Rookie Corner – 127

A Puzzle by MP

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

When I appealed for new contributions a few weeks ago, it inspired this brand-new setter to have a go.  I hope you all enjoy his debut puzzle.  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 few [m]iffy clues but I managed to pop[s] this one off quickly.  There were a few rough edges but the number of clues where there were issues was minimal, which is a good sign.  An encouraging start.  


1 Draw outline sketch of writing implement (6)
PENCIL – A single definition in four parts – each part of the definition comes from the same root.  Normally with double definitions or more, you should try to have as much separation as possible between the definitions.

5 Some thwarters kill random head of board (8)
WATERSKI – The answer is hidden (some) in THWARTERS KILL after removing the first letter (head) of random.  There is a missing deletion indicator here.  I have not seen a hidden word with letter deletion clue before.  The structure wordplay of definition is not universally approved of.

9 Mostly decayed organic material in action mouldered (10)
DECOMPOSED – Remove the final letter (mostly) of a word for decayed organic material beloved of gardeners and put the letters inside a four letter word for action.

10 Counts drinks for babies (4)
TOTS – Triple definition.

11 Secretary to companion of Open University has fifty one ingredients of perfume (8)
PACHOULI – The abbreviations for personal assistant (secretary), companion of honour, open university and the Roman numerals for fifty one.  Chambers gives the answer with a T.  As the answer is a singular noun, it should be ingredient of perfume but this would mar the surface reading.

12 Good man removes tree to build a road (6)
STREET – The abbreviation for saint (good man) followed by an anagram (removed in the sense of displaced).

13 Jacob’s wife undressed for bittersweet agony (4)
ACHE – The inner letters (undressed) of Rachel (Jacob’s wife).

15 Handover footballer’s return (4,4)
GIVE BACK – A double definition though the second part does not really work for me.

18 Leap Semi-Detached house yet declare inactivity (1’1,6)
I’M ASLEEP – An anagram (detached) of LEAP SEMI.  Phrases should be those that are found in the dictionary, not simply parts of a sentence.

19 Part of chariot. A very small part (4)
IOTA – The answer is hidden (part of) CHARIOT A.

21 Change cubit after removing a piece (6)
COPPER – Remove a word for a piece from cubit and expand the chemical symbol that remains.

23 Heretics in fields all over the place (8)
INFIDELS – An anagram (all over the place) of IN FIELDS

25 Will historically wither (4)
WILT – Double definition.

26 Can’t come out. I’m tied up at home (10)
HOUSEBOUND – Split 5,5 this might mean tied up at home.

27 Regrouped and formed a new alliance (8)
REBANDED – Double definition, the second maybe in the sense of putting on a second wedding ring.

28 Ships canvas screens artful person (6)
DODGER – Double definition. The first part of the definition suggests a plural answer, the second a singular.


2 Hygiene machine contains a refreshing purge (5)
ENEMA – The answer is hidden (contains) in HYGIENE MACHINE.

3 Fool hurries around king’s dressers (9)
CLOTHIERS – A four letter word for a fool followed by a word meaning hurries around the abbreviation for king.

4 As much as one can hold sitting down (6)
LAPFUL – A mildly cryptic definition.

5 Fairy. On the draining board perhaps? (7-2,6)
WASHING-UP LIQUID – A mildly cryptic definition.

6 Neat stockpile cherished by a goalkeeper (4,4)
TIDY SAVE – A word meaning neat followed by a word meaning store or stockpile.  Another clue where the phrase is not one recognised in the dictionary.

7 Model wearing glasses in luxury car offering lift (5)
ROTOR – … The model of Ford car offered by Henry Ford has OO (glasses) around it (wearing) and the letter go inside the abbreviation for Rolls Royce (luxury car).

8 Pussy around with part of the kit? Ten caterers might complain (6,3)
KITTEN CAT – The answer is hidden in (part of) KIT TEN CATERERS.  The wordplay indicator part of has already been used so ideally should be different in this clue.  The words “around … might complain” are padding and some editors would not permit them.  The answer is again not a phrase in the dictionary. Four hidden word clues is a tad too many.

14 Mess with looking for mixed materials (9)
COMPOSITE – An anagram (mess with) of POSTIE COM.

16 Bet unseen then stack under cover (9)
BLINDFOLD – A word of five letters used in card games for betting followed by a word meaning to stack your cards.

17 Looked to burn church editor (8)
SEARCHED – A word meaning to burn followed by the abbreviations for church and editor.

20 A plot of land in the distance (6)
AFIELD – The A from the clue followed by a word for plot of land.

22 Give the elder or younger politician a piece of bread (5)
PITTA – The surname of the politicians (either the younger or the elder) followed by the A from the clue.

24 Medical instrument wiped clean (5)
LANCE – An anagram (wiped) of CLEAN.


  1. dutch
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations MP on your first crossword! Hard work, isn’t it?

    This is a great first effort and there are many good clues – I ticked 3a, 11a, 21a, 23a, 25a, 3d, 17d, and 22d.

    21a was my last to parse and now it’s my favourite – some advanced clueing there!

    An enjoyable solve, though not completely free of hiccups

    I made lots of notes about things you may watch out for in the future. I have specific details for each clue and general messages. One thing to try and do is to ensure the wordplay and definition are very different, i.e. do not derive from the same root (same for double definitions). This affects e.g. 1a, 9a, 15a, 26a, 27a (where the answer does not seem to be in chambers – so another tip is to keep the brb very close at hand!)

    I’m impressed by the effort and I’d be very happy to give you my clue-by-clue break down if you think that is useful – I would hope that that would complement the excellent review you will get from Prolixic. Please just ask BD to send you my email (or ask him to send me yours), get in touch, and I’ll do that.

    Looking forward to the next one

    Thank you so much for sharing this first puzzle – I hope you will enjoy all the brilliant feedback you will get here

    • dutch
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink | Reply

      ok, I have your email and will follow up asap

  2. crypticsue
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink | Reply

    I wouldn’t know where to start with setting cryptic crossword clues so think this is a very good first attempt at doing so.

    There’s a couple of problems with the enumeration – 10a should be (4) and not (6) and similarly 17d should be (8) and not (7).

    There are three clues where I don’t really understand how I get the solution and a couple I don’t think quite work but my favourite has to be 21a (which apparently I solved much quicker than Dutch did!)

    Thanks to MP and in advance to Prolixic

  3. Encota
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink | Reply

    To echo Dutch’s comments. well done on your first puzzle! Most of us here recall how ‘daring’ it can feel to first put one’s head above the parapet (I certainly do).

    There are several good clues – I particularly noted 1a, 9a, 10a, 13a, 19a, 3d, 4d, 7d and 24d. My favourite was 7d – I always like this type of wordplay!

    I’ve also made some clue-by-clue notes which I am also happy to share, should you find them useful. One technique that can be of use is in clues such as 28a where the surface needs ‘screens’ [the verb] but the definition appears to need ‘screen’ [the noun], is to move instead to using ‘screening’, which often satisfies both requirements.

    Hope this helps. Well done again!

  4. Cyborg
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations on your debut, MP! It’s always nice to see new Rookies enter the breach.

    My favourites were 10a and 17d, which are both neat and tidy clues. My main suggestion for the next puzzle would be to crack down on any clues which sprawl a bit – every word should be there for a reason. One example here would be 18a: “house yet” provides some padding but doesn’t contribute anything to the cryptic reading.

    Prolixic will no doubt provide an excellent list of any spots to polish. Precision always improves after the initial shock of entering Rookie Corner, so I’m sure we’ve got some excellent crosswords to come. Looking forward to the next one.

  5. snape
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink | Reply

    Welcome to Rookie Corner,
    Having seen Dutch’s comment, I would heartily recommend you take up his offer, he provides brilliant advice. Some nice ideas in there, and it was fun trying to tease the answers out.
    21a was very neat, but I also really liked the simplicity and natural surface of 19a, and 3d was another favourite.

    I would look out for a couple of things on your next one. As Dutch says, try to avoid doing the same thing twice in wordplay and definition.
    While phrases don’t have to be in the dictionary, they do have to have be a specific phrase (a common example is Yellow Submarine is fine, as the name of a song, but Green Book isn’t). I would put 6d, 18a, and 8d (I think?) in this category.
    I would also be careful about using extra words that only confuse the solver. You are trying to confuse them, but the clues shouldn’t have extra stuff. Back to 18a as an example – detached may be a slight stretch as an anagram indicator, but detached house is very optimistic! (edit – just seen I’ve crossed with commenters saying similar)
    Many thanks for the fun

  6. JollySwagman
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi MP – well done for taking the plunge.

    First of all I have to say – I got there – so the clues took me to the answers – which all seem to be correct – so it worked. I also enjoyed the process – which was hopefully the aim.

    There were plenty of good regular clues which would keep most people happy. Obviously there are numerous approaches to cluing depending upon where you sit on a continuum that ranges from just suggesting the answer through to nailing it to the floor with every letter and every word precisely accounted for.

    I’ll leave Prolixic to supply you with the detail. Don’t be too put off by any criticisms which start “Some editors wouldn’t …” – the obvious corrollary to that is “Other editors would …” – but there are some things which are pretty well universally accepted. One is spare words – ie words which help the surface reading to make sense but don’t really play any part in the cryptic reading of the clue. Eg I thought (I may be wrong) that “house” in 18a was such a word.

    Some will say “random head” in 5d falls into that category – they insist that in hidden word clues only words that actually contain parts of the answer should appear in that part of the clue. Personally I don’t mind that (Aruacaria did it) – you can hide a needle better in a haystack than in a needle-case.

    By the way, the tradition with enumeration is to ignores apostrophes – so eg DON’T would get enumerated as (4) – on that basis 18a would be (2,6) – don’t ask me why – yours is actually easier on the solver – but that’s the convention. I think I’ve seen exceptions for Irish names like O’Connell (1’7) etc. I can’t see that it hurts.

    Another issue is how many steps of substitution to get to the answer is something that’s hard to precisely define. I think 21a structurally goes too far in principle – but in practice it’s fine because the substitutions are very easy ones and the defintion is clear and easy. On balance I thought it very good.

    26a I liked – some might query whether the parts of speech match – for me it’s clear enough – the answer pops out and I’m not going to go back and audit it.

    Anyway – enough detail (which I originally said I wouldn’t give).

    A good start – room for improvement, but plenty to build on – and if improvement means moving closer to what’s conventionally expected please make sure that you don’t lose your own personal style.

    Looking forward to seeing your next one.

    Many thanks for the fun.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink | Reply

      You can blame me for the enumeration of 18a – as the answer is a phrase that doesn’t have it’s own dictionary entry I thought it made it fairer to the solvers.

  7. Shropshirelad
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    A busy landlord, rugby spectator, camp site host, regular blogger and a setter as well. Is there no end to your talent MP? Seriously, well done on your maiden puzzle – there is a lot to like. 19 & 21a and 3d are my particular favourites. As everyone above has already said – not absolutely perfect – but a fine start. Again, well done.

    Maybe Brian would like it…… then again, maybe not.

  8. Maize
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great to see a new setter joining the ranks – welcome aboard MP, and it’s a nice touch to dedicate your first puzzle ro loved ones :)
    One of the joys of encountering a new setter is the journey to get on to your wavelength, and once I’d picked up on your style this became a real joy. Many thanks MP.
    My favourites were 10a, 12a, 21a, 23a, 2d, 3d, 4d and 17d.
    Forgive me if I leave the suggestions to others and just let you know I enjoyed it very much!

  9. Colin
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I don’t approach xwords in the forensic way of the more learned contributors, so I will just say I enjoyed this puzzle, and some clues made me laugh.
    Many thanks MP.

  10. stanXYZ
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    He’s here, he’s there, he’s almost everywhere!

    Well Done, MP!

    I solved it … but I did need the clues!

    (I will leave the more serious comments to your fellow “setters” in Rookie Corner.)

  11. metman
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi MP. As a fellow rookie I shouldn’t be criticising, but there were clues which I just couldn’t understand. 21a for one, though Cripticsue and Dutch had no trouble with it! 5a seems to have a surplus ‘r’ in the lurker. 3d, I just cannot get the lego build. 7d fooled me as well. I too liked 26a and many others and all in all it was a very good first puzzle. Keep at it and I shall look forward to your next.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      21A was my favorite clue!

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      EC – 21a also my top clue (element #29 in the table).

      MM – Re 5a; I think MP’s intention was to use the word ‘kill’ to serve a dual purpose, ie kill (remove) the head (first letter) of ‘random’, which then leaves the lurker having got rid of the surplus ‘R’.

  12. jean-luc cheval
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What a coincidence. There’s someone on the blog with the same initials.
    Really enjoyed this first outing even though there is a couple I am not sure about (6d and 15a) which were a bit of a bung in.
    No internet at home and very busy at work but still found time to print the weekend crosswords from a friend’s office. Not much time to post but wouldn’t miss this rookie for the world.

  13. Jane
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well – a man of many talents indeed! Haven’t sorted out the PJ in the dedication but I thought you would have included St. Sharon?

    1a made me smile – I think that should have a trade-mark place in all of your future puzzles (assuming you’re not saying ‘never again’).
    Not entirely sure that I’ve got the correct answer for 27a, otherwise I reckon I’ve got there although I’ve got a few question marks awaiting the review from Prolixic.
    I’ll leave the post mortem to the experts but I thought this was a commendable debut – my particular picks being 21&25a.

    Thanks for being brave enough to give it a go, MP.

    • snape
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Well done, MP. I did the first half of the puzzle assuming it was you, but then decided that it wasn’t. Hopefully it’s the first of many.

  14. silvanus
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Late to comment as I have today started two weeks of jury service, or in my case sitting around doing nothing waiting in vain to be selected service!

    For once, I’ll leave others to provide detailed feedback, but a promising debut I thought. Try to cut out the etymological crossovers (definition and wordplay being too similar), avoid contrived anagrams (such as 14d), and, if you are using phrases rather than individual words, try to ensure they are found in a dictionary (unlike 18a) and I’m sure your next one will be much improved.

    Congratulations on answering Big Dave’s plea and joining the ranks of Rookie setters.

  15. Posted September 12, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I really enjoyed this. It generated more smiles and fewer grrs than the back-pager and went in much more smoothly, except that I’d put in REPAIRED for 27a which made 17d much harder than it ought to have been.

    I didn’t know the ship’s screen of 28a but I do have a BRB. I didn’t think I knew Jacob’s wife but with intersecting answers I found I did in fact know her.

    Thank you for 8d, but I am at a loss for words regarding your associated avatar … :eek:

    I find it interesting that you included anagrams, and even provided a 1a with which to solve them.

    Lots to like here. I loved 26a, and also noted 21a, 25a and 24d. Interesting device in 5a. I liked the image produced by 5d but 2d earned a “yuck!”

    Many thanks for the fun, MP, and well done indeed. Setting is harder than it looks – and I think it looks quite hard. Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for the review.

  16. Una
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Gosh , Miffypops , aren’t you talented !
    I didn’t manage to parse all of the clues.I liked 18a best .
    Thanks .

  17. Expat Chris
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well Done MP! How on earth did you manage to find the time? Loved 21A and that takes the gold. I though 2D was very clever but from personal experience I can tell you it’s not at all refreshing! I have a couple of question marks, but all will be revealed tomorrow. I hope you’ll be back soon.

    • Miffypops
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Expat Chris. If ever you want something doing ask a busy person. No use asking the idle who have time to do things. They won’t do it.

      • Expat Chris
        Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

        True dat.

  18. Miffypops
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to all who have commented or are yet to comment. Thanks to those who took the time to attempt to solve it. I found this to be a lot of fun although a little frustrating at times. Not being able to read my own handwriting I wrote a perfectly good clue for Hatful which had me smiling until I realised the word in the grid was Lapful.
    Thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review tomorrow. Mum and Dad nurtured my early interest in cryptic crossword puzzles. My late brother Paul (PJ C-S) also helped keep the interest alive. Thanks again.

  19. Jeroboam
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    As you have already seen, MP, the feedback and encouragement you get in Rookie Corner is second to none. I was lucky enough to benefit from the same a couple of weeks back and it helped me immensely. This was an enjoyable solve with a style of its own (which I think is very important); The feedback and advice, combined with Proloixic’s review will no doubt inspire you to have another crack. It’s good to see another new setter putting themselves forward. Thanks MP.

  20. Hanni
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well done MP. Great first puzzle. Look forward to the next. 1a is magnificent. .

  21. Kath
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m with Colin and stanXYZ in that I will leave all the clever and technical crossword stuff to others who know what they’re talking about.
    This was good fun – I don’t possess a hat so I can’t take it off to you, MP, but I do possess a pair of hands so I’m clapping you.
    Very brave – I enjoyed this much more than today’s back page crossword.
    I’ve never even tried to set a crossword – well done to you.
    Everyone else seems to have really liked 21a – that’s my one gap – damn! :sad:
    Some really smart clues but the two I liked most of all are 26a and 5d because they both made me laugh.
    Thanks, really well done and a big :good: to MP and, in advance, to Prolixic. Long live Rookie Corner, MP and, of course, BD’s blog.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Shh…I didn’t tell you this. It’s late, so maybe no-one will notice. . For 21 A, remove the three-letter word meaning “piece’ from cubit and the remaining two letters symbolize a metal that could also be loose change in one’s pocket.

  22. Expat Chris
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 4:56 am | Permalink | Reply

    I may be the only one awake right now, so I thank Prolixic for the review and once again congratulate our very own Miffypops for putting his head above the optics. And you hit it right. It didn’t have to be ultra clever, it didn’t need detailed analysis to solve. It just had to raise a smile, and it did that just because you are our beloved MP…and the puzzle wasn’t half bad either!

  23. JollySwagman
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 5:24 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for the review Prolixic.

    I thought that maybe handover in 15a should really have been “hand over”.
    Then we have:
    hand over: give
    footballer: back
    return: give back

    On reflection I think 26a is actually 100% kosher. “I’m” can be read as “the answer is”, leaving the other components to match exactly as per the blog.

    5a I missed the point of “random head” altogether – actually I failed to notice that an R needed to removed at all. I now think that “kill” indicates the removal of R (the head of random) – double duty admittedly, but it gets you there.

    Setters’ intentions and how it works for the solver are of course not always the same thing. Maybe MP will enlighten us.

  24. dutch
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks prolixic

    Ah, I misread 26a missing the (5,5) split – thinking it was an inadequate double definition rather than definition and wordplay. I still think the two halves are very similar.

    MP tells me that 1a originally included ‘removing’ but that was somehow lost in translation – not sure about removing a letter from a hidden though – it isn’t really a hidden anymore.

    I read 15a in the same way as JS: handover = give footballer = back (but again, I thought the two halves of the clue were very similar)

    Great fun – thanks and congrats again MP and I hope you are gearing up for the next one.

    • JollySwagman
      Posted September 14, 2016 at 2:08 am | Permalink | Reply

      What I meant about “handover”/”hand over” was that as all one word it’s a noun. To mean “give” it needs to be two words.

      As far as samebothsidedness goes I think it is a bit, but as ‘hand over” can mean either “give” or “give back” it gives you something to chew over to work out what “footballer’ does – so I think that rescues it. The normal complaint about samebothsidedness would be that there’s not enough there to chew on – well – something like that.

  25. Encota
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks as ever Prolixic!

    The discussion above re. ‘Hand over’ or ‘Handover’ in 15a, i.e. when splitting or combining words is seen as permissible, got me thinking about one that I’m never sure about, which is ‘maybe’ and ‘may be’. Is there a definitive text you (or others) can point me towards to help me improve this part of my game?



  26. Jane
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks, Prolixic – most of my ‘question marks’ sorted out. I was interested to see that you made no comment about 27a – like Dutch, I cannot find it referenced as a word in the BRB. Not to worry, this was still a worthy start to MP’s new career as a setter!

  27. hoofityoudonkey
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink | Reply

    Well done, MP in advance, I shall certainly have a dart at this though anticipate problems getting onto your wavelength!!!!

    • hoofityoudonkey
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 8:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Congratulations MP, great puzzle.
      I am lost in admiration to anyone who can set these with such imaginative clues.
      Thanks again and looking forward to the next.

  28. spindrift
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink | Reply

    Not been around much to comment just lately. We’ve had four bereavements of close family in the last year so haven’t been my usual sparkling with [!]. On the other hand our first grandson should be born today!

    As to MP’s first effort all I would say is that now you’ve lost your cherry don’t leave it too long for your next puzzle. An impressive debut now enjoy the rest of your holiday.

    • Hanni
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink | Reply

      So sorry to hear that Spindrift. Hope all goes well with your new grandchild!

      Thanks for the blog Prolixic

      • spindrift
        Posted September 13, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Hanni – we seem to have spent half of the last 12 months travelling up & down the A1 to Yorkshire. I’m going again this weekend to bring my mother back to West Bridgford for a few days . She’s not used to being on her own as she was married to my Dad for over 65 years & started courting when they were 13!

    • Miffypops
      Posted September 15, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Spindrift. I had noticed you were commenting less. Sorry to hear why. Hopefully things will improve. Grandchildren are a real plus to ones life.

  29. Beet
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Sorry to be so late, but I just had to congratulate MP on a very promising and enjoyable debut. I think all rookies are brave to submit their first puzzle – even more so when you’re already known to everyone as a blogger. My favourite clue was 19 a.

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