Rookie Corner 025 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 025

A Puzzle by Sprocker

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Sprocker is, in his own words, “a big time fan of the site for a while now” and this is his very first go at setting a puzzle.  There are a few issues with some of the clues but, all things considered, it’s an admirable debut.   [Late change of alias.  BD]  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.

If you have a puzzle you would like to see published here then why not write to me, using the contact page.  The cupboard is looking very bare at the moment, so new or repeat entries are more than welcome.

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

Welcome to Sprocker with his debut crossword. As Big Dave mentioned there were a few problems with some of the clues but none of these were drastic ones and did not detract from a tricky and enjoyable challenge.


7 Alien is back inside Geller, now there are organs full of eggs (5)
UTERI – Reverse the name of the schmaltzy alien from the Stephen Spielberg film and put this inside the first name of the famous spoon bender. I would have thought that it was the ovaries that are full of eggs however, it may be that the uterus can be used collectively to refer to the entire female reproductive organ.

8 Like a carrion bird, half vulgar, half turgid, and in the middle of a scavenging (9)
VULTURINE – The first halves of the words VULgar and TURgid followed by the IN from the clue and the middle of “a scavEnging”. Although not strictly wrong, aksing the solver to take the middle letter from two words is unusual and can raise queries over whether the space should be included in working out the centre.

10 Fights with the queen and gets poorer (7)
SPARSER – A five letter word for fights followed by the ER for the queen.

11 Dismissed ‘run out’ having sprinted? – quite the opposite (7)
SPURNED – A word meaning sprinted goes around (having) an anagram (out) of RUN in the middle. The quite the opposite tells us that the wordplay in the clue works in reverse.

12 Tonguelash in diatribe with this language (5)
HINDI – The answer is hidden inside TONGUELASH IN DIATRIBE. With is not really a hidden word indicator – within is more appropriate.

13 Halflife of 7? (9)
ISOGAMETE – One of a pair of gametes that may be found in the uterus.

15 Is what tomatoes breathe changing the atmosphere? (10,5)
GREENHOUSE GASES – A cryptic definition of the causes of global warming.

18 Everything in this universe is made of mice paste (5-4)
SPACE TIME – An anagram (is made of) of MICE PASTE. Shades of the White Mice in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

20 Opponent can put this where the sun doesn’t shine when one becomes unknown! (5)
ENEMY – Replace the A in enema with a Y (when one becomes unknown).

22 Neat papers I see briefly will burn (7)
OXIDISE – A two letter word for a cow (neat) followed by the abbreviation for identity papers, the I from the clue and the first two letters (briefly) of SEe.

24 Set off after arrangement for wanderers (7)
PLANETS – … the Greek origin of the answer means wanderers. An anagram (off) of set goes after another word for an arrangement.

26 A run out you heard was sneaky, how troublesome (9)
ONEROUSLY – One (a) followed by the abbreviation for run out and a homophone of you and a word meaning sneaky.

27 Dropsy obtained by oriental made crazy (5)
EDEMA – The abbreviation for oriental followed by an anagram (crazy) of MADE.


1 Crazy knock up (4)
NUTS – Reverse (up) a word meaning knock.

2 Keep raving initially when due at home (6)
RETAIN – The first letter (initially) of Raving followed by the abbreviation for estimate time of arrival (when due) and a two letter word meaning at home.

3 PC Firmware 101 – encoding the heart of microelectonics and discovering how we operate (10)
BIOSCIENCE – A four letter word for the low level firmware that boots the computer followed by the roman numerals for 101, an abbreviation for encoding and the middle letter of microelectonics. Chambers does not support the use of ENC for encoding.  Thanks also to BD for pointing out that the clue does not work because the correct word is “Microelectronics” with a “R” and therefore, the E is not really the middle letter.

4 Expert sounds like a sticky bounder (4)
GURU – An appalling homophone (sounds like) of GOO (sticky) ROO (bounder).

5 Her mate makes Goliath look tiny! (8)
GIANTESS – The female of GIANT (someone who would make Goliath look tiny).

6 Foolishly going without leader after top mark is downgraded? (10)
HEEDLESSLY – In HEADLESSLY (without leader) change the A (top mark) to an E (downgraded).

8 Open without opening – I go dizzy (7)
VERTIGO – Remove (without opening) the first letter from OVERT (open) and follow this with the I and GO from the clue.

9 Catch famous dog, that’s not nothing (5)
LASSO – The famous American dog without the IE (that’s – IE – not) followed by an O (nothing). That’s not is a rather weak deletion indicator.

12 Hello, good girl’s smelly kid is giving Mass! (5,5)
HIGGS BOSON – A two letter word meaning hello followed by the abbreviations for good and girl.

14 Combinations of Regata eggs (10)
AGGREGATES – An anagram (of) of REGATA EGGS. I can hardly complain about OF as an anagram indicator as Rufus used this in the Guardian on the Monday this crossword was published. It is shorthand for “made of” as in a heart of stone.  However, I do not particularly like this as an anagram indicator.  More particularly, the correct spelling is Regatta.

16 Grilled old flame one dug up (8)
EXAMINED – A two letter word meaning old flame followed by and A (one) and a word meaning dug up.

17 Made of hard stuff with a soft centre and a severe inclination (7)
STEEPLY – A P (soft) goes in the centre of STEELY (made of hard stuff). Technically, the P does not go in the centre of Steely so a better insertion indicator should have been used.

19 Computers, oddments (but no books), and general stuff (5)
ITEMS – IT (computers) and an anagram (odd) of MENTS with the NT removed (but no books). This lift and separate wordplay needing to split oddments into odd ments as an anagram indicator and letters to be rearranged would not be accepted by all editors.

21 Replay the point after I heard a nick (6)
EYELET – LET (replay the point in tennis) goes after an homophone (heard) of I.  I am not sure that an eyelet it is a nick.

23 Two bits of fennel makes you firm (4)
IRON – The first two letters of FEnnel give the chemical symbol of the answer.

25 Sick Aunt oddly gets X-Ray (4)
SCAN – The odd letters of SiCk AuNt.  An X-Ray is a definition by example and should ideally be indicated as such with a ? or perhaps.

A week off from the guide to creating cryptic clues.   Unless I get some time tomorrow to add something.

16 comments on “Rookie Corner 025

  1. We ended up revealing a letter in the SW corner to be able to finish but still are a bit doubtful about how to understand all the wordplay. Certainly a very challenging exercise for us, with obscure words and complicated constructions. Look forward to tomorrow’s review to unpick the last complexities.
    Thanks Sprocker.

    1. Thanks – I did find it impossible to work out how tricky this would be to solve (I guess that might come with experience), so very glad to hear it was challenging but solvable as that’s what I was hoping for. :0)

  2. I did manage to finish it though there are two clues which I don’t fully understand (4d and 23d) and a few where the wordplay seems a little bit iffy. Thanks to Sprocker for the promising debut (I’d hazard a guess that you’re a scientist!) and I look forward to your next puzzle.

    1. 4d – GOO ROO? A bit iffy I know…
      23d – I can see how 1 part of fennel would supply the answer but not two

      1. Thanks Gazza, and thanks Spindrift. That is indeed the homophone I was alluding to – in hindsight I can see it is indeed a bit ‘iffy’! And no, I’m not a scientist, but I am very much a science fan.

  3. Gazza, I think 4d is ‘goo roo’. A bit of a leap I think! I finished but like the other comments was unsure about a couple. 23d particularly. I had always assumed rookie corner was easy crosswords for beginner solvers, not setters, so may visit more often in future.

    1. Ah beaten to it by spindrift! And now I see that FE is two parts of fennel which make iron. D’oh! Thanks to all, particularly Sprocker. Well done.

  4. I’m out of time since I have a heavy work load today. Four left to go in the NE and some others where I’m not at all sure of my answer. But I hope to get back to it before tomorrow’s review. So far, I have found it very tricky in places but I’m enjoying the battle. I loved 12D because I share my maiden name with the gentleman in question, though any connection ends there. My scientific knowledge is pitiful. I liked 2D, also. 20A is a hoot!! Good job, Sprocker!

  5. Tough and enjoyable, like spindrift I struggled to parse both parts of the fennel clue, but then again it’s a four letter and they are my nemesis ;) Well done Sprocker

  6. Well, in the end I was left with 13A and I resorted to ‘reveal a letter”, or in my case several, to get the answer. Seems to me this is specialized knowledge that could not be arrived at from the clueing. More like obscure GK than cryptic. On that basis, I didn’t like it at all. I’m not that much of a fan of crosswords that require specialized knowledge, anyway, be it cricket or cookery or science. They all seem a little self-indulgent to me. Also, 4D was definitely iffy. On the whole, though, it was good and I look forward to seeing Sprocker here again in less scientific mode.

    1. Yes, well I did agonise quite a bit over 13A and whether it was too reliant on specialist knowledge – I guess I should have backed it up with some wordplay indicators to help out with it. Thanks for the comments.

  7. Thanks very much for the review comments Prolixic – I found this an enjoyable enough experience to warrant having another go, and I’ll try to take on board your comments and avoid similar issues (and no doubt walk in to some new ones!).

  8. Finally, I had made time to tackle a crossword other than the daily back-pager. I really enjoyed this – loved the science clues! – and completed most of it before using the odd letter hint to speed up solving. I loved 12d, although not so much 13a. Thanks to Prolixic for clarifying the bits I couldn’t quite parse (pretty much the same ones as mentioned above), and also for explaining where the issues were with the clues that weren’t perfect. Well done to Sprocker on an admirable debut, and thanks for all the fish mice paste ;).

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