Rookie Corner – 220 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 220

Beasts by Perceval

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a debut puzzle from Perceval, who has managed to squeeze 40 clues into a 13×13 grid. 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.

Congratulations to Perceval on his first foray into the Rookie Corner.  In reviewing the crossword, my commentometer score rocketed.  However, it is not as bad is it appears as a lot of the errors were repeated.  Six indirect anagrams is something of a record in the annals of the Rookie Corner.

On the positive side, the clues were concise and the grid did not use obscure words.  With the exception of the indirect anagrams, the intention of the setter was clear even if the clues could have been polished and the surface readings were not off the wall.

For future crosswords I would recommend using a 15 by 15 grid to avoid too many three letter solutions and not using indirect anagrams, only using recognised abbreviations and watching out for repeated wordplay.

The commentometer is 15 / 40 or 37.5%


1 Bubbly? Not half! Winner. (5)
CHAMP – Remove the final four letter from a word for a bubbly sort of wine.  As the number of letters to be removed in not half of them, this clue does not work as intended.  Clues must be precise in their instructions.  As a small matter of etiquette when setting, you do not include full stops at the end of clues.

5 Being healthy is back following way of doing things. It’s an idea. (5)
MOTIF – A three letter word meaning health is reversed (back) after (following) the abbreviation for modus operandi (way of doing things).

8 Band Kiss on March 15th, not 2nd? Might be rusty. (5)
OXIDE -The letter resembling a ring or band followed by the letter representing a kiss and the date in Rome represented by March 15th without the abbreviation for second (2nd).  There is a double step required in this clue that not all editors would permit.  2nd gives ordinal number second that you then have mentally transpose to the unit of time second for which S is the abbreviation.  You should be able to get directly from the word clued to the abbreviation.

9 Spanish man takes anaesthetic for animal? (3)
ELK – The Spanish male pronoun followed by an abbreviation K (the only one I can thing of is Ketamine used by vets for anaesthetics).  K as an abbreviation for Ketamine is not a recognised abbreviation in the main dictionaries.  Setters should use only recognised abbreviations in Chambers, the OED or Collins.

10 Short cleric gives record spin? (3)
REV – Double definition, the first being the abbreviation for reverend and the second that might describe the speed at which a record turns.

11 Liberated boy apparently gives goosebumps. (7)
FRISSON – A homophone (apparently) of FREE (liberated as an adjective) followed by a three letter word for a boy.

13 Give time away after second half. (4)
SEMI – A four letter word meaning give out or radiate without the T (time away) after the abbreviation for second.  Ideally, when setting, you should avoid using the same letter indicators.  As we have already had (albeit indirectly S for second) in 8a, a different indicator should be used.  Also the word for give should have been give out for the correct wordplay.

15 Time without potential for aspiration? That belongs to us. (4)
OURS – The division of time being 1/24th of a day without the letter that is often aspirated.

17 Unknown application causes chat. (3)
YAP – A letter representing an unknown quantity followed by a two letter abbreviation for application.  Again there is a problem with the abbreviation.  Applications is abbreviated as app in the dictionaries, not as ap.

19 It’s repeated that chap has time with artist. (6)
MANTRA – A three letter word for a chap with the abbreviations for Time and an artist.  T for time has already been used in 13 across so is a repetition that should be avoided.  The “that” does not work in the clue.  It does not acts a link word as definition that wordplay and in the clue, that chap indicates a pronoun such as he or him.

20 Give small change to beast, and there’ll be no article to add. (6)
APPEND – Include the definition for pence (small change) in a three letter word for a beast and follow it with the word AND from the clue without the singular article.

21 Unlocks one part of Florida, perhaps. (3)
KEY – Double definition.

23 Ceremonies off without English – palaver. (4)
STIR – An anagram of RITES (ceremonies) without the abbreviation for English.  This is the first of several indirect anagrams.  You will not find indirect anagrams in any of the main daily papers.  Whilst they may be used judiciously in some advanced crosswords, the general rule for new setters is to avoid them like the plague.  They should be regarded as a no-go area.

24 Regrets being upset for addict? (4)
USER – An anagram (upset) of RUES (regrets).  The second of our indirect anagrams.

26 144 following headless Ben’s arrest. (7)
ENGROSS – Remove the first letter (headless) from BEN and follow it with a word that describes a quantity of 144 things.  We have already seen following as a positional indicator in 5a so another indicator should have been used.

29 Equine shrew? (3)
NAG – Double definition, the second being another name for an argumentative person.

31 Jack first gets book, then gives hint. (3)
JOT – The first letter of Jack followed by the abbreviation for Old Testament (book).  Technically the Old Testament is a collection of books and to describe it as a book is a stretch.  Also J is an abbreviation for Jack in its own right so the “first” could have been omitted.

32 Bloke thanks Ray? (5)
MANTA – A three letter word for a bloke followed by a two letter word for thanks.

33 Argument without the French? Less bad, but still heavy? (5)
SQUAB – An eight letter word for an argument without the French masculine directly article and one of the Bs.  Again B is not a recognised abbreviation for bad (slightly odd as G is an abbreviation for good).

34 Rear heartless Polly? Not an easy ride. (5)
BUMPY – A three letter word for the read followed by the outer letters (heartless) of POLLY.


1 The Greens – on a roll? (5)
CRESS – Cryptic definition of a salad item that may be added to a roll or sandwich.

2 Caribbean music around. Why? (3)
ASK – An anagram (around) of SKA.  The third of our indirect anagrams.  Also, why is an interrogative – is does not mean the same thing as the solution.

3 Have-nots sell love for university entrance. That’s service! (4)
POUR – A four letter word for people who do not have materials goods or money with one of the Os (love) removed by U (university entrance).  

4 An unpleasant smell coming from my respiratory condition, they say. (6)
MIASMA – A homophone (they say) of MY ASTHMA (my respiratory condition).  The homophone is not a very good one here as the two word sounds are not the same.

5 Twitter presence, old not English, makes comment. (4)
MEMO – A four letter word for a trending idea on Twitter or other social media with one of the letters for English replace by an O (old).  There is another repetition of E for English (used in 23a).

6 Go off over hill. (3)
TOR – A reversal (over) of a three letter word meaning go off or putrefy.

7 Reduced team against south? (5)
FIVES – The abbreviation for versus (against) converted to a number via Roman numerals and the abbreviation for South.  Another double step that would not find favour with most setters.  Against to Versus to V to Five involves four steps that is unfair on the solver.

11 Hit proper drunk. Game on. (7)
FIXTURE – A three letter word for drug hit followed by an anagram (drunk) of TRUE (proper).  The fourth of our indirect anagrams.

12 Organised students amassed functioning power, left in a confused state. (7)
NONPLUS – The abbreviation for the National Union of Students (organised students) includes (amassed) a two letter word meaning functioning, the abbreviation for power and the abbreviation for left.  The definition here “in a confused state” would required a solution ending in ED.

14 Meticulous demand (5)
EXACT – Double definition, the second in the sense of extortion.

16 In part, sporran generated row. (5)
RANGE – The answer is hidden in (in part) SPORRAN GENERATED.

17 YMCA on vacation with 1000 horny beasts! (3)
YAK – The outer letters (on vacation) of YMCA followed by the abbreviation for 1000.  Dictionaries are divided on whether the solution can be a plural noun (like sheep).

18 Talk around for money. (3)
PAY – A reversal (around) of a three letter word for talk.

22 What usually comes after night, so to speak? That’s not right. (6)
ERRANT – A word that could come after Knight (night so to speak).

23 American following flag, not good, leaves hollow. (5)
SINUS – A four letter word meaning flag or indicate without the abbreviation for good followed by a two letter abbreviation for American.

25 Hotel Upsilon is fancy. (5)
RITZY – A four letter word for a fancy hotel followed by the English letter to which Upsilon is often translated from the Greek.  As the solution is named after the hotel, perhaps a greater separation between the solution and the wordplay could have been used.

27 Group without Queen feel nothing (4)
NUMB – A six letter word for a group without the two letter abbreviation for the current queen.  I think that the definition would be better as feeling nothing.

28 Sponge lived sadly – bad! (4)
SWAB – An anagram (sadly) of WAS (lived) followed by the abbreviation for bad.  The fifth of our indirect anagrams an another repetition of wordplay (albeit an unrecognised abbreviation).

30 Creature with arm off. (3)
GNU – An anagram (off) of GUN (arm).  A sixth and final indirect anagram.  Also it was unfortunate that the wordplay gives an equally valid solution of RAM as an anagram (off) of ARM.

31 Some ganja might give sticky situation. (3)
JAM – The answer is hidden in (some) GANJA MIGHT.

35 comments on “Rookie Corner – 220

  1. Bravo Perceval for sticking your head above the parapet – I’m sure you’ll get a lot of good advice from Prolixic.
    There are a few indirect anagrams here (e.g. 24a, 11d and 30d) which are generally regarded as no-nos. I think you need to pay attention to verb tenses and singular/plurals – for example in 11a a liberated boy would be ‘freed son’ not ‘free son’.
    My favourite clue was 34a.
    I hope that you’ll benefit from all the good advice you’ll get and that we’ll see you again in the Rookie slot.

  2. Wow! That was interesting. Glad to have completed without recourse to the reveal button and thank you Percival, I really enjoyed myself.
    Your approach was highly original, with a very pretty grid – 13×13 – and fourfold symmetry – very nice gridfill too.
    Your clues used both indirect anagrams and also quite a bit of latitude with some of the definitions, both those things aren’t normally seen, so that made it pretty difficult in places, though not unsolvable; indeed it sort of added to the challenge once I realised what was going on.
    Favourite clue was 19a.
    So even if it’s not the sort of thing we’re used to seeing in the dailies, it was certainly good fun and typical of the unexpectedness that brings solvers back to Rookie Corner again and again.

  3. Hi Perceval,

    I very much agree with Gazza’s and Maize’s comments already made. The grid was a very good 13×13 construction & the clues largely had a nice succinctness to them.

    I did wonder at one stage if the puzzle’s Title directly referred to the Indirect Anagrams, as well as some of the other content – I am probably being slow on a Monday morning!

    It did take me two sittings to solve – I diverted off to today’s Guardian Cryptic and Quiptic online for something easier to solve mid-way through (!) – and I struggled with fully parsing the last few so await Prolixic’s comments with interest.

    It’s hard to comment more without spoiling. I do have a list of comments that I made against each clue that I am more than happy to email to you if you ask Big Dave to kindly put us in touch – though I won’t be offended if you don’t ask!

    A slightly different puzzle and enjoyable for it – thank you!


    PS If anyone here fancies trying a Listener crossword at the easier end of the spectrum, then my latest was published in The Times last Saturday, entitled ‘Moon’.

  4. Hi Perceval
    Quite an unusual puzzle. I liked the grid – not a bad idea to start with shorter clues as there’s less to deal with – and enjoyed the solve, though I guessed a few from the crossing letters and still can’t see what you’re getting at (7d, 11d particularly)
    Your cluing approach is also a bit different, to the extent that I’m not sure whether comments based on the usual daily cryptic benchmarks are appropriate. If that is what you’re aiming at, you’ll probably need to pay more attention to the common conventions. Apart from indirect anagrams (requiring the solver to construct an anagram from a word that’s not given in the clue, as in 30d), you might look at which abbreviations are acceptable (generally, those with an entry in Chambers or Collins) and ensuring that your definitions are given in the same part of speech as your solutions.
    For my first crossword, I assumed I knew enough just from a bit of solving experience. One important rule I hadn’t twigged was that wordplay has to cover all the letters in the solution, so for most of my clues I indicated parts of the word but ignored the rest, which made it just about incomprehensible. You’ve done nothing so heinous. Fortunately, there are plenty of good guides to clue writing – there’s one by Prolixic on this website – and a bit of study definitely pays off. Good luck with your next, and thanks.

    1. I may not be correct here but I thought that the definition in 7d ‘reduced team’ referred to five-a-side football with the wordplay being V (against) taken as a Roman numeral followed by S(outh). I think that 11d is FIX (drug hit) + an (indirect) anagram of TRUE i.e. proper.

      1. I agree on 11d, Gazza.
        I wasn’t at all sure on 7d, but wondered if it was an &Lit hinting at the game they play at Eton etc., made up of wordplay which is five-a-side football (as you say) plus S for south? Doesn’t really matter though, a few of the clues were sort of ‘impressionistic’!

      2. Ah, that works for 7d, thanks Gazza, i hadn’t seen it – though slightly naughty in that against does not mean five, so it’s not a synonym.

        1. Okay – slow on the uptake there – I see Gazza’s interpretation now… makes sense :)

  5. Welcome, Perceval.

    On the positive side I think you displayed several good ideas, but I found too many faults for this to be an enjoyable solve unfortunately.

    I’m never a fan of too many three-letter words, so when I saw that the smaller than normal grid was peppered with them, my heart sank immediately. I counted seven indirect anagrams (were there any non-indirect ones?) and my repetition radar was kept busy with “off” and “not” each used more than once as anagram and deletion indicators respectively. “Bad” was twice clued to mean the letter “b”, I’ve not encountered that particular abbreviation anywhere before. Add into the mix some dubious homophones like 11a and a few stretched definitions and odd surfaces, it was never going to be my favourite Rookie puzzle.

    I thought that the more succinct clues were generally the better ones, e.g. 32a and 6d.

    As Gazza rightly says, Prolixic will offer you invaluable advice to improve, I hope you will return with a 15 x 15 grid and more conventional anagrams.

    Thanks, Perceval.

    1. i thought 11a was dubious but chambers says it a long ee sound – also in the online collins you han hit a speaker button – defintely long e.

        1. ah – I didn’t have to admit my ignorance at the correct pronunciation then. as for second syllable, well, seen worse…

          1. I think frisson is a French word used in English but still pronounced with a French accent (or the speaker’s nearest approximation). I.e. the final ‘n’ isn’t sounded. That’s how I’ve always thought it was pronounced and how the Collins online voice sounds to me. The word son rhymes with fun, so really it’s a different vowel and different final consonant. Close, but no cigar for the homophone, then and “apparently” is a weak indicator at best. I got it from crossers and def.

            Btw, Dutch, it’s “ignorance ‘of'”, not ‘at’, isn’t it?

  6. Dear Gazza, Maize, Enocta and Murky,

    It’s Perceval (Jack) here. Thank you very much for the constructive feedback! I have been solving voraciously for just over a year now (so still relatively green behind the ears!) and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to receive advice from more experienced hands.

    I was aware that indirect anagrams constituted a bit of a faux pas, but given the short length of the solutions (in the absence of any software at home, I decided to base the puzzle on a recent codeword I had completed, so was somewhat limited on that front) I felt compelled to increase the level of challenge in the clues. That said, I accept that they have been overused here and shall endeavour to avoid in future.

    Gazza, with regards to 11a, I would contend that ‘liberated’ and ‘free’ are indeed synonymous in their roles as adjectives not verbs, however concede that this could have been made clearer/fairer!

    Enocta, I would be delighted to receive your comments so will be sure to ask Big Dave to connect us!

    Many thanks again to all of you. I’ll be taking everything on board for the next one.

    Have a great start to the week,

  7. For far too long I thought 30D was a straight anagram of arm, which fit with the title but made the last few in that corner impossible to solve. I ended up revealing two or three letters. Several answers in the grid that I can’t parse. Still, I admire anyone who’s willing to put their effort up for critique. I certainly couldn’t compile a crossword to save my life! Thanks Percival, and I look forward to your next one.

  8. Hi Perceval,

    I would heartily agree with the comments left by Silvanus above and suggest that it would benefit you enormously to equip yourself with the guide to writing cryptic clues penned by Prolixic, who will be reviewing this puzzle.

    Thank you for braving the ‘lion’s den’ that is Rookie Corner and I hope that you will return armed with new skills.

  9. Hello Perceval, welcome to RC.

    I’ve nothing to add to previous comments, but well done for putting a crossword together at all.

    Prolixic’s review will be invaluable, so be sure to understand every point he makes and I have no doubt you will quickly improve.

    Thanks Perceval – I look forward to your next.

  10. Hello Perceval and welcome! You probably won’t want me repeating the feedback you’ve already had, but I don’t think anyone’s yet pointed out that you managed to fit a pangram into a 13×13! Quite an achievement!

    Having said that, I strongly advise you to switch to 15×15’s from now on. Not that there’s anything wrong about 13×13, but 15×15 is what solvers are used to, and (according to Boatman) it gives just the right amount of challenge for the experienced solver to occupy themself on the 8:19 before it pulls into Waterloo*!

    In a way I think that it’s a pity that indirect anagrams are considered taboo (Ximenes was very explicit about this) which in effect invalidates several of your clues. A pity, I say, because once I realised that indirects were your 5a, I quite enjoyed solving some of them (e.g. 23a). Best, I think, is to keep them short – an indirect anag. of more than five letters is definitely a no-no. But you will probably be told to avoid them altogether.

    I’m not so happy with some of your homophones, I’m afraid – maybe you need to have a think about those. I am a sometime sufferer of the ‘condition’ in 4d, but if I were to utter that word – pronounced the way I pronounce it – to my doctor, he’d be asking me how many beans I’d eaten the night before! :-) It just isn’t close enough for a homophone – sorry! And I have similar doubts about 11a.

    Anyway, good luck and hope to see more from you – after Prolixic has had his way!

    *This, of course, is not always true….

  11. Another thing I meant to add, regarding your grid, was that lights with no unches (unchecked letters) tend to dissatisfy some solvers, since one can write in the solution without even looking at the clue! Four of your three-letter words in the centre fall into that category. It may be the norm in American puzzles, but best avoided on this side of the Atlantic!

  12. Hi Perceval,

    congratulation on putting together a puzzle! And thanks for sharing it. The gris is interesting, normally people would use a 13×13 grid in order to have fewer clues. And a pangram! (which i missed, thanks Laccaria). A smaller grid with so many 3-letter clues does look very bust though, and after a while the 3-letter clues get a bit tiring. I saw some beasts but i worry i might be missing something.

    There a multiple issues which no-doubt Prolixic will explain very well, but here are just a few, hoping that this is useful:

    I only counted 4 indirect anagrams, can’t believe i missed three. One of them is fixed by using a reversal instead (23a). Anyway, in my books they are an absolute no-no.

    1a not exactly half, so “most of bubbly”
    8a 2nd doesn’t work for me to give S.
    13a quite hard an slightly unfair, since this is really ‘give out’ or ‘give off’. I had to reveal it, because i didn’t have 11d.
    19a ‘that’ i think is extra
    31a don’t need first since J=Jack in cards. I don’t like “then” but ok.
    33a b not acceptable abbreviation for bad. the abbreviation has to be in the dictionary.
    1d don’t think you need ‘The’
    2d I think ‘why?’ counts as an example of a question, but not sure it does as example of the answer
    3d you don’t need entrance since u=university. Had to check the answer could be a noun – it can, you’re safe.
    6d ambiguous – over can apply to go off or hill
    11d didn’t get because of the indirect anagram
    12d answer is a verb, definition not.
    17d answer is singular, definition plural
    23d i’m missing something – how is flag=sing?
    25d same-sidey – the ‘fancy’ is named after the hotel

    I hope you enjoy all further feedback, and good luck with the next one!

    1. 23d I think is another indirect anagram – ‘sign’ reducing to ‘sin’ (not good).

      1. I don’t think it’s an anagram – it’s sign (to flag, using semaphore for example) without the G[ood].

        1. Sorry, Gazza – you are, as always, quite correct. I was erroneously thinking of ‘sign’ as a synonym for ‘flag’.

  13. I managed to complete most of this, despite the indirect anagrams etc. In fact, a three or four-letter indirect anagram is really no harder than some other devices which require one to think of a synonym then carry out some operation on it. However, they’re probably best avoided as there is a big taboo on them.

    I confidently put in RAM, but had to rub it out to accomodate the crosser at the first letter and still don’t know why that very crosswordy beast is the right answer.

    For good advice on cluing, see also Alberich’s guide to Ximenean cluing (which is the sort that goes down best here) at:

    Reading Peter Biddlecombe’s analysis of entries to the Sunday Times cluing comp is also useful:
    especially the ‘other clues’ section, which highlights poor practice.

    Finally, Don Manley’s Chambers Crossword Manual is excellent and you can pick up an old edition second-hand very cheaply.

    1. Two or more links in a single comment flags that comment as potential spam and sends it into moderation. No need to re-enter, it will be approved as soon as I see it.

      1. Thanks for clarifying, Dave. I knew there was something about links in comments. Things can go a bit weird when commenting on my android phone, anway. At one point I was presented with a Captcha (not normally used on this site?). Unfortunately it wasn’t obvious what text I had to copy to where or how to submit it, so I just duplicated my comment with DOT and DASH for ‘.’ and ‘/’ etc.

        1. Let me explain.

          The WordPress anti-spam filter is called Akismet. I have set its option which flags two or more links in a comment. At this point another process, called Conditional CAPTCHA (their capitals, not mine), jumps in and serves up a captcha to potential spam comments. This latter process has intercepted well over a million spam comments and reduced what was at one time a large number down to a trickle. A small price to pay, I hope you will agree.

          1. It’s great that you’re catching all that spam and I have no objection to captchas, but I didn’t know how to do this one. It had some technical information then “I’m a human” written in a text box and an instruction to “copy the text” (which text? where to?) and no Submit button that I noticed.

  14. Hi again Perceval.
    By now you will have seen Prolixic’s in-depth analysis and you should take heart in the fact that, even if your debut attempt doesn’t quite hit the spot, you are being given every encouragement to continue. I’m sure your next one will be most welcome – and a considerable improvement! (Hope this doesn’t sound patronising).

  15. Dear all,

    I am very grateful for the thorough feedback (especially Prolixic’s review) and for all the encouraging comments.

    Clearly, being a debut attempt, there is a great deal to improve upon, and this is why I submitted it to the lions’ den in the first place!

    So, thank you. I have taken everything on board and hope to be back before too long with something a little more refined.


    P.S. This is a very welcoming community – not something one can typically say of internet forums!

  16. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. A lot of lessons for Perceval to take on board but it sounds as though he’s keen to improve. I hope he chooses a more friendly grid for his next puzzle.

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