Rookie Corner 527 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 527

A Puzzle by Mjölnir

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. We 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:

This was an enjoyable, if challenging, crossword.  With the notable exception of 21a (whose idea should be consigned to the 8d) most of the comments are polishing comments.  The commentometer reads as 4/28 or 14.3%


1a  Late in search of Egyptian deity, focus having shifted East (5,5)
AFTER HOURS: A five-letter word meaning in search of followed by the five-letter name of an Egyptian god with the central letter (focus) moved one place to the right (having shifted east).

6a  Boast about dress (4)
GARB: Reverse (about) a four-letter word meaning boast.

9a  Sounds like place with a swirling mist causes illness (10)
RHEUMATISM: A homophone (sounds like) of room (place) followed by the A from the clue and an anagram (swirling) of MIST.

10a  Check reported weather forecast (4)
REIN: A homophone (reported) of rain (weather forecast).  This is one of those awkward clues where the homophone indicator in the middle of the clue gives the solver no indication of which word in the definition and which forms part of the wordplay.  Unlike 8a, you grammatically do not about something (which rules out the last word of the clue being the wordplay), this clue could work either way.

12a  Endorse assistant (6)
SECOND: Double definition.

13a  Brief telephone friendship turns into disaster (8)
CALAMITY: A four-letter word meaning telephone with the last letter removed (briefly) followed by a five-letter word meaning friendship.

15a  Perhaps iron faith could be made from this, suddenly and unexpectedly (3,2,4,3)
OUT OF THIN AIR: A reverse anagram clue where an anagram indicator (OUT) followed by an anagram (could be made from this) of IRON FAITH gives the solution.

18a  Overdid it, never detoxed properly (12)
OVEREXTENDED: An anagram (properly) of NEVER DETOXED.  I am not convinced that properly is really a good anagram indicator.  Having the first four letters in the definition repeated in the solution is not ideal.

21a  What ‘crisp bright finishing’ does for Manchester Central Library (8)
SITUATES: I am so glad that the setter provided notes for this as I would have spent the next century finding out that the location of the Manchester Central Library is indicated in the What3 Words app as crisp.bright.finishing.  Needless to say, there is no way that this is a fair clue.  Also, if you go into the app an search “Manchester Central Library” the three words it gives are  Given the size of the library, there are probably 100 or more three word combinations that fall within the boundaries of the library.

22a  Cheers up a group of goddesses (6)
AMUSES: The A from the clue followed by  a five-letter word for a group of goddesses.

24a  Head over heels friends high-five? (4)
SLAP: A reversal (head over heels) of four-letter word for friends.

25a  Dismiss key way to fly (4,6)
FIRE ESCAPE: A four-letter word meaning to dismiss followed by the full name of a computer keyboard key (at least on a Windows keyboard!).

26a  At the end of all tests, student made top grade (4)
STEP: The final letters (at the end of all) of the sixth to ninth words of the clue.

27a  Film superweapon neighbouring Europe with hostile look (5,5)
DEATH STARE: Darth Vader’s superweapon followed by (neighbouring) the abbreviation for Europe.  E is the abbreviation for European, not Europe.


1d  Old labourer goes back inside a hospital again (6)
AFRESH: A reversal (goes back) of a four-letter word for an old worker inside the A from the clue and the abbreviation for hospital.

2d  Swimmer seen around river channel (6)
TRENCH: A five-letter word for a fresh water fish (swimmer) around the abbreviation for river.

3d  This type of character dominates civil mix (5,7)
ROMAN NUMERAL: Each of the individual letters in the final two words of the clue are examples of this type of numbing system.

4d  Aware of Scout’s leader being decapitated (2,2)
ON TO: The name of the Lone Ranger’s scout with the first letter (leader) removed (decapitated).  Try to avoid the use of decapitation as a wordplay indicator as events in the news could give it an unfortunate context in which to appear.

5d  Beginning again, relaxing around some frescoes? (10)
RESTARTING: A seven-letter word meaning relaxing around a three-letter word of something that frescoes exemplify.  Be careful not to repeat wordplay indicators.  Around was used as a container indicator in 2d.

7d  Ladies support Armenia’s yachting cup (8)
AMERICAS: The plural of a random ladies name underneath (to support) the IVR code for Armenia.

8d  Cart returns carrying doctor, abruptly turning into cemetery (8)
BONEYARD: A reversal (returns) of a four-letter word for a cart underneath (carrying) a five-letter slang word for a doctor with the final letter removed (abruptly).

11d  Perplexed artists mixed with stuffy preservationists (12)
TAXIDERMISTS: An anagram (perplexed) of ARTISTS MIXED.

14d  Measure up with the elite on restoration (3,3,4)
TOE THE LINE: An anagram (restoration) of THE ELITE ON.  Try to avoid anagrams where one of the words in the letters to be rearranged also appears in the solution.

16d  Lies dupe nuns lacking essential numeracy (8)
CONSISTS: A three-letter word meaning dupe followed by a seven-letter word for nuns without (lacking) the middle letters (essential) of numeracy.

17d  Cassette reviewed for point settler (4,4)
TEST CASE: An anagram (reviewed) of CASSETTE.

19d  Some man at Santander put up capital (6)
ASTANA: The answer is hidden (some) and reversed (put up) in the second to fourth words of the clue.

20d  Ancient ascetic found in Manx county by heartless native (6)
ESSENE: Six-letter name of an English county with the final letter removed (Manx) followed by the outer letters (heartless) of native.  Different editors’ views differ on the use of Manx as a tail-end deletion indicator.

23d  Empty boast filled with energy about being best (4)
BEAT: The outer letters (empty) boast include (filled with) the abbreviations for energy and about.

33 comments on “Rookie Corner 527
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  1. Welcome to my second puzzle. I thought I’d put in an introduction as I might not be able to pop in to see how people get on until tea time.

    I have avoided obscure general knowledge as far as I can. I was forced into one answer that was new to me (19d), but I know very little, so that bodes well. There is one sort of ‘novelty’ clue, which might be testing, but fair, I hope. There are an average of 6.6 words per clue, down from 7.7 in the last one.

    My favourite clue in my first puzzle was the rat sickening spice. Sadly, it received no positive votes; in fact, it received one negative one. I had the animated film ‘Ratatouille’ (about a rat who becomes the finest chef in France) in my head at first. But I did think that you might call food that tastes disgusting ‘rat sickening’ as in real life they aren’t all that choosy. The favourite was the grumpy hamster.

    A couple of thoughts arising from the first puzzle’s comments:

    I think Prolixic is of the view that wordplay is always singular even if it is made of distinct parts. I am struggling with that a little. If we think of the wordplay as wordplay ingredients, it becomes plural. In other words, say, x + y cooked ‘become’ rather than ‘becomes’ the metaphorical cake in everyday language. If anybody has any thoughts, I would be interested to hear them.

    On the RNLI being sailors, I thought this was like the AA being usual suspects for motorists, although RD mentioned that Django had called them a ‘group of motorists’, and Prolixic feels this is technically preferable. Prolixic thought that the RNLI are only indirectly sailors because they are primarily a rescue service. However, so are the AA and the RAC (albeit in vehicles). So, do I take it that, say, the AA as (a group of) motorists is technically wrong but accepted through usage?


    1. Hello Mjolnir,

      It may seem slightly strange to less experienced setters, but yes, wordplay is treated as a singular entity for cryptic grammar, i.e. wordplay (however many constituent parts it contains) leads to/gives/provides etc the solution, not wordplay lead to/give/provide the solution. Obviously this sometimes creates a difficulty when using plurals in the wordplay, but one can normally always get round this by using the linking verb in its present participle form, i.e. leading to/giving/providing or by inserting a word like “would” or “must” before the verb.

      I hope this is of some assistance.

  2. Thanks Mjölnir. For me, better than your first one – quite a head scratcher but I solved it! Although, there are some parsings that are eluding me and I will await the wisdom of Prolixic.

    Smiles for 12a – a nice double definition, 15a, 1d, and 20d – I liked the Manx county.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. Had to reveal one answer to finish and that is 21a which we still do not understand. 6a and 10a were both ambiguous and needed checking letters to confirm which way they went.
    Quite a challenge for us with some really good clues in the mix. Our favourite was 3d.
    Thanks Mjolnir.

    1. Thanks 2K. I had hoped 21a would be ok, but it seems most people found it unfathomable. In the UK what3words is used by emergency services and I recall a big advertising campaign about it involving someone being rescued. Basically, it assigns three words to each of the many 3 metre square areas w3w cover whole world with to make it easy to find places. I started the clue with ‘what’ and then grouped the next three words in apostrophes, which I hoped would be enough for people to make the link. But perhaps it isn’t as well known as I imagined it would be.

      1. Re 21a, in retrospect given your explanation it was an interesting and novel idea, Mjölnir, but for me there were a number of reasons why the clue doesn’t quite ‘work’, rather than it being hard or tough. Among these are most critically for me that if the solver has not heard of WTW there is no other way of deducing the answer logically from the clue. Also that MCL has very many WTW location references and so the one you give is not a unique solution to the clue; and that even if the solver (cares so little for their data privacy and) has installed WTW as an app on their phone, they would need either to guess that those three words are one of MCL’s many locators, or make the connection and look up the three apparently random words in order to find out / confirm where it is.

        Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the vast majority of your puzzle, but this clue just didn’t “do it” for me.

        1. Hi MG. I have seen cryptic clues which only have one way in and are unsolvable without general knowledge before. But I suspect they aren’t popular and 21a certainly hasn’t been. In this case, the GK probably is worth knowing about, as w3w say 85% of emergency services use it. Apparently a dispatch team leader at Yorkshire Ambulance Service said, “Using what3words saves Yorkshire Ambulance Service precious time locating a patient, which can and does save lives”. I suspect there might be some amusing three words for places, but given the responses to 21a I doubt I’ll try using any.

          1. Unfortunately there have also been cases of What3Words giving locations identifiers that are near-homophones of other places that are a confusing distance away — far enough that the emergency services won’t find you, but not so far that they’re obviously wrong (like in the wrong country). For instance “” and “deep.pinks.start” are 1 km away, in the same mountain park.

            What3Words is run by a private company who own all the intellectual property rights on both the software and the location database, and whose corporate aims aren’t necessarily aligned with producing a public good for society as a whole. It’s a superficially attractive idea, but in practice not safe to rely on — so for anybody who hadn’t encountered it till this crossword, you’re probably better off staying that way!

            1. I suspect experts in the large number of emergency services who use w3w will have input into a health and safety risk assessment including balancing whatever weaknesses there are against its strengths and the success rate of whatever other methods there are. They may have developed practices that overcome the plurals problem. I struggle to believe that 85% of emergency services would use w3w if on balance it isn’t overall the most effective method. Yorkshire Ambulance’s stated experience is that it saves lives. I suspect it’s overall quite risky to take a blanket policy of declining to give the three words. For example if you are injured and lost it might be a bigger risk when the emergency services ask for the three words to decline and haggle over how to locate the tree in the forest you are lying next to.

  4. Three quarters of the crossword were on a par with a Friday DT backpager, but the SW corner was a whole other level of difficulty, requiring the revealing of many letters, both to help solve the clues and in one case confirm I had the correct solution. Like the 2Ks, I have no idea what is going on in 21a My particular favourite was 3d

    Thanks Mjolnir – hopefully your next crossword will be solver-friendly in all its corners – and, in advance, to Prolixic

    1. I will aim make the whole crossword like a Wednesday backpager next time. Thanks for the detailed feedback on the level, and your favourite. It helps to gauge difficulty and what is working.

  5. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Mjölnir, with what I thought was a good improvement on your debut puzzle. I enjoyed the challenge, but it was certainly more accessible and there were a lot of good ideas on show.

    It took a while for the penny to drop with 21a, which was my last one in. I’ll be interested to see if Prolixic thinks this unusual device is fair on the solver.

    I have only a few other minor points:

    – 10a is ambiguous. “Check weather forecast on the radio” would have been better.
    – 4d. Is “leader” an accurate definition for “rider”?
    – 7d. Personally I don’t like the vague use of “ladies” (particularly in the plural). Others may have a different opinion.
    – 23d. It’s not ideal for the definition to have only one letter different to the answer.
    – Another one for Prolixic. Is it OK to use “with” as a link word between wordplay and definition? You have done this twice in 27a & 11d.

    I had a lot of ticks, with 12a, 22a, 25a & 16d my top picks.

    Well done and thank you, Mjölnir. Please keep them coming. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks for your comments RD, which I take on board. On 4d, I had it in mind that Tonto owned the horse. I have seen ’with’ used as a link between wordplay and definition before. It’s a bit like ‘and’. I put a few examples up of bidirectional links in the RC 517 blog, which included ‘with’, and Silvanus agreed.

  6. I found this quite tricky in the SW corner and revealed letters to finish 21a because I have no idea what’s going on there.
    I liked 1a, 22a and 8d with my favourite being 3d.
    Thanks Mjölnir – I look forward to your next puzzle.

    1. Thanks Gazza. Looks like I need to dial in the difficulty a bit more. 3d is looking like it might be the favourite this time.

  7. Welcome back, Mjolnir.

    I tend to agree with the consensus, an improved puzzle this time but still extremely tough in places. I would strongly suggest avoiding first letter deletion indicators like “decapitated” (or “beheaded”) because of the obvious connotations with executions of hostages etc. “Around” was repeated as a containment device and both 13a and 8d are “wordplay turns into/turning into definition”, using the same linking verb was not ideal. I agree that it is preferable to put homophone indicators at the beginning or end of clues to avoid potential ambiguity, as is the case in 10a. 3d is very clever and sits on top of my podium.

    Well done on the improvement shown, I think with more experience the niggles will reduce. Thank you very much, Mjolnir.

    1. Thanks Silvanus. I think the problem with the duplication may have been due to my coming back after a time to change some clues and then not re-proof-reading the whole puzzle again. Note made to self.

  8. I’m not totally convinced that Mjolnir’s attempt to scale back on the difficulty quite worked out and there were a few definitions that didn’t really work for me – perhaps a language issue? I was relieved to see that I wasn’t alone in being completely flummoxed by 21a and thought it was a shame that the answer to 18a started with a word lifted directly from the wordplay.
    Not to worry, I’ve no doubt that your obvious willingness to learn will bring everything together in time. Thanks for bringing us another of your compilations this week – my top two were 1a & 1d.

    1. Thanks Jane. Yes, it looks like the consensus is that I didn’t turn the difficulty dial back quite far enough. I hadn’t noticed 18a had ‘over’ in the word play. Proof reading one’s own work isn’t ideal. I’m going to have a further think about what makes a clue easier. I note both CS and Gazza thought the SW was tricky. That is where the seemingly infamous 21a is. But one of the clues in the SW is an anagram and another the final letters of words in the clue. I am not sure at the moment how I’ve managed to make those sort of clues difficult.

  9. What a very enjoyable puzzle! Really liked 13A, 15A, 7D, 11D but my favourite has to be the very clever 4D. Thanks to setter; looking forward to the next one.

  10. Thank you Mjölnir, this was largely a very enjoyable puzzle, and a step-up from your previous submission to the Star Chamber. Like others I need to see Prolixic’s review to understand one clue in particular (21a, and am still a little uncertain as to the parsing of a couple of others) so I do have my fingers crossed that he understands it! Otherwise:

    10a – slightly confusing & I waited for checkers;
    18a – that’s a novel anagram indicator for me;
    27a – ‘death stare’ is not in the BRB that I can see, and feels a bit manufactured;

    All else was fine by this layman, and highlights for me were 9a (COTD), 15a, 7d, 11d & 16d,

    Many thanks once again, and also in advance to Prolixic

    1. Thanks for your comments MG. I have provided explanations of all the clues to Prolixic. In case you want to find out about 21a before tomorrow though, I have explained 21a in comment 3 above. It has clearly turned out to be a hard clue. Crossword Unclued lists 18a as an anagram indicator. I thought it was ok because the solver needs to put the letters in the proper order for the definition. Death stare is in Collins, by the way.

  11. Thank you Mjölnir. We struggled with several answers and had to reveal letters, sw corner in particular so we shall read Prolixic’s review tomorrow. Favourites were 3d, 13a and 15a. We look forward to your next one and hope we have less difficulty. Thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  12. Thanks for an enjoyable challenge. I think I’d have taken several days to solve it as intended, but some internet tools have helped the process along to a point where I can comment.

    18a, 25a, 27a, 3d and 11d are my favourites.
    The following don’t quite work for me, but it’s always possible I’m not parsing them correctly, so I might revise my opinion when I read the review.
    7d and 14d. I think they don’t have precise enough definitions.
    8d feels like an Americanism, though I don’t know whether it is.
    20d is clever, but I’m not completely sure it’s fair. Not all Manx things can be described this way, just the cats.
    21a – after reading the explanation – is nearly excellent. I am familiar with the service in question but I still think the clue needs something more to make the leap. Those who aren’t familiar with it will probably be unable to solve it

    Overall – much more good than bad in this puzzle.

    1. Thanks for the feedback CM. None of the 3 main dictionaries I used indicated that 8d is an Americanism (the BRB and ODE usually do say when words are especially US). Apologies if it is American. In his book, Chris Lancaster lists Manx as a general indicator that the last letter of a word is to be removed, which is why I thought it would be ok.

  13. Some brilliant Toughie level clues which is ok, but 21a gets a double What?? from me
    The better the trick in the wordplay is disguised [surface reading], the more satisfying and enjoyable it is for the solver
    I was not sure about too many answers

    In advance, to Prolixic, thank you

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, at least I can stop worrying about 21a now, I wouldn’t have had a clue no matter how long I gazed at it! I do hope that setters don’t start expecting us all to know about this app.

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