Rookie Corner – 279 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 279

A Puzzle by Porcia

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above 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

Porcia has improved but with plenty of scope for further improvement.  Some of the clue were simply too obtuse to be readily solvable.  The number of commentators who admired to having to reveal letters to make progress is a good indicator that this was, in places, simply too complex.

The crossword itself was lightened by a lot of self-referential crossword references and references to the previous review.  I hope that my comments give plenty of material for Porcia’s next crossword!

One point to bear in mind is what I call the broken item syndrome.  If you take an everyday object to pieces, you know what it one was so can readily identify what the pieces represent.  Someone else who has not see the whole object will look at those pieces and find it more difficult to piece them together.  The temptation for the setter is to look at the pieces and think that the solution is obvious and to further disguise or break down the pieces.  The result is that the solver then has great difficulty in putting all the pieces back together.  Just because the setter knows the solution and think that the clue is therefore obvious does not mean that the solver will see it in the same way.  Beware of wrapping an enigma inside a riddle wrapped up in a mystery.

The commentometer reads as 4.5/28 or 16%.


7 À la recherche du temps perdu: meet one in favour of Proust crossing out every other letter (7)
APROPOS – The single letter article meaning one, a three letter word meaning in favour of followed by the odd letters (crossing out every other letter) of Proust.  Not sure how recherché applies to the solution.  The literal translation “in search of lost time” makes no sense in terms of the solution.  The “a la” on its own may be the primary definition in the sense of in the manner of and the remaining part of the definition a subsidiary definition.  Checking both Chambers and Collins, there is nothing obvious in terms of present or past usage of recherché.  Perhaps the definition is a little too opaque or relying on obscure usage.

8 Nobody‘s picked up why it may be (7)|
UNKNOWN – A homophone (picked up) of why gives Y which then you have translate to its use in algebra.  A criticism of Porcia last crossword was the use of too many two-step clues where you have a clue to a clue to arrive at the solution.  Sadly, the use has continued.

10 Bugs, hitting the mark precisely, coming back with a trace of sarcasm (4)
TAPS – A three letter word meaning hitting the mark precisely is reversed ((coming back) followed by the first letter (a trace) of sarcasm.

11 Down with rubbish reversal indicator! (5,4)
KNOCK BACK – A five letter word as a verb meaning to rubbish followed by a four letter reversal indicator.

12 Stretch wings on Luftwaffe apprenticeship (4)
LEAP – The outer letters (wings on) of the final two word of the clue.  Perhaps both wings of … would have given a clearer indication that it is the outer letters of both words.

13 Rectifying or putting right before designer’s beaten up (10)
REDRESSING – The abbreviation for right precedes (before) by an anagram (beaten up) of DESIGNERS.

14 Further to the recent checks,… (5)
OTHER – The answer is hidden (checks) in the second to fourth words of the clue.

16 …Porcia’s half prepared… (3)`
SET – The description of Porcia as a compiler of crosswords cut in half.

17 …to improve, turning chess board round next to finish off Spassky (5)
EDIFY – The abbreviation for the International chess authority followed by the final letter (finish off) of Spassky.

21 Anagram so indirect, revealing judgement (10)
DISCRETION – An anagram (anagram) of SO INDIRECT.

23 Gull following ladies about? (4)
FOOL – The abbreviation for following followed by a reversal (about) of a three letter word for a toilet (ladies).

24 23d?!
LAST ONE IN – A description of the position of the clue at 23d and a description of the I in the solution in relation to the remaining letters.  The omission of the enumeration is not acceptable.  Even in advanced cryptics you would expect something along the lines of (three words).  In standard cryptics, the enumeration should be given.

25 Tease fault-finder (4)
NARK – Double definition, the first meaning to tease or irritate and the second someone who reports on people’s faults.

26 Tip from Hancock: what a pint is (very nearly) is unhealthy (7)
HARMFUL – The first letter (tip from) of Hancock followed by how Tony Hancock described a pint of blood in Hancock’s Half Hour.

27 Returned training aid, leaving Porcia to fail again (7)
RELAPSE – Reverse (return) a frame used for training plants without the I (leaving Porcia).


1 Obvious Daddy and Mummy perhaps going separate ways (8)
APPARENT – Reverse a two letter word for daddy (going separate ways implies on word is reversed) and follow with another word for a mother.

2 A bit rudely, repeatedly go over other peoples’ business (6)
GOSSIP – The first “go over” forms the first part of the clue with the go going over the next part of the wordplay.  The second go over is a euphemism for urinate and this is reversed (over) and the third go over forms part of the definition.

3 Porcia’s taking in Australian lout, becoming laughing stock (7)
MOCKERY – At two letter expression meaning Pocia’s includes (taking in) a give letter word for an Australian lout.

4 More treacherous Ukraine’s periodically rising up, supported by Armenia doing the same (7)
SNAKIER – Reverse (rising up) the even letters in Ukraine’s and followed with a reversal (doing the same) of the even letter Armenia.

5 Horridly bothered after cycling, wordplay not properly solved (8)
UNPARSED – A vulgar (horridly) expression meaning bothered (as in I can’t be …….” after a three letter word meaning comedic wordplay with the first letter moved to the end (cycling).

6 Surface with surface within and without a surface (6)
AWAKEN – The closest I can get to this is a four letter word meaning to surface within the and from the clue without the bottom letter (without a surface – the bottom surface being the letter D).  If this is the case the clue is slight same as the surface as the definition is simply a repetition of the surface in the wordplay.

9 “Rude! We bridled!”…so cleaned up (11)
BOWDLERISED – An anagram (rude) of WE BRIDLED SO.

15 Previous crossword’s first exploit leads to much embarrassment. Sorry (6,2)
EXCUSE ME – A two letter prefix meaning previous or old followed by the first letter of crossword, a three letter word meaning exploit and the first letters (leads to) the seventh and eighth words of the clue.

18 Like Hancock’s signature light starters, prepared without using the ingredients for aunt’s dark fudge flambé (8)
FLOURISH – An anagram of the first letters of all solutions (light starters) after removing the letters in AUNTS DARK FUDGE FLAMBE).  Far too complex and indulgent.  You cannot solve this clue until all of the other clues have been solved. 

19 Propriety observed in function with drink in the City? On the contrary! (7)
DECORUM – The postcode for the City of London inside a two letter word for a party followed by a three letter drink.

20 Not scandalised, taking off without being finished? (7)
UNENDED – A ten letter word meaning not scandalised without the off.

22 Quite so off colour? More or less? (3,3)
I’LL SAY – A three letter word meaning off colour followed by a three letter word meaning more or or less.

23 Last word of feature in French, setting up what follows so one gets crowning 18 (6)
FINIAL – A three letter word that appears at the end of a French movie followed by a reversal of the note that follows So and the letter representing one reversed (setting up).

26 comments on “Rookie Corner – 279

  1. As I said to Mr CS first thing ‘you know what a crossword’s going to be like if our ‘foreign correspondents’ haven ‘t said anything’ and this proved very much to be the case

    I nearly gave up quite early on but decided to persevere and see if I could work out what, in so many of the clues, our setter was trying to achieve. I did have to use the reveal a letter function quite a lot and ended up with about a third of the clues where I know how I got the solution but the majority of the rest of them remain 5d

    Sorry Porcia but for me this falls into the ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’ bracket – . Thanks in advance to Prolixic who hopefully will explain the many clues I couldn’t.

    1. Sorry this didn’t work for you. The ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’ criticism from my first effort was one of the things I was trying to address in this, with a progression of mounting complexity leading to a pay-off in the end. Thanks for attempting anyway.

  2. I have ended up with a full grid although I had to reveal two letters in the SE corner. However there are still several answers that I can’t fully parse (specifically 11a, 5d, 6d and 18d). There are some excellent touches and I particularly liked 8a, 23a, 26a, 20d and 23d.
    Thanks Porcia – you’ve got a lot of talent as a setter but please be a bit gentler with us solvers next time.

      1. Yes, enumeration deliberately omitted. Wasn’t prepared to give any help on this clue..

        I glad you found bits to like. 18d deliberately opaque, but I thought decipherable once the anagram had been solved. Maybe not…

  3. Very similar experience to Gazza, including having to reveal two letters in the SE to complete the solve and being left with several that I couldn’t parse. I did have to wonder whether our setter was ‘taking the Michael’ to some extent!
    Didn’t like 2d at all but really did like 27a which got my vote for favourite.

    Thank you, Porcia, I shall look forward to reading the review from Prolixic.

    1. Thanks. And yes indeed, I was attempting to make fun of self, solver and the puzzle itself. Sorry to offend with 2d: testing the limits of acceptable vulgarity, using Shakespearean (and later Chaucerian) language.

  4. Lots to like – I loved 5 and 15. Oh, and 17! And 26!! And 22. I like what you’ve tried at 24 as well, though it’s probably stretching it a bit (difficult to say why without spoiling). Some very clever clues here but some are too clever for me. There has been some fantastic thought put into getting some clues just right with a good amount of crossword-based wit included. Perhaps some are a little convoluted? But it may just be me …

    I remember some of my first feedback at RC being that my puzzles were too hard. It was difficult not to be slightly niggled by such feedback – but I soon came to realise how powerful (and correct) such feedback was. My way forward? Write some easier puzzles for some outlets and find a home for some of the harder ones. I now do both!

    All the very best and I await Prolixic’s comments with interest.


    1. Thanks. That’s so gratifying. Big Dave has politely disguised (by truncating the filename) the fact that 15 revisions (that he knew about) were required to get as close as I could to what I wanted to achieve. I think even he was beginning to lose patience.

  5. I think it’s unlikely that I am going to be able to comment on this puzzle. After my normal back-page 2* time I had precisely no answers entered. I don’t like giving up so I will give it one more try later in the hope of finding the setter’s wavelength. But, if I don’t appear here again later, you will know that I have failed.
    I can see you have put in a lot of effort to compile this, Porcia, and I am sorry that it’s clearly not my type of puzzle.

    1. Thanks for having a look Dave. I’ve tried to provide a few easier ways in, so I hope you come back to it..

  6. Not sure what to make of this – seems to be a bit of a Marmite puzzle (I love Marmite by the spoonful, but…)

    For me, smooth concise wordplay is what I’m looking for but didn’t find much on display here
    On the other hand there is some really good cryptic thinking, just not very well executed in the wording
    Personally I’d prefer to see simple words clued simply and neatly – perhaps all the tweaking shows as being a tad disjointed?
    Porcia, if you are having to revise the puzzle repeatedly (15+ times!?) then I’d say you need to be more strict with your level of ‘that’ll do’ before you consider ‘job done’
    I did enjoy the element of taking Micheal out, not so sure Prolixic will

    Thanks for the challenge and in advance to Prolixic for his review

    1. Thanks for the comment. Your recommendation is a bit of a tall order though: better execution by polishing less!
      I’m hoping Prolixic will forgive the teasing. Most of it is double-edged.

  7. I found this a fun and funny crossword, with some very amusing self-referential moments such as 27 and 15. The three-clue run-on in 14, 16 and 17 was nifty. I thought 1 and 10 were really clever, and 4 is an interesting spin on a type of clue which can sometimes be too much of a write-in once you spot the indicator. 24 made me smile, and helped me get 23d which I don’t think I’ve come across before.

    I confess I did have to use the reveal letter on a few clues, and there are about half a dozen clues I can’t parse.

    Thanks to Porcia and in advance to Prolixic for the review

    1. Thanks Chameleon. And good to hear it was fun. Great fun to compile too. I’m looking forward to your next.

  8. Welcome back, Porcia.

    I found this puzzle slightly less intimidating than your first, but I ground to a halt with quite a few answers remaining and so I sought electronic assistance to complete the grid. I can see that certain easier clues were included this time, possibly in response to the feedback received, but there were still too many that were similar to your first, i.e. too clever. Two fifteen-word clues and one of seventeen words seemed very self-indulgent.

    I really liked the self-deprecating 15d, but I thought you overdid the personal name checks, and, in a puzzle that was always going to be a struggle, to omit (deliberately) the enumeration in one of the clues was a mistake, I felt.

    There is a lot of potential, for sure, but please don’t feel that you need to make solvers wade through treacle in diving boots and carrying a heavy back-pack each time. Much better for the clues to be too easy, than too impenetrable, although a balance somewhere in the middle would be ideal.

    Thank you, Porcia.

    1. Thanks silvanus. Surely you’d expect self-indulgence in a crossword so overtly sef-absorbed? Sorry about some of my other choices though: deliberate challenges to accepted ways of setting crosswords though they are, I recognize that those accepted ways are there for a reason.
      Doesn’t the subject matter of the 17-word clue (and its solution) justify its longueurs? There’s meaning everywhere…

  9. Had to cheat a couple of times on this, not a satisfying experience. Comments absent reading others’.
    I did like many clues in retrospect:
    In 18 the definition I think implies an adjective or adverb, and I haven’t a clue how to parse it – did anyone solve it forwards?
    17 I don’t think a federation is a board.
    Can’t see any justification for omitting the enumeration in 24 (especially when a phrase) – and the link to a difficult clue which in turn linked to a difficult clue meant that the SE corner stayed blank.
    Thanks Porcia.

    1. Hi. Sorry you’re dissatisfied.
      18: like can have a different function I think, but you were required to make the assumption you made in order to force you to solve from parsing to definition. I’m intrigued that you solved ‘backwards’ while not parsing and while the SE was blank.
      17 Agree it’s loose.
      SE corner: at least something went right! That was the point, as well as being linked to the justification for the absent enumeration. Judging from others’ comments together with yours though it rather looks as if I misjudged the difficulty of 25a. I found this the hardest to clue to get the right level of accessibility for its place in the sequencing, while still having meaning in the context of the puzzle.
      Thanks for persevering despite the gripes.

      1. I think it was 24 in from crossers, then 23ac, then 23d on the third ‘check’ but unparsed, then 20 and 27, then 25,18 and 17. One or two were indeed ‘doh’ moments.

  10. Well! 18 makes my ‘Echoes of the Towers.’ gag look positively pedestrian. Thanks Prolixic.
    I also thought GOSSIP was another ‘clue to a clue’, though very clever.

    1. Just looked at your Echoes of the Towers. That’s excellent. Not sure how I missed this puzzle before.

  11. Thank you Prolixic. As you suggest, I shall be taking your comments very much to heart: your analytical response last time helped me get to the bottom of why my last effort was largely unliked. And you’re right: this puzzle’s skeleton is my reaction to that one’s reception. An exercise that is unlikely to be repeated!

    Your broken item analogy is compelling, but I think not particularly apt in this case. My intention was not to break the thing into bits, and then denature the bits to confuse the solver. It was more to break it into bits that could lend meaning to the crossword as a whole, while simultaneously carrying buried meaning in themselves. This attempted bleeding of meaning is articulated in 6d.

    7a Having started my last crossword with something dreadful, what did you expect? The definition is ‘meet’. I expected the solver to work backwards (in the sentence), seeing PrOuSt, then PRO, then A, then work out whether ‘meet’ was a link word or definition. Discovering its archaic sense of ‘fitting’, they’d see that the only possible function of the title of the work was as an archaism indicator. What is usually called the literal translation of the phrase is inadequate for that purpose, but it’s a lousy translation. Moncrief’s version does better with ‘Remembrance of things past’, which is ok for the indicator. Better still to leave the French, since la recherche also carries ‘affectation’ in its range of meaning, extending the reach of the archaism indicator, and confirming the stereotypical appreciation of the author, and suspicions about the intent of the setter. A bonus that the clue then becomes very long, confirming another. Some solvers might even notice that the crossword disappears up its own backside in the clue to 23d.

    8a A homophone of an example seems uncontroversial to me, provided it is accurately indicated.

    12a Perhaps. But then the pun collapses.

    24a Agreed it’s outrageous. In the circumstances, I still think it’s the right choice. 2 additional definitions are provided, assuming the solver was honest: 23d as previous one in, 24 literally last one in. At least 1 of the 3 will fit.

    6d Your parsing is one of three available. (My parsing note: awaken (1. def with, A{WAKE}N[d] (Surf with surf within “and” without a surf) 2. def, A{WAKE}N and [a]WAKEN (Surf, with surf within, and without “a” [is] surf) 3. def, A{WAKE}N and [a]WAKEN/AWAKE[n] (Surf, with surf within (and without a surf))).) Based on footnote at . Meaning is everywhere (and is meaningless). Somebody objected to repeated words in another Rookie’s puzzle: wanted to take this idea further…

    18d You don’t need to have solved all the other clues, just have got their first letters. The puzzle title (Cardinal Sin) was lost in the wash, but I wanted to see how outrageous a sin I could commit with an indirect anagram. As with other outrages in this puzzle (some of which haven’t even been mentioned!) the clue is a consequence of asking myself a silly question, and then working through all the silly steps necessary to get a sensible answer to it.

    Thank you for your patience in taking this to bits. I’ll now spend some time thinking about what I can learn from your observations. And thanks to all the solvers who’ve ‘lost time’ that they’ll never recover…

  12. Many thanks, Prolixic, I needed your explanations even more than usual this week.
    To be honest, I find much of Porcia’s reasoning – as given above – as hard to fathom as some of his clues!

  13. Thanks for clarifying parsing on a few, Prolixic, and welcome to the “enigma in a riddle in a mystery” club, Porcia! :)

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