Rookie Corner 009 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 009

A Puzzle by Axolotl

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

The latest in the new Rookie Corner series is a return visit from Axolotl, our first rookie.  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.

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

It was a delight to see Axolotl returning to the Rookie corner.  Another good crossword for us to get to grips with.  This was a bit trickier than his first crossword but none the worse for it.

Others have commented on the construction of the grid with the four sets of triple unchecked letters.  These types of grid rarely appear in the back page crosswords as they can make it very difficult to get sufficient checking letters.  Particularly with 9d and 20d where there are three unchecked letters and only two checked letters, it can be very hard for the solver to make headway.

Apart from a couple of clues where I have doubts over the wordplay, this was an accomplished crossword.  I particularly liked the constructions used in 5d and 24d.

Onwards with the review.


1 This must be paid or beat it! (5)
TABOR – … something that you can beat.  Another word for a bar bill followed by the OR from the clue.

4 Literary work one penned in youth contains plot (9)
BIOGRAPHY – Take another word for a youth and include (penned) an I (one) and then, inside this, add (contains) another word for a plot or diagram.

8 Revision necessary for exam; chance it and one might be awarded Latin prize (7,3,5)
MEXICAN HAT DANCE – An anagram (revision necessary) of EXAM CHANCE IT AND.  The dance is a fusion of Latin American and other styles.

10 Blows into harbour to play with her soon (7)
ONSHORE – An anagram (to play with) of HER SOON.

12 Flip pun perhaps entertains editor (5)
UPEND – I am not sure that this clue works.  The wordplay suggests that an anagram (perhaps) of pun includes (entertains) the abbreviation for editor but the answer appears to be an anagram of PUNED so the entertains is misleading for the solver.

13 Reported girl to start diet after gaining weight (9)
ANNOUNCED – An imperial measure of weight goes inside the name of a girl and the first letter (to start) of diet.

14 Chuck in moat (5)
DITCH – A double definition the first being to abandon or throw away.

17 Tugs found on the other side of the Atlantic (5)
YANKS – A double definition, the second being the informal term by which our transatlantic cousins are sometimes referred.

20 Cardigan lost?  Wear this instead? (9)
BALACLAVA – A cryptic reference to the Russian battle that gave its name to this item of headwear and where Lord Cardigan led the charge of the Light Brigade.

22 Chorus and orchestra express disapproval before opening of Tristan and Isolde (5)
TUTTI – A three letter word used to express exasperation or disapproval and the initial letters (opening of) Tristian and Isolde.  If you are referring to the first letters of two or more words, it should technically by openings of.  A better indication that it is the chorus and orchestra together might have helped the clue.

23 Any old bit of furniture (7)
WHATNOT – A double definition of an nondescript item and a light piece of furniture with shelves for bric-a-brac.

25 Rectifying abuse can calm her, or I’ll try to get compensation (9,6)
AMBULANCE CHASER – An anagram (rectifying) of ABUSE CAN CALM HER.

26 Heard gold, silver, etc at front of lorry gets transported (9)
AWESTRUCK – A homophone (heard) of metal bearing rocks followed by another word for a lorry.  I am not wholly convinced that gold and silver are examples of ores.  Ores may contain silver and gold, but that does not make the silver and gold ores!

27 E.g. dis (5)
SLANG – Dis is an example of this word for informal language or jargon but the answer also means to hurl abuse at, which is the meaning of dis.


1 Stand-in soldiers on railway follow recommended speed (9)
TEMPORARY – The recommended speed for playing a piece of music followed by the abbreviation for the Royal Artillery (soldiers) and the abbreviation for railway.  Nice misdirection here as stand-in soldiers immediately makes you think of the former Territorial Army.

2 Is girl in bikini sex object?  Clothing restricts view from rear (5,2)
BOXES IN – The answer is hidden (clothing) and reversed (view from rear) in BIKININ SEX OBJECT.  There are several minor problems with this clue that taken individually may not amount to much but collectively mean that it is too misleading for the solver.  The words “Is girl in” are padding and not necessary to solve the clue.  The definition is in the middle of the wordplay – normally the definition appears at the beginning or the end of the clue and for the cryptic grammar to work, “view from the rear” would be better as “viewed from the rear”.

3 Priest not finishing page (5)
RECTO – Remove the final letter (not finishing) from another word for a priest.

4 Chuck genetically engineered pig out (5)
BINGE – Another word meaning to chuck or throw something away followed by the initial letters of genetically engineered.  Although Chambers has the abbreviation GM for genetically modified, it does not show GE for genetically engineered.

5 Accrue about five hundred and 99p (7)
REDOUND – A two letter word meaning about followed by the Roman numeral for 500 and OUND (99p is a pound less a penny – brilliant!).  Although the primary meaning of redound is to reflect back upon, dictionaries give accrue as a secondary meaning. 

6 This fellow’s wordplay gets up one’s nose (7)
PUNGENT – Spit 3, 4 the answer would be a fellow who cracks jokes or makes wordplay. The clue elides (you have mentally to put in the words) “describes something that gets up your nose”.

7 Submit income return (5)
YIELD – Double definition for submitting or surrendering and the profit made on something.

9 Something to stay clear of (5)
AVOID – Spit 1, 4 this would be something to stay clear of.  The triple unchecked letters with only the first and last checked combined with a cryptic definition make this type of clue very difficult to solve.

11 Rave reviews at new theatre débuts (4)
RANT – The first letter (debuts) of Reviews At New Theatre.

15 Dad’s first to get out of draught and join her mingling by the fireside (9)
HEARTHRUG – An anagram (mingling) of DRAUGHT HER without the first letter of Dad.  Although not strictly wrong, I am not a huge fan of prepositional phrases to indicate the definition.  It is the sort of clue where  town might be clued as “in France” or “across the Atlantic”.

16 Finally nail a rivet through slat (4)
LATH – The last letters (finally) of Nail A Rivet Through.

18 Well-known for standing room only (7)
NOTABLE – If this item of furniture is not present, presumably there are no chairs either and everyone has to stand.

19 Pan like TLS review (7)
SKILLET – … for frying things in.  An anagram (review) of LIKE TLS

20 Saved by being cured? (5)
BACON – A cryptic definition of a cured meat that also appears in the expression “To save your ….”.  The curing process prevents the meat from rotting.

21 Recall failure of addled men in Asia (7)
AMNESIA – An anagram (addled) of MEN goes inside ASIA.  I liked the definition in this one.

22 Irish queen here wore one? (5)
TIARA – … something that may be worn.  The ancient site of Irish kings and queens include an I (one).

23 Cause stink on radio (5)
WREAK – A homophone (on the radio) of reek.  Wreak as in wreak havoc.

24 Head of household and husband without it suffers (5)
ACHES – Take the IT from ‘AITCHES (the first letter (head) of Household and Husband).  Top clue for me.


34 comments on “Rookie Corner 009

  1. Well this series of Rookie Corner puzzles is certainly bringing out some treasures as we have another very clever and enjoyable one this week. Pity that the grid included two triple-unches but they did not cause any problems. Took us about the same time as a mid-week Toughie which is a good place to be in our opinion. The setter makes an allusion to his name in 8a too. Much appreciated.
    Thanks Axolotl

  2. I’m so pleased you liked the puzzle, it’s a real thrill to get such positive feedback. Bearing in mind that I am a rookie, can you tell me what you mean by a triple-unch? I’ve tried googling but nothing comes up.

    1. Four triple-unches today if I am not mistaken?

      Strange choice of grid … which seems to be a recurring theme in Rookie Corner. Didn’t one of the earlier ones have a few two-letter answers.

      But I enjoyed the crossword … I would have enjoyed it more if I could have solved all of the NE Corner!

      I agree with the 2Kiwis … definitely a Toughie!

      1. Of course you are right Stan. When we wrote the comment yesterday we completely overlooked the two on the periphery. Probably because neither they, nor the two that we did note, caused any undue problems with the solving. We thought it really good fun and we would hate to think that this small technical hitch has distracted people from appreciating Axolotl’s offering. Cheers.

      2. I meant the NW corner – awaiting tomorrow’s review to explain 1a & 2d.

        Has anyone else ever been confused between NE & NW? After a few drinks I always seem to lose my compass!

        1. Not sure whether it’s OK to help out ahead of the review, so I will refrain. But I have to say that 2D took me forever to completely unravel! As a schoolgirl, I was taught to remember Never Eat Shredded Wheat (first letter of each word, clockwise). I have been known to pencil that around the grid!

          1. Expat Chris,

            This will sound very sexist … but I always thought that you were a “he” living somewhere in North America!

            (Must eat more Shredded Wheat in the morning!)

            Thanks for your help!

            1. No worries, Stan. It happens a lot, especially in my line of work, which is male dominated. I do live in North America, but I’m a Cheltonian originally.

        2. 1a. Another word for a bar bill followed by the OR from the clue to give a musical instrument that you can beat.

          2d. The answer means restricts. It is hidden and reversed in “bikini sex object”. I am not sure that this is the fairest of clues. I will explain in the review that is scheduled to appear at 8:00 am on 10 June.

          1. Thanks, Prolixic!

            I would have waited patiently until tomorrow at 8:01 am!!

        3. I was born without any kind of compass so I can’t lose it – not much better with left and right but at least I only have two to choose from with that.

  3. Took a while to get into the setter’s mind-set but once I got started I found this most enjoyable. 18d reminds me of a riddle told to me by a fellow patient in a Spanish hospital a few years ago:

    The ******* surgeon was *** **** to operate as he had ** *****

  4. Sorry 2Kiwis, I have done a search on this site and have now found that unch is short for unchecked. I designed the grid myself and it’s something I hadn’t really appreciated at the time. Still have quite a bit to learn! Glad it wasn’t a problem.

    1. Axolotl, Extra marks from me for designing the grid yourself. I didn’t realise that setters still did that themselves these days!

      1. Designing the grid is a good part of the fun for me, personally. Nothing better than shading in squares symmetrically during a particularly boring exam invigilation…

    2. If you press REPLY before entering your comment it keeps the conversation together, like this comment and the one from StanXYZ above.

  5. I made very heavy weather of the top half of the grid but I got there in the end, though not without revealing a letter to kick start 2D. I would have taken even longer had I not paid attention to 2kiwis’ comment on 8A. Some clever clues ( I particularly liked 6D) and some where I don’t understand the complete wordplay, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s review. A good debut altogether. Well done!

  6. Great puzzle. Really enjoyed the choice of words and the playful style. Favourite clues were 3D, 6D, 13A & 23A. 26A was the hardest for me. Took me about ****** in total, which is roughly the same as a typical DT crossword. Thanks for creating and sharing!

    1. We try to avoid mentioning solving times on this site – and it’s not just to stop Crypticsue from boasting, but because the standard solving times vary by a wide degree and some may get discouraged.

  7. Thanks for the puzzle, Axolotl

    I’m afraid I didn’t get on your wavelength, so didn’t manage to complete. Still, what I did solve was enjoyable and I’m awaiting the review to see how the ones that eluded me work.

    Seeing as you asked about the unches, I thought I might also offer you a couple of links that have proved invaluable to me as a setter as well as all the great info here. Obviously, if posting links to other sites is not the done thing here then feel free to delete them.

    Hope they help and look forward to your next grid.

      1. Ah, apologies, BD, I wasn’t aware of that – will keep to one in future if the need arises.

  8. Phew – I thought that was difficult – very clever and enjoyable but difficult.
    I found the top half much trickier than the bottom. I’m still stuck on three – all in the top right corner. If anyone could give me a shove in the right direction for any one of 5 and 6d and 12a then I might be able to do the others – you can all call me an impatient little 23a if you like.
    I thought 20a was brilliant – so were lots of others – 4 and 23d.
    I look forward to the review as there are some answers that I can’t explain.
    With thanks to Axolotle.

    1. Kath,

      5 – I’ve either got this one right or completely wrong.

      RE D OUND

      Does 99p mean a (P)ound less a penny?

    2. Thanks to both of you – sorry not to have said so before now but got tied up in other things.

  9. It certainly wasn’ easy, and it took quite a while (and some letter hints) before I tuned into the correct frequency.Once that was achieved I began to really enjoy it. Your approach was well off the beaten track, I’m glad to say.I don’t know what 8a means in this context, or in any context.I really liked 22a and 27. Thanks Axolotl.

  10. Thanks Axoltl ,entertaining which for me is the objective ,post solve parsing of 2d took an age and not certain about matching at least one answer to the definition .Personal favourite 6d .Keep it up but discard the grid ..Cheers .

  11. As with my first attempt (Rookie Corner 1) I am overwhelmed by your compliments and constructive criticism,and delighted that my efforts have provided enjoyment for so many of you. Again I am indebted to Prolixic for so competently parsing the puzzle and pointing out some dodgy clues. I was worried myself about 12a (UPEND), 22a (TUTTI) and 2d (BOXES IN) but was struggling to come up with good surface readings. I’ll try to be stricter on myself next time. I was also a bit worried about whether 99p was fair wordplay for OUND in 5d. The fact that you called it “brilliant” has me relieved and even glowing with pride – thank you so much. I have taken on board the “unch” issue of the grid. Apologies – I will avoid this next time, that is, if you’ll have me back!

    1. Two of the triple unches could have been reduced to double unches (with 60% checking instead of 40%) by inserting INN between 9d and 5d and KEA (a large New Zealand parrot) between 19d and 20d. I too loved the 99p construct.

  12. It’s super to have this second Axolotl crossword. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and had a lot of laughs. Fave clue was 20a, but I also marked 20d, 3d, 4d, 5d, 6d, 4a, 22a, and 23a.

    It has taken me quite a while to complete. I found the lower half easier than the top, where my last few in took me as long to work out as the rest of the puzzle. I didn’t use any hints at the time. I needed a dictionary to check two of the answers, and to find a synonym. Otherwise, was able to work out most of the answers from the wordplay. I went wrong on 2d — can’t believe I didn’t see it was hidden! (My answer was ‘boxes on’, which reads ‘no sex ob’ backwards. Oh dear!) I wasn’t able to parse 24d. I missed the double definition in 17a, and didn’t know the meaning of ‘dis’. The rest was all right.

    Thank you very much, Axolotl, for an entertaining and challenging puzzle which I enjoyed spending time on solving. Do hope we shall be seeing some more from you soon.

    Thank you very much, Prolixic, for your most enlightening and interesting review. Much valued.

    1. Postscript:

      When doing this crossword, I was laughing at 20d, and read it out and the answer to Mr Catnap. He replied by quoting Hugh Kingsmill’s clever parody of A E Housman:

      What, still alive at twenty-two,
      A clean, upstanding chap like you? …
      Like enough, you won’t be glad,
      When they come to hang you, lad:
      But bacon’s not the only thing
      That’s cured by hanging from a string.

  13. Apologies to Axoletl for not remembering that he had entertained up with a puzzle before. And congratulations again, having read Prolixic’s excellent and helpful review ( I would never have unraveled 24D by myself) on the brilliance on some of these clues. Keep ’em coming!

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