Rookie Corner – 097 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 097

A Puzzle by Pulham

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Apologies but the special puzzle has been postponed for a further week. Instead we have a puzzle from Pulham, whose first puzzle was published as Starhorse.  Like Encota/Acteon three weeks ago he has decided to stick to one alias.  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:

The quality of the Rookie corner series continues to grow with another enjoyable puzzle from Pulham.  Subject to a few minor edits, this would not have been out of place in a daily paper.


1 Group of strangers brought together by the paparazzi? (5,3)
FLASH MOB – A double / cryptic definition, the second being a reference to part of their camera equipment.

5 Threaten troops with a single shot (6)
MENACE – A three letter word for troops followed by a word for a single or winning shot in tennis.

10 Adapts to new surroundings and furniture at home (7,2)
SETTLES IN – Another plural word for furniture or settees followed by a two letter word meaning at home.

11 Bag filled with raisins primarily used to make cake (5)
TORTE – Another word for a bag includes (filled with) the first letter (primarily) of raisins.  Chambers gives the required word only when used with the word bag, so the definition word on its own is not quite accurate.  Perhaps type of bag containing raisins primarily … might have been better.

12 Some relief expressed after seeing answer (1,3)
A FEW – The abbreviation for answer followed by a homophone (expressed) of phew (relief).

13 Replicate notes about a meeting (4-1-4)
TETE-A-TETE – Four repeated note on the musical scale around the A from the clue.

15 Sea creature that tends to listen (5,5)
NURSE SHARK – Another word for tends to or cares for followed by a word meaning listen.

17 Speed going backwards: 100? 1,000? (4)
KNOT – Reverse (going backwards) another word for 100 and an abbreviation for 1000.

19 Be jealous of diplomat lacking nothing (4)
ENVY – Another word for a diplomat with a O removed (lacking nothing).

20 Very popular at all times? Stone me! (4,1,5)
WELL I NEVER – A phrase (4,2) meaning very popular followed by a word meaning at all times.

22 Created a picture (I wasn’t included) and left (4,1,4)
MADE A MOVE – A phrase (4,1,5) meaning created a picture (in cinematic terms) with an I omitted (I wasn’t included).

24 Pedigree oddly ignored in the country (4)
EIRE – The letters (oddly ignored) of pedigree.

26 Composition only available offline? (5)
NONET – Split 2,3 this musical composition may indicate there there is no access to the internet.

27 Schedule piece on radio starting in the small hours perhaps (5-4)
NIGHT-TIME – A homophone (on the radio) of a chess piece before (starting) another word for schedule.  Perhaps piece on the radio before the small hours perhaps might have given a better positional indicator.

28 Outstanding girl returns as chaperone (6)
DUENNA – Another word meaning outstanding or owing followed by a reversal (returns) of a girl’s name.

29 They don’t appreciate random tasering (8)
INGRATES – An anagram (random) of TASERING.


1 Admit wife’s sister to store (4)
FESS – The answer is hidden (to store) in wife’s sister.

2 Unforeseen problem arising from deed relating to paperwork in southern France (3,2,10)
ACT OF PROVIDENCE – A three letter word for deed followed by a two letter word meaning relating to and a word for identifying paperwork inside a region of the south of France.

3 Sounding very frail? After 40 days without food it follows! (4,4)
HOLY WEEK – A homophone (sounding) of wholly (very) weak (frail)

4 Start filming here? (5)
ONSET – Split 2,3 the answer would be where filming takes place.

6  Special papers showing final cricket scores? (6)
EXTRAS – A double definition.  Following the discussion of this clue, I agree that it relies on too much specialist knowledge about the position of the answer on a score card.  As the answer is a well known synonym for cricket scores, perhaps “Special papers showing some cricket scores” would be better.

7 Strike a bargain about move to imprison composer, as a jury may do (5,2,1,7)
AGREE ON A VERDICT  -A five letter word meaning to strike a bargain and a two letter word for about followed by a word meaning to move or put into action around (to imprison) a word for a composer.

8 Lead by example fairly regularly, it’s hardly rocket science  (10)
ELEMENTARY – A word describing lead as a metal followed by the even letters (regularly) in fairly.

9 Someone so talented that players tune in to (1,7)
A NATURAL – A double definition, the second being the musical note to which musicians tune their instruments in a concert.

14 A French cloth (red) turned up damaged (10)
UNDERMINED – The French masculine for “A” followed by a reversal (turned up) of a type of cloth and the red from the clue.

16 First off Head of Entertainment drinks and dances (8)
HOEDOWNS  – The initial letters (first off) Head of Entertainment followed by a slang word meaning drinks.  Where you want to indicate the initial letters for more than one word, the indicator should say this.  First off Head of Entertainment only indicates the initial letter of Head.

18 Nero cast playing great-grandad perhaps (8)
ANCESTOR – An anagram (playing) of NERO CAST.

21 Talk describing area of Switzerland (6)
CANTON – A four letter word meaning talk in a hypocritical matter followed by a word meaning describing or about.

23 Prompt a state of embarrassment losing face  (3,2)
EGG ON – A phrase 3,2,4 meaning a state of embarrassment with the word face removed from it.

24 Hash served here? (4)
MESS – Double definition of a hash or jumble and a place where meals are served in the services.

43 comments on “Rookie Corner – 097

  1. I certainly would award an A-plus to this puzzle. Excellent clues throughout that really took a bit of thinking about and real Aha moments as the pennies dropped. Since finishing, I have been staring at it trying to decide which one I like best but there are just too many to choose from. Definitely well into toughie time and it held my interest and kept me smiling all the way through.
    Congratulations and many thanks Pulham.

  2. A really enjoyable puzzle – thanks Pulham! :smile:

    Favourite clue – quite a few contenders but 23d wins it for me.

    The diary of my last 20 mins attached below, with some more detailed comments & ramblings.


    9d I like it.
    20a nice double meaning
    17a well disguised. And I do always like some numbers in a clue
    8d Is ‘by’ pushing it a bit for the WP? Is that it meaning ‘in respect of’? Looks so good in the surface that I won’t quibble too much!
    Aside: Stone me, hash, pot, even speed (at a push): am I detecting a theme here!? [And what would the Church Times say? Perhaps Prolixic can comment on that tomorrow!]
    23d Favourite so far – nice!
    1a good dd!
    1d I’m always weak at spotting ‘hiddens’ and this was no exception. Well disguised!
    2d Aside: I think Jarvis Cocker somewhat spoiled that particular Southern France location/name for me…
    26a When solving I wondered if this is a ‘composition’, the players or both? I needed to check and you are (of course) right

    After 10+ minutes I am still stuck on NE corner plus 22a

    7d First word took me ages – no idea why! Definitely a ‘PICNIC’ (Problem In Chair Not In Crossword) moment.
    5a Got it.
    6d Is ‘papers showing final’ really ’s”? I’m still not 100% certain (but it must be). (If yes) there’s probably a tighter way of defining this letter?
    That’s the NE done; just leaves last word in 22a.

    22a Ah, that sort of picture. Done.

    Great fun – thanks!

  3. Great stuff with meaningful surfaces throughout and a good variety of clues – thanks Pulham. Top clues for me were 12a, 20a and 8d.

  4. Morning folks (or Evening to those in southern, and no doubt warmer, climes)

    I’ve only just picked up Dave’s e-mail saying that he’d been able to slot me in this week. Many thanks Dave.

    Unlike my last puzzle, which had passed through a couple of hands and then been tweaked, nobody has tested this in advance so I shall be particularly interested in your collective views, and for the official review.

    Thanks for the early positive comments.

    I’ll not say much for now but re. Encota’s point about 8d that is exactly what I was wondering too. I convinced myself that as we talk about “definition by example” it should be ok, but….

    6d is also one I wasn’t sure about. One definition is “special papers” the other “final cricket scores” referring to the position on a scorecard the answer occupies (i.e. following the batsmen) which is perhaps quite tenuous even if you follow cricket – so for those who don’t I’d concede it’s pretty tough.

    But regardless of what anyone thinks about the puzzle I reckon Encota’s “PICNIC” steals the show – not seen that before, lovely!

  5. Hi Pulham,

    I thought this was very good, I needed a bit of assistance to get the last few in (eg 21d), but it was an enjoyable tussle. I’ll go with 8d as my favourite, but there were many excellent clues I could have picked from.


  6. Hi Pulham,

    This was very enjoyable indeed. I remember your previous puzzle as being quite tricky with many fun elements and full of top quality surfaces, and this was very much in similar vein. I started off thinking that it was going to be considerably less difficult than before, but then I encountered quite a few clues that caused a fair degree of head-scratching, so I’d put it at only marginally easier.

    The ticks beside the clues I liked are into double figures (always a good sign!), namely 1a, 5a, 11a, 15a, 20a, 22a, 26a, 3d, 9d, 16d, but my overall favourite (with two ticks) is 12a.

    The only slightly churlish quibble I have with such a professional puzzle is that some of the definitions were in my opinion rather liberal or, in a few cases, not synonymous with the word or phrase that the solver was expected to find. I’d put “unforeseen problem” in 2d, “final cricket scores” in 6d, and possibly “talk” in 21d (without a qualifying word) as all occupying somewhat dubious territory. In addition, Chambers suggests 1d is specifically an American word.

    Overall, this was an exceptionally good product, very entertaining and a worthy addition to the best of Rookie Corner. Congratulations. Pulham :smile:

  7. Hi Pulham, and thank you for a top rate puzzle bristling with lovely ideas.
    I have single ticks by these: 5a, 17a, 20a, 22a, 26a, 2d, 8d, 9d and 18d and double ticks by 15a (neat!), 3d (which also got a d’oh) and my favourite favourite 23d.
    I didn’t mind those looser definitions at all – Maybe that’s a matter of personal taste – and liked ‘final cricket scores’ for example because really that’s a very tight definition if you think of a scorecard.
    No, my only problem was with the second half of 27a – where I can’t decide between SEVEN different four-letter alternatives! Help anyone?

    1. Hi Maize,

      Concentrate on when to find “in the small hours” for 27a, and you should get it.

      Being a cricket fan, I think “final cricket scores” are normally the totals!

      1. O k-ay I think the most likely option must be the answer on 27a, but I still don’t really understand it, alas… and as for the cricket scorecard – ha! You’re right of course! :)

        1. I parsed it as a homophone of a (chess) “piece” preceding (“starting”) a synonym for “schedule”. Hope that helps!

        2. The second word of 27a means schedule, as in ‘he schedules his appointments for early in the day’.

          1. Of course – despite liking the game, that’s not the first time I’ve encountered a blind spot with chess!

      2. Hi Silvanus

        Thanks for the feedback. It’s a fair point about “final”, the totals could obviously also be regarded as “scores”. I could just leave it out of course. Supposing I replaced it with “late”, would that do the trick?

        Re the American word, I think that where it’s the definition of the answer it’s OK without an indicator – after all 13a isn’t exactly English in origin! – but if I wanted to use it as fodder in a charade or container clue then it would need to be indicated (in the same way we use “French article” to mean LE or LA or LES). Also if it were an American spelling e.g. COLOR, then I’m pretty sure it would need an indicator. But I may be completely wrong, and would very much welcome views on this point and also look forward to Prolixic’s verdict.

        1. Pulham

          There is a world of difference between words which are not of English origin but have been adopted into the language (which is most of them!) and words, or spellings, that are used only in North America. It is common, but by no means universal, practice to indicate the latter.

          The answer to 1 Down is, regrettably, becoming increasingly common in the UK – probably because of it’s use in TV drama – so is borderline. It wasn’t that long ago that words like hassle and rip off where hardly ever seen in the UK, such is the fluidity of our language.

          1. Ah, thanks for this. Judging by comments below even if it’s borderline that’s not most people’s perception so yes, for the time being it needs an indicator. Fair enough.

        2. I’m not sure that “late” (or final) is the recommended route to go, owing to its dubious reference to scorecard position, perhaps “wide content of cricket scores” might be better?

  8. Thanks Pulham – very enjoyable solve. No great unifying theme (unless I missed it – I often do) – just lots of interesting and well-formed clues. I found it fairly hard – not all the way through but I was reduced to a crawl mid-solve – nonetheless all fair and no quibbles from me.

    20a (made me think of Tony Hancock) and 23d were my favourites – I probably would have ticked more but I forget to tick when I’m struggling even though those ones, when you eventually get them, are often the best.

    Once again many thanks.

    1. Cheers JS. No theme, though I have a bit of a music background and that possibly gets reflected in a disproportionate number of my clues.

      It’s curious that 2 or 3 people have liked 23d which was quite a late in “desperation” clue (originally I had ELGIN as the solution in that spot, and wasn’t getting anywhere) and I was really not sure about it.

  9. Excellent puzzle, many thanks Pulham.
    It was slow but steady progress for me, finishing in the NE eighth ( :wink: ). I too had 23d as my favourite, closely followed by 20a (very nicely constructed) and 1a. Also particularly liked 12a, 13a, 15a, (probably didn’t need ‘that’), 17a, and 3d (I have seen some grumbling somewhere about holy not sounding like wholly, a) it does to me and b) I like homogroans anyway), and 29a.

    I like the idea of 26a, but was wondering whether you’d completely nailed it (I don’t think the form of the whimsical definition is quite right). I think ‘Initially’ or something similar would have been better for 16d – First off, to me, indicates a deletion, but I can see that it might be a first letter selection indicator (same as ‘first from’), but then it only indicates one first letter rather than three. On the other hand, I may be wrong!
    In 22d, I’ve been picked up before for having a cryptic instruction in the past tense. I am/is doesn’t work, so I think that leaves the option of ‘one is not included’ or something like ‘I can not be included’.
    I would agree with Silvanus about 6d, and I wasn’t convinced by ‘a single shot’ in 5a (surely they all are?) but that may just be because they were my last two in.
    Even these so called ‘quibbles’ are very minor. It was really accomplished, challenging but accessible and, most importantly, really enjoyable.

    1. Hi there Snape

      Like the in-joke. Holy appropriate.

      26a, I see where you are coming from. Slightly loose perhaps, but that’s why I had the question mark.

      I think when I did 16d at that point I had “initially” in use in another clue which I must have changed – as part of the process of writing out a detailed parse I often find myself changing things. I have definitely seen “First off” used like this but I agree it is less satisfactory.

      22a, this is one I wasn’t sure about for the reason you’ve said. Thanks for the suggested alternatives. I’ll be interested in the expert view on this.

      5a Fair point, “single” is not strictly needed, thanks.

      Thanks for the feedback and glad you enjoyed it.


    BTW – one of those cruciverbal coincidences – today’s Guardian Quiptic had the same solution as 28a in almost exactly the same location – within one cell – if described as “extreme bottom left” then identical.

  11. Oh I’m loving it – but still fighting with 12&17a plus 3d. Not admitting defeat just yet!
    Many thanks, Pulham. One question – why did you decide to go with ‘Pulham’? I rather liked ‘Starhorse’. :yes:

    1. Hi Jane. I only went with Pulham really because that came first and has been used a bit more. I’m still a Starhorse in height though! But I just thought that whilst it’s fine for these professionals to have different names for their various publications it’s a bit pretentious for an amateur like me.

      Hope you managed to unravel the last 2 or 3. 3d is actually my own favourite – a hint of Uxbridge English about it perhaps (google I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue if that’s not a familiar term).

  12. I thought this was absolutely first rate. My only (very slight) quibble was going to be the use of the unindicated Americanism in 1d, but, having read BD’s comment above, I do agree with him that, regrettably, it is just about OK.

    Other than that this puzzle was great fun from start to finish, with excellent surface readings and lots of humour.

    Very well done, Pulham (ne Starhorse)

  13. Loved it. Lots of smiles generated today. 22A took far too long for the penny to drop on the last word! 15A and 20A earned double ticks but my favorite is 12A.

    On 1D, I knew that there’d be a bit of discussion here on Americanisms (cue Rabbit Dave!). I look on it as a “Little House on the Prairie” word that one doesn’t hear much in everyday speech these days outside of the southern and possibly flyover States. Some kind of indicator was definitely needed.

  14. That was good – really, really good. Am I allowed to have 17 favourites? Probably not, but it does go to show how much I enjoyed it.
    12a & 3d took ages but were well worth it when I finally got there and 17a was an issue simply because I’d got the wrong second word in 7d!
    Delighted that BD managed to slot this one in and – no, Pelham, I didn’t think that you needed a test solve in this instance.
    More of the same soon, please. :bye:

  15. Another excellent Rookie Corner crossword! I’m a sucker for this style of puzzle that relies on lateral connections and penny-drop moments rather than intricate letter-play. I’m another one whose favourite was 23d – a bold and surprising clue! 12a and 3d are lovely too. A really engaging and enjoyable solve.

    I hadn’t heard of 28a and although I guessed the girl, the first part of the solution seems to involve an abbreviation or reference I’m also unfamiliar with. I had no problem with 1d but tend to agree with others about 6d. I also wonder whether a mainstream editor might query the structure of 27a (and strictly speaking the “that” in 15a). But minor, minor stuff.

    Really well done – thanks Pulham.

    1. Thanks Toro.

      It’s an interesting point about the style; I wouldn’t say I’ve consciously gone that way but it’s probably what comes naturally. I get into cryptic grammar problems if I overdo the wordplay. I think the grid influences the style as a third of answers are 4 or 5 letter words, and obviously you can’t do much complex wordplay with them, well I can’t. And I’m not a big fan of having a two-word answer such as 4 down split over two separate clues – it always annoys me as a solver.

      Yes, 6d is definitely one word too many, and that “that” is also for the chop. Not sure about 27a, be interesting see Prolixic’s take. “Minor stuff” may be but very useful and all much appreciated.

  16. Can’t get any further.
    Just 1d to go and although there a lot of talk about it, I can’t see it.
    Spent a lot of time on 15a until the penny dropped. I agree with Toro that the “that” is unnecessary and misleading.
    Had the same problem with 11a, I was looking for a cake ingredient because of the “used”.
    But what a fantastic crossword.
    Great surface and good variety of clues with lots of surprises.
    Definitely toughie time for me too.
    Thanks to Pulham for the fantastic challenge.

      1. Got it now I think.
        Only looked for synonyms first when I guessed it. Only showed up as a heraldry thing. Never saw the up bit though.

  17. Looks as though you’ve got a ‘full house’ with this one, Pulham.
    At this rate, I sense a rapid promotion coming your way. :yes:

  18. I haven’t yet finished this, but really need to turn the lights out soon. I have a few in the NE and a few in the SW remaining, but what I’ve done so far I’ve enjoyed immensely. It’s difficult to comment about difficulty as I’ve pecked at it throughout the day, but unless those remaining are really hard, I’d put it more at back-pager than Toughie. I can’t begin to pick a sensible shortlist of favourites and can only say that there were many smiles as pennies dropped. Thanks and well done to Pulham (like Jane, I miss Starhorse). Thanks also to Prolixic for the review which I shall look at in due course.

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Glad to see that you thought this one was pretty much up to back-page standard.

  20. Many thanks to Prolixic for the review, and indeed to everyone who has solved and commented – especially those who had to persevere a while to get it finished. Apologies if I haven’t replied directly to everyone. All the comments are very illuminating and much appreciated. Thanks again.

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