Recently, there's been an awful lot of Riley riddles across PSE. Why are they so prolific? I think there's three main reasons: they're quick to write, quick to solve, and apart from its minor gimmick they're very accessible. This crossword's also like a Riley riddle!

Firstly, one-third of the clues are quick to write: turns out writing clues is quicker when you leave out one letter from each of them. The dropped letters will spell out my thoughts on some of the Riley riddles in PSE.

Another one-third of the clues give answers that are quick to solve: when entering them into the grid, you can skip writing one entire section of them! In the spirit of Riley riddles, each of these entries is missing either its prefix, its suffix, or its infix, leaving behind a word (of varying degress of commonness). Looking at the missing parts should give you an idea of my attitude towards Riley riddles.

Apart from the minor gimmicks, the last one-third of the clues are more accessible: they're read and entered as directed.

Definitely Not A Riley Riddle


1 Returning partial cred is no certification? Think again! (7)
5 Period I must perhaps be stretched across the rack (7)
9 Girl's part of "I'm A Believer" (5)
10 Puppet beheaded with stiff bristle (3)
11 Sort repeated phrases by condition in empty rooms (5)
12 Waiting year to enter drug circle (8)
13 Chance of company backing dog (5)
15 Did carer really entrance master elder's heart? (5)
16 Satellite laboratory in terrible redundancy (6)
17 Clear head with books (2)
19, 20 Ling in a line dance or in lace? (8)
20 See 19
22 Home projects about mountains put back into shows (5)
24 Fits gun, almost, into Eve's caress (5)
25 Patchy plant glove with first sign of tearing (8)
28 Perhaps newspaper journalist in untraceable state (5)
29 Part of a yucky fish (3)
30 Bad design of headless little man nonetheless initially produced (5)
31 Sever head of donkey to freak out racist (7)
32 Pleas of female model left in state (7)


1 Turn back time with Shelter to follow heart of Perry's Hot N Cold, perhaps? (5)
2 Farm out of corn, but acts bustling? (8)
3 Deploy, indeed allied (7)
4 Break barmen's rules without end—it's not complex (4, 6)
5 Argue Mark's clothing is sloppy in front (4)
6 Halo effect of light first seen in air (7)
7 Clean record encompassing fine play by Tottenham forward (6)
8 Incorrectly medicates, perhaps, mange acquired by female (9)
14 Perhaps some making light of faulty status a gate returned into? (10)
15 Took back out miracle talking animal, perhaps? (9)
18 Noticed crowds of those that make planks? (8)
21 Fickle worker following idol holding new way (7)
22 Anticipate rep messed with van briefly (3-4)
23 Durant flees to wasteland (6)
26 Sour and angsty, stupidly missing point (5)
27 The French ellipse, for one, is elliptical (4)

This is my first big variety cryptic! Let me know how I did!

  • $\begingroup$ Would you like to clarify (1) whether the clues with dropped letters may have had spacing or punctuation changed after dropping the letters, (2) whether they are guaranteed to have been reasonable (i.e., made up of actual words) before dropping the letters, and/or (3) whether prefix/infix/suffix just means any initial/middle/final portion of an answer, as opposed to dividing along "meaningful" lines? I fully understand that you might not want to clarify. My guesses are no, yes, and yes, respectively. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Sep 21, 2018 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan Sure - no comment on (1), but for (2) the words are indeed actual words prior to dropping the letters, and for (3) the words are divided along a meaningful line. $\endgroup$
    – Level 51
    Sep 21, 2018 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ OK. And another: you've said 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 and there are 36 clues if we count 19a and 20a as separate. Would you like to clarify how we should deal with those? (E.g., is it possible that each half of that word needs a *fix removed? Or should we take 20 as necessarily "normal"? Or what?) Again, of course I understand that you may prefer to leave these things mysterious. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Sep 21, 2018 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan Oops, was hoping the direction on the third set description would clear that up - a "normal" clue is a clue which is read and entered as directed. 20 is a normal clue in this case, my bad $\endgroup$
    – Level 51
    Sep 21, 2018 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ OK, fair enough! $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Sep 21, 2018 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


I believe this is the grid:

enter image description here

The "quick to write" clues are

5a (track), 11a (short), 15a (career), 19a (lying), 24a (evens), 31a (severe), 32a (please), 3d (dallied), 4d (ends), 8d (manage), 14d (flight), 22a (vain). This appears to spell THEYNEEDSAFI so it seems like something has gone wrong at the end. [EDITED to add:] Aha! ManyPinkHats suggests in TSL chat that 4d is not meant to be missing a letter (though I do think the clue works much better with "ends" than with "end") and that 23d should have "flexes", so we get THEY NEED A FIX. I bet this is right.

The "quick to solve" clues are

1a (CONSIDER), 16a (DISMISSAL), 17a (PATENT), 22a (DISPLAYS), 25a (INTERMITTENT), 30a (MALINTENT), 1d (REMITTENT), 2d (SUBCONTRACT), 5d (DISSENT), 7d (DISINFECT), 21d (INCONSTANT), 27d (LACONIC). It would appear that Level 51 is DISCONTENT about all the Rileys.

Level 51 says "Let me know how I did!", so ...

This was a lot of fun. There are a few clues I don't wholly understand and a few elements I'm not in love with, but on the whole I thought it was very good indeed. Here's a list of quibbles; I must reiterate that I thought this was a really good puzzle and plenty of newspaper-published crosswords would get similar lists from me. 11a: not wild about "condition" cluing "iff"; seems a bit loose (and also maybe a bit niche-y, though this place is crawling with mathematicians so maybe that's OK). 12a: presumably "drug" clues TAR meaning black tar heroin? I'm not sure it's correct to call that just "tar". Then again, pretty much every short noun has been used to mean some drug or other, so it's probably fine :-). 24a: this is the one and only place where there needs to be an actual change in the clue to accommodate the dropped letter (evens -> Eve's, with a capital letter and an apostrophe). That's not wrong but it feels a bit odd: I'd rather either embrace the idea that clues might get substantially changed about and make sure that several do, or else find a way to make none of them change at all. 29a: a bit of a shame that "part of" turns out to mean "initial part of". 4d: I think this does really need "ends" rather than "end", though of course that spoils the surface. 5d: I confess I don't understand the wordplay for this. (Maybe "Mark's clothing" is NT -- the gospel of Mark! -- but I don't see how "sloppy" would clue DISSE or CONSE.) 15d: I don't really like "out" as a prefix rather than suffix anagrind. 21d: I suspect a lot of Orthodox Christians would get cross about "idol" cluing ICON, though I suppose it works OK if they're both taken metaphorically.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well played! I can never get the hang of these haha, this was very cleverly done! $\endgroup$
    – El-Guest
    Sep 21, 2018 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ Congrats! Thanks for the feedback too - I'm glad at least that the blemishes were in the clues and not in the overall structure of the puzzle :) as for 5d, the wordplay is rot13(Q(VF + Fybccl)RAG, nf va znex (QRAG) vf pybguvat (nebhaq) vf fybccl ng svefg (VF naq F)). $\endgroup$
    – Level 51
    Sep 22, 2018 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, yes. Then 5d is perfectly clean and I was just being dim. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Sep 22, 2018 at 11:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've just finished this and needed some clarifications from this answer to sew up the final answer. Great puzzle! $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Sep 22, 2018 at 15:34

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