Rookie Corner 019 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 019

A Puzzle by Imsety

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week another new setter joins Rookie Corner.  I hope you enjoy his puzzle as much as I did.  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.

A warm welcome to Imsety (an anagram of Stymie) to the Rookie Corner.  This was a good first crossword with a lot of attention paid to how the clue reads as a sentence in its own right.  There were some very good clues here with my favourite being 15a with 20d a close second.

A big problem with this crossword was, however, a consistent use of single letter indicators being applied to more than one word where the indicator did not support this interpretation.


1 To restrict the Fourth Estate’s influence is sensible (8)
RATIONAL – My best guess is that this is RATION (to restrict) + A + L being the fourth letters of estAte and infLuence.  Like many of the clues with letter selections in the crossword, this does not work as the letter selector implies only the first word’s letter is taken.

5 Knight scratches centre of Excalibur, borrowing something a bit smaller? (6)
LANCET – … smaller than the sword Excalibur.  Remove (scratches) the central letters of excaLibur and borrOwing from the name of one of the knights of the round table.  Strictly, the clue tells you to remove on the central letter of Excalibur.  To remove both letters it would need to be “centres of”.

9 Common for note conveyed by airmail to be (8)
FAMILIAR – One of the notes of the musical scale followed by an anagram of AIRMAIL.  If “to be” is the anagram indicator, I don’t think this works as an instruction to rearrange the letters and I don’t think that conveyed by is really a charade indicator – as it gives the sense of being carried, it is more of an insertion indicator.  If the conveyed by is the anagram indicator, then the “to be” in the clue serves no purpose.

10 Tool often found by anvil (6)
HAMMER – A straightforward definition not only of the tool used by the blacksmith but also the bones in the middle ear.

12 Front of instrument ruined; you can still play it (4)
LUTE – Remove the first letter from a wind instrument to get a string instrument.  I don’t think that ruined serves well as a letter deletion indicator.

13 Blame cheap cooks for dessert (5,5)
PEACH MELBA – An anagram (cooks) of BLAME CHEAP.

15 Disagreement when Tory party convention welcomes leader of coalition (13)
CONTRADICTION – A three letter word for a conservative followed by a nine letter word for a convention or usual way of doing things inside which (welcomes) you add the first letter (leader of) of coalition.

19 Crazy about a forgotten dance (5,3,5)
ROUND THE TWIST – Another word for about or approximately with the A removed (forgotten) followed by the name of a dance immortalised in song by Chubby Checker.

23 Rejecting original taxable earnings deal, energy firm is contemptible (10)
DETESTABLE – Reverse (rejecting) the original letters of Taxable Earnings Deal and follow them with the abbreviation for energy and a word meaning firm or solid.  Again the singular “original” implies it is only the first word’s letter that is used, not the three words.  Origins of … would work much better here.

25 Soldier goes against weak officer, leaving the vanguard (4)
AWOL – The leading letters (the vanguard) of Against Weak Officer Leaving.  The whole of the clue gives the definition of being absent without leave.

28 Not as many working in class (6)
LESSON – Split 4,2 this class would mean not as many working.

29 Summary isn’t representative (8)
ABSTRACT – A double definition, the first of a précis and the second for something that is not a concrete example or representative of something.

30 Religious assemblies where secretary limits numbers – 500 admitted (6)
SYNODS The outer letters (limits) of secretary followed by the abbreviation for numbers inside which you add the Roman numeral for 500.  Strictly, to indicate the outer letters it should be limits of but like initial letter indicators where lead X or leading X is used to indicate the first letter, the same standard applies to the outer letters here.  Some editors would allow it and other would not be happy with the wordplay.

31 Steady player who’s not lost their serve? (8)
UNBROKEN – In tennis terms, a player whose serve has not been broken.


1 Draw gun without opening fire, impulsiveness replaced by ambivalence (6)
RAFFLE – A type of gun goes around the opening letter (should be opening of but see note on 30a) of fire and then you replace the I with an A.  The indication for replacing I with A is hardly fair on the solver as the “opening” applies only to “fire” and not the remaining words and I for impulsiveness and A for ambivalence they are not recognised abbreviations.

2 Persuade minister to break the odd treaty (5)
TEMPT – The abbreviation for a member of parliament goes inside the odd letters of TrEaTy.

3 Gawp at defensive blunder by the French (4)
OGLE – The abbreviation for own goal followed by the French masculine definite article.

4 A friend playing rugby, though not at the highest level (7)
AMATEUR – The A from the clue followed by another name for a friend and (I think) the abbreviation for rugby union.  The playing seems be an anagram indicator to rearrange the letters RU but this would be an indirect anagram (one where the letters to be rearranged are not directly available from the clue) and it hardly seems worth anagramming two letters.  Amateur players do, in any event, play at the highest levels of sport.

6 One large group of soldiers almost causes panic (5)
ALARM – A letter representing one followed by the abbreviation for large and the first three letters (almost) of a word for a group of soldiers.

7 Commercial undermined by basic oversight ultimately draws criticism (9)
COMPLAINT – A three letter word for commercial (in the business rather than the advertising sense) followed by (undermined in a down clue) a word meaning basic or simple and the final letter (ultimately) of oversight.  Although Chambers gives “com” as an abbreviation for commerce, it does not support its use for commercial.

8 River and road cutting through bird’s territories (8)
TERRAINS – The abbreviation for river and the name of the Great North Road goes inside the name of a species of bird.

11 Missile heading slightly northwards – get down! 1000 died… (4)
SCUD – The first letter (heading) of slightly followed by a reversal (northwards) of a word meaning get down with the K (1000) removed (died).  Again, the heading should be strictly “heading of” but see the comments on 30a.

14/22 Writer only in debt by accident (4,6)
ENID BLYTON – An anagram (by accident) of ONLY IN DEBT.

15 Prostitute reportedly arrested with drugs – a case of addiction? (9)
COURTESAN – A homophone (reportedly) of CAUGHT (arrested) followed by the abbreviation for ecstasy (with the S for the plural) and the outer letters (case of) addiction.  The a in the “a case” jars slightly in this clue as it does not contribute to the wordplay.  It could be omitted.

16 Card is out of place (3)
ACE – The final three letters (out of) plACE.

17 Nick substitute for money (4)
CHIP – Double definition of a cut or flaw in something and what you use for money in the casino.

18 Pans with remnants of revolting stews, laced with pepper (8)
GRIDDLES – A word meaning pepper or spatter goes inside the final letters (remnants of) revoltinG stewS.

20 Old article appearing in the body of The Times – what a joke! (4)
HOAX – The abbreviation for old and the letter A (article) goes inside the central letter (body of) tHe and the symbol used to indicate multiplication (Times).

21 Tabloid regularly interjects: ‘Time to outlaw fundamentalists!’ (7)
TALIBAN – The even letters (regularly) of tAbLoId goes inside (interjects) the abbreviation for Time and a word meaning to outlaw.  Slightly technical but as a transitive verb A interjects B, implies that B is the thing that is inserted where the opposite is actually the case here.

22 See 14

24 Son gets unfriendly reprimand (5)
SCOLD – The abbreviation for son followed by a word meaning unfriendly.

26 Extra journo providing clout (5)
WHACK – The abbreviation for wide (an extra in cricket) followed by another word for a low grade journalist.

27 Prison helps to make terrorist irrelevant (4)
STIR – The answer is hidden inside (helps to make) TERORIST IRRELEVANT.

The anatomy of a clue

After last week’s excursion into the “rules” of cryptic clues, this week I will look in a little more detail at the anatomy of a clue.  If you have your scalpels ready, it is time to begin the dissection.

Most clues (but not all) fall into three categories:

1. Cryptic definitions

The whole clue provides a cryptic, sometimes slightly off the wall, definition of a word.  for example:

  • What to do when you get the bit between your teeth (5) – FLOSS.

2. Double definitions

A double definition clue contains two definitions of the same word.  The two definitions should have different meanings for a double definition clue to work effectively.

  • Split stick (6) – CLEAVE.

Double definition clues come in two main forms:

  • Definition 1 Definition 2; and
  •  Definition 1 link word Definition 2.

I will look at link words below.

3.  Wordplay and definition clues

Wordplay and definition clues will form the majority of the clues in a crossword.  They come in various forms:

  • Wordplay Definition
  • Wordplay link word Definition
  • Definition wordplay
  • Definition link word wordplay

The definition gives the word that the solver has to find and the wordplay contains the elements that are put together to make the definition.  It is usual for the definition word or phrase to appear at the beginning or the end of the clue but very occasionally, a setter will break this rule but it is rare to see this done.  The most you are likely to find is a clue of the form:

  • In definition [linkword] wordplay.

I have blithely referred to wordplay.  The technical term is the “subsidiary indication” as you are playing with letters as well as complete words.  However, “wordplay” is used so often, that I will use the well known expression.

The wordplay is where you will find your anagrams, charades (add two words / letters together), container and contents clues (put one word or letter inside another), reversals, homophones and several others.  In the coming weeks, I will try to look in more detail at some of these devices.

Link words

A link word is a word that links the two halves of a clue (two definitions or definition and wordplay) together.  Often they can signpost which word or phrase in the clue is the definition and which part is the wordplay.

Broadly, the link word should fulfil one of the following functions:

  • Wordplay leads to / results in Definition; or
  • Definition comes from / is found in Wordplay.

If you cannot substitute (in some form) the above construction with your link word, it may be that you are using it in the wrong context.

Often little attention is given to link words, but it is important that they are used correctly.  One of the comments I often make when reviewing puzzles in the Rookie Corner is that a link word does not work.  The reason for this is that some link words do not work in a two-way direction.  For example “Wordplay for definition” works correctly but “Definition for Wordplay” does not.  The link word here is pointing the solver to the definition.  Similarly you can have “Definition from wordplay” but not “Wordplay from Definition”.

One link word that causes problems is “of”.  Traditionally, the view has been that “Definition of Wordplay” is fine but that “Wordplay of Definition” is not.  However, you will often see the latter form of construction.  Similarly “Definition [given] by Wordplay” works but “Wordplay [given] by Definition” does not.

“In” is a curious link word.  “Wordplay in Definition” is encountered so often that it is accepted as a canonical construction but strictly, “Wordplay in Definition” impliedly tells the solver that the wordplay “is found” in the definition, which is somewhat back to front.  “Definition in Wordplay” would pass the required test.  However, the “wordplay in definition” is so well entrenched that it is unlikely to change!

25 comments on “Rookie Corner 019

  1. Really good stuff. Some of the wordplay we found took quite a lot of work to decipher but well worth the effort. 11d and 25a for example. Lots of chuckles and smiles. We tried to pick a favourite but there were so many candidates that we couldn’t choose.
    Thanks Imsety, well done.

  2. I enjoyed the parts of this puzzle which I understood; that is to say slightly more than half of it. 1a and 1d, 18d and 30a are just four examples of “it must be that, but why?”
    5a I almost see, but not quite (what is is that we are borrowing?).
    I really like 4 and 26, and overall the look of the surfaces is polished – I think perhaps Imsety’s “handwriting” needs to be learned by me, and I hope to have the chance in the future……….many thanks!

  3. Thanks to Imsety for an enjoyable puzzle. I was particularly impressed by the effort put in to make the surfaces meaningful, though I expect that Prolixic will have a few constructive criticisms on some of the wordplay. My favourite clue is 20d.

  4. An eminently more enjoyable solve than last week’s Rookie Corner. One or two clues took a bit more grey matter to work out than did some others, but overall I loved it – thank you Imsety. Looks now as though the rain may have worked its way through this neck of Shropshire, so I can delay the dog’s walk no more :-)

  5. High on the smile factor for me. I confess to revealing a letter to get started on 25A, that had me completely stumped. Another smile when I worked out the wordplay. Is the first letter of 26D a cricket reference? There are two or three where I will need the review to fully understand my answers, but a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. Good job, Imsety!

      1. I knew the hack, and had the answer, but didn’t know what the W was for. I guessed cricket because I thought W might be wicket!

  6. I note that IMSETY is an anagram of STYMIE and that’s what he did to me! Got there in the end with a bit of help from a couple of revealed letters :oops:

    Not sure that 1d really works but otherwise excellent stuff.

    Very enjoyable puzzle so thanks to Imsety.

  7. I thought this was very enjoyable but also very difficult.
    I have several answers that I can’t explain – lots of them are clues that others have already mentioned – 1a, 1d, and 11d.
    I can’t do 5a at all. I’ve sorted out 26d (quite proud of myself – cricket) but now 25a looks seriously unlikely.
    I can’t decide between 19a and 20d as my favourite.
    Thanks and congratulations on a really good crossword to Imsety.

    1. PS That was really stupid – of course I can do 25a and I can see why.
      That just leaves the problem 5a.

  8. Thanks to Imsety on his/her debut. Very enjoyable puzzle although I was “stymied” for a while!

    Nice surface readings … but 31a … a bit ungrammatical, innit?

    13a First one in and my favourite.

    I’m not sure that I approach the puzzles in Rookie Corner in the right manner. Always looking for things that are wrong, rather than appreciating the skill of the setter!

    1. Re 31A, in defense of the setter, I see gender-neutral designations all over the place these days. Facebook is guilty (Susie updated their status) , but “their” has turned up in lieu of his/her or he/she in the Daily Telegraph articles many times and on other internet sites. It seems to becoming the dreaded ‘accepted usage.”

      1. It may be just me but I thought that “their” was possessive and plural as well as gender neutral. Player who has not lost his/her serve or players who have not lost their serve.

        The clue is grammatically incorrect but it’s only a crossword. It worked for me.

  9. Thanks Imsety ,I may not sleep now worrying about gender-neutral singular possessive pronouns but apart from that I really enjoyed your puzzle ,personal favourite 26d .thanks very much

  10. Thought this was a really good debut from Imsety.

    This crossword took me rather a long time as I found a few clues very difficult. I did get there in the end, with much head-scratching and many a chuckle when the penny eventually dropped. I picked out several clues that I particularly enjoyed, namely 15a, 25a (although I now see I missed that it was an all-in-one), 2d, 11d, 14/22d, 18d, 20d, and 26d.

    On the negative side, I couldn’t work out how to remove the letter ‘o’ from ‘Lancelot’, and was completely on the wrong tack with 17d which I got wrong (had ‘coin’ not ‘chip’). Oh dear, oh dear…

    Thanks and congrats to Imsety for a fine first Rookie Corner puzzle. Big thanks to Prolixic for the most enlightening review. ‘Anatomy of a Clue’ — brilliant! Greatly looking forward to ‘more in the coming weeks’.

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