Rookie Corner – 111

A Puzzle by Metman

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have another puzzle from Metman. 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 by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Metman.  Creating a good cryptic crossword requires a fantastic (some might say an obsessive) attention to detail in every clue.  It is very difficult to maintain that level of consistency and detail as a beginner so whilst there are lots of snagging comments in the crossword, these will be ironed out with more practice.  Please, no more indirect anagrams though.


6 A war time kid who didn’t get sent to Coventry? (7)
EVACUEE – During WWII, children were evacuated from cities so would not have been sent to Coventry.  Coventry was heavily bombed.  My parents lived in Leicester at the time and can remember seeing the light from the fires in Coventry in the night sky.

7 Horse refusing a fence might think hinge is damaged (5)
NEIGH – An anagram (is damaged) of HINGE.  I don’t think that the wordplay quite works here.  For the sound of a horse to be the answer, you have the first five words as the answer so you are left with definition think wordplay.  Perhaps “Horse refusing a fence might damage hinge” would be better.

9 Confused infant lost an old book but was inexperienced (4)
NAIF – An anagram (confused) of INFANT after removing (lost an) the abbreviation for New Testament (book).  As the New Testament is a collection of books, the plural would be more appropriate.  As Dutch has pointed out, “Inexperienced infant losing books is confused” would be a better clue.

10 This devotee is sat in the US, bemused (10)
ENTHUSIAST – An anagram (bemused) of SAT IN THE US.  Three anagrams in a row should be avoided where possible to give greater variety.

11 Raise the temperature, also lift iron, it will bring warmth (4,4)
HEAT PUMP – A word meaning raise the temperature followed by another word meaning to lift iron as a gym exercise.  The first part of the wordplay is closely linked to the definition.  Perhaps “With fervour, lift iron – it will raise the temperature” would improve things.

13 Sister with short Chief Information Officer is type of diplomat (6)
NUNCIO – Another word for a religious (sister) followed by the abbreviation for Chief information Officer.  Neither Chambers or Collins give CIO as an abbreviation for Chief Information Officer.  Using short does not enable you to use the initial letters as an unrecognised abbreviation.  Perhaps “Sister meeting Channel Islands’s old diplomat” would solve the issues.

15 More than one of these is boring and meaningless (4)
BLAH – The word which when repeated is used to indicate something that is boring and meaningless.  According to Chambers, the word on its own means exactly the same as the word when repeated or tripled so the clue does not really work.

17 Frenzied, I sock a pervert (5)
SICKO – An anagram (frenzied) of I SOCK.

18 Unfortunately it contains fish (4)
TUNA – The answer is hidden in (it contains) UNFORTUNATELY.  Although the it could be removed, the clue works with it as well and perhaps reads better with it.

19 Mashed new vegetable found in Scandinavia (6)
SWEDEN – An anagram (mashed) of N (new) and SWEDE.  A lot to comment on with this clue.  First, it is constructed as an indirect anagram which is frowned upon (as pointed out in a review of a previous Metman crossword).  Secondly, the letters are not really rearranged so it is not much of an anagram.  Finally, the construction wordplay found in definition does not work as well as definition found in wordplay.

20 Drunk? TT league will provide guidance and protection (8)
TUTELAGE – An anagram (drunk) of TT LEAGUE.  Whilst “and protection” could be omitted, as an extended definition it works ok.

23 School, not quite nice, and a Scot develop a skilled operative (10)
TECHNICIAN – A four letter word which is loosely a school, the first three letters (not quite) of nice and a typical Scottish first name.  Perhaps college would have provided a close synonym for the first four letters.

26 Rescue a broken flower receptacle (4)
SAVE – An anagram (broken) of VASE (flower receptacle).  Another indirect anagram!  Even though it is four letters, this is not an excuse!

27 Outlying office without head which usually holds stock (5)
RANCH – Remove the first letter (without head) from a word meaning an outlying office.

28 Warning a bloke he is in charge (7)
FOREMAN – A warning used in golf followed by another word for a block.


1 Brought from a great distance? – unbelievable! (3-7)
FAR-FETCHED – As an adjective this sounds like something brought from a great distance.

2 Government agency to write off? (6)
BUREAU – A definition / cryptic definition.  As a Government agency is is used in America rather than the UK so perhaps American agency to write off might be better.

3 Get out of it by repayment (4)
DEBT – A thinly veiled (almost transparent) clue to what making repayments will reduce.

4 Fragmented Northern Ireland undone by insinuation (8)
INNUENDO – An anagram (fragmented) of NI (Northern Ireland) UNDONE.

5 Delhi final has the sound of quality (2-2)
HI-FI – The answer is hidden in (has) DELHI-FINAL.  I am not sure that the answer means  the “sound of quality”, rather a quality sound.

6 Rubber as expected shows it can do this (5)
ERASE – The answer is hidden in (shows) in RUBBER AS EXPECTED.  Perhaps “Rubber as expected shows what it can do” would be better.

8 A German cloth (7)
HESSIAN – Double definition.  A typical German name and a type of rough cloth.  As we go from the generic (cloth) to the specific (type of cloth) we don’t need a definition by example indicator.

12 Topic around for what a seamstress does for fancy work? (5)
PICOT – An anagram (around) of TOPIC.  Again there is an extended definition and either part would work but they work together.  Maybe “Stitching topic for seamstresses work.” would shorten the clue.

14 Irritate an unspecified number to cause trouble (10)
NEEDLESOME – A word meaning irritate followed by a word meaning an unspecified number.  Neither Chambers or Collins list this as a word.  It is clued as either a verb (to cause trouble) or a noun (trouble with the “to cause” being a link phrase) but the answer appears to be an adjective.

16 Select this to prevent a career going downhill (3,4)
LOW GEAR – What you select when going downhill in a car to prevent over speeding.

17 Star is not heavy but will still give you a tanning (8)
SUNLIGHT – A three letter word for our local star followed by a word meaning “is not heavy”.  Perhaps “it will still give you a tanning” would be better.

21 Actress Mary following decimal base for incumbency (6)
TENURE – The surname of a little known actress Mary who appeared in Look Back in Anger, Sons and Lovers and Where Eagles Dare followed by the number used as the base of the decimal system.

22 Yogi ventured to show reality (5)
GIVEN – The answer is hidden (to show) in YOGI VENTURED.  Show has already been used as a hidden word indicator so a different word should be used here.  I am not convinced that the answer and the definition are synonymous.

24 Piece torn off a loaf for Arnie? (4)
HUNK – A double definition for a bit of break torn from a loaf and the actor Arnold Schwarznegger maybe forty years ago!

25 Naval artificer loses head in suspicious manner (4)
IFFY – Remove the first letter (loses head) from an obscure word not in the main dictionaries  for a naval artificer.  Loses head has already been used as first letter deletion indicator so a different one should be used.  The definition looks as though it requires an adverb but the answer is an adjective.  Using a word not in the main dictionaries might be considered a little unfair on the solver.


  1. 2Kiwis
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 12:55 am | Permalink | Reply

    All very solvable and good fun but think that there are a few points the grammarians might not like. We’ve noted 7a, 26a, 19a and 8d without analysing every clue. We got 6a easily enough but suspect there might be some GK that we do not know about that one. Plenty to keep us smiling.
    Thanks Metman.

    • metman
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 2:59 am | Permalink | Reply

      Coventry was heavily bombed during WWII. The last place you would evacuate a child to! It is also a form of punishment whereby a person is not spoken to and is totally ignored, but I’m sure you knew that. Many thanks for the comments they are much appreciated. I agree that the other clues may be a bit clumsy, though the German cloth, Hessian. I thought was ok.

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted May 23, 2016 at 3:33 am | Permalink | Reply

        Yes we did know the ‘sent to’ part but had associated the ‘sent from’ being London only for some reason. Soon sorted. With Hessian just thought that as it was an example, a question mark or something to indicate this would be in order. However, in our opinion the most important criterion should be solvability and the whole puzzle was QED in that respect.
        And you should be sound asleep in bed at this time! Cheers. :smile:

        • metman
          Posted May 23, 2016 at 3:39 am | Permalink | Reply

          Down making tea for my wife who is poorly – anything for brownie points! Agree with you regarding hessian. A question mark would have been much better.

          • 2Kiwis
            Posted May 23, 2016 at 3:56 am | Permalink | Reply

            Sorry to hear that of your wife. Please give her a cheering up Hi from us. :rose:

          • dutch
            Posted May 23, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

            I thought Hessian as an answer was a valid example of both definitions in the clue, which is fine (like tree in the clue could have pine as an answer). It’s only when it’s the other way around (when the clue definition is an example of the answer) that you have a ‘definition by example’ requiring a question mark. Or am I missing something?

            I quite like that clue; it is a good double definition – sufficiently unrelated meanings (I think, though conceivably the jute cloth has a geographic origin) and it reads smoothly. There a couple of double definitions in today’s Rufus that are not so nice.

  2. Expat Chris
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 4:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    I had absolutely no trouble filling the grid, but do have a couple of clues with question marks beside them, including 6A. I see your explanation, Metman, but I think I’m bothered by the inference in the clue that’s there’s more than there actually is. Others of course might not see it that way.

    As an aside, I well remember visiting Coventry Cathedral on a school trip in the very early 60s before it was even complete and being awestruck by the way the new connected to the old and the altar that rose out of the ruins. I see strong parallels in the Coventry charred cross and the iron beam cross that became so symbolic at Ground Zero after 9/11 in 2001. Bloody and bowed but not broken.

    Anyway, I did enjoy the puzzle, so many thanks.

  3. Wolfgang
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink | Reply

    Following my debut last week which unfortunately coincided with my stag do and feeling rotten for the next few days – it’s a pleasure trying someone else’s work…and all before I go to work too!

    It’s been a quick solve though I didn’t know the German cloth in 8D – is it a German’s name AND a cloth? Also for some reason I haven’t yet solved 15A despite having two letters – L – H or have I made a mistake in 16D?

    Initial thoughts before I go to work are that this was a nice straightforward solve, not too dissimilar in style to my own effort last week. 26A contains an indirect anagram so will attract the usual comments about its legality! 17D – I’m not sure that ‘is not heavy’ is fair to the reader if you want them to come up with just LIGHT rather than ISLIGHT. I can’t quite parse 28A either yet.

    Favourites so far for their surfaces are 10A and 17A.

    Thanks for the morning solve Metman and I’ll be back later to work out what I’ve missed so far.

  4. Beet
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 8:09 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Metman – not too tricky overall but a couple had me impatiently revealing a letter ( 4d and 8d). A couple of grammatical errors – not a problem just goes to show that you are a genuine rookie. Prolixic’s guidance will be set these straight in no time. 20a was my favourite clue.

  5. Hilary
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 8:38 am | Permalink | Reply

    Too much information can spoil solve for others. I feel I already know too much which can detract from pleasure when I get round to crossword later in the morning.

    • dutch
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink | Reply

      Yes, I can certainly understand that – that is why I only ever look at the comments once I’m finished with my solve.

      • Hilary
        Posted May 23, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Ah but I’m a nosey person and like to see comments before picking up my pencil. There are some words like Radler which make me put pencil down again. One day perhaps.

  6. crypticsue
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 8:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    It didn’t take long to solve but I have ?? by several clues, ‘not quite right’ by others and ‘indirect anagram’ too. I will await the explanations with interest.

    Thanks to Metman and in advance to Prolixic.

  7. dutch
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Metman

    Congratulations on creating a puzzle that was enjoyable to solve. There were many clues I liked including 10a, 17a, 1d, 4d (although some might not like the link), 5d, 8d, 16d (lovely), 22d. It’s a nina-like grid, but I haven’t found any hidden messages.

    I thought there were a number of clues that were easily improvable. I have perhaps made more notes than usual and I think it would be a waste not to share them with you, in the hope they are useful to you. Please remember I am just one person and others may have different comments or have different views to mine – still, I hope this is useful. And of course you’ll get professional feedback from Prolixic. So, with apologies to everyone for the length of this comment:

    The indirect anagrams at 19a and 26a are of course a no-no, this will always get you into trouble. 19a need not be an anagram at all if you reverse the order of new and vegetable somehow.

    6a – some GK at the back of my mind couldn’t quite get out but others will no doubt have no problems – but I see you’ve explained already
    7a – I’m thinking the first 4 words are the definition (I wasn’t aware of this meaning) in which case I don’t think “might think” is adding very much
    9a – you have the books in the right order in the fodder which is fortunate – not sure the ‘but’ add to the surface – ‘inexperienced infant having lost books is confused’ would work better for me (that explicitly has the rightly-ordered fodder subtraction before anagramming – may not be strictly necessary, but is safer)
    13a – I don’t think you don’t need ‘short’ as an abbreviation indicator. For me the surface struggles with 2 people being one diplomat.
    15a – I’m not sure this worked well for me – single, double and triple the answer all mean the same in brb
    18a – I don’t think you need ‘it’
    20a- I don’t think you need ‘and protection’
    23a – I am more used to seeing ‘college’ instead of ‘school’. I think you need ‘develop into’ to get the sense of direction of wordplay developing into answer – otherwise the transitive form of develop is implied.
    28a – not technically incorrect, but man from the wordplay is just the same as man in the definition which I think weakens the clue a little
    2d I would normally write ‘on’ one of these
    3d I am not sure I understand why this is cryptic – what is the alternative reading?
    6d – you have been very good at using ‘it’, ‘which, ‘he’ etc to give the right part of speech – unfortunately here the answer is a verb, so I think you need to lose the ‘it’ in this clue – which means you have to rewrite the last bit – lovely containment fodder, so worth finding the right ending.
    12d I don’t think you need both ‘for what a seamstress does’ and ‘for fancy work’ – either would suffice given the straightforward anagram
    14d – similar to 28a – not incorrect, but the first part of the answer basically has the same meaning from wordplay and definition. I’m not sure we have quite the right part of speech – the answer is an adjective, which I don’t see reflected in the clue
    17d As it stands I don’t think the ‘is’ contributes to the cryptic reading – you can fix this by using “star’s” – that would mean ‘is’ in the surface and ‘has’ in the cryptic reading, as a juxtaposition indicator. Here you’ve slipped – you need ‘but it will still give you a tanning’ to get to a nounal form.
    24a – i thought the 5-letter word needed was better described by piece than by loaf, which I thought was unfortunate, unless I am missing something
    25a – I have the answer, but didn’t know what a naval artificer is called – maybe others do.

    Many thanks Metman, hope this is useful to you, congratulations again and thanks once more for sharing this fun puzzle. I hope your wife feels better soon, very best wishes

    • Jose
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink | Reply

      D. 25a: A naval (engine room) artificer is a “tiffy” (beheaded in the clue). There is a 1952 government documentary film called ‘Tiffy’, Naval Artificer on YouTube.

      • Starhorse (from Pulham)
        Posted May 23, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, that’s interesting – not in Oxford or Chambers online as far as I can see

    • Starhorse (from Pulham)
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Dutch – you’ve saved me a fair bit of typing re. 3d, 7a, 2d, 14d (re part of speech).

      I think 6d works though, and 8d is fine by me as it is. I’ve never heard of the actress in 21d. Like Dutch I can’t find a 5-letter word that’s been shortened in 25a, but also the answer is an adjective – I think the phrase you’ve defined represents an adverb, but apologies if I’m wrong. I’m not sure how 24d works – are you using “piece torn off” to tear it’s own piece of?

      I don’t really think the idea in 6a works, regardless of which bombed city you pick – but to be fair it’s a rotten set of letters to clue.

      Most of this was fairly simple, a fair number of anagrams (though as others have said, indirect ones won’t normally be allowed) and several hidden clues helped. I’ve no problem with that if the aim was to write a Quick Cryptic type puzzle, which I think is much harder than one might imagine. The downside I suppose is that with less to ponder over for a while there are fewer penny drop moments when something finally gives itself up.

      I liked the definitions in 17d and 27a particularly and generally the clues that work properly are excellent, but as others have said a few need tidying up in order to make some nice ideas come to fruition.

      • dutch
        Posted May 23, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

        6d, I was just about to thank you for making me see how 6d works, then I had doubts again. Cryptically, I read “containment fodder” displays (shows) “it can do this”. Can you make that work?

        25d Thanks Jose for the Naval artificer – the fact that this is not common and hard to find in the dictionaries is of concern to the clue, I think. And yes, just “is suspicious” would give you the adjective, missed that, thanks Starhorse.

        24d the 5-letter word can also be a piece of bread according to brb, but I agree ‘piece” is going to cause confusion.

        • Starhorse (from Pulham)
          Posted May 23, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Well, I’m happy to relate the opening word to the final phrase to make the definition – whether it’s strictly correct in cryptic grammar terms I’m not sure, but as worded it seems perfectly fair to me.

    • Hilary
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      PS did you mean 25a in your initial comment? Tee Hee

      • dutch
        Posted May 23, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

        told you! thanks.

  8. silvanus
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Metman,

    Not a difficult solve by any means, and fairly enjoyable too in places, but I’m sorry to say I was left a little disappointed overall. There were too many “not quite right” clues as CS calls them, and for a fourth Rookie puzzle I would have expected more polish than was on evidence. It seemed like a crossword that was hastily assembled to be honest, I apologise if you did spend a long time at the editing stage but it didn’t come across that way.

    The two indirect anagrams are less excusable unfortunately for someone with several puzzles now under their belt, and although the total anagram content wasn’t excessive, to have seven of the fifteen Across answers clued as such wasn’t perhaps the best idea. I do think that you have improved with your choice of anagram indicators though, something that has been an issue in the past.

    My personal bugbear (repeat indicators) was sadly evident both in 27a (“without head”) and 25d (“loses head”) and in 6d (“shows”) and 22d (“show”). These could have been avoided with better editing. Dutch has covered most of my remaining quibbles in constructive fashion as ever, so I shan’t duplicate his comments. I ticked 10a, 1d and 16d as the pick of the crop for me.

    Please don’t feel discouraged, there is much to like in terms of invention and creativity in your puzzles, it’s just this one had a few too many rough edges. Many thanks , Metman.

  9. Encota
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Metman, a pretty enjoyable solve of a good standard and with a few areas that could be improved in small ways to make a significant overall improvement. I really liked 1d – my favourite.
    Having just read through Dutch’s comments I tend to agree with most. And I’ve learnt a new word at 25a. The few additional notes I made on the way through are appended below. I look forward to Prolixic’s review with interest.
    Sorry to hear about your wife. Thanks again!

    19a indirect anagram? Not sure about the N’s position
    26a indirect anagram?
    11a two routes to the first word a bit similar?
    2d second def. not quite right?
    7a felt a bit ‘busy’ – wasn’t clear of the purpose of every word. I am almost certainly missing something.
    13a linkword is/are dilemma. I usually use ‘making’ to get round this singular/plural issue – I’d be interested to hear of alternatives that anyone on here has.

    • metman
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink | Reply

      Sorry folks but I cannot reply to all at moment as I am havily involved in urgent family busines. I’ll get back later today to reply to some of the very helpful comments.

      • Wolfgang
        Posted May 23, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I hope all is well Metman!

  10. Jane
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink | Reply

    Never really thought of myself as being prudish, but have to say that I found 17a somewhat offensive – doesn’t seem to have troubled anyone else thus far.
    Not sure that 15a works on an accuracy level – Prolixic will doubtless let us know in due course.
    25d was a new one for me – thanks for the info. Jose!

    My top clues were 28a&1d.

    Thanks for the puzzle, Metman – maybe a little way to go yet, but hopefully you’ll find all the feedback beneficial.

    • Hilary
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I totally agree with you and was in my list of comments. I do not appreciate this type of answer and even 25a is a bit 25a IMHO although we have had it before. It appeared relatively easy but not very enjoyable which is an unusual thing for me to say. Shall be very interested to see what Prolixic has to say tomorrow.

      • dutch
        Posted May 23, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

        edit – sorry i now realise you mean 25d, I was originally looking for something offensive. I make the across/down typo all the time.

        • Hilary
          Posted May 23, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Siily me I meant 25down, thanks for heads-up. Put it down to my great age, it’s okay for you youngsters but!!!!!

          • dutch
            Posted May 23, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

            I love being called a youngster :-) well I am at heart

    • Starhorse (from Pulham)
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yes, I can see why 17a could be considered a bit distasteful; I guess when I was a horrible little schoolboy I might have thrown such terms around quite liberally (and many far worse!) but I personally wouldn’t include it in a puzzle. I’m sure the broadsheets would not include it. I’ve just experimented on Crossword Compiler and by changing 12d there are a couple of plausible options to get round it, though rather tame ones in truth.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I also did not like 17A.

  11. jean-luc cheval
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Solved it last night when it came online but always prefer to comment after the morning crowd.
    As Silvanus, I was surprised to find an indirect anagram after all these warnings although it was a gentle one. 4 or 5 letter anagrams should also be avoided imho.
    The actress in 21d didn’t make the hall of fame really but the answer was obvious enough.
    Liked the cryptic clues in 3d (get out of it) and 16d (select this) but Monday is Rufus day so my brain is geared up for these kinds of clues.
    Favourite is 6d (rubber).
    Thanks to Metman. Hope your family matters will be positively resolved soon.

  12. Rabbit Dave
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Not for the first time I agree with Silvanus; this was not too difficult and enjoyable in parts. Some clues however as mentioned by several previous commenters were a bit 25d, particularly those where indirect anagrams were involved and those where the parts of speech in the definition were not matched in the answer.

    I admit to a shudder when reading the clue for 10a, but the grammatically correct “sitting” would have made rather a mess of the anagram! I learned three new words: the German in 8d, the stitch in 12d, and the naval artificer in 25d.

    The clever surface for 20a made this one my favourite.

    Well done and thank you, Metman. I enjoy a bit of innuendo in crosswords, and you certainly found an unusual way of including it in this puzzle!

  13. Gordon
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well done Metman – an enjoyable crossword. I agree generally with the comments above.
    Though, I took 6a to be quite subtle in that those war time kids were accepted by the families who housed them, any that were rejected (sent to Coventry) were presumably sent back to the big city and therefore did not become a 6a

  14. Maize
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 7:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My main observations are:
    1. What a fantastic mass of brilliant feedback from Dutch, Stahorse, Silvanus and Encota!
    2. I think it’s been pointed out before in this series that short anagrams don’t really work. We had 2 which were 5 letters long and 2 which were 4 letters long. Frankly, with the exception of the ‘verboten’ indirect one at 26a, where’s the challenge in rearranging so few letters?
    However I did like the hidden at 18a and the expertly constructed 27a.
    Thanks Metman!

  15. snape
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Metman,
    Welcome back, and I hope all is OK at home. I can’t add much to all the very useful comments above, but I did like the hidden word clues (for me 6d was fine, but I will await the review with interest), particularly 18a, but my favourite was the cryptic definition in 16d.

    I would back up the suggestions that you go through your clues and check they are in the right form, and don’t have any indirect anagrams and the like. Also, the best clues are the ones which paint some sort of picture in the surface – even if it is absurd, or just a statement. 18d does this – even though it is a complete mystery to the reader what it is that contains fish. I’ve decided it’s a washing basket.
    26a does, as well, so it’s a pity it’s an indirect anagram. 21d however doesn’t make even absurd sense. A decimal base isn’t something I can comprehend as an item, so how can an actress follow it? I’ve seen recommendations (from Alberich, possibly?) to start with the definitions, then find wordplay to fit with a meaningful surface rather than cramming in a definition having found nice wordplay. Sometimes it is very possible to get too attached to nice wordplay, but the clue doesn’t actually work as a whole.

    Thanks to Metman, and Prolixic in advance

    • Maize
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yes, it is Alberich who advises that, and it remains, for me, the best bit of setting advice I’ve encountered.
      All prospective setters should definitely read Prolixic’s guide on this site, but Alberich’s article is also a must in my opinion. Here’s the link :

  16. Expat Chris
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 2:11 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks to Prolixic for the usual thoughtful review. I must say that while I understand that pre-review detailed analyses of multiple clues by commenters are made with the best of helpful intentions, I do wish that folks would hold off until Prolixic has made an appearance. He’s put time and effort into his review and I can’t help but think that pre-empting him is a tad dismissive.

    • dutch
      Posted May 24, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hmm not sure – I think it might look worse adding extensive comments following Prolixic’s review. I don’t believe for a second that any of the commenters had any dismissive thoughts, it is all about genuinely helping the rookie with any ideas that come to mind on a topic that is a shared passion by like-minded people. I like to do that straight after the solve, I expect that is the same for others. But what a lovely collection of quality feedback! For the rookie’s sake, I wouldn’t want to compromise that, which I think is what would happen if we followed your suggestion. All feedback is a gift, and I believe that is how it was all intended. We all continue to await Prolixic’s view, which we all regard highly. I certainly read it word for word every Monday. I am a fan of Prolixic’s style, he gives his feedback in a manner that leaves the rookie informed rather than deflated and I find he has a way of focussing on the most important issues, which I admire. Dismissive doesn’t come into it. I like to believe Prolixic is well aware of that, and that it is interesting for him to be able to offer a view on some of the things that have been discussed.

    • snape
      Posted May 24, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink | Reply

      Many thanks to Prolixic from me, too.
      I’m afraid I have to completely disagree with the request for people to hold off the analysis, though – I find it of tremendous benefit. It gives people the chance to discuss points they don’t fully understand, or disagree with, and provides tremendous insight. (Although I always found people’s opinions on what floated their boat at least as, if not more, useful).

      From the introduction to the Rookie Corner: ‘These puzzles from rookie setters are presented as originally received. You are invited to adopt the role of test solver and to provide feedback. Which clues did you like, which you didn’t like and which are flawed? In the latter two cases please explain your reasons. To a new setter feedback is of paramount importance – without it they are working in a vacuum.’

      It is very illuminating to have this discussion before the verdict from the expert appears, but also disagreement with Prolixic is allowed and, although it rarely happens (as far as I can see) it is always possible he has missed something, and he obviously reads the comments as he often answers any points raised. I don’t feel that people are pre-empting him, or stealing his thunder – his valuable (and perfectly pitched) comments are taken in, always appreciated and are the primary point of reference when looking at previous puzzles.

      Having said that – in the knowledge that Prolixic would be analysing the clues, every comment on what is liked and disliked is just as valuable. Personally, I found the negative points more useful (I remember one of yours to me went something like ‘too clever by half, and not in a good way’, and thought it was a fair point and try to bear it in mind), and in this sense a range of views is more useful.

      Generally, to my mind, the more comments the better.

      Thanks again to Prolixic for the valuable review.

    • Starhorse (from Pulham)
      Posted May 24, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink | Reply

      Chris, from my point of view as an occasional setter I value all input both from people like yourself who concentrate mainly on a solver’s viewpoint and others such a Snape and Dutch who are also setters, and thus grapple with the same issues of how to make clues work. Prolixic’s input is the icing on the cake.

      Anyway it’s not just about the technical stuff – indirect anagrams, definitions by example etc. There’s a degree of subjectivity too, so the more comments to help reach a consensus the better e.g. one man’s cryptic definition can be another’s loose definition. Prolixic hasn’t commented on 17a for example, which is technically sound, but not liked by everyone for a totally different reason. It’s quite right that prompted by Jane several of us, including you, said so.

    • Encota
      Posted May 24, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Chris,
      I understand your train of thought. On this blog though I am delighted (when I’m the setter) to receive all feedback, as it all (on this site) feels incredibly well considered, thoughtful & insightful. Prolixic does a fabulous job in getting to the nub of each clue’s accuracy and complimenting on overall style, which I know we all greatly appreciate.
      I am also delighted on this blog (as, more usually, a solver), to spend some time noting my thoughts as I solve and sharing them, in the hope they are of some use to the setter. I know I am sometimes wrong, I know I miss subtleties here and there, but I still hope the feedback is useful to the setter in the same way that I find it useful.
      My approach now is to solve first then read here second – not saying it’s what others should do, but it does work for me. I’ve also taken to adding more detailed feedback at the bottom of each post, so those not interested in that part when reading can choose to just read the first one or two sentences.
      Hi Prolixic
      Thanks as ever for a really powerful review – much appreciated!

  17. dutch
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks Prolixic for the outstanding review which I enjoyed reading very much

  18. JollySwagman
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Metman – an enjoyable solve – a lot of nice clues and a very natural style.

    At first sight I thought it might be a walkover but in the event it kept me busy for a fair while – not that I’m ever a fast solver.

    A few quibbles:

    11a and 23a – too similar on both sides – 23a it’s less obvious but etymologiallcy both sides comes from the tech- stem.
    I suppose you could make the same complaint of 8d – Hessian is called hessian because Hessian soldiers used it – but (must be a gut feel – I can’t supply any logic) there’s maybe more distance there.
    14d – needle – meaning irritate – also on both sides – even if only the stem in the answer.
    19a Swedes are thusly named as an abbreviation for Swedish turnips – so both sides derived from the same source.


    7a I read as:
    Horse refusing a fence might think: NEIGH No (=nay) I’m not doing that one
    hinge is damaged: anag for NEIGH

    so fine for me. In fact it’s nifty, when “in” is so often used as a linkword, to drag it into the definition for a change.

    25d Naval artificer loses head: (t)IFFY
    in suspicious manner – answer – IFFY

    TIFFY rang a vague bell – but you spelled it out – so I think that’s fair – if dictionaries (otherwise packed with garbage from the classics, Oxbridge argot and endless technical stuff about stressing and scansion in poetry) don’t have it that’s a deficiency on their part. Tough on someone home from sea finding that the title by which they’ve been addressed for the last month isn’t even an allowable Scrabble word. But if you want to play safe it’s best to get vocabulary out of your head (so you can justify it) – then double-check that it’s in whatever dictionary you assume will be regarded as the main reference one. Neologisms might be an exception – slang (after it becomes accepted) is normally covered an indicated as such.

    Indirect anagrams;

    “I have no objection to an indirect anagram, and I use them myself from time to time.”

    You had a few. The quoted words come not from a wild (hate this word) libertarian – but from Ximenes himself (may his name be … etc). However – there are limitations – which he spelled out. Araucaria frequently used them – but mainly either within Ximenes’s rules – or else where they were very obvious.

    In a similar way that some people believe that splitting infinitives is a solecism in English (no serious grammarian from the Fowler brothers to the present day supports them in that view) there are many who believe that indirect anagrams are inherently wrong – full stop. Most UK dailies appear to allow through very commonplace single letter abbreviations (new for N etc) and not much more. Whether the puzzle editors have really thought that through (their normally just pulled in from the newsroom) or whether they’re trying to minimise the inflow of letters written in green ink (or the online blog equivalent) who knows – but it’s similar to split infinitives. Enlgish teachers have to advise their charges of this non-existent rule and advise them not to violate it in cases such as a job application; your prospective boss may be an ignorant pedant – but your aim is not to correct him in his delusions – it’s to secure the job. Likewise in puzzles – until you become the next Araucaria, stick to single letter feed-ins – or avoid indirect anagrams altogether.

    Ximenes would have been fine with 26a. That’s because “flower receptacle” can hardly be anything other than VASE. The less well-versed of his acolytes would not be.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted May 24, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink | Reply

      Oops – the comment about “in ” being in the definition refers to 25d, which follows on – not 7a – where it appears.

      There’s a “their” which should be a “they’re” in there somewhere too.

      • metman
        Posted May 24, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink | Reply

        I’m truly sorry that I have been unable to take part in this discussion. This is due to circumstances well beyond my control. I shall not be able to read all of the comments and discussions until at least the weekend, but i shall read and digest them all. Please accept my sincere thanks to all, especially Prolixic for his, as usual, thorough analysis. It’s amazing to me the time people are prepared to put in to help others and I thank you all very much.

  19. Jane
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – as comprehensive and informative as ever. I concur wholeheartedly with Dutch’s comments regarding the way in which you present the reviews and am another who reads them avidly. For once, I disagree with Chris in that I don’t object to comments from other setters/commenters appearing before the review – although I have to say that I don’t always completely understand some of the points they make! Prolixic’s review, on the other hand, is sufficiently straightforward for us lesser solvers to take on board the points being made.
    One point regarding 8d – is it indeed just a typical German name? I took it as a reference to people from the Hesse region.

  20. Werm
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for a great review Prolixic, very educational. One question though , isn’t 14d nettlesome and not needlesome? This makes the clue work i think and fits in with Tuna. Thank you Metman for a nice challenge.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted May 24, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink | Reply

      Absolutely correct – in fact that’s what I entered . My quibble about both sides being too similar still stands – nettle and needle can both mean to irritate. But “nettlesome” does indeed appear in Collins online – also in Chambers word search as a Scrabble word – so it should noramlly be in the big red version of Chambers too.

      Prolixic’s comment about parts of speech not quite matching still applies too – that doesn’t worry me personally so much – Gordius (inter alia) did that sort of thing – but normally for typical UK daily standard you need to conform to that.

      • Werm
        Posted May 24, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Nettlesome does appear in my Chambers dictionary app fyi.

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