Rookie Corner – 179 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 179

A Puzzle by Metatron

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Metatron’s debut puzzle uses an American-style grid and contains what he believes is the longest anagram found in a crossword. 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.

Welcome to Metatron.  This was a crossword of heroic proportions dominated by a long anagram, which may have put some solvers off.  It reminded me of the old nursery rhyme, “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  And when she was good, she was very, very good and when she was bad, she was horrid.”

There were a lot of very good clues here.  There were some that were far from good.  In part, this was because many of the clues required a large amount of specialist general knowledge.  The design of the grid did not help with some unfriendly parts of the grid, particularly with 11d.

My advice would be concentrate on creating a crossword using a standard British 15 x 15 grid and to rein back on the requirement for general knowledge.  Doing this would give Metatron the opportunity to demonstrate his or her strengths.


1/12/25/40/17/26/18/31 Wherein Marc B’s kind betray flyaway tonsure ownership to their new option: the astro-threader (2,6,4,4,3,3,3,2,5,4,3,3,6, 7,2,4,5,2,5,5)

MY PEOPLE WERE FAIR AND HAD SKY IN THEIR HAIR BUT NOW THEY’RE CONTENT TO WEAR STARS ON THEIR BROWS – An anagram (unindicated) of the all of the words in the clue with the words being a semi-alliterative alternative to the phrase to be found.  Long anagrams will not always find favour.  Finding this originally with no enumeration did not help.  Whether or not it is a record, I do not know as the grid size being 17 x 17 makes comparisons irrelevant.  However, it was a feat of engineering to get the surface reading to allude to the solution.

9 Freak out about recall of treatment for contagion (8)

PANDEMIC – A five letter word meaning to freak out around a reversal (recall of) an abbreviation form of medicine (treatment)

10 Case notes cover one agency ruling on Marvin Gaye’s death (8)

FILICIDE – A four letter word for a dossier that may hold case notes around the letter for one and the abbreviation for Criminal Investigation Department (agency).

12 See 1

15 The 44a 45a of 18d (5)

ONERE – Apparently the ablative singular in Latin of the answer to 18d.  Having to know Latin declensions to solve a crossword is a little too much for my liking.

16 Robot sloth (2)

AI – Double definition, the first being the abbreviation for Artificial Intelligence and the second the name of a sloth.

17 See 1

18 See 1

22 Fashionable crowd (detail) (5)

INSET – A two letter word meaning fashionable followed by a three letter word for a crowd.

24 Suet mix found in artery (5)

AORTA – An anagram (mix) of a brand of suet (ATORA).  Indirect anagrams are nearly always banned.  This is a good illustration of why this is the case.  Unless you know that there is a proprietary brand of suet, you stand not a chance of solving the clue from the wordplay.

25 See 1

26 See 1

31 See 1

35 Reaffirmation of night music from canyon (7)

ECHOING – The night music is Eine Kline Nachtmusik.  The setter in a staggering stretch of imagination requires the solver to know that the music is in the key of G so that its reverberation in a canyon would be ???? IN G.  This is not a step to far in what is required of the solver’s knowledge, it is a long-jump of Olympic proportions.

36 Bird known as onomatopoeic lapsing into coma in front of sex worker (6)

HOOPOE – Take the letters from INTO COMA from onomatopoeic and put the letters that remain after (the clue should therefore say behind, not in front of) a two letter word for a prostitute or sex worker.

37 Academic code (2)

OX – The two letter postcode designation for Oxford.

39 In Holland, it’s said, they smell terrible (5)

OVENS – I suspect that only Dutch would have got this clue (though I hope for his family’s sake he does not indulge).  In Holland the practice of farting under the bedclothes is referred to as making a Dutch oven.  Again the setter requires us to be something of a polymath knowing Dutch idioms.

40 See 1

44 How to address one in the third person (8)

SINGULAR – How you would describe “third person ?????????” when referring to the grammatical construction of a sentence in which one (or perhaps the setter) is described.

45 Shred bat alive, in case of Roman pursuit (8)

ABLATIVE – The grammatical theme continues with one of the cases in which Latin nouns are declined coming from an anagram (shred) of BAT ALIVE.  I think that the “pursuit” could have been omitted as it does not directly contribute to the wordplay or the solution.

46 Sunshine Desserts? (7,9)

CHASING YESTERDAY – An online search reveals this to be the album title created by Noel Gallagher.  I have no idea how this relates to the definition. 


1 Bad poem, sad look (4)

MOPE – An anagram (bad) of POEM.

2 The word is out (4,4)

PINK NEWS – The name of the newspaper for the Lesbian Gay and Transgender community.

3 Need a cold shower after maiden, perhaps comes round (8)

OVERHEAT – A spell of six balls (maiden perhaps) followed by (comes) a word for a round in a tournament.

4 Penny stashed in hideaways for Scottish nobility (6)

LAIRDS – The abbreviation for an old penny inside (stashed in) a word for hideaways

5 Socialist sent up before me for therapy (5)

REIKI – Reverse (sent up) the first name of the Labour politician Mr Hardie and follow by a single letter representing the setter (me).  Unfortunately, to make the clue work, you have to misspell the first name of the politician!

6 You can’t make an omelette without breaking a fit tart (8)

FRITTATA – An anagram (breaking) of A FIT TART.

7 Chemical compound advertising it’s a constituent of MDMA (5)

IMINE – Split 2, 2, 1, the clue would say I am in ecstasy (MDMA).

8 Heroin: great in Liverpool (4)

GEAR – Double definition of a slang word for heroin and the vernacular in Merseyside for great.

11 Mrs Heisenberg trades titanium for emerald with a receiver (6,5)

SKYLER GREEN – … the name of an obscure National Football League receiver.  Apparently Skyler White was the name of Walter White’s wife in Breaking Bad.   Walter White was also known as Heisenberg.  Swap paint pigments (Green for White) to get the answer.  I could devote pages to explaining everything that is wrong with this clue.  It builds obscure general knowledge upon obscure general knowledge.  Given that the clue had three checking letters out of eleven, with two triple unches and an unchecked initial letter, I think that this must represent the pinnacle of unfairness to the solver.  Confession, I looked at Metatron’s explanation for this clue.

12 Unknown composer of repetitive song decapitated (4)

ANON – Remove (decapitated) the initial letter from a repetitive song form.

13 Medical rapper supplies drug to tolerate in Scotland… (4)

DREE – Put the abbreviation for ecstasy after the name of a medical rapper.

14 Hello, woman of the night – off to work? (2,2)

HI HO – A two letter word for Hello followed by a word for a prostitute (already used in 36a)

15 …useless and disorienting too I see, taking it (6)

OTIOSE – An anagram (disorientating) of TOO I SEE after removing an E.  I think that the instruction to remove the E comes from the use of the ellipsis following on from 13d but this is not clear enough.  Ellipsis clue should be restricted to successive clues.

18 The burden we see is ours (4)

ONUS – Split 2,2 this would mean (potentially) is ours.

19 Her Majesty’s sign of an inherited impediment (1,1)

ER – Double definition of the regnal cypher for the current Queen and a speech impediment.

20 Curry in 1990, dredged from sewer and refried in 2017 (2)

IT – A reference to the Stephen King book turned into a film with Curry in 1990 and re-issued in 2017.  More detailed general knowledge required here.

21 Improved pay for shavers, we hear (6)

RAISES – A homophone (we hear) of razors.  Perhaps the clue should be Improves pay.

23 Chinese family with gangster – wait here (4)

HANG – The name of a Chinese dynasty or family followed by the rapper abbreviation for gangster.

27 Alpha male, according to close friends (1,1)

TC – The name by which Top Cat was known according to his close friends from the opening lyrics.

28 Eureka! the Monarch said (2)

AH – A homophone (said) of R (monarch).

29 The extent of our flamenco tomato plant (4)

ROOT – The final letters of the final four words of the clue.  An indicator that the final letters need to be taken is required here.

30 Take two of these twice a day (3,5)

SIX HOURS – The period of time representing a quarter of a day.

31 Mathematician probed by federal agency at Sunday market (4,4)

BOOT SALE – The abbreviation for Transport Security Administration inside the name of the mathematician who devised the system of Boolean logic.  The abbreviation is not one recognised in British dictionaries.

32 Curiosity’s mission (4)

ROVE – Other than the fact that Curiosity in the name of a Martian rover, this clue does not really work.  The mission would be “to rove”.

33 Source of dopamine, if article replaces measure of substance (4,4)

OPEN MIND – An anagram (unindicated) of DOPAMINE with an N (number – measure of substance) being replaced by an A (article).  There is no anagram indicator and I cannot see that there is anything by way of a definition in this clue.

34 Tendency to abstain (4)

WONT – Double definition, the second being a contraction 3’1.

38 The tiger who came to define the social contract (6)

HOBBES – The name of the philosopher and Calvin’s tiger friend.

40 Aircraft navigator with a broken compass? (4)

NOSE – Split 2,2 this would indicate (fancifully) a broken compass.  I don’t think that the definition is particularly helpful or accurate here.

41 Collect church by mechanical device (5)

WINCH – A three letter word meaning to collect or gain something followed by the abbreviation for church.

42 Pine from -1 A.D. (5)

YEARN – Apparently, 0 in Roman numerals is N (though Chambers gives it as 90). – 1 AD (as there was no 0 AD would give Year N.

43 Emphatically dead (4)

VERY – Double definition.

52 comments on “Rookie Corner – 179

  1. To try and get an anagram of that length without any enumeration is just a challenge too far for us.
    Sorry Metatron

  2. When I travel, USA Today is the newspaper usually supplied free of charge to hotel guests. I often have a go at the crossword over breakfast, so I am very familiar with American grids. I dislike the lack of enumeration. Even given the number of clues where every letter intersects with another clue and therefore do not need consideration (another feature of American crosswords that presumably is supposed to offset the lack of enumeration) I am not inclined to spend any time on this.

  3. Hi Metatron.

    Quite a construction – I thought I was doing well when I got the biggie – nice all-in-one/&lit. I didn’t check the letters so I’m trusting you on that.

    But I didn’t fare so well after that.

    5d I don’t think the referenced person’s name is spelt that way but I twigged it anyway.

    Quite a lot of others I got from one side of the clue. 11d I didn’t get – never heard of him – and I still can’t parse the clue.

    Eventually I was left with 46a to do – sorry that completely alluded me too. Has it anything to do with Reggie Perrin. Either way – I didn’t get where I am today by staring at a clue for more than half and hour – actually maybe I did.

    No doubt all will be revealed. Wavelength-wise probably more one for those who did (or still do) inhale and own (even admit to owning) the work referenced in the biggie.

    Brilliant gridfill – I bet that took a while. Two-letter answers a novelty for most of us.

    If you try again (please do) it might pay to make a bigger proportion of the clues more or less conventional from the point of view of regular UK cryptic solvers. I know US “semi-cryptics” aren’t done that way – so we regular solvers fell a bit closer to home.

    Brilliant biggie. You may qualify for the Guinness Book of Records on that alone – longest anagram clue ever published online. Araucaria and Bunthorne did some pretty long ones – but I can’t recall any as long as that.

    1. “those who did (or still do) inhale and own (even admit to owning) the work referenced in the biggie”

      I’ve got my hands up (don’t shoot!) and further admit to inciting Metatron to the concoction of the long-chain anagram. I’m listening to it now:

      “Mole was on a marigold comedown and sulkily scraped bluebeat rhythms with his ground-digging paw …”

      Definitely drugs involved … you’ve only got to look at it.

      1. The pdf was a bit skew-whiff too – I ended up using one of the other downloads. Whatever you did just fixed that too. It seems to be OK now.

      2. Thanks. I think I’ll give it another go then. By the way, recently the “notify me” boxes don’t seem to be working. I don’t get the confirmation message.

  4. Hi Metatron
    A spare 20 minutes before going out, I thought, I’ll try and squeeze in the Rookie Corner puzzle. No such luck. I’ve got a few, and will give it a proper go later or tomorrow. Good luck.

  5. Crikey – it isn’t often that I start Monday mornings with a need for a lie down in a darkened room but I think having a letter in every square in this crossword definitely merits one.

    I remembered the long lyric once I’d got the first bit in so just wrote in the rest without checking the anagram worked. I’m still working on the parsing for some Surely, if I’ve got it right then the ‘suet mix’ in 24a is an indirect anagram to give us the artery? You also need to know the brand name in order to ‘mix’ it. My particular favourite, once the penny dropped as to the ‘alpha male’ , is 27d.

    Quite a feat of crossword construction – thank you Metatron – and good luck to Prolixic with sorting it all out

    1. Well I’ve got myself down to just four ?s remaining.

      I agree with JS that the spelling for the Socialist in 5d is wrong
      36a surely the letters you have left after you’ve obeyed in the instructions in the clue go behind the sex worker rather in front??
      21d I’d be interested to see what Gazza thinks of the homophone
      I forgot to say earlier that I also liked 14d

      1. Well, I printed off the puzzle and saw that the first clue involved a 70+ letter anagram so I decided that it wasn’t my cup of tea and left it. Now that I’ve read your comment I’ve retrieved it from where I’d filed it and looked at 21d – what I think of the ‘homophone’ is what you might suspect!

  6. Triple unches & grid style feels very U.S. Nothing wrong with that, per se, though something of a novelty here.

    Your Mega anagram – I haven’t checked every letter. I’d vaguely heard of it and knew exactly what I was looking for but Auntie Google helped out here to get it exactly right.

    There were perhaps six clues where I used the Reveal to help me and still couldn’t parse the wordplay of all of them.

    Some other comments:
    – 30d inventive cryptic – I like it!
    – 11d crikey, that needs some cultural GK!
    – I thought 7d was a good clue, too!
    – 20d don’t get it. 10 words for two letters is perhaps a little OTT, too!
    – 38d a good dd but again needed some broad General Knowledge to solve

    And, like Sue, I too look forward to Prolixic’s analysis.

    A nice tribute in an appropriate week :-)


  7. 20d: I wonder if Heston Blumenthal will be interested in the rather bizarre culinary procedure suggested in this clue?

  8. Not one for me unfortunately. I did print it off when there was no enumeration which made it much, much tougher and did manage a few answers, but having been busy over the weekend and still catching up on yesterday’s Virgilius, I think I’ll wait for Prolixic’s review rather than struggle to fill the grid.

    I’m totally unfamiliar with US-style puzzles, so have no idea whether some of the more exotic surface readings are the norm over there or not? I’m supposing that two-letter words are not unusual, but I would be disappointed to learn that an eleven-letter word with only three crossers was.

    Sorry not to devote more time to this, Metatron.

    1. My experience with US puzzles is that they are typically more of a GK variety. I suppose there are cryptic crosswords but I personally have not come across any in the major newspapers.

      1. That’s interesting to know, thank you Chris.

        I’ve been doing a little bit of research myself and came across the attached article which you and others may find interesting. It was penned almost fifty years ago now, but it’s by the famous composer and songwriter Stephen Sondheim no less, and I have no reason to suppose what he wrote in 1968 is any less true today. (He celebrated his 87th birthday earlier this year so I hope that crosswords remain a fascination for him).

  9. Gosh, I guess we throw the rule book out the window with this one.

    I don’t know anything about American puzzles, but seems to me the grid is a hybrid. I don’t think you’ll see 2-letter words in American puzzles either, at least i didn’t see any in the crossword compiler grids.

    Much of the GK went over my head. I was getting nowhere, so i cheated with a few reveals on the top line which gave me the long anagram, which i hadn’t heard of, but I now realise the clue is clever, and that we are close to a 40th anniversary of marc’s death. I thought that would surely give me the rest of the puzzle, but no. I had to continue “hypothesis testing” and just as well. I had no chance with 11d with 3 checkers, didn’t know the answer though i managed to get the second word.

    Lots of cute stuff, I enjoyed 14d, I thought 30d was very good and 7d as well.

    I desperately wanted to enter cuckoo for the onomatopoeic bird.

    There is still quite a bit i don’t get, so i eagerly await the review

    Thank you Metatron for a Mega effort, well done and congratulations on your debut puzzle. Please keep them coming. If you want to try your hand at a conventional puzzle, we can probably be of more use to you.

  10. I’ve had a proper go. I have a filled grid, but I needed a lot of electronic help – too much stuff I didn’t know. I knew I wasn’t going to know the long one, but got a few crossers in the second line and googled what I thought the words had to be and it came up first time. I only know Marc B from having cycled past the roadside shrine many times. I also didn’t know Mrs Heisenberg, so no chance with that one – did anyone not have to look him up?
    With a lot of clues, it was hard to tell whether you were intending them to be regular (i.e. national UK daily type) cryptic clues, or were playing a different game entirely, so it’s difficult to know how to comment. Many solutions I guessed correctly – the onomatopoeic bird, for example, with only one crosser – but remain baffled as to what’s going on. I liked 27d, 43d a few others.
    Thanks and well done, and I’ll be interested to see if Prolixic can unwrap it all.

    (I did finally get the A RUSBRIDGER’S LOON WATCHDOG anagram)

  11. Too much for me I’m sorry to say, I found the combination of the peculiar grid and some odd cluing too much of a distraction.
    I can’t help but think that had you composed a more conventional puzzle it would probably have been rather good; there are some very inventive ideas in there which is always nice to see.
    Many thanks for a colossal piece of work Metatron, and thanks in advance to Prolixic – I await with interest…

  12. Apologies to all but I printed off the un-enumerated version this morning to solve on the train and, without enumeration, was unable to make much headway. I have only just been able to print off a proper version. Given the number of clues to parse and comment on, I doubt this will be ready until Tuesday evening or longer!

  13. Well, I did have another go once the enumerated version was up. It didn’t make any difference. The puzzle was binned and I moved on. If I had one piece of advice to give, it would be to caution against being too ambitious first time out. I hope we see you back here before too long Metatron.

  14. I am sorry, but this is a complete bust for me, I’m afraid. I have no idea what the long long anagram might be, and it dominates the puzzle. Out of curiosity I ‘revealed’ 2d, and I can’t make any sense of the solution at all . . . . .

  15. No time to do any crosswords yesterday so this morning I did yesterday’s, today’s back page and today’s Toughie – also did loads of washing and cut 1/2 acre of grass – decided enough was enough and that I could have a go at Mr Rookie.
    Oh dear – I have to confess that my first look put me off completely – just the first clue was enough to make me run.
    Then thought I’d have a go, so I did.
    I’m not much further on – if I could do the great big long anagram I might stand a chance but I can’t.
    I have got quite a few answers but think it’s time for supper – maybe I’ll come back to it tomorrow.
    In the meantime thanks to Metatron – this must have taken a vast amount of work – it must also have taken lots of courage to give something so different a go – well done, even if I can’t do it.
    Thanks also, in advance, to Prolixic.

  16. Ha Ha – I think ‘Dutch Ovens’ might be an american idiom – at least I first came across it as an American boy scout, perhaps not surprisingly, using sleeping bags. it should not surprise that most idioms involving Dutch don’t actually exist in the Dutch language, certainly this one does not. But yes, I did get the clue :)

  17. Many thanks Prolixic for a much needed excellent review, both enlightening and entertaining.

    I wondered in 45a whether pursuit was related to the ‘direction from’ in the ablative case (from brb) and whether in 33d the ‘open mind’ might be a source of dopamine which is released by neurons, but i’m obviously clutching at straws. I also did not see 46a.

    Thanks again Metatron. I hope the comments are useful for you. Maybe you can explain 46a?

  18. Thanks everyone for your considered and considerate input. Since the whole thing was predicated on the first clue, the rest became an increasingly contrived exercise – something like tryng to get an octopus to try on some pan pipes, so thanks to those who stuck it out for humouring me. I’m glad to find out about the Spike Milligan clue – if I try something like this again (which I’m not in any hurry to do…) clearly I’ll have to dissect and spread the solution about more. For now though I’m duly obliged to acknowledge received wisdom re: proper nouns and anagrams in general, and take on board other criticisms.

    Noel Gallagher’s album Chasing Yesterday – and where I went with it – was alluding to his halcyon days in Oasis (the main course to this, his subsequent career)

    …but even then, you need to be familiar with that and David Nobbs’ Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin.

    33 Down was intended to be &lit with the words “Source of” indicating the next word was anagram material (as wth “Wherein” in the big one). I was hoping surface reading pointed to someone with an open mind getting a rush of excitement from some (“news”) article, otherwise devoid of substance.

    As for the central down clue and not spell-checking Keir backwards well, least said soonest mended perhaps.

    Thanks all x


    1. Bravo! Definitely one for the record books then? The other aspects of Paul’s Milligan crossword were probably slicker, but hey! he’s been doing them a lot longer.

      I came that close to searching the internet for the name of Werner Heisenberg’s wife, but then thought “nah!”. Who?!?

      Still don’t understand the Gallagher one. I’ll have to check out the links, because I like them (as well as Tyrannosaurus Rex).

  19. Bravo for the review. I’ve often wondered to what extent Prolixic uses setters’ explanations for difficult clues, and from this I infer, not much. But why not?
    I gave a bit of thought to the Aircraft navigator with a broken compass clue, since it looked like one I should be able to fathom. I didn’t get the ‘no SE’ split, but decided that ‘navigator with a broken compass?’ was NOSE, as in ‘follow one’s nose’, which I liked as a definition. Then I spent a few minutes trying to make Aircraft = Nose before putting it in the ‘clues I don’t understand’ file.
    The clue for IMINE (which I neither parsed nor gave much thought to) reminded me of Brendan’s clue:
    Distance definable, for me, as initially in four pieces (6)
    for LEAGUE, which had the fifteensquared posters tied up in knots all day (

    1. Funnily enough, I got IMINE almost straight away, but thought it must be AMINE as I’d never heard of the former till I googled it. Don’t think I’d ever have got the Brendan clue though. Very original.

  20. Marvin Gaye died on April Ist. Thought the answer started with apri.
    Got about 10 answers.
    Too hard for me.
    Thanks to Metatron and to Prolixic.

  21. To underline Prolixic’s exasperation with 11d, I showed the clue to my student son who is an obsessive of both Breaking Bad and American Football. He was surprised to have never heard of Skyler Green so checked his stats. In his entire career (which finished 11 years ago) he received 3 catches and gained a total – a career total that is – of 33 yards.

    Metatron – methinks you have another record!

      1. No need to apologise – it’s quite fun to see something quite so extreme!!
        Seriously though, Chambers Word Wizard tells us that ‘Skew bridges’ would also have fitted :)

        1. what a shame – a brick arch skew bridge is a thing of beauty, and I bet it doesn’t get into a crossword very often

  22. Congratulate for unravelling that, Prolix, I got the heebeegeebees just looking at the grid and the anagram.
    An amazing effort by the setter, but as someone mentioned, a 15×15 grid with less GK will get more feedback

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