Rookie Corner – 191 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 191

A Puzzle by Melvis

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today Melvis has re-entered the building. 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:

A very good crossword with a very bad clue!


1 Floral arrangement with droop in the centre (7)
CORSAGE – A three letter word meaning droop goes inside a four letter word for the centre.

5 Erase mark (7)
SCRATCH – Double definition, the first meaning to remove or withdraw something and the second an unwelcome mark on the paintwork of a car perhaps.

9 Two-way tracker (5)
RADAR – A form of tracking device whose name is reads the same backwards as well as forwards.

10 Captured spirit of musical instrument (5,4)
SNARE DRUM – A six letter word meaning captured followed by a three letter word for a type of alcoholic spirit. Bonus points for having the split in the two words defining the answer in a different place to the split in the solution. This is always a more satisfying form of charade for multiple word answers.  Some editors will not allow the cryptic reading of “Definition OF wordplay”.

11 Stones hit nothing back (5)
OPALS – A four letter word meaning to hit with the hand followed by the letter representing nothing all reversed (back).

12 Initial manoeuvre over outbuildings creates beastly noise (3)
MOO – The initial letters (initial) of the second to fourth words of the clue. Initial on its own to indicate the initial letters does not work. Perhaps Manoeuvre over outbuildings originally creates beastly noise.

13 Frighten small fish (5)
SHAKE – The abbreviation for small followed by a four letter word for a fish that is a deep-sea member of the cod family.

14 Favoured furnished surroundings for confused old Peruvian (7)
FANCIED – A three letter word meaning furnished or provided with food around (surroundings for) an anagram (confused) of INCA (old Peruvian). It was all going swimmingly and we have the fabled sighting of the indirect anagram – where the letters to be rearranged are not give directly in the clue. These hardly ever appear in standard cryptic crosswords.  The simple rules are if you are a beginner, never use them.  If you are a veteran never use them.  If you are setting an advanced cryptic use them with caution and wear three layers of Kevlar body armour, three protective helmets, emigrate to the opposite side of the world and duck.

16 Gulls collecting rubble by church (7)
SCREECH – A five letter word for loose stones or rubble on a hillside followed by the abbreviation for church.

18 The rocks of Leicestershire (3)
ICE – The answer is hidden in (of) in LEICESTERSHIRE.

19 Blackouts, unconscious a long time (7)
OUTAGES – A three letter word meaning unconscious or asleep followed by a word meaning a long time. A slight blot is that the first three letters of the solution form the last three letters of the first word in the clue.

21 Frank example from passages in a translation (7)
SINATRA – The answer is hidden in (from) PASSAGES IN A TRANSLATION.

23 Minor accident (papa made a phone call) (5)
PRANG – The letter represented by Papa in the NATO phonetic alphabet followed by a four letter word meaning made a phone call.

25 Look back through microscope at fantastic creature (3)
ORC – The answer is hidden and reversed (look back) in MICROSCOPE.  Perhaps looking back through would have been better and the structure wordplay AT definition does not work. Perhaps Fantastic creature seen looking the wrong way through microscope.

27 Sources of knowledge primarily gathered using Reading University students (5)
GURUS – The first letters (primarily) of the final five words of the clue.

28 Change shape (9)
INFLUENCE – A single definition (or at least the answer means very closely) both change and shape. Perhaps a greater separation between the meanings would have been better.

29 US lawman harbours memory of crisis (5)
DRAMA – The abbreviation for District Attorney (US lawman) includes (harbours) a type of computer memory.

30 Draws around everything, squares (7)
TALLIES – A word meaning draws (in the sense of scores in a game) around a three letter word meaning everything.

31 Owns hosiery to protect the knees (7)
HASSOCK – A three letter word meaning owns followed by the singular of a type of hosiery worn in pairs.  Some better indication of a nounal answer than a partial verbal phrase would have been better.


1 Elementary impression of energy efficiency (6,9)
CARBON FOOTPRINT – The name of a chemical element followed by the type of impression you might make if walking along the beach.

2 River warden wandering, marked out again (7)
REDRAWN – The abbreviation for river followed by an anagram (wandering) of WARDEN.

3 Stopping striking (9)
ARRESTING – Double definition of what the police might be doing when stopping someone and striking as finding something amazing.

4 Mopes about town (5)
EPSOM – An anagram (about) of MOPES.

5 Reportedly observe shores adapted for marine life (9)
SEAHORSES – A homophone (reportedly) of a word meaning observe followed by an anagram (adapted) of SHORES.

6 Resistance to cries of fear – that stinks! (5)
REEKS – The abbreviation for resistance followed by a word for cries of fear.  The link word wordplay THAT definition does not work.

7 Say many thanks for steak? (7)
TARTARE – A homophone repeated (many) of a word meaning thanks. Perhaps many is OK but Repeatedly heard “thanks for steak”, although the punctuation is misleading.

8 Beat leading con, a big fish (10,5)
HAMMERHEAD SHARK -A six letter word meaning beat or hit repeatedly followed by a four letter word meaning leading and a five letter word for a conman.

15 Ignores nuts dancing after nightclub (9)
DISCOUNTS – A five letter word for a nightclub followed by an anagram (dancing) of NUTS.

17 Rebels see danger brewing (9)
RENEGADS – An anagram (brewing) of SEE DANGER.

20 Upset end of fight leads to telling off (7)
TEARFUL – The last letter (end of ) of fight followed by a six letter colloquial word meaning a telling off.

22 Make heavy weather of tandoor cooking (7)
TORNADO – An anagram (cooking) of TANDOOR.

24 Good car for architect (5)
GAUDI – The abbreviation for good followed by German make of car.

26 Broadcast threat to king from Europe (5)
CZECH – A homophone (broadcast) of a threat to the king in a game of chess.

32 comments on “Rookie Corner – 191

  1. Our last one in was 13a as we took a long time to think of the correct fish and then we did some investigoogling to justify the gulls in 16a. At about the difficulty level that we like to see in Rookie Corner and an enjoyable solve.
    Thanks Melvis.

  2. Ditto to what the 2Kiwis have said, especially on last one in (13a) and understanding the gulls in 16a. Very enjoyable with a reasonable amount of head scratching.

  3. Enjoyable puzzle – thanks Melvis. I ticked 1a, 1d and 26d. If I’ve parsed 14a correctly it seems to contain a dreaded indirect anagram.

  4. Hi Melvis,

    First of all, an excellent grid, much improved from last time – it really makes a big difference, I think.
    My favourite two clues were 21a (where I loved the definition!) and 29a where the surface is spot on.
    And I too have learnt something at 16a – thanks.

    Use of linkwords was particularly accurate, I felt. Initially there seemed to be too many ‘of’s: counting afterwards there were three used in this way (and at least three used in other ways, e.g. a containment indicator), which just about seems ok.

    15d’s ok but the surface could be better? Perhaps “Ignores nuts dancing in support of nightclub”, as it’s a Down clue is slightly improved?

    I have clue-by-clue brief comments that I noted as I went through but which contain too many spoilers. If you’d like me to share them then do get Big Dave to put us in email contact. [I won’t be offended if not!]

    cheers all

    PS Melvis and I seem to be in sync with puzzle production, as I sneaked a plug in last time for my Inquisitor puzzle. My next Inquisitor is in this coming weekend’s ‘i’ newspaper (9th Dec), if anyone would like to give it a try (Maize, another challenge for you!). The Inquisitor is a so-called advanced thematic cryptic crossword, for those not familiar.

    1. Hey Encota. Many thanks for the feedback. It would be great to get your comments – happy for Dave to share my email.

      I am very much a rookie – I think this was attempt #5 so I’m still learning all the various no-nos! In particular, the dreaded indirect anagram – I’m not sure I understand what is okay (or in this case not okay!) here?

      1. The letters that have to be rearranged for the anagram must all appear in the clue – so you’d have to put the name of the old Peruvians for the clue to be acceptable.

      2. Hi Melvis,
        I’m sure our experts would phrase this in a better way but basically it is considered impermissible to ask the solver to answer one clue – ‘old Peruvian’ in this instance and then form an anagram from its letters to arrive at the answer to a second clue – ‘favoured’. All the required letters/words must appear in the original clue.
        Hope that makes sense!

  5. Such a shame about the dreaded you-know-what in 14a as apart from that I thought this was a great crossword. I did know the gulls in 16a – we have so many here at work that a beautiful hawk is brought in twice a week to persuade them to move back to the coast.

    Thank you to Melvis for the short-lived but enjoyable solve and, in advance, to Prolixic for the review

  6. 19a & 26d favourites in an overall enjoyable solve, if fairly straightforward. One or two surfaces could be improved, I think, but no worse than some back-pagers, or some Toughies for that matter… 14a – Ouch!!

    Thanks Melvin

  7. Another enjoyable puzzle from Melvis in which, in company with others it would seem, I did need to verify 16a (very descriptive but not a term I’ve come across previously) and spent a little time looking for the small fish in 13a – I did briefly wonder whether there actually was a fish called a ‘care’! I’m also ashamed to admit how long it took for the penny to drop over 1d – had I been happier with 14a it might not have taken so much time.

    Top three for me were 10&31a plus 5d.

    Many thanks, Melvis, nice to see you back again.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Interestingly, 16a is not defined as a collective noun for gulls in Chambers, but Mr Google and other sources seem to think it’s ok, and I have a vague recollection of hearing it before somewhere. Very descriptive indeed, as you say!

  8. Wasn’t too sure about defs in 31a, 6d and 22d. Maybe just the padding takes away the smoothness.
    Noticed the indirect anagram in 14a and thought of Gazza for the homophone in 7d. Two of his favourites in one. Made me laugh.
    Thanks to Melvis.

  9. Welcome back, Melvis.

    As Encota rightly says, a much improved grid this time, and some admirable discipline in limiting all the clues bar one to a concise eight words or fewer, RayT would be proud of you! It was therefore a great pity to see the indirect anagram in 14a, I bet you must be kicking yourself.

    The surfaces were once again pretty good, only 11a struggled to convince as far as I was concerned. A little tweak or two with word order in a couple of clues, and a re-phrasing of the definitions in 31a and 26d were the only other points that I felt needed some attention. My double ticks went to 19a and 1d, with plenty of other single ticks in evidence.

    Overall, a great job, a very enjoyable solve, and a well-crafted and generally solver-friendly puzzle. Congratulations and thanks, and I look forward to your next.

  10. many thanks Melvis. There was a lot to like here. Some of the excellent clues were 1a, 10a 18a, 19a (very nice), 21a (very nice), 1d, 3d, 4d, 7d (though some will groan), 17d, 26d.

    I also looked up the fish called care, and i didn’t understand the gull thing until I came here.

    My scribbles for what they’re worth, I hope they are of some use to you:

    There were a few links i wasn’t keen on, in 29a & 1d you have wordplay of definition, and in 25d I don’t think ‘at’ is a good link, ‘to see’ might have worked for me.

    I noticed the indirect anagram of course, which is a shame.

    I agree with encota that ‘after’ spoils the surface in 15d.

    31a has a verbal indication for a nounal answer.

    I don’t think the ‘initial’ quite works in 12a. I would have expected ‘Initials of’ or ‘Starts to’ etc. Or have ‘initially’ after the fodder.

    I did wonder just how minor the answer to 23a was, and whether 27a was a source of knowledge or wisdom, but the clues work fine.

    All in all a pretty good effort, congratulations. The minor glitches are mistakes we all make at times and generally get picked up by test solvers or the editor. I look forward to prolixic’s review. Many thanks again for the puzzle, good fun.

  11. I enjoyed this very much, Melvis. Your cluing is generally accurate and commendably brief, and you have clearly paid a lot of attention to your surfaces. Just a few minor comments:

    12a – “initially” would work better than “initial”.
    14a – oh dear!
    19a – this is a good clue but it’s a bit of a shame that the first part of the answer appears in the definition.
    28a – I felt that the two definitions were too similar.
    7d – I don’t think you should be using “many” to mean twice. How about, “Say thanks and thanks again for steak?”?

    I had plenty of ticks on my page after finishing this, and my favourite was 1d.

    Very well done, Melvis. Keep them coming please.

  12. Add me to the growing list of those who enjoyed this a lot. My only hold-up was 14A where I was hung up on a certain bear for a while. I ticked10A, 19A, 21A (my favorite) and 1D. Thanks Melvis. Come back soon, please.

  13. Hi Melvis
    I liked it. Lots of model neat and tidy clues. Any questions marks already covered by others. Thanks for the entertainment.
    I think I used ‘of’ as a link word in a puzzle here, and got picked up on it. Since then I’ve generally tried to avoid it, but sometimes it’s just irresistibly convenient, and you do see it in the Times and elsewhere.

  14. Great feedback all – very much appreciated! It’s nice to have the positive comments and the constructive suggestions give me lots to think about for next time!!

  15. Delightful crossword Melvis, and a perfect way to unwind after a full-on day at work.

    Garnering ticks of appreciation were:1a, 9a, 21a, 23a, 31a, 5d, 20d, 22d, and 24d. Podium finishers for me were 10a – a brilliant surface and super-neat clue, 1d – very clever, and those long ‘uns can be intimidating to pull off successfully, and 15d – lots of misdirection and an ultimately super-neat construction.

    On the ‘matters arising’ front, apart from the aforementioned 14a, I wondered if, in 6d, the definition was the last word alone – if so, the word ‘that’ isn’t really doing anything, and doesn’t work for me as a link word. If the last two words form the definition, don’t they indicate a noun? No biggy though, as the meaning was clear enough, but golly, there are so many things to have to think about!

    Many thanks for the entertainment and, as they say, keep ’em coming.

    1. I should have added 26d to that list – terrific, my last one in and a much better clue than the one for the same word I’ve just had accepted by Eimi at the Indy!

  16. Well done Melvis. I found this a most entertaining solve with only a few minor points (as well as the one already noted) which didn’t impact the enjoyment.

    I really warmed to 1d, so that is my favourite today.

    Thanks to Melvis and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the analysis.

  17. Thanks, Melvis, I enjoyed this one very much.
    I’m not good at criticising constructively because I’m never sure what’s ‘allowed’ and what isn’t – e.g. the difference between an indirect anagram and the other one which I can’t remember.
    12a made me laugh – I always like the slightly silly ones – and for the same reason I liked 6d.
    I also appreciated the two long answers down each side.
    Thanks again to Melvis for the crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic for the review tomorrow.

  18. I deservedly got a slap on the wrist for an indirect anagram a while ago but in that case solvers had to guess the name of a fish as the anagram fodder and the whole answer was the anagram. In 14 here the indirect anagram was only part of the answer and ‘old Peruvian’ couldn’t be anything but ‘Inca’ so I don’t see that there was really any problem.

    I hadn’t come across ‘A screech of gulls’ before but a bit of googling turned up a few references to the expression.

    6 and 26 didn’t really click with me, but on the other hand I really liked 1ac and 1dn, 10 and 20. All in all an enjoyable solve – thanks, Melvis

    1. Welcome to the blog Exit

      The question about indirect anagrams is at what point is the line between acceptable and unacceptable to be drawn. What seems obvious to one person may not be to another. The easiest answer is that they are all unacceptable, then there is no confusion.

  19. Nice easy-medium difficulty puzzle Melvis. No real quibbles for me – but just one observation:
    14a is an indirect anagram, but the indirectness is obvious – ie what else could “old Peruvian” be? That’s OK by LIstener rules, some UK publications (provided the obviousness rule is adhered to) – not at all by others.

    Ximenes (in his “slips”) gave the example of “the cup that cheers” for TEA as being allowably obvious (what else could it possibly be) but later in his book he outlawed them altogether, which is what many people now follow.

    Most setters play safe and avoid them altogether.

    It’s just part of the general idea that the solver should only need to make one logical jump at a time – not two together. So because the solver already has to interpret one word as an anagram indication the anagram fodder needs normally to be clearly visible and addressed by the anagram indicator.

    Otherwise all great stuff.

    My favourite clue was 29a.

    Do try another.

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I rather think Melvis will steer clear of indirect anagrams in the future!
    Nice to see that you found the rest of the puzzle to be of a good standard – I really enjoyed the solve.

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