Rookie Corner – 182 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 182

A Puzzle by MacLog

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Here’s another puzzle from MacLog. 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 MacLog.  As with his previous crossword, there was an inordinate number of acrostic clues (taking the first or last letters from words to form the solution and a high anagram count.  Reducing these and including more insertion clues, every other letter clues or other clue forms would give a more balanced crossword.  There was an unusually high repetition count with wordplay indicators for reveals, initial letters and anagrams indicators getting more than one outing.

Having said all of this, there was a good deal of promising cluing.  The use of initial letters with an anagram in 11 across was a good idea.  The surface readings usually made sense and the theme was helpful in getting some of the solution.


9 One sleeping out takes divan but leaves papers back in vehicle (9)
CAMPERVAN – A six letter word for someone who sleeps out under canvas followed by the DIVAN from the clue with a reversal (back) of ID (papers) removed (leaves out).  The dictionaries I have looked at give the enumeration for the solution as 6,3 or 6-3.

10 Nails made for one supporting house (5)
SNAIL – An anagram (made) of NAILS.

11 Initially Roman Catholic convert is always  round about (5)
CIRCA – An anagram (round) of the initial letters (initially) of the second to sixths words of the clue.

12 Engine house? (9)
MOTORHOME – Split 5,4 you would have words for an engine and a house.

13 Free range ducks stuffed with seasoning (7)
OREGANO – An anagram (free) of RANGE inside two Os (stuffed).  The order of the wordplay suggests that it is the anagram of RANGE that includes the Os where the solution requires the reverse.

14 Dip in road often includes 13a (7)
LASAGNE – A three letter word for a dip inside a four letter word for a narrow road.  I think the definition, whilst it may be factually correct (though when looking at six on-line recipes only one included the relevant herb) is so loose as to be worth little aid to the solver.

17 Agreeing to pick, in essence, subject for discussion (5)
TOPIC – The answer it hidden inside (in essence) in TO PICK.  When creating hidden word clues, it is better to try and have the hidden word span the end of one word and the beginning of another word (with or without another word in the middle).  Also, the “agreeing” in the clue is padding.  Some editors dislike padding words that do not contribute to the wordplay or the definition.

19 Odour detector back in Paris for Japanese School (3)
ZEN – Reverse (back) the French word for nose (odour detector).  Back has already been used as a reversal indicator and should ideally be replaced by a different indicator.  Also, the positioning of the reversal indicator should follow in Paris as you need the French word first before reversing it.  Perhaps “Odour detector in Paris is returned to Japanese School”

20 Firetraps especially found in parts of churches (5)
APSES – The answer is hidden in (found in) FIRETRAPS ESPECIALLY.  The order of the wordplay here with “found in” following the letters does not work. Parts of church are found in firetraps especially, not the reverse.

21 In days gone by protect spirit at first sound of conflict (3,4)
WAR DRUM – An old four letter word (in days gone by) meaning to protect followed by a three letter word for an alcoholic spirit.  I am not keen on the “at” as the link word – wordplay at definition does not work for me.

22 Liberation for reformed drunk (beginning rehab unecessary) (7)
FREEDOM – An anagram (drunk) of REFORMED after removing the R (beginning rehab).  A small point but unnecessary needs the typo correcting.

24 Want a trek round the reservoir? (5,4)
WATER TANK – An anagram (round) of WANT A TREK.  Round has already been used as an anagram indicator so a different indicator should have been used here.

26 Explosive drug perhaps (1,4)
H BOMB – The abbreviation for heroin followed by the name of an explosive device.  I don’t think that this clue works.  Although the drug is correctly clued, there seems to be no wordplay for the second word of the solution.  I cannot find any reference to the solution being a slang word for a drug.

28 Type of pot used in the Caribbean (5)
GANJA – Cryptic definition for cannabis (pot) in the Caribbean.

29 Began with wino oddly enough but developed luxury 9 (9)
WINNEBAGO – An anagram (oddly enough but developed) of BEGAN WINO.  The anagram indicator here should be truncated.  


1 Going both ways for hook up at site (4)
AC DC – A slang term for bisexual (going both ways).  I cannot see how this could be enumerated as (4).  (2,2) would be better.  I cannot see how hook up at site relates to the solution.

2 I come back with returning soldier and mostly get to come out (6)
EMERGE – A reversal (come back) of a two letter word for the setter (I) followed by a reversal (returning) of the abbreviation for Royal Engineer (soldier) and the first two letters (mostly) of GET.

3 Holiday transport? (7,3)
GETWAY CAR – A cryptic definition of a type of vehicle used in a robbery that could fancifully be a vehicle used for a holiday.

4 Boom involves endless tax for Namibian tribe (6)
OVAMBO – An anagram (un-indicated) of BOOM includes the first two letters (endless) of VAT (tax).  The lack of an anagram indicator is a problem here.  Also, taking unusual words and cluing them as an anagram is not the fairest way of cluing for the solver.  Perhaps eggs on business takeover for Namibian tribe would be fairer.

5 Runs to lend a hand inside to discover what the burglar left (8)
UNSTOLEN – The answer is hidden in (inside) RUNS TO LEND.  The words “a hand” are padding again.  Neither Chambers or Collins give unstolen as a word.

6 Starting right after Soviets took back supreme power in Russia (4)
TSAR – A reversal (back – the fourth time this has been used as a wordplay indicator) of the initial letters (starting) of the second to fifth words of the clue.

7 Rags and coal can be recycled to produce portable energy (5,3)
CALOR GAS — An anagram (can be recycled) of RAGS COAL.

8 Initially cops look up everything for a lead (4)
CLUE – The first letters (initially – again a repetition of a wordplay indicator) of the second to fifth letters of the clue.

13 Pulled behind sign (2,3)
ON TOW – A cryptic definition of the sign that might be placed on the rear of a vehicle that is being pulled by another vehicle.

15 Extra around  in case of let down for example (5,5)
SPARE WHEEL – A cryptic definition of something carried by a motorist to be used if he or she gets a puncture.

16 Here runner-up returns to form at last on course (5)
EPSOM – The final letters (at last) of the first five words of the clue.  Another link word that does not quite work.  Wordplay on definition jars.

18 Strict protestants came from Rasputin weirdly (8)
PURITANS – An anagram (weirdly) of RASPUTIN.  The tense “came from” would be better as “come from”.

19 In Africa zebras in motion beat all big wilderbeest easily at first (8)
ZIMBABWE – The initial letters (at first) of the third to ninth words of the clue.  The spelling of Wildebeest needs to be corrected.  Prepositional definitions such as “in Africa” to indicate an African country are sometimes seen in national papers but they are not universally liked.  It is better to try and avoid them.

22 Taking top off and changing for the start of flagrant cheating (6)
FAKING – A word meaning taking the top off has the initial letter replaced by the first letter (start of) of flagrant.  It seems to me that there is no indication that it is the first letter of the word meaning taking top off that has has to be changed unless taking top off is doing double duty as wordplay for the root word and wordplay for removing the first letter and replacing it with something else.  Perhaps Taking top off initially changing for the start of flagrant cheating.

23 Composer drunk vodka with king (6)
DVORAK – An anagram (drunk) of VODKA followed by an abbreviation for king.  Again, drunk has already been used as an anagram indicator so a different indicator should be used.

24 Gamble most of  salary (4)
WAGE – Remove the last letter (most of) from a word meaning gamble.  The order here should have most of before gamble.  Perhaps “Nearly gamble with salary” would have been better.

25 Way travellers might go (4)
ROAD – What seems to be a straight definition.

27 British half of me is here (4)
BLOG – The abbreviation for British followed by half of the name of the setter.  The clue only works where the crossword is solved on-line.

29 comments on “Rookie Corner – 182

  1. A few boundaries got stretched a little for us, for example 1d and the GK needed for 4d which also seems to have an un-indicated anagram. However we did manage to get it all completed and enjoyed the holiday rides, specially the 3d one.
    Thanks MacLog.

  2. Thank you Maclog for an interesting and a little bit different from usual puzzle (e.g. 25, 28). Amongst several features that impressed, I liked the combined techniques used in 11a. I think you have done particularly well in getting in very good surfaces into almost all of the clues – well done! A few of these were perhaps slightly at the expense of the wordplay but they were all gettable, so again well done I look forward to reading Prolixic’s comments tomorrow.

  3. A nice themed crossword – I particularly liked 10a and 3d, and 27d once I’d remembered who ‘me’ was :)

    I have a couple of queries which I am sure Prolixic will resolve tomorrow

    Thanks MacLog – hope to see you again soon

  4. Well done, MacLog, on getting so many themed answers into the grid without the need for any obscurities (except for the Namibian tribe). I particularly liked 10a, 3d and 13d (as well as 19a which made me laugh).
    I’m sure that Jollyswagman will disagree but I don’t think that ‘often includes 13a’ in 14a and ‘In Africa’ in 19d are sufficient as definitions.
    I did wonder whether 28a was part of the theme?
    Thanks MacLog – I look forward to your next puzzle.

  5. 2 Kiwis are quite right …Can I change it to “Boom unfortunately involves endless tax for Namibian tribe ”

  6. Hi MacLog
    Thanks, I found that pretty entertaining. I liked the theme, and thought you’d been quite inventive with your clues.
    Two I revealed (before I had all the crossers) were 3d and 5d. In 3d, I really liked the idea, but think it needs another element. 5d I wasn’t so keen on – I wasn’t looking for an adjective (I think you have clued a noun) and there are unnecessary misleading words in the clue.
    Things I liked:
    10a very nice definition
    24a neat
    12a I’ve put a tick and a question mark by this one
    13a very nice surface, construction
    14a often includes 13a I think is fine
    21a liked ‘first sound of conflict’
    Not so much:
    25d I found a bit weak. I can see why you’ve used ‘travellers’, but even given the thematic context, the word has too strong a link with ‘way’
    4d, as others have pointed out
    24d Is the ‘most of’ necessary?
    As a general point, there seemed to be quite a lot of clues in which the content of the solution is contained in the clue – I’m including lurkers (3), acrostics (5, though generally well hidden (and one very unusual one)) and anagrams (9). While these are helpful to get into the puzzle, for me they’re not the most fun to solve.
    ‘In Africa’ I think is ok,or at least established. I used to see it regularly in the Times, and have seen it recently in the Guardian.

  7. Welcome back, Maclog.

    Perhaps it was down to the constraints of the theme, but I didn’t enjoy this one as much as your previous puzzle, and I felt that you were far too reliant on two particular devices, anagrams (9) and acrostics (initial letter clues) (5), if I’ve counted correctly. My repetition radar bleeped several times too, with “drunk” twice used as an anagram indicator, and “initially” and “back” used more than once as well. As mentioned already by others, a few of the definitions raised eyebrows as did a couple of the surfaces, like 19a for example.

    Against that, I gave ticks to 3d and 24d, both fairly easy to get but nevertheless well-clued.

    It was a good effort to include so many themed answers, but overall I felt that they detracted from the puzzle rather than enhanced it, and forced you to use obscurities like 4d as grid fillers.

    I’d be interested to see a non-themed puzzle next time with less emphasis on just one or two clue types, but that’s just my preference.

    Thanks Maclog.

  8. Hi MacLog,
    Quite a mixed bag, I thought.. As Silvanus commented, there were repetition issues with both clue type and indicators along with the occasional ‘iffy’ surface read and I reckoned that 4d smacked a little of desperation, but there were also some signs of quite polished setting ability.
    10,12&24a plus 13&24d made the grade for me with the outstanding 3d taking top honours.

    I shall be interested to read Prolixic’s take on this one and – meantime – can’t recommend highly enough to you that you ask someone to test solve future puzzles for you.

    Thanks MacLog, I hope you continue to submit puzzles to Rookie corner.

  9. as per cs i shall wait for prolixic’s review in order to fully understand why my solutions are what they are.

    interim thanks to maclog for what to me anyway, was a breath of fresh air.

  10. Thanks for the puzzle, Maclog – I mostly agree with the comments so far, silvanus’ in particular.

    Personally, I’m not a huge fan of themed crosswords; I’m more interested in the wordplay of the clue than the answer fitting a theme.
    Having said that, I know how difficult it can be, and you have put it all together and clued it well enough to solve, so well done for that.

    Thanks again

  11. Hi MacLog

    congratulations on putting together a themed puzzle, which is difficult, and for sharing it here.

    the number of acrostics is very noticeable, I don’t know of any rules, but one or max two per puzzle would seem about right to me.

    I liked 23a, 14a (though i agree with Gazza, the def should really be ‘ – this often includes 13a’, and even then some may argue it is too vague), 19a (though surface could use a tweak), 8d

    13a & 20a seem a bit back-to-front to me
    Not sure why you need first in 21a
    22a should really be ‘beginning of’, def ‘for’ wordplay unusual
    29a ‘oddly enough but developed’ could perhaps be reduced to a single word anagrind
    1d not sure what the enumeration should be here
    4d and 5d not in Chambers? I think 4d is too obscure, but adding an anagrind as above definitely helps
    16d ‘on’ is a strange link – in?
    27d – I printed the puzzle, so ‘it took me a while to see the relevance of ‘here’
    13d didn’t understand sign, 26a didn’t get the drug (H? what about the rest? assuming explosive is the def) and 25d didn’t really understand 2nd half.

    sorry that was a bit quick, but i hope it helps. I look forward to prolixic’s full review

    best of luck and I look forward to next one

    1. Dutch
      – I took “sign” to be the sign you would display on the back of your car if you are 13d.
      – I agree with you about not needing “first” in 21a, but isn’t “in days gone by” also unnecessary padding?
      – 16d. You are right but “on” makes for a much better surface
      – IMHO 1d should be enumerated (2,2) or (1,1,1,1) definitely not (4)

  12. I can see I’ll have to start the Rookie puzzle before doing the back-pager if I want to make some original comments. Pretty much everything I want to say has already been said, and it’s no surprise that I agree very much with Silvanus’ overall summary.

    This was a nice challenge full of interesting ideas, and many of the surfaces were good. I wasn’t keen on 4d & 5d, and in 17a “agreeing” is another example of surface padding. 27d was my favourite.

    Many thanks to MacLog – keep them coming – and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. in days gone by is an archaic indicator (see brb) – it threw me too.
      sign seems pretty oblique to me, but no-one else has complained

      and thanks, I forgot to mention: MacLog,17a, the hidden is only hidden on one side, normally you would hide it on both sides, just look at published puzzles. And RD is right, this makes Agreeing padding.

      1. You don’t see it so much now but it used to be quite a regular thing to follow a car with a sign explaining that it was ‘the solution to 13d’- this was one of the clues I ‘liked’ for that reason

  13. I enjoyed this – when I first started I didn’t think that I was going to be able to do it.
    I’ve now finished it apart from 1 and 6d and I don’t have the first idea about those.
    I missed the theme for ages but I always do.
    I particularly liked 13 and 28a and 3, 13 and 27d. 10 and 19a made me laugh – always a good thing in a crossword.
    With thanks and congratulations to MacLog for the crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic for tomorrow’s review.

  14. For the life of me I couldn’t see the answer to 3D until I revealed a couple of letters. I ticked several clues, including 14A, 19A, 22A (my favorite), 26A and 7D. I also have a few question marks that I know Prolixic will sort out tomorrow. I did enjoy this though as usual for Rookie puzzles the most challenging part for me is trying to get onto the setter’s wavelength. Congratulations, MacLog.

  15. Many thanks for all your very interesting and informative comments. Firstly I would definitely put my hands up to the proliferation of acrostics, repetitions and anagrams. I noticed this immediately on reading through this morning and was gobsmacked but too late! I wrote this puzzle a while ago and hope that my future efforts avoid such flaws. I now count them.
    Enumeration in 1d was difficult as I thought it would be too easy if done my defence I would say that I have never seen YMCA with full stops. I think I have adressed the unindicated anagram (doh!) in 4d in my post. 25d is definitely weak as are one or two others . Themes are something I have been experimenting with and they can be difficult to set but who would do without them? Stretched boundaries at times I also confess to but then without them robots could maybe set doubt one day they will.
    Thank you all again (especially the scholars) and thanks to Dave and Prolixic

  16. 27d does work when solved on paper because on the top right of my print-out it says “by MacLog”

  17. Good fun even with the occasional rule-bending and all done except for 5d which I failed with.
    16d checkers gave me the answer, but I was relatively happy with MO (runner) with SP (form) and the last letter of coursE all backwards. Stunned to see I was wrong.
    Thanks to all.

  18. Prolixic. 1d. I think that “hook up at site” is OK. Here, hook up means the provision to plug your caravan/motorhome into the AC electric supply on a caravan site – giving mains AC power to run your appliances and also recharge the DC leisure battery at the same time. So, the hook up is a decidedly AC/DC situation/application.

    1. I think it’s hook up with another human being at one of “those” sites where they use a lot of acronyms to describe things, originally to save on paying by the word when the “site” may have been a postcard in a newsagents window.
      But then I’ve never been into caravanning. :-)

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – as measured and fair as always. I was pleased to see from your comment to CS that you also answered my query over 27a.
    I do hope that MacLog continues to produce puzzles for us – as you say, some elements of this one showed a lot of promise.

  20. I solved this yesterday but ran out of commenting time. Now I have little to add to the preceding comments apart from one query: I can’t see how “starting xyz” means “the first letter of xyz” (6d) or how “beginning abc” means “the first letter of abc” (22a).

    My picks are 10a, 13a (yes, the wordplay is very Yodaish, but I can just about make it work, and I’ve seen worse) and 23d.

    Incidentally, I didn’t turn a hair at 27d. Rookie Corner is so intrinsically a part of Big Dave’s site that I could be solving on paper in some far flung corner of the globe, and still consider myself looking at the blog!

    Thanks for this, MacLog. Enjoyably different. I look forward to your next one.

    Lastly but not leastly, thanks to Prolixic for the review.

    1. Hi Kitty,
      Like you, I was a little unsure about 6d but decided it was just about OK. As for 22a – I translated the bracketed words as ‘ (the)beginning (of) rehab (is) unnecessary’ – i.e. remove one ‘R’ from the anagram fodder.

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