Rookie Corner 043 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 043

A Puzzle by Unable Panda

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This is Unable Panda’s first published puzzle – I hope you enjoy it.  [It’s only fair to add that this was a puzzle the setter asked me to shelve and he sent me a different puzzle, using the same grid.  I picked the wrong one out last night when I set this up.  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.

Welcome to Unable Panda with their first crossword.  A good first outing with the majority of the clues not presenting any problems with a good variety of wordplay.  The main issue was the dreaded indirect anagram in 9a.  In one or two places wordplay elements were repeated but this is a minor point and some of the surface readings could have done with a polish.

The non-symmetrical grid was unusual but it is not unknown for an unsymmetrical grid to appear in the daily crossword in the Independent so this is not a major issue.  The use of triple unchecked letters is more of a problem, particularly as one was at the beginning of the word.  Triple unchecked letters should be avoided.  Double unchecked letters are seen even in the Times crossword though I understand the policy is that double unchecked letters cannot appear at the beginning of the word.  With this grid, the problem could have been solved by add two three letter words.  This would also have disguised the unsymmetrical grid more.


1 Viceroy a-lister partly supports the monarch (8)
ROYALIST – The answer is hidden in (partly) VICEROY A-LISTER

5 Pre insect with no energy lost the way from treed area (6)
BEFORE – A type of work insect with the final E removed (no energy) followed by another word for a treed area or wood with the ST removed (lost the way)

9 Defence needs wooden stake to hold off disease (8)
PALISADE – Another word for a wooden stake includes (to hold) an anagram (off) of a type of disease.  The clue is an indirect anagram as the solver has to think of the disease AIDS and then make an anagram of it.  Such clues are a cardinal sin for setters.

10 One holding the purse at college hides it with a whirring sound (6)
BURSAR – The abbreviation for sex appeal (it) is hidden inside another word for a whirring sound.

12 A bathing mob formed thingy (11)
THINGAMABOB – An anagram (formed) of A BATHING MOB.  It is unfortunate that the first five letters of the answer match those in the definition and also appear in the same order in the anagram words.

15 I’m sad without beginner to inspire (5)
IMBUE – The IM from the clue followed by a word meaning sad or down without the abbreviation for learner (without beginner )

16 Right, I compete in front of sun god in fashionable part of Med (7)
RIVIERA – The abbreviation for right followed by the I from the clue and word meaning to compete or contend and the name of the Egyptian sun god.

17 There is a short amount of time before a party to hold half a kilo and get a comic opera (3,6)
THE MIKADO – The abbreviation for time followed by a word for a party inside which you add a prefix meaning half (as in hemisphere) and the abbreviation for kilo.

19 Heard at Wimbledon serving fruit drink (5)
JUICE – A homophone of deuce, a word heard at Wimbledon

20 Going beyond the ordinary across northern hideout between two churches (13)
TRANSCENDENCE – A prefix meaning across followed by the abbreviation for northern and another word for a hideout between two lots of the abbreviation for Church of England (two churches).

22 Late taking fashionable drugs with pollen coats (6)
EXINES – A word meaning late or old followed by a two letter word for fashionable and the abbreviation for a recreational drug with an S (as drugs is in the plural).

23 Frightened lad ropes big cats (8)
LEOPARDS – An anagram (frightened) of LAD ROPES.

25 Some buffo geysers create old-fashioned types (6)
FOGEYS – The answer is hidden inside (some) BUFFO GEYSERS.  Setters should avoid making up words to fit the wordplay of the clue.

26 Firstly another felonious shoplifter, not back inside, offends (8)
AFFRONTS – The opposite of back goes inside the initial letters (firstly) of Another Felonious Shoplifter.


1 On return of light blow I took second place in angry return home (10)
REPATRIATE – The two letter word meaning on or about followed by a reversal (return) of a word for a light blow and another word for angry with the initial letter (I) being moved to the second letter of the word (I took second place).

2 Unknown element rising for the given name of a musical actor (3)
YUL – … one of the stars of the King and I.  A letter used to represent an unknown quantity or amount followed by a reversal (rising) of the chemical symbol for Lutetium (element).

3 Pull a girl up before giving a girl directions to make a pasta dish (7)
LASAGNE – I think that this is a reversal of a diminutive girls name (pull a girl up) followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviation for girl and two compass directions.  Interestingly, Chambers does not recognise B for boy or G for Girl as abbreviations

4 Wicked place makes unpleasant person love Frenchman (5)
SODOM – A three letter word for an unpleasant person followed by the letter representing love or zero and the abbreviation for monsignor (Frenchman).

6 Emotional measure you can calm (7)
EQUABLE – The abbreviation for Emotional Quotient (which abbreviation has not yet made it into Chambers) followed by a word meaning can is having the ability to.

7 Victoria say surrounding a type of address following outside broadcast has difficulty excreting (11)
OBSTIPATION – The abbreviation for outside broadcast followed by the type of facility of which Victoria is an example (as is King’s Cross) around the abbreviation for Internet Protocol (type of address).

8 Look right in Australian lake (4)
EYRE – The abbreviation for right inside a word meaning look.

11 Elevated person’s magical figure is conceited (5,7)
ABOVE ONESELF – A word meaning elevated or over followed by a word meaning person’s (with the S at the end) and a type of magical creature sometime associated with Santa’s little helpers.

13 Taking in air made popular brother consume nearly all of joint (11)
INBREATHING – A two letter word meaning popular followed by the abbreviation for brother, a word meaning consume and a type of joint that allows things to open with the final letter removed (nearly all).

14 Radios are almost edgy before tenants short of a key (10)
WIRELESSES – A five letter word meaning edgy or hyper with the final letter removed (almost) followed by another word for tenants with an E (musical key) removed.  The link word does not work here as the cryptic reading of the clue becomes definition ARE wordplay.  This is one of the clue where the surface reading is not the greatest.

16 Raises young with right organs (5)
REARS – The abbreviation for right followed by the organs associated with hearing.  This is the third use of R for Right in the crossword.  Wordplay elements should be used only once in a crossword though I appreciate from personal experience, this is very easy to say but harder to do!

18 Gay Emir concocted descriptive language (7)
IMAGERY – An anagram (concocted) of GAY EMIR.

19 Trousers worn while horse riding but not on the Sabbath in Indian city (7)
JODPHUR – Remove the S from a type of trousers for the name of an Indian city.  The trousers take their name from this city.

21 Move from site to site say serving slave (4)
SERF – A homophone (say) of surf (move from site to site).

24 Managed report of rising protuberance (3)
RAN – A homophone of the reversal of KNAR (protuberance or knot on a tree).  I liked the idea of reversing the homophone to give added complexity to the clue.

41 comments on “Rookie Corner 043

  1. Pity about the grid, not symmetrical, and a couple of triple unches, one at the start of a word. A few absolute obscurities, 22a, 7d and the 2d element for example. However some clever constructions, 1d and 5a would be our picks and we did get to the end in a reasonable time with a few chuckles along the way.
    Thanks Unable Panda.

  2. Welcome Unable Panda and thank you for your puzzle. My favourites were 19a and 21 d.

    I was just on Saturday lamenting the fact that at some point, someone somewhere decided that grids all had to be symmetrical, and in doing so made all our lives more difficult. But unfortunately it is so well established now that I think we have to stick to it.

    In terms of overall difficulty, I had to cheat on a few and that’s about normal for me, but the ones I had to reveal were more “eh?” than “aha!”. See what other feedback you get on that aspect because I’m probably not a good yardstick.

    Prolixic will sort out any technical problems for you, the only thing that jumped out at me was the answer and the definition at 12 a were too similar.

    Thanks again

  3. I read the 2Kiwis comment before starting this one so I was prepared for the triple unches. I thought this was a good attempt at a first crossword. My main suggestion is that you should try to make your surface readings smoother – some of them (e.g. 12a, 7d and 14d) don’t make a great deal of sense. My favourite clues were the same as Beet’s.
    (I haven’t yet managed to work out what Unable Panda is an anagram of.)

  4. As with my debut puzzle last month. I think quite a few of the clues needed some pruning – in fact 17a required the long-handled secateurs ! I think more practice will mean that in future this will become less of an issue, but one thing to try to eliminate could be the unnecessary use of definite and indefinite articles which would certainly create snappier surface readings but not detract from the clues’ meanings.

    I felt a few of the clues were a little contrived too (for example can “buffo geysers” actually exist ?) and, like Beet, I thought 12a was much too close to the answer. I’m not sure that appearing in one musical makes the actor in 2d a musical actor either, but I’m open to persuasion on that one ! 22a was pleasingly a new word for me.

    But now for the positives ! I really enjoyed 23a, 18d and 24d, but my favourite was 11d. I believe that any of these clues would fit fairly seamlessly into an experienced setter’s puzzles.

    All in all, a very good first attempt Unable Panda and I’m sure that you’ll benefit greatly from all the comments you’ll receive (I know I have). May your supply of bamboo shoots never be exhausted !

    P.S. There was a small typo on 2d (it should have read “unknown”).

    1. Silvanus – sorry to miss you at the pub on Saturday – I think I arrived just after you left. It would have been nice to meet another rookie. Everyone was very welcoming though but I did feel slightly self-conscious when the crosswords came out and I was among a gang of super-solvers.

      1. Sorry not to see you too, Beet, but unfortunately I had to leave at 1 otherwise I would never have made my 3pm appointment to shiver in the cold (a.k.a. watching a football match !)

        Unfortunately Sue’s cake had not yet been passed round by the time of my departure, so I hope that you managed to partake of it at least. I had the small but very tasty consolation of one of Jean-Luc Cheval’s delicious macaroons instead though :-)

        It would have been nice to have compared notes etc with a fellow rookie, but I’m sure that we can do that on a future occasion in person, if not on here in the meantime.

        1. I was fortunate enough to get a slice of Sue’s cake, which was delicious. I did not realise that Jean-Luc was there or I would have introduced myself, he always leaves very helpful comments on rookie submissions. I don’t want to take over poor Unable Panda’s post entirely with my socialising, so I will simply add a *wave* to everyone I did meet and thank you for making me feel so welcome.

  5. Just to add, that when I did my first puzzle, I had no idea what an “unch” was, so in case you didn’t work it out 2kiwis comment about triple unches: an “unch” is short for unchecked and triple unches refers to e.g. your clues at 7 and 14d where you have three squares in a row that are not crossed by another word so you don’t get any letters to help you. This is a very common rookie mistake, and one I would no doubt have made myself had I not seen another rookie fall into that trap before me. The beauty of rookie corner is that you get to learn from everyone’s mistakes and not just your own.

    1. Both double and triple unches are very unpopular when they are at the start of a word. I have pointed out to Unable Panda that adding a word like PAW or PEW between the two answers would remove both of the triple unches.

  6. All-in-all a pretty good puzzle. I agree with the other’s comments but I’m not so sure the lack of symmetry detracts from the puzzle, but Beet’s probably right in that we’re stuck with it.

    I don’t reckon 2d is fair. I only got the answer because what else could it be when the first and last letters are in place?
    I’m not keen on using obscure words just for the sake of making it hard. I’m assuming that this was the case with 22a and 7d as there are common words which would fit the checkers. However, that’s just a personal opinion and Don Manley does it all the time, especially in his Pasquale puzzles,and most people don’t seem to mind.

    My favourite was 19d but I also liked 1d, which was a guess from checkers, bung it in and parse it later.

    9a is a bit naughty as it appears to involve a secondary anagram, unless I’m parsing it wrong.

    Anyway thanks for the amusement Unable Panda.

    1. I think you’re right about 9a having an indirect anagram – I couldn’t parse it any other way.

      1. I think this one is just about acceptable as once you’ve got the wooden stake the answer is fairly obvious. I just wrote it in and then noticed the secondary anagram bit.

        However, thin ends of wedges and all that

  7. I have several bung-ins because I just don’t understand the clues, and I can make head nor tail of 22A so it remains unsolved for now. 7D required a visit to the BRB. I did like 15A and 11D, and 1D once I’d worked backwards from the answer. A very decent first outing, I thought, so congrats to Unable Panda.

    1. I had never heard of 22a before, but it’s eminently gettable from the clue, even though like me you’ll probably need to check whether such a word exists !

  8. Have to admit to ‘bung it in’ parse it later with several clues and am still left with some that await the expert’s parsing tomorrow.
    Two new words – 22a I thought was fair enough but 7d I thought a bit extreme. 2d had little appeal and I wonder whether ‘beginner’ is correct in 15a?

    On the upside, I rather liked 5&19a and 21d – more of those please!

    Well done, Unable Panda – a good start and I’m sure a little less ‘wordiness’ will make all the difference.

      1. Ah – thanks for that, Gazza. I was coming at it from a rather different angle and wanted it to be a second letter that was missing.
        Glad to hear you made it to the party – hope you got some cake!

  9. Now that’s what I call dedication 2 Kiwis presumably living in New Zealand so that they can be awake as soon as Big Dave’s Rookie crossword is posted, solve it and be the first to post whilst others are still wrapped up in bed because they are Eurocentric or something! Respect! Anyway congratulations to Unable Panda for having a go and especially bearing in mind Big Dave’s opening comment. Thanks as ever for Big Dave for hosting this blog – what a star! In terms of content I pretty much concur with what has been written already some nice touches but I think that the obscure answers such as 2 down and 22 across should be avoided – 7 down was fair enough I thought. “Buffo geysers” may not have existed as a phrase before today but it certainly does now – I liked it and if it’s all the same it’s a bit dull “enner it” as we say in Stoke!

    by the way Unable Panda I reckon is two people not one – i.e. “Paula and Ben”!

  10. I thought 22a was a bit unfair unless you have an A-level in biology (I have) and 7d quite obscure.Otherwise I agree with the other remarks. Thanks Unable Panda.

  11. Looked at this again to see if I could make sense of 22A and realized that I picked the wrong definition for 21D. With the second letter corrected , I was able to work out the answer to 22A very quickly from the clue and check it on the internet. I don’t think being obscure necessarily equates to unfair, but then I’m battle-hardened from tussling with Giovanni.

  12. Thanks Unable Panda, like some of the other commenters I struggled with some of the obscurities, particularly the combo of a word I’d never heard of, and a triple-unch in 7d, though there was plenty otherwise to like in here. I ended up with a couple of bung-ins so will look forward to Prolixic’s enlightenment. My favourites were 1d and 4d.

  13. Will have to wait for the review for NW corner I’m afraid to say.
    Quite liked 7d actually and the long 20a.
    Thanks to Unable Panda.

  14. A very good first effort, Unable Panda. I found this an interesting puzzle. Some clues work very well, others not so easy to parse. I liked quite a few, especially 18d, 19d, 21d, 15a and the anagram at 23a. I also notice that you have managed to use all but four letters of the alphabet (if I have counted right).

    Like others have commented, the grid is not quite balanced, and there are treble unches. Although I have an answer (I hope it is the correct one) I didn’t find I could parse17a very satisfactorily. I agree with Pommers that 2d isn’t really fair. On the plus side, I did manage to follow the parsing of 22a, although I had to check in the dictionary as it’s a word I’ve not heard of. I didn’t have too much difficulty with 7d, though. (I became familiar with the word when we had a very old and dear cat who had similar problems.)

    Well done, Unable Panda. I hope we shall see more of your puzzles and that in due course you will become proficient enough to drop the ‘Unable’ from your name.

    I much look forward to Prolixic’s review. How awful to have done all that work and then had the computer freeze! I’m sure we all know the feeling. (My Vista laptop dislikes Word Perfect and periodically stops it working for no apparent reason. I have WordPerfect set up with an automatic back-up every 3 minutes, and I keep saving manually as I go along. It’s a bit tedious but better than loosing the whole of one’s work…)

    1. Oh dear! Before one of the pedants sees it, that should be ‘losing’ not ‘loosing’ in the last line of my above comment. Seems I have forgotten my grammar!

    1. Might I sound a note of caution. Unsymmetrical grids are a rare exception to the rule. It is not just a question of aesthetics. Starting with a symmetrical grid helps to ensure that there is a good mix of word lengths, that each word has at least 50% cross-checking and that all parts of the crosswords connect. It also helps to ensure that the proportion of white to black squares is acceptable. Of course there are good and bad symmetrical grids but they help.

      It is a good discipline to start with a symmetrical grid and only to abandon this if the constraints of a theme or avoiding a grotesque word in one corner force you to abandon the symmetry.

      My comment on the crossword was simply to say that lack of symmetry is not a cardinal sin – symmetry is a rule that can occasionally be broken. However it should be seen as a rare exception, not a carte blanche to abandon symmetry when setting crosswords.

    2. I was somewhat surprised too !! The Indy obviously likes to live up to its name it seems, although I think hell may freeze over before such a grid would appear in the Telegraph.

      I must admit that, being a traditional person at heart, I shall stick to symmetry, and never again omit to ensure the four corners are joined up :-)

      P.S. It was nice to see your photo from Saturday, Beet.

      1. Many of the daily papers have a pre-set stock of grids that setters must use – all of which are symmetrical. The Daily Telegraph and the Times are two such papers. The Independent allows setters to create their own grids. Phi (Kcit in the Toughie) used a grid that had vertical mirror symmetry rather than rotational symmetry and no one batted an eyelid. Very occasionally you get an unsymmetrical grid but if we all started submitting them, I suspect the editor would rein us in.

  15. So, Unable Panda is two people? I wonder if they are a husband and wife team. I can’t imagine solving a puzzle as part as a duo without coming to blows (though the 2Kiwis happily do it every day) let alone creating one.

    9A was the one I most needed the review for. I would not have unraveled it by myself. I know that 13D is a real word, because the BRB tells me so, but it’s one of those I don’t believe I have ever heard a real walking talking person use. On that basis, I didn’t like it.

    Thanks, Prolixic, for the review. I look forward to more from Unable Panda in the future and to Penko’s debut.

  16. Thanks to Prolixic for the hints and explanations.
    1,2,4d and 8a were a real head scratcher and had to give up.
    It’s always so interesting to see how different setters can be. Variety is the spice of life.
    I think Unable Panda was maybe a bit scared to produce something obscure and instead sometimes gave a bit too much information in the clues. Such as 19d: it could easily have been just “trousers”.
    I like how 4 of the answers read: Sodom Rears Equable Jodhpur.
    Thanks for the fun.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Some of the parsing I’d failed on was entirely due to not looking hard enough – the odd ones were the result of not knowing the abbreviations (EQ & IP). There seems to be an infinite number of abbreviations these days!

  18. Many thanks for the excellent review, Prolixic. Although I had the correct answer to 9a, I couldn’t work out the parsing. I also had the correct answer to 17a, but I couldn’t account for the ‘hem’, which is new to me. So thank you very much for clarifying these.

  19. Thanks to Prolixic for the review and everyone for your constructive and fair comments. I’ve really enjoyed this experience and the feedback has been very helpful. I look forward to coming back with a much improved puzzle (and grid!).

    1. Welcome to the blog and congratulations on your first crossword. Looking forward to the next one.

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