Rookie Corner – 071 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 071

A Puzzle by Sprocker

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Sprocker returns – not before time! 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.

Well done to Sprocker for a pangram with a Nina to tell us of this. All well clued but perhaps too many four letter anagrams which could have been clued more inventively.


8 Funny – if it’s in, then someone’s left out (4)
JOKE – An in-???? is a funny or witticism that those outside the group won’t get.

9 Doctor article in demand (5)
DRAIN – A two letter abbreviation for doctor followed by the indefinite article and the IN from the clue.

10 Make changes to help through a difficult time! (4)
EDIT – If you ???? over someone or something you give them help through a difficult time. Use the over a reversal indicator for the first part of the word to get the answer.

11 Hotel with the French name (6)
HANDLE – The abbreviation for hotel followed by a word meaning with and the French masculine singular for the.

12 Rookie institute (8)
INITIATE – Double definition, the first as a noun and the second a verb.

13 Grasp provided drink (8)
DIGESTIF – A word meaning to grasp or mull over the significance of something followed by a word meaning provided.

15 Exchange irrelevant type of card with a Queen (6)
NASDAQ – … a stock exchange. The abbreviation for not applicable (irrelevant) followed by a type of memory card used in cameras and other devices, the A from the clue and a single letter abbreviation for Queen used in chess.

17 Definition of lucidity (7)
CLARITY – Double definition though the two meanings are closely related.

19 Deceit fails heartless Tory badly (7)
FALSITY – An anagram (badly) of FAILS TY (the inner letters of Tory being removed (heartless)). As the final two letters are the other letters of Tory, perhaps badly fails heartless Tory might have been better.

22 Tail of County Cricket Club with two unknowns (6)
COCCYX – The abbreviation for county and cricket club followed by two letters used to represent unknown quantities.

24 Problem ward? (8)
DRAWBACK – An inverse clue where the answer gives a clue to how you would reach the word ward in a cryptic way.

26 Seat of Member’s leader (8)
ARMCHAIR – A three letter word for a member of the body followed by the leader of a board or group of people.

28 Cultivate career (6)
PLOUGH – Double definition, the first being a form of cultivation and the second to run at speed through something.

30 Joker could be a joker (4)
CARD – What in a pack could be a joker is also a name for a joker named for what is in the pack.

31 Intermittently Lennon audio causes tedium (5)
ENNUI – The even letters (intermittently) of Lennon Audio.

32 Potential subject of sentence? (4)
NOUN – In grammatical terms the subject of a sentence but could weakly be read as a prisoner in the dock.


1 Cato gaudily wraps clothing (4)
TOGA – The answer is hidden in (wraps) CATO GAUDILY.

2 Treasured but heralded poorly (4,4)
HELD DEAR – An anagram (poorly) of HERALDED.

3 That learner is the laziest! (6)
IDLEST – The abbreviation for learner inside the Latin for that is or ie. As mentioned, the most lazy would have avoided having the final three letters of the answer appearing in the clue.

4 Posed in some flimsy Y-Fronts to fulfil obligations (7)
SATISFY – A three letter word meaning posed followed by the initial letters (fronts) of In Some Flimsy Y.

5 Mark is excellent about supporting home decoration (8)
INSIGNIA – Another word for a mark followed by a two letter word meaning excellent go underneath (supporting) a word meaning home.

6 Sequence of America’s seasons (6)
SERIES – A sequence of TV programs that is called a season in the US but the answer in the UK.

7 Has not messed with Tina (4)
AINT – An anagram (messed with) of TINA.

14 Schoolgirl hides topsy-turvy residence (5)
IGLOO – The answer is hidden and reversed (hides topsy-turvy) inside SCHOOLGIRL.

16 Old Mexican sounds like IT guy briefly (5)
AZTEC – A homophone sounds of AS (like) plus a word for an IT person with the final letter removed (briefly).

18 Domicile for those avoiding liability (3,5)
TAX HAVEN – A straight definition with no cryptic or alternative reading that has any meaningful sense.

20 Writ below Edgar Allan’s note, “top grade” (8)
SUBPOENA – A three letter prefix meaning below, the surname of the author Edgar Allen, the abbreviation for note and the top grade in an exam.

21 Prizing Gordian’s undoing (7)
ADORING – An anagram (undoing) of GORDIAN.

23 Military leader and first ever programmer find bug (6)
CICADA – The abbreviation for Commander in Chief (military leader) followed by the first name of Ms Lovelace, the first programmer. Strictly, the structure should be wordplay finds definition.

25 Assistant to the French assistant I recommended initially (2,4)
AU PAIR – The French for “to the” followed by the abbreviation for a personal assistant and the initial letters of I recommend. Can you have the initial letter of a one letter word – see also 4d?

27 Pear-shaped harvest (4)
REAP – An anagram (shaped) of PEAR. There are rather of lot of four letter anagrams which are hardly the most challenging of the clues.

29 Frodo’s rival loses ring, gets disheartened, becomes sad (4)
GLUM – Take Gollum (Frodo’s rival) and remove the O (loses ring) and then remove the central letter from those that remain.

59 comments on “Rookie Corner – 071

  1. We were later than usual getting on to this one as we are away from home doing grandparent duties. We are so glad that we did fit it in. Luckily, we spotted the possibility of a pangram while we had a couple of the last clues, 8a and 15a putting up a fight. Looking for the last required letters certainly helped, and then we spotted the Nina and everything slotted into place. Lots of clever clues and lots of fun.
    Many thanks Sprocker.

  2. Definitely a ‘start with the downs’ puzzle. This helps spot the start of the Nina, which helped no end with my last few in the SE corner. The LH side is much easier than the right, probably because the ‘I know what letter I’m missing’ bit is more relevant on the right side.

    Thanks to Sprocker.

  3. I discovered the Nina about half way through, and, like 2Kiwis above, its message then certainly helped a lot with 8a, 15a and also with 16d towards the end. Great idea, as I often only discover pangrams when I look at a blogger’s review!

    This was a brilliant puzzle – great surfaces and I very much doubt the reviewer will find anything to criticise at all. Indeed the only clues which might perhaps be considered a bit libertarian – 3d and 4d – were amongst my favourites; I loved especially the switching between Latin and English in 3d – cheeky! Although it does occur to me as I write this now that maybe ‘most lazy’ instead of ‘the laziest’ would avoid repeating the suffix from the answer in the definition?
    Other favourites were 8,15,17, 22, 24 across and 14, 20, 21, 25, 27, 29 down.

    Once 23d was parsed with a bit of help from Google, I was left only with a slight question on 10a; is it a reference to your reading of the review perhaps?

    1. Thanks for the comments – great point about 3d, “most lazy” would have been better.

      Ref 10a then that’s arguably the most cheeky clue as far as the word play is concerned – it’s a reverse clue based on a 2 word phrase (4,4) that means ‘to help through a difficult time’ – if you then follow that as an instruction it gives you the answer.

  4. The Nina was of considerable help in getting my last two answers (8a and 15a). Thanks to Sprocker for the entertainment. My favourites were 24a and 4d.

  5. Well, lots to like here…12A, 22A, 24A, 1D, 3D and 25D made my list. I don’t get 6D at all, though I can’t see what else the answer can be, and I’m not sure of my rationale for 10A either. I did not like 29D, because the answer cannot be arrived at from parsing the clue itself. It requires specific knowledge of the characters of a specific book (which I have not read) and I had to google and research too much to get there. 23D made me grimace, not because it was a bad clue (it wasn’t) but because we are currently being assailed by a cacophony from those annoying insects who will eventually leave the garden littered with big crunchy carcasses when they die .

    Am I the only one who looked at 1D and initially thought “coat?’

    Anyway, I really did enjoy this, Sprocker, despite my grumbles!

    1. Hiya – thanks for the comments.

      Fair point about 29D – if you haven’t read the books / seen the films then that’s going to be very hard to get.

      See my reply above to Maize about 10a.

      For 6d you need to think about TV.

      1. Thanks for the explanation to 10A. I was halfway there, but thinking more of “There is a _____ in the affairs of men.” I still don’t understand 6D, even with your hint. Would that be British TV?

        1. The key is what is the difference between how the US describes a collection of TV programmes, as opposed to how we describe that in the UK.

          1. Oh. I suppose they are called series over here, but that is something I pay absolutely no attention to so it would never have occurred to me. I rarely watch American TV networks.

                1. Yankee and redneck and movie are examples of what you like to call Americanisms. Series is not. Its simply a different word and to my mind more appropriate than season in this context. So worry not…you’re still batting zero on liking them!

                  1. Seasons is the American term, series is the UK equivalent. I totally agree that series is the “correct” word.

                    1. Touché, Chris.

                      P.S. I am sorry I can’t “reply” to you as, probably fortuitously, we have run out space and can’t indent this conversation any further.

  6. Just like everyone else, spotting the bottom line helped me get the rest as SE corner was a bit trickier.
    15a took a while until I inserted my memory card!
    25d made me laugh. Really loved it.
    24a was great too.
    The only quibble I have is the double instruction to remove letters in 29d.
    Thanks to Sprocker for the great fun.

  7. I enjoyed this a lot – still am really as I haven’t quite finished it.
    I agree with CS that the left side is much easier than the right.
    When I got 22a and 16d I did think pangram – but then I forgot about it! I missed the Nina too – always do.
    Still can’t do 8 or 15a even knowing which letters I’m missing – might have got something wrong – oh dear!
    Back later.

    1. Finally a flash of inspiration – that kind of exchange in 15a! Still don’t understand where the first four letters come from though . . .

      1. I believe the first two letters are usually written as n/a. No idea about the middle two, though.

  8. I too was about to get my coat after 1d…. but stopped to wonder what wraps was doing if coat was the answer

    Loved 8a and the idea behind 3d, but I don’t think you’d get away with it. Well done on finding a way to clue 22a! 15a is nicely constructed too, but with only 2 of the crossers I was nowhere near it unfortunately.

    I think the grid itself makes the puzzle a bit harder than the clues themselves do because of the lack of starting letters that are crossers, particularly in the top half. Also 4 clues with more unches than crossers can also be tricky, though to be fair 3 of those 4 went in very easily (4d the exception).

    I couldn’t complete the NE corner, and having revealed the answers was also struggling with parsing 10a (clever once you know!) and 6d, which I’m still not really sure what you’re getting at, hints or not. * I also needed my in-house LOTR expert (just the 3 very-well thumbed copies, at least I only know of 3, there may be more) to understand 29d.

    18d and 32a seem to me to be near enough straight definitions without any wordplay; am I missing something?

    Good puzzle overall, nice succinct surfaces and well worked nina and pangram (which I totally missed)

    * Just seen later comment/hint. OK, didn’t know that’s what the answer would be in the US, but I watch very little TV even in this country, never mind anyone else’s!

    1. Thanks for the comments Starhorse.

      Ref 18d and 32a then I was trying to go for cryptic definitions, so there is no further wordplay. Maybe they weren’t cryptic enough!

  9. A very enjoyable puzzle from Sprocker.

    I spotted the Nina quite early – I very much doubt that I would have solved 8a & 15a without it.

    A nice mix of clue constructions – favourites – the “Schoolgirl” one and the “French assistant” one.

    ps Maybe 8a & 30a shouldn’t appear in the same crossword?
    Both excellent clues though. Quibble, quibble!

  10. I really enjoyed this and probably the biggest compliment I can pay you is that this is the closest thing I have come across to a Ray T crossword that hasn’t been set by Ray T! Brief clues (nothing over 8 words!), great surfaces throughout, and Her Majesty making an appearance. Added to that 18d & 32a (cryptic definitions) and 12a (double definition) are constructions which would not be out of place in a Rufus puzzle; and 24a (my favourite clue) might have been written by Virgilius. All that and a Nina and pangram to boot!

    I am not fully convinced by 10a as the phrase I am familiar with is (4,3,4), which doesn’t quite work.

    I am not generally a fan of Americanisms, but there is only one (6d) and it is very fairly clued.

    Brilliant stuff, Sprocker. I think you should be promoted above Rookie status!

    1. Thanks for the very generous comments.

      Interesting that you spotted the 8 word limit on the clues – that was actually something I consciously went for in an effort to make sure I stripped out all unnecessary words, and kept the clues as concise as possible. I wasn’t exactly trying to emulate RayT, but I did think it couldn’t be a bad idea to take a leaf out of his book!

      1. That’s interesting; I wonder if you considered, then rejected, putting in something like ‘which could give’ instead of ‘to’ in 10a, but went for the ‘!’ at the end instead because of the word limit. We shall soon see if you got away with it!

      1. It always confuses me. In the states it seems you use it for “has not” like in ain’t misbehaving but in England I only knew it as ” isn’t” like in he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

        1. Just to add to your confusion, “ain’t” can be used for “has not”, “is not” or “am not”, e.g.:

          He ain’t done that
          He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother …
          I ain’t misbehaving

            1. Au contraire.
              Not criticizing. We authorize the use of Americanisms.
              Have a good nite.

  11. I thought that was a great crossword.
    Probably too many good clues to go picking out any in particular but I’ll have a go – 8, 24 and 32a and 3, 4 and 25d.
    Well done to Sprocket.

  12. A great puzzle for the most part – must have been extremely difficult to achieve both the Nina and the pangram. Only let-downs for me were 6d and 15a. I’ve never heard of the latter nor of the meaning of the middle two letters – I’m afraid I thought it was perhaps a bit of desperation to fit in the missing letter!
    Best for me were 8&15a plus 4&20d.
    Overall it was extremely well done, Sprocker – you definitely deserve promotion.

  13. Well done Sprocker on an excellent puzzle with all the bells and whistles (I had a nina on one side of my first puzzle, and you will notice that I’ve never tried that again! I’m very impressed by those who can manage them). My favourites included 3 and 29 d.

  14. There were some awfully clever clues here, 20d, “drawback” i think that was 24a, 7d, and I liked 22a, 16d, .
    Other clues I’d put in very doable category, 1d, 2d, 3d, 26a, 27d,31a, 32a.
    I didn’t understand 15a, but I do now. With regards to 19a, I fail to see any anagram indicator for “fails”.
    My favourite is 24a.
    Thanks Sprocker.

      1. Doesn’t the anagram indicator usually directly precede or follow the word to be anagramised ?
        Couldn’t the clue have read “Deceit fails badly with heartless Tory” ?

        1. To my mind it does. Fails +TY (heartless Tory) badly. Does an anagram have to be composed of a single word?

          1. No, many anagrams are composed of two or even more words , but the indicator is too removed from “fails” and anyway Tory was heartless (ty) and followed the anagram of fails.In other words , I think Sprocker should have put badly after “fails” or even before: “Deceive badly fails heartless Tory.”

    1. Yup, I took it as all 7 letters going in being anagram fodder, but I can see the potential confusion as, by chance, the t and y ended up being the last two letters.

  15. Well done! A nina and a pangram is quite some construction, and lots of good clues, although there are quite a few I’ve just bunged in and was quite surprised they were right, so I look forward to the review (thanks in advance). Apart from the excellent 24a, I liked the simple Rufusian double definitions the best, particularly 28a. I didn’t greatly like 22a as the surface didn’t make much sense, but it is a horrible word to have to clue.
    Great work, though, and many thanks.

  16. Excellent puzzle. It seems a shame to identify ticked clues as that might be seen to be damning others with faint praise. More important was that there seemed to be a sense of fun and intention to entertain (rather than to fox or impress) all the way through.

    My FOI was 19a after which I built on crosscheckers as a sequential run wasn’t proving very fruitful.

    Double ticked 3d – although I agree that “most lazy” would not only avoid the revelation of “est’ but also get rid of the arguably spare (but Ximenes did it all the time) definite article.

    Ticked 11a 24a 20d.

    That’s not many is it? I think I stopped ticking because I was having too much fun.

    I thought the EMs were well-deployed to indicate curliness- well – that’s how I read them.

    Longest stare was 8a – for a parse at least. Most reverse clues qualify for Barnard’s term parabolic (from parable – not parabola) – ie the clue tells the story – here you have to invent the story for yourself – but I’ll buy it – maybe an EM would have made my thinking more divergent – ie rather than the passage of time.

    As ever I missed the Nina – and the pangram. I started out suspecting a Nina on account of the grid but lost track along the way. The Z in AZTEC should have alerted me to a pangram possibility – although I didn’t have the J nor the Q at that point. That’s just me. Half-way round the supermarket I forget that I’ve got a shopping list.

    Only prob for me was 32a. I thought NOUS – subject in French (we’d already had some Latin) and overlap of meaning (maybe) with “potential”.

    Otherwise top stuff throughout.
    Many thanks

  17. Thank you, Prolixic, for your excellent review as ever, in particular for explaining 10a for which I had taken ” turn the **** ” as “helping someone through a difficult time”. As I said in my earlier comment, this didn’t really work; the correct interpretation ” **** over ” is clearly much better!

  18. Thanks to everyone for all the comments, and to Prolixic for the excellent and insightful review.

    Special thanks also to Beet and Silvanus who both helped out with test-solving on this one, and really helped to sort out some of the rough edges.

    PS I should probably point out that 1d is not an anagram, but a hidden word clue, so in fact there are only 2 4-letter anagram clues. It’s a fair point that they are hardly very challenging, so maybe that is two too many!

    1. It was a pleasure to help, as always.

      I have to confess that since it was around Easter when I last saw the puzzle, I had forgotten the majority of the clues so I needed to refresh my memory and remind myself what an excellent crossword it was!

  19. Oops – “Clue tells the story” above should read “Answer tells the story”

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. One question – in 25d isn’t the second word just composed of PA + I + initial letter of recommended?

    1. I think you’re right Jane. ‘Initially’ is typically meant to mean a sequence of initial letters, but there’s no reason I can see why Sprocker shouldn’t use it to just refer to one word. However, I think Prolixic was right about the Y-fronts in 4d – not Ximinean at all, but definitely fun!

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