Rookie Corner 464 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 464

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.

Welcome back to Hopping Rhino with a challenging Rookie crossword.  I am glad I started the process of solving early otherwise the review would have been delayed.  With the exception of 21a, most of the comments are on the finer technicalities of the clues.  The commentometer reads as 4.5/35 or 12.9%


1a  Hungarian disorderly teens expelled from East Germany (6)
MAGYAR: An anagram (disorderly) of EAST GERMANY after removing the letters in TEENS.  Where you have subtractive anagrams and the letters to be removed are not in the order in which they appear in the clue a subsidiary anagram indicator should be included.  Also in this clue, the anagram indicator appears to apply only to teens in the cryptic reading of the clue.  Perhaps adding “in revolution” at the end would maintain the surface reading and provide the subsidiary and main anagram indicators.

4a  Murder engineer out of sight (8)
OFFSTAGE: A three-letter word meaning murder followed by a five-letter word meaning engineer.  On the subject of American terms, if they are used only in the USA, I would try to indicate this in the clue.  I think the three letter word for murder falls within that category as probably does the conman’s assistant in 6d.  On the other hand, if they are used commonly in the UK, such as with 3d, I think more latitude is allowed. 

9a  Guerrilla war expert kept in the picture (5)
AWARE: The answer is hidden (kept) in the first three words of the clue.  Try to avoid using the past tense for wordplay such as this.  The first three words keep and continue to keep the solution.

10a  Cornish banker oddly frail (3)
FAL: The odd letters in the final word of the clue.

11a  Hacked off head of brigand rolls away (5)
IRATE: A six-letter word for a brigand with the final letter removed (head of…rolls away).

12a  Language penned by Monsieur Dumas (4)
URDU: The answer is hidden in (penned by) the final two words of the clue.

13a  Move south-east in Han capital (4)
OSLO: The surname of the Star Wars character Han with the abbreviation for south moved eastwards.

14a  God has heard morning prayer (5)
LAUDS: A homophone (hears) of Lord’s (God has).  Try to avoid having a homophone indicator splitting the definition and solution as this creates ambiguity as to which word is being used as the homophone material.

16a  After ceremony, occasionally revisit scene of disaster (7)
POMPEII: A four-letter word for ceremony followed by the even letters (occasionally) of revisit.

17a  Foolish brother not in control (4)
IDLE: Remove the two-letter abbreviation for brother from the front of a six-letter word for a means of controlling a horse.

18a  Royal councillor leaves keep (3)
OWN: A five-letter adjective meaning royal without the two-letter abbreviation for councillor.

21a  Shrink listened to child in Belfast (4)
WAIN: A homophone (listened to) of wane (shrink).  I cannot find a reference in Collins, Chambers or the shorter OED to the solution being used for a child in Northern Ireland.  The closest I have come to is “wean” (pronounced “wayne”) for a Scottish word for a child.

22a  High flyer is a raging drunk (7)
GAGARIN: An anagram (drunk) of A RAGING.  The link word here does not fit in the grammatical reading of the clue as it resolved to definition is wordplay.  Perhaps High flyer’s… would be better has the ‘s can resolve to has, leaving the cryptic reading as definition has wordplay.

25a  Peasant‘s happy in rolling grassland (5)
YOKEL: A two-letter word meaning happy in a reversal (rolling) a three-letter word for grassland.

26a  Goddess protected by Nereid underwater (4)
IDUN: The answer is hidden (protected by) in the final two words of the clue.

27a  One objects to insect having its wings removed (4)
ANTI: A six-letter word for an insect with long spiney forelegs with the outer letters (wings) removed.

29a  Protection from man who would deploy guillotine heartlessly (5)
HEDGE: The contraction of he would followed by the outer letters (heartlessly) of guillotine.  I think that the “deploy” in the clue is out of place.

30a  Dram? Teetotaller drinks nothing (3)
TOT: The two-letter abbreviation for teetotaller includes (drinks) the letter representing nothing.

31a  Hurt, but eschewing hospital and ready for action (5)
ARMED: A six-letter word meaning hurt without the initial H (eschewing action).

32a  Not punctual arriving at 12 (8)
NOONTIME: A two-letter word meaning not followed by a phrase (2,4) meaning punctual.

33a  Perhaps falcon savaged parrot (6)
RAPTOR: An anagram (savaged) of PARROT.


1d  Heavy weather overwhelms copper and assistant – I’m to blame (3,5)
MEA CULPA: A four-letter word meaning heavy weather (as in to make a ???? / heavy weather of something) includes (overwhelms) the chemical symbol for copper and is followed by the abbreviation for personal assistant.

2d  Old Nan and Ma garden haphazardly (8)
GRANDAME: An anagram (haphazardly) of MA GARDEN.

3d  Sails through competitions without resistance (4)
ACES: A five-letter word for competitions without the initial R (without resistance).

5d  Doing what they do, after action (9,4)
FOLLOWING SUIT: A nine-letter word meaning after followed by a four-letter word for a legal action.

6d  Conman’s assistant held up by northerly wind approaching Hospital Club (10)
SHILLELAGH: A five-letter word for a conman’s assistant followed by (held up by) a reversal (northerly) of a four-letter word for wind and the abbreviation for hospital.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  H for hospital has already been used in 31a.

7d  Alert after a painting’s lifted (6)
ALARUM: The A from the clue followed by a reversal (lifted) of a five-letter word for a painting on a wall.

8d  Steady girlfriend yet? (4,2)
EVEN SO: A four-letter word meaning steady followed by the abbreviation for significant other.  Having looked in the dictionaries, I have not been able to find a reference to this abbreviation.  The rule is that setters should use only abbreviations listed in the main dictionaries.

10d  One, 5 make six, state leaders of Mathematical Institute in reversal (7,6)
FASHION VICTIM: A seven-letter word meaning make followed by the roman numerals for six, the abbreviation for Connecticut (state) and a reversal of the initial letters (leaders) of mathematical institute.

15d  Held up by illness, soliders died climbing in training accident (10)
DERAILMENT: The abbreviation for royal engineers (soldiers) and died reversed (climbing) before (held up by) a seven-letter word for illness.  I think that the word “training” here is more misleading than cryptically indicating an accident involving a train.  Run your clues through a spell checker before submitting.

19d  Send Mike in van (8)
TRANSMIT: The letter represented by Mike in the NATO phonetic alphabet in a seven-letter word for a type of van.

20d  Nastier relatives are insubordinate (8)
UNKINDER: A three-letter word for relatives inside (in) a five-letter word meaning subordinate.  Not all editors will permit this type of lift and separate device.

23d  Local invested in hard currency bond in Asia-Pacific (6)
HYPHEN: The abbreviation for public house (local) in the abbreviation for hard and a three-letter name of a currency.

24d  Child breaks very old sledge (6)
SKIDOO: A three-letter word for a child inside (breaks) a two-letter word meaning very followed by the abbreviation for old.

28d  A lively party turns epic (4)
SAGA: The A from the clue and a three-letter word for a lively party all reversed (turns).

27 comments on “Rookie Corner 464

  1. Thanks Hopping Rhino, a bit of a head scratcher especially in the NE.

    I have never seen any of the films that Han in 13a is associated with so I needed the checkers for solving and, as I am not a ‘left footer,’ I needed some e-research for 14a.

    ‘Silly’ typo in 15d.

    I did have smiles for 18a, 25a, and 23d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks Senf. If the NE was a grind for you, and the SW was for Rabbit Dave, I have perhaps composed a more challenging puzzle than I intended.

      15d: [shame]

  2. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Hopping Rhino. This was certainly a tough nut to crack, especially in the SW corner, and I needed to come back to it several times before completing it. However, I did enjoy the challenge. Your clueing Is commendably brief and generally accurate, and you have included a lot of good ideas.

    I was led astray by 21a, as I am familiar with the spelling WEAN (also pronounced “wayne”) for an Irish child. That gave me a lot of grief with 15d (notwithstanding the typo).

    I remember enjoying your accomplished debut. You and I had a debate at that time about Americanisms and you said you would keep a closer eye on these in future. Alas, I found three today: “murder” in 4a; “sails through” in 3d; and “conman’s assistant” in 6d. On the plus side, I was very pleased to see the use of “old” in 2d to indicate that the answer is archaic.

    My main concern was 10d. This is a tortuous clue with a very dodgy surface, and I don’t think that using “state” to clue CT is fair on the solver particularly as part of such a complex clue. “Court” might have been preferable.

    For me, “foolish” is not an accurate synonym for 17a, and you need a secondary anagram indicator in 1a to show that the letters to be removed from the anagram fodder appear in a different order.

    I did have a lot of ticks: 1a, 11a, 13a, 16a, 25a, 29a, 33a, 5d, 20d & 23d. It took me quite a while to parse 8d and, when the penny dropped, it became my favourite.

    Many thanks and well done, HR, and thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. P.S. Apologies, HR. I’ve changed my mind about 17a. I’d forgotten about “idle chatter”.

    2. Thanks v much Rabbit Dave. Re 10D, I take the point about more complex clues needing simpler components. And the comment on 1a is also very helpful – a convention that makes sense, but of which I was blithely unaware.

      May I humbly offer a partial response on the Americanisms? I find I have to plead guilty to the synonym of ‘sail through’, but Collins has the synonyms for both ‘murder’ and ‘conman’s assistant’ as British English. I don’t mean to be defensive – only to reassure that everyone’s valuable advice is not falling on deaf ears!

      1. Many thanks for your response, HR. As a general “rule”, Chambers is more relaxed than Collins about Americanisms, so, when I come across one, I check Chambers first and then turn to Collins if Chambers doesn’t agree with me! :wink:

        Interestingly, this generality is not being followed here – Chambers gives “off” meaning to kill as “US sl”; and “shill” as “slang, esp N American”.

  3. Welcome back HR and thank you

    I’d finished my cereal but not my cup of tea when I fought my way to the end of this crossword. My problems mainly came in the middle and the NE. I have a couple of clues unparsed so will be pleased to read Prolixic’s review, for which many thanks in advance

    I have no problem with Americanisms – read enough books and, indeed, solve enough crosswords, and they become just ‘words’

    1. Thanks crypticsue. The clear feedback from everyone is to aim for a ‘within cereal’ puzzle next time

  4. I found this quite challenging but very enjoyable – thanks HR.
    I’ve never heard of the 14a prayer or the 26a goddess so needed to check those.
    I really liked 13a and 20d though I suspect that you’ll get a “some editors don’t …” for both.
    Other clues I enjoyed included 4a, 5d and 23d.

    1. Thanks Gazza, I’m glad for you at least the challenge was on the right side of the difficult/annoying line!

  5. Since the consistent feedback so far was that this was quite a challenging puzzle, may I ask if there is any general guidance as to how one should think about this?

    I guess all of the following can create difficulties for the solver: complex clues (eg 10d), long anagrams, obscure answers (26a), obscure synonyms (8d?), unusual constructions (23d). Is it a matter of consciously limiting such clues – and in particular making sure they’re not concentrated in one or more corners of the crossword?

    Or should one also be seeding the crossword with deliberately easy clues to provide checkers?

    Or something else entirely?

    Thank you.

    1. For me, the ‘easier’ clues (solved on the first read through) were 1a, 9a, 10a, 11a, 12a 22a, 25a, 29a, 30a, 31a and 33a. Then 1d, 2d, 3d, 6d, 15d, 19d, 20d,23d,24d and 28d. I then had to go back and mutter a bit at the other clues, using the checking letters to help

      1. Thanks for taking the time for this crypticsue, not least because some are not what I would have expected. For instance, 6d I thought of as a tricky solve

  6. Welcome back, Hopping Rhino.

    Add me to those who thought that this was a really difficult puzzle, it was a strange one in that parts seemed very straightforward and other clues rather abstruse, almost as if two different people had set it or where the setter had thought halfway through “I need to make the rest less/more tricky”. I think the difficulty level could have been eased by including a few more anagrams, experience has taught me that, generally speaking, the fewer the anagrams the harder the puzzle.

    I didn’t warm to the unbalanced grid (21 Across clues and just 14 Down clues), I would recommend sticking with something more conventional next time. Three “lurkers” in the Across clues alone was possibly excessive, and using “held up” twice in the space of five Down clues triggered my Repetition Radar. I would have replaced “to” in 27a to “seeing” to avoid a “definition to wordplay” construction and I’d prefer “keeps” to “kept” in 9a. I’m more concerned that archaic words are identified as such rather than Americanisms being so defined, but Chambers is always the ultimate arbiter for me.

    My favourite clue was 16a.

    Many thanks, Hopping Rhino, I don’t think you got the balance right this time (either with the grid or the level of difficulty) but I’m confident your next submission will address both matters!

    1. Thanks Silvanus, I really appreciate the detailed critique and suggestions.

      I wish I could say I’d deliberately thought to change the difficulty (or passed setting over to my evil twin), but I’m afraid it was entirely unconscious …

  7. Sorry, Hopping Rhino, this was definitely not one for me. Solved only about half of the clues before having to resort to revealing the remaining answers in the hope of figuring out what your intentions had been when formulating the clues.
    It’s been a long time since I failed so miserably with a Rookie Corner puzzle, not sure whether there’s something you can learn from that but thought it was worth saying.

    Thank you for bringing us another of your compilations.

  8. Great puzzle, Hopping Rhino; really enjoyed it. Total respect for someone who can produce something like this which is both challenging and thoroughly enjoyable. So many clues I liked; look forward to the next one. Thanks for all the obvious effort which went into it. :)

  9. A very satisfying challenge, HR – like others I found the SW and NE more testing than the NW and SE. I was pleased to see afterwards that my biffs (13a, 17a, 8d) were all correct, and have now at least parsed the first two of these.

    For me this edged towards Toughie territory. I found 13a rather obscure – recalling without clues a character’s name from a film series 40+ years ago is asking quite a lot, I thought; in 25a is rolling sufficient to indicate reversal? Am still uncertain about 32a, pondered ‘training’ in 15d, and raised an eyebrow at 20d’s use of insubordinate to instruct an insertion into under.

    OTOH most of the clues (and with 35-odd I did not feel short-changed!) were sound, most of the surfaces were smooth, and I especially liked 1a (second anagram indicator or not), 9a, 16a, 6d and 23d.

    I would happily look forward to another Hopping Rhino challenge, so thank you very much indeed, and thanks also in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks Mustafa, I’m glad you liked it.

      Re training, in addition to helping the surface it was intended to be part of a slightly jokey definition, but one man’s joke is another man’s ‘meh’, and perhaps it doesn’t work.

      Re rolling, I was unsure myself when I was writing that clue, so I did check. It seems to have been used often enough in this way – this from the FT, for example : City troubled after rolling my film (5,2) = ROCKY IV

      And while we’re on films, Mr Solo was in a $1bn+ film as recently as 2019, but to be fair I’m not sure I’d have known that without kids in the house!

      Thanks again for the comments

  10. Thanks Hopping Rhino. Overall this gets a thumbs up from me as I really liked many of the clues. However, I did need quite a few reveals to reach completion as the GK needed, not least about Irish children and Egyptian gods, was too stretching for me. The technical issues raised by others, more qualified to judge than I, did get in the way to some extent and a couple of the “Americanisms” were unknown to me. However, I’ve now manage to parse all but 8d for which I’m still hoping for a pdm or enlightenment by Prolixic.
    10d raised the biggest chuckle from me when I twigged the parsing – just a shame the surface reading was a little awkward. Ticks from me for 9, 11, 16 and 22a, 1, 19 and 23d.

    As a fellow Rookie, I do understand the difficulty of balancing the tasks of producing amusing and ingenious clues with smooth surfaces that are technically accurate whilst being fair and accessible to solvers. I thought many of your clues met that criteria so It seems to me you are not far off! I look forward to your next appearance.

    1. Thanks Jeemz. There’s that old engineering line: “Good, fast, cheap: pick any two”. At the moment it feels the same way with my clues, for surface / cryptic grammar / solvability.

  11. We found this difficult and in the end we had to reveal letters to finish – but thank you for the challenge, Hopping Rhino. Some easier clues next time, please. We look forward to Prolixic’s review to understand some of the answers.

  12. As ever, sincere thanks to Prolixic for the review. Points re anagrams/removals, Americanisms, tense, location of homophone indicators and repetition all noted. Regarding ‘is’, I was under the impression this was a ‘bidirectional’ link word, but am wiser now.

    Regarding SO I had consciously checked this, mindful of past guidance on abbreviations. Collins (online) has ‘SO’ as “Abbreviation for significant other: often used in social media”. Are the print versions of the dictionaries regarded as canonical for crosswords? More generally, if there was a widely used neologism that had not yet found its way into print editions, would that be acceptable? (I’m not suggesting SO is necessarily such a case – just asking a general question).

    Thanks again to all for feedback and guidance. I promise a less perplexing submission next time.

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I felt somewhat better about my dismal solving effort when reading that you had to make an early start on it! I do hope that Hopping Rhino is as good as his word when he comes to compile his next submission.

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