Rookie Corner 436 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 436

A Puzzle by Hopping Rhino

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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 Prolixic follows:

Welcome to Hopping Rhino with his debut crossword in the Rookie Corner.  There was a lot to enjoy but also a lot of rough edges in some of the clue.  It is a promising start but there are a number of areas to concentrate on.  In particular, use of abbreviations where some of them were not supported by the main dictionaries and anagram indicators.  The brevity of the clues was impressive and this should be maintained where possible.

The grid was not solver friendly.  You will find double unches in crosswords.  Unusually, the Daily Telegraph allows these at the start of a word where other papers will not.  However, to have 1/3 of the clues having double unches is excessive, even where the rule that each word has at least 50% the letter cross-checked is maintained.

The commentometer reads as 6.5 / 36 or 18.1%


1 Drink carrier (6)
PORTER – Double definition of a type of beer and a railway / hospital / hotel employee.

4 Dislike aspic with pepper (8)
CAPSICUM – An anagram (dislike) of ASPIC followed by a three-letter word in Latin meaning with.  Anagram indicators should indicate a sense of movement or rearrangement of the letters.  I don’t think that dislike works in this sense.

8 Offering broken boot nail (8)
OBLATION – An anagram (broken) of BOOT NAIL.

9 Glowing waste dumped at the club (6)
SWEATY – An anagram (dumped) of WASTE followed by a Y.  Again, the anagram indicator is not the best.  Whilst Chambers gives Y as the North American usage for YMCA, I think it is too much of a stretch for the solver to get from club to YMCA and know that it is the North American abbreviation that is required.

10 Eye unset sorbet (3)
ORB – Remove (un-set) the letters in set from the last word of the clue.

12 Postponement and delay after god elected (4,5)
RAIN CHECK – A five-letter word meaning delay after a two-letter name of an Egyptian god and a two-letter word meaning elected.

15 Miserable state (3)
ILL – Double definition of a word meaning miserable and the three-letter abbreviation for the state of Illinois.

16 A longer rodent flourishes in an urban area (7,6)
GREATER LONDON – An anagram (flourishes) of A LONGER RODENT.

20 Flock of sheep? (4,9)
WOOL GATHERING – Cryptic definition.  I don’t think that this works.  The solution means daydreaming and there is no verb meaning to flock that would imply collecting the fleece from sheep.

22 Got title from Reagan (3)
AGA – The answer is hidden (from) in the last word of the clue.  I would omit the “got” from the clue as it implies the solution is a verb.

23 Idle insect grasping tail of dachshund (9)
REDUNDANT – A phrase 3,3 for an insect around (grasping) the last three letters (tail) of dachshund.  Where you are using an indicator such a tail, it means the final letter of the word, not an indeterminate number of final letters.

27 Limit fabric without sister about (3)
RIM – A five-letter word for a type of material without the initial two letters being the abbreviations for sister and about.  The abbreviation S for Sister is not given in the main dictionaries.  Son would work here in place of sister.

28 Source and stock (6)
ORIGIN – Double definition.  I think the second is used in the sense of the original progenitor.  The two definitions are too closely related.  Where you are using a double definition, there should be a degree of separation between the two definition.

30 Hotspot folds to mob now (8)
BOOMTOWN – An anagram (folds) of TO MOB NOW.  The cryptic reading of the clue would required the imperative fold or folding.  Folds would work after the letters to be rearranged.

32 Farm worker mixes sedge and hops without direction (5,3)
SHEEP DOG – An anagram (mixes) of SEDGE HOPS.  Like the previous clue, mixing would work better as the anagram indicator here.  As there are two directions, perhaps without initial direction would resolve the clue better.

33 Forces simple redesign (6)
IMPELS – An anagram (redesign) of SIMPLE.  As a general rule, you should try to vary clue types in successive clues.  Three anagrams in a row is not ideal.


1 Extend with pine (7)
PROLONG – A three-letter word meaning with and a four-letter word meaning pine or yearn.

2 Rosy gives Lawrence vitamin (3)
TEA – The initial of the writer Lawrence and a letter for a type of vitamin.  The wordplay can give the definition, the definition comes from the wordplay or is given by it.

3 Artist, Italian one, makes side dish (5)
RAITA – The two letter abbreviation for an artist, the two-letter abbreviation for Italian and a letter representing one.

4 Rule college shortly (5)
CANON – The abbreviation for collage followed by a four-letter word meaning shortly.

5 Assistant’s steps (3)
PAS – The two-letter abbreviation for an assistant with the ’s included in the answer.

6 Some bile acidifies gut (5)
ILEAC – The answer is hidden (some) in the second and third words of the clue.  Gut in the clue suggests a noun but the answer is a medical term meaning relating to the gut.  Whilst gut can be used in an adjectival form as in a gut reaction, this is not the same as the medical term.  Just because A = B and B = C, this does not always mean that A = C when it comes to synonyms.

7 Party could hear cry (3,4)
MAY BALL – A three-letter word meaning could and a homophone (hear) of BAWL (cry).

11 Old Etonian and Republican wife in bar fight (4,3)
BOER WAR – The abbreviations for Old Etonian, Republican and wife inside the bar from the clue.  I cannot find OE as the abbreviation for Old Etonian in the main dictionaries.

12 Husband curtailed correspondence (5)
RATIO – A six-letter word meaning to husband without the final letter (curtailed).

13 Nail target (5)
CLOUT – Double definition of a carpenter’s nail and an archery target.

14 Monarch darker, more bizarre (7)
KINKIER – The single letter abbreviation for king (monarch) followed by a six-letter word meaning darker.

17 Anger barbaric king’s daughter (5)
REGAN – An anagram (barbaric) of ANGER.

18 Abode that is missing from German paper (5)
DWELT – Remove (is missing) the abbreviation for that is from the name 3,4 of a German newsletter.  

19 Degree benefits brutes (7)
BABOONS – The abbreviation for Bachelor of Arts (degree) followed by a five-letter word meaning benefits.

21 Thin girls seaming slips (7)
GAMINES – An anagram (slips) of SEAMING.

24 Standard and sub-par (5)
EAGLE – Double definition of a military standard and a golfing score that is two under par.

25 Strip female lawyer (5)
DEBAG – A three-letter abbreviation for debutante (girl) and the abbreviation for attorney general (lawyer)

26 I sigh over girl (5)
NAOMI – The I from the clue and a four-letter word meaning sigh all reversed (over).

29 Credit approval (3)
NOD – Cryptic definition.

31 Tilt piano after note (3)
TIP – A two-letter word for a musical note and the abbreviation for piano.

31 comments on “Rookie Corner 436
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  1. Thanks Hopping Rhino. A bit of a head scratcher, not helped by the double unches, for which I needed some Reveals to get across the Finish Line.

    A borderline high anagram count with 8.

    A bit of a Hmm for the ‘expectation’ for tail in 23a. I would take it to be the last letter only, not an indeterminate number of letters.

    Smiles for 12a and 20a.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  2. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Hopping Rhino with a very good debut which was both accomplished and fun to solve.

    I was impressed by the brevity of your clueing, which you managed to achieve without compromising the surface readings apart particularly from 10a as well as one or two others.

    I’m not sure about the validity of a couple of your anagram indicators and will be interested to see Prolixic’s comments on those.

    A scattering of other comments:
    9a – I can’t see how the Y is clued and I think the definition is inaccurate.
    15a – doesn’t seem at all cryptic to me.
    20a – appears to lack a definition.
    23a – “tail of” should only be used to select the final letter, not 3 letters.
    27a – if I’m parsing this correctly, I can’t find any justification for s = sister. Why not use “son” instead?
    32a – “without direction” could refer to one of two Es or one of two Ss. You could replace that phrase with “endlessly” to avoid the ambiguity.
    2d – I’m not sure how Rosy defines the answer.
    6d – the definition calls for a noun but the answer is an adjective.

    There were many clever ideas here and I had a lot of ticks on my page – 1a, 12a, 4d, 5d, 12d, 13d, 18d, 19d & 24d.

    Very well done and many thanks, HR, this was a great first outing. Please come back soon with more like this. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Over here, at least, ‘Y’ in 9a would be ‘the YMCA’ (or YWCA) = ‘the club,’ and it is in the BRB as N Am inf, so I am assuming that is HR’s intention.

      1. As you might imagine, Senf, that has rendered me almost speechless. That seems to involve starting with an American expression “the club” meaning YMCA and then using an American abbreviation for YMCA. Oh dear …

            1. Even if this wasn’t a perfect crossword, I’d be sad if it was actually lethal …

              I’ve lived on both sides of the Atlantic, and this can leave me blind to which bits of vocabulary are Americanisms, since they seem entirely familiar. I’ll keep a closer eye on this in future.

    2. 15a – …of Chicago?
      32a I think can be read as ‘this bit of fodder’ “and” ‘this other bit of fodder without direction’, avoiding ambiguity

      1. Yes Fez 15a standard abbreviation for the state of Illinois
        32a that is how I read it as well

        Well done Hopping Rhino like RD I also thought this an accomplished and enjoyable crossword with some very interesting constructions. I particularly applaud the brevity of the clues. Congratulations on raising your head above the parapet

      2. Thanks, Fez, you are right about 32a. However, I am still at a loss about 15a. Chicago isn’t a state. Illinois is the state but its abbreviation is IL not ILL.

        1. From looking at on-line lists, it would appear that it has both a 2&3 letter abbreviation – as apparently do several others.

            1. I’ll often use Fla., Cal., Tex., Tenn., Miss. etc, they come in very handy … and I quite like being old style :-) They’re all in Chambers of course.

    3. Just a few points:

      15a. I took this to be a straitforward DD.
      20a. I assumed this to be a cryptic definition. The answer normally means daydreaming.
      6d. The definition can be an (informal) adjective, meaning characterzed by what is basic/essential/natural. As in a “gut problem”. Not sure if the setter meant this rare usage.

      1. 32a. To me, this clue is fine. There are only 4 single-letter direction abbreviations and 2 of them don’t appear in the clue. Surely even a novice solver is capable of working out if it’s an S or an E that needs ditching.

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner Hopping Rhino

    A very difficult crossword, not helped by the terrible grid. I have to be out early this morning and so gave up and revealed quite a few letters to get finished.

    Thanks HR – please come back with a less ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’ crossword next time – and, in advance, to Prolixic

  4. Welcome, Hopping Rhino.

    I realise that this is your debut here, but to engage solvers (and be considered fair to them) the clues have to be accurate and not depart from convention, and I feel that far too often you used constructions that took too many liberties which I found immensely irritating. I’m very surprised that RD used the adjective “accomplished” to describe the puzzle as it was far from that in my opinion.

    A few principal thoughts: anagram indicators need to signify some form of movement or rearrangement, I don’t see how, for example, “dislike” or “dumped” do that, however much they are apt for the surface. The word order in 22a suggests a verbal answer, “Title got” would have more correctly led to a noun. I felt that several of the definitions were inaccurate, loose or dubious. The instances of attempted double definitions were overdone, even if that did lead to brevity in the clueing. The grid was awful, “home-made” grids like this one where more than a third of the clues contain double unches (successive unchecked letters) should be avoided.

    I can see potential here, but I found little to enjoy unfortunately. Thank you, Hopping Rhino.

  5. Thanks Hopping Rhino, although there are certainly valid criticisms (for me, the main one being the grid!) as outlined by others, I did enjoy this debut and found lots to like, with favourites being 5d and 24d. Prolixic will no doubt have plenty of good advice (thanks in advance) – do pay heed. I hope your next demonstrates a little more attention to detail (ensuring accuracy/precision in synonyms and indicators) and a little more variety in clue types – but found this a very promising debut, thanks again.

  6. Welcome to the Corner, Hopping Rhino, what a strange choice of pseudonym but no doubt there’s a good reason for it!
    I did struggle to see what you were aiming for with several of the clues and thought some of the more straightforward ones such as 1&33a worked better for you. I certainly felt that you were perhaps guilty of trying to run before you could walk and wondered whether you have read any of the excellent material available on the subject of setting cryptic crosswords. The guide from Prolixic and the book by Chris Lancaster would make excellent starting points and save you from falling into some of the traps that claimed you this time.

    Well done indeed for sticking your head above the parapet – please take on board the words of wisdom from Prolixic and other experienced setters who comment on puzzles in Rookie Corner.

  7. Many thanks for your effort HR!
    I fall somewhere between RD and Silvanus. There were glimpsesof accomplishment – I liked 1.a, 12a, 11d, 26d for instance – but there were inaccuracies mentioned above, eg definitions that didn’t work or weren’t right, anagrinds that weren’t, a couple of weird surfaces (“Eye unset sorbet”???) and an ugly grid. What really impressed me was the snappiness of the clues, but the liberties taken with other aspects leaves quite a bit of room for improvement I feel. Overall, however, the moments of quality on show indicate that that improvement is definitely possible.

    1. Thanks Dr Diva, I’ll aim to improve.

      Re ‘eye unset sorbet’, I had an image of someone anxiously checking on a dessert that wasn’t quite going to be ready in time for the dinner party – but perhaps the heat has got me too focussed on the contents of the feezer.

  8. Thanks everyone for the helpfully blunt feedback. I will take it all to heart, and particulary note the guidance re grid/unches, mix of clues, difficulty and useful further reading. (I’ll stand by for more from Prolixic).

    Some specific comments above.

  9. Late to the party today. Tried to unravel this but I confess I needed several reveals to get through it.
    Don’t get downhearted Hopping Rhino by the comments. A number of us here have had a rough ride with our early attempts. It is these detailed critiques that really help one to improve.

    I look forward seeing your next puzzle.

  10. Many thanks for your review Prolixic, and thank you Hopping Rhino for the challenge, which I couldn’t finish

  11. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and the clear explanations which I’m sure Hopping Rhino will find most informative.

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