Rookie Corner – 113

A Puzzle by Arepo

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a second puzzle from Arepo. 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.

If you would like a puzzle published in this slot there is no better time to submit it than now – the queue is very short (submissions from those who have already had puzzles published are also welcome).

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 crossword by Prolixic follows.

Arepo did not disappoint with his second crossword.  Overall the cluing was very good with only a few minor points to pay attention to.  There was possibly a little too much general knowledge required for people to be confident of their solutions even where the answer was clear.


1 Sublime German article describing Bordeaux? (6)
DIVINE – One of the German forms of “the” article goes around (describes) the French word for wine (Bordeaux)

4 Pet sitting on a rake in underground passage (8)
CATACOMB – A three letter pet followed by (sitting on) the A from the clue and another word for meaning to rake.  I think that sitting on works better in a down clue as, in an across clue, the letters sit alongside each other.

10 Sex symbol abandons us to claim single kiss with foxy lady (5)
VIXEN – The name of the Roman goddess of love without (abandons) the US includes (to claim) the letters representing single and a kiss.

11 Decorative tea chest I renovated (9)
AESTHETIC – An anagram (renovated) of TEA CHEST I

12 Serendipity’s leading man from fire, tailing copper (6)
CUSACK – Another word for fire or dismiss goes after (tailing) the chemical symbol for copper for the male lead in the film.

13 Brat lies about admitting blunder (6)
TERROR – Reverse (about) a word meaning lies and include (admitting) a word meaning blunder.

16 Elderly relative with a great deal of money and two degrees (9)
GRANDMAMA – Another word for £1,000 (a great deal of money) and a repeated (two) abbreviation for Master of Arts (degrees).

19 Stylish and new, if totally vacuous (5)
NIFTY – The abbreviation for new followed by the IF from the clue and the outer letters (vacuous) of totally.

21 Model and designer with distinctive tone (5)
TWANG – The letter for the model of Ford motor car followed by the surname of the designer Alexander ****.

22 Amusing character: flipping posh kid beginning to look like a horse having its tail pulled (9)
HARLEQUIN – Revere (flipping) a word for a posh kid and follow this with the first letter (beginning to) of look and a word meaning like a horse with the final letter removed (having its tail pulled).

23 Tiger possibly following eastern river westward (6)
FELINE – The abbreviation for following followed by a reversal (westward) of the abbreviation for eastern and an African river that runs through Egypt.

26 Girl with a very withdrawn servant (6)
VASSAL – A reversal (withdrawn) of a four letter word for a girl and the A from the clue and the abbreviation for very.

30 Pale in the manner of Egyptian goddess and queen (9)
ALABASTER – A phrase (2,1) meaning in the manner of followed by the name of the Egyptian goddess of protection and cats and the abbreviation for the current Queen.  Did you know (and apologies Kitty) that the domestic cat is not mentioned in the Old or New Testaments.

31 Spin taken around city beforehand (5)
PRIOR – A two letter abbreviation for publicity or spin goes around the name of a Brazilian city.

32 Handle turned to reveal highly average person (8)
EVERYMAN – Reverse (turned) another word for a handle (as a description or tag) and include (to reveal) a word meaning highly.  I am not convinced by to reveal as being an indicator to insert word A into word B.

33 Loft at top of house may collapse – that’s painful! (6)
HAYMOW – The first letter (top of) house followed by an anagram (collapse) of MAY and a two letter word meaning that’s painful.  If an imperative anagram indicator is being used, grammatically it should go before the letters to be rearranged – collapse letters – but as collapse is also an intransitive verb it can come after the letters.


1 Channel a large number of Romans with their salute (4)
DAVE – The Roman numeral for 500 and the word that they used as a greeting or salute.

2 Stop pulling cow with horse – pause in vehicle area (3,6)
VOX HUMANA – … the name of an organ stop.  Within (pulling … in) a type of commercial vehicle include a two letter word for a cow (Chambers gives both male and female domestic cattle as a definition), the abbreviation for horse or heroin and a two letter word used as a pause in speech.  Follow all of this with the A from the clue.

3 Infiltrating man in Japan (5)
NINJA – The answer is hidden in (infiltrating) MAN IN JAPAN.

5 Good grades determined good quality (5)
ASSET – How you would write as a plural top grades (all grade A) followed by a word meaning determined.

6 Cheered with an unnatural devotion (9)
ADHERENCE – An anagram (unnatural) of CHEERED AN.

7 Top opera’s opening with two different versions of first note (5)
OUTDO – The first letter (opening) of opera followed by two ways of saying the first note of the musical scale, the first one being an old form of the second.

8 Make out with boy replacing lead musician (4)
BECK – A word meaning make up has the initial (lead) N replaced by the abbreviation for boy.  Neither Chambers nor Collins recognises the abbreviation.

9 Critical reaction to golf, puzzingly? (8)
BACKLASH – In a crossword puzzle, you would reverse another flog to get golf so the solution, split 4,4 gives this as a cryptic clue.

14 Silver consumed to produce mineral (5)
AGATE – The chemical symbol for silver followed by a word meaning consumed.

15 Prone to being dishonest (5)
LYING – A double definition.

17 Official schedule includes item an hour away, coming up (9)
DIGNITARY – Another word for a schedule or a book where you keep appointments includes a reversal (coming up) of another word for an item or object with the H (hour) removed (away).

18 People called out to breakdown on road see mobile menagerie animal (8)
AARDVARK – The abbreviation for Automobile Association on the abbreviation for road followed by the single letter abbreviation meaning see and another word for Noah’s ship (mobile menagerie).

20 Row over Mail’s dodgy and antiquated political system (9)
FEUDALISM – A four letter word for a row or argument followed by an anagram (dodgy) of MAILS.  I agree that this would have read much better with Mali’s replacing Mail’s

24 Duck bill eaten by primitive woman (5)
EVADE – Another word for a bill or advertisement inside the name of the first woman.

25 On top of river craft capsizing (5)
EXTRA – The name of a mythical river (confessed to by our setter) followed by a reversal (capsizing) of a word meaning a skill or craft.

27 Boy who spent ages on raft in ocean gets tan (5)
SEPIA – The name of the boy in the book and film who spent many days at sea in a lifeboat with a tiger inside another word for ocean.

28 First person in France to exhibit commercial gemstone (4)
JADE – The first person pronoun in French around (to exhibit) another word for a commercial.

29 Boast about rank (4)
CROW – The single letter abbreviation for about followed by a word for a line or rank.


  1. JollySwagman
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 2:51 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great puzzle Arepo – very well done.

    I put 1a in in a blink and thought: “This’ll be a doddle.” Was I in for a surprise – although on reflection everything was gettable with enough thought – lifting and separating or (eg 12a) the opposite of that etc.

    My favourite was 22a – I didn’t know RAH – but it had to be.

    I also particularly liked 10a, 19a, 2d (double-tick), 15d and 17d.

    I liked the way 3d works – I read it as an &lit – very nifty.

    25d I’ve only ever seen the river exe spelt thusly. Is ex an alternative spelling? It left me with a spare E – but the answer clearly had to be the right one – in fact that was the one which made me realise that my initial ALEXANDER for 30a (biff now – parse later) was wrong.

    Otherwise no quibbles.

    Many thanks. Look forward to more.

    • Arepo
      Posted June 6, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink | Reply

      Wouldn’t normally comment so early in the day but just feel I should cop to 25d before it causes any more headscratching – you’re right, it is wrong! (Apparently I’ve been spelling it wrong all my life – not that I’ve had to spell it on many occasions.) Sorry about that everybody – it was remiss of me not to check it.

      Thanks for your other comments as well JS.

  2. 2Kiwis
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 3:07 am | Permalink | Reply

    We needed a bit of Google help on a few obscurities, the 1d channel and the 30a goddess for example, but they were generally confirmatory rather than searches. We did not get 8d. We had put in a classical composer but failed to parse him. Revealing a letter gave us a musician totally unknown to us but could then work out the wordplay.
    Quite a few had us head scratching for quite some time so not a quick solve. A significant challenge that we did appreciate.
    Thanks Arepo.

    • Arepo
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks 2Kiwis! In retrospect yes, ‘musician’ as the def for B_C_ is a little cruel (it genuinely didn’t occur to me at the time, which is crazy because of course if I was the solver it would have been the first thing to come to mind. I think the difference in psychology between a solver and a setter is quite interesting!) Maybe ‘singer’ would have been more reasonable. But glad you enjoyed the challenge!

  3. Hilary
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink | Reply

    Too much information, too early you have succeeded in putting me off even bothering to print this crossword.

    • Posted June 6, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It’s best not to look at the comments until you have, at the very least, attempted the puzzle.

      • Hilary
        Posted June 6, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I find it almost impossible not to have a quick peep to see what I am letting myself in for. I am not very confident and get downcast when I cannot find even one answer which frequently happens with the Rookie, NTSPP and MPP. Onwards and upwards.

        • Expat Chris
          Posted June 6, 2016 at 9:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Please don’t be discouraged. It’s great that you have a go! I wish more people from “the other side” would give these puzzles and the Toughie a try and also leave a comment. Some are more difficult than others, to be sure. I threw up my hands in despair at this weekend’s NTSPP and abandoned it, and I have just a few so far on the MPP …and I’ve been doing crosswords for longer than I care to mention.

          I understand what you’re saying about too much information too early, and I agree with you that it can be off-putting. I had a few words to say about that a couple of weeks ago myself, but I’ve since come to accept that the Rookies are particularly supportive of each other and just want to help. The only thing to do is skip over previous comments, as BD says.

  4. Gazza
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink | Reply

    Nice puzzle – thanks Arepo. There were various bits of GK I didn’t know – the 12a film, the 21a designer, the 30a goddess and the 8d musician – so Google was used a fair bit. I also didn’t know the 33a word. I liked the foxy lady in 10a but spent some time trying to parse it using sex as a Latin word.
    Apart from the rogue river in 25d it all seemed fine but perhaps a few clues were a bit verbose. Top clues for me were 10a and 9d.

    • Arepo
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the comments Gazza! “sex”=VI, now there’s an audacious bit of wordplay I never considered. Maybe a step too far, although I suppose it’s basically the same as “Bordeaux?” = French wine = VIN, so maybe there’s some mileage in it…

      The verbosity point is an interesting one. I’m not convinced it’s inherently a bad thing for a clue to be on the wordy side – if it helps the surface, or the solver, it can be an actively good thing. (I’ll defend 22a to the death, for example.) Brevity may not be my strong suit though – something to work on perhaps.

  5. dutch
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink | Reply

    Well done Arepo – not easy!

    Like the 2Kiwis, I had a classical musician for 8d, my last one in, but could not parse. The reveal showed the other musician who I do know, and the parsing fell into place.

    12a took me a while to get, it was one of quite a few that I had to check by looking up: 12a, 21a, 26a, 30a, 33a – not known to me but all gettable.

    Thanks for explaining the river, had to be the case, though I did briefly go hunting for EX.

    There were some clues that I thought were exquisite: 19a, 6d, 9d, 24d. I also really liked 7d (that alternative note again, always foxes me) and 18d.

    I found precious little to quibble about – was the boy really on a raft (or was it a lifeboat)? do you need pulling in 2d, or is there a better word? does reveal really work for containment in 32a? Can you have an imperative anagram indicator after the fodder (33a)?obviously getting pretty picky, which is indicative of the high quality – more personal preferences, I’d say.


    • Arepo
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks dutch! Glad you enjoyed it.

      I think ‘pulling cow’ works fine as a definition for ox (provided you accept it is a cow that is – see below) and helps the surface. Is there a better word? Well, probably :)

      Fun fact about 19a: I wrote the clue quite a while ago with an ‘albeit’ playing the role of ‘if’. Fine – except that when I came back to polish and test solve the puzzle a few weeks later, my memory not being as it was, I immediately wrote in NATTY and brought the whole process to a halt. Big ‘back to the drawing board’ moment there.

  6. silvanus
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 9:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    Phew that was tough! Although I’ve taken several hours and have a completed grid, there are still a couple that I’m unable to parse fully.

    I think the amount of General Knowledge required was a little excessive unfortunately, it definitely contributed to the slowness of the solve having to look up such references frequently. Some of the definitions were very carefully disguised such as in 1d, 17d and 24d, others were perhaps a little more tenuous like 30a and 33a. I wondered if 20a contained a typo, as “Mali’s” would have worked much better than “Mail’s” I felt.

    I gave ticks to 1a, 10a, 23a, 31a, 5d, 17d and 27d. Overall it was very cleverly assembled, but I’m hoping your next one will be a little more solver-friendly than this one was. Many thanks, Arepo.

    • Arepo
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Silvanus, for the comments and the ticks. Sorry it was a bit heavy on the GK – I’m definitely not good at gauging difficulty yet. I promise it’s on my ‘to work on’ list…

  7. jean-luc cheval
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink | Reply

    I see that I am not alone with 8d (make out with boy) and 12a (serendipity).
    Pretty sure that the last letter of the pangram goes in the latter but I can’t parse the clue.
    I didn’t mind the river being just EX. After all there’s a town called Exmouth I believe and not Exemouth.
    Had to check google for the abbreviation in 22a as it wasn’t in Chambers.
    Didn’t know the designer or the Egyptian goddess either.
    Thought 19a (stylish) was very much so.
    9d (critical reaction) is superb,
    Great surface in 33a (loft) and 7d (top opera) and many more.
    I shall continue to ponder over the last two answers missing.
    In the meantime, thanks to Arepo for the super fun.

    • dutch
      Posted June 6, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink | Reply

      I thought Oh no – yet again again I missed a pangram! ….but I am missing the Z.


      • jean-luc cheval
        Posted June 6, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink | Reply

        So. No Z in 8d or 12a.
        Back to the drawing board then or should I say Zen. Breathe slowly JL.

    • Arepo
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks JL! I can’t believe I didn’t notice I nearly had a pangram on my hands. (Again, that’s something that as a solver I’m pretty sure I’d have been looking out for.) “Great surface” is basically the reaction I’m constantly striving to achieve, so thank you for saying so. :)

  8. crypticsue
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This one had my full three separate goes, not least because I firmly believe you should be able to solve a crossword without the aid of Google.

    I enjoyed parts of it 9d was my top favourite. Some of the clues were quite verbose and over-complicated IMHO. I have ?? by a couple of clues that I’m waiting for enlightenment from Prolixic.

    Couple of questions – 2d I thought oxen were mostly boys so cow didn’t seem right to me. 8d I can’t find B = Boy in the dictionaries although I do see it on various online sources.

    Thanks to Arepo and in advance to Prolixic.

    • Arepo
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the comments crypticsue. I must say I hesitated about defining an ox as a cow for the reason you describe, but I went with it on the basis that ‘cow’ gets used, at least informally, as a generic term for any member of the bovine species. (‘Ducks’ and ‘guys’ possibly being examples of a similar thing.) This is perhaps rather libertarian (or just downright vulgar) of me, but it passed the Prolixic test so I’m going to go with it. :)

  9. Encota
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Arepo,

    A fabulously sunny day and another excellent puzzle – well done!! So much is good that these comments are all in the ‘positive feedback + minor tweaks’ categories. First one of the year solved sitting in the garden, too! I’ve kept the comments relatively cryptic to aim to avoid spoilers.

    Some very well constructed and clever wordplay including 10, 17, 18, 22, 23, 12, as great examples (and more besides).
    Most other comments already covered above I think:
    – river (or was that rivr?) I’ve just read your earlier comment, oops;
    – the use of ‘reveal’ in 32 I wasn’t sure about;
    – ditto ‘exhibit’ in 28;

    LOI: I struggled with parsing 8d even though I have the 22 min Philip Glass Rework_ piece on iTunes. I can find a way but I’m not sure that what you had in mind (though it may well be), on two counts – I’ll await the review with interest! I also put the wrong answer in 2d (another PICNIC moment on my part…).

    I love the gently stretching nature of the vocabulary you use. I know this is often one of the most subjective parts of a puzzle: I always think a puzzle is just right if there are 1 to 5 new (or forgotten then remembered) words for the solver, so this was perfect for me. e.g. Posh kid & the Egyptian goddess were new to me but both very deducible from the wordplay. There may well have been another that I’ve already forgotten.

    Re. 13, great surface – welcome to the world of teenagers (oops, did I just say that out loud?) ;-)
    Def in 12 well-disguised – it took me an age to find where the Wordplay | Definition boundary was.

    Really enjoyed it – thank you again!


    • Maize
      Posted June 6, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yes that’s a very good point Encota. I think it’s Phi (but apologies if it was another setter) who said a good puzzle should have a few answers which the solver doesn’t think they know until after they solved it, and then they think they always knew it – like 2d for me.

    • Arepo
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the comments Encota – glad you enjoyed it!

      ‘Exhibit’ seems fine to me for a containment indicator – if a case (or room, or museum) is exhibiting something then you’d expect to find said thing inside said case (or room, or museum). Alternative argument: if “X shows Y” is fine then “X exhibits Y” should be fine too? Your mileage may vary though.

      Thanks for bringing Rework_ to my attention – not usually My Sort Of Music but I sought it out and it’s providing a very relaxing backdrop to my commenting :)

      • Encota
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Your defence of Exhibit is sound: case dismissed ;-) As for Philip Glass, not quite my mainstream choice of music either (I’m slightly obsessed by AMoonShapedPool at present – still enjoying the last two or three days of the live streaming of it on 6Music on iPlayer) though the artists on that Rework_ version are particularly fine, I think.

  10. baerchen
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    thanks Arepo; quite a struggle for me; one I was unable to complete without cheating on three clues on the LHS. When the time comes, I’ll be glad when someone puts me out of my misery regarding what I assume must be a ghost theme including some, if not all, of 8 9 14 28 30…are they 3s in a show on 1d?
    I can’t agree with JS about the &littish qualities of 3d, I’m afraid, although there were many excellent clues

    • JollySwagman
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:08 am | Permalink | Reply

      Re 3d – Snape @#14 has this but just to elaborate:

      The explanation in the blog;”The answer is hidden in (infiltrating) MAN IN JAPAN” only covers the wordplay side of uses the whole of the clue but only covers the wordplay.

      Read the whole clue again and you have the definition – a Ninja being (inter alia) a Japanese spy/infiltrator.

      Hence it’s a (full) &lit/all-in-one.

      • JollySwagman
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:16 am | Permalink | Reply

        Oops – I misedited my misstatement.

        Delete the first occurence of:”only covers the wordplay side of”

    • Arepo
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the comment baerchen! No theme here I’m afraid, ghostly or otherwise – though it does make me wonder how much thematic coherence you can expect to crop up in a grid filled with random words, and how likely it is for a setter to compile a themed puzzle by accident…

  11. Jane
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Finally have a completed grid but there are several ‘half-parsings’ that I may have to leave Prolixic to sort out for me!
    I’m never too keen on obscure GK in a puzzle – how CS manages without recourse to Google for these simply amazes me – but there nevertheless some very good clues in this one.
    Top three for me are 10&31a plus 27d.

    A good workout, Arepo, but as Silvanus said – maybe a bit more solver-friendly next time?

    • crypticsue
      Posted June 6, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

      A combination of years and years of crossword solving when Google hadn’t even been invented so I never really got into the habit of searching for help, coupled with the sort of brain that retains ‘stuff’.

  12. Kath
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have to admit that I’m completely stuck now – done most of top right and bottom left corners but the rest looks rather bare.
    I’m glad that Arepo popped in to sort out 25a as that was one of my problems.
    Going to do something else and try again later.

  13. Expat Chris
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I had no trouble with the musician in 8D, but there are definitely a couple with ?? beside that I’m waiting for the review to explain. I needed Google to check 12A and if I’m correct on my parsing of 21A, I think the ‘model’ is a bit too loosey goosey. Oh, and I did reveal a letter for 23A because it was driving me scatty. Overall, though, I though it was very polished. Thanks Arepo.

    • Arepo
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the kind words Chris. If you don’t mind my asking, what was it about 21a that you found loose? Was it the ‘with’ as a link word between definition and wordplay? I’m a little in two minds about that one myself: it seems to have been generally accepted but I can’t really justify it in a structural way (e.g. WP for def makes sense, def for WP doesn’t, vice versa for “from”…) Or was it something else?

  14. snape
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Welcome back Arepo, and thanks for another fine crossword, albeit one that I only got just over halfway with before giving up and revealing lots of letters.
    Very few technical things, most of which have been covered already. A couple of ‘Some editors might not like…’ such as on meaning before in 4a, and ‘top of’ showing the first letter in 33a, which are definitely fine in down clues – and maybe fine anyway.
    Wikipedia (!) says one of the roles of 3d is to infiltrate, so I thought that made 3d fine as an all-in-one. I also thought ox=cow was fine given the definition in Chambers, although I got nowhere near solving this. I also thought collapse was fine in 33a – it is an intransitive verb as well as a transitive one – although ‘at’ isn’t the best link word – in would probably be better.
    If you want to look at what to tackle now (please realise this is trying really hard to be picky and aid even better clues) perhaps consider some of the surface, and make them into a more likely scenario or a phrase you are more likely to hear. Take 32a – Why would turning a handle be related to revealing an average person? It’s not nonsense, but any story or image isn’t obvious.
    I hope you find that constructive, it is a very decent puzzle, loads of good clues – 9d was the clear winner for me, and I did very much like Silvanus’ little tweak of 20d.
    Many thanks, and also to Prolixic in advance.

    • snape
      Posted June 6, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I try not to use a Thesaurus, but probably ought to try to find an alternative for the word fine!

    • Arepo
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Snape – glad you found it fine :)

      Interesting point about the ‘on’ and ‘top of’ – I’d never really thought of them as down-exclusive but I can totally see the logic. One to be wary of in future.

      Re 33a – you’re dead right, at is sloppy, in is better. (Ah, the little things!)

      The picture I had in my head for 32a was a Wizard of Oz kind of deal – the invisible implication being that the handle is raising a curtain or rotating a plinth to unveil something quite underwhelming. It’s tenuous now I come to write it and it’s clearly more of an imaginative leap than is reasonable, so hey ho. But yeah, totally in agreement that a natural surface reading is vital.

      Glad you liked 9d – I get a kick out of those kinds of clue too.

  15. Maize
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Yup, this was perfectly solvable without recourse to either t’internet or reference books. Which is not to say that I knew all the general knowledge, I didn’t, but it could all be deduced from either wordplay or by working back from the definition – even the river in 25d!
    Really enjoyable solve, so thank you Arepo. I don’t know if it was deliberate or not, but the puzzle started gently in the top left corner and the difficulty seemed to crank up steadily going down and right towards my last ones in at 29d and 33a. If that was all part of the design, it worked wonderfully well for this solver at least.
    My favourite clues were 10a, 11a, 22a, 1d, 2d, 3d, 17d (the best of the lot for me), and 20d.
    As for the near pangram – well surely pretty much every puzzle has twenty something of the alphabet’s letters in it, so 24, 25 or even 26 really isn’t a big deal folks. Doubles and triples and alphabetical puzzles – well that’s quite another matter…

    Lastly I must ask you Arepo, is your name just because you like Opera, or is it also a nod to the famed SATOR square of Pompeii?

    • Arepo
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Maize! I’m certainly not clever enough to have set up that graduated clue difficulty by design, but I’m glad it fell out that way for you – a happy accident. (Like the almost-happy near-accident of the not-quite-pangram.)

      The name is 100% a SATOR square reference (and 0% a reference to opera, which I am almost entirely ignorant of). I like that it’s seemingly a name invented purely to fit the magic square – there’s a sense there of a compiler having to do something a little bit contrived to fit a difficult self-imposed constraint, which I think most setters will be able to relate to.

      Sorry my reply is so late by the way – I’ve had a busy couple of days so had to leave some comments till today. Thanks again for the feedback :)

      • Maize
        Posted June 10, 2016 at 5:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Great – I had hoped so. it’s a brilliant nom de plume for a crossword setter. :)

  16. Starhorse
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 10:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well kudos to those who have cracked this. Way beyond me I’m afraid. Sorry! Had three goes at this over the day and achieved very little so have revealed the lot and read the comments, and there are still about 6 clues I shall need to read Prolixic’s review to understand, 8d and 22a in particular.

    In principle I agree with crypticsue that it should be possible to solve without google, but of course we all have different knowledge and in this case most of what was needed I lack. And judging by the number I can’t parse I must be missing a fair bit of wordplay.

    Having trained in music (but not being an organist) I know of 2d but would think that’s pretty obscure for most people, and I didn’t have enough crossers to get it. Also I think “horse ; pause…” works better than “horse-pause” which made it look hyphenated on my screen.

    But putting aside my own shortcomings amongst all this there are some very good clues, and as I worked/cheated my way through I ticked 6d, 7d (my favourite, but how many people would know UT?) 15d, 20d, 10a, 13a, 19a, and 31a. And I’m sure there are others that I don’t fully appreciate.

    • stanXYZ
      Posted June 6, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      How does Prolixic know all the right answers … ?


      • Maize
        Posted June 6, 2016 at 10:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I think the setters send answers and parsings with their submissions. At least I have always done so.
        Mind you I doubt he needs to look at either for something between 99 and 100% of the time.

      • Kath
        Posted June 6, 2016 at 10:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Because he’s a real smarty-pants – I don’t think that there’s ever going to be a crossword that he can’t do – a bit like Gazza and CS really. Oh dear!
        Oh well, beaten again and off to bed now . . .
        We just have to remember that this is fun.
        Night night all and sleep well . . . :yawn:

    • JollySwagman
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:10 am | Permalink | Reply

      Re 2d – from ‘In Westminster Abbey’, by John Betjeman:

      Let me take this other glove off.
      As the vox humana swells,
      And the beauteous fields of Eden
      Bask beneath the Abbey bells.

    • Arepo
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Starhorse! Sorry for the obscurity – and I must say I take it as a greater compliment when people find it tough but keep going with it anyway. Calibrating difficulty is probably the hardest thing about compiling – I’ll see if I can dial it back a bit for my next one.

      Vox humana is definitely on the obscure side. Personally, it’s permanently etched on my brain partly because of the Betjeman work JS quoted (the halcyon days of English A level) and partly because of a silly gag in Discworld, where the wizards’ university organ has in addition stops labelled ”vox dei’ and ‘vox diabolica’ (for use by trained professionals only…)

      Interesting about the dash causing problems in 2d – I certainly overuse dashes in my day-to-day writing – probably it filters through into my clues. I don’t think I’ve ever written a clue using a semicolon; perhaps I should…

      Oh, and I should say I submitted no parsings – only the clues and the answers. Prolixic can take all due credit for being very clever. :)

      • Encota
        Posted June 8, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Re. Dashes and S/Colons ;- :-)

  17. Jane
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:38 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks as always, Prolixic. I never did quite sort out the parsing for 9d or the reason for the random ‘V’ in 18d. Another ‘must remember’ that I shall doubtless forget!
    Sometimes it’s so depressing to have really struggled with a puzzle only to find that, on reading your review, it should all have been relatively easy. It makes me feel somewhat better if, as Maize suggests, the setters send all the parsings through in advance.
    Must admit that I had a different designer in mind for 21a but it didn’t matter as it turned out.

    Thanks again to Arepo – I’ll have the reference books standing by for the next one!

    • Arepo
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the comments, Jane. As you say, I’ll see if I can aim for something more solver-friendly next time – though there’s nothing wrong with a bit of Googling here and there. Learn something new every day and all that (for example, earlier this week I learned how to spell the river Exe!)

  18. Expat Chris
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:54 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks, Prolixic. Still not sure that I understand 7D. I thought the designer in 21A was Vera who, for me at least, is the better known. Seems it could be an either/or. Is that kosher for a cryptic.

    • dutch
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 6:47 am | Permalink | Reply

      7d comes up occasionally, look up ‘ut’ in brb

  19. snape
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:56 am | Permalink | Reply

    I was just thinking the same as Jane – I should have done better. I know Prolixic doesn’t tend to use the provided parsings, preferring to work them out for himself – sometimes easier than others, but I am always impressed!
    I also realised before, but forgot to mention that v=see in Chambers, and s=see in Collins, but not the other way round.
    Cheers again Arepo (looking forward to your next one) and to Prolixic for untangling it.

    • dutch
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 6:50 am | Permalink | Reply

      i think those may be different sees… I wish the abbreviations would be better explained in the dicts.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 7:05 am | Permalink | Reply

      Collins and Oxford (online) both have V as an abreviation for vide – which means that.

  20. JollySwagman
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    It must be one of those irregular verbs:

    I’ve never heard of lots of those things
    You must be clever to know all that
    He puts too much GK in his puzzles

  21. dutch
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 6:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks prolixic for a brilliant review.

    I’m still a bit confused about “may collapse” (33a): if it were a transitive verb, in the cryptic grammar wouldn’t you need ‘may collapses’ or ‘may collapsing’? ‘May’ as fodder would be the subject, so it would be 3rd person singular… (obviously that would spoil the surface grammar)

    I just noticed it works fine as a nounal anagram indicator, if you were happy with that kind of thing – perhaps that was the intention.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 7:11 am | Permalink | Reply

      That’s how I read it – collapse as a noun – eg the collapse of something.

      Lots of nouns make perfectly sound anagram indicators.

    • snape
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I think you are right if it were a transitive verb alone, Prolixic is pointing out that it can be either. It is usually intransitive (I am going to collapse) but can be transitive (I will collapse the ironing board). As a transitive verb you can use it as the imperative (Collapse may), otherwise it has to be, as you say, ‘may collapses’ or ‘may collapsing’, but as it is intransitive ‘may collapse’ is fine.

      I think.

      Happy to be corrected if that is nonsense.

      Thanks for the explanations about v and s. Yes, I think see=s is as in diocese, and see=v is vide as JS pointed out.

  22. Gazza
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 7:46 am | Permalink | Reply

    In 2d I thought that the ‘pulling’ described the cow – i.e. an ox used to pull a cart.

  23. Maize
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Prolixic. Your comment on the word order for 33a (may collapse v collapse may) is really useful; it’s an issue of cryptic grammar I have been puzzling over for some little while.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink | Reply

      How are you reading that to make “collapse” (as opposed to “collapses” – see Dutch @#21) work?

      “M, A and Y collapse” works – if you read it that way
      “H and MAY collapse” works too – even thought the H doesn’t need to be part of the anagram

      “MAY collapse” clearly doesn’t work as a transitive verb (it needs to be collapses) although as a noun (where the juxtaposition implies “collapse of”) it does.

      Personally I’m happy to treat any collection of letters as either singular or plural according to the needs of what comes next. I thought most of the xim-pedants only accepted one version and I thought it was the singular.

      • Maize
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Well it’s an issue that I’m very keen to make clear in my own mind – word order and when the instruction can be put before or after the fodder. My thanks were for Prolixic expressing his view, which I plan to digest fully when I have the time… But for now, JS, do you know of a reference book which addresses this issue? I can’t find it discussed in either Don Manley’s book or Prolixic’s guide.

        • JollySwagman
          Posted June 8, 2016 at 4:18 am | Permalink | Reply

          Hi Maize – I dug this out of the Azed/Ximenes archive:

          Ximenes on this subject (referring to competition entries where “a devil to” was anagrammed in many entries:

          Clues like the first two prizewinners, which indicate the anag. with a participle, are clearly superior to the much commoner type which involves suppression of punctuation, eg “This joint is a devil to carve up,” “A devil to shift,” “A devil to pull apart,” etc. In these, one has to pause and take the verb as an imperative: this is permissible, but it should be avoided when better alternatives offer.

          Azed, differing on the same subject:

          … many clues included the phrase ‘in grave trouble/mess/distress/pickle etc. to suggest an anagram of ‘in grave’ … The only instances where such a juxtaposition may fairly be said to indicate an anagram are phrases like ‘train crash’ or ‘gin cocktail’ which actually mean ‘a crashing train’ or ‘a mixed gin’ respectively. Neither do I accept the argument that in the phrase I have quoted the variants after ‘in grave’ can be seen as imperative verb forms to be preceded (and often followed) by a sort of imaginary pause. This would put a quite intolerable strain on the continuity and syntax of a clue.

          In the same search I found Azed attempting to justify his use of “in” om one of his own clues as the imperative of the verb “to in”.

          I’m not really interested in the half-baked musings of these people – but if you are they’re easily found now that the Azed/Ximenes archive is available in full on the internet. Better to study the work of The Master (ie Araucaria) available in the Guardian archive.

          • Maize
            Posted June 8, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Many thanks JS. Interesting stuff from the Observer magazine’s duo.
            Indeed I love the late great departed monkey puzzler and have a collection of his books – ideal for holidays on the beach.
            To be a Ximinean or not to be a Ximinean? That is the question… Somehow, for now, it seems easier for me to try to be one, as I can then have confidence in my clues; to have confidence in Libertarian clueing requires a level of proficiency I am, as yet, nowhere near.
            Perhaps you’re right, I should study Araucaria… Good idea!

  24. Encota
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink | Reply

    “21…that’s NumberWang!”
    [I so wanted to include that yesterday but it definitely comes within the definition of Spoiler]

    Re. 8d, I was worried about B=boy and hoped that ‘make out’ wasn’t misusing a word popularised by Father Jack in Father Ted ;-) So I was very relieved to see ‘neck’ surface in today’s analysis!

    Many thanks Prolixic, as always: both for the review…and the domestic cat info!



    • Encota
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:35 am | Permalink | Reply

      PS On a different topic, does anyone here subscribe to The Magpie? I’ve only just subscribed (an early birthday present) and am loving its Listener style thematic puzzles.

  25. Kath
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks again to Arepo for the crossword and to Prolixic for explaining my numerous ‘couldn’t do’/’didn’t see why’s’.
    There were quite a few answers that I should have got and also quite a few that I know I’d never have managed which makes me feel a bit better.

  26. Arepo
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to all for the comments and to Prolixic for the review! Feedback taken on board and will hopefully filter through into the next one.

    I see I went a bit overboard on the GK – not intentional, I think it’s just that I’m always on the lookout for interesting things to put into a puzzle. Which seemed like a good thing as I was putting it together, and I’m always saying how I like to learn something from a crossword, but too much of a good thing and all that. Next time I’ll try and look at the thing as a whole and tone it down a little.

    Specific points:

    Vera Wang was the designer I had in mind for 21a – but of course either works. ‘Reveal’ as an insertion indicator seemed okay to me in an impressionistic sort of way – the mental picture was something like a clam opening to reveal the pearl inside, and I must confess I still kind of like it, but I’ll avoid it in future since I seem to be the only one. The ‘collapse’ in 33a was intended as a nounal anagram indicator which I think is fine (I know some people hate them with a passion but I’ve never seen the problem). ‘Boy’=B is something that I was sure I’d seen in the field before, but clearly I was mistaken. Apologies for the misidentified vessel in 27d – I confess, I haven’t read the work in question, but my strong mental image was ‘boy and tiger on raft’ so in it went. Another thing I ought to have checked.

    Thanks again for all the comments – it means a lot to me that people are doing and enjoying these.

    • Gazza
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      B for boy and G for girl are both in Chambers Dictionary of Crossword Abbreviations though they’re not in Chambers main dictionary.

      • dutch
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

        ah, here it is mentioned again – how does one get a hold of chambers dictionary of crossword abbreviations?

        funnily enough chambers has GF for girlfriend but not BF for boyfriend, though it does have that for bloody fool.

        • dutch
          Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

          ok, found the book on AbeBooks, a website Shropshirelad recommended.

        • Gazza
          Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

          The full title is ‘Chambers XWD: A Dictionary of Crossword Abbreviations’ – if it’s in print you can get it from Amazon.

        • snape
          Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

          It’s on eBay at the bargain price of £376.68.

          Free postage.

        • JollySwagman
          Posted June 8, 2016 at 4:36 am | Permalink | Reply

          If you google “Cryptic Crossword Indicators and Abbreviations” (including the quote marks) you will come to a fairly comprehensive list – free. In both cases (ie the Chambers Dictionary as well) they contain abbreviations which a particular publication or puzzle editor might not approve of.

          If solving puzzles from varying sources that’s what you want; when writing puzzles you usually need to conform with something narrower – eg is the abbrevation listed in the particular reference dictionary.

          When writing a clue I usually assume that if an abbreviation is in Collins or Oxford online then it’ll be in Chambers too – not foolproof but Chambers usually scoops up all that the other two have and throws in a bit of Lowland Scots and a few archaisms for good measure.

    • Maize
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Arepo. Are you called Arepo because of the SATOR square of Pompeii?

  27. jean-luc cheval
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Finally got 12a after swapping a “Z” for an “S”. Silly really.
    But the weekend was quite heavy toughy with the monthly, the alphabetical and the enigmatist which I just finished. Phew 😌.
    Should have checked Serendipity as a movie sooner. The French title is so different.
    Unforgivable really as I know Peter Chelsom for so long. “Hear my song” and “Funny Bones” are just fantastic.
    Thanks to Arepo again and to Prolixic for the masterclass.

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