Rookie Corner 401 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 401

A Puzzle by Hyazinth

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Hyazinth is our latest debutant. 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 Hyazinth with a good start but with some blemishes in the clues.  Whilst papers such as the Metro and Evening Standard include cryptic crosswords, there is often far more latitude in the clues than would be allowed by editors in the broadsheets.  Looking at Telegraph, Times, FT, Independent or Guardian crosswords will give you a far better feel for how a good clue works.

There have been a number of comments on the surface readings but this is something that comes with practice.  Unless the clue is complete nonsense as a sentence in its own right, I tend not to comment on this.

The commentometer reads as 5 1/2 / 32 or 17.17%.


1 Sport hero follows you, German artist (7)
DUCHAMP – A five-letter word for a sporting hero or winner follows the German for you.

5 In conclusion, Nirvana takes ecstasy to reach a state of satisfaction (7)
ENJOYED – A three-letter word for conclusion includes a three-letter word for nirvana and the abbreviation for ecstasy.  The solution is in the past tense but the definition in the clue does not match this.

9 Tips from character actor, Malachi Elijah Ostinato, leads to a brief appearance (5)
CAMEO – The initial letters (tips from) of the third to seventh words of the clue.  Try to avoid making up names in clues.

10 Unfortunately, I’m a sot. Can someone unable to smell… (9)
ANOSMATIC – An anagram (unfortunately) of IM A SOT CAN.

11 …deal with a lot of butt before a backside makes first release? (5,5)
DEBUT ALBUM – The DEAL from the clue includes all but the last letter (a lot) of the BUTT from the clue followed by a three-letter word for a backside.  I don’t think that A with B implies to the solver that B is included in A.

12 The first victim screamed to become skilled (4)
ABLE– A homophone (screamed) of ABEL (this first victim).

15 There were ten remarks about Mr. Penny (12)
COMMANDMENTS – An seven-letter word for remarks around a four-letter word for a person who would be described as Mr and the old abbreviation for a penny.  Perhaps “There were ten of these…” would be a better definition to give more precision in the definition.

19 Han Tree leaps about to get Dumbo’s wings? (8,4)
ELEPHANT EARS – An anagram (about) of HAN TREE LEAPS.  Another instance of making up a name.

22 Every other man cites parts of a play (4)
ACTS – The even letters (every other) of the third and fourth words of the clue.

23 Trample on my foot for sound (2-10)
NO-NONSENSE – An anagram (trample) of ON followed by an eight-letter word meaning “my foot”.  An anagram of two letters is not really a challenge for the solver!  Perhaps “Lying back on my foot…”

26 Officially black and white? (2,7)
IN WRITING – Double definition.

28 The beginning within conceals the beginning of rhythm (5)
INTRO – A four-letter word meaning within includes (conceals) the first letter (the beginning) of rhythm.  

29 Opening shop cover after the end of the day (7)
YAWNING – A six-letter word for a shop cover to keep the sun out of the display window after the last letter (end of the) of day.  An instance where the inclusion of “the” before day breaks the cryptic grammar; “end of day” would be better.

30 Charles de Gaulle’s rejection replaces partners’ company for a group that’s one short of ten? (7)
NONUPLE – The French for no (Charles de Gaulle’s rejection) replaces the abbreviation for company in a seven-letter word for partners.  


1 500 plus a couple of drugs with 3/5ths of a blade will get you ten years (6)
DECADE – The Roman numeral for 500 followed by the abbreviations for ecstasy and cocaine and  the final three letters (3/5ths) of the blade from the clue.

2 Acquire Aristophanes’ form but with a bull’s head instead of a deer’s (4,2)
COME BY – The genre of Greek writing in which Aristophanes excelled with the first letter (head) of bull replacing the first letter of deer.

3 Roast pope pickled with hog’s head for a poetic invocation (10)
APOSTROPHE – An anagram (pickled) of ROAST POPE H (hog’s head).  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as head to indicate the first letter.  To compound the error, the device was in the preceding clue.

4 Empty peel holds lughole’s treasure? (5)
PEARL – The outer letters (empty) of PEEL include a three-letter word for the lughole.  I am usually lenient with Rookies’ surface readings.  However, where the surface reading makes no sense, I make an exception to this.  This clue simply reads as a series of unrelated words with no overall meaning.

5 Electric Light Orchestra supplants bottom right corner in pattern that represents articulate speech (9)
ELOQUENCE – The usual name of the group whose full name is the Electric Light Orchestra replaces the abbreviation for SE (bottom right corner) in an three-letter word for a pattern.

6 Picks up frames for sandwiches (4)
JAMS – A homophone (picks of) of JAMBS (frames).

7 Even an abominable snowman misses me (3)
YET – The name of the abominable snowman without the single letter representing the writer (me).

8 “Unfold”! Reduction? () (8)
DECREASE – The solution split 2-6 might indicate unfold.

13 Dirty boy takes temperature (4)
BENT – A three-letter boy’s name followed by the abbreviation for temperature.

14 Prim noses powdered after self imitation (10)
IMPRESSION – An anagram (powdered) of PRIM NOSES after a single letter represent the self.

16 Blokes travelling without university education (9)
MENTORING – A three-letter word for blokes followed by a seven-letter word meaning travelling without the abbreviation for university.

17 Often a city takes guts () (8)
TENACITY – The answer is hidden (takes) in the first three words of the clue.  Where you have hidden word clues it is better for the word to be completely hidden and not end at a word break.

18 Top x Time (4)
TENT – The number represented by X followed by the abbreviation for time.  The X in the clue a as a Roman numeral should be in upper case.

20 Dancing part of foot? (6)
INSTEP – The answer, split 2-4 might indicate dancing.

21 1D with nothing for a crack (6)
DECODE -The solution to the clue 1D has a O (nothing) for the A in the solution.

24 Agency member (5)
ORGAN – Double definition.

25 It helps keep us connected – if I wanted to be imprisoned and strung up (2-2)
WI-FI – The answer is hidden and reversed (imprisoned and strung-up) in the sixth to eighth words of the clue.  Again there is not complete containment of the hidden word and, here, the containment indicator, says that there is complete containment.

27 Ejaculation that flips both ways! (3)
WOW – A three-letter word for an expression of surprise or wonder (ejaculation) that is a palindrome (flips both ways).

25 comments on “Rookie Corner 401

  1. We were beaten by 18d but after revealing letters can now see how it works.
    Some challenging wordplay in places and a lot of promise generally.
    Thanks Hyazinth.

  2. Thanks Hyazinth for an entertaining end to my Sunday evening of cruciverbalism. I agree with the 2Kiwis that some of the wordplay was challenging and, assuming I have decrypted the clues correctly, there might be some where your definitions and the answers are not in full agreement. For example, in 5a the answer is past tense but the definition is infinitive/present tense(?).

    If 25d is the reversed lurker I think it is then it is not all ‘contained.’ Prolixic will probably tell you that some editors will allow that but, generally speaking, it is not good practice.

    In 18d, the ‘x’ should probably be in Upper Case.

    A couple of proof-reading points – the enumeration is not complete in 23a and there are some ‘surplus’ parentheses in 17a.

    Thanks again and well done.

    1. Thanks Senf!
      I‘m not sure why the enumeration is incomplete in 23A as it was (2-8) in the version I sent, must have been a transmission typo.
      Good point about 5A, that’s definitely a definition I struggled to fit into the surface. And good to know about conventions on hidden clues. As a London commuter I have to make do with solving Metro cryptics and I‘ve seen quite a few hidden clues that aren’t fully contained.
      Glad you enjoyed and cheers for the feedback!

  3. Welcome Hyazinth and thank you for sharing your first puzzle here with us!

    I found it possible to solve this, which is always a good first test. I was probably held up in the SE corner more by the incomplete (2-7) enumeration at 23a than by anything else.

    Some of your surface readings are good. For example: 22a’s Every other man cites parts of a play (4) reads well as a sentence in its own right. Other clues feel somewhat clunkier, e.g. 30 across. I was given the excellent advice years ago, “Could you use that clue’s sentence in the pub in normal conversation without anyone noticing?” – I always (mentally, I hasten to add!) apply this test to every clue I now write.

    And I think you should find Prolixic’s advice tomorrow especially useful, to help you hone your clues in all sorts of small but significant (to the clue’s accuracy) ways.

    Well done – I look forward to seeing your next puzzle!

  4. Welcome to Rookie Corner Hyazinth

    This was a tricky crossword and some of the parsing took a while to ‘see’. I agree with Senf about the ‘wrong’ tense in 5a and I can’t tell you how long I looked at 21d before I realised the first thing was a number not a letter!!

    Take note of what Prolixic has to say in his review and I look forward to solving your next puzzle in due course

  5. Thanks Hyazinth, an enjoyable puzzle – tricky in places but a good mix of difficulty overall I thought.

    I agreee with Encota, the surfaces were a mixed bag with some excellent and others that didn’t really convince. Often shorter clues are better in this respect, e.g. your (Cyclops-inspired?) 24d – but I liked 2d and also (another Cyclops?) 11a, where the “containment” indicator was a novel and clever twist. Other long’uns were less successful – e.g. 1d made sense but seemed rather disjointed, whilst I couldn’t make much sense of 5d.

    In 9a I wanted to find out more about Malachi Elijah Ostinato but unfortunately Google was only able to lead me straight back to Rookie Corner 401 – I’m not sure it’s quite right to just make names up? Cool name, though. Similarly with 19a, I can’t find reference to a ‘Han Tree’ (I wondered if this was an alternative name for the plant from the solution – as I’m not sure the whimsical definition in itself is enough?)

    A couple of ‘lurkers’ weren’t completely hidden, which as Senf notes, isn’t usual practice (I guess they’re ‘technically’ correct, but not very satisfying), and a few other bits’n’pieces for which Prolixic will undoubtedly be able to provide sage advice (thanks in advance) – but despite all that, a fun puzzle with lots to enjoy, with good ideas showing plenty of promise; I’ll look forward to the next Hyazinth.

    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Fez!

      I was going to say that I haven’t come across Cyclops, but then realised that I have indeed stared at many of their clues as I regularly read Private Eye! I’m more familiar with Guardian setters though.

      The jig is up! There were a couple of inventions that you spotted and I’ll concede that made up names must be less satisfying for a solver. (But can you imagine the kind of roles played by Malachi Elijah Ostinato?! Legendary).

      I see what you mean by clunky long’uns. Re-reading the clues a few weeks later definitely gives the benefit of hindsight re: smoothness.

      Thanks for your comments!

  6. Thanks to Hyazinth for an enjoyable debut.
    A number of the clues could be made more succinct by omitting redundant articles (e.g. ‘a’ in 9a and 11a, ‘the’ twice in 29a).
    The clues I ticked were 16d, 21d and 24d.
    I look forward to your next puzzle.

  7. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Hyazinth.

    All credit to you for producing a debut puzzle, unfortunately it embodied almost all of the things that irritate me most – contrived surface readings that make little sense, manufactured names in anagrams (19a), lurkers that aren’t really lurkers and wrong parts of speech (5a). The repetition of “head” as an initial letter indicator in successive clues was the icing on the cake!

    So, sorry to say this one wasn’t a puzzle I enjoyed, but I fully appreciate that very few debuts here are without flaws. I do hope you’ll take on board Prolixic’s comments and that you will return with a much improved product next time. Thank you.

  8. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Hyazinth. I am sorry to report that my page is littered with scribbles and I didn’t enjoy the solve, although I appreciate the considerable effort you must have put in to compile this. Silvanus has summed up my overall feelings more eloquently than I can manage so I won’t repeat too much of what has already been said, and I’ll leave the comments on points of detail to Prolixic.

    I know there are lots of things to think about when compiling a cryptic crossword, and smooth surfaces take some time to develop. However, in a lot of cases particularly with your more wordy clues, I get the feeling that you have simply pieced together reasonable cryptic wordplay but without giving any consideration to the surface reading.

    Please take on board everyone’s comments, particularly those from Prolixic, and I will await your next submission with interest.

  9. Welcome to the “Lions Den” Hyazinth.
    Despite its previously mentioned foibles (especially some of the clunky surfaces that seemed over manufactured simply to fit the definition) I did enjoy solving your puzzle and thought it contained several nubs of good ideas. You had some smile inducing stuff in there too, I particularly liked 15a, plus 7d, the excellent 16d, 20d and thought the 1&21d link was clever too.
    Take on board what the likes of Encota and Silvanus say, they may seem hard taskmasters but they are masters of the craft! Look forward to the next one.

  10. Welcome to RC Hyazinth – as has been noted there are several flaws which detracted from a smooth solve but you’ll soon get over them [the problems]
    A lot more thought is required on your surfaces; they are your opportunity to mislead and really make or break the puzzle
    Without a disguise, the clues can read like an instruction manual written by a Korean translator
    There were several clues I liked, so well done on producing a puzzle and thanks for the entertainment

  11. Hi Hyazinth
    Welcome to RC.

    For me there were 3 main categories of clues:
    Some ticks – notably 14d, 16d, 18d
    Some perplexing surfaces – 11a, 23a, 28a, 4 d, 6d, 8d, 17d and 27d
    Some where LR’s Korean translator had been busy, lol, (I rather prosaically noted them as “convoluted”) – 30a, 1d, 2d, 5d, 25d.

    But even so there was throughout a good measure a proficiency and enjoyment, which is the raw material from which you will, I’m sure, produce a more accomplished puzzle next time. Take heed of Prolixic and keep at it!

  12. Welcome to the Corner, Hyazinth. Sadly, I can’t claim to have enjoyed the solve for reasons already mentioned by others such as Silvanus and RD. I could see some clever ideas but think you failed to utilise them to the best advantage.
    I’m sure you’ll take on board the comments from Prolixic and other experts so look forward to seeing another offering from you in the future. In the meantime, well done for producing this debut puzzle and being sufficiently brave to put it forward for a mauling in the lion’s den!

  13. Many thanks for review Prolixic

    Re 11a, I think the “before a” provides the necessary instruction for containment, ie it’s DEAL “with” BUT placed “before” the A. I thought this was quite a clever construction.

  14. Welcome, Hyazinth.
    There is some super stuff in this puzzle; 1a (neat misdirection), 23a, 29a, 3d (which is a gloriously surreal image), 14d, 21d. I rather like the way in which the two clues at 10 and 11 run into one another, with an amusingly rude idea worthy of Paul in the Guardian.
    I was defeated by 18d, for which I had BEAT (which seemed a reasonable double cryptic definition – x time being musical, as in 3-time, 4-time) – with the correct capitalisation, though, the clue’s a clever one.
    Yes, the surface in 4d doesn’t make much sense, but sometimes the surreal surfaces (as in 3d) are the most amusing. It’s a difficult line to tread, and you’ll get better at it with practice.
    The big problem at the moment is that some of the clues are extremely wordy. 1d is the worst offender, followed closely by 25d, but 30a, 2d and 5d could also have done with being tightened up.
    Overall, apart from occasionally murmuring “Get on with it!”, I enjoyed this, and I shall look forward to your next effort.

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. It will be interesting to see whether Hyazinth can ‘up his game’ for his next puzzle.

  16. Thanks, Prolixic for the review! And to everyone and their honest and constructive comments. It’s a privilege to have such close scrutiny from fellow setters and cruciverbalists.
    I’ve set a couple more since this one and making smoother, less garbled and instruction-like surfaces is something I’ve been working on. It’s very useful to see what works and what doesn’t.
    I’m looking forward to applying all this feedback to the next one!

    Incidentally, did anyone pick up on the theme? I suspect there might not be too many fans of Pearl Jam’s Debut Album on here, although that’s not essential for noticing as there were numerous references to it. But I’d like to know if it was detectable…?

    Thanks again everyone!

    1. Excellent – a ghost theme is always a nice touch, I’m not a big fan of Pearl Jam though so this one went over my head, sorry!

      So PEARL JAM’S DEBUT ALBUM was TEN – TENt, TENacity, (TEN) commandments, (TEN)able?, DECADE – any more? I don’t know if the album has an ORGAN INTRO

      Thanks again!

      1. 30A (one less than ten); 19A, 13D, 16D, and 20D all have the letters T, E, N scrambled inside.
        There are also several solutions beginning with DEC as an echo of DECADE.

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