Rookie Corner 051 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 051

A Puzzle by Unable Panda

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Unable Panda has set the latest Rookie puzzle – this time with a more friendly grid than before.  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 the Unable Panda who has produced a tricky crossword – in part from some horrendous words in the grid that and secondly from some obscure wordplay.  There were lots of promising clues here too, such as 15a .


1 Point and bend leg first to get trained fighter (8)
GAMECOCK – A slang word for a lady’s leg goes before (first) a point of the compass and a word meaning bend (as a dog might do with its leg).

5 Another no ball is part of this male organ (6)
STAMEN – Take the O (ball) from another to give part of the male reproductive organ of a plant that forms the answer.

9 Effeminate? An Italian bloke with feverish flu (8)
UNMANFUL – One of the Italian indefinite articles followed by another word for a bloke and an anagram (feverish) of FLU.  The question mark is presumably there to indicate that this is not a real word!  Chambers give unmanlike as the adjectival form and unmanfully as the adverbal form.

10 Endless rumour about expression of frustration in East End lizards (6)
GECKOS – One half of the word gossip around how a cockney would pronounce heck.  Endless to indicate removing half a word is not fair on the solver.

12 Career cannot inspire alumni (13)
PRINCETONIANS – … alumni of an American university.  An anagram (career) of CANNOT INSPIRE.  A technical point here.  As career is an intransitive verb, you cannot grammatically have career X as the anagram indicator.

15 North-east Manx mountain possesses foremost peak in country (5)
NEPAL – The abbreviation for North East followed by another name for a mountain with the final letter removed (Manx – as in a Manx cat with no tail) inside which (possesses) you include the first letter (foremost) of peak.

16 Covering in gold again, say, a lord imprisoned by mob (9)
REGILDING – Inside another word for a criminal group or mob include the abbreviation for “say”, another letter for A (one) and the abbreviation for Lord.

17 Trace offence, say, as far as centre of fraud (9)
SCINITILLA – A homophone of sin (offence) (my personal preference is for the resulting homophone to be a word in its own right not a collection of syllables but I am in a minority here) followed by another way of saying until or as far as and the central letter of fraud.

19 Deface sound jacket with light stimulation (5)
LASER – Remove the first letter or front (deface – nothing wrong with this as an instruction) from a homophone of blazer (sound jacket).

20 Ominous antics make one morally superior (13)
SANCTIMONIOUS – An anagram (make) of OMINOUS ANTICS.  The reverse applies here.  As a transitive verb it should grammatically MAKE X into the solution.

22 Reject nasal mucus and cut suffering in lymphoid tissue (6)
TONSIL – Reverse (reject) a word for nasal mucus and add a word meaning suffering or unwell with the final letter removed (cut).

23 On Sunday I gather books in return for change in Sofia (8)
STOTINKI – On the abbreviation for Sunday or Sabbath add a reversal of the I from the clue a word meaning gather (as in form wool into a network) and the abbreviation for the older part of the Bible.

25 In various games I find a type of prejudice (6)
AGEISM – An anagram (various) of GAMES I.

26 Arrange for school boy to take second half of module (8)
SCHEDULE – An abbreviation for school followed by a diminutive form of the name Edward and the second half of the word module.


1 Discontentment shown by upset partners, one afternoon, cutting short break (10)
GRUMPINESS – The best I can make of this is to reverse three bridge players, the I for one and PM for afternoon inside SURGE with the final letter removed.  I cannot see that surge means to break.  Partner’s would imply NS or WE or combinations.  On their own, they are bridge players not partners.

2 Either way silent (3)
MUM – A word that is a palindrome that means silent.

3 Charming young nymphos; I can arrange lascivious introductions? Doubtful! (7)
CYNICAL – The first letters (introductions) of the first seven words of the clue.

4 Responses to secret plans with bar charts (12)
COUNTERPLOTS – Another word for a bar or place where food or drink is served followed by another word for charts.

6 In conclusion, no measure requires end of digit (7)
TOENAIL – Another word meaning the conclusion or end of something includes a letter meaning no (I am not sure of the provenance of this letter meaning no – nothing is the usual indicator) and a printer’s measure.  I am not completely happy with the construction wordplay requires definition.  Surely to get to the definition you require the wordplay!

7 Ozzie giant, perhaps, I must sock horribly before knock out (2,9)
MT TKOSCIUSKO – An anagram (horribly) of I MUST SOCK followed by the abbreviation for knock out.  A point in compiling the grid where I would have started again in that corner to get something more reasonable as a solution.

8 Return of one’s present needs conditional order (4)
NISI – … a conditional order granted before a divorce is made absolute.  Reverse (return) I’S (one’s) and a word meaning present or at home.  Again, the construction wordplay needs definition seems to me to be the wrong way around.  Also the answer on its own is not the order, it describes an order or decree.

11 A jerk imprisons an aged NY relative – needs sorting! (12)
ANAGRAMATIC – The A from the clue and a word for a jerk or muscular spasm goes around how someone from New York might pronounce a North American Grandma.

13 Panic misuse produces powerlessness (11)
IMPUISSANCE – An anagram (produces) of PANIC MISUSE.

14 I’ve gone under a horse on consecutive Saturdays.  That’s brutal! (10)
AGGRESSIVE – The IVE from the clue goes underneath the A from the clue, a two letter repeated syllable that sounds like gee-gee (horse) a word meaning on or about and the abbreviation for Saturday repeated (consecutive).  The abbreviation S for Saturday is not one recognised by Chambers.

18 Couple’s sandwiches acceptable? Empty naan needs tuna (7)
TUNNIES – A word meaning couples or fastens together goes around (sandwiches) a letter meaning posh or acceptable and the outer letters (empty) of NaaN.  I protest at the misleading punctuation here.  Couple’s is not the same as couples and it is unfair to mislead in this way.  The construction wordplay needs definition has been commented on before.

19 Arched glass bottle; last third holds a French dry (7)
LUNETTE – The final two letters or third or bottle includes (holds) the French feminine form of A and the abbreviation for dry or teetotal.

21 Raise stake for volcano (4)
ETNA – Reverse a word for a stake for an Italian volcano.

24 American college found in Canadian Yukon (3)
NYU – The answer is hidden in CANADIAN YUKON.

28 comments on “Rookie Corner 051

  1. Well that certainly gave us a thorough workout and we suspect that Australian geographical pedants might be upset by the pre 1997 spelling used in 7d. Some clever and well disguised anagrams that took some unpicking. Lots to like but we will go for 15a as favourite because of its complicated wordplay.
    Thanks Unable Panda.

  2. Busy week for me, so it might take me a day or three to get round to this – but rest assured I will. And last week’s Rookie.

  3. Welcome back, Unable Panda.

    This was not an easy solve by any means and the clueing was noticeably more succinct and less contrived than your debut puzzle.

    Australian geography (pre 1997 or post 1997) didn’t help me with 7d as I confess never having heard of this before, likewise with 23a, so Google was necessary for these two.

    I’m still struggling to parse a small number of answers (5a and 6d in particular), so I’ll be interested to see what I’ve missed.

    I wasn’t convinced by the use of “endless” in 10a (where half the word concerned is missing?) or “deface” in 19a (meaning to remove the beginning of the word) but I’ll let the reviewer adjudicate on those. 20a is a great anagram, but a little too obvious sadly. I’m also not sure that Saturday and Sunday can be merely be abbreviated by their initials.

    I really loved 4d, 12a, and my favourite of all, 11d. Just imagining the aged relative described in a Bronx accent is a delight !

    A step-up for sure on your previous effort, Unable Panda, and I look forward very much to your next one. Many congratulations :-)

  4. Sorry Unable Panda but this crossword induced a lot of 1d first thing this morning.

    It appears to me to suffer from a common factor in cryptic crosswords created by ‘rookies’ “I am preparing a cryptic crossword, I must make the clues really cryptic” but the trouble is that they end up really hard to follow rather than cleverly cryptic. This puzzle also has a number of clues where you need General Knowledge to know the solution and then reverse engineer to understand the clues.

    I look forward to the next one.

    1. I wonder if it’s not more to do with the words actually in the grid. I’m well aware what a relief it is to have managed to shoe-horn words into a grid, but after a time you realise that it’s not enough to have filled the grid in: you actually have to make sure that the words you’ve picked are ones people have heard of.

      It’s my hypothesis that the chief determinant of how tough a puzzle is is the obscurity or otherwise of the grid entries, and this puzzle certainly has an awful lot of words few people use in conversation. The consequence of that is that you end up with words which have definitions which you can’t really get round, and that leaves you a lot less room to come up with ways of playing around with the letters and still end up with a vaguely coherent sentence. Clueing is easier when the word is well-known, especially because that is likely to mean that it’s got several senses and shades of meaning: the name of a scientific instrument (or whatever) is far less tractable.

  5. Just to be pedantic … why do 3d and 19d have semi-colons instead of colons?

    Thanks to Unable Panda!

  6. Hi Unable Panda,

    I found this to be pretty tricky, but nonetheless enjoyable, and much like Silvanus I had to resort to Google for 7d and 23a as I’d not heard of either of them. My favourite was probably 19d, but I also liked 26a, 4d, and 11d.

    I’d also say this was definitely an improvement on your first go.


  7. I’m officially throwing in the towel! Unable panda this was definitely a toughie and I was way out of depth. My favourite of the ones I understood was 22 across. Thanks very much

    1. That’s very unlike you, Beet ! If Sprocker and I can solve it, then you certainly can – hope you’ll keep going with it.

      1. It is very like me – most surfaces in my house are littered with half finished crosswords that have defeated me.

        So Unable Panda you are in good company with all the best setters! But in this case it does seem that it was tricky for even the best solvers so maybe make things a bit simpler next time – I know from experience that it is very hard to judge difficulty, and the answer seems so obvious when you have written the clue, but trust me they won’t be obvious and you can afford to make the wordplay a little simpler.

        Regarding obscure words – I don’t mind them and think learning something new is part of the joy of crosswords – but suggest you make the wordplay for them easy peasy so we have a fighting chance.

  8. LOLO as prolixic would say.
    There doesn’t seem to be many people around for this rookie.
    Well, I enjoyed it. Even if it took me a while and missed most of the replay of James Bond’s Octopussy. (1983 already!) and yet so modern! I’m only joking.
    Funny how 7d just jumped at me from the anagram and checking letters. We have, in France, a very famous ex government lady called NKM.
    13d has a totally different meaning here too. I’ll let you do a bit of research on it.
    But I like your choice of words like 13d, 14d, 1d and 3d. These are the kind of stages I go through when solving a crossword.
    Learned a bit more about Bulgaria. Thanks
    25a and 26a are the best for me along with 6d.
    Not sure about the A Lord being changed into ILD in 16a. Unless I’m wrong in my parsing.
    All in all, I think I had a good time.
    Thanks Unable Panda.

  9. I’m throwing my towel in with Beet’s and admitting defeat.
    I’ve battled with this one on and off all day – beastly weather so it’s kept me well and truly occupied so thanks for that.
    I found it really very tricky.
    I still have three across ones and four downs that I can’t do and a few other answers that I don’t understand.
    I have heard of 7d but had no idea how to spell it – Mr Google came up with an answer that didn’t quite sort the anagram so guessed.
    Also had to google 23a.
    My joint favourites were 22a and 3d.
    With thanks to the Unable Panda and thanks and admiration in advance to, I assume, Prolixic.

  10. I had a long comment prepared but I just can’t bring myself to be that negative in the Rookie Corner. Suffice to say, I have a number of issues with this. I await the review with interest.

    1. Hi Chris,
      I would like to hear what you have to say about some of the clues. That’s what the rookie is all about.
      I have a problem with parsing the 3 first letters of 14d, I only have the “one afternoon” bit in 1d, although the answer was quite clear I hope. The rest made sense to me apart from my comment on 16a. And maybe the abbreviation in 7d.

      1. The first three letters of 14 down represent a+ gee gee (a childish expression for a horse). The ‘re’ presumably indicates ‘on, as in ‘about’. The ‘aged NY relative in 11D was the tipping point for me. I am frequently irritated by what people who do not live in the United States consider common parlance. And to add insult to injury, I am a grandmother and no-one would dare to call me aged to my face!

      2. 14d: a “GG” is a horse, kiddie language.

        but 1d confused me, partners could be bridge partners, except they aren’t…

  11. Respect that you’ve managed to put this puzzle together and many thanks for sharing it. Quite an effort. The combination of some obscure answers, some imprecisions and vague definitions, and some adventurous clueing made this a difficult (and frustrating) solve for me. If the answer is obscure, I think the clue needs to be unambiguous to be fair. Parts were fun, but in general it seemed a bit ambitious, a bit obscure, with a few too many liberties for my taste. Might be interesting to try something without obscure answers? Looking forward to next puzzle

    Thanks again

  12. Stayed up late to get your review, Prolixic – many thanks. What a mess I made of this one! Only got about half-way through and even a couple of those turned out to be incorrect.
    Sorry, Unable Panda, this was well outside of my capabilities so I don’t feel able to give any constructive comments.

  13. Thanks for the review Prolixic. For me, this puzzle falls firmly under the category of what my mother would have called “too clever by half'”. Another favorite saying of hers was “You need to walk before you can run.” Sage advice.

  14. Thanks for the review prolixic. I wasn’t sure if some of my concerns would be shared by others. Here are a few, in the hope that they are useful.

    To me Manx (15a) does not mean remove the tail from, it means from the island. Manx cats are a breed of cat from the island. So whereas you can have manx cat giving “ca”, I think it is pushing it cryptically to have a manx mountain giving AL, which is a pity, because this clue is one of the better surface readings.

    I wasn’t happy with “alumni”(12a), since there was no reason the answer would not refer to current students or employees.

    I struggle a bit with two-stage cluing, though I know many would suggest it is only in an indirect anagram that it is a no-no. To deface a homophone (19a) I think is a stretch, though the answer is clear.

    I thought NYU (24d)was a lesser known abbreviation in crossword land – it was a clear answer, but I’m not sure abbreviations make good solutions.

    The obscure bulgarian currency, though reasonably indicated with sofia, would have been hard to get from the wordplay. I would never have seen “knit” without having first seen the answer.

    My favourite clues weren’t the hard ones, but the ones with nice surface, e.g. 26a (arrange for school boy) and 25a (in various games I find…)

    again, apologies for sharing concerns which might sound negative on a rookie page where I want to be encouraging above all else, I am hoping this is useful and that I can get some clarification myself.

    many thanks

  15. i have a system where i put a ring around the clues that i have an answer for but don’t know why & so that i can check against the review – for this puzzle there are 9 clues circled. nuff said.

  16. To be fair re 10a GOS is a shortened version of GOSS (which is in the BRB) so I actually think that is fair. Plus I am from the East End and we regularly use the word Goss but very rarely the full word Gossip .

    Thanks for review and puzzle

  17. Thanks to Prolixic for the review and explanations.
    And thanks again to Unable Panda for the effort to please I’m sure.
    With all this advice, I have no doubt that the next one will be even more enjoyable.

    1. Thank you all very much for your comments. There is lots of great advice which I will definitely be taking on board for future puzzles. This is all new to me so I’m very keen to learn from all your experiences. Thanks again.

      1. Well done Unable Panda – looking forward to your next one. Have we ever got to the bottom of your unusual moniker? It is screaming anagram at me but I can’t figure it out!

        1. Hi Beet – someone had a guess at a duo – Paula and Ben – but I don’t think we ever found out!

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