Rookie Corner – 068 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 068

A Puzzle by Snape

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Snape returns with his second puzzle. 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.

I was unable to blog Snape’s first crossword but was looking forward to blogging the second.  It was worth the wait.  The crossword was a joy to solve and had far fewer problems with the wordplay than the first one.


1 Outspoken athlete and life peer, doing time, fall together (8)
COINCIDE – A homophone (outspoken) of COE (athlete and life peer) INSIDE (doing time).

5 Organise male, 32, for example (6)
MANAGE – Another word for a male followed by what 32 is an example of, in terms of how old you are.

9 Smuggling genuine pot is made relatively beneficial (8)
NEPOTISM – The answer is hidden in (smuggling) GENUINE POT IS MADE.  The smuggling at the beginning is slightly Yoda like but works.  You get “conveying secretly – genuine pot is made [is] relatively beneficial but it is not the smoothest of cryptic readings.

10 Sweetens Alan and Ray Robinson? (6)
SUGARS – The surname of Alan (from Amstrad and the Apprentice fame) and the first part of the name of Ray Robinson (of boxing fame) in the plural.

12 Cold electrician loses head (5)
PARKY – Remove the first letter (loses head) of an informal term for an electrician.  Chambers gives only sparks or sparkie as the informal term for an electrician.  As a student lighting college productions I was only ever known as the sparks – at least the among the polite names! 

13 Liver transplant? I came in for a drug that reduces enzyme activity (9)
INHIBITOR – Another word for a person who dwells somewhere (liver) with the A replaced by an I (transplant – I came in for A).  I don’t mind the extended swapping but perhaps the ? could have been replaced by a hyphen as in the explanation to make it slightly smoother.

14 Checked around – she says it didn’t happen (6)
DENIER – Reverse a word meaning checked.  I think that he hyphen here makes is clear that it is the first word that is to be reversed.

16 Laura’s erratically taking drug, most of the time (2,1,4)
AS A RULE – An anagram (erratically) of LAURAS including an E (taking drug – Ecstasy).

19 Mad OAP thrown out, reputation in tatters, becoming more insane (7)
NUTTIER – An anagram (in tatters) of REPUTATION after removing the letters in OAP.  Mad is a subsidiary anagram indicator to tell the solver that the letters in OAP are not in the same order in the main word.

21 Has recovered from party to perform excessively (6)
OVERDO – Split 4,2, the answer could indicates having recovered from party.

23 Agreed on a fruity drink (9)
ORANGEADE – An anagram (fruity) of AGREED ON A.

25 Warning: Spoonerism, reversal, hidden word (5)
SIREN – The answer is hidden and reversed inside SPOONERISM.

26 Members of cast rally around stars (6)
ASTRAL – The answer is hidden inside (members … around) of CAST RALLY.  The solution is an adjective but the definition is a noun.  Members of would be a sufficient hidden word indicator and for a continuation of the wordplay include might have been better than around.

27 Not worried about meeting heartless judge (8)
CAREFREE – A two letter word meaning about followed by a match official (judge) with the middle letter removed (heartless).

28 Cut physical activity without hesitation (6)
EXCISE – Remover two letter word used to express a hesitation from a word meaning physical exercise.

29 Discard what might be happening when you put another dime in the jukebox, baby (8)
JETTISON – Split 4,2,2, this would give the name of the singer playing whose lyrics included “Put another dime in the jukebox, baby”.  Although the answer was clear from the checking letters, I think that the wordplay itself requires too much specialist knowledge of singers and their works.  Although checking letters can help the solver, a good test of fairness is to ask whether the solver could reasonably be expected to understand the clue without the benefit of the checking letters and access to Google.


1 Able to mimic starter (6)
CANAPE – A word meaning able to followed by a word meaning to mimic.

2 Wanting the view of a narcissist (9)
IMPERFECT – Split 2, 7, this could be a statement that a self-absorbed person might make.

3 Absent-minded? Scratch the head and become spiteful (5)
CATTY – Remove the first letter (scratch the head) from a word meaning absent minded.  A very minor point but wordplay and become definition jars slightly.  Perhaps “Scratch the head becoming spiteful” would be better.

4 File does less work? (7)
DOSSIER – If doss is to do little work, someone (fancifully – indicated by the question mark) to do less work might be this word for a file.  I know that this does not quite work as doss on its own is not an adjective so you cannot really transform it to a comparative adjective but I have a soft spot for this inane type of clue!

6 Outline a stupid place (9)
ADUMBRATE – The A from the clue followed by a four letter word (no not that type of four letter word!) meaning stupid and a word meaning to assign a place or ranking to something.  I think that the clue is fine without the “of”.

7 What an actor has isolated (5)
APART – Split 1, 4 this is what an actor has.

8 Put out, made a big effort to welcome son (8)
EXSERTED – A seven letter word meaning made a big effort includes (to welcome) the abbreviation for son.

11 Hear about bird (4)
RHEA – An anagram (about) of HEAR.

15 I serenade girl to clarify things – I use this (9)
ISINGLASS – The I from the clue followed by a word meaning to serenade and a word for a girl.

17 Soft throws may be smelly (9)
UNDERARMS – The part of the body that may be smells gives a type of bowling considered to be soft.

18 Secretly constrain Nova test drive change (8)
INNOVATE – The answer is hidden in CONSTRAIN NOVA TEST.  I think that four hidden answer clues in a puzzle is a few too many.

20 Interpreted freehand evenly (4)
READ – The even letters in FREEHAND.

21 The centre-left is following dramatic musical work (7)
OPERATE – Remove the middle letter (centre-left) from THE and put the remaining letters after a word for a dramatic musical.

22 Work experience student removed damaged mail from Italian football team (6)
INTERN – From the name of a football team removed an anagram (damaged) of MAIL and the remaining letter give you your answer.

24 Father abandons desperate caper (5)
ANTIC – Remove the two letter abbreviation for father (as in a Catholic priest) from a word meaning desperate.

25 Four points in a row brushed aside (5)
SWEPT – Three of the point of the compass followed by the abbreviation for point.

65 comments on “Rookie Corner – 068

  1. We feel very pleased with ourselves because, with a bit of help from Mr Google, we managed to sort out the wordplay for 29a despite it being all new to us. A really good fun puzzle to solve with clever clues and good surface readings. Quite a job to sort out a favourite with many clues vying for contention but will opt for 9a.
    Thanks Snape, well done.

  2. Nice solve – quite a few nifty wordplays. As some revealed themselves I was put on the lookout for others.

    Smiles from 1a, 9a;
    Enjoyable niftiness in 13a and 21d. I don’t recall seeing “centre-left” as an innardsdeleticator before.

    In both cases they’re only the highlights.

    26a makes one pause but I think it’s fine as long as you take “around’ as part of the def – not part of the embedicator.

    29a – you’re doing better than me 2kiwis.

    I’m working on jukebox => JE, baby => SON so that leaves me needing TTI from DIME. I know (well Mr Google tells me) they’re both IT acronyms but are they related? Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree with the others.

    Either way it’s fair enough to have an obscure (if it is) WP – the def’s simple and the crossers give away the answer well enough.

    Nice work – very enjoyable solve.

  3. Very enjoyable, thanks Snape. My only real niggle is with 4d. Like 2Kiwis I had to use Google to check the lyrics for 29a and I also had to check that 8d is a real word. I liked 9a (the best of the ‘hiddens’), 27a and 25d. 17d is a good laugh.

  4. Well done Snape!

    For ones I liked in particular, I ticked 1a (outspoken athlete), 10a (sweetens Alan…), 14a (checked around – extra points for “she”), 16a (Laura’s erratically taking drug…), 19a (Mad OAP…), 18d (secretly constrain Nova), 20d (interpreted freehand), 21d (The centre-left..) and 25d (Four points…). That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the others, they were all nice.

    Like gazza, I don’t think 4d works, so to speak. 8d was a new word for me.

    Like Alchemi’s “North eastern state” in the NTSPP, 23a has an internal hint above and beyond the wordplay and definition. Just an observation, certainly nothing wrong with that at all (unless you need the hint to solve), it’s just an interesting device, which is useful for disguising the definition.

    In 13a, I spotted the answer soon enough (given my past career in drug design), but to me it felt like there was a slight repetition of wordplay instructions? I look forward to the review. Technically, Snape will also realise that “drug” is optimistic, but it’s fine in the clue.

    NW was my last quadrant, although I also spent too long trying to think of the parent word in 24d.

    Again, we have a clue relying on lyrics of a song, like “Paul Simon” in a recent rookie puzzle. Both I found solvable, here the lyrics are in plain sight which is possibly more fair.

    Many thanks Snape, very enjoyable, good surfaces, exciting wordplay, right level of difficulty, just perfect, (ok, apart for the reservations with 4d)

    1. retract comment about optimistic drug. It was just that in my world, most things described by the answer never became drugs.

  5. I loved it!! 6D and 8D are new words for me, and the BRB came off the shelf to confirm, but I don’t get the ”place’ part of 6D. I was nicely led astray for a while by looking for two people for 1A. For 29A, I didn’t even see the last word in the clue, and since my daughter-in-law was talking about a certain female artist who was part of the line up at RFK Stadium on July 4 ( along with the Foo Fighters) she jumped into mind and I looked no further, even though I had a question mark by the clue. I can’t parse 13A, though I believe I have the right answer. Liked 25A, 1D, 15D, and 24 D. Loved 17D. 10A is my favorite for the huge penny drop when I figured out Ray Robinson.

    Terrific puzzle. Really good surface reading, and smiles. Thanks for a very enjoyable early morning challenge, Snape!

    1. 6d, as in first, second or third place? hence you can place something above or below, relative to something else. not sure i’m making sense..

  6. Hi Snape,

    I thought this was really enjoyable with some really good clues. My favourites were 1a and 2d.

    I had no idea that 8d was actually a word, but it does make sense that it is so was very gettable, and I’d also never heard of 6d. I’m also left unable to parse 13a, but presume I’m just being dim!

    Oh, and one other thing – one of the answers has an è rather than an e. This is fair enough as that’s correct for the answer, but I’ve never seen that before as far as I can recall. The solver software I use flagged it as wrong with just e (and to be honest I’ve no idea how I would get it to input an è in any case!). I was therefore wondering what the convention is when it comes to accented characters.

    Great work – thanks!

    1. Hi Sprocker,

      I think you meant é (acute rather than grave)? I encountered the same thing, but just ignored it. Foreign accents are usually disregarded in English puzzles anyway, I suspect that this was simply a glitch in the clue inputting.

      1. Do French “Mots croisés” distinguish between É (e-acute) and È (e-grave)

        Where is Jean-Luc when you need him?

        1. I asked Jean-Luc and Framboise about accents in French crosswords and apparently they’re just ignored.

    2. To understand 13a you have to get past seeing the first word in the clue as being an organ. Hope that helps without stealing your Dooh moment.

      1. Feel free to steal my D’Oh moment and spell it out for me because I don’t get it.

        1. Hi Expat Chris – the Kiwis are right although it took me a while to understand it. Forget the ‘liver’ being an organ of the body and think of it as someone who lives somewhere – then ‘transplant’ the A (fourth letter) with an I (I came in for A) to get something that reduces the activity of a drug.

          1. Aargh! How dumb can I be? Thanks, Kath. I didn’t see that at all. I think the “came” is a bit iffy, though.

            1. Sorry – very late back to the party on this one, but let me add my “d’oh of course!” Thanks for the explanation.

  7. I’ve had the pleasure to test solve some of Snape’s recent creations, but I hadn’t seen this one before, so it was interesting to see how it compared with these and his earlier published puzzle.

    Trying to put any bias aside, I thought it was BRILLIANT! Very clever word play, interesting constructions, well-disguised hidden words (I know Snape likes them) and fun anagrams – it was a joy to solve and I’m sure that Snape will get richly deserved plaudits.Above all, the surfaces were exceptionally smooth for the most part and that goes a long way to winning me over, irrespective of any technical flaws!

    Normally I would try to identify one or two favourite clues, but there were honestly too many candidates vying for that honour this time. I particularly liked 1a, 9a, 13a, 19a, 27a, 6d, 15d, 17d and 21d.

    On the slight negative side (and putting on my Craig Revel Horwood “picky” hat) I thought that a couple of definitions were a tad on the loose side and that the singer in the first part of 29a expected a little too much of the solver, although it was eminently solvable. Like Gazza and Dutch, I don’t think 4d works, although I can see what was intended.

    I’m firmly of the belief that Snape will become one of the Rookie setters who will gain a loyal following and, like Beet, whose puzzles will eventually gain him promotion.

    Keep up the good work and many thanks for today’s entertainment.

  8. I can’t add much to the comments above. It took me a while to get onto the setter’s wavelength but then everything fell nicely into place. 8d was a new word for me too but obvious and easily gettable, and I agree that 4d doesn’t quite seem to work.

    Lots of potential favourites to choose from, but I am going for 2d as my choice.

    Excellent stuff, Snape. Very well done.

  9. OH making bread so I am banished from kitchen, decided to print this off and try my luck, after rather a lot of thought I find to my amazement that I have filled in all the little square things. Whether or not I have got it right only time will tell but there were some lovely moments, two new words 6d and 8d, too many goodies to risk picking a favourite but 9a, 14a and 17a were well up the list.

  10. I find it very heartening that some of our Rookie setters produce substantially better puzzles than many of those published on the back page of the Daily Telegraph.

    1. My sentiments entirely, this feels streets ahead of some of th recent offerings. Thanks to Snape and keep up the good work BD.

        1. I love that FU comment! We’ve been watching the American version (not a patch on the original) and to my great disappointment I’t’s only been used once in 13 episodes.

    2. I love Rookie Corner – you never know what you’re going to get from the point of view of ease/difficulty which adds something.

  11. I don’t usually comment here since I’m overly fond of nitpicking, but I must say this was an amazing step up and thoroughly enjoyable throughout. Congratulations, Snape!

  12. Far too professional to be in Rookie Corner!

    Nice surface readings … nice hidden clues …Everything nice for me ;;;

    … but I still cannot parse 22d – I’ve “removed damaged mail” from A,C. Milan … obviously wrong but I think I’ve got the right city?

    My favourite: 1a: Lord Seb is far too outspoken for me – I was a Steve Ovett fan.

    Many thanks, Snape (and also to whoever provides the review tomorrow.)

    1. Oops! I was thinking about Internazionale – not Inter Milan – Great clue!

      Bravissimo! Snape!

  13. Most enjoyable – three or four took a while to fully parse even with a completed grid. Not sure about 4d (am I missing something?) and 8d was a new word. 6d I knew the word but not the meaning!
    Best ones for me were 5a plus 1,2&25d.

    Add my congratulations to the list, Snape.

  14. A very nice solve, although , like others, I can’t see the connection in 13a and 29a between the clue and the solution, I just got them from the definition.
    17a is my favourate.
    I also liked all the hidden clues.
    Thanks Snape and BD for hosting new talent.

  15. Usually just do the DT cryptic but was miffed that VERGE wasn’t the right answer for 1a and all the clues were a bit straightforward so afterwards tried the rookie and it was a breath of fresh air. Very entertaining and good fun working out some of the word play used. Liked 1a (despite being another Ovett fan) and 13a especially. More please.

  16. Lovely, lovely, lovely. My favourites were 9 and 29 a. My only criticism is that in 5a you used a number that wasn’t a clue number – a missed opportunity for some evil misdirection. Unforgivable in my book!

  17. Wow, thanks everyone. That went better than expected. It was submitted before I met some of you in London and so I didn’t have it test solved – 4d would obviously have been ditched if it had (and the age would have been a clue number if Beet had been a test solver!) – and I was a bit unsure about quite a few.

    For example, I wasn’t sure that the cryptic grammar was right in 9a (could I just bung Smuggling at the start of the wordplay, and it would be fine to indicate a hidden word – it appears so), and no-one seems to have noticed that 14a has the reversal indicator in the middle, so it is not certain which bit is to be reversed (never trust a hyphen!).
    I realised the reference in 29a might cause some problems , but thought it would click as song lyrics for more people than it did, even if they didn’t know the artist. I was more worried by the clunkiness caused by trying to get it in the right tense.
    13a there is a repeat of the wordplay instructions, Dutch is right. I was hoping it could be read as ‘You’re going to have to do a letter swap. These are the letters’ but it was another I had doubts over.
    I also ummed and ahed for a long time as to whether 6d was better with or without ‘of’ after outline, and wasn’t convinced I’d got it right.
    Also, 4 hidden words is probably a couple too many (especially with 2 consecutive), but 25 was the last one written, after struggling for ages to get a sensible surface to match the many wordplay options. In desperation i’d typed the letters into the wordfinder – nothing- then typed them in in reverse, and got a few results, one of which was Spoonerism. That made me happy.

    Cyborg, please feel free to nitpick. As long as it is done in the right way, it is very valuable. I’ve read every comment in Rookie Corner since I got into crosswords a few months ago to work out what is and isn’t fair, and learnt far more from what I did wrong in my first one than what I did right.

    1. 4d – (DOSSIER) – I might be the only one – But I liked it!

      5a – I also liked the reference to 32 which didn’t refer to a clue,

      Chacun à son goût.

      Many thanks to Snape!

      1. No, Franco, you’re not the only one who liked 4d – it really made me laugh although I can understand why it’s not an OK clue/answer.

  18. Well, late here – been doing other “stuff”.
    I really enjoyed this and thought it was brilliant although I seem to be the only twit who still has several that I can’t do – too bad – you win some, you lose some as they say, whoever ‘they’ may be.
    Although I had an answer for 13a I needed the Kiwis comment to understand why it was right – dim!
    If others hadn’t mentioned it I wouldn’t have understood my answer for 29a.
    I have several others that I can’t quite understand so I look forward to tomorrow’s review.
    I have to confess that my favourite was 4d . . .
    With thanks and congratulations to Snape and thanks, in advance, to whoever (Prolixic) who does the review and sorts out all my problems.
    Night, night all . . .

  19. I really enjoyed doing this. Can’t remember a crossword with so many top rate puns! All the clues queried above seemed fine to me, 29a and 13a included, with the possible exception of 26a (although I take Jolly Swagman’s point @2). Glad you didn’t opt for ‘of’ in 6d, Snape. :)
    I would tend to agree 4 hiddens is probably a couple too many for a national daily (though not necessarily elsewhere). Don’t the Times limit it to one per puzzle? Interesting to read you say that 25a was the last one you discovered – it was a beautiful clue, so maybe you could have then gone back and re-clued one of the ‘earlier’ hiddens?
    Big Dave has kindly let me have the Rookie Corner slot next Monday – I’ve got a tough act to follow!

    1. Welcome,
      Yes, as JS said, around was part of the definition (as in ‘to do with’) in 26, slightly woolly, but I thought I could justify that. We will see what the review says. You’re right, I should have re-done one of them – I can always save the clue for future use.
      Good luck with yours!

  20. I really enjoyed this. Just a quick comment because I really must sleep in a sec.

    It was a nice level of challenge for me. I got everything save the R and T in 6d, which was a new word for me. As was 8d, but at least I managed to construct the answer before looking it up.

    I’m afraid I can’t list any favourites now because it would take too long. Too many great clues to choose from :).

    Thanks Snape, and well done

  21. Belter & possibly one of the best Rookie offerings yet. More power to your elbow Snape!

    I would rather solve a Rookie than attempt the Times as I know my limits or so we’ve been told…

  22. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Interesting to see that you commented on a couple of things that had slightly bothered me:-
    9a – ‘smuggling’ only just about works for me.
    12a – I’ve only come across ‘sparks’ before.
    As for 29a – the checkers gave me the answer but I still needed to look up the singer of the lyric. No, I couldn’t have got there without those aids.
    4d – sorry, but I still really don’t like it!

    It was nonetheless an excellent Rookie – I think Snape has a great future as a setter.

  23. Agree that this crossword is really worth publishing.
    Enjoyed it immensely.
    Thanks to Snape and to Prolixic for the review.

  24. Many thanks to Prolixic for the review. While there may not be many comments come Tuesday, the reviews are always read and appreciated.
    The small details such as ‘and become’ not being ideal are ones I will try to remember, and I must remember to look up everything in Chambers – I never thought of checking sparky, for some reason.
    Pity about jettison – point taken. I can’t say that sort of misjudgement won’t happen again, but I’ll try to be careful. Might have to reconsider my idea for stepson, though.
    Thanks for the love for 4d from a couple of you – it was a bit of a silly clue, though.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with what has been said already about your puzzle. You never know where and what it can lead to. There used to be a chap that won the Sunday Times Clue Competition on a regular basis – he’s now Peter Biddlecombe’s boss. Now there’s a thing

    2. Chambers is not the normal “go to” dictionary for blocked puzzles. Confusion maybe arises because it does more or less have that status for barred-grid ones. Many of the puzzle editors (past and present) in the so-called qualities have indicated that they have no hard and fast single dictionary that they use as a final arbiter but that Collins is their first choice and Concise Oxford their second – I believe Collins has official status at The Times. Of course these things change over time in line with of editors’ whims (and publishers’ inducements). I don’t know what the views of the present DT puzzle editor are – nor those of his predecessor – who appears to have been airbrushed from history.

      SPARKS came to me straight away but it turns out that it’s given in Collins with precisely that meaning.

      4d DOSSIER you copped some flak for. I thought it was very good. The time was when “dossier” to cryptically mean a comparative of “like a dosser” would have been standard fare but the pasteurisation (to use Araucaria’s term) of puzzles recently has meant that clues like that appear less frequently.

      1. Chambers is the dictionary-of-choice of the Telegraph, and has been so for as long as I can remember. I also prefer it to be used for puzzles published on this site. Since it chose to omit “obvious” words like roadside, in order to save space, The Concise Oxford has fallen out of favour – Countdown now uses the far superior Oxford Dictionary of English.

        1. That’s interesting. As indicated, I didn’t know the DT had an official position. I’m assuming by that you mean inclusion in Chambers is a necessary condition for acceptability of an answer word or a WP component – not necessarily a sufficient condition since a word might still be deemed too obscure – something which I believe Phil McNeill discourages.

          Collins seems now to include a lot more obscure words than it once did – possibly since they got the Scrabble gig – although not the archaisms and lowland Scots that Chambers has.

          In the instant case I was getting mixed up SPARKY (not SPARKS) was what was required – none of the main dictionaries give the required meaning for that.

          1. In particular, the Telegraph almost invariably uses the enumeration as given in Chambers (with/without hyphen, one word or two words etc.)

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