Rookie Corner – 146

Coder by Fiddlesticks

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Fiddlesticks is our first new setter of 2017. 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 review by Prolixic follows:

Welcome to Fiddlesticks.  This was tough and possible unnecessarily so.  I took me about four times the length of time it usually takes me to solve a toughie.  There was far too much reliance of subtractive anagrams and overall 15 of the clues involved anagrams in some form.  As there were only 26 clues, this represents 57% of the clues which is too high a percentage.  There were very few charades and container and content clues.  Although there were some very clever clues and inventive wordplay, the net result that the very good parts were lost in the overall impression off the crossword.

Across

7 Side member makes an entrance to improvise in soundcheck (8)
DOORJAMB – A four letter word for an entrance followed by a homophone (in soundcheck) of jam (to improvise).  The first part of the wordplay is perhaps to similar to the first part of the solution.  I think that definition makes wordplay would be better as wordplay makes definition.

9 Squash mum with never-ending argument (6)
MARROW – A two letter word for mum or mother followed by the final letter (ending) of never and another word for an argument.

10 Shoot and arrest (4)
STEM – Double definition of a plant shoot and a word meaning to stop or arrest.

11 Indicator showing zero gain when migrants tune in to programme (10)
INSTRUMENT – An anagram (to programme) of MIGRANTS TUNE IN after removing (zero) the letters of GAIN.  Some editors would require a secondary anagram indicator to indicate that the letters in GAIN are not in the same order when removed from the initial letters.

12 Without hesitation, roams where horse mackerel used as bait (6)
HECKLE – Another subtractive anagram – remove (without) an ER (hesitation) and the letters in ROAM from HORSE MACKEREL and make an anagram (used) of the letters that remain.

14 Cleaner misapprehended in seizure with no remand in custody (5,3)
SHEEP DIP – A third subtractive anagram in a row (perhaps a little more variety in the cluing would be welcome) – Remove (no … in custody) the letters in REMAND from MISAPPREHENDED and make an anagram (in seizure) of the letters that remain.  Again, as with all of the subtractive anagrams, there is no secondary anagram indicator.

15 11 all too much, dismisses another after performance (4,9)
ALTO SAXAPHONE – The first two letters of all and of too (much – grammatically in the cryptic reading it should be much of X to indicate removing the final letter) followed by a homophone (after performance) of SACKS A PHONE (dismisses another where another is another instrument).

17 Drop the ball, drop the dot dash for 11 (8)
BELLHARP – Yes – yet another subtractive anagram.  Remove (drop the) letters in DOT from DROP THE BALL and make an anagram (dash) from the letters that remain.  The answer is not in Chambers or Collins.  On-line sources disagree over whether the answer is (8) or (4,4) or (4-4).

19 Whipped cream in England is fine (6)
AMERCE – An anagram (whipped) of CREAM E (England).  This clue does not work.  E is the abbreviation for English not England and the IN is completely out of place.  “Whipped English cream is fine” would have been much better.

21 Drop the dash dash LSD ad at Methodism centre (10)
MIDDLEMOST – Guess what – another subtractive anagram!  Remove (drop the) letters in DASH from LSD AD METHODISM and make an anagram (dash) of the letters that remain.  I think that the answer is more closely related to central rather than centre to give the adjective rather than the noun.

22 Drop one dot dash bread at God’s mountain (4)
BERG – Remove the A (one) and the D (dot dash – dash meaning the first bit of of  I think that this should be dash of…) from BREAD and add a G for God.  Again this clue does not work – You need to make an anagram of the remaining letters in bread and there is no anagram indicator.  Dash could be anagram indicator but it is the wordplay indicator for the first letter of dot.  D on its own is not an abbreviation for dot.  Also G is not a recognised indicator for God.

23 Painfulness of a fiddle without flaps or bores (6)
ENNUIS – It will not come as any surprise that there is another subtractive anagram.  Remove the letters (without) in FLAPS from PAINFULNESS and make an anagram (of a fiddle) of the letters that remains.  I think that “of a fiddle” does not really work as an anagram indicator.

24 Joiner reheels an old flip-flop to drop the dot (8)
ENROLLEE – Rather like busses, you wait ages for a subtractive anagram and two come along at once.  Remove the letters in the DOT from REHEELS AN OLD and make an anagram (flip flop) of the remaining letters.  Again, this clue does not work as the removal should he the letters in DASH not DOT.

Down

1 Suspicious prostitutes distrust agent (6)
POSTIE – Remove the letters in TRUST (dis-trust) from PROSTITUTES and make an anagram (suspicious) of the letters that remain.  I think that the definition is a bit of a stretch for the solution.  How unusual to have a subtractive anagram again.

2 11 enjoyed rumination, content (4)
DRUM – The answer is hidden in (content) in ENJOYED RUMINATION.  One of the issues with this crossword is a lot of repetition in the answer.  See 17a and 22d, 2d and 13d, 8d and 15a and (in part 5d).  To give a better cryptic grammar, perhaps enjoyed ruminant’s content would have been better.

3 Caution after drug withdrawal out of exhaustion (8)
WARINESS – Remove the abbreviation for ecstasy from a word meaning exhaustion.

4 Steep climb rued on finding more at every side (6)
IMBRUE -The answer is hidden (finding more at every side (perhaps this would work better in an across clue) in CLIMB RUED.

5 Player‘s pulse after start of overture is 11 (10)
GRAMOPHONE – A four letter word for a type of pulse followed by the first letter (start of) of overture and a type of the answer to 11.

6 11 takes two to dance (8)
HORNPIPE – Two examples of musical 11s.  Takes two does not quite read correctly in the cryptic reading of the clue.  If you wanted to make it more cryptic you could have 2 x 11 makes dance.

8 Snap shoebox, as used for 11 (4,9)
BASS SAXOPHONE – An anagram (used) of SNAP SHOEBOX AS.  Although some latitude is permissible with drop / dot / dash device in the clues, used has already been used as an anagram indicator and a different one could be used.

13 11 contained drink (10)
KETTLEDRUM – A word used in policing to mean contained or forced to gather in a particular area followed by a three letter word for drink.

15 Purgative “I repent”, a release (8)
APERIENT – An anagram (release) of I REPENT A.

16 Tennis player sent off after losing 9 matches is 11 (8)
PSALTERY – Jolly good, another subtractive anagram!  Remove the letters in NINE (9) from TENNIS PLAYER and make an anagram (sent off). I am not sure that the “matches is” works here,  Losing 9 in 11 would work better.

18 Cleaver seen as unfavourable in evidence (6)
AVERSE – The answer is hidden (in evidence) in CLEAVER SEEN.  Normally, the definition should be at the beginning or end of the clue.  It is unusual, unless the clue demands it, for the definition to be in the middle of the clue.  I am not sure that the clue warrants a deviation from the normal convention.

20 11 cent euro revaluation after EU withdrawal (6)
CORNET – An anagram (revaluation) of CENT EURO after removing US (withdrawal).

22 Libellous statement brings 11 (4)
BELL – The answer is hidden (statement) in LIBELLOUS.  I am not sure that statement is a adequate hidden word indicator.

 

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54 Comments

  1. JollySwagman
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Crikey FS – that was tough – I think you’ve earned the gong for toughest Rookie Corner puzzle so far – from me anyway.

    I got 9a straightaway but hardly anything else – 7a helped me with 8d which finally gave away 11a.

    The similarity between the answers in 8d and 15a is unusual – but in a puzzle as special as this why not.

    I’ve got letters in all the holes – they appear to be correct – but I haven’t fully parsed everything – in particular the ones which (I presume) depend on morse code – also 15a and 21a.

    Obviously this is a very special puzzle so the need for some research can’t be considered a complaint. There were a couple of difficult words – 4d I guessed, but didn’t really know. 17a I can’t find anywhere except as two words or hyphenated – not in Chambers Word Wizard either way.

    There were quite a few anagrams – that’s only to be expected in this sort of puzzle – but the larger than usual number of subtractive ones stuck out a bit even though they were all good in their own right. Obviously almost anything can be clued with subtractive and compound anagrams if you add enough letters and then take most of them away – it’s often more interesting to find another approach if one exists.

    One small quibble – I thought the definition was a bit loose in 1d – I had the answer as a candidate (from the wordplay) quite early on but wasn’t game to put it in until I had all the crossers. Otherwise (subject to the above) I found the cluing to be tough but fair.

    Many thanks for the entertainment/agony. My main suggestion would be that if you want mainstream solvers to solve tough clues in your puzzles it pays to consciously feed in a few gimmes so that the crossing letters might give them a sporting chance. That doesn’t stop hardcore solvers from solving the tough clues cold – but it gives you a much wider potential audience.

  2. crypticsue
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I agree totally with JS’s first sentence and the entertainment/agony bit too

    It took me a while to get going and my first one in 3d made me wonder if the solution to 11a might be what it is and that led me on to 8d with its very helpful anagram.

    The clues I marked, not necessarily for favouritism, but because they worked without a lot of head-scratching were 9a, 10a, 19a (helped by the fact that I knew the word), 3d, 4d, 6d, 13d, 15d (again I knew the word) 16d, 18d, 20d and 22d. I have no idea what all the Morse Code is all about and I was supposed to start work 10 minutes ago so it will have to wait until my lunch hour for me to see if I can be bothered to find out.

    Some good ideas but once again I think you are suffering from ‘I’m setting a cryptic crossword, I must make the clues really cryptic’ syndrome which sadly makes quite a few of them really hard to work out what you intend us to find.

    I’d be interested to see another of your crosswords, but one tailored more to the ‘average’ solver

  3. silvanus
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I agree with CS that the setter seemed determined to make this puzzle as impenetrable as possible, and I have to say that he or she succeeded as far as this solver was concerned. I struggled and managed about two thirds, and then time constraints meant I sought electronic help for the remainder. Even now, with a completed grid, I still can’t parse quite a few of the answers.

    There was definitely an over-reliance on anagrams (and subtractive anagrams at that) and lurkers, although today disproved my belief that puzzles tend to be easier with the more anagrams there are. The puzzle’s title puzzled me slightly, as only a handful of clues seemed to rely on knowing the code in question, and there were many more linked to 11a. Perhaps the setter is a coder, i.e. a computer programmer or maybe even a cryptographer?

    I have to say that I didn’t warm to some of the surfaces and constructions and overall it was more of a slog than a pleasure to solve, I’m afraid. Well done though, Fiddlesticks, on including as many examples of 11a as you did, it was a pity that three of them ended with the same six letters.

    Like CS, I’d like to see Fiddlesticks’s next puzzle being much more solver-friendly, but congratulations on putting your head above the parapet on this occasion.

    • dutch
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I just thought Coder was indeed a reference to the dot dash bits

  4. dutch
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Phew – just finished – quite a slog!

    I like the dot dash business, although unless I’m missing something, it seems to me I dropped a dash rather than a dot in 24a?

    I think the dot dash device justifies the overuse of subtractive anagrams and repetition of anagram indicator (btw, ‘used’ is also used more than once). Some people, however (including some editors), think that the subtracted bit either needs to be in the correct letter order or else requires its own anagram indicator.

    I stared at the empty grid a while, then solved 20a which gave me the all-important 11. The rest proceded rather slowly. There were a few times when I did not think I was going to complete.

    some comments i scribbled down:
    7a ‘answer makes wordplay’ feels like the wrong direction
    15a – I’m missing the parsing here
    17a struggled to find reference to the answer in dictionaries etc
    19a – I don’t think ‘in England’ works – the ‘in’ doesn’t seem to indicate the positioning quite right and I think E is an abbreviation for English but not England
    22a I think i see how to parse but I don’t quite get the right letters, so I must be doing some little thing wrong
    24a, as mentioned, I think dot should be dash
    1d distrust would ideally come before fodder as an imperative
    4d I wasn’t sure about the indication but perhaps its ok
    5d I thought the positional indicators are a little Yoda-like, but maybe i just took too long to see what was going on.
    6d a construction with a lot of potential, but to me the ‘takes two’ somehow doesn’t exactly describe what is happening
    16d unless i’m missing something, ‘matches’ isn’t doing anything in the cryptic reading
    22d I wasn’t sure ‘statement’ was needed and whether the indication was sufficient

    I hope that is useful to you.

    Congratulations and thanks. i wouldn’t mind if the next one were a little gentler.

    • dutch
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      oh yes, catarella reminded me – in 18d, I thought the clue might be better with indicator adjacent to fodder and definition at the start or end.

  5. catarella
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I found it a mixture of the impressive and annoying (though some of the annoying bits were also impressive). Unfortunately perhaps for this review, I was mainly impressed early on, and ended up being annoyed.
    I solved nearly all of it, just running out of steam for a few in the bottom half.
    Clues I liked: 11a, 1d, 5d (favourite), 13d, 16d.
    I enjoyed the 11a theme, though didn’t really appreciate the repetitions – 13d is good, but does 2 add anything? Even more so for the bigger repeat.
    As for the dots and dashes and complicated anagram constructions: the fact that there were so many of them meant that I at least started to spot them, but on the whole, I think the amount of effort taken to construct them probably exceeded the enjoyment I got from deciphering them. 12a, 22a, 21a took it too far for me.
    In 24a, I think you’ve put dot where you should have put dash.
    What is 18 down? It is a word I can find no trace of, and I am dubious about the anagram indicator.
    Overall: it’s terribly clever, difficult, with some really good clues, but perhaps don’t use your cleverness to bash solvers over the head.

    • crypticsue
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Unless you have the wrong word in your solution, I don’t think you can mean 18d as that’s a lurker.

    • dutch
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Glad you also spotted the 24a coding error – well done!

      • catarella
        Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Don’t you rather feel we deserve medals for spotting it?

    • catarella
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      18d – sorry, my comment is nonsense. I got it wrong and thought I’d checked. Still, perhaps missing an indicator?

      • crypticsue
        Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        Is it sort of an all-in-one?

      • dutch
        Posted January 23, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        see my reply in comment 4 – I thought “in evidence” was the hidden indicator

        • crypticsue
          Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          I see why I was confused – fodder is the collection of letters from which an anagram is to be constructed so I thought you were thinking 18d was an anagram

        • dutch
          Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          ah – I meant the letters used to hide a lurker. I have been using fodder for any group of letters that have no particular meaning in the cryptic reading but are fed into (hence fodder) some cryptic manipulation, anagram fodder being one specific example.

  6. Encota
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    You know you’re going to have fun when the first one in is as far down the list as 15d! Congratulations Fiddlesticks on creating such a tough puzzle with some VERY inventive clues. I’ve made masses of notes but will only include the top few items here. In my spare time I enjoy Listener puzzles – and some of your obscurer meanings and wordplay wouldn’t be out of place there (parts of 5d, for example)!

    In the inventive category I’d certainly put:
    – 1d, especially the use of ‘distrust’, I have never seen that before ++
    – ‘never-ending’ in 9a had me fooled for a while ++

    In the cleverly deceptive category I’d include ‘steep climb’, amongst several others.

    I made it nine Augmented/Subtractive Anagrams, which is about six more than I have ever seen before in a puzzle. That’s too many of any clue type for most (all?) editors…but Respect!

    20d and 2d in combination were my way in to 11a; like JS’s earlier comments I have a little difficulty with 15a’s and 21a’s wordplay. And there’s a couple where an (8) might have been better enumerated as a (4-4) or (4,4) viz. 7a and 17a.
    20d’s surface – quite brilliant by the way! I changed some £s for Euros at the weekend ready for a trip away and got 1.12 Euros per £. Then I checked what I got the same time last year: 1.23 Euros per £. Spooky!

    Most of my other clue comments have already been covered by Dutch, JS, crypticsue and others above.

    Yours is a much harder puzzle than the average posted here. That’s not a problem in its own right but does mean that, based on previous responses, you’ll have around a third saying that was hard but fun (I’d put me in that category); a third saying that was too hard to be enjoyable but I solved it nonetheless; and a third saying that was too hard to have a serious go at so I did something else instead.
    From advice I’ve gained from some of the incredibly helpful audience on this site over the past year or two, I’d recommend that you try to write an easier one next time (I think it took me until my third puzzle here to properly heed that advice – sorry all!) – it can be harder than you think. Also Prolixic’s guide available on this site includes a table to help you check how many of each clue type you are using – that has really helped me over time to get the balance about right too.

    Hope that helps,

    -Encota-

    • dutch
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      The 21a wordplay resolved for me once I saw ‘at’ as a concatenation indicator rather than part of the fodder. But I’m still stuck on 15a…

      • Encota
        Posted January 23, 2017 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        Well spotted – thanks Dutch :-)

  7. Jane
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    OK – I’ve tried staring at it until my eyes hurt, I’ve tried walking away and then coming back to it but I’m still looking at a grand total of four answers – sadly none of which is the apparently all important 11a.
    Have a feeling that, for the first time with a Rookie puzzle, I may just give up the fight.

    • Miffypops
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      That’s not the spirit Jane. You hang in there girl while I read a book and listen to high end music. Let me know how you get on.

      • Jane
        Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Nope – think my time will be better spent getting on with knitting for the expected grandchild.

        • crypticsue
          Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

          I have the cot blanket pattern all ready for you in my pile of ‘stuff to take to London on Saturday’

          • Jane
            Posted January 23, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            Thank you for remembering, CS.

  8. stanXYZ
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Help! (· · · – – – · · ·)

    • Encota
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      :-)

  9. Maize
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Oh fiddlesticks, I can’t finish it.
    Never mind, I enjoyed what I could do – the top half plus a few.
    Then I thought I’d come here for some inspiration but upon reading the comments above I think I’ll call it a day.
    1-0 to the setter!

    • Maize
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      I should have said – my favourite cues were 9a, 10a, 3d, 6d and 13d.
      Well done Fiddlesticks, you show great talent – make it a bit easier though if you seek universal appreciation!

    • Kath
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

      You can’t finish it?? I can barely start it – I admit defeat.

      • Maize
        Posted January 23, 2017 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

        Encota thinks two thirds of solvers will finish it – I’m not so sure!

  10. 2Kiwis
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    We attacked this one at our usual time yesterday and eventually abandoned it in annoyance and frustration with six answers missing and several others that were not fully parsed. We got 11a relatively quickly which was a big help but when we sorted 17a and found that it had no dictionary confirmation it was the last straw for our patience and we looked up the rest of the answers.

    • Gazza
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      That pretty well matches my experience with the puzzle, 2Kiwis, except that I didn’t have the patience or desire to finish it.

    • dutch
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      funny how that works though – I must admit that i felt at times that i had no further patience or desire to continue, however i found it extremely satisfying in the end to have solved it. I wish i could say that it depends on what else you had to do that day – unfortunately, i had plenty else….argh

  11. Kath
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m about to print this one out – I’m already feeling a bit discouraged having just glanced at the previous comments. Oh dear – I suppose that’s not really the way to go into it, is it?

  12. Expat Chris
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    9A was the first in, and then by some miracle I “saw” 8D. I solved 15D and with the couple of checking letters I had to go on, I bunged in an answer for 15A. I believe I have 11A but I can’t even begin to parse the clue so I’m not sure. I did solve 3D and I believe I have a credible answer for 5D but again the parsing is beyond me. That’s about it so far. i have no idea what the dots and dashes signify, either. I’m not quite ready to give up, but I’m pretty darned close. The setter has put a lot of effort into this so I wish I could be more positive.

  13. dutch
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Argh, probably fair to any further solvers to suggest at this point that no knowledge of any code is needed for the dots and dashes…

    given the difficulty level i am hoping this is not a massive spoiler

  14. catarella
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    My brain has recovered from the pasting it took this morning, and I’m feeling more positive. There is obviously a huge amount of skill and effort gone into this – I’ll certainly look forward to another one.

  15. Expat Chris
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Still avoiding reading the detailed comments. I have just seven left now, all but one on the left hand side. I’m going to persevere.

  16. Fiddlesticks
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I left early for work and finally got to have a look here now, after working late; *37 responses*!!! I feel honoured, humbled. I enjoyed making the puzzle, but this is something else! I haven’t done this publishing thing before and it’s such a pleasure to read that it’s brought a bit of entertainment to folks here–albeit not without bringing a bit of grief at the same time, it seems. I didn’t set out to make it particularly impenetrable, but I guess I need to develop a feel for how a puzzle comes over. And all your hard work, both in persisting with my puzzle and in providing such detailed feedback, has already started to help me do just that. All the feedback is very welcome. It’s given me plenty of food for thought and I will be taking many of these suggestions on board, indeed referring back to these posts, as I continue on this journey I seem to have started.

    I confess to being a tease with the title; the dot-dash thing evolved from nowhere, and the title came later: partly as a mean trick to reinforce the idea that the dot-dash was about Morse Code (I feel guilty now!), and partly because it’s homophonous with “coda”, which is related to the theme.

    As I was reading through the responses, I started some notes to answer specific things people had asked about, but I think everything resolved itself by the end. 24d, as several pointed out, should indeed be a dash not a dot–well done all round!

    Thank you, friends.

    • Posted January 23, 2017 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Fiddlesticks

  17. Kath
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    :phew: I’m really sorry Fiddlesticks but I give in.
    I’m sure that you’ve put a massive amount of effort into this but it really is too difficult for me.
    I started it late in the day but I’m not sure that I’d have done any better had I got going earlier.
    I do think that a crossword as tricky as this one could do with a few really easy ‘get you going’ kind of answers that encourage the solvers to keep trying – maybe there are some of those in which case I apologise for missing them.
    I look forward to tomorrow’s review – in the meantime thanks so much to Fiddlesticks for all the work that he, or she, has put into setting this crossword.

  18. Miffypops
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Me too with the apologies. I do not like puzzles that cross refer to a particular clue so that made yours a no no. The dot dash stuff compounded the decision to leave well alone. I am sure there are sites and types for this but it ain’t me babe. I see this is your first time here so well done ( I am supposed to mention parapets here but that also will not happen ) This page is full of advice and hard knocks which are meant well. I hope you produce further puzzles that are more attractive to the masses.

  19. JollySwagman
    Posted January 24, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    So that’s how the dot-dash stuff worked.

    I was onto dash as a possible anagram indication but spent most of my time (a fair while) trying to interpret it all as morse code – mainly thanks to the (misleading as we now know) title. That’s certainly a novel twist – in barred-gridsville titles normally help you – why not give that a twist – after all challenging assumptions with logic is (or should be ) what this game (or part of it) is all about.

    That being the case I withdraw my quibble about too many subtractive anagrams. With those key clues depending on that, extending the same idea into other “normal” clues was a perfectly valid thing to do – it’s effectively a key feature of the puzzle.

    21a I think “centre” is fine for the answer – even though fundamentally a noun it can be used adjectivally – dictionaries sometimes call that a midifier – eg Wimbledon centre court – and there are plenty of possible phrases/sentences in which the one could be substituted for the other – which is generally a pretty good test.

    This is a classy puzzle – looking at some of the comments I would say that some folk, as solvers, were out of their depth. For myself I would say that you beat me fair and square – personally I regard it as bad form – churlish if you will – to be beaten fair and square and then complain that there was something wrong with the puzzle. As for complaining about a puzzle when you haven’t even done it (not the first time here) – I’ll leave that for another day.

    Brilliant stuff – I hope to see more (I bet this isn’t your first outing) but I’ll be up a gear and ready for you.

  20. Encota
    Posted January 24, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks Prolixic for the detailed review, as ever.

    Personally I’m warming to the Morse deception here – I spent a little while racking my brains and then messing about with dot (E) and dash (T) as parts of the wordplay… until dash’s pretty consistent use as an anagram indicator revealed itself; I guess it would have been hard to keep up the pretence without lots of use of ‘dash’ and thus anagrams (whether subtractive/augmented or otherwise) in this way?

    Cheers

    -Encota-

  21. Expat Chris
    Posted January 24, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Prolixic. Your review was sorely needed on this end. Sheer bIoody-mindedness was what kept me pegging away, and I eventually ended up with three unsolved (1D, 12A and 14A), and the last part of 21 also unsolved. They were all subtractive anagrams, so that’s clearly a personal stumbling block. Several other answers were just arrived at by dint of searching the clue for a definition that fit the checkers. In fact, my biggest problem throughout was pinpointing the definitions. I never did get the dot-dash thingy. Very challenging, Fiddlesticks, and I don’t mind at all being challenged, but overall more frustrating than enjoyable for me, and lacking in humour. A bit of light-heartedness is always welcome.

  22. Jane
    Posted January 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks, Prolixic – your review made for fascinating reading.
    Whilst I didn’t get anywhere near as far through the solve as she did, my feelings about the puzzle were much on a par with Expat Chris – difficulty with determining the definitions and a lack of light-heartedness throughout.
    Subtractive anagrams are fine by me (in moderation) but not at the expense of a decent surface read – there were certainly some strange ones here!

    It was a very interesting experience, Fiddlesticks, and I’ve no doubt that a lot of work went into the preparation. To judge by your comments of yesterday, you are more than willing to take on board and learn from feedback offered – you won’t go far wrong by using Prolixic’s review as a yardstick.
    I look forward to seeing how your style progresses.

  23. Catnap
    Posted January 24, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Phew! Brilliant review, Prolixic. I needed most of it to get to grips with this puzzle. Thank you very much.

    Some commenters have used the words ‘clever’, ‘classy’, ‘impressive’ and ‘brilliant’ to describe this puzzle. I’m afraid that my response has been negative. Having read through all the clues a couple of times and only achieved a few answers, I knew I didn’t have a snowball’s hope of completing it and gave up without a fight. Too difficult and complicated for me, alas. I am, however, very impressed by the considerable effort you must have put into this crossword, Fiddlesticks. Well done, and I look forward to your next one.

  24. Fiddlesticks
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Prolixic, thank you very much for for reviewing my debut. From the various assessments in yesterday’s comments, a few recurring themes were already emerging, which you’ve confirmed and underlined very clearly, as well as giving me more food for thought with your own analysis. I also enjoyed your very clear way of explaining my clues, which in almost all cases accorded with what I intended. For what it’s worth, I offer a few responses:
    22a: d stands for dot (can’t now find what reference said so) so the indicator isn’t missing, it’s “dash”.
    1d: I agree with your and others’ complaint about “agent”; I had delivery agent in mind, but the word really doesn’t work on its own.
    6d: This perhaps makes more sense if one realizes the word means both a dance and an instrument.
    16d: It may not have been obvious that the intent of “matches” was matching letters.
    22d: “statement” is just fodder; the indicatoris “brings”.

    I’ve just spent some time re-reading yesterday’s comments, and I say again, they are all very welcome. Including those from folks who didn’t like the puzzle at all and just walked away: you were straight with me, and I respect that and am grateful to know.

    I’m fascinated by the sheer range of different reactions! It’s a good job there are plenty of you, and that I’m getting this all at once to put in my melting-pot. Compare that with having shown my puzzle to a single crossword expert, and having heard just one strong opinion in isolation.

    I can’t emphasize this enough: your comments on my first published puzzle, now supplemented by Prolixic’s review, are a priceless gift you have given me. There will be other puzzles, and other comments, but there will never be another first time. You have made the first time a thing of value for me forever. A jewel box I will dip into again and again as I go.

    • Miffypops
      Posted January 25, 2017 at 1:00 am | Permalink

      Thank you for this comment. Rookie Corner can be a daunting place. Honesty is the best policy and the comments are honest. Those like me who read through your clues and decided not to continue are not belittling your contribution but simply saying it isn’t for us. I know after many years what will not please me so my decision not to attempt your puzzle is no reflection upon you or your ability as a setter. It is me knowing what I like and dislike. Horses for courses. Thank you for sending in your puzzle. Rookie Corner cannot survive without folk like us who have a go. I didn’t seriously attempt it but I did have a look. Thanks again. MP

    • Expat Chris
      Posted January 25, 2017 at 2:09 am | Permalink

      A very gracious and thoughtful response, Fiddlesticks. It’s a tough audience in Rookie Corner that includes expert solvers, fellow rookie setters, and folks like me who don’t know the technicalities but who know what we like. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, as even the most seasoned setters know. I have a feeling you’re going to do just fine and I hope to see you here again before too long.

    • Encota
      Posted January 25, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the added angles on the puzzle and your own insightful and thoughtful views Fiddlesticks. I really look forward to your next one – hopefully in the near future.
      -Encota-

    • Catnap
      Posted January 25, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Thank you very much for your kind and thoughtful response, Fiddlesticks. I do apologise for not having phrased my remarks more sensitively, especially as this is your debut. I am so very sorry. The reason I gave up without attempting your puzzle is because it was just too difficult and complicated for me. Having read through the clues a couple of times I realised I would spend simply ages trying to work them out without any hope of getting very far. There are many crosswords I don’t attempt for this reason. This is no reflection on your ability nor on that of the other setters. I very much hope that you will be back here soon and that your next offering will be within my capabilities — I would love to be able to have a go.

      • Fiddlesticks
        Posted January 28, 2017 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        Hi Catnap, a quick PS to you and several others who came back to say sorry for being critical. Don’t worry! And, notwithstanding the general and sound “handle with care” Rookie Corner principle, definitely don’t change what you do and go soft on future rookies out of any daft sense of guilt. Because, strange as it may sound , I actually received it a compliment. If you think about it, you’ll quickly see what I mean: no way would you have said what you said had my puzzle been abject. And although I obviously still have work to do, by getting such treatment I even felt elevated, in some small way, to the ranks of those worthy to receive it. And on another level it also added to the sense of warm welcome already given by others’ enthusiastic and complimentary comments in a way mere politesse could never do.

        Loads more thanks to Big Dave and everyone here. Happy birthday! Have fun at the Bash, and I hope to be back on the blog soon with another puzzle.

        Fiddlesticks

  25. Maize
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi again Fiddlesticks. Your attitude to criticism does you credit. Given that you say you’ll be looking at this stream of advice again, may I give you my top tip, courtesy of Sir Arthur Quiller Couch?
    Be prepared to ‘murder your darlings’. In other words a clue with a clever element in it may appeal greatly, but if there’s a poor surface, or the wordplay is overly complicated, then have another go.
    And this from Alchemi who recently said on Rookie Corner : ‘It’s surprising is how much easier it is to write the next version of a clue – I’ve often wrestled with an idea for a clue for a day or two and then found that trying something else results in a fine clue in a few minutes.’

  26. Fiddlesticks
    Posted January 27, 2017 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway: massive thanks Big Dave for publishing my puzzle. And for bringing the blog into being in the first place: without you, it would not exist. By envisioning it and bringing your crosswording and networking skills to bear, you have created something very special.