Rookie Corner – 152 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 152

A Puzzle by Sarah Lolley

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Sarah Lolley is the latest setter to put her head above the parapet – enjoy her 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.

A review by Prolixic follows.

This was a promising start and with some very good wordplay.  There were too many anagrams in the clues which made it feel a little unbalanced, including five clues in a row that involved them.  To include so many words for the birthday theme was an achievement, particularly as there were no really obscure words other than, perhaps 24a (though it may a term of endearment used for the setter!)  Others have commented on the grid.  In the early days of crosswords, you used to get grids with disconnected sections but this days, there should be connections between all parts of the grid.  Overall, these are minor comments and can easily be addressed.


1 Yearly event altered by a third (8)
BIRTHDAY – An anagram (altered) of BY A THIRD.

5 Author heard more sound? (6)
WRITER – A homophone (heard) of “righter” – more sound.

9 Foxlike, reveals when the Enigma machine was broken (5-3)
FORTY-ONE – The central letters XLI of foxlike give the Roman numerals for the answer.  As has been pointed out by several commentators, it was the code that was broken, not the machine.  Welcome to the home of pedants anonymous!

10 Every second of her scene, the words seemed adeptly repeated (6)
ECHOED – The second letters of the fourth to ninth words of the clue.  Very well constructed clue to maintain the surface reading with the cryptic wordplay.

12 Claim about neutral fabric (5)
LINEN – Another word for a legal claim around the abbreviation for neutral.  N for neutral is given in Collins but not, unless I have missed it, in Chambers.

13 Blind envy in Paris (8)
JALOUSIE – Double definition of a type of window blind and a French for for envy.

15 Coach: “Ride after thunder” (7)
RAILCAR – A word meaning to thunder or protest against something followed by another word for a ride.

17 Energized about right set (7)
PREPPED – Another word meaning energised around the abbreviation for right.

19 Indicate instead a woman in Milan (7)
SIGNORA – Another word meaning to indicate followed by a two letter word meaning instead and the A from the clue.

20 Sees the world starting to come apart before year’s end (7)
TRAVELS – The first letter (starting) of to followed by a five letter word meaning to come apart or unwind and last letter (end) of years.  Starting on its own does not work within the cryptic grammar.   Ideally you need start of or a similar construction.  Year’s end with the possessive means the end of year or an R not the final S.

22 She hurts flying songbirds (8)
THRUSHES – An anagram (flying) of SHE HURTS.

24 Almost frightening sweetheart (5)
SPOOKY – Remove the first letter (almost) from a word meaning frightening or supernatural.  Almost is traditionally used to indicate the removal of the last letter, not the first letter.

26 Went off on famous mathematician (6)
NEWTON – An anagram (off) of WENT followed by the ON from the clue.

27 Fairmont really hosts Habs home (8)
MONTREAL – The answer is hidden in (hosts) FAIRMONT REALLY.  Whilst the nickname of the city’s team is obscure, the wordplay was very clear and easily solvable.

28 Is it possible a father turns 150 this year (6)
CANADA – A three letter word meaning is it possible followed by the A from the clue and a two letter word for a father (a dialect form of dad).

29 New game has a railroad and a union (8)
MARRIAGE – An anagram (new) of GAME includes (has) the first A from the clue, an abbreviation for railroad and another letter meaning a or one.  Collins gives the two letter abbreviation for railroad as American or Canadian in usage.  It is not in Chambers.


1 He confuses bigwig opening rigged raffle (7)
BAFFLER – The first letter (opening) of bigwig followed by an anagram (rigged) of RAFFLE.

2 Once more, playing about with silly nun in circle (9)
RERUNNING – A two letter word meaning about followed by an anagram (silly) of NUN in another word for a circle.

3 Remixed handy composer (5)
HAYDN – An anagram (remixed) of HANDY.

4 Spots battered cane (4)
ACNE – An anagram (battered) of CANE.

6 Tommy, among others, changed Korea crop (4,5)
ROCK OPERA – An anagram (changed) of KOREA CROP.  A good discipline in setting a crossword is to avoid blocks of clues with the same type of wordplay.  This is the fifth clue in a row with an anagram.

7 Dust up about first of thrown blows (5)
TOOTS – A reversal (up) of a word meaning dust around the first letter of thrown.

8 He dared sauté ginger (7)
REDHEAD – An anagram (sauté) of HE DARED.  As an imperative verb, sauté should come before the letters to be rearranged.

11 Runners fired representative between California and eastern tip of Massachusetts (7)
CARPETS – The two letter abbreviation for California and the last two letters (tip) of Massachusetts includes (between) an anagram (fired) of the abbreviation for representative.  Having to make an anagram of the abbreviation is coming close to an indirect anagram.  Perhaps, small representative would have helped.  More importantly, the tip of Massachusetts is the letter S, not the letters TS.

14 Romantic doctor held in connection with actions primarily by me (7)
DREAMER – The abbreviation for doctor includes the two letter word meaning in connection with, the first letter (primarily) of actions and the me from the clue.  Having the past tense, held for the inclusion indicator does not work two well and the answer currently holds the letters.

16 Endlessly angry, foil your current pastime? (9)
CROSSWORD – A meaning meaning angry with the last letter removed (almost) followed by the name of a weapon or foil.

18 Chicken writing on the wall in Pennsylvania wonders (9)
PHENOMENA – A three letter word for a chicken and a four letter word meaning writing on the wall inside the abbreviation for Pennsylvania.

19 Wicked cat is an upheaval (7)
SATANIC – An anagram (upheaval) of CAT IS AN.

21 Be sulky after editing Azure (3-4)
SKY BLUE – An anagram (after editing) of BE SULKY.

23 Highbrow antique holds ash (5)
ROWAN – The answer is hidden in (holds) HIGHBROW ANTIQUE.

24 Ease dog or cat expressing hesitation (5)
PETER – A word for a domesticated animal such as a dog or cat followed by a two letter word meaning to express hesitation.

25 Goya abstract: it maybe be hot (4)
YOGA – An anagram (abstract) of GOYA.  Although the wordplay is clear, the answer is a little obscure.

71 comments on “Rookie Corner – 152

  1. 24a was something I had not heard before and it seems that most dictionaries had not either. I got it in the end by revealing the missing letters.
    We have two separate crosswords in this grid with no connections at all between them which is rather novel. I found the left side much friendlier than the right although I still don’t fully understand 9a yet. Google helped with the Habs in 27a. Lots of good clues in here with just a few that stretched the boundaries a bit?
    I enjoyed working through it.
    Thanks Sarah Lolley.

    1. Thanks for solving the puzzle, KiwiColin!
      You’re right, 24A is a very unusual word. (Full disclosure: I included it in homage to my husband.)
      I also hadn’t realized that the grid has no left-right connection until it was pointed out to me. Thanks for that!
      And I wondered what people would think of 9A… I wasn’t sure if it was a fair clue (a hidden Roman numeral) but figured I’d give it a go.
      Thanks again for solving! I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have real cryptic crossword lovers trying out my puzzle.

  2. Full grid but several questions. Seemed heavily reliant on anagrams. I have no idea what 9A is about and I thought the Habs reference in 27A was much too specialized for a UK audience. 11D doesn’t quite work for me, unless I’m missing something, and 29A doesn’t either. I don’t get 14D at all. I also thought 28A was a stretch. 19D was the best clue by far. I really liked that one. Good potential, Sarah. Keep on keeping on!

    1. Thanks for trying the puzzle, Chris!
      You’re right, there is too much reliance on anagrams, which is something I’ll correct in future puzzles.
      The Habs reference is because I’m Canadian! I wasn’t sure what the nationality of solvers would be but I’ll be careful of cultural references in the future.
      For 11D, “runners” are a kind of carpet, and for 29A, “marriage” is a union. 14D is an anagram giving us “dreamer” for romantic.
      I’m always so fascinated by people’s favourite clues! My favourite in this puzzle is 8D, but that doesn’t seem to have resonated with anyone else!
      Making this puzzle was actually a birthday present to myself: many of the clues are specialized to me, and just finding the time to create it while juggling two small children and work was an enormous challenge. All these great comments are like birthday presents from all of you! Thanks again for the great, constructive feedback.

  3. Hi Sarah & Morning All,

    A really enjoyable puzzle and I learnt some new stuff too, which is always a bonus!
    Anagram count: I made it (at least) 9 plus 2 part anagrams.
    Anagrams were generous and a gentle way in to the puzzle [Some editors would say too many but ok by me in this puzzle]. At first sight other clues looked less straightforward!

    A nice anniversary celebration! Favourite clue: 10ac

    Thanks Sarah – I really look forward to another. Suggestion – feel free to heed or ignore: I’d cut down slightly on the anagrams next time and swap for another couple of clue types. I’ve always found the guide by Prolixic on this site very useful for this, especially the table that lets you count how many of each clue type you have (and which you, often inadvertently, haven’t used so many of).

    More detailed notes below. I’ve tried to remove any spoilers! There’s a few where I will await Prolixic’s review tomorrow with interest…



    5a good example of this clue type
    27a I didn’t recognise ‘Habs’. Ah, a certain ice hockey team, I’ve learned something…
    29a is this RR (railroad) plus two Is for As? I may have entirely the wrong end of the stick!
    9a I’m being thick about ‘Foxlike’!
    18d Am I the only one who starts humming The Muppets when they read this word: … (di … dee… di di di) :-). Probably.
    6d for some reason this one took me a while (yet I know it well!). Was it an anagram? Wasn’t it? I couldn’t decide for ages!
    13a another area of ignorance for me but guessed from second half of the clue
    10a very good – I was fooled by this for a while
    25d another term I hadn’t heard of though entirely fair. Sounds far too much like hard work.
    24d Is the answer exactly a synonym for the definition? Not sure.
    24a guessed from wordplay but didn’t know this one – not in Chambers or my Merriam-Websters. Found it in the Urban Dictionary.
    20a I didn’t know the centre of this word meant that – I thought it was the opposite but confirmed by Chambers. Almost makes it a FLAMMABLE/INFLAMMABLE word. Interesting.
    11d LOI. I see the definition and some of the wordplay but haven’t cottoned on to the last ‘few’ letters yet.

    1. Just got 9ac – like JS I was sure it was the answer – but unlike JS I didn’t spot why!!

    2. Thank you, Encota, for this amazing level of detail in your reply. It’s so gratifying to read someone else’s analysis of my puzzle!
      Your point about the anagrams is valid and I will be sure to rely less heavily on them in the future. Thank you!
      I’m so pleased that you liked 10A. It’s in hommage to a clue that Anax told me about some time ago: “Every second of every minute, someone plants a flower (5)”
      Good point about 20a! I love the way cryptics make me reconsider words.
      Again, thanks for all your wonderful feedback and analysis! I’m all fired up to make another, even better puzzle.

      1. Hi Sarah,
        Look forward to solving the next one! And thanks for your level of replies to all on the site, I know it’s much appreciated.

        And thanks Prolixic!

        To All: It’s The Listener dinner this weekend – will anyone else from here be there?


  4. Hi SL nice puzzle overall – you have a style of your own and nothing fell instantly.

    The grid is unusual – it is split in two with the left and right halves not linked at all. I don’t say there’s anything wrong with that – but I’ve never seen it before. In the event I had the whole of the left side completed before making any entries at all on the right-hand side.

    Notes I made on a few clues:

    9a – good – very clever – after being convinced of the answer from the definition and crossing letters it took me a while to twig the wordplay.

    10a – likewise – partly because “every second” (which is precisely what is required) is usually interpreted differently – just a matter of putting mental algebra brackets in different places.

    13a knew the French word – didn’t know the blind

    15a – not sure how “ride” gives the required word.

    20a good – nifty – I didn’t know that word could mean its own opposite – but dictionaries confirm that it can.

    24a Didn’t know that word – can only find it as Garfield’s teddy bear (which he was indeed very fond of) – presumably from that it gets used as a pet name (maybe at your place) – but I’ve never come across that personally (sadly); I can’t find dictionary support for it – Chambers Word Wizard says that its not an allowable Scrabble word – any one of those would have got it off the hook – but I think I personally would have to gong it out as being too obscure.

    29a I think the anagram feed-ins are a bit too indirect and not obvious enough to be fair.

    11d – similar problem but less so – rep for representative being very common in real life – even though in crosswords it’s normally keyed by “salesman” or suchlike.

    18d – nice – very nifty – probably my favourite.

    25d – hadn’t heard of that – I clearly need to get out more often – as a clue I think it’s fair – and I guessed OK that that’s what it must be. I previously thought yoga had a better claim than cricket to the phrase “organised loafing” – now I know better. Is this really better for you than ordinary yoga or are they just trying to sell more icecream?

    That might seem like a lot of carping – but there are some really strong positives there – and your overall cluing style adds an element of toughness to deceptively simple clues.

    Many thanks for the fun. Do keep them coming.

    1. Thank you very much indeed, JS, for all this wonderful detail! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.
      With respect to the grid, I hadn’t realized I’d split it until someone else pointed it out. Not a purposeful choice and one I’ll be sure to watch out for in the future!
      I’m so glad you enjoyed 9A. I wasn’t sure if it was a fair clue but I thought I’d put it out there anyway and see what people thought of it. And as I mentioned in my reply to Encota, 10A is actually in homage to a Times clue that Anax shared with me via my website a while ago.
      15A: This is probably my Canadian slang coming through.
      18D: Everyone seems to love this clue! I thought another one would be more popular, like 21D or 8D.
      25D: I’m amazed that so many of the commenters haven’t heard of hot yoga! Its popularity is starting to fade a little but for a long time it was all the rage. Your comment about organized loafing is very funny!
      Thanks again for your critique. I’m fired up to make another puzzle, now!

  5. Thanks Sarah – I enjoyed this. Like others I had the LH side completed when the RH side was still totally blank. I particularly liked 9a, 10a (‘every second’ held me up until the penny dropped), 20a and 18d.
    There are possibly a few too many anagrams and Habs in 27a is a bit too obscure. I can’t really parse 11d (unless ‘eastern tip’ means the last two letters). I didn’t know the 24a sweetheart and I presume that it’s the first letter of ‘frightening’ that has to be dropped although ‘almost’ usually means dropping the last.

    1. Hi Gazza,
      Thanks very much for your feedback! I’m so glad you enjoyed the puzzle. I’ll be sure to watch for overly specific cultural references and obscure words in the next one. As for 24A, you’re right on the money!
      Thanks again!

  6. Welcome Sarah,

    I soon got the impression that this puzzle had either an autobiographical feel about it or was intended for a local Canadian audience rather than a UK or international one, and a quick Internet search seems to bear that out. Nothing wrong with that at all, but of course the more parochial the references, such as the nickname for a Montreal ice hockey team or the names of Canadian publications, then the less meaningful they are to anyone outside Canada.

    I enjoyed the solve though, and surprisingly missed the fact that it was really two puzzles for the price of one, with no connection between the left hand and right hand sides, until reading KiwiColin’s opening comment. The anagram count was certainly on the high side (I counted thirteen full or partial ones), and that is something to rein in with future puzzles. Some of the surfaces raised a few eyebrows too, such as 18d which sounded like a creation of hallucinogenic drugs! There are a couple which I can’t adequately parse, and I look forward to the review to appreciate those more fully I hope. The clues I ticked were 5a, 13a, 4d, 14d and, my overall favourite, 10a.

    Congratulations on creating an enjoyable puzzle, I hope you’ll return with another soon.

    1. Hi Silvanus,
      Thanks for your critique! You’re very right: this puzzle was a birthday present for myself, partly because the clues were largely autobiographical but mainly because it was a real treat, amid the chaos of having two very young children and work, to retreat into the solace of wordplay for half an hour here and there.
      10A is an homage to a clue from the Times that Anax told me about.
      I’ve taken note of all your comments and can’t wait to create another puzzle that will improve on all the points you raised.
      Thanks again!

  7. Really not sure what to make of this one. Possibly too many anagrams, some rather specialised Canadian references and oddities like 24a which I would never have got without the Garfield hint from JS! Still haven’t managed to justify ‘foxlike’ in 9a.

    I thought 1a was a very neat anagram and 10a a clever idea but there were also some rather poor surfaces.
    It’s obvious that you have talent as a setter, Sarah – maybe there’s more work to do on finding a style that works for you?

    Thank you for the puzzle – must look out for the Canadian celebrations!

    1. Hi Jane,
      Thanks for your critique! As a few commenters figured out, this was actually a semi-autobiographical puzzle, hence the references to Canada.
      Glad you found the “foxlike” riddle in the end!

  8. Very good, I thought.
    What I liked: concise clues throughout, nice mix of clue types, plenty of easy ones to get into it, enough harder ones for a bit of challenge at the end.
    I have marked ticks for 5a, 17a, 29a, 7d, 14d, 18d
    It was perhaps a bit anagram-rich, but not unduly. I thought occasionally you used anagrams where a little more work would have helped your surface. Eg 29a, which was really well constructed – you’ve built a nice surface in the second half but ‘new game’ doesn’t quite go.
    The split grid was an oddity. It didn’t really affect the solve as there were enough easy clues to get into both sides. Perhaps it was an oversight? If not, I’d rather not see it repeated.
    I didn’t mind the local clues – didn’t know some, but clear enough wordplay to get them all, so well done for that.
    A few quibbles:
    11d, I think you should have had ‘fired rep’, and you are not specific enough about the eastern tip of Massachusetts
    24a ‘almost’: I’ve never seen this used to apply to the beginning of a word – again, I think you should be more specific
    9a: I don’t understand ‘foxlike’ (though that’s not my quibble – I assume it’s something I don’t know), – I find ‘when the machine was broken’ a bit odd – bringing to mind luddites rather than cryptographers. Perhaps ‘code’ rather than ‘machine’?
    20a: I liked ‘sees the world’ but not ‘starting to’ or ‘year’s end’. Mixed opinions on those indicators, so I’ll be interested to see what Prolixic thinks.

    1. Taking Gazza’s hint about foxlike, I can see it now. Again, perhaps a more specific indicator would be helpful, but maybe I’m just saying that because I didn’t get it myself.

    2. Hi Catarella,
      Thanks for your generous feedback! I’m especially pleased to hear that you found the clues concise. That’s very rewarding.
      It’s true that I relied quite heavily on anagrams. I’ll be sure to avoid that next time. And the split grid was not purposeful! I hadn’t even realized I’d done it until it was pointed out to me.
      Your points on 11D, 24A and 20A are noted!
      Thanks again!

  9. I do appreciate it when a Rookie doesn’t go in too ambitiously at the start. This was all solvable for me without any aids, even though it contained a few things I didn’t know, but I did need Gazza to explain the foxy one. The other minor questions and quibbles I had are all already expressed above. I found it enjoyable and think it shows great promise. With a little work on surfaces and upping the difficulty, I think the next ones could be brilliant.

    My last in was 5a, so I liked that for the penny drop. I also particularly liked 20a and (not to be left out of the party) 18d.

    Many thanks, Sarah, and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review.

    1. Thank you, Kitty, for the very encouraging review. I’m motivated to live up to your hopes of future brilliance!

    1. Interesting. Thanks, BD. So the puzzle also serves as a biography of the setter…though I do hope 19D is not one of the personalized clues!!

      1. Yes – what Chris said, with a big laugh from one who has recently felt the sharp end of a creature known as Evil Cat.

    2. Ah – so it’s also about Sarah’s birthday, not just Canada’s as I had thought first. That means there are even more themed entries – 1a, 5a, 20a, 29a, 25d (9a? maybe best stay away from that one) and who is 24d? and more perhaps? how intriguing…

        1. You’re right! 1A, 5A, 20A, 8D, 16D and 25D are all autobiographical. 27A and 28A as well. And I’ll admit to being a bit of a 14D about my 24A.

    3. Thanks for that, BD. Explains a great deal about the whys and wherefores of the puzzle, but perhaps it’s too personal for the crossword to have general appeal?

  10. Thanks Sarah,

    Well done! I enjoyed this though I found the RHS hard.

    Nice Canadian birthday party – I think the theme justifies any Canadian references – though I had to google Habs. In the clue you use Habs as an adjective, which might be ok, dunno, or if it’s only a noun you might want Habs’

    I twigged foxlike after JS’s comment but luckily before I saw Gazza’s. I would agree that the code, rather than the machine, was broken

    I think having no connections between the two halves is definitely to be avoided. You’d never see that in the papers. Essentially, it gives you two puzzles. Like others, I did the left one first then struggled with the right one which was harder. Friendly grids have more than one connection between quadrants.

    I agree with the points made by Catarella on 11a. The anagram fodder should be exact (else it borders on an indirect anagram), and “Eastern tips” would have been better

    I also thought some of the synonyms were a bit stretching, I wasn’t sure about set (17a), instead (19a), ease (24a). Will be enlightening to see Prolific’s review.

    8a the verb tense seems wrong to me for an anagram indicator that comes after the fodder

    didn’t know the kind of yoga but it’s in Chambers, and I only got 24a after reading about the front letter deletion in Catarella’s comment – and I would agree, though there is no logic really, that ‘almost’ tends to be reserved for final letter deletion

    Hope that is useful. Congratulations again on putting this together. Keep it up

    1. Hi Dutch,
      Thanks for your very thoughtful comments! I’m so eager to take all this feedback and use it for the next puzzle.

  11. Thanks for this Sarah – as it happens I am much looking forward to my first ever trip to 28a in a few weeks time, not the 27a side though

    Best clues for me were – 10a, hard to pull off convincingly, nicely done, 16d and 18d once I’d sussed it out. Well done on finding a hidden 8-letter city in 27a but I’ve no idea what the definition is about.

    The main thing for me is that it’s actually two separate puzzles. You do need to connect the left and the right; it would have helped perhaps to split the 7th and 9th columns differently, also possibly avoiding the two words with fewer than half the letters crossing

    9a If the definition is “when the Enigma machine was broken” surely that should be “code” – I don’t think Mr Turing took an axe to the actual machine. But I’ve no idea about the wordplay so maybe I’m way off, if so apologies.

    13a never heard of this and with no first letter on show, not greatly helpful crossers and it being a bilingual double definition rather than having wordplay I had to reveal it

    20a To me “Year’s end” indicates R (i.e. the end of year); unless I’m reading it wrong you are using it for S. I’m sure someone will put me right if I’ve misunderstood.

    24a Is this supposed to be “almost” removing a first letter, rather than the normal last one? Never heard of the answer which doesn’t sound very convincing as a term of endearment to me

    28a Don’t get the DA bit – presumably a reduction of DAD, but there’s nothing to indicate that

    8d I think “saute” needs to be “sauted”, but that wrecks the surface

    11d I presume is a fairly obscure definition that I just don’t know – can’t spot it anywhere – and 14d I can’t fully parse. “Held” seems to imply DR is inside something else, but it clearly isn’t

    25d seems to have an extra word (“it maybe be hot”) and again I can’t see the definition

    It’s taken a while to write this up so it may be some of my queries will have been answered by others by the time I post it.

    I think it’s a good debut puzzle overall, especially having set out to include themed words or ideas in the clues. Look forward to the second one.

    1. Re 28a – I think “da” is used in a few places around the UK – eg N Ireland for one – as a regular term where dad, pa etc might be used elsewhere.

    2. Hi Starhorse,
      Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough review! It’s much appreciated. I hadn’t realized that the grid was disconnected until others commented on it, so that was unintentional.
      9A: Good point.
      13A: I admit that it’s a bit obscure.
      20A: Good point: I was more focused on the surface read than the specificity of the clue.
      8D: It’s actually supposed to be a noun (like “salad” or “cocktail” as an anagram indicator) but I’ve been told following the publication of this puzzle that noun indicators are not as well liked as verb indicators.

      Thanks again for an encouraging review!

  12. I confess that this has taken me a long time but I’m glad I kept going and finished it even though I still don’t quite ‘get’ some of my answers.
    I found the right hand side very difficult and almost gave up.
    I liked 10a now that I understand the ‘every second’ which was different to the usual meaning of it.
    I also liked 18 and 19d.
    With thanks and congratulations to Sarah and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic.

    1. Kath, I’m glad you didn’t give up! Thanks for your comments. 18D is a surprise favourite! I thought 7D would get more attention and my personal favourite is 8D. But that’s the joy of writing clues.
      Thank you!

  13. One of four puzzles I solved on the way to London for a meeting and I didn’t consciously notice the two separate puzzles, I just thought the RH side might be harder than the Left. I soon worked out that there must be a Canadian connection and I can see quite a few related solutions that would go to make a theme – I’ll try and find time to look at Sarah’s website letter.

    A good debut puzzle indeed, but I remain more than a bit confused by the wordplay of 14d

    1. Hi CS – I decided it was a two letter abb. for doctor holding a two letter abb. for ‘in connection with’ followed by the principal letter of actions and ‘ME’. Perhaps the third word of the clue needs revising?

      1. I think that’s right – not the clearest clue – and in my defence, its been a very long day and its only 4 o’clock

      2. Held/holding – it’s a shame there are these funny rules. Holds/holding will muck up the surface, and held makes just as much sense, really. The term for ‘in connection with’ is not actually an abbreviation – it’s a whole word (the Latin ablative form of **s, meaning ‘in the matter of’ or some such. Sorry if you knew that already.

        1. Certainly should have remembered the Latin, Catarella – I tend to look upon it as simply a shortened form of an English word!

        2. All my Latin comes from crosswords (I was in the German ‘stream’ a very long time ago) but I was well aware of the ‘whole word’ – if I had a £1 for every time I’ve had to mention it in a crossword review….

      3. I think it’s OK if you read it the right way. The doctor is the hold-er – not the hold-ee. Some may arbitrarily dislike the use of past tense but I think it works logically.

    2. That’s what I get for making a last-minute change to a clue. The original clue for this one was “Brew rearmed romantic (7)” but there were so many anagrams that I got rid of it. Still, I like the image of a lonely romantic, too fearful to approach the object of his/her affection, rearming him/herself with liquid courage to keep the dream alive.

      Thank you very much for your feedback! And I can’t believe you solved four puzzles on your way to London, which, no matter where you’re traveling from in the UK, is just a hop, skip and a jump away by Canadian standards.

  14. Great to have another member of the Rookie Corner club, a thoroughly enjoyable debut.
    The first time I’ve seen a puzzle with the setter’s name written properly at the top – which makes it (somewhat paradoxically) original!
    Also the first time I’ve seen a puzzle of two unconnected halves, which will doubtless be remarked upon in the review from the redoubtable Prolixic.

    As for the clues, well there were some real treats in there – I let out an audible ‘Wow!’ when the penny dropped on 10a – the first time I’ve seen that device, and in runner’s up spot is the equally clever 9a, which took me a lot longer to parse than to solve. 18d completes the podium, a line-up which would grace any puzzle.
    On the other hand I found myself somewhat overdosing on the large number of anagrams – although that’s probably just a personal thing – and I couldn’t quite finish because 24a was a word I neither knew or could find in the dictionary. I was going to recommend changing it for Peony, perhaps (‘Horse eating middle of red flower’, or something) but maybe it’s a special word for you?
    I didn’t mind the Habs thing in 27a though, because obscurities are a fine balance for hiddens – the easiest type of clue.

    So well done, bravo, and a very happy 1a – which was one anagram I most certainly did like.

    1. Hi Maize,
      Thanks for your feedback! I’ll have to come up with a clever crossword pseudonym. suggestions are very welcome!
      I’m so glad you enjoyed 10A but it wasn’t an original idea. Anax told me about a Times clue that had that format (and I’ve blogged about it at my website) so it was in homage to that. But I’m thrilled that you liked 9a and 18d!
      Very excited to share my next puzzle with this encouraging group.

  15. Thank you Sarah for submitting this puzzle for us to solve. I have managed to fit letters into all of the lights except for the last one across. Mostly I can see how the clue works out and I have smiled at some of the answers. That is good enough for me. However you have submitted to the worlds most constructively critical blog page.

    I followed the link to your site and that shows you are a real person and shows your personality. I think that this is the first time we have had that luxury. How lovely to meet you and your family. (Well Emily)

    If you intend to set for The Best Newspaper in Canada then you will need to take on board most of the advice given. If you intend to set a fun puzzle for your family then just keep on keeping on.

    Have a great time as writer in residence with CBC/QWF Please send more puzzles and enjoy those children, they do not stay little for long.

    1. Back in the ’80s I remember looking at the points system for immigration to Canada – scoring you the maximum number of points were the usual handful of professions like brain surgeon and electrician and also… Crossword compiler!

      1. How extraordinary! I’m going to have to do some looking into that. It feels like the nugget of a beautiful essay.

    2. Hi Sarah. As I only briefly looked at your site on an iPhone I didn’t notice all the cryptic practice puzzles. Golly, you have been busy. I wonder if there are different rules for different countries? I rearely choose favourite clues but I did smile at 8d.

    3. Hi Miffypops,
      Thanks for your very personal reply! I’m glad to have all the feedback as my goal is, indeed, to set puzzles for the public. I should post all my Writer-in-Residence essays on the blog, too… there’s just so little time!

  16. Very good of you to write a test on such a wonderful site.
    My sister lived in Montreal during the 18 years I spent in the UK so this crossword was a nice surprise.
    Still stuck on 25d and 29a but I shall wait for Prolixic to unravel the mystery.
    Agree that the Left was easer than the Right.
    Thought runners (11d) were training shoes in Canada.
    Sister lived in Outremont, heard of Fairmount as an area but didn’t know Fairmont.
    Loved 10a.
    Thanks Sarah.

    1. Hi Mr. Cheval,
      Thanks for your comments! Yes, runners are trainers in Canada but a runner is also a long carpet that you can put down in the hallway.
      Outremont is a lovely neighbourhood. Fairmont is a street, a bagel company (named for the street), and a hotel (names for the bagels?).

  17. I thought this was pretty good, despite a few hiccups with the location thing, but they can all be found out. The surfaces are very neatly thought out which I like; for me probably the most important aspect of cluing – I’m far happier accepting setters licence and elastic synonyms if the surface is clever/funny. The anagrams are hard to avoid for some words, I would imagine. Still have a couple to sort out, but a good puzzle.
    Well done and thank you.

  18. Hi SL. Thanks to BD’s link above I just visited your website – and saw your practice puzzles. The idea of indicating the clue-types in a table (as in the “easier” versions) is a great one – I’ve never seen that done before – normally puzzles are easified for beginners by putting in a few answers or a few crossing letters ahead of the solve.

    With your permission I’ll use these at the U3A classes I’m currently running locally (ie Adelaide HIlls in South Australia – it’s only a small group) – ie the “easier” versions – I’ll save the “easiest” ones as cheat sheets for me.

    1. JS, you are very welcome to use them — just make sure to credit me so my terrible clues don’t result in anyone thinking less of you! I wrote the tutorial for a friend and then later decided to post it on-line. You can read the story here: The idea of having different levels of difficulty of clue came easily to me. I hope to inspire others to try cryptics and the best way to do that is to make the puzzles as accessible as possible.

      I spent some time living in Melbourne and drove through Adelaide Hills in an old van which also served as my home for a while. Happy days.

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – and thanks to Sarah for taking the time and trouble to respond to individual comments.
    Best of luck with setting your next puzzle, I shall look forward to giving it a try!

  20. Thank you Sarah for your extensive replies. That feels like we’re chatting with you, which is great. I loved your web-site.

    I remember the clue you refer to as your inspiration to 10a – and I live in the same little town as Anax so also talk to him when he has time (though I did live in Vancouver for 5 years). Sorry there was not as much appreciation for 8d, your favourite – but you see, it was because the grammar grated – if that were perfect it would have been a lovely clue. It’s interesting though – the setter’s favourite is often a consequence of reaching a particular result (sometimes with great effort) which may not be transparent to the solver.

    Wishing you joy, luck and success

    1. Anax has been so generous with his time and feedback. Everyone has — it’s really a lovely community of puzzle aficionados.

      You’re right: the clues we love best aren’t always the ones our solvers appreciate the most, and that’s usually because we are working from some particular perspective.

      I actually wrote a whole blog entry on the power of clues, here:

      Thanks for all your encouragement about the website!

  21. Great to see your puzzle, Sarah. I hope you find all of the feedback useful.

    (I was telling Sarah about Rookie Corner on Twitter while at the Birthday Bash in London, so delighted to see her puzzle appear.)

    Perhaps you could be Lolleypops, although maybe people would think you were married to Miffypops.

    Thanks again, and to Prolixic,especially for sorting out the 5 on the RHS I never completed. Favourites 10, 16, and 22.

  22. I found this a very pleasant solve. My quibbles were the same as everyone else’s (too many anagrams / it doesn’t actually join up) so no point going into any depth about them. My picks (5a, 9a, 11a) have also been duly praised, so I’ve got nothing original to say about this puzzle. But thanks for the fun and keep it up!

    This blog of yours looks like interesting reading as well – I’ll be sure to dip into it more deeply when I have time…

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