Rookie Corner – 357 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 357

A Puzzle by Hubble

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Although this puzzle marks Hubble’s debut in Rookie Corner, there are more of his puzzles on his own website. Hubble Crosswords. 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 be Prolixic follows.

Welcome to Hubble.  A very good start but let down by three indirect anagrams.  The commentometer reads as 6 / 30 or 20%.


1 Palm of deserter getting colour (6)
RATTAN – A three-letter word for a deserter followed by (getting) a three-letter word for a colour.

4 Exceptional group (two males) (8)
ABNORMAL – A blood group followed by the shortened forms of two male names.

9 Said to be waitin’ for president (5)
BIDEN – A homophone (said) of a six-letter word meaning waiting without the final G (as in the waitin’ from the clue).  As the president’s name is pronounced differently to the wordplay, this clue does not work particularly well.

10 Singer Cher joins trios in new composition (9)
CHORISTER – An anagram (in new composition) of CHER TRIOS.

11 Half ran back to conference (7)
SEMINAR – A four-letter word meaning half followed by a reversal (back) of the ran from the clue.

12 Mother chopped vegetable beforehand for money (7)
DRACHMA – A two-letter word for mother with an anagram (chopped) of CHARD (vegetable).  The rule for standard cryptic crosswords is never to use indirect anagrams (anagrams where the words to be rearranged are not given directly in the clue but have to be inferred from the wordplay).  The other point to note in this clue is that the solution is no longer a monetary unit so the definition should have indicated this.

13 Son of duke’s head rolled back to some extent (4)
LORD – The answer is hidden and reversed (back) in D ROLLED where D is the first letter (head) of Duke.

14 Who in France gets involved with search engine optimization when they’re forest dwellers? (8)
SEQUOIAS – A three-letter word meaning who in French inside the abbreviation for Search Engine Optimisation followed by a two letter word meaning when.  As the abbreviation is given in Collins, Chambers and the OED, this is a fair for the setter to use.

17 Rush to endorse back-to-front flower (8)
STAMPEDE– A five-letter word word meaning to endorse followed by a three-letter word for a river with the last letter moved the the front.

19 Mexican food served during pasta course (4)
TACO – The answer is hidden (served during) the final two words of the clue.

22 Soldier almost finished model (7)
PARAGON – A four-letter word for a soldier followed by a four-letter word meaning finished with the final letter removed (almost).

24 Bird caged by immigration authority trainees (7)
INTERNS – A four-letter word for a bird inside the abbreviation for Immigration and Naturalisation Service.  As the abbreviation is for an American service, this should have been indicated.

25 Director giving long speech to Austrian composer (9)
SPIELBERG – A five-letter word for a long speech followed by a four-letter word for an Austrian composer.  The structure definition giving wordplay is the wrong way around.  The wordplay can be given by the wordplay but does not give it.

26 Sounds like equine scam artist (5)
BACON – A homophone (sounds like) of BAY (equine) followed by a three-letter word for a scam.

27 Washington e.g. follows tale of wisdom (8)
SAGACITY – The type of conurbation of which Washington is an example after a four-letter word for a tale.  Some editors will not allow wordplay of definition though the reverse, definition of wordplay is accepted.

28 James of old, a Scottish wimp (6)
JESSIE – Double definition of an old US outlaw and a Scottish word for a wimp.  Unfortunately, the outlaw’s name does not have the I in the spelling.


1 Energetically steal American television when train departs (8)
ROBUSTLY – A three-letter word meaning steal followed by a two-letter abbreviation for American and a five-letter word for television without the two-letter word for an American elevated railroad.  There is a difference between a train and a railroad.  

2 Shorelines? (9)
TIDEMARKS – Barely cryptic definition of the patters left by waves.

3 Trading unopened sunshade (6)
AWNING – A seven-letter word word trading without the initial letter P (unopened).

5 Excited Nordic bulldog creating horror (12) (13)
BLOODCURDLING – An anagram (excited) of NORDIC BULLDOG.

6 Paperwork for soldiers meeting their American counterpart on the way up with French friend (7)
ORIGAMI – The abbreviation for Other Ranks (soldiers) followed by a reversal of a two-letter abbreviation for US soldiers and a three-letter word in France for a friend.  The structure of definition for wordplay does not work.  You can have a wordplay for a definition.

7 With German, going to church to dodge lessons (5)
MITCH – A three-letter word in German meaning with followed by a two-letter abbreviation for church.

8 Officer catches tune pitched by cowboy (6)
LARIAT – The abbreviation for Lieutenant (officer) includes (catches) a four-letter word for a song.

10 Wow! One who answers to journalist (13)
CORRESPONDENT – A three-letter word meaning wow followed by a ten-letter word for one who answers.

15 Fake diamonds proudly worn by the Irish (9)
SHAMROCKS – A four-letter word meaning fake followed by a five-letter word for diamonds.

16 Unruly behaviour on northeast cape is disrupted (8)
NONSENSE – An anagram (is disrupted) of ON NE NESS (cape).  Another indirect anagram which is not a valid clue form in standard cryptic crosswords.

18 Blissful cherub with heart of vice (7)
ANGELIC – A five-letter word for a cherub followed by the inner letters (heart) of vice.

20 Text message about father’s tremors (6)
SPASMS – A three-letter abbreviation for a text-message around a three-letter word meaning father’s.

21 Firmly established Spanish leader on board (6)
STABLE – The first letter (leader) of Spanish on a five-letter word for a board.

23 Regretting game with spilled drink (5)
RUING – The abbreviation for Rugby Union (game) followed by an anagram (spilled) of GIN (drink).  Another clue where there is an indirect anagram.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner – 357

  1. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Hubble
    On the whole, I found this to be a well crafted puzzle with generally credible surfaces – a very good start
    However, there are two indirect partial anagrams 23d/16d, I don’t think either SEO (14a) or the train at 1d have made it into UK dictionaries yet; 12a is no longer legal tender so perhaps, ‘old money’? I also tried one or two of the puzzles on your website – indirect anagrams creep into those too so maybe that’s something to look out for
    An enjoyable solve, so well done Hubble and thank you for the entertainment

    1. ‘SEO’ is in an OED draft addition from 2013, with the earliest citation from 1999. It’s also in Oxford’s free dictionary, Lexico, and Collins, but doesn’t seem to be in Chambers.

      The train is in the same 3, though marked as American. It isn’t in the appendix listing ‘crosswordese’ synonyms of short words and abbreviations in Chris Lancaster’s How to Solve a Cryptic Crossword†, and the most recent Telegraph crosswords I can find it in are from 2015, before he took over as editor. So perhaps it isn’t allowed these days.

      However, it’s a term I only know from solving (or, rather, from not solving) crosswords, so it must crop up somewhere. And it appeared in a Rookie Corner only puzzle last month (albeit as ‘railway’ rather than ‘train’) without nudging the needle on Prolixic’s commentometer. So I think it’s reasonable for a rookie to use it.

      † My copied arrived last week. The original was lost in the post, and when I mentioned to Chris that it hadn’t arrived, he very kindly sent a replacement.

  2. Like LbR says an enjoyable solve and I really liked 11a, 8d, and 10d.
    But I do have the following comments:
    I would add a third indirect anagram, 12a, to the two identified by LbR (which I also found).
    The 24a immigration authority should be indicated as US (and I believe no longer actually exists by that name).
    Assuming that the 28a “James of old” is the US outlaw then his first name is not spelt the same way as the “Scottish wimp.”
    The 9a homophone does not really work for me. I think the new US President would be upset if his name was pronounced with an “IN” sound at the end.
    The 1d train has made it into the BRB but with a US indication.
    Thanks Hubble.

  3. Late on parade today but here at last.
    Lots of clever well put together clues but the enjoyment of solving was significantly reduced for us by the indirect anagrams. Despite those there are still plenty of ticks on our pages and a few chuckles to remember.
    Thanks Hubble.

  4. As earlier commenters have said, a well put together crossword spoiled by the indirect anagrams. I agree with Senf that the homophone in 9a doesn’t work. I also have two clues where I don’t quite get the wordplay.

    Thanks Hubble – take note of what Prolixic has to say in his review and follow the rules and then come back soon with another crossword. Thanks in advance to Prolixic

  5. Welcome to Rookie Corner Hubble and thanks for the puzzle.
    The indirect anagrams did detract from the enjoyment but there’s still plenty to like here.
    My ticks went to 10a, 20d and 21d.

  6. Thanks, Hubble. We enjoyed completing the puzzle, one or two answers we can’t fully parse – 1d, 28a and 16d but it didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment for us on a very cold snowy morning. We look forward to your next one. Thanks to Prolixic in advance and, as always, BD.

  7. Welcome, Hubble!

    I agree that the puzzle was well-constructed and it was thankfully obscurity-free, although 7d is not a word I’ve previously encountered. I did think a few of the surface readings such as 1a, 17a and 1d were fairly unconvincing, and both 14a and 6d seemed rather wordy.

    As has already been said, indirect anagrams are taboo, but not uncommon in Rookie puzzles. I generally love homophones, but I’m not a fan of contrived ones like 9a unfortunately. My lockdown eyebrows, growing bushier daily, were raised by “wordplay OF definition” in 27a, and “definition FOR wordplay” in 6d, and I think 18d would have read much better as “one with heart of ice”. 2d wasn’t very cryptic, was it?

    I have several ticks on my printed page, but I think my favourite clue is probably 10a. It might have been better to use a containment indicator there though, so that “Cher” could merely be “(US) singer” and “joins” could become “welcomes” or something of that ilk. Similarly, I’m not sure why “ran” in 11a didn’t appear as “raced” or “hurried”, it was curious to see indirect anagrams, but a “direct” reversal!

    Many thanks for the puzzle and for joining Rookie Corner, Hubble. I hope we’ll see you again soon.

  8. Hello Hubble & Welcome to Rookie Corner!

    I think all my thoughts have already been well covered above. Some neat clues, well done. But was that four indirect anagrams I spotted? Though one might argue that yours were all straightforward enough to solve, they aren’t in any setting rulebook and so editors would universally, I understand, not accept them. (See PS)

    Do look out for Prolixic’s feedback tomorrow: it is always very valuable!

    PS Re. Indirect anagrams, I’ve never really understood why. I suspect as many solvers rely on spotting anagrams as their entry points to solving puzzles, it would perhaps move such clues from being some of the easier ones to some of the hardest (or at least to an unknown difficulty level). And thus reduce the enjoyment for most solvers. Maybe!

    1. Isn’t it more that indirect anagrams would just become ludicrously unfair very quickly – eg the clue “Means cut when reformulated in a different way (10)” (to adapt a clue from today’s Times) could technically lead to CONTRARIWISE but no solver is ever going to work out in a month of Sundays that means=criterion and cut=saw and an anagram of “criterion saw” is “contrariwise”. Even the simpler ones are still more of a clue to a clue – guess the right synonym and then work out the right re-ordering of the letters.

      I’ve always regarded the quid pro quo for setters being the extraordinary wide range of accepted anagram indicators where even words with a fairly tenuous relationship to re-ordering letters are deemed acceptable.

      Mind you, I’m woefully bad at working out anagrams even when I’ve spotted them and with the letters provided, so I’m definitely never going to be in favour of making anagram clues harder!

  9. Late in to comment although I did solve this one in the wee small hours. A sterling effort but rather let down by the indirect anagrams along with a couple of verbose clues, alien abbreviations, an unexplained Irish expression at 7d and a couple of nebulous men at 4a.
    Enjoyable enough but please pay careful attention to the words of wisdom which will come from Prolixic in due course – we can’t have you leading others astray via your puzzles site!

    Thank you, Hubble, I’m still smiling about the fake diamonds.

  10. Well what do I know. Didn’t realise an indirect anagram was frowned upon & have just been reading about why. Kind of get it now that I think I’ve finally worked how to parse my 16d bung in (anagram of ness for cape) which was my last in. I thoroughly enjoyed this Hubble & plenty of ticks for me – 10,25&27a plus 2,5,8,15&18d were the ones I liked most.
    Look forward to your next one.
    Ps am sure a lad with the surname of Mitchell was, along with me, one of occasional bunkers off from school – who knew

  11. Despite the mentioned indirect anagrams and homophone it was a pleasant solve.
    Just needed the BRB to check 7d.
    Look forward to your next one.

  12. With the exception of the indirect anagrams (and although they didn’t really remove too much of the shine for me, they are such obvious errors) I really enjoyed this, significantly more so than the NTSPP.
    I’m someone who likes to give the setters a degree of ‘artistic licence’ so didn’t mind the homophone at 9a, it kind of works if said (appropriately) in an American accent.
    I’ve picked out 22, 25 &27a plus 15&20d as highlights
    Of course I liked the lurker at 13a too
    Well done and thanks Hubble

  13. A fairly straightforward solve, let down, as already noted, by the indirect anagrams. You can have indirect truncation – for example ‘Burn chopped vegetable (4)’ to give CHAR – as well as indirect reversal and indirect cycling (where the beginning of a word moves to the end or vice-versa) as the relative order of the letters doesn’t change, but not an indirect anagram.
    But there was a lot to enjoy and I particularly liked 10ac, 22ac and 5dn.
    Keep going, and we’ll look forward to your next puzzle.

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, although I did get a little confused by some of your comments regarding wordplay and definitions. I don’t imagine that it’s always easy to put into the written word.

  15. Didn’t get a chance to look at this yesterday, but agree with the comments already posted. But I did like the overall style and brevity of clues and enjoyed 17a,26a, 10d, 15d. As with many good puzzles I also learned something new (eg mitch!) but I had to look up INS for immigration authority. I thought that overly obscure as it appears only to have existed 1933-40 in the US. I’m not sure I could be expected to know that without at least some extra help (ie US, former, old etc).
    Will look forward to the next one and like your site!

  16. As we have Prolixic’s excellent analysis and other solvers’ comments, suffice for me to say I enjoyed most of this puzzle.
    I did, however, have problems with a couple of clues — the unravelling of which I much appreciate. Thank you very much, Prolixic.
    And thank you, too, Hubble, for an essentially very good and entertaining crossword. I did like several clues very much, including 25a and 15d. Please follow Prolixic’s guidance and I hope we shall see you back here soon.

  17. A heartfelt thank you to Big Dave for publishing my puzzle, to Prolixic for the analysis, and to everybody who took the time to try out my puzzle and comment on it.

    I am very annoyed with myself for using indirect anagrams. When I first considered setting my own cryptics early last year, I learned that indirect anagrams were to be avoided. Somehow, I managed to completely forget this until it was brought to my attention again very recently by an established setter, by which time I had already made my submission to Rookie’s Corner, and had used some in my other puzzles.

    I feel El is synonymous with train in common usage. When people say things like “take the El,” “take the Underground,” “take the Tube,” or “take the Metro,” I suggest they are referring to the actual train rather than the infrastructure.

    I’m finding it a bit difficult to get a feel for when to be more explicit about some elements of clues, such as whether River is okay for Rhine, rather than German river. I think I need to err on the more explicit side.

    I’m not surprised at the reservations about Bidin’/Biden as homophones. Homophones seem to be the biggest bones of contention in puzzle commentaries. In the last week, I have seen in nationals Dia/Dire and Hawser/Whore’s a, and I honestly believe Bidin’/Biden are more homophonic than either of these.

    What is the BRB referred to in some comments?

    Finally, when I publish this puzzle on my own site, it will be as is. That is not because I am ignoring the advice received, which I will try to incorporate into my future puzzles. I just want to be able to look back at some point in the future and hopefully see a big improvement on my early efforts.

    Once again, thanks for all the comments.

    1. Nice to see you pop in to say thank you to the likes of Prolixic and BD, Hubble, but I wonder whether it would be wise of you to publish the puzzle ‘as is’ on your own site. Surely you would be indicating to your solvers that it’s perfectly OK to use indirect anagrams – unless you add a preamble which mentions the errors that have been pointed out to you.

      1. Yes, of course, Jane. It is my intention to do precisely that, as well as providing a link to the puzzle on this website. I will also modify the text on my Home page to mention some of the issues that have been raised, and why existing puzzles will not be edited despite these issues.

    2. To pick up on your comment about referring to the Rhine as a German river or simply a river, I think you’re in good company. Aardvark in the FT today (10th Feb) refers in a couple of clues to ‘British river’ and ‘English county’ when simply ‘river’ and ‘county’ would probably have sufficed; there’s also a reference to a ‘fenland river’ whhich might or might not be necessarily explicit.

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