Rookie Corner – 234 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 234

A Puzzle by Hippogryph

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have Hippogryph’s third 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.

A review by Prolixic follows.

I did not get to review Hippogryph’s second crossword as I was on a canal boat at the time.  Looking back as Crpyticsue’s review and the first crossword, sadly, I don’t think that this third crossword was quite up to the quality of the first two.  There was nothing drastically wrong and there were some very strong clues.  However, overall there were more errors in the cluing than before and some of the surface readings were not as polished.  I think that, in part, this was because Hippogryph was spreading his wings and being more ambitious in the cluing.  This is a good sign but the more ambitious the clue and the devices used, the more polished and accurate the cluing has to be.  The commentometer reads at 5 out of 33 or 15.2%


9 Bolt? Regularly eat fast whole entree (7)
ATHLETE – Remove (eat) the odd letters (regularly) from the final three words of the clue.

10 Common ground above a safe place (7)
OVERLAP – A four letter word meaning above followed by a place of comfort or safety for a young child.

11 Eton Mess gains special marks (5)
NOTES – An anagram (mess) of ETON followed by the abbreviation for special.

12 Service providers are pointless until joining cities without cold water (9)
UTILITIES – Remove the abbreviation for North (pointless) from UNTIL and follow (joining) the CITIES from the clue without the abbreviation seen on a cold water tap.  Whilst the “are” fits the surface reading, in the cryptic reading, it leads to definition are wordplay which does not work for me.

13 Alan Sugar initials, puts pen to paper, and appoints (7)
ASSIGNS – The initial letters of Alan and Sugar followed by the act of adding you name on a piece of paper or form.

14 Cool heads being lost at the polls, we hear? (7)
ICECAPS – A three letter word meaning cool followed by a four letter word meaning heads.  Whilst not necessarily wrong, though I would avoid using the device, a clue where the wordplay leads to a solution that is defined by a homophone is not usual.  Try to limit the use of the device.

16 Probationary soldier on last of exercises breathes heavily (5)
PANTS – The abbreviation for a probationary driver followed by an insect described as a worker and the final letter (last of) exercises.

18 Signal rod (3)
CUE – Double definition, the rod being the one used in a game of snooker.

19 Technologically advanced vehicles suffer a setback (5)
SMART – Reverse (suffer a setback) a form of urban public transport (vehicles).

20 Involve English Queen in limbo dancing (7)
EMBROIL – The abbreviation for English followed by the single letter abbreviation for Queen in an anagram (dancing) of LIMBO.

22 Crinite, after it’s western translation, becomes dark yellow (7)
CITRINE – Move the IT in the first word of the clue to the left (western translation).

24 Hippogryph is one taken to court, reportedly, with respect to my reversing? (9)
PSEUDONYM – A homophone (reportedly) of sued (taken to court) followed by a two letter word meaning with respect to and a reversal of the MY from the clue.

25 I slave endlessly to make divine juice (5)
ICHOR – The I from the clue followed by another word for an arduous task with the final letter removed (endlessly).  As pointed out by several commentators and admitted by the setter, a verb has been used to define a noun and therefore the clue does not work.

27 Falls backwards again – …. artist! (7)
NIAGARA – Reverse, backwards, the AGAIN from the clue and add the abbreviation for an artist.

28 Period style from green regeneration on city outskirts (7)
REGENCY – An anagram (regeneration) of GREEN followed by the outer letters (outskirts) of CITY.


1 Left with beard this area needs a regular trim (4)
LAWN – The abbreviation for left followed by a three letter word for a beard seen on barley.

2 Images exposed to salts finally after very strong acid (6)
PHOTOS – The level of acidity of a very strong acid on the PH scale followed by the TO from the clue and the final letter of salts.  Whilst the intention was clear, the Ph level is a description of the strength of an acid, not the acid itself.  I don’t think that definition exposed to wordplay works.  If the definition is “images exposed” then definition to wordplay still does not work.

3 Scrabble games involving points for letters? (8)
MESSAGES – An anagram (scrabble) of GAMES includes (involving) the abbreviations for East and South (twice) (points).  As points has been used for a compass direction already, a different indicator should be used.

4 Surrey Rams in compromising situations? (3-3)
SET-UPS – The area of the country were Surrey is followed by another word for male sheep.  In the same way that Tyneside or an equivalent can be used to clue NE, I don’t see an object to using Surrey to define SE.

5 Call men up for impossible manoeuvres without a second thought (8)
MOBILISE – An anagram (manoeuvres) of IMPOSSIBLE without the abbreviation for post script (a second thought).  Where the letter are removed from the main word in the same order as they are defined, it is not necessary to provide a secondary anagram indicator.  The structure of definition for wordplay should be the other way around as wordplay for definition.

6 Punish again to reduce crudity (6)
REFINE – Split 2-4 this would be to impose a further financial penalty and as 6 means to become more genteel or less crude.

7 Complicated, frolic-free multifactorial rearrangement yields final terms (8)
ULTIMATA – An anagram (rearrangement) of MULTIFACTORIAL after removing the letters in frolic (frolic-free) with the complicated telling us that the letters in FROLIC are removed in a different order to which they appear in the main word.

8 Northern folk miss the start of local programs (4)
APPS – Remove the first letter of local (miss the start of) from the description of the residents of Lapland (northern folk).  Perhaps “missing the start of” would give a better surface reading any cryptic instruction to remove the L from the clue.

13 Discovery, for example, of parish priest drowned in alcoholic beverage? (5)
APPLE – The abbreviation for parish priest in (drowned in) a three letter word for beer.

15 Bristles at being pulled up in Bishop’s Place (5)
SETAE – Reverse (being pulled up) the AT from the clue inside another word for a Diocese (Bishop’s place).

17 Elemental type – arsenic, lead and sulphur complex belong (5,3)
NOBEL GAS – An anagram (complex) of A (first letter – lead – in Arsenic) S (Sulphur) BELONG. Putting the anagram indicators between the letters to be rearranged does not work without a further indication that it is so placed.  A mixed with B would work but A complex B does not.

18 In Africa lend a rand to secure a table of dates? (8)
CALENDAR – The answer is hidden in AFRICA LEND A RAND.  I think that “In A is hidden B” works from a cryptic grammar point of view.

19 Spills the beans about Eastern race fixations (8)
SETTINGS – The abbreviations for Eastern and Time Trials (race) inside a four letter word meaning spill be the beans.

21 Even words from Noel’s TV show are a struggle. (6)
ORDEAL – Remover the even numbered words from DEAL OR NO DEAL (A TV show hosted by Noel Edmonds).  Again, the use of “are” does not work as the cryptic reading becomes wordplay are definition.  Perhaps revealing a struggle or must be a struggle would work better here. Minor point but the full stop is not needed at the end of the clue.

22 Rare machine conversely captures image collector (6)
CAMERA – The answer is hidden (captures) and reversed (conversely) inside RARE MACHINE.

23 One hip mobile device (6)
IPHONE – An anagram (mobile) of ONE HIP.

24 Rotten, rotten! (4)
PUNK – Double definition, one being the music genre associated with Johnny Rotten and the second being a word meaning rotten.

26 Solar travellers make contact on the radio, on the radio,…? (4)
RAYS – A homophone (on the radio) of RAISE (make contact on the radio).

39 comments on “Rookie Corner – 234

  1. We thought that this was a top class puzzle. Took us well into Toughie time but with a bit of thought it all slowly came together with 5d and 14a being the last two to yield. Hard to pick a favourite but we will go with 5d for the head-scratching it caused us.
    Thanks Hippogryph.

  2. Once again I find myself agreeing with the 2kiwis! Some very clever and unusual constructions here, like 9a, 5d, 14a. I found the North East corner the hardest, especially 10a, where I was trying to insert an extra “a”, though I think the clue’s fine with or without it. Anyway, a great puzzle — thanks, Hippogryph.

  3. A very good puzzle – I finished it in a back page time – with two clues with ?? beside them as I can only half parse them

    Lots to enjoy – I quite liked 27a as a variation on the usual ‘old friend’ wordplay for these falls.

    Thanks to Hippogryph and in advance, to Prolixic

    PS – nearly an hour later, I find that I can now parse my two ?? clues :)

  4. A very enjoyable puzzle with some clever touches – thanks Hippogryph. There are two clues I can’t fully parse (17d, which is probably down to my lack of scientific knowledge, and 25a where I can’t find any evidence that the truncated last bit can be a verb).
    I particularly liked “it’s western translation” in 22a. I ticked 13d and 24d but my favourite was 21d.

    1. Gazza, Thanks for the comments – really glad you enjoyed it, especially 21d. With regard to 25a, you are correct it is a noun not a verb – my mistake!

  5. Hi Hippogryph – many thanks for sharing your third puzzle. I struggled a bit on the right hand side but got there in the end.

    There are only very few technical imperfections and many clues I liked. I thought 21d was refreshing, almost a new clue type, and the surface was smooth. 20a was a solid clue.

    There were a few others that I felt had a really nice idea but might have benefitted from a little more refinement. 9a for example, I can see you’re trying to get an bolt/eat fast/entree thing going, and the result works but surface isn’t smooth, so it would be worth fiddling some more. Regularly want whole entree? ( should be plenty of options, eat is optional, and there may also be alternatives for Bolt)

    Technically I think the cryptic grammar in 8d doesn’t work, fixed e.g. by using missing, and the cryptic instruction doesn’t read well in 18d. You have “In (fodder) to secure def”. You’d expect “in (fodder) you’ll find def”, or something similar. That’s it! ok, i wasn’t keen on using a homophone in the definition in 14a, but others might think that is ok. problem is you have wordplay, then some more wordplay. that detracts from a clean definition.

    16a I had to check the abbreviation. ok it’s in chambers but refers to an australian learner driving licence which might be more typically used in harder barred crosswords. I find it inelegant to clue a plural (the S) with separate wordplay. You could have had soldierS, but that gives a problem with breathes – but you can get away from that too, e.g. probationary soldiers seen in knickers.

    24a like it, mildly unfortunate mixing of third and first person in surface.

    25a does slave translate to the word used in the answer? maybe some slang usage i’m missing.

    2d very strong acid and 4d Surrey for me don’t translate directly to what you are using in the answer, there’s an extra step. very strong acid might translate to HCL, for instance. you’re using a property of a very strong acid, and the geographic location in the UK of Surrey. Some might think that is being picky.

    5d. wasn’t sure “call men up” was the same as “call men into action”, maybe it is. took me ages to get “not a second thought”. I had to go figure out which letters were left over, after trying to remove S for second. I’m not sure a second thought is quite right – it’s rarely a change of mind – perhaps an afterthought is more accurate.

    17d great idea, but confusing since Arsenic already gives you the AS. Oh, and the position of the anagram indicator would either appear to exclude AS, or else doesn’t indicate the anagram comes first (should have been a technical mention). So I can’t help but feel this might have been refined to become smoother and more concise. of course BELONGS fits the fodder too, maybe you tried that.

    26a I’m not completely sure I fully get your intention here, though I must have the right answer.

    So, yes, i think solid puzzle, technically very good, and just a small bit of refinement could make a big difference to the surfaces.

    Well done and many thanks

    1. Hi Dutch,
      I think it is becoming more common for those who have recently passed their driving test to display a ‘P’ plate on their vehicle for a period of time. I certainly see quite a few here in N. Wales and I think it’s quite a good idea.

      1. ah ok, thanks. Come to think of it, I think i did see some at the post office. First time I’ve seen this abbreviation in a crossword, but perhaps not as obscure as i first imagined.

        1. Hi Dutch, thanks for the detailed feedback and the suggestions which is really helpful to me. Just a couple of reply points:

          Jane is correct on the P plates – my daughter recently passed her test so displayed them (for the shortest time possible of course)

          On 9a “regularly eat” is intended to mean “consume” or “corrode” (ie remove every other letter) while also maintaining the surface misdirection linked to bolt.

          26d is a homophone (on the radio) of a word meaning to make contact on the radio

          25a, my mistake – see my earlier comment

          That was my thinking anyway. Thanks again for the helpful suggestions

  6. This caused a bit of head scratching here, and there’s still one or two that don’t quite make sense to me – though it is Monday morning and I may be being a bit dim.

    I largely agree with Dutch, particularly re 17d & 9a (where I can’t see what ‘eat’ is doing). I quite liked the strong acid, so my picks are 2d, 4d & 20a.

    So close to being an excellent puzzle, just a tad more attention to detail here and there could have been enormously beneficial.

    Well done and thank you Hippogryph.

  7. Thanks Hippogryph
    It took a while to get going, to the point where I was wondering if the clues didn’t make sense, but no, just me. All clued well and fairly, and something nice going on in nearly all the clues.
    I seem to have more ticks for downs than acrosses. Of the downs, I like 1, 3, 4, 8, 21, 23 (could have left out device?), 24 and 26. I liked 18a, but partly because a ‘signal rod’ sounds like it is a thing. A shame if it’s not after all. Surrey Rams was good, and Surrey with a (albeit detached) question mark for SE was fine for me. 12a was neatly done.
    I wasn’t very keen on 5d. Giving a cryptic suggestion for an abbreviation that is split in the anagram fodder isn’t ideal.
    I’m not sure if the apostrophe in 22d was a good idea or not. On the one hand, it’s a useful signpost. On the other, it shouldn’t be there for the surface, and the clue would work without it.

      1. That seems very unnatural to me, both for the surface (particularly so) but also for the cryptic meaning of ‘move it west’.
        The apostrophe meaning ‘has’ used to be quite common in the Times as an instruction just to put what follows the apostrophe after what comes before it. So ‘Thin son’s underweight’ = son has light = slight. I think it’s been banned now because it’s rather forced.
        Maybe Hippogryph will tell us what was meant.

        1. Thanks for the comments all. I think that on reflection (and reminding myself of the apostrophe grammar rules regarding its/it’s) 22a it would have been better without the apostrophe as Mucky suggests.

          I did consider one hip mobile but wasn’t sure whether mobile was sufficient definition for the clue to work? Grateful for any further guidance on this

          1. Sorry to labour it, but did you mean the apostrophe as a possessive or as ‘it is’ or ‘it has’?
            It reminded me of this clue:
            They’ll sell you a porky scratching — it’s first on bar back (5)
            for LIARS, in the Guardian, puzzle 27235 by Boatman
            with it’s [sic] meaning the first letter of scratching on RAIL reversed.
            I wondered if you meant it’s to mean ‘of it’, not as a mistake (even a deliberate mistake as in Boatman’s clue) but because the it in your clue isn’t a pronoun, just fodder, so not coming within the usual rules regarding its/it’s

  8. Welcome back, Hippogryph.

    Add me to those who thoroughly enjoyed the solve, but I did have quite a few crosses and question marks on my printed page, and I felt that, not for the first time, several of the surfaces prevented a good puzzle being an excellent one. Dutch has already raised a number of my queries.

    My double ticks went to 3d and 13d, with 21d close to joining the podium had it not been for the cryptic grammar (“must be” instead of “are” would have secured my additional tick!). My repetition radar did notice the use of “pointless” in 12a and “points” in 3d. The weakest surfaces in my opinion were 12a, 7d and 17d. 15d was a new word for me, and looked suspiciously like a grid-filler!

    Lots to enjoy though, and I do think with each puzzle there is noticeable progress. Many thanks, Hippogryph,

    1. Not for the first time I find myself very much in agreement with Silvanus even including my two double-ticked clues.

      In addition to the main theme, there were a few references to facial hair!

      My chemistry is very rusty but I think a pH of 0 is an impossibility.

      Many thanks for the enjoyable solve, Hippogryph, and well done.

      1. I went there (pH0), but wikipedia corrected me, making me feel like I’ve wasted my tuition fees.

    2. 21d ‘must’ be certainly avoids any issue – though with the very clear two words referred to being part of the cryptic instruction, the plural ‘are’ seemed fine to me.

  9. I certainly learned some new ‘hairy’ facts from this one, not to mention a divine juice that I’ve missed out on, but my overall feeling about this puzzle was ‘almost, but not quite’.

    Most of my queries have already been raised so there is little point in repeating them but I do hope that Hippogryph takes the comments on board. As others have said, there are some inventive ideas on display, it would be nice to see them utilised to best advantage.

    Thanks, Hippogryph, looking forward to the next one.

  10. Looking at the crossword again, I see this is yet another occasion when I originally completely missed the very nice theme :(

  11. Beaten by 5d, 19a & 19d together with ? marks against 22a, 2d, 24d & 26a. Thanks to the setter & the reviewer.

  12. Coming to this late in the day others may have made these comments already, in which case please excuse the duplication.

    I thought there were some brilliant clues here: 22ac, 24ac and 2dn to name a few, but there were others that didn’t work for me.

    In 9ac I wasn’t sure about ‘eat’, but in the sense of ‘take’ as in ‘take food’ it’s probably OK. In 25ac the word that has to be shortened (endlessly) is solely a noun according to Chambers and as such is not a synonym of ‘slave’. Chambers does say it’s a form of another word that can be used as a verb, and so might mean ‘slave’, but the average solver should not be expected to make that step.

    In 5dn there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the letters indicating ‘a second thought’ have to be removed from different places in ‘impossible’ – although in 7dn ‘complicated’ obviously serves that purpose for removing the letters of ‘frolic’

    17dn doesn’t really work for me, either. There may be a deliberate misdirection here (which is fine) to the chemical symbols As, Pb and S, but after one tales ‘lead’ to refer to being in front it presumably means the first letter of ‘arsenic’. However, there is then nothing to indicate that the anagram (complex) of ‘belong’ has to come first.

    And the repetition radar has flagged up the use of pointless/points in the same sense in 12ac and 3dn.

    Nevertheless a generally enjoyable and satisfying solve overall.

    1. Hi Exit
      Thanks very much for the feedback. Just to explain my intention in 17 down was that the cryptic instruction would be to take the A (lead letter of Arsenic) and S (Sulphur) and mix those (the verb complex means to combine into a complex in Chambers) with BELONG. I’ve made comments on 9ac and 25ac in an earlier response to Dutch (Comment 5).
      Thanks again for the helpful comments and I’m really glad that you enjoyed the puzzle

  13. Thanks to all for the balanced comments and to Prolixic for the thorough review. I did find some of the words in this puzzle much harder to clue than ones in my first two but was pleased with the final grid submission. Apart from the oversight in 25a, there are clearly some elements of cryptic grammar that I still need to get to grips with. I look forward to incorporating the lessons from this one into my next puzzle – all part of the learning process!

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