Rookie Corner – 214 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 214

Hurricanes by Maclog

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

We haven’t seen a puzzle from Maclog for a while – the wait is now over. 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 Maclog with a themed puzzle where the title gives a hint of what is to come (although not all of the solutions were the names of hurricanes).  With a themed puzzle, there is more latitude in the construction of the grid and you will often get more three and four letter solutions.  However, the cross-checking in 8d and 22d would not pass muster in a national paper with only 1/3 of the letters cross-checked.  This could easily have been avoided by making 16a as “ERODE” and 22d as “PRIEST” and 22a as “PLAIN”.  It would also have reduced the number of three letter solutions.

There were quite a few small niggles on the wordplay, particularly with the down clues that account for a commentometer reading of 8 out of 37 or 21.6%.


9 She caught you at first embracing a new duchess (5)
CINDY – The abbreviation for caught and the first letter of you include (embracing) a letter representing one (a) and the abbreviations for new and duchess.

10 Tank erosive mistakenly consumed by royal couple (9)
RESERVOIR – An anagram (mistakenly) of EROSIVE inside the abbreviation for royal repeated (couple).  The abbreviation for Royal is in Collins though not in Chambers.

11 Good at home but away mostly on island (7)
OKINAWA – A two letter word meaning good followed by a two letter word meaning at home and the first three letters (mostly) of away.  As a linkword, ON is not not ideal, wordplay on definition does not work very well for me.  

12 Regressive tax initially too insulting to impose (7)
INTRUDE – A reversal of the abbreviation for national insurance (loosely a tax) followed by the first letter (initially) of too and a four letter word meaning insulting.

13 Most of the country used old money (5)
FRANC – The first five letters (most of) the country across the English channel from most of the solvers for the old pre-Euro currency of that country.  As mostly has already been used, perhaps another tail-end deletion indicator should have been used.  Also wordplay used definition is back to front – the definition uses the wordplay to get to the answer.

15 Assume godfather is academic (3)
DON – Triple definition with the meanings to wear or assume, a mafia godfather and a university academic.

16 Aspect of mind we all have got innately (3)
EGO – The answer is hidden in (innately) in HAVE GOT.  I think that this could be shortened to “Aspect of mine we have innately” to remove the padding otherwise you would need “Aspect of mind we all have have got innately to separate the definition from the wordplay.

17 Force a long way back (3)
RAF – One of the British armed forces is a reversal (back) of a word meaning a long way.

19 Maize British Honduras formerly scattered in river (7)
ZAMBEZI – An anagram of MAIZE BZ (the informal IVR code for Belize, the former British Honduras).  Borderline on an indirect anagram, particularly as the IVR code is not officially recognised, as you have to get from British Honduras, to Belize to BZ.

20 Motto is looked at (3)
SAW – Double definition.

23 Grass cut first then hair (3)
AWN – Remove the first letter (cut first) from a word for an area of grass.

24 Illuminated only every third character (3)
LIT – The third, sixth and ninth letters of the first word of the clue.  The definition is part of the wordplay but it is a case where as a whole, I think that the clue works.

25 Triumphant cry of vandal (5)
YAHOO – Double definition, the vandals being from Gulliver’s Travels.

27 Blink perplexedly at books to find writing error (7)
INKBLOT – An anagram (perplexedly) followed by (at) the abbreviation for Old Testament.

29 Visceral ruse announced after downturn is over (7)
GASTRIC – A homophone (announced) of trick (ruse) after the reversal (is over) of another word for a slump or downturn.

32 Entrance for floating voters? (5,4)
SWING DOOR – Cryptic definition of a type of door that could open either way rather like the direction a floating voter might go from one party to another.

33 Guidelines adopted by some for clarity (5)
SPECS – Double definition for plans or guidelines for something an a visual aid to help see things clearly.


1 It is repeated in the valleys! (4)
ECHO – A reverberation that may be heard in some valleys.

2 Condition treated again with narcotics mainly (6)
ANGINA – An anagram (treated) of AGAIN followed by the first letter (mainly) of narcotics.  I think that mainly means most of rather than the first letter of the wordplay.

3 Many disturbed by bird (4)
MYNA – An anagram (disturbed) of MANY.   Four letter anagrams are not much of a challenge.  They are best avoided.  Wordplay by definition seems the wrong way around the definition comes by using the wordplay.

4 Regular liars mean to name female (4)
IRMA – The even letters (regularly) of LIARS MEAN.  I don’t think that to name female means give the name of a female.

5 G-man is sent in disguise on mission (10)
ASSIGNMENT – An anagram (in disguise) of G MAN IS SENT.  Again there is the problem with ON as a linkword.

6 He is in British river and in France (4)
BRET – The abbreviations for British and river followed by the French for “and”.

7 Noise you hear before troubled soul is inhabited (8)
POPULOUS – A three letter word for a type of noise followed by a homophone (hear) of you and an anagram (troubled) of SOUL.  I think to maintain the cryptic reading of the clue, it requires “you heard”

8 Direction taken from French city points to hurricane (6)
ARLENE – The name of a French city with the final S removed (direction taken) followed by two compass points.

13 Nowhere near 17 coming up (3)
FAR – A reversal (coming up) of the answer to 17a.

14 Company philosophy is to cheat (5)
COZEN – A two letter abbreviation for company followed by a form of Buddhist philosophy.

15 Bulldozing oil men do it accidentally (10)
DEMOLITION – An anagram (accidentally) of OIL MEN DO IT.

16 She appears in road in cathedral town (5)
EMILY – The abbreviation for one of the British motorways inside the name of a fenland cathedral town.  A minor pedantic point but it is a city not a town!

18 Honest about having nothing to return in natural disaster (8)
FRANKLIN – A five letter word meaning honest followed by a reversal (to return) of a three letter word meaning nothing.  The about in the clue is not needed.

21 Which one of us is a doctor? (3)
WHO – The interrogative question is also the name of a time travelling Doctor.

22 In the meantime we have basic list though not alphabetical (6)
WHILST – The initial letters (basic) of we have followed by an anagram (though not alphabetical) of LIST.  Basic as an initial letter indicator does not work for me and the anagram indicator is does not work either.  Perhaps In the meantime we have initially disordered list.

26 Cocktail blots out complaining neighbour like number 8 (6)
HARVEY – The name of a cocktail made from orange juice, vodka and Galliano without the second word that could, is split 4,6 indicate a complaining neighbour.

28 Bears blows avoiding sobbing to begin with (4)
LUGS – A five letter word meaning blows or hits without the initial S (avoiding sobbing to begin with).

29 Storm danger TV revealed (4)
GERT – The answer is hidden in (revealed) in DANGER TV.

30 Special forces have bomb belt (4)
SASH – The abbreviation for the British special forces followed by the abbreviation for Hydrogen (bomb).  I think that this should be type of bomb as H on its own is not a bomb.

31 Course regularly taken by president to meeting place (4)
CUSP – The odd letters (regularly) of COURSE followed by the abbreviation (given in Collins apparently but not in my Collins app) for president.  As regularly has been used as an indicator already, a different one (oddly perhaps) could have been used.


22 comments on “Rookie Corner – 214

  1. We were at a total stalemate until we went to Google and found a list that we could refer to for possibilities. With this we managed to get it all sorted. We wonder whether the list would be much better known by UK solvers.
    We enjoyed the non-theme answers more than the themed ones.
    Thought the grid was a bit unfair, particularly 8d and 22d where each one had only 2 out of 6 letters checked. A pity really as it would have been so easy to have avoided this with the added benefit of doing away with a couple of the 3 letter answers too.
    Thanks Maclog.

  2. I did enjoy this, some very good clues but some others not so much. I have to agree with the 2Kiwis on the grid. The ‘hanging’ double unches in 8d and 22d made them particularly tricky to solve even with 8d being assisted by the requisite list once it had been identified.

    So, some of the good clues: 11a, 27a, 32a, 14d, 16d, 30d, and the 13d/17a combo.

    Some of the not so good:

    10a – I don’t think R on its own is an accepted abbreviation for Royal (OK – it is used in Royal Navy or Royal Air Force, and so on).

    19a – I thought it was a stretch to get from British Honduras to BZ (which, according to the BRB is not an official IVR code, BH is still listed in the IVR code list). Although the answer was quite obvious with MAIZE as part of the anagram material and the checkers.

    31d – the BRB does not show P as an abbreviation for President (Pres appears to be the abbreviation in common use).

    There were also a couple that I could not get the parsing on; I will have to wait for Prolixic to show me the way on those.

    Thanks Maclog.

  3. Being on this side of the pond I may have known more of the themed answers than some folks, but there were still a couple I didn’t recollect and I needed to hunt down a list to get a final count. It was then that I saw I had the wrong second letter for 9A.

    If I were to be picky, I’d point out that more than half of the themed answers are categorized as tropical storms, not hurricanes. Of the unthemed answers, I did like 15A and 33A. I’ll leave the analysis of individual clues to the experts. Thanks Maclog.

  4. Not as tricky as a first read through made it seem. I also managed without having to investigoogle the theme so, although I’d agree with others that the grid isn’t the most friendly, particularly where 8d and 22 d are concerned, the wordplay must have been helpful enough, and if you didn’t know there was a theme, you could solve the crossword without noticing, unless you were a meteorologist

    I’d agree with others that some of the abbreviations aren’t ‘proper’. I’d also add that whatever the IVR code for British Honduras is or was, if I had my red pen, I’d certainly point out that adding it to Maize to get the solution can only be done by using a strictly forbidden indirect anagram

    I did like 15a – a lovely straightforward triple definition and I liked the image conjured up by 15d.

    Thanks Maclog – perhaps a better (friendlier) grid might be the way to go next time – and, in advance to Prolixic

  5. Thanks McLog – that was fun. I always prefer puzzles which are in any sense a little bit more than a collection of clues – so themed ones typically satisfy that criterion.

    Quality-wise there was a range of clues – some were quite subtle – others a bit on the sappy side. I won’t go into detail – no doubt others will.

    You might have done a bit more work on the grid. If you have the software that’s easy – otherwise it may be a bit painful. It looks a bit lumpy. Maybe you squeezed the themed answers in and then had trouble finding words to fit the other lights, so blacked out a few extra cells.

    Normally you don’t want too many 3-letter answers – and where you do have them it pays to make their cluing a bit more challenging – otherwise thay lack interest – unless they are intentional gimmes in an otherwise tough puzzle.

    Also lights like 8d and 22d should expect to have 3 crossing letters.
    Even that is a concession for “sticky-out” lights. Half checked or at least (n-1)/2 is generally the minimum in a conventionally constructed grid.

    19a is interesting. If you had an anagram indication on “Maize” then scattering BZ (from Belize – the modern name for that country) would be fine in just about any cluing system. As it is the BZ part makes it an indirect anagram and the question arises as to whether that is obvious or not. Eg the rules of The Listener require that there should be no “unobvious indirectness”. Amongst UK dailies some allow obvious single letter feed-ins (eg new for N etc) – others don’t allow any at all. Ximines used to do it and described the lmitations that should be observed in various “slips”. Later,in his notorious book, he banned them altogether.

    Judging by comments here on previous occasions I have the impression that some here take the latter view. Of course the ximmies underhand method of promoting their cause (imposing their heresy on everyone) is to pretend that therir own set ot rules is an all-embracing thing called “cryptic grammar” or “the rules”.

    I don’t know where the Telegraph stands on that these days. They pull new puzzle editors from the newsroom out of those who remain since the Seiken bloodbath that is. Probably they get nobbled early on by at least one of the ximmies on the setting team – which is in contrast to the Telegraph’s tradition – that set by Douglas Barnard under long-serving puzzle editor Val Gilbert.

    Obviously those of us who were around during the golden age of UK cryptic crosswords (it’s really just a tribute act now) know better.

    Many thanks for the fun. I managed without any external “research” but had to guess a few – or dig them out of a rather hazy recollection.

  6. Thanks Maclog
    I managed it all without research too, and agree with CS that your wordplay is helpful enough to get around any unfamiliarity (except for 8d at which I had a couple of guess and checks before picking the right name).
    Clues I liked: 14a – nice surface, no extra words; 32a well-judged whimsical CD; 5, 15d both good anagrams. Also 27a, 33a.
    Some I found a bit weak, like the doctor and godfather, but nothing glaring. 22 I wasn’t very keen on; I’m not sure if the definition quite equates to the solution, I don’t like ‘we have basic’, and I’m not sure what your intention was with ‘though not alphabetical’. I don’t think it works as an anagram indicator – on the other hand in the solution the letters are in alphabetical order, so ‘list that’s alphabetical’ might have been better.
    My main issue with the puzzle was the themed solutions, many of which for me were just random names.

  7. Welcome back, Maclog.

    I have to confess that I didn’t really enjoy this. Like Mucky, I felt that themed answers seemed like random names dropped in to fill the grid, they detracted from the puzzle rather than enhanced it. I had also hoped that you might reduce the number of anagrams this time, but it seems that wasn’t to be.

    “Regular”/”regularly” was twice used as an alternate letter indicator, as was “most”/”mostly” for a final letter deletion. My other reservations, particularly about the grid and certain abbreviations, have already been raised. 33a was probably my favourite clue.

    Thanks, Maclog.

  8. This seemed a strange choice of grid resulting as it did in a very high proportion of 3 & 4 letter answers along with the double unches in 8&22d.
    I found the theme more of an irritation than anything else – like 2Ks I had to consult a list on several occasions.
    Assuming that my parsing is correct, I wasn’t sure about ‘mainly’ and ‘basic’ being used as first letter indicators and I was also doubtful about 27a = writing error and the correctness of the ending used in 15d.

    I did quite like 15,32&33a plus 14d and the description of the ‘complaining neighbour’ made me laugh but overall I didn’t find the solve particularly enjoyable.

    Thanks, Maclog, but I wish you would steer clear of themes at this stage in your progress.

  9. I found the title for the puzzle about 2/3 of the way through – duh. Well, that certainly excuses all the names, and stopped me wondering why 18 was a disaster.

    I recognise the grid from crossword compiler. Obviously not every CC grid is brilliant and it’s worth playing around to see if you can improve it.

    i liked the 5d and esp 15d anagrams.

    I was confused by ‘British Honduras formerly’, thinking surely British Honduras IS the former name, don’t we want is British Honduras NOW? However, I think it can be read as “(what was) British Honduras formally”. So i didn’t think that was clear, and anyway it makes it an indirect anagram. The rule that many seem to adopt is that you must see the letters in the anagram fodder somewhere. So “vacuous Zeeb” might be ok. I started off using the B from British and wondering how I turn Honduras into the missing Z

    24a is cute, but you are clearly using the definition as part of the wordplay without achieving an all-in-one (since the whole clue is not the definition) – so i think this is double duty.

    8d works, but seems a little odd to subtract a direction only to add two others – i think this could work better by specifying that clearly (e.g. replacing direction direction with two others, or similar)

    pity you have nowhere near in 13d and a long way in 17a clueing the same word in intersecting clues.

    I wasn’t sure wether 12a was a tax or an insurance, and whether 27a was a writing error or just clumsiness, but these are probably fine.

    16a “we have” seems superfluous to the wordplay and in 13a you have wordplay used definition, some might argue definition used wordplay captures the directionality better.

    R for Royal and P for President are in Collins but not in chambers, so i think you’re off the hook. newspapers will tend to abide by one dictionary.

    Well done Maclog, congratulations on putting together a themed puzzle, quite a feat.

  10. It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of themed puzzles because rarely do they add anything for me. I am also not keen on names in puzzles, so this this was never going to be one of my favourites.

    Most were well clued though, to be fair, so I look forward to your next.

    Thanks Maclog.

  11. Hi Maclog & All,

    First of all, thank you Maclog for your puzzle.

    Like crypticsue I had little or no knowledge of the items in question but seemed to manage ok nonetheless.
    Those two lights with double-unchecked letters – and only two checked – are not ideal in a grid and I’d avoid them if at all possible in future!

    My favourites were 15a and 27a.

    Some more ‘stream of consciousness’ / thoughts as I went along attached below. Feel free to ignore entirely!

    I hope to catch up with some of you that make it to The George tomorrow, trains allowing!



    Notes whilst solving:
    3d ‘by’ as a linkword – not sure
    9a I initially had an ex sponsor of Liverpool FC, though this didn’t have the air of a themed word.
    1d is there a separate wordplay to this I have missed?
    15a td – very nice
    2d is that ‘mainly’ as a first letter indicator?
    13a ok. ‘this old money’ might be better?
    20a good. It would work without the ‘is’ too.
    24a ok.
    21d good. diehard fans may comment on this one
    11a good; ‘on’ as a linkword?
    5d good; ‘on’ as a linkword?
    10a surface a little bit stilted
    7d ok
    16a extra words padding not used in wordplay
    13d/17a interesting pair
    30d is an H a bomb? not sure
    6d is this a man’s name?
    27a v.good clue
    28a good
    22a I like the alphabetical idea. Perhaps sthg like: “In the meantime we have initially alphabetical list (6)” would be interesting?
    18d def?
    23a good, I think!
    19a looks like Z****** but I haven’t yet got the wordplay.
    33a good
    31d ok; def ok, I think

  12. Thanks Maclog. I was sailing along quite nicely with this – loved some of the clues like the spot in 24a, the excellent 11a plus nice to see my favourite cereal mentioned in 19a. Funnily enough I clued that river once, but never thought to include maize in the clue :) .

    Then I hit a few theme names – I’m another one who dislikes forenames in puzzles, sorry – and a couple of dodgy clues like 7d and 8d. Next I failed on 1d and resorted a bit of revealing. Heigh-ho. Lots to like though.

    For me this theme detracted from the solve rather than adding – with there being so many names that apply, and with the grid that resulted. Never the less, a good achievement to compile it.

  13. I’m surprised to hear that grid is in the CC library (Dutch says): apart from the low checking in 8d and 22d, it’s also said that lights shouldn’t start or end with double unches. The cluing for those should have been extra clear, but unfortunately was poor in 22d and very tricky in 8d (which latter I didn’t manage to get). I thought “list in alphabetical order” would have worked better in 22d and “we have basic” was not good for WH.

    Some of the surfaces were very good indeed, like 12a, 23a (very funny, I thought), 14d, 29d, 30d (but this at expense of cryptic grammar. Is there such a thing as a “bomb belt”, btw?). Others were fairly meaningless, though, and in the case of 6d, total nonsense. What, I wonder, would a “visceral ruse” (29a) be?

    Some of the definitions weren’t great: SPECS (specifications) are more than just guidelines, aren’t they? A yahoo is by no means necessarily a vandal, either and “in the meantime” functions differently from WHILST (22d — again!). In 21d, he(/she!) is, of course, not “a doctor”, but The Doctor (but I liked the clue anyway). I don’t understand why HARVEY is “like number 8” (26d).

    Quite enjoyed solving, despite the problems, and managed to get all but 8d. Thanks, Maclog.

  14. Thanks to Maclog,
    Enjoyed this puzzle but as I had “hatch door” for 32 I got stuck in the SW corner.

    Thanks also to B. D. & PROLIXIC

    D. D.

  15. Hi All
    I tried to leave a reply this morning but couldn’t get on the site..many thanks for all comments…compliments were very welcome but criticism also…
    As in my previous efforts I have been struck by how my mistakes were ones that
    never even occurred to me.
    The grid was just one I randomly picked from CC without suspecting the difficulties pointed out above. Now I know to take this into consideration.
    The theme relates to all tropical storms that had happened last year up until time of setting the puzzle.
    There were other issues raised of a more technical nature and I intend to address them with all vigour when I can get my head around them.
    Once again a big thanks to all who took the time to comment and also to PROLIXIC and BIG DAVE and this website. Cheers!

  16. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – I’m relieved to see that I wasn’t adrift as far as the first letter indicators were concerned. I’m sure you will have given Maclog food for thought when he sets about compiling his next puzzle.

    Sorry you didn’t make it to the S&B today – you were missed.

      1. What a shame – very sorry to have missed you. I only had one chance of a direct train back to Anglesey so reluctantly had to leave at 6pm.

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