Rookie Corner – 065 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 065

A Puzzle by Starhorse

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week I am pleased to add another new name to Rookie Corner – so give a welcome to Starhorse. 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.

The quality of the work that new setters are producing for the Rookie corner is more often than not exceptionally good for those who are beginners in the arcane arts of creating cryptic crosswords.  Starhorse has proved this once again with an accomplished debut.  My thanks to the setter for an entertaining crossword.  There are a few clues where I have added comments but these are merely to polish what is a good crossword.


1 I covered ground for former spouse (8)
DIVORCEE – An anagram (ground) of I COVERED.

5 Alarm when father starts fire naked (6)
FRIGHT – A two letter abbreviation for father followed by the inner letters (naked) of a word meaning starts fire.

8 Troublemaker‘s Y chromosome? (10)
MALEFACTOR – Split 4, 6 this describes the role of the Y chromosome.

9 This yarn might stand up in court (4)
SILK – A double definition, the second being another word for Queen’s Counsel who would stand up to address the court.

10 Newfoundland backs Cameron? It’s unbelievable! (6,3,5)
SHAGGY DOG STORY – The type of hairy pet of which a Newfoundland is an example followed by, I think, another word meaning backs which is then shortened to its common abbreviation followed by the political persuasion of David Cameron.  If I have understood the wordplay correctly, we have a clue to a clue as you need to find the synonym of backs and then an abbreviation for the synonym.  Clues to a clue are generally not used in crosswords like this.  The alternative, as used in 11 across is that backs is a positional indicator but this leaves a singular cluing a plural phrase which is not correct.

11 Composer backs Cameron? No it’s deceptive (8)
DELUSORY – The name of a composer probably best known of “On hearing the first cuckoo of spring” goes before (backs) by the political persuasion of David Cameron (as in 10a) removing from the letters the I and T from the “it” in the clue.  Repeating a wordplay element like Cameron is usually frowned upon but I think that it works here as 10a and 11a work as pair of clues where the alliteration is part of the appeal.

13 Cross-examine soldier with a suspicious attitude (6)
ASKANT – A three letter word meaning question or cross-examine followed by one of crossword land’s favourite insect soldiers.

15 Spoil a garment (small not regular) (6)
COSSET – A type of undergarment with the R (regular) replaced by an S (small).  The abbreviation of R for regular is not supported by Chambers Dictionary but then neither is S for small!  Collins gives S for small but I cannot find a reference to R for regular in Collins or Oxford On-Line dictionaries.  It is usual only to use abbreviations contained in one of the major dictionaries.

18 Promising report private office takes time to reject (8)
TALENTED – Another word for a report or story followed by another word for a private office or lair in which you include the abbreviation for time and reverse the letters (to reject).  Probably personal preference but I would have preferred … takes time over here.

22 ET may be risqué! (5,2,3,4)
CLOSE TO THE BONE – First split the ET (the exclamation mark tells us something fishy is going on) and then create an inverse clue (the 5,2,3 part) that might give the letter E as an answer and then add as the 4 part a part of an animal cut of meat that might be described as a T.  The need both to lift and separate and to create an inverse clue both indicated by the may be and exclamation mark may not find favour with all editors.

23 Bitter sweet? (4)
TART – Double definition time with the second being a kind of dessert / sweet.

24 Daughter’s visiting Lazio-based buddy, and possibly mum or dad… (10)
PALINDROME – Put the abbreviation for daughter inside a phrase (3,2,4) that might describe a friend in Lazio.

25 … coming to let off steam after endless bother (6)
ADVENT – Another word meaning to let off steam or other gasses follows a word meaning bother or fuss with the final letter removed (endless).

26 Very warm in a tie (4,4)
DEAD HEAT – Another word for very as in “He’s very gorgeous” followed by a word meaning to warm something.


1 Bequeathed by deeds amended to include note (7)
DEMISED – An anagram (amended) of DEEDS includes a two letter note on the musical scale.

2 Maybe watches John returning to America carrying can (9)
VALUABLES – Reverse (returning) a three letter word for a toilet or john and follow this by a two letter abbreviation for America inside which (carrying) you add a word meaning can.  Can and able are not directly synonymous.  Able requires the verb to be fulfil its function “I am able to swim” and “I can swim”.

3 Retreats from European city after brother’s expulsion overseen by official (7)
REFUGES – A city in Belgium has the abbreviation for brother removed (expulsion) and another word for an official at a football match but before it (overseen in a down clue).

4 Enigma, perhaps in French or German, describing Churchillian leader (7)
ENCODER – The French word for “in” and the German word for “or” include the first letter (leader) of Churchillian.

5 Head off at the end everyone that could follow Nottingham (9)
FORESTALL – Another word meaning everyone goes after (at the end) a word that could follow Nottingham if you are a football fan.

6 Available this month: well-dressed Conservative (2,5)
IN STOCK – The abbreviation for this month followed by the abbreviation for Conservative around which you add a word meaning well (well-dressed).

7 Kingfisher that’s seen better days? (7)
HALCYON – A double definition, the first being an old word for a Kingfisher.

12 Ten photos developed instantly (2-3-4)
ON-THE-SPOT – An anagram (developed) of TEN PHOTOS.

14 Having stepped inside we left breathtaking sports venue (9)
ASTRODOME – A word meaning stepped goes inside a word meaning breathtaking from which the WE is removed (we left).

16 It provides fruit, alternatively a vegetable (7)
ORCHARD – A two letter word meaning alternatively followed by a type of green leafy vegetable.

17 Dog that’s following naturalist (7)
SCOTTIE – The name of a naturalist followed by the abbreviation for “that is” or that’s.

19 A way of playing piano with legs apart (7)
ASTRIDE – The A from the clue followed by a way of playing jazz piano.

20 Revised text of letter completed (7)
EMENDED – The phonetic spelling of the letter M followed by a word meaning completed.

21 Flower blight common to Lake Baikal and the River Congo (7)
DEEPEST – A three letter river (flower) followed another word for blight.  I think that the definition here requires too much general knowledge of quite a specialist kind.

30 comments on “Rookie Corner – 065

  1. On my own this week and found this one really tricky, particularly the SE corner which stared back blankly at me for a very long time. Eventually made a bit of progress when Google helped me find an interesting common fact about the two bodies of water in 21d. Interesting but perhaps hardly general knowledge one would expect solvers to have. A bit of a stretch too with 14d where the wordplay requires one to find a synonym for a word in the clue and remove two letters from inside it. With 11a, the letters for removal are not together in the answer which is confusing. 15a seems to use an abbreviation that I could not find in BRB, but I did enjoy this clue. Still have not twigged the wordplay for 22a. To my reasoning the last word should end with a different letter to fit the wordplay, but suspect I am missing something there.
    That said, I did find a lot to enjoy in this puzzle and have put marks beside 5d and 10a as specially amusing.
    Thanks Starhorse.

  2. I thought that this was quite tricky with some inventive and devious wordplay. I enjoyed it a lot – thanks Starhorse. The clues I’ve picked out are 9a, 22a, 24a and 6d.
    There are a few bits which I don’t think quite work, e.g. can/able in 2d and using R as an abbreviation for regular in 15, but these are minor points in what is a very good puzzle.

  3. I agree with the consensus so far that it was somewhat tricky, although I found the bottom half easier than the top.

    I share the two minor quibbles which Gazza raised, but overall I felt that the surface readings were of particularly high quality for a debut puzzle and it was definitely a pleasurable one to solve.

    The verb in 1d was new to me, I’ve only previously seen its present tense/infinitive form used as a noun. I also hadn’t come across the kingfisher’s alternate ego before, except when meaning “pleasant time/happier days”.

    My selection of favourites would be 9a, 10a, 24a and 3d. The full parsing of 14d is escaping me at present.

    Congratulations and thanks to Starhorse and welcome to the Rookie “Stable”.

    1. 14d, try starting with “we left breathtaking”….I wonder if I was helped by having young kids…

      1. Thanks, Dutch – got it now, very cleverly clued. For some reason I was determined to fit in “strode” rather than “trod” !

        As you say, most youngsters seem to use this alternative to “breathtaking” these days.

  4. I found this to be very tricky, and did need a fair bit of electronic assistance. I’m also left with several clues that I can’t work out the parsing for.

    Lots in here to like though – for me I particularly liked 8a, 16d and 22a.

    Thanks Starhorse!

  5. A very high quality puzzle. It was NW that was my last in. (12d was foi). Some absolutely wonderful clues, I thought 17d was pure delight (dog that’s following naturalist) and I though 24a (daughter’s visiting..) was brilliant. Lots of cleverly disguised definitions, and lots of good surface. I ticked 1a, 13a, 15a, 22a, 24a, 25a, 2d, 4d, 6d, 17d, 20d as clues I particularly liked, but I thought they were all pretty amazing.

    I wondered whether the alter-ego silvanus mentioned in 7d is a true alias, or a coincidental reference to one of our regular commenters? intrigue..

    Not easy! but not diabolical either, so I found this on the harder side, with some very satisfying moments.

    I was confused by the “backs” in 10a and 11a, which was my only concern – though I did also notice the comments that KiwiColin made that added to the difficulty.

    I still have a question mark next to 19d which I have yet to parse fully – whoops, ah, just got it with a quick look at brb. I look forward to the review.

    Many thanks Starhorse and congratulations on a superb debut puzzle

  6. I thought this was really tricky. I now have an answer for every clue but there are lots that I don’t understand.
    I’ve enjoyed doing it very much and thought there were some really good clues – 24a and 3, 6, 7 and 12d. My favourite of the ones I understand was 17d.
    With thanks and congratulations to Starhorse – I look forward to the review to sort out my many problem answers.

  7. Really struggling here – 6 definites and 2 maybes. Thought at first it was simply because I stayed up late to make a start last night and was too tired, but it doesn’t look any easier today!
    Took time out to do Jay’s excellent Monday puzzle and restore some belief in myself – will now make a concerted effort to improve my performance with this one. Right now, I’d settle for getting into double figures on clues solved.

      1. Yep – just realised the stupid mistake. Have apologised on the Monday blog but forgot I’d done the double whammy over here.
        This Rookie is obviously getting to me………..

        1. What a difference a day makes – or in this case an extra hour! Finished it.

          Lots of ‘ticks’ including 8,9&10a plus 6,7,16,17&21d – although I did need Mr. Google for 21d. What an amazing body of water Lake Baikal seems to be.
          7d I knew from talks I’ve attended about birds from foreign parts but would think the parsing was a bit tricky for non-birders.
          1a was a real penny-drop moment and also the one that got me back on track with the solve.

          Thank you so much, Starhorse – a brilliant debut and hopefully more to come.

  8. This puzzle didn’t help my insomnia at 2:30 this morning … couldn’t start for ages and found it very difficult to sleep after not being able to finish.

    But 24a was a very clever clue! The “Lazio” connection reminded me of Gazza! ( Not our one – the other one!)

  9. I particularly enjoyed solving 2d, 21d, 24a and 4d ; I think they are all very clever without being too clever.
    19d brought me to a complete halt , it shouldn’t have done.
    Thanks Starhorse.

  10. Hi folks

    Many thanks to all who have had a go at this – especially those who had to really persist to get it completed – the feedback is much appreciated. I’ll be interested to see what the blog reveals when it’s posted.

    I was expecting the R=Regular query. It doesn’t seem to be in the books even though it’s all over Marks & Spencer’s as I know from every time I need to buy a pair of trousers – hundreds of 34R, very few 34S! (Starhorse is an anagram…..) As I am using it in its normal context here (i.e. garments) I hope it would be allowable on a sort of “Common Law” basis.

    And the GK issue is always a bit of a thorny one. I didn’t know the kingfisher/halcyon origin, something a classicist undoubtedly would regard as easy. On the other hand the Lake Baikal one I did know. As ever you can please some of the people some of the time….

    I’ll pop back after the blog’s been posted and answer any more queries/issues if needs be.

    I’m encouraged that quite a wide range of clues have been mentioned as liked.

    Thanks again for your responses.

    1. Welcome Starhorse – I’d already wondered if you were vertically challenged once I’d put your alias into an anagram solver

    2. Hi Starhorse,
      Don’t need to be a classicist – a Halcyon is a brightly coloured tropical Asian/African Kingfisher.

  11. Big Dave seems to have an endless supply of brand new Rookies, and it’s great to see so many new debutantes. I thought this one was very good, albeit a little but trickier than my normal comfort zone. Unlike Silvanus, I did fairly well with the top half and struggled more with the bottom. My favourites were 9 and 24 a, 12 d. In relation to 21d, I didn’t know the required fact, but with the wordplay one could make an educated guess, so it was fair in my book. I look forward to your next one Starhorse.

  12. Difficult to comment fully, as I’ve managed the NW corner plus about 4 others, but all the clues read really well, great surfaces. I really liked 8 and 10 of the ones I’ve done, but everyone seems to have different favourites which, as you say, has to be good. I like your common-law argument – I think it’s a fair call.
    Great stuff, many thanks.

  13. We seem to be back on the rookie toughie trail.
    It’s over for me and far from finished.
    Will wait for the review.
    Good night all and thanks to Starhorse.

    1. H Jeani, I’m sorry you found it “tough” rather than just “tricky”. Can you put your finger on why in particular? There are quite a few double or cryptic definitions, and I must admit when I’m solving I can find them hard to crack if there’s no wordplay; so I wonder if the balance is a bit too biased towards them. By contrast I think there’s only 2 full anagrams.

      1. Hi starhorse,
        It’s true that for me there isn’t much difference between tough and tricky.
        Specially when it comes to idioms.
        For 22a, I was looking for a word ending in T for the second word.
        In 3d, European city was quite vague as the BR could have been anywhere in the name like the awesome without the we in 14d which to me is a typical toughie clue. 5a and 7d also fall in this category.
        I did enjoy having a good go at it though but to be able to complete I feel I needed to know a bit more about your way of thinking.
        Thanks for the challenge and to prolixic for the review.

  14. Just finished, and it was a slog in places. 2D was the last one in. A couple where the answer couldn’t be anything but, though the parsing escapes me. I thought it was ambitious for a rookie debut, with some very good clues and some that just didn’t float my boat. Is it just me, or is there a superfluous letter in 10A? 7D has come up in cryptic crosswords before, so I knew it. My favorites (pending the review) are 8A, which took me an age to see, and 24A. Thanks Starhorse. You gave me a workout today.

  15. Thanks Prolixic for the usual excellent review. I’ll have to remember that “backs” can mean comes before as well as after, under (supports), and reversed – a new one for me. Actually it’s beginning to ring a bell, I remember now that if you say back-to-back you can have something facing in each direction.

  16. Many thanks Prolixic for the review and the kind words. I’ve also had a look through your “brief guide” pdf which is just about the clearest guide to setting that I’ve seen, and much appreciated.

    Looks like I need to clarify what I intended with the two Cameron clues

    10a Newfoundland backs Cameron?

    is meant to be read as “SHAGGY DOG’S TORY” i.e. “backs” as in “votes for”. So the only “wordplay” really is to remove the apostrophe.

    11a Composer backs Cameron?

    is supposed to be read similarly i.e. DELIUS’S TORY, from which IT’S is removed (“No it’s”).

    To be honest I hadn’t considered the possibility that “backs” would misdirect people and given the puzzle seems to be quite tricky already then on reflection “supports” would have been fairer. Sorry! Maybe in a while I’ll be revising it to “Newfoundland supports Boris….”

    Just as a footnote, I was really struggling to find a workable clue for “Encoder” until we had a day out at the Bletchley Park exhibition. For anyone within reach it’s well worth a visit, and if two travel by train one can get in free.

  17. Many thanks to Prolixic for the review and to Starhorse for his feedback.
    For once, I’d got the intended parsing for 10&11a, but certainly didn’t get the full parsing for 22a!
    To be honest, I’d also have struggled to unravel the word play in 14d had it not been for the input from Dutch’s youngsters!

    Obviously we have no idea of how long is spent by a Rookie in the compilation of their debut puzzle. I often wonder whether they find it extremely challenging to compile subsequent offerings, especially when they have set their own standards as high as some of our recent ‘newbies’.

    1. “I often wonder whether they find it extremely challenging to compile subsequent offerings,”

      Yes, I’m wondering that too…!

      Obviously I can’t speak for others who come on here but whilst I am a “rookie” in the sense BD defines it I have been messing around writing a few clues for some months now, so not entirely a “novice”. Someone recommended this site a few weeks ago, and I’m glad they did, but even if I had seen it a few months earlier I probably wouldn’t have felt confident enough to put a puzzle up for public scrutiny until now.

      This puzzle started with the first Cameron clue around election time, and the ET one. It developed from there but only intermittently, so it’s hard to say how long it took. Certainly not done in the two or three days I imagine proper setters have to achieve to meet their deadlines!

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