces. I like some of your deceptive definitions too!

    More details and jottings made whilst solving added below (**may contain minor spoilers**)



    Some gorier details (**may contain minor spoilers**):

    10 potential difference – a technical person, perhaps?
    4 don’t remember seeing this abbrev. in a puzzle before – nice
    20d Is it only me that goes ‘dit-durrr-di-dur-dur’ (A la Muppets) whenever I hear this word?
    17a mockery as an anagrind? Again, seems fair.
    18d vaguely recall this word – WP is tight so again very fair
    11a I always like this clue type – well disguised
    3d extreme as ‘both ends’ indicator as well as (the perhaps more commonly used?) last letter – again seems good.
    7/25 Is def quite right? Both mean ‘protest’ though not sure they are synonyms. I’m probably missing something.
    13d does ‘take’ mean ‘take in’? Else ‘in’ doing double duty. A. Yes it does, e.g. medicine – fine.

    1. I love 6 and 13 too – forgot to include them above.

      On the subject of long anagrams and the ‘Bardtastic’ week (to use baerchen’s top word!), you may be interested in the one shared by Alan Connor in his Guardian blog a few weeks back. I clued it as:

      Enigmatically, in one of the Bard’s best-thought-of tragedies
      our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts
      about how life turns rotten (2,2,2,3,2,2,4,2,3,8,7,3,6,2,3,4,2,6,3,6,3,6,2,10,7)

      As many are agreeing above, the enumeration actually does the business but the anagram is correct, too!

      I wish I could say it was all my own work!


      1. It seems the problem is not so much the definition giving the answer away, (that happens all the time) but rather the enumeration providing the confirmation of one’s guess, so that the solver doesn’t even bother working out the anagram.
        Reading through some old blogs, I see that Peter Biddlecombe (very likely amongst others) has suggested avoiding the full enumeration and going for just total length and number of words. So after Arepo’s long anagam clue clue we would have just had this: (33, 5 words), and I think I might have then been forced to go through with the anagram solve ‘properly’.

  19. Sorry – late again.

    I did it when it first appeared but if I don’t post straight away it all gets lost in the wash.

    Too late to be specific – it’s all been said.

    Loved the biggie. I don’t buy blanket criticism of them in a one-off puzzle. In a series we wouldn’t expect one every day but once in a while – and if possible a peach (maybe with the surface relating back to the answer like this one did) – surely there’s no harm. As far as enumeration goes I think it’s common (certainly is for me) to crack clues like that with the enumeratin playing a big part – enumeration – a few crossers – a hint of what it might be – ping – only then justify it from the angram letters. What’s so wrong with that? If conformity always has to rule crosswords become a dull clerical exercise.

    Thanks for the fun.

  20. Thanks for the feedback everyone, and thank you Prolixic for the review!

    Interesting to hear people’s views on long anagrams… I must admit I have a soft spot for them but I guess they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. Good points raised about how the difficulty of the puzzle can hinge on whether or not you happen to know the quote – that’s one to mull over, especially since accurately gauging difficulty seems to be one of the trickiest parts of compiling.

    My thinking for 7d was ‘behave defiantly’ = ‘protest’ but I suppose it’s a bit of a stretch in hindsight, and the wordplay of 20d isn’t as tight as I remember it being. But I’m glad 6d went down well – I think that was my favourite too. :)

    This is the first puzzle I’ve published in a public forum and it means a lot to know that people have solved and had fun with it, let alone made the effort to come and post some thoughtful comments about it. So thanks again :)

    1. Behave defiantly does indeed mean protest, but to act out something is to perform it. Protest is, though, in the sense you meant it, synonymous with ‘act up’. Not that it spoilt a brilliant crossword. Bring on the next!

      1. Fair play – that’ll teach me to look these things up. And right you are, I’m polishing up the next one as we speak…

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