Rookie Corner – 122

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.

A fourth outing for Metman and there have been a lot of improvements.  There were some rough edges with some points that test solving could have ironed out.


6 It’s said that the main feature is so described (7)
LEONINE – The description of the animal whose feature is mane (from a homophone, it’s said that, of main).

7 Exceed this to gain points (5)
LIMIT – A cryptic definition of what it breached get points on your licence.  I think that the definition is fine without further reference to speedas it could be blood alcohol count, speed etc.

9 Does a nutter live in it or drive it? (4)
DREY – Double definition of the home of a squirrel (nutter) and a type of cart that may be driven by someone who is a nutter or by sane delivery people.

10 Hostelry gets applause for a change (10)
INNOVATION – A three letter word for a hostelry followed by another word for applause.

11 Unexpected variations is a grave change (8)
VAGARIES – An anagram (change) of IS A GRAVE.

13 Friar at home to scoff (4,2)
TUCK IN – The name of the Friar in the tales of Robin Hood followed by a word meaning at home.

15 A swinish expression (4)
OINK – A thinly veiled reference to the sound that a pig makes.

17 Rat loses head and plays by the river (5)
OTTER – Remove the R from the front (loses head) for a word meaning a rat.  Verbal phrases as a definition are fine but could also have been “One plays by the river biting the head off rat”

18 It’s said that this is often shed for this rank (4)
TIER – A homophone (it’s said that) of tear (something often shed).  Ideally you should try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as “it’s said”.

19 Too spry? doubtful, losing nothing for being active (6)
SPORTY – An anagram (doubtful) of TOO SPRY after removing an O (losing nothing).

20 Yearn after a spell of time (8)
YEARLONG – A word meaning to yearn after a period of 365 days (spell of time) to give another spell of time.  I think that the spell of time is doing double duty as part of the wordplay and the definition.  It is unfortunate that the first four letters of the answer are also the first four letters of the first word of the clue.

23 Appears wet, unsettled by litter perhaps (5,5)
WASTE PAPER – An anagram (unsettled) of APPEARS WET.  I think that definition by (give by) wordplay works but perhaps not wordplay by definition.

26 Old chap by the sea? (4)
COVE – Double definition, the second being a bay or inlet.  Prepositional phrases as “by the sea” or “in X” to denote a place are not universally liked.

27 Reverse bed and put eleven in it – could be dangerous (5)
TOXIC – Reverse a three letter word for a bed and include the Roman numerals for 11.

28 Girly slang name (7)
MONIKER – A homophone (slang) of Monica (girly or girl’s name)


1 This busy-body wants to know and is supported by a writer (4,6)
NOSY PARKER – A word meaning wants to know followed by the name of a pen manufacturer or the author Dorothy ??????.  I think that there is too much overlap between the “wants to know” and the solution.

2 Brief cover for an atoll (6)
BIKINI – Double definition of skimpy beachwear and an atoll.

3 Enthusiastic lamentation? (4)
KEEN – Double definition of someone who is eager and word for a lamentation over the dead.

4 Tea lover stirred this to go up or down (8)
ELEVATOR – An anagram (stirred up) of TEA LOVER.

5 Honour computer work or drop out (4)
OMIT – The abbreviation for an honour followed by an abbreviation for computer work.

6 Untidy Alvar became quite grubby (5)
LARVA – An anagram (untidy) of ALVAR.  Perhaps quintessentially grubby or a grubby representative would be better with a question mark to indicate that the wordplay is not quite what it seems.

8 Be unfaithful twice? (3-4)
TWO-TIME – A mildly cryptic reference to cheating on your nearest and dearest.

12 Results at a yeast testing reveals another flavour (5)
SATAY – The answer is hidden inside RESULTS AT A YEAST.  I suppose a dish could also be a flavour.  The testing is padding and would not be accepted by all editors.

14 Block of neat fodder (6,4)
CATTLE CAKE – A cryptic definition of an agricultural food source for animals sometimes called neat.

16 You could take new heart from this (7)
IMPLANT – Definition of a medical procedure that could assist or boost the heart’s function (a full replacement would be a transplant).

17 Policy MS rewritten every four years? (8)
OLYMPICS – An anagram (rewritten) of POLICY MS.  I am not keen on every four years as a description.  Perhaps “It happens every four years when MS Policy is revised”

21 Utter a garbled narrative, I’ve opted out (6)
ARRANT – An anagram (garbled) of NARRATIVE  after removing the IVE from the word.  It is not much of an anagram as only the N needs to move places but perhaps excusable where you have to remove letters first.

22 Admission Eve rejected with a denial (5)
NEVER – The answer is hidden inside ADMISSION EVE REJECTED.  I am in two minds about with as a hidden word indicator.

24 Get mobile to receive this (4)
TEXT – What you could receive on a mobile phone if you had one.

25 This is a ceremony (4)
POMP – A straight definition with no cryptic elements.  Eight references to “this” to indicate the solution or part of the wordplay is too many.


  1. 2Kiwis
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:05 am | Permalink

    Good fun. 6a had us scratching our heads for a while and needed a couple of checkers to point us in the right direction but most of it went together smoothly with plenty to smile about along the way. 17d is a very timely clue as NZ has just collected its first (of many we hope) gong.
    Thanks Metman.

    • metman
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Many thanks to you guys for your comments, they are much appreciated. Probably not much of a challenge for you but as long as it raises a smile or two I’m happy.

  2. silvanus
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Hi Metman,

    Plenty of invention evident once again, but I wasn’t convinced that you quite nailed it with several clues, especially 9a, 20a and 28a. My overall favourite was 10a, honourable ticks also going to 13a, 26a and 27a.

    You fell into the trap of overusing a certain word in too many clues – “this” I counted being used no less than seven times (and twice in 18a) – such repetition is something best to avoid. “It’s said” was also repeated as a homophone indicator in 6a and 18a. Against that, I did think you managed to achieve a good balance of different types of cryptic construction.

    Overall I feel that there were fewer rough edges than your last puzzle, so that has to be a good thing! More work at the editing stage would be very beneficial I’d suggest.

    Many thanks, Metman,

    • silvanus
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      I should of course have said “no fewer than seven times” in my second paragraph – happy to correct my solecism!

      • metman
        Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        All very good points Silvanus and very much appreciated. I shall go through them all later today and see if I can fix them. Once again, thank you for the comments.

      • JollySwagman
        Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        To mathematicians it’s not a solecism – nor is it at my local supermarket – where the (so-called) express lane is available to people with “less than 10 items” (rarely me even if I only go in for a bottle of milk) – although of course, ten, being less than 100 – should really have been spelled out – although preferences vary on that too.

        • silvanus
          Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          I suspect that at your local supermarket, like mine, the so-called “greengrocer’s apostrophe” is also in evidence, i.e. “tomato’s” etc. masquerading as a plural!

          As for the use of “less” rather than “fewer”, ironically the BBC is one of the worst culprits I’ve noticed, Lord Reith would be turning in his grave.

          • JollySwagman
            Posted August 8, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

            They don’t go that far – you have to go to the market or an independent for that – although the Chinese greengrocer I use had “beens” for sale – so I told him it should be “bean’s”.

            Fear of greengrocry stops apostrophes from being used where they might serve a purpose – eg between the end of an acronym and the pluralising S – an exception is generally made for do’s and don’ts is dos looks silly.

            In maths the symbol “<" is read as "is less than" – always. Never "less than but if the vlues happen to be countable whole numbers then fewer". No meaning is lost.

  3. JollySwagman
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Hi Metman – thanks for the puzzle – I enjoyed it.

    I got off to a good start with the many well-indicated anagrams. When I ran out of those it needed a bit more thought. The various cryptic definitions (or similar) were generally well thought out and original. That sort of cluing is really harder to do than conventional wordplay-definition (ximenean or otherwise) – it’s harder to know where to draw the line.

    And nice to see our old friend “main” (in 6a) alluding to something other than the sea for once.

    I wasn’t sure that 1d really had anything cryptic (or at least non-literal) to support the first word (the second word obviously being obtained from a famous writer) but it’s not necessarily a crime to have maybe one clue not altogether cryptic or fully two-sided – at least I’ve seen a few longtime setters do that. No quibbles other than that.

    It was a good strategy to litter the puzzle with quite a lot of straightforward anagrams – you’ll probably cop some flak for that – repetition etc – but it lures people in – and if you hadn’t done that you’d cop even more for making it too hard – ie the average difficulty level of the CD’s was probably fairly high. You’ll never please everyone.

    Anyway – I enjoyed it – and I got there – in the end – so many thanks for the fun.

    • metman
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      So glad you enjoyed it JS. Didn’t quite understand your reference to ‘main’ in 6a ? 1d is awful. How I managed that I don’t know! My trouble is when I’m getting to the end I tend to rush to get it finished and let too many poor clues go. More discipline required I think. Silvanus made some very good points too, I’ve just been through it again and shudder at 1d! Anyway, thanks for your input. It’s all valuable to me.

      • JollySwagman
        Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

        “Main” crops up a lot in puzzles – it usually means “principal” in the surface and then something to do with the sea in the wordplay – that gives a lot of possibilities – a name for part of the sea – a particular ocean or sea etc – which makes it very useful – so it gets around quite a bit like that.

  4. Jane
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    As Silvanus commented – far less rough edges in this one, Metman. Maybe a little more work required on the actual wording of the clues – 20a for example. I’m not sure whether you get anyone to help by test-solving but I believe that a lot of our Rookie setters have found it very beneficial in honing their skills.
    I certainly enjoyed the solve – 6,10&26a take the honours for me.

    • metman
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Thanks Jane. Yes, I need to work on my surface reading. No, I don’t take part in test solving, but I shall give it some thought.(apart from my daughter and son-in-law that is). All input much appreciated and taken on board.

      • metman
        Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        All this global conversation just takes my breath away – I’ve only just got used to the idea that heavier-than-air machines can fly!

  5. dutch
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks Metman, congratulations on putting together an enjoyable puzzle. I always think it is quite an achievement to fill a grid and clue it, to be appreciated and enjoyed by all of us. I particularly liked 10a and 21a.

    I’ll list my quibbles in the hope they to be useful to you, though it is of course only one person’s opinion – and please remember there was plenty to like as well.

    I agree ‘this’ seemed overused (not sure it’s needed in 1d, but definitely needed in 4d) though some such device was also missing from a number of clues that ended up being inaccurate or indicating the wrong part of speech, like 17a, 26a, 6d, 17d

    Some other definitions or allusions I feel are inaccurate, e.g. ‘or drives it’ (who, the nutter?) in 9d, ‘another flavour’ in 12d (I think of the answer as a dish – also ‘testing’ is padding), ‘girly slang’ (was that intended as a homophone indicator?)

    I thought 7a needed a specific reference to speed, e.g. ‘rapidly exceed this’

    Surface grammar doesn’t work in in 11a. I’m not sure I’ve understand why 25d is cryptic.

    I ‘m not overly keen on ‘by’ as a link (23d), though it probably gets used.

    I’m interested to see what prolixic will suggest in his review, and I look forward to your next puzzle – many thanks again

    • metman
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      And many thanks to you Dutch.I agree that 17d could have been phrased a little differently, but I think 11a is OK. Also agree regarding 7a. 25d I thought as a ‘gimme’ but perhaps it could have been dressed up a little more. I hope I learn from each comment Dutch and welcome remarks such as your. thanks again.

      • dutch
        Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Thanks – it’s hard for me to think of ‘unexpected variations’ as a single entity, but if i close one eye and hold my breath i can just about manage.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      I read;

      17a as a verb phrase definition
      26a as a CD – there is a question mark
      6d – borderline – inserting eg “something” would fix it but I like it as it is
      17d – well obviously that’s not ximenean either – but none of the top setters ever were – for me it works exactly as it is – it’s just so compelling – and of course topical.

      The thing about verb phrase definitions being OK – ie adjectival ones not – is just Azed’s point of view – we don’t all have to agree with him – Araucaria didn’t.

  6. Encota
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Metman, I enjoyed this. I started this earlier this morning then had to race off to get to my Speed Awareness course (courtesy of the Gwent traffic cameras on the way into Cardiff. As an aside I learnt that the numbered signs at the sides of the road are 7a’s, NOT targets ;-) ), so only just finished it whilst watching some of ‘that Rio stuff’, as a friend calls it.

    I wasn’t too sure about 25d & 20a.
    In 1d only half wordplay present (for word 2)?
    In 6a “main”: deceptive, very nice (as Jolly Swagman also points out above)!
    9a nutter: ho ho!
    17a: I can see why ‘plays’ in the surface but…? Probably missed something.
    15a ~straight clue?!

    My favourites were 6a and 7a (grr!).

    Thanks again!

    • metman
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Hello Encota, I can empathise – I had to do one too. However, I must admit I learned quite a lot of stuff I wasn’t aware of. JS mentioned ‘main’ in 6a too but I didn’t use the word main at all, so I’m still puzzled! I agree that 25d and 20a are a bit cumbersome and could do with improving. Just couldn’t think of anything for 15a so made it a ‘gimme’ 17a doesn’t have ‘plays’, it is ‘stays’, but again it ought to have been ‘lives’. Anyway, many thanks for your comments, glad you enjoyed it overall.

      • Jane
        Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Hi Metman,
        I’m wondering whether you have looked at the puzzle in the format as it appeared to us. 6a reads ‘It’s said that the main feature is so described’ and 17a reads ‘Rat loses head and plays by the river’.

        • Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          Strange – Metman sent me puzzle 76, said he would revise it and then sent puzzle 75. I didnt notice, thought this was the revised version and that is what I published. The clues for 6a and 17a are as given in Jane’s comment.

          • Jane
            Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

            Well – ‘main’ obviously went down a storm with us solvers and ‘plays’ is by far the best description of the renowned habit of otters, so I think Metman got a good outcome there!

            • metman
              Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

              Mystery solved. I have been looking at an earlier version. 17a I can resolve, but Im still puzzled by 6a, ‘cos that referred to the pope Leo! I shall have to download the published version. My 6a clue is’ Diminutive Leopold has one over the eight and is reference to a pope’.

              • Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

                I have emailed you the contribution that I received.

                • metman
                  Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

                  Just looked at the version you have just emailed Dave, but I cannot reconcile the 6a clue with ‘Leonine’. I’m wondering how the solvers understood it!

                  • Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

                    Mane sounds like (it is said) main perhaps.

                  • Jane
                    Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

                    One of the definitions in BRB for leonine is ‘lionlike’. As male lions have a mane and ‘it’s said’ in the clue could refer to a homophone of ‘main’ it seemed quite logical.

                    • metman
                      Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

                      I’ve got it now Jane. I must have altered it and forgotton how I arrived at it. I shall go and have a lie down in a darkened room. Thanks for putting me right. What’s the world coming to when you can’t solve your own clues!

                    • metman
                      Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

                      I’ve gone in as ‘undefined’ I was trying to add ‘Sorry for the confusion BD’

  7. Hilary
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Not sure if I enjoyed this as I have done it in several bites between coping with the 11a of the day. It was mind boggling in places but as a very new solver to Rookie corner I suspect it was just me being a bit dim. Onwards and upwards, thank you Metman and whoever decodes it tomorrow.

    • metman
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Don’t take me as the standard Hilary, there are much more skilled compilers still in rookie corner to enjoy. Thanks for the input anyway.

  8. Maize
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for another puzzle from the ever dwindling ranks of Rookie Corner, Metman.
    I really liked around a third of these: 7a, 10a, 27a, 2d, 3d, 4d, 5d, and my favourite 21d. I had quibbles with another third, which may or may not be substantiated in the review.
    May I make a suggestion? Your puzzle looks like some clues are great and some clues could be improved. How about copying the clues into a separate document and ranking them from best to worst. Then spend a few days mulling over the ones near the bottom of the list and seeing if any new ideas crop up.
    It’s what I do and it helps me greatly. I end up throwing out bags of clues but, as Quiller-Couch said, you must be prepared to ‘murder your darlings’.
    Not that I didn’t enjoy the puzzle, I most certainly did, and I do see steady improvement, so many thanks again.

    • metman
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Might try that Maize. Thank you for your comments.

  9. Expat Chris
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying to hold back these days and let the other Rookies and former Rookies have their say because they are much closer to the trials and tribulations of setting crosswords that I will ever be. I liked some clues a lot, others not so much. I thought 7A was great, though personally I have never been caught in the act. I also liked 1A,11A and 14D. 25D did not float my boat, neither did 24D. I have a question mark beside 22A. I so wanted 1D to be Miss Marple at first read! I took the writer to be the name of the manufacturer of my favorite ( and now 25 years old) propelling pencil rather than an author, by the way. The only authors that spring to my mind are Robert B and Dorothy, both American. As others have noted, the crossword would be the better for polishing the surfaces somewhat. Good job overall, and I look forward to your next showing.

    • metman
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Thanks for looking in EC. I wished I had thought more about 1d, it was rather cumbersome, but there you go, we live and learn!.

      • Posted August 9, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        That’s what Rookie Corner is all about – getting feedback from actual solvers. Where else on the web can you do that?

  10. Beet
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    I thought there were some nice touches here. I liked “grubby” and the “writer”. Thanks Metman

    • metman
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Thanks a lot Beet.

  11. Jane
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – concise, unbiased and pertinent as always. I hope Metman takes heart from your comments regarding the obvious improvement apparent in this puzzle and that he gives some serious thought to enlisting the aid of a test solver, which seems to have made a world of difference to others of our Rookies.

  12. jean-luc cheval
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Waited for the review to comment as I didn’t get 6a and wasn’t sure about the logic behind 20a.
    Apart from these two, I thought it was a good challenge and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Thanks to Metman and to Prolixic for the review.

  13. dutch
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks Prolixic for the review, wonderful as always

    To make 20a work for me, I read spell = year with def = of time

    Thanks again for the fun Metman

  14. Arepo
    Posted August 11, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the puzzle Metman! A bit of a curate’s egg for me I’m afraid – while parts were excellent (more on those later) there were a couple of features that weren’t really to my taste. The whole thing was tending towards the quiptic/Rufusesque here with quite a lot of cryptic definitions – which isn’t a bad thing in itself but not really my cup of tea, and I did think a couple of them were a stretch to describe as ‘cryptic’. The repetition of ‘this’ I didn’t mind so much but the double ‘said’ did stick out. The other feature I wasn’t a big fan of was definitions in the wrong part of speech – ‘plays by the river’ does not mean ‘otter’ for example. Again, some people don’t mind this but I find it ungainly.

    A few specific thoughts:

    6a – homophone clues going the ‘wrong way’ like this always give me the shivers, but I think that’s just my hangup.
    9a – I thought the cart was spelt differently, making this an unsolvable one for me.
    10a nice and initially had me wondering why ‘REN’ meant hostelry… doh!
    1d – I’m not a fan, but I see you’ve copped to this so fair enough. Pity though because I really liked “writer” for “Parker”, particularly because I thought only of Dorothy when solving and the second meaning didn’t occur to me. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I’ve never seen it so I’m happy to give you the credit ;)
    3d – nice double definition – I’d suggest the question mark isn’t really necessary (which is worth noting because there are quite a few of them in this puzzle. Again not a bad thing in itself but beware overuse)
    21d – nice but could have done without the ‘a’ – a very minor point, and the clue certainly still parses with it, but cutting out extraneous words is generally a good habit to get into and tends to lead to a higher elegance quotient.
    22d – I don’t buy ‘with’ as a hidden word indicator.

    Again, there was some great stuff in here, with plaudits going to 10a, 26a, 27a, 3d, 5d and my favourite 16d. (See, I _can_ appreciate a good cryptic def!) So keep up the good work :)