Rookie Corner – 189 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 189

A Puzzle by Metman

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have Metman’s latest puzzle. 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.

Something of a curate’s egg from Metman.  I did not mind the three letter solutions.  You will get them in crosswords an you have to learn to live with them.  There were no gross errors, but the crossword could have done with a test solve to polish some of the clues where the surface readings strayed into the nonsensical.  In a couple of places, American usage should have been indicated.  The number of anagrams was a little on the high side.


1 L. Orient is in the lowest order (5)
LEAST – The L from the clue followed by another word for the Orient.  Rather than having the slightly ungainly L. Orient you could have had “Originally Leyton Orient is in the lowest division”

4 Accessible royal dynasty gives unlimited hospitality (4,5)
OPEN HOUSE – A four letter word meaning accessible followed by a five letter word for a royal dynasty.

9 Heracles perhaps appears in dodge I’m arranging (7)
DEMIGOD – An anagram (arranging) or DODGE IM.  With arranging as the anagram indicator, it should come before the letters to be arranged.

10 Barter with the queen for driver (7)
TRUCKER – A five letter word meaning barter followed by a two letter abbreviation for the Queen.  As Chambers gives barter as a definition of the first five letters, I don’t have an issue with this.

11 The Spanish of Paris have united to avoid capture (5)
ELUDE – The Spanish for “the” and the French (Paris) for “of” includes (have) the abbreviation for united.  Have is a weak containment indicator and having would fit the cryptic reading better.

13 Reformed demon leaves Ohio and finds energy to change for the better (5)
EMEND – An anagram (reformed) of DEMON after replacing the single letter abbreviation for Ohio with the abbreviation for energy.

15 One part of a broadcast serial (3)
OAT – One part (like an ear of corn) of a homophone (broadcast) of serial.

16 This might be a month (3)
MAY – Double definition of a month and a word meaning might be.

17 Northern dish drops calories and is drunk (5)
SOUSE – Remove the abbreviation for calories from a Northern dish – a type of stew or hash made with meat strips.  As a noun, the answer is used in America and this should have been indicated.  The surface reading, with or without this, would still need a little polishing.

19 Sort of green mixture (5)
GENRE – An anagram (mixture) of GREEN.

21 Uncovered gripping gravity reminder (5)
NUDGE – A word meaning bare or uncovered includes (gripping) the abbreviation for gravity.  The surface reading of this clue is not the greatest.

23 Is this moved further towards the stern later? (5)
AFTER – A word meaning later could fancifully (hence the question mark) mean further aft (moved further towards the stern).

24 Informal account indicates military staff position (3)
TAB – An informal bar account is also the name of the badge worn on the collar to indicate a military rank.

25 My Missus actually carries a bag (3)
SAC – The answer is hidden (carries) in MISSUS ACTUALLY.  The MY in the clue is padding and could have been omitted.

26 French philosopher returns for spice (5)
SUMAC – Reverse (returns) the name of a French philosopher.

28 What’s all this then, a greeting? (5)
HELLO – Double definition, the first, often repeated in folklore as a policeman enquires what’s going on.

29 Unbridled memory makes one gasp (7)
RAMPANT – The abbreviation for a type of computer memory followed by a word meaning gasp.  I don’t like the “makes one” here as it it not a charade indicator and the four letters required in the solution do not mean makes one gasp.

31 Left to flounder? – Not on a log! (7)
UNSAVED – Double definition, the second meaning not having been recorded (not on a log).

33 Animal sort of can attack vigorously (5,4)
BILLY GOAT – A type of cooking can used on a camp fire followed by a phrase 2,2 meaning to attack vigorously.

34 Pound to always exert force (5)
LEVER – The abbreviation for pounds sterling followed by a word meaning always.


1 A damsel in distress – could be his fault (6,3)
LADIES MAN – An anagram (in distress) of A DAMSEL IN.

2 Our army is shaken but holds weaponry (7)
ARMOURY – An anagram (is shaken) of OUR ARMY.  An anagram where you move three of the letters sideways is not much cop!

3 Label is child’s play (3)
TAG – Double definition of a label and a children’s game.

4 I dole out for an OAP (5)
OLDIE – An anagram (out) of I DOLE.

5 Oddly, Einstein, at the beginning held a medical qualification (3)
ENT – The first three odd letters of EINSTEIN.  The dropping of the final odd letter was not elegantly handled and the answer is not a medical qualification.  Perhaps “Oddly, Einstein leaves one behind in medical department” would have been better.

6 Badger a canine (5)
HOUND – Double definition, the first as a verb, the second as a noun.

7 Calculating it’s value should solve your problem (7)
UNKNOWN – A weak cryptic definition of value to be found in an equation.

8 Sadness is defined as losing head for bird (5)
EGRET – Remove the first letter (losing head) from a word meaning sadness.  Perhaps the “is defined as losing head” is slightly clumsy.  Perhaps “Rue losing head for bird” would be better.

12 Different directions that hold the upper class to follow (5)
ENSUE – The abbreviations for East, North, South and East includes the abbreviation for upper class.  A pedantic point but as the abbreviation for East is repeated, the directions are not all different!

14 Build in devastated Crete (5)
ERECT – An anagram (devastated) of CRETE.

18 One in Paris has weapon to take away (5)
UNARM – The French (in Paris) for One followed by another word for a weapon.  As the “in Paris” device has already been used, a different indicator should have been used.

19 Corporation measure? (5)
GIRTH – A cryptic definition of the measurement around the stomach (corporation).

20 Exaggerate? I heard so (9)
EMBROIDER – A homophone (I heard) of so gives another word meaning the answer.

22 There has to be a point when using this system (7)
DECIMAL – A weak cryptic definition of the numerical system that includes a point.

24 Part of telephone viva is scrambled for place in the Levant (3,4)
TEL AVIV – The abbreviation for telephone followed by an anagram (is scrambled) of VIVA.  The surface reading here is non-sensical.  If part of means the first three letter, this is too imprecise.  

25 Knock out an inferior side (5)
SCRUB – Double definition, the second being a term for an American inferior team.  The Americanism should have been indicated.

26 Vehicle held by gutted spy – it’s frightening (5)
SCARY – A type of vehicle inside the outer letters (gutted) of spy.

27 Supplier of food flavouring (5)
CRUET – What holds salt and pepper and other food flavourings.

30 Also stood unprotected (3)
TOO – Remove the outer letters (unprotected) from stood.

32 Rosalyn enjoys a Spanish bread additive (3)
SAL – The answer is hidden in (enjoys – as in holds he enjoys the support of…)

32 comments on “Rookie Corner – 189

  1. Several of the 3 letter answers had us scratching our heads for a while and then saying Hmm as we filled them in. 5d 15a and 32d being the offenders. A few others where the grammar did not quite seem to fit, eg 17a, but overall it was all solvable with some smiles along the way.
    Thanks Metman.

  2. An enjoyable solve, with some likely oldies but goodies.

    I agree with the 2Kiwis on the three letter clues – got answers but not convinced; and, I did think the partial selection in 5d was a little contrived.

    In 13a, the deletion of the ‘O’ from demon might have been better indicated by the NATO phonetic alphabet Oscar – US states have two letter abbreviations (Ohio is OH).

    Favourite – the excellent 20d synonymic homophone.

    Thank you for a good end to my Sunday.

    1. Ohio also has a single letter abbreviation (chambers). I hadn’t twigged 20d, and i’m now trying to think about a synonymic homophone

      1. Senf is correct. Official US State abbreviations at all two-letter and designed to be unique to a particular state. The single letter O could equally apply to Oregon or Oklahoma.

        1. O for Ohio was used in a Guardian puzzle a few weeks ago. While that’s no guarantee (the puzzle, like this one, also contained an erroneous ‘it’s’), its used was explained on the fifteensquared blog (DaveMc @7):

          Guardian Cryptic 27345 Qaos

        2. There is a 2-letter code system for US states. The 2-letter code for Ohio is OH. That is also in Chambers. But there is also a single letter abbreviation for Ohio. Deny if you wish, it won’t help you. I like that the word ‘Ohio’ looks like a little tractor.

        1. I have been known to disagree with Chambers before and I’m definitely with you on this one.

  3. Generally very enjoyable – thanks Metman, though like others I had some difficulty with some of the 3-letter words esp. 15a.

    My favourite was 23a: As an aside, the old joke, Q. “What’s brown and sticky?” (A. a stick) still makes me smile …

    You’ve done a lot of work on getting the surfaces very plausible which as all setters here know can take a lot of work, so well done with that :-) 21a’s surface read slightly implausibly but generally very good.
    In a few occasions this was at the expense of wordplay accuracy:
    – e.g. is ‘leaves’ in 13a the wrong way round? Perhaps ‘leaving’ and ‘finding’ might be better?
    – and ‘makes’ or ‘makes one’ in 29a.

    Good fun first thing on a Monday – so thank you for that. [I’ll try Rufus next :-)]

    1. Talking of which, I just noticed 19a in today’s Grauniad (am I allowed to mention that on this site, BD?). I’ll put my tin hat on, just in case …

  4. Thanks, Metman.
    Plenty to like:
    1d, 21a, 11a, 13a, 31a, 23a, and 20d (favourite)
    I revealed a couple: 24a (before I had the crossers) – not familiar with the military meaning, and 27d, which I was overthinking. It’s like one of those Rufus clues you get every week that makes someone ask ‘Is that really cryptic?’ My turn, today.
    In 6d, I liked badger. Did you think of using badger in its animal sense in the clue?
    In 29a, the checked answer is not the correct answer.

  5. Welcome back, Metman.

    I have to admit that my heart sank when I first saw the grid, as I’m not a fan of even a limited number of three letter words in cryptic puzzles. It would have been so easy with just a few tweaks to reduce the number of these and also the five letter words (20% and 50% respectively of the total), so I’m assuming that it was a conscious decision to persevere with this format. A mistake in my opinion.

    My repetition radar bleeped with the two Parisian references (so easy to change one to France) and the cryptic grammar needed “having” rather than “have” in one of them, i.e.11a. Quite a few of the surfaces grated unfortunately, especially 17a, 21a, 12d and 24d. I thought 16a, 19a, 28a and 18d were extremely weak and shouldn’t have made it past the first draft stage. The homophones probably constituted the best part of the puzzle, and I also liked the concept of 33a, although not the surface!

    If I didn’t know better, I have to say that this puzzle was more in keeping with a debutant in Rookie Corner rather than someone who has now produced more than ten puzzles in over two years. One of the joys of RC is to see how new setters improve with successive puzzles, but I’m struggling to understand how someone can regress rather than improve, given Prolixic’s expert feedback each time and the suggestions offered by others. Is the advice just ignored, I wonder?

    Thanks, Metman, I hope you’ll confound the cynics like me next time.

  6. Hi Metman

    congratulations on another puzzle. My favourite was 1d, and it seems you’re in good company there. I struggled a bit to finish SE, and I haven’t twigged 20d and 23a, but others seem to have, so now i’m feeling dim.

    Some scribbles I made for what they are worth:

    There seem to be some unindicated americanisms (according to chambers), which some may object to (17a, assuming drunk is a noun, 24a, 25d)

    The anagram in 2d is also a neat insertion of our into army, maybe you didn’t have to use up your anagram count there. similarly 24d could be a reversal.

    I think 33a reads better without the ‘sort of’

    I wasn’t sure barter was an accurate synonym (10a), i think ‘trade’ would have worked better.

    not sure we have a medical qualification vs a medical specialisation in 5d.

    25a ‘My’ seems to be there just for surface

    I wasn’t sure just how cryptic 7d and 27d were.

    Not sure I get the “one part of” in 15a

    8d just wondering if “is defined as” should point to definition rather than wordplay.

    I hadn’t come across the spanish bread additive, but i very much liked 30d.

    Sounds a lot but mostly fairly minor really, keep it up

    1. just realised I had the wrong answer for 23a. I had entered ALTER, thinking there was some story about moving the L in LATER further towards the stern – duh.

  7. Top part of this one slotted in quite easily although I had reservations about 5d and am more familiar with 17a having an extra three letters at the beginning.
    The bottom half took more time – IT references always flummox me and I didn’t know the American term in 25d. Like Dutch, I have yet to fully understand the workings of 20d. I’m another that thought 33a would have worked better without ‘sort of’ but that brings us back to surfaces in general – not your strong point I fear, Metman!

    Thanks for bringing us another puzzle, Metman, but please do think seriously about getting someone to test solve for you.

  8. Thanks to all who have commented. Some encouragement but alas, it seems I am going the wrong way. I have noted all the weak clues, especially the three-letter variety. Seems I still have a lot of work to do on the surfaces. Also, not so many ‘gimmes’! Thanks again to all.

  9. Plenty to like, but I do agree with the others on the 3-letter words and the surfaces. I was also unware that 26A was a spice and I can’t find any corroboration for it. Don’t be discouraged, Metman. You have lots of support around here.

    1. Well the spice (made from the berries) is in Chambers, but you’ve probably chucked that out the window by now.

      1. Ouch. I did check my Chambers (9th Ed.) and there’s only one entry for sumac, and that just mentions the tree or shrub.
        Since the 9th Ed. was published in 2003, it’s probably past time to update to a new one!

  10. Good fun.
    Like earlier commenters several of the three letter answers caused trouble for me – I still haven’t got 5d or 15a.
    I have a few answers that I don’t quite ‘get’ – 20d was one of them – thanks Gazza.
    I particularly liked 25 and 31a and, now that I understand it, 20d.
    Thanks and congratulations to Metman for the crossword and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic.

  11. Many thanks for the later comments. A little more encouraging but all comments are very welcome.

  12. I pieced this together, just about, so it’s mostly OK in my view. I think the main thing to take from this is:

    a) a test solver is crucial – remarkable how differently fresh eyes can interpret a clue (and love/hate some).
    b) the dreaded surfaces – sometimes hard to see the wood for the trees when you’ve been kicking an idea around for a while.

    Thanks for the puzzle, Metman, I did enjoy the most of it.

  13. Hi Metman – nice solve – lots of great ideas and smiles in there.

    Unfortunately there was also quite a bit of minor fudging of wordplays most of which could be fixed by casting the same material slightly differently – 17a I think might have to be rethought.

    I don’t include 25a under that heading – that one’s fine by me – although ximeneans insist that the answer should be hidden in only the words that actually contain part of it. Normal intelligent setters (eg Araucaria) and solvers (eg me – well – sort of) accept either approach.

    None of that didn’t interfered with my very enjoyable, and by no means speedy, solve. There were some excellent ideas in there.

    33a and 22d were my equal favourites.

    Overall well done. Please keep them coming.

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