Rookie Corner – 209 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner – 209

Premier et Dernier, Peut-être by Moutarde

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have another setter making his debut.  Sounds like hot stuff!  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.

Moutarde kicks off the fifth year of the Rookie Corner is grand style with a well constructed crossword with very few issues to comment upon.  A couple of the surface readings could have been smoother to read as natural sentences in their own right and four homophones and four hidden words in one crossword was probably too many of each clue type.

The commentometer reads as 2.5 / 32 or 7.8%


1 Assume puzzle pleases (6)
AMUSES – An anagram (puzzle) of ASSUME.  The anagram indicator functions as a noun in this clue.  Some editors will not permit this.  Whilst puzzle could be used as a verb, it would have to come before the letters to be rearranged to make grammatical sense in the cryptic reading.

5 One having a single cell? (6)
AMOEBA – Straight definition of a singled celled creature.  There is a fine line between creating a cryptic definition that reads as if the answer could be something else.  This one does not really work.

10 Caper from impulsive response after article (5)
ANTIC – The indefinite article used before a vowel followed by a three letter word for an impulsive response.

11 Artist in Paris, she runs to capture VIP (9)
ENAMELLER – The French word for she and the abbreviation for runs around (to capture) a four letter word for a celebrity.

12 Misdemeanour that could be taken as indicating disapproval (7)
OFFENCE – Double definition, the second used in the phase to take ******* to something.

13 Learned papers around university in ancient Greek (7)
THESEUS – A six letter word for an academic paper around the abbreviation for university.

14 Dreams of supporter before siesta is disturbed (9)
FANTASIES – A three letter word for a supporter followed by an anagram (is disturbed) of SIESTA.

17 Flutter created by jester in front of Queen (5)
WAGER – A three letter word for a jester before the regnal cypher for the current monarch.

18 Admission gained from Alpen tryst (5)
ENTRY – The answer is hidden in (gained from) ALPEN TRYST.

19 Hesitation between notes for those who sing tremulously (9)
QUAVERERS – A two letter word for a hesitation in speech inside (between) the plural of a musical note.

21 A vegan initially circles round bounder to get fruit (7)
AVOCADO – The A from the clue and the initial letter of vegan followed by two letters O (circles) round a three letter word for a bounder.

23 Soldiers taking on tricky race as source of threat (7)
MENACER – A three letter word for a soldiers followed by (taking on) an anagram (tricky) of RACE.

25 Pet saying upset residents of Memphis? (9)
EGYPTIANS – An anagram (upset) of PET SAYING.

26 Beach guard calling out ‘forbidden area’ (5)
GROIN – A homophone (calling out) of GROYNE (a beach guard).  Care has to be taken when putting a homophone indicator in the middle of two words.  Here as the two words have different numbers of letters, it is not too much of a problem but the tense “calling out” suggests that the answer  ought to be a homophone of a forbidden area, not the reverse.  Perhaps “called out” would have been better.

27 Investigate upper-class absorbed by prize (6)
PURSUE – A five letter word for a sporting cash prize around the abbreviation for upper-class.

28 Inclusive cost of charge to play tennis? (3,3)
NET FEE – Double definition (the second slightly fanciful as indicated by the question mark).


2 French word provided emblem (5)
MOTIF – The French for “word” followed by a two letter word meaning provided.

3 Inferior sort of education? (9)
SECONDARY – Double definition.

4 Watched broadcast showing Panorama (5)
SCENE – A homophone (broadcast) of SEEN (watched).

5 Santa redirected to the East for last princess (9)
ANASTASIA – An anagram (redirected) of SANTA followed by the name of an Eastern continent.

6 Box eyed to hold plant (2-3)
OX-EYE – The answer is hidden in (to hold) BOX EYED.

7 Symbolic flier that may need hair restorer? (4,5)
BALD EAGLE – Cryptic definition of the symbolic bird used by the USA.

8 Absconded to make copies (3,3)
RAN OFF – Double definition.  The second part of the definition is in the wrong tense.  It should be “Absconded having made copies”

9 Rubber tyres a retailer keeps rejecting (6)
ERASER – The answer is hidden and reversed (keeps rejecting) TYRES A RETAILER.

15 Denial of reportedly ram’s personal domain? (3,3,3)
NOT FOR YOU – A homophone (reportedly) of NOT FOR EWE (ram’s personal domain).

16 Reformatted equation incorporating basic skill, perhaps does not make required number (9)
INQUORATE – An anagram (reformatted) of EQUATION includes the single letter word representing reading, writing or arithmetic.

17 Hear fragile man on Tuesday evening? (9)
WEEKNIGHT – A homophone (hear) of weak (fragile) knight (man).

18 Delighted journalist supports legend making a comeback (6)
ELATED – A four letter word for a story or legend is reversed (making a comeback) and followed by a two letter word for a journalist.

20 Calm coming from laser energy (6)
SERENE – The answer is hidden in (coming from) LASER ENERGY.

22 USA to develop vehicles (5)
AUTOS – An anagram (develop) of USA TO.  As a transitive verb, develop should precede the letters to be rearranged.

23 Two family members joined worker in secret society (5)
MASON – Another word for a mother and a word for one of her children with two definitions that result.

24 Old woman’s end of wafer covered in ice cream (5)
CRONE – A four letter word for a cornet around the last letter (end of) of water.

24 comments on “Rookie Corner – 209

  1. Good fun – thanks Moutarde!

    Your clues largely have very accurate wordplay. There are several where perhaps the image created by the surface of the clue could be honed to become something more meaningful in its own right (eg 11a and 18a) – this would probably be the area to focus on in your next puzzle (which I look forward to!).

    There are a couple where your anagram indicator is nounal, which some editors don’t like – these are 22d and 1a, I think.

    I liked your inventiveness in 26a, and 4d was my favourite as the surface made perfect sense as well as being a sound cryptic clue.

    Thanks again and I look forward to your next!


  2. Yes there are a few bits that others will pick up as not quite kosher but there was plenty in the puzzle to keep us amused all the way through. Really liked the misdirection in 25a and our last act was sorting out where to get the extra letter to complete 16d.
    We certainly hope that the sentiment expressed in the title does not come true as we look forward to more hot stuff in the future.

  3. Welcome to Moutarde (I think we can have a good guess at your identity based on a translation of the name). This was good fun and not too taxing. Based on the title I tried to make something from the first and last letters and/or answers without any success so I presume that the meaning of the title is as 2Kiwis have suggested, which would be a shame – do keep compiling.
    17d made me laugh and other clues I liked were 25a, 26a and 7d.

  4. Like Gazza, I have a fair idea who our mustardy person is. I hope it isn’t the ‘dernier’ as it was a nice fun not too difficult solve. There are a few quibbles which I am sure Prolixic will mention in his review. My favourite was 7d

  5. This was a very accomplished debut, Moutarde, and I too hope very much that it will not be your last. As Gazza says, it was good fun and not too taxing. Your clue construction was good as were your surfaces for the most part, although a few would benefit from some polishing.

    One quibble for me was that 5a isn’t cryptic at all; the answer leapt out at me as soon as I had read the clue. The problem with cryptic definitions is that you need the answer to be the less obvious alternative which can be very solver dependent.

    My knowledge of Memphis was limited to Tennessee but a quick check on Google soon sorted out 25a for me.

    My favourite was 7d.

    Well done and thank you, Moutarde. This certainly cut the mustard.

  6. Good puzzle with quite a bit of lurking going on, completed at a comfortable trot.

    5a is rather obvious, but it did leave me wondering whether something can possess itself since it is a single entity, but I can’t think about it for too long without a lie down.

    The other thing that made me smile in a strange way – I cannot think of less suitable lurker fodder than 6d since there is no overlap of the words to be had. A five letter lurker only disguised by one letter at each end – an urke, maybe.

    I picked out the nicely disguised 25a as favourite, with 4d runner-up.

    Thanks for the fun M Moutarde.

  7. I thought this was really solid for a debut. Wordplay very good throughout and you managed to avoid the trap of trying to be too clever which can lead to an overly difficult puzzle. Like Gaza I tried to make more of the title, but in vain.

    I agree with Encota, not everyone like nounal anagrinds, and I agree with Rabbit Dave about the nature of cryptic definitions. I too read the answer straight away in 5a and wondered why it was cryptic – it took me a while to find another reading. It can be hard to hide the reading leading to the answer behind the alternative reading, or at least i find it hard. Not wrong, but the clue is more satisfying if you don’t see the answer immediately.

    I thought 8d had a verb tense issue in the second meaning, which is the only mistake i saw. Like the two Kiwis, I had to go hunting for the missing letter in 16d and was pleased when i found it.

    Well cut, moutarde, I look forward to the review and to your next puzzle.

  8. That was pretty neat.
    For my part, three clues stood out:
    7d Even if I am not a great fan of cryptic defs, this one made me laugh.
    9d Great reversed lurker.
    18d Great surface.
    Haven’t got a single idea about who you could be. Maybe a retired (or still active) colonel.
    Thanks to Moutarde. As others have said, keep them coming.

  9. A generally sound puzzle with lots to enjoy. I particularly liked 13ac for its surface, as well as 25ac and 26ac and 16dn. But there were some clues that didn’t quite work. As others have noted 5ac wasn’t really cryptic – I suspect Moutarde got painted into a corner as the answer is a difficult word to clue cryptically. As a rookie myself I’m learning that in such a situation the only real way out is to abandon the problem word, even if it means changing a few others in that area of the grid and giving up a cherished clue (which can always be saved for another occasion).

    So hoping this isn’t the ‘dernier’, merci, Moutarde.

    1. 5a I think there is scope in the answer, just not clued as a lurker. Seems to me like an elephant wearing earmuffs.

  10. I a relative newbie am not in a position to offer any criticism but I do want to add to the hopes that this is just the premier of beaucoup.
    I did like it a lot 10a 21a 15d 5d all on my podium.

  11. Thanks for this entertaining debut, Moutarde. My only quibble was with 8d, which may have read better as ‘Absconded and made copies’. Although, as others have noted, 5a does not appear to be cryptic, I suppose it depends on whether you have a biological/scientific mind. If you don’t, then you could easily be misled into thinking about prisoners, which I imagine was your intention. Lots of good surfaces and nice constructions. My ticks went to 26a, 9d and 18d. Dernier? Peut-être pas!

  12. I have a little idea as to who you might be – if the last five letters of your name are anything to go by…

    This was a highly enjoyable puzzle – but even more remarkable was how well judged it was for the Rookie Corner slot. A really nice grid with plenty of crossers, no obscure vocabulary, no obscure abbreviations or wordplay and a good balance of clues. I can see why too many hiddens might be regarded as making a puzzle too easy for all but beginners, but I’ve never understood why having half a dozen homophones, reversals or container-type clues is any less acceptable than having half a dozen anagrams or charade-type clues, so fine by me for the balance. Maybe the straight cryptic for amoeba didn’t quite work because we weren’t steered strongly enough in the direction of the prison cell meaning, but everyone apart from Rufus knows that straight cryptics are the hardest to do well. Otherwise all the clues were terrific.

    So a super debut – I’m sorry that I did it on-line and didn’t keep notes, otherwise I would have a long list of favourite clues.
    I certainly hope this will not be your dernier at all. Bravo!

  13. Early on, I discovered that developing one clue for Tilsit at a Birthday Bash is universes away from setting a complete puzzle. However, with advice and support from an exceptional pair of patient and tolerant editors/test solvers, I made it. My sincere appreciation and thanks to them.

    Thank you to Prolixic for his comprehensive review which I will re-read many times to add to my knowledge of crossword setting.

    Thank you to all those who have commented and I will also add the appropriate parts of those comments to my knowledge base.

    As first suggested by Gazza, I do have an alter ego on the blog – Jean-Luc needs a French-German dictionary – having been a regular commenter since I first discovered the site just over 6 years ago, and, 14 months ago, I became the regular decrypter of Virgilius puzzles.

    I used the title of ‘First and Last, Perhaps’ because, as the end date kept moving to the right, I started developing the mindset of ‘one and done.’ However, with a great sense of achievement:

    Je pense qu’il y aura un deuxième et un troisième, peut-être.

    Merci beaucoup!

    1. Thanks for popping in and outing yourself – although in any event your avatar would have been a giveaway. This was a brilliant debut puzzle, and passed the Prolixic test with flying colours. Very well done and please do keep them coming.

  14. Congratulations on an excellent début, very well pitched for a Monday and a joy to solve.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t know the word “groyne” (but I’m pleased to have learnt it, thanks), “forbidden area” was too cryptic for me, even when I had the crossers.

    It’s a shame about the not-so-cryptic cd. I also thought of the answer straight away but dismissed it as too obvious at first. I wonder if “One confined to a single cell” could have passed muster? Also 6d was not very well hidden, but these are nitpicks in what, by any measure, is a brilliantly successful first outing. Bravo, Moutarde! On attend plusieurs en plus!

    1. Just one opinion, Whynot, but I’d say your alternative, though probably an improvement on the original, still lacks the penny-drop factor – thinking it’s one thing then realising it’s another that makes more sense – which is essential to a good straight cryptic. As I said above, I think they’re the hardest of all clue types to get right. And now you’ve got me thinking (though I’ll certainly not come up with anything better than yours!).

      1. Thanks for the reply, Maize. As someone else said, the associations triggered can depend on your life experience…

        Good CDs are hard to pull off, but when they are good they’re wonderful. I enjoyed this one for a recent Graun CWC:

        Good for nothing? (7)

        Does that do it for you?

        Btw, Hugh Stephenson tracked down the Paul puzzle with the Milligan anagram for me, the fine fellow: it was the pre-online-archive Guardian 20,882. If you can get BD to pass me your email address, I’ll send you a copy. In his centenary book, however, Paul confesses that he was soon outdone by Enigmatist with:

        Seek to protect footloose and fancy-free throne transportation: Roger Miller’s to stop loafing one night into drifting (7,3,4,2,4,5,2,3,5,5,2,5,2,4,2,4,4,3,2,10,4,2,3,4)

        which, afaik, hasn’t been surpassed.

      2. Answers to above clues can be found/deduced here:

  15. Very enjoyable, Moutarde. Many thanks.

    Am I alone in thinking that “set fee” was a perfectly good answer to 26a? Having failed to justify “masis” for 23d, I realised that I must have served up the wrong answer in the tennis!

    1. You are not alone, Shabbo. I also entered SET FEE, only realizing the right answer when I twigged MASON. Incidently, “secret society” doesn’t really work for the singular, does it? Maybe “member of secret society” would have been better as a single definition? Or just “worker”/”craftsman”? Also, isn’t a net fee exclusive rather than inclusive? I get confused thinking about that, so not at all sure. Accountant in the house?

Comments are closed.