Rookie Corner – 080 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 080

A Puzzle by Snape

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Snape returns with his third 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.


7 Cheeses reportedly causing a little bit of wind (6)
BREEZE – A homophone (reportedly) of bries (cheeses).  Does the wordplay cause the definition?  Perhaps “creating” might be better. 

8 Like a remarkable rise? Distribute early home computer (8)
METEORIC – A four letter word meaning distribute followed by the name of an early home computer made by Tangerine Computers.  I vaguely recalled the name of the computer but anyone who was not a technology loving teenager or young adult in the 1980s would struggle with this one.

9 Dread off mince that’s provided (8)
AFFORDED – An anagram (mince) of DREAD OFF.

10 Some keepers at zoo providing substandard fare (6)
ERSATZ – The answer is hidden (some) in KEEPERS AT ZOO.

11 She occupies position of responsibility; needs no introduction (8)
RESIDENT – Remove the initial letter (needs no introduction) from a word for a state leader (position of responsibility).

12 How to find out if mum is roadworthy? (6)
MOTHER – Split 3,3 this would provide an answer to providing a road test on your maternal parent.    A little quirky as the definition is unusually in the middle of the clue but the whole clue provides a question that gives the answer as the solution.

13 What smart inmates can be seen to do: bird (5,6)
HOUSE MARTIN – A reverse clue.  If you think cryptically what the words SMART INMATES do, you get the name of a bird.

18 For example, Charlotte heard how to win a game of pool with love (6)
POTATO – A homophone (heard) of POT EIGHT (to win at pool you pot the eight ball) followed by the letter representing love.

20 Description of nipple rings? (8)
AREOLATE – The answer is the technical name for the ring of flesh around a nipple.  Not an easy word to clue but unless you know the biological term, you have no chance of getting the solution.

22 River bird’s contrition (6)
REGRET – The abbreviation for river followed by the name of a bird.

23 What happened in October 1945 was not fully developed (8)
UNFORMED – The International body that was created in October 1945 gives you a definition of not fully developed.  You need to know your history for this clue.  It will not to be everyone’s taste but could easily be obtained from the checking letters.  I am not too keen on the construction wordplay was definition.

24 UK announcement of fairly large footwear that is sold on the streets (3,5)
BIG ISSUE – A homophone (announcement) of biggish shoe (fairly large shoe).  I am not sure what the UK adds to the clue here.

25 Cover ex-PM, without hesitation (6)
THATCH – Remove a two letter word meaning a hesitation from the surname of the former female prime-minister.


1 “I’ll improve your image” is an example put forward (7)
PROFFER – Split 2,5 this would describe the sentence “I’ll improve your image”.

2 Ripen half-cooked processed cheese (8)
PECORINO – An anagram (processed) of RIPEN COO (half-cooked).

3 Eden Project located on the French sewer (6)
NEEDLE – An anagram (project) of EDEN followed by the French masculine form of the.  I cannot see project as an anagram indicator.  You can project your voice or throw your voice and throw can mean to confuse but this falls in the to the category of if A = B and B = C, it does not follow that A = C.  Also, if project is used as a transitive verb, it should come before the letters to be rearranged and if it is used as a noun, not all editors would accept this as an anagram indicator.

4 Flagship takes in water, finally (8)
STREAMER – Include (takes in) the final letter of water in a word for ship to give the name of a flag.  Not all editors would accept this form of lift and separate where you have mentally to divide a word into two parts to get the definition and the wordplay even if they would allow it within the wordplay itself – and other editors would not even allow that!   Views will differ on this practice.  

5 Phase out sin? Get laid, baby (6)
COSSET – The function that is 90 degrees out of phase with the sine (or sin) followed by a word meaning laid.  Getting the derivation from sine to cos(ine) probably requires too much knowledge of mathematical functions from the solvers.  Also the construction A get B should grammatically A gets B.

6 Soiled potties that are stood on to look taller (7)
TIPTOES – An anagram (soiled) of POTTIES.

8 Ruler’s raison d’etre? (4-2-7)
MADE-TO-MEASURE – A cryptic definition of why I rules is made.  Even with the cryptic reading of the clue, I still don’t think that the solution is really an answer to the cryptic question.

14 Like poet Walter? (8)
SCOTTISH – Like the poet Walter Scott who was appropriately from north of the Border.

15 Abuse grapes? (3-5)
ILL-TREAT – Double definition.  Grapes are a fruit you might take to someone who is poorly.

16 Compile outrageous diatribe (7)
POLEMIC – An anagram (outrageous) of COMPILE.  Fortunately, Snape didn’t!

17 Time to pull (7)
STRETCH – Time in prison or to pull something.

19 Dresden,1945,for example – king ran away, scared (6)
AFRAID – A description of the dreadful carpet bombing of Dresden with the initial R (king) removed (ran away).

21 Curse French and English marked by moral decay (6)
EFFETE – A word of three letters meaning to curse (often followed by and blind) followed by the French for and and the abbreviation for English.

43 comments on “Rookie Corner – 080

  1. That took us well into ‘Toughie time’ to get it all sorted out. We thought from the grid that there might be a Nina but could not find one. Certainly lots of lateral thinking required for some of the clues, 13a, 18a, 8d, 15d and 19d for example. Heaps to keep us amused and chuckling.
    Thanks Snape.

  2. Nice puzzle Snape – plenty of variety.

    I found it fairly tough but I got there in the end.

    I got 13a early – so that helped – but 8d refused to fall until late on – I think it would have been a lot easier had I cracked that one earlier.

    Frank Muir would have been proud of your puns. 4d is fine by me – as it always was by Barnard of course – even though it enrages certain parties. 18a folk here probably don’t know – these things vary by region – but I guessed the allusion.

    14d and 15d I only got from one side of those clues so will await enlightenment – I imagine there’s a bit more going on.

    I wasn’t going to highlight ticked clues etc because the quality was high and the approaches varied throughout – but I’ll just make one exception for 5d, which I thought very good (it held me up for a while) – a device I don’t recall seeing before and a completely tight clue.

    BTW – the grid was one of those that cries out for a nina – I even wrote nina on my scribbles so as not to miss it (since I normally do) – but there wasn’t one – nor any theme that I could discern (I miss them too unless they really hit me in the face).

    I wonder whether there was any particular inspiration that you kicked off with – to overcome “the tyranny of the blank canvas”.

    No quibbles.
    Best solve so far today – many thanks.

  3. There are some lovely clues here – thanks Snape. I don’t fully understand 18a and 5d because I’m not too hot on pool or maths but that didn’t cause too many problems. Some of the surfaces could do with a tweak (e.g. 9a, 3d and 6d) and there may be some objections to 4d (not from me – I liked it).
    With two references to 1945 I did look for a theme, but if it’s there I didn’t spot it.
    The clues I liked included 12a, 24a and 15d but best of all was 13a.

  4. I found this tremendously entertaining and so filled with humour that it seems invidious to pick out specific clues, but I liked especially 13a and 18a (joint-favourites) with honourable mentions going to 12a, 14d and 21d as well.

    Snape’s keen sense of fun and love of puns always shines through his puzzles, and he pitched the level of difficulty about right for me. I’d not heard of the specific cheese before (and don’t recall it even named in the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch!) but it was eminently solvable from the wordplay.

    Yes, a few clues could have been improved (25a was a little too easy) and I’m not sure that a bird can show contrition (22a), but overall there were very few quibbles.

    I suspect that 4d will possibly be a “Marmite” clue, and I await with great interest Prolixic’s verdict on this one. I personally can’t recall encountering this sort of hybrid definition before. It was extremely clever, whatever one thinks.

    Many congratulations, Snape. I think that you have a great future as a setter and keep up the good work.

  5. I think Punk (short for Pun king, apparently) will have to give up his crown!
    Lots to like in here – and the puns led to lots of head scratching before the eventual penny-drop moments.
    Good also to see my place of work getting a mention in 3d. I do an ‘entry level’ cryptic in our magazine – which typically includes about 10 hiddens and 10 anagrams.

  6. A real mixed bag for me. Some that I really liked – 12&13a plus 8d (with 13a the clear winner), some I thought were a bit poor – eg 25a and the odd one where I thought the idea was good but the cluing a bit clunky – 18a springs to mind.
    Think I’m only half way there with the parsing of 15d and can’t get to any sensible answer for 5d (if, as Gazza suggests, it’s a maths based clue, then I’m not surprised!).
    Assuming that I have correctly parsed 19d then I’m not very comfortable with it – maybe I’m wrong.

    There was certainly variety in this one but I felt that the standard was somewhat inconsistent. It will be most interesting to see how your style develops in the future, Snape – anyone who can come up with the likes of 13a has a great deal to offer!
    Many thanks for the work-out and I trust you will take my comments in good part. I look forward to your next puzzle.

  7. Thanks for the comments so far.
    JS, I started off with 13a, I had the idea for it, but hadn’t seen a clue of that sort at that point, so wanted to try it out. I chose a grid from Crossword Compiler to fit it, but there are very few grids that contain 11 letter words (I should have split it up, or adapted a grid myself) and this was one. I started solving after I started setting, rather oddly, so never realised how much less pleasant these grids are to solve. I’ve looked through the ones I’ve made since this one, and there are a couple more like this, but most are better, and I’m now aware of it when I choose the grid. (Anax did a nice article on it somewhere, possibly here, but I can’t find it).
    I did include a couple of clues as experiments to see whether they were permitted and how they would be received, 4d and 12a, as well as 13a. I now know a bit more, so I realise 4d is OK for some but not others, while 12a would have to be considered a novelty clue to be allowed, given the definition is in the middle, and the noun may not be in the BRB as a verb. ‘Test that woman’s mum’ would have been an easy way to get a ‘proper’ clue.
    I went to London in May, and met quite a few of you, and gained some test solvers while I was there who
    provide tips and improvements and, most importantly, are frank when something doesn’t work. I have bombarded them with crosswords, somewhat! Beet did this one, it’s much appreciated. 5d I changed slightly, but it’s still not the easieast, and having the other letters as the crossing ones would have helped.
    Jane, I agree 18d was a bit clunky and 25a wasn’t great. Sorry if 19d has caused upset – I never considered it, I presume the reason is simply the inclusion of such an event in something as trivial as crossword wordplay? I don’t think anything I specifically did other than that is too offensive, but I take the point.

    1. Many thanks for such honest replies, Snape. With regard to 19d – I think timing may well have played a part in my response to it. Only hours before the puzzle came out on the site, I watched a BBC2 programme about ‘The ultimate pilots’ which included footage of a memorial flypast of eighteen of those ‘birds of the sky’ that carried so many young men to certain death. The emotional responses shown on the faces of the veterans who stood to acknowledge the salute were enough to bring a tear to the eye so – yes – the ‘trivial crossword wordplay’ jarred dreadfully.
      Obviously, you were not to know that such an unlikely coincidence would occur but I think it goes to show that you need to tread very carefully over referencing events which remain so raw in the hearts and minds of so many people.

      Lecture over – I’ll get back to my futile attempts to sort out 5d!

  8. Well, finally solved and parsed everything – toughie time – took me a while to get 8a because I’d never heard of the computer, and I stared at 15d (abuse grapes) for a long time before it twigged. It also took me a while to work out 18a though the first 3 letters were clear to me! I am fortunate in that I have seen a fair number of Snape’s more recent efforts, which in my opinion are quite a bit better than this puzzle, which I think occasionally leaves quite a big gap for the solver to cross.

    I liked 7a, 22a, 2d and especially 13a – others seem to agree the latter stands out.

    I like the “She” in 11a. why not? but not sure about the semicolon, for which I confess special admiration when used properly – just a hyphen here for me thanks.

    12 – very cute, but I am missing a definition for the complete answer – the whole clue does not seem to work as one (meanwhile your post above has appeared)

    My personal taste, but I don’t like needing to figure out what happened in 1945 to be able to solve a clue. Having said that, I liked the 23a answer but not the 19d answer(or intermediate rather), which seems to me more arbitrary – surely there were many of these, and I don’t really like doing manipulations on abbreviations (assuming I parsed it right)

    Why do we need UK in 24a?

    1d, as I write this I realise the full parsing, interesting, well done.

    3d project as an anagrind may be debatable but compensated in my mind by the surface.

    4d, this is an unindicated lift-and-separate which would not be allowed in many dailies, and actually the surface would easily accommodate an indication since the flagship seems to have been damaged. E.g. you could say “split flagship”, “separated flagship” or some better word to indicate it is wrecked and also indicate the lift-and-separate – that would in my opinion make for a fairer clue.

    A very enjoyable solve, certainly not too easy, and many original twists that make it special.

    Thanks Snape!

    1. Yes, with Joan Jett in the last one, and two events from 1945 in this,plus a 1980s home computer that people have commented on, I’m realising I should keep the General Knowledge to a minimum, people don’t want to be looking things up all the time. 19d, there were many of these, but to me this was by far the most well known, although Dambusters might have been a possibility.
      24a Originally was ‘Announcements in part of the UK’ which Beet suggested cutting. I kept the UK because my feeling was that some people say the second word without a ‘sh’ sound, particularly in the US. I am fairly liberal with what I consider a ‘homophone’ as you well know, but thought that might be too far.
      This was a fraction more difficult than I aim for – I’ve had a quick look over the next one in the queue, which you test solved, and although the grid is unhelpful again, I think it is very slightly easier.

      1. General Knowledge is a really interesting subject. I mean, aren’t some ‘plain words’ general knowledge? Today in my paper I had to know ‘gam’ as a school of whales… is this qualitatively different from knowing lyrics to a Joan Jett song? Or a Latin phrase? Or a town in Wales? Where’s the line?

        1. Yes, it is difficult to judge. I’ve been looking over some other of my puzzles, the next one requires knowledge of the names of two singers and an architect, but nothing more than that so I hope I can get away with it. Pasquale requires a lot more General Knowledge than others, but his clues are very precise to compensate. He does divide opinion as well, some people love finding out new words or facts, but others prefer the difficulty in the wordplay.
          Knowing ‘Gam’ is at least knowledge of a word, I suppose, which is what crosswords are all about – rather than history or Belgian footballers or whatever – but I guess the judgement comes with experience.

          1. Yup, that ‘gam’ was also by Don Manley, with his Quixote hat on this time. I guess it’s a matter of trying to anticipate what the solver will or won’t (probably) know; but maybe more latitude can be given when the word is in one of the main dictionaries.

  9. I test solved this one for Snape (apologies for anything I missed – even when I try to put my Ximenean hat on I am too easily distracted by an amusing surface reading) so he has my comments on the individual clues. I would just make a more general observation that, for me, Snape’s puzzles are very distinctive – I feel like I could spot one at 100 paces – and they have a sort of “personality” about them. Sorry I can’t explain that better. But I mean it as a good thing!

  10. Had to reveal a couple of letters as I couldn’t understand some of the clues.
    Namely 1d where I had all the checkers and 20a, 21d.
    8a was my bung in. Still can’t parse it either.
    For 23a, I read everything that happened on that date and twigged when I saw the Charter.
    Definitely toughie level for me with some interesting construction such as 13a and 4d which I liked.
    Thanks to Snape.

  11. As normal with Rookie Corner puzzles I never know whether it’s my inability to solve them correctly or the setter’s inability to set them fairly. It’s normally about 50/50.

    Today I loved “The Ruler’s raison d’être” and all the “cheesy” ones!

    Thanks to Snape!

    (As always looking forward to the review from Prolixic to see where I was right and where I was wrong.)

  12. I don’t know enough about the finer points of setting crosswords to offer constructive criticism so I’ll just say that I really enjoyed this one and leave it at that.
    I did find it pretty tricky – I have a few that I can’t unravel and two that I can’t do – 8a and 5d – although I have ideas for both which sort of fit part of the clue.
    I liked 7, 12 and 24a (loved that one) and 2, 4 and 14d. My favourite was 13a even though it took me ages.
    With thanks and to Snape.

  13. Very , very tricky. I am still baffled by 5d, 13a and 6d.I finally got the answers , but I don’t know why.I liked the scottish poet, effete made me smile,and unformed was a very good clue.
    Thanks , Snape. I think if you featured regularly, I would get on your wavelength.

    1. 6d is a straightforward anagram with ‘stood on to look taller’ as the definition. 13a – take the first word of your answer as a verb rather than a noun. As for 5d – I only wish I knew!

      1. For the maths bit, think of the abbreviation that goes with ‘tan’ and ‘sin’ and the penny might drop.

        1. That’s what I’d arrived at but still think I’m missing something to do with the first part of the clue. Ah well – not long to wait for the revelation!

          1. Lucky you.
            I’m still pondering on Nipples, Image enhancers and Home computers. Is there a link?

              1. Joking apart, I’m still totally lost on these.
                20a, 1d and 8a are as clear as dishwasher.

                1. 20a – think of a description of a particular shape.
                  1d – the last two words of the clue give the definition.
                  8a – a little used synonym for the word immediately following the ? followed by a type of early computer – which I confess that I had to check out!

            1. Don’t listen to Jane, JL. In my experience having searched Mr Google images quite a lot for suitable piccies you end up with things you’d never heard of, never thought of and really rather wished you’d never known!

        2. Apologies, I probably ought to contribute – the two waves (or functions) are identical apart from being out of phase with each other.

          I can’t remember enough of my maths to be sure, but they might be 1 phase out.

          1. The phase difference is pi/2.

            (Haven’t really looked at the crossword yet, just popped in to try and get a heads-up on difficulty level. I haven’t had much sleep and am on the wine now, so probably won’t finish tonight – but I will. Looking forward to it :).)

            1. OK smarty pants – I don’t “do” maths but, as Elder Lamb always says when I grumble at her about the general chaos in her house, “Honestly, I’m just good at other things!”

              1. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t really have jumped in and said pi/2. 90 degrees or even just a quarter of a turn would be equally correct and less showy-offy – having not got very far with the crossword on first read through, I was just happy and relieved to see something I understood! To paraphrase your Lamb: I can do maths (excepting arithmetic) but honestly, I’m just bad at other things!

  14. I have picked at this on and off all day and still have 4 to go, all in the NE corner. I am finding it very difficult to get inside Snape’s head, but for each clue that eventually falls I am left wondering why it was such a slog to get there. Perhaps by the time the review comes up I will have completed…or not.

  15. OK. Finally done and kicking myself over 12A and 4D. How could I have missed those for so long? Finally parsed 8A. The answer had been in my mind from the git go, but the ‘why’ eluded me. As for 5D, I worked the answer out once I had settled on the definition, but I think the clueing is what my mother would have said to be “too clever by half”, never meant as a compliment. There were plenty of good clues, though, my favorites being 8D, 15D and 13A.

  16. many thanks Prolixic for the informative review, as always. Some very useful grammatical tips.

    I share the concern about 8d – a popular clue evidently, but I thought it clued the last 2 words only. Then I started getting confused, conceivably “Ruler’s” (if the ‘s = is )could clue the answer, but Im guessing that wasn’t the intention, and the clue doesn’t benefit from such parsing. One hard thing about clueing cryptic definitions is that the definition reading does need to nail it.

    Reading through all the clues in the review highlighted again just how much originality and fun this puzzle contains. Many thanks once more, Prolixic and Snape.

  17. Many thanks, Prolixic – always so interesting to read your reviews. Have to admit that the second definition of 15d had passed me by – no wonder I was trying to justify ‘ill tread’ for a while!

    Can’t say that I had a problem with 8d (I did take the inference to be ‘ruler’s) but I can quite see that it perhaps fell short in some respects. My biggest ‘beef’ would be about the knowledge required to get 8a&5d.
    Nevertheless, there were plenty of good clues here – thanks again, Snape.

  18. Thanks for the review, Prolixic. I now understand 18A. I wonder if the UK reference in 24A is because in the UK issue is pronounced ishoo whereas in other English speaking countries it’s pronounce is-yew? If that was the intention, I’m not sure it holds water.

    Thanks again to Snape. Looking forward to the next one.

    1. Hi Chris,
      I thought perhaps it had to do with the fact that 24a is only sold on streets in the UK – but your interpretation is probably more convincing.

  19. Many thanks for the review. Points taken, I’ll study my anagram indicators more closely, and I will try to make sure the knowledge required is less obscure – I know my next ones require knowledge of people’s names, but I think they are well know enough, we will see.
    Areolate was a nightmare to clue – I should just have changed it, even if I’d lost some words nearby that I’d got decent clues for – I can save them and use them in the future.
    I’d spotted was as the link, but decided to leave it, and had pondered about wordplay caused definition, decided I could justify it…
    I’ll also try to make sure the follow ups are just a tad easier as well

  20. Very enjoyable! I personally liked the use of phase in 5d most – very neat. 12a made me smile too! Some enjoyable misdirection / sleight of hand / punning in several of the surfaces too – 15d being a great example.
    I agree with others on whether Project is really suitable for an anagram indicator, otherwise felt good to me.

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