Rookie Corner – 166 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner – 166

A Puzzle by FirmlyDirac

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

FirmlyDirac is the latest Rookie to put his head above the parapet. 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.

The queue for this slot is very short at the moment, so puzzles from new and existing Rookies will be most welcome.

A review by Prolixic follows.

Welcome to FirmlyDirac with an overly tough first crossword.  Setting a crossword requires a degree of judgement in relation to the difficulty to balance this with the reward of getting the solutions.  A difficult crossword with lots of ah moments, can be a joy to solve.  One that requires a lot of slogging seems more like climbing a mountain in the fog with not much of a view from the top.  Sadly, I think from the comments during the day that this one fell into the latter category.  It is the sort of crossword where you need a long quite afternoon to solve.  For many of us on a working day, this required too much time to give it full justice.  This is a shame as, with a few exceptions, the actual clues where, when you got to the bottom of them, were good.  My main comment would be that some of the definition were a little too loose or stretched to make it an entirely fair crossword but this may be differences in style.  I think that it is sensible for new setter not to try and set their first crossword as being too fiendish but to start off with something simpler and then to build up difficulty level as they progress.


6 Composer is fashionable, at low volume, in religious surrounding. (7)
PUCCINI – The abbreviation for fashionable or upper-class followed by the abbreviation for cubic centimetre and the IN from the clue with a two letter word for religious surrounding them.  Perhaps low volume is more suggestive of 1 cc, after all you would not way that 1000 cc was a low volume but it is a fine distinction.

7 Shooting-match informed about language?  Not half! (7)
SHEBANG – An informal word meaning informed around half of the name of the language of the Israelis.  I am not sure that the definition is quite the same as the answer from the definitions I have looked at in Chambers and Collins.  The whole shooting match means everything but the whole ….. means an affair or matter.

9 Rubbish-like orders. (5)
ROTAS – A three letter word meaning rubbish followed by a two letter word meaning like.

10 Flowers carried by this churchman to gallows. (5,4)
ELDER TREE – A another word for a churchman followed by an informal word for a gallows.  I think that the definition here is too vague to be fair to the solver.  It over generalises the nature of the answer.

11 Mosquitoes, for example, swim – a trillion! (7)
DIPTERA – A three letter word for a swim followed by the prefix for a trillion.

13 Tell of change, different direction. (6)
SNITCH – A word meaning change or swap with the N (north) replaced by W (west) (different direction).

15 Failing school gets back top marks, taking on cheaper premises. (6,7)
SOCIAL HOUSING – An anagram (failing) of SCHOOL includes a reversal back of A1 (top marks) with another word for taking on or employing following this.

19 Revolutionary agreement: beginning to end, it’s cheap. (6)
CHEESY – The usual three letter name of a South American revolutionary followed by a three letter word used to signify agreement with the first letter moved to the end.

20 Emphasised bend in atom-smasher. (7)
MARCATO – A three letter word for a bend or part of a circle inside an anagram (smasher) of ATOM.  I am not enamoured with smasher as an anagram indicator.

23 Oil turns a bad, into a good barrier. (8)
INSULATOR – An anagram (bad – in its adjectival form this is fine) of OIL TURNS A

24 Considers tests without spare wheel. (5)
MOOTS – Another word for annual tests required for cars around (without) an O (spare wheel).

26 Risk to Bond’s hair: pan out. (7)
PIRANHA – An anagram (out) of HAIR PAN.  I think that the definition here is a little unfair for the solver as you need to remember the perils that James Bond has been in from the films to get the definition.

27 Spear-bearer, almost a giant, held back earlier. (7)
NARWHAL – A word meaning held or organised is reversed (back) before (earlier) a word meaning a giant with the final letter removed (almost).  Another clue where the definition requires a leap of lateral thinking that is not entirely fair.


1 Dropping out! (4)
SCAT – Double definition, the first being an animal dropping and the second meaning a word for shoo or get out or go away.

2 Wipe out ties with America, back in! (6)
TISSUES – An anagram (out) of TIES includes a reversal (back in) of the abbreviation for United States (America).  I think that out before the letters to be rearranged does not work as an anagram indicator – to out something means to make it public.

3 Rolling parts separating terraces? (9)
SIDEWALLS – Double definition of the outer surface of a tyre an what divides terraced houses.  As a property lawyer, I would say that the answer is found at the end of the terraces.  An interior or party wall divides them.

4 Nudist’s actions reported to journals. (8)
BEARINGS – A homophone (reported) of BARINGS (nudist’s action).  I am struggling to see how the answer relates to journals from the dictionary definition of journals – perhaps a little too specialist as a general definition.

5 Country obsession involving gold – go slower! (10)
MAURITANIA – The chemical symbol for gold and the musical abbreviation for go slower inside a a word meaning an obsession.

6 Pray, do not correct this sketch! (6)
PARODY – An anagram (not correct / incorrect) of PRAY DO.

7 Thus agreed in Kremlin: get drink. (4)
SODA – A two letter word meaning thus followed by the Russian (in the Kremlin) for agreed.

8 Poet’s article on advice to young man?  Quite the opposite! (6)
GOETHE – Reverse the order of the wordplay and put the definite article after the advice that might be given to a young man (go west) also reversed, to go east.  The instruction to reverse the order of the wordplay applying not only to the word order but also to the instruction to the young man is perhaps a little unfair.  Perhaps Quite the opposite in every sense would alert the solver that there are two opposites at word in the clue.

12 Chairpersons wander south for spores. (10)
PROFESSORS – An anagram (wander) of S (South) FOR SPORES.  I don’t think that wander works as an anagram indicator – you cannot wander something.  Wandering would work.

14 This returns catcall called by setter. (9)
BOOMERANG – A three letter catcall and a word meaning called around a two letter word meaning the setter.  I don’t think that the containment indicator (by) means around.  If anything it means alongside.

16 No respect – no cash – no win! (8)
INSOLENT – A word meaning bankrupt or having no cash without the abbreviation for victory (no win).  Although Chambers does not give V for victory outside the use in VE Day, Collins has V = victory in its own right.  Perhaps no victory would have been better to avoid the double step of win = victory = v.

17 Swimmer in water, cold rather than hot, to save money. (6)
SCRIMP – The name of a soft shellfish (swimmer) with the H (hot) being replaced by C (cold).

18 Diana gets Jolson on his back. (6)
DORSAL – The surname of the old actress Diana followed by the first name of the singer Jolson.  Perhaps a definition by example indicator (to show that Diana and Jolson are examples for the required parts of the wordplay would be better.  “Maybe Diana…”.  The his in the clue is distracting.

21 Artist is back in city?  On the contrary, to fish! (6)
REMORA – Reverse the name of the capital city of Italy inside the two letter abbreviation for an artist.  

22 Mount is neat but unruly. (4)
ETNA – An anagram (but unruly) of NEAT.

25 Sort of echo, must be in front of player. (4)
OCHE – An anagram (sort of) of ECHO.

49 comments on “Rookie Corner – 166

  1. the enumeration for 23a should be (9) – took me a while to realise! about half way through…

    1. Thank you – I was wondering why it didn’t work

      I’ve had one go but now have to start work – goes two and possibly three and then … will probably come later

  2. i did about half and only managed the rest with extensive use of the reveal button. It could be me, but this seemed pretty hard. Some obscure references and answers. A lot of the clues work well, though there are some where I thought the anagram indicator was a stretch (atom-smasher isn’t the same as smashing atoms, there must be something smoother than “not correct” in 1d, not sure if wander as an imperative works). There were other clues where i thought the cryptic reading could improve, e.g. I don’t think “(fodder) bad into (def)” works – you need something like ‘changing into’ to make the link smooth. And some other little things, like ideally indicating which of the directions SW is being changed, but I could work that one out.

    I spent a long time trying to force 5d to be a musical term, then surprise, that pleasure was for 20a which I hadn’t anticipated at all!

    some of the definitions are a little oblique, I think the first one in 4d might have been a bit kinder (e.g. by including ‘car’ somewhere) and i’m not convinced with journalists, though as always i could well be missing something.

    Lots of original clue constructions, I think if you can keep it a little simpler you’ll have happier solvers. Let’s see what others and prolixic say.

    Congratulations, it’s a big achievement, hope you are already working on the next one and that the comments you get today will be useful for you

  3. Phew – I found this one really tough with most of the answers needing to be prised out. There’s some really inventive clueing and most of the surfaces are good (exceptions being 7a and 12d, for example). The clues I liked best were 15a, 8d and 14d. I don’t understand 4d.
    Thanks to FirmlyDirac – if this is your first puzzle then it’s very impressive. I look forward to your next one (but please try to make it a bit less of a brainstretcher!).

  4. Hi FirmlyDirac
    I spent much longer on this than I usually would, because I liked the clues I got early, and the solutions seemed to be in areas I find interesting.
    It was pretty difficult. That is a positive, for me, provided the clues are fair, which they (mostly) were, and I solved it all myself, just using the check button a little. Some of the surfaces could have been a bit smoother.
    I got the bottom half first, then took a lot longer on the top half.
    The ones I liked were: 1d (double-tick, favourite), 2d, 6d (liked the ‘not correct’ anagrind – it really stumped me for ages), 12d (when I finally realised it wasn’t some heinous substractive anagram of chairpersons), 7d, 14d, 16d, 11a, 24a
    I made quite a lot of notes where I thought you were pushing it a bit. In no particular order:
    16d nice structure, but V != win. That’s a double jump, in my book.
    27a the giant bit for the second half of the solution is very closely related to the whole solution
    7a I like the solution, but often find ‘half of something’ indications a bit of a stretch. I think the thing cut in half should be pretty clear
    6a can’t find the U in the clue
    11a liked it, but a trillion is quite hard, and the solution is a bit obscure, which is a tough combination
    15a Not sure about top marks. Are you treating the two letters separately? If so, it’s not very precise
    4d I don’t understand the definition, though I got it eventually from the wordplay and crossers.
    8d I understand the structure and def., but don’t understand the advice to young man
    3d I don’t really understand at all – just getting it from crossers and checking. I originally put vineyards, which I was pretty pleased with, since then at least I understood part of the clue.
    Thanks for the entertaining challenge, and congratulations

    1. the advice to young man involves a direction of travel in american pioneering days (from Horace greeley, apparently, though I wouldn’t have known that bit)

      3d refers to parts of parts of an automobile, or whats found between adjacent houses – took me a while

      I’m missing 4d too.

      1. Having thought some more about 4d and looked up ‘journal’ in the BRB I think that the answer is a homophone of ‘barings’ (nudist’s actions) and a journal can be ‘that part of a shaft or axle which is in contact with and supported by a bearing’.

        1. Thanks, both
          Never come across that for journal – very unexpected, and quite a nice addition to the old vocab
          As for the car parts, I thought it must be something to do with tyres, but now I think I was muddling elements of White**** and ****stone; it seems to be just the automotive equivalent of the house part?

        2. ouch – well done finding that! – i was thinking very loosely bearings – tidings – news – journalism but couldn’t convince myself

  5. First of the lower orders reporting in. I’ve managed about half a dozen and don’t hold out much hope of getting a great deal further.
    Interest rather waning, I’m sorry to say.

  6. I didn’t even get as far as Dutch before resorting to the Reveal button. I found it very hard to attune to the setter’s wavelength, and I could still be scratching my head this time tomorrow had I not sought electronic assistance.

    I think that, for a debut puzzle, there is much to commend, but if a crossword is so tough that it becomes less of a joy to solve and more of a slog, then there’s a danger that it will alienate its potential audience. For me, there needed to be more “hooks” or easier solutions to entice solvers to keep going.

    Thanks for the challenge, FirmlyDirac, you’ve won this one hands down. Is your pseudonym an anagram of your real name, I wonder?

  7. Thanks a lot everyone for the comments so far :-)
    As Dave says, this is my first attempt, not only on this site, but anywhere!
    I accept that it may have been rather too difficult. I wasn’t using any sort of grid-filling software, so I had to resort to fairly obscure words to finish the grid! Also there’s a mistake on the clue to 12d, should have been “wandering”. The participle went astray somewhere! I’m sure there are plenty of other mistakes!
    If I really get seriously into the hobby, I’ll maybe invest in Crossword-compiler (I’ve tried the demo) and use some of the tools.
    Anyway, I’m already working on my second attempt. I’ll see if I can keep the clueing a bit more straightforward. Trouble is, I’m used to the Guardian’s tough ones!
    No, my username isn’t an anagram. It’s the same one I use on the Guardian comments. Sort of pun on my long-lapsed physics background.

    1. FD. 4d seems to have raised a few comments, but I reckon it’s an excellent, bordering on brilliant, clue – so well done!

  8. Well I did give it a couple more ‘goes’ but decided I haven’t got time to go any further.

    Noting that this is FirmlyD’s first cryptic, I think he has fallen into the ‘I’m writing cryptic clues, I must make them incomprehensible’ type of clue writing so common to people when starting out on cryptic crossword setting. I think Silvanus’ comment is a fair summation of this experience. I did like 17d

  9. Right now, I have about as many clues answered as Jane. I won’t be able to get back to it until the end of my work day. 17D made me smile.

  10. Hi FirmlyDirac and many thanks for your offering. As it is ‘fairly’ late in the day I have included more detailed comments below.

    This was a tough one and took me on and off during the day through till 4pm. I do like harder clues and some of these were very good indeed. In general most crossword-loving audiences will find some of these too hard, unless you are writing Listener clues or similar and even there the editors demand very high levels of precision in every clue.

    I made some notes as I went through – in no particular order – which I’ve included below. I definitely may not be right in every case but it is how the clues appeared to me! I can see having typed this and then read others’ comments before sending that many of these have already been commented upon.

    Hope this helps & look forward to your next one :-)



    6a cc as (1) cc work for me.
    9a fine
    11a like what you are doing here, though are ‘tera’ and ‘trillion’ exactly interchangeable? Not sure.
    15a A & 1 as ‘top marks’ is good
    2d Is ‘back’ good English?
    3d I can’t parse this – what am I missing?
    23 I’m not a fan of the nounal anagram indicator, e.g. ‘bad’ here, but it is seen in the more liberal of national dailies, I understand. Enumeration should have been (9).
    25 is the comma required?
    26 def. a bit broad, unless I’m missing something
    27a why ‘spear-bearer’? I’m being thick!
    6d The ‘not’ though fine for the surface is superfluous in the wordplay
    8d is there a ‘just the opposite’ doing double duty here (Go West AND A after B)? If yes then some editors won’t like this.
    18 DORS took me ages to get! Diana probably needs a Definition By Example indicator
    24 some don’t like ‘without’ as the opposite of within.
    21 tough word; good clue
    20 another good word; ‘smasher’ isn’t quite the right word in the wordplay – needs ‘smashed’ or similar.
    5 rit. is a good abbrev but tough for some audiences.
    16d is this ‘v’ for win? Is this a bit of a leap or ok – not sure.

    1. Thanks Encota for your encouraging feedback.
      As I said earlier, I appreciate I’ve been a bit too ‘clever’. I’ll rein back a bit if I can, with my second go (if I ever finish it!).
      3d I was thinking of a double cryptic def. – walls to the side which separate terrace houses – but you’re probably right, it doesn’t really work. I think this was my last word to clue and I was getting a bit tired!
      2d not sure of your point.
      23 I felt happy with ‘bad’ – but as I said I’m a Guardianista!
      25 maybe not.
      26 I didn’t want another fish in the clue! The obscurity seemed about right to me!
      27a Once again another sea creature! And yet another obscure definition. Try googling with images – its ‘appendage’ does look rather like a spear.
      6d I meant ‘not correct’ as anag. indicator. Is this acceptable?
      8d. I was thinking of E as opposite of W
      18 I’ll have to look up what ‘definition by example’ means in this context. Maybe I’m showing my age (DD’s dates were 1931-84, AJ was 1886-1950. DD was quite a goddess in her time).
      24. Noted. But once again the Guardian uses it!
      20. Noted.
      21. Memories of reading The Kon-Tiki Expedition made me think of this.
      5. I think a lot of solvers need to get to grips with musical notation. After all, don’t setters use musical allusions to ‘f’ and ‘p’ (also ‘ff’ and ‘pp’) rather a lot?
      16. Yes – V for victory.

      Thanks anyway. Enjoyed your comments. FD.

      1. Hi FD,

        Delighted to provide feedback – this site was really kind to me when I first started setting and I love to be able to return / pass on the favour. I too had several comments of the ‘very hard / too hard’ category in some of my earlier feedback here – see, for example, :-)

        3d – I see what you mean now; no, I don’t think I’d ever have got that!
        23 – I know what you mean on the ‘Guardianista’ front: I try it most mornings and it is amazing what one picks up inadvertently (‘innit’). For example, I’ve spent 2 years now trying to talk myself out of ‘First archer…’ or similar being acceptable to clue the letter A (rather than ‘First of archer’, ‘Archer initially’, etc). I’ve found the style guide at the Listener website a useful counterbalance to some of the more libertarian styles, even if I don’t always choose to follow it.
        6d – I think this was my misreading of the clue
        18 – I’m not the expert on these by any means – there are others on this site much more skilled in the matter – but add-on indicators such as ‘for example, maybe, perhaps, for one, a QM, etc. – can allow you to define something by an example of that group; So ‘Bowler for example…’ could define ‘hat’. My first thought was that your Diana might be a similar case – given there are lots of Dianas to choose from… I’ve been known to get these backwards though: hopefully JollySwagman will soon put me right if I have got this wrong again!
        5 – again, I know what you mean – and more than I can easily cope with appear regularly in The Times etc. One of my children when revising for a piano theory paper had a list of about 400 such terms, all of which he’d ideally have known. I had a quick skim through at the time, to try and decide which might seem ‘fair’ in which sort of puzzle – but I soon got bogged down!

        Definitely looking forward to your next one!!



        PS Why the FD pseudonym?

  11. Hi FirmlyDirac, I really, really enjoyed that.

    Very tough in parts and, although I managed without recourse to the reveal button, I had to resort to a wordfinder for 3d – a clue that couldn’t readily be solved from either side – by me at least! The specialist car mechanics knowledge required for that and for 4d was beyond me – and I suspect most other solvers.

    Several definitions were cryptic – which is fine – but the trouble with making a puzzle hard is that the cryptic grammar then has to be 100% accurate and the definitions nice & tight. By pitching your puzzle so hard, you’ve sort of forced the solvers here to be hard on you, if you see what I mean.

    Clues I liked: 7a, 11a, 13a, 19a, 23a, 5d, 6d, 17d,. Clues I liked even more; 15a, 1d, 8d.

    Bravo, this puzzle oozed with talent and potential – if you take on board the comments you receive – especially from Prolixic whose word are like gold dust to an aspiring setter – then I predict great things.

  12. Soldiered on throughout the day – with help from the comments on here to get 3&4d – and now have a completed grid but this was definitely well outside of my comfort/enjoyment zone.
    I did enjoy 19 & 24a along with 17d but felt that many of the others required taking ‘lateral thinking’ to a whole new level. I also thought that surface reads are not always your strong point!

    I wonder whether you will choose to make future puzzles more generally accessible or aim for a slightly different audience. Should you opt for the former, I would certainly be interested to see the results.

    Thank you for the challenge, FD.

  13. I’m really sorry FirmlyDirac but this was, to quote an unnamed person from the ‘other side’, so far beyond me that I might as well have been on the moon.
    I did have a very quick look but, at the same time, I skimmed through the comments – when I see Gazza, CS and Dutch saying that they found it difficult I know it’s time for me to beat a hasty retreat and head for the hills i.e. my garden.
    I wish you luck with crossword setting and I admire you for having a go – it’s very brave and far more than I would dare to do.
    Thanks and good wishes to FirmlyDirac and a big :good: for the courage that I think it must take.
    Thanks also, in advance, to Prolixic.

  14. I also got the ‘I’m writing cryptic clues, I must make them incomprehensible’ comment for my first puzzle. Don’t be put off; it’s very hard to judge the difficulty of your own clues. Things I have learned:
    Even if you think it’s too easy, it’s probably not.
    Even if it is too easy, people will still enjoy solving it (or at least say they did).
    Crossword compiler is well worth the money (and I hate buying things). I just bought the basic version. Does anyone have the pro version? Are all the extra gizmos useful?
    Be wary of taking Guardian style as your starting point. As a beginner, you won’t be given any of the latitude/reverence that an established name is granted.

    1. I agree with this, and with Dutch’s comment below.
      I managed 8 answers (including all the 4-letter ones), and really liked 1d, but didn’t really feel qualified to comment having got stuck.
      I don’t know what you get with the Pro version that you don’t get in the basic. I have the Pro version but don’t have any of the extra dictionaries. If the Grid-filler is not included in the basic version, then it is absolutely worth getting the Pro version – I find this essential.
      Thanks to FirmlyDirac, (good luck with the next one, there’s definite promise. I find if the surface makes people smile it doesn’t matter how easy it is) and to Prolixic in advance.

      1. And here is me thinking the grid filler is a cheat and struggling along without using it!!!

        1. It’s like solving – do it whichever way you get the most enjoyment out of it. I don’t use AutoFill, though – I like to pick the words I am going to have to clue.

  15. Yes, a comment on the liberties in Guardian style crosswords. I like mucky’s comment that a beginner isn’t given the same latitudes. I think this is true and for good reason.

    I like a music analogy i once heard – before you can be really good at improvising, you have to first completely understand the structure and the rules in music, else there is chaos. In crossword-land, to me this translates to understanding the importance of what it is to be completely Ximenean with perfect cryptic grammar. Once you have that under your belt, feel free to take the occasional liberty – but not too often, just in one or two clues a puzzle. To me, that is the best advice I can give a beginner setter (advice I tried to take on board about a year ago… and still trying to make it work)

  16. This is not really my place to suggest – but how about retaining your name as a blogger and shortening it to just ‘Dirac’ as a setter. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind!

  17. Many thanks, Prolixic – the voice of sound common sense as ever.
    I do hope that FD takes your comments on board – ‘difficult with lots of ah moments’ sounds good to me, even if I would still struggle to get the grid filled!

  18. Hi FD. Great puzzle. Quite tough.

    Preliminary points.

    23a the letter-count is wrong – presumably just a typo.
    Throughout – by convention (nothing more) final full stops are usually omitted – other punctuation (? and ! mainly) may be shown.

    Great choice of moniker – from which one might deduce that the Paul1 exclusion principle applies – ie don’t attempt this unless you can handle Paul (Dada in these parts) puzzles first.

    I loved the crypticness of many of the definitions – that’s mainly what made the solve tougher than usual – the wordplays generally got me there first – only then did the real head-scratching start.

    10a particularly good – also 4a, which is not really particularly cryptic, but just takes the typically deskbound solver into the world of engineering for a change – so very original – especially since “journals” and the like appears so frequently in clues (to give PRESS etc).

    I didn’t have any real quibbles.

    3d is interesting. If “Rolling parts” is one side of the clue the other might be “separating terraces?” with the “?” being critical – ie asking the question “What is it that ‘seperates terraces’?”. On the other had many might take “parts separating terraces” to be the other side – leaving “parts” doing double duty – in which case the “?” might be taken as a warning to expect something out-of-the-ordinary.

    I’ve been running a U3A course recently aimed at conning innocent quickie solvers into our addiction and when I briefly comment on the common expectation that double duty should not occur (except when excused by &lit/all-in-one type clues) they all feel that double duty on the overlap of definition and wordplay makes a better than average clue and should not be proscribed. With clues like that the answer normally hits you in the face – It’s only when we pick them apart (Why do we do that?) that problems arise.

    Either way I think it works – although it was my second-from-last-one-in – my last-one-in being 11a – dunno why – there were trickier ones but that one held out.

    Also in 3d “parts” is frequently used by tough (until you twig their wavelength) setters to indicate insertion – so that sidetracked me for a while.

    I haven’t looked at the other comments yet but I bet you cop some flak re difficulty. I don’t agree with that. Surely Rookie Corner is for rookie setters – not rookie solvers. Setters’ typical difficulty levels tend to vary between individuals. Some of the pros can pitch difficulty level to order – but not many.

    Many thanks for the fun/agony – hope to see more.

    1. Hi JS,
      A quick comment, if I may. Whilst I completely agree that Rookie Corner is for Rookie setters, I think one of the points of it is that their puzzles are then tackled by people of differing levels of ability with regard to solving. That surely gives the new setters bench marks to work with when they come to determine their preferred target audience.

      1. Hi Jane

        I see your point but I can’t see that rookie setters who might want to mature as an Araucaria or an Elgar are going to benefit by practising to be a Rufus or a Giovanni (minus the pointless obscurities) or whatever.

        That is not intended as a sneer at the setters of easy puzzles. There is a special skill needed to make a good easy puzzle – particularly if it is going to be interesting and enjoyable to solve for more seasoned solvers too. I think the previous setter in the Observer Everyman slot had that down to a fine art. The current setter is good but the puzzles are quite a bit tougher now.

        When I comment on easy puzzles in this series I try to look at them in the context in which they’ve been presented – I wouldn’t dream of condemning their easiness if that was the setter’s manifest intention or natural style.

        I realise it’s tougher the other way round. What most of us want is a good tussle where we get to win in the end. If we don’t it’s easy to criticise the puzzle but most times when we read the blog we see that the setter has beaten us fairly and squarely – and we’ll know better next time.

  19. Oh dear – I just looked at the blog and the other comments – they’re trying to make you into a dull Ximenean – and (as with Ximenes Himself) some aren’t even logical.

    Some observations:

    7d – after inclusion in a dictionary (which is sufficent, but not necessary) the next-best defence of a definition is interchangeability.

    The whole shebang
    The whole shooting-match

    Interchangeable – therefore fine.

    23a (Encota comment #10) even if you allow the illogical slogan (from Ximenes – who else?) that nouns should not indicate anagrams (mixture???) – since when has ‘bad’ been a noun – other than in the horrible neologism “my bad” (is it an Americanism?) for which (along with “all good”) I have taken a solemn oath to never use.

    Stick to your guns would be my advice. It pays to understand where the ximmies are coming from but it’s not necessary to join them and certainly not necessary to start that way in order to branch out into somthing better later.

    Gershwin didn’t get started by imitating hymns or Haydn string quartets.

    Dutch @#15 – I’m sure you know perfectly well that Ximenean and “perfect cryptic grammar” are not the same thing so why implicitly suggest that they are?

    I don’t see any faults in the manner of setting defined by all-time-great Telegraph setter Douglas Barnard in his 1963 book – one of the few worth reading and (sadly) probably the hardest to get hold of. Ximeneanism is just a wierd minor departure from that and its proponents have initiated an unnecessary war against alternatives.

    Those who weren’t around at the time have only the literature to go on – much of which is intentionally misleading – so let’s not make matters worse.

    1. Hi JS – a predictable response ; )

      you are quite right, of course I don’t see having good cryptic grammar and being Ximenean as the same thing. (That would suggest libertarians forego cryptic grammar, which is complete rubbish.) I don’t think I said that, but sorry if it read that way. I was simply trying to say I thought they were both of value when learning (and I know your views on being Ximenean).

  20. Prolixic. 14d: I’m not sure that Dirac meant to use “by” as a containment indicator. The clue is made up of 3 simple elements, BOO + ME, RANG alongside (by) each other – and ME and RANG are alongside each other but in reverse order according to the sequence of wordplay, and that is what should have been indicated in the clue (the reverse order). It would be better as: This returns catcall called after setter.

    1. I agree about by, but think it’s fine as it is.
      This returns as definition, BOO (catcall) ME RANG (called by setter)
      Called by setter can be ME RANG or RANG ME, can’t it?

      1. Yes, I can’t disagree with that – it just shows how some of these clues are more subjective than meets the eye.

  21. Prolixic. 4d – 3 definitions of journal from Collins Online Dictionary:

    the part of a shaft or axle in contact with or enclosed by a bearing
    a plain cylindrical bearing to support a shaft or axle

    6. Mechanics
    the part of a rotary axle or shaft that turns in a bearing

  22. I have more question marks than ticks, most of which have already been discussed. I confess the reveal button took a bit of a bashing after a while.

    My simplest suggestion would be that the clue should contain all the necessary elements, even if it does tend to dumb it down a tad. It’s still a puzzle to those who don’t already know the answer. Leap-of-faith definitions or two-step clues are too much like hard work to really enjoy.

    I am lucky in that my test solver either laughs, groans or shakes her head in disapproval, which helps a lot.

    Many thanks for the grapple, I’ll be interested to see the next one.

    PS Given Prolixic’s preamble, I just might submit a puzzle – to be pulled to pieces, no doubt!

  23. Thanks Prolixic and everyone else for feedback.

    I was wondering whether setting is perhaps not my métier – but I suppose it’s better to get a hard ride than an easy one, even on one’s first attempt! Anyway I’ve put clueing of my second effort on hold for a bit, whilst I digest a few things…

    I agree there were some mistakes, particularly 12d where I meant to put “wandering”. And I got the letter count wrong somewhere. And on reflection I don’t like the 3d clue – should have thought of something better. I think it was the last unclued word I squeezed into the grid, and I was really stuck! I may have to resort to crossword-compiler or a similar tool.

    I do NOT agree that “spear-bearer” is too obscure a definition. Likewise “shooting match” and one or two others. Perhaps this is my Guardianista streak showing through!

    Cheers; FD

    1. Hi FD – I think crossword setting most definitely is your metier. Your puzzle was tough but virtually entirely fair and completely creative. I would suggest that you keep your level of difficulty close to the same – obviously the Guardian is tougher than the Telegraph back page, but about the same as the Indy and the Telegraph toughie, I believe.
      It’s always a good idea to keep definitions tight if you can but that can still be a cryptic definition – I thought spear-carrier and shooting match were both terrific definitions.
      It’s often advised that if the definition or the answer are hard, then the word play should be correspondingly easy to balance things out – and vice versa. You show great talent, and I for one very much look forward to your next.
      Alberich publishes guest puzzles – which are typically harder than Rookie Corner – you’d get feedback from him (brilliant!) but none from general solvers. I hope you keep going with Big Dave – we’ve all had a hard ride at times!

    2. You’re being too hard on yourself.

      Maybe not your métier – but make it your violon d’Ingres if nothing else. I can’t believe that this was your first ever attempt at a puzzle and to achieve this without software support is something of an achievement in itself – it also makes us tip our hats to the setters of old (ie 60’s and 70’s) who were forced to use standard grids and trawl through dictionaries.

      I’m not familiar with any other software, but Crossword Compiler is very functional indeed and once you use it you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it – think microwaves – or electric blankets.

      I don’t see that practising by producing sappy puzzles will help. This was fine. By the way my copy of Chambers Word Lovers Miscellany does have “wander” listed as an anagram indicator – but in the end your own logic is a better judge than any supposed authority. Having said that the easier or more obvious choice is not necessarily the best one.

      Today’s Indy has Nimrod (I haven’t tackled it yet) Elgar in these parts once a month – Enigmatist (sadly only four times a year now) in the Guardian, where I believe he started. Had one of his puzzles been run in this slot it would have fared no differently.

      Toughen up and keep them coming – just like this one. Just leave the dots off the end of the surfaces – and double-check the letter-counts – don’t change anything else.

      By the way (confession) the last puzzle I had published on this site had an error in the letter-count – BD spotted it and fixed it. In crossword compiler phrases pulled from their lists are OK but phrases (or multi-word names etc) you type in yourself get enumerated as one long word – so you need to fix that by hand.

      1. Many thanks for the words of encouragement, Maize and Swagman :-). Alas the mojo has temporarily departed from me, I’ve been staring at my #2 with only about half a dozen words placed, no idea what to do next. Oh well I’ve already done today’s RC puzzle, I’ll continue on the solving front until inspiration comes back…

        Maybe I have too many ‘violons d’Ingres’ – juggling is not one of them (although I did use to ride a unicycle when I was a lot younger). Perhaps time for the regulars on here to ‘fess up?


  24. Late looking at this one and ultimately it beat me, but following the review I can appreciate some very clever clueing. My inability to spell the creature in 26a didn’t help and I was unfamiliar with the answers to 20a and 21d. I was also hampered by an alternative answer for 7a – I had “shindig”, with Hindi being the language and SG being half of “informed”.

    As a fellow Rookie I would encourage you to continue – I know what you mean about not having your mojo some days. It takes me forever to clue a puzzle.

    Congratulations on a fine debut puzzle.

Comments are closed.