Rookie Corner 028 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 028

A Puzzle by Axolotl

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Axolotl is another who has caught the setting bug so enjoy this, his fourth, puzzle.  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.  New or repeat entries are more than welcome.

Bravo to Axolotl with his best crossword yet. Other than the oft repeated mistake of confusing Ulster with Northern Ireland and a quibble over the clue at 25 across this was very good.  There might have bee an overreliance of the anagram form A mixed with B to give C but this did not detract from the standard of the clues.


1 Lord’s pal’s reform removes crown (8)
POLLARDS – An anagram (reform) of LORDS PALS.

5 Home Counties sleeping underwater? (6)
SEABED – The area of England where the Home Counties are to be found followed by a word meaning sleeping or in bed.

9 Oil wheels with chat-up and perfume (9)
PATCHOULI – An anagram (wheels) of OIL CHAT UP.

11 Zero mark gets prize! (5)
OSCAR – A letter that looks like a zero followed by a mark left after a wound has healed.

12 Ace? Long! Failed to make set (7)
CONGEAL – An anagram (failed) of ACE LONG.

13 Beware of Caesar – fellow is a brute (7)
CAVEMAN – The Latin (of Caesar) for beware followed by another name for a fellow or male.

14 Waiting aboard ship before early start for shopping expedition (8,5)
SPENDING SPREE – Inside the abbreviation for a steamship include a word meaning waiting and follow this with a word meaning before and the first letter (start) of early.

16 Irresistible pulling power I gain dancing with Travolta! (13)
GRAVITATIONAL – An anagram (dancing) of I GAIN TRAVOLTA.

20 Leaves creased old suit with French friend (7)
ORIGAMI – The abbreviation for old followed by a word meaning suit and the French word for a friend.

21 Melodious fun playing with lute (7)
TUNEFUL – An anagram (playing) of FUN LUTE. Axolotl certainly like A mixed with B as an anagram format in this crossword!

23 Might be perfect sung round campfire? (5)
TENSE – An homophone (sung) of tents which might be found around a campfire.

24 Embark on this team exercise (9)
GANGPLANK – A word for a team followed by a word that is not yet in Chambers for an exercise that (according to Wikipedia) is “an isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a difficult position for extended periods of time”.

25 Heard these vegetables can help convert fat tummy to flat tummy and portly to sporty (6)
CARETS – A homophone (heard) of CARROTS to indicate where letters have been omitted from a piece of text. The fact that you have to delete the “l” from “portly” as well as add the s (that would be indicated by a caret) makes this clue slightly unfair as solver will be left wondering what happens to the “l”. Clues can mislead but not unfairly.

26 On the radio cool number little sister used to enter Land of Nod (8)
HYPNOSIS – A homophone (on the radio) of HIP (cool) followed by and abbreviation for number and an abbreviation for sister.


1 Father leading bishopric spoken of in Vatican government (6)
PAPACY – a four letter word for a father followed by a homophone (spoken of) SEE (bishopric).

2 Befuddled Italian has no answer – one lost for words in Rome (5)
LATIN – An anagram (lost) of ITALIAN after removing an A for answer and an I for one.

3 Win that’s victory gained by pain (7)
ACHIEVE – Put the abbreviation for that is (id est) and the abbreviation for Victory inside a word for a dull pain.

4 Dodgy practice from lookalike agency? (6-7)
DOUBLE STANDARDS – A semi-cryptic definition for the lookalikes that might be provided by a disreputable agency.

6 Changes and goes round topless (7)
EVOLVES – Remove the R from the beginning (topless in a down clue) from a word meaning goes round.

7 The likes of Parliament and Congress ordered America to keep British Left outside (9)
BICAMERAL – The abbreviations for British and Left go around an anagram (ordered) of AMERICA.

8 Exploit outside sounded crazy (8)
DERANGED – Another word for an exploit or act goes around (outside) a word meaning sounded (as a bell might have done).

10 As displayed by curate’s egg – first of clutch in cosy nest – I scrambled with last of bacon (13)
INCONSISTENCY – An anagram again the form A mixed with B of C (first of clutch) IN COSY NEST I N (last letter of bacon).

14 King Edward follows Victoria, perhaps, finding his nibs here? (9)
STATIONER – The two letter abbreviation for King Edward after an example of a terminus of which Victoria is an example (perhaps).

15 He doesn’t believe explicit song appropriate content to hold up (8)
AGNOSTIC – The answer is hidden and reversed (content to hold up) in EXPLICIT SONG APPROPRIATE.

17 Silliest place to find chick! (7)
INANEST – Split (2, 1, 4) this is where you would find a baby bird.

18 Write-up in Ulster Mirror set one up only to be knocked down (7)
NINEPIN – A word meaning write is reversed (up) inside the abbreviation for Ulster (cue complaints that Northern Ireland is not Ulster it is a part of Ulster – there will be letters from the Editor) and a reversal (mirror) of the same abbreviation.

19 Chaps most capable to keep well after losing case (6)
BLOKES – Put the abbreviation for well or acceptable inside ABLEST (most capable) after removing the outer letters (losing case).

22 Runs out of steam and could end up on the floor (5)
FLAGS – A double definition – the second part of the answer being another word for paving stones.

Switching letters


  • Some clues will require you to switch letters around. This can be done in a number of ways.

Replace one letter with another

  • Some clues require one letter in the wordplay to be replaced by another. Often this is combined with abbreviation indicators.  For example “daughter leaves for Norway” might indicate that you replace the letter “D” with the letter “N”.  The wordplay should give some indication that one letter is deleted and replaced by another.
  • Sometimes, the swap might be more subtly clued. Changing hands might indicate replacing an L with an R or the reverse.  Swapping partners might indicate exchanging N S or E for W.  For example “Fish always changing hands (3)” for EEL from EER (always) having the R changed to L.
  • Another way of indicating a change of letter might be simply saying that the word had a new letter at the beginning, middle or end without giving the letter that is substituted for the deleted letter. Clues such as “having a change of heart” or “with a new beginning” could suggest that the original letter in the clue is replaced with another one.

Swapping the order of letters

  • A clue can instruct the solver to swap the beginning, middle or end letters around. Indicators such as turning tail might indicate changing the order of the final two letters or a spinning head changing the order of first two letters.

Moving the position of a letter

  • A clue can instruct the solver to move the position of a letter. This could be to move the first letter the end or moving any letter left, right, up or down.
  • “Cycling” as an indicator is often used to indicate moving the first letter to the end. Dropping the head or raising the tail in a down clue might indicate that the first or last letter is moved to an indeterminate position in the answer.
  • These types of clue can be combined with abbreviations. “Lecturer moving east” might indicate in an across clue that the L moves to the left in the solution.

28 comments on “Rookie Corner 028

    1. It’s midnight over there, so I guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow unless there’s a night owl blogger about. Still, this is the first time this has happened so can’t complain.

      1. I don’t get gobbledygook. – just a “nothing found” message. As Chris said, it’ll be sorted by the morning if not before and it’s the first time it’s happened for me, too – so definitely no complaints. For those wanting to have a go at crosswords in the meantime, may I suggest my new site: which has XWDs just waiting for you to give them a go.

          1. Thanks, Chris. Obviously it’s not as great as all the goodness Big Dave’s has to offer – but hopefully it might provide a nice diversion until the Rookie Corner grid is up and working.

        1. Great! Thanks a bunch! Mrs S already considers she’s got grounds for a divorce based on desertion as a result of the number of crosswords I do & now you present me with your website!

          Seriously though – thanks for reaching out as they say on LinkedIn.

          1. Just done a count of the crosswords I’ve printed off this morning & it’s 6 (FT, DT, Grauniad & yours) & that’s without the DT codeword or quickie.- I need to get a life.

            1. Looks like only 4 to me, unless you also did the Grauniad Quiptic (worth a look) and the Indy (not so good). There’s also the Grauniad and Indy quickies you could have had as well. You think YOU need to get a life!!!!

          2. Sorry for the late reply.

            @ Big Dave – Agreed, everything happens for a good reason and it’s comforting for us crossword addicts to know that even in the very rare times when technical difficulties occur, there’s always another crossword out there just waiting to be solved!

            @ spindrift. Hope you liked my new website and puzzles. Feel free to post a comment over there if you want to as I don’t want to hijack Axolotl’s thread now the XWD’s up and running.

      2. We did the Rufus from the Guardian instead.
        Oh well, these things happen. We usually have such excellent service it would be churlish to complain.

  1. Sorry folks – I forget to schedule the puzzle for publication. As the administrator it allows me to access it anyway, so the link worked when I checked it. Should be OK now!

  2. Good fun. Just found time to polish it off before bed-time. We pick 26a and 10d as favourites, but then 19d deserves a mention too as well as several others. Not as challenging as some we have seen in this slot but right up there for enjoyment.
    Thanks Axolotl.

    1. 26a and 10d were two clues that I really agonised over, so I’m delighted that you liked them. Many thanks for your kind words of support, 2Kiwis.

  3. Thanks, Axolotl – enjoyable stuff all round and a gentle solve for the start to the week. My fave was 4 down (and I very much like the surface of 25a, too).

  4. Very nice! Some lovely clues. A couple of new words for me at 1A and 7D (needed some e-help with that one). I can see the fat to flat in 25A but I’m getting a letter left over in portly to sporty. What am I missing? I’m not seeing all of the wordplay for 15D, either. Liked 17D but my favorites are 26A an 19D. Thanks, Axolotl!

    1. Oh no – not again! Me too – thanks to Expat Chris for asking and gazza for answering with 15d.

  5. 14D is my favourite. I’m on the same page as Expat Chris when it comes to 25A, but perhaps the review will explain things. Well done Axolotl, it took me just about a lunch hour so I think that is perfect.

  6. It was tricky enough for me – very enjoyable too.
    I’ve never heard of 7d.
    Lots of good clues – 13 and 16a and 7d.
    I have alternate letters in 24a – I don’t think any of them are wrong but it’s going to be a very strange word.
    With thanks again to Axolotl.

    1. PS I think my 22d was wrong so I’ve changed it – I have an idea for 24a now but where’s the exercise?

        1. Thank you, Beet – much appreciated. I’ve never heard of it – don’t do yoga or Pilates – prefer walking, swimming and gardening.

  7. Thank you Prolixic for your encouragement and constructive comments. Always something new to watch out for and I will be checking my future efforts for overuse of A+B anagrams. Point taken about 25 ac and apologies for any unfairness.

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