Rookie Corner 382 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 382

A Puzzle by Gollum

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Gollum is our latest setter making his debut. 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 Gollum.  It was an impressive feat to get so much thematic material into the grid.  I enjoyed the theme though, as you will have noticed, overly complex themed puzzles will divide solvers.  Technically, there were only a small number of comments on the clues.  Long anagrams such as 14d are sometimes seen.  Whilst I am not a fan of them, you will find them from time to time.  My reservations with the anagram are more technical.  The device using 25a as part of the solution to two clue is fine.

The commentometer reads as 3/24 or 12.5%.


1 Women’s sickness (6)
MALADY – A two-letter word for a woman followed by a four-letter word for woman.

4 Cheltenham’s text message contractions (6)
SPASMS – The type of resort for which Cheltenham is an example followed by the three-letter abbreviation for text messages.  As Cheltenham is aa definition by example, this should be indicated.  It could have been avoided by using Bath in place of Cheltenham.

9 Surrounded by Military Intelligence in modern times (4)
AMID – The abbreviation for Military Intelligence in the abbreviation for modern times.

10 18, 15 for example – though an American would sound as if he lived in a bog (10)
LIEUTENANT – The American pronunciation of this rank would be a homophone of LOO TENANT.

11 She’s born to last in Kent, maybe, followed by a blessing (6)
SNEEZE – The three-letter word for a feminine birth followed by the last letter of the alphabet all inside the region of England where Kent is found.  Not all solvers iike verbal phrases to define the solution – to work they nave to be precise.

12 The Hunter, sick inside a projection from a bastion (8)
ORILLION – The famous hunter immortalised in a constellation includes a three-letter word meaning sick.

13 Eradicate this dictator by love in defeat (4,2,3)
ROOT IT OUT – The four-letter name of a Yugoslavian dictator followed by the letter representing love or zero all inside a four-letter word for a defeat.  I think that the this could have been omitted.

15 See 18 Down

16 It’s fitting I’m an alien – 18, 15 had a strange longer one (4)
MEET – Split 2,2, this could be someone saying I’m an extra-terrestrial.  The second part of the clue refers to the poem Strange ****ing.

17 Admiral, for example, fit to sail (9)
SEAWORTHY – Split 3, 6, an admiral might be so described.

21 Strong way – war holds the key? On the contrary (8)
STALWART – The abbreviation for street (way) followed by a three-letter word for a key on a computer keyboard with the WAR from the clue within it.

22 A gap where bend in canal is bombed (6)
LACUNA – The letter suggesting of a bend in a pipe used in plumbing inside an anagram (is bombed) of CANAL

24 Girl’s brow, suggested 18, 15 – Spooner’s one who matches stones seen at a funeral (4-6)
PALL BEARER – A Spoonerism of BALL PAIRER (one who matches stones).  Perhaps the one thematic clue that relied too much on knowledge of the theme.

25 See both 1 Down and 14 Down

26 Before public transport, it’s hell (6)
EREBUS – A three-letter word meaning before followed by a three-letter word for a type of public transport.

27 A senior theologian at the Front? That’s bad (6)
ADDLED – The A from the clue followed by the abbreviation for doctor of divinity and a three-letter word meaning at the front.


1 /25a: Men, “Other Ranks”, “Tommies” endlessly marching in formation – the danse macabre, perhaps (7,4)
MEMENTO MORI – An anagram (marching in formation) of MEN OR (other ranks) TOMMIE (tommies endlessly).

2 Serve Germany with the French on both sides (5)
LADLE – The feminine and masculine singular forms of the French word for the around the IVR code for Germany.

3 See 14 Down

5 See 14 Down

6 To the south, a French river which rises high (9)
SUNFLOWER – The A from the clue followed by the French masculine singular for a and a six-letter word that cryptically is used to define a river.  This is the weakest of the verbal phrases as a definition.  Perhaps “one painted by Van Gogh” would have been better and created a more pleasing surface reading.

7 Where horses run at the end of the day, with an article not socially acceptable (7)
SANDOWN – A seven-letter word for the end of the day with the indefinite article replacing the letter representing socially acceptable.

8 See 14 Down

14 /3d/8d/5d/25a: 18, 15 told Horace’s misguided murderers I proceeded on automatic pilot to Hell (3,3,3,5,2,7,3,3,6,4)
THE OLD LIE DULCE ET DECORUM EST PRO PATRIA MORI – An anagram (misguided) of MURDERS I PROCEEDED AUTOMATIC PILOT TO HELL. Whilst there is nothing technically wrong with long anagrams, there were two issues with this clue.  It seems to me that misguided is doing double duty as part of the definition and the anagram indicator.  Secondly, the “on” between parts of the anagram fodder is too misleading given the complexity of the anagram.

16 Macbeth might say “It’s a gas!” (7)
METHANE – Split 2,5, this is how Macbeth might describe his status.  Having used the device in 16a, a different way of cluing one the the clues should have been found.

18/15 Down rifle? We desperately wrote of the Pity of War (7,4)
WILFRED OWEN – An anagram (desperately) of DOWN RIFLE WE.

19 An area where fear follows Attila, we hear (7)
HUNDRED – A homophone (we hear) of HUN DREAD – fear after the group of which Attila was a leader.

20 German devoured gold – it’s a piece of cake on the Somme! (6)
GATEAU – The abbreviation for German followed by a three-letter word meaning devoured and the chemical symbol for gold.

23 Sopwith‘s river animal (5)
CAMEL – Triple definition of a bi-plane made by Sopwith, a Cornish river and a desert animal.

29 comments on “Rookie Corner 382
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  1. Sorry Gollum, not for me – somewhat complex for the third cryptic of my Sunday evening. You have obviously put a lot of thought into the puzzle especially with the 39 letter answer ‘spread’ across 5 clues.

    I will be interested to read what the experts think of ‘linking’ 25a with two Down clues I don’t think that I have ever seen that before.

  2. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Gollum.

    There is no doubting the effort you have put in to compile this. However, I feel that you have jumped in at the deep end by having a highly specialised theme which I think has made it very much a puzzle for the setter rather than the solver. The best puzzles are those which strike the right balance between setter and solver, and I doubt that many of the blog contributors will have solved this without copious use of reference aids. I completed it more out of bloody-mindedness not to be beaten rather than enjoyment.

    Having spotted the importance of 18d/15a, I resolved to solve this clue first. Fortunately, I had heard of The Pity of War so I got an immediate foothold. This is a clever clue, and well done for creating such a relevant anagram.

    I then Googled famous quotes by the author and the 10-word 39-letter, partially Latin, anagram appeared very quickly, giving me a substantial amount of the lights filled in almost at once. I counted 41 letters in the fodder, which I haven’t bothered to check in detail, and have assumed that you have slipped in the extra “on” in the middle as surface padding.

    The constraints of the theme have led to many of your clues being very wordy, which in turn has given rise to some surreal surface readings (e.g.: 16a, 24a, and others). Your shorter clues work better and I particularly liked 1a, 4a, 17a & 27a.

    There are some points of detail which I’ll leave Prolixic to cover. Please heed his wise words and come back next time with a more solver-friendly offering. Thanks, Gollum.

  3. So I sat eating my breakfast solving this crossword and told Mr CS exactly what the comments on this crossword would be, and so far I haven’t been wrong.

    I will admit that I did know 14d etc so I didn’t bother to work out the anagram but wrote it in, which I think is one of the problems with such a well-known themed solution which you are sure will turn up once you have ‘got’ 18/15. The clues I particularly liked were 1a, 10a (which made Mr CS laugh), 17a (which made me smile) and 16d

    Thanks Gollum, I thought it was an enjoyable crossword, but if you want to keep the others happy, perhaps you should use your obvious crossword setting abilities to provide a non-themed puzzle next time. Thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  4. Thanks Gollum

    tl;dr version: What Rabbit Dave said!

    Found this very tough – first ones in were towards bottom right. 18/15 was clearly the key, so this came next, nice anagram but definition I thought needed “he” or similar rather than just the phrase. I’m not too familiar with the poet, but the overall war theme helped there – and I do know the famous quote, so that went in quite easily – however, I haven’t parsed it at all, presumably it’s a very long anagram. That opened up quite a lot of the grid so from there, whist by no means plain sailing, things gradually fell into place.

    A few specific points:
    4a probably needs a defintion by example indicator
    11a similarly to 18/15 the definition phrase perhaps needs something more precise (“it’s…”)
    12a obscure but very fairly clued
    13a the “this” seems superfluous
    16a the thematic reference seems a little tenuous and isn’t necessary
    24a, as with 16a, the thematic reference is a bit ‘specialised knowledge’ and isn’t necessary
    6d definition is perhaps a bit too vague
    16d essentially uses the same device as 16a

    Plenty of good ideas on show too … I particularly liked 17a, 21a, 27a and 19d, and favourite 1a.

    There’s no doubting the grid construction was clever, as were the pervasive military references in the clues, but I think this may have been just a bit too heavily themed. The long phrase is perhaps a bit much for a standard 15×15, and the theme might be better served by something like an EV/Inquisitor – I wonder if you’ve considered trying that?

    Thanks again!

  5. I do find puzzles where there’s so much hopping about rather tedious and I might well have binned this one had I not got 18/15 early on. This gave me the very long quotation straight away (I presume it’s an anagram but I couldn’t be bothered to check it) and that was a big help in getting to the finishing line.

    My medals were awarded to 1a, 10a and 17a.

    Overall it was impressive – thanks Gollum.

  6. Fantastic, Gollum! Thank you. We needed some Google aid but thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. So much to admire – and to think about. Loved 10a and 16d especially. We look forward to your next one.

  7. Welcome, Gollum.

    My feelings mirrored Gazza’s opening paragraph. For anyone unacquainted with the works of 18/15, I imagine this would have felt like quite a slog, even though I knew most of the long quotation I didn’t know it was preceded by 14d.

    I think it would be unfair to judge the surface readings too harshly, given the constraints of he theme and that this is a debut puzzle, but let’s just say that several failed to convince. I didn’t care for some of the definitions like “followed by a blessing” and “wrote of the Pity of War” as I’m not a great fan of verbal phrases to clue nouns/proper names. I would have liked to have seen “that” instead of “which” in 6d.

    I must say that the puzzle was cleverly assembled, but it was more of a puzzle to admire, despite its faults, than one to enjoy.

    Thanks, Gollum.

  8. Welcome to the corner, Gollum. Managed about 12 answers before putting this aside but then, like RD, sheer bloody-mindedness made me come back to finish the solve, albeit with a couple of reveals to help with 11&24a – neither of which I’ve managed to parse with complete satisfaction.
    I did put ticks alongside 1,4,17&27a but in all honesty I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed this puzzle.

    Thanks for your hard work, Gollum, perhaps try something a little less ambitious next time?

  9. Such a heavily themed puzzle is inevitably going to be Marmite, and I appreciate the fact that many of those who disliked it (Rabbit Dave, Gazza, Silvanus, Jane) have gone out of their way to be constructive.
    I don’t think any setter can ask for more than Hilton’s comment; and, having got 18, 15 (and the 39-letter anagram around which the puzzle was conceived) out of my system, I shall try and come up with something which is not just impressive (thank you, Gazza) but enjoyable for the solver (sorry, Silvanus and Jane)

  10. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I knew anything about the theme or Latin, so much of that was revealed before I started
    The rest wasn’t too tricky and enjoyable on the whole, just a shame I couldn’t take part in the other half
    Thanks for the challenge Gollum

  11. Given how the War Poets were (and may still be) part of the English curriculum, I’m very surprised at the number of people who didn’t know the theme. I said to my friend ‘today’s Rookie is about 18/15’ and she immediately said 8d, 5d, 25a. I don’t know a lot of Latin (I was in the German stream) but this is one sentence I always remember

  12. Much to my surprise I can withdraw my earlier comment #3. Dipped into this again after a brief look at this morning & immediately got the poet (though didn’t know the quote was attributable to him) & then remembered the final lines of his most famous poem (didn’t know they were written by Horace). Interest piqued I then completed without a letter reveal so am rather chuffed & must say I very much enjoyed the solve. There are a couple I can’t parse satisfactorily (13&24a)but an otherwise fairly brisk solve. Pick of the clues for me were 4,10,11&26a plus 6d
    Thanks Gollum

  13. A bit of a curate’s egg for me, Gollum. There were some great ideas and plenty of ability on evidence, but I found the many poor/nonsensical surfaces off-putting. 11a, 12a, 24a, 20d, 7d were typical offenders but there were others to choose from. 7d, for example. offers so many options for creating a neat and compact clue (eg “Small and filling course” or “Admit following smooth track” as simple alternatives), but I’d guess you got stuck with the “end of the day” idea and relentlessly forced a clue out of it at the expense of the surface. My advice – if an idea isn’t working, let it go and try a different way!

    Clueing 25a twice is a new one on me – will be interested in Prolixic’s take on that, but, hey, why not?!!

    As an overall offering, I can’t say I totally “got” this puzzle. In addition to the issues with the surfaces, as has been mentioned above, there was just too much hopping around IMO.

    So I would recommend next time that you concentrate on getting those really smooth.

  14. Well I enjoyed this and thought it very clever. Well done Gollum on sticking your head over the parapet. I quite enjoy themed puzzles and have no qualms on having to investigoogle to confirm or learn about a possible answer (eg 12), that is one of the attractions of Toughie puzzles ( in which I would categorise this). I liked the double use of 25.
    Thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  15. First of all, and as ever, I doff my cap to anyone willing and able to compile a properly cryptic grid and who then knowingly pokes their head out of the trench to expose it to sniper-fire. (Gahhhh … had I not spent so long pondering my comment I’d not have unknowingly and coincidentally echoed Gordon’s line!)

    I found this an enjoyable, amusing, satisfying and straightfoward puzzle, despite not being a great fan of extensively themed crosswords and rather disliking the hop-skip-jump style of cluing involving multiple and/or inter-dependent clues throughout a grid – very occasionally sufficient initself to stop me from bothering with a puzzle at all when it’s this extensive.

    As with others above, I whacked in 18/15 (and checked quickly on birth/death dates for any significance in the timing), couldn’t be bothered to parse the extended clue and just filled in the quote. Was it an anagram? If so, well done indeed as for creating one … I’m just sorry that it was lost on me.

    Yes, some of the clues were rather wordy and some of the surface readings were a little strange (20d), but there were a good number of delights (inc 26a, 16d and 23d), a good homophone/Spoonerism combination in 24a, and I liked the reversal in 21a.

    There are a couple of clues for which I await Prolixic’s parsing/comments but otherwise, very well done indeed and I do look forward to your next challenge!

  16. Mustafa G, you get a serious hat-tip for a comment seamlessly continuing the theme of the puzzle!!
    I am glad that a number of people appear to have enjoyed the puzzle, idiosyncratic as it was; and as before I greatly appreciate the way in which those who didn’t enjoy it, or found it a curate’s egg (I’m hoping that Dr Diva is using the term in the colloquial sense – the original curate’s egg in the cartoon was, of course, bad), have gone out of their way to offer constructive and helpful criticism, with most of which I agree.

    1. It’s a wonderful Punch cartoon even though the usage of the reference has evolved over the decades, and the phrase now generally means something very different to what was originally intended!

    2. Very much in the colloquial sense Gollum as I found a lot to like as I hope I made clear (eg 1a, 4a, apart from a missing example indicator, and 17a amongst others). I also loved the 10a homophone, but was far less enamoured of the surface which I felt forced the theme unnecessarily with quite specific GK about HO when something like “US officer comes across as a bog dweller” would have been much neater IMO.

  17. Thanks Gollum. I was out most of the day so got to this quite late. Unfortunately, I don’t know the work of this poet (not on my English syllabus 40 years ago), I didn’t study Latin and I didn’t know the quote. So that was quite the disadvantage! I managed about a half of it but the rest was largely reveals I’m afraid. From the other comments I can appreciate how clever this was but inevitably it wasn’t going to be for everyone. You can take encouragement from the fact that those who were able to solve the puzzle had lots of good things to say, and Prolixic I’m sure will provide a very helpful review. My personal experience is that this forum is invaluable for getting feedback that will help you hone your skills further. Thanks again and I’ll look forward to your next one.

  18. An apparently daunting puzzle but not so difficult in the end since the gateway clue, 18/15, was easily solved, though some familiarity with 18/15’s work was needed. But the trouble with long phrases which take up multiple lights is that once they’ve been solved there’s not a lot left and the solver can feel short-changed at the end. And the presentation of the clues, at least in the PDF version, was a bit confusing. But this was a worthy effort. My favourite was 4ac.
    Thanks, Gollum and, in anticipation, Prolixic

  19. I liked “extensively themed” puzzles and this was no exception. I also like puzzles that force me to delve into a subject I’m only cursorily familiar with (saw “1917” on Netflix the other day so it was in context).

    Like many, didn’t “prove” the long 14d anagram (so unclear if “misguided” is doing double-duty or not — after all, the whole thing could be read as an &lit maybe? ). The “specialised knowledge” I lacked was ironically SANDOWN.

  20. A brief comment on the review: “using Bath in place of Cheltenham” would have avoided the definition by example but I thought ‘Cheltenham’ together with ‘messages’ might have been a bit of misdirection to make one think it might be something to do with GCHQ. Just a thought.

  21. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, which certainly cleared up a few things for me – the Cornish river was new to me and I didn’t know the poem referred to in 16a. However. I still haven’t got a clue when it comes to the ‘ball pairer’ or how it relates to stones.

    1. I am, I fear, a bit of a fan of Paul in the Guardian who is notorious for a slightly schoolboy sense of humour; and “ball-pairer” will make more sense to you if you note that Chambers gives as one meaning of stone “a testicle (sl., now rare)”. I think stones used in that sense also appears in the King James Bible.
      Sorry if the poem was unfamiliar. I think it’s worth a read.

      1. Thank you for the ‘enlightenment’. Given the puzzle’s theme, I thought it perhaps related to the shot fired from a gun or cannon – how wrong can one be………….

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