Rookie Corner – 231 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 231

A Puzzle by Marg

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a second puzzle from Marg. 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 Marg.  This was trickier than her first crossword but none the worse for that.  The fact that most of the comments have been on minor quibbles about personal preferences in creating clues indicates that the high standard of the first crossword has been maintained.  As the commenometer is only 1/2 out of 30 or 1.6%, I think that the standard achieved deserves rapid promotion to the pages of the NTSPP.


1 Neglected European port is making comeback (7)
RIPOSTE – An anagram (neglected) of E (European) PORT IS.  As an adjective meaning in a dilapidated state, I think that neglected is fine as an anagram indicator.

5 Top turning around has Baby Spice in difficulty (7)
DILEMMA – Reverse (turning around) of a three letter word for a top followed by the the first name of Ms Bunton, also known as Baby Spice.

9 Old Greek character barely knew judge (5)
OPINE – The abbreviation for old followed by a letter of the Greek alphabet and the inner letters (barely) of knew.

10 Highest speed, possibly, set by East German on motorway (9)
UPPERMOST – The type of drug of which speed is an example followed by the single letter indicating a motorway and the German word for East.

11 Lacking inspiration? (10)
BREATHLESS – Cryptic definition of someone unable to breath.

12 Tree, from New Zealand originally, reveals its many uses (4)
RIMU – The initial letters (originally) of the final four words of the clue.

14 Italian jerk’s text message describing setter generates wild feelings (12)
ROMANTICISMS – A five letter word for a person from Italy, a three letter word for a jerking movement and the abbreviation for a text message around a single letter indicating the setter.

18 Excessive boasting about completion of crossword is more than room can take (12)
OVERCROWDING – A four letter word meaning excessive and a seven letter meaning boasting around the final letter (completion of) crossword.

21 Pole with crystal box (4)
SPAR – Triple definition the first being a pole on the ship, the second a type of crystal and the third a word meaning to box.  I agree that the with in this clue is not the best link word though it can mean and to give A and B C as the cryptic construction.

22 Mixed up misfit remains odd (10)
RANDOMISED – An anagram (misfit) of REMAINS ODD.

25 Go! Toilets are finally free (4,5)
TURN LOOSE – A four letter word for a go or shot at something followed by a four letter word for toilets and the finally letter of free.

26 Lifted shawl and passed quietly (5)
STOLE – Triple definition, the first meaning pinched, the second a type of shawl and the third meaning have crept or passed quietly.

27 Last of birthday presents might contain nuts (1-6)
Y-FRONTS – The final letter (last of) of birthday and a six letter word meaning presents or hosts an event.

28 Loopy badge showing small flower? (7)
ROSETTE – Double definition, the first being a badge made from looped bits of ribbon and the second a whimsical definition of a small type of flower that would smell as sweet by any other name.


1 Shapes head of hair into semi-Afro mass going both ways (6)
RHOMBI – The first letter (head of hair inside half of the word Afro followed by the abbreviation for mass and a two letter word meaning both ways sexually.

2 Legs evenly covered by proper briefs (6)
PRIMES – The even letter of legs beneath (covered by) a four letter word meaning proper.

3 Fan of secret porn after unloading? (5,5)
SPENT FORCE – An anagram fan of OF SECRET PN (porn after unloading) with the whole clue providing an unseemly definition that would not be published in the national papers but might make Viz or Private Eye.

4 Just a question before boarding train in Chicago (5)
EQUAL – The two letter abbreviation and the A from the clue inside the abbreviation of elevated railway (train in Chicago).

5 Put down Act protecting independence in employment (9)
DEPOSITED – The abbreviation for independence inside a four letter word for a job with these letters inside a four letter word for an act.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with these type of Russian Doll clues.

6 Bird with large chest (4)
LARK – The abbreviation for large and a three letter word for a chest.  With as a link word meaning comprising is fine in my book.

7 Misconstrued Sodomite is most sullen (8)
MOODIEST – An anagram (misconstrued) of SODOMITE.

8 Good for nothing? (8)
ALTRUISM – Cryptic definition for charitableness.

13 Saves backward Simple lad beset by flashbacks without heroin (10)
ECONOMISES – Reverse (backward) the name of a simple person in a nursery rhyme inside a six letter word meaning flashbacks without the abbreviation for heroin.

15 Strange old lady left American holding nothing after a rejection (9)
ANOMALOUS – The A from the clue and a two letter word for rejection followed by a two letter word for an old lady, the abbreviation for left and a two letter word for an American around the letter representing nothing.

16 Bypassing Chief of Accounting, crude test exposes business manipulating figures (8)
CORSETRY – A six letter word meaning crude without the A (bypassing Chief of Accounting) followed by a three letter word for a test or go at something.

17 Fixer of mismatched socks? (8)
REPAIRER – Definition with the second part indicating putting back together matched pairs of socks.

19 Classify papers missing a couple of pages (6)
ASSORT – Another word for identity papers with both Ps removed (missing a couple of papers)

20 Wayward header gets stick (6)
ADHERE – An anagram (wayward) of HEADER.

23 In the end, girlfriend behind poet’s miserable (5)
DREAR – The final letter (in the end) of girlfriend followed by a four letter word meaning behind.

24 Man cracking infernal anagram (4)
ALAN – – The answer is hidden in (cracking) in INFERNAL ANAGRAM.  If cracking can mean inserted in as a cryptic indicator for an insertion, it is logical that it could also indicate a hidden word that is found inserted in the two words.

46 comments on “Rookie Corner – 231

  1. Very enjoyable and not particularly easy for me! Especially liked 10 and 25 across. Was almost thrown by the poet and a couple of anagrinds.

      1. My apologies! That is an ugly term, I agree. What I meant was that I was confused by a couple of anagram indicators, even in 1 across if I have understood the clue correctly.

  2. We’re still working on exactly how 3d and 21a are put together but think we have the right answers. Quite a tricky exercise for us but a lot of fun sorting out some clever wordplay. 12a was of course a write-in for us but suspect it might be a bit of a challenge for others.
    Thanks Marg.

  3. Lots to enjoy – I particularly liked the triple definition clues and 16 and 17d. Like the 2Ks, I’m still trying to work out how 3d ‘works’

    Thanks to Marg for the crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic for the review

  4. Very enjoyable with some lovely touches – thanks Marg. I see I’m not the only commenter confused by 3d – I can work out the anagram but I can’t spot the definition.
    I particularly liked 10a, 25a, 8d and 23d (and of course the big laugh at 27a).

        1. After I discovered the &lit possibility, I searched for a content deletion indicator that could euphemistically make the whole clue be the definition. ‘after unloading’ was the best I could come up with, but it appears from the comments on 3d that it doesn’t work.

  5. Thanks Marg
    Another very good puzzle. Some quite tricky wordplay and well disguised definitions made it an enjoyable challenge. I liked 8d, 17d and, er, 3d, which is very well constructed, though it leaves the solver quite a lot of working out to do after getting the answer.
    I didn’t like ‘with’ in 6d. I have a problem with with generally as a link word – I find it unnatural, though it seems to be accepted. Here it’s also misleading which added to my dislike.

    1. Thanks, mucky. I’m probably wrong, but I’d convinced myself that ‘definition with wordplay’ was acceptable because in phrases like ‘a puzzle with 30 clues’ and ‘a word with six letters’, ‘with’ effectively means ‘made of’.

  6. Nice puzzle, enjoyed most of this but do have one or two reservations.

    Not at all sure about 3d and have no wish to have a large discussion about it.

    8d needs ‘being’ or similar doesn’t it – otherwise the ending would be -tic?
    I’m sure someone will correct me.

    Thanks for the entertainment Marge, and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. I think 8d would work if good is used as a noun. My entry ends in an M by the way, though I did think about whether it should be an M or a T.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed Marg’s debut puzzle earlier in the year, but I have to admit that I didn’t warm to this one to anything like the same degree. I felt that some of the wordplay was over-complicated, presumably deliberately so in order to crank up the difficulty factor, but for me it detracted from the puzzle’s entertainment rather than enhanced it. I’m not a fan of “Russian Doll” type clues like 5d at the best of times, and a clue like 13d that included reversal, containment and deletion elements made me feel that the setter was trying too hard on occasions.

    I had similar thoughts to Mucky about “with”, I don’t care for it as a link word either, but I’m sure others merely accept it as a synonym for “and”.

    That said, there was much to admire and some excellent surfaces to boot. My ticks went to 9a, 10a (although I’m not sure “set” is really needed), 11a, 18a, 22a and 2d.

    Many thanks, Marg. You have already shown that you have an eye for a good clue, I’d suggest that you don’t need to make some of your constructions quite so elaborate.

    1. Thanks, silvanus.

      For the most part, the complicated wordplay came about because I couldn’t find simple decompositions of many of the long answers. In hindsight it all went wrong at the grid fill. After the grid I used first time out was criticised, this time I picked a popular Telegraph grid that fitted four of the shorter answers I wanted to include. I found after constructing many clues that there weren’t alternatives to the problematic long answers that would fit even if a quarter of the grid was thrown out. I’m not sure I want to do this again, but if I do I will make sure the long answers go in first, with a good idea how they will be clued. 5d was deliberate because I didn’t realise that the Russian doll construction was frowned upon. Live and learn.

      I’m surprised by the comments on ‘with’ as a link word, in part because I’ve seen Prolixic using it in his own puzzles. I’ve said more about why I thought it was OK up above in my response to mucky.

      1. My, and I think Silvanus’, objection to with is only a personal dislike. Your reasons for using it are sound. I wouldn’t have mentioned it had it not been that I wanted the clue to be bird + L = chest (in which case there would be no link word, which is ideal in my opinion).
        I wouldn’t say Russian doll clues are frowned upon. They’re common enough, and often admired. I liked 5d and you managed it all in only 7 words.

        1. Thanks. I do try to avoid link words whenever possible. In 6d I used ‘with’ because it introduced the ambiguity you mentioned (bird = L + chest or bird + L = chest ?).

        2. Yes, Mucky is right, it’s purely a personal preference on my part. It’s the same with “Russian Doll” clues, they’re not frowned upon as far as I’m aware, it’s just that I’ve never liked them much!

  8. Many thanks Marg – there is a lot to like here. I think stuff like “barely knew” and “highest speed” etc. is excellent. I thought 10a had a great surface. I also enjoyed 18a, perhaps mainly for the crossword reference, 25a is brilliant, and 6d is fun while 17d is very cute.

    You see them occasionally, but i’m not keen on clues like 27a with a verbal definition and a nounal answer. I’d prefer “that might contain nuts” or ” – these might contain nuts” or similar

    I wasn’t keen on some of the indicators – neglected, porn, cracking – do they really give you the right instructions?

    The triple def in 26 is fine with “and” but i don’t think “with” works in a triple def (21a).

    i got stuck for a long time in NW (1a,2d,3d) and SE, where i was looking for a poet and i don’t think i’ve ever seen 19d used as a verb (i guess i would just use the last 4 letters), but it’s fair enough.

    Many thanks and congratulations

    1. Thanks for the kind words and thoughtful comments, Dutch.

      Regarding the indicators: Chambers has neglected = treated carelessly and I imagined a collection of letters treated carelessly as being jumbled (also, the Chambers Crossword Dictionary does have neglected listed as an anagram indicator). porn is part of the fodder in 3d, where the indicators are fan (for the anagram) and after unloading (contents deletion). For cracking, Chambers defines crack as ‘to fracture, the parts remaining in contact’ which seemed at the time like a good indicator for a hidden.

      In 21a, I included ‘with’ because I read somewhere that any legal link word could be used in a multiple definition, but thinking about it now, ‘definition 1 made of definition 2’ does look questionable.

      1. I don’t think I’d have a problem with ‘treated carelessly’ as an indicator, since it implies an active treatment, where to me neglect is an absence of treatment, which is where i was coming from i guess – not all synonyms are interchangeable. Others may think differently. Do be careful with the CCD lists. With the lists, you have to think about when the word could mean the right instruction, and then use it with the correct positioning and grammar. There are plenty of dodgy words in that list.

        Sorry, excuse me, of course porn, in its unloaded form, is part of the fodder – I was stupidly returning to my first (wrong) parsing. Fan is fine, I think, in terms of blow about. A good noun/verb play, ‘fan of’ is great.

        cracking/fracturing sounds more like an insertion indicator to me. For a hidden, i’d prefer something closer in meaning to “covered by (fodder)”

        I would disagree that any legal link word can be used in a multiple definition. Makes no sense. ‘def1 producing def2 for def3’? I think multiple definitions are simply a list of definitions, which is why ‘and’ works to join the last two elements of a list. Remember link words should fit with overall cryptic reading and grammar, you can’t just use any legal link word at the best of times.

        Please remember these are just one person’s thoughts – other people may well think differently – and that i thought highly of the crossword

        1. come to think of it, i think ‘or’ works in double/triple definitions, suggesting alternative definitions

          1. i just saw anax/elkamere quite happily using ‘def1 for def2’ so i guess that’s ok too, suggesting that any of the “producing” style links are ok

            1. Your mention of anax has reminded me where I saw the guidance I half-remembered. In this article by anax on multiple definitions, he says “The setter can use any form of link word(s) to describe the first definition as also meaning the second.” and “On the comparatively rare occasions when the setter uses three (or more) meanings, there is no obligation to choose between having link words between all meanings or none at all; there is complete freedom to mix and match”

          2. See also 20a in today’s Toughie (wed sep 12, donnybrook). That pretty much blows everything i’ve said about triple definitions out of the water. So definitely nothing more than a preference!

          3. See also 20a in today’s Toughie (wed sep 12, donnybrook). That pretty much blows everything i’ve said about triple definitions out of the water. So definitely nothing more than a preference!

        2. Thanks, Dutch. In 1a I was also picturing port buildings and structures crumbling through neglect, which made neglected feel OK as an anagram indicator.

          I’ll have to search out the reference about link words in multiple defs because you’re right, one can’t stick just any link in. I must be misremembering.

          Regarding your last sentence, I’m grateful for your thoughts and I appreciate the time you put into the comments above. They are helping me become better at setting.

  9. I thought this was jolly good and jolly difficult – it’s taken me ages.
    I still have a couple of answers that I don’t quite ‘get’ although I think they’re probably right.
    My answer for 1d is a great example of BD’s principle of, ‘If you can’t explain your answer it’s likely to be wrong’ – my last letter was wrong.
    I missed a lot of anagram indicators – that’s my fault and not a criticism of the setter.
    I particularly enjoyed 11 and 25a and 8 and 17d – next time I’m asked what I do I think I’ll say I’m a 17d!
    With thanks and congratulations to Marg for the crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic for the review.

  10. I’ve not looked at anyone else’s comments so some of mine may repeat what others have said.

    I thought this was a great crossword, with some brilliant clues, but let down in just a few places:
    in 10ac ‘speed’ seems unnecessary for solving the clue, although it contributes to the surface;
    similarly in 21ac for ‘with’, and here it actually makes the clue harder to solve – ‘and’, as in 26ac, might have been better even though it meant repeating the use of ‘and’;
    in 3dn, unless I’ve missed something, ‘after unloading’ is doing double duty as definition and wordplay and I’m not sure that the question mark is sufficient indication of this.

    But on the other hand I thought 18ac, 22ac, 26ac and 1dn were really great, but my five star clue is the brilliant 16dn – such a superb misdirection.

    1. did you mean “set” in 10a? in which case i agree – “set by” works, but so does “by”, for both surface and cryptic reading. (‘speed’ gives you ‘upper’)

      1. I agree that the ‘set’ could be omitted, and for a long time I had just ‘by’ in that clue. I strive to pare clues as much as possible, but I made an exception and added ‘set’ just before submission because I felt that many of my clues had a similar structure, and introducing ‘set’ altered the cadence of the clue and moved it closer to being a sentence. Also, for some reason, ‘set by’ as a juxtaposition indicator appealed. But it’s certainly fair to criticise its inclusion.

  11. This was very challenging indeed but very enjoyable on the whole with generally very smooth surfaces. However I did find a few clues over-convoluted which took a tiny bit of gloss off a fine puzzle.

    I’m not sure why Simple needed to be capitalised in 13d, and I can’t fully parse 28a & 23d.

    Special mentions go to 25a, 26a, 27a, 16d & 17d.

    Many thanks, Marg, and very well done.

  12. Thanks Kath, exit, and RD for the kind words.

    RD, Simple is capitalised because that’s what the BRB does with the name of the simple lad.

    I’ll leave explanations of 28a, 23d, and the clues that exit mentions for Prolixic’s review (hoping rather nervously that he agrees with my parsing notes).

  13. Congratulations to Marg on the well-deserved promotion! Prolixic has cleared up my questions and revealed some subtleties that I had not noticed before. I do find it amusing, though, that the dilapidated state resulting from neglect (in 1 across) could lead to one particular rearrangement of letters to provide the answer! A contravention of the second law of thermodynamics? This is such a clever puzzle that I am probably missing a layer of irony, though!

      1. Marg, Indy 8704 by Nestor

        Rise of science lots practise after those people got round resistance: it’s about energy (14)

  14. Thanks for the positive review and for the unexpected promotion, Prolixic. Thanks also to everyone who commented above to explain what they liked and what they didn’t and why. As others have said, that unique feedback is extremely helpful when one is trying to improve as a setter.

  15. Thanks, Prolixic, for explaining 10ac. I didn’t see ‘upper’ as a type of drug, and took it as an adjective referring to ‘set’ as in teeth (natural or false) – hence ‘speed’ seemed unnecessary.
    Marg: If a clue such as 10ac can be parsed in a different way from the way you intend, someone is sure to find that way – take that as a compliment!

    1. Thanks, Exit, I will, but it’s also a reminder of why clues shouldn’t contain anything superfluous.

  16. Excellent puzzle and rather tough. I ground to a halt more than once, but the quality of the clues I’d solved made me determined not to give up, and I finally completed it, albeit using Word Wizard for a couple near the end, waiting for a delayed train this evening.

    I didn’t understand 21 across even though I had the answer as a candidate from first sight of “box”. I took the pole to be S(outh) and couldn’t see how the last three letters were “crystal”. I think it’s the disputed “with” that threw me and I don’t think that really works.

    3d was wrong in so many ways, starting with the image one doesn’t really want brought to mind. I don’t think the clue really defines the answer: the first word is fine, but the second? Not really. I don’t see how “fanning” suggests a change of order anyway.

    I’m not keen on “neglected” to indicate an anagram either, as it suggests not doing something. I spent a long time trying to think of a port I could neglect (leave out) an E from to produce a word for “comeback”, and it was only seeing RIPOSTE in a wordlist that made me realise it was an anagram.

    Some of the wordplay was quite mindbending (I think of 15d, for example), but all worked once you got it, so hard work but perfectly fair

    I thought the best clues were 10a, 11a, 15a, 27a, 1d, 2d, 6d, 17d and, probably my favourite, 24d.

    In 6d, I took “with” to mean “using”, as in “cracking a walnut with a hammer”. Alberich mentions this in his cluing guide but says, if memory serves, that although he sees nothing wrong with it, he avoids it if possible because many don’t like it.

    Well done, Marg, and congratulations on your swift promotion. Thanks for the challenge.

    1. Thanks, Whynot. I’m so happy to read that you felt the puzzle was rewarding enough to persevere with.

      Thanks also for the detailed comments, which I will take on board. I’m a bit puzzled by the dislike of ‘with’ in 21a that’s been expressed in several comments, but I now realise that many solvers do not like ‘with’ used in that way and so I will try hard to avoid it in future puzzles.

      I want to thank you for inspiring 8d. A while ago there was a discussion here about cryptic definitions and you mentioned that you really liked “Good for nothing? (7)”, from the Guardian if I remember correctly. Trying to think laterally led me to ‘altruism’. When I realised that the enumeration didn’t match, it joined my short list of potential clues for this puzzle. Do you remember what the Guardian answer was?

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