Rookie Corner – 143 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 143

A Puzzle by Metman

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Our first puzzle of 2017 is by regular contributor Metman. The cupboard is looking particularly bare at the moment, so new contributions will be extremely welcome.  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.

A very happy New Year to all of our Rookie setters and solvers.  We have a good start to the year with a welcome return by Metman.

All the fundamentals are there in the cluing but there are still a few areas where there are minor niggles that could be avoided by a little more polish.  Even if the overall standard of the cluing is good, too many minor niggles can detract from the crossword as a whole.  Overall, it was a gentle and enjoyable solve.


1 Any car sprayed yellow (6)
CANARY – An anagram (sprayed) of ANYCAR.

4 Expensive delicacy loses temperature to disturb feathers (6)
RUFFLE – Remove the starting T (temperature) from an expensive delicacy.

9 Box to deliver this – it’s a winner (4)
KAYO – A cryptic definition of a means of winning a boxing match, the phonetic spelling of KO or knockout.

10 He sells grass to a cricketer. (10)
SHOPKEEPER – A word meaning to grass or betray followed by a description of a position played by a cricketer.

11 Remain thus to invoke an amendment (6)
SILENT – A cryptic reference to the fifth amendments to the constitution of the United States which gives those accused the right to remain thus.

12 Sort of heather which could light your fire (8)
KINDLING – A four letter word meaning sort or type followed by another word for heather.  A minor point but the “of” jars slightly as sort on its own defines that first part of the wordplay and heather on its own, the second.  It is necessary as the whole clue defines the answer.

13 Spill ale onto M1 and become tearful (9)
EMOTIONAL – An anagram (spill) of ALE ONTO MI.  The become here does not fit.  if the definition is “become tearful”, it does not match the answer.  If the become is a link word, it should, grammatically, be wordplay becomes (plural) definition.

15 Snakes alive! Without a wicked intention (4)
EVIL – An anagram (snakes) of ALIVE without the A.  As a transitive verb, grammatically the clue should be snake alive.  As an intransitive verb, it should follow the words to be rearranged.  

16 Americans eat it when out (4)
CROW – A a reference to the American expression to eat **** when you are mistaken or “out” about something.

17 Holy crag I scrambled up for ruling junta (9)
OLIGARCHY – An anagram (scrambled up) of HOLY CRAG I.

21 Old Mallard ahead of the queen – he probably built it (8)
ENGINEER – Another word for a locomotive of which the “old” Mallard is an example (theoretically it should have a definition by example indicator) followed by the two letter abbreviation for the current queen.

22 UAE got dreadful power failure (6)
OUTAGE – An anagram (dreadful) of UAE GOT.

24 Red hose Len changed for Bavarian dress (10)
LEDERHOSEN – An anagram (changed) of RED HOSE LEN.  As the HOSE appears unchanged in the answer and only minimal rearrangement of the remaining letters is required, this weakens the effect of the clue.

25 It means nothing to Yorkshiremen (4)
NOWT – The Yorkshire dialect word for nothing.

26 Back Sid to possess then abandon (6)
DISOWN – reverse (back) the SID from the clue and add another word meaning to possess.

27 Don’t clap at hymn, it shows indifference (6)
APATHY – The answer is hidden (it shows) in CLAP AT HYMN.  The “don’t” here is padding and contributes only to the surface reading.  


1 This case will need something of a brain (7)
CRANIUM – A mildly cryptic definition of the skull (though it would contain the whole of the brain, not something of it).

2 Elk drops head to take on any number to catch (5)
NOOSE – Remove (drops head) the first letter from another word for an elk and replace it (take on) the single letter abbreviation for any number.

3 Trios to play as a starter (7)
RISOTTO – An anagram (play) of TRIOSTO.  As the answer could also be a main course, it might have been better to include a question mark at the end as the answer is not specifically a starter.

5 World Body, generous, though uncharitable (6)
UNKIND – The abbreviation for United Nations followed by a word meaning generous.

6 Squatter might be a sybarite (4-5)
FREE LIVER – A squatter, not paying rent, could be said to be this.

7 An alien joins forces with Capone to shelter Eric’s partner forever (7)
ETERNAL – The two letter word for an alien and the first name of Mr Capone includes (to shelter) the short form of Eric Morecambe’s comedy partner.

8 Sidecar attire – nice little number for an outing (8,5)
COCKTAIL DRESS – Sidecar is an example of this type of drink (it should therefore have a definition by example indicator).  Follow this with another word for attire.  The second part of the wordplay is perhaps too closely related to the answer.

14 Cheats who use more than one stopwatch? (3-6)
TWO-TIMERS – A cryptic definition of a cheat.

16 Lean towards supporting a prisoner for a challenge (7)
CONTEND – A four letter word meaning to lean towards goes after (supports) a three letter word for a prisoner.  A challenge implies a noun as the answer but the answer is a verb.

18 King George to confess – very adult! (5,2)
GROWN UP – The two letter abbreviation for King George followed by a phrase (3,2) meaning to confess.  As the answer is an emphatic version of adult when used, the “very” in the definition is not out of place.

19 Feeling of euphoria on the road, there’s a code for it (7)
HIGHWAY – A four letter word for a feeling of euphoria followed by another word for a road.  Again there is probably too much of a crossover between the second part of the wordplay and the answer.

20 Expression of relief south of Tyneside is relative (6)
NEPHEW – A four letter word for an expression of relief after (south of) the geographical region of Tyneside.

23 It’s canon rule whichever way you look at it (5)
TENET – The answer is a palindrome (whichever way you look at it).

34 comments on “Rookie Corner – 143

  1. A couple of clues in the NW held us up a little. 9a in particular and we were quite surprised when we looked in BRB and found that the possibility we were checking was actually in there. All the rest went together smoothly. 8d and 10a were the two that gave us the greatest amusement.
    Thanks Metman.

  2. Hi Metman – thanks for an enjoyable solve – on the easier end of the scale but no harm in that at all. Actually 11a held me up because I didn’t at first consider the American context.

    My only real gripe was samebothsidesness, which I detected in 21a, 24a (also a main component visible in both the surface and the answer), 26a and 5d.

    Some good clues elsewhere – my favourite was 10a – very neat.

    Thanks again for the fun – hope to see more.

  3. Hi Metman,

    Whilst this was indeed enjoyable, I couldn’t help feeling that there were a few too many flaws for someone now into their seventh (?) Rookie puzzle. There was certainly less padding than last time, save notably for “don’t” in 27a and arguably “very in 18d, but there were quite a few instances of definitions that either didn’t quite match the solutions or which led the solver to a different part of speech.

    JS has also cited valid examples where where the wordplay was unfortunately too similar to the solution. This grated the most for me, and was something I don’t remember seeing in your previous efforts. Although 24a lends itself to an anagram, it’s never a good idea to have numerous successive letters from the fodder appearing in the same order as in the answer. Some of the surfaces I felt were less than convincing, such as 4a and the very surreal 7d. On the positive side, there was a good range of different clue types and constructions.

    I gave ticks to 10a, 14d, 20d and 8d (although strictly speaking it’s a definition by example and should be indicated as such).

    I think the areas to concentrate on are nailing more accurate definitions and to be more ruthless perhaps in rejecting clues that don’t quite work, even if they may be personal favourites. Finding someone to test solve your puzzles would be a great help I suspect.

    Thanks a lot, Metman.

  4. With the exception of a couple of clues in the NW, including the aforementioned 9a (which is a word I’m not keen on so I always forget it), I thought I was solving it that it would be an ideal puzzle for the beginner solver, as most of the clues are similar to many I’ve seen over the years, plus having the helpful/problematic clues where the definition is similar to the solution. 10a and 8d were my favourites too.

    Thanks to Metman and in advance to Prolixic too.

  5. Many thanks to our Kiwi friends, JS, Silvanus and Cryptic Sue. I appreciate the feedback from you all. but there a couple of points which I don’t understand.24a seems to me to be a straightforward anagram of lederhosen. Perhaps 27a would have been better had I put ‘to show indifference’. and the ‘very’ in 18d seems to me to make the word play much better and I would not consider it padding. By the way I do have a test solver – one of the best there is! However, I am very grateful for the time you have obviously put in coming to your assessment. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Metman,

      May I humbly suggest that your test solver is being too kind to you then, in not pointing out things he or she really should!

      In answer to your points, 24a has “hose” as part of the anagram fodder, i.e. in the same order as in the answer. 27a could certainly be re-worded slightly to, say, “Clap at hymn to show indifference”. “Very” in 18d is borderline padding in my opinion, which is why I qualified my earlier comment with “arguably”. I do agree that it helps the surface considerably though.

      1. I understand what you’re saying but, at the risk of sounding like a weedy ‘girl’, I don’t think it’s ever possible to be too kind to anyone.

  6. Hi Metman
    Nice puzzle, well within my grasp although I failed on two four-latter answers (see below)

    I liked the two straightforward across clues to set us going, plenty of friendly crossers on offer from those

    I particularly liked the “coals to Newcastle” feel of 10a, good story. My other favourites were against 11a, 6d (though I admit to having to double check the meaning of sybarite), 8d, 14d, 18d, 19d

    9a One of my two fails. Couldn’t see where this was going at all. 11a is a sort of one-way in cryptic that works well ; I guess this is a similar sort of clue but feels a bit awkward to me. I can’t quite put my finger on why

    15a “Snakes” to indicate the anagram doesn’t feel quite right – “snake”, “snaked” or “snaking”, but of course none of them work in the surface

    16a My last one in, having tried chop, chow, cook and two or three others before finally getting the congratulatory message by cheating, I’m still scratching my head – I assume it’s some kind of American definition that I’m not familiar with, and probably a clue that cleverer clogs consider a belter.

    24a This definitely needs better wordplay; as it stands it’s barely an anagram, and the use of “hose” to make the surface work (i.e. swapping for a dress) is also part of the answer with a very closely related meaning (albeit in German)

    26a Compared to the vast majority the surface doesn’t read quite right to me; I think he needs to possess something

    27a As in your previous puzzle there’s the issue of the apparently superfluous “Don’t” in this hidden clue. I’m not totally against it but I try to avoid it. One way round here would be to reverse the wording to achieve a similar sentiment

    e.g. “Clap at hymn to hide indifference”.

    16d You’ve defined a verb as a noun I think

    Overall though there’s a much better mix of clue types compared to your last one and very little padding. Thanks for an enjoyable start to the rookie year.

    Happy New Year one and all – I’m hoping to be able to come to the birthday bash at the end of the month (you can take that as a threat or a promise as you wish)

  7. Thanks for the comments Starhorse. I can now see the objections to 24a (apologies to Silvanus et al!) I’m a bit slow this morning after spending 10 mins scraping ice off the car! All other comments taken on board especially re 16d. Thanks again.

  8. Enjoyed this one, Metman although, as Silvanus said, there are still a couple of poor surfaces in 4a&7d and a few issues with parts of speech as in 2&16d.
    To judge by what Starhorse has said, I’ve got the wrong answer for 16a – I thought Americans referred to ‘chowing out’ and can’t come up with an alternative.
    So – 9a is an acceptable word! Good heavens.
    I liked 10a & 8d but my favourite – not mentioned by others – is 12a. Really made me smile.

    Many thanks, Metman and a happy new year to you.

      1. Now that you’ve said it, Chris, I think ‘chowing down’ is probably the expression I’ve heard and I mentally tweaked it!
        I’ll keep looking for something else whilst I tackle the ironing………..

        1. OK – I’ve found a word that appears to be acceptable but can’t say that I’ve ever heard of the expression! Perhaps Metman needs to be a little more cautious with his use of American idioms?

  9. I had originally bunged in chow for 16A, for want of anything else, but took another look after reading Starhorse’s comment above and came up with the correct answer. I think it’s a great clue and a kind of double definition even! I also liked 10A and 8D a lot. 9a didn’t float my boat, but finally getting it helped me with 2D, where I had been fixated on the elk being a gnu. All in all, despite some clunky surfaces, I thought it was a good puzzle and enjoyed it a lot. And those lovely surfaces the pros manage to achieve with seeming ease will come with practice! Thanks Metman! A nice start to the Rookie year.

  10. Had to go out for a while and just seen the above three comments. So glad you enjoyed it Jane, EC, and Encota. Yes, I agree there are some shortcomings and all those picked up have been noted. Crow is the word you were looking for Jane but I think you sussedi t out anyway. Many thanks to all three for looking in and for your very useful remarks.

  11. I really enjoyed this – just a perfect level of difficulty after a very busy and social day – i.e. not difficult.
    I whizzed through most of it then came to a total halt with a few answers left to go.
    The ‘Old Mallard’ caused trouble; the amendment also caused a spot of bother, quite a big one; the 9a ‘boxing’ thingy I would never have got but husband did; and, having read the comments, I obviously have the wrong answer to 16a.
    Loved it – particularly 10 and 12a and 6d (once I’d looked up sybarite :oops: ). My favourite was 8d.
    With thanks and well done to Metman and, in advance, to Prolixic.

  12. So glad you enjoyed it after a busy day Kath. Nothing like a nice easy solve to buck up your spirits. Thanks for all your positive comments. Bucked up my spirits too!

  13. Thanks, Metman – I enjoyed it.

    Do you and your fellow meteorologists have any idea when it’s going to stop snowing on this site?

  14. Thanks Stan. No, I’m long retired and follow the guys and gals on BBC like everyone else!

    1. It seemed to have stumped quite a few Colin – I have probably watched too many old American films!

  15. Thanks Metman, got around to this a day late. Most of the things I thought of have been said – I noticed the missing DBE’s, the same-sidishness, and a few potential tweaks that might have improved clues – for example, Starhorse’s suggestion for 27a changes the surface from non-sensical to good, I think, with a minor tweak. It’s these minor tweaks that can make all the difference, so i encourage you to look for them.

    an example of a very minor tweak: in 10a, I thought the “sells grass” was a really good basis and I have a slight preference for ‘he sells grass to a footballer’, which you may think is neither here nor there, but to me footballers seem to get themselves into trouble more regularly than cricketers (maybe I don’t know enough about cricketers), making it a slightly more believable surface.

    Another example of a minor tweak: in 2d, i think the clue you have would read better as
    “To catch any number, elk drops head” – though I would search for another way to indicate N to give you a more interesting surface. “to catch name” is an interesting phrase that might lead to something like ‘To catch name, tall creature drops head’ – not suggesting that is great, just suggesting that there is often room to play to try and that it is worth exploring until you go YES! that’s IT! And I will rapidly add that I think that is the hardest part..

    Thank you for sharing the puzzle, which I enjoyed, and thank you prolific for an instructive review as always.

  16. Thanks, Prolixic, for the review and for sorting out my 16a which I never did get.
    Thanks again to Metman.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Must admit that neither 12 or 13a bothered me in their existing form and I owe Metman an apology for not realising that 2d could be used as a verb. Should have checked the BRB before complaining!

    Thanks again to Metman.

    1. No need Jane, I’m just glad you took the trouble to comment. It never ceases to astound me how other people will try to help and share their experience. Busy folk as well with jobs and families. It really is hugely appreciated. A very happy and successful new year to one and all, especially BD and Prolixic for all their hard work.

  18. Blast!
    Forgot to print it.
    Will have to wait for next Friday before I can have a go.
    Will definitely do it Metman, and shall post afterwards.

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