Rookie Corner – 070 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 070

A Puzzle by Axolotl

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

There have been so many Rookie setters in the queue recently that I have only just been able to publish this one that Axolotl sent in last March. 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.

Axolotl consistently produces excellent crosswords.  This was perhaps easier than some of his earlier ones but was no less enjoyable.  Very few points on the clues themselves.  Axolotl is another setter who will no doubt be promoted to the NTSPP before too long.


1 Final trick and South four in lead (10)
CONCLUSIVE – A three letter word meaning trick followed by the abbreviation for South and the Roman numerals for four inside a word meaning a lead or hint to something.

6 Pour forth cries returned heartlessly (4)
SPEW – Reverse (returned) a word meaning cries without the central letter (heartlessly).

10 New version gives Lenin’s means of escape? (7)
REDRAFT – Split 3,4 this could indicate a method by which a communist such a Lenin could escape over water.  Perhaps wordplay gives definition would be a better word order rather than that given in the clue.

11 Advise UN in curtailed closed assembly (7)
COUNSEL – Put the UN from the clue inside an anagram (assembly) of CLOSED without the final letter (curtailed).  The UN could have been separately indicated as “peacekeeper” “world body” or “a continental”.

12 Notes heard in broadcast opera gig? (8)
ARPEGGIO – An anagram (broadcast) of OPERA GIG.

13 Opening cheek (5)
MOUTH – Double definition, the cheek being insolent talk.

15 Collect fool who follows a maiden (5)
AMASS – The A from the clue and the abbreviation for maiden followed by another word for a fool

17 Find one’s bearings when switching 26 on (9)
ORIENTATE – An anagram (switching) of ON and the answer to 26a.

18 By the end of night, Josephine or Cleopatra has gained time. Will she get her man? (9)
TEMPTRESS – The final letter (end of) of night followed by a generic title for Josephine or Cleopatra inside which (has gained) you include the abbreviation for time.  Perhaps to make it a bit clearer that Josephine / Cleopatra are definitions by example, you could have simplified this to “By the end of the night, Josephine for one has gained time.  Will she get her man.”

20 Rook bit scrap (5)
PIECE – Triple definition.

21 Something ropy when savings account deposited in special wrapper (5)
SISAL – The abbreviation for an investment savings account goes inside (depositing in) the outer letters (wrapper) of special.

22 Find it stifling in South America? A lawyer gets new air conditioning working inside (8)
ANACONDA – The A from the clue and the abbreviation for District Attorney hold (gets…inside) the abbreviations for new and air-conditioning and a two letter word meaning working.

25 Put one’s foot in it and provoke beginning of riot internally (7)
STIRRUP – A phrase (4,2) for provide includes (internally) the first letter (beginning of) riot.

26 Repeat it time and time again before finishing practice (7)
ITERATE – The IT from the clue followed by a three letter word for a time or period and the abbreviation for time then the final letter (finishing) of practice.

27 Some Scots in kilts can’t swim apparently (4)
SINK – The answer is hidden (some) in SCOTS IN KILTS.

28 Stamp 1d with embargo (5,5) – 1d is a coin followed by a word meaning embargo.


1 Sound wine for fish (4)
CARP – Find a homophone for wine and then find a synonym of the homophone that means a fish.  This is a clue to a clue requiring the solver to go through too many steps to get to the answer.  Although this one is relatively clear, this type of clue to a clue is discouraged.  This would not work as a double definition either as you still have a clue to a clue.

2 Messy drain’s bottom (5)
NADIR – An anagram (messy) of DRAIN.

3 Read about in the French editorials (7)
LEADERS – An anagram (about) of READ goes inside the plural form of the French for the.

4 Playing game a lot exposed what I aim to do (3,1,4,7)
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE – An anagram (playing) (third in a row!) of GAME A LOT EXPOSED.

5 Winner starts to inch ahead over channel arriving at place good for coaching and training? (8,7)
VICTORIA STATION – A six letter word for a winner followed by the initial letters (starts to) of inch and ahead followed by another word for a TV channel.

7 Suggest mail posh ex (9)
POSTULATE – A four letter word for mail followed by the abbreviation for posh and a word meaning ex or deceased.

8 Rich pronounced completely cured (4-6)
WELL-HEELED – A homophone (pronounced) of well healed (completely cured).

9 Grenade launcher provides cover to disconcert sniper (6)
GUNMAN – The first letter (launcher) of grenade followed by a word meaning disconcert.

14 Dreams Santa is safe being teased without asking first (10)
FANTASISES – An anagram (being teased) of SANTA IS SAFE after removing a letter A (without asking first).  As there are several As in the anagram fodder, without one asking first would have been better.  Some editors would not allow first on its own to indicate an initial letter.

16 Notice girl – one about to make entrance (9)
ADMISSION – A two letter word for an advert or notice followed by a four letter word for a girl, the letter for one and a tow letter word meaning about.

19 Might revellers spend a night on their handiwork? (6)
TILERS – A cryptic reference to those who spend the night on the tiles(revellers) and those who put them (the tiles) there.

20 Saying what might be spin about British (7)
PROVERB – A two letter word for spin or public relations followed by a word meaning about and the abbreviation for British.

23 Tot initially at play (5)
DRAMA – A tot of drink and the first letter (initially) of A.

24 I say, get to the top and look! (4)
PEEK – A homophone (I say) of a word meaning get to the top (or the top of a mountain).


42 comments on “Rookie Corner – 070

  1. A really good fun puzzle to solve. We especially liked the triple definition in 20a and the cleverness of the definition in 22a. 28a had us staring at 1 down for some time until there was a very definite tinkling sound. Well constructed clever clues throughout. Much appreciated and enjoyed.
    Thanks Axolotl.

  2. I found this very entertaining and my favourites were 22a for the definition, 28 a for the misdirection, 4 &5 d, 23d. There are a couple I can’t parse ( 19 and 24 d) but I’m sure it is just me. Very well done indeed !

    1. Many congratulations on your promotion – it will hopefully free up some space in RC for us mere mortals now!

    2. Likewise congratulations – I’m only just catching up now after a hectic weekend, so great to see you in the NTSPP spot!

  3. Good one – thanks, Axoloti. I particularly liked 28a for the penny-drop moment but also enjoyed 22a, 5d and 19d.

  4. Hi Beet. For 19d, think about revellers spending either a night on the town or a night on the something else. If the latter, then the answer to 19d would have been needed to make what the revellers were on!
    For 24d, we’re in homophone territory – top/ look.
    Could anyone parse 9d and 20d for me please. I have the answers from the definitions, but can’t see why…

    Enjoyable puzzle! My favourites six were 18a, 22a, 25a, 26a, 29a and 19d – all excellent!

    These three clues might provide talking points:
    In 1d, I can’t remember ever being asked to find a homophone for a word in the clue which then becomes part of the ‘real’ clue, so to speak; is that allowed? I really don’t know, but it was still solvable anyhow.
    In 4d I don’t see why you, Axolotl, necessarily aim to do as it says in the answer (unless you’re a vicar/ parent etc.)
    In 14d, given that there are 3 As in the anagram fodder, is it normal to specify that only one of them should be removed? Maybe not in all papers, not sure… Hopefully the reviewer will clarify this for us!

    Really interesting to see a puzzle prior to its being edited – thank you!

    1. For 9D, I took it to be the first letter (launcher) of grenade, over (provides cover for) a 5-letter word meaning to disconcert. I’m as puzzled as you over 20D.

      1. 20d is a 2-letter abbreviation for spin, a 4-letter word meaning about and a 1-letter abbreviation for British.

      1. Re 9d & 20d – thanks Chris and Gazza – it’s easy once you know how!
        For 4d, I can see why a crossword setter would aim to set a good crossword puzzle, but not why a good (what it says in the answer). Perfectly gettable though!

        1. Hi Maize,
          I simply took it to mean that the setter is aiming to ‘set a good (answer) of a puzzle’. Seemed OK to me.

  5. I’m still waiting for the ‘aha’ moment re 28A/1D, and I don’t understand how the second word in 5D is arrived at. I can’t parse 20D, either. 10A made me smile. thanks Axolotl.

  6. Very enjoyable indeed.
    Liked the “special wrapper” in 21a, the “Lenin’s mean of escape” in 10a and the homophone in 8d particularly.
    Thanks to the early bloggers for explaining 19d. I remember the expression now. I also knew what 1d meant in 28a.
    Thanks to Axolotl. Keep them coming.

  7. I found this one at the easier end of the Rookie spectrum, but it was certainly no less entertaining for that. I felt it was very polished and professionally assembled.

    The surfaces were generally excellent, although at least a couple of the clues (especially 18a and 5d) cried out for some pruning. I think that having just one of Josephine or Cleopatra (but not both!) would not have detracted from 18a in the slightest. 22a was clever but the first two words of the clue added nothing. I wasn’t totally convinced by the definitions in 10a or 27a.

    Like the 2Kiwis, I loved the triple definition in 20a, and my personal favourites were 1a, 19d and 28a.

    Congratulations Axolotl and look forward to your next one.

  8. Thank you everyone for your kind comments. I’m glad that you enjoyed my efforts. I think you have covered all the parsing questions – which no doubt will be fully explained in due course – but thanks to Maize for raising some interesting points regarding 1d and 14d.

    For 4d, now that I think about it, maybe homophones should only be used for the definition. I’ll be interested to see what Prolixic says. In 14d “Dreams Santa is safe being teased without ONE asking first” would have avoided any confusion. Still plenty to learn!

  9. Nice puzzle – my personal ‘ticks’ go to 21a plus 4&8d.

    No problems for me with 28a – still the first thing I think of when looking at ‘1d’. Thought it would be the same for any Brit over a certain age but obviously not, judging by the comments!
    11a – might have been better to have used an alternative for UN in the clue?
    1a had me on the run for a while until I got 1d – I was trying to fit in either an anagram of ‘final’ or the last letter of ‘trick’.

    Still haven’t completely parsed all the elements of 22a – nobody else has mentioned any difficulty so it must just be me being thick!

    Hope we see more from you in the future, Axolotl.

  10. Hi Axolotl

    Since I had a puzzle posted a few weeks ago I’ve looked at some of the subsequent ones and struggled a bit too much with most of them to make any kind of useful comment. (Not that this may be helpful anyway!)

    But this I found really well pitched for me, with some excellent clues and a couple of PDMs.
    1a Had to read this a few times to get the intended sense of the surface, suggest replacing “and” with a comma.
    3d Very nice, like the less common way of using “the French”
    5d Seemed a bit wordy. Only really need “coaching” or “training”, not both.
    25a and 26a both v nice
    28a , 20d and 9d (my LOI) can’t parse
    24d, found the “I” off putting, but that’s probably just me; “Get to the top, say,” would work and also give some misdirection by hinting at a dbe.
    22a I don’t mind some GK in a puzzle although I must admit I wasn’t aware this creature was specifically South American. But not keen on the A CON abbreviation (if that’s what it is) – AC yes, but not sure your version is kosher. Apologies if I’m wrong.
    14d Nice deductive anagram spot
    17a, 18a, 7d all cleverly done
    21a Like the idea of special wrapper = SL, not absolutely sure if it’s acceptable (should it be “special’s wrapper?”) Will be interested to see expert opinion on that one
    1d Interesting use of a homophone, i.e. within the clue rather than the answer. Like the idea, hope it also passes muster
    8d The best of the homophones in my view
    13a One (probably the only one) I wasn’t taken with, though nothing wrong with it per se as far as I can see.

    Really good puzzle, thanks; shame some of us other rookies prevented it from being published sooner!

    1. You almost got it for 22a. The AC for air con but ON for working all that in A from the clue, N for new and the usual American lawyer.

      1. Ah, of course, it was the ON/working I missed.

        Can’t make sense of 28a though. Stamp = def, fine, embargo = second word of answer I assume, but can’t get the first part or relationship with 1d. Nor can I see how 9d works after the G.

        1. In 28a, the 1d is the old way of writing ” one penny”.
          9d, Expat Chris explained it a bit further up.

  11. Really enjoyed this – definitely towards the easier end of the spectrum, but that’s definitely fine by me, and lots of great clues. Favourite was 22a for the definition, though also liked 26a a lot for the surface. Probably would also have picked 28a if I’d been able to parse it before reading the comments here – had me totally fooled!

    Will be very interested to hear Prolixic’s views on 1d – I’m sure I’ve seen that type of reverse homophone before (assuming I’m parsing it correctly), but do wonder if it’s universally accepted as fair game. (For what it’s worth, I think it definitely should be.)

    Thanks Axolotl

  12. That was fun.
    I seem to be the only one in the dim club today – I can’t do 1d or 10a – if I could do one of those I’d stand a fighting chance of getting the other one.
    Untangling 22a took me ages and I didn’t understand the first bit of the clue – didn’t know that he was a squeezy snake.
    I liked 27 and 28a.
    Thanks Axolotl.

    1. 1d is a double definition and one of the definitions (slightly dodgy, IMHO) is a synonym of a 5-letter verb that sounds like wine.

      1. Thanks gazza – as Jane would say, always the knight in shining armour! It still took me a while.

  13. The “1d” reference in 28a was a bit naughty, especially for anyone born after coppers, tanners, bobs, etc were legal tender, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to lay a false scent. Sorry!

    Starhorse, thanks for your constructive comments. You may not know it, but I was the very first rookie to have a puzzle on Rookie Corner. This one was my seventh. There are so many rookies in the queue now that it’s been some time since my last puzzle appeared. Hats off to Big Dave for tapping such a rich source and giving this great opportunity to so many budding setters.

    As for 5d, I felt that “coaching” and “training” singly might be straining the connection to the eponymous terminus, I also just like the fact that the two words are connected through two quite different meanings, though I accept that the result was rather verbose. Guilty as charged.

    1. No need to apologise for 28a. We thought it was brilliant misdirection and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    2. I was definitely misdirected and spent too long trying to work out what a fish had to do with a stamp! And I am ancient enough to remember what my mother persisted in calling ‘old money.’ I still have a few coins in my treasure box. Good job there!!

        1. You know, the worst thing about coming home to the UK is not the weather, it’s getting used to the coinage again. For the first few days, I tend to just hold out a handful of change and say “help yourself.” And I don’t know how you mange to carry all that heavy stuff around. Those pound coins are the pits. At least women have handbags and purses. Men’s pockets must be steel-lined!

          1. I suppose you don’t really think about it too much when it’s a part of everyday life. More often than not these days people tend to use ‘plastic’ and just carry a bit of loose change for car parks etc.
            I can remember being in the US years ago and worrying that I’d lose all those flimsy bits of paper that they used for money!

  14. I’ve not found it that easy, but I never do. I’ve completed the LHS, and only a couple on the right. 28a everyone loves, and the 1d part is superb, but I don’t get the second word. I’d have thought the a needed to be an o? I can find out in 10 minutes though. (Edit – the advice to check the BRB has now been followed! Good clue!)
    Many thanks Axolotl, and Prolixic in advance. I thought the surfaces were either very good, or close to being very good. A few didn’t read rhythmically, and perhaps could be tweaked. For example 18a would be ‘By the end of the night’ in most people’s speech – perhaps ‘By night’s end’ could make a better sentence without having cryptic grammar issues?. I didn’t get 7d, but I suspect this could be made into a more realistic sentence too. Overall, it was very enjoyable (the half I could do!). Thanks again, and well done.

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I think I’d expected you to comment on wordiness re: 22a & 5d – both of them about twice the length of a Ray T clue!
    Yes, it would indeed be good to see Axolotl get a promotion to NTSPP.

  16. Thanks to Axolotl for an accessible puzzle. My favourite clues were 3d, 25ac, 14d, 21ac, 8d and 11ac. And an honourable mention for 28ac, superb misdirection which I just couldn’t understand till I read the review, so thanks to Prolixic for putting me out of my misery!

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