Rookie Corner – 313 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 313

A Puzzle by Hodd

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

Welcome back to Hodd.  Like the first crossword, there was a lot to enjoy but there were quite a few rough edges.  The commentometer reads as 7/30 or 23.3%


7 Silver ring from the past (3)
AGO – The chemical symbol for silver followed by the letter that looks like a ring.  The structure wordplay from definition is back to front, the definition comes from the wordplay.

8 Diagram centres on Italian growth of farming industry (11)
AGRICULTURE – The central letters of diagram followed by the abbreviation for Italian and a seven letter word for a growth.  Centres should be centre (there Is only centre being used.  The abbreviation for Italian is IT, it is the abbreviation for Italy that is I.  Some editors will not allow the structure wordplay of definition.

11 Casts off beads (5)
DROPS – Double definition.

12 General punctuation nerd in a tizzy (9)
COMMANDER – The name of a punctuation mark followed by an anagram (in a tizzy) of NERD.

13 Overarching project to explore planet Mars (6,4)
MASTER PLAN – An anagram (to explore) of PLANET MARS. I don’t think that to explore had sufficient force as an anagram indicator.  It does not imply rearrangement of the letters.

14 Good solver, ultimately? I’d fill this (4)
GRID – The abbreviation for good followed by the final letter (ultimately) of solver and the ID from the clue.

16 Light taking seconds to become universal (6)
COSMIC – A five letter word meaning light or frivolous includes (taking) the abbreviation for seconds.

18 Oddly thin, grey flower (6)
TIGRIS – The odd letters of thin followed by an old word for grey.  As the dictionary says that the usage is obsolete, perhaps old grey or use French grey.

22 One’s unhappy about being mentioned (4)
SAID – The letter representing one has a three letter word meaning unhappy around it.

23 PR firm’s heartless error put unstable international leader ahead (6,4)
PUERTO RICO – The abbreviation for company (firm) preceded by (ahead) an anagram (unstable) of EROR (heartless error) PUT and the first letter (leader) of international.

26 European Union measures to check acidity of river (9)
EUPHRATES – The abbreviation for European Union followed by phrase 2, 5 which indicates measures to check acidity. Another clue with wordplay of definition that may not find favour with some editors.

27 Result from European banks’ appeal (5)
ENSUE – The outer letters (banks) of European followed by a three letter word meaning to prosecute or appeal.

28 Ruin on outskirts of Nice (city in France) (11)
CARCASSONNE – A seven letter word for a ruin or hulk followed by the ON from the clue and the outer letters (outskirts) of Nice.  Not convinced that ruin and the word required are quite synonymous.

29 Company’s good to unimportant employee, perhaps? (3)
COG – The abbreviations for company and good.  Try to avoid repeating indicators such as good for G (used in 14a).


1 Hysteria surrounding democrat is affecting everyone (8)
PANDEMIC – A five letter word for hysteria around a three letter abbreviation for democrat.

2 Happy to be just on your own, until sobbing starts (6)
JOYOUS – The initial letters (starts) of the fourth to ninth words of the clue.  I think that the “to be” could be omitted here.

3 In fairness, hapless son is not an ostentatious type (4,5)
SANS SERIF – An an anagram (hapless) of IN FAIRNESS without one abbreviation for son.  I don’t think that “son is not” implies sufficiently that the S is to be removed.

4 Bob‘s down about love (5)
FLOAT – A four letter word meaning down around the letter represented by love.

5 Killer Queen, by Queen, has upbeat intro (8)
MURDERER – The abbreviation for the current queen twice preceded by (intro) of a four letter word meaning to beat reversed up.  Some editors would not allow upbeat as one word to be separated into up beat.

6 Deviated from ever-changing journalist (6)
VEERED – An anagram (changing) of EVER followed by the abbreviation for editor.

9 Instructions for making une crepe? (6)
RECIPE – An anagram (maKING) OF I (UNE) CREPE.  This is verging on an indirect anagram as you need to get from une to one to I for the anagram.

10 Arrange a time to fight (6)
COMBAT – A four letter word meaning to arrange or neaten followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviation for time.

15 T for tea-time tool, perhaps? (3,6)
TIN OPENER – read as a cryptic clue, the solution would give the letter T.

17 Elusive, like a fox, say, carrying headless fish for breakfast (8)
SLIPPERY – A three letter word describing the behaviour of a fox around (carrying) a seven letter word for a fish eaten for breakfast without the initial letter (headless).

19 One gets a beating from caveman, for example (5-3)
STONE AGE – An anagram (beating) of ONE GETS A.  I don’t think that caveman as a noun, even as a definition by example, defines an adjective or the period in which he lived.

20 Silly question not in inverted commas? (6)
QUOTES – An anagram (silly) of QUESTION after removing the IN.

21 Back inside? No, sir, please! (6)
PRISON – Th answer is hidden (inside) and reversed (back) in the final three words of the clue.  The solution is not fully inside the final three words.  Also, there is no separate definition and I don’t think that the whole clue defines a prison.

22 Disgusting smell of sulphur and fish (6)
STENCH – The chemical symbol for sulphur followed by a five letter breed of fish.

24 Bug member of cult? (6)
INSECT – Split 2,4 the solution would define someone who is a member of a cult.

25 “It’s very unusual to shoot rifle,” I conceded (5)
FREAK – A four letter word meaning to shoot and a two letter make of rifle without (conceded) the I.  I don’t think that AK on its own defines the rifle – It is an AK-47.

47 comments on “Rookie Corner – 313

  1. A couple of places where we don’t think the wordplay quite works (eg 8a where it should be Italy not Italian and 19d ). Took ages for the penny to drop for 25d which may be just a bit too sneaky.
    Overall we found it a well put together puzzle and fun to solve with a very topical 1d.
    Thanks Hodd.

    1. Thanks 2Kiwis. 8a. 19d is not tight enough. Wish I could see that before others did though! Italy/Italian was just a wrong presumption on my part. Lessons learned; that’s what RK is for!

  2. A good second puzzle with a bit of head scratching at the end with 3d and 25d, especially 25d, I think the 2Kiwis sneaky is a good description.
    I am not convinced on the synonym of ruin in 28a and the synonym of light in 16a generated a Hmm.
    I did like 18a and 26a – early solves which made me think there might be a theme.
    Thanks Hodd.

    1. Both the ‘ruin’ and ‘light’ definitions are supported by Chambers (as well as the one for ‘cog’ mentioned by Rabbit Dave).

      1. so it is! (ruin, i mean) that’s interesting – it’s not in the thesaurus (either way)

        1. Thanks Senf. Ruin in 28a just fit my surface so well, that when I found it supported by BRB, I was happy. However, I don’t think I would have been particularly impressed were I solving. I keep forgetting to keep that in mind.

          ‘Light’ for ‘Comic’ I’ve encountered a few times when solving, so it’s one of those I’ve come to accept.

          As to the theme, Tigris and Euphrates are part of it, as well as a few others. No one has claimed to have spotted the theme yet. It’s fairly low key and possibly a bit niche.

  3. Thanks Hodd! Some very inventive clues, some of which need a little improvement but generally very good.
    I particularly marked as good: 14a, 26a, 28a, 5d, 22d, 27a, 2d, 4d and 10d. Oh, and 25d, once I finally got it!
    I’ll comment on one clue here in more detail & leave the rest for Prolixic for tomorrow:

    21d this has the makings of a brilliant clue. However, the use of ‘in’ for a Hidden-indicator by convention means that the hidden letters shouldn’t really stretch to one end of the set of letters in which they are hidden. ‘NO SIR P(lease)’ is therefore not ideal. Given how close this is to being a great clue, I’d add a second ‘No’, so it reads “Back inside? No, no, Sir, please! (6)”. Not perfect but would pass the ‘hidden inside’ test and maintains the ‘pleading’ nature of the surface, which is very good. Alternatively, pick a name of a known prison that ends in …NO. eg EL RENO, SOLLICIANO, NAGANO, CORRADINO or even the fictional prison from a Mission Impossible episode, SERAVNO! In that case the clue would then read: “Back inside Seravno? Sir, please! (6)”. I prefer the pleading ‘No no’ version.

    As ever I have made brief notes as I solved, which I am happy to share but which are too wordy to include here. If you’d like me to email them to you them do ask Big Dave to put us in email contact and I’ll do so. I won’t be offended if not, of course!

    Hope this helps. I enjoyed the puzzle a lot, so thanks again!

    1. Thanks for the comprehensive feedback and encouragement, Encota!

      I didn’t know the ‘inside’ rule before, but I do now. Perhaps “Back inside? Oh no, sir, please!”. In any case, Prolixic has fairly pointed out that there’s no definition and it’s far from &lit.

      I find it hard to know how I would feel if I encountered it. Obviously I *think* that I would like it. I think I’d be far from Ximenean, even if I had learnt all the rules. However, many of the problems with my clues are still due to poor/contentious cluing on my part.

      I would very much like to see your solving notes. I’ll email BD. Many thanks!

  4. Well done again, Hodd, on a very good second puzzle containing largely accurate cluing and lots of excellent surfaces. I enjoyed it a lot although 25d defeated me until I revealed the first letter.

    I have only a handful of minor comments:
    12a – although you could use “comma” to lead to “punctuation”, I am not sure that it works the other way round without indicating that it is an example.
    13a – is explore an acceptable anagram indicator?
    18d – “Gris” is either French or archaic English, so I think “Oddly thin, old grey flower” would have been preferable.
    29a – strictly speaking a small cog is “an unimportant employee”.
    9d – I may be talking through my hat here (I often do) but perhaps putting “une crepe” in italics might make the surface seem less clunky.
    19d – I don’t think the definition works.
    21d – The reverse lurker is not “inside” and I can’t quite unscramble the definition.

    My picks of the bunch were 26a, 5d (I love the song!), 20d & 22d.

    Many thanks Hodd. This was very accomplished. Please do keep them coming.

    1. 12a: the way Hodd has done it is ok; going from comma in the clue to punctuation in the answer would be using an example

    2. Thanks Dave. I was more nervous to see the response to this puzzle than my first, what with the pressure of having to show improvement. To respond to some of your comments:

      13a – re: ‘explore’ as anagrind. I agree with you and prolixic and many others, in that it doesn’t suggest movement/rearrangement, and I was aware of this before publishing. However, I felt that a) the anagram was fairly easy and b) ‘explore’ might be encouraging the solver to explore what the letters might offer.

      29a – I think ‘cog’ is fairly derogatory, and suggests menial/unimportant. BRB supports that.

      9d – italics would have been nicer, thanks.

      I was the most happy with 5d, so thanks for mentioning it!

      Another one’s ready to go, so hopefully I’ll be back soon.

  5. I enjoyed this a lot – thanks Hodd.
    I think that there are a couple of suspect abbreviations, notably the rifle in 25d, and the anagram count (8) is on the high side.
    Like Senf I thought that the two rivers might be part of a theme but if there is one I can’t spot it.
    I particularly liked the very topical 1d and the clever 23a and 3d.
    More like this would be very welcome.

    1. Hello Gazza, and many thanks.

      I’m sure I’ve seen rifle=AK in the Guardian or Times before, but I don’t have an example to point to. Anagram count still high, but coming down!

  6. I thought this was pretty good. Very strong technically, grammatically, and surface-wise. Well done!!

    ruins seems a synonym of a synonym, I think “remains” fits between ruins and the answer, I don’t think it works directly – watch out for this.
    The cavemen seemed a little clumsy, I’m sure this can be made to work more smoothly (when cavemen hunted?)
    I liked some of the original definitions (the brief ones, without giving too much away) – though these can be tricky to indicate accurately – the question mark is a forgiving indicator (within reason) that you may wish to play with a little more.

    I like Encota’s suggestion of a prison name! I too noticed the unsatisfactory “edge”

    This feels like it has it seen the benefits of test-solving, highly recommended, so well done again and congratulations on a highly polished puzzle

    1. Hi Dutch, thanks for the kind and helpful comments.

      Whilst ‘ruin’ is supported by BRB, I think you’re absolutely correct that it’s a synonym of a synonym. I’m definitely guilty of reaching for the BRB app and finding something to suit my surface/deception without stopping to consider whether it really *does* mean that. As a solver, I’ve often googled words doubting the synonym, then finding that it is an accepted definition, causing me to give a resigned ‘huh’. Not very satisfying, I agree.

  7. Welcome back, Hodd.

    Well, the promise shown in your debut puzzle a few weeks ago has certainly been maintained, and the clues are noticeably less verbose than before, so well done in using your secateurs! The number of anagrams has reduced too, but there are probably still one or two too many. I thought the surfaces were once again very good indeed, so I don’t think that’s an area you need worry much about.

    I was however a little concerned by the use of constructions that defied the established conventions, such as “wordplay of definition” in 26a and “wordplay from definition” in 19d. Other clues didn’t quite cut the mustard, as have already been mentioned, but I think you deserve credit for thinking outside the box in certain places. I have several ticks on my printed page, 20d and 22d were vying for top clue.

    Well done and many thanks, Hodd.

    1. Thanks Silvanus, very happy to have been allowed back.

      I’m annoyed that I let a few ‘wordplay of/from definition’ clues get through. Thanks for bringing them to my attention. In the light of this, I’ve just gone over my next offering, and had to edit a couple of clues which committed that crime. The surfaces actually improved too, in my opinion – a happy outcome!

  8. A very good puzzle, work has clearly gone in to coming up with some original ideas and phrasing them well
    I noted just a couple of minor points for improvement in the wording and quite a few overseas references/answers which personally I tend to avoid in favour of ‘real’ words

    Very enjoyable overall, well done and thanks Hodd

    1. Hi LetterboxRoy,

      Thanks for the kind comments. Are you referring to foreign place names/rivers? If so, then I do agree with you in general. However, the two rivers and the place in France were all part of the low-key theme in this puzzle. Perhaps too low-key.

  9. I thought this was a very good second puzzle and it was apparent that our setter had taken on board the comments made after his first outing. Still a couple of areas that need working on but, from a solver’s perspective, I found this most enjoyable.
    Some of the devices used worked well, I particularly enjoyed the ‘ostentatious type’ and the ‘measures to check acidity’.

    Well done, Hodd, please keep them coming!

  10. Another fine puzzle from Hodd, I thought, with a sense of achievement when finished. I did have the urge to reach for the dictionary occasionally to check your synonyms, but you were in the right mostly.
    Liked particularly 12,14,16,22ac,28,2,5,20.

    13 ‘to explore’ is a bit out-there.
    18 ‘old grey’ perhaps.
    25 a trifle unfair with the AK I thought.
    15 ! – I suspected a reverse clue, made harder by different people’s ideas of what ‘tea-time’ means. Penultimate in.
    23 ! Admirable clue with a nice penny-drop moment to finish the puzzle.

    Cheers Hodd

    1. Thanks Gonzo, that’s good to hear. Re: your comments, I’ve discussed them elsewhere so won’t repeat here. Glad you enjoyed (?!) 23a. It was one that I didn’t enjoy cluing, but once I had ‘PR firm’ I felt locked in to writing something with that.

  11. Thanks Hodd
    I solved this last night when I should have been asleep and enjoyed it despite the late hour which usually stops me appreciating the clues.
    Plenty of good clues, of which my favourite was 5d. Also liked 25 12 28
    I liked the anagrams in 3 & 13 and the clues in general but thought both anagram indicators were iffy, particularly 13’s. There are so many precedents for meaningless anagram indicators that it’s easy to assume it doesn’t matter, but there are also so many words and phrases that do indicate rearrangement or movement that I think it’s a bit lazy not to try and find one of those that works.
    There were a few that didn’t quite work, like 21, and I wondered about a few of the definitions (eg. in 7a I’m not sure ‘from’ is quite right, and Bob in 4d (though it’s a nice clue) is not the same as the solution, rather it is something you might do while doing your solution)

    1. Cheers Mucky, happy to hear I could defeat the late-hour bias!

      Do you not think ‘hapless’ a fair anagram indicator? I agree ‘explore’ is pushing it. You’re so very right about meaningless anagrinds. I need to build my own living list of them, I think. I have a horrible habit of using CC’s built-in list which is (horribly) arranged alphabetically. I honestly think I would not have the patience to compile crosswords in the pre-internet age. However, any clues I did get round to writing would probably be much better for it.

      4d – I hadn’t doubted Bob’s synonym before your comment. It’s not strictly the same meaning, I agree. I don’t think there’s a sentence where the two would be interchangeable whilst conveying the same image. Is that the acid test?

  12. Good work, Hodd, brightened up my morning that was getting a bit tedious (housebound, etc. etc.) with one or two niggles that others have already pointed out.

    In 19d, I don’t think ‘beating’ works in this way as an anagrind – and the definition doesn’t work either: the solution can be either a noun or an adjective, but certainly not a synonym for ‘caveman’! In addition you should watch for anagrams that aren’t anagrammised enough: “one” is unscrambled altogether, as is “plan” in 13a. I think that’s forgiveable in 13a because of the good surface – but not in 19d.

    Again, in 28a, I think ‘ruin’ isn’t quite the right word.

    15d would be your best clue, if only the surface weren’t a bit iffy! These ‘reverse’ clues are very hard to engineer without making them obvious.

    Best, I think, are the last two, 24 and 25. Others have queried the rifle, but I think it works (I was going to suggest a way around the rifle problem, but I’m using it in one of mine to be sent to BD shortly – so I won’t! :-) ). The letters are short for “Avtomat Kalashnikova”, by the way.

    Thanks Hodd.

    1. well spotted with beating – it’s used here intransitively but with a meaning that is only transitive – a classic error and an important caveat, especially when looking through anagram lists

    2. Hello Laccaria, thanks for the useful feedback.

      19d is unsatisfactory for a few reasons, which you and prolixic and others have identified.

      I hadn’t spotted the unscrambled anagrams, very helpful point.

      I’ll look out for your rifle solution!

  13. Thank you once again, everyone, for spending time with my crossword and for the insightful comments. I will respond to individual posts tomorrow.

    Prolixic, thank you for the breakdown. An annoyingly high commentometer%, demonstrating how much I need to sharpen up. I would, however, like to respond to some of your points – I’m not wanting to argue my case, so much as understand more where I’m going wrong (and in the case of 3d, to knock the commentometer down a notch!)

    7a – Is it possble for ‘from the past’ to be the definition? Then I wouldn’t be commiting ‘wordplay from definition’.

    8a – If ‘centre’ can mean ‘centre letter’, can’t the plural work also?

    26a – I parse it as ‘EU RATES’ around (to check) PH (acidity).

    3d- The anagram is FAIRNESS around S for SANS SERIF, with ‘not an ostentatious type’ being the definition.

    9d – It is verging on indirect. But is it unfair? I could have used ‘one’ or ‘1’, but I felt the anagram was so easy that I could have more fun with the rules.

    Thanks again for the detailed breakdown, Prolixic. I need to revisit the rulebook.

      1. I’m more interested in not eliciting expressions of pain, than in staying ‘legal’. :)

    1. I think you make fair points about 8a and 9d. I parsed 26a as you meant it, though it doesn’t look like you were marked down for the alternative.
      In 7a I took ‘from’ to be part of the definition, but I don’t think ‘from the past’ is the same as ago. Ago goes with a period of time; ‘a year ago’ is not the same as ‘a year from the past’, which could be any year no matter how long ago.

  14. Many thanks for the detailed review, Prolixic. It certainly gave me food for thought as no doubt it did for our setter!

  15. Thanks Prolixic for review. In 3d – as Hodd has explained – the anagram fodder is FAIRNESS plus ‘S’, not FAIRNESS minus ‘S’. But the grammar still doesn’t quite work, because ‘hapless’ comes in the middle of the fodder. Would have been OK if the last letter of SANS SERIF were an ‘S’. The clue could have been In fairness, son, hapless, is not an ostentatious type but that rather spoils the surface.

    1. I think it works ok if you read ‘In’ as inside, i.e. inside an anagram (hapless) of fairness S(on) is (found).

  16. Thanks for responding Hodd. My further thoughts fwiw:
    7 As Mucky says, ‘ago’ is ‘in the past’.
    8 It does need to be ‘centres’ in your clue, but it’s a construction I avoid without more information about how many letters: however
    “Trio central to Iolanthe in charge of Shakespearian pageant (5)”
    26 I got your intended parsing, but quibble at ‘acidity’ – not strictly true.
    27 I assume the apostrophe is just there for the surface – ‘banks has’ for the cryptic reading would be ungrammatical imo.
    3 nice disguise of definition, but isn’t Comic Sans ostentatious? );
    19 Having seen ‘beating’ so often, I am reconciled to it as ‘throbbing’.
    I hope you take all our interest in these details as a compliment to the basic soundness of your work.

    I have a question for the panel. Is it fair to use ‘A as B’ as a replacement indicator?
    “…attend party as pirate” meaning “in a word for ‘attend’ change ‘do’ to ‘copy’.”

    1. I have a question for the panel. Is it fair to use ‘A as B’ as a replacement indicator?
      “…attend party as pirate” meaning “in a word for ‘attend’ change ‘do’ to ‘copy’.”

      That got me thinking – how have I done that sort of wordplay in the past? I think the most popular indicator is “for”; also seen “in place of” or “replacing”. gives these as examples.

      In my most recent one I had the clue “Check flower always got for nothing” (ROSE -> REVERSE) but I’m not too happy with the surface, and had to put in the superfluous word “got”. Not my best clue!

      1. Here I’m using ‘as’ to mean ‘replaced by’ rather than ‘replacing’ – I need it that way round in the clue. Sort of ‘in the guise of’, ‘appearing as’.

    2. My convention is that if I am questioning it, solvers definitely will so move on
      In this example no, ‘as’ is not an imperative in my view

    3. Thanks Gonzo,

      26 – I think pH for ‘acidity’ to be basically (no pun intended) correct. A solution’s pH defines its acidity. Can you elaborate?

      27 – Yeah, just a surface-reading apostrophe with no wordplay role at all.

      3 – It’s certainly unwelcome!

      1. A solutions pH defines it’s acidity or alkilinity. You wouldn’t say ‘measure the acidity of the sodium hydroxide solution’.

        1. Pedantically, Gonzo, I think you’re right (and I do have a Chemistry A-level to back me up – though that was many years ago and I’ve forgotten most of it!). But I think in a cryptic crossword intended to by solved by all-comers, not just chemistry experts, Hodd’s definition is quite acceptable. Certainly it would pass muster in a Grauniad cryptic – but then they have a reputation for ‘libertarianism’.

          1. I wouldn’t have rejected the clue either if I was editing – just a quibble, as I said. Maybe a definition by example rather.
            I’ve got round to researching the theme: Board games by Hans im Glück?
            Tigris and Euphrates
            Stone Age
            any more?

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