Rookie Corner – 216 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 216

A Puzzle by Metman

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Metman last appeared in Rookie Corner back in November last year. He has been trying to take on board the feedback, and today offers his latest 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.

Prolixic has updated his Cryptic Crossword Guide to include a section on maintaining the grammar in both the surface reading and the cryptic reading and to reflect the appointment  of Chris Lancaster as the Telegraph Puzzles Editor.

A review by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Metman.  I suspect that the choice of grids that Metman has used for his last couple of crosswords has not allowed him to showcase his developing setting skills.  Grids with 40 clues inevitably contain a lot of short letters words as solutions that makes cluing more difficult.  Shorter answers are often more obvious than longer answers and therefore trickier to clue to disguise the solution.  However, I will comment on the clues themselves.  The commentometer reads 5/40 or 12.5%.  Hopefully, Metman’s next grid will have a better construction with longer solutions.  Some of the surface readings could be improved but my feeling is that wordplay and accurate definitions come first and polishing the surface reading comes next in terms of technical development.  In most cases the clue construction is there but there are still some notable exceptions.


1 A row heard in the head (5)
SKULL – A homophone (heard) of scull (a row)

4 Retribution gained by swapping bird for shabby goods (3,3,3)
TIT FOR TAT – A three letter name for a small bird and a three letter word for shabby good put in a phrase that would mean they were exchanged.  A stylistic point but with the “for” already in the clue, it would have been better to have found another way of expressing this – perhaps “bird with shabby goods”.

9 Small number dance in front of the queen but this one will not succeed (2-5)
NO-HOPER – The abbreviation (small) of number followed by a three letter word for a dance and the regnal cypher of the current queen.  The use of but as a link word as wordplay but definition is not ideal.

10 Clued badly with vacant smile cut off (7)
SECLUDE – The outer letters (vacant) of smile followed by an anagram (badly) of clued.  Although A on B in an across clue can mean B followed by A, A with B means A followed by B.  Perhaps “Clued badly after vacant smile cut off” would have given a better cryptic reading.

11 First past the post heading off towards the middle (5)
INNER – A six letter word for a person who comes first with the first letter removed (heading off).

13 Type of grinder that may be involved in bridgework (5)
MOLAR – Cryptic definition of a tooth.

15 Vessel built in Samarkand (3)
ARK – The answer is hidden in (built in) SAMARKAND.

16 Tired without wings so displayed resentment (3)
IRE – Remove the outer letters (without wings) from the first word of the clue.

17 Take time out from rough budget to correct errors? (5)
DEBUG – An anagram (rough) of BUDGET after removing the T (take time out).

19 Most prominent cook has one (5)
CHIEF – A four letter word for a cook includes (has) the letter representing one.  Has is a very weak containment indicator.  Here the surface reading and the cryptic grammar could have been improved with cook eats one.

21 The Spanish for example, heard why they mourn (5)
ELEGY – The Spanish for the followed by the abbreviation for “for example” and a letter that sounds like (heard) why.  As heard has already been used as a homophone indicator, perhaps a different indicator could have been used here.  Perhaps “announced why”.

23 Book held by a knight perhaps (5)
TITLE – Double definition.

24 Petition for a woman? (3)
SUE – Double definition.

25 Sounds posh but not me (3)
YOU – A homophone (sounds) of the letter that indicates posh.  The link word “but” does not really work as “wordplay but definition” and if it is part of the definition, perhaps some stronger indication that we need the opposite of “not me”.  Perhaps “Sound posh – me?  Quite the reverse” 

26 Cause smell to be discussed (5)
WREAK – A homophone (to be discussed) of REEK (smell).

28 Come to them for acceptance (5)
TERMS – Cryptic definition that completes the phrase “come to *****” meaning to agree something.

29 Unusual site aim is to engender friendships (7)
AMITIES – An anagram (unusual) of SITE AIM.

31 Unfashionable support may put your welcome in jeopardy (7)
OUTSTAY – A three letter word meaning unfashionable followed by a four letter word meaning support.

33 Essentially, muddled Nelly engaged in silly feud (9)
NEEDFULLY – An anagram (muddled) of NELLY FEUD.  The cryptic instructions here are not helpful.  The cryptic reading of the clue tells you to put an anagram (muddled) of NELLY inside (engaged in) an anagram (silly) of FEUD but this does not give you the solution.  Whilst you can reach the solution by putting an anagram (silly) of FEUD inside NELLY, you do not need an anagram indicator for Nelly.  Perhaps “Essentially foolish person describes silly feud”?

34 Decide to lose 500 then change to warm up (2-3)
DE-ICE – An anagram (change) of DECIDE after removing a D (to lose 500).


1 It is bound by taste perhaps, to be made to respond to stimuli (9)
SENSITISE – The IT IS from the clue inside (bound by) the word that describes taste.

2 Huge inn demolished to bring about mental breakdown (7)
UNHINGE – An anagram (demolished) of HUGE INN.

3 See power cut (3)
LOP – A two letter word meaning see followed by the abbreviation for power.

4 End of coarse yarn: repeat monotonously (5)
THRUM – Double definition.

5 Sit upright, it is shorter (3)
TIS – Reverse (upright) the SIT from the clue.

6 Ad hoc curtains show turn up (5)
OCCUR – The answer is hidden in (show) HOC CURTAINS.  Whilst the Ad does not contribute to the wordplay and therefore may not find favour with some, I think that where it forms part of a phrase “Ad hoc” it is not objectionable.

7 Poet Eliot initially has a French friend which could be overwhelmingly destructive (7)
TSUNAMI – The initials of the poet Mr Eliot followed by the French for “a friend”.

8 Reportedly week behind time. Small adjustment required (5)
TWEAK – A homophone (reportedly) of WEEK after (behind) the abbreviation for time.  A stylistic point but in a down clue, is A behind B or is A under B.

12 Mild expletive appears sanguine (5)
RUDDY – Double definition, the second describing the colour of blood.

14 To run away is briefly acceptable (5)
LEGIT – Split the answer 3,2 to get a word meaning to run away.

18 But note it’s a small hill (5)
BUTTE – The BUT from the clue followed by a two letter word for a note on the musical scale.

19 Credit estimated shortly will be as high as possible (5)
CREST – The abbreviation for credit followed by the abbreviation (shortly) of estimated.

20 Complimentary manner used at the swimming gala? (9)
FREESTYLE – A four letter word meaning complimentary followed by a five letter word meaning manner.

22 Performing due rite is learned (7)
ERUDITE – An anagram (performing) of DUE RITE.

24 Titters about accelerating music (7)
STRETTI – An anagram (about) of TITTERS.

25 Hope for old affirmative with sailors (5)
YEARN – A three letter old word meaning yes (affirmative) followed by the abbreviation for Royal Navy (sailors).  The link word is the wrong way around.  At the moment you have definition for wordplay but the usual form is wordplay for definition.

26 This is smoked fish (5)
WHIFF – Double definition the first being a slang word for a cigarette and the second a fish relating to the the turbot.

27 Smart but eccentric clothes are a knock-out alright? Unknown! (5)
KOOKY – The abbreviation for knock-out followed by a word meaning alright and a letter representing an unknown quantity.  The solution is an adjective that describes smart but eccentric clothes but the definition requires a noun as the solution.  Also, the use of “are” a linkword does not work as you have definition are wordplay as the resulting cryptic reading.  Perhaps in this clue you could have had “Like smart but eccentric clothes – a knock-out alright?  Unknown.

30 A note in isolation (3)
SOL – The answer is hidden in ISOLATION.

32 Thanks to daughter for very little (3)
TAD – A two letter word meaning thanks followed by the abbreviation for daughter.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner – 216

  1. A few of places, eg 4d, 24d and 26d where a bit of BRB checking was required but it was for confirmation rather than word-searching. The NW corner where I usually start ended up being the last to yield but it did yield without too much stress once I had got onto the setter’s wavelength through the rest of the puzzle. Lots of well put together clues that were a pleasure to unravel.
    Thanks Metman.

  2. Thank you Metman, a very enjoyable Rufusesque puzzle so very appropriate for a Monday.

    Clues I really liked:

    13a – on reading the clue, I instantly thought of the answer, but had reservations that it was correct – good clue.

    28a, 31a, and 20d,

    Some comments:

    10a – I might have mis-interpreted the clue but I started off by thinking that the ‘vacant smile’ followed the anagram (badly) of clued. For me, ‘with’ does not indicate after.

    24d – This may be some real nit picking – although the answer is an anagram of titters, there is no indication that the answer is plural pieces of music.

  3. I found this mostly pretty easy and the cryptic grammar was largely accurate, but a lot of the surfaces didn’t seem to mean much, so I think that’s where there’s most room for improvement.

    I didn’t know 18d or 22d before. Clues were easily parsed though, and I guessed 22d would be the type of word it is. Not sure the def is very accurate, but don’t know enough about it to judge really.

    I don’t think the def in 20a quite works, but it’s hard to define in that sense.

    27d doesn’t quite work either: “clothes” is surplus (even though that def is in the context of clothes per Chambers) and consequently “are” is wrong too. Adjectival/nounal confusion. That word always makes me think of this song:

    In 1a, the initial “A” is surplus and doesn’t work with the cryptic meaning of “row”, which I think is only verbal.

    26a and 26d were both excellent clues, with really convincing, snappy surfaces and perfect wordplay. However I had to use Chambers Word Wizard to get 26d and only recognised it from the first meaning, confirming the second by BRB. In fact I’m not that familiar with the first meaning really, but heard it used recently in an anecdote by a setter (can’t remember which — thought it was Rufus but maybe not) about his father (I think) using the word in winning a slogan-writing competition.

  4. With forty clues Metman certainly provides value for money. As KiwiColin noted there were a few obscurities but for the most part this was pretty straightforward. I agree with Whynot that some of the surface readings (e.g. 16a and 6d) don’t make a great deal of sense and could do with a bit of polishing.
    The clue that I liked best was 11a.
    Thanks Metman – looking forward to your next one.

  5. Thanks Metman. An enjoyable puzzle and a nice way to start the week. 24d was a new word to me, as was one of the meanings to 26d. The grid was solver-friendly, which was nice, and you have clearly worked on the surface readings. Eight 3-letter answers made for eight fairly straightforward solves, but you have clued these well. Favorites were 3d and 14d, although in the latter I would have enumerated it (3,2) since the five letter answer is an abbreviation.

    Well done and keep up the good work.

  6. I’ve been one of Metman’s fiercest critics in the past, but it was always in the hope that he would produce something much better the next time and display distinct signs of improvement, but I’m still not seeing that elusive progress unfortunately.

    Admittedly the anagram count has been reduced this time (tick), but there is still a penchant for grids containing lots of three and five-letter words I see, and many of the solutions were much too simplistic and unchallenging (24a, 25a, 5d, 8d, 30d and 32d were prime examples). Certain clues like 18d (use a three letter word that’s already in the clue and add two more letters) are very poor really for someone who has been submitting Rookie puzzles since 2015. As Whynot says, the surfaces remain a problem area, the worst offenders this time I felt were 16a and 34a. In a number of cases, the surface of the clue would read better if turned around, “Repeat monotonously end of coarse yarn” for 4d, or “Fish that is smoked” for 26d, for example.

    The cryptic grammar was flawed in 6d, and “queen” in 9a should ideally be capitalised. I also agree with Whynot about 27d.

    Thanks to Metman for the puzzle, I’m sure that he must find it frustrating that, almost three years on from his debut, the same issues that cropped up then continue to be present in 2018.

    1. I think your points are well made, Silvanus, but I would say in Metman’s defence that there is a place for the more unchallenging cryptic clues. Admittedly, whilst most of this site’s readers are likely to be used to
      Telegraph-style toughness, the gentler clues serve the rookie solver well. That’s the trouble with having such a broad audience – what is simplistic to one solver is not so to another.

      1. Hi Kelotoph,

        I’ve no problem whatsoever with easy clues per se, but I wish Metman would use them more for longer words and not his favoured three or five-letter ones. To me, it seems like something of a cop out on the part of a setter when two thirds of your solutions consist of fewer than six letters.

  7. Given that much of the adverse criticism levelled at Metman’s last puzzle concerned the proliferation of 3-letter answers and the cluing of same, I was very surprised to see that he opted to use the same grid this time around.

    I did notice improvement in some of the surface reads but there were still several that didn’t pass muster – 16,25&34a plus 4&6d getting the thumbs down from me. I also wondered whether the obscurities came about as a result of the setter having got himself boxed into a corner.

    Problems with individual clues have already been mentioned by others so I won’t repeat them here but please Metman could we see a different grid from you next time?

    Many thanks for bringing us another puzzle – I have nothing but admiration for anyone who chances their arm at this setting game!

  8. I never remember previous puzzle comments so my comments are focused on the one currently on my clipboard. Some overly simplistic clues and some off-the-wall surfaces. I didn’t know the fish part of 26D but I do remember Wills Whiffs! I have no idea what 4D is all about, but generally I thought the puzzle was a good effort. Thanks Metman.

  9. My thanks to all who have taken the trouble to pass comment on what appears to have been a rather dismal effort. The grid, I admit contained too many 3-5 letter words. This was not deliberate and I do not particularly favour short words in the grid. My mistake(one of them anyway) was to stick with the original grid for my revised version. Once again, my apologies for such a poor puzzle and I promise to try harder next term

  10. I’m all for some fairly simple clues – it means I can get going without relying totally on anagrams for that.
    There were some things that I didn’t know but they’ve all been mentioned already.
    My first answer for 13a was ‘tooth’ which rather screwed things up for a while.
    I liked 4, 19 and 26a and 12 and 27d. I think my favourite was 31a.
    With thanks and congratulations to Metman for the crossword and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic for tomorrow’s review.

  11. Hi Metman,

    I’m a bit late starting today: most of what I’d have said has already been said.

    There are generally some good clues e.g. 17a and 29a where I like how the surfaces make good sense, though the shortness of many of the others makes them perhaps a little too straightforward in places for the solver.

    You might, in your next puzzle, wish to start with a tried and tested blank grid – e.g. pick a good one from the Telegraph or Times – to get the average clue length up whilst maintaining a decent amount of ‘checking’ between clues. The wordplay you use within clues is good: applying it to longer clues would make it even better.

    Another simple test for a grid is the number of clues in a 15×15: if it starts creeping above 32 clues then that begins to ring (gentle) alarm bells for me. I think I counted 40 in your puzzle.

    Hope this helps


  12. Metman, thanks for a most enjoyable puzzle. Some criticism expressed above but, it entertained, added value to my day and I have the utmost respect for someone who puts such effort into producing something as good as this for our enjoyment. Thanks

  13. Well it’s all been said but I will have my say anyway.

    This was not a good choice of grid, some of the clues are benign and some surfaces don’t make much sense. Given so many 3 & 5 letter answers, it should have been relatively easy to push the boat out with the wordplay. I admit I’m a little disappointed for you.

    I don’t think this is a ‘dismal effort’ by any means, but unfortunately you are making the same mistakes as in the past, and I’m sure you can do much better.

    Thanks, Metman, for putting the puzzle together at all, and I look forward to your next with interest.

  14. As a recent arrival on this site I haven’t seen Metman’s previous puzzles so I can only comment on this puzzle in isolation. My first impression was that this was a “fussy” grid with so many short words and 40 clues in total. One disadvantage of having so many is the difficulty of avoiding repetition both in the way clues are constructed and in words used for such things as anagram indicators etc.

    But it was a pleasant enough solve; my only holdup was in reading 29ac as if the last two words led to a verb ending’-ise’ as the answer, but there is no such word in either the BRB or Collins and I had to re-read the clue before I got the right answer and could get 30dn as my last one in.

    1. Hi Exit,
      If it’s ever of interest to you – look at the top of the page and the bar that gives options (just under Mary’s birthday banner today!). Hover over ‘cryptic crosswords’ and then select Rookie Corner from the drop-down box. That will bring up all the Rookie puzzles that have been published and you can click on any of them to bring up both the puzzle and the review/comments.

    2. They can all be found here

      PS BD – Is there not any way I can tick the box ‘always’ (agree with the storage and handling of my data by this website)?

  15. I don’t think I’ve done any of the last few Metmans, but I do have a clear impression of the earlier ones, and I thought this was a very significant improvement.
    Favourite clues were 1a, 9a, 21a, 25a, 3d, 14d, 20d and the best of the lot was 7d, I thought – very nice.
    Nothing wrong with 40 clues per se – I recently got a puzzle published with 46. Also I didn’t find this as easy as some commenters above. Well some clues were easy, sure, but a swathe through the middle had me scratching my head for quite while.
    Many thanks Metman.

    1. Many thanks Maize. You and a few others have made some very encouraging remarks which are appreciated. It seems all is not lost!

  16. Late in with my response, but have to say I really enjoyed this puzzle. Great workable clues, with 4a being my favourite. Nothing too obscure or sporty. Just didn’t know the musical term in 24d, and could have got it if I had googled, but then it does not count in my book. Well done Metman – I would love to see more puzzles like this.

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