Rookie Corner – 212 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 212

A Puzzle by Effra

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Effra returns with his second attempt. 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.

Welcome back to Effra.  After the first crossword where the the clues were technically good but needed attention to the surface readings, the tables are turned where the surface readings are better but there are more technical issues.  The is reflected in the commentometer which reads as 6.5 / 33 or 19.7.  Combining technically sound clues with smooth surface readings is the most difficult aspect of clue writing and comes with a lot of practice and good test solvers who are not afraid to point out your infelicities.  There were a lot of good clues as well with 29a being a particularly good example.


9 Pizza topping‘s spice complementing beer (9)
PEPPERONI – A three letter word meaning spice followed by the name of an Italian brand of beer.

10 Originally guys elevated noisome toilet seats: well-mannered types (5)
GENTS – The first letters (originally) of the second to sixth words of the clue.

11 Flog skimpy underwear (5)
THONG – Double definition.  The verb to flog should not be used to clue a noun.  If, in the past, the solution was a verb, this should be indicated in the clue with, for example, In the past flog skimpy underwear

12 Exotic prize toad has form (9)
TRAPEZOID – An anagram (exotic) of PRIZE TOAD.

13 Sherlock admires copycats (7)
PIRATES – The abbreviation for private investigator followed by a five letter word meaning admires.  As Sherlock is used as a definition by example, it should strictly have a definition by example indicator – perhaps “Sherlock, for one, admires copycats”

14 Stationing American soldier in pub closest to my house makes sense (7)
LOGICAL – The two letter abbreviation for an American soldier inside a five letter word for a public house.  I think that the word clued by pub is well known enough not to be padded out with the word closest to my house.

17 Support for pair (5)
BRACE – Double definition, the first being a strut or supporting rod and the second being used to denote a pair in phrases such as a ????? of pheasants.

19 The difference we’re told to be wary of? (3)
GAP – Double definition, the first being the difference between two numbers and the second being something that you have to mind on the tube in London.

20 Group’s retreat (5)
OASIS – Double definition, the first being a band from Manchester and the second being a retreat or watering hole.

21 Holy oil presented by man with honour (7)
CHRISOM – A five letter shortened man’s name followed by the abbreviation for Order of Merit (honour).  Chambers (printed version) has the answer as being the christening gown with the solution without the O being the holy oil.  However, Chambers on-line and Collins dictionary support the word with an O being the holy oil.

22 Counter-intuitively, obtrusively, lacking soul is the soul of wit? (7)
BREVITY – Remove the letters in SOUL from OBTRUSIVELY and make an anagram (counter-intuitively) from the remaining letters.  Some editors would require a secondary anagram indicator as the letters in SOUL are not removed in the same order from OBTRUSIVELY.  Maybe lacking “animated soul”.

24 Undo anoraks, go for jumpers (9)
KANGAROOS – An anagram (undo) of ANORAKS GO.

26 Lunatic naughtily suppressing tiny titter (5)
LAUGH – An anagram (lunatic) of NAUGHTILY having removed (suppressing) the letters in TINY.  The same point about a secondary anagram indicator applies here.  One other point to watch is variety in clue types.  In 17a to 19a we had three consecutive double definitions.  Here we have had three anagram clues in a row.  Not wrong, but mixing up the clue types is better.

28 Women’s Institute members: those lacking balls? (5)
WIMPS – The abbreviation for Women’s Institute followed by the abbreviation for Members of Parliament.

29 Mmmm . . . a great deal! (9)
THOUSANDS – The plural of the number represented by M in roman numerals.  A really good clue.


1 Rain lightly for BBQ (4)
SPIT – Double definition for a light rain and the device on which you barbecue meat.

2 Ill-made armour plate lacking metal prompts complaint (6)
UPROAR – An anagram (ill-made) of ARMOUR PLATE after removing (lacking) the letters in METAL.  Again there should be secondary anagram indicator, maybe “lacking malleable metal”.  Also, as “lacking” has been used as a removal indicator, an alternative should have been used here.

3 Airy woman, forty-two rather than fifty (10)
WEIGHTLESS – The abbreviation for woman followed by the difference between 42 and 50 as a phrase (5,4).  A problem here is that woman cannot be abbreviated to W as W is the abbreviation for women not woman.

4 Rival team leader no good for developing individual? (6)
FOETUS – A three letter word for a rival followed by the first letter (leader) of team and the abbreviation for unserviceable (no good).

5 Computer speed means temporary job a disappointment (8)
GIGAFLOP – A three letter word for a temporary job followed y the A from the clue and a four letter word for a disappointment.  The structure definition means wordplay does not quite work.

6 Improperly get a load of assorted Lego? (4)
OGLE – An anagram (assorted) of LEGO.

7 Statements where accents are heard (8)
INVOICES – Split 2,6, this would be where you might hear accents.

8 Second-hand American edition? (4)
USED – The abbreviation for United States (American) followed by the abbreviation for edition.

13 Kind of hair that’s popular when length is trimmed (5)
PUBLIC – A six letter word meaning popular (though I think general or widespread is the real meaning of the word here) without the abbreviation for length.  

15 After bottom pinch: body makes hair stand on end (10)
GOOSEFLESH – A five letter word meaning bottom pinch followed by a five letter word for the body.

16 Passionate love everyone can see with good man over time (5)
LUSTY – A single letter meaning love followed by the abbreviation for Universal (everyone can see) and the abbreviations for saint (good man) and year (time).  L for love is not a recognised abbreviation.  Perhaps “Passionate lecturer…” 

18 Words composed of the first letters of the words in a phrase are initially awesome clue resources –  occasionally, naively you mispell some (8)
ACRONYMS – The initial letters (initially) of the final eight letters of the clue.  The clue is over wordy and ironically, misspell had been misspelled!

19 Stew over good book on skinhead footwear (3,5)
GUM BOOTS – A five letter word for a creole stew followed by the abbreviation for Old Testament and the first letter (head) of skin.  Some editors would not allow skinhead as an indicator for S.

22 Twice break faith with clergyman (6)
BISHOP – A three letter word meaning twice in Latin followed by a three letter word meaning break faith.

23 Antiguan anaconda digests lizard (6)
IGUANA – The answer is hidden (digests) in ANTIGUAN ANACONDA.

24 Some ski with bird (4)
KIWI – The answer is hidden in (some) SKI WITH.  Again there is an issue with successive clues having the same clue type.

25 Laos bombed too (4)
ASLO – An anagram (bombed) of LAOS.  Four letter anagrams are not wrong but not much of a challenge.

27 Chaff, sledge, hound without end (4)
HUSK – Remove the final letter (without end) from a type of dog used to pull sledged.  Perhaps with docked tail would have fitted the surface of the clue better.

36 comments on “Rookie Corner – 212

  1. A significant challenge and we needed electronic assistance for 5d which was totally new to us. Held up for quite some time when we had the wrong second part of the answer for 15d. Plenty of good clues to keep us working hard and amused and how could we not have positive feelings about a puzzle that includes 24d.
    Thanks Effra.

  2. I had a look to see what people thought of the first Effra and one of the things mentioned was to see if the clues would make sense if used as part of a conversation in a pub. There are still quite a few surface readings in this second crossword that would leave fellow drinkers more than a little confused. Although it does have twenty-two words (which I would wonder if it was a record for clue length, but I know some statistician will turn up and prove me wrong) 18a is a splendid example of a surface reading that works

    I’ve got quite a few marked clues which, if other commenters don’t mention, I’m sure Prolixic will, so I’d better stop commenting now and do what they are paying me to do.

    Thanks Effra and, in advance, to Prolixic..

  3. Enjoyable puzzle with some laugh-out-loud moments – thanks Effra. I’m not sure if you were going for some sort of record with 18d? My last answer (where I ended up using electronic assistance) was 21a but the answer means a white robe rather than holy oil according to Chambers.
    In 11a I don’t think the answer can be a verb meaning to flog and, as far as I know, L isn’t a recognised abbreviation for love (16d).
    The clues which I liked best were 29a, 4d, 6d and 27d.
    Please keep them coming.

    1. Thanks very much Gazza, really appreciate your comments.

      When I enter 21a into Chambers online I get the holy oil as the first definition – is there a different version of Chambers that I should use?

      11a was intended to be a noun rather than a verb (also as per Chambers online) . . .

      Once again, really appreciate your comments!


      1. if you enter 21a in chambers online, you get a different word at the top of the page. 21a is defined further down. Confused me too.

        1. I lie – I meant the chambers app – I use a chambers app on my iPad.

          I was surprised to notice the chambers on-line entry is different.

          1. The app, which is available for both iOS and Android, is probably the cheapest way of acquiring the BRB – and updates are usually free.

      2. In the BRB the word defined as holy oil can also be used to mean the robe, but 21a is defined only as the robe.

  4. As the 2Kiwis have said, parts of this were a significant challenge and I needed some electronic assistance. There were a lot of interesting ideas but some of the surfaces need polishing.

    9a – I assume that the last three letters must be some obscure kind of beer, but not one I have ever heard of (and it’s not in my BRB)
    11a – The definition “flog” is a verb and the answer is a noun
    14a – “closest to my house” is padding
    21a – I’ve never come across the answer spelt with an “o”. It is not listed in my BRB, but, strangely, it is shown as one of the definitions of the answer without the “o”
    22a, 26a, 2d – the letters to be removed are not in the order they appear in the anagram fodder
    3d – according to the BRB “w” is an abbreviation for “women” and “wife” but, perhaps surprisingly, not “woman”
    5d – a new word for me
    18d – it’s a clever idea, but doesn’t quite work for me due to the length of the clue and the resultant clunky surface
    27a – a very minor point but this might read slightly better replacing “without end” by “endlessly”

    I did enjoy this on the whole, with generally the shorter clues being the ones I liked best (13a, 17a, 20a, 29a, 1d, 4d, 8d, 23d, 24d). 13d raised a smile and my favourite was 28a.

    Well done, Effra, and thank you.

        1. Rabbit Dave thanks for all your comments. What is a BRB? Whatever it is I think I ought to get one!

          1. In case RD isn’t around at the moment – the BRB is The Big Red Book, otherwise known as Chambers Dictionary. It is used as THE reference book by the Daily Telegraph and several other national newspapers.

              1. Amazon have got the 13th edition for £26.48 – free postage or a choice of ‘very good condition’ 2nd hand ones at around £14 plus £3 postage.

      1. Thanks, Jane, for that. The best I could manage was to split it 6,2,1 with the 1 being a letter that can mean ‘one’, and think of it meaning a beer in the sense of ‘a swift one’.
        And, Effra, the BRB is the Big Red Book – the Chambers Dictionary print edition – I have the revised 13th edition.

    1. 14a. I think you and Silvanus are correct about the “padding” – I suspect the setter was being over-cautious in indicating a specific category of pub. But the clue could have been more succinct anyway by simply using “nearby pub” instead of “pub closest to my house”.

  5. This was Toughie territory for me too, but was ultimately doable. A few little issues but none which prevented solving or understanding of the clues.

    Like Gazza I didn’t know 21a, but had a punt on the most likely Christian name and order to fit the checkers.

    29a is my favourite by miles. Even though I started to enter a wrong answer before discovering that came up short. Mmmm yes!

    I’m sure the surfaces will improve with practice, and I enjoyed unravelling the wordplay. Thanks to Effra and in advance to Prolixic.

  6. Welcome back, Effra.

    Although there was a lot I liked in the puzzle, you seem to have followed the unfortunate pattern of a number of recent Rookie setters whose second crossword has not managed to match the promise of their debuts. Whilst your previous puzzle had very few technical issues, a number of faults have crept in this time.

    The three subtractive anagrams were well-constructed, but in each case the letters to be removed do not appear in the same order as in the fodder, as RD rightly mentions. If you refer to Page 23 of Prolixic’s guide (an essential reference point for all Rookie setters I’d strongly suggest) he will tell you:
    “Where two or more letters have to be removed and they do not appear in the same order as in the clue, then a secondary anagram indicator should be included to indicate this”.

    In addition, for two of these three subtractive anagrams, you have used “lacking” as a deletion indicator.

    I agree that “closest to my house” in 14d is padding, and to me the wording of the clue suggests that the solution is a verb or a noun rather than an adjective. I’d also recommend avoiding four letter anagrams unless part of a longer word and having more than one acrostic clue per puzzle. In the case of 18d, it wasn’t a pair of secateurs or long-handled pruners that were necessary but a whole team of tree surgeons! Extremely ironic that “misspell” was misspelled. It also pays to check whether abbreviations are supported by Chambers and/or Collins, like others I had reservations about some that were used.

    I actually thought your surfaces were slightly improved this time around, but there were a few that still raised eyebrows. I suspect that the obscurities in 5d and 21a were included as no other words fitted?

    My ticks went to 28a, 29a, 1d, 6d, 7d and, ahem, 13d.

    Lots of good ideas here, but lots to work on too. Many thanks, Effra.

    1. Very embarrassing to have misspelled “misspell” of all words! Thanks for your detailed comments.

      1. I saw the misspelling but thought it was done deliberately as a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour.

  7. A fair number of the surface reads were much improved this time around – well done on that score, Effra, but there are still problems to be addressed elsewhere.

    The spelling/definition issue in 21a has already been mentioned by others as have the unrecognised abbreviations in 3&16d – slips that could have been avoided with a bit more checking so something to watch out for next time.

    Interestingly, whilst not in the BRB, the first dictionary entry brought up by Google for the answer to 11a lists it as:-
    verb archaic – to flog or lash with a whip.

    I thought 22a came close to being in ‘too clever by half’ territory. I knew the saying so I’m afraid it went in without any attempt at parsing. I wonder what Prolixic will have to say about the letter removal in that one and the other two clues that RD mentioned.

    Definitely the shortest clues that worked best for me – 13,17&28a plus 1&8d all received ticks.

    Thanks, Effra, I do hope that you will bring us another puzzle ‘ere long.

    1. Thanks Jane. I had seen the answer to 11a in Chambers as a part of a whip.
      Very annoyed with myself on the abbreviations – as you say should have been easy to check.

  8. Enjoyed this, thanks Effra. It was quite tough and 5d was a word unfamiliar to me, although I solved the clue from the wordplay eventually. Like others, I questioned 21a, and it is not defined in my Chambers as a separate word in its own right, so maybe the clue could have had the robe as the definition, rather than the holy oil.

    I don’t have a particular problem with wordy clues – I am guilty of those myself, so I would say that – provided that they are fair and lead the solver to the answer. I don’t think that the words “closest to my house” in 14a are out-and-out padding; I rather see them as a solver-friendly steer towards the particular word for pub we’re looking for. The clue would work without them, and dropping them makes the clue four words shorter (which is important to some solvers/editors), so I suppose it would ultimately depend on the crossword editor as to whether they were left in for a published puzzle.

    I also note the ‘best practice’ of needing secondary indicators to show the order in which letters are dropped, but notwithstanding this, I ticked 26a as a favourite. 24a, 28a, 29a and 4d also got ticks, but overall favourite, which got two ticks, was 3d.

    Thanks for the entertainment, Effra.

    1. Thanks very much – I hadn’t realised about the secondary indicators. A good lesson to learn!

  9. An enjoyable puzzle overall, despite the strangely erroneous abbreviations for woman and love, and the 26a/22a & 2d issues.

    I liked 13d but did think the clue reads ‘definition is popular if you remove L from the answer’ – surely the definition is popular if you add an L? Of course I can see the intention, but I think this is slightly muddled; could well just be me confusing myself though.

    18d is perhaps a tad ambitious and I wonder whether a definition by example could have been more concise and more cryptic.

    Also liked 5d, apart from definition ‘means’ wordplay, 13a, 3d & 16d despite the easily avoided slip-ups and my pick of the bunch is 3d – if only you’d used ‘women’.

    Thanks for the entertainment Effra, good fun, well done.

  10. Hi Effra,

    well done putting your second puzzle together. I thought it showed a lot of thought and originality in the indicators

    16d was my last one in and i could not parse it because i didn’t see the L abbreviation.

    18d the definition is a giveaway of course. Best to avoid definition ARE wordplay if you can.

    i also thought flog was a verb only while the answer is only a noun, and 14a has a part of speech issue too

    27d whereas it is fair game to add misleading punctuation, my take on that is that it should contribute to the surface – which escapes me here.

    funny i always thought 1d was rain heavily – learn something every day. I had no problem with 5d, though i had to look up 21a.

    I would add that 3 subtractive anagrams might be pushing it as well – I’d suggest one.

    pity (but not wrong) that 9a starts with a 6-letter spice. I first parsed 22d as a 3-3 split, thinking the second word was an inelegant last letter deletion (break) of a word for faith, but i think now it was intended as a 2-4 split.

    I hope that is useful. I really liked mmm and many other clues.

  11. 5dn has brought up again the validity or otherwise of ‘definition for/means wordplay’. I venture on this with some trepidation as it was commented on in my first Rookie Corner appearance. But in some cases it can make for a very neat clue and ‘reversing it’ would read as nonsense. So I would say that it’s not something to use indiscriminately but there are some occasions when, provided the clue leads unambiguously to the answer, it’s OK. There is an old saying that rules are made for the guidance of the wise and the obedience of fools.

    Actually 5dn held me up for quite a long time simply because although I knew the answer was ‘computer speed’ I couldn’t think of the correct prefix; all that came to mind were those for 10 to the power of 6 or 12, not 9, so it delayed me solving 9ac.

    1. You’ll occasionally see ‘for’ and ‘of’ used the ‘wrong’ way around in the dailies. But it remains good advice to rookies to try and use them the right way around.

  12. Thanks Prolixic for your very helpful and thorough review. There’s much to learn and also more care to be taken when checking! Rookie Corner really is an invaluable resource.

    One question I had was on your suggestion for the last clue: the intention of the surface was that “hound”, “chaff” and “sledge” were all forms of harassment. If I introduce a “docked tail” would that not disrupt the surface?

    Thanks to everyone for your comments!

  13. Very enjoyable. A nice balance of easy clues to get one started and more difficult ones to chew on a bit. I didn’t understand Prolixic’s explanation for 22d as I was thinking BIS for twice and wondering why HOP meant ‘break faith with’. Like Dutch I had understood that as bad wordplay for HOP(e), but see from his comment that it’s BI/SHOP. However, you don’t need to be in confidence with someone to shop them, do you (just puts you in a better position to do so), so not sure about it. Maybe I’m just sore because I didn’t get it?

    I didn’t know u/s for unserviceable and had to reveal the F to get the answer from def. One to remember there, though I don’t see it as an abbrev in my (7th ed) BRB. (I do see ut supra, though — another good one to remember for a common letter combo.

    Didn’t realise all those words meant ‘harass’ in 27d, so the surface meant nothing to me, though I got it from wp.

    “Improperly get a load of” was a great cryptic def and it’s a pity the 4-letter anag meant it fell so quickly.

    Incidentally ‘goose’ isn’t quite a bottom pinch, more of a prod (as the bird is wont to do).

    I look forward to an even better puzzle next time.

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