Rookie Corner – 169 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 169

A Puzzle by MacLog

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

MacLog is the latest new setter 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.

A review by Prolixic follows:

Thanks to MacLog for his debut crossword.  The basics were present with a good variety of wordplay and mostly fair cluing.  As might be expected with a debut crossword, there were a number of rough edges but I am sure that these will be honed in future crosswords.  There were, arguably, a few too many initial letters clues.  The anagram count was not too high so I would not worry about that but would not increase the number in future crosswords.  


1 Horrible crimes including dye are felt (9)
INSTINCTS – An anagram (horrible) of SINS (crime) about an archaic word meaning to dye.  This clue contains an indirect anagram where the letters to be rearranged are not evident from the clue – you first have to find a synonym for crime and then rearrange the letters.  Indirect anagrams should not be used as they are considered unfair to the solver.  Whilst verbal phrases such as are felt can be used to define nouns, they are not universally popular.  Perhaps the clue could have been reworked to give “What may be felt dye is found in key solvent originally”.

6 Confuse live before soup (5)
BEFOG – A two letter word meaning to live and a three letter word meaning soup.  Although the three letter word can be described as a pea-souper, I am not sure that soup on its own is a valid synonym.  It is not given in Chambers as a meaning of soup.

9 400 surrounding mêlée is a lot of people (5)
CROWD – The Roman numerals for 400 around (surrounding) another word for a mêlée.  

10 Maker admits, unusually, cancer kills right at the start for journalist (9)
MUCKRAKER – Include the initial letters (at the start) of unusually cancer, kills right) into the MAKER from the clue.  Perhaps a synonym for maker – perhaps manufacturer would have worked here.

11 Urdu coil is affected and frankly laughable (10)
RIDICULOUS – An anagram (affected) of URDU COIL IS.

12 Alms change hands for weapons (4)
ARMS – Change the L for an R (change hands).  Again, perhaps a synonym could have been used to provide an extra level of complexity, such as Charitable donations changing hands for weapons.

14 Extreme nails reportedly very unpopular! (4,3)
POLL TAX – A homophone (reportedly) of POLE (extreme) TACKS (nails).  The definition here “very unpopular” is not really a definition of the answer and is not even a verbal phrase that leads to the answer.  Perhaps “Unpopular levy on cut nails reportedly”.

15 Brogue with it has nothing for eating (7)
BURRITO – A four letter word for a brogue or accent followed by the IT from the clue and the letter representing nothing.  Again, to avoid the verbal phrase, “for food” would have worked equally well.

17 Insect above seen on the road (7)
FLYOVER – A three letter insect followed by a word meaning above.  I would have preferred a definition such “bridge”.

19 Function before end is adjourned (4,3)
SINE DIE – A four letter word for a mathematical function followed by a word meaning to end.

20 Unpleasant HQ? (4)
BASE – Double definition of something or someone who is unpleasant and a military or other headquarters.

22 It is logical Bio Engineering pertains to life (10)
BIOLOGICAL – An anagram (engineering) of logical bio.  As the anagram simply involves swapping the words around, it is not really an anagram.  Perhaps “Bacilli mixed with goo creates a form of washing powder”.   This would also avoid having the slightly out of place “it is” at the beginning of the clue.

25 Male hoots derisively and is not nice (9)
LOATHSOME – An anagram (derisively) of MALE HOOTS.

26 New order is so youthful at first but loud! (5)
NOISY – The initial letters (at first) of the first five words of the clue.  Perhaps to maintain a link with the pop theme, it should be “New Order”.

27 Most raw food contains wheat (5)
STRAW – The answer is hidden (contains) in MOST RAW.

28 I say reach around for comfort (4,5)
EASY CHAIR – An anagram (around) of I SAY REACH.  Another clue with a verbal phrase for a definition that could have been avoided by a clue such as “I say reach around seat/furniture/etc.”


1 Suffer pain cure inside (5)
INCUR – The answer is hidden (inside) PAIN CURE.

2 What we love after son could be fencing (9)
SWORDPLAY – The abbreviation for son followed by what solvers used to get to the definition in a cryptic crossword.

3 Invited CIA assembled and in a mood (10)
INDICATIVE – An anagram (assembled) of INVITED CIA.  I would omit the “and” so that the “in” is functioning as the link word and not trying to be part of the definition.

4 Firm politician with wee Alexander is dense (7)
COMPLEX -The abbreviation for company followed by the abbreviation for a political and a three letter diminutive form (wee) of Alexander.

5 Reserve bridging two centuries followed by pause to comply (7)
SUCCUMB – The three letter term for reserve player goes around (bridging) the abbreviation for century (twice) and a two letter verbal hesitation.

6 Initially begat all Romeo did (4)
BARD – The initial letters (initially) of the finally four words of the clue.  My personal preference would be to include the implicit “who” in the the clue “Who initially begat all Romeo did”.

7 Just about the end of walk for poor ascetic (5)
FAKIR – A four letter word meaning just or reasonable around the final letter (end of) of walk.

8 Got up carrying cop after heartless guy they go round (9)
GYROSCOPE – After the outer letters (heartless) of guy add a word meaning got up with the COP from the clue inside (carrying).  Perhaps synonym for cop could have been used.

13 Resting can oddly lead to DNA mix up (10)
TRANSGENIC – An anagram (oddly) of RESTING CAN.  The lead to should be leads to in order to maintain the cryptic reading of wordplay leads to definition.

14 Pulls round very noisy baby wanting second half fruit (9)
PUFFBALLS – The pulls from the clue goes around the musical abbreviation for very loud/noisy and the first half (wanting second half) of baby.  

16 Act in Peking perhaps to get Vietnam maybe (9)
INDOCHINA – A two letter word meaning act inside the IN from the clue and the country in which Peking is to be found.  Unless Peking is cluing a verbal phrase “in China” which is potentially unfair, the wordplay does not stack up here as the IN in the clue is doing double duty.

18 To get to the root ring me right here in zone firstly (7)
RHIZOME – The initial letters (firstly) of right heir in zone before the letter representing a ring and the ME from the clue.  The firstly here is doing double duty as telling you to take the first letters of the words and then to put the first in the wordplay to get to the solution.  

19 Knights without love dropping over for awards (7)
SILVERS – A four letter word for knights around (without) the love from the clue without the O dropping over.

21 Riser upset IRA after Patrick maybe (5)
STAIR – An anagram (upset) of IRA after the abbreviation for Saint (Patrick maybe).

23 Between sides there is assent for film (5)
LAYER – A three letter word meaning an assent in-between the abbreviations for left and right (between sides).

24 What is to used to warm up (4)
THAW – An anagram (is to used to) of WHAT.  I don’t think that the clue works particularly well with “is to used to”.

19 comments on “Rookie Corner – 169

  1. We found this a puzzle that although it does have quite a few faults (starting off with an indirect anagram in 1a), was still very solvable and gave some really good chuckles along the way. We enjoyed 10a as obviously MacLog does not have a high opinion of journalists.
    Thanks Maclog.

  2. I tend to agree with our esteemed Antipodean correspondents on this one, although there were lots of niggly faults, it was still good fun to solve.

    If some of the definitions can be tightened up and the surfaces can be much more polished, the setter will improve considerably. There were probably one or two too many anagrams, but that’s not unusual for a debut puzzle, although it’s arguable whether it would constitute an offence to call 22a an anagram! It was really unfortunate for the indirect anagram to occur in the opening clue.

    My favourite clue was 9a.

    Many thanks, MacLog, congratulations on your debut.

  3. A good debut – as others have said shame about the indirect anagram in 1a and the not really an anagram in 22a

  4. Thanks MacLog and congratulations on putting together this puzzle, which is quite a feat. This was enjoyable and not overly difficult to solve, two strong plus points.

    There are some solid clues, I like 20a, 26a, 2d, 10a, 19d (although ‘Adjourned function before end’ might read smoother) 7d, and more. A few of the surface readings didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but maybe you had something in mind.

    There are some standard traps you seem to have fallen into. I’m not keen on definitions like ‘are felt’, ‘for eating’, although Jolly Swagman might argue such verbal expressions are ok to define nouns. 14a I don’t think defines a noun, and I don’t think 22a and 13d define an adjective – so those are things to watch out for. Not convinced ‘comfort’ works as a definition. I didn’t think fungi had fruit but maybe they do. I guess 6d is intended as an &lit but i’m not sure the whole clue really defines the answer – i could be missing something.

    Another trap is the singular fodder one. Eg 12a cryptically, I would see ‘alms’ as one word in which you change letters, which would require ‘changes’ instead of ‘change’ – that doesn’t work in the surface of course so you get around that by using ‘changing’.

    Then there is the extra word trap – Not sure ‘It is’ in 22a has any cryptic function, and neither does food in 27a. You’ll notice in the dailies that hidden words tend to be completely embedded, e.g. ‘most rawhide contains wheat’ would work. Here you have the right singular form of the verb!

    another thing to be careful of is the links, which I think need to make sense cryptically. 25a WORDPLAY ‘and is’ DEFINITION doesn’t quite work for me, though either word alone would work. Something like ‘becoming’ would work better, I think.

    There are some minor fixes, you probably meant to capitalise Order in 26a, leave out the first ‘to’ in 24a, keep the definition in 8d singular.

    ‘firstly’ in 18d seems to have two functions, first letter indicator plus moving a bit to the front – such double duty is normally a no-no.

    I hope these and the other comments will be helpful to you and I wish you the best of luck for your next crossword, which we eagerly await.

    Many thanks for sharing this with us, and congratulations again

  5. Well done, MacLog, on taking the first steps to becoming a setter. As others have commented there are a few rough edges here but it’s a good debut and you’ll benefit enormously from the comments and from Prolixic’s review. My favourite clue was 7d.

  6. Welcome Maclog, from another newbie! Expect a fair bit of criticism on your first sortie (I did!) but don’t be put off by it – on the whole a fine puzzle. Not as tough perhaps as some I’ve wrestled with!

    1a doesn’t parse for me, I suspect the comments above nail the problem. I’ll wait for Prolixic’s analysis. And clues like 10a, 12a, 14d are a bit on the weak side, imo. Try using synonyms more. Mind you, the definition part of at least one of those three would lead a lot of solvers astray – not me!

    Some of the surface readings are a bit contrived-looking, but that’s one of the hardest parts of setting, as I’ve discovered.

    Anyway, well done and hope to see more from you!

  7. I do not usually tackle Rookie puzzles but having a bit of spare time I picked up my trusty pencil. Having read existing comments I agree with what has been already said. Take heed of what has been noted by the very experienced people on the blog and look forward to your next effort.

  8. Well done from me – I enjoyed this and I’m not knowledgable enough to ‘do’ criticism, constructive or otherwise.
    It sounds as if I found the crossword trickier than most others.
    I’m completely stuck on my last two – 19a and 19d – and I have quite a few answers that I don’t quite understand – maybe they’re wrong – maybe my brain will go to work while I cut the grass.
    I particularly liked 17 and 20a and my favourite was 7d.
    Thanks and congratulations to MacLog and thanks in advance to Prolixic.
    PS – I do have to ask because I always do – where does the name MacLog come from?

  9. Hi MacLog
    Well done on your first puzzle. Very solvable, and you’ve displayed a nice range of devices.
    I liked your unpleasant HQ, extreme nails, what is used to warm up & male hoots, along with some neat acrostics (beware of using too many).
    I generally agree with Dutch’s detailed points, so won’t repeat. In general, trimming excess content, tightening a few defs, and working a bit harder at surfaces (i.e. the sense of the clue) would be my tips.
    Thanks for the entertainment

  10. Thanks to everyone for your comments and welcoming me to the site. I was very pleaseed to come across Big Dave’s Blog thanks to a comment by FirmlyDirac on Guardian site. It is exactly what is needed by budding setters as feedback is essential.
    It’s news to me that indirect anagrams are considered unfair and ironic that my original clue read sins rather than crimes which I thought too weak. Anyway now I know. I think my other main failing was 22a for which I apologise and offer the following as an alternative:
    CV making sense to mostly all living (comments welcome)
    I am very glad that many found the puzzle fun which is the main thing after all.
    I would especially like to thank dutch for his thorough and informative criticism the vast
    majority of which I agree with and paticularly his re arrangement of 19a which is so much better I could kick myself! I have also altered a couple of clues due to his comments.
    Thanks again everybody I will be posting again.
    PS Hi Kath I am Scottish and like logs..what did FirmlyDirac say?

    1. Thank you for replying – I’m not Scottish but I do like logs very much – I spend a lot of time in winter chopping them.
      I can’t remember exactly what FirmlyDirac said but think it was along the lines of its being the pseudonym that he uses on other sites. I’m sure someone else will remember properly.
      Well done again.

    2. Well, I can’t quite remember what I said, either – and if I can’t remember, what chance have you guys got? :-) Yes, I use this same name here, in the Grauniad comments, and in 225 ( which I also post in now and again. It doesn’t mean anything more than being a pun.

      I think I posted a heads-up in the Guardian, linking to my debut rookie effort which appeared here a few weeks ago. I also posted there some of my reactions on getting the feedback! Please don’t take my reactions as implying criticism of this site, which is a very useful asset! I suppose I was just giving vent to my frustration – as anyone would.

      And remember also, that even the mightiest of the mighty can stumble occasionally! As did the incomparable Paul, in the Grauniad last Thursday (his mistake was fixed in the online version, but is still there on paper….)

  11. Yes, I have to agree with the general consensus: some clear flaws, but still an enjoyable solve and shows plenty of promise. Dutch made most of the points that I jotted down, and more besides. A couple of other notes:

    You want to avoid etymological crossover as a rule – that’s when an element of your wordplay has the same meaning as the corresponding part of the solution. For example, in 16d you use “Peking perhaps” for “CHINA”, which is a little unsatisfying since this is exactly the same meaning as that part of the solution. A similar thing cropped up with the “OVER” in 17a.

    25a – I’m not thoroughly convinced by “derisively” as an anagram indicator, but I could be wrong. Similarly in 4d I’m not sure how “X bridging Y” means “X contains Y” – if anything in this case it seems like it should be the opposite – but perhaps I’m giving it the wrong reading.

    In 16d (again) the wordplay doesn’t work for me – I get “DO IN CHINA”. (Perhaps this is another case of double duty?)

    All par for the course in a first RC puzzle, and as I said, these didn’t detract a great deal from the enjoyment! The standout clues for me were 9a, 28a, 7d and 23d. Keep it up, and I hope we’ll see another from you soon!

  12. I like ‘etymological crossover’ to describe that phenomenon. Did you coin it? I wonder how many times it must be used before the explanation becomes unnecessary.

    1. I can’t take the credit – but I think I’ve only seen the phrase on this blog, so it could well be the invention of one of the regulars.

  13. I’m with Kath in that I don’t know the do’s and don’ts for setters but I did notice that the surface readings could do with polishing. However, that comes with practice. I did pick up on 22A being a bit too obvious, but that was offset by the answer to 10A. The clue surface may be a bit iffy but the answer was spot-on relevant, especially where I live in the USA. It made me laugh and it’s my runaway favorite. Thanks MacLog and I hope to see you back before long.

    P.s. I am just glad that your monicker doesn’t refer to some dastardly Scottish fast food dessert. Fried Mars Bars are more than enough, thank you!

  14. as a mere solver and an utter pleb then all i can say is that i thoroughly enjoyed this & only had a ? against 19a but thanks to prolixic i now understand.
    Well done maclog!

  15. Many thanks Prolixic for your informed analysis …especially:
    Whilst verbal phrases such as are felt can be used to define nouns, they are not universally popular
    Again, perhaps a synonym could have been used to provide an extra level of complexity

    Taken on Board

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