Rookie Corner 001 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 001

A Puzzle by Axolotl

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Following the launch on Saturday of my new site – Cryptic Crosswords from Big Dave – today I am introducing yet another new feature – Rookie Corner.  Many of you have asked for an extra puzzle on a Monday to make up for the absence of a Toughie in the Daily Telegraph.  This new series will feature rookie setters appearing for the first time, although many might return to entertain us again.  None of these puzzles have been checked by me, they are offered, warts ‘n’ all, exactly as received.  The setters will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers.  I do ask that you remember that this is a new experience for them, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review by Prolixic

Welcome to our first Rookie, Axolotl, who has bravely put his or her crossword on the starting blocks.  There were some very nice polished clues in this crossword.  My particular choices were 9a, 11a, 12a, 21a, 24a, 2d, 10d, 16d and 19d as runners up with, in no particular order, 22a, 25a and 20d as my top picks.  I hope Kath appreciates the efforts I have taken to avoid choosing favourites!

There were some rough edges here and there that may have tripped up solvers.  I have given some indications of these but they are all ones that can be overcome with practice.  Hopefully Axolotl, our Mexican salamander, will grace these pages again.


1a Trajectory of ball played by scratch golfer starting at British Open (lady amateurs) (8)
{PARABOLA} – Another term for the number of strokes a scratch golfer should complete a round in followed by the initial letters (starting) of At British Open Lady Amateurs.

9a Reformed renegade kicked drug for university but still immature (8)
{UNDERAGE} – Replace one of the Es in RENEGADE with a U (kick drug for university) and make an anagram (reformed) of the resulting letters.

11a Staff officer brilliant with books next to him (8)
{ADJACENT} – The abbreviation for an army staff officer followed by a word meaning excellent or brilliant and the abbreviation for New Testament (books)

12a Good, ever so good: possibly tries too hard (8)
{OVEREGGS} – An anagram (possibly) of G[ood] EVER SO G[ood].

13a Their users initially read back this warning: Sun’s Rays Are Listed Under Category Of Necessarily Imposed Bans (10)
{BINOCULARS} – … Users of these would not want to look directly at the sun’s rays.  The initial letters (reversed) read back of Sun’s Rays Are Listed Under Category of Necessarily Imposed Bans.  The words “this warning” are padding and could potentially mislead solvers.

14a Wife in Federal Republic gets at the French (4)
{FRAU} – The abbreviation for Federal Republic (This is not in Chambers and I have not been able to track down any confirmed usage of this as an abbreviation) followed by the French for “at the”

15a Island tree? (7)
{CYPRESS} – This tree is a homophone of the name of a Mediterranean island.  I am not convinced that a ? qualifies as a homophone indicator.

17a Dream up scam; business public boycott finishes (7)
{CONCOCT} – Another word for a scam followed by the abbreviation for company (business) and the final letters (finishes) of public boycott.

21a Squad no use without woman (4)
{UNIT} – Remove an F (abbreviation for Female – without woman) from a word meaning “no use”.

22a Orders audited after salesman denied accusations (10)
{REPUDIATED} – A three letter word for a salesman followed by an anagram (orders) of AUDITED.

23a Dreadful tailless little dog holds up pound (8)
{TERRIBLE} – Remover the final letter (tailless) from a breed of small dog and include the abbreviation for a pound weight.  Holds up does not work as a reverse containment indicator in an across clue.  It would be fine in a down clue.

24a No directions for Lear production (8)
{NONSENSE} – … the type of poems written by Edward Lear.  The NO from the clue followed by six letters that are all points of the compass.

25a Broadcast faded out; broadcast again (8)
{RESEEDED} – A homophone (broadcast) of faded out.

27a Drew attention to oppressed (8)
{STRESSED} – A double definition.


2d Daring publicity surrounding university – Oxford and Cambridge for example (8)
{AUDACITY} – The abbreviation for University surrounded by a two letter word for publicity followed by what either Oxford or Cambridge are examples of in civic terms.

3d A club’s supporter is raising mayhem. What a shambles (8)
{ABATTOIR} – … shambles being another word for this slaughterhouse.  The A from the clue followed by another word for a club used in sport and a reversal (is rising) of a word meaning mayhem.  The words “what” does not really work as a link word pointing to wordplay gives definition.  The clue would work better with creating a shambles.

4d Finished with one editing Ezra – died or sold out (14)
{OVERSUBSCRIBED} – A word meaning finished followed by the name of a person who works on a newspaper (one editing) and a word describing Ezra.  As Ezra is a definition by example, this should be indicated in the clue.

5d Some gateau to match snack supplier (7)
{AUTOMAT} – The answer is hidden in GATEAU TO MATCH.

6d Heard an infusion leads up to tonic (2)
{TE} – A homophone of tea (infusion).  Traditionally, 2 letter answers are not used in British blocked cryptic crosswords and the puzzle would have worked equally well without this clue and 26d.

7d Court jumping to wrong conclusion? (8)
{KANGAROO} – A mild cryptic definition of a type of informal court.

8d After confusion become compliant with 10 (4,4)
{MESS SUIT} – A word meaning confusion is followed by a word meaning become compliant to give something you would use to 10d

10d Surely advised by Jeeves, Wooster’s last to be found amongst Drones friends in disarray (5,3,6)
{DRESS FOR DINNER} – …  what Jeeves would tell Wooster to do in the evening.  The final letter (last) of Wooster goes inside an anagram (in disarray) of DRONES FRIENDS.  I liked the fact that this clue weaves together various elements of the Jeeves and Wooster stories.

15d Rustles a hundred stray flocks (8)
{CLUSTERS} – An anagram (stray) of RUSTLES C (the roman numeral for 100).  The A in this clue misleads as it is not part of the anagram fodder used to make the solution and should therefore be omitted.

16d Old letter found in Chaucer collection (8)
{PRIORESS} – One of the characters in the Canterbury Tales comes from a word meaning old followed by the phonetic spelling of the letter S.

18d Gets up awkwardly as slopes around side (8)
{CLAMBERS} – Another word for the slope on a road around an L (left side). Corrected following comment below – and loss of brain by reviewer

19d South-eastern cavers tumbled into dangerous chasm (8)
{CREVASSE} – An anagram (tumbled) of SE CAVERS.

20d Program completes and adds something extra (7)
{APPENDS} – Another name for a computer program on a mobile phone or tablet followed by a word meaning completes or finishes.

26d Like this after getting quickie in Mexico (2)
{EX} – You would be this after a divorce.  The answer is hidden in MEXICO.  See 6d.

29 comments on “Rookie Corner 001

  1. Many thanks BD! This means that on Mondays I’ll have the DT cryptic, the DT Quickie, the DT code word, the FT prize cryptic, the Guardian Cryptic,the Guardian Quiptic plus the Monday Rookie. Mrs S may have grounds for desertion.

  2. What a great idea and thanks to BD for the idea and, in advance, to the setters.
    Just about to print this one out to do later after a few hours gardening. Back later.

  3. Thanks BD for a great idea. One hitch: on downloading the Crossword Solver version of the puzzle I got a warning message from my virus protection program (McAfee) suggesting that it might contain various noxious items. I don’t normally get such messages when donloading the NTSPP or the Monthly Prize Puzzle in this version.

      1. I have now, as well as the several before that. I now get the same message “Potentially annoying download detected” for all of them. It seems to be something contained in your new website (Java, possibly?) which is triggering the messages.

  4. Quite a few ticks here, I cannot though parse 11a yet, I bet it is staring me in the face. 16d needed a bit of GK. Staying quiet on double unches. Excellent idea BD and to Axolotl for doing what I could not.

  5. I have a completed grid, but I’m struggling to justify my answer for 13A. 3D leads the field for me. Back later.

    1. Expat Chris, first letters of last ten words in clue reversed. Agree with 3d, a useful double definition to keep, does pop up

  6. Not too tricky and a lot of fun. Really enjoyed the solve. Last to parse and favourite was 11a.
    Thanks Axalotl, look forward to your next one.

    Dave. We appreciate the extra puzzle but would like to make a comment from our side of the world. Monday is the day when we feel the lack of a puzzle and the time that this one is posted means that we do not get it until Tuesday morning. Would it be inconvenient for these puzzles to appear at about the same time that the Telegraph puzzles come on line (midnight your time) so we could fill the Monday drought? Certainly have no wish to impose further on your time, but if it is only a matter of changing a scheduled posting time, maybe it could be considered. Thanks and Cheers.

  7. I think this is a great idea and enjoyed the crossword a lot – solved it – well, most of it, in dribs and drabs in between gardening.
    I found it quite difficult and needed the hints for my last four or five answers.
    I hesitate to criticise anyone who is smart enough to be able to set a crossword but, if I had a criticism, it would be that some of the clues were quite long which gave me too many choices of definition – too much for my relatively inexperienced cryptic brain.
    I think my favourite would probably have to be 7d – I do appreciate Prolixic’s efforts to avoid multiple favourites.
    With thanks to the Mexican salamander (I did have to look him or her up) and to Prolixic for taking on a mid-week blog.

  8. Re 14a – It’s not an abbreviation of “Federal Republic”. It needs to be looked at as two separate words. It’s an abbreviation of Federal followed by an abbreviation of Republic. Works for me.

    Otherwise a bit of a curate’s egg for me. I enjoyed the puzzle but agree with all Prolixics comments about the bits that don’t quite work. I think 22a may be favourite out of several good clues. Hope to see the setter again soon.

    Thanks to Axolotl and Prolixic.

    1. Except that R on its own is an abbreviation for Republican in Chambers, not Republic and F is not given as an abbreviation for Federal. Mileage in other dictionaries may vary and I have not looked elsewhere .

      1. F as in Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and R as in People’s Republic of China (PRC) or German Democratic Republic (GDR)?

        1. You can’t pick one letter out of two or more closely associated letters – if you do it leads to air = A as in RAF, other = O as in Other Ranks etc.

          1. Fair enough but I think that the F and R are in common enough use. As I said, worked for me.

  9. Well, my answer to 13A was correct but I couldn’t work out why without the hint. Working with a new setter is challenging. Maybe not as smooth as the pros, and apparently a crossword bible transgression or two, according to the experts, but everyone has to start somewhere. Generally, I did enjoy this. I think its a very good debut and I would hope to see the setter back at some time. 3D was excellent, I thought.

  10. Enjoyed that but had to rely on Prolixic to explain the answers for 11a,13a, & 25a. If that’s the standard to be measured against for future Monday Rookies then we definitely have plenty to look forward to.

  11. Huge thanks to everyone. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the interest you have all shown in my first effort at setting a puzzle. It was a real thrill to have Prolixic parse the puzzle, augmented by such constructive and helpful comments from the rest of you. I completely agree with Prolixic’s “rough edges”, and will try to avoid these traps next time. I must admit that I am glowing with pride at your appreciation of some of the clues and hope that some of my less successful ones did not frustrate you too much (I see now that FR probably is a bit dodgy for Federal Republic!). As a setter, the clue that I was most pleased with was 10d.

    By the way, I filled in the grid “by hand” not realising that there are computer programs that can do some of this. Should I be investing in Crossword Compiler?

    Above all, I must thank Big Dave for giving me this wonderful opportunity to try out my puzzle. I will submit another one soon.

    1. Welcome to the blog Axolotl

      The pleasure is all ours. I started this feature with some trepidation, but it does seem to have been worthwhile.

  12. What a lovely surprise to discover this Rookie Corner when I managed to get online yesterday! Huge thanks to Big Dave for this wonderful idea.

    I enjoyed really this. I thought there were some lovely clues, 10d being my fave. Runners up included 12a, 21a, 22a, 24a, 25a, and 4d.

    I managed to complete this puzzle and parse everything correctly. (I interpreted the F R in 14a like Pommers.) I did, however, encounter two problems. Whilst having no difficulty seeing how to arrive at the answer to 13a, I didn’t know how to treat the clue — e.g. was it an all in one? Which it wasn’t. 15d was one of my last in. I knew it was an anagram from the indicator, but was thrown by that ‘a’ in the clue.

    As a solver still very much on the learning curve, I found Prolixic’s instructive review most interesting and helpful.

    Very well done, Axolotl! And you did this all without a computer programme — that is very impressive. Do hope we shall see more of your puzzles.

    My appreciative thanks to both Axolotl and Prolixic.

  13. Thanks to Axolotl and to Prolixic for the review and hints. I enjoyed this puzzle a lot, but found it a bit tricky. Got stuck in the SW corner, and needed a few hints. I liked 13a, but my favourite was 25a. Was 3*/4* for me.

  14. Good fun to have a setter with whom we are (obviously) totally unfamiliar. Lots of entertaining head-scratching here and 24a led me totally up the wrong Lear street……Many thanks to Axolotl for being so brave!

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