Rookie Corner 388 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 388

A Puzzle by Twist

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today’s new setter is Twist. 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 Twist.  Whilst this was tough, in most cases this was because of the clever wordplay rather than inaccuracies or errors.  However, there were some points to take note of.  Some of the complexity in the clues lead to bizarre surface readings but weaving complexity with natural sounding sentences takes practice.

The commentometer reads as 5.5/32 or 17.2%.


1 Gripping quote recalled backing piece introducing Gauss (8)
MAGNETIC – A four-letter word meaning quote is reversed (recalled) after (backing) a three-letter word for a chess piece into which you add (introducing) the abbreviation for Gauss.

5 Shocking treatment after bungling jab is contemptible (6)
ABJECT – The abbreviation for electro-convulsive therapy (shocking treatment after an anagram (bungling) of jam.

10 Mention inspiring note with science fiction content (7)
SATISFY – A three-letter word meaning mention includes (inspiring) a two-letter musical note and the abbreviation for science fiction.

11 Next remeasuring stores excessive (7)
EXTREME – The answer is hidden in (stores) the first two words of the clue.

12 Motorway worker shuns destructive associate (5)
ALIGN – An eight-letter word meaning destructive drops (shuns) the abbreviation for motorway and a three-letter word for a worker insect.  Where the letters to be removed are not contiguous, there should some indication of this.

13 Thief cartels in disarray (9)
LARCENIST – An anagram (disarray) of CARTELS IN.

14 Reason I replaced firm’s lighting? (8)
IGNITION – A nine-letter word meaning reason with the abbreviation for company replaced by the I from the clue.  I think that reasoning would be a better synonym for the word required in the solution.  Although Chamber’s thesaurus lists reason, quite often the thesaurus give rather loose synonyms and it is better to go back to the dictionary to check that the synonym is precise enough.  It is better to keep clues in the present tense.  Perhaps “Reasoning I should replace firm’s lighting”

16 Champs, failing to start abandon Sierra, dropping to last? (5)
CHEWS -A six-letter word meaning abandon loses its first letter (failing to start) and the S (Sierra) is moved to the end.

18 Basket case exhausted nurses concerning many (5)
CREEL – The outer letters (exhausted) of case includes (nursing) a two-letter word meaning letter followed by the Roman numeral for a large number (many).  I too do not like many to indicate a Roman numeral.

20 State right with regard to opposing elementary matter (8)
POSITRON – A five-letter word meaning state followed by the abbreviation for right and a four-letter word meaning with regard to.  As opposing elementary matter is a complete definition, I cannot object to its inclusion, even if the definition would work without it.

23 Fugitive’s record time at large following border (9)
EPHEMERAL – A two-letter abbreviation for a record followed by a three-letter word for a period of time and the abbreviation for large after (following) a three-letter word for a border.

26 Ancient healer’s oral discharge (5)
LEECH – A homophone (oral) of leach (discharge).

27 Fish, sesame, are essential ingredients of dopiaza (7)
TILAPIA – A three-letter word for sesame followed by the abbreviation for are and the central letters (essential ingredients) of dopiaza.  Given that the solution is an obscure word, it would have been fairer to the solver to have used a more friendly clue to the first three letters of the solution.

28 Double German period on endlessly awful cases (7)
BAGGAGE – The abbreviation for German repeated (double) and a three-letter word for a period of time all after (on) a three-letter word for awful with the final letter removed (endlessly).

29 Had setback grasping revolutionary crime language (6)
DANISH – Reverse (setback) the HAD from the clue around (grasping) a reversal (revolutionary) of a three-letter word for a moral crime.

30 Agent’s posts on tracks that suddenly become popular (8)
SLEEPERS – Triple definition of secret agents, posts on railway tracks and musical records (tracks) that suddenly become popular.  A few points on this clue – perhaps agents’ would be better than agent’s as the apostrophe does not appear in the solution.  I think that to describe the railway items as posts is misleading as posts are upright and the solution refers to horizontal items.  Finally, tracks is doing double duty, which should be avoided in setting clues.


1 Tragedy as Starship Enterprise initially leaves warp (6)
MISHAP – An eight letter word meaning warp without the initial letters in Starship Enterprise.  As with 12a, if the letters to be removed are not contiguous, this should be indicated.  I think that tragedy conveys a meaning that is much stronger than the solution.  Perhaps error would have been closer.

2 Drawing brief courage can galvanise leadership (7)
GUTTING – A four-letter word meaning courage with the final letter removed (brief) followed by a three-letter word for a can and the initial letter (leadership) of galvanise.  I don’t think leadership works as an initial letter indicator.  Although it can mean principal, to be an initial letter indicator it would need to precede the word.

3 Indispensable directions conveyed one by one to apprentice (9)
ESSENTIAL – The abbreviations for East and South (directions) followed by a four-letter word meaning conveyed, two different letters meaning one and the abbreviation for a learner or apprentice.

4 Disheartened, Darcy interrupts gloomy poem (5)
IDYLL – The outer letters (disheartened) of Darcy inside (interrupts) a three-letter word meaning gloomy.  I don’t think that gloomy and the word required in the solution are synonymous.  

6 Cover returned portion of tempeh tabouli (5)
BATHE – The answer is hidden in (portion of) and reversed (returned) in the last two words of the clue.

7 Loner’s bare, lying around sporting tie (7)
EREMITE – A four-letter word meaning bare or simple is reversed (lying around) and followed by an anagram (sporting) of tie.

8 Paper use is green at heart (8)
TREATISE – A five-letter word meaning use followed by the IS from the clue and the middle letter (at heart) of green.

9 Nottingham’s foremost craft rosé gin cocktails (8)
NEGRONIS – The initial letter (foremost) of Nottingham followed by an anagram (craft) of ROSE GIN.

15 Majestic drive carries water feature (8)
IMPERIAL – A five-letter word meaning drive or force around (carries) a three-letter word for a drowned valley.

16 Register pet with feverish condition, bringing up ring left inside (9)
CATALOGUE – A three-letter word for a feline pet followed by a four-letter word for a feverish condition that includes (inside) a reversal (bringing up) of the letters represented by a ring and left.

17 Confirmed rising music label’s enthralling disc on tango (8)
ACCEPTED – A five-letter name of a record company is reversed (rising) around (enthralling) a two-letter word for a disc or record and the letter represented by Tango in the Nato phonetic alphabet.

19 English football team spends first half of season concerned with position (7)
ECHELON – The abbreviation for English followed by a seven-letter word for a London football team without the first three letters (first half) of season followed by a two-letter word meaning concerned with.

21 Run round for every high tea (7)
OPERATE – The letter that is round followed by a three-letter word meaning for every and an anagram (high) of tea.

22 Casts about river for scraps (6)
SHREDS – A five-letter word meaning casts or gets rid of around the abbreviation for river.

24 Origins of Methone or Pallene – egg shaped moons? (5)
MOPES – The initial letters (origins) of the third to seventh words of the clue.

25 False report as programme’s implicated housing estate ultimately (5)
LIBEL – An anagram (implicated) of BILL (programme) includes (housing) the last letter (ultimate) of estate.  A big no-no is indirect anagrams where the solver has to find a synonym of the word and then make an anagram of it. 

40 comments on “Rookie Corner 388

  1. Sorry Twist not for me. After ‘Ray T’ time I have 12 answers, 6 in each direction. But, it might just be me on my Sunday eevening.

    Two comments on what I did solve. Poor proof reading on 15d with two enumerations. I don’t think that the three letter word required in 5d is a true synonym of gloomy.

    Thanks anyway.

    1. Hello Senf
      Thank you for at least trying my rookie offering. Clearly I have made the classic mistake of over complicating the clues. Thank you for also highlighting some basic errors such as the proof-reading.
      I found “gloomy” as a synonym in Collins in the sense of “bad” but I agree that it is tenuous.
      It is a shame that the difficulty level put you off so hopefully next time things will be a little more solver-friendly.
      Once again thank you nonetheless, Twist

  2. Well done Twist for producing a crossword for Rookie Corner.

    However (and it is quite a big however) so many of your clues are quite hard to follow, and include quite a few definitions which aren’t the first ones to come to mind. I also agree with Senf about the ‘gloomy’ in 5d. For me, the NE corner is the best as I had that completed before I got to the point of having to reveal letters to complete the rest of the grid.. I have seven clues with question marks by them as I don’t know how I get from the clue to the solution, so I’m looking forward to Prolixic’s review tomorrow..

    There are some good clues in the mix so please take note of what Prolixic and others will have to say and return in due course with a more solver-friendly crossword

    1. Hello Crypticsue
      Thank you for attempting the crossword. Seeing your and other bloggers comments it
      is indeed “quite a big however”! I have obviously misjudged the difficulty level but at least you solved some of the clues. This is hoe one learns! As stated above in reply to Senf I found “gloomy” in Collins but maybe the lesson is to not rely too much on a thesaurus. I too am keen to find our Prolixic’s review as I suspect he will have quite a few comments!
      Once again thanks for the feedback and hopefully next time you’ll be able to finish the crossword. Twist

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Twist. I found this very tough and needed frequent references to my BRB and to Google in order to finish. There are some promising elements to be found here but these are often lost in a sea of complexity, and, in several cases, your surface readings suffer as a result of simply seeming to piece together the various parts of the wordplay.

    Some specific comments:
    14a – For me “reasoning” is the synonym for the source word rather than simply “reason”.
    18a – I’m not particularly keen on “many” being used to clue L.
    20a – I think “opposing” is misleading and should be omitted.
    23a – “at” is surface padding.
    27a – You have used a very obscure word as part of a very obscure answer. At this level my preference would be to try to clue obscure answers using relatively straightforward cluing.
    30a – Unless I have misunderstood this, it appears to be wordplay (Agent + ‘S) plus a double definition with one word used as part of both definitions: “posts on tracks” & “tracks that suddenly become popular”.
    2d – I’m not sure if “leadership” can be used to indicate a first letter. Let’s see what Prolixic has to say about this.
    25d – I am utterly mystified as to how you get from “programme’s implicated” to LIBL.

    You have clued EP twice, although in one case with “record” and the other with “disc”.

    Well done, Twist, for the effort you have clearly put in to composing this. Please take on board the comments from Prolixic et al, before returning with your next puzzle.

    1. While I’ll agree about the obscure word required at the start of 27a, I’d disagree about the obscurity of the solution as it is a supermarket regular these days

      1. Thanks, Gazza. I’m never sure if you can ignore an apostrophe which is needed for the surface. Hence I took “agent’s” to be wordplay rather than “agents” as another definition. Either way it seems to me that “tracks” is needed twice for the second and third parts of the clue.

        1. I am with you on both fronts RD. My feeling is that AGENT’S ≠ AGENTS and tracks is doing overtime! But I’m not always (aka often) right!

          1. Agreed, DD and RD – but I did like this clue a lot. I hadn’t even spotted the apostrophe in wrong place (subconsciously reading agents’ which I think would work?) – and the “tracks” is certainly double-duty … but, whilst that is of course strictly incorrect, is there an argument to say such ‘overlapping’ wordplay could/should actually be allowed? It could be regarded as unconventional and to be used sparingly, but clever and effective – similar to unindicated word splits, which seem to be increasingly accepted?

            1. I’d agree with AGENTS’ too. Then I think the triple definition makes the tracks double-duty allowable (which probably wouldn’t be OK in a double definition).

    2. 20a. I took “opposing” to be a legitimate/germane part of the clue definition. I believe the answer is the antimatter counterpart (opposite number, if you like) of the electron. Possibly a bit clumsy/confusing, though?

    3. 14a. In Chambers Thesaurus, both reason and reasoning are listed as synonyms of c*******n. I’m not sure if that proves anything, though.

      1. *The BRB has 2 phrasal explanations of that word. Chambers Thesaurus has no less than 16 one-word synonyms listed, many of which could be used as a definition in a cryptic clue. That’s why the BRB isn’t always the best source of reference.

    4. 27a. I DO agree that the answer is obscure. And these days there are dozens of items on supermarket shelves that I’ve never heard of.

    5. Hello Rabbit Dave
      Very tough indeed it would appear! It fascinates me just how badly I misjudged these clues. This was my first crossword from over a year ago so perhaps the complexity was something I thought would be interesting back then, but clearly this has affected the surface readings and solvability. After a year or so of following this blog I should have known better!
      In response to your comments :
      14a I found reason in Chambers Thesaurus but as stated above that does not seem to be the answer to everything
      18a Noted!
      20a I was trying to be too specific as pointed out by Jose below. Agreed the “opposing”is not required
      27a As Silvanus guessed this was a filler that happened to fit the grid. the solution is commonplace around the wolrd but perhaps not so well known in Tesco etc
      30a This one seems to have touched a raw nerve. My guilty pleasure is multi-definition clues if they can be made to work. This was originally a 4 definition clue with one sense “posts” on its own being missed but i agree the clue has got muddied by the double duty. As for the darned apostrophe I too missed that in my proof-reading. I will be interested in Prolixic’s view.
      2d Yes, again it is suspect
      25d I am shamefaced! No excuse for an Indirect anagram!
      EP double usage again I missed it because of the use of two words, lesson learnt
      Thanks again for you feedback and hopefully, when the time is right I will have a simpler solve

  4. Welcome, Twist.

    I have to admit that I began not really enjoying the puzzle but the more clues I solved, the more I came to appreciate the cleverness of the wordplay and constructions, although in certain instances, like CS and RD, I’m still not sure how the solution is obtained, so well done to anyone who can parse everything satisfactorily. Overall, I felt the puzzle was tough, but generally very well constructed with a good range of different clue types.

    I agree that a few of the surfaces were unconvincing, particularly 13a and 16a, but several like 5a and 19d (my joint-favourite clues) were excellent, so it was quite a mixed bag on that front and Prolixic will cut you a fair amount of slack there. I also concur that many of the synonyms used appeared to be somewhat stretched, but virtually all were found in the Chambers Crossword Dictionary’s listings, so my initial question marks could usually be deleted. I hadn’t heard of 27a either, and suspect it might have been a grid-filler, as nothing else would fit. Like RD, I’m not a fan of “many” to clue a Roman numeral. It jarred to see a substitution of letters clue like 14a in the past tense, so I would have preferred “I must replace” to “I replaced”.

    Many thanks for a very promising debut, Twist, I hope you’ll tell us something about yourself later. Clues like 20a and 24d suggest maybe a science background, could that be right? Congratulations on your first puzzle here.

    1. Hello Silvanus
      Thank you for your kind comments on the clue wordplay and construction. It was a lovely positive in a sea of question marks!
      This has been very revealing in terms of pitching the difficulty level and I have found the comments to be constructive on the whole. The idea of “stretched synonyms” is intriguing in light of difficulty. I must admit to avoiding the everyday synonym but that is clearly where I made an error. Also the grid fill was perhaps overly complicated….you were right about 27a, definitely a grid-filler but it is quite known as stated above.
      I am also interested in the use of tense. As a linguistics fan getting that right feels important. I perfer your option of “I must replace”.
      To end I once thought I was a scientist but a degree later proved to me I most certainly wasn’t.
      My regret is that I did not follow the languages route!
      Once again, thank you for your perseverance with the clues and I hope the enjoyment levels will be higher next time. Twist

  5. Well done on braving Rookie Corner, Twist.
    As others have said some of the clues are rather complex and many of the surfaces don’t make a great deal of sense but there’s a lot of promise here.
    I can’t parse a bit of 3d and if I’ve parsed 25d correctly it’s a dreaded indirect anagram.
    I liked 10a, 2d and 19d.
    I look forward to your next puzzle.

    1. 3d. I assume it’s Directions (E + S) + conveyed (SENT) one by one (I next to A) to apprentice (L). I (as 1) and A both representing single entities.

    2. Hello Gazza
      There is a common thread to all the solvers responses today!
      I will try to simplify the clues next time and make the surface smoother!
      Doh! I cannot believe I let 25d get through my numerous proof-reads. Such a basic error!

  6. Thanks Twist – I thought that was tough but well worth persevering with some very clever clues.

    A few of the surfaces didn’t quite convince – I think these just require a little polish, though, rather than any major surrgery. Perhaps look to include a few more ‘simple’ constructions and cut out the more ‘convoluted’ examples – for me, these included 16a, 16d, 17d – nothing really wrong with the clues ‘technically’, all were pieced together from little bits (fine in itself) but with the clues themselves also reading as pieced together, rather than ‘smooth’.

    Some of the definitions did seem a little ‘strecthed’ – in some cases, to good effect (eg 10a as a verb, 23a an interesting/unusual synonym) but in others I think less so (1d seems a bit OTT, 4d not sure ‘gloomy’ is quite right)

    A few specific comments:
    12a I’m not sure the deletion indicator works that way round (ie should be “shunned by” rather than “shuns”)? But I could well be wrong – will be interested to see Prolixic’s take on that.
    18a Like others, I’m not keen on “many” = L
    20a I’m sure the “opposing” must be scientifically correct, but it probably isn’t necessary here and possibly a little (unfairly?) distracting
    30a The “tracks” is doing ‘double duty’ – personally I like this, and it’s a very clever clue, but I think this is probably ‘against the rules’. Perhaps alluding to the word (rather than repeating it) would be OK though – ie “…tracks – those that suddenly…”?
    2d I think ‘leadership’ would need some sort of possessive indicator to work (although of course “galvanise’s leadership” makes no sense – so perhaps “…can lead to greatness” or similar)
    15d shame about the double enumeration but a simple mistake, nice clue otherwise
    17d repeats the use of the record – even though using a different word, it’s essentially the same
    24d I suspected this would turn out to be a very clever surface, and Mr Google confirmed it
    25d I think the only really ‘serious’ error here, as it uses an indirect anagram – to be avoided at all costs!

    Also plenty of ticks, including 5a, 27a, 28a, 29a (though surface perhaps a little odd?), 30a (except for the ‘double duty’), 3d, 19d, 21d, 22d, 24d (post-Googling!) – and my favourite was 14a (I didn’t mind the past tense at all, although agree with Silvanus that “I must replace” may have been even better)

    Overall I did really enjoy this – I’ll look forward to more Twists

    Thanks again!

    1. Hello Fez
      I am truly pleased you enjoyed the crossword (for the most part).
      The “bitty” nature of the clue writing stems from this being an early attempt over a year ago.
      I was probably trying to be too “flashy” but have obviously got it wrong on this occasion.
      In response to your specific comments many have been dealt with elsewhere, but in reference to “stretched synonyms” :
      1d I was very much thinking of the wonderfully “melodramatic”, always OTT, Mr William Shatner when I wrote this clue!
      12a “shunned by” definitely works. I use a website The Clue Clinic that has “shuns” as “departure” style deletion indicator so kept it in.
      30a I am chuffed you like this clue. As stated above I do like multi-definition clues! Please see my reply to Rabbit Dave.
      24d I was also happy you liked this clue despite having to use Google. This was actually a last minute change for clue balance so was written at a very different time to the majority of the other clues.
      Enough said about 25d!
      Thank you Fez for your positive remarks. Until next time. Twist

  7. Welcome Twist. Like others I found this too tough to solve without assistance and had a list of surfaces that were at best questionable (it is surprising how off-putting this can be) as well as answers I am still struggling to parse. But in between I also found lots to like with some very clever constructions that point to significant promise and ability. But if I have an overall message, it is to remember that the aim of the setter must be to lose the struggle with the solver gracefully. I feel you have at times tended to lose sight of that.

    1. Hello Dr Diva
      Thank you for giving it a go! At least there were a few positives hidden away below the surfaces. Your overall message has been duly absorbed and understood!
      Hopefully my next crossword will be more approachable.
      Thanks again. Twist

  8. Welcome to the Corner, Twist. I’m afraid I can’t give you anything much in the way of constructive criticism of individual clues because having finally filled in the NE corner and a handful elsewhere I threw in the towel and resorted to using the ‘reveal’ facility to help me through the remainder.
    My overall impression is that you concentrated far too much on the use of convoluted wordplay and unusual synonyms at the expense of surface reads and solver enjoyment. Such a shame as you obviously have a fair amount of ability. Perhaps you could try producing something a little more solver-friendly next time?
    Thank you for your efforts and I look forward to reading what Prolixic has to say about it.

    1. Hello Jane
      I am sorry that you (and others) had to give up on your solve. The one lesson I need to learn more than any is that of simplification! I will indeed be trying hard to learn from all the comments made today and of course await Prolixic’s review with some “trepidation”!
      Thank you for the feedback!

  9. Quite a challenge and a couple of hmms (25d?)
    A few surfaces read as distinctly unnatural, something to keep in mind in future perhaps
    Well done and thanks for the entertainment Twist

    1. Hello LetterboxRoy
      Hmm indeed!
      Unnatural surfaces seems to be a common theme so I will definitely be focussing on them!
      Thank you for attempting the puzzle and finding some entertainment! I am not so sure how many people actually enjoyed it though, which is the end goal of course.
      Once again, thanks.

  10. Well Twist I’ve given it my best shot but have only managed 16 answers & have only 2 in the south. Easy it most certainly is not & if those far more able than I have found it a tough nut then doubt I’m going to get any further. Something a wee bit more accessible for the average solver may be the way to go for your next submission.
    Thanks anyway

  11. Some very nice clues! e.g.
    I actually liked 30a (wasn’t bothered by the possessive — since i considered it to be wp + 2 defs and I didn’t notice the “tracks” double-duty).
    Parsing 25a had me bamboozled — indirect anagram didn’t occur to me.
    I thought 16a wp was clever (though the surface still has me wondering)
    16a was well-constructed and had sensible surface reading.
    Finally, 9d was satisfyingly misleading since I am hardwired to associate “cocktails” with mixing, thus was sure it was the anagrind.


  12. Prolixic, many thanks for your review which was as comprehensive as ever and I am sure very helpful for Twist.

    In particular I was very pleased to read your comment about the use of Thesauri, which reflects my views (more concisely than I could have managed!) and is the reason why I much prefer to rely on the BRB itself as the final arbiter.

    1. RD and Prolixic. I don’t generally disagree with your preferences to primarily rely on the BRB, but the word “cognition” was the perfect example of a point I’ve made before. The BRB lists only 2 phrasal explanations/definitions of the word, with no one-word definitions/synonyms – leaving the reader/setter no option other than to consult a thesaurus to find/select/confirm one. The Chambers Thesaurus lists 16 one-word synonyms, some of which could be used as a definition, some very close synonyms and some not so close. Regarding the clue, reasoning is certainly a better fit than reason – but neither are to be found in the BRB! So, if you’re looking for a good one-word definition/synonym, the BRB can often act as the final arbiter – but sometimes it’s not much use at all.

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. It certainly sounds, from his replies, as though Twist has taken on board the concerns contributors have voiced and I don’t doubt he’ll be appreciative of your detailed comments.

  14. Hello again
    Just a quick thank you to Prolixic for the review and advice/tips.
    And of course a big thank you to Big Dave for the opportunity to test the water!

Comments are closed.