Rookie Corner – 159

A Puzzle by Deuce

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Deuce returns with his fourth Rookie 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.

Another brain bender from Deuce.  When you produce complex clues, you have to hone the precision to remove all ambiguities to be fair to the solver.  In a few instances, I think that the fairness was stretched in this crossword.  There were some very good constructions but it became something of a chore to unpack them all.


1 Whiteman, at first, and Mingus played such (5,5)
SWING MUSIC – An anagram (played) of W (Whitman at first) MINGUS followed by the Scottish dialect word for such with the whole clue providing a definition (Whiteman and Mingus being big band leaders).  If you are using a Scottish dialect word, it would be fairer to the solver to indicate this.

7 Parrot exercises, essentially (4)
ROTE – The answer is hidden (essentially) in PARROT EXERCISES.  The whole clue provides a definition.

9 Her husband fake, mean one stays indoors (8)
HAVISHAM – The abbreviation for husband and a four letter word for fake includes a two letter abbreviation for average and the letter representing one.  The whole clue provides a character in Great Expectations.

10 Miss Robinson’s original character is artful one (6)
DODGER – A word meaning miss followed by the first letter (original) of Robinson.  I think that the simile here is misleading.  To miss implies that you have gone for something and failed to achieve what you are aiming for.  The answer requires a word implying you have moved out of the way to avoid something.

11 Hay fever symptoms result when grasses lose outer part of stamen (6)
ITCHES – Remove the SN (outer part of stamen – the first and last letter) from the beginning of a word meaning grasses or betrays.

12 Surrounded by green? On the contrary (2,3,3)
IN THE RED – The reverse of surrounded by green could also mean being without money (of which green is a slang expression).

13 In short, is Spanish name for woman (6)
SENORA – The shortened form of is (as in Peter’s a saint) followed by an E for Spanish and the name of a woman.  The abbreviation is for Spain and should not be clued by Spanish.

14 Negative reflection placed to include confusing flip on axis (4-4)
SELF-PITY – A three letter word meaning to place includes an anagram (confusing) of FLIP all followed by one of the axes on a graph.

17 A duke or knight, queen has these decorated (8)
ADORNERS – The A from the clue followed by the abbreviation for duke, the OR from the clue and the abbreviations for knight and queen and a final contraction of the word has.  Perhaps “these people decorated” might be been a more accurate definition.

20 Pack for Sydney (6)
CARTON – Double definition, the second being a character in Tale of Two Cities.  As Sydney is a definition by example, perhaps this should have been indicated.

22 School followed by a musical German (8)
SCHLAGER – A three letter abbreviation for school followed by the musical note A expressed in the tonic sol-fa scale and a three letter abbreviation for German.  The whole answer defines an obscure German style of music. Give the obscure general knowledge needed to solve this, perhaps a simpler way of cluing this would have been fairer to the solver.

25 Attempting to pick up fluid, I try clumsily (6)
FLIRTY – The two letter abbreviation for fluid followed by an anagram (clumsily) of I TRY.  The definition implies a verbal solution but the answer is an adjective.

26 A lubricant applied backwards, to produce smoothness (6)
LEGATO – The A from the clue and a three letter word for a lubricant all reversed (applied backwards) followed by the TO from the clue.  The answer means smooth or smoothly, not necessarily smoothness.  Also, the link should be produces for the cryptic reading to be maintained.

27 After hours, talking to stop and pub to close (8)
OVERTIME – The word said when stopping talking and the word used when the pub is about to close.  I think that wordplay here is a little too loose to be entirely fair to the solver.

28 Area, one between capitals of Seoul and Ankara (4)
ASIA – The abbreviation for area followed by the letter representing one in-between the first letters (capital) of Seoul and Ankara.  As one for I has already been used, an alternative indicator would have been better here.

29 Tip cut short in hair style (10)
TRENDINESS – A six letter word meaning tip with the final word removed in another word for a lock of hair.  I don’t think that ending means tip.  The end of something is its tip, not its ending.


2/18 With Dolly Varden, as plot gets more complex, editor enters with emphatic demand (4,3,7)
WHAT THE DICKENS – The abbreviation for with followed by an item of clothing of which a Dolly Varden is an example and a word meaning that the plot of a story is becoming more complex with the abbreviation for an editor inside.  I don’t thing that the solution is a demand, it is more of an emphatic interjection.

3 To be close, or be in hug tight (9)
NEIGHBOUR – An anagram (tight as in drunk) of OR BE IN HUG.

4 Mosh furiously to bit of music, rating hard rock highly (4,5)
MOHS SCALE – An anagram (furiously) of MOSH followed by a series of musical notes.  Again, the definition implies a verbal solution and is not quite a verbal phrase to define a noun.

5 More than one top fits when taking in millimetres (7)
SUMMITS – A five letter word meaning fits or matches includes the abbreviation for millimetres.

6 Intern detective imprisoning lawyer in fixup (5)
CADET – A reversal (fixup) of a three letter word for a detective including the two letter abbreviation for an American lawyer.

7 Boy of 18 behaving poorly around little girl (5)
RUDGE – A word meaning behaving poorly around the abbreviation for girl.  The abbreviation for girl is not given in Chambers or Collins but may be in Chambers Crossword Abbreviations.

8/21 When following it was opening to book – of crossword highlights, perhaps? (3,4,2,5)
THE BEST OF TIMES – The opening words of one of Dickens’ works could be clued cryptically as one newspaper’s top crosswords.

15 Staffs place to replace chief with first of lieutenants coming in closer (9)
LICHFIELD – An anagram (to replace) of CHIEF L (first of lieutenants) inside a three letter word for a cover or closer.

16 According to spies, can continue (7,2)
PERSIST IN – A three letter word meaning according to followed by the abbreviation for Secret Intelligence Service and another word for a can or container.

18 See 2

19 Unexpectedly score zero having taken header to goal – is a close one (7)
SCROOGE – An anagram (unexpectedly) of SCORE O includes the first letter (header to) of goal for the name of a character in a Christmas Carol.

21 See 8

23 City surrounding Himalayan peak, being occupied (5)
LHASA – The abbreviation for Los Angeles around the first letter (peak) of Himalayan and a two letter word meaning being.  I am not sure that you can interchange As and Being in a sentence.

24 Perhaps Christmas present initially given by party organiser (5)
GHOST – The first letter (initially) of given followed by the name for a party organiser for one of the spirits in a Christmas Carol.


  1. 2Kiwis
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 1:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    That was really hard work for us but we eventually got a full grid although there is still some parsing work to do. We picked up the theme quite early on which was a big help but even then Google had quite a lot of assisting to do. Certainly a very clever puzzle but we do prefer Rookie Corner puzzles to be a bit more accessible than this.
    Thanks Deuce.

  2. JollySwagman
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 6:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    NIce puzze Deuce – tough in parts. The ones I found the toughest (eg 9a 22a 23d) didn’t really add to the enjoyment – OTOH 2d earned its keep in that respect being tough and clever, but also rewarding. I liked the way the themed answers in general just popped up here and there without dominating.

    I got 9a from the literary allusion without really understanding the full wordplay (ie letters 2,3,4). Otherwise no quibbles. A great workout with enough entry points with which to get a foothold.

    Many thanks for the fun.

    • Deuce
      Posted April 24, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks! On 9a, letters 2 and 3 form an abbreviation (in chambers).

  3. crypticsue
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink | Reply

    I found this hard work too – spotting the theme did help but like the 2Ks I do have do some more work to finish parsing some of the clues.

    7d The BRB doesn’t have this ‘little girl’ in the list of things the letter can represent

    I did like several clues but my top favourite has to be 8/21, with 11a as runner up

    I think this was a bit more accessible than the previous three, but still not as friendly to the solver as it could be.

    Thanks to Deuce and, in advance, to Prolixic

  4. silvanus
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink | Reply

    Welcome back, Deuce.

    Like others, I found this very hard work, especially the right-hand side, and I’m sorry to say that, the more clues I managed to solve, the less enjoyable I found it.

    1a was a great start, a superb all-in-one, but this device should be used sparingly in my opinion, and there seemed to be too many attempts to replicate it, some of which worked (like 28a), some of which didn’t (like 9a). The theme wasn’t difficult to spot, but I didn’t quite understand why it was referenced in 7d, but it wasn’t in the other linked clues?

    The quality of the surfaces remains your Achilles’ heel I feel, none were meaningless certainly, but too many felt clunky or forced. My repetition radar spotted “one” twice clued to indicate the letter I.

    Thanks Deuce, I wish I could have found it fun to solve and hope your next one will be less of a slog.

  5. mucky
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Deuce
    I enjoyed this very much – nice to have something to get one’s teeth into on a Monday.

    I found it hard but gettable, and did solve it all myself (with an atlas for 15, and google for 22a). The first two clues I got I liked (7a, 8d), and that encouraged me to continue, although on another day and in a different frame of mind I might have struggled or given up.

    As a general comment, there was a lot of general knowledge needed. Not just the themers, of which there turned out to be not quite as many as I expected (probably a good thing) but also 4d, 15d, 22a. I think if you’ve got quite an obscure bit of GK, your clue needs to be very clear. 22a I guessed correctly and looked up, but don’t understand properly beyond school, and the (&lit, I think?) definition. 15d I can see, but it’s quite a complicated clue for a relatively obscure GK solution.

    I was pretty impressed by your &lit clues. The only one that didn’t quite work for me was 23, because occupied doesn’t really add anything, making it seem like a regular clue in which city is doing double duty. I also don’t understand how ‘mean’ fits into 9a, but thought it very good, along with 28a, 7a, 1a

    Loads of ticks elsewhere
    For the cryptic/hidden defs, I liked 14a, 25a, 24d
    Also 2d, 8d, 4d, 5d.

    A few question marks. I don’t understand the word play in 27a. I think I understand ‘surrounded by green’ but think it’s quite a stretch. 10a, does miss equate to what you have? Isn’t missing done by the aimer, not the aimed at? My last one in was 16d, and probably for that reason, not too keen on it as a solution, though the clue is neat

    I remembered solving your last puzzle, but couldn’t remember what I thought of it, so had to look it up. I think I found this one considerably harder and more interesting. Thanks

    • Deuce
      Posted April 24, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Mucky!

      Agreed, there are several words (/proper nouns) in here, perhaps more than are fair. I think you might be right on 10a; they are indeed slightly different (opposite) meanings. This hadn’t occurred to me. On 27a, “Green” has a second (slang) meaning. 23, the word “occupied” is supposed to form part of the meaning too (as in, under occupation), but perhaps it doesn’t work…

      In 9a, letters 2 and 3 together form an abbreviation (in Chambers). But I see you weren’t the only one to find that one too hard.

      • mucky
        Posted April 24, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Occupied – ok, my fault for missing that. Add it to tick list.
        I looked up the abbreviation in 9a in my (new, just got it last week! Isn’t it good?) Chambers but couldn’t find it. I’ve just looked again, and still can’t find it. The clue as a whole wasn’t too hard
        The green meaning is given as (in pl). I thought it a clever clue, and gave it a !?

  6. Gazza
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I found this really tough but worthwhile to 16d – it became a bit easier once the theme revealed itself. There are a couple I still can’t parse fully (13a and 22a) but I really liked 2/18d and my favourite 8/21d. Thanks to Deuce for the challenge.

  7. dutch
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I also found this pretty hard, a bit of a slog which can detract from enjoyment sometimes.

    Plenty of clever and original clueing. Quite a few unusual abbreviations.

    I’m a big fan of &lits, but I agree they need to work beautifully else it is better to have a different clue type. 28a is perfect, 1a is great ( though I might have preferred so or just so to such). Like other clue types, I would guess 2 or 3 max per puzzle for balance but I don’t think there are any rules.

    9a was less attractive, it takes some deconvoluting and I’ve only just now while typing this realised that mean is the arithmetic kind. Also, I don’t know my literature very well so I had to look this up.

    Not sure I have fully unravelled 13a and 23d

    Some clever definitions, 25a, 14a, 29a, 3d, 5d, 17a, 19d which all make for good penny drop moments. The answer to 17 is not in chambers, but it is in collins.

    12a – i’m not sure if this counts as two indications, just feels like the clue is missing something – but then I might be missing something

    Some minor cryptic grammar glitches, again unless I got things wrong of course: I’m not sure the links work in 26a and 15d, for example

    The stand out clues are 2d/18d and 8d/21d. I also like that the answer is in a single column in these clues.

    Congratulations Deuce – though I wouldn’t mind if the next one were a bit easier!

    • Deuce
      Posted April 24, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks! 12a is meant to be an & lit, using a double meaning of “green”. (Again, you’re not the only one to find it suspect so perhaps back to the drawing board…)

      • dutch
        Posted April 24, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Ah! I missed the second meaning of green – yes, now I think that works very nicely.


  8. Beet
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m another one who found it tough, but not insurmountable. 4d and 24d were my favourites I think – Christmas present fooled me for a while even after I’d twigged the theme.

  9. jane
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Have to say that I’m in the ‘too tough to be enjoyable’ camp. Still a couple of blanks – 22a plus 23d – and several that I can’t fully parse.
    I felt that a lot of the surface reads lacked smoothness and solvers weren’t given enough help to arrive at the more obscure definitions.
    Top of the pile for me were 1,10 & 12a.

    Sorry to be negative, Deuce – I enjoyed your last puzzle far more than this one.

  10. Kath
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 8:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I admit total defeat – this is way too tough for me and, to quote Brian from the other side, beyond my pay grade.
    I have a handful of answers – my hands are not very big.
    I’m glad to see that the really clever chaps and chapesses also found it difficult – it makes me feel better.
    I’m sure this is a very clever bit of crossword setting – it’s just that I can’t do it.
    Thanks to Deuce and, in advance, to Prolixic.

    PS – I do have to ask where the name ‘Deuce’ came from.

    • Deuce
      Posted April 24, 2017 at 10:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Sorry about that Kath! Still trying to get a feel for how to calibrate the difficulty ; clearly doesn’t help that there’s some odd words in there this time, to make the grid fit.

      “Deuce” – no particular story, just a nice word with a devilish undertone :-)

      • Miffypops
        Posted April 24, 2017 at 10:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I’m glad Kath hasn’t asked about Miffypops. Not tried the puzzle as I rarely make the time for them ( notice I don’t say I haven’t the time for them. Of course I do. I choose to use the time elsewhere).

  11. Maize
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    I read somewhere that the &Lit style of clue was both the hardest type of clue to compose and also a kind of a Holy Grail, almost, for setters to achieve. To have packed so many into one puzzle AND with a theme to boot is a brilliant and impressive achievement, no doubt about that.

    The clues themselves were definitely hard – almost all of them – but I found myself drawn in by the challenge and determined to finish, only having to turn to reference books for the last two or three. Overall it took me about five times as long as my regular daily cryptic in the i !

    Prolixic has already given you a whole bunch of invaluable pointers. Obviously the solver needs to feel secure in the setter’s hands, so to speak, so tightening up on the precision of your definitions is probably the most useful thing to concentrate on for next time – it’s self-evident that the solver needs to know what he or she is looking for… Cryptic definitions like ‘Negative reflection’ are fine (although maybe that one could have been balanced out by making the wordplay correspondingly easier) but it’s hard to see where the definition is in a clue like 17a, say.

    My general knowledge let me down with 22a, the band leaders in 1a, the hat in 2d and with a few of the abbreviations. However, I have ticks by 15 of the clues and podium finishes for these beauties: 28a, 8d/ 21d and 23d.

    Many thanks Deuce, it is self-evident that you have poured a lot into this and it remains a remarkable and memorable achievement.

  12. jane
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks, Prolixic – I was eagerly anticipating your take on this one.
    I didn’t manage to get 22a or 4&23d but can’t say that I feel too bad about those having now read the answers!
    I had also drawn a blank on the full parsing of 15 & 16d – both of which I should have been able to manage.

    10a didn’t really bother me. Whilst it may not be absolutely correct English, I think most of us would be comfortable with a phrase along the lines of ‘he managed to miss/dodge being cut by the flying glass’.

    As there was no reference to the theme given as a header to the puzzle, I thought the clues pertaining to it should have been indicated in some way. As an example – the first instance the solver would come across would have been 9a. As far as I can tell, there is no definition given in the clue that would enable it to stand alone.
    I do hope that Deuce takes your comments on board – his third puzzle showed such promise.

  13. Kath
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Prolixic for all the sorting out and, again, to Deuce.

  14. mucky
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Prolixic for ironing out all the trickinesses.
    Personally, I rather like phrases like ‘these decorated’, ‘attempting to pick up’ and ‘rating hard rock highly [?]’ – they seem natural indicators of the solution, even if not quite exact equivalents in each case.
    I’m with Maize, who I think has managed to accentuate the positive better than me. I found it a rich puzzle, and hope the next one is equally so.

  15. Deuce
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks all, and especially to Prolixic. I am glad you enjoyed some of them; and apologies for those that were too obscure – clearly not everyone’s an Udo Jurgens fan :-)

    Seems like it’s the definitions that need particular work: very tricky to do (not least as the inclusion of the themed words always leaves you with some obscure definitions to include…) . A few answers to questions:
    10ac: I had thought of “miss” in the sense of “he missed the bullet” (rather than “the bullet missed”), but now I look there is indeed little dictionary support for that usage…
    25ac: I was thinking of the words being synonyms, as they are interchangeable in e..g the sentence “He is trying to pick up”. Though I realise technically this is a slightly different part of speech.
    23dn: “Being” here as in: “Being the chairman of this organisation, I hereby…” (this one is in the dictionary, though hardly the most common meaning)

  16. Catnap
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This one was too tough for me. I tried but couldn’t get onto the right wavelength.

    I’m really sorry Deuce that I couldn’t appreciate your puzzle. But many thanks nonetheless.

    Many appreciative thanks to Prolixic for unravelling the complexities and guiding Deuce in the right directions.

  17. Arepo
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 7:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I didn’t have a whole chunk of time this week to sit down with the RC puzzle, so I’ve been chipping away at it here and there when I’ve had a few free minutes. This style of solving clearly reduces the slog factor, so I had a more pleasant time with this than some of the commenters, despite finding it just as tricky. It is a testament to the quality of the cluing that I kept coming back for more.

    Like others, I was impressed by the number and quality of the &lits. (Amongst which others have already nominated favourites, but I’d like to spotlight 28a which I think is very neat indeed and deserves some praise.) Though I do agree that there were a couple of less good ones, such as 22a (shouldn’t it be “A musical”, anyway?).

    In any case, I found this very enjoyable and well crafted. Thanks for the fun, and keep it up!

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