Rookie Corner – 259 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 259

A Puzzle by Chameleon

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Chameleon is the latest setter to make his debut here. 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.

Winston Churchill once described Russia as “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”  The same may be said of many of the clues in this crossword.  It felt in many places a if the setter had decided to create a cryptic crossword and then, thinking that it was not cryptic enough, add additional complexity to the clue to make them more opaque.  As a result, a lot of the wordplay became overly complex and sometimes illegal and some of the synonyms were stretched.  This make solving more of a chore than a joy.  This is a great pity as there was a lot of originality and fun in some of the clues.  The pair of clues in 21d and 22d and 25a were good examples of Chameleon at his or her best.

The commentometer reads as 6 out of 27 or 22.2%


8 Exploited scripture to enter anti-tax schemes (4-4)
HAVE NOTS – The abbreviation for Old Testament (scriptures) inside (to enter) a six letter for the places where tax-saving schemes are effected.  I think that havens describes where the schemes take place rather than the schemes themselves.  Perhaps a good example of trying to over-hide the definition. Also, the solution does not mean exploited or necessarily those who are exploited.

9 Herd member’s harsher extremists around a parliamentary lobby (5)
RHINO – The outer letters (extremists) of harsher reversed (around) followed by a letter representing one or i and one of the Parliamentary lobbies where members go to indicate their votes.

10 Can of sauce (4)
MAYO – A three letter word meaning can or is able to followed by the single letter meaning of used in expressions of time – six of the clock.  An old canard, I know, but can expresses the ability to do something and the relevant part of the definition expresses permission to do it so that the two are not directly synonymous.

11 Señorita Castro leads “Intro to Spanish”, having picked up post of her career (10)
SCHOLASTIC – The initial letters (leads) from the the first two words of the clue, the Spanish for hello (Intro to Spanish) and a homophone (having picked up) of stick (post – as a verb). 

12 Fiddler on Roof finale composer would appreciate (6)
FIDGET – The final letter of roof followed by a phase (2,3) meaning that the setter (composer) would appreciate something.  The clue striation of definition ON wordplay does not work – I don’t think that ON can work as a link word in this way.

14 Socialists by worker’s side (4-4)
LEFT-HAND – A four letter word for Socialists followed by a four letter word for workers.

15 Assume 23’s line has a point (not completely meaningless) (3-4)
PRE-EMPT – The abbreviation for public relations (23’s line) followed by the abbreviation for east and a word meaning meaningless without the final letter (not completely).

17 Agent backpedals after award ceremony insiders quit (7)
SCARPER – The annual American film awards with the outer letters removed (insiders) followed by a reversal (backpedals) of a three letter word for an agent.

20 Senior DI’s beat cop in the 60’s (8)
IRONSIDE – An anagram (beat) of SENIOR DI.

22 Ultimately swap Miranda Hart’s set for Jenny Eclair material (6)
PASTRY – The final letters (ultimately) of the second to seventh words of the clue.

23 Spokesperson to skewer document, stemming endless scandal (4,6)
SPIN DOCTOR – A three letter word meaning to pin and a three letter abbreviation for document inside a five letter word for a scandal with the final letter removed (endless).  The abbreviation for document is in Collins but not in Chambers.

24 Black knight takes rook from ruminating brute (4)
ONYX – The abbreviation for knight replaces (takes) the abbreviation for rook in a four letter name of an African antelope (ruminating brute).  Whilst the solution (as a gem) can be black, the solution itself is not a synonym for black.

25 By stepping out, Irish band gets fresh air (5)
OZONE – Remove (stepping out) the BY from an Irish pop group.

26 Detain those already under arrest (4,4)
STOP DEAD – A four letter word meaning detain followed by a four letter word for those already buried or under.


1 Drink on recliner without a care (8)
CAVALIER – A four letter word for a type of sparkling wine followed by a four letter word describing someone reclining.

2 20’s style must end years after 10 (4)
DECO – Taking the solution to 10 across, years after would at a long stretch another month followed by a O for a 20’s style.  Perhaps a little too opaque for its own good.  Maybe seven months after 10 would have been fairer.

3 TV repeats entire series (6)
BOXSET – Two three letter words describing a TV.  The dictionary gives the solution as (3,3).

4 A saint converted on the road (7)
ASPHALT – An anagram converted of ALPHA (A) ST.  This is firmly in the indirect anagram territory.  Asking the solver to get a synonym for A and one for saint is too indirect to be fair.  Some editors would not allow “on the road” on its own to indicate what is one the road.

5 Rich Tory following iniquitous leader is constant in opposing reproductive rights (8)
PROLIFIC – The abbreviation for conservative (tory) after the first letter (leader) of iniquitous replace the E (constant) in a seven letter word meaning against abortion.

6 Environmental systems said to credit concerns about cows’ regular expulsions (10)
BIOSPHERES – A homophone (said) of BUY (credit) FEARS (concerns) around the even letters (regular expulsions) in cows.

7 See 18

13 Eco-friendly bulb? (5,5)
GREEN ONION – Cryptic definition of a bulbous vegetable.

16 Lag behind in future? No, sir, presently! (8)
PRISONER – The answer is hidden and reversed (behind in) FUTURE NO SIR PRESENTLY.

18/7 Dynamo conjured up a short incantation in parliament (5,3,6)
EARLY DAY MOTIONAs I see it, you need to get from early day to Monday and think of a reverse anagram clue that makes Monday Dynamo.  Broadly unsolvable without knowing the solution.  Again there is too much indirectness to make this fair.  I am not sure that there is a really a definition of the solution here either.

19 Most wicked wolf invading birdhouse (7)
NEATEST – A three letter word meaning to consume or wolf inside a four letter word for a bird’s home.

21 Flying predator expressing deadly evolutionary origins? (6)
RAPTOR – Remove (expressing) the first letters (origins) of deadly evolutionary from predator and make an anagram (flying) of the remaining letters.  The whole clue provides the definition.

22 To repeat, flying predator expressing deadly evolutionary origins! (6)
PARROT – Remove (expressing) the first letters (origins) of deadly evolutionary from predator and make an anagram (flying) of the remaining letters

24 Chance letter-count and clue number don’t fit here (4)
ODDS – The number of letters in the solution and the clue number are both even so you need the opposite for the solution.

22 comments on “Rookie Corner – 259

  1. Well that was a toughie – partly due to some nice misleading wordplay and more to do with having clues where I really don’t know how I got the solution – eight clues have ? by them where I’m looking forward to an explanation as to how all or part of the wordplay works. Of the clues, i can parse, I have specific comments about parts of some of them, but I’ll leave them for Prolixic to mention in his review

    Thanks to Chameleon and, in advance, to Prolixic

  2. I found it quite a toughie too and also have a few answers I can’t fully explain, so looking forward to the review.

    Some very inventive and original ideas in the mix which were really very good, well done. Thanks for the challenge Chameleon.

  3. This was far too tough for me, and I have given up.

    After taking three times as long as I spent on today’s back-pager, I had three answers in, one of which must be wrong as it gives rise to an impossible selection of checking letters for the first word of 23a. To add to my woes, the clue for one of my two correct answers contains a spurious apostrophe.

    I am sure this is a very clever puzzle and it will have taken a lot of hard work from Chameleon, but it’s not for me I’m sorry to say.

  4. Phew, a Toughie indeed. I managed most of the left-hand side without assistance but resorted to revealing some letters to complete the right side and there are a handful of answers that I still can’t explain.
    There are some cracking clues among those that I understand – I’ll pick out 25a, 3d, 16d and the very clever 21/22d duo.
    If I’ve parsed 18/7d correctly I think it requires a degree of indirection too far.
    Thanks, Chameleon – that was certainly a most impressive debut (although I’ll eat my hat if this was the first puzzle you’ve compiled) – but please be a little more merciful towards us poor solvers next time!

  5. Hi Chameleon
    Thanks for an excellent puzzle. Very hard for me too, but I got there with a smidgen of electronic assistance.
    My first impression was that the clues all read like good clues. That encouraged me to persist, because it took me so long to get my first solution that I had begun to wonder if they were all in fact dreadful clues.
    After getting one (the only(!?) plain anagram), they came steadily if slowly, the bottom half before the top, with the last ones being 10a, 2d and 8a.
    Some I really liked: the repeated flying predator was a great trick. Also the TV repeats, with ticks for 1d 22a 10a 12a 17a 25a 16d 19d
    Some I found too complicated, in particular 5d 6d 18/7d 11a (for which I don’t understand the definition, unless it is a reference to Senorita Castro of which I lack some GK)
    In 18/7 there’s really far too great a distance between your wordplay and solution. Reverse anagrams are tricky by themselves, but you have compounded that by making the clue (i.e. the clue in the solution) for the anagram a cryptic clue. It’s like an indirect anagram in reverse.
    It took a bit of thought to sort the parts out in 26a; I think it’s let down a little by ‘detain’ and ‘arrest’ being the same, though the middle bit’s very neat.
    There were a few definitions that were a bit stretched – 8a in particular seems to be a political comment rather than a definition.
    Overall, very impressed; you obviously put a lot of work into this and know the rules inside out, but I hope you’ll make it easier next time.

  6. Scrambled my way somehow through most of this but eventually had to reveal a couple of letters to cross the finish line and can’t pretend that I’ve managed to parse all my answers. Thank goodness RD didn’t get as far as 19d – wouldn’t have done his blood pressure any good at all!

    I did award ticks to 12,25&26a plus 13d& the 21/22 combo – along with 20a ‘just because’ but wish that the setter had settled for a more solver friendly level of complexity.

    Thanks, Chameleon, hope you can scale it back a bit next time.

  7. Thanks to everybody for their comments so far. Sorry that I seem to have pitched it too hard. I’m glad that some of you enjoyed some of the more crackable clues.

    Gazza’s right that this isn’t my very first crossword; I’ve set ten or so for my own amusement but this is only the second I’ve shared with anyone other than friends and family. I’ll look forward to Prolixic’s review.

  8. Welcome, Chameleon.

    Far too tough for me as well, I managed about half before resorting to electronic assistance, and even now in quite a few instances I don’t understand how the wordplay leads to the answer.

    The surfaces were fairly good on the whole, and there were some excellent clues – like my top pick 25a – but overall I think the difficulty level was cranked up much too high to make it a fair challenge between setter and solver. I agree with Gazza and Mucky about 18/7, and have question marks about the legality of certain other constructions.

    A lot of promise shown here for sure, so I hope to see further Chameleon puzzles, but more solver-friendly ones please!

    Congratulations on your Rookie Corner debut.

  9. We tackled this puzzle at our usual time yesterday but delayed posting until now.
    After we had been working at it for a considerable time we had only 7 answers in. With several of these we had incomplete parsing and one later proved to be partly wrong. At this point we gave up and put it aside. Came back to it later and filled in the rest of the grid using the ‘reveal letter’ option. Even with everything filled in correctly there are a number of clues that we do not understand.
    We appreciate that some of the clues we did understand are very clever but overall this just did not do it for us.
    Sorry Chameleon.

  10. Some very clever clues, some others that must be so clever I just don’t understand them, and one that as far as I can see is just plain wrong. I gave up in the end with it about half finished and filled in the rest by cheating. But of those I got I liked 12 and 25 across, 21 and 22 down – a nice touch with the latter two.

    1. Apologies that some of them were too awkward to be much fun, exit, though I’m glad you liked some of the others. Do you mind me asking which is the wrong one?

      1. Hi, Chameleon. I thought you’d somehow got a wrong letter in the anagram fodder for 4dn. Not so, obviously, although I wasn’t expecting an indirect anagram – I’ve been castigated myself for using one in a puzzle (though not one on this site).

        1. Ahh, I see what happened. Apologies for the indirect anagram. I hadn’t quite realised how looked down upon they are.

  11. Well, even after I saw CS’s comment when I looked in to download the puzzle, I gave it a shot but with just two answers after spending considerable time, I too gave up. While the puzzle may fit the eligibility criteria, the difficulty level is pitched way too high and for me this is not what the Rookie corner is all about.

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Apologies that it doesn’t seem to have been much fun. In some cases as in the very first clue I thought crossers/letter-counts if they were paired with very clear definitions would have made the clues too easy, but I clearly overcomplicated things too much in trying to avoid these. Sorry for the indirect anagrams in particular. When I wrote the crossword I wasn’t aware there was such a cast-iron rule against them.

    I did hesitate on a couple of clues and worried they might be courting the commentator but on balance I decided that for me the 3-letter verbs involved in 10a have used interchangably enough and for long enough in living language to be treated synonymously in a clue.

    Thanks again to Prolixic and to other commenters for their feedback. If there’s a next time I’ll turn down the difficulty!

  13. Another DNF here, though in retrospect there are a few I should have got which are very good.
    ‘of her career’ seems a loose definition in 11ac.
    In 5d, reproductive rights encompass a lot more than abortion, so somebody ‘pro-life’ could still be pro reproductive rights.
    Whilst the PARROT/RAPTOR dual clue is fun, most parrots are herbivores.
    Thanks Chameleon and Prolixic

    1. Hi Gonzo, sorry to hear it was a DNF. There’s one charge I can answer there at least; the definition for PARROT is just “To repeat”, the predator’s just fodder. : )

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and the very fair assessment of this one.
    I do hope that Chameleon brings us more puzzles but of a more toned down variety!

    1. I’ll certainly have another go if I get the chance. It’s been fun getting some feedback, although it’s a shame the puzzle wasn’t able to give a bit more fun on the solvers’ side.

  15. Thanks for the puzzle, Chameleon, and the explanations, Prolixic. This is my first visit to Rookie Corner, so my comments are only calibrated with published puzzles, not other beginners’.

    On the first pass I only managed one answer. But it was 18d/7d — the one that’s widely been deemed unfair!

    Also, I’m not very good at crosswords yet. It’s quite a normal experience for me, especially on a Toughie or a late-week backpager, to get zero to two answers on first pass. So to me it only seemed ‘normal tough’, not ‘off the scale tough’.

    And I appreciated that all the answers were words I knew: no required knowledge of types of wine, obscure foreign rivers, or obsolete words for lovers.

    I thought many of the surface readings were superb, including 17a, 23a, and 6d.

    Obviously I don’t have Prolixic’s experience of these things, but ‘on the road’ worked fine as a definition for me (but I don’t think ‘alpha’ would ever have occurred to me for the wordplay).

    I struggled with some definitions. 11a was too obscure for me, and I still don’t understand 5d and 19d: I can’t think of sentences where I could use the answer or definition interchangeably.

    My favourite clue was 24a, for the inspired definition of “Eclair material”.

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