Rookie Corner 438 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 438

How wonderful to be invisible! by Māyā of Auckland

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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 Māyā with his debut in the Rookie corner.  Although his website indicates that he has set crosswords for various publications, as a non-UK published setter, he still qualifies as a Rookie.  Most of the basics of the clues were fine but there were a number of rough edges.  The commentometer reads as 5.5/28 or 19.6%.


1 Drop cup from routine examination where one may join the darned? (4)
HECK – Take a phase (5,2) for a routine examination and remove (drop) the letters in cup.  I think that both solution and definition are references to hell.  I am generally forgiving on surface readings.  New setters should strive to achieve sentences that you might hear in everyday conversation.  However, where the surface reading does not make any sense, I will point this out – as here.

3 Spin a real butcher’s, as they say (10)
PROPAGANDA – A homophone (as they say) of PROPER (real) GANDER (butchers).  The grocer’s apostrophe appears to be contagious and has spread to butchers!

10 I bail out, which is why I wasn’t there (5)
ALIBI – An anagram (out) of I BAIL.

11 Spooner’s carbon bundles found at trunk-related markets? (4,5)
BOOT SALES – A Spoonerism of soot (carbon) bales (bundles).  Spoonerisms rely on the vocal transposition of syllables.  The vocal transcription of the solution would give suit bales.  If you need to use American terms in a crossword for a UK audience (such a trunk as part of a car), this should be indicated.

12 Trial of George and Who, for example, in the coat I have (4,5)
TEST DRIVE – The abbreviations for saint and doctor (George and Who, for example) in the outer letters (coat) of “the” and the contracted form of “I have”.

13 Doll’s house creator held back by E.Nesbit (5)
IBSEN – The answer is hidden and reversed (held back by) in the final word (including the E.) of the clue.  The convention is that you can capitalise a common noun to suggest a different word but you should not give proper nouns (Doll’s house) in lower case.

14 Dahl left out motorbike for bad driver (4,3)
ROAD HOG – The first name of the author Dahl without the L (left out) followed by the informal name for a Harley Davidson motorbike (from the piglet used as the racing team mascot.

16 Give right to line in “E.T.” (“E.T.” is alien) (7)
ENTITLE – The abbreviation for line in an anagram (is client) of IN ET ET.  The “in” in the clue is doing double duty as the insertion indicator and also part of the letters to be rearranged.  This should be avoided.

17 Herd content to leave Weever fish (7)
WRANGLE – The outer letters (content to leave) of Weaver followed by a five-letter word meaning to fish.

20 Care about holding Johnny and what’s in the pan (7)
CEREBRA – An anagram (about) of CARE includes an American term (from Johnny ???) for a confederate soldier.  The American reference to a confederate soldier is not incorrect but in fairness to the solver, something less obscure may have been appropriate.

22/26 It’s wonderful to be invisible (3,2,5)
OUT OF SIGHT – Double definition.

23 I berate, in turmoil, a dame like Edna (9)
INEBRIATE – An anagram (turmoil) of I BERATE IN.  Of the Barry Humphrey’s characters, it was Les Patterson who was the drunkard, rather than Dame Edna.

25 Red hot men excited female scout leader (3,6)
DEN MOTHER – An anagram (excited) of RED HOT MEN.  Another clue where the solution is an American term that should have been indicated.

26 See 22

27 Contemplation of a remarkably spacious country (10)
RUMINATION – A homophone (remarkably) of ROOMY (spacious) NATION (country).

28 Wise to drop one’s eagle (4)
ERNIE – The first name of the English comedian whose surname was Wise without (to drop) the letter representing one.  Where you are using a definition by example, this should be indicated. Also, try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  Drop to remove a letter was used in 1a.


1 See 8

2 Crossing with a quantity of gnocchi as main (7)
CHIASMA – The answer is hidden (a quantity of) in the final three words of the clue.

4 Hood worn by British, good for mugging (7)
ROBBING – The first name of the outlaw Hood around (worn by) the abbreviation for Britain all followed the abbreviation for good.

5 Ward off toper and revolutionary for example (7)
PROTEGE – An anagram (off) of TOPER followed by a reversal (revolutionary) of the abbreviation for “for example”.  A word such as “off” as an an anagram indicator should come after the letters to be rearranged.

6 Tradesperson to bend over those more likely to survive (3,6)
GAS FITTER – A reversal (over) of a three-letter word meaning to bend followed by a comparative term for those more likely to survive.

7 Sell out stops enthusiast, as mathematically it’s empty? (4,3)
NULL SET – An anagram (out) of SELL in (stops) a three-letter word for an enthusiast).

8/1 “Want Forces Centre to cultivate Henry”, say, is often considered an 18 of 22 26 22 9 (7,5,3,5,4,6)
ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER – A seven-letter word meaning a want or lack of something, followed by a five-letter word meaning forces, a phrase (3,5) meaning centre, a four-letter word meaning to grow and the a homophone (say) of the surname of an actor whose first name is Henry.  Another instance of repeating a wordplay indicator.  Say (“as they say”) was used in 3a.

9 Object of consciousness? (4)
MIND – Double definition.

15 He filled balloon could be this pretentious? (4-5)
HIGH FLOWN – Cryptic definition and definition.

18 Mark and his leader are opposite (7)
ANTONYM – The name of the Roman emperor Mark and the first letter (leader) of his first name.

19 Peg backing around Centre – such is “The Young Pretender” (7)
EPITHET – The name of a golf peg reversed (back) around a four-letter word for the centre of something.

20 I re-echo jolly farewell (7)
CHEERIO – An anagram (jolly) of I RE-ECHO.

21 A follower, one who’s behind smooth talker (7)
BLAGGER – The letter following A followed by a six-letter word for one who dawdles being.

24 A game of chance? (4)
RISK – Double definition, the first being the board game.

47 comments on “Rookie Corner 438

  1. Very clever and good fun to work out the complexities of the ‘endgame’ once we had filled the grid.
    Certainly had us working hard.
    Thanks Maya of Auckland. (We are intrigued by you nom-de-plume.)

  2. Some pleasant Sunday evening entertainment but somewhat of a curate’s egg.

    And, I will steal Rabbit Dave’s thunder! Three unindicated Americanisms – ‘trunk’ in 11a, and the answers to 17a and 25a.

    I did have smiles for 5d and 7d – the pick of the bunch for me.

    Thanks Mâyâ of Auckland and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Mâyâ, with what for me too was a curate’s egg. It proved to be quite a challenging solve but overall this was a promising debut with some interesting ideas on show. One point where I disagree with Senf, is that I found five Americanisms!

    It’s probably my fault but I always find it harder to solve clues where the surface makes no sense, and some of your surface readings would definitely not pass the “would it make sense if I overheard this in the pub?” test. I also find very long clues like 8/1 off-putting, in this case with a 30 letter anagram and weird surface.

    I can’t parse 12a. The nearest I can get is that the definition seems to be “Trial of George” but only if an automatic pilot can be described as a driver, and I can’t work out how “coat” relates to the first word of the answer.

    27a was my favourite, and I am intrigued by the 2Ks comment about the “endgame” so presumably there is a Nina that I have missed.

    Well done and thank you, Mâyâ, and thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. OK – ‘some of Rabbit Dave’s thunder’ :smile:

      ‘Johnny’ in 20a makes four but the fifth is eluding me.

  4. Definitely more than a bowl of cereal’s worth of time spent on this one which I would agree with others has some very good parts and …. I particularly liked 10a and a new take on cluing the ‘authors’ in 13a I have a couple of ??s by clues I can’t quite parse so am looking forward to Prolixic’s review, for which many thanks in advance

    Thanks Maya – take note of the comments and the review, and I hope we see you back here again soon

  5. Welcome Mâyâ of Auckland and thanks for the interesting puzzle.
    I think I’ve sorted out all the parsing apart from the Johnny in 20a.
    I’m not a great fan of very long anagrams like 8/1 and I’d be amazed if anyone worked it out from the fodder rather than from a few checkers and the enumeration.
    The clues I liked best were 4d and 21d.
    I look forward to seeing you here again.

    1. For me, 8d/1d from the already solved 22a, 26a, and 9d, but not 18a, and, dare I say, a moment of inspiration while in the ‘smallest room in the house’!

  6. Many thanks Mâyâ of Auckland, a satisfyingly challenging solve with plenty to enjoy. Some “technical” issues (e.g.capitalisation in 13a, Spoonerism seems ‘written’ rather than ‘spoken’, not sure 18d can be applied to phrases such as 8/1 or just single words?) but nothing that couldn’t be worked out. Biggest ticks for 3a, 10a, 16a, 27a, and overall favourite 22/26a. Thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic.

  7. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Maya.

    I’m afraid that the frequently contrived surface readings impacted severely on me enjoying the solve, I also felt that there were too many obscurities used in the clues. “Say” was repeated as a homophone indicator, “drop” repeated as a deletion indicator and, whereas falsely capitalising something is fair game for a setter, one cannot do it the other way round (as with the play’s title in 13a). I do think there were plenty of clever ideas in evidence, but I found it difficult to warm to the puzzle, unfortunately.

    Thank you for the puzzle, Maya.

  8. I am taken by smooth/coherent surfaces – and turned off by their antonyms; rather like the central device of your puzzle. And I did find quite a number of these to be unappealing I’m sorry to say. On the technical side, whilst I’m a tad more relaxed about some Americanisms, I feel Spoonerisms are a vocal/homophonic device rather than a written one so 11a didn’t work for me and, like others, I didn’t like the decapitalisation. But there was plenty to like: my podium was 3a, 20d and the 22/26a combo.

    Thanks for the puzzle, Maya, and to Prolixic in advance.

  9. Welcome to the Corner, Maya. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this one as the surface reads in many instances left a lot to be desired and rather spoiled the enjoyment. I felt that the 8/1 combo was definitely a bridge too far and, as Gazza suggested, had to be arrived at by virtue of crossers and enumeration rather than by wordplay. There were certainly some clever ideas on display although some of the Americanisms were difficult for UK solvers – perhaps something to bear in mind for next time?
    Top two for me were 3a & 5d.

    Thank you for bringing us the puzzle, please take careful note of the words of wisdom from Prolixic.

  10. A good/enjoyable debut puzzle, but with quite a few technical issues which have been highlighted by others. I’m not too bothered about unindicated Americanisms, my main problem was with 11a which doesn’t work for me as a Spoonerism – after the letters are swapped, the first elements of the two phrases don’t rhyme with each other. Take heed of what the experts (I’m not one) on here advise and I look forward to seeing another of your puzzles in the future.

    1. I thought soot bales worked ok as a Spoonerism. Are they supposed to rhyme?
      It was pegging the trunk context that took me time.

      1. I think it’s the corresponding elements that are supposed to rhyme, Huntsman: in 11a bales does rhyme with sales but soot doesn’t rhyme with boot.

          1. H. As PM says, Spoonerisms are based on rhyming elements and they can work by just swapping the first letters (but this one doesn’t). Often multiple letters/word sounds are transposed but the elements in the new phrase must rhyme with the elements in the original. Spelling is secondary. Such as:

            I love belly jeans (jelly beans) – where just the initial letters are swapped.

            Three cheers for our queer old dean (dear old Queen).

  11. First RC puzzle I’ve got round to in a while & quite enjoyed it really despite sharing the concern about the surface reads. I rather liked 8/1d though didn’t bother with the fodder. 2&7d &25a all unfamiliar to me & needed confirmation. Last in was 20a which I only got after reading Sue’s reply to Gazza – it was the pan context(another Americanism ?) I hadn’t twigged. Then spent ages trying to think of the REM song that mentions Johnny R. The clues I liked best were 1,3&27a plus 5,18,20&21d
    Thanks Maya – no idea what the puzzle title is about

  12. Thanks Maya Quite a mixed bag and quite a work out. I needed a couple of reveals to see me through to the end.
    Ticks for 3a, 27a – great homophones – 4d, 18d and 21d. I have no idea what the 30 word anagram clue is saying but it was easily solved once the first word became clear from the checkers. Needed Mr Google’s help to understand 14a, 25a and 7d. I’m now much the wiser! Surely the reference in 23a should have been to Sir Les not Dame Edna?
    I too found the surfaces rather heavy going which did reduce the enjoyment level. Thanks again for coming to Rookie Corner.

  13. I was intrigued by the title in the ‘New Post’ email so had to take a look at this RC puzzle. Like most commentators, I found this to be a mixed bag, with the good clues like 27a (nice indicator), 5d and 21d counter-balanced by 11a (only a Spoonerism in Lancashire, perhaps?), 23a (see Prolixic) and the 8/1 combo, which was very ambitious and combined nicely with the 22/26, 22/9 combos but didn’t read well and used 18d for phrases whereas I think it may only be appropriate for words? 2d and 25a were new to me, although available from the wordplay. I assume 20a ‘pan’ to be slang – but not slang I am familiar with so that was my last one in. Thanks to CS for explaining 12a, I failed to spot the rather nice ‘the coat’ device!
    Overall, I enjoyed the challenge set for us by Mâyâ of Auckland – thank you! And I will be keeping a look out for your next puzzle appearing in BD’s website.

  14. Thanks to Prolixic for the review.
    I took Edna in 23a to be a reference to ‘Edna the inebriate woman’, a ‘Play for Today’ on TV back in the 1970s with Patricia Hayes in the starring role.

      1. But where then does the dame come in? If as a general indication of ‘woman’, then should the clue have a ‘?’ after it? I found the answer from the anagram when I had the checking letters, but it made no sense to me in the context of (the sober) Dame Edna.

        1. Dame is an informal North American term for a woman. I think its use here is an attempt by the setter to make us think of Mr Humphries.

          1. Indeed – although either way I’m not convinced the clue works: if it’s a Humphries reference, as an intentional red herring, it is to the wrong persona; if it’s a reference to a one-off TV play 50+ years ago, then that really does take cruciverbal obscurity to a new level for me!

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and for filling in gaps in my knowledge concerning motorbikes and pans!
    It will be interesting to see what Maya brings us next time.

  16. Many thanks to Prolixic for the review and to Maya for the very absorbing puzzle – I hope we see more of his / her work in the future.

    I shared many of the same thoughts as expressed above: some bizarre surface readings, unindicated Americanisms, the misplaced anagram indicator in 5d and slightly off Spoonerism, but nonetheless really enjoyed the challenge.

    I’m not sure why people are referring to 8d/1d as a 30-letter anagram – it’s not an anagram, and I parsed it as Prolixic did in the review. For me the parsing followed the solution, not the other way around: getting 18d and 9d gave me the phrase, and a few checking letters then gave me the answer. Post hoc I enjoyed the clue very much, but it really was excessively contrived and I’m no fan of so many clues being interlinked and integral to 2 such key parts of the framework.

    Re 16a – I parsed the answer as an anagram (“is alien”) of “l[ine] in E.T E.T” – in which case the “in” is not serving a dual purpose. I know Prolixic has suggested otherwise, but is this not correct?

    Grocer’s apostrophe aside I loved 3a; smiled broadly at the dodgy Spoonerism, and similarly at the homophone in 27a and when I clocked the right Hood in 4d. Great variety of clue types and I didn’t notice the two duplicated indicators.

    Many thanks indeed to Maya and to Prolixic

    1. M. Re the grocer’s apostrophe, isn’t it “butcher’s” as in the rhyming slang Butcher’s hook = look (or gander)?

      1. I had left the (question of the) apostrophe aside …

        However, for a spot of navel gazing, if the one hook is used by a single butcher or several, does the apostrophe move? If the shop is staffed by a single butcher or several, the abbreviated possessive reference changes from ” the butcher’s ” to ” the butchers’ ” … but if the shop is called something like “Fred Smith, Butchers” then one is “going to the Butchers”, and no need for an apostrophe at all. Surely.

        And next we may contemplate just how many angels may fit and then perform a complex multiple “DT30,077 6a” on a pinhead! ;)

        1. Yes, I don’t dispute any of that but it doesn’t apply here. The original/very long standing rhyming slang phrase (given in all the dictionaries) is “butcher’s hook” = look. Often shortened to just “butcher’s”.

          *Further to your quoted scenarios, the term “butcher’s” often relates to the premises itself irrespective of how many butchers actuall work there (and the individual might not know). As with the implied possessive: “I got some sausages from the butcher’s [shop].”

  17. I found this quite a difficult puzzle as I couldn’t get onto the right wavelength. It took me ages, but I did succeed in sorting out most of the parsing and filling the grid. I particularly liked 3a, 27a and 5d. I also liked 20a after finding out what ‘pan’ referred to, but I didn’t know ‘Johnny’ although I guessed it was reference to an American soldier of sorts. Once I had the checking letters for the last three words, I knew the answer to 8d/1a. Although I liked the answer, I really do not enjoy very long clues like this, clever as they may be.
    My appreciative thanks to Maya for having the temerity to provide us with a Rookie puzzle. Well done! I hope you will take on board Prolixic’s comments and that we shall be seeing you again.
    Many appreciative thanks to Prolixic for a most enlightening review.

  18. Thanks you for your kind comments, especially to Prolixic. I am replying from work so will be brief on this occasion. Like all my crosswords this is aimed at New Zealanders, although I tried to ensure no actual Kiwi-isms were included. I suspect US culture has infiltrated NZ more than the UK, hence (perhaps) the Americanisms.

      1. Thank you Mr K. Do you know if there is a corner for themed crosswords, which almost all of mine are.

        (Together with the occasional alphabetical or permietric jigsaw, etc.)

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