Rookie Corner – 211 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 211

A Puzzle by Zulu

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today Zulu has decided to put his head above the parapet (or is that the stockade!) with his debut puzzle.  As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review by Prolixic follows.

A warm welcome to Zulu.  When the first comments from JollySwagman indicate that he has problems with the clues, you begin to get very worried indeed.  However, apart from a handful of clues, there was a sound crossword with some good ideas in the clues.  A few general observations:

  1. It is not usual to end clues with a full stop.
  2. The grid design with the clues at 5 across and 26 across having three consecutive unchecked letters and less than 50% of the letter cross checked is not something that would be accepted in the daily papers.
  3. There was a heavy reliance on verbal and adjectival phrases as definitions.  This made the crossword feel unbalanced.  These types of clue are not universally popular.

The commentometer reads at 8/28 or 28.6%.


1 Landlady perhaps with kisses on the bottom? (6)
LETTER – Double definition, the second being an adjective phrase of something written that might contain kisses after the signature.  As a general comment, not as a criticism, the use (or overuse) of verbal and adjectival phrases is not universally popular.

5 Speeding vehicle is a bit over the top. (8)
CARAPACE – A three letter word for a vehicle followed by a five letter word for speeding.  As there is no indication that the word order is changed from the clue to the solution, it might have been better to have had “Vehicle speeding…”

8 Edifice constructed when Balham turned to god. (8)
ALHAMBRA – An anagram (turned) of BALHAM followed by a two letter Egyptian deity.

9 Esau certainly provided a container but unsuitable for pottage. (6)
SAUCER – The answer is hidden (provided a container for) in ESAU CERTAINLY.

11 Therefore, upon reflection, it is a monster. (4)
OGRE – A reversal (upon reflection) of the Latin for therefore.  Care has to be taken with this type of clue as it could be read as reflecting the name of the monster to give the Latin for therefore.

12 Multiple take off on board, travelling in stages and landing on sand. (6,4)
TRIPLE JUMP – Cryptic definition of a sporting event that involves these stages.

13 It’s good for an old master to stay in shape but one can be carried away by it. (9)
STRETCHER – Double definition, the first being that which keeps the canvas of a painting taut and the second being something that carries a patient.

14 Property at about one hundred and fifty-seven degrees. (5)
ASSET – The AT from the clue about the compass direction at 157 degrees on a compass rose.

17 Intended to prohibit movement it may allow one to perform a roll. (5)
SNARE – Double definition, the first being a type of trap and the second a type of drum on which a drum roll could be performed.

18 Boring a hole has no point after stop when tea is taken. (9)
SOPORIFIC – Remove the T (tea?) from the STOP in the clue and follow it with another word for a hole without the final E (no point).  Tea for T is not a recognised definition.  It could have been replaced by “tee” as the phonetic spelling of the letter.  It would have suggested a golfing theme.

21 Western sees bloody exchange that is not intentional. (10)
ACCIDENTAL – The word meaning western (opposed to eastern) with a change in the initial letter for one blood group for another.

23 I start to return a letter. (4)
IOTA – The I from the clue followed by a reversal (return) of the TO from the clue and the A from the clue.  The “Start” in the clue is somewhat awkward and could have been overcome with “I return to a letter”.

24 A way to the unknown when one can’t be bothered? (6)
APATHY – The A from the clue followed by a four letter word for a pavement or way and a letter representing an unknown quantity.

25 Supporter behind gets everyone feeling nervous. (8)
BACKBONE – A four letter word meaning behind followed by a word describing when you feel anxious to the ….”.  This is perhaps a little oblique.

26 Means of setting off when one is unsteady? (8)
TREMBLER – Double definition, the first being a type of detonator and the second being someone who is unsteady.

27 Compositions suitable for assembly one may go to under duress. (6)
PIECES – Triple definition, the first being musical compositions, the second bits that can be assembled together and the  final one being something that you may be said to go to under stress or duress.


2 Teach and in some ways brilliance can be installed. (9)
ENLIGHTEN – Put a five letter word meaning brilliance inside (can be installed) EN EN (some ways)

3 Performs with intent to create suspense. (7,6)
TRAPEZE ARTIST – Cryptic definition of a circus performer.  Perhaps “One who performs…” would have been better.

4 Power to implement a programme (of arms possibly) – nothing personal. (8)
ROBOTICS – My only guess here is that is is a cryptic definition of the process of creating automatic machines that may have arms.  It does not feel very satisfactory to me.

5 Cup of Indian tea with unwelcome visitors? (7)
CHALICE – The three letter word for tea followed by a type of creature that infests hair.  The Indian is misleading as Indian tea is chai.

6 Beef extract, a soft sound. (6)
RUSTLE – Double definition, the first being the theft of a cow (beef extract).

7 The best note paper. (5)
CREAM – A single letter note on the musical scale followed by a four letter word for a quantity of paper.

10 Not warranted and not fair if bail is set before end of sentence. (13)
UNJUSTIFIABLE – A six letter word meaning not fair followed by an anagram (is set) of IF BAIL and the last letter (end of) of sentence.

15 Being in the river is nicest in a way. (9)
EXISTENCE – An anagram (in a way) of NICEST inside a three letter word for a south western river.

16 Three hundred and thirty, one way, flat out – top gear for an idiot? (8)
FOOLSCAP – The name of a paper size that is 330 × 200 mm in size if split 4’1, 3 would be a hat for an idiot.  I think that this is slightly unfair as no indicator of the measurement is given and the words “flat out” are not needed and detract from the meaning.

19 O to be in parts of Carolina in the fall. (7)
OCTOBER – The O followed by the TO BE from the clue inside CR (part of Carolina).  There is no indication of which parts of Carolina are to be used.  This is not a valid way of indicating letters.

20 Hide the transformer in the garden. (6)
JEKYLL – Double definition, the first being the alter ego of Hyde and second the surname of a garden designer.  The clue requires a homophone indicator to get from Hide to Hyde.

22 One may be cut with spirit and used as an ingredient. (5)
CAPER — A double definition, the first being used in the phrase “to cut a ….”, the second meaning a cooking ingredient.

22 comments on “Rookie Corner – 211

  1. We eventually had a filled grid after spending considerably longer than we like to spend on a puzzle, particularly a Rookie one. There are still several that we have failed to parse satisfactorily, eg 20d but that is not the only one. Thought the triple unch in 26a was particularly unfair. All in all we felt the setter was trying too hard and has produced a puzzle which we did not find much fun to solve. We did appreciate much of the clever wordplay in many of the clues though.
    Thanks Zulu.

  2. I did the Times reprint from 1965 the other day – it was truly awful – but went to show how far ahead the Guardian and Telegraph were at that time – ie absolute miles.

    This puzzle was obviously set more or less partly in the style from those days – nowadays even non-ximmies expect a certain degree of conformity – eg a plain “definition’ at one end or the other of at least the majority of clues.

    That said I got there in the end so all the clues worked in one way or another – some (I won’t detail them) I’m still not sure of – a few were very good wordplay/def clues. I failed on 26a and I still don’t understand it; surely it’s not a naughty one – even then I can’t twig it. It also has three checked letters out of seven – borderline acceptable maybe in itself – but also three unchecked cells in a row – which should either be avoided altogether or at least only done where the answer is reasonably predictable for other reasons.

    I ticked these clues, which I think worked well by any yardstick, old or new:

    14a, 18a 24a 15d, 19d

    Minor points:

    1: There’s a typo in the first word of 12a.

    2: 3d – the definition could have been made to agree better with the answer without hurting the reading of the clue.

    3: By convention full stops at the end of clues are dropped – other puctuation is kept. It’s not altogether logical but there it is – someone must have thought it looked neater.

    4: Conventions for punctuation are not well established but the “?” in 24a is probably not needed – it works plainly and simply (and very well) – maybe some other clues could have done with one – to indicate extra crypticness.

    All in all there was a lot to enjoy in this puzzle even though it didn’t adhere to many modern conventions. So what – neither did Rufus – but he was a lot easier most of the time.

    Many thanks for the fun.

  3. Correction – re the “unch” ratio in 26d. It has eight letters and only three checked – I think that’s not good.

    A seven letter clue with sticky-out ends might get away with three, as to have more would require two to touch.

    So my minimum number of checked letters could be expressed as:

    Int(X/2) where X is the length of the answer.

    However a non-sticky-out seven letter word should normally have four. To have less would mean three unchecked in a row – normally best avoided.

    I think that’s about it. It’s often amazingly difficult to formalise things which seem straightforward according to common sense.

  4. Further thought re 3d. It’s probably fine , if you read it as one of those clues where the definition (in this case the whole clue) can be appended to the answer to give a phrase or sentence that encapsulates the required meaning.

    Some attribute this clue type to Azed – he didn’t invent it – but he departed from Ximenes on that point.

  5. Well I finished it in a reasonable time. It isn’t the most friendly grid, with the afore-mentioned triple unches and ten solutions where the first letter is unchecked. I’d also point out that some clues are very wordy – eg 13a,

    There are some good clues in the crossword but the overall impression is that it suffers from the common Rookie error of ‘I’m creating a cryptic crossword, I must make the clues really tricky’ which leads to some of them being too complicated to solve without difficulty. There are several I can’t parse and I have specific comments on a couple:

    4a I don’t think the Indian is needed, not least because the Indian tea has an I at the end. 20d surely needs some sort of indication that we are looking for a homophone of ‘hide’ in order to get the ‘person in the garden’

    Thank you Zulu – I’m sure you’ll get lots of helpful advice from comments during the day and particularly from Prolixic in his review, which you can use when creating another crossword, next time with a more friendly grid please

  6. Congratulations to Zulu on his/her debut. I thought there was a lot to like here but there are two clues I can’t fully parse (25a and 4d).
    There’s a typo in 12a and various points that I’m sure Prolixic will pick up on, e.g. the ‘about’ in 14a seems to be doing double duty, T isn’t an abbreviation for tea (18a), I don’t understand how ‘parts of Carolina’ give us CR (19d) and Hide should surely be Hyde in 20d.
    Best clues for me 21a, 26a and 22d.

  7. Hi Zulu,

    Congratulations on your debut! I started off well with this, enjoying a lot of the clues, but by the time i finished i thought there were a lot of clues that had two meanings rather cryptically described – and that got a little tiresome. So including more standard definition plus wordplay clues might be an idea.

    A lot of the clues were eye-catchers, which is good, it makes you want to solve them. I thought 1a was a great surface for a first clue – usually the first thing the solver sees so an important clue. I’m not a fan of adjectival or verbal phrases to describe a noun, though you do sometimes see this in the dailies. You do this repeatedly though, so something to watch out for perhaps. 13a, however, works fine because of the way you use ‘it’ – so more like that please.

    I think you need homophone indicators in 18a and 20d, though i’m missing something in 20d.

    3d to indicate a noun I think it should be performer, or ‘one who performs’.

    Some of the cryptic dedinitions are pretty obscure, e.g. 330 (wasn’t sure what ‘flat out’ was doing) – though here the wordplay was clear.

    and yes the grid – nicely interconnected, but triple inches are not nice and having 3/8 checkers is a no-no in most dailies. If you do have double or triple inches, you need to take extra care that the clue is readily solvable. I needed brb to get the first meaning in 26a, new to me. 5a was easier, though the definition was perhaps a bit vague given the triple unch.

    14a was a nice penny drop but again the 2/5 checkers made this a hard clue.

    i didn’t understand the bloody exchange in 21a, though it’s clear what exchange is needed. Looks like others did.

    19d I don’t think the parts of Carolina (19a) is sufficiently well indicated, unless I’m missing something again.

    But apart from these few points, a splendid first puzzle with many entertaining clues and plenty of outside-the-box thinking. Clues like 10d, 15d, 7d, 11a, 5a, 5d, were all excellent and i thought ‘beef extract’ was nice in 6d but not sure of surface. Hope these comments are useful and good luck

  8. Welcome, Zulu.

    I managed the top half of the puzzle without seeking any electronic assistance, but the bottom half was a different story, and, without pressing the Reveal button a few times I think I would still be scratching my head over certain clues this time next Monday.

    There was plenty of invention but a lot of clues seemed to fall into the “nearly but not quite there” category and some were just too ambitious. I also think this is the first Rookie puzzle I can recall to contain homophones without any homophone indicators.

    The best clue for me by far was 21a.

    As ever, I’m sure that Prolixic’s review will give you invaluable pointers as to what didn’t work, and I hope that you’ll be encouraged to return with an improved product second time around. Thanks, Zulu.

  9. Thanks Zulu – very unusual and entertaining.
    I didn’t quite finish, though I got much closer than I thought I would at one point. I needed the first letter for 26a and didn’t get 20d at all.
    The wordiness of a lot of the definitions made them seem more like riddles than conventional clues: 13a, 17a for example. That’s fine, and quite fun, but you still have to take care over every word.
    I liked 7, 10 and 15 as ‘conventional’ clues. Elsewhere, I liked plenty of the ideas, but often thought you’d gone a bit overboard cryptically.
    1a – like
    5a – Seems no reason for Speeding vehicle rather than vehicle speeding. ‘a bit over the top’, while possibly true, doesn’t really help much
    14a twigged this just as I was writing that I didn’t understand it – like
    18 liked, but unsure of tea for t?
    25a Didn’t really like this as a CD. It’s certainly cryptic, but it’s still very cryptic and strained once you’ve worked out what it’s talking about.
    26a The clue is good, but I didn’t get it because I didn’t know the first definition, and the two letters that might have been helpful to get the second were unchecked.
    2 Nice construction, thought ‘ways’ a bit iffy
    3 Didn’t like this, a bit like 25a.. I think you need some indication of a noun, and there was no lightbulb moment – I got it from crossers
    4 I think this clue splits at the dash. I found both sides too far from the solution to be helpful.
    6 Beef extract, kind of clever, a bit contrived
    16 I like the clue as a whole, but the definition is no help. It’s long, overly cryptic, and relies on a stat very few will know or care about.
    20 Two bits of GK. The first is probably less obscure, and would be how most people get the answer, but is not properly indicated. I liked ‘transformer in the garden’ (if that’s what you meant) for the second part.

  10. Well, I finally have a full grid, but several clues with question marks beside them. I would not have got 26A without crossword solver. Not much more I can say. Previous comments have covered my questions,and more. Thanks, Zulu.

  11. A good debut and a bit different in places which is no bad thing in my view.

    My notes have already been covered in earlier posts, particularly 3d which stood out.

    Generally, I felt that quite a few of the clues could have been more concise and specific, but there are some nice ideas in the mix.

    Many thanks for the entertainment Zulu, look forward to your next.

  12. The first thing I spotted were the triple unches and only 3/8 checking in 5ac and 26ac – not a good omen, I thought. However, there were some nice touches and I liked 9ac, 14ac, 10dn, 15dn and 22dn.
    Another one I liked was 13ac, and I didn’t have any problem with the ‘wordiness’ of the clue – it was as long as it needed to be, neither more nor less.
    3dn should, I thought, have started ‘Performer’, not ‘Performs’.
    11ac was ambiguous as to which word was meant until settled by checking letters.
    21ac was another good clue once one had done a bit of lateral thinking about the ‘exchange’.
    The full explanation of 20dn took some time to become apparent – quite clever but really needed a homophone indicator for the first word.
    As for those triple unches, 5ac was fairly easy, but I needed to resort to a wordfinder for 26ac.
    Overall, a crossword with some very good ideas but it needed some attention to detail.

  13. The major pitfalls have already been pointed out by others, my main complaint is that I found that this fell over the edge into the ‘too clever by half’ category. That’s a great shame as there are some really good ideas lurking behind a number of those clues – 13,17,21,24 & 27a plus 3,6&22d all having appeal. 20d would have probably been my favourite had it not been woefully short of a homophone indicator.

    I do hope you take on board Prolixic’s evaluation, Zulu, I’d like to see a second puzzle from you.

  14. I’ve done all the top but have almost no answers in the bottom half and now I’m stuck – I think it’s very difficult. Oh dear.
    Might have another go a bit later.
    I particularly liked 5 and 6d because they made me laugh.
    With thanks and congratulations to Zulu for the crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic for tomorrow’s review, and answers which I’m clearly going to need.

  15. Well, started off fine and dandy and enjoyed the cleverness and surfaces of most of the clues. Started getting bogged down in the bottom half of the puzzle and had to think a bit harder. Last two in were 20d (didn’t know one of the definitions) and 26a. I think I know what the setter was getting at with the definition in 25a, but thought it was a bit oblique. 19d had me foxed for a while and I haven’t really managed to parse it.

    Ticks went to 1a, 8a, 14a and 6d in particular. 18a would have had a tick, as I really liked the construction, but for the use of ‘tea’ without a homophone indicator.

    Well done on your debut, Zulu. Do take people’s comments as constructive criticism and please, let’s have another puzzle soon.

  16. Welcome Zulu to the bear-pit – you’ve no doubt gathered that debuters often get a rough ride! I won’t repeat the minus points which many others have covered, simply say that there are some good gems amongst your clues. I have to give a plus to 14a due to the misdirection – not in the answer which was fairly easy to write-in, but the parsing. You left two ways in which the wordplay could be parsed, and I hit upon the wrong one first (taking “degrees” as of temperature). But, looking up the presumed substance and its chemical properties, I realised I was on totally the wrong track.

    I think we can forgive the missing “and a half” in that clue which pedants might call for!

    Another good one was 21a. You certainly set some people thinking with your use of “bloody exchange”. I wonder if this device has been used before by anyone?

    Look forward to seeing more from you (but there’s a long queue…)

  17. Great review, Prolixic – many thanks.

    Apologies Zulu, I didn’t have enough time to solve or comment yesterday. Lots of inventive stuff here. A few areas that have been touched on above will transform your puzzles. I look forward to your next.

    I thought you got us off to a witty start with 1ac. One area I try and avoid is the use of one of the answers within another of the clues as the same word, viz. SETTER in 23ac and 1ac. And I look forward to hearing the answer to, “Why ROBOTICS?”



  18. Oh – so the answer to 22d wasn’t MIXER – it made sense to me at the time but scuppered the rest of that corner as I didn’t have the sense to doubt it.
    Thanks again to Zulu for the crossword and to Prolixic for the review, and lots of answers too.

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I’d gone wrong by putting in ‘grappler’ for 26a – wasn’t very happy with it but obviously hadn’t done enough research to find the correct answer.
    With 25a I made a connection to the old record ‘Shakin’ all over’ and the line ‘quivers down my backbone’ – worked for me!

    Thanks again to Zulu – hope you will feel encouraged by the review to get that reading on the commentometer down next time!

  20. Thanks to Zulu and Prolixic for the puzzle and commentary. I liked this; not too much of a stretch and all ultimately gettable. Nothing to add to the points raised by others, and look forward to the next.

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