Rookie Corner 003 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 003

A Puzzle by CW

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

The third in the new Rookie Corner series introduces CW, who bumped into me in Sheffield last October and then again in London in December. Once again the puzzle is offered, warts ‘n’ all, exactly as received. 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:

Thank you to CW for braving the rookies’ corner.  When sticking to traditional clue types, there were some promising clues in the crossword such as 9a or 13a.  Depending on personal taste, some of the more whimsical clues / wordplay may not have appealed to some solvers.  A bit more attention to the cryptic grammar would be welcome in future crosswords and a bit of polishing of the surface readings would give the crossword more zing – for example 7d or 15a.  Nevertheless it was a good first essay into setting and greater confidence will come with practice.


1 Tote soap! (6,8)
{MASHED POTATOES} – This is one of those whimsical clues (like GEGS being Scrambled Eggs) that contains neither definition or wordplay but may raise a smile when the penny drops.

9 Reveal gardener say in bond film (9)
{MOONRAKER} –  A word meaning to reveal your buttocks followed by a whimsical definition of someone doing the gardening.  Bond here should be capitalised.

10 Soak in Sabbath Existentially (5)
{BATHE} – The answer is hidden in SABBATH ESSENTIALLY

11 Alternative female’s bible (5)
{OTHER} – A set of books from the Bible follower by a word meaning female.  The wordplay is back to front as the bible comes before the female in the answer and the reverse  is true in the wordplay without any indication of a switch (A on B in an across clue usually means BA, etc.)

12 Clasp leg protection (6,3)
{SAFETY PIN} – Another informal word for a leg preceded by a word meaning protection.  Once again, the wordplay is in the wrong order for the answer without any indication in the clue that the word needs to exchange places.

13 Conceal a route to retreat (8)
{HIDEAWAY} – Another word for conceal followed by the A from the clue and a word for a route.

15 Code an upset cleric (6)
{DEACON} – An anagram (upset) of CODE AN.

17 Honours for fight between promotions (6)
{AWARDS} – Another word for a fight goes inside (between) the abbreviation for advertisements.

19 Allow to be surrounded by soldiers dancing here? (5,3)
{TABLE TOP} – The abbreviation for Territorial Army (soldiers) and a three letter word for a dance go around (surrounded by) a word meaning allow.

22 Where cards are not leading (2,3,4)
{IN THE PACK} – A runner who is not in the lead may be said to be this.

23 Hear a line order (5)
{ALIGN} – The A from the clue and a homophone (hear) of line.

24 Men only! (5)
{GENTS} – Unless you are a mother with a young son or a father with a young daughter … A clue to another name for a convenience where only men are supposed to go.

25 Condiment on single-cured pork (9)
{PEPPERONI} – A type of condiment followed by the ON from the clue and an I (single).  Some crossword editors will not allow clues that require you to split a word like (single-cured) to give part wordplay and part of the answer.

26 Useless for love before baby talk at end of bed (4,3,7)
{GOOD FOR NOTHING} – The for from the clue and a word meaning love or zero are preceded by (before) a word for baby talk and the final letter (end of) of bed.


1 Cheap deals didn’t work! (7,7)
{MAMMOTH SAVINGS} – If this clue is meant to indicate that the animal in question was not saved (didn’t work), this clue does not really work either.  I am open to better suggestions!

2 Upset hood calmed (7)
{SOOTHED} – An anagram (up) of SET HOOD.  Having to lift and separate words in the wordplay alone is tricky but often seen to give subsidiary parts of the answer.  It is less often seen to give a wordplay indicator and anagram fodder but works.

3 Stray or mix-up fault (5)
{ERROR} – A word meaning stray follow by the OR from the clue.

4 Secretary blows half a kiss to chap in Asian country (8)
{PAKISTAN} – The abbreviation for personal assistant (secretary), half of the word kiss and the name of a man.

5 Trans Asian Railway begins maybe in a Spanish town (6)
{TARIFA} – The initial letters (begins) of T[rans] A[sian] R[ailway] followed by a word meaning maybe and the A from the clue.  The superfluous “in” in the clue is misleading and should not be there.

6 English openers hope to hit ball around half twelve (2,3,4)
{TO BAT WELL} – The TO and BALL from the clue go around half of the word twelve.  This clue does not work for me as the TO is doing double duty as part of the definition and part of the wordplay and the HIT is superfluous to the clue and potentially misleading.

7 Out of place Church back to snap (7)
{ECTOPIC} – Reverse (back) an abbreviation for church and follow this with the TO from the clue and a shortened form of picture (snap).

8 Reduce expenditure on outstanding aural rulings (4,2,8)
{REIN IN SPENDING} – A word meaning outstanding or awaiting is preceded by a homophone (aural) of rulings (REIGNINGS).

14 Spoke to as directed (9)
{ADDRESSED} – Double definition – directed as in instructions to the postman on where to send a letter.

16 Nips? (8)
{BACKSPIN} – Another whimsical clue with no wordplay or definition.  This one did not work for me.  To be pedantic, in a down clue this is spin up!

18 Merchant of Venice in wanton Ionian deal (7)
{ANTONIO} – The answer is hidden in WANTON IONIAN. The deal at the end of the clue is padding and different people have different opinions on whether or not such padding should be allowed.

20 Three parrots in town? (7)
{TRIPOLI} – A homophone of POLLY goes after a prefix meaning three.  I think this clue needs a better homophone indicator than a ? and technically the answer is a city not a town.

21 Reduce acidity to zero for Greek poet (6)
{SAPPHO} – A word meaning reduce or weaken, the indicator or acidity (or alkalinity) followed by an O (zero).

23 Top office can manage (5)
{ADEPT} – Top (as in top grade) followed by an abbreviation for department (office).

13 comments on “Rookie Corner 003

  1. An enjoyable challenge to go with our lunch on a wet and windy Monday. Suspect that some of the clues might give purists some concern. Still have a bit of work to do parsing 23d and 23a but will keep working on these. We liked the two ‘internal anagrams’ 1a and 16d and the cleverness of 8d.
    Thanks CW (and BD for making it available to us).

    1. Thanks for the review Prolixic. Much appreciated by us and we are sure that CW will appreciate it too.

  2. took a while to get on to cw’s wavelength but once there i found this most enjoyable. 1a made me smile.

    we’ve had 3 rookies now & they’ve all been that little bit different ~ a welcome breath of fresh air

    thanks to cw & to bd for the graft he puts in

  3. This took me quite some time overall in a few separate sessions, and I will certainly need the review to fully understand the parsing for some clues, but lots to enjoy, I thought. 1A was a smile-raiser when I finally got it. Back later for the review.

  4. Thanks to Prolixic for and extremely constructive –and, for me, instructive– review. I didn’t realize how many rules govern the proper construction of cryptic clues. I did pick up that some clues seemed to be ‘backwards” and some I simply couldn’t parse fully from the clue. Does “bop” in and of itself really equate to “dancing”? Nevertheless, I think it was a great first outing so well done to the rookie.

  5. I didn’t manage to finish this so thanks to Prolixic for the hints.
    I had a couple of wrong answers which didn’t help at all.
    I liked 24a and 4 and 21d. Although I understand that 20d isn’t a perfect clue for the reasons that Prolixic has explained it was my favourite because it made me laugh.
    With thanks and congratulations to CW and thanks to Prolixic for filling in the gaps and sorting out my mistakes.

    1. Oh good! I just wrote this, pressed the post comment thingie and it told me there was a “Fatal Error”. It seems to have worked so I’m not dead yet!

  6. This may be an ‘each to their own’ thing but I’m afraid I take issue with .Prolixic on:
    6dn – The definition is English Openers Hope – which is to bat well. This is made up of TO (not doing double duty) BALL being hit around TWE. Seems like a really good clue to me – especially using bat (in a cricket themed clue) to knock the BALL around TWE.
    16dn – Surely ‘back’ is legitimate – if, in an across clue ‘back’ means ‘from right to the left’, then in a down clue it should mean ‘from bottom to top’?
    I’d also tend to be more lenient on wordplay order – it is, after all. Word PLAY – and is all the fun of a cryptic crossword. Is there a difference between say the
    Times/Telegraph/other type crosswords for how strict this is expected to be?
    Whatever – I really enjoyed this crossword.

  7. I had a good deal of pleasure from this crossword. I was on the right wavelength from the start Although some of the clues were not perfect, I did manage to work out the intended wordplay of most of them. I was, however, unable to fathom 1a. I had the right answer, but couldn’t see why so replaced it with the name of a character in a child’s book — but as I spelt that name wrong it was also a no go. Alas! not very good on my part.

    The clues I liked most were 22a; 26a; 6d (I also took the definition to be ‘English openers hope’, so it worked for me); 20d (which made me chuckle); and 21d.

    Well done on your debut, CW. I really enjoyed this puzzle, and hope we shall be seeing more from you.

    Like Expat Chris, I find Prolixic’s excellent review both constructive for the setter and instructive for me as a solver. It’s an insight into the exacting process of setting cryptic clues. Most interesting.

    My thanks and appreciation to both CW and Prolixic.

  8. Once again I am days later than everyone else. But the whimsy was great – both 1a and 16d made me laugh out loud. How pleased CW must have been with them!

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