Rookie Corner 026 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 026

A Puzzle by Beet

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today I am very pleased to introduce the first lady setter to Rookie Corner.  Fans of a certain Science Fiction TV program will enjoy the thematic content, but the puzzle can be solved without specialist knowledge.  Unusually there are 40 clues, and half of the answers are either 3 or 4 letters.  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.

A warm welcome to Beet to the ranks of the Rookie Corner. The crossword was well trailed on her twitter account and it is nice to see it make the light of day in the Rookie Corner!  I really enjoyed the themed elements.  Given the constraints of the theme, the abundance of three and four letter words was not a problem for me.

I sometimes feel a little like Craig Revel Horwood when reviewing the crosswords as I have to highlight the niggles as well as the good points. As usual there are more positives than negatives and this was a good debut.  The main points to concentrate on are greater variety in the wordplay.  As others have pointed out, there are a large number of initial and outer letter indicators and some initial letter indicators that would not find favour among all editors.  There were also a few areas where wordplay indicators were duplicated which is very easy to do when setting a crossword.


3 Doctor takes Prisoner Zero – that’s low (3)
MOO – A two letter abbreviation for a doctor includes (takes prisoner) the letter that looks like a zero.

7 Black goes with anything – that’s formal wear (3-3)
BOW-TIE – The abbreviation for black followed by a dialect word in Yorkshire for anything and the abbreviation for that is. If using dialect words, it is usual to indicate this.

8 Official leader of Slitheen Rose may reform (8)
MAYORESS – An anagram (reform) of S (leader of Slitheen) ROSE MAY.

10 Chameleon circuit that doesn’t start to bore a Doctor (7)
ADAPTOR – Another word for a circuit has its first letter removed (doesn’t start) and is followed by the TO from the clue. These letters are then put inside (bore) the A from the clue and a two letter abbreviation for a doctor.

12 Doctor or vet imprisoned by state – just a little bit (3,4)
NOT VERY – An anagram (doctor) of OR VET goes inside (imprisoned by) the abbreviation for New York state.

14 Recast actor; the first left and was replaced by dozen other leads (6)
DOCTOR – Take the first letter from Actor and replace it by the first letters (leads) of Dozen Other.

17 Surprise ending rendered worse by what could be raised (8)
EYEBROWS – The final letter (ending) of surprise is followed by an anagram (rendered) of WORSE BY.

19 “Bug-eyed” overturned original prohibition (4)
WASP – Reverse (overturned) a word meaning eyed and follow this with the first letter (original) of Prohibition. Some editors would raise their 17a at using original as an initial letter indicator as grammatically it does not tell the solver to take the first letter of the word.

21 Traveller from edges of Galaxy and parts unknown (5)
GYPSY – The first and last letters (edges of) GalaxY PartS followed by a letter representing an unknown quantity.

23 Extract from television programme that’s fifty-one in extreme close-up (4)
CLIP – The Roman numerals for 51 goes inside the outside letters (extreme) of Close-uP. Extreme does not really work – it should be “extremes of” or “extremely”.

25 Roman ruin excavation – but it hasn’t got two heads! (8)
OCATAVIAN – An anagram (ruin) of EXCAVATION with the first two letters removed (it hasn’t go two heads).

29 Plot finale: rank and extremely evil thing to move the Earth (6)
TROWEL – The final letter (finale) of plot followed by a word meaning a rank or line and the outer letters (extremely) of EviL. As extreme has already be used in 23a, a different indicator should really be used here.

31 Original zombie has leaders of zombie army invading city and half of country (7)
LAZARUS – The first letters (leaders of) Zombie Army go inside the abbreviation for Los Angels (city) and this is followed by half of RUSSIA. I am not sure why Lazarus is described as the original Zombie. If is it from the Bible, there are several earlier examples of people raised from the dead before Lazarus.

32 Midshipman framed by River/Melody, space oddity (3,4)
POP SONG – The middle letter of shiPman goes inside a two letter Italian river and a four letter word for a melody. As Space Oddity is a song title, it should be capitalised and some indication is required that this is a definition by example.

37 Ten and journalist pursue adipose and made bigger on the inside (and the outside) (8)
FATTENED – Another word for adipose is followed by the TEN from clue and a two letter abbreviation for a journalist.

38 Young man securing a vote, beginning of sinister invaders (6)
SAXONS – An A and X (vote) go inside another word for a young man. This is followed by the first letter (beginning of) of sinister.

39 Cut is the end of Donna Noble (3)
AXE – The final letter (end of) Donna followed by the chemical symbol for Xenon, a noble gas. I am not convinced by noble on its own is sufficient to indicate one of the noble gasses.


1 First favourites of one doctor – fish fingers and custard (4)
FOOD – The initial letters (first) of Favourites Of One Doctor. Again, first as an initial letter indicator might not receive universal approval. Also there is no indication that it is the first letters of each of the following words that must be taken.  As fish fingers and custard are an example of the answer, a definition by example indicator is also required.

2 Sontaran potato-heads have to quit (4)
STOP – The first letters of Sontarian and Potato include (have) the TO from the clue inside.

3 Regressive illness covered by doctor’s note (4)
MEMO – Reverse (regressive) ME (illness) inside a two letter abbreviation for a doctor. The abbreviation for doctor has already been used in 3a so a different indicator should be used. Also, for a down clue, it is usually the case that words like covered or over are used to indicate that one set of letters goes on top of another set of letter rather than around them.

4 Some characters from Gallifrey – I’m so surprised (1,1,1)
OMG – The answer is hidden (some characters) in FROM GALLIFREY. For the cryptic reading to work, the FROM has to do double duty as part of the hidden word indicator characters from … and as part of the letters in which the answer is hidden.

5 Endless Zygons infiltrate live from the past (6)
BYGONE – The inner letters (endless) of ZYGONs go inside a word meaning to live.

6 See 9

9/6 Opens rum & coke, weds River, mixes cocktail (11)
SCREWDRIVER An anagram (mixes) of RC WEDS RIVER, the R and C being the first letters (opens) of Rum and Coke. Again, opens would not be accepted by all editors as an initial letter indicator.

11 Announced rescue vehicle was carried by star cetacean (3)
ARC – The answer is hidden (carried by) STAR CETACEAN.  The definition is given as a clue to the definition – this is not usually permitted. A direct synonym or a cryptic reference to the answer should be used as the definition, not additional wordplay.

13 Greeting at beginning of easter eggs quietly hidden inside (7)
WEEPING – The first letters (beginning of) Easter Eggs and the abbreviation for quietly go inside (hidden in side). This type of lift and separate clue where a word such as “inside” has to be split as “in side” is not universally accepted by editors. Also, as a minor point the “at” is not really a suitable link word.  Definition AT wordplay does not make grammatical sense. 

15 Eggs terminated by the sound of it (3)
OVA – A homophone (by the sound of it) of OVER (terminatated).

16 Doctor entertained by Brigadier (3)
RIG – The answer is hidden (entertained by) in BRIGADIER.

18 Alternate Oswald is a wise one (3)
OWL – The alternate letters of OsWaLd. I think that alternately would be a better indicator than alternate in this clue.

20 Well-established television series is filmed here (3)
SET – A double definition.

22 Still unknown alien (3)
YET – A letter representing an unknown quantity followed by the schmaltzy alien. We have already had A Y clued as an unknown letter so a different indicator should be used here.

24 Anger Peri, make her lose her head and flip (3)
IRE – Remove the first letter (lose her head) from PERI and reverse (flip) the letters that remain.

26 Woman is game heroine who loves a tomb, following Cleopatra’s lead (5)
CLARA – The first letter (lead) of Cleopatra followed by the name of Ms Croft in the Tomb Raider series of games and films.

27 French before Italian – allons y! (6)
AVANTI – The French word for before followed by the abbreviation for Italian. The abbreviation for Italy is I, the abbreviation for Italian is IT.

28 Lizard initiates interspecies gay union with woman (6)
IGUANA – The first letters (initiates) of Interspecies Gay Union followed by a woman’s name. Again, initiates may not be acceptable to all editors as a first letter indicator.

30 Which person’s essential know-how (3)
WHO – The answer is hidden in (essential) KNOW-HOW. Perhaps “essential to” would give a slightly better cryptic reading.

33 No facility can contain River (4)
OUSE – I think that this requires the solver to get from No facility to NO USE and then spot the hidden word (can contain).

34 Tardis’s police box display ultimately very attractive (4)
SEXY – The final letters (ultimately) of TardiS PolicE BoX DisplaY.

35 Cardinal point on compass that is bearing North (4)
NINE – The abbreviation for North (point on the compass) followed by the abbreviation for that is inside which you add (bearing) the abbreviation for North. We have already had “that is” used to indicate an IE in the solution so a different device should be used here.

36 Leading parts for actress and daughter playing woman who doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going (3)
ADA – An anagram (playing) of the first letters (leading parts for) Actress And Daughter.

Continuing our look at cryptic clues, this week I will look at charade type clues and container and content clues.



  • A charade or word sum clue is a clue where the solver has to add two words together to find the solution.
  • For example, “Look after wife’s steak (6)” gives RIB (wife) + EYE (look) with the after being a positional indicator to tell you that the first word in the clue goes after the second.

Word breaks

  • Word breaks in charade clues can follow the natural split in the word to be clued such as IMPORT + ANT.
  • A more subtle form of charade clue disguises breaks in the word. For example:

FIRST AID could be split as FIR + STAID; or

START OUT could be split as STAR + TOUT.

Combination clues

  • Charade clues are often combined with other wordplay elements so that you have an abbreviation followed by another word or one word reversed followed by another – there are many variants on this theme.
  • For example: “Small child’s slide (4)” – S (small) + KID (child).

Positional indicators

  • The order of the words given in the wordplay does not have to follow the order in which they appear in the solution. However, where this is the case, a positional indicator should be given to tell the solver the correct order in which they appear.
  • As discussed previously (see paragraph 4.3), positional indicators have their own rules. Some examples are:
    • Positional indicators should match the direction of the clue (across or down) so that “A on B” in an across clue usually means B followed by A.  In a down clue A on B means A on top of B;
    • A pursuing B means B followed by A; and
    • Indicators that suggest support or sitting on are appropriate only for down clues.

Container and contents clues


  • Container and content clues are clues that require the solver to put one word inside another.
  • Unlike charade clues, where there may be no wordplay indicator to show that the words are to be joined together, a container and contents clue must have an indicator to show that Word A goes inside Word B (insertion) or that Word A goes around Word B (container).
  • For example, “Flags up money pocketed in bribe (7)” requires the solver to put TIN (money) inside(pocketed in) BUNG (bribe) to give flags that may be put up.

Russian dolls

  • Like Russian Dolls, container and content clues can become complex so you may see clues that require Word A to be put inside Word B with the resulting letters put inside or around Word C to give the solution.
  • For example “Clear lecturer put in photo in way out (8)” requires the solver to put the abbreviation for lecturer (L) inside PIC (photo) and add these letters inside EXIT (way out) to give a word meaning clear – explicit.

Combination clues

  • Like charade clues, container and contents clues are often combined with other wordplay elements so that you have an abbreviation inside another word or one word reversed around another. Once again, there are many variants on this theme.

15 comments on “Rookie Corner 026

  1. 13d, with its somewhat obscure meaning of the definition word was the last to yield for us, and we still haven’t parsed it to our satisfaction. Perhaps a few too many 3 and 4 letter words for our taste and some of the clues are rather verbose. Some very clever misdirection as in 19a and we liked the definition for 31a. No doubt Prolixic will find a ‘grammatical’ flaw or two but we managed to work out nearly everything. It did hold our attention through what was not a very rapid solve.
    Thanks Beet.

  2. Congratulations to Beet on a very enjoyable puzzle – you certainly give good value with 40 clues. There are possibly too many constructs involving leading and trailing letters but there are some super clues in there. My favourites are 17a, 19a, 21a and 31a.

  3. Done except for 13D. I have a couple of possibilities, neither of which make a lot of sense to me. 19A was a D’oh moment! Loved 7A. Lots more to like here, too. I do have a few questions marks, though. Looking forward to the review.

  4. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to try the puzzle and give me feedback.

    Big Dave has gallantly attempt to pre-empt the criticism for all the 3 letter words, by suggesting this was no more than an unusual quirk rather than a horrible faux pas! This was the result of wrangling with the grid to try to fit in only words that I could link to the theme, which left it in that rather wonky shape.

    13down seems to be universally loathed and BD has taken the time to explain the reason so I will steer clear of that type of clue in future. I see that there is going to be a full review tomorrow and there will be a lot more corrections there I’m sure.

    I’m glad to hear that my fellow Whovian Spindrift enjoyed it so much. It really is one for the fans I think. Although I deliberately tried to make it doable without specialist knowledge, if you are not familiar with all the little references then you are just left with some weird lumpy clues.

    1. Welcome to the blog Beet

      As you say, all will be revealed tomorrow – I doubt that you have foxed Prolixic as well, but you never know!

    2. Great debut, Beet! You definitely succeeded in making it doable without specialist knowledge. I think the last time I watched the show was in the UK, and I’ve been in the USA for 35 years! It is shown over here though, and has quite a following, I understand. Somehow, I seemed to have absorbed that tidbit about the doctor’s dietary preferences, so 1D was a smiler.

  5. I’m stuck now – I’ve got nine gaps and I’m telling myself that it’s because I don’t know anything at all about the theme but it’s just as likely that the crossword is too clever for me.
    I can’t say that I loathe 13d – I just can’t do it.
    I particularly liked 7 (once I’d worked out why) 17 and 21a.
    With thanks and congratulations to Beet – I think doing something like this is very brave. Thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  6. I’m in the can’t do 13d camp as well. But I really enjoyed trying to complete this puzzle (still five to go) in spite of my total lack of Whovian knowledge. Many thanks to Beet for a super contribution, and congratulations and admiration also.

  7. As another Whovian I also loved the theme. Must admit that I struck out on 13d, but Google explained it for me after I revealed the first letter. Also rather embarrassingly struggled with 35d given the degree I have! Favourites were 19a and 31a. Good job!

  8. Thanks so much Prolixic, that is hugely helpful. I will have to imagine you looking over my shoulder the next time I try to compose a puzzle. I think you got everything except I was actually shooting for a quadruple definition with 20d.

    I wonder if any of the Whovians have spotted that there is a Nina (is that the right term?) hidden in the grid.

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