Rookie Corner 390 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 390

Off to a Flyer by Phantom

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a first puzzle from Phantom. 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 Phantom.  Despite some of the initial comments on the blog, I was impressed with the overall quality of the cluing.  There were some more “Guardian” style clues.  Although I have indicated these, they represent different styles of cluing and they do not contribute to the overall assessment of the crossword.  In this case, the commentometer is a credible 2.5/29 or 8.6%.

I will leave it to the readers to discover the names of the birds that are hidden in the solutions.


7 Investigating type of rock with hidden compartment (7)
PROBING – A four-letter word for a type of rock music includes (with hidden) a three-letter word for a compartment.

9 Expand workspace available (4,3)
OPEN OUT – A two-letter word for work followed by a two-letter word for a printer’s space and a three-letter word meaning available or published.  Some editors will not allow lift and separate clues where a single word has to be split into two without an indication that this is the case.

10 Material made from precious diamonds (5)
TWEED – A four-letter word meaning precious followed by the abbreviation for diamonds.

11 Running spy (9)
OPERATIVE – Double definition, the first meaning that a machine is running and the second being a synonym for a spy.

12 The milliners of ‘alifax might produce scraps (7)
TATTERS – How someone from ‘alifax might describe hat makers.

13 Rips off covers – about time! (6)
STEALS – A five-letter word meaning covers or stops up around the abbreviation for time.

15 Prisoner beating up veterans breaks the law (11)
CONTRAVENES – A three-letter word for a prisoner followed by an anagram (beating up) of VETERANS.

19 Ship needs a rebuild to become buoyant (6)
BOUNTY – An anagram (rebuild) of the A from the clue and the solution would give the word buoyant.  The cryptic grammar of the opening of the clue is a little stilted.  Perhaps “Ship American redesigned to become buoyant.

21 Reversing into hipster, German is sorry (7)
REGRETS – The answer is hidden and reversed (reversing into) in the third and fourth words of the clue.

24 Warm up voice with warm stew (9)
MICROWAVE – An anagram (stew) of VOICE WARM.

25 Old relative’s hand amputated in Oz (5)
OUNCE – The abbreviation for old followed by the name of a male relative without the abbreviation for left (hand amputated).

26 It could move you to drop ring into escort’s cocktail (7)
SCOOTER – Put the letter O (ring) into an anagram (cocktail) of ESCORT.

27 Plastered date returning pudding with just a bit nibbled off (7)
DRESSED – The abbreviation for date followed by a seven-letter word for a pudding with the last letter removed (just a bit nibbled off) and reversed (returning).


1 Servant‘s head: somewhat sticky (8)
DOMESTIC – A four-letter word for a head followed by 2/3 (somewhat) of the word sticky.  Words like somewhat should be restricted to removing the final letter of a word, not a random number of letters.

2 Shoot one less than expected, it’s able to fly away (6)
BIRDIE – Double definition of a golf score and a feather animal that can fly.

3 Start to despair having finished port (5)
DOVER – The initial letter (start to) of despair followed by a four-letter word meaning finished.

4 Fear nest is demolished, fix it again (8)
REFASTEN – An anagram (is demolished) of FEAR NEST.

5 Naked protestor encouraging singer? (6)
GODIVA – Split 2,4 the solution could be words of encouragement to a singer.

6 Death ensures housing capital (6)
ATHENS – The answer is hidden (housing) in the first two words of the clue.

7 Small dog, perhaps setter, has endless meal (6)
PETITE – The abbreviation for small followed by a three-letter word describing a dog or other tamed animal followed by a single letter word describing the setter and a three-letter word for an afternoon meal with the final letter removed (endless).

8 It explains terms of victory, admits flipping idiot (8)
GLOSSARY – A five-letter word for victory includes (admits) a reversal (flipping) of a three-letter word for an idiot.

14 Heaved or threw up (8)
OVERHEAD – An anagram (threw) of HEAVED OR.  The anagram indicator (threw) would work better and thrown.

16 Overall wealth generated by rainy part of country changing directions (3,5)
NET WORTH – Swap the initial directors in the words Wet (rainy) North (part of the country).  As not all the directions are changed in the words (there is an E that is unchanged) perhaps “exchanging leaders” would work better.

17 Hemingway goes after virtuous person, being most sober (8)
STERNEST – The first name of the author Hemingway after (goes after) the abbreviation for saint (virtuous person).  Whilst a definition by example indicator could be used with Hemingway where the definition by example is ubiquitous, this requirement is often dropped.

18 Breakdances to get title (6)
ASCEND – An anagram (break) of DANCES.  Another lift and separate clue where some editors would not accept the un-indicated need to split the word.

19 Puzzle to inspire artist? (6)
BEMUSE – Split 2,4 the solution might indicate the role you would take to inspire an artist.

20 Hot or not?! (6)
UNCOOL – Split 2,4 this might indicate the opposite of hot and together it means the opposite of trendy or hot.  I think that the split 2,4 would be more suggestive of heat (though it is marginal).

22 Farm man reported seller of produce (6)
GROCER – A homophone (reportedly) of GROW (farm) SIR (man).

23 Female ethereal being (5)
FAIRY – The abbreviation for female followed by a four-letter word meaning ethereal.  The ethereal is going double duty here as part of the wordplay and part of the definition.  This should be avoided.

45 comments on “Rookie Corner 390

  1. Have the feeling that Prolixic will have quite a few comments to make, but that aside, we did manage to get everything satisfactorily sorted and enjoyed the process.
    A real penny-drop moment when we twigged 25a.
    We did find all the 2dns too as a bonus bit of fun post-solve.
    Thanks Phantom.

  2. Thanks Phantom for an entertaining puzzle but I have to say that the information on the number of 2ds made no difference to its solving and overall I would describe it as a curate’s egg.

    I would be interested to read Prolixic’s opinion on combining an anagram indicator and the associated anagram material into a single word. I have come across this in another puzzle recently, but would it, for example, be accepted by the quality newspapers?

    I liked 11a, 25a, 5d, and 7d.

    Thanks again.

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Phantom. This was a promising debut with brief cluing and some interesting ideas. The 2Kiwis’ comment @1 pretty much sums up my general feelings, although I would just add a caution about a few of your surface readings, e.g. 21a & 24a.

    I don’t think “threw” after the fodder works as an anagram indicator in 14d.

    I ticked 10a, 11a, 3d, 5d & 22d.

    Well done and thanks, Phantom. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. I am with Fez. I thought there was a great deal to like here even though there are a couple of parsing queries that remain (over to you Prolixic!). It is witty, original and very clever notwithstanding some minor quibbles which Prolixic will no doubt address. My podiums went to 19a, 26a and 20d.
      Unlike Fez, I think 19a works and makes for a great surface. For me all the instruction is there. Is it an indirect anagram? Perhaps yes, but it is also a hidden subtraction with all the fodder in plain sight. Brilliant.

      1. From my understanding of what makes an indirect anagram, 19a is not one. Everything is ‘visible’ in the clue.

        1. Yes, Senf, I’d agree – it’s just the “rebuild” is of the definition, which of course isn’t visible, + A. That’s why it is really more of a hidden subtraction (hidden, as subtraction is not indicated). Either way I think it’s very clever and a great clue!

          1. I wasn’t 100% sure about the construction of 19a, having not really created a clue like this before. The various comments on it have been very helpful

            1. Hi Phantom, in spite of other comments (and even the revered Prolixic’s!!), I still really like the clue. It is different, the instruction (to me at least) seems to be crystal clear (ie the definition needs A + rearranging to turn into a desirable characteristic of the definition) and the surface is great. It is creative, fair to the solver and breaks the normal mould – what’s not to like?

  4. Thanks Phantom I’m a little surprised at the lukewarm reactions from overseas correspondents – I thought this was great, very enjoyable with lots of clever misdirection.

    Just a few minor comments:
    9a very good imho – unindicated ‘lift & separate’ clues seem to be accepted now, but it might not please everyone
    19a I like the idea but the grammar doesn’t seem quite right to provide the necessary instruction
    1d ‘somewhat’ I think indicates just one letter removal
    17d perhaps strictly needs an example indicator, though for me just Hemingway is fine
    18d see 9a – although here I don’t “get” the definition (I expect this is me being dense though)
    23d is ‘ethereal’ doing double-duty as essential part of both wordplay and definition?

    I had lots of ticks and difficult to choose a favourite. The farm man homophone had me stumped for ages but is really good. 5d 7d 14d & 19d all excellent And nice to have a little end-game too (though I do usually prefer themes to be ‘hidden’ rather than explicit)

    So, great stuff – thanks again Phantom!

    1. Re 18d, Fez, perhaps think of a prince becoming monarch. To do so, he has to [DEFINITION] to the throne (ie to get title). That’s how I read it anyway!

      1. Thanks DD, yes that’s what I assumed but it seemed a bit of a stretch (even for me, and I Iove a stretched definition!)

        1. Lol, yes, I know you do Fez, and I was thinking on the same lines (or at least felt that the definition needed “to” to give the meaning of getting title) but then Collins definition 4 has it without “to” in relation to king, queen or pope. Certainly a stretch, but on that basis fair, I think (and, like much in Phantom’s offering, very clever)

      2. I parsed it that way too. I think the def would have to be ‘get title’ making ‘to’ superfluous in the cryptic reading.

        1. Fez, Dr Diva, Conto, 18d another clue I was a little iffy about for exactly those reasons (not so bothered about the lift-and-separate device which I see more and more often so consider fair game myself). Maybe ‘to claim the throne?’ Or ‘climb up the table, say?’ I’m sure there’s a fair definition which makes the surface reading about a competition, still not quite nailed it though.

  5. Well-constructed puzzle — I actually found the theme slightly helpful with a couple of entries (e.g. 13a).
    I too liked 25a (though perhaps “removed” would have been a better indicator).
    25d very clever indeed but the coolness award has to go to 20d of course.
    I admit that I don’t completely understand the homophone fodder in 22d.
    In 23d is there some double-duty going on or is it a fair &lit?

  6. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Phantom. I thought that for a debut puzzle this was excellent with some neat ideas.
    ‘thrown’ possibly better than ‘threw’ in 14d?
    I have a number of ticked clues including 9a, 19d and 23d.
    More like this would be most welcome.

  7. Welcome to Rookie Corner Phantom, although I would imagine that this is far from your first cryptic crossword

    Lots to enjoy – I realised what the hidden words were likely to be when I solved 21a and I found many of them before I actually solved 2d. I do have a couple of queries but overall I thought this was a very good crossword

    Thanks to Phantom and, in advance, to Prolixic

  8. I am with Fez. I thought there was a great deal to like here even though there are a couple of parsing queries that remain (over to you Prolixic!). It is witty, original and very clever notwithstanding some minor quibbles which Prolixic will no doubt address. My podiums went to 19a, 26a and 20d.
    Unlike Fez, I think 19a works and makes for a great surface. For me all the instruction is there. Is it an indirect anagram? Perhaps yes, but it is also a hidden subtraction with all the fodder in plain sight. Brilliant.

    1. I do like 19a but think it needs a little tweak to really ‘work’ … maybe “Ship that needs a bit of attention if it’s to become buoyant at sea”? RD is probably right about 14d too – Gazza’s “thrown” would indeed be better, I’d overlooked this I think because of the nice (or rather, not-very-nice) surface. Looking forward to Prolixic’s review (thanks in advance)

  9. Thanks to everyone for all your comments so far, and I look forward to more, including Prolixic’s review. P

  10. Welcome, Phantom.

    I’m not sure that the preamble to the puzzle was necessary, the title ought to have been sufficient to suggest solvers needed to look for a theme, in my opinion.

    This was a very creditable debut and I agree that there was a lot of invention and creativity on display, but I did feel that, on occasions, certain clues were a little too ambitious or imprecise. A case in point is 16d – nice idea, but there are three directions in the clue (not just two) and there is no indication to the solver that the initial letters of each word have to be swapped. 17d does require a “maybe” or “perhaps”, I could immediately think of at least three or four other people sharing Hemingway’s first name. I agree with Gazza that “thrown” would have been preferable in 14d and I didn’t like the use of “somewhat” in 1d. My favourite clue was probably 19d.

    Many thanks, Phantom, I detect a lot of potential and hope to see more puzzles from you.

  11. 25d was, as you say Ilan, very clever indeed and I was looking at it for ages before the penny dropped (and I laughed out loud and thought “Darn, that’s clever!”). I just have a ? over “in”. It doesn’t seem to be an instruction and it doesn’t have the sense of leading or pointing to the definition. I would prefer “on the way to” or something similar, but that doesn’t detract from the ingenuity of the wordplay. What do you think?

  12. Thanks Phantom, and congratulations on producing this enjoyable crossword! Like others I enjoyed a bit of 2d-spotting as I wrote them in – only once did it help me get an answer (7A). I have lots of ticks on my PDF printout, though my absolute favourites are 24a, 25a and 19d. I’m personally fine with the lift-and-separate parts, and with just Hemingway. I agree with others though that 19a, 14d and 23d would benefit from tweaks.

  13. Welcome to the corner, Phantom. As others have said, there was plenty of inventiveness on display here, it will be interesting to learn whether Prolixic finds all of it acceptable – 16d for instance.
    I enjoyed the inclusion of the theme, not necessary for the solve but a nice touch which didn’t result in the tortuous clueing we’ve seen only too often.
    The ‘alifax milliners made me smile and my top two were 5&19d.

    Thank you Phantom, this was a good debut.

  14. Thanks Phantom, I thought that was a very accomplished puzzle with some good penny drop moments. A couple of slightly dubious clues as others have pointed out but overall lots of ingenuity, good disguise and interesting surfaces. Particularly liked 7A, 25A, 26A (pleased to get a mention!) and 8D. Anyone else find a possible alternative solution to 13A?

      1. That’s the one! Sings not such a good synonym for covers but we’ve seen worse (probably in one of my puzzles)

        1. That’s useful, I didn’t check this crossword for possible alternative answers, and I can see how ‘stings’ might be considered valid given the wordplay and definition

  15. Needed to reveal the checker to crack 19a&20d & only parsed 16d after reading the comments but otherwise ok.
    I thought it a fine puzzle with some excellent clues. Top 3 for me were 5,19&22d with ticks also for 9,10&11a plus 7d. Even 2 of the clues that have provoked discussion & maybe needed a tweak (14d&19a) I thought good even if I did need a letter reveal to twig one of them.
    I’ve not spotted 2 birds so will need to look skywards again. Agree with Silvanus that the puzzle title needed nothing further added.
    Look forward to your next one Phantom as I reckon you were off to a flyer with this debut offering. Thanks

  16. We are a bird short at the moment! Thank you Phantom, an enjoyable puzzle. We still can’t parse 18d but we’ll check in with Prolixic tomorrow. Hope to see more of your crosswords soon.

      1. I think there may be 14 if that one is included (I excluded it in favour of real birds) – though I may have miscounted!

        1. Oooh! wondering what I might have missed, then!! I’m seeing them in 7, 13, 15, 21, 24, & 26a; and 3, 6, 7, 14 ,17, 19, & 22 d

            1. I counted the swan in 9a (as Ruth mentions below). Thanks again for the excellent puzzle Phantom, and thanks to Prolixic for review.

            2. Thanks for confirming the ones you intended, Phantom!

              I think the female swan in 9a would be a fair addition. The last one I found was the flightless S American one in 14d!

  17. Thanks very much to Prolixic for the review and others for their comments. I was expecting a higher commentometer score so was pleasantly surprised! Most of the clues mentioned in review and comments (19a, 25a, 1d, 14d, 18d, 23d) were the ones I was a little unsure about but wanted to test the waters. Thanks to Prolixic for the suggestion in 16d: “exchanging leaders” instead of “changing directions” is great, adds to the political surface reading of the clue and is fairer.
    All in all I have greatly enjoyed my first visit to Rookie Corner, hope to be back soon with another offering. P

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I would doubt that this is Phantom’s first foray into the world of setting, perhaps he’ll let us know?

    1. You’re right Jane, not my very first crossword. Dabbled in setting some time ago, just for friends and family, then came back to it this year after a long break. This is my 4th effort since. The encouragement found here has made me keen to start working on the 5th…

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