Rookie Corner – 195 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 195

A Puzzle by Wire

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a debut puzzle from Wire. 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 Happy New Year to all Rookie setters and solvers.

Welcome to Wire.  This was a tightly clued tricky crossword.  In one or two cases, the cryptic readings of the clues needed a little more attention and some of the surface readings could have been smoother though none were nonsensical.


1 Writer of copy in series (parts 1 and 2) (6)
SCRIBE – A four letter word meaning to copy inside the first and second letters (parts 1 and 2) of series.

4 Mousetrap an example of how to destroy brownish thing (8)
WHODUNIT – An anagram of how (to destroy) followed by a three letter word meaning brownish and a two letter word for a thing or object.

10 Least disordered metal fails test (7)
TIDIEST – The chemical symbol for Titanium (metal) followed by a four letter word meaning fails and the first letter of test.  For this clue to work there needs to be a first letter indicator as T on its own is not a recognised abbreviation for test.

11 Rubber sole under this dental hygienist’s instrument, maybe (7)
GUMSHOE – Fancifully, the solution (if split 4,3) could mean an tool for digging out plaque between the teeth.

12 Start register (4)
ROLL – Double definition, the first used in phrases such as cameras/wagons ????.

13 Get blue? See doctor…a real star! (10)
BETELGEUSE – An anagram (doctor) of GET BLUE SEE.  Where an anagram indicator is used in the imperative, it should come before the letters to be rearranged – “doctor XYZ” rather then “XYZ doctor”.  The position is slightly different to 4a where you have XYZ to destroy.  In this case, the cryptic grammar works with the indicator after the letters.

15 Strong assailant tells beginners to leave Steinway in pieces (6)
SINEWY – The first letters (beginners) of assailant tells are removed from Steinway an an anagram (in pieces) made from the remaining SEINWY.

16 Toes wiggled in rhyme : ‘One gee-gee’s/ In the pastries’ (7)
PIGGIES – The one from the clue and two Gs inside a four letter word for pastries.

20 Back in Germany, the French and you spoke? (7)
UTTERED – Reverse (back) the German for “the” and the French for “and” and “you”.

21 Information out before mass energy was studied in nuclear project (6)
GENOME – A three letter word for information followed by the first letter of out and the abbreviations for mass and energy.  Again, a first letter indicator is needed as O is not a a recognised abbreviation for out.  A small point but “is studied” would be better than “was studied”.

24 Disgracefully fashionable female cut short love affair with cunning (10)
INFAMOUSLY – A two letter meaning fashionable followed by the abbreviation for female, a five letter word for a lover affair with the final letter removed (cut-short) and a word meaning cunning.

26 See 23 Down

28 Measure a chemical solution by narrow frequency broadcasting (7)
TITRATE – A homophone (broadcasting) of TIGHT (narrow) and a RATE (frequency).

29 Spanish product caught with shortened line at sea (7)
CHORIZO – The abbreviation for caught followed by the line where the sea meets the sky with the final letter removed (shortened).

30 Pronounced shortage and pronounced description of Bath, for example (8)
SPARSITY – A homophone (pronounced) of SPA CITY (description of bath for example).

31 Clergyman brought up May to embrace underground space (6)
CAVERN – Reverse (brought up) a three letter abbreviation for a clergyman inside (to embrace) a three letter word meaning may.


1 Be in session with naked coffee-making professional musician (8)
SITARIST – A three letter word meaning be in session (as a court might) followed by the name of a server in a coffee shop who brews the coffee with the outer letters removed (naked).

2 Scanned sound surface at the end of the world (3,6)
RED PLANET – A homophone (sound) of READ (scanned) followed by a five letter word for a surface and the first letter (end of) of the.  Whilst most of the surface reading are generally OK, this one could have done with a little more polishing to give a more meaningful surface reading.

3 Abbie rowed stowing drink from Hamburg club (4)
BIER – The answer is hidden (stowing) in ABBIE ROWED.

5 Clean fracture of icy sheeting which hasn’t set (8)
HYGIENIC – Remove the letters in SET from ICY SHEETING and make an anagram (fracture of) of ICYHEING

6 Stirring orators made bizarre exit before two thirds of guests (10)
DEMAGOGUES – An anagram (bizarre) of MADE followed by a two letter word meaning to leave or exit and the first four letters (two thirds of) of GUESTS.

7 Original party leader returned to become Prime Minister (5)
NEHRU – A letter prefix meaning primitive or original followed by a three letter word for a female only party all reversed (returned).

8 Writings from a Greek urn start to fade (6)
THESES – Remove (to fade) the first letter (start) to urn from the name of the Greek hero who slew the Minotaur.  Some editors will not allow start on its own to indicate the first letter with a possessive “X’s start” or using “start of X”.

9 Three played agent in theatre, causing sleepiness (5)
ETHER – An anagram (played) of THREE.

14 Savoy truffle tips mixed with same twee sugary treats (10)
SWEETMEATS – An anagram (mixed) of ST (the first two letters (tips) of savoy truffle) SAME TWEE.

17 Make sexy drug outlet retrofit around old chemicals company (9)
EROTICISE – The abbreviation for ecstasy and a five letter word for a retail outlet reversed (retrofit) around the three letter abbreviation for Imperial Chemical Industries (old chemical company).

18 Get back! You troops sit by rear of forest covering (8)
TEGUMENT – Reverse (back) the get from the clue and follow it with the single letter that is used and the abbreviated form of you when texting, a three letter word for troops and the final letter (rear of) of forest.

19 Post feathers direct to prison (4,4)
SEND DOWN – A four letter word meaning to post and a four letter word describing soft feathers.

22 Finger pies from poor epicurists and you’ll get a face (6)
RICTUS – Remove the letters in PIES from the letters in epicurists and make an anagram (poo) of the letters that remain, CURIST.  The finger is a subsidiary anagram indicator as the letters in pies are not removed in the same order from EPICURISTS.  Perhaps fingered pies would have fitted the cryptic reading better.  I am not sure that epicurists is a word although it is given in some on-line dictionaries.

23/26 Feathered friend of Spooner’s rear out of focus (9)
BLACK BIRD – A Spoonerism of BACK (rear) BLURED (out of focus)

25 Founders of fraternities across the West abhor extreme sentence (5)
FATWA – The initial letters (founders of) the third to seventh words of the clue.

27 Fish is stored in far passage at the end (4)
CODA – A three letter word for a type of fish eaten with chips followed by the central letter (stored in) of far.  The cryptic grammar does not quire work here as you would need fish HAS …

39 comments on “Rookie Corner – 195

  1. That was quite hard work and took us well into Toughie time to get it sorted. That is all except 8d. We think we have the right answer from definition and checkers but have not yet twigged the wordplay. There are a few others where we think we have the wordplay right but still with a question mark about how it works, eg 27d.
    There are a lot of good clever clues here and we certainly enjoyed the challenge.
    Thanks Wire.

    1. Hi 2Kiwis, thanks for your feedback…glad you enjoyed my first attempt in Rookie Corner! I think 8d in hindsight might have been a bit unfair…a few others have struggled with it. Cheers, Wire

  2. I really started to get going on this one, but got there in the end, having revealed a letter and then looked in the BRB to make sure I’d got the right word in 18d. I did count the word numbers in some of the clues as the surface readings did seem a bit long-winded but they are all of a reasonable length

    I’m not sure whether having three ‘remove some letters and make an anagram of what you have left’ clues are too many for one crossword. I also have a number of ?s where I’m still trying to work out the parsing.

    A good debut so thank you. Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for explaining the ones I can’t

    1. Hi crypticsue, thanks for tackling my puzzle…I think 18d is a bit of an obscure one! My surface readings clearly need more care (as you’ll see from other comments)…and a few others have highlighted the subtraction/ anagram habit…I will try to rein it in! Cheers, W

  3. A tricky but enjoyable debut – thanks Wire. There are a couple of unrecognised abbreviations (‘test’ in 10a and ‘out’ in 21a) and some redundant words in the clues (e.g. club in 3d). ‘Brought up’ as a reversal indicator doesn’t really work in an across clue but these are all easily sorted out.
    I see that the Bath ‘homophone’ has made another appearance!!!.
    I liked 20a and 6d but my favourite clue was 4a.
    I’m looking forward to your next puzzle.

    1. Hi Gazza, thanks for tackling my puzzle. A few people have said that it was tricky…which I guess indicates that maybe I am being a bit unfair with the clues( or trying to be too clever by half!) I find the level of difficulty hard to gauge in my setting. l didn’t realise the Bath homophone was a common one : )

      Can’t believe I made the mistake with ‘brought up’…a rookie error to be sure! Thanks again, W

  4. Welcome, Wire, and a Happy New Year to him/her and everyone else.

    Overall I enjoyed solving this one, it had many clever ideas and no little humour, but the surfaces in several cases needed some more TLC, and this is one of the principal areas for the setter to work on for future puzzles I’d suggest. None were completely nonsensical, but a number, like 16a, 28a and 17d, failed to convince. In addition, as Gazza has mentioned, there was some redundant “surface padding” on occasion too.

    My repetition radar bleeped with “back” as a reversal indicator and “u” for “you” both used twice, and, as has been said, “up” should always be avoided to indicate reversals in across clues. “Epicurists” (in 22d) I couldn’t find in Chambers or Collins Online. 18d was a new word for me. I so wanted “Abbie rowed” in 3d to be a Beatles-related homophone, so I was naturally disappointed to find it merely disguising a lurker instead!

    My ticks went to 4a, 5d (I can already tell that, like Prolixic, Wire is partial to a subtractive anagram or two!) and 6d. Like the 2Ks, I struggled to parse completely both 8d and 27d, perhaps they are on CS’s list as well?

    A very promising debut, thanks and congratulations, Wire.

    1. I think that 8d is the name of a mythical Greek hero minus the first letter of Urn. I presume that the final letter of 27d is the letter stored in the middle of fAr.

    2. ‘Epicurus’ is in the Collins Big Blue Book – A Greek philosopher who held that the highest good is pleasure and that the world is a series of fortuitous combinations of atoms.

      Epicureanism, Epicurist?

      Also here

      Just a thought.

    3. Hi Silvanus, Happy NY to you too! ( I can confirm that I am a ‘him’),

      Thanks for your feedback…and I agree with all of your comments. ‘Epicurists’…I have created a new word! I didn’t even think to check…which is another lesson learnt. I guess I was lumping them in with ‘hedonists’…who also seem to have all the fun! Thanks to LetterboxRoy , for posting the ‘Epicuris’ definition.

      Cheers, W

  5. Took a while to find a way into this one, some of which I think was due to a number of the surface reads not making a great deal of sense. I wonder whether this is another instance of a setter not asking others to help with test-solving? I’m convinced that this is one of the most vital elements of putting together a successful puzzle but a fair number of our Rookies still seem to ignore the advice.

    Certainly some quite clever ideas in evidence but I do have a fair number of question marks that await tomorrow’s review from Prolixic.

    All credit to you for breaking cover, Wire, I hope that we see more from you in the future.

      1. I quite understand what you are saying, BD, and I would be the first to acknowledge what a valuable forum Rookie Corner is for aspiring new setters. However, I do think that when it comes to something as basic as decent surface reads the compiler could benefit enormously from simply getting A.N. Other person to read through the clues and say whether they thought the wording made sense.

        Ensuring adherence to the conventions/complexities of setting is obviously where the abilities of Prolixic (and other experts we are lucky enough to have on this site) come into play but it seems a shame for initial puzzles to be marred by something that could often be relatively easily corrected.

    1. Hi Jane, Thanks for your valuable feedback. I totally agree about the surface reading issue. As I look at these clues again today, I can see that I should have kept things tighter. I have a couple of friends/ family members who kindly look over my puzzles during the ‘edit stage’…but frank feedback is harder to give when it comes to people you know, I suppose!

      There is certainly now a lot of red ink over my current work in progress…and I am going to write ‘Surface Reads’ out 1000 times!

      Thanks again…and happy NY! W

      1. Hi Wire, Thank you for taking the time to reply to everyone and I’m very pleased to see that you are able to view the comments that have been made as positive pointers for the future.

        With regard to getting friends/family members to look over the puzzles for you – I’m not sure whether they have access to the answers/prompts from you at the same time. My advice would be to make certain that they don’t, otherwise they’re looking at the puzzle in almost the same way as you are rather than as your intended audience will be doing.

        As for ‘losing’ clues that you’ve already written – just keep a note of them for use in future puzzles. A supply of ready-made clues will stand any setter in good stead.

        A very Happy New Year to you as well – keep up the good work.

  6. This offering engaged me enough to want to get to the bottom of it, so you’re over the first hurdle! I agree that some of the surfaces could have been made more plausible and concise but none were real horrors. I did have a few queries, most of which are minor, but I also have a fair number of ticks – 6d, 9d, 19a, 25d & 15a.

    In my (very) limited experience at this lark I would offer two suggestions:
    Firstly, as Jane says, a ‘competent test solver’ (to quote BD) is a gem if you can find one – I can’t unfortunately but I do get someone to read the clues to make sure it sounds OK to someone else.
    Secondly, I find that tweaking the grid for alternative answers at the beginning and as you go along can dramatically improve the puzzle simply because the setter has a far greater scope to come across words where an idea leaps out at you. If I can’t find a good clue, I’ll tweak the grid even if it means replacing several words and rewriting several clues. I thought the SW corner would have benefited a tweak or two.

    Thanks and well done Wire.

    1. Hi Rags, Thanks for your feedback…and thanks for taking on my puzzle!

      The ‘surface reading’ issue (as you see from my other replies) is going to be sorted…and sorted quickly, I hope! I like your advice about tweaking the grid. I have run into a brick wall with a couple of clues for my next piece…and I think a tweak or two is definitely in order. I don’t know if this is the case for other setters, but I get very precious about ‘losing’ clues that I have already written…I think I just need to ‘man up’ and get on with it!

      Thanks again, W

      1. I think it was Snape that said ‘Writing the clues is relatively easy – starting with a nice grid is the hard bit.’

        It didn’t take long for me to get used to scrapping entire corners in the same way I sometimes have to scrap ideas for clues, because I can’t make them work smoothly. Brick walls, yes. Ditching clues, no problem whatsoever.

        Since neither of us has a test solver, should you wish to contact BD for my (other, Dave) email address, I’d be happy to oblige on a reciprocal basis if that would be useful. I’ll be as brutal as you like!

  7. Must say that I got quite into this.
    Still a bit stuck on 3 in the SW corner and shall wait for the review for those.
    A couple of bungs in for 1a, 10a and 7d but the rest made sense to me. A couple of technical imperfections but the setter’s logic wasn’t too difficult to crack. Well, some of it obviously as I haven’t managed to get a complete grid.
    Liked the back charade in 20a and the Spooner.
    Favourite is 6d.
    Thanks to Wire for the fun.

    1. Hi Jean-Luc, thanks for tackling my puzzle…and for your comments. The SW corner does seem to be a problem (see above)…I await the review tomorrow too!

      ( I was quite pleased with 6d, if I’m honest….I was very tempted to make a reference to a certain individual who currently resides in a very large white house…but I have vowed not to waste valuable column inches).

      Thanks again , Jean-Luc, W

  8. :phew: This was tricky – actually, to be honest, it still is as I haven’t quite finished it.
    Starting at the top of the across clues and then going through the downs the first answer I got was 19d.
    In other words it really took me a long time to get going and I nearly gave up.
    Anyway, with “perservation” my number of answers increased as did the level of enjoyment.
    I have a few gaps and a few more answers which I don’t quite ‘get’ – inspiration may or may not strike so I might have to wait for tomorrow.
    Thanks and well done to Wire and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic for tomorrow’s review.

    1. Hi Kath, Thank you for tackling my puzzle. A few have commented that it was difficult to ‘get into’. So I am really glad that you persevered and got some enjoyment out of it.

      As I have replied above, I find gauging the difficulty quite hard. I think I worry that the clues are too easy…so probably over-compensate. I wonder whether it is good practice to have some more straightforward clues to enable solvers to settle in. After all, the point is that it should be enjoyable to solve!

      I really wasn’t sure about 23/26…I nearly scrapped it towards the end.

      Thanks again, W

  9. There was a lot to like here – 13ac, 24ac, 28ac and 29ac for example. 1dn was interesting – the grid would have allowed ‘satirist’ so brownie points for spotting an alternative.
    But there were others that didn’t quite gel. For example, 8dn: I couldn’t understand the clue or parse the answer once I’d checked it, although I can now, having seen Gazza’s suggestion above and the idea behind it is worthy of some of the most devious setters, but the wording needs a bit of refinement.
    As others have said, ‘up’ is not a suitable reversal indicator in an across clue, and repetition of the same indicators isn’t a good idea but these can be sorted. My setting experience is limited but one thing I do is read through the clues to check for such errors.
    Re 22dn, ‘Epicurist’ is in the Oxford online dictionary and said to date from the 17th century.
    Overall, I found this a mixture of the straightforward and he challenging, which is good. Thanks, Wire

    1. Hello Exit, many thanks for your comments and for taking on my puzzle.

      So ‘Epicurist’ is legit? Excellent! I knew all along, of course : )

      8d was horrid…apologies to all! Thank you, Gazza, for helping out!

      Cheers, W

  10. Nice puzzle Wire – unbelievably sophisticated for a debut.

    Minor quibble: 10a I think needs another word to indicate that only T is wanted from “test” – I don’t know of T as an abbreviation for that word.

    7d – is that just literal? It’s certainly true – but I can’t see any wordplay – which doesn’t mean there isn’t any.

    27d – actually that may well be OK- it’s a tricky one (got it easily from the definition mind) and uses a techinique more often found for definitons themselves to get the “A”.

    One thing that occurred to me as I solved (it may just have been on account of the order in which I tackled the clues) was that there were a lot of fairly major anagrams with pre-preparation needed – eg a subtracted component etc. They were all very good in themselves but I wondered whether a bit of variety might have helped.Paul/Mudd (Punk in these parts) often clues big words using a mixture of anagram and something else. That’s often worth a try and makes for a more interesting solve than a plain (or compound) anagram. Let’s face it – if you keep adding and subtracting letters you can anagram almost anything so a bit of variation helps.

    Great work – do keep them coming.

    1. Hi JollySwagman, thanks for your comments and for trying out my puzzle. Yes, I am definitely going to look at my subtraction anagram habit…my next work in progress is already littered with the things…so a few re-writes are on the cards!

      Cheers, W

  11. All done, but I had to enlist a crossword solver for the last three, although when the answer became clear so did the clue. The fault was mine. I do have question marks by several that no doubt Prolixic will clear up. All in all I enjoyed this, though it did take a while to get into. I have several ticks on my page, including 28A, 29A 30A and 19D. Thanks Wire. This was a really good debut.

    1. Hello Chris, Thanks for tackling my puzzle. Quite a few have commented that they also found it hard to get into…something I need to look at for future efforts. 1across/ 1down clues…for some reason I have in my mind that they should be quite tricky…as almost ‘showcase clues’…but maybe making them a little more straightforward would be better so as to allow solvers to draw first blood!

      Cheers, W

  12. Well, for me it’s a return to the blog after some months, and a real treat of a rookie puzzle to work on. Some criticisms which have already been aired in the comments above, but on the whole a real professional piece of work.

    I don’t have a problem with 8d (commented on by others) – ‘fade’ is excellent as a removal indicator, and the ‘Greek’ in question is too well-known to miss! On the whole a perfect clue with a good surface.

    I look forward to more offerings from Wire!

    1. Hi Laccaria, many thanks for your remarks and for completing my puzzle. 8d has had mixed reviews, it has to be said! I wasn’t sure whether the Greek reference was a bit unfair!

      Cheers, W

      1. A pleasure! Now that Prolixic’s comments have come out, I could add to the 8d debate: His misgivings could be resolved by saying “…urn beginning to fade”.

        I didn’t parse 27d and I guessed that you were trying to get an A in by rather devious means! Perhaps that one doesn’t quite work. ‘A’ can be encrypted in lots of different ways, so an alternative shouldn’t be hard to find!

        Also couldn’t parse 5d – got the HEN but not the UR. But there aren’t many proper names, let alone PM’s, ending in U!

        But, in mitigation, plenty of professional puzzles have clues I can’t parse – just write-ins from the definition and crossers. Par for the course I think, so don’t feel put down.

        I wondered if there ought to be two N’s in 4a, but I looked if up – and both versions are OK. :-)

        All the best,

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, which sorted out my queries. I was unfamiliar with the ‘UR’ prefix (one for the memory bank!) and a little confused by ‘end of’ indicating the first letter of ‘the’ in 2d. I’m sure it’s quite accurate but not a device I can remember coming across previously.

    A very Happy New Year to you as well – hope to see you in London.

  14. Thank you all for tackling my first Rookie puzzle and for the invaluable feedback you have graciously given. I have my homework to do! The fact that you all have given so much time to this is quite overwhelming..

    And thanks especially to Prolixic for the detailed review (your guide to the construction of clues is excellent, BTW…alas, I read it AFTER submitting this puzzle !).

    I will certainly will be back with another effort soon.

    Happy New Year to you all,


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