Rookie Corner – 306 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 306

Cold Mountain by Hodd

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a puzzle from a setter making his debut in Rookie Corner. As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review by Prolixic follows.

Welcome to Hodd.  There was a lot to enjoy in this crossword and clearly a lot of thought had gone into the construction of the clues.  I counted 12 full or partial anagrams in the crossword.  This is far too many.  Try to keep the number down to five or six.  There were quite a number of niggling points as may be expected from the first foray into Rookie Corner but these are all readily addressable.  The commentometer reads as 5/29 or 17.2%.


9 First couple in Chamonix to fly by helicopter, perhaps? An easy way to get to the top! (9)
CHAIRLIFT – The first two letters of Chamonoix followed by a seven-letter word meaning to fly something in by helicopter.

10 Could these help on slippery slope? (5)
POLES – An anagram (slippery) of SLOPE.

11 Shock conclusion to latest In Our Time (7)
OUTRAGE – The final letter (conclusion to) of latest in the OUR from the clue and a three letter word meaning time around.

12 Company’s detailed patent concerning hard shell, perhaps? (7)
COCHLEA – The abbreviation for company followed by a five-letter word meaning patent in which you include (concerning) the abbreviation for hard.  The use of concerning here is not valid as a containment indicator.  Although concerning means about, the meaning is in relation to, not around.

13 Average taken from median or mode (4)
NORM – The answer is hidden (taken from) in the final three words of the clue.

14 Quickly measure barrel, after contents removed (10)
KILOGRAMME – Think of a synonym for barrel, remove the middle letter and expand the remaining two letters from the resulting abbreviation to give a measure of weight.  The quickly in the clue is unfairly misleading and should have been omitted.  The wordplay is too indirect to be fair on the solver.

15 South-Easterly gales blowing – you might need these on board! (3,4)
SEA LEGS – The abbreviation for South-Easterly followed by an anagram (blowing) of GALES.  The abbreviation SE is for South East, not South-Easterly.

17 Exercise on vacation, with dodgy pills to get in shape (7)
ELLIPSIS – EE (outer letters of exercise – on vacation) with an anagram (dodgy) of PILLS included (to get in).

19 A cheap Tory involved with drugdealer (10)
APOTHECARY – An anagram (involved) of A CHEAP TORY.  I think that drug dealer should be two words, not one.

22 Cunning and resourceful, Clouseau hunts leads (4)
ARCH – The initial letters (leads) of the second to fifth words of the clue.

23 Aerial worker installed before girl got back (7)
ANTENNA – A three letter word for a worker insect followed by a reversal (back) of a four-letter girl’s name.

24 Sell now – supply inflated (7)
SWOLLEN – An anagram (supply) of SELL NOW.

26 Insect found in lake and river (5)
LOUSE – The abbreviation for lake followed by a four-letter name of a river.

27 A setter’s visiting old flames – they’re being marked (9)
EXAMINEES – The A from the clue and a word indicating possession (setter’s) inside (visiting) the plural abbreviation for old flames.


1 Reports return – Idris up for Outstanding Figure (8,7)
ACCOUNTS PAYABLE – An eight letter word for reports or stories followed by a three letter word meaning your monetary return from work and a reversal (up) of the surname of the actor Idris ????.

2 I ate crab, developed salmonella (8)
BACTERIA – An anagram (developed) of I ATE CRAB.  As the definition is an example of the solution, this should be indicated.

3 Waste a class going back over lesson, perhaps?… (4)
UREA – The A from the clue and the abbreviation for upper (class) reversed (going back) around (over) a two-letter abbreviation for a school subject.  In a down clue over means on top of, not around.

4 …Rules not hard to follow, class: detailed study of moving forces (8)
KINETICS – A six letter word meaning rules or social values without the H (not hard) following a four-letter word meaning class or sort without the final letter (detailed).  Watch out for repeated wordplay indicators both hard for H and detailed for removing the final letter appeared in 12a.

5 Re-treating cuts with firm plaster (6)
STUCCO – A reversal (re-treating) of CUTS followed by the abbreviation for firm.  To hyphenate retreating as re-treating (to treat again) completely changes the nature of the wordplay indicator and is, I feel, an unfair misdirection.

6 Unearthly colour’s fringing palest shape (8)
SPECTRAL – An anagram (shape) of CR (colour’s fringing or outer letters) PALEST.

7 Downhill race is all turns, some (not all) to the outside (6)
SLALOM – An anagram (turns) of ALL with the first three letters (not all) of SOME (from the clue) around the outside.

8 Impeachment case is lacking informant; extremely corrupt way to avoid facing up to the facts (6,9)
ESCAPE MECHANISM – An anagram (corrupt) of IMPEACHMENT CASE IS after removing the IT (informant extremely).

16 Improved each end with new make-up (8)
ENHANCED – An anagram (make-up) of EACH END N.

17 Britain’s relationship with EU on track to turn sour, mired in rising cost (8)
EUROSTAR – An anagram (to turn) of SOUR inside (mired in) a reversal (rising) of a four-letter word for cost.

18 Level and equal, top and bottom, to describe a pair of lines (8)
PARALLEL – A three letter word meaning level followed by the first and last letters (top and bottom) of equal around (to describe) the A from the clue and the abbreviation for lines twice (pair of lines).

20 Return from elsewhere and settle (6)
OUTPUT – A three letter word meaning elsewhere and a three-letter word meaning settle.

21 Empty love found in Parisian cathouse (6)
CHALET – The outer letters (empty) of love inside (found in) a French word for cat.  Whilst some editors will allow an un-indicated lift and separate for a word like cathouse to give cat house as part of the wordplay, not many would allow this to create conjoined wordplay and definition.

25 Forget to ring chap back (4)
OMIT – The letter representing a ring followed by a three-letter man’s name all reversed (back).  The third time back has been used as a reversal indicator.

56 comments on “Rookie Corner – 306

  1. Well done Hodd, although it was a bit of a head scratcher which required some electronic assistance and letter reveals. I will need to wait for Prolixic’s review for the parsing of a number of clues.
    A few specific comments:
    17a – for me, the need to insert the anagram (dodgy) of pills into the vacated exercise was not completely clear.
    5d – I took it that re-treating was an anagram indicator for the re-arrangement of CUTS when, in effect, all that is done is a reversal to get STUC so perhaps a reversal indicator would have been better.
    21d – to me, it looked like a typo in that it should have been cat house, rather than cathouse, at the end of the clue with a Parisian cat being part of the answer to the definition of house.
    Thanks for an entertaining puzzle.

      1. That was my intent. Prolixic has commented that it’s unfair. I’ve been working on the premise that any punctuation can be ignored/inserted with impunity, but I don’t know where I got that belief from!

        1. Possibly from Prolixic’s own guide :) but adding or removing punctuation *between* words to change emphasis and rhythm is a different kettle of fish from adding or removing it *within* words. The ‘lift and separate’ device (Gateshead for G etc.) is disputed territory.

        2. This touches on a big subject, Hodd, and the rules are by no means hard-and-fast. Prolixic, as I understand it, mostly adheres to the Ximenean rules (correct me if I’m wrong, P!), but allows a certain amount of freedom. If you haven’t already done so, you would do well to familiarise yourself with these rules – especially if you have ideas about getting on the Independent – as several ‘graduates’ from BD have already done. You can read up the Ximenean rules in the “Advice from Anax” guide on this site.

          I might also add that several graduates from Boatman’s classes (which I’ve been to) have also got onto the Indy and/or the FT – although Boatman doesn’t describe himself as a Ximenean! The Guardian is more libertarian – but it’s extremely hard to get on the Guardian!

          Perhaps I should also add that I have no expectations of getting onto the Indy! My style is too lax!

    1. As in 21d, setters often use one word to hide the fact that part of that word is the definition

    2. Thanks for taking the time to give it a go, Senf. It seems I may have been a bit free-and-easy with punctuation and lift-and-separate clues, as you’re not the only one who found 5d and 21d iffy.

  2. Lots here that we did enjoy but there are several that baffle us, 14a is still a total mystery and with 3d and 6d we get the definitions but not how the wordplay works. Still mystified by the title too.
    Thanks Hodd.

    1. I can help you with 6d – an anagram (shape) of first and last letters (fringing) of ColouR and PALEST – I think!
      As baffled as you are by 14a and 3d.

      1. 3d [I think] is a reversal of A from the clue, class/posh U with a R(eligious) E(ducation) lesson in the middle?

      2. For 14a I think the barrel must be keg. Without its contents it’s a short form of the answer although I don’t see where ‘quickly’ comes in.

    2. Thanks 2Kiwis! Appreciate your time and words. As I explained elsewhere, the title was a bit of a hangover from when the crossword actually had a strong theme. I should have deleted it!

  3. I’m as baffled as others by 14A and 3D and I revealed letters to check my answers on a couple more that also confused me. There are some nice clues in the puzzles (12A and 15A got ticks from me) but it was a bit of a slog getting a full grid. The relevance of the title also escapes me but I’m still cogitating. Thanks Hodd. I hope there’s another puzzle in the pipeline.

    1. Thanks Expat Chris. I know the feeling of a solve being a slog, and it’s not pleasant! I found it very difficult to judge my own finished grid, which is why your and others’ comments are so valuable. It would seem that I could do with cutting the word count and varying the wordplay. Hopefully I’ll return with improvements!

  4. Welcome to Hodd. I enjoyed this a lot – I presume the title relates to skiing. I liked a lot of the clues, including 15a, 5d, 17d and 21d (I love ‘Parisian cathouse’ but I expect that Prolixic will advise that most editors won’t). My favourite clue is the excellent all-in-one at 18d.
    More puzzles like this would be very welcome.

    1. Thanks, Gazza. Thanks for your kind words, and your intuition was right re: cathouse! I was pleased with 18d. I had “describing a pair of lines” early on that I knew I wanted to use, and although the rest of the cluing wasn’t as tight, I still managed to end with something that just about qualifies as &lit. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer another puzzle soon!

  5. This surely can’t be Hodd’s first crossword. Very solvable – I hadn’t even got to the end of my bowl of cereal before I’d finished – possibly helped by the number (too many perhaps?) of anagrams. I think Gazza is right about 14a, although ‘quickly measure’ isn’t the friendliest indicator of an abbreviation needing to be expanded to get a solution. 9a is a very good clue but seventeen words!! 15a made me smile as although the compass direction wasn’t quite accurate, we were in the middle of a heavy burst of wind and rain when I solved this clue

    Thanks Hodd – hope to see you back soon, although I don’t think you’ll stay long in the Corner – and in advance to Prolixic

    1. Thanks CS, but sorry it didn’t detain you beyond your cereal! Too many anagrams, certainly, as others have noted. Next time I’ll keep track of the old anagram count.

      “Quickly measure” is not very good at all on many levels, I now realise. I’m surprised I settled on it. I remember not enjoying having to clue ‘Kilogramme’. It was an autofill word, and didn’t inspire me. Probably because an easy anagram didn’t present itself!

  6. Welcome, Hodd.

    A very creditable debut, I thought, that showed a lot of promise and suggests that the setter has an eye for a good clue and a meaningful surface. However, although I have more ticks (and qualified ticks) on my printed page than question marks or “doesn’t work” comments, I agree with CS that there was an over-reliance on anagrams and quite a few instances where the clueing raised eyebrows. “Hard” to clue the letter “H” and “detailed” as a last letter removal indicator were both repeated, curiously in the same two clues (12a and 4d). I’m not a fan of wordy constructions, and I think the setter could have done more to prune the longer clues to a more manageable length. As for the puzzle’s title, apart from the first two clues, I struggled to find more than two other potential themed solutions, so I’m a little confused by its relevance.

    Overall there were certainly more positives than negatives, and I hope the setter will return with something even better next time. Many thanks, Hodd.

    1. Thanks Silvanus. Very thoughtful feedback, much appreciated. The 2 clues sharing ‘hard’ and ‘detailed’ was an unhappy accident. I realise I need to go over my completed grids with a more critical eye, rather than be glad I finally finished compiling it.

      As for the theme, see my apology in other posts. I too hope that I’ll return with something better!

  7. On a Monday morning on Big Dave’s site, you are never sure quite what to expect in Rookie Corner but today we got a treat.

    Congratulations on an accomplished debut here, Hodd, although I would venture to suggest this is not your first cryptic puzzle. You have managed to combine accurate cluing with generally smooth surfaces – admittedly some could do with more polish but for a first offering your overall standard is this respect is good. This all made for a very enjoyable solve, and I only have a few very minor points to make.

    I can’t parse 27a and I can’t see what is cryptic about 18d. Like Gazza, I am not sure on the relevance of “quickly” in 14a. Others will doubtless disagree, but I prefer avoidance of the use of vague names as part of the wordplay. I only mention it here as you have effectively used this device twice with the “girl” in 23a and the “chap” in 25d.

    I may be missing something but I am not sure of the value of a title unless it is a themed puzzle which this one doesn’t seem to be, needing more than the three, perhaps four, clues that could relate to Cold Mountain.

    Very well done and thank you, Hodd. I’m looking forward very much to your next puzzle.

    1. The cryptic word-play for 18d: A 3-letter word meaning level + a 3-letter word meaning equal (as in a games score) + the top and bottom (in a down clue) of equal.

      1. Thanks, Jose. However that would leave “equal” doing double duty. Now you’ve pointed me in the right direction, I actually think it’s a very clever &lit as follows:
        Level = PAR, plus the top and bottom of EquaL around (to describe) A from the clue plus a pair of lines (LL).

          1. My apologies – I was incorrectly interpreting your explanation, I’ll shuffle off into the corner now…………

        1. Yes, you’re spot-on there, RD. I had it down as the first 6 words being charade word-play and the last 5 being a phrasal definition. But, of course, I missed “equal” doing double duty. A very clever clue indeed!

    2. Cryptic word-play for 27a: A from the clue plus a possessive word meaning belonging to the setter (setter’s) is inserted (visiting) into a 4-letter word for the plural of ex.

    3. Thank you Rabbit Dave, very kind words indeed. As I mention below, this was the 3rd grid I’ve finished, but I wouldn’t have wanted to put anyone through solving the first two.

      You’re right about 14a. Unfair, poor clue. If I hadn’t written it I wouldn’t have been able to parse it. Not a good sign!

      Thanks for the tip-off about vague names. On reflection I don’t enjoy them either — they tend to add dullness to the surface.

      I’ll be back (hopefully)!

  8. Welcome to the corner, Hodd, what a commendable start you’ve made! Like others, I’d be surprised if this is your first foray into the ‘dark art’. Mostly minor quibbles from me concerning repeated indicators, random names and the construction of 14a which I don’t really think works. Shame that 21d is unlikely to pass muster with Prolixic – it made me laugh. My favourite was probably the topical 17d.
    Look forward to seeing more from you.

    1. Hi Jane, and thank you for the kind words.

      14a has been universally admonished, and not unfairly. I promise I won’t let such poor clueing (cluing? Clueing.) through the net again!

      You were not the only commenter to correctly predict 21d wouldn’t pass muster. I felt quite pleased when I came up with that, but it is easy to get carried away with being ‘clever’ and lose sight of fairness.

  9. Thanks Hodd
    Enjoyable, high quality puzzle.
    There’s a very wide range of clue types here, by which I mean styles of clue rather than wordplay devices. There are knotty wordy clues like 4 8 17d (reminded me of Boatman clues), simple wordy ones like 8a, easy & concise (13, 26) convoluted and concise (6d). I wonder whether there’s a particular style you like. Two clues stood out for me: 11 and 24, both perfectly covering the joins between the cryptic and surface meanings in few words.
    There were some I didn’t like: 6d I found inelegant; in 10a I don’t think your definition points to the solution sufficiently – it could have been many things; 14a on several levels: asking for a synonym, then emptying it, then treating that as an abbreviation, then expanding it is horribly indirect, and ‘quickly measure’ just seems like bad English. That said, because the quickly was obscuring the definition, I did successfully go through all those steps to get the answer.

    1. Mucky, thanks for taking the time to give such considered feedback. It’s interesting to read your breakdown of my clue styles. I don’t know what ‘style’ it is, but ultimately if I can write a clue that sounds like an Arachne clue, I’ll be happy!

      11 was one of the clues I was happiest with. 6d *is* inelegant, and boring/confusing too. Could you expand on 10a? I’m never sure when I’ve crossed the line into unfairness when a clue becomes ‘semi &lit’. I agree with you, and many others, about 14a.

      Thanks again, I’ll hopefully be back!

  10. Great debut Hodd, a very satisfying solve
    There were one or two clues where I thought you’d probably had an idea for how to clue the answer, couldn’t phrase it neatly but went with it anyway (eg 14a)
    Very enjoyable so thanks for the challenge

    1. Thank you LetterboxRoy, kind words indeed. I think you’re spot on about how some of the poor clues got through. Sometimes I think I settle for ‘that’ll do’ when I’ve been trying to clue the same word for more than an hour.

      1. Can’t remember whether it was Anax or Alberich who told me ‘If you’ve kicked an idea around for an hour or so and it’s still not great, move on and think again, though not every clue can be a killer’
        Re 14a – I found it interesting that kg is an accepted abbreviation for ‘keg’ anyway – were you aware of that? It may have helped, still a tad indirect but has more scope

        To me, setting is every bit as much about spotting unsatisfactory clues as coming up with good ones
        I was impressed to read that you had rejected some previous puzzles so I think you’ve mostly passed that test, so well done again

  11. Greetings from the ski resort of Passo del Tonale in the Italian Alps. I appreciated the skiing references!

    wel done Hodd

  12. Hello everyone,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with my grid, and for all of your words, kind and constructive. They’re invaluable. I’ll try to respond individually to posts over the next week. Many many thanks also to BigDave and Prolixic for providing this excellent blog and platform.

    A couple of early themes\questions coming out in the comments I’ll address here:

    1) I’ve written 3 complete grids so far (2 I’m not very happy with) and probably another grid’s worth of clues across 4 or 5 crosswords which weren’t very good and I didn’t finish. I also attended a Boatman setting class back in November, which was very useful. But this is the first crossword I’ve felt happy enough with to share.

    2) Theme — This started as a skiing theme, but couldn’t fit more than 8 in the grid, then had to cut 2 or 3 more in the process. I almost certainly shouldn’t have left the grid titled, as it misleadingly points to a strong theme which just isn’t there (as many of you have noticed). I’ve forgotten how many theme words are actually left, I’ll go and count them now!

    1. Really enjoyed this. Struggled with one or two but the positives far outweigh the very few negatives. Congratulations, I would not know where to start, even after fifty odd years of solving!! Look forward to your next offering. Thanks :)

  13. Well Hodd!
    It was because all the other clues are entirely fair that I spent longer on 14 than the rest of the puzzle.
    “Measure in full of barrel when emptied”
    I have ticks in particular against 27,7,17d,18,21,11 and 8.
    I do hope this took you ages to compile – it would be too depressing if you just dashed it off.
    Well done indeed.

    1. Hello Gonzo,

      Your suggestion for 14 is lovely and neat, an unqualified improvement, thanks!

      You’ll be pleased to hear that compiling takes me ages :)

      1. Thanks – though ‘bl’ is an abbreviation for barrel or bale itself, so still a tricksy device.

  14. I’ll go along with most of Prolixic’s comments, but for 14ac I think some indication is needed that we are looking for the an abbreviation to expand, and I took that to be ‘quickly’ which does not really serve that purpose. I was going to suggest ‘Short measure …’ but I think Gonzo’s suggestion is even better.
    I didn’t have any problems with ‘re-treating’ and ‘cathouse’ but I’m used to fairly libertarian setters.
    An auspicious debut, though, and I look forward to your next one, Hodd.

    1. Thanks, exit. It’s interesting to see different reactions to ‘re-treating’ and ‘cathouse’.

      I look forward to compiling another grid, but now the pressure’s on to show improvement!

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, particularly for your thoughts on 12a – one of the clues that hadn’t rested easily with me.
    Have to confess to not having realised just how many anagrams Hodd had used, perhaps he didn’t either!
    A very creditable effort nonetheless – I do hope he brings us another compilation.

    1. You’re right, Jane – I wasn’t aware how reliant I’d been on anagrams. It woulnd’t have been hard for me to count them before submitting, though. Maybe I didn’t want to acknowledge it!

  16. Do forgive this late comment. I would like to say thank you very much for a crossword that was good fun to solve, Hodd. Very well done! Like others, I thought it was a very good debut. I was on the right wavelength from the start. I had a big chuckle at 21d, but did raise an eyebrow and wondered if it would be allowed! It would be great to see more of your puzzles here.

    Many thanks to Prolixic for the most enlightening review. I had no difficulty parsing most of the clues, but 14a baffled me completely. My parsing of 18d was only partly correct. I much appreciate seeing how these clues worked.

  17. Very good effort for a first submission, Hodd, look forward to more from you.

    In 5d I took “re-treating” as an anagram indicator, not reversal, meaning that the clue is perfectly correct – albeit STUC is a very easy anagram of CUTS! If on the other hand you want to put in a reversal indicator, you don’t need to use the word CUTS – ‘indirect reversals’ are fine!

    Re 21d, I might as well point out that Alberich firmly rejected a clue I sent him which had this type of lift-and-separate – joining the wordplay with the definition. Alberich allows some licence with his Ximenean rules, but not this one!

    Thanks to Prolixic for the analysis.

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