Rookie Corner – 102 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 102

A Puzzle by Fidelibus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Fidelibus’s 3rd Rookie puzzle has a ghost theme that could be of interest to many solvers, but knowledge of the theme is not necessry to be able to complete the 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.

It was an achievement for all of the across solutions to represent the names of bands – a list is at the end.  It did mean there were some more unusual words (fairly clued) and the odd abbreviation which is never ideal.  Although there were a lot of three letter words, give the large number of clues, it did not seem as though there were too many in the grid.


1 A pound in money jar (5)
CLASH – The abbreviation for pound (as in pounds sterling) inside another word for money.  The A is a little misleading here.  Perhaps Pound kept in money jar would have been fairer.

4 Best Druid rocks upset (9)
DISTURBED – An anagram (rocks) of BEST DRUID.

9 Pawn in extremis antique engagement rings? (5)
QUEEN – The answer is hidden in (rings – as in goes round) in ANTIQUE ENGAGEMENT

10 Not heavyweight match (5)
LIGHT – Double definition.

11 Heard shot, took van (3)
LED – A homophone of the type of metal that shot is made from.

12 Choose maybe pilau, not entirely thrilling (8)
ELECTRIC – A word for choose followed by the type of food represented by pilau (maybe) with the final letter removed (not entirely).

13 Firm seized goods on HP, over a barrel? I’ll make it (6)
COOPER – The abbreviation for a company (firm) followed by a reversal (over) of a name for goods that have be taken by a bailiff if the HP payments have not been made.

17 Take air on board ship for kidney complaint (6)
STONES – Another word for an air or demeanour inside the abbreviation for a steamship (on board ship).

20 Colts? Wee lot coming back inside (7)
PISTOLS – … a type of gun.  A four letter slang word meaning to wee with the word lot reversed (coming back) inside.

23 Wealthy drunk (7)
ROLLING – A double definition.

25 Mobile ‘elp? Get memory card first – easy (6)
SIMPLE – The name of a type of card used in phones followed by an anagram (mobile) of ELP.

28 Backing John, say, not on after club fight (6)
BATTLE – Another word for a club followed by (after) the name of a musician, first name John, reversed (backing) after removing the ON from his name.

30 Very quiet judge in contemplation may be up in the air (8)
ZEPPELIN – The musical notation for very quiet followed by the name of a biblical judge (and priest) inside a three letter word for contemplation.

34 Oats making verger lose weight (3)
SEX – Another word for a verger removing the TON (weight).

35 Band may follow her in charge taking beer round (5)
ALICE – The definition for in charge with a type of beer around it.

36 One’s anxiously sought in Sahara primarily? (5)
OASIS – A semi &lit.  The answer is the initial letters (primarily) of the first five letters of the clue.

37 Firebrands first to last take on artist in music group (9)
ORCHESTRA – Another word for firebrands (used as a source of light) with the initial T moved to the end (first to last) followed by an abbreviation for an artist.  For the cryptic reading to work , some would required A takes B to indicate joining the two words together.

38 Objects to intellectuals (5)
MINDS – A Double definition.


1 Philanderer, randy at start kicked out of posh game (6)
COQUET – Remove the R (randy at start) from the name of a posh game played with hoops and mallets on a lawn.

2 See ledge partially deter abseiler on ascent (5)
ARETE – The answer is hidden (partially) and reversed (on ascent) in DETER ABSEILER.

3 Flirt with enthralling little number up in Devon town (7)
HONITON – Reverse (up) an abbreviation (little) of number inside a phrase 3,2 meaning to flirt with.

4 Capital shop selling food that’s kept hot (5)
DELHI – The abbreviation for hot inside (kept) a type of food shop.

5 Pudding needing zero cooking fuel served up (4)
SAGO – The letter representing zero and a word for cooking fuel all reversed (served up).

6 Milk maybe first of unsuspecting holiday timesharers (3)
UHT – Initial letters (first of) the last three letters of the clue.  The use of abbreviation as the answers to clues is not ideal.

7 French archipelago in Pacific part of globe, Le Paradis? (5)
BELEP – The answer is hidden in (part of ) GLOBE LE PARADIS,

8 Senior cleric eating acceptable turkey (3)
DUD – The abbreviation for a doctor of divinity (senior cleric) includes (eating) a one letter word meaning acceptable.

14 In these theatre performances, dandies, eff off! (3)
OPS – Another word for dandies removing the initial F (eff off).

15 Archer, winged head to foot, took off (4)
ROSE – The name of the archer association with love with the first letter moved to the bottom.

16 Work from duck chased by Manx cat? (4)
OPUS – The letter represent a duck or zero followed by another word for a cat with the tail removed (Manx).

18 Sesame Street’s latest, lion turning up? Not half (3)
TIL – The final letter (latest) of street followed by half the word lion reversed (up).

19 Long story raises a cackle (4)
SAGA – Reverse (raises) the A from the clue and another word meaning to chat or to cackle.

21 Greasy stuff from every other character present in social (3)
OIL – The even letters (every other character) in sOcIaL.

22 Food? Pass up fast food without hesitation (4)
GRUB – Remove a two letter for for a hesitation from a type of fast food and reverse (pass up) the resulting letters.  We have a lot of ups as reversal indicators.

24 Leaving fed, stuffed, being sick (3)
ILL – A word meaning stuffed after removing the FED from the clue.

26 Bar after time’s changed to head of military’s strategic planning area? (3,4)
MAP ROOM – Another word for a bar or area in a pub with the T (time) changed to the first letter (head of) military.

27 Sign so amazingly reveals spiritual knowledge (6)
GNOSIS – An anagram (amazingly) of SIGN SO.

29 Team in bed laid up with what’s poisonous (5)
TOXIC – Reverse (laid up) a type of bet and include the Roman numerals for the number of people in a soccer team.

31 Foe mostly, start of addiction will clean you out in the end (5)
ENEMA – Another word for foe with the final letter removed (mostly) followed by the first letter (start of) of additction.

32 Some unruly sinners may break down cells (5)
LYSIN – The answer is hidden in (some) UNRULY SINNERS.  I think that the hidden indicator works here as we have some of the letters in these words gives the solution.

33 Striking top of forehead, unusually stiff punch (4)
FIST – Remove the first letter (top of) of forehead from STIFF and make an anagram (unusually) of the remaining letters.

34 Soft on criminal? That’s not us! (3)
SFO – An all in one clue where an anagram (criminal) of SOFT ON gives NOT and the answer (us).

35 Sack news’ounds by the sound of it (3)
AXE – A homophone (by the sound of it) of ‘acks’ or news’ounds.

The groups in the across clues give the following bands:

Clash, Disturbed, Queen, ELO; Alice Cooper, Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Simple Minds, Battle, Led Z, Oasis.

47 comments on “Rookie Corner – 102

  1. The East side went in without too much fight and then the problems started. When we realised the ghost theme, it gave us traction to keep going but in the end we were defeated by 34d which we still don’t understand. We needed a Wikipedia list to find the Devon town. Good challenge and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Fidelibus.

    1. I got it to work as a compound anagram with the answer (an initialism for an organisation) keyed by “us” and described by the whole surface.

      It’s easy to try different approaches and come up with a near miss.

  2. Nice solve Fidelibus. Reasonably brisk start for me – top left corner eventually held me up a bit.

    A few naughty ones which I won’t comment on – not shocking – mildly amusing – but the general tenor of the puzzle was anyway.

    13a Didn’t understand “goods on HP” but I’m pretty sure my answer is OK.
    35a Tick – mainly for the definition.
    37a Tick – new take on one of the most frequently clued answers in the cryptic world
    1a I didn’t know that word except in the feminine so I assume I’ve got it right.
    22d Nice
    29d Slight mismatch of part of speech on my reading.
    34a Nifty – easy to misread.

    As always I forgot about the theme – looking at the finished grid even I can see it now – might have helped the solve along if I’d kept it in mind.

    Great stuff – thanks for the fun.

    1. Hi JS,
      Re. your 13a comment, did you ever catch the film< R*** Man? Director was Alex Cox. Weird doesn't begin to describe it…

  3. Printed this out and made a start last night, but I didn’t realize that there was a theme until I popped back in this morning (when I was halfway through and a bit perplexed) to see if the 2Kiwis had commented yet and read Big Dave’s intro note. Then things made more sense and certainly made the remaining half of the puzzle go faster. This kind of theme is usually not my forte since musically I’m lost in the 60s, but fortunately this seemed to be my era. I have eight themed answers. There may be more; for all I know, 31D is a group, too. With the checkers, I thought 15D was also going to be a themed answer, but not so, as it turned out. Missed opportunity?

    Anyway, on to the puzzle. I really enjoyed it. Quirky and a bit risque, but fun. A couple of new words for me in 7D, 18D and 27D. I was also defeated by 34D, so revealed a letter but was still in the dark until I read JS’ s comment above and Googled the acronym. The answer then made sense, but I still didn’t see how it can be arrived at from the clue itself. JS to the rescue again. That’s one of those answers that’s beyond the reach of we over-the-ponders, I think.

    34A and 34A are my picks. Good job, Fidelibus!

    1. Sounds like it’s just the wordplay side of it that you’re missing.

      Anag (criminal) of SOFT ON equals (that’s) NOT with {answer}.

      “us” keys the answer.

      It’s a type of clue found more frequently in barred grid puzzles and often in Azed/Ximenes competition entries. In the UK dailies Radian/Crucible sometimes drops one in – not many others do.

      The answer is often keyed by the words like “this”.

  4. Most enjoyable Fidelibus – all the more so when I twigged the theme, very late on.
    I have all the across answers being part of the theme, being eleven of them, if I have got 28a correct though I can’t parse second half and I had never heard of this Korean group.
    Flummoxed as others are by 34d. Big tick went to 34a

  5. Hi Fidelibus & Thank You for an enjoyable puzzle.

    Lots of good and accurate clueing here and many very good surfaces (a few perhaps slightly ‘crosswordy’ but many of us are guilty of that!). 2d my favourite; LOI 34d. A few comments from me below that I made as I went through – feel free to ignore. As usual I have tried to avoid it but may contain minor spoilers. And as ever I hadn’t spotted the theme – another one of my PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Crossword) moments.


    Additional comments:
    1a superfluous ‘a’? Obviously helps the surface but not ideal
    20a not sure you’d see this one in the Church Times ;-) Prolixic may be able to advise tomorrow!
    30a Is your ‘contemplation’ synonym close enough? Probably. Not sure
    35a ‘may follow her’ – slightly clumsy? Perhaps ‘Band for one…’ better?
    2d nice clue!
    6d this surface really appealed. Probably because of memories of timeshare touts on the Costa del Sol in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
    7d another new word for me – nice.
    18d didn’t know this word – useful
    26d like this one! Synonyms for ‘bar’ did most of the deception for me
    31d def – ugh! (btw, that’s not a comment on you Fidelibus, only the image it conjures up)
    34d LOI. I was initially unconvinced that this one worked but I now see your logic and it works fine.

  6. Initially I read BD’s introduction too literally and was expecting a supernatural theme of sorts, a misconception enhanced by having 4a as my first answer, but I soon came to realise what the actual theme was, and many congratulations to Fidelibus on managing to fit in so many examples.

    I enjoyed this much more than the last offering from Fidelibus, although I have a number of caveats. Firstly the grid itself – there were far too many three-letter words. I’m not a fan of them at the best of times, but to have them contribute almost 25% of the answers was extremely regrettable. Secondly, there was an overuse of reversals or part-reversals (I counted at least eight) and “up” was used as an indicator for such three times in the Down clues alone. A little like Chalicea’s recent NTSPP crossword, the constraints of the theme forced the setter to employ obscure filler words such as 2d, 7d and 32d in order to complete the grid, which is always disappointing.

    The surfaces were generally much smoother than last time, but a few jarring phrases still crept in, such as “work from duck” in 16d.

    Overall I thought that there was a lot of invention and clever construction in evidence, even if the ideas didn’t always work. The clues I ticked were 11a, 17a, 35a, 3d, 4d and 32d. I have to disagree with Expat Chris about 34a, surely it’s an example of “definition making wordplay” isn’t it?

    Many thanks to Fidelibus for an enjoyable solve.

    1. 34A? I didn’t comment on that one except to choose it as a favorite. Did you mean 34D? If so, what I was trying to say, albeit not clearly, is that people like me and the 2Kiwis are unlikely to be familiar with the S.F.O. acronym.

      1. Hi Chris,

        I did mean 34a, I was just slightly surprised that you picked it out as a favourite as the construction is back to front. That meant a subtracted tick from me unfortunately!

        34d I didn’t particularly care for either as it happens, as I thought too much was expected of the solver.

        1. I don’t know much of anything about the minutiae of clue construction. I’m just a happy middle-of-the pack solver content to get a full grid of correct answers and be able to parse them. 34A made me smile, and that’s always a big plus for me. I rarely sweat the small stuff….which is why my one and only (poor) attempt at setting a crossword was in junior school when I was 10 years old. I know my limitations!

  7. Just about to make a start on this one – sounds as though I may hit a few sticking points along the way!

  8. Thanks, Fidelibus, I enjoyed this. The themed construction seemed to be “go big or go home”, and it was big enough to carry the day for me. The chopped up grid kept pretty good connectivity, the obscure entries had fair clues and good checkers, and as 2Kiwis said, the theme gave some traction towards the end. Good fun!

  9. Blimey what a load of clues! (42?)

    Filled in most of the grid but completely missed the theme … and eventually ran out of stamina.

  10. Many thanks Fidelibus, I enjoyed this. Forgot about the theme and found it after solving, how nice! Very clever grid fill. And it allowed me to make sense of 13, where I had stupidily bunged in H*****. Some new words for me, didn’t know 2d, 18d, or the devon town, so the top left hand corner was last for me – together with 34d which I got from the wordplay but had never heard of it – a risk with abbreviations perhaps. Some nice constructions, I like things like “striking top of forehead”, “food that’s kept hot” “sesame street” “over a barrel” etc. And some good laughs. Wasn’t completely sure I had 34a right until I made sense of 34d!

    I’m not sure the cryptic grammar works in 37, I think it needs “takes” which doesn’t work in surface – similarly for 32 though there’s leeway there, the hidden letters may be considered plural though i tend to think of hidden fodder as singular – hence my preference would be “breaks” instead of “may break”. I’m not sure I’ve understood the “time changed” in 26d, so I look forward to the review.

    Brilliant, congratulations – very enjoyable

    1. Re 37a take v takes

      There are two ways you can get over that hurdle.

      1: Treat the letters generated so far as a plural – eg: the letters we’ve got so far *take*
      as opposed to: what we’ve got so far *takes*.

      2: Take a breath (or imagine a comma) just before “take” and then treat “take” as in imperative – ie an instruction to the solver.

      There are those who will quibble at either or both of those. I think there might be a self-appointed (I certainly didn’t vote for them) college of cruciverbal cardinals who say that “answer letters so far” (where they don’t form a meaningful word) must be inherently singular.

      LIkewise there are those who will quibble at the #2 approach above – but it gets around quite a bit – especially in harder puzzles.

  11. I loved your last puzzle Fidelibus and this was probably even better – great surfaces, lots of brevity, and lots of fun in the wordplay; and the gridfill was excellent. Some top quality bands in there, although 4a and 28a were both new to me – any good?
    Personally I always try to avoid acronyms like 6d and 34d appearing as answers. Actually that’s not true, I once used SETI in a puzzle, but somehow that seems a shade more acceptable because you can say it like a word…
    Talking of 34d, I’m not quite sure what’s going on there – you seem to have subtracted ‘not’ from the anagram fodder ‘soft on’, but I can see neither a subtraction indicator nor any indication that the letters of ‘not’ are in a different order to the original fodder. The appeal is that it’s an &Lit, but as most solvers have struggled with this one, it probably wouldn’t have made it past an editor!
    My favourites, on the other hand, were many: 13a, 30a, 34a (arf!), 36a, 37a (despite Dutch’s accurate reservations it’s nice to see a clever alternative to ‘carthorse’), 38a, 1d (good new word), 3d (nice), 15d, 16d and 35d.
    Bravo and thanks for the quality entertainment, Fidelibus.

    1. Perhaps I should add that I did like the clue (37a). Sometimes a technical comment reads like a dismissal, but it was meant to be of use – I liked the clue for its originality, like everyone else

  12. Found this one difficult and might not have got there without picking up on the theme. Four new words, 1 new ending, two themed answers I’d never heard of and a few that I’m still struggling to parse. In some instances, I found it necessary to guess at the answer and then work backwards from there.

    The theme was very clever but, as always seems to happen with such an ambitious project, I felt that the setter was boxed into a corner on several occasions. A shame, because there were certainly some goodies in there. My top three goes to 3,22&26d.

    Thanks to Fidelius for the challenge – my apologies for being a bit of a grouch!

    1. Wondering whether 34d might have worked better as – ‘Soft on criminal? No, not us!’

      1. That changes it from a compound anagram ( see JS comment @3) to a subtractive anagram – which given the apparent confusion, is not a bad idea. I think the answer being an abbreviation contributes to this one being problematic – just maybe, it might be better to reserve fancy clueing to answers that are not abbreviations. And the enumeration (3), though often seen for abbreviations, I think is misleading as well. Just discussing because it is interesting! I was well impressed with the theme. Particularly liked bands spread over 2 or 3 answers. In retrospect, I’m amazed I only saw the theme at the end – it’s in your face. Good ghost theme.

  13. Phew – I thought that was quite tricky – because I know that themes usually by-pass me completely I decided to ignore it. Found it now though – good one.
    Along with most others 34d caused problems – it still is!
    I agree with Encota about the extra A in 1a – spent too long trying to find a three letter ‘money’ that I could bung in AL into in the middle.
    I still can’t get 18 or 33d and it might drive me mad having got so far.
    There are a few others that I don’t fully understand – maybe they’re wrong.
    Lots of clues that I liked – too many to put them all down.
    With thanks and congratulations to Fidelibus.

    1. OK – have now got 18 and 33d. Should have got both of them before . . .
      I looked up ‘Sesame’ but then, in desperation looked up the answer – bingo – perhaps should have known – I make hummus all the time.
      As for 33d – well – if there was still a little face with eyes rolling upwards now would be the time to use it!

  14. After a long and very fraught day I appear to have completed the grid, needed the extra facility in my BRB app to solve the less obvious ones including 8d and 34d, only knew of 1d in female version but again BRB came to my rescue. Recognised theme early on which helped in the end with 9a whcih had almost defeated me. Thanks yo Fidelibus and I shall be interested to see the answers tomorrow.

  15. That was hard work but what fun.
    As Stan, the first thing I thought was “what a lot of clues”.
    Never too keen on small words.
    The theme helped me get the last ones in 35/13 and 11/30.
    Loved all the Frenchy words in the top half.
    37 takes the podium
    Thanks to Fidelibus and congratulations for fitting so many themed answers in the grid.

  16. Thanks Fidelibus – the theme helped a lot – get one half and start looking for where the other half might fit.

    My favourites were the very first and very last – 1a and 35d.

  17. I found this really tough, but to nick Encota’s phrase it was a PICNIC problem – I just wasn’t on the wavelength. The theme helped, and I went around looking for clues that would fit the answer electric at one point, having got the other two. Had to use a few reveal letters or would never have got a full grid.
    Very neat to get all the themed answers in, even if it resulted in lots of short words.
    Many good surfaces, but a few ropey ones too. Silvanus pointed out 14a which I also particularly noted as not a good one – it’s not implausible to have a Manx cat chase a duck, but then have the duck write a book about it? That was the only way I could see a meaning from it. Sometimes it’s best to abandon a wordplay idea (however much you like it!) and try something that might fit in more with the various possible definitions.
    I liked many others, 1a (happy to forgive the superfluous a) 33d, and 36a were my picks. I also like bad homophones, so chuckled at 35d.
    Thanks and well done to Fidelibus.

    1. You do like a bad homophone. Snape.

      I just popped in really to promise to tackle the puzzle another day. So apologies for the delay, Fidelibus, but thanks for the crossword and rest assured I will be back.

      1. Don’t listen to Snape.
        It’s not only a wonderful homophone but also a great wordplay on news’ounds.

        1. I mean ‘bad’ in the nicest possible way of course. All homophone clues should elicit a groan, and possibly a curse.

        2. I can’t comment on this puzzle as I haven’t done it yet – but I do know about Snape’s homophonia.

          Btw, J-L, I emailed you a little while back but am not sure if you got it.

          1. Haven’t received anything that I am aware. Will have to check on the mainframe (my PC).

  18. A great review as ever – many thanks Prolixic!
    And any puzzle that name checks Led Zep gets my vote – thanks again Fidelibus!
    [PS I think there’s currently one small typo in 29d’s analysis with bed/bet]

  19. Thanks as always for a most informative review, Prolixic – much needed to sort out the HP in 13a!
    Still not quite sure how 9a works – can someone enlighten me, please?
    Also, hadn’t realised that 14d is an acceptable short form.

    Thanks again to Fidelibus.

    1. Hi Jane – Is the bit of 9a you are stuck on the “pawn in extremis” bit? Casting my mind back to primary school, I think that when a pawn reaches the furthest side of the board (in extremis) you can promote it. If memory serves, you can pick any piece to promote it to (apart from you wouldn’t be allowed two Kings) but people would often choose to promote to a Queen because they are usually the most useful.

      1. Gosh – somewhere back in the memory bank that does ring a faint bell. Many thanks, Beet and Maize – that was exactly my sticking point.

    2. I assume it’s that, when a pawn reaches the far side of a chessboard, it is typically exchanged for a queen – although obviously not if the queen’s already on the board!

  20. At long last I got around to this, and I’m glad I did. There were a few sticky points for me but they have already been covered above.

    Thanks to Prolixic for the review which filled me in on a few bits of parsing that I didn’t manage to sort out.

    A very enjoyable puzzle, and nicely themed too – thanks Fidelibus.

    1. P.S. My top three are 3d, 14d and 31d – although that last earned an “ugh!”

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