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Rookie Corner 432

Hetero Palindromes by Madcap

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

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 Silvanus follows:

Prolixic is away this week and I am honoured to deputise for him for the second time, the previous occasion being in 2019.

Welcome back to Madcap, who usually can be relied upon to produce something a little different to the average setter, so one never quite knows what theme or quirk to expect. This puzzle required the solver to reverse thirteen of the solutions, although I suspect I was not alone in missing the asterisk once or twice and having to change round certain answers!

The puzzle was tricky in places but very enjoyable to solve, with not too much to fault technically. I didn’t warm to the concept of having to reverse elements of wordplay that had already been reversed.


1a Cher released re-mix making enthusiastic supporters… (12)
CHEERLEADERS An anagram (“re-mix”) of the first two words in the clue.  Some puzzle editors (including the Telegraph’s) will not allow nouns as anagram indicators if they follow the words to be rearranged.

9a …very entertained by dance party (5)
LEVER *The single letter abbreviation for “very” inside a lively type of dance, *all reversed.

10a Unopened package is stuffed with damn port (9)
A euphemism for “damn” inside PARCEL without its first letter (“package unopened”)

11a Lands fishes (7)
PERCHES Double definition.

12a Romantic is coy about French woman (9)
SHELLEY A synonym for “coy” outside the French feminine pronoun.

13a China’s taking half of India’s capital – in this, Western and Eastern views agree (10)
PALINDROME A synonym for “china” plus IND (“half of India’s”) plus a European capital city. The definition is cryptically referring to the fact that examples of the solution will read the same in either direction.  I liked the construction here but felt that the definition could have been less wordy.

15a * Back operation approaches zero hour – ugh! (4)
HOOP A reversal of the abbreviation for “operation” plus O + H, *all reversed. Perhaps having a reversal of a reversal isn’t ideal!

18a * Contest is well run (4)
RAPS A synonym for a “well” (or mineral spring) and the abbreviation for “run”, *all reversed.  
“Well run” ought to be hyphenated in a conventional sentence.

19a Do they make cuts in the plot? (10)
LAWNMOWERS A cryptic definition.  I would suggest “to” rather than “in” would improve the surface.

22a * Highlighted with no fringe but with braids (7)
DESSERT A synonym for “highlighted” minus its initial letter (“with no fringe”), * all reversed.  
I’m not convinced that “fringe” is sufficient to tell the solver whether it is the first or last letter that needs removing. “But” jars for me somewhat as a linking word between wordplay and definition.

24a * Scorned when embarrassed to admit depravity (7)
DELIVER A synonym for the colour one goes when “embarrassed” outside a synonym for “depravity”, * all reversed.

25a Rich from dubious gain, pocketing margin (9)
ABOUNDING An anagram (“dubious”) of GAIN outside a synonym for “margin”.

26a * Barks when hearing chimes (5)
SLEEP A homophone of a plural noun that’s a synonym for “chimes”, * all reversed.

27a Band and parade leader are backing 1000 girls in theatre spectacles (5,7)
OPERA GLASSES A charade clue starting with the shape of a “band” (or ring) and the first letter of “parade” plus a reversal of “are”, followed by an abbreviation for “1000” and a synonym for “girls”.

A few points here. Firstly, certain editors may not accept “parade leader” for the letter P (insisting on “parade’s leader” or “leader of parade”), but like the late setter Alberich/Klingsor I think such a construction is okay. “Back” has already been used as a reversal indicator in 15a. Whereas K and M are fine as abbreviations for 1000, I tend to think of G more as an abbreviation for “grand” in the sense of monetary amounts, so without a currency I’m not convinced it works here.


1d Two fielders providing protection put under the microscope (5,4)
COVER SLIP Two fielding positions in cricket are listed together.  
Chambers has the answer enumerated as (9). Collins shows it as two words but suggests it is an American expression, the British equivalent being “cover glass”.

2d Electronic harp played – harmonious for listener (8)
EARPHONE The abbreviation for “electronic” plus an anagram (“played”) of HARP followed by a synonym for “harmonious” or united.

3d Scans clues left to right (5)
READS A synonym for “clues” (that a detective might follow) with its letter L changed to R (“left to right”).

4d Joe Wicks? Without hesitation, he’s taxing (9)
EXCISEMAN How the British fitness coach might be described, minus a two-letter expression of hesitation.

5d *18d 18d for pay-off (6)
DRAWER This requires the solver to make an anagram of the answer to 18d (i.e. redraw “redraw”), * all reversed

6d * Drink litre over time on river (5)
REGAL A charade of L (“litre”) plus a synonym for “time” and the abbreviation for “river”, * all reversed.

7d * Those in form eye openings (4,2)
SLIP UP Double definition, * all reversed.

8d Accentuate parochial on vacation with Northern greeting (4,2)
PLAY UP The outer letters (“on vacation”) of PAROCHIAL followed by a greeting heard in Northern England (and the Midlands, I believe).  
Grammatically, I don’t think “accentuate parochial…” works.

14d Frothy lathering is no substitute (4,5)
REAL THING An anagram (“frothy”) of LATHERING.

16d Agitated wives support detailed public studies (9)
OVERVIEWS An anagram (“agitated”) of WIVES beneath a synonym for “public” minus its final letter (“detailed”).  
I think the cryptic grammar requires “supporting”, not “support”.

17d They are spineless accomplices, cover for US crime’s Number One (8)
MOLLUSCS A synonym for the (female) “accomplices” of a gangster, surrounding US and the first letter of “crime”.

18d * He keeps fighting communist revolutionary (6)
REDRAW A synonym for “fighting” plus a reversal of one for “communist”, *all reversed.  Another instance of a reversal of a reversal. The definition is rather weak and unsatisfactory, I thought.

20d *They’re what gets players going in groups (6)
STROPS The first letter of “players” inside a synonym for “groups”, *all reversed.  
Like the previous clue, I found the definition rather disappointing.

21d * Cheese maker is established in Kloosterburen, Netherlands (6)
TENNER The answer is hidden in the final two words in the clue, *reversed again.

23d * On which wet people gamble? (5)
SLOOP A cryptic way of referring to something popularised by the likes of Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters.  This one didn’t really work for me, but I suspect John Bee will like it!

24d Is teaching a bitch? (5)
DOGMA In Yoda-speak, how one might describe a female canine.  Like Fez originally, I think the clue would be better with the first two words swapped round.


51 comments on “Rookie Corner 432

  1. Thanks Madcap – the first of your puzzles that I have tackled and I finished it (with some e-help) and, unsurprisingly, I had no idea who Joe Wicks is.

    An interesting concept with the hetero palindromes.

    Smiles for 12a, 13a, 17d, and 24d.

    One slight problem. I am an ‘on paper’ solver and the font for the clues strained my eyes to extreme.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Sorry about that. I’ve increased the font size used for clues in the PDF version.

        1. You may have to explicitly reload the page or clear the browser cache to get the new pdf with 14pt clues.

  2. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Madcap. The concept of the reversals is clever but I am afraid I found it off-putting and it detracted from my enjoyment of the solve (despite the nod to Monty Python’s “Notlob” sketch). I think it tends to mask your obvious skills as a setter.

    You have a lot of good ideas on show but a handful of clues didn’t quite cut the mustard for me:
    10a – the word needed to make sense of the surface is “damned” but this would kill the wordplay.
    19a – strictly speaking the answer doesn’t “make cuts in the plot”, they “cut the plot”. So perhaps “do they cut the plot?” would have been better.
    1d – both Chambers and Collins have the answer as one word (9) and not (5,4).

    My podium choices are 12a, 25a, & 24d.

    Thank you, Madcap. Do keep them coming but, when you return, please ditch the gimmicks. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

      1. CS, I fully agree that damn and the required word are synonymous.

        However, my point was that the surface (not the wordplay) needs an adjectival form of damn in order to make sense. I always say or write “damned” in this context, but I see that both the BRB and Collins cite that “damn” itself can be used as an adjective (or an adverb). You learn something every damned day … :wink:

    1. 19a seemed fine to me as it is: the device cuts blades of grass, which are in the plot, but they aren’t the plot themselves.

  3. Just to say that Prolixic is away this week so I shall be deputising for him and reviewing Madcap’s puzzle.

  4. I’m not sure whether this is the first Rookie Corner puzzle with ‘structions but it did give an extra level to the thought required to solve the clues

    Lots to enjoy – 12a was top of my favourites list.

    Thanks Madcap and, in advance, to Silvanus

    1. Madcap’s first Rookie (378) had ‘structions that were far more complex than today’s!

  5. Many thanks Madcap, a really enjoyable puzzle – I had lots of ticks against your humorous and inventive clues!

    For me, the very few very minor issues were:
    – I’d have preferred a different title, due to the 13a entry
    – Not sure “accomplices” in 17a is quite right as a synonym – although to be fair it does make sense in the context of the surface reading
    – I wasn’t so keen on 20d as a cryptic definition, though admit I may well have missed something more subtle there
    – I’d have preferred “Teaching is…” to “Is teaching…” in 24d – I guess it does work that way round but seems a bit too Yoda-ish for me

    Tough to choose a favourite from a top collection – longlist includes 10a, 13a, 18a, 25a, 27a, 3d, 4d, 8d, and I did like the simple but pleasing lurker in 21d.

    Of course the big issue here is the use of the gimmick – personally I like themes and gimmicks and I enjoyed this aspect – in fact, I’d have preferred if the relevant entries weren’t starred (so just “13 solutions need to be reversed…” in the preamble) – BUT I suspect not everyone will appreciate this. I’d like to think Rookie Corner can cater for all sorts of styles, though – my guess is that wanting a gimmick-free Madcap would be similar to expecting an easy Elgar or verbose RayT, so I’m looking forward to another puzzle with a twist next time!

    (By the way – have you considered compiling barred thematics a la Enigmatic Variations? Themes and gimmicks are the core of these so I think you’d be in your element – I’d highly recommend giving it a go!)

    Thanks again, and in advance to Silvanus

    1. Actually on re-think I’m coming round to the 24d construction … I was looking at it too much as separate bits rather than taking in the ‘big picture’, sorry – I’ll add it to the longlist by way of apology :-)

  6. I have to admit that a preamble of the sort we have here makes my heart sink – I really don’t see the point. However, I did tackle the puzzle and enjoyed it – thanks to Madcap.
    The clues I liked best were 13a, 8d and 24d.

  7. I’m not sure if I’m missing something. I enjoyed the puzzle and the clueing but didn’t feel the theme/device added anything. And not sure why ‘hetero palindromes’ tbh: the solutions in question are reversed but not palindromic and I am simply not seeing where hetero comes into it. I am sure someone will have cracked this and can enlighten me. 4d and 14d my favourites today and I certainly smiled at 1a. Thanks Madcap.

    1. Quite simple really – Wiktionary has the following for ‘hetero palindrome’ – Something that spells something else when reversed.

      So not a true palindrome but a different word in each direction indicated by ‘hetero.’

      1. Thanks Senf. I had checked both individual words to see if I’d missed anything – but it never crossed my mind to look up such an unlikely combo. Fair enough.

        1. Juat a bit more info. I can’t find this word in the BRB or Collins but everywhere on Google it is spelled as a single word: heteropalindrome, with the synoymn: semordnilap. So, that’s two new words for me!

            1. Semordnilap has been in Big Dave’s Mine since 2013 and there are online mentions in 2003

              1. And for the uninitiated (there will be some), the word “semordnilap” is a made up word and is itself a germane heteropalindrome.

  8. I’m not a fan of puzzles with special instructions at the best of times (why gild the lily?) but I found this one particularly pointless and somewhat irritating.
    Having said all that the puzzle itself was packed with fun and smart clues.
    I particularly liked 4d though surprised it’s not two words, the cleverly clued 13a,18a (even though it’s one of the themed clues), but my runaway winner is the LOL 8d. Thought 23d a little weak though.
    Many thanks Madcap and thanks in advance to Silvanus, look forward to the review.

    1. I thought these special instructions were far from pointless, in that they assisted with the solving: for a starred clue, in addition to the definition and wordplay we also had the knowledge that the answer is a valid word when reversed — that certainly helped me with some of the clues

  9. Don’t know whether it’s the theme or just the uncomfortable heat but I’m really struggling with this one. Think I’ll put it to one side and revisit it later in the day.
    Thanks for the challenge, Madcap.

  10. Thanks, Madcap, I’m with Fez on enjoying the gimmick – in a few cases, I found it surprisingly difficult to see the solution, even with several crossing letters to help, though none of them are obscure or difficult words, and had to write them out on paper the “right” way round before I could solve them. (I think the ones I found hardest were the double reversals – ie where you had reversal as part of the wordplay in a themed clue.)

    Favourites were 12a, 18a, 26a, 5d. A few little quibbles here and there, but nothing worth complaining about, so I’ll leave the forensic analysis to Silvanus.

  11. Thank you, Madcap, I enjoyed that. Lots of fun clues, and none that I felt were unfair (though I have a few yet to parse, but that’s normal for me, so is probably just a reflection of my lack of solving ability).

    Tiny nitpick on the rubric: I was mislead by the 7d enumeration, which I initially expected to match the clue, but it turns out instead to correspond to the grid entry. It’d’ve been nice if that had been clear. See, for instance yesterday’s Enigmatic Variations instructions, specifically the bit in brackets.

    4d turned out to be the 3rd clue today to fox me my having ‘man’/‘men’ in it, which is a weird weak spot for me to have developed! The answer’s in the dictionary, and you even put “he” in the clue, so I have no complaint, but it didn’t occur to me there’d be a gender-specific term for this. I think the wordplay works boths way round, so my first attempt was ‘exerciser’, with “Joe Wicks?” as the definition and the wordplay stating that if you removed “er” from the answer then you’d get somebody who’s taxing — ‘exciser’ seemed as plausible to me to be a word as the actual solution (but, obviously, it isn’t).

    Well done, and I shall keep a look out for more puzzles by you. Thanks in advance to Silvanus for explaining the ones I don’t fully understand.

  12. A tad worried when we read the introduction but Google explained the meaning of hetero before palindromes and from then on we thoroughly enjoyed the brain exercise. Really good fun. Thank you Madcap. We certainly look forward to your next one.

  13. To my very great surprise I really enjoyed this delightful puzzle. Themed crosswords are far from my favourite things, and instructions in a preamble are often sufficient for me to proceed no further, however I was intrigued and pursued this one further – and I am very glad I did so!

    4d – I was thrown for longer than I should my having opted for “exerciser” – it parses, but as a red herring that’s for the solver to puzzle on;
    11d – I mused over whether a unit of area/distance measurement really equates to ‘lands’, but felt it was justified for the superlative surface read.
    17d – a furrowed brow: spinless is one heck of a broad field, and I thought it a little loose as a clue: a moll as an accomplice?

    The heteropalindromes worked for me and added to the challenge/amusement factor. So much so that 8d was comfortably COTD for me. Hon Mentions to 10a (though I would never damn a parcel stuffed with port!), 11a, 25a, 16d, but practically all the clues were firmly ticked after completion.

    Many thanks, Madcap – I do look forward to your next puzzle! – and in advance to Silvanus

    1. Re 11 – I hadn’t thought of the measure rather the verb for eg a bird alighting/landing (on a xxxxx, I guess, though probably not the fishy sort)

      1. It’s always striking how differently people can read and solve the same clues, I find. With 11a I had disregarded the answer being a synonym for lands on the basis that the answer is what the bird does once it has landed: to ***** is not the same as to land.

        Ho hum, onwards & upwards!

  14. Many thanks to Silvanus for a concise and illuminating review. Prolixic must be able to relax on holiday knowing Rookie Corner has such an able deputy available.

    Regarding 1d, I looked up “coverslip” in both the BRB and Collins online. Both cite (9) for the enumeration with no mention of American provenance. However, prompted by Silvanus’ research, if you look up “cover slip” in Collins online, it does indeed attribute the (5,4) version as American and suggests the use of “cover glass” as British English. How strange is that?

    1. [Edit: sorry was meant as new post rather than reply to RD]
      Many thanks for the thorough review Silvanus, it’s like having Messi come on for Ronaldo. Quite a few ‘technical’ comments (1a, 22a, 27a, 16d) that are really useful. In a less enjoyable puzzle I think these issues might have been more noticeable, but perhaps solvers subconsciously block them out when the clues are otherwise so good. But such attention to detail I guess is one aspect of what makes a good puzzle great. So thanks again Silvanus and Madcap – looking forward to your next.

  15. Thank you for the review and explanations, Silvanus. Everything’s clear now (including that when the online JavaScript version of the puzzle pops up “Congratulations, you have completed the puzzle”, it only indicates that all the squares have been filled in; it doesn’t actually mean that all the letters are correct!).

    In 1a, what is the issue with a noun anagram indicator following the fodder? I’d’ve thought, say, ‘orchestra confusion’ was fine (and better than ‘confusion orchestra’, with the noun indicator first).

    And for 18a, aren’t hyphens only required in an adjectival phrase when it’s before the noun? As in, “Shona is a black-cab driver” needs the hyphen to distinguish it from “Shona is a black cab driver”; but “Shona drives a black cab” is clear and unambiguous without a hyphen (because the alternative would be “Shona is black and drives a cab”). So in this case: “That was a well-run contest” but “That contest was well run”?

    1. Hi Smylers,

      Strictly speaking, using the example you’ve cited, advocates of Ximenean clueing would require “orchestra’s confused” or “confusion of orchestra” for the anagram to work. You’re right, just having “confusion orchestra” doesn’t work (and is meaningless) but some will argue that nouns cannot satisfactorily modify other words in the same way that adverbs, adjectives and certain verbs do.

      Yes, hyphens are more usually seen in adjectival phrases preceding nouns, but it isn’t incorrect for them to be seen following nouns too, and in the case of those that include “well” (as in “well-run”), my understanding is that a hyphen should always be used, irrespective of whether it precedes or follows the noun in question. Without a hyphen, “well-run” looks odd to me.

      I hope the foregoing is of assistance.

  16. Thanks Silvanus for a comprehensive review.

    My first thought on ‘fringe’ in 22a was that it was both first and last letters that needed to be removed.

  17. Many thanks for the detailed review, Silvanus. I did eventually complete this one but only with copious use of the ‘reveal’ button and to be honest I didn’t think the concept worked very well – but I’m obviously in the minority. One non-themed clue that really made my blood boil was 11a with perches = fishes. Rather like referring to a flock of sheeps – it doesn’t work!

    Sorry, Madcap, this one wasn’t for me.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Chambers does show “fishes” as a legitimate plural, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone other than of primary school age using it!

      1. I can just about live with ‘fishes’ but the ‘perch’ as a type of fish doesn’t pluralise as far as I’m aware.

        1. NOUN
          Entry for “perch” (second meaning) in the online Collins dictionary:

          Word forms: plural perch or perches
          1. any freshwater spiny-finned teleost fish of the family Percidae, esp those of the genus Perca, such as P. fluviatilis of Europe and P. flavescens (yellow perch) of North America: valued as food and game fishes
          2. any of various similar or related fishes
          ▶ Related adjective: percoid
          Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers
          Word origin
          C13: from Old French perche, from Latin perca, from Greek perkē; compare Greek perkos spotted

          1. You’ve changed your alias again so this comment went into moderation. All the aliases you’ve used so far will now work.

      2. There’s the famous Americanism “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” from the movie version of The Godfather.

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