Rookie Corner 398 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 398

A Puzzle by Khatru

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Prologue. 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 Khatru with his or her debut to the Rookie Corner.  There was a good variety of clues and understanding of creating a cryptic clue.  The major weakness, however, was using  a word in the clue to suit the surface reading of the clue that did not work in the cryptic grammar hidden by that surface reading.  This was most noticeable when indicating the first or last letters of a word.  Given the number of times this occurred, the commentometer is rather on the high side at 8/30 or 26.7%.  However, as most of these stem from the same root cause, it can easily be reduced by more attention to the cryptic grammar.

The grid was not the most solver friendly, falling short of the ideal that each solution should have 50% or more of its letters cross-checked.  One or two solutions that break the rule, particularly with five letter words is often seen.  Here, the worst example was 12d with 3/7ths of the word cross checked and two double lights between the cross checked letters.


1/20 Footballers danced nude with mates (4,3,6)
WEST HAM UNITED – An anagram (danced) of NUDE WITH MATES.  For the anagram indicator to work, it should be dancing.

8 Acceptance of task after promotion (9)
ADMISSION – A seven-letter word for a task after a two-letter abbreviation for a promotion or advertisement.

9 Spooner ran away from fray, warning of danger (3,4)
RED FLAG – A Spoonerism of FLED (ran away from) RAG (fray).  To indicate the Spoonerism, you need something like “According to Spooner, ran…”.  You should not use only his surname.

10 Guy dreamt less after odd selection of rolls (7)
GYRATES – The odd letters in the first three words of the clue.  Some editors will not accept wordplay OF definition as the structure of the clue.

11 Crack found in eager leader’s retinue (8)
EQUIPAGE – A four-letter word for a joke or crack in the first four letters (leader’s) of EAGER – You can only use leader’s to indicate the first letter of the word, not an indeterminate number of the letters.  

14 Astronomer whose epic tale preceded Newton (5)
SAGAN – A four-letter word for an epic tale followed by the abbreviation for Newton.  I think that the whose does not work as a link word.  

16 Emmanuel’s place is in a cathedral and diocese (6)
ELYSEE – The name of an English fenland cathedral followed by a three-letter word for a diocese.

18 Limit extent of upset (7)
CAPSIZE – A three-letter word meaning limit followed by a four-letter word for extent.

20 See 1

22 Sugar-coating predictions lacks final truth (5)
ICING – A phrase 1,5 for a Chinese system of making predictions without the final letter of truth.  Final on its own should not be used as a final letter indicator.  Perhaps “lacks truth ultimately” would be better.

24 Group embodying odd nature of 5d (8)
COVENTRY – The five-letter name given to a small party of people includes (embodying) the odd letters of nature.  Odd on its own does not indicate removing alternate letters.  Perhaps “regularly overlooked nature” would be better.  Another clue with the structure of wordplay of definition that some editors will not accept.

27 Sergeant in semi-retirement makes allowances (7)
INCOMES – The abbreviation for non-commissioned officer (sergeant) inside a reversal (retirement) of the SEMI from the clue.  As a sergeant is a definition by example of the abbreviation, this should be indicated.

29 Some backsliding – felt it needed sanction (7)
ENTITLE – The answer is hidden (some) and reversed (backsliding) in the third to fifth words of the clue.

30 Run down drive, reportedly (5,4)
WEIGH INTO – A homophone (reportedly) of WAY INTO.  A fine distinction but the homophone is a description of a drive’s possible function not the drive.

31/5 Cruel, witchy crone, lacking last of henbane, keeps me inside (7,4)
NORWICH CITY – An anagram (cruel) of WITCHY CRONE without the last letter of henbane includes the single letter representing the setter (me).  To get the definition, you need to split the inside to in side.  Whilst some, but not all, editors, will allow un-indicated lift and separate clues where you have to divide a word to get the wordplay, I am not aware of instances where they allow the definition to be merged into another word.


1 Custodians fighting over offices (7)
WARDENS – A three-letter word for fighting folioed by (over in a down clue) a four-letter word for home offices.

2 Holy man briefly hurt, unhappy to begin with (5)
SADHU – Half of the hurt from the clue with a three-letter word meaning unhappy before it (to begin with).  Hurt briefly indicates removing the final letter, not an indeterminate number of letters from the end.

3 Divided over Trump’s second historic change (9)
HALFPENCE – a four-letter word meaning divided followed by (over in a down clue) the name of President Trump’s vice-president.  I think divided clues halved, not the four letters required in the solution.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators (such as A over B) when setting clues.

4 Leadership makes a gentleman of green giant (5)
MAGOG – The initial letters (leadership) of the second to sixth words of the clue.  I don’t think that leadership on its own indicates the first letter (it would have to be “leaders of” as in Leaders of Malta and Gozo’s officers guard giant). 

5 See 31 Across

6 Mainly posh, leading uniform during charge (7)
USUALLY – The single letter representing posh followed by the initial letter (leading) of uniform inside a five-letter word for a charge.

7 Be honest – camel once made a mess (4,5)
COME CLEAN – An anagram (made a mess) of CAMEL ONCE.

12 Tolerant cats lie around (7)
ELASTIC – An anagram (around) of CATS LIE.

13 Head feels extremely zesty in hat (3)
FEZ – The initial letters (head) of the second to fourth words of the clue.  Head on its own does not indicate the initial letter.  It would need to be head of…Even then, where you are indicating the initial letters of more than one word, this needs to be expressed in the clue.  Perhaps Capital investment made by heads of free enterprise zone”.

15 Advertised together to adopt new cat (9)
ANNOUNCED – A three-letter conjunction meaning together includes (to adopt) the abbreviation for new and a five-letter word for a wild cat.

17 Secret Service missing lies and secrets all over the place in 5d (9)
LEICESTER – An anagram (all over the place) of LIES SECRETS without (missing) the abbreviation for secret service. You should use only abbreviations recognised in the main dictionaries.  SS is not given as an abbreviation for secret service.

19 Computing pioneer was foremost in advanced digital algorithms (3)
ADA – The initial letter (foremost in) the final three words of the clue.  Perhaps “the foremost” rather than “was foremost” would be better.

21 Mobs Romeo in underwear (7)
THRONGS – The letter represented by Romeo in the NATO phonetic alphabet inside a six-letter word for a type of underwear.

23 Welshwoman in blazing hot, edgy gown – no good! (7)
GWYNETH – An anagram (blazing) of HOT EDGY GOWN without the letters in the GOOD from the clue.  The usual convention is that where letters to be removed are not in the order given in the clue, there should be a secondary anagram indicator to show this.  Perhaps “…hot edgy gown lacking good design”

25 Yodel endlessly on in concert hall (5)
ODEON – The inner letters (endlessly) of yodel followed by the ON from the clue.

26 Heavens – seventh note has everyone playing together! (5)
TUTTI – A three-letter word meaning heavens followed by the two-letter spelling of the seventh letter of the tonic sol-fa musical scale.  I think that the first three letters are more an expression of exasperation or disapproval rather than meaning heavens.

28 Check on rising tide (4)
EDIT – Reverse (rising) the tide from the clue.  I think the on should be omitted from the clue.  It is not part of the definition and does not work as a link word between the definition and wordplay.

24 comments on “Rookie Corner 398

  1. Some allusions here that are probably more obscure for us than most solvers but we did get it all sorted.
    Pleasant solving experience for us.
    Thanks Khatru.

  2. A couple I can’t parse because there seemed to be a letter or two unaccounted for, but that’s probably me and it’ll become clear after Prolixic’s review.
    I certainly liked the fact that clues weren’t over-ambitious or too long. A pity that an amusing opening clue was affected by an indicator in the wrong tense (I think), and there were a few minor oversights of cryptic grammar and protocol, particularly when it came to first-letter indicators and unflagged definitions by example. But those can be easily corrected.
    I’m not sure what the link between the four similar solutions is, but I’m probably missing something.
    Thanks to Khatru (a Yes fan, I presume) – looking forward to the next one.

    1. If I have understood correctly what you mean by ‘the four similar solutions’ – football teams, three of which include 5d in their names.

      1. Yes, but I wondered if those four had e.g. a particular player or manager in common. Or maybe Khatru supports all four! :unsure:

        1. I only actually intended to use two football teams, but while building the grid I happened upon two other words which fitted and which were both 5downs (not in the football sense, necessarily, as they are both 5downs in the geographical/legal sense too). To be strict, if I’d meant for them to be read as football teams I would have included ‘5d’ in the clue numbering as I did with 31a.

  3. Thank you Khatru. Like Twmbarlwm, a sprinkling of elusive parsings.

    31a/5d seems to lack a definition and I am not sure that the conversion of the objective pronoun to the nominative pronoun ‘works.’

    For me, the instructions in 17d were somewhat confusing.

    A good first effort but please take note of the comments from the experts. Thanks again.

  4. Good morning Khatru, and welcome to Rookie Corner, with, as Senf says, a good first effort.

    1a/20a made an amusing start to “hook” the solver (although I think “danced” should probably be “dancing”) but thereafter it was a bit of a mixed bag with some very good clues and a lot by which I had scribbled comments. I’ll leave most of the details to Prolixic, but just mention a few things:

    – You can’t take any word which might have some sense of meaning “leading” or “initial” and use it as a first letter indicator, which you have done several times. I am sure Prolixic will go through these line by line.
    – You have gone to the extreme in 11a by using “leader’s” to mean the first four letters of “eager”, if I have parsed it correctly.
    – Although the definition and answer for 22a are obvious, I can’t make any sense of the rest of the wordplay. The best I can come up with is to remove an H from “hicing” or “iching”, although why either of those should mean “predictions” I have no idea.
    – Unindicated “lift and separate” seems to be increasingly accepted as a wordplay device, but I am not convinced that you can use it as you have done in 31a/5d where the solver needs to separate the link word (“in”) and the definition (“side”). I’ll be interested to see what Prolixic thinks of that.
    – I think you need more than just a first name for the computing pioneer in 19d.

    I did have plenty of ticks too: 8a, 10a, 14a, 18a, 30a, 1d, 7d & 21d, so some positive things for you to build on.

    Well done and thank you, Khatru. Do take note of all the comments, particularly those from Prolixic. I look forward to your next submission.

    1. 22a “I Ching” – “ancient Chinese system of divination”.
      Well done on spotting the split “inside” – I’d thought the clue was simply missing a definition! On reflection I think that’s very clever and earns a tick :-)

  5. Thanks Khatru, an enjoyable solve. 13d should be my favourite, but unfortunately it’s one of several where the cryptic grammar isn’t quite right – I’m sure Prolixic will have plenty of advice in his review (for which, thanks in advance). But these are mainly easily fixed, and the ideas behind the clues are sound with some good surfaces.
    31/5 seems to be missing a definition, although given the solution perhaps this will in fact turn out to be a very clever &lit [Edit: thanks to RD for enlightenment here!]
    I wasn’t overly keen on the grid, with large black blocks and double unches, although of course this is a very minor point and didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the clues (just made a couple of them harder than they might have been with extra crossers!)
    I liked 19d (though not sure if the first name is really sufficient, and the “was” is unnecessary). Other favourites included 18a and 27a, with plenty of ‘almost there’ clues that would just need a minor tweak to make the podium.
    Looking forward to the next Khatru, thanks again!

  6. Welcome Khatru – an enjoyable crossword but one where ‘starting with the Downs’ would definitely have helped. The top half is definitely easier than the bottom.

    I have a couple of queries but nothing major and there are a couple of clues where I don’t think some of the words used match the meaning you intend. I didn’t mind the computer pioneer in 19d only having her Christian name but perhaps that’s just me.

    Take note of the comments here and Prolixic’s review and your next crossword ought to keep everyone happy.

  7. A very promising debut – thanks Khatru.
    “Trump’s second” is a neat bit of misdirection and I also liked 1d and 6d but my favourite clue is 16a.
    I’m looking forward to your next puzzle after you’ve taken on board Prolixic’s advice.

  8. Welcome, Khatru.

    Firstly, the grid left a lot to be desired, numerous double unches and clues containing fewer than 50% crossing letters, I would strongly recommend to any Rookie setter never to use “home-made” grids such as this one when there are plenty of alternative acceptable ones available.

    Secondly, to the puzzle itself, quite a few conventions were broken it would appear. “Briefly” (2d) is not widely accepted for deleting more than the last letter of a word, and “Spooner’s” or “according to Spooner” can indicate a Spoonerism, but not merely the name of the reverend, as in 9a. RD has already mentioned the incorrect uses of “leadership” and “head” in 4d and 13d respectively, and “padding” words” like “whose” in 14a also jarred. As has been rightly pointed out, “dancing” ought to have replaced “danced” in the first clue and the use of the past tense in 19d is best avoided too. Here “was” could easily have been omitted completely. Despite the rough edges, I thought that most of the surfaces stood up to scrutiny and I always think that bodes well for future puzzles. My favourite clue was 21d.

    Many thanks, Khatru, I hope you’ll be back with an even better puzzle next time.

    1. My comments aould be very much what Silvanus has said, so I’ll let him speak for me too. I’ll just add that I really liked 16ac.

  9. Just in time for the Christmas season there were some crackers here, Khatru, but, to continue the metaphor, some of the contents left a bit to be desired!
    For me top ticks went to 8a, 27a and 3d.
    But then some surfaces, while not the worst I have seen, were forced and lacked elegance (notably 31a, 17d, 23d) while 6d was nonsense.
    You need to relook at letter selection/deletion indicators as I counted at least 5 instances (11a, 2d, 4d, 13d, 25d) where I don’t think you have them right.
    The homophone in 30a is great, but the definition might have been better if you’d said TURN ON. RUN DOWN doesn’t quite convey to me the right meaning. Similarly in 26d HEAVENS doesn’t quite convey for me the sense of admonishment of the intended word.
    But the good news is that where you got it right, it was very good indeed and great fun. All the quibbles are easily fixable and Prolixic will give you some excellent advice.
    So, well done. A really good first effort.

  10. Some good stuff here, well done Khatru!
    Most points have already been well made:
    – I’d have gone for ‘Starts to make …’ or similar in 4d, to let the solver fairly grab multiple first letters
    – Some editors don’t like “Wordplay of Definition”: you’ve at least two of these, I think
    I particularly liked 18, 15 and 21.
    I look forward to your next puzzle!

    PS Was the Yes guess from Twmbarlwm above correct?

    1. Quite a few Yes fans in the cryptic community maybe?
      I think Tees uses Wurm as his Times Quick Cryptic name because of Starship Trooper. (I remember yours is from ‘Octane Twisted’, the Porcupine Tree album!)

  11. Welcome to the Corner, Khatru. You got me off to a bad start by making the first clue football related but I appreciate that’s just down to personal choice, there are obviously armies of fans who contribute to the players’ outrageous salaries!
    Others have already pointed out where you’ve fallen foul of conventions and I did have ticks alongside several clues – 8,16&18a plus 1,7&21d – so I’ll be interested to see your next offering once Prolixic has pointed out the pitfalls you need to avoid in future.
    Thank you for sharing your ‘baby’ with us.

  12. A promising debut which was interesting to solve
    There are quite a few grammatical mismatches, particularly letter selection instructions
    One or two clues would benefit a tweak but that level of detail will come with practice, so just keep going
    Other than that entertaining with some good ideas so thank you and well done Khatru

  13. Wow!

    Thanks to everyone who has commented (and any who have yet to).
    I will do my best to take everything on board.
    Just one point in my defence – I note that a few people have objections to having only the first name as the answer to 19d. Like Big Dave, I spent my working life with computers, so the answer might be more familiar to me than to others.
    However, both Chambers & the OED have entries for the first name only, because there is a computer language named for the person in question.

    Thanks again,


  14. I enjoyed it Khatru. Completed with a few bung ins but enjoyed those I fully parsed. Ticks for me were 8,10,16,18,27&30a plus 1,3&21d.
    Top clue for me was Trump’s second & nice to see my home town (& MP’s) mentioned.
    Look forward to your next one (better grid please) once you’ve digested the wealth of comment from those who know what they’re talking about. Many thanks

  15. Many thanks for the comprehensive review, Prolixic. I do hope that Khatru takes all your comments on board and puts them to good use when compiling his next puzzle.

  16. Just completed and enjoyed. Favourites were 8a, 10a, 16a, 15d and 3d. We did need some electronic help but no problem with that. We look forward to your next one, Khatru.

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