Rookie Corner – 077 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 077

A Puzzle by AKMild

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

AKMild is our latest setter to step up and offer his debut Rookie 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.

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

Welcome to AK Mild with a gentle crossword but one that was well clued.  Most of the issues have been aired already in the comments but I have highlighted the main ones.  Whilst this was on the easy side, I have known easier crosswords on the back page of the Daily Telegraph in terms of solving times.  The main points to look for are repeated wordplay indicators and polishing the surface readings of some of the clues.


1 Call for help about legal touts (8)
SOLICITS – The abbreviation for save our souls (call for help) around a word meaning legal.

5 Chinese dynasty and the French mix socially (6)
MINGLE – The name of a Chinese dynasty famed for its pottery followed by the French masculine form of the.

9 Odd – two degrees south gets cakes (3,5)
RUM BABAS – A word meaning odd followed by the abbreviation for Bachelor of Arts twice and the abbreviation for south.

10 Police trap about runner’s first tier (6)
STRING – … something used to tie.  Another word for a police trap around the first letter of runner.

12 Back in Africa (Mali) a lad found spiritual leader (5,4)
DALAI LAMA – The answer is hidden and reversed (back in) in AFRICA MALI A LADPerhaps “finds” spiritual leader would be a better construction.

13 Bird close by – back around 5 (5)
RAVEN – Reverse (back) a word meaning close by around the Roman numeral for 5.

14 Couples lose first pair and become experts (4)
ACES – Remove the first two letter from a word meaning couples.  The technically correct construction would be wordplay becomes definition but as the definition is plural this would require a change to “Couples lose first pair becoming experts”

16 That girl’s outfit, we hear, is somewhat hairy (7)
HIRSUTE – A homophone of HER (that girl’s) SUIT (outfit).

19 Former spouse mixes shale and puffs out (7)
EXHALES – A two letter abbreviation for a former spouse followed by an anagram (mixes) of SHALE.

21 Maintenance areas for stones (4)
PITS – A double definition, the first being the area where cars are maintained in races.

24 Steer clear of our big host when he’s up east (5)
EVADE – Reverse (when he’s up) the host of this blog and follow it with the abbreviation for East.  Up as a reversal indicator should be reserved for down clues.

25 Old Ghana is Reverend’s chilly spectre, we hear (4,5)
GOLD COAST – A Spoonerism of Cold Ghost with the second relying on a homophone (we hear).  A slightly stronger indication for a Spoonerism would be usual either by referring to Spooner or a tongue tied cleric or famous reverend.

27 Openings for insane, dumb, inane or totally silly asses (6)
IDIOTS – The initial letters (openings for) of the third to eighth words of the clue.

28 Runt toad could be Puccini princess (8)
TURANDOT – An anagram  (could be) of RUNT TOAD.

29 Go back into tent for dairy product (6)
YOGURT – Reverse (back) the GO from the clue inside another word for a tent.

30 Try underground lab container (4,4)
TEST TUBE – Another word for try or examine followed by an informal word for the underground in London.


1 Site reindeer regularly – it’s a big step (6)
STRIDE – The odd letters (regularly) of SITE REINDEER.

2 Short leg, maybe, starts to praise Lillee’s yorkers in a weak kind of way (6)
LIMPLY – Remove the last letter (short) for another word for a leg, for example, and add the initial letters (starts to) Praise Lillee’s Yorkers.

3 Topless nanny, perhaps, in Channel Islands is related to the raccoon (5)
COATI – Remove the first letter (topless) from the name of an animal that has “nanny” as female form in put the letter inside the abbreviation for Channel Islands.  I am not sure that “related to the racoon” on its own is the best definition.  Perhaps “is one related to the raccoon”.

4 Bet 20 shuffle these sources of refreshment (3,4)
TEA BAGS – An anagram (shuffle) of BET and the answer to 20d.  Where all of the letters required are contained in another answer, you will sometimes find a reference to the other answer as part of the letters to be rearranged.  As the letters can be clearly found if you have the answer, this is acceptable.  It becomes more debateable where the answer to another clue itself gives a clue to the letters to be rearranged and this strays into the indirect anagram territory.

6 Explain what to do with dead household animal – about right! (9)
INTERPRET – A five letter word meaning bury (what to do with dead) followed by generic name for animals kept in the house around the abbreviation for Right.  This is the third use of about for a container and contents clue.  Ideally, different indicators should be used.  It is very easy to duplicate indicators as I discovered after my last NTSPP had been published where I discovered that I had used “without” twice as a deletion indicator.

7 Give sour concoction that’s atrocious (8)
GRIEVOUS – An anagram (concoction) of GIVE SOUR.  Some editors will not allow anagram indicators that are nouns.

8 End green nonsense – bring it about! (8)
ENGENDER – An anagram (nonsense) of END GREEN.

11 US singer sometimes said to be king (4)
CASH – The surname of a US singer appears in the phrase X is king in monetary terms.

15 Pass over church reader for philatelist, maybe (9)
COLLECTOR – Another word for a mountain pass over a word for a church reader.

17 Star lacks British swiftness (8)
CELERITY – Remove the abbreviation for British from a word for a star or famous person.

18 Fleecing first suspect on trial (8)
SHEARING – The first letter of suspect on top of another word for a trial.  Some editors will not allow first X on its own to indicate the initial letter.  It would be acceptable to have “Suspect’s first trial for fleecing.

20 Talk up a long story (4)
SAGA – Reverse (up) a word meaning to talk and follow it with the A from the clue.

21 Harm the environment when the 13 writer holds up Jethro, perhaps (7)
POLLUTE – Reverse (up – again) the name of the surname of someone called Jethro, the perhaps being a definition by example indicator, inside (holds) the author of the answer to 13a.

22 Stable boy holds end of wagon and gold carriage (6)
LANDAU – The last letter (end of) wagon inside (holds – again) another word for a stable boy followed by the chemical symbol for gold.

23 Issue writ about rubbish representation of Liberty, perhaps (6)
STATUE – Another word for commencing legal proceedings around a three letter word meaning rubbish.

26 Daily time to plot (5)
CHART – A four letter word for a cleaner or daily followed by the abbreviation for time.

53 comments on “Rookie Corner – 077

  1. Rookie Corner number 077.
    We managed to find it from the ‘cryptic crosswords’ tab and printed it out from there.
    A very pleasant well put together puzzle that is described pretty accurately by the setter’s pen-name so we would urge everyone to have a go at this one. 11d was the clue that gave us most delay and needed a bit of lateral thinking. Although we realise it will not be to everyone’s taste, we got our biggest laugh out of 25a so will vote for this as our favourite.
    Thanks AKMild.

    1. If your comment hadn’t popped up in my e-mail, I would have just waited for the morning, but I followed your lead and found the puzzle. Mild indeed, but enjoyable, though some of the surface reading was somewhat clunky. However, I think that’s a fairly common Rookie weakness that will be overcome with practice. I had no problems with 11D… a favorite singer of mine and I think the best clue of all. I did like 25A….a much better effort than others have made of this type of clue. Have to mention 24A, too. That one made me smile. Thanks and well done AKMild!

        1. My plan had been to stay up for the eclipse and tackle the Rookie whilst waiting. Foiled! Not to worry, the Cryptic in the local rag filled in the time and the event was well worth the wait. Skies were so clear here and as the moon disappeared there were more stars visible to the naked eye then I can ever recall seeing this far north of the equator.

        2. I think I might be the only person who thought that the full moon was last night but that the eclipse was tonight! Oh dear!

          1. Don’t worry, Kath – the ‘supermoon’ harvest moon was one of the best bits earlier in the evening. It did get a little spooky when the moon started to disappear – started off a little like a crescent moon except that, in the latter stages, it looked more like a ‘slice of melon’ shaped boat for the Man in the Moon to sit in rather than something for him to slide down! The stars were quite spectacular and the poor birds must have got quite discombobulated – several of them started singing!

  2. I agree with the above comments. Even I breezed through this – I thought of it as being like a very easy Giovanni, as the cryptic instructions were impeccable, and this is surely a good place to start. Only in a couple of places did the surfaces really jar – 3d is just strange, and 9a and 14a were pretty meaningless – but many more were excellent. My favourite was the nice spot of 6d, but did also like 11d (which was my LOI), 25a, and 12a, although 12a was rather easy (spiritual leader 5,4 doesn’t have many options!). I didn’t know 9a or 17d, but the wordplay was very accurate – 17d went in without any checking letters, just a quick glance at the dictionary.
    Perhaps I could suggest that one thing that is missing is misdirection? The definitions are very absolute, and only in a couple was it not immediately obvious which part was the wordplay and which bit was the definition. I remember reading about a quote from a setter (sorry, I forget where, maybe it was Dutch who told me) who said the main thing about clue-writing was pretending nouns were verbs and vice versa. So perhaps a bit more crypticness in the definitions, and a bit more misdirection, and the crossword will be more tricky.
    I hope this is constructive, the crossword is a remarkable first effort and wonderfully precise. Very well done, and many thanks.

  3. A very nice read-and-write puzzle, just right for a Monday morning. Like the 2Ks, my only hold up was 11d but eventually I managed to link singer and saying.

    I really liked the way AKMild wasn’t trying to be ‘too cryptic’ which can often be a problem for new setters – there is plenty of time to work up to the more complicated stuff and then misdirect more and add more crypticness. Thanks to AKMild, I hope we see more of you soon.

    And Snape, if you haven’t eaten a 9a, especially one in Naples, you haven’t lived.

    1. Absolutely, I hope my comments weren’t seen as a criticism, I was just trying to propose why I thought it was straightforward in case the setter wishes to become AKTricky. A comparison to Giovanni I hope would be seen as a good thing (some may disagree).

      Having looked up 9a, I think you are right. I have had some Italian local delicacies – I had spleen sandwich in Palermo, but that is slightly different.

      I have one question about 21d, and 14a from Prolixic’s latest NTSPP. When one half of a famous person’s name is given, and the solver is expected to use the other half, is a ‘for example’ (or similar) required? I have seen many examples of this both with and without an example indicator.
      My guess would be that it is not absolutely required, but is sometimes included by the setter when the name is very common (as with James) but usually omitted when not (there aren’t many Jethros). Is this right?

      1. I’ll let Prolixic have the final word on famous people, but isn’t ‘perhaps’ the indicator to rack your brains for famous people with the name Jethro (the famous agriculturalist or the rock group).

        1. Good question Snape. I believe there is a level of fame at which a name becomes de facto a synonym. E.g. you wouldn’t need ‘Scrooge, for example’ when defining ‘miser’. Just where the cut-off point is though, I’m not sure.

          1. I’m also wondering if a surname is fine to define a forename, (so West is fine for Mae) but a forename needs an indicator to define a surname, (even Jethro).

          1. It’s the ‘spleen’ bit that was worrying me. Spleen of what? Can’t imagine what it tastes like.


              Apparently it’s beef spleen, fried, and it comes in thin slices. I actually quite liked it, but the large amounts of cheese helped. I had some with less cheese later on, and wasn’t so keen. It looked like thinly sliced normal beef that has been cooked medium rare but has been in the fridge for a day.
              It tasted of offally beef, and cheese.

              1. Think I’ll decline any offer of same, thank you. Mind you, faced with the alternative shown on the link – roasted goat’s brain – I may rethink that comment.

  4. Thank you AKMild for a puzzle towards the easy end of the spectrum, for which I’m sure a lot of solvers at Rookie Corner will be mightily relieved!
    If this is indeed your first time out, then congratulations on your impeccable crossword grammar. The only debating points in this regard were the ‘Libertarian’ 23d and personally I feel that a certain Reverend mentioned in 25a needs a little more identification, along the lines that Prolixic suggests in his guide, perhaps,
    As has been mentioned, the target for you now must surely be to more consistently achieve surface readings which sound like something someone would actually say. And I agree with Snape that the definitions were very straightforward; they could have been more cryptic, i.e. deceptive… I recently read that it’s a good idea to start with the definition when building a clue, because the wordplay can always be fitted afterwards rather than the other way round, if that’s helpful.
    Well done and thanks again!

      1. If it has been acceptable for the Starship Enterprise “to boldly go where no man has gone before” for the last fifty years, Maize, then I really don’t think you need to worry, although I know certain bloggers hate split infinitives!

  5. I think that the comments already duly confirm that most of us regular Rookie solvers would much prefer tackling a debut puzzle like this one rather than one which is too ambitious or impenetrable. Yes, a few of the surfaces were slightly clunky, but the majority were pretty good I felt, and that’s no mean feat for a first attempt.

    I have ticked a number of clues that I really liked (24a of course (!), 6d, 11d, 15d, 18d, 22d) but like 2Kiwis, my biggest laugh came from 25a, so I’ll nominate that as my favourite. I share Maize’s view that the Reverend’s surname probably needed identifying, even though it was pretty obvious what a solver was being asked to find.

    Snape makes some very valid points about subtle misdirection, and for me a little more variety would have improved the puzzle too. Not in terms of clue types, that was fine, but “about” was used no less than four times as a containment indicator (1a, 10a, 6d. 23d), and each indicator should appear just once in any crossword, ideally. In addition, the anagrams in 28a, 4d, 7d and 8d each seemed somewhat formulaic, being two words of anagram fodder at the start of the clue followed by the indicator in each case. A little tweaking here and there in the word order would have been beneficial.

    I really enjoyed the solve, and, all things considered, this represents an admirable debut, AKMild, so many congratulations to you. Please, when you return, don’t feel obliged to change your name to AKTricky, ok?!

  6. HI AK

    This is extremely good. I’m envious of your ability to write straightforward clues with accurate wordplay and gettable definitions. Personally I find it very hard to get the level of difficulty right, often thinking my clues are easy only to discover others don’t. You seemed to have nailed it straightaway!

    As others have suggested a few clues have good wordplay and a clear definition, but the overall surface doesn’t really mean much, e.g. 9a, 10a, 21a (why would you need to maintain stones?), 1d, 20d. I was going to add 28a but to be fair a runt toad becoming a princess does have the hint of an unconvincing operatic plot.

    By contrast clues such as 5a, 13a and 15d have all three elements spot on. Like all those, and 16a and 25a (though see below)

    I messed up 11d, got the wrong singer, never thought of the other fellow, but of course couldn’t parse it. I can see clearly now ….

    In 25a I think you need to specify which Reverend, but I may be wrong. If you do then you can presumably drop “we hear” as his name does that bit for you by default. In 24a I assume you are using “up” as a reversal indicator, but I think you can only say that in a down clue. easy enough to tweak with “returns” or similar though. Apart from that I’ll be surprised if the expert review raises many, if any, technical issues.

    8d is a bit weak as anagrams go – 5 of the 8 letters are already in the right order – and some don’t like nounal anagrinds either (I can live with them). But I must admit scratching my head wondering how I would clue this, it’s a tougher one to clue than it looks.

    SW corner was the only area I found a bit tricky,17d and 29a my LOIs, and the latter probably the only clue with a slightly more obscure synonym to find (the one for tent).

    Thanks for sharing this, it’s an excellent puzzle and an enjoyable solve.

  7. I think it’s all been said already, but this was indeed a very good first outing with none of the pitfalls of over-complexity that Rookies often fall into. Some of the surfaces definitely needed re-working – this is a common complaint and one that is levelled at many setters from time to time – not just Rookies! I can only assume that this is one of the most difficult aspects to get right.
    Particularly liked 13a,6&15d and favourite goes to 25a. I didn’t have an issue with the dear old Rev. not being given his full name and – for once – I didn’t come to grief over it!
    Well done, AK. I look forward to watching your progress.

  8. Well done AKMild! a very nicely crafted puzzle which avoided all the traps of over-complication. All the clues worked very nicely. Took me a while to guess the singer in 11d, I knew customer is king but wasn’t familiar with the saying needed for the clue. And I didn’t know the puccini princess and had to look it up, but all else went in just fine. I agree with starhorse on 24a, a lovely clue, but “back” would have been better than “up”, since it isn’t a down clue.

    I really liked “tier” in 10a, I enjoyed the “Daily time” in 26d, these are nice misdirections.

    27a made me laugh. I agree with indicating the spoonerism just a little more, though the clue was clear. I also thought some of the surfaces were implausible, but others were fine.

    One rather interesting technicality which I’m glad your puzzle has highlighted, and I’m not sure what others might think here: it would seem to me that, because you need to solve another whole clue to get the anagram fodder for 4d, it could be labelled an indirect anagram. People cross-reference other clues all the time of course, and use it in the wordplay (e.g. 21d), but I don’t know if this is also strictly allowable for anagram fodder – indirectness for some reason is more of a crime with anagrams.

    I very much enjoyed this, thanks again and congratulations AKMild, a joy on a Monday morning.

    1. I think that indirectness is more of a crime with anagrams because there is a lack of precision about anagrams – the letters could be in any order (so you are taking an uncertain synonym and an uncertain instruction) where in other cases the instruction as to what to do with the synonym are more precise (remove the first and last letter, for example).
      So is it direct (as you have all the letters, once you have solved the clue) or indirect (as you have to work out the other clue to get there)? I would just favour it being acceptable, given that the other clue will have crossers and a definition, so there is certainty about the letters being used, but I am prepared to have my mind changed.

      1. I think it’s undeniably indirect, the question is is it acceptable? Perhaps it would be in the guardian, but in the times? Just to remind akmild this is not criticism, it is a point of interest.

    2. Hi Dutch, I’ve just had a look at p64 of the Chambers Crossword Manual which talks about linking clues together. Whereas elsewhere in the book the Don uses phrases like ‘some editors wouldn’t consider this fair’ or whatever, here he gives examples of anagram fodder taken from other clues without being moved to use those kinds of comments at all, so I would say it’s fine. That, and I meet it pretty often in the Indy!

  9. I think it’s all been said, but I’ll say it again anyway.
    I loved it – I agree it was fairly straightforward but so what?
    There was lots that made me laugh which is what I like best about crosswords.
    I’m a bit up the spout with 11d – I have an answer but I can’t explain it and others seem to be talking about a saying – I suspect my answer is wrong.
    I liked 5, 24, 25 (I always love Spoonerisms anyway) and 28a and 6d. My favourite was either 16 or 27a.
    With thanks and a big to AKMild.
    My only minor complaint is that because of 3d I’ve now got Rocky Raccoon on the brain and probably will have for the rest of the day!

    1. 11D is the surname of an American country music legend and also the first word of a 3-word expression often used in the financial world.

    2. Hi Kath,
      You’re probably right with 11d. One definition is the well-known US singer (think jails etc.) and the other is indeed a saying -three words used to imply that money always talks.

    3. Thanks both – in that case I think I am right but have never heard the expression – the further away I stay from the financial world the better (and safer too, probably).

  10. I think I will settle for Johnny in 11d rather than Crosby’s and Young’s friend as I guessed the expression.
    3d was also new to me.
    Apart from these two, I found the puzzle very straightforward and enjoyable.
    Liked the reference to BD in 24a and the Reverend in 25a.
    Favourite is 6d.
    Thanks to AKMild.

  11. It might be a puzzle for Rookie solvers, but I like easy ones now and again.

    It’s nice to see a Rookie setter not getting overambitious – others seem to think that it’s necessary to have a hidden theme or a nina.

    This was just a very enjoyable straightforward cryptic crossword.

    Thanks to AKMild,.

      1. No, no nina or theme, Franco. I’ll try and improve surface readings in my next outing before I get ‘exotic’!

  12. AKMild I am intrigued by your pseudonym …
    I liked 10a which had a lovely well-disguised definition. A few more definitions like that would have made things a bit trickier, but like others I’m definitely not complaining. I thought your clues were very precise and well crafted, well done .

  13. Hi everyone and thanks for the very welcome, constructive feedback. I have been a ‘lurker’ on the site for ages but don’t often post as by the time I get round to doing a puzzle it’s very much yesterday’s news and you good folk have all moved on. Beet, my pseudonym is the name of the beer I was weaned on, AK Mild by Hertford brewers, McMullens. It’s marketed as a bitter these days, but AKBitter didn’t feel right as a pseudonym.

    Main takeaways from your comments (apart from what a nice bunch of people you are) is that surface reading needs some work and that clues could be trickier. I am annoyed with myself that I used ‘up’ as a reversal indicator in an across clue – schoolboy error! Glad many of you liked 25a – sorry, but I thought everyone would know that when ‘Reverend’ was mentioned that this would refer to a Spoonerism. I didn’t think that 11d would cause that much comment, but of course, just because I am familiar with the phrase doesn’t mean everyone else is. (A 7″ single by 11d was the first record I ever bought in 1972 – it cost 45p and I still have it).

    I compiled a couple of puzzles some years ago but didn’t do anything with them – they need re-clueing in light of what I’ve learned on this site over the past couple of years, so I’ll see if I can get them to take you a bit longer to solve, if BD permits me the honour of setting a Rookie again.

    I await the headmaster’s review with trepidation……..

    1. Don’t get too tricky too soon, get harder in stages. I solve loads of beginner crosswords and so many setters think they have to be incomprehensively difficult in order to be cryptic

    2. Any fan of 11D is a friend of mine! I was introduced to the music of the Man in Black by my future husband back in ’66. We don’t have the LP any more but I still have the husband and I’m still a fan of both fellers.

      Anyway, welcome to the blog and don’t be a lurker! We still respond to comments no matter when they pop up.

    3. Nice to have you ‘pop in’ – AK and so glad that you have taken all the comments in good part. I’d definitely reiterate what CS has said – you’ve got some great foundations there, don’t try to up the ante simply because you think you should. Good crafting is far more important and very much appreciated.
      I reckon that the headmaster’s review will be fine.

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. As always it was clear, concise and encouraging. Our Rookies are indeed fortunate to have you to guide them on their way and we solvers are privileged to share in the work in progress.

  15. Thanks for the review, Prolixic and to everyone for their input. It’s very encouraging to have this sort of feedback and I look forward to compiling another puzzle soon.

  16. Hi AKMild,

    Sorry, I’m a bit late to the party on this one! I really enjoyed this – there’s not a lot more for me to say that hasn’t been covered above, but I’ll re-iterate that a few more misdirections with the definitions as per 10a would have been very welcome. My favourite was 25a, and I personally didn’t mind you using just Reverend on that one.

    With the luxury of posting this after Prolixic’s review I can also congratulate you on admirably few issues for a debut outing. Well done and thanks!

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