Rookie Corner – 115 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner – 115

A Puzzle by Starhorse

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

It was great to meet Starhorse at a couple of recent S&B gatherings (Macclesfield and London).  Today we have his latest 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 by Prolixic follows.

Another fine crossword from Starhorse.  A couple of minor points to consider in the clues but as others have indicated, there was a good variety of clues and some convincing surface readings.


1 Starting, or finishing? (7,2)
WINDING UP – A double definition, the first being what a clockwork toy needs and the second what may happen to a bankrupt company.

9 Charge attendant to drive first (7)
RAMPAGE – A word meaning firs drive before (first) a word for a servant or attendant.

10 Island from which Simon’s partner, a Greek character, starts to swim back (7)
SUMATRA – The name of Paul Simon’s musical partner, the A from the clue, a letter of the Greek alphabet and the first letter (starts to) of swim all reversed (back).  Starts to indicates two or more letters, so a better way of indicating the S is required.

11 First pair of cellists intermittently interrupting exuberant band of musicians (5)
OCTET – The first two letters in cellists are included (interrupting) in separate places (intermittently) the abbreviation for over the top (exuberant).

12 No longer thinking dear? (9)
EXPENSIVE – A two letter prefix meaning no longer followed by a word meaning thinking.

13 Release a sequence of games without charge (3,4)
SET FREE – A sequence of games in a tennis match followed by a word meaning without charge.

15 A shilling off first-class return (5)
ELECT – Remove the S (shilling off) from the start of a word meaning first class.  The A at the beginning of the clue is, strictly speaking, superfluous but conventionally, the use of the indefinite article as used here is acceptable.

17 Secured old hat first daughter discarded for good (5)
GATED – Remove (discarded) the first D (daughter) from a word meaning old hat and replace it with a G (good).  Kudos for indicating that it was only the first of the letters D that had to be replaced.

18 Supports signs in bars demanding silence (5)
RESTS – A double definition, the first being supports used in snooker and the second being the signs in bars of music where the musician does not play.

19 Lift bundles of papers, guillotine the edges (5)
HEAVE – A word for bundles of papers without (guillotine) the first and last letters (the edges).

21 Opposed to giving up gains, Pole is in danger (2,5)
AT STAKE – A word meaning opposed to has the “gains” removed from it (giving up) and is followed by a word for a pole.

24 Doctors, for example, appear so old when drunk (4,5)
SOAP OPERA – An anagram (when drunk) of APPEAR SO O (old).

25 Spell “rattle” out loud (5)
PHASE – A homophone (out loud) of faze (rattle).

27 Feel cab edging backwards contributing to disaster (7)
DEBACLE – The answer is hidden (contributing to) and reversed (backwards) in FEEL CAB EDGING.  Whilst I cannot quite put my finger on it, the reversal and hidden word indicators feel slightly clumsy here.  I think it is partly because you need a contribution from the wordplay to reach the answer rather than the wordplay forming part of (contributing to) the answer.

28 Introductions from radio broadcast by former partner (7)
EXORDIA – An anagram (broadcast) of RADIO after a two letter word for a former partner.

29 Confuse Spooner with two names for the Invisible Man? (3-6)
NON-PERSON – An anagram (confuse) of SPOONER N N (two names).


1 Haggard queen infiltrates women’s groups making demands (6)
WISHES – The name of Rider Haggard’s queen inside the abbreviation for Women’s Institutes (pluralised form).

2 They identify irrelevant politicians, drinking coffee half the time (10)
NAMEPLATES – The abbreviation for not applicable (irrelevant) followed by the abbreviation for a member of the European parliament and a type of coffee with one of the Ts removed (half time).

3 Italian on vacation looked after fiancée (8)
INTENDED – The outer letters (on vacation) of Italian followed by a word meaning looked after or cared for.

4 Lady in work unit lifting building material (7)
GRANITE – The name of a lady (such as the singer ???? Turner) inside the name of a measurement of the amount of work all reversed (lifting).

5 Harry Potter’s rebellion? (7)
PROTEST – An anagram (harry) of POTTERS.

6 Significance of my name being Ruby, perhaps? (6)
IMPORT – A short way of saying my name followed by the name of a drink of which ruby is an example.

7 Shy playmates? (4)
CAST – Double definition of a word to throw or shy and a group of actors in a play.

8 Whips available from Emmanuelle at her salon? (8)
LEATHERS – The answer is hidden (available from) in EMMANUELLE AT HER SALON.

14 Block of flats is screened for development (10)
RESIDENCES – An anagram (for development) of IS SCREENED.

16 Reminder: it’s sadistic cutting off hands (3)
CUE – A word meaning sadistic has the abbreviations for left and right (hands) removed (cutting off).

17 Gets in a clinch with slapper – crumpled after beginning to gag (8)
GRAPPELS – An anagram (crumpled) of SLAPPER after the first letter (beginning to) of gag.

18 Fob off resolute attempt to up the ante? (8)
REDOUBLE – A word meaning resolute has the TAB (fob) removed (off).

19 Regional German Ambassador heads evil forces in a manoeuvre (7)
HESSIAN – The abbreviation for an ambassador before (heads) the abbreviation for the German evil forces and an anagram (manoeuvre) of INA.

20 Entertainment displaying a lack of inhibition? (7)
ABANDON – Split 1, 4, 2, the answer could be a form of entertainment.

22 Express willingness to agree over issue (for compensation) (6)
AMENDS – A word expressing agreement at the end of a prayer followed by the abbreviations for daughter and son (issue).  I think that issue in the singular is fine as one or more children can be the issue of their parents and you would not describe them as issues.  That being said, the path to the solution does require quite a lot of the solver to get from issue to children then to daughter and son both being abbreviated. 

23 Accommodate fool (4,2)
TAKE IN – Double definition for a phrase meaning to provide housing for someone and to dupe someone.

26 Thanks for turning up –  work is over (4)
ATOP – Reverse (for turning up) a word meaning thanks and follow it with the abbreviation for work.


43 comments on “Rookie Corner – 115

  1. Another excellent Rookie puzzle that took us well into “toughie time”. We are still not sure how the wordplay for 18d works but will keep worrying away at it. Lot’s of really clever clues in here and much appreciated.
    Thanks Starhorse.

  2. Thank you to Starhorse for an enjoyable start to Monday morning – difficulty wise on the cusp between hard back pager and easy Toughie.

    I have a couple of quibbles but I’ll leave it for Prolixic to comment on them as I am sure he will.

  3. Very enjoyable – thanks Starhorse. This seemed to be relatively easy at the top but get much trickier towards the bottom. I’m not really convinced by the ‘issue’ in 22d. I enjoyed the misdirection at 29a but I’ll pick out 21a, 27a and 7d for the podium.

  4. There’s a few I can’t parse, and I also found the bottom half quite tough, but very enjoyable and 6d made me chuckle. 7d was also very nice. 26 d also had an excellent surface for a final clue. Thanks Starhorse

    1. Thanks Beet, I did wonder if people would get to 26d and think “Yep, that was too much like work, time for some leisure…”

  5. Morning (or evening, depending on where you are)

    Many thanks for the early comments. Like the Kiwis I think I would have struggled to parse 18d had I come across it somewhere.

    Re. “issue” I’m interested in views on that. I toyed with “issues”, which still works in the surface, but the way I am trying to use it is as in a mass noun sense (at least that’s what I glean from OED3) so I’m not sure which is the better option.

    Re. toughness I hope the grid helps. Although there are a lot of clues (33) in two across clues 4 out of 5 letters interlock, and it’s 5 out of 7 in a couple of down clues. There are also only 4 clues where the first letter is not interlocking. So hopefully if anyone is struggling to get a foothold then that will make life a tad easier.

  6. Another extremely polished puzzle that continues to set the Rookie bar at a very high level.

    I agree with the consensus so far, it was much trickier at the bottom than the top, and the surfaces were as smooth as previous Starhorse/Pulham creations. I think with each successive puzzle, Starhorse has improved on the one before, which I’m sure was his aim ideally.

    My ticked clues reach into double figures, although, like Beet, a few are still proving difficult to parse. My ticks: 1a, 10a, 15a, 16a, 24a, 25a, 27a, 29a (I also liked the misdirection), 2d, 7d, 8d and 23d. “Crumpled” jarred slightly for me as an anagram indicator in 17d, but that’s a personal choice. I would have gone with “collapsed” or something similar. 19d seems to be making quite a few appearances lately.

    Great stuff, Starhorse, I enjoyed it very much indeed.

    1. Thanks Silvanus. Yes, re. 19d I already had it in the partly completed grid when it appeared a few weeks ago in a Rookie puzzle, though clued differently thankfully. And thanks for the “crumpled” and “collapsed” thoughts. I think you are right – “crumpled” is more emotional than physical, and it’s really physical that the story suggests.

  7. Hi Starhorse,

    What a great set of clues – a really nice puzzle! Difficult in places but not ridiculously so.
    There are some good charades eg 3d. I really liked 5d, 7d, 24a, 2d (I fell for the ‘irrelevant politicians’ bit). Slight quibble over 10a (see below). My overall favourite is 29a – loved it! Some more detailed clue comments below from my notes as I solved. Like others, the bottom half was definitely a lot harder than the top for me. I look forward to Prolixic’s review tomorrow!

    Thanks again,


    More details…

    5d neat – haven’t seen that one before
    7d nice def
    17d not quite sure what’s going on in the surface – and not quite sure that I want to ;-)
    10a starts vs start (WP vs surface)
    2d can’t quiet parse this one yet. I think I can see the ‘coffee’…
    24a like it!
    27a this took me a while
    19a deceptive surface
    29a my favourite sort of clue – excellent!
    26d so many turns I feel dizzy!
    2d clever – I fell for the ‘irrelevant politicians’ part
    22d still haven’t fully parsed this one.

    1. Thanks Encota. Spot on re. 10a, hadn’t picked that up before.

      I won’t comment on the non-parsings at the moment – others may well do as the day goes on – except to say that Gazza raised a possible quibble with the way I have used “issue” in 22d. I see below it was also a nose wrinkle for Maize.

      1. Thanks – I’d sussed 2d before I’d reached the end but forgot to change my earlier ‘haven’t parsed this yet’ comment. With 22d, perhaps using ‘with surgeon’ or ‘with policeman’ instead of ‘over issue’ and dropping the brackets might work? (I don’t want to be so presumptuous as saying ‘might be an improvement’!)


  8. Terrific puzzle Starhorse. Much cleverness with wordplay and misdirection, all very much enjoyed.
    Yes, there were a few in the top half for which the answer readily sprang to mind, but in general I’d say you hit the sweet spot – they pretty much all took careful thought, but none too long.
    My LOI was 22d which sort of worked, and on reflection seems fair enough, but at the time provoked a slight wrinkling of the nose rather than a smile, so I’d probably say find another way altogether of indicating the last two letters.
    I have loads of ticks: 9a, 12a, 15a (great surface), 18a, 19a, 21a, 29a (yes, you had me barking up the wrong tree for a while there), 3d, 4d, 5d (I think it’s been done before, but it’s a good one so why not?) 7d, 14d, 16d, 18d (nice), 20d and 23d.
    To be nitpicking, I’d have thought 27a was the other way round, so to speak – which contributes to which? And as for 2d – well that’s just cheeky!

    1. Thanks Maize.

      I’m sure 5d must have been done, perhaps with different synonyms for the definition, but as I’d not seen it myself I went with it. I’m awaiting Prolixic’s verdict on 22d.

  9. Like others I found the bottom much harder than the top … much harder. I needed quite a bit of help to get that sorted out, and would put the lower region most definitely at Toughie level, with the top on the back page. A puzzle should probably not span two pages, especially if they are not facing pages!

    The above is all part of the fun of a puzzle in this slot and I enjoyed this very much. There were only two minor things I don’t think quite work, but I can safely leave that stuff to those more qualified.

    I don’t know about Spooner, but the misdirection in 29a confused me! Totally sucked in. Grr!

    As Beet said, you did indeed have a great surface for a final clue, and the first wasn’t inappropriate either.

    My favourite is 2d. Loved the surface and the wordplay.

    Many thanks, Starhorse (I’m still really happy you kept the name!) – I look forward to your next one. Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for the review.

    1. Hi Kitty, thanks. Not quite sure what it is that makes the bottom half trickier – but from the consensus it clearly is.

      How are you getting on with setting one yourself?

      1. Oh dear – that’s the second nudge I’ve had in that direction in as many days. I have two grids full of answers but have not written any clues, so perhaps it’s time to make a start. It’s harder than it looks!

  10. Many thanks Starhorse – like the others, for me the top went smoothly and the bottom did not.

    A lot of great clues. I like the hiddens (27a – contributing works for me, as in offering a bit – and 8d, very nice). I liked the start and finish (1a, 26d). I also really liked 12a and 29d (though I don’t think I’ve seen “two” used like that before, it may close to the edge of legality because you don’t actually see one N in the fodder). 3d works very nicely, as does 7d.

    I first used the wrong anagram indicator for 5d and worried about the definition – amazing how clues make so much more sense when you parse them right. Some other definitions I’m not convinced really nail it: 17d (I don’t think it’s the getting into), 14d (just one possibility), 22d ( i struggle a lot with this clue – but isn’t the answer plural)

    I agree with encota about 10a, I had marked that too.

    I have yet to parse 21a ( and needed the other comments to parse 18d and 22d).

    I wasn’t sure whether the women’s group could have a plural, perhaps group’s somehow is safer, and surface-wise I wasn’t sure what a ‘regional’ german ambassador would be, but maybe there is a way that can be used. 16d I was thinking cutting out more accurately describes what you are doing cryptically.

    that covers all my notes, hope that is useful. I look forward to the review, as always. Very enjoyable and quite a challenge, so congratulations and many thanks!

    1. 21a: remove word #5 from (the middle of) a word meaning word #1 – then a word meaning word #6.

    2. Thanks Dutch, I assume re the ambassador you were more questioning surface-wise whether there would be a “regional” one. Fair point, but many organisations do have representatives they rather grandly refer to as Ambassadors, so I think it’s OK.

      Re the 22d answer, I looked at this and I think this is the one meaning of the answer that can be defined this way.

    3. Thanks JS,
      Yes surface-wise for ambassador, and I did imagine It could work.
      22d I agree and withdrew the comment but you must just seen it!

      Thanx again

  11. Nice puzzle Starhorse – kept me busy for a fair while – longer than I had planned. Guardian tough for a Monday too – where’s Rufus when you need him?

    Difficulty-wise somewhere on the slightly hard side of medium-to-hard for me – for the clues that held me up at least. That’s a popular level to pitch at.

    I actually remembered to tick as I went along. Once I had slowed down most of the ones holding me up seemed to deserve a tick when they eventually fell. The tickers – hard and easy were:

    10a, 18a, 21a, 2d, 8d, 18d, 19d, 20d, 22d, 26d

    Double-tick for 24a – which was my favourite.

    The strengths, I thought, were the convincing surfaces and the variety of cluing constructs.

    I didn’t know the reference in 1d but I twigged what it must be about and my guess turned out to be good.

    I didn’t have any quibbles.

    Once again – many thanks.

    1. Thanks JS. The only reason I’m vaguely familiar with the writer in 1d is that in my teens I used to help out in the local library in the holidays and one of his daughters (by then quite elderly) used to come in from time to time, whereupon the regular staff all dived for cover as she was, shall we say, “difficult to please…”

      Thanks for the feedback on difficulty – it’s something I find very difficult to judge, perhaps because I’m not a very accomplished solver so for me daily cryptics, toughies, barred, rookie corner, NTSPP – they’re all flippin’ hard!

  12. Totally stuck with the SW corner – need to take a break and hope for inspiration.
    Doubt that I would have been able to parse 18d without the hint from Prolixic!
    Tick list thus far includes 12&29a plus 7&20d. 29a came as a huge relief – the Reverend always causes me grief.

    As Kitty said – it’s so nice to have our ‘Starhorse’ back, didn’t care for the other fella at all.
    Many thanks for the puzzle, I’ll crack those last four clues eventually.

    1. Finally managed that pesky SW corner and would now add 21a to my ‘tick list’.
      Forgot to say before – 28a was a new word for me, not sure I can slip that into a conversation very easily!

      Well done, Starhorse, but I’d appreciate a bit of help now with the housework I should have been doing today……….

      1. Hi Jane, thanks; didn’t reply earlier in the hope, indeed expectation, that you would get there in time. I didn’t know 28a either until it appeared as an option in the grid, at least I knew it existed but had no idea what it meant. The other new word for me is “housework” – I’ll go and look that up and see how I’m fixed….

  13. By the time I get to post a comment on Rookie corner, most things have already been said.
    Impeccable and clear clues in my mind. Even going to the trouble to precise the first D in 17a.
    Liked 8d. The film was so osé when it came out.
    17d made me laugh too although I agree that “crumpled” could be replaced.
    Favourite is 2d. Very topical indeed.
    Thanks to Starhorse for the great fun.

    1. Thanks Jean-Luc. I got lucky with the topicality of 2d. Whether those particular politicians will be irrelevant from a British point of view this time next week remains to be seen.

  14. Lovely stuff. I really enjoyed this. The NE corner was the last to fall for me and I did parse 18D myself, but I don’t understand the significance of the last two letters in 22D. 24A gave me a bit of trouble. Brit TV programmes usually do, but I worked it out. Favorites are 25A, 6D, 7D (super!). Thanks Starhorse!

    1. The last two letters of 22d are two single letter abbreviations for family members who could, in legal terms, be described as ‘issue’.

      1. Ah, I see… I had taken it to be the plural of the penultimate letter, but I think your interpretation is better, Gazza.

      2. Thanks. I’ve made a note of what words I think the letters represent. I will find out tomorrow!

    2. Thanks Chris. Ah yes, British TV would be a problem for any expat. I’m not that switched on to it myself. And yes, final 2 letters of 22d are as Gazza says – it just a question of whether “issues” would be fairer.

  15. Hi Starhorse,

    I thought this was really good, and I’m definitely in the ‘puzzle of two halves’ camp as I found the top half to be considerably easier than the bottom half, where I needed a fair bit of assistance.

    I’ll go with 5d as my favourite, mainly as I can’t believe I hadn’t see someone do that before.

    Great stuff! :0)

  16. I’m going with lots of others here in that the top half was much easier to get to grips with than the bottom half.
    Unlike others I still have three gaps and a few others that I don’t quite understand.
    2d looks like such an unlikely combination of letters that I suspect I must have got something wrong.
    I can’t do 21 or 25a – probably being seriously dim here, for which I apologise.
    I was expecting to have to remove an A (from the clue) and an S (for the shilling from 15a) – probably dim again.
    The clue for 12a sounds horribly like something my husband might say to me!
    I’ve really enjoyed the struggle which has taken up most of a very rainy day – what else would I have done?
    My joint favourites are 7d (for its simplicity) and 8d (because it made me laugh). I also have a sneaking admiration for 10a.
    With thanks to Starhorse and, in advance, to Prolixic.

  17. Thanks Sprocker and Kath.

    Actually Kath re. 15a I wondered if that might be a quibble – the “A ” is really only there for the surface and therefore probably ought to be ditched. In 21a ignore the false capitalisation.

  18. Hi Starhorse,
    I’m having a really slow day, and struggled with this – but then I struggled at everything else I did today too. I revealed quite a lot of the bottom half, and still have a few unparsed. I’m just going to assume they’re up to your normal high standard. I seemed to like slightly different ones to others – 5d, 8d, 16d. I did think of a problem you might have pondered with 10a – would it be better as Paul’s partner, but that doesn’t really sit right.
    I look forward to the review – I need it., but I suspect it was all fair.
    Cheers Starhorse, and Prolixic in advance.

  19. Thanks as always for the review, Prolixic. I had put a question mark alongside 27a so thank you in particular for querying that one.
    I’m sure that Starhorse will be delighted to see that you suggest only a few minor alterations.

  20. Many thanks Prolixic for the review. I’m now trying to get my own head round 27a whilst kicking myself over 10a.

    Thanks again to all who solved and commented yesterday, the feedback is always appreciated whether it be re. something technical or the style and level of difficulty.

  21. Thanks to Prolixic for sorting out my three stubborn problems and, again, to Starhorse.

  22. I thought this was excellent – terrific set of clues, with smooth surfaces and accurate wordplay. What more can we ask for? I’ll dissent from the ‘puzzle of two halves’ view – I found the difficulty fairly even, not that I mind too much about that sort of thing. I did end the puzzle with a fair few unparsed, but checked them off one by one as I read through the comments and it’s all perfectly fair – a deficit of the solver, not the clues. The puzzle as a whole had that nice feel of being rewarding at every stage, with the tricky ones being “ah, of course it is!” moments rather than a grumbly “oh well, if you insist then”.

    So many great clues in here – 1a, 11a, 12a, 13a, 25a, 29a (I do like Spooner showing up in non-Spoonery situations), 3d, 5d, 20d… I could go on. 18a my favourite – that second def is a thing of beauty.

    Thanks Prolixic and thanks Starhorse – I await the next one with great anticipation!

Comments are closed.