Rookie Corner 041 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 041

A Puzzle by Sprocker

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a terrific puzzle by Sprocker – look very closely and you will know why I like it!.  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.

Welcome back to Sprocker with an accomplished and entertaining crossword.  It contains a Nina (read clockwise around the perimeter of the grid to see a message.  There was some tight and imaginative cluing and excellent surface readings.


8 He makes dough with a bit of corn and celeriac hearts (6)
EARNER – A three letter word for part of a corn plant followed by the central letters (hearts) of aNd and celERiac.

9 Hauls up for arsing about around artist (8)
ARRAIGNS – An anagram (about) of ARSING goes around a two letter abbreviation for an artist.

10 Flat note male Geordies start to trill (8)
TENEMENT – A two letter note of the musical scale followed by (2-3) a phrase that might mean men from the North East of England (male Geordies) and the first letter (start to) of trill.

11 Quote setter back? Makes one want to puke (6)
EMETIC – Reverse (back) a word meaning quote and a two letter word indicating the setter of the crossword.

12 What I do eat, eccentrically, I salt! (6)
IODATE – … a salt of Iodine.  An anagram (eccentrically) of I DO EAT.

13 Dressed more smartly for this joint? That’s right out of line (8)
SPIFFIER – A word for a cannabis joint followed by the abbreviation for “that is” (that’s) and the abbreviation for right from which the abbreviation for line has been removed (out of line).

15 Some mechanics do a cut and shut with stable plastics (7)
STATICS – Remove the inner letters (do a cut) from STABLE PLASTICS and close the gap (shut).

17 Pill lacking active chemicals – effective, but only superficially (7)
PLACEBO – The initial letters (superficially) of the first seven letters of the clue with the whole clue providing a definition of the answer.

20 Brothel is identified by a silly doorbell (8)
BORDELLO – An anagram (silly) of DOORBELL.

22 Checks dishevelled lepers (6)
REPELS – An anagram (dishevelled) of LEPERS.

23 Leaders of the Spanish back hunt for aliens (6)
ELITES – The Spanish for “the” followed by a reversal (back) of the abbreviation for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.  A very minor point but back has already been used as a reversal indicator in 11a.

25 Exposed models are almost cute when surrounding road (8)
CUTAWAYS – The first three letters (almost) of CUTE followed by a word meaning when that goes around (surrounding) a three letter word for a road.

26 Take what beans produce and cultivate for green energy source (4,4)
WIND FARM – Another word for flatulence (what beans produce) followed by a word meaning to cultivate.

27 Reprobate flips loudly out – take cover (3,3)
LIE LOW – Reverse the words (flips) in a two letter word for a reprobate (3,4) and then remove the F (loudly) from the second word.


1 Walking like a Hobbit, show off bottom (8)
BAREFOOT – … the Hobbits wear no shoes apparently!  A word meaning to show something off followed by another word for bottom.

2 Communicated how Italian side behaved (10)
INTERACTED – The name of an Italian football team followed by another word meaning behaved.

3 Garlic, oddly, makes First Lady cry (6)
GRIEVE – The odd letters of garlic followed by the name of Adam’s wife in Genesis.  I am not sure about the makes in this clue.

4 Strangest day – New York Times containing article by British newspaper (7)
DAFTEST – The abbreviation for day followed the abbreviation for time zone in which New York is inside which you add an indefinite article and the abbreviation of a daily financial newspaper.  Another minor point, but I feel Times in the plural does not sit well with the singular used by the time zone.

5 Main antenna covering East and West Timor (8)
ARTERIAL – Another word for an antenna goes around the last letter (East) and first letter (West) of Timor.

6 Disgusting, wicked top to bottom (4)
VILE – A word meaning wicked has its first letter moved from the top to the bottom of the word.

7 Full with balls (6)
ENTIRE – A word meaning not castrated (used of horses) and a word meaning full or whole.  The two meanings are very similar here.

14 Make up silly farce about Prisoner-of- War’s daring escape initially (4,6)
FACE POWDER – An anagram (silly) of FARCE around (about – again) the abbreviation for Prisoner of War followed by the first letters (initially) of daring escape.

16 Huge defeat sustained by company man (8)
COLOSSAL – The abbreviation for company and a two letter shortened man’s name go around a word meaning defeat.  I am not convinced that sustained is a containment indicator.  It means to hold up or as in an injury to suffer or bear something.

18 Oh boy! Mix up involving everyone has caused a commotion (8)
BALLYHOO – An anagram (mix up) of OH BOY includes a word meaning everyone.

19 Divided by four, 1,000,900 megabytes is dandy! (7)
COXCOMB – Split the number 100/0/900/0 (divided by four – better would be divided into four) and convert the numbers into Roman numerals.  Add the abbreviation for megabytes.

21 Lubricate gear for drilling platform (3,3)
OIL RIG – A word meaning lubricate followed by a word meaning kit or gear.

22 Described again how I’m missing the crazy old-timer (6)
RETOLD – An anagram (crazy) of OLD TIMER after removing (missing) the IM

24 Solo love is outstanding (2-2)
TO-DO – A word meaning solo followed by the letter representing zero or love.

48 comments on “Rookie Corner 041

  1. I really enjoyed this! It was lots of fun. Thanks to BD’s comment, I quickly saw why he likes this so much, which was a great help. 1D took me a while and was a big D’Oh moment. I am currently stuck on 15A, though. I have a word in mind, but no rationale for it. I thought some of the surface reading was excellent. I do have a couple of answers where I will need the review to see if I am right and explain why, if so. Favorites right now are 8A, 11A, 13A and1D and 24D. Great job, Sprocker!!

    1. For 15a you need to cut out letters from the middle of ‘stable plastics’ and close up what’s left.

      1. Thanks. That was what I had in mind, but couldn’t see why. Where does the ‘some mechanics do’ come in? If it has anything to do with cards, I’m lost!

        1. According to the BRB the answer means ‘the science of forces in equilibrium’ so presumably it’s what mechanics do/study.

  2. Thanks to Sprocker for a top-notch puzzle with a nice Nina. I particularly liked 27a and 17a – it’s very difficult to write a clue like 17a which doesn’t sound very forced and you’ve done it brilliantly.

  3. Congratulations Sprocker, a very enjoyable solve !

    My personal favourite is 13A, but there were several others than ran it close. Although I got the answers to 7D and 23A, the word play rather eluded me, but I’m sure that’s down to me rather than the clue ! For some reason, I couldn’t avoid thinking about a certain member of the Shadow Cabinet for 7D, even if he is spelt with a capital rather than a small “b” !!

    As a relative newcomer I wouldn’t claim to know why the puzzle is of particular appeal to Big Dave, but perhaps he or others might enlighten me ?

    1. Haha, I wasn’t looking carefully enough – I now see why it brought a smile to Big Dave !! Well done.

    2. For 23a: “the” in Spanish followed by the reversal of the agency: Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.

  4. Afraid I made very heavy weather of this one and probably wouldn’t have got to the finishing line without (eventually!) spotting why BD liked it so much. Have about half a dozen answers that I can’t fully justify – most intrigued to see tomorrow’s review.

    Thank you Sprocker – think I struggled with your last puzzle as well, I really must try harder!

  5. The 2Kiwis are usually first to comment on the Rookie Corner. Are they vacationing and I missed the memo?

    1. This is what they told us on their blog last Wednesday:
      Next Wednesday we will be otherwise engaged so you can start a guessing competition as to who the mystery blogger might be.

  6. I thought this was good but, like Jane, found it pretty difficulty.
    I would never have got 15a if I hadn’t read gazza’s hint to Expat Chris.
    I don’t understand a few of my answers but I’m sure that all will become clear tomorrow.
    13, 20 and 26a all made me laugh which in the middle of January is a great bonus so thanks and congratulations to Mr Spaniel and a to you.

    1. It may well be cheating, but I’d suggest you forget the ‘sums’ and just look for a definition of the last word.

        1. Hi Franco,
          It’s a bit of a tough one. And I shall say this only once.
          Move the cursor two spaces to the right: That’s the first two numbers. Then move the other cursor again two spaces to the right and you get two other numbers. Then add the short term for megabytes and then you have your dandy.

    2. I’m not a great fan of that clue as written. I think it would have been better as “Divided into four pieces….”

      Which may be a hint, of course.

      1. The clue is a brilliant idea, but I agree that “into” would have been more accurate than “by” (no need for “pieces”)

          1. Oh no! Just realised it should be divided by three commas. This really does my head in. I’ll wait for the review.

    3. ALL the clever stuff does my head in but, luckily, I remembered one of the many words for a dandy. The other one that I remember, thanks to the wonderful Wogan, is a popinjay which clearly didn’t work for 19d. The maths defeats me but I trust you all that it’s right! Well, I think I do . . .

  7. Thanks to you all for the nice comments

    I also need to give a special thank you to Beet who very kindly stepped in to act as test solver / proof reader for me, and highlighted a number of issues that needed fixing.

  8. Sprocker, a great puzzle. I didn’t find it easy and I am still unsure of some of the wordplay, but it was a lot of fun solving this. You have managed to include a fantastic nina, and you include both very interesting wordplay and some very entertaining clues! A brilliant effort, well done, I look forward to your next effort. Damn, my spell check keeps saying sprocket.

  9. Quite agree about the difficulty but once you get into it, the pleasure increases.
    Definitely worth publishing.
    So many favourite clues it’s hard to choose any particular one.
    Thanks to Sprocker.

  10. Rookie Corner is working better than I could have hoped. Many thanks to all contributors.

    It would seem that solvers are becoming more appreciative of the problems faced by setters and setters are getting invaluable feedback of the kind that it is difficult to acquire elsewhere.

    1. The Rookie puzzle has become my favorite one of the week. The mother hen in me loves seeing how returning Rookies are improving with every new puzzle posted and how the Rookies themselves are lending each other a helping hand. As a mid-level solver, I have learned so much from the very thorough reviews and also gained a new appreciation of the awesome puzzle-setting skills of the “old hands” who make it all look so effortless. It’s a huge win-win all around, Big Dave. Many thanks to you for making this possible!

      1. I think it’s also giving us the chance to tackle puzzles set by tomorrow’s ‘big boys’. As you say, Chris, it’s a win-win situation!

        1. My first ever tentative steps into a sloggers and betters event, they’ll be old and dull I thought. How wrong was I. Published setters, rookies, NTSPP et al were of a much younger demographic than I’d envisaged. There is hope for the future :)

    2. Hear, hear from me, too, especially ‘Long live Big Dave’s Crossword Blog!’ My favourites are the NTSPPs and Rookie Corner puzzles. I greatly look forward to them each week, too.

  11. Thanks for the review Prolixic – as always, your comments are very helpful and insightful. Also, again a big thank you to everyone for the feedback, with special thanks to Beet for the assistance, and extra-special thanks to BD for providing the opportunity to do this.

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. A couple I was just being ‘thick’ about but I hadn’t come across the abb. in 23a before, nor the ‘cut and shut’ used in 15a. As for 19d – I wonder how many of us got it without going for the definition first!
    13a I haven’t heard used before – only ‘spiffing’ – so it was definitely a bung-in.

    The Nina was a great touch – must have given Sprocker a few headaches along the way! I wonder whether he will put himself under such constraints again in a hurry!!!

    Well done all round. I WILL get onto his wavelength one day.

  13. Thanks for the review, Prolixic. I needed the explanation to understand 7D, and now I have it I’m not sure how acceptable it is to include that kind of slang in a crossword clue. Would it have got past the DT editors? I, too, loved the Nina. I’m looking forward to the next Sprocker puzzle, though this one’s going to be hard to beat!

  14. I thought this excellent. A Nina! Very well accomplished, Sprocker. No wonder Big Dave was so pleased.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who found some of this a little difficult. Even though I found the nina when I was about half way through solving, I got stuck on some of the clues. I should have thought more about 12a because I had ‘iodine’ instead of ‘iodate’. That, of course, meant I couldn’t get 2d. I needed a hint for part of 13a as I had forgotten that a ‘spiff’ is a ‘joint’. I needed explanations for my answers to 7d and 19d (that a delightful old word for a ‘dandy’).

    Very big thanks and congrats to Sprocker for a super and fun puzzle, and to Prolixic for his excellent review.

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