Rookie Corner – 134 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 134

A Puzzle by Metman

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have Metman’s latest 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.

Our thanks to Metman for another pleasant puzzle.  Although there are a number of comments on the clues, these are very much to polish them.  The fundamentals are there.  It is simply a question of attention to little details that make the difference between a satisfactory clue and a good clue.


6 Does this man use a chopper to deliver the bullets? (7)
HATCHET – Another name for an assassin with the word that precedes man also being the name of an axe or chopper.

7 State army in reserve (5)
HOARD – A homophone (state) for another word for an army or large number of people.

9 Curb lubricant, holding back incipient growth (4)
BULB – The answer is hidden and reversed (holding back) CURB LUBRICANT.

10 Hot classic reviewed in an erudite manner (10)
SCHOLASTIC – An anagram (reviewed) of HOT CLASSIC.  The definition leans naturally to an adverb.  Perhaps “Academic reviewing hot classic” would work better to use the answer as a noun.

11 She had her entertainment clutching a supporter (8)
ADHERENT – The answer is hidden (clutching) in HAD HER ENTERTAINMENT.  Although the “she” is padding for the surface reading and is best avoided, you do see padding words in some crosswords.  Here it might contribute elliptically to definition as the support could be female.  I think support is a close enough synonym.  To avoid the padding, you could have “Fan had her entertainment between the covers” or something similar.

13 Missed group at the beginning (6)
OUTSET – A three letter word for missed followed by a three letter for a group.  Perhaps “missed” is a bit of a stretch of the first three letters.  Perhaps “Public group in the beginning” would be more precise.

15 This outstanding star made a river flow backwards (4)
NOVA – Reverse (flows backwards) the name of a South West river.  Perhaps the “This” could have been omitted.

17 Put off date with relative (5)
DAUNT – The abbreviation for date followed by the name of a female relative.

18 A tendency to be crooked (4)
BENT – A double definition.

19 George perhaps, has some paper to direct (6)
STREAM – A two letter abbreviation for a holy person of whom George is an example followed by a word for an amount of paper.  I am not convinced that the answer means to direct.

20 Scruffy pair lose argument to separate into two camps (8)
POLARISE – An anagram (scruffy) of PAIR LOSE.  The word “argument” here is pure padding and does not contribute to the definition.  Perhaps “Separate into two camps after pair lose disgracefully” would work better here.

23 Prison cooking in Thailand? (4,6)
STIR FRYING – A cryptic reference to a form of Thai cooking that may, read literally, be cooking in prison.

26 Hello sailor? (4)
AHOY – A way in which a sailor may say hello.  Very mildly cryptic!

27 Hostel for young migrants (5)
YOUTH – A cryptic definition of the type of hostel where young travellers or migrants stay.

28 Hello? Call your friend bottled up in the vicinity (7)
LOCALLY – The answer is hidden (bottled up) in HELLO CALL YOU.  Again, the word “friend” is padded to make the surface reading work but does not contribute to the wordplay.


1 Firm friend-in the equine world? (10)
STABLEMATE – A word meaning firm followed by a word for friend to gives a word for a friend in the equine word with the whole clue provide a complete definition.

2 Pursued by the sound of it but remained unsullied (6)
CHASTE – A homophone (by the sound of it) of chased (pursued).

3 Practice art form from scratch? (4)
ETCH – An cryptic definition meaning to engrave.

4 Cut oil blend to hair lotion initially to relax (5,3)
CHILL OUT – An anagram (blend) of CUT OIL HL (hair lotion initially).  To make the cryptic grammar work you would need “with” instead of “to” in the clue to give the construction “mix A with B” instead of “mix A to B”.

5 Very unusual! as satyr protects young female (4)
LASS – The answer in hidden (protects) in UNUSUAL AS SATYR.  The very is padding once again.  The capitalisation has gone astray and the punctuation hinders rather than helps.  Perhaps “Squeal as Satyr pinches young female” would work better.

6 Canine badger (5)
HOUND – A double definition.

8 Performing Verdi in outdoor entertainment (5-2)
DRIVE IN – An anagram (performing) of VERDI IN.

12 Temperature hike brings about a strike (5)
THUMP – The abbreviation for temperature followed by a verb meaning to hike or raise something up.

14 A celebrant went to pieces in this holy place (10)
TABERNACLE – An anagram (went to pieces) of A CELEBRANT.

16 Stumped? Hang on to survive (7)
OUTLAST – A three letter word for what you would be if stumped in cricket followed by a word meaning to hang on.  As the synonym for hang on is also another word for survive, perhaps a different synonym would be better, such as “Stumped?  Most unlikely to survive”

17 Mad cheer discerned for political initiative (8)
DEMARCHE – An anagram (discerned) of MAD CHEER.

21 Reputation of late? (6)
LEGACY – A cryptic definition of the reputation of a dead person.

22 Listen to get a level account (5)
STORY – A homophone (listen to) of a level of a building.  Perhaps the “get a” could have been omitted here.

24 Direction lacks energy and brings about a crushing defeat (4)
ROUT – Remove the abbreviation for energy from the end of a word meaning direction.

25 Kid lets both ends go – lazy! (4)
IDLE – The answer is hidden in (lets both ends go) in KID LETS.  As this is effectively the fifth hidden word clue, this is something of a surfeit.  Also, the lets both ends go suggests that the same number of letters are removed from each end.  “Kid let both ends go” would be better.

44 comments on “Rookie Corner – 134

  1. A very pleasant solve for us. We specially enjoyed the lurkers which were well disguised.
    Thanks Metman.

  2. Yes quite a few lurkers, but I didn’t spot them all straight away so they were revealed gradually. 10a 26a and 8d were my favourites . Thanks metman

  3. Hi Metman,

    Thanks – this was good fun. A few comments:

    13a – I’m not sure I get how Missed relates to the first half of the answer
    20a – I don’t see how ‘argument’ works with the definition
    4d – I think ‘with’ might have been better than the first ‘to’
    5d – ‘Very’ seems to be superfluous
    16d – felt a bit ambiguous – I think I could have justified ‘last’ as the last 4 letters, or even at a stretch ‘live’
    17d – I’m not a massive fan of discerned as an anagram indicator

    Which are all fairly minor points and didn’t detract from the enjoyment.

    Im going to go with 26a as my favourite as it made me laugh.


    1. 5d: Very isn’t superfluous in this clue. Without it, the ! wouldn’t be justified and the ! is there very purposefully to split the lurker up and disguise it even more – which is a good device and makes the clue slightly harder to parse and solve.

    2. 20a: The first word is the anagram indicator, the second two are the fodder and the rest of the clue is the definition. Without “argument”, the surface would be much poorer (probably resulting in more comments). In this case, the extra word is required and justifiable.

      1. Sorry Jose, I beg to differ. Both instances have surface readings justifying ‘verbiage’ – a common mistake in new setters but something to be avoided – even by doing a complete re-write if necessary.

        1. 5d is a fine clue and it simply wouldn’t work without the “very”. Very isn’t verbiage – it’s an essential part of a clever clue. The whole point of lurkers is to hide/disguise them and the use of very with a ! (plus As also would have helped) is a good device in this clue.

          1. I promise not to go on about this any more, but here (again) are Prolixic’s words on the subject:

            ‘Where the solution is split across two or more words, the setter should try to avoid adding padding words that contribute to the surface reading but which do not contribute to the hidden word itself.’

            1. Thank you Maize, but with genuine respect I remain very much unconvinced and unmoved. I have explained, using reasoned, factual, objective, logical comments why “Very” cannot be regarded as superfluous verbiage in this clue. Twice quoting a third party’s immaterial opinion about “padding” is no way to further a debate – it just doesn’t cut the mustard. If you have a proper explanation as to why you agree with the criticism of 5d I’d be very pleased and interested to hear it.

              1. Okey-dokey, I’ll try and persuade you!

                It’s not a big deal really, Jose, but I always think if the guidelines are there you might as well follow them.
                Why does the Crossword world advise against words that are neither in definition or wordplay? Well it’s to be fair to the solver, because extra words which are there just for the surface reading seem to indicate something, but they actually don’t – in the case of ‘Very’ we might think it indicated a V for example.
                With an easily solved clue – as in the examples in Metman’s puzzle here – I suppose it doesn’t really matter – we all solved those ‘lurkers’ without to much difficulty I’m sure, but in the realm of harder clues the extra words could potentially be very unhelpful – hence the guidelines. So if the guidelines have a purpose in some puzzles, surely it makes sense to apply them universally, no?
                After all, there will always be an alternative clue available to the setter.

                Persuaded? No, didn’t think so!

    3. I’m pleased you enjoyed it Sprocker and I have to agree with every point you have made. many6 thanks.

  4. Hi Metman,

    I enjoyed this very much too and especially liked the quality of most of your surfaces, always a plus point as far as I’m concerned.

    I did feel however that one of the flaws in your previous puzzles did reappear unfortunately, namely the inclusion of unnecessary verbiage (padding) in certain clues. Sprocker has rightly identified “very” in 5d and “argument” in 20a, to which can be added “friend” in 28a and, like last time, the infamous “this” cropped up twice in 15a and 14d. With better editing “brings about” ought not to have featured in both 12d and 24d.

    I do like your Rufus-like addiction to the cryptic and double definition type of clues, although perhaps these seemed a little too frequent. Personally, I would have preferred a few more insertion/deletion or “Lego” type clues for balance, but it’s refreshing that you are following your own instincts there, so well done for that.

    My ticks went to 7a, 10a, 17a, 18a (something of an old chestnut), 23a, 1d and 22d. 26a made me smile too, but is it really cryptic?

    Congratulations on another entertaining puzzle, I look forward to your next.

      1. It seems several of us disagree with that. For me this was one of Metman’s weakest clues, I think any intention to disguise by adding “very” and an exclamation mark was more than offset by the uncapitalised “as” and the strange use of “satyr” as part of the fodder.

        1. Yes, As should be capitalised (which would disguise the lurker even further). The whole clue is a mere contrivance to contain the lurker, the use of “satyr” is neither here nor there.

    1. Many thanks to Maize,Jose and Silvanus. I kow you can argue(albeit in a very friendly fashion) about many of the points made, and I thank you all for them, and I also apologise to Silvanus for the relapse! All taken on board and much appreciated.

  5. Thanks Metman, I enjoyed it, and I like that your clues have a distinctive style – slightly elliptical but gentle. The only one I frowned at was 4d, and Sprocker’s suggested tweak would easily resolve it.

  6. Very enjoyable Metman, and it’s great to see your puzzles getting better and better.

    Ten ticks in the margins from me, namely 7a, 10a, 17a (excellent) 18a, 19a, 26a (arf), 2d, 3d (clever), 14d and 21d.

    From that list you can probably work out that I really like your use of homophones and anagrams in this puzzle. And pulling off a successful ‘straight cryptic’ like 3d is admirable – bravo!

    Three of your ‘lurkers’ or hidden type clues didn’t make my list because they had extra words just for the surface reading. Prolixic, in his excellent guide (which is free to download from this website) writes the following:
    ‘Where the solution is split across two or more words, the setter should try to avoid adding padding words that contribute to the surface reading but which do not contribute to the hidden word itself.’
    So 11a with ‘She’, 28a with ‘friend’ and 3d with ‘very’ were all let down in this regard, and I wasn’t sure about the asymmetrical deletion in 25d. Maybe it was fine though… Prolixic will doubtless let us know in due course.

    Sprocker – Re 13a, I took ‘Missed’ to be a synonym for ‘out’ – although admittedly a stretched one!
    20a has the word ‘argument’ to help the surface reading, I think – which makes it count as more padding I suppose, although maybe Metman intended it as a secondary anagram indicator. Not sure.

  7. as a mere solver rather than a setter i can say that i enjoyed this despite some of the criticism in the comments above. thank you metman.

    1. I think that’s the wrong way round spindrift. Those of us who compile are “mere setters” as we already know the answers. Those who solve don’t and therefore have to work them out – much harder in my view!

  8. Hi Metman

    Most of this went in fairly quickly – a few in the bottom left took longer. A few thoughts:

    10a nice anagram fodder

    11a The hidden part’s nicely done, though “supporter” doesn’t feel quite right – what about “fan”?

    13a I agree with others that “missed” is a bit of a stretch. “Missing” maybe.

    19a I like the “George perhaps” device which of course immediately has one thinking “Best”, “Clooney” etc. Wasn’t sure about the definition, but I seem to be in a minority of one (so far)

    27a I can only see this as a straight definition by example of the first three words. What am I missing?

    1d Excellent cryptic – minor problem with formatting; you need spaces either side of – otherwise it looks as though friend-in is hyphenated

    4d Slightly picky, but I think to include the HL in the anagram fodder it should be “Cut oil blend WITH hair lotion initially”; as it stands the HL look as though they will be the last two letters of the answer

    5d Formatting again? If you are include an exclamation mark in the middle of a clue, surely the next word still has to begin with a capital?

    14d Excellent, nice construction and all the elements work together surface-wise

    17d Discerned did not leap out and say anagram to me – will be interested in the official line as it could be very useful! Did not know this word at all and needed all the crossers to finally get there.

    25d How do you lose the T from the fodder? “Both ends go” doesn’t do it.

    Overall the surfaces are smooth and I’d say you have a good “quick cryptic” style, which is not easy to achieve – just because those puzzles are easier to solve doesn’t necessarily make them easier to write. The fact that you include a number of hidden clues, and a couple of homophones too, justifies (in my view) the odd superfluous word within them, even though that would probably be frowned on in a published puzzle.

    Nice puzzle, look forward to the next

    1. Hi Starhorse and thankyou for your comments. I too thought ‘discerned’ was a bit loose. 25d, perhaps a bit naughty but to get the(quite obvious) lurker, you lose 1 letter from the start and 2 letters from the end. I don’t know whether that is acceptable or not. Perhap[s it will be mentioned in the review.. 27a caused a bit of consternation from some quarters, but had I used ‘walkers’ instead of ‘migrants’ it might have been too obvious. Formatting is not my strong point and the missus won’t help!

  9. I enjoyed this despite having question marks by a few which have already been mentioned by others – 13,19&27a plus 16d. I was also unsure about the second part of 12d.
    17d was a new word for me as was 3d (assuming I plumped for the right answer from the two possibilities!).
    My podium places go to 11&23a plus 1d.

    Many thanks for bringing us another Rookie puzzle – often the highlight of the week.

  10. Much appreciated Jane. I agree that all the clues you mention perhaps need tweaking. Your remarks are very encouraging. Thankyou very much.

  11. Many thanks Metman

    Got to this a little later than usual, still being tired from an excellent weekend in York, many thanks to all the wonderful people who made that so special.

    I enjoyed this and also had some question marks. I am very much of the opinion that there should be no extra words in hidden fodder, which affects 11a, 20a, 28a, 5d, as mentioned above. people sometimes seem to get away with extra words if they are part of something like a book title, but I don’t really like that either. Most people would suggest 3 hidden clues max for a puzzle

    10a – When you say “in a …. manner”, I think that indicates an adverb (whereas the answer is an adjective) because it becomes how you do something.

    I agree that “with” would fix 4d.

    27a – I think I’m missing something here

    I think 25d would be nicer as “Kid let both ends go – lazy!”, so that just a single letter is removed from both sides. (it becomes past tense, but I think that is ok)

    Favourite is 23a. Some new words too, the word for hike surprised me and I didn’t know 17d (But I probably should have)

    So well done! a great achievement

      1. yep – i think there is very valuable advice in there – always try turning the clue around to see if it works better….

  12. Many thanks for the time Dutch. All your points taken on board ( some of them picked up by others too). All very constructive comment and much appreciated.

  13. As I’m a recent Rookie myself I know how useful the many comments you have already received are. I’d just like to add that this had a very enjoyable overall feel about it with some excellent cluing. Its great to see Rookie Corner thriving.

    1. Yes indeed. it is great to see it back at full strength. Thankyou for your king comments Jeroboam

  14. Metman thank you for your interactive style of replying to comments, it feels like a conversation, which is brilliant.

    1. Can’t always manage it Dutch but I like to when I can, and you know that the person who you are replying to is still in the vicinity, so to speak.

  15. Thanks Metman, a fun puzzle though there were some rough edges – the multiple embeds and superfluous words did stick out to me too. A few more specific comments:

    8d – shame about the ‘in’ being a component of both the wordplay and the solution
    10a – agreeing with dutch about the adverb/adjective clash. I think ‘with an erudite manner’ would be acceptable though!
    16d – as Sprocker said, it’s a little ambiguous. I actually did have ‘outlive’ in there for some time, which held me up for a bit.
    23a I thought was a nice idea but didn’t quite come off for me – feels like the ‘cooking’ is doing double duty. You could argue it as a cryptic definition I guess, but I wasn’t a fan. I’m clearly alone in this though, so you might like to ignore me :) . I think 1d had a similar issue.

    3d, 21d and 26a were very pleasing cryptic definitions. Other honourable mentions go to 17a, 12d and my favourite, 22d. Thanks again and keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks Arepo. As with the other comments, they are all taken on board. Unfortunately, at my age and memory, a few walk the plank pretty quickly it would seem!

  16. I stopped reading the long lists of itemized comments a long time ago. As a “mere solver” also, I look for overall enjoyment and I found plenty to like here. 26A was just wonderful. I particularly liked 7A, too. Thanks Metman.

    1. Many thanks EC. If I can produce a nice, fairly gentle ‘lunch-break’ solve I’m happy, though I know one must strive to stick to the accepted rules.

  17. Enjoyed this – thanks Metman! Lots of good clues and some where a bit of tightening would really help.
    There were a few clues where being terser would significantly improve the clue – 24d perhaps the strongest case in point. I liked 1d particularly. I think others have already commented on 25d, perhaps this ‘not just being the ends’ was just a typo, not sure? Generally a good mix of clues too; though more ‘hiddens’ than some papers would be comfortable with: I know some have guidance for no more than one per puzzle – but more is fine with me.
    This was fun – thanks again!

    1. Much appreciated Encota. Many have reminded me of the folly of too much padding so that is something I shall certainly keep in mind. Still trying to improve on my parsing so all these comments are very helpful, Pleased you found it fun.

  18. I started this one very late and it’s too late now to go into much detail.
    I’ve finished the right hand side but don’t have many answers, yet, in the left – I’ll carry on tomorrow.
    Having now whizzed through the comments it sounds as if there are a fair few lurkers – hmmm – that means I have to hunt them out – I always miss them anyway.
    23a made me laugh.
    Thanks and well done to Metman.

  19. Nice puzzle Metman – on the easy side – but it turned out to be a little bit trickier than it looked at first sight as things went along – as indeed Rufus puzzles often do.

    Quite a few embeds (hidden) – I particularly liked the non-ximenean (good) 5d – it wouldn’t have been so convincing without “very”. The ximmies will call that a spare word – but Araucaria did it and I think that’s what he would have done there.

    Also quite a lot of cryptic definitions all of which worked well (Rufus fan?). I wasn’t all that keen on “migrant” for tourist/backpacker in 27a at the time – but cryptically it does work.

    10a the answer can be keyed precisely by “erudite” – you could have ditched “in an … manner” (and rejigged a bit) to get a snappier clue with a better part-of-speech match – as is you have a nicer surface – I’m not too fussy myself.

    20a (Observation – not a quibble) I had to read “argument” as a link (or part thereof) in the sense “a process of deductive or inductive reasoning” – otherwise it would have been a second anagram indicator (“scruffy” I took to be one). Logically a double stir shouldn’t matter but folk don’t seem to like that. James Bond of course could tell if someone had gently stirred his Martini prior to its being vigourously shaken – that sort of problem.

    16d I thought was partially samebothsidesy – the STAY part.

    Otherwise no quibbles

    Thanks for the fun – good to see you back.

    1. Thanks to JS and to Kath. All very relevant comments and advice JS. I liked Prolix’s very fair review and I am grateful to everyone who contributed. Cheers all.

      1. I have only just noticed that Prolixic’s comment on 1a seem to indicate ‘Hatchetman’ described an assasin. In fact I was trying to describe the type of man who is tasked to fire staff members, or give them the bullet. Although his interpretation would still fit.

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