Rookie Corner – 294 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 294

A Puzzle by Porcia

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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 been steadily improving the accuracy of the clue and their surface readings but the resulting crossword is still highly complex.  If highly experienced solvers are finding difficulty in completing the crossword, it is a sure sign that the cluing needs to be lightened.  Whilst I don’t add marks for difficulty, it is a point to bear in mind.

The commentometer reads as 3/26 or 11.5%


7 A puzzle by Porcia containing the whole alphabet, not filled in (4)
MAZE – A two letter word for the setter (Porcia) includes (containing) AZ (the whole alphabet not filled in – omitting B to Y).

8 Novelist duo drop dead, in shock series of developments (10)
EVOLUTIONS – An anagram (in shock) of NOVELIST DUO after removing (drop) the abbreviation for dead.

10 Separate downloads, allowing scribbling in margins (7)
DOODLES – Split (separate) downloads into two words and use the abbreviation for down followed by another word for loads.  An old chestnut but “d” is not recognised in the dictionaries as an abbreviation for down despite its use in crosswords.  Editors may query its use.

11 Losers resorted to “Reveal Letter” (6)
LESSOR – An anagram (resorted) of LOSERS.

12 Come and torment me, shaking your yardstick (13)
COMMENTOMETER – An anagram (shaking) of COME TORMENT ME.  Whilst just about OK in a Rookie corner crossword, this would not be acceptable outside of this forum as it is a portmanteau word used only in reviews of the crosswords.

14 Moral intelligence (7)
MESSAGE – Double defintion.  The two meaning are probably too similar to make this a good double definition clue.

17 Green sleeveless top Jean briefly has on (7)
JEALOUS – A six letter word for a girl’s top without the first and last letters (sleeveless) after (has on) the JEAN from the clue with the last letter removed.

19 Sports equipment with significant initials made out on one side (8,5)
LACROSSE STICK – The abbreviation for left (one side) followed by a homophone (made out) of ACROSTIC (significant initials).

23 Click and check what you write in, in case of error (4,2)
SINK IN -A three letter word for writing fluid inside (in case of) a three letter word for an error.

24 Scientific studies: in other words, boring old written accounts (7)
OLOGIES – The abbreviation for id best (in other words) inside the abbreviation for old and a four letter word for written accounts.

25 More than once taking the same person to conventions (10)
AGREEMENTS – Double definition, the first being the grammatical correspondence between subject and verb, for example, but expressed in the plural (more than once) and the second being another word for conventions or treaties.

26 Hit “Revert” button (4)
BONK – Reverse (revert) a four letter word for a button or door handle.


1 Head for Slumberland and slip right out of pants to test beds (9)
SANDBOXES – The first letter (head of) Slumberland followed by the AND from the clue and a six letter word for underpants without the R (slip right out).

2 Referendum made void after concerning Foreign Office shake-up (6)
REFORM – The outer letters of referendum (made void) after the two letter Latin word meaning concerning and the abbreviation for the Foreign Office.

3 Dicky’s thrown up in bog and collapsed (4,2)
FELL IN – A three letter word meaning dicky or unwell is reversed (thrown up) inside a three letter word for a bog.

4 Bitchiest catwalk? (3,4)
DOG SHOW – Cryptic definition of where female canines (bitches) may be paraded.

5 Mark round window (5,3)
BULLSEYE – Double definition, the first a mark on a dartboard and the second type of small round window.

6 Put down, wrongly, I’m coming back with a soupçon of silky charm (8)
MISSPELL – Reverse (coming back) of the iM from the clue followed by the first letter (a soupçon) of silky and another for a charm.

9 12‘s workings coming apart from within (4)
NOON – The same word twice meaning working with a reversal of one (coming apart from within).  Not sure that coming apart from within really gets you from ONON to NOON.  

13 Dodgy ground, as Spooner’s doctor did something wrong (9)
QUICKSAND – A Spoonerism of QUACK SINNED with the internal vowel sounds exchanged.  Spoonerisms should really be confined to the initial swapping of vocal sounds as allegedly perpetrated by Spooner, not inner vowel sounds or end of word sound even if they are (in some quarters but not all) loosely described as Spoonerisms.

15 Want cycles in barn chained up (8)
SHACKLED – A four letter word meaning want or dearth with the first letter moved to the end (cycles) inside a for letter word for a barn.  I think that hut would have been better than barn which implies a much larger structure.

16 Chief blogger on i mostly entertaining (8)
GERONIMO – The answer is hidden (entertaining) in the second to fifth words of the clue.

18 Someone with lots of jobs to go to carried people making maps in the van (7)
OSBORNE – A five letter word meaning carried preceded by (in the van) the abbreviation for Ordnance Survey (people making maps).  The definition here is too vague to be a fair definition for the solver.

20 Say I’m so deluded, thinking too much of myself? (6)
EGOISM – The two letter abbreviation for say followed by an anagram (deluded) of IM SO.

21 Terrible boy occasionally put away a pork pie (6)
TRILBY – The odd letters (occasionally) of the first two words of the clue.  As the definition is a definition by example, this should be indicted with a question mark or similar indicator.

22 Ding-dong with uninhibited American for the Mexicans (4)
RING – How a Mexican might refer to an American without the first and last letters (uninhibited).

64 comments on “Rookie Corner – 294

  1. After a very long time and by putting it aside and returning to it later, I have finally got a completed grid which I am pretty sure is correct although there are still a number of clues where I cannot yet understand all or some of the wordplay. Telling us in the first clue that it is a pangram was helpful and that help was certainly needed.
    I admire the setter’s skill in putting this together but do wish he would be a bit gentler on his solvers.
    Thanks Porcia.

    1. Thanks for persevering KiwiColin. To think that I was afraid I’d made this one too easy! I’m going to have to think about that some more…
      Finding the pangram clue, and the obvious necessity to make sure it was the first across clue, meant that I had to jettison another complex super-structure (the revised grid entailed abandoning most of the key answers and clues), and just concentrate on clueing individual words. And now I’m learning that I can’t clue simply even when I’m not trying to be clever. That really is dumb!

  2. Similar to the thoughts of KiwiColin, this took me a little longer than usual and I too still have a couple that I can’t parse.
    When I first skimmed the clues and could only solve three on the first pass through them I did wonder if I’d be able to finish this one unaided! The clues were very inventive though, so I really enjoyed the challenge – thank you Porcia!
    There are some very, very good surfaces in clues. A few times these are achieved slightly at the expense of the accuracy of the wordplay.
    Plenty of good clues to choose from: I particularly liked 3, 15 & 26 though I could mention several more.
    I’ve made notes as I solved: if Porcia would like them I am more than happy to share though they are full of spoilers so I won’t include here. Porcia, ask Big Dave to put us in email contact, if yes.
    Finally, I look forward to seeing some of you on Sat 7th December at the Cruciverbalist Convention / Times Championship the weekend after next :-)

    1. Thanks Encota. I’m glad you got through it without recourse to the evil buttons.
      I remember reading somewhere that the importance of smooth surfaces was that they made it that much harder to unpack the word play. So while I’m glad you like some of my surfaces (I do put a lot of work into them, more often than not unsuccessfully), I beginning to wonder if I should leave a few more clunky ones in to get the solver started.
      I’d very much like to see your solving notes. Thanks. I’m intrigued to discover what my inaccuracies are in the wordplay: I’m aware of a couple of liberties, but having submitted it here I obviously thought I’d dealt with the booboos.
      I’ll email Big Dave and ask him to pass on my details.

  3. When I test solve a crossword, working as I always do down the Acrosses and then the Downs. I write a number by each clue as I solve them so that setters can see which clues work better than others. I once overheard one of my younger setters say to another ‘you know you are in trouble when the first clue Sue gets is 23d’. Well I’m sorry Porcia, but the first clue I got in today’s Rookie was 21d and after a lot of looking, I’ve only managed to confidently put in three more solutions since then.

    I have to go out now but may return to give you another go or perhaps two (following my three separate goes and in the recycling bin rule).

    I second Kiwi Colin’s comment about wishing you’d be gentler on your solvers.

    1. Thanks crypticsue. It’s good to know that you’re an organised solver: I do something similar, mainly so that I can replay the solve to work out what in particular is important for unlocking the grid. I keep a pile of the ones I’m stuck on in the smallest room though. No! not for that.
      Please come back to this. I haven’t been silly this time, I promise.

      1. I’ve given this four separate goes now and have still only filled in twelve solutions. I’ve actually spent longer trying to get to grips with the crossword than I have on all today’s other cryptic crosswords put together. I could use the reveal button but I’d be using it an awful lot and I do (surprisingly) have a life outside cryptic crossword solving and things non-cruciverbal to do this afternoon

        Sorry Porcia – I did try, honest!

  4. I’m afraid that I lost patience and revealed several letters to get it finished. I still can’t parse two of the clues.
    There are some very clever (and witty) clues here. I particularly liked 10a, 6d and 15d. I laughed at 18d but I think the knowledge required to get the definition is too specialised.
    Thanks Porcia – I’m sure that Prolixic will take heed of your invitation at 12a. As others have said, it would be good if you could tone down the difficulty a bit whilst retaining your invention and fine surfaces.

    1. Thanks Gazza. I’m clearly going to have to take advice on how to tone it down, having tried to and failed.
      I sort of agree on 18d, but it was irresistible once I’d seen it. And I’m always keen on having at least one clue that’s ‘too’ long. Maybe I’m about 2 years too late for its topicality to help justify it, though.

  5. Thanks Porcia
    I finished in one go, but quite a long one. I didn’t mind at all spending more time than usual – I enjoyed every minute of it, starting with 7a which is a brilliant opener. My other two favourites were the two button clues, but generally it was all very clever and satisfying.
    Two I don’t understand: 19a and 25a (suspect this may just be a DD, but not sure of the first half).
    I laughed at 6d (& 12 & 20) and would agree, at least with the second bit.
    It was hard though; if you were an unknown I probably would have done a bit of revealing. Compared to your first go, this is squarely within the definition of a conventional crossword, but if it’s an audience of millions you’re after, you’ll probably need to make it a bit easier.
    I solved nearly all the clues from wordplay; that’s the opposite of my usual method, but a good sign that your clues work.
    The only clue I was a bit disappointed with was 14a – the two definitions are very close (a bit like ‘Banging sound’ for cushty, but to a lesser degree).

    1. Thanks mucky. I’m glad you liked the buttons. I had to neuter another (Click and check what you write in..) because I couldn’t get the surface to work making it more in-your-face. And ‘Save’ had to go completely, because my test-solver found an alternative solution, and it was a pretty ropey clue anyway.
      25a is indeed a DD, but with a twist. Think grammar. I think this is the weakest clue, but I was struggling to find anything that wasn’t too smutty for my audience here.
      Had a debate with my test-solver about whether I was doing enough in 19a, and this is the compromise result. I think maybe I should have taken his advice, at the risk of getting a bit clunky.
      14a: I really struggle (both setting and solving) with DDs (and CDs), so I’m trying to force myself to do more. I was hoping in this one that the adjectival force of ‘moral’ in the surface would excuse the proximity of senses.
      I’m not after a big audience. But I would like to produce something that goes down a little more smoothly. I’d got my next Rookie ready to send in, just intending to take stock of comments here before submitting. I think doing that now might suggest a bigger reworking is necessary.

      1. I thought it might be grammar. Got 25 now, didn’t spot what made out was doing.
        Just noticed that this is your third one here, not sure why I missed the second.

  6. Welcome back, Porcia.

    Although I managed to solve all of the top half of the puzzle unaided, most of the bottom half stubbornly resisted, and, like Gazza, I needed the Reveal button to complete the grid. I suppose I have to count myself as one of the 11a “losers”, therefore! Some very clever constructions in evidence, but in certain cases, like 18d, the clue was too clever and not really fair to the solver. I also felt quite a few definitions were stretched (e.g. 14a, 1d), and Spoonerisms only work for me if initial letters or sounds are transposed.

    Yes, the surfaces were mostly good but please don’t compromise on the smoothness of a surface to make the wordplay easier (as suggested in the response to Encota). If anything, consider re-writing the clue instead.

    I liked the inclusion of 12a, but my favourite clue was another self-deprecatory one, 20d.

    I really do feel that the difficulty level remains too high unfortunately. If experienced solvers like CS encounter problems unpicking the clues, then that’s a sure sign that the setter has probably got the balance wrong.

    Thanks, Porcia.

    1. Thanks silvanus. It’s beginning to look like a unanimous response that this was too difficult, so I won’t go over that again.
      It’s dreadful what the accident of constituent letters in an anagram makes us say sometimes, so sorry about 11a.
      I’m not sure the definitions for 14a are stretched, although the second might be a little Jane Austen. The proximity criticisms are certainly valid though. A 1d is where we did our testing in a previous life, but maybe that’s a bit of a parochial definition.
      Vowel sound Spoonerisms are not unheard of (eg Araucaria’s “Where Spooner’s rabbit is accommodated for free? (7)). The question did come up at the test-solve stage though, so it’s a conscious sin (if it is one).
      Only kidding on deliberately junking the surfaces: my first read through deliberately avoids trying to solve, being just the means I have of determining (from the surfaces) whether I’m prepared to give the setter my time. So I’ll always try to get that bit right.
      20d: I tried to avoid letting the setter’s voice intrude this time (in my case it must be cloying already), but I couldn’t resist with this one.

      1. I believe the original Spoonerism, and possibly the only one which can be attributed genuinely to the Reverend, is a transposition of the vowel sounds in the phrase ‘Conquering Kings’, so if anything, this is the more authentic type of Spoonerism. Otoh, I didn’t get it till I saw P’s complaint.

        1. Thanks. I’d forgotten that. Of course, if some house-styles forget or ignore it in their lists of acceptable practices, it doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily wrong to do so. Although I’d think so..

  7. A very well put together head-scratcher and I enjoyed the challenge, though admittedly I did get a little lost along the way [eg 18d]
    It was a tad on the ‘grind’ side, perhaps a slightly more whimsical/tongue-in-cheek approach might have gone down well in places
    Surfaces and wordplay mostly excellent, well done
    Thanks Porcia

    1. Thanks LetterBoxRoy. I’m beginning to be able to spot your dry wit, so I’ll not dally…
      It’s interesting that you’ve identified being a grind as being a problem. I’m frequently conscious that I gravitate to clues that assemble several bits, I suppose fearing what you say. I try to mix some whimsy in, but it doesn’t have the elan you see in a snappy CD, for instance, from a better setter. I’ll try to get better at that.

  8. My favourite clues here were 2, 7, the very neat 10, 13 down, 16 and 20. I also enjoyed the “button” clues and a certain non-Chambers solution. A Porcia puzzle’s never a walk in the park, but if you persevere you can find a lot of good humour and some very original wordplay. Thanks Porcia, and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review.

    1. Thanks Chameleon. It’s nice that you’ve liked so many. It looks a bit as though it’s not a good thing to be on my wavelength though! You’d better not start producing accidentally-too-difficult ones yourself. And thanks for the idea you’ve just given me.

  9. I got 11 answers first time round and unfortunately have not had time to get back to it. I’ll avoid the hints for now and see if I can get a bit further, though I’m no expert so my expectations are low.

    1. I suspect that my encourage to jump back in, the water’s lovely, will cut no ice: too many seem to have drowned.

  10. Found this a bit hard, but got to within 6 clues before giving in. I did enjoy the surfaces though, and 13 was my favourite.

    1. Thanks TheVoid. It would be great to know which 6, if you can remember.
      I was quite pleased to find 13 for the fill when I had to redo the grid having told myself it was a pangram. I favour a loose definition of Spoonerism too!

  11. Thanks to P for the review.
    Not sure which points earn points, but I think there’s some unduly strict judging here. I’d defend:
    NOON: ‘coming apart from within’ seemed very precise to me
    QUICKSAND: a matter of opinion on the Spoonerism
    SHACKLED: a barn is big, but a shed is often a warehouse, not just a hut in the garden
    OSBORNE: matter of opinion + the clue gives the OS___ quite clearly
    PORK PIE: is this really a DBE? I don’t think so. Pork pie hat is a descriptive term that covers various types of hat with a pork pie shape. A trilby is a specific one of those types, i.e. an example of a pork pie hat, not the other way round.

    1. Mucky

      I don’t quite see how “coming apart from within” describes transforming ONON to NOON. Since “workings” to produce ONON is tricksy in itself (I remember disliking Paul’s use of “legs” in a clue for ONION, which takes a similar liberty), I think it needs something clearer.

      I think the trilby pre-dates the pork-pie. I solved the clue with a query about the def. Tbh, I would not even have classed a pork pie as a type of trilby. Admittedly it has a brim, but fedoras and homburgs are are lot closer.

      1. I didn’t see a step where I produced ONON, before transforming it to NOON. I’m just imagining writing both ways from the middle. So I was a little surprised by Prolixic’s objection. But having been a little perplexed how to descibe the WP in my parsing notes, I can see how the extra step might have slipped in for a solver. I noted it as (Def ‘s, ONON), btw.
        I spent time researching hats when setting, and I think trilby’s kosher.

        1. Irritatingly, the web page has made a nonsense of that.
          My parsing note wasn’t that at all. And I can’t get diamond brackets to show, whatever I do. There’s one pointing left + one pointing right between the ONs.

          1. I seriously doubt anyone understood your cryptic instructions. I’d be most surprised if anyone got it other than from “12” with two crossers.

            Anyway, whatever it is you wanted the solver to do with two instances of ‘ON’ and whether or not “coming apart from within” describes that sufficiently clearly there is no such thing as an ON which “working” is another word for, and two of them wouldn’t be two ‘workings’ if there were, so that is already too abstruse to my mind. Otoh, Paul had one between two legs. Didn’t like that either. At least ‘one between’ is comprehensible though.

            Why not just ’12’s not working’ with something to delete the T? I’m sure that would have been hard enough for a Monday.

      2. coming apart from within = heading in opposite directions, starting in the middle
        I really did get this from the wordplay. There are many examples of s’s being added to things that don’t naturally pluralise, usually abbreviations: times for tt, news for nn, lines for ll.
        I’m also not sure that a trilby is a pork pie hat, but I am pretty sure that a pork pie hat is not an example of a trilby.

        1. Ok. I am always underestimating the ability of clever people like yourself and Porcia to fathom out what things mean.

          I am not saying Porcia shouldn’t have used “workings” to mean two instances of ON (as I said, Paul has done something similar), but I think that it is difficult and that to then use this (admittedly very original, afaik) operation is to wrap a mystery within an enigma, where Porcia said he was trying to make the puzzle easy. ‘Ll’ is the abbreviation for ‘lines’, btw, so that’s not an example like ‘news’ and ‘times’.

          Regarding hats, I have now looked into it properly (i.e. skimmed Wikipedia) and the pork pie antedates the trilby by about a hundred years, so cannot really be an example. However, it’s not the same thing either, but something similar (i.e. a hat with a brim), so maybe ‘something like a pork pie’ (which still works in the surface) would have been a little better. Here, however the wordplay was straightforward, so the slightly inaccurate definition didn’t matter too much.

          Perhaps what I’m trying to say is, I got TRILBY but not NOON :-)

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, which I certainly needed! I was in the ‘managed 12 and then gave up’ camp with this one.
    It would be nice to think that Porcia will heed your advice and make his next compilation more solver-friendly.

    1. Thanks jane. You’re not alone, obviously.
      It’s not a question of heeding advice though: it’s being able to demonstrate in my next that I have… I’ll try.

  13. Thanks for your time again Prolixic. Your comments, and those of everyone else here, will all be thoroughly digested later. At the risk of outstaying my welcome, I will respond to a few points though.

    You say that my accuracy has improved, where your detailed analysis indicates the opposite. (Pointing out crimes other than inaccuracy formed almost all of your discussion of my last effort.) This is obviously disappointing, and probably means that I need to obsess more about a puzzle for long after it is complete, as I did last time.

    Same-headword DDs: it’s interesting that all three DDs in this puzzle fall into this category, and that only one is noted. Could it be that the dynamism of the other two (BULL’S EYE and AGREEMENTS both have a verb in their surface reading) tends to disguise this fault, where the lighter touch exploitation of a two-word term in the surface for MESSAGE, pulling the solver towards an entirely different meaning, does not? How do we read exactly?

    Difficulty level: specifically how should find the je ne sais quoi that I’m not getting right. When I look at others’ clues, I see the same sorts of elements, in the same sorts of numbers, with the same sorts of indicators. And similar occasional novelties. And mistakes. Any tips on how to achieve similar accessibility anyone?

    Finally, a barn too large a structure to suggest shed? Townie!

    1. As to misjudging the difficulty level, when going through the clues prior to submission for Rookie Corner, I’m wondering whether you take sufficient time to ask yourself “is this fair to the solver?” or “could I make it less abstruse?”. I get the impression that you feel making a clue too solver-friendly would be an admission of failure somehow, but I can assure you that a well-crafted straightforward clue is often much more satisfying to a solver than one where the setter has tried to be over-cryptic.

      1. Interesting. I’m not sure that’s fair, but I’m not altogether sure it’s not. The questions I ask myself: interesting? accurate? coherent? can it be neater? original? amusing? concise (or long) enough?
        I think I’m assuming its fairness is an emergent property of several/all of these, but maybe it’s not something I’m considering separately. Similarly, I don’t try to be over-cryptic, but in editing I do try to make things more interesting, original etc etc, and a consequence of that might well be to add to the crypticness.
        Hmm. Thanks.

    2. I don’t think you should necessarily make a conscious effort to dumb down your thinking – I’m not even convinced that’s possible, it’s just your style, which will develop
      As I see it, the object is to smoothly mislead so that when the solver twigs they’ve been had, there is a penny-drop D’oh! As Silvanus has noted; simple, tantalising clues with a twist work best

      Also, it has been said before that setters here will be scrutinised for things that sometimes appear in published puzzles; don’t be at all put off by it, just keep it in mind. A read through the comments for any published puzzle will show you that there will always be differences of opinion so stick to your guns I say

      One other thing – I try out clues on people verbally and see if they smile – if I have to spend ten minutes explaining or justifying it to someone with a wrinkled nose it’s probably not good – it’s a bit like Christmas cracker jokes, even a groan is kind of fun but not getting the joke at all is not

      Just my thoughts which I hope will give you something to think about
      PS Agree about the shed!

      1. All excellent advice. I do the wrinkled nose test – such an accurate image, thank you for that – usually successfully, but usually only when they see it written down. I’ll try it in conversation only. Thanks. Good idea.

    3. The issues that crop up on here are just fascinating. Does barn = shed? Now, where else would that question be posed! I’m not sure that a barn has to be bigger than a shed (unless you’re talking only about modest garden sheds). There are some pretty big sheds around! Those huge modern buildings/warehouses you see on industrial sites are called “sheds”. Also, in the 60s, I used to go on night-time coach journeys to visit “train sheds” in the NE of England. These were huge traditional stone-built buildings with pitched or saw-toothed slate roofs, looking pretty much like a barn. Not sure if that info’s of any significance…

      1. Then again, isn’t the question of size a bit of a red herring? “Does barn = shed?” isn’t quite the right question; it’s: ‘Can barn define shed?” I think probably not, though you might say shed (construction for storage) could define barn. It doesn’t need ro be a barn for the clue to work, though, anyway. ‘Storage unit’, a much more accurate def for shed works perfectly well too. I think tightening up synonyms and definitions is a way Porcia could improve his puzzles and make them more accessible.

        1. I thought everyone had gone! I’m certainly getting value for money in this week’s comments.
          An interesting point on equivalence and definition. Although if you take it too far you might need a new alias for your puzzles (Gradgrind? Bitzer?). Where do you stop? My etymological dictionary has shed as a cognate of shade, and gives equal billing to shelter and storage in its discussion. Chambers supports this. I was thinking cattle shed when I wrote the clue, so I lit on barn. If I’d been thinking of a suburban back garden, I might have used hut (although it no more ‘defines’ shed than barn does). In a different clue, where I want to tug the narrative in a particular direction, my choice might make a difference. Here it’s obviously irrelevant. My choice is a reasonable equivalent evoking one of the attributes that define shed, one no less valid than the one you privilege in ‘storage unit’. I think that’s all I need to do.
          I’ll take extra care with definitions and synonyms: everything is already cross-checked at least three ways (that’s in the job description isn’t it?), but it might well be that I’m trying too hard to test the limits of words’ semantic range. The overlaps of the meanings of words are essentially the territory we’re working in though, and there are always going to be fuzzy edges.

          1. “My choice is a reasonable equivalent evoking one of the attributes that define shed, one no less valid than the one you privilege in ‘storage unit’”

            I can’t agree with you there, Porcia. ‘A bit like’ doesn’t cut it in my book, unless you include those, or similar, words (see also TRILBY/pork pie). Having attributes in common isn’t enough; either your definition encompasses the thing defined, or it’s an (indicated) example of it. That’s especially important, imo, for the main def, and all the more so when you use highly complex and/or novel wordplay.

            I think I’m still here because I recognise you have a lot of talent and I would like to see you making the excellent puzzles you have the potential to make. Have you thought of trying the Listener? Difficult stuff goes down well there and Roger and team will iron out all those wrinkles. You’ve had the benefit of a test-solve for this puzzle, and solver feedback, but your ‘edit’ here gets done by P post-publication. Roger is usually in the Times comp, so he’ll probably be at the “Cruciverbal Convention” advertised on this site. It’s a lang rood frae Scotland, mind.

            1. I might say that the bit you’ve extracted from my burblings doesn’t convey everything I was trying to say. That it’s a bit like it (or even, like a bit of it) isn’t enough for your response to it to be sufficient.
              Let me try to put it another way. If we go back to Hard Times: Sissy is overwhelmed by the prospect of fastening on the essence of ‘horse’ when Gradgrind asks her to define the word. Bitzer, given his chance, proceeds to list equine characteristics, until the narrator cuts him off mid-flow. Neither succeeds in defining horse. How could you? How would you, if cluing it? An attribute, like one galloping? A use: cowboy’s mount? An evocation of Dickens: quadruped, graminovorous etc? An example? None of them encompasses the word though. We indicate examples in clues. Should we indicate other shorthands somehow? I was too easy on your ‘storage unit’ replacement: by privileging one attribute of sheds (unindicated) surely you’ve most emphatically not ‘encompassed’ the thing: you’ve left the sheltering bit out entirely. Barn at least has the virtue of having a wide enough range to encompass both sheltering animals and storing farm machinery: not a precise correspondence, but closer to the essence that Sissy for one would prefer.
              In writing the clue, I was much more concerned about the meaning of shackled, and thought I was in trouble there: it seems to have a much more specific meaning than is easily conveyed by any replacement. ‘Chained up’ as a definition is a fudge (more so than barn, I think), but I think it’s just about enough to link the target word to the ideas in the wordplay. Isn’t that what is done all the time: find the edges of definitions that allow the clue to make sense?
              I thought long and hard about pork pie too, but I won’t bore you further (I did like your ‘something like a pork pie’ though: much better).
              I’ll not make it down to that London for the Cruciverbal Convention, unfortunately. And let’s not get ahead of ourselves: I’d be happy enough if I could produce an interesting and amusing puzzle that solvers think is fair.

              1. Unfortunately, although I recognised Gradgrind as the name of a schoolmaster in Dickens, I don’t know Hard Times, so the reference went over my head. Thanks for spelling it out. “One galloping, cowboy’s mount, quadruped”. I think ‘horse’ fits squarely into all of those definitions and they encompass horse in the sense I meant if I can get a bit Humpty Dumpty on you. ‘Gramnivore’ (not graminverous), too. ‘Trigger, perhaps’, also fine as a dbe (as long as your audience is old enough, I suppose). ‘Zebra’, not ok, except maybe humorously as ‘A zebra with its pyjamas off?’.

                Perhaps ‘chained up’ and ‘shackled’ are equivalent in having an identical metaphorical meaning?

                  1. Typing one-fingered while reading from the book, and too lazy to think about it when reading through before posting

        2. W. Just to mention the following. My question: “Does barn = shed?” simply means “is barn a synonym of shed?” Which is just the same as your “right” question: “Can barn define shed?” Isn’t it? However, the main thrust of my comment above was merely asking if a barn is necessarily bigger than a shed – in response to Prolixic’s assertion in the review.

          1. Jose, a definition in a clue may be a synonym or it may be something which includes the target word as an example. E.g. ‘quadruped’ in the clue may lead to ‘horse’ (or ‘dog’) in the answer, or it may give an example, as long as that is indicated by such words as ‘for example’, ‘say’ or even just a question mark. E.g. ‘Silver, say’ for ‘horse’, referring to the Lone Ranger’s mount.

            Porcia seems to think there are other ways, as you can see from the other comments in this thread. I’m just repeating myself here really, I think, but it seemed polite to respond to your comment directed at me, even if belatedly.

            I am fully persuaded that a shed can be a very large building. Prolixic may not be familiar with industrial sheds.

  14. Probably a bit late to comment, but I’m pleased to say that I almost got there without any help…albeit over the course of three pick-ups and not that I could properly parse some of them! I missed out on 1D, 4D and 18D (and I don’t get the answer to that one at all). Thanks to Prolixic for the help and to Porcia for the workout.

    1. Oh, sorry. 18d: George Osborne famously (at least at the time) picked up quite a portfolio of new jobs after he left government. 4 years ago though, which is part of what makes it unfair.

      1. Oh. Thanks for the explanation. Well, I’ve been an expat for 40 years and I try to keep up with the Parliamentary doings at home but it’s a losing battle I’m afraid.

  15. I solved a handful and rather enjoyed those. I had had a peek at pre-review comments, includeding CS’s, so was chuffed (and highly amused) to get 11a and 12a quickly. Previous experience with your clues made me fear that it wouldn’t be worth investing a lot of time (something I’m short of anyway), especially knowing how hard others had said it was. I think it might have been worth trying a bit harder, in fact. I promise to try harder next time if you promise to try and make it easier. How to do that? Maybe like this:

    Tory George carried sort of map in the van

    1. That’s a deal.
      Interesting OSBORNE clue. I do think it’s a bit handed to you on a plate, but maybe you’re right and it’s necessary. And the joke is taken out of the clue, with the ingredients of a DIY joke handed to the solver: I’m less happy with that, but maybe it’s enough. It is fun, though, trying to get the phrasing and timing of a joke right within the constraints of an acceptable clue-length..

      1. What’s worse than a joke that needs explaining because the audience doesn’t get it?

        Btw, re my fearful anticipation, I was reminded of an Egyptian (Arabic?) proverb:

        من يلسع لسانه على الشربة ينفخ على الزبادي

        He who burns his tongue on his soup, blows on his yoghurt

  16. A lot of good clues, though I didn’t follow all of the cryptic wordplay- eg, in 23a, I can’t see what ‘check’ is doing. In 5d, I find ‘mark’ a rather loose definition. In 8a, ‘novelist duo drop dead’, though making sense on the surface, is clumsily phrased cryptically. Also, a few clues are a bit wordy, especially 18d. But no serious faults, and some very nice ones – I particularly liked the surface reading in 3d.

    1. Thanks Brunel. You’ve highlighted a few of the liberties not yet mentioned. The double-indication in 23a is naughty, but not unheard of. I agree ‘mark’ is loose, although I think less so in an archery context. ‘Drop’ as imperative has been remarked on elsewhere as sloppy, ‘dropping’ being preferred (or ‘drops’ – duo as a singular?). I’m fond of wordiness occasionally, but I’m making more of a conscious effort only to deploy it for effect, and more rarely. 3d was one of my post test-solve replacement clues: I thought it a bit weak, but my test-solver seemed to like it.

  17. I also work the acrosses then downs and, when the first clue solved – 12a – wasn’t an actual word, but something only those here would understand, I kind of lost interest, sorry.

    1. I should add that I cringed when you mentioned yourself in the very first clue, which made the effect of solving COMMENTOMETER worse on me because it seemed both self-indulgent and cliquey. Cryptic crosswords are for everyone, not just a select few. That’s why l try to include two or three relatively easy clues in my puzzles as a way in. There’s nothing worse for a new solver than a complete brick wall.

      These are just my own opinions of course. My ‘relatively’ easy clues are probably ‘very’ easy here, but I am not trying to baffle anyone here, just get constructive criticism.

      1. My recent favourite is ‘Mean and waspish? (6)’
        Do you have clues you like, clues you don’t?
        Let’s have one to try :smile:

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