Rookie Corner – 069 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 069

A Puzzle by Maize

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

To date Maize has had three puzzles published by Alberich, but this is his first appearance in Rookie Corner. 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 think that Maize is trying to do the Rookie Reviewer out of a job.  Very little to comment upon other than to say that this was a superb debut crossword and to have fitted the names of the England Test team into the solutions is a work of art in its own right.


1 Prevent school hosting military club (6)
SCOTCH – The abbreviation for school includes (hosting) the abbreviation of Officer’s Training Corps (military club) inside it.

5 Do too much in charge of county magazine (8)
OVERCOOK – A four letter word meaning in charge of or responsible for followed by a two letter abbreviation for county and a two letter name of a magazine.

9 End strike by using one’s head (4)
BUTT – Double definition.

10 Scene of Herculean task brought on by renal failure (5)
LERNA – An anagram (failure) of RENAL for the place where Hercules slew the Hydra.

11 Money changing hands to have sex in Australia (4)
ROOT – A word for money or plundered goods with the initial L changed to an R (changing hands)

12 Shelter from snakes? Not with me about (8)
ANDERSON – A word meaning snakes has the initial ME removed and this is followed by a two letter word meaning about.

14 To take a puff on board adds fuel to the fire (6)
STOKES – Another word to take a puff on a cigarette goes inside the abbreviation for steamship (on board).

15 See 28 Down

16 Slackers looking to gain from extra children (4,4)
WIDE BOYS – A type of extra in Cricket followed by a word for male children.  I think the definition here is not too bad.  Perhaps “Maybe the Trotter’s extra children”

18 Group born during outbreak of measles (8)
ASSEMBLE – The abbreviation for born inside an anagram (outbreak) of MEASLES.

21 Bowl with Steve Finn, tailenders being stiff… (6)
WOODEN – Another name for the bowl used in crown green bowling followed by the last letters (tailenders) of Steve and Finn.

23 …which could be Barmy Army s description of Bairstow’s debut in test (6)
TRIBAL – The first letter (debut) of Bairstow inside another word for a test or ordeal.

25 Knight’s father escapes Gaul amidst charge from the east (8)
LANCELOT – Another word for the country of Gaul has as two letter abbreviation for Father removed (escapes) and the remaining letters go inside (amidst) another word for a charge or payment that has been reversed (from the east).

26 Praline chocolate, laced with E (4)
ECHO – The answer is hidden inside (laced with) PRALINE CHOCOLATE.

27 Cheerful sounding Spartans (5)
BLYTH – A homophone (sounding) of BLITHE (cheerful).  My only real comment on the crossword is that Spartans for the answer from the name of the town’s Northern League football club is a little unfair on the solver.  Even Cheerful sounding Northern town would have been fairer.

29 50% of Italy s national airline is landed (4)
ALIT – One half (50%) of the name of Italy’s national airline (Alitalia).

30 Mongrel dog obeys last words spoken (4-4)
GOOD-BYES – An anagram (mongrel) of DOG OBEYS.

31 Locomotive conks out with fuel half gone (6)
DIESEL – Another word for conks out or stops working followed by half of the word fuel.


2 Spare nothing from fancy luncheon – it might get us to France (7)
CHUNNEL – An anagram (fancy) of LUNCHEON after removing the O (sparing nothing).

3 Part of literary preliminaries given by master, maybe, and servant (5,4)
TITLE PAGE – A word describing what Master is an example of (maybe) and another word for a servant.

4 Permanent UN observer is told to notice everything (4,3)
HOLY SEE – An homophone (is told) of wholly see (notice everything)

5 Row coming from rock on the radio (3)
OAR – A homophone (on the radio) of ORE (rock).

6 15d mysteriously went (7)
ELAPSED – An anagram (mysteriously) of the answer to 15A and a D.  Loved the juxtaposition of the 15d to create the anagram fodder and the fact that the surface reading makes sense as there is no 15d clue in the crossword.

7 Shipment of French snails, shelled then peeled (5)
CARGO – Remove the outer letters from the French word for a snail then remove the top letter from those that remain – peeled.

8 Massive upheaval created by wild party, involving love and later topless people (7)
OROGENY – A word for a wild party involving sex and drink inside which you add an O (love) and then lower down another word for people with the top letter removed (topless).

13 Anti-austerity plan might entail production of lead, perhaps (3,4)
NEW DEAL – A reverse anagram clue.  The answer, read as an anagram clue, might lead to the answer LEAD.

17 A way to facilitate trade without cash: Recycle gear (9)
BROKERAGE – A word meaning without cash or bankrupt followed by an anagram (recycle) of GEAR.

19 Wind company up with firm led by baronet (7)
SIROCCO – The title of a Baronet followed by a reversal (up) of the abbreviation for company and the same abbreviation (firm) in the normal direction.

20 Porter’s personal problem in gut (4-3)
BELL-BOY – The abbreviation for body odour (personal problem) inside another word for the gut or tummy.

21 Showed acute embarrassment about earliest ‘Heil’ being brought up (7)
WINCHED – A word meaning showing acute embarrassment goes around the first letter (earliest) of Heil.  Very topical clue given the recent news.

22 Dave’s last reason for moving (7)
EMOTIVE – The last letter of Dave followed by a word meaning moving.

24 Thick brown line on map (5)
BROAD – Split 1-4, the answer is shown on maps with a brown line in the same way that motorways are show with blue ones.

28/15 Gracious acceptance of surprisingly easy sleep (3,6)
YES PLEASE – An anagram (surprisingly) of EASY SLEEP.

61 comments on “Rookie Corner – 069

  1. Welcome Maize and congratulations on an excellent puzzle. I know that you made a brief appearance last week when commenting on Snape’s latest effort and you quite rightly said that you had a hard act to follow, well I felt that this was at least as good :-)

    I was pleased to have spotted the hidden names fairly quickly, which certainly helped with a few of the last ones to go in, especially 27a. Well done indeed on managing to include some of the more challenging surnames!

    I wasn’t totally convinced about a few of the definitions (namely 5a, 3d and 16d), but this was a very small quibble.

    I thought 4d was very clever, and after the classical reference to Hercules earlier on, I loved the misdirection with “Spartans” in 27a, which I’ll nominate as my favourite. I suspect that some of our overseas solvers might find this clue tricky.

    Thanks again, Maize, for a very entertaining puzzle and I look forward to your next one :-)

    1. Hi Silvanus. Thanks for that positive feedback. :)
      I also very much welcome your specific pointers about definitions. I think you’re right about 16a; if you were a crossword editor and I was a setter, that would definitely be changed! For 5a though, Chambers has one definition of ‘do’ as ‘cook’ – think ‘well done’ for a steak – so maybe that’s okay?. As for 3d, I’m not sure; the ‘preliminaries’ or ‘prelims’ for short is the term for the front matter of a book. That’s probably too obscure for a puzzle, but ‘literary preliminaries’ may or may not be a fair description of those first pages.
      As for overseas solvers- blimey, I’d never thought about that!

  2. We guess from the Silvanus comment above that there is a theme there but have absolutely no idea what it might be. We found it decidedly tricky in places with 12a and 4d the last to parse. We got 27a from the homophonic connection but even Googling did not come up with any connections to Spartans that meant anything to us.
    Ah, further Googling shows a connection to something we understandably know very little about. No wonder we found it a rather unrewarding slog.
    Thanks anyway Maize.

  3. Really good puzzle – thanks Maize. I must admit that I didn’t spot the extent of the theme until I’d finished when I read Silvanus’s comment, but once I started looking it became clear. I thought the surface readings were excellent and in some cases very topical (21d?). 27a perhaps requires too much specialised knowledge.
    I’d pick out 12a and the very clever 6d as my favourites.

    1. Cheers Gazza, and thank you for welcoming me, and also for supporting my puzzle in the banter below – I should have thanked you earlier! Not to everyone’s taste, but I ‘m glad you, Prolixic and some others liked it. :)

  4. I really enjoyed this puzzle.

    I was going to say – “Nice to see a Rookie puzzle without a theme or Nina for once” ..but then I read the comment from Silvanus. D’Oh!

    I’ve now found the full complement – presumably 21a & 23a were drafted in as late changes.

    Very enjoyable puzzle with nice surface readings!

    Absolutely no need to know the theme to solve this one!

    Favourite: the topical 21d.

    Many thanks to Maize!

    1. Bang on the money Franco. I really couldn’t be bothered to start all over again when the selectors dropped the players in rows 9 & 11, but the tweaks to the clues you mention seemed fortuitous. Thanks for kind comments!

  5. Not sure what to make of this one. I’ve got plenty of ‘likes’ ticked – 5,8,30&31a plus 3,7&24d but these were tempered by some that I didn’t feel parsed very well (unless I’ve just missed it, of course!) and others that I found rather forced by virtue of the constraints of the theme. I did get the theme quite early on and that in itself raised a groan, so perhaps that rather clouded the judgement!

    Thank you, Maize, I did enjoy a lot of this and I’d love to see a puzzle from you constructed without adherence to a theme.

      1. Isn’t it odd that, having grumbled about the theme, I’m the first to say that I had absolutely no problem with either 5a or 3d – unlike Silvanus it would seem! As for 16d – does he mean 16a? If so then, yes, that is one that I also thought stretched things somewhat!
        Hope you didn’t take my comments amiss, Maize – much of the puzzle was so very good.

        1. Not at all, Jane. It’s really hard – and with a Rookie puzzle in particular I’m guessing – to know whether a clue that doesn’t make sense is unsound in its construction or if you need to look again to see how they parse. Maybe worth another look?

  6. I found this to be extremely tricky – for whatever reason I just could not get on the right wavelength, and had to resort to a lot of electronic assistance, and even then am left with quite a few I can’t parse. The bits I could do I did enjoy though!

    Excellent work on getting all the theme names into the grid – that’s a great effort.

  7. Still missing the odd letter here and there but this is as far as I can go.
    9a. Has it got to do with hitting the ball with the head? I don’t know a term for this.
    11a. I think it’s swapping L for R but from which word?
    12a. Got the meanders bit but is it EN or ON at the end?
    Loved the mysterious 15d connection.
    21d took some time as I bunged in frozen in 21a.
    Are the names hidden from croft park?
    Not very up on football unfortunately.
    Thanks to Maize for a great debut.

    1. Not football – another sport.
      9a is hitting a head (or other part of body) with a head.
      11a start with a word for stolen money.
      12a ON (about).

      1. Thanks Gazza.
        Of course. The Glasgow kiss in 9a.
        New expression for me in 11a.
        Noticed the about in 12a after posting.

  8. Well done, Maize. Top notch surfaces. I got the SW corner, which was enough to give me the theme (after reading that there was one) as the themed clues were a useful nudge. The bottom half also yielded, some only because I was looking for theme answers, but I only got a couple of answers (until I went crazy with the reveal letter button) in the top half apart from the theme answers that I went looking for. Several I can’t parse, so I look forward to the review.
    I liked the silliness (I presume!) of both shelling and peeling a snail (!) so that’s one of my favourites (plus it was nice and easy), and 23a was another.
    Many thanks

  9. I was about to start this, but reading the comments…sport other than football…selectors…. Is this puzzle going to offend my irrational loathing of cricket sensibilities?

    1. You don’t need to know anything about the sport to solve the clues and it’s well worth the effort.

      1. Be fair, Gazza – some of us hadn’t even got a clue who or what the Barmy Army was until we asked Mr. Google.
        Give it a go, Beet, there’s some darned good clues in there – just grit your teeth a little from time to time!

  10. Beet, I’m not a cricket fan either! Elsewhere on this website Peter Biddlecombe recommends a ‘wide and shallow knowledge’ – that’s me all over!

    1. I will try this… but i’ve actually run out of time this evening, so it will have to be tomorrow. looking forward to it – comments suggest it’s a good one!

  11. Overseas solver reporting in…

    I am left with three unsolved: 12A, 25A and 4D. I understand there is a theme from the comments but I have no idea what it is (and honestly no inclination to pursue finding out). I thought there were some very good clues here. 11A and 20D both made me smile. I thought 26A was very clever, and I liked 17D too. On the other hand, there were some clues, like 16A, that didn’t sit too well or that I can’t fully parse. 8D, 21A and 21D come into the latter category. I have no issues whatsoever with 3D. I thought it was a fair and clear clue, though the publisher’s term “front matter” might have been better than preliminaries. I got 23A from the checkers.

    All in all, though, I thought it was a great debut, so well done Maize. Keep ’em coming!

    1. Hi Chris.
      8d, think of a roman party with the usual letter for love inside and people ( masculin ones) without the first letter but inserted a bit further down and you get a word for an mountain formation.
      21d is when you flinch with the first letter of Heil and you end up with brought up as in a sail for example.
      21a was adjusted when I got 21d. I put frozen initially.

      1. Hmm. I obviously had the wrong magazine for 5A…like I would know anything about UK popular magazines! I plumped for the oft-used Private Eye, which gave me a reasonable answer for 5A and a word meaning people (or issue) for 8D. I worked it out with your hints. The proper answer is a word I’ve never heard of. 21D is still as clear as mud. I had writhed, with no justification whatsoever that I could see. But if Prolixic is on time, I only have an hour or so to wait for the review.

        1. Oh yes. Review will automagically will appear at midnight – even if I am fast asleep. Famous last words but it usually works!

        2. I’m really bad at hints. At least BD is not likely to ask me to review a crossword ever!
          I’ll have another go.
          21d. The Sun not long ago showed a picture of ER making a heil salute. She probably pulled a face when she saw that. So it’s Grimaced with the first letter of Heil inside and the answer is raised with a pulley for example. Phew. That was hard work.

          1. Got it now. Thanks! At least my answer for 21A still looks likely, though for the life of me I don’t know why.

            1. I can see the last letters of Steve Finn but bowl = wood? I don’t get it yet.

                  1. One of the pubs near here has a petanque league. Seems to be a similar game but played in a very much smaller area -maybe rather more like boules?

              1. This is fast becoming an “Only British residents with sports knowledge and low culinary skills need apply” kind of puzzle.

                1. Be careful, Chris, be very careful! Jean-Luc runs what is a rather high class restaurant by all accounts.

                    1. Actually, you’re probably quite correct – in my experience the French go way too far the other way.

                    2. You’re right.
                      Never “well done” or charcoaled as some would say.
                      Just the right time depending on the dish.
                      But In the last few years, people have asked to have their Steak Tartare slightly pan fried.
                      What’s the point? Might just as well ask for a chopped steak and chips.
                      The ” how do you want it?” should never be asked.

                    3. Absolutely…why order a dish that’s supposed to be raw and ask for it to be cooked? Personally, I like my steak very rare, my lamb pinkish but not too much so, and pork cooked through. There are restaurants in the US that will not cook red meat less than “medium” for fear of heath repercussions.

  12. I can see 4 people in the front row.
    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    Tonight’s performance is about to begin.
    Mr Prolixic is going to revael it all.
    No photographs please.

    1. If appearances are to be trusted, Jean-Luc, you just might be French… In which case, wow! Fancy doing a cryptic in a second language! As it happens there were plenty of ‘fautes’ in any of the earlier drafts; poor BD had to put up with several resubmissions. Maybe bad Crosswordese is easier to spot with hindsight?

      1. It actually gets rather depressing at times, Maize. Being beaten by another ‘English as first language’ solver is one thing – being consistently beaten by a ‘French as first language’ solver can become somewhat demoralising.
        I’m told he also produced a very creditable crossword for the last BD birthday bash!!!

          1. The closest I will ever come to a gathering is hopefully meeting up with Big Dave for a drink when I am in the UK in September. He lives just a few miles from my home town.

            1. Guess that mean you won’t be here long enough for the next birthday bash (sorry, BD, being very presumptive about there being one!).
              Such a shame, Chris, I’m hoping to be there (courtesy of one of our lovely bloggers) and would have loved to meet you ‘for real’.
              Hope you enjoy your visit ‘home’ – how long are you staying?

  13. Thanks for putting me out of my misery, Prolixic. I’m now satisfied that the ones I couldn’t properly parse would have remained that way no matter how long I’d stared at them!
    Hopefully, there’ll be more from Maize in the future – minus the cricket, maybe………

  14. Thank you Prolixic – your pdf guide to constructing clues was a big help! As a solver I am aware that themed puzzles – whether ghost or otherwise – often lead to odd grids or abstruse entries in the lights, so it was an interesting challenge to see if I could avoid both those pitfalls.
    The football team mentioned in 27a was obviously a product of the theme. I was wondering why I assumed people would know them; it turns out they reached the last 16 of the FA Cup in ’78 – when I was 17, by the way – so maybe that’s it. In fact they’ve done nearly as well several times since, but the proof of the pudding, as they say…
    I have a few ideas for improving 16a, including simply replacing the first word with ‘Chancers’ but I like your idea very much, not least because it’s fun. And that’s something I intend to inject into my next puzzle (if I’m allowed one!). This time accuracy, but next time a bit more humour might get the doubters on board!

  15. Thanks to Maize for the puzzle.

    Thanks to Prolixic for the review – I never knew that the reviews appeared “automagically” – I always thought it was down to your own hard work.

  16. Having read the review, and being too dim to get it at first, I ought to add what a fantastic clue 6d is – the sort that takes a puzzle from being decent to a memorable one with sparkle. Forgot to mention 26a as well as a favourite.
    Thanks again, and to Prolixic for the review

    1. Cheers. Personally I prefer to print off a puzzle, give it my best shot, and only look at the comments afterwards. A chacun son gout!

  17. Sorry I am so late with this one, but even if it’s late I just had to come and say what a brilliant clue 6d is. Just my sort of clue – cheekily using the d(own) as part of the fodder – and making the surface fit the whole thing. Sublime!

    1. Glad you liked it! It’s always nice to notice opportunities like that… I fear I may have passed some others by in my anxiety to avoid breaking rules of crossword grammar, but hopefully my confidence will grow :) I hope the cricketers didn’t intrude too much – apparently they’re doing a bit well in Nottingham about now…

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