Rookie Corner – 224 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 224

A Puzzle by Atrica

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

The latest setter to make his debut is Atrica. As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review by Prolixic follows.

A very good debut crossword from Atrica.  There was a very good mix of clues and good use of indicators with no repetition.  Another one like this and I suspect Atrica will quickly progress to the NTSPP.  The commentometer reads at 1/30 or 3.33%.


9 Ernst penned orders in an odd way twice before, making ambiguous statements (6,9)
DOUBLE ENTENDRES – A word meaning twice goes before the odd letters (in an odd way) of the first three words of the clue.

10 Syrup from maple, say, containing a constituent of salt (7)
TREACLE – The type of plant of which a maple is an example includes (containing) the A from the clue and the chemical symbol for Sodium Chlorine (constituent of salt – sodium chloride).

12 Fan self to be refreshed a bit (7)
SNAFFLE – An anagram (to be refreshed) of FAN SELF.

13 More convincingly, 25 incorporates defensible structure in place of propaganda (1,8)
A FORTIORI – The answer to 25 across has the abbreviation for public relations (propaganda) replaced by a four lefter word for a defensive structure.

14 Healer ignoring religious text remains believer in God (5)
DEIST – The person who you would go to to heal a toothache omits (ignoring) the abbreviation for New Testament (books).  I don’t like the remains as a link between the wordplay and the solution “becomes” might have been better.

15 A rent in the runner? (7)
ATHLETE – The A and the THE from the clue includes a three letter word meaning to rent.

18 Golf permits platform from which one can swing (7)
GALLOWS – The letter represented by golf in the Nato phonetic alphabet followed by a six letter word meaning permits.

21 Lacking this, egg has velocity of zero (5)
OOMPH – The letter representing the shape of an egg followed by a phrase 1,3 meaning a velocity of zero.

23 Must anger result when these are involved? (9)
ARGUMENTS – An anagram (involved) of the answer would give MUST ANGER.

25 A church leader, I gathered, by deduction (1,6)
A PRIORI – The A from the clue followed by the name of a church leader and the I are put together (gathered) 

26 Sign on railway leads to place of enforced silence (7)
LIBRARY – One of the signs of the zodiac followed by the abbreviation for railway.

29 Plant leaflet with holly and ivy represented (4,2,3,6)
LILY OF THE VALLEY – An anagram (represented) of LEAFLET HOLLY IVY.


1 Change flow of water to run uphill (4)
EDIT – A word for the flow of water is reversed (to run uphill).

2 Pretty rhymes with “orange”, for example (4)
CUTE – A word that rhymes with description of something of which an orange is an example.

3 “Sail upwind, Captain!” cried Spooner, in monochrome garment of knotted cloth (5,3)
BLACK TIE – A Spoonerism of TACK BLIGH.

4 Perturbed, Eratosthenes denied assent (surprisingly!) to this (6)
HERETO – An anagram (perturbed) of ERATOSTHENES after removing the letters in ASSENT (the surprisingly indicating that the letters in ASSENT appear in a different order when removed).

5 Secreting male covers up part of lower body (8)
STASHING – A four letter word for a male deer around (covers up) part of the leg (lower body).  As covers in a down clue implies going over or above words, perhaps “hides” would be a better indicator here.

6 California, Florida and Oregon are not Indiana, Louisiana and North Dakota (6)
INLAND – The abbreviations for the states of Indiana, Louisiana and North Dakota.

7 Latent in zealot, if far gone to the left, is a type of vandalism (8)
GRAFFITO – The answer is hidden and reversed (to the left) in ZEALOT IF FAR GONE.  I don’t have problem with to the left in this clue as the indicator represents the position of the letters in the clue as a whole.  Where care has to be taken is where the wordplay indicates the positioning of various parts of the wordplay in the solution where the solution is a down clue.  For example A over B in a down clue implies A followed by B not A around B.

8 Fireproofing, perhaps to the maximum possible extent, as stated (8)
ASBESTOS – A dubious homophone (as stated) of “as best as” (to the maximum possible extent).  As the end sound does not work particularly well in the homophone, perhaps a better way of cluing this should have been found.

11 Official receives appeal for renovation (5)
REFIT – A three letter word for a match official followed by a word for sex appeal.

15 Delightful bead or a blemish covered up? (8)
ADORABLE – The answer is hidden in (covered up) in BEAD OR A BLEMISH.

16 In regulation you discover self-determination (4,4)
HOME RULE – A four letter word meaning in followed by another word for a regulation.

17 I came back to eat cod and shrink in waistline (8)
EMACIATE – Reverse (back) the I CAME from the clue and followed by an anagram (cod) of EAT.

19 The pulse of the capital? (4,4)
LIMA BEAN – A cryptic definition by reference to the capital of Peru.

20 Found from westernmost Huron to easternmost Ontario, according to reports (5)
WATER – A homophone (according to reports) of H (westernmost Huron) TO O (easternmost Ontario.

22 Bad spelling? Who do bad spelling? (6)
HOODOO – How someone who cannot spell might spell WHO DO.

24 Vessel in kitchen (6)
GALLEY – Double definition of a type of boat or vessel and another word for a kitchen.

27 Get together with girl after haircut (4)
ALLY – The name of a girl with the first letter removed (after haircut).

28 Cellist gives up mother for stringed instrument? (2-2)
YO-YO – The name of a famous cellist without the MA (gives up mother).

57 comments on “Rookie Corner – 224

  1. That was enjoyable. There were quite a few where we had a pretty good guess at the answer from the definition and then had to work a bit harder on the wordplay. A couple we are still a bit puzzled about and still need to do some thinking on exactly how 14a and 20d work. We know they are not to everyone’s taste but we enjoyed the 3d Spoonerism.
    Thanks Atrica.

      1. I think you will have a big smile when the penny drops on 14a.
        Many thanks Atrica. Some really nice, original clues here, still three to fully parse. Favourite 29a

        1. Hi Gordon,

          I’m sorry that I did not reply to your comment before, but glad that you liked 14a. Unfortunately I don’t think the wordplay in that one would have been of much help in solving it, but maybe I’m wrong.


    1. Thank you, 2Kiwis! I think that 14a would probably work better in reverse, as a clue for “dentist”, since probably no-one is going to associate the word “healer” with that particular profession.

  2. Very enjoyable, although, like the 2Kiwis, there were some guesses from definitions and checkers and then unscramble the wordplay, and there were a couple of Hmms on answers where the ‘parsings came later’ especially 20d.

    Favourites – the 25a/13a combo and 19d.

    Thanks Atrica.

  3. Thanks Atrica! I just lost my nearly-posted comment so I will try again!

    My favourites were 19, 21, 23 and 25 for their plausible surfaces and accurate wordplay.

    A few – eg the 15s – had slightly surreal surfaces – you may wish to focus on making them more believable in their own right in future. [Easy to say, I know :-) ]

    I liked the maple/tree as well



    PS Anyone else here going to be at The Listener event on Saturday (see right)? If yes, I look forward to meeting you there – do say hello!

    1. Hi Encota,

      Thank you for the encouraging comments. Perhaps, as silvanus suggests below, I should not have put in two latin phrases. I originally wanted to have “a priori” and “a postiori”, but the latter would not fit. Maybe it was a bit lazy to clue one with reference to the other.


  4. Entertaining puzzle with some original ideas – thanks Atrica. I thought that 29a was a good anagram and I got a laugh from 20d but top clues for me were 12a (for the cleverly disguised definition) and 19d.
    Keep up the good work – I look forward to your next puzzle.

  5. Welcome, Atrica.

    Lots to like here, plenty of originality and some excellent clues, but a few where either the surface or the wordplay needed a little more polish before submission.

    My favourite was 19d (although I think it would be even better without the first definite article), with honourable mentions too for 23a, 29a and 1d. I think two Latin phrases in one puzzle is too many, and my repetition radar noticed the use of “cover up” twice as a containment device. Very little wrong technically I’d suggest, but you certainly can’t use “to the left” as a reversal indicator in a Down clue (7d). Much as I like a good Spoonerism, 3d left me unconvinced.

    All in all, a very promising debut though, you’ve certainly got a setter’s eye for a good clue, I think you just need to be a little more judicious in deciding which ones make it through to the final draft and tweaking surfaces like 28d which detract from the puzzle’s overall quality. Congratulations and many thanks, Atrica. I also look forward to your next one.

    1. Hi Silvanus,

      I noticed, as you did, the “to the left” in 7d and thought “that’s wrong”. However I remember we had a discussion several years ago on this point. The counter argument goes along the lines “The answer may be vertical in the grid but the clue itself, including ‘zealot if far gone’, is written horizontally from left to right so we have to move from right to left (not bottom to top) to find the hidden word.”
      Unfortunately I can’t remember what the conclusion was. What do you think?

      1. Hi Gazza,

        That’s interesting, I don’t recall that particular discussion, so unfortunately I can’t throw any more light on it, but instinctively I felt it was wrong. If “going west” wouldn’t be acceptable as a reversal indicator in Down clues, then I don’t see why “to the left” would be, to be honest.

        I’m more than happy to accept Prolixic’s final adjudication!

        1. I’m sure you’re right that ‘going left’ and ‘going West’ are both unacceptable for reversals in a down clue. I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not sure that convention makes sense.

    2. Hi Silvanus,

      Thank you very much for the helpful comments. I actually thought about changing “to the left” to “in the wrong direction” in 7d but decided not to, reasoning that the clue would be read from left to right. In a way I’m glad I left it alone, because now I’ve learned something! I agree that 28d is a bad clue, actually in many ways. If you know the cellist it’s a write-in. For some reason I thought the idea of a musicians abandoning their mothers for instruments was funny…
      Using “cover up” twice is an annoying oversight on my part!


  6. Welcome Atrica – a fine debut on BD! Probably on the ‘less-tough’ side overall, though with one or two fairly challenging ones thrown in.

    Some people may not like your grid, with 13a and 23a having two consecutive ‘unches’. In particular some might quibble at 13a seeing as it’s a rather unusual phrase. That’s solvers for you – personally I’m quite OK with that, though I’d avoid consecutive unches when in my setter’s hat.

    Loved 20d – a clue a bit out of the ordinary, I think we can forgive its length: very ingenious! Also liked 4d, where you cleverly avoid the un-Ximenean trap which, otherwise, some orthodox Ximmies would have laid down the law about. Well done!

    28d: some might complain of not having heard of the cellist concerned. I think it’s fine. As to 14a – I have a personal gripe! :-) I’m due to pay a visit to the aforesaid ‘healer’ tomorrow; he’ll do anything but ‘heal’ I reckon – not something I’m looking forward to!

    A couple I couldn’t parse. In 2d I think I’m missing something very ingenious – after all, it’s well known that “orange” has no rhymes! I’ll wait for prolix (or whoever’s scheduled) to explain. Also dubious about 16d – ditto.

    Love your handle by the way! Is it meant to be a tribute to the peerless Arachne (as mine is, in a way, to Araucaria)? I can assure you, we have plenty of your namesakes scuttling around our house at this time of year (arachnophobes – beware that link!).

    Look forward to more ‘webs of deceit’ from you!

      1. Yes – it is a tribute to one of his favourite setters – he wanted to change it at the last moment and I hope I did the right thing in persuading him to stick with it, in spite of the gruesome images on Google!

    1. Thank you, Laccaria! The handle was indeed a tribute to a setter I admire very much. I felt a little hesitant about using such a reference, but Eratigena atrica is a rather ugly spider that weaves inelegant and ramshackle webs (although, in all fairness, it does its best).

    2. Hi Laccaria. 16d – four letter word for ‘in’ + four letter word for ‘regulation’. Works for me.

  7. Phrases like ‘too clever by half’ spring to mind but that is perhaps unfair – the whole style of the puzzle simply didn’t appeal to me which I accept is a purely personal perception. Others will – and indeed already have – find it right up their street.

    Managed to fill the grid eventually but if someone can put me out of my misery with regard to 2d I’d be extremely grateful.

    Thank you, Atrica – my apologies for not being on your wavelength.

      1. That explains it. But I’m not too convinced, sorry – as with all homophones there’s always got to be a dissenting voice: might as well be me….

        1. I’m not saying it’s a great (or even a good) homophone but I think it’s what the setter intended.

      2. I think this particular “homophone” is straying a little into “assonance” territory.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Thank you for your comments! 2d is supposed to have “cute” rhyme with “fruit”, which is maybe not a perfect rhyme (“coot”, perhaps, would be). Maybe that is an example of trying to be too clever. I was trying to write at least one of every clue type in this puzzle, plus a few experimental ones (2d, 20d, 23a).


      1. It’s a perfectly good rhyme imo: both words end in the sound “oot” after the consonantals (“fr” and “ky”, respectively). Very clever play on the well-known fact that “orange” itself has no rhyme (except that I seem to remember some clever-clogs coming up with a (Welsh?) town whose name does). Of course, when I say it’s clever, I really mean I’m clever for getting it!

        Many people who haven’t studied phonetics, including many who do crosswords, find it difficult to disentangle the sounds of words from their (often irrational) written representations. I think that’s why, quite apart from the question of regional accents, homophones and Spoonerisms seem to cause the most trouble. Of course, some who write clues have similar problems sometimes (see ASBESTOS? Actually I did wonder whether you and some others might pronounce the final vowel as a schwa (q.v.), so it would be ok, but Chambers doesn’t support that).

  8. Almost all the time I find myself very much in agreement with Jane but I have to differ on this one, which I think marks a very fine debut in Rookie Corner.

    A few of the surfaces, notably 15a, 15d & 28d, are a bit iffy, but most are good. I’m not keen on 3d (particularly the very long-winded definition) and 8d. Is 28d really an instrument?

    The answer to 12a was a new meaning for me and had me reaching for my BRB. My favourite was 20d with 29a, 19d & 22d deserving special mentions too.

    Many thanks and very well done, Atrica.

    1. Thank you for the helpful comments, Rabbit Dave. One thing I’ve learned from this process is that I need to work on hiding definitions. I enjoy puzzles in which part of the battle is figuring out which end of the clue is which. I don’t think that’s very difficult in my puzzle.


  9. I thought this was a pretty solid effort, so well done and thank you to Atrica.

    My niggles have already been covered pretty much, but I will add that I think the definition in is missing from 19d, and using the noun ‘result’ as an anagram indicator after the fodder is often noted by Prolixic as not ideal. We shall see.

    Look forward to your next.

    1. Hi LetterboxRoy,

      Thank you for your encouragement! I have a lot to think about now. in 23a I was trying to write an &lit, in which the anagrind is “involved”, but maybe it doesn’t work. 19d is supposed to be a CD. I tried to put one of every type of clue into this puzzle, since of course it’s an experiment in setting. When I’m solving, I don’t usually like CDs all that much.


  10. Hi Atrica
    I’m a bit surprised how faint some of the praise is for this. I thought it was great. You’ve really pushed the boat out on inventive wordplay, and kept it concise, accurate and solvable. 6d, 15a, 29a were my favourite clues. The Spoonerism was excellent – I found the def a bit weird, but why not? Thanks, very enjoyable.

  11. Really enjoyed it too.
    Nice mix of clues and a few smiles along the way made the solve very pleasant.
    Favourite 21a.
    Liked the 13/25 combo.
    The only thing that bothered me was the plural form of 9a. Being a French infinitive, it’s odd to see an S at the end.
    Thanks to Atrica.

    1. Hi jean-luc,

      I agree that 9a is somewhat ungrammatical from a French perspective. In fact, I’m not really sure how it should be pronounced in England. I’ve heard the “double” either in an unrepentant anglophone version or in franglais.

      1. Hi Atrica,
        It’s true that in French the plural form would be Doubles Entendre but even then it makes no sense to us.
        Really looking forward to your next one.
        Thanks to Prolixic for the explanations.

  12. I started with an error as I misread the setter’s name as Africa!

    But things looked up and I very much enjoyed this.

    There was one moment where I may have given up: I saw what 20d might be quite early and thought “surely not? That’s way too indirect” (yes, if I saw it early, that’s an argument it’s not too indirect, but I still think it is!) … so I put it in, checked the word and saw that it was correct.

    Fortunately I decided to carry on, and am glad I did. The other major question mark I have is that 2d’s wordplay is similarly one step removed. Though I got it, that’s borne out by some of the other comments. A cute idea” – I was really taken with something that rhymes with “orange”. :)

    It’s nice to see the experimental ideas – Rookie Corner is the perfect place to try those out – as long as care is taken to keep things solvable. This was that.

    I really liked 17a, 12a, 25a, 1d and the idea behind 6d. My favourite is 22d.

    Many thanks Atrica – I look forward to seeing you again.

    1. Hi Kitty,

      I’m glad that you persevered! It is very difficult for me to gauge how difficult the clues are. I did try to put in some gateways but I certainly did not think that 20d would be one of them!


    2. Rhymes for “orange”? There’s an antiques business based in Lewes called “Gorringe’s” – I suppose if you drop the “s” then you’ve got your rhyme (something nags at me – wasn’t there a mail-order company years ago, with the same name?).

      In one past effort of mine, I wanted to clue the word WASPS (another famous non-rhymer). I think I clued it something like Workers finding it hard to get employment in Limerick – alluding to the type of comic poem of course! But I think my clue was too obscure…..

      For those who think MONTH has no rhymes – some people have suggested “Millionth”. I’m not convinced, because the rhyme comes on an unstressed syllable. I must consult Mrs L, who is a better poet than I am!

      1. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who would like rhyming clues. We’ve come to accept “according to Spooner” — how about “according to Lear?” I like your “employment in Limerick” very much!

        1. Atrica
          There was a clue for the word HAIKU in the Guardian a while back where the definition lay in the syllabification of the clue. It was highlighted in the Guardian Crossword Blog but I haven’t managed to track down either the puzzle or the blogpost.

      2. Laccaria, you’ve reminded me that a poem I studied for O-Level English (by Vita Sackville-West, I think) begins with the line “There is no rhyme for “wasp” in th’ English tongue” (or summink).

        PS I don’t get the “unemployed” rhyme

  13. Many thanks to Prolixic for the review of the puzzle, and to everyone who took the trouble to solve it and to make comments. I’ve learned a great deal from your feedback and feel sufficiently encouraged to have another go!

  14. Prolixic: pedant’s corner – re 10ac: “….chemical symbol for chlorine….” (not sodium) :-)

  15. To quote Silvanus: “Lots to like here, plenty of originality and some excellent clues, but a few where either the surface or the wordplay needed a little more polish before submission.”
    No need for me to repeat detailed comments, but as regards 7dn I was a bit surprised at first by ‘to the left’ but decided that it referred to the clue rather than the placing in the grid it was OK – but it’s one of those borderline cases where it’s probably best avoided.
    Overall very enjoyable.

  16. Thanks to Prolixic for the review. I was waiting for detailed comments / the review before bringing up my questions, but I have a few outstanding.

    9a: I wondered if “in an odd way” really implies every other letter of. It seemed to scream anagram, and it doesn’t quite seem to say to me what is intended.

    21a: wasn’t sure about the definition.

    26a: no mention of the convention whereby on means after in across clues, but that’s a convention I’d be happy to bin. Still, maybe something to flag up to a Rookie just in case they don’t know it.

    (As an aside, libraries nowadays don’t seem to be as described – ours has regular sing-along times for little kids, and it can be fun trying to concentrate when these are going on. Well, I’ve learned some new songs…)

    6d: as I said, I loved, but wasn’t sure the definition was sharp. Would it maybe have been better put something like:
    What California, Florida and Oregon are not: Indiana, Louisiana and North Dakota (6) ?

    7d: I thought the answer is a bit of that type of vandalism, not the type of vandalism.

    16d: I wasn’t sure about wordplay you discover definition.

    17d: does fodder cod work to indicate the required anagram?

    20d (see also 2d) I’ve already talked about. Just really rather surprised to see no further comment on them.

    All of the above are questions, not criticisms, and they are minor points anyway. I still enjoyed it .

    P.S. When looking at my list of question marks I see that I’d accidentally left 5d out of my list of favourites. Nice surface! I didn’t mind covers up.

    1. Kitty,

      Thank you for the detailed comments. They are extremely helpful to someone who is a complete Rookie (this is literally my second crossword — the first was something I did for some work colleagues), although I have solved crosswords for a while. I think, as Jane pointed out, that I have tried a little too hard to be original in this one.

      9a At first I had “oddly”, but that word is such an obvious flag for an alternate letter clue that I tried to include a misdirection.
      21a There really isn’t a definition: it was supposed to be &lit. The technical problem for me was that something with a velocity of zero (from the wordplay) is the opposite of something with oomph!
      26a I wasn’t aware of that convention. Thanks for pointing it out — in future I’m going to try to steer clear of grey areas (when I recognize them!)
      6d Your suggestion is a big improvement
      7d That had not occurred to me, but you have a point.
      16d I put in the “you discover” for the surface. The “you” is the solver. Maybe a bit clumsy.
      17d I thought a bit about that, but fodder (cod i.e, fake) was my justification

      Incidentally, I was a bit disappointed that so many people didn’t like the surface of “a rent in the runner”. The “runner” in question was supposed to be a carpet!

      1. You’re most welcome, Atrica. I may certainly have been a bit picky, but thought it would be more helpful to include everything.

        Usually rookie puzzles get quite a few detailed comments which are very useful to the setter (and which enable me to sit back, enjoy the solve, and leave only more general ones without guilt!), but that wasn’t the case with this. As it happened, on Monday I had made an earlier start than usual and had jotted some notes, so thought I should put them here.

        Thanks again, and congratulations on the puzzle. Please tell your family not to come and visit my house!

    2. Kitty, good point about the libraries; I was going to say that. Maybe insert “traditionally”? After rejecting MONASTERY as too long, I spent quite a while trying to make NUNNERY fit the clue till I got helpful crossers.

  17. Late checking in on the review but many thanks to Prolixic. That reading on the commentometer has set the bar pretty high for other Rookies to follow!
    Well done, Atrica.

  18. Late to this, but I found it very enjoyable and generally very well clued and I thought some of the criticisms unjustified. I entirely agree with Prolixix about “gone to the left”: the reversal is in the letters of the clue, which are left to right.

    15a and 19d favourites. In 27d, is a word’s first letter really its hair?

    Btw, Arachne has been mentioned as an inspiration, and anyone who hasn’t done her Guardian Prize for July 14th or at least read the 15^2 blog should do so now.

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