Rookie Corner 384 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 384

A Puzzle by Oraora

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today Oraora makes 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 OraOra.  Overall, this was something of curate’s egg.  Parts of it were excellent but there were a lot of basic errors that needed correcting.  There was an issue with the grid, 8d and 13 down both contain 3 consecutive un-checked letters.  This would not be permitted in most national cryptic crosswords.  There is one stock Telegraph grid that breaches this rule but it is universally avoided by setters.  There have been several comments about the surface readings.  I agree that many of them were not the best in the world.  You should try to create clues that read naturally as a sentence in their own right.  Compare 1a with 27a.   More of the former type of clue and fewer (preferably none) of the latter.

Overall, the commenometer reads as 7/32 or 21.9%


1 Cruel if complicated devil (7)
LUCIFER – An anagram (complicated) of CRUEL IF.

5 Spiky cut this in a grumble (7)
MOHICAN – A three-letter word in Latin meaning this inside a four-letter word meaning to grumble.  I think that some indication is needed that it is the Latin word for this that is needed.

9 NASA lander hides about a trunk (5)
NASAL – The answer is hidden in the first two words of the clue.  Hidden word clues work best when the answer is fully hidden in the wordplay.

10 Ancient poet leaves resistance and unending church surveillance (9)
VIGILANCE – A six-letter name of a Roman poet without (leaves) the abbreviation for resistance followed by the AND from the clue without the last letter (unending) and the abbreviation for Church of England.

11 Recapture earlier TV broadcast (9)
RETRIEVAL – An anagram (broadcast) of EARLIER TV.

12 26 road turned east ably (4)
WELL – The answer to 26d with the A (road) changed (turned) to E (east).  I think that you need turned to East for the cryptic grammar to work.  However, even with that change, you need to indicate a type of road, not a road itself.  

15 Docked figure buried within network operator assets (6)
ESTATE – A five-letter word for figure inside the two-letter name of a UK mobile network operator.  I wonder whether figures would be better here to give stats as the word to be docked.

16 Capital territory where cold cuts are sold hot inside (5)
DELHI – A shop that sells cold cuts of meat includes (inside) the abbreviation for hot.

19 After record, I see reason (5)
LOGIC – A three-letter word for a record followed by (after) the I from the clue and the letter that sounds like see.  As see is the phonetic spelling of the word, it is does not require a homophone indicator.

20 Sombre, we require content beer maker (6)
BREWER – The answer is hidden (content) in the first three words of the clue.

23 Sad Spanish gran forgets answers in confusion (4)
BLUE – An anagram (in confusion) of ABUELA (Spanish gran) after removing the As (forgets answers).  Oh dear!  It’s being a long time since we have had the cardinal sin of an indirect anagram.  The basic rule is that the letters to be rearranged should be given in the clue and not referred to indirectly.  To compound the error, the word clued is a Spanish one that not many solvers would bring to mind.  To further compound the error it is a subtractive anagram.

24 Tip sells out trinket vendors (4, 5) (9)
GIFT SHOPS – A four-letter word for a gift followed by a five-letter word meaning sells out.

27 Putting back shop closer promoted inside loop (9)
RESTORING – A five-letter word for a stop with the last letter moved to the front (closer promoted) all inside a four-letter word for a loop.

28 Circle huge final letter (5)
OMEGA – The letter that is circular followed by a four-letter word meaning huge.

29 Trash modest royal to some extent (7)
DESTROY – The answer is hidden in (to some extent) in the second and third words of the clue.

30 Waves back off, rod spinner sounding odd (7)
SURREAL – A four-letter word for waves with the last letter removed (back off) followed by a homophone (sounding) of something that spins on a fishing rod.


1 Protracted naked blow followed by underwhelming ends (4)
LONG – The inner letters (naked) of blow followed by the last two letters (ends) of underwhelming.  You should not use ends to indicate a random number of letters at the end of the word.  Ends implies the front and back letters.

2 Tape outcome of ace tests (8)
CASSETTE – An anagram (coming out of) of ACE TESTS.

3 Sieve cut off, black goop up one on separating process (10)
FILTRATION – A six-letter word meaning to sieve with the final two letters removed (cut off) followed by a reversal (up) of a three-letter word for black goop, the letter representing one and the ON from the clue.  Rather like 1d, you cannot use cut-off to indicate removing a random number of letters from the end of the clue.

4 Assess minister that’s beginning to waver (6)
REVIEW – The abbreviation for reverend (minister) followed by the abbreviation for that is and the first letter (beginning to) of waiver.

5 Mary mother, boy brought up, after good measure (8)
MAGDALEN – A two-letter word for a mother followed by a reversal (brought up) of a three-letter word for a boy after the abbreviation for good, all followed by a two-letter word for a printer’s measure.

6 Devout learner avoids prickly plant (4)
HOLY – Remove the abbreviation for learner from a five-letter word for a prickly plant.  Perhaps as the prickly plant contains two Ls, it might be better to have Devout single learner…

7 Heart of innocent Eros, as across the pond (6)
CENTER – The answer is hidden (heart of) in the third and fourth words of the clue.  The word heart is doing double duty as the definition (combined with the final words of the clue to indicate the American spelling) and part of the wordplay.  This should be avoided.  As a hidden word indicator, heart, like centre of implies the middle letters looked at symmetrically.  Having four hidden word clues is too many for a crossword.

8 Eccentric drew leek on embroidery (10)
NEEDLEWORK – An anagram (eccentric) of DREW LEEK ON.

13 Penis crushed by vibrator called to mind (10)
REMEMBERED – A six-letter word for a penis inside (crushed by) a four-letter word for an item that vibrates in a woodwind instrument.

14 Regular prayer almost stirs chief leaver (10)
CHURCHGOER – A six-letter word meaning stirs with the final two letters removed (almost) followed by the abbreviation for chief and a four-letter word for a leaver.  Another clue where a random number of letters has to be removed.

17 God fool in chapterless metropolis (8)
DIVINITY – A three-letter word for a fool followed by the IN from the clue and a four-letter word for a metropolis without the abbreviation for city.

18 Suit set as far as amity pronounced (3, 5) (3-5)
TWO-PIECE – A homophone (pronounced) of TOO (as far as) PEACE (amity).

21 Sources note unmoored rowboats seen escaping slipshod harbours (6)
NURSES – The initial letters (sources) of the second to seventh words of the clue.  For the cryptic grammar to work, you should have sources of.

22 Puts on legs (6)
STAGES – Double definition.

25 Leading boffins owlishly analyse rare animal (4)
BOAR – The initial letters (leading) of the second to fifth words of the clue.  Leading on its own does not work.  You needs Leaders of boffins for the cryptic grammar to be correct.

26 Screen unfinished animated robot (4)
WALL – The name of an animated robot with the final letter removed (unfinished).

30 comments on “Rookie Corner 384

  1. We got everything sorted and enjoyed the solve bot suspect that Prolixic will have plenty to comment on in his review. The ones we enjoyed most were 5a, 14d and 30a.
    Thanks Oraora.

  2. That was fun and thanks for a good first effort but, like the 2Kiwis, I suspect that Prolixic will have quite a lot to say.

    Points that are obvious to me:

    ‘Double enumeration’ for 24a and 18d and for both of them one is incorrect.

    I think that there should be an indication that we have to remember our Latin for ‘this’ in 5a – similar to when we see ‘French article’ in a clue.

    9a confused me, hides suggests a lurker but if it is from NASA Lander then it is not a ‘true’ lurker. If it is something else then I am really confused.

    I think 19a should have a homophone indicator for ‘see’ to become C in the answer.

    In 1d, I presume ends means the last two letters of underwhelming. If it does, I don’t think it works.

    Thanks again Oraora and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Oraora. Judging by the amount of scribbling on my page I imagine that Prolixic will be kept busy as the two previous commentators have intimated. I won’t repeat Senf’s points, most of which I agree with, although I am very sorry to say that Chambers sees fit to define “see” as the third letter of the alphabet. As an aside, why we need made-up words to describe letters is a mystery to me as their only use seems to be in crosswords. Which is easier to understand? – “See is the third letter of the alphabet” or “C is …”

    A lot of your surfaces were very strained, which detracted from my enjoyment, but this is one of the hardest things to get right consistent with accurate wordplay. Don’t forget to apply the “would this sound sensible if I overheard this in the pub?” test.

    There were three occasions where you required cutting two letters from the end of words, whereas I believe that normally “docked”, “cut off” and “almost” mean removing just the final letter. I’ll be interested to see Prolixic’s take on this. In any event, well done for using different indicators!

    I’m not sure how 12a works as, if I am reading it correctly, it looks as if you are using “road” to describe the A in 26d which needs to be replaced, which is a stretch too far in my opinion.

    23a is an indirect anagram.

    Well done, Oraora. You have clearly worked hard on this, and you have some good ideas. Please pay careful heed to Prolixic’s review and come on back with another puzzle soon.

  4. Welcome to Rookie Corner Oraora and thank you for the crossword. I did wonder, given some of the solutions, whether you are a member of the clergy?

    Previous commenters have remarked on the things I noticed, including the indirect anagram at 23a and the most peculiar 9a.

    Thanks in advance to Prolixic

  5. Welcome, Oraora.

    Although Prolixic tends to be extremely forgiving to debutants as regards surface readings, I’m sure even he will concede that some of those in this puzzle made very little sense. I would put around one third of the total clues in this category, unfortunately, and that inevitably coloured my impressions of the puzzle overall. There seemed to be an over-reliance on deleting the ends of words too, some legitimately some not so, as RD has already pointed out. The two triple unches in the grid were disappointing, but technically many of the clues passed muster, it was just a great pity that their surfaces didn’t.

    I do detect potential, but the surface readings are definitely the area to concentrate on before your next puzzle.

    Many thanks, Oraora.

  6. Welcome to Rookie Corner Oraora, well done for having a go
    Surfaces aside, there is a fair amount to think about here, for example 9a is not lurking; 7d is not the ‘heart’ of the fodder; 21/25d neither of the first letter indicators work grammatically
    As is so often the case, many ideas are fine, just not quite massaged into shape
    As well as the ‘say it down the pub’ test, there is also the ‘does it look like a cryptic clue, can I envisage this in a back-pager’ test
    Once you have the nuts and bolts of a clue, think again as to how you can rephrase the same thing in a more smooth and pleasing way – there is always a way
    I’m no prig, but I don’t want to have to think about penis and vibrator over my morning coffee, thanks
    You’re half way up the hill, but the second half is harder
    Some enjoyment to be had nevertheless, so thank you for the entertainment and I look forward to your next

  7. Welcome to the Corner, Oraora. As you will have gathered from previous comments, there are several areas you need to work on and some crossword ‘rules’ that Prolixic will doubtless clarify in his review.
    Meantime, well done for all your efforts and I hope you’ll be back ‘ere long with another compilation.

  8. Thanks for the puzzle & congratulations on making your debut. I’m afraid I can’t disagree with the views of the experts but that said I still enjoyed the solve which needed only 1 letter reveal.

  9. Hi Oraora, welcome to the fray!!
    As others have mentioned Prolixic will have some things to say on technical front and it will all be great advice, so soak it up!

    Just to take Silvanus’ point a little further, look at, say, 27a, 30a, 3d, 13d, 17d and 18d as ask yourself what these actually mean. Having surfaces like that misses the real fun of compiling cryptic clues, namely coming up with a authentic “story” which gives precise instruction to the solvers, while cleverly misdirecting them or disguising the indicators in plausible context, so they don’t stick out like a sore thumb. 25d (by no means your worst surface) was to me especially disappointing as it has boffins “owlishly” analysing, which seems a very weak adverb in the context. Given the nature of the clue type, you could have easily come up with a better word beginning with O to improve the surface (perhaps obsessively or overzealously). So for your next puzzle, really work on getting credible surfaces and if you find you can’t combine the syntax with a good surface, stop and try a different tack.

    Having said that there were some good ideas. 22d brought to mind a Paralympian preparing for his race

  10. For me a case of “so near yet so far” with a lot of this Oraora. Some good ideas but (if I’m parsing them all correctly) some basic mistakes too. Did you have a rest solver?… I certainly would have before submitting a puzzle for scrutiny on here!
    I think LBR makes some good points. Some of your whacky surfaces could have been so much better with a little re-jigging. Take the clue he highlighted 13d for instance, something like “Called to mind penis embraced by vibrator” sounds so much better to me.
    Having said all that there was a nub of a good and clever puzzle here, I enjoyed it and look forward to a smoother second offering

  11. Thanks Oraora. As others have said, surfaces do need some polishing, and there are several ‘technical’ errors (in the clues themselves – but also the ‘triple unches’ and double enumerations). Prolixic will no doubt have plenty to say, for which thanks in advance. I did like the anagrams at 1a and 11a, and also enjoyed 22d – several others ‘almost but not quite’, with some good ideas just requiring a little tweaking. Looking forward to seeing progress in Oraora #2!

  12. Well done and welcome Oraora.

    A few niggles, but I’m sure others will pick up on them. Given the pronunciation of said robot & the fact there’s a hyphen in the name, I thought 26D a bit weak.

    I’m sure 13D won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I rather liked it…

  13. I was a little surprised to read some of these reviews, having enjoyed the large part of what I thought an amusing and quite clever puzzle – I had thought to see rather more praise!

    Debut or not, I was most impressed – despite some rough edges. I’m going to need to see Prolixic’s review to parse a couple, and yes, some of the surfaces were rather (and some, very) strange, but otherwise this was a pleasure to tackle.

    Oddly, 9a was one of my podium contenders – I thought it worked well, on the basis that “about a trunk” is the definition. I thought your other lurkers were fine. I’m with RD on C/See, but if the BeeArBee says it’s ok (but not ohkay!), then who are we to gainsay it?

    Very well done, thank you for a great first effort, and I will certainly look forward to your next puzzle, Oraora.

  14. My comments, as usual, are made without having read any of the previous comments so I’m probably duplicating what others have said.
    There are some very good ideas here but they’ve been let down by the grid design and one or two ‘blips’ in cluing. In the grid there are two ten-letter lights, each of which has only four checked letters and also three consecutive unchecked letters (a ‘triple-unch’ in crossword jargon). Four other lights also have less than 50% checking. As far as clues go, I liked 23ac but wonder if it’s fair to expect setters to know ‘abuela’ is the Spanish for ‘grandmother’. I also liked 21dn for the association of harbours with rowboats but am not sure if ‘sources’ on its own is a suitable indicator for initial letters. One thing I didn’t like was in 12ac’s reference to 26dn where apparently the single letter used to indicate the class of road in a road number is used to mean a road. There were one or two other questionable clues, but no doubt Prolixic will pick them up in his review.
    On the other hand I really liked 5ac, 10ac, 30ac, 7dn (which took me ages to see), 5dn and 17dn (where I learned the three-letter word for a fool, which was new to me).
    All in all a worthy effort. Do take note of Prolixic’s comments – I found his comments most helpful when my first puzzles appeared in Rookie Corner.

  15. Don’t be discouraged, Oraora; I enjoyed it!! Especially 5A, 28A, and 13D. I have total respect for anyone that can put together an entire puzzle which both challenges and entertains. Thanks for your efforts. Look forward to your next submission.

  16. Was very appreciative of Prolixic’s review, though while I had Wall & Well, sadly I still don’t really understand 26d – what/which robot? Would anyone mind enlightening me, please?

    More importantly, though, Prolixic notes “Having four hidden word clues is too many for a crossword.”

    [Bete noire alert] … Why are four lurkers too many (is that an editorial issue?) when most DT-published puzzles contain five, six or more anagrams?

    Indeed today’s DT backpager has 8 anagrams in only 30 clues, meaning that more than 25% of the puzzle is based on a single clue type!

      1. Thanks, Dr D – have neither seen nor heard of the film or robot, so that’s one for the cruciverbal memory bank!

        1. Not making assumptions here, but I suspect you weren’t part of the target audience Mustafa!! 😁

      2. Must admit, all I could come up with was ‘Where’s Wally’ – doubtless incorrect but it got me to the answer!

    1. The general guidance for Telegraph setters is a maximum of two hidden solutions, I think. (For the Times it’s just one.) Presumably that’s because they are generally the easiest clue to solve – although often hard to write!
      For anagrams the Telegraph advises no more than six, although it’s not clear if that’s full anagrams only. Most of the anagrams in today’s back-page puzzle had other devices in the clues, although the distinction is a fine one. (The Times guide says “no more than five complete anagrams”.)

      1. Thanks for that, Twmbarlwm – very interesting, and I do appreciate your reply. I don’t find a good lurker any easier to solve than a good anagram, especially if reversed, and consider them on a par. Indeed if anything I’m probably a bit more impressed by a late-to-reveal lurker that’s held up completion of a grid until that “Doh!” moment strikes, and regard anagrams as often providing the easier entry points to more challenging puzzles.

        The Times certainly doesn’t seem to have the plethora of anagrams to be found in the DT, but it does appear to challenge the solver with a greater number of more toe-curlingly awful puns!

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Plenty for Oraora to take on board before his next outing, I do hope he benefits from your advice.

  18. Most of my comment were enumerated by others – i’ll just point out that I though that 13d was delightful in a cringeworthy way — putting the words penis/crushed/vibrator in the same sentence was bound to do that!

  19. Thank you very much, Prolixic, for your detailed review and to everyone else for their carefully considered feedback. It has been so useful and rewarding to read all your comments. I hope to learn from your advice as I set to work on my next (and hopefully improved!) puzzle. This has been an invaluable experience. And thank you again to Big Dave!

    (I have just one question regarding the grid design itself. As a beginner, I was wondering what the consensus is regarding using grids found elsewhere as the basis for your own puzzle? Is it frowned upon? From the sounds of it, many newspapers already specify set grids and it would seem to me that surely every valid combination must have been used and re-used several times over by this point, anyway?)

    1. Hi Oraora and thanks again for the puzzle
      When choosing a grid, a few things to consider
      Make sure there is good inter-connection throughout, avoid grids that have all 4-7 letter entries and of course double unches, and I also avoid 3 letter words
      Also remember a grid that doesn’t give starting letters is generally harder to solve
      This and checking letters should also be in mind when writing your clues in terms of difficulty
      Always a good idea to check the letter count too, try to swap out ‘setter’s letters’ (R,S,T,E,L -ing, -er etc) in favour of some more interesting or unusual words
      That’s what I do, anyway; hope that helps

    2. Hi Oraora, I’m rather late to the party this week. First, thanks and congratulations on your puzzle! I won’t repeat what others have said but will just add some reassurance from my own experience that you’ve come to the right place. I would also strongly encourage you to find a test solver if you don’t already have one. LetterboxRoy has provided some very helpful pointers on grid design. To answer your specific question, I don’t think anyone would frown upon you using grids you have found elsewhere, provided you find some new words to fill them with of course!

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