Rookie Corner – 178 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner – 178

A Puzzle by Melvis

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Melvis is in the building!  Has it been worth the wait?  I’ll let you decide. 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.

Welcome back to Melvis who last entertained us over the Christmas holidays.  This was a good crossword with some minor niggles and a couple of more serious technical issues.  All were ones that are easily corrected.  The majority of the clue were very well constructed with good surface readings so overall this was an encouraging second crossword.

The structure of the grid (with two clues having three unchecked letters in a row) would not be acceptable by most editors.  I was less concerned by the preponderance of 3 word solutions but can see that (if the clues are too easy for them), they can be a little on the distracting side.


1 Foolish coaching without a good source of carbohydrate (7)
GNOCCHI – An anagram (foolish) of COACHING without the G (without a good).

5 Mob rush madly for diamond (7)
RHOMBUS – An anagram (madly) of MOB RUSH.  Perhaps as a diamond is an example of the solution, this should be indicated with a question mark but it is a minor point.

9 Peer broadcast next step (5)
STAIR – A homophone (broadcast) of stair.  This is one of those clues where the homophone could have worked either way.  Putting the homophone in the middle means that the solver does not know which of the two potential solutions the correct one is until there are checking letters.  It is good practice to ensure that the solver can arrive at the solution unambiguously without the need for checking letters.  I am not sure that the “next” adds anything to the clue.  It anything it is apt to muddy the meaning of the definition.  Perhaps “Broadcast step up for peer”?

10 Two containers and a bar (7)
CANTINA – Two three letter words for a container followed by the A from the clue.

11 Favouring master (3)
PRO – Double definition meaning either if favour or the abbreviated form of professional.

12 Fancy wax (5)
SHINE – Double definition, the first as in to take a fancy / ????? to someone and the second to describe what the moon does.  I am not sure that the second definition is entirely fair.  To wax means to increase in intensity or surface area of illumination, not to glow.  It is, in this context, the opposite of wane.

13 Fruit is good between underripe and mature (9)
GREENGAGE – A five letter word meaning under ripe and a three letter word meaning to mature with the abbreviation for good between them.  As G for good has already been used in 1a, perhaps a different letter indicator could have been used here.

15 Either way, a superior lady (3)
NUN – Another name for a sister or female religious that is a palindrome (either way).

16 Nine daring trapeze artists perform this way (5)
NONET – Split 2-3, this group of nine would be how daring trapeze artist’s perform.

17 Create or start your schedule (9)
INVENTORY – A six letter word meaning create followed by the OR from the clue and the first letter (start) of your.  Some editors would not allow start on its own to signify the first letter of a word and would require start of X or beginning of X.

20 Mope after favourite holiday (9)
HONEYMOON – A five letter word meaning favourite or dear followed by a four letter word meaning to mope.

23 State I had nothing around (5)
IDAHO – An anagram (around) of I HAD O (nothing).  As nothing is a common synonym for the letter O in crosswords, I don’t think that this makes this an indirect anagram.

25 Pull initially towards ultimate goal (3)
TUG – The first letters (initially) of the final three words of the clue.

26 Past eight rustled up something for dinner (9)
SPAGHETTI – An anagram (rustled up) of PAST EIGHT.

29 Take 50% of wavelength (5)
HALVE – An anagram (unindicated) of 50% of the letters in wavelength.  Like sex in a multi-storey car park, this clue is wrong on so many levels.  There is no anagram indicator.  There is no indication of which letters in wavelength should be used.  There are over 18,000 possible permutations of 5 letters from 10 (taking into account the double e).  Also, using the 50% as part of the definition and part of the wordplay would not be acceptable.

30 Project from 35 across (3)
LOB – A three letter word that is found in the solution to 35a.

31 Country from the Great Lakes to Niagara (7)
ESTONIA – The answer is hidden in LAKES TO NIAGARA.  The “the Great” is technically surplus to requirements as it does not contribute to the wordplay or the definition.  However, as “The Great Lakes” could be regarded as a compound noun, it is a minor point.

32 Pipes groan terribly (5)
ORGAN – An anagram (terribly) of GROAN.  Perhaps the definition here is a tad loose.  Perhaps “Set of pipes in church…” would be more precise.

34 Flag bordered in crimson withdrawn (7)
RETIRED – A word meaning to weary or flag with a three letter word meaning crimson around it.

35 Aristocrat with award for jewellery? (7)
EARLOBE – A four letter word for an member of the peerage (aristocrat) followed by the abbreviation for Order of the British Empire (award).


1 Collapse backwards and babble (3)
GAS – A reversal (backwards) of a word meaning collapse.

2 Lecture is first of others to share (7)
ORATION – The first letter of others followed by (to) a word for a share or portion.

3 Trapped in lift, requires specialist skills (9)
CARPENTRY – A four letter word meaning trapped inside a five letter word meaning to lift or bear something.  Maybe “it requires specialist skills” would be better as a definition.

4 Noticing nothing, curiously disguised (9)
INCOGNITO – An anagram (curiously) of NOTICING O (nothing).  As nothing for O has already been used, a different letter indicator should be used.

5 Spread innards of stranger (5)
RANGE – The answer is hidden in (innards of) STRANGER.

6 On and on with one often pickled (5)
ONION – The two ons from the clue with an I (one) inside.  I would have liked to have seen a stronger insertion indicator to tell the solver that the I is inserted rather than simply with the two Ons.

7 Show officer on the rise in good cheer (7)
BARAVADO – Reverse (on the rise) the abbreviation for District Attorney, an American legal officer, and include the letters inside a cheer that it made to celebrate something good.

8 Create grand residence by renovating the motel, say (7,4)
STATELY HOME – An anagram (renovating) of THE MOTEL SAY.

12 Shy sister excited with new fancy keyboard (11)
SYNTHESISER – An anagram (excited) of SHY SISTER N with an E that was not indicated in the clue.  Perhaps “Shy sister excited with nearly new fancy keyboard”

14 First lady heartily persevered (3)
EVE – The answer is hidden (heartily) in PERSEVERED.

18 Italian score behind schedule to air (9)
VENTILATE – The Italian for 20 (score) followed by a four letter word meaning behind schedule.  I wonder how well know the Italian numbers are for use in cryptic crosswords?

19 Close friend can be rough in play (9)
NEIGHBOUR – An anagram (play) of BE ROUGH IN.  The formation of the clue as definition CAN wordplay does not work.

21 Auditor in lodging conveniently located (7)
NEAREST – A word for the organ of hearing (auditor) in a word for a lodging or home.

22 Sound of spring month, West of Brooklyn (3)
MAE – The first name of the Brooklyn actress, Ms West.

24 Quickly go really berserk with no end of vivacity (7)
ALLEGRO – An anagram (berserk) of GO REALLY without the Y (with no end of vivacity).

27 Boiler losing energy leaves one extremely negative (5)
HATER – Remove the abbreviation for energy from another word for a boiler.

28 One starts diet after end of workout to get this way (5)
TONED – The ONE from the clue and the first letter (starts) of diet after the last letter (end of) of workout.  Apart of the use of starts on its own as an initial letter indicator, both starts and end have been used as letter indicators and alternatives should be found.  Also, maybe the definition is pointing more to a verb rather than an adjective.  Perhaps “One beginning to diet after conclusion of workout gets this condition”

33 Sound of stallion said to be born female (3)
NEE – A homophone (said) of the sound made by a stallion.

41 comments on “Rookie Corner – 178

  1. There were a couple of clues that we thought were not quite kosher, 7d and 29a, but still solvable. We still seem to be missing the source of one letter for 12d too but we might be missing something there. Really good fun to solve, a good level of difficulty, and plenty of aha moments.
    Thanks Melvis.

  2. Hi Melvis – nice puzze – well on the easy side. I had to hunt around a bit to break in but once in and on your wavelength it was fairly plain sailing. Less adventurous than your previous outing but still nicely entertaining.

    12d I’m one letter out. Either it’s a slip-up or I’m missing something subtle.

    I thought 29a and 19d didn’t quite say precisely what was wanted – although it’s fairly obvious what is – especailly with a few crossers in.

    Not sure if the ximmies will pick you on the use of “start(s)” (17a, 28d) – seems to be an obsession they have even though it’s usually easy enough to make a valid logical interpretation so no complaints from me.

    Aside from that no cluing quibbles at all.

    Nice effort – thang-you-very-much (think Elvis) for the fun. Do keep them coming.

  3. Welcome back, Melvis.

    Like your previous puzzle, the grid did you no favours really with numerous three letter words and a couple of triple unches, but once again I loved the smoothness of the surfaces, which is a big positive for me.

    I felt you dipped into the anagram pool a few too many times (again like your last effort), and, apart from the repetition of “start/s”, I noticed you also used “sound of” twice as a homophone indicator and “from” twice as to where to locate the answer in hidden clues. I disagree with JS, it’s not being Ximenean to mention when devices are repeated, it’s merely good practice for a setter to avoid such instances when there are so many alternative options at his or her disposal. Like others to have commented so far, I couldn’t get the anagram fodder in 12d to work, and 29a is a definite no-no unfortunately, as there is no instruction to the solver to rearrange the remaining letters.

    My two favourite clues were 13a (although a comma after “good” would have made it even better I think) and 18d. Overall, it was a very entertaining solve, but fewer anagrams and a more conventional grid next time, please!

    Many thanks and congratulations.

  4. Nice to see you again, Melvis – I enjoyed this one, as indeed I did your previous puzzle.
    I never notice grid patterns so that aspect didn’t trouble me at all but I did have a bit of trouble with the parsing of 7d and the definition in 19d.
    I doubt that I need to mention the apparent glitch in the fodder for 12d – perhaps putting ‘almost new’ would have made it work?

    Top three for me were 13a plus 4&28d.
    Hope we don’t have to wait quite so long for the next one!

  5. My comments are pretty much exactly what Jane has already said, and in addition I was going to mention 29a not working but Silvanus has beaten me to that.

    I did enjoy this very much with lovely surfaces throughout and mostly accurate cluing with the exceptions already noted.

    My top three were 13a, 16a & 4d.

    Many thanks, Melvis, and well done.

    1. I did waver a little over 29a but then decided it probably worked if you use ‘take 50%’ as the definition with half of the word WAVELENGTH as the fodder.

      1. Yes, I decided that 29a was (just about) OK but I read it as the whole clue being a cryptic definition of the answer. But I’m usually wrong about these technical issues…

        1. Yes, I did wonder about that at first, but I think technically it needs to include an anagram indicator. We’ll see what our guru Prolixic thinks about that tomorrow.

  6. Thanks, Melvis
    There may have been plenty of anagrams (10 I think, which isn’t that much over par, and you have an usually large number of clues), but they were generally very nicely done. My favourites: 1a, 13, 16, 8d, 31, 3d, 4d

  7. Hi Melvis

    I found the difficulty about right – a few easy ones and some head scratchers for me. I like your choices of anagram indicator to fit in with the surface, e.g. 8d and 26a. I also liked 13a.

    I think JS is referring to ‘start your’ and ‘starts diets’ (which doesn’t quite mean the same as ‘start of your’ or ‘start of diet’) – hence the reference to Ximineans, and yes I was going to mention it – but obviously there are some who think it’s ok.

    There is a double duty problem in 29a and 19d, as well as 6d, I think. In 29a, you’re using 50% as part of the definition and part of the wordplay (and there is no indication to scramble that 50%, which is a bit naughty). In 6d, it seems to me ‘one’ is used in both wordplay and definition, since you need the last 3 words for the definition to make it a noun. In 19d, ‘be’ is used in the fodder but also as part of ‘can be’. As it is ‘can’ ends up by itself, which reads rather strangely in the cryptic reading.

    The were some definitions i thought were a stretch or not accurate (7d, 16d, 19d, 30a, 35a, 3d because it’s not a noun. (also, I didn’t find an officer for 7d, which could be me)

    Heading slightly into indirect anagram territory, I noticed a repetition of nothing in anagram fodder. Some say a standard abbreviation can be used as long as it becomes the first letter and hence is clearly visible. It doesn’t actually need to be in the fodder for 4d (e.g. ‘Curiously noticing nothing is disguised’). Again, I’m sure there are others who have no problem with this.

    I wondered whether 21d would benefit from ‘….most conveniently located’ – similarly, wondered about ‘most innards’ for 5d, since you aren’t using all of them.

    31a to me ‘the Lakes’ seem superfluous to the hidden fodder, but i think you can get away with this because ‘the great lakes’ reads as a unit. I’d try to avoid that though.

    There, that covers all the scribbles i made during the solve – i hope they are of some use to you, but feel free to ignore them.

    Congratulations! and looking forward to the next one

    1. 6d I read as:
      wordplay: On and (on with one)
      definition: often pickled
      which leaves a different issue – but being so compelling I’m OK with it.

      I’m OK with the mechanics of the clue.
      I think when a clue says X with Y the solver has to be equally ready for YX or XY
      Maybe less so in an easy puzzle.

  8. I enjoyed solving this, good puzzle. The surfaces/devices are pretty good overall, though I think one or two could be kicked around a bit more. There were some excellent clues in the mix and some gimmes to get going. I won’t repeat what has already been discussed – I will await Prolixic’s review with interest (thanks in advance to him).
    Many thanks for the entertainment, Melvis, I look forward to your next.

  9. Many thanks for all the comments – all really useful and give me lots to think about for the next one.. I do find the grid design the hardest part but will certainly work on my unches!!

  10. Most enjoyable however I will wait for Prolixic’s review tomorrow in order to understand fully why some of the solutions are what they are. Favourite clue is 16a. Thanks Melvis

  11. Hi Melvis! Thanks for sharing your puzzle. You have some very strong and accurate clueing in most places, with a few points needing fixing, all of which that I could spot being covered by others earlier today.

    From what I have seen, it looks like you’d gain the most by improving your grids. On design of the tougher puzzles around, there are pretty strict rules on what constitutes ‘good’ in grid design which can carry through into 15×15 puzzles. If you use either Sympathy or Crossword Compiler for their creation you can, for example, readily check the average answer/entry length, which is one measure of the puzzle and helps you notice if you’ve too many 3-letter answers, say. Sympathy at least also tells you if any entry does or doesn’t conform to standards you can define (or you can use the built-in ones) – % of letters unchecked, spotting double unches (two consecutive unchecked letters etc) – to avoid us as setters missing something in our blind-spots!

    And do you use Prolixic’s clue analysis sheet (available on this site)? I have found that very useful to check that I have a good blend of clue types in a puzzle.

    A good enjoyable puzzle and I look forward to your next! I hope these comments help. And I loved the definition in 22!


    PS to All, if anyone likes a harder (Listener-style) thematic puzzle, then this week’s Inquisitor (IQ1506) in the ‘i’ newspaper is one of mine, entitled ‘Hanged In Error’. All feedback gratefully received!

      1. Thanks – yes it is my first. I’ve another in the queue at the Inquisitor for a few months time but my next one to be published will be an Enigmatic Variations in the ST in about three weeks time. I’ve had a couple in The Magpie so far this year, too. Have you had more published since we last met? Not sure I’ve seen one in the last few weeks?

    1. Yes, if you have lots of 3-letter clues, then the total number of clues goes up, and the puzzle looks ‘busy’. I don’t see this as an error, but it does make the puzzle less attractive somehow. I’ve done this too, especially with themed puzzles that use a lot of short words.

    2. How do I do an Inquisitor puzzle? Are they to be found with the regular cryptics on the i puzzle page? I can’t see where

    3. Brilliant Encota – I shall tackle it – probably throughout the week – and feed back here at some point. But be warned I’ve never done an inquisitor before! Are you aware that JonofWales does a detailed review of the Inquisitor which goes out every Tuesday morning on idothei ?

      1. Many thanks for the pointer re idothei, I hadn’t seen that before. It reads a bit like our (me, Chalicea, Dave Hennings) Listener blogs at Listen With Others except, in my case, slightly less quirky!! I’ll look out for it in future.

      2. Oh, and like all the main thematics (Listener, Inquisitor, Enigmatic Variations) in the nationals, definitely be armed with Chambers dictionary – either in paper form or iPad (or similar electronic) version – for the vocab used in answers and in wordplay. Good luck!

        1. Well I’m delighted to report an almost completed grid – and I did indeed most definitely need the BRB. Lots of cracking clues in there and not totally unlike a standard cryptic apart from the wider vocabulary. Slightly unsure about the first letter of one of the unclued, shaded words, and I will have to return later to unravel the rubric which is currently pretty opaque. Well done again…

          1. With apologies for hijacking Melvis’s excellent follow up to his debut, just to say congratulations on your debut in the Inquisitor, Encota. All done & dusted & very impressed I was too.
            For anyone else reading this, it was my debut as a solver, and it’s not as daunting as you might imagine. Although getting my head around the rubric was a challenge – especially given that I erroneously thought the grid was 15 x 15… I told you I was new!

  12. I did enjoy this overall, despite the several faux pas that others have raked over – for me, the good more than made up for the not so good. I would second the comments about the grid design though – no more triple unches please! The only clue I can’t get to work, beyond what’s already been mentioned, is 23a – I get ODAHI. Just me?

    I did think “innards of _____” to indicate a concealed answer was fine – you never said it had to be all the innards, after all…

    13a, 16a, 8d and 24d were my highlights. Thanks Melvis, I look forward to your next.

    1. Hi Arepo, with 23a I thought that too at first, but it works if ‘around’ is taken as an anagram indicator, as Prolixic says.

  13. Most of it has already been said but I really enjoyed this crossword so well done, Melvis.
    I started off really well and lots of the across answers went straight in – the downs took quite a lot longer – the complete opposite of a Wednesday Jay!
    I agree with others about 12d – can’t quite get it to work and I don’t understand my answer to 7d although I think it has to be right – maybe it isn’t.
    I like anagrams so I’m not complaining but there were quite a few of them.
    I liked 12a (although it took me a long time) and 20a and 4 and 6d. My favourite was the 13a plum.
    Thanks and congratulations to Melvis for the crossword and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic.

  14. I enjoyed this – thanks Melvis. No need to repeat the few issues others have raised above.

    My favourite was 13a (We used to have them when I was young, but I haven’t seen any for years.) I’ll add a couple of simple but effective ones which produced smiles: 25a and 32a.

    Thanks again Melvis – I look forward to your next one. And thanks as always to Prolixic for the review.

  15. Hi Prolixic,

    I laughed out loud when I read your comment to 29a in the review! Superb.

    I think the interpretation of 1a is slightly askew though. It’s an anagram of COACHING without the “a” not without the “g”, and the definition is “good source of carbohydrate”. Read this way, Melvis can also be exonerated from using “g” twice as an abbreviation.

    1. Likewise, thanks for the review, Prolixic
      I also wondered about the Fancy wax clue. I decided the wax bit must just refer to polishing, and so making shiny, rather than the moon.
      I’ve only just realised I got the superior lady one wrong! I put NAN, which worked as a superior lady for me, but was a bit dense.

  16. 29a. I (have to) agree with the interpretation in the review above but having said that it is a clever clue and the answer, after a little lateral thinking, couldn’t really be anything else (despite the 18,000+ possible permutations). For me, it’s the best flawed clue I’ve seen in many a while and it is a shame (but fair) that it has to be deemed invalid for publication in a newspaper (certainly in the DT).

  17. Thank you Melvis, there’s a lovely streak of humour and a delight in playing with words which shines through your puzzle. Everything’s been said already really, but I would echo the point about 3-letter answers with easy clues. For me these short lights are an ideal opportunity to do something a bit experimental, tricksy or unexpected, because solvers are going to be able to get the answer anyway, most probably.

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. As mentioned by Jose above, it’s a shame that 29a is unacceptable ‘on so many levels’ (!) because I rather liked it.
    Could I add that I can think of several of my acquaintances who would be unlikely to agree with the notion that a 19d is necessarily a ‘close friend’!

    Thanks again to Melvis – keep up the good work.

    1. 19d. Yes, absolutely, the answer is not necessarily a close friend – these days, quite likely to be at best a virtual stranger or, at worst, a hellish enemy. “Close denizen” would be better…

  19. I thought this was a good offering from Melvis and there was a lot I liked. Two clues that stood out for me were 35a and 22d.

    Like everyone else, I noticed the flaw in 12a and 29a was indeed a bit of a puzzler although I did arrive at the answers of both these clues. I thought 15a was a bit ambiguous. Not all nuns are Mother Superiors but the clue does specify ‘a superior lady’ and I had the correct answer. I also felt, however, that ‘nan’ might have fitted, being ‘a superior lady’ in age and position within the family structure…

    Thanks Melvis for the enjoyable puzzle and I very much hope we shall see more of your crosswords soon. Thanks, too, to Prolixic for a most interesting and enlightening review.

  20. I am late getting to this puzzle but am enjoying it – there are some clever clues, like 1a, 16a, 18d and there are some good surfaces eg 26a and a few that are not quite there but already discussed above. Re 35a, I don’t understand how jewellery can be a definition of the answer? The answer is something that may be pierced for such decoration but is not in itself jewellery.

      1. Oh yes, fair point. Sorry Melvis and thank you Jane! Since my comment I have completed some more of the puzzle and looked through the hints. Some of the comments seem a little tough to me – I really like 29a as it is and I agree with mucky above about 12a (wax = polish = shine). 23a, 32a and 28d work just fine for me but there are obviously strict rules applied by editors. I do think 22d is particularly clever.
        I hope Melvis keeps at it!

Comments are closed.