Rookie Corner 063 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 063

A Puzzle by Topdown

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

No, this is not another new setter!  CW has asked that in the future his puzzles are published under the pseudonym Topdown.  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.

Prolixic has updated his document entitled “A brief guide to the construction of cryptic crossword clues” which can be downloaded, in pdf format, from the Rookie Corner index page or by clicking below.

Download asa Word file

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Topdown (the setter formerly known as CW).  This was a gentle crossword and largely well clued and accessible.  There were a few areas where the clues did not read very well as sentences in their own right or where the cryptic grammar was strained.


1 Fly set in flying set (6)
TSETSE – The first SET from the clue goes inside an anagram (flying) of the second SET.

5 Rotter (communist) trailing backward officer took place (8)
OCCURRED – A three letter word for a rotter or cad and another three letter word for a communist go after (trailing) a reversal (backward) of the abbreviation for a commanding officer.

9 Uneasily, guard for headless bird of prey guts lammergeiery (9)
AWKWARD – The first seven letters (if split 3,4) might describe a headless hark under guard.  The final two letters are the outer letters (guts) of lammergeiery.  There are several issues with the final indicator.  Lammergeire is a bearded vulture but there the word in the clue is a made up adjective as far as I can see and setters should not make up words to fit the clues.  The deletion indicator does not quite work.  Gutting would be better or remove guts of…  A reworking of the clue might be “Uneasily guard headless bird before Lory has its innards removed” would give a better clue.

10 Want directions to newspaper boss (4)
NEED – Two compass directions followed by the abbreviation for editor (newspaper boss).

11 Eastern Australia begins operating safari in places to keep animals (4)
ZOOS – A reversal (eastern) of the two letter word for Australia followed by the first letters (begins) of Operating Safari.  As eastern can mean from the East, this is a valid reversal indicator.  However, some editors would have an issue with “begins” as an initial letter indicator as you would need beginning to to give the clue grammatical sense.  Perhaps a reworking of the clue could be “Eastern Austrialia starts to operate safaris in places to keep animals”.

13 Metal fork prong missing end (3)
TIN – Remove the last letter (missing end) from a word meaning the prong of a fork.

14 Greek character describes reserve force (5)
THETA – Split 3,2, the answer would read a description (with the definite article) of the volunteer army that we must now refer to the The Army Reserves.

15 Gloucestershire town street surprisingly dour (6)
STROUD – The abbreviation for street followed by an anagram (surprisingly) of DOUR.

16 Accountant officer picks up help for award (8)
ACCOLADE – A two letter abbreviation for an accountant followed by an abbreviation for colonel and a homophone (picked up) of AID (help).  Chambers gives only ACC as an abbreviation for accountant, not AC, which would leave OL as the abbreviation for officer but there is no abbreviation as such in Chambers either.

18 Operate freight – this much needs doing (8)
WORKLOAD – A word meaning operate followed by another word for freight or cargo.

20 The state of inflamed tonsils of five siblings unknown (6)
QUINSY – Another word for five siblings born together and a letter used in algebra to represent an unknown.

21 Right – a religious African animal (5)
OKAPI – A two letter word meaning right or acceptable followed by the A from the clue and a two letter word used to describe someone who is religious.

23 Snake on empty airline (3)
BOA – Put an O (empty meaning having nothing in) inside the abbreviation for British Airways.  The construction definition on wordplay does not work.

24 Bubbly second film… (4)
MOET – A two letter word for a second or jiffy followed by the most famous film in crossword land.  As other have commented, the ellipsis here is not required.

25 Wine – six not out (4)
VINO – The Roman numerals for six followed by the abbreviation for not out.

26 Heretics when whipped taste soap (9)
APOSTATES – An anagram (whipped) of TASTE SOAP.  The construction definition when wordplay does not quite work.

28 Lines back in a ship chap gets a dialect of Aramaic (8)
ASSRYIAN – The A from the clue, the abbreviation for steamship and a man’s name (chap) include a reversal (back) of the abbreviation for railway (lines).  Although the wordplay is clear, the definition here is a little obscure.

29 Hush! It’s very loud inside carrier (6)
MUFFLE – The musical abbreviation for very loud goes inside another word for an animal carrier or a drug runner.


2 What are the odds on a health resort? (3)
SPA – The abbreviation for starting price (what are the odds) followed by the A from the clue.

3 Remove all cattle to make an assessment (4,5)
TAKE STOCK – A double definition of what cattle rustlers do and a phrase meaning to make an assessment.

4 Performed directions – role-played (7)
ENACTED – Two compass directions followed by a meaning role-played.  As directions for the two letters concerned has already been used in 10a, a different indicator should be used here.  The second part of the wordplay is very similar to the solution and a clearer separation between the two would be better.

5 Deviser of basic English in blog denial (5)
OGDEN – The answer is hidden in BLOG DENIAL.

6 This crossword, for example, is obscure in meaning (7)
CRYPTIC – A single definition displayed in two ways.

7 Called European mountains (5)
RANGE – A word meaning called followed by the abbreviation for European.

8 Rock the French hides is Ireland (7,4)
EMERALD ISLE – A type of rock or jewel followed by the IS from the clue inside (hides) the French masculine form of the.

12 Doctrines to be followed – alternatively I do hot sex wildly (11)
ORTHODOXIES – A two letter word meaning alternatively followed by an anagram (wildly) of I DO HOT SEX.

16 Singular set of papers help (3)
AID – An A (singular) followed by a word meaning a set of papers (or a singular piece of paper in some cases!).

17 In French the word surrounds it, maybe a theme (9)
LEITMOTIF – The French masculine form of the and the French for word go around (surround) the IT from the clue and this is followed by a word meaning maybe.  I am not sure that maybe could be used replace “if”.

19 Soldiers above how an American serviceman could describe himself – rising paperwork (7)
ORIGAMI – A reversal (rising) of IM A GI (how an American serviceman could describe himself) and the abbreviation for Ordinary Ranks (soldiers).

20 Least possible amount – two pints, Cardinal replaces right with hesitation (7)
QUANTUM – A word for two pints with the R replaced by an N (Cardinal) followed by a two letter word used when expressing an hesitation.  Perhaps requiring the solver to get from Cardinal to Number to N as the abbreviation for number is stretching it a bit.

22 Previously, American city hurt (5)
AGONY – A three letter word meaning previously followed by the abbreviation for New York.

23 Swedish chap came into this world around the beginning of July (5)
BJORN – The first letter (beginning of) July inside a word meaning came into the world.  Came into the world would usually mean was born.

27 Star sold short (3)
SOL – Remove the final letter (short) from the middle letter in the clue.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner 063

  1. We spotted the PANGRAM and the NINA.
    On the gentle side. The only slight hold-up we had was in the SE corner with 20d and hence the starting letter of 29a. Soon sorted though. We’ll go for these as our favourites.
    Thanks Topdown.

  2. I read 2 kiwis comment first otherwise the nina and pangram would probably have escaped my attention as I never spot them unless given a nudge. It felt quite tricky in terms of wordplay, but in terms of time I raced through it (most unlike me) – even where the wordplay was complex the definitions seemed to jump out at me. Maybe I was just on the setter’s wavelength today. 29a was my favourite. Many thanks Topdown

  3. I am most impressed. All the clueing is fair and works, you’ve beautifully managed to avoid the rookie trap of making things diabolically difficult, and to boot you’ve thrown in not only a PANGRAM, but also a NINA! What a spectacular effort! RESPECT. The puzzle was solved reasonably quickly though it was certainly not a write-in, I would say that is a pretty good level. First one in was 2d, last one in was 11a (I wasn’t completely sure about “eastern” as a reversal indicator). The clues I particularly liked include 1a (fly), 10a (want directions), 13a (metal fork), 14a (greek character – I really liked “describes”), 18a (operate freight), 24a (bubbly – very nice – though not sure why you have the ellipses), 29a (hush), 17d (In french the word), 23d (swedish chap) & 27d (star sold short – had me looking for a synonym of sold!).

    I was wondering whether “are hiding” might work better than “hides” in 8d.

    Brilliant, well done Topdown! very enjoyable, thank you for sharing with us, and looking forward to your next one

    1. The ellipses indicate that the answer to 24 is a type of the answer to 25, do they not?

      1. maybe (though not quite the same league?) – if so, wouldn’t you expect ellipses at the start of 25?

  4. Thanks to Topdown for a gentle puzzle and well done on incorporating both a pangram and a Nina. My main suggestion is that you should try to make some of your surfaces a bit smoother – there are a few clues here where the surface doesn’t mean a great deal (e.g. 25a, 28a and 19d). My favourite clue was 29a.

  5. Only had to use electronic help to check 20a from the parsing.
    Peritonsillar abscess! The pictures almost put me off my lunch.
    It’s always good to spot a pangram coming. It did help to get the last two 20a and d. Thought it would start with a V originally.
    Haven’t spotted the Nina yet but still working on it.
    3d made me laugh.
    Thanks to Topdown for the fun.

  6. Like Beet, I probably would have missed the Nina too, as it was not where I was expecting it!

    I agree with Dutch that all the clues can be readily parsed, but when several of the surfaces are either contrived or clunky at best (19d, 20d, 28a for example) and when some clues make little grammatical sense (8d certainly and 5a possibly) this seriously devalues the puzzle for me.

    Having said that, credit is due to the setter for some inventive cluing in other areas, although I felt that 6d and 27d were both rather weak and the use of “directions” (for the same compass points incidentally) twice in 4d and 10a ought to have been avoided. My favourite clue was 24a.

    Lammergeier was a new word for me, and lammergeiery (if it exists) would presumably be a place where such birds are bred? I say “if it exists”, because I couldn’t find it in Chambers and Google provides this puzzle as the principal point of reference for the word!

    Many thanks,Topdown.

  7. I, too, thought it was a touch on the gentle side, but very enjoyable nonetheless. I like the fact that the nina is also an indicator of what the puzzle is. I did think that the 6D was a bit weak. I liked 15A because I know the place, but 29A is my favorite. Until I solved that one, I was having difficulty with 29D, having penciled in ‘quarter’ early on but not at all convinced it was right. Good job, Topdown!

  8. Thanks Topdown for a great puzzle which was not entirely easy.I liked most of the clues , including 1a, 23d, 24a, and 3d.
    I never heard of 20 a, but it fitted .28a , that that language is a dialect of Aramic is news to me.
    Anyway, very well done.

  9. Hi Topdown,

    Nice crossword. I got most of it. Seemed pretty sound. A few quibbles:

    Why the ellipsis in 24a?
    Though I like 23d, I’m not sure ‘born’ is a synonym of ‘came into this world’, but rather ‘was born’
    In 4d ‘performed’ and ‘role-played’ both mean the same thing, making the clue less satisfying.
    Is ‘if’ a valid synonym for ‘maybe’ in 17d?

    I didn’t finish the crossword so didn’t spot the NINA. My fave was probably 12d.

  10. I thought this was good fun and, as others have already said, on the gentle side – I’m not complaining!
    Just for once, and it really might be the first time, I did spot the pangram and it even helped me to get 11a.
    I completely missed the Nina and would still be hunting for it if Expat Chris hadn’t said what she did about it – thanks to her.
    I liked 29a and 23d.
    With thanks and well done to Topdown.

  11. Thanks Topdown,

    This was definitely on the gentler side of the spectrum (which will get no quibbles from me). As others have commented maybe some of the surfaces could have been a bit smoother (though as Prolixic has previously pointed out you’ll get more sympathy with that, than for invalidating the wordplay when trying too hard to make a surface work). I’m not sure that 23a across really works for me.

    My favourite was 12d.

    I was also pleased once I read the comments to realise that I have maintained my flawless record of spotting Nina’s (i.e. I’ve still never spotted one until it was pointed out to me). Good work also on getting in the Pangram without resorting to lots of obscurities.

  12. I’m just a mid-level solver who knows nothing about the rules of setting cryptics (frankly, they confuses the heck out of me. When folks talk about indirect anagrams and &lits and so forth, it’s as if they were talking in a foreign language!), but I’m pretty sure of this just from life experience: achieving consistently smooth surface reading (that one I do understand) that makes grammatical sense is a skill honed with time. I’m betting Rufus wasn’t as good as he is now when he first started out. Better a clue that’s pitched at the right level but a bit clunky than a clue that’s what my mother would have called trying to be too clever by half. And there have been a few of those in the Rookie corner!

  13. Thank you, Topdown. I enjoyed this very much, and I agree that it was pitched at the right level of difficulty for Rookie Corner. 1a was my favourite.

    Thank you too to Prolixic for the review which explained a couple of things that puzzled me slightly. By the way there is a small error in your review for 27a – it should read “Remove the final letter (short) from the middle word in the clue”.

  14. Thoroughly enjoyable & worthy of a back pager any day of the week. I’m rubbish at spotting ‘ninas’ so please would somebody give me a nudge or a massive shove might be better this morning as the labyrinthitis is back & I feel ropy.

    1. Sorry you’re feeling poorly. Have a look at the letters in the second row across the puzzle.

        1. That’s exactly how I describe it on the couple of occasions I’ve suffered. Like you were at a really good party the night before but haven’t had the fun or the alcohol.

          1. I’ve just bent down to get a print out & I stumbled across the room as if I’d had 10 pints of Miffypop’s finest ! I think I’ll cancel the rest of the day due to lack of interest.

    2. I had to look that up because I’ve no heard of it before. Sounds most unpleasant. Hope you feel better soon.

  15. Thanks Prolixic for the useful review, plenty of tips for us all.

    In 20d, I parsed cardinal = cardinal point, as in compass point = N

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