Rookie Corner 050 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 050

A Puzzle by Sprocker

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have another fine puzzle from Sprocker.  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.

Sproker has tried to stretch himself by producing a tougher puzzle this week.  He succeeded but the wordplay and constructions of the clues suffered in the process as there were a few too many obscurities in the wordplay to make this a fair challenge for the solver.


1 Could this be Mister T’s awesome leg? (4,4,6)
NINE DART FINISH – The position in the grid where the answer MISTER appears followed by a three letter word that finishes with a T as it might be clued cryptically.  The answer refers to a feat in the game which is slightly less interesting than underwater origami or competitive macramé one of whose players was Phil Taylor, referred to variously as Mr T or the Power.  A clue I feel that is far to clever for its own good.  Mister works to give NINE D but to clue ART FINISH as T is too vague and the only way that you could solve this cold was by having a working knowledge of the nickname of a player of a minority sport.  Definitely one that is too unfair for the solver.

10 PC may have this inside information (5)
INTEL – The maker of the central processing unit in a computer shares a name with inside information.

11 Sounds like our second cousin is a fighter (9)
GUERRILLA – A homophone (sounds like) of gorilla (our second cousin).

12 Pocket with a pocket (7)
TROUSER – A double definition of a word to steal or pocket something and an item of clothing that contains a pocket.

13 Assassin’s business turns head and leads to marketing activity (7)
NETWORK – Thanks to those on the blog for the enlightenment.  It seems that this WET WORK (assassin’s business) with a new first letter.  The definition marketing activity would lead to NETWORKING as the solution not the noun network.  The word for assassin’s business is not in Chambers and is somewhat obscure and I don’t think that “turn’s head” means substitute a new first letter.

14 Rushes, perhaps, Oliver North to make a U-turn (5)
REEDS – The surname of the actor Oliver followed by the opposite (to make a U-turn) of North.

16 Three-legged race (9)
TRIATHALON – A semi-cryptic definition of a sporting event that comprises running, cycling and swimming as the three events or legs.

19 Unconscious enigmatic leader gets replacement car (9)
AUTONOMIC – A word meaning enigmatic with the first letter (leader) replaced by a word for a car.

20 Filtered coffee (5)
DECAF – Coffee with the caffeine filtered out.

22 Tin-pot dictator’s heading for old river to find spy (7)
SNOOPER – The best I can do for this clue is SN for tin followed by DOPE for pot with the D removed and an O (old) added at the beginning and an R for river put at the end but cryptic grammar suggests that the D (dictator’s heading) replaces the O (D for O).

25 Stench surrounding toy dog’s guts is criminal (7)
HOODLUM – A three letter word for a stench goes around a breed of dog with the first and last letters removed (guts).  My sister breeds the dog referred to and they come in standard, minature and toy varieties.  To describe the dog as toy alone without any indication that it is an example of the breed might be considered unfair by some.

27 Great start to a meal as there is fizzy Asti on tap (9)
ANTIPASTO – An anagram (fizzy) of ASTIONTAP.  Not sure why the great is there as it seems to be padding for the surface reading.

28 Weak back holds a single message (1-4)
E-MAIL – Reverse (back) a word meaning weak and insert a letter representing one or a single.

29 Resourcefully come promoting brand to one without assistance (14)
ENTERPRISINGLY – A word meaning come or go in followed by a word for promoting a brand, the letter representing one and a word meaning without assistance or on your own.


2 Possibly describing half-pipe skating enthusiast who possesses right to be a loner? (9)
INTROVERT – I think that this is INTO VERT an enthusiast of the vert ramp or half-pipe used by skaters around an R.  Again, the reference here to the alternative name of a skating pipe requires a bit too much technical knowledge for my liking.  Chamber’s defines VERT as any vertical extension to a ramp used in skating.

3 Well I suppose having odd-shaped balls made him famous! (5)
ELLIS – The answer his hidden (having) in WELL I SUPPOSE.

4 Vice-President almost finds Daffy Duck’s ideology routine (9)
ALGORITHM – The VP noted for his campaigns on climate change with the final letter removed followed by who someone with a lisp might pronounce ISM (a ideology).  Daffy Duck does not immediately spring to mind as a character who lithps but it is a while since I saw any cartoons featuring him!

5 Draw popular relation (3-2)
TIE-IN – A word for a draw or game between two teams followed by a word meaning popular.

6 Annoyed invisible girl in education with small cuddly toy (9)
IRRITATED – A type of radiation that is invisible to the human eye followed by the name of the lady in the play and film Educating ???? and diminutive word for a cuddly toy.  I think that using invisible to describe something that cannot be seen without giving any further indication of what the solver is looking for is a step too far.  Invisible describes the resulting wordplay, it is not a synonym of the wordplay itself.

7 Home of the century featuring odd bits of gold (5)
IGLOO – The odd letters of gold go inside the letter equivalents of 100.

8 Listen to space-man rotating around craft (7)
HEARKEN – Reverse (rotating) the words for a printer’s space and a pronoun for a man and put this around a craft used as a rescue vessel.

9 He finds aliens upside down in abandoned space station (6)
MISTER – Reverse (upside down) ETS (aliens – note the plural) inside an abandoned space station.  I am in two minds about whether definition finds wordplay is acceptable.  On balance, I think it is.

15 Son with a supporting father is abrasive (9)
SANDPAPER – The abbreviation for son followed by a word meaning with and a word meaning a or each after (supporting) a two letter word for a father.

17 Partnership identified when supply chain foundation is reduced by 20% (2,7)
IN CAHOOTS – An anagram (supply) of CHAIN followed by a five letter word for foundation with the first letter removed (reduced by 20% or 1/5th).  I think that the solution would require “in partnership” to be strictly correct.

18 Label diet before contact with a close friend? (5,4)
LOCAL CALL – A word for a type of diet goes before a word meaning to name or label something.

19 Relieve concern when herb is found to contain trace of Uranium (7)
ASSUAGE – A two letter word for when followed by a four letter word for a type of herb around (to contain) the first letter (trace of ) Uranium.

21 Vulgar sweet nothing leads to misunderstanding involving lecherous young blood (6)
FAMILY – A vulgar way of saying sweet nothing followed by the initial letters (leads to) of Misunderstanding Involving Lecherous Young.

23 Group of criminals terrorise elderly Tory leaders (5)
OCTET – The initial letters (leaders) of Of Criminals Terrorise Elderly Tory.  Ideally you would not set two initial letter clues one after the other.

24 Could describe a plane just after take-off, or found in flight? (5)
RISER – A double definition of a plane just after take-off and part of a stairway (flight).

26 Water‘s freezing – no Scots about (5)
OCEAN – The temperature at which water freezes followed by a reversal about of the Scottish way of saying no.

49 comments on “Rookie Corner 050

  1. We had never heard of the expression in 1a, nor of the Mr T involved so needed Mr G (for Google) to help us with this one. We have all the grid filled in but will sit down quietly now and pick our way through all the wordplay to justify everything. Very challenging for us.
    Thanks Sprocker.

  2. Quite a struggle with this one – had I been testing it, I’d have sent it back with queries on six clues as to how I got the answer I did, a comment that one clue wasn’t really cryptic, but that I did like 12a.

    Thanks to Sprocker – this certainly made the cryptic grey matter work hard this morning.

  3. This was pretty tough and there are still three clues where I don’t fully understand the wordplay. 1a is very clever and I also liked 4d, 15d and 18d. Thanks to Sprocker for the entertainment.

  4. Just popping in to see if I’m the only one having a monster fight with this one.
    I think it’s much trickier than Sprocker’s previous crosswords – so far I’ve got nine answers and I’m not sure of one of those.
    Heading for the garden – back later.

  5. Hiya, thanks for the comments. I did set out with this one with an intent to make it toughie standard, so it should be a bit harder than my previous offerings.

    Again I need to thank Beet and Silvanus for their invaluable assistance as test solvers, and for their excellent feedback.

    1. Always a pleasure, Sprocker.

      I would certainly agree that it’s much closer to Toughie standard than to an average DT back-pager.

    2. You’re welcome Sprocker, and I think everyone can agree that you have succeeded in your aim of making this one a toughie. Let the record show that my favourites were 3, 4 and 7 down. And I think 1a very clever, but can’t claim it as a favourite because it defeated me until you explained it

    3. My earlier post omitted to mention my favourites, which were 4d (very funny indeed), 25a and 24d. Apologies for that omission.

      I have to confess that, like Beet, I too was stumped on 1a until Sprocker revealed all, so I’m not surprised that it has caused a certain amount of difficulty !

  6. I have 1A and 3D not filled in, and a number of clues where I don’t understand the wordplay. It has been frustrating because of that and not very enjoyable, I m sorry to say.

    1. I can’t do 1a either.
      3d is one of the beastly little lurkers which, for once, I found although I didn’t understand why until a friend who does crosswords and rugby called in. He says that he was pretty much the originator of the game – William Webb Ellis.

      1. Hmmm. Well, I suppose to enthusiasts that constitutes fame of a sort. not a fan of such specialized knowledge in cryptics. You either know it or you don’t and it can’t be worked out from the clue.

      2. 1a concerns a different sport to 3d and the answer begins with where Mister is to be found in the grid.

        1. Thanks gazza – need to have a think about it. I suspect that if it’s sport I may be beaten.

  7. Thanks to Sprocker for the Monday Toughie.

    I cheated like mad but there are still quite a few that I fail to understand. (13a, 22a, 15d et alia)

    (On the difficulty scale of 1 – 200 … I’ll give it One-hundred-and-EEEigty!)

    Nice surface readings!

    1. I’m a bit bored so here’s two hints out of three.
      22a. Prend le symbole chimique de l’ étain, puis la drogue habituelle sans le D de Dictateur mais avec le O de old, puis ajoute la Rivière.
      15d. Le S de son, le mot “et” , l’ équivalent de A comme sur le marché ( un euro une livre!) après le diminutif de papa.

      1. Merci, Jean-Luc !

        Maintenant je comprends tout … Zut alors!

        Et merci aussi à Prolixic … It must take him a very long time to provide such a thorough dissection of a crossword … or maybe he just does it very quickly.

  8. It’s time to create a new Toughie Rookie Corner I think.
    That wasn’t easy.
    I love the new constructions on offer.
    The homonyms in 11a and 4d made me laugh. For 11a, I thought of Myffypops straight away and for 4d, I’m now speaking like Daffy Duck.
    7d was quite a clever way to describe a century but the best one for me is 8d because even if I understand your parsing (man vessel space), I know a few Kens who could be considered as spacemen. And the surface is very smooth.
    Thank you very much for the fun

    1. By the way. I’m not going to say anything about 21d but in France you can use that word on television as it’s not French.

  9. Blimey – that was difficult. I now have answers for everything except 1a (just about to work on that one with help from gazza’s hint) and 26d.
    I think I don’t understand about half my answers – they fit the clue (sort of) but can’t untangle them.
    This was fun and has kept me occupied for a very long time – pity about the gardening that I was going to do.
    Thanks to Sprocker (this one was quite a bit above my ability) and in advance to whoever does the clever bits tomorrow.

      1. The first word of 18D is the abbreviation for low calorie, sometimes seen as two words on the label of so-called diet food and beverage items. The second word appears to be a homophone of another word for man, the whole being a form of written communication within one’s immediate postal area.

        1. I think the second word is only a synonym of label, which goes after the low calorie diet.

          1. I don’t see that. Where does the ‘friend’ come in? Let’s see what the review says.

            1. I think I have a different second word than you do and I think you’re correct.

  10. Hi Chris,
    I’m writing in a new box because your last answer was a vertical line on my phone.
    Sprocker is a great setter. He makes us discover new ways to dismantle a word.
    I still can’t parse 13a at all.

        1. By George, I think I have it! Wet work is a euphemism for assassination ( crime fiction addiction pays off). So changing the first letter of wet gives us the marketing activity.

              1. I must say that BD’s introduction of Rookie Corner has brought a whole new dimension to Mondays which used to be pretty mundane (crossword-wise).

                1. I agree. I love the Rookie Corner. Not being a Rufus fan ( Sorry, can’t help that. He just doesn’t appeal, though lately they’ve been getting more interesting), Mondays were a bit of a wasteland for me. It’s so rewarding to watch the Rookies progress, and to be challenged by the sometimes unusual and inventive constructs. Keeps my grey matter churning over.

                  1. Well done Chris. Now if you could have a similar flash of inspiration for 19a …………..

                    1. Start off with an adjective meaning enigmatic or ambiguous and replace the leading G with a car.

                    2. Thanks Gazza. We had been on the right lines but failed to twig the correct synonym for enigmatic.

          1. Wonderful Expat Chris and gazza – thanks to both of you. That’s sorted out a couple of my problems. I still have several others but I think if we all keep going we’re not going to leave anything for Prolixic to sort out tomorrow!

  11. I’ve just had a thought – I think you should all make the most of it as it doesn’t happen very often.
    I don’t think that I have ever had an almost completed crossword grid with so many, at least half, of my answers that I can’t explain – BD’s law is that if you can’t justify an answer then it’s probably wrong. Oh dear – maybe they’re all wrong!
    All good fun – thanks again to Sprocker.

  12. Thanks for the review comments Prolixic, as always they are very helpful. I clearly need to work on being more precise with my definitions.

    A minor point ref 1a but i was actually just referring to Mr T as the guy from the 80s tv show the a-team, with ‘awesome leg’ being a play on the fact that he is famously well built, misdirecting from the fact it was in relation to a leg of darts.

    1. And now I’ve got the A-Team theme tune in my head.

      “If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.”

  13. Thought I was just over-tired when I started on this one – only got about halfway through and wasn’t even sure about some of those!
    Reading the review makes me realise I wouldn’t have got much further had I been ‘fresh as a daisy’.
    Glad to see that some of you found it an enjoyable challenge – not for me, I’m sorry to say.
    Ah well, thanks Sprocker for the utter defeat and thanks to Prolixic for all the info I’ll hopefully never need again!

  14. Many thanks for the excellent and very enlightening review, Prolixic.

    For 22A, I tried hard to make ‘Peron’s’ work as belonging to a tin-pot dictator, but couldn’t fit ‘river’ in. Picky of me, perhaps, but the printers mark in 8D is a dash rather than a space. I confess that out of frustration I finally revealed letters to get 1A. Much too specialized, I thought. I solved 4D from the VP (dreadful man that he is), but the Daffy Duck bit went over my head. I did like 7D and 21D.

    I thought that this was a very ambitious effort and I applaud Sprocker for giving it a shot. I could not even begin to set a Quickie! However, I found it somewhat inconsistent and off the wall at times. Rather like my dart-playing.

  15. If the number of comments is a guide to a puzzle’s success then this one was certainly a hit. It kept me gnawing away at the ‘assassin’ clue on and off all day until Expat Chris had her moment of inspiration. A few of the clues were probably a bit too obscure but I enjoyed the struggle – so thanks to Sprocker for the puzzle and to Prolixic for the review.

  16. Thanks to Professor lixic for the review.
    And to Sprocker again for such a wonderful Monday.

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