Rookie Corner – 198 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 198

A Puzzle by Laccaria

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This is Laccaria’s second puzzle in Rookie Corner, he has decided to use this alias instead of FirmlyDirac. 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.

I found this much easier than Laccaria’s previous crossword (in the guise of FirmlyDirac) so he had eased up on the difficulty level though, from some of the comments, maybe not enough.  That being said, I went through this fairly quickly and only slowed at the end with some of the more unusual words and convoluted wordplay.  I have indicated where some of the more complex clues could be simplified.

There was a hidden theme of the murder weapons in Cluedo as some of the solutions.


1 Object is to remove front leg from spider (6)
RECUSE – Remove the L (front leg) from a breed of spider known as a recluse.  Some editors would require front of leg to complete the cryptic grammar of the clue so it would become “Object to is remove front of leg from spider.  I am not sure how well known the recluse species of spider is.  Perhaps if you wanted to make the clue friendlier you could use hermit.

4 Puss catching one rat, wrong in the head? (8)
UPSTAIRS – An anagram (wrong) of PUSS I (one) RAT.  The catching as a conjunction for the anagram letters grates slightly as catching implies an inclusion indicator.  Mix A and B or Mix A with B works.  Perhaps “Puss and one rat mad in the head”

9 See 22 Down

10 Minister and another look back at piece (8)
REVOLVER – The abbreviation for reverend (minister) followed by the same abbreviation and a two letter word meaning look reversed (back).  I am not convinced by AT as a link word for wordplay at definition.

11 It contains a little drop for this setter, working – comes up earlier (about 10) (7,7)
SURFACE TENSION – An eight letter word meaning comes up around the spelling of 10 followed by the single letter for this setter and a two letter word meaning working.  The construction of the clue definition for wordplay does not really work.  You can have wordplay for a definition but not the reverse.

13 He saw you earlier, coming back, taking boiled sweets in (10)
EYEWITNESS – A reversal (coming back) of the two letter old word (earlier) for you followed by an anagram (boiled) of SWEETS IN.

14 That man had about a pound in stock (4)
HELD – A three letter contraction meaning that man had around the abbreviation for pound.  The indefinite article can be used in the clue without appearing in the wordplay but, where possible should be omitted.  Here, it helps the surface reading as “That man has about pound in stock” does not read so well.

16 Hearing part of high-pitch note (4)
LOBE – A three letter word for a high-pitch or ball thrown high up followed by a musical note.

18 They wanted to reform metal crank parts without driving initially to Spain (10)
ALBIGENSES – The chemical symbol for aluminium followed by a word (in the plural) for the part of the car that is the end of a connecting rod or piston rod that is attached to a crankpin with the D (driving initially) removed followed by a two letter abbreviation for Spain.  The answer is an obscure one (a French religious movement squashed by the Catholic church) with a complicated wordplay requiring knowledge of engine parts and uses an abbreviation for Spain that is not in the dictionary.  ES is the IVR code for El Salvador.  This is another clue that could have been simplified – Perhaps “Wearing robes Genesis is abridged and rewritten for French religious reformers”

21 May first to abolish Sunday working break? (7,7)
BUSMAN’S HOLIDAY – An anagram (working) OF M (May first) ABOLISH SUNDAY.  As with front leg, some editors will required May’s first to maintain the cryptic grammar.  More importantly, working is doing double duty as both a wordplay indicator for the anagram and as part of the definition.  Many editors will not permit this.  Perhaps “Bizarrely abolish Sunday with May’s first working break?

23 Press complaint: almost no escape from this! (4,4)
IRON GRIP – A four letter word meaning press followed by a five letter word for a complaint with the final letter removed (almost).

24 Intended setter to be in Paris maybe – not right! (6)
FIANCE – The single letter word for the setter in the country of which Paris is the capital without the R (not right).   I for the setter has already been used, so ideally a different indicator should be used.  I am not keen on using Paris maybe (as a definition by example) for France.

25 Potter mustn’t hear of this – it’s poisonous! (8)
MANDRAKE – A cryptic definition of the type of poisonous root whose mythical screams Harry Potter and his classmates were not allowed to hear when in class.

26 Where yeast is reported to have depleted gene pool? (6)
INBRED – A homophone (reported) where in a baker’s output you might find yeast.


1 Punishment for eggs being soft inside (4)
ROPE – A three letter word for fish eggs around the musical abbreviation for soft.  As a form of punishment, the solution should be “The rope”, not rope.

2 Arrest Boatman on the river (7)
CAPTURE – The abbreviation for captain (boatman) followed by a three letter river.

3 Finest model leaves in a fury, to hold pub party (4,4)
SINN FIEN – An anagram (in a fury) of FINEST after removing the T (model leaves) around (to hold) a three letter word for a pub.

5 Street-walker picks up girl on building site – fast work! (11)
PRESTISSIMO – A reversal (up) of a four letter word for a girl on an anagram (building) of site all inside a three letter abbreviation for a prostitute (street-walker).  The cryptic grammar here is convoluted and not helped by the up seemingly doing double duty for a reversal indicator and as part of the containment indicator (picks up).  An alternative would be that “picks up” is the containment indicator for the MISS and an anagram of SITE but then there is no reversal indicator for the miss.

6 God and partners might give you a flat (6)
THORNS – A four letter word for a Viking god followed by a pair of bridge partners.  Perhaps “they might give you a flat” would be be a better definition.

7 Bill sings well… (7)
INVOICE – Split 2, 5, this might mean sings well.

8 …and entertains sender (sea-sick!) (9)
SERENADES – An anagram (sick) of SENDER SEA.

12 Ornament that Dick can’t sell, unfortunately, even after knocking a pound off (11)
CANDLESTICK – An anagram (unfortunately) of DICK CANT SELL after removing the abbreviation for pound.  As L for pound has already been used as wordplay, a different definition would be better here.

13 Discharged Marine holds party and is collecting plates (2-7)
EX-LIBRISM – A two letter word meaning discharged or former and the abbreviation for Royal Marine includes the abbreviation for Liberal (party) and, separately, the IS from the clue.  Where the two parts of the wordplay require separate insertions it is better to indicate this as a curtesy to the solver.  An interesting point but while Lib is the abbreviation for Liberal this is given in the singular in Chambers, not the plural for Liberals as a party.

15 Clear to be adopted by middle line (8)
MERIDIAN – A three letter word meaning clear and an I (unclued) inside a four letter word meaning middle.  As previously acknowledged, this clue lacks an indication for the I in the solution.

17 Need early qualifications to play this? (7)
BASSOON – A three letter word for qualifications (in the pluralisation of the abbreviation followed by a word meaning early.

19 Wrongdoer, father for one, turns some nuts! (7)
SPANNER – A six letter word for a wrongdoer has a two letter word meaning father replace the I in the word.  Perhaps “it turns some nuts” would be a better definition.

20 Mark‘s children’s horse in outrageous ‘dare’ (6)
DAGGER – A two letter word used by children for a horse inside an anagram (outrageous) of DARE.

22/9 Better not to accept drink from this person in charge of the Pibroch? (4,6)
LEAD PIPING – The leader of a pipe band refer to this form of plumbing to be avoided.  I think that the wordplay would give LEAD PIPER or LEADING PIPING but not LEAD PIPING.

37 comments on “Rookie Corner – 198

  1. We found that hard work and there are still a few bits and pieces of the parsing that we have not got. For example there is a spare ‘i’ in 15d that we can’t account for. Although there were some clues that we really enjoyed, it was a bit of a grind, working through very wordy clues. We generally prefer Rookie puzzles to be a little more accessible than this.
    Thanks Laccaria

  2. Thanks Laccaria (love the new name btw!). Some nicely evocative and entertaining surface reading in this puzzle. After a first run-through I’ve only managed 23a, 12d, 20d and 4a, and I’m not sure I’ve got the last two right. Will have a better look this evening after work.

  3. A very difficult crossword, possibly not helped by some words from the Book of Obscure Words for Crossword Setters which made for some complicated cluing.

    I would agree with the Kiwis about the spare I in 15d. The clue for 22/9 reads as if we are looking for a xxxER rather than something from the Cluedo box. I did like the more straightforward clues eg 10a, 14a and 7d. You also have quite a few clues on the “War and Peace” spectrum.

    Thanks Laccaria – I’m not sure first thing on a Monday is the best time for this sort of brain-stretching – and in advance to Prolixic

  4. Nice puzzle Laccaria. I just googled your name so now I see why you chose it.

    Mechanically pretty sound with some well-hidden components. 22d,9a is a great idea but might have worked better with a different part of speech. 15d I think there must be an error.

    Still not sure how 25a works – I’ve got a suitable potter. Maybe he’s the wrong one.

    Otherwise plain sailing but quite a slow-burner.

    My favourites were 11a, 22a and 26a

    Do keep them coming.

  5. This was hard work but I did enjoy the struggle. I don’t understand 25a, though I assume from the feathery creature that the Potter must be Beatrix. 15d has either an I extra or a D missing and I seem to have an S over in 18a. I don’t really like the use of ‘front leg’ for L or ‘may first’ for M.
    The clues I liked best were 10a and 23a.

  6. Many thanks to BD for hosting my effort! – and to the early commenters for their feedback.

    I freely admit that I launched into the ‘setting’ melée without considering just how easy it is for a rookie to make a tough puzzle and how hard to make an easier one! This was one of the points that ‘Boatman’ of the Guardian drove home to us, when I attended one of his classes recently. But I’m still on the learning curve, and I concede that this one (which I actually put together some months ago) will be a toughie for many!

    2kiwis and others: yes I think you’re right about 15d – sorry all! The clue should read “Clear one to be adopted by middle lane”. Don’t know how I missed that – but even the mightiest of the mighty make mistakes in their clues. For my next attempt (if there is one) I shall re-read all my clues *very* carefully.

    2kiwis, Fiddlesticks, crypticsue, jollyswagman, gazza – thanks for the compliments! Gazza: for 25 I think you have the wrong Potter, but I won’t give away spoilers before tomorrow!

    With regard to initial letter indicators – so many setters don’t bother with them at all, they just write, say, “leg” and expect us to guess “L”. I’m not over-fond of this although pretty much used to it in the Guardian. I prefer to provide some sort of indicator, unless it’s a very common abbreviation like N S E or W. But maybe my indicators are the wrong ones?

    Incidentally – for those who didn’t google my ‘handle’ – my avatar gives it away. It’s a small (edible but not very tasty!) mushroom called the “Amethyst deceiver” in English, “Laccaria amethystina” in Latin.

  7. Hi Laccaria and thank you for a challenging puzzle.

    Yes, this was definitely hard in places! I liked 23 and 24 particularly. I’d parsed 15d differently and thought I had an extra D, though I see you’ve addressed that already above.

    Tough for a Monday morning – I’ll confess to using Reveal on at least four clues. And Prolixic’s review tomorrow should be very useful to you, I reckon. You have got so much right and some honing here and there will significantly improve on that as well.

    Trying to write an easier one will be a really good next step – as it is exactly as you say (i.e. harder than it looks)!

    By the way, I really liked the grid, and nice theme.

    Great stuff – keep them coming!


    1. I meant to say that I have some more detailed notes that I took as I went through, that I am happy to share if you’d like to ask Big Dave to put us in touch by email. I won’t be offended either way though!

  8. Generally quite enjoyable, if a tad tricky. There’s the odd wordplay ‘at’ definition (10a) and definition ‘for’ wordplay (1d) and I see you have already addressed 15d.
    As CS notes, words like 18a are always going to be challenging to clue, and the surface demonstrates this.
    Don’t quite get 22/9 & the Potter reference; probably my ignorance though.
    Liked 2d, 7d and 12d – though I’m not sure the ‘even after’ bit fits nicely.

    Certainly interesting, so well done and thank you Laccaria, and in advance to Prolixic

  9. My one abiding memory of the previous FirmlyDirac puzzle was its impenetrability, so I approached this first Laccaria one with a little trepidation. It was slightly less tough, but only marginally so, and that was due mostly to spotting several of the themed answers quite quickly I think.

    I’m generally on the same page as CS here, indeed if a Times national finalist on more than one occasion finds a puzzle “very difficult”, I know for sure that I will need to utilise the Reveal button several times, and, like Encota, I certainly did.

    My ticks went to 7d and 12d. I noticed an over-reliance on deleting single letters in wordplay (I counted seven instances) and I think it’s good practice for an aspiring setter not to be quite as liberal with exclamation marks at the end of clues (there were six, with three in successive clues). Too many suggests a “look at this clue, isn’t it clever” mentality, and ought to be something used sparingly in my opinion. My repetition radar bleeped at the “holds (political) party” device used in two separate clues. 25a probably required a specialist knowledge of Miss Rowling’s most famous character that I don’t possess sadly.

    Thanks to Laccaria, I hope your next one won’t be quite so solver-unfriendly, but I suspect your personal style has now been established.

  10. Hi Laccaria, congratulations and thanks for a challenging puzzle that i managed to complete without seeing a theme until i came here, duh.

    Much has been said already – this was quite hard, and i personally i’d stay well clear of words like 13d and 18d.

    In general i found many of the definitions on the vague side (like ornament, collecting plates, break, and more) which means that you don’t understand them until you have the answer. Not wrong, but not particularly helpful either.

    I’m with Gazza on the front leg and May first. They do not mean “take the first letter of”, it would have to be “front of leg” and “May’s first”. The latter would have been fine in surface. Be warned that Boatman ignores all that stuff, my own view is you ought to learn the rules before you start ignoring them.

    some additional random comments that I hope will help:

    4a – ‘catching’ is pushing your luck, it has to work as a juxtaposition indicator but it is more usually containment. Not something I’d split anagram fodder with.

    10a I’m not keen on ‘at’ as a link (wordplay at definition)

    11a – this definition does not seem accurate to me. You have def for wordplay, i.e. directionality not right.

    14a – the a confused me, I was inserting A at first which made no sense

    16a some may argue the answer is not strictly a ‘hearing’ part, but probably ok – very nicely constructed.

    18a not customary to use 2-letter abbreviation for spain (if that is what you are doing)

    25a probably ok, but if the character is named after the plant, then there is etymological crossover.

    26a. I’m expecting to read “reportedly” cryptically. Not sure the def really nails it.

    1d, as punishment, the answer might need “The ****”

    5d is “up” doing double duty? I didn’t realise the answer could be a noun, – i was thinking an adverbial definition might be kinder.

    17d not sure you’ve nailed the word order, might be ok

    6d, 19d definitions are verbal phrases for a nounal answer, not always liked – I’m not keen on them and they can normally be fixed by inserting “that” or similar

    Hope that helps,

    Cheers and thanks again

    1. Hi Dutch, thanks for your feedback with so much detail. I can see that you echo some of Prolixic’s observations, it appears that I have got too much ‘Boatman’ in my system! Anyway, I’ve had plenty of indoctrination into the ximenean way from Alberich, so I’m not totally ignorant – just a bit offhand….

      I’ll certainly look into the way I use ‘for’ to link wordplay and definition, since, although I don’t really see the problem, it seems to raise lots of objections. Of course, getting the surface meaningful is the hard part!

      I can assure you – at least – that 5d can definitely be a noun. As anyone who has tackled (or in my case, made a wretched attempt at tackling!) the last movement of Beethoven’s piano sonata no.1 in F minor, will testify!

  11. So far I’ve got six or seven that I’m reasonably confident about but have to say that I’m not particularly enjoying the struggle to get any further. May need to take a break and have another look at it later.

    1. Got there eventually with a lot of help from Mr Google and a few wild guesses but there are several that I haven’t been able to fully parse.
      Not sure that either 16a or 1d are sufficiently accurate – I’ll be interested to read what Prolixic has to say.
      Surface reads don’t appear to be something that you particularly concentrate on, Laccaria. Such a shame as they can make or mar a puzzle for many of us.

      7d was my favourite with a nod to 10a & 2d.

      Thanks for bring us another puzzle, Laccaria. I’m not sure whether, following the comments on your debut, you made a conscious effort to reduce the level of difficulty with this one but, to be honest, I found it just as hard!

  12. Hi Laccaria, thanks for the entertainment.
    I think this is the fourth of your puzzles I’ve solved, and I found this the least accessible of all of them. I revealed plenty – had I not, I would have given up early.
    There were plenty of clues I liked – 23a probably favourite – and lots of nice tricks, but on the whole I found the combination of difficult definitions, tricky word play, unusual solutions and quite a bit of stretching the conventions made it too much like hard work.
    Since you have obviously put quite a lot of thought into your cryptic defs, I’ll comment on a few of those:
    ‘in the head’ – like
    ‘It contains a little drop’ – quite nice, once you’ve got the answer, but too hard, IMO
    ‘He saw’ OK
    ‘They wanted to reform’ – not nearly enough here. Not only is it an obscure solution, you have given a thoroughly disguised definition that requires specific GK about your obscure solution. You’ve compounded that difficulty in the wordplay by requiring the solver to also have detailed GK about car mechanics, which I think you did in your first puzzle, too. For the ‘big ends’ part of your clue, you might think you’re being helpful by cluing it as ‘crank parts’, but you’re not. Many solvers will have heard of ‘big ends’ but far fewer will know what they are. Crank parts just misleads.
    ‘no escape from this- like
    ‘to have depleted gene pool’ – like, but wrong part of speech: I think ‘having’ would be better
    ‘fast work’ – like
    ‘collecting plates’ – I’ve never come across this term with an M on the end. It’s a difficult solution, and probably difficult to define. You probably couldn’t do much more without saying ‘collecting book plates’, but you could have helped by making your wordplay simpler. LIB is not a party, by the way, even when the Liberals were a party.

    You often comment on your dislike of abbreviations. No setter in the Guardian would just use ‘leg’ and expect you to guess L, because L is not an established abbreviation for leg. If the dictionary lists the word under the abbreviation, you can use the abbreviation in the clue.

    1. Thanks Mucky for another detailed analysis – very helpful. Most of what you comment about, I’ve addressed below. It’s certainly true that when the ‘grid-filler’ tool supplied me with 18a, I nearly flung down my keyboard in despair – even though I knew what the word meant. And 13d! Even grid-fill wouldn’t give me that – but I saw EX-LIBRIS with an M at the end, and looked up in Merriam Webster, and lo! there it was. I thought at first that that was the only source, but since then I’ve splashed out on an up-to-date BRB and it’s in there too. Horrible to clue though!

  13. Oh dear – I can’t do this at all.
    I have tried very hard but it’s just completely beyond me and having only seven answers I can’t quite get any further.
    I think it’s very brave to stick your head above the parapet so well done and thank you to Laccaria.
    Thanks, in advance, to Prolixic for tomorrow’s review (and, in my case anyway, lots of answers).

    1. This is a knotty puzzle Kath, some not nice words and a couple of fairly unkind clues – as per Mucky’s comments. If you want a leg-up, pick one or two and I’ll try to help since you’ve helped me with loads! It is doable, just lumpy.
      You know it’s gonna be trouble when CS says it’s difficult… or you could wait a few hours and see the Maestro pick it apart!

      1. Thank you – you’re very kind but I think I’ll just retire injured, or whatever the expression is.
        You are absolutely right – I should have known better than to even attempt this having seen all the real stars saying that it was a tricky one.
        A :smile: to you and hope to see you on Saturday.

  14. Thanks everyone for giving me so much feedback – even before Prolixic has had a go!

    I shan’t try to answer everything and everyone at this early stage. The obvious consensus is “too difficult” and I’m inclined to agree! I think the next stage in my learning curve will have to be ‘tone it down’ – but I don’t want to be another Rufus – excellent setter though he is! On the other hand, I was warned that undergoing tutelage under Boatman might take me the opposite direction!

    For an earlier one of mine, which is – maybe – not *quite* so fiendish, those who haven’t already done so could try the one which ‘Alberich’ was kind enough to host for me a few months ago (after a certain amount of curating). It doesn’t have a theme. You can find it under ‘Guest Puzzles’.
    I’d be grateful to learn if people find it more penetrable, or not. If I’m permitted to submit more here on BD, I’d like to think that next time I’ll pitch it ‘just right’. That’s the hard part!

    Thanks again everyone. I’ll try to get round to answering some individual points, in due course.

    1. Whereas Big Dave is infinitely forgiving – and let’s face it there’s a weekly slot to fill – I think there’s probably a limit on how much a beginner can impose upon Alberich, especially given that he gets involved in editing before publishing on his site. My advise would be to keep going with Rookie Corner and aim to graduate, in time, to NTSPP. Concentrate on tight definitions to accessible words, and put your undoubted creativity into making clues fun (either through wordplay, definition or surface reading) rather than fiendish.
      I’m afraid I found this too hard for me to finish in the time I have during the week, alas. 1d and 19d were my favourites of those I could do. Keep ’em coming Laccaria – love the name!

      1. Thanks Maize – I note that you too are an Alberich protegé – but have since graduated not only to NTSPP but to the Indy – well done you! If it’s not too personal a question – how long have you been a setter and how long ago did you send to Neil (Alberich)?

        I fully appreciate that Neil has only limited time to curate guest puzzles, I was grateful that he worked on mine and that he is prepared to look at another submission from me – but not before next April!

        1. Just over 3 years ago it occurred to me during a walk that it would be neat to have a clue for ‘Exclamation mark’ where the definition was simply ‘!’. A few weeks later my first puzzle ever appeared on Alberich’s site – using the name Nico. Then 3 more with Neil as Maize, 3 with ‘Best Crosswords’ (not recommended), 9 with my works magazine, 3 with Rookie Corner, 3 with NTSPP before I got my start with the Indy.
          Mind you, I had to compile a quadruple pangram to get Eimi’s attention – on reflection I think it might have been easier to buy him a drink at a S&B meeting!

          Having thought about your puzzle a bit more, might offer a bit of advice? I think it’s essential that a solver always has a way in to a clue other than merely via the crossing letters. With 1a, I don’t see this. Spider doesn’t lead to recluse unless you’re a spider expert, and object doesn’t lead to recuse unless you have an extraordinarily large vocabulary already. Of course there’s nothing wrong with having recuse per se, but you need to provide a route towards it via accessible words and accessible wordplay – Prolixic’s ‘hermit’ suggestion is a good one.
          I think this subject of solvability matters much more than does the technical things like, say, changing ‘front leg’ to ‘front of leg’ – valid though such points undoubtedly are.

          1. I see below that you’ve addressed the subject of 1a quite fairly – I suppose it’s a matter of anticipating what the man or woman on the Clapham omnibus is likely to know or not know – and of course this site provides a wonderful way to find out exactly that.

    2. At any one time there are up to 12 puzzles in the Rookie queue, which would indicate that I can publish 4-5 puzzles each year for any given setter. All puzzles published in the NTSPP series are vetted first, so I would obviously prefer that those puzzles are reasonably well polished before they are submitted. In the Rookie series anything goes – the vetting is done by the solvers.

    3. Not about this puzzle, but I’ve just checked back to see if there were any further comments on my debut last week and noticed you asked “what’s S&B?” It stands for ‘Setters and Bloggers’, sometimes spoonerised to ‘Sloggers and Betters’ – events organised in various places for crossword aficionados to get together. The sort of thing advertised on this site in the ‘Upcoming Events’ space or in ‘Announcements’ on the fifteensquared site.

      1. Thanks Exit and Big Dave for the info. I’m aiming to get into NTSPP one day – but it’ll take much improvement first!

  15. Admittedly I didn’t spend time on this. After three read-throughs and two answers, I cut my losses.

  16. Didn’t get round to this till late last night and did most of it – with help – this morning. Quite a few entries went in by guesswork/intuition but turned out to be correct. Most of the comments I could make seem to have been covered already, but I’ll just mention that 13ac is hyphenated (3-7) according to Chambers Word Wizard – and talking of wizards, I liked the whimsical clue to 25ac. I also liked 17dn and 19dn, but failed on 1ac – a new word to me and I didn’t know the type of spider.

    Oh, and I’ve just spotted the theme!

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. As usual, I’d missed the theme but Cluedo wasn’t one of our preferred family games (that’s my excuse anyway!). Think I was a little surprised that you were OK with the use of LOBE as a hearing part but all your other comments were much as I’d expected. Glad that you found the puzzle easier than Laccaria’s debut – I obviously failed on the wavelength front!

    Thanks again to Laccaria – much better name than your original choice.

  18. Thanks again everyone for the feedback, and Prolixic for the useful analysis. (Spoilers below)

    I’m glad to be back on BD, albeit under a new name (I did toy with setting up a completely separate ID but happily realised that was out-of-order – and BD’s advice was to acknowledge the name-change). And I’ve already sent my apologies for my moment of lack of courtesy towards BD, last year :-( The old name “FirmlyDirac” was a pun I dreamt up for my persona as a Guardian commenter, it doesn’t really have any meaning in crosswordland.

    I’m sorry to those who found it too hard – but of course you’ll never please everyone all the time! My handle means ‘deceiver’ and that’s what I aim to do – in the clues! But it seems I’ve ‘deceived’ a bit too much. Will try to do better next time.

    There’s a lot to answer, I’m not sure I’ll be able to go through everything clue-by-clue. I think some of prolixic’s comments revolve around the Ximenean/Libertarian debate: I admit being more of a “lib”, I think Prolixic prefers “Xim”. What do others think? Would some of my clues be OK for a “Lib” (and I’m not referring to the wordplay in 13d)?

    1a – I’m a bit surprised that ‘recluse’ doesn’t conjure up an image of a (deadly Aussie) spider – but then I was some months ago toying with the idea of a spiders-themed puzzle (I dropped it because I didn’t want to upset arachnophobes!) Perhaps because RECUSE is a rather obscure word (historically ‘recusant’ meant someone who refused to go to church), I should have made the wordplay more obvious.

    4a: Yes I think prolixic’s suggestion is an improvement.

    18a: yes too much ‘deceiving’ here! My excuse is that I recently read Kate Mosse’s novel Citadel!

    24a: Is it bad form to use the same device (namely “setter” = “I”) more than once? I admit I did the clueing spread over several days.

    25a: prolixic hasn’t faulted this, but I was dubious myself. Some of you have commented that if you aren’t into the “HP” genre you may miss the superstition about the mandrake’s “scream”. I looked it up in Wiki, and although it mentions the superstition, it doesn’t allude to the use in the HP books. Too hard perhaps?

    5d: double-duty troubles again. I’m now thinking: “street-walker catches girl up on building site” – better?

    13d: this was a toughie – a ‘filler’ word (honest, nothing else in the least bit sensible goes in there!) and hard to clue. If I’d inserted the word “book” before “plates” it would have made it easier but spoilt the surface …. To me “LIB” is good enough for “Liberal”, I’m old enough to remember the old “Lib-Lab” pact of the 1970s. Of course by the time of Cameron and 2010, it became “ConDem”….

    22d/9: I agree – not a good clue. Pity – my only double-light in this puzzle :-(

    That’s about it for now, thanks.

    1. Hi Laccaria,

      I think you are beginning to realise that being a “deceiver” is only part of the setter’s skill, it’s more important that he or she entertains and encourages the potential solvers to come back for more of the same. Your first two puzzles would have been more inclined to discourage them in my opinion. Striking the right balance is not always easy, but is essential if you want to progress.

      Having attempted two of your puzzles now, and not got very far either time, I believe that you need to concentrate on a couple of areas, assuming you would like to make your puzzles more accessible, which I hope you do.

      Firstly, you need to put yourself in the mind of the solver with each clue and ask yourself “is this fair to others?”. Just because you know a particularly obscure word or some general knowledge about spiders or Harry Potter, for instance, it doesn’t necessarily follow that many (or any) potential solvers will. I’d also suggest beginning to fill a grid with the longest words and fitting the shorter words around them. In this way you are far less likely to be forced to use the only available words that will fit from the nether reaches of the dictionary.

      Secondly, it’s not so much a question of Ximenean versus Libertarian principles, as knowing the basic rules first and then possibly adapting one’s technique later. Anax puts this very well on his own website:

      “My belief is that there is nothing at all wrong with Libertarian clueing as a concept, but to get it right you have to be well versed in Ximenean accuracy and fairness. You need to know which rules to bend and how far you can bend them before clues step into unsolvable territory. My gut feeling is that some Libertarian setters have trained themselves by studying only other Libertarian work, so they don’t have a full appreciation of the constraints which should be in place to ensure wacky ideas don’t fall over the edge.”

      I regret that you somewhat sneeringly said yesterday “I don’t want to be another Rufus”. I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of solvers would prefer his sort of puzzles to impenetrable ones.

      1. Sorry. I meant no offence to Rufus nor any of the solvers community. Perhaps I should have worded it better: “I want to pitch myself at a somewhat harder level than the typical Rufus ‘Monday’.”

        I was as sorry as anyone to see Rufus leave his slot. But of course he’s well earned his retirement – best wishes to him.

        But as for me: now I’m beset by doubts.

    2. ‘To me, LIB is good enough for Liberal’
      Everyone would agree that LIB is good enough for Liberal – not because you think so, but because it is established and has dictionary support. But you clued LIB with party, to which I have two objections. 1) LIB is not an abbreviation for party, so not only have you used an unindicated abbreviation, which you object to generally, but you have not given the solver its full form. 2) Liberal is not a party, it is either an adjective or a singular person.

      Guardian Prize 27,040 by Paul

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