Rookie Corner – 123 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 123

A Puzzle by Arepo

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Arepo is looking forward to receiving your feedback for this, 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.

Due in part to promotion to the NTSPP slot of many of the prolific Rookie Corner setters, the queue of puzzles has reached a critical level, with only one puzzle, by loonapick, currently awaiting publication.  New contributions are urgently needed (if you think you have already sent one then please get in touch asap).

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

Review by Gazza.

In Prolixic’s absence living it up in Prague I’ve been called off the bench to review this one. Arepo has given us a very accomplished and entertaining puzzle. There’s a theme relating to books of the Bible (a theme that Prolixic will be sorry to have missed because it’s really his specialist subject). Arepo has managed to fit no less than fifteen related answers into the grid (plus one more in the 5a clue) which really is very impressive.

If I were being hypercritical I‘d say that some of the clues are a bit verbose but there’s much to admire in the clue construction and there are some excellent misdirections. Thanks, Arepo, for a really good puzzle which I thought was pitched at just the right level for Rookie Corner – I look forward to your next one.

Across Clues

1a  Anaesthetic – small quantities (7)
NUMBERS – a cryptic anaesthetic followed by S(mall).

5a  Short book about end of building society rates (6)
JUDGES – the name of a short book of the Bible (apparently it has only 25 verses) contains the end letter of building. Finish with a single-letter abbreviation for society.

9a  Performed musical number backwards for drink (7)
SANGRIA – a verb meaning ‘gave a vocal performance’ followed by the reversal of a musical number.
10a  Singular point that hurt holding partners (7)
NONSUCH – start with a cardinal point and add an expression of pain (that hurt!) containing one of the pairs of partners at bridge. Singular here is a noun meaning an individual thing.

11a  Current Eliot play’s sections (4)
ACTS – the abbreviation for a type of electric current followed by the initials of Mr Eliot, the poet and dramatist.

12a  Gadgetry with surprisingly minute man-made element (10)
TECHNETIUM – the abbreviation for technology or gadgetry is followed by an anagram (surprisingly) of MINUTE. This chemical element was new to me – apparently it was the first element to be created artificially, in 1937.
14a  Fancy lead-in for John’s song (6)
DANIEL – an anagram (fancy) of LEAD-IN.

ARVE Error: need id and provider

16a  Writer’s college (5)
KINGS – the surname of horror writer Stephen and the ‘S. ‘Writer’ is pretty vague but is not a real problem since three of the five letters are checked.
19a  Slip and strike head in panic (5)
ERROR – strike out the leading letter from a word meaning panic or fright. It’s slightly odd that two answers (this one and 2d) appear as anagram fodder in other clues.

20a  London borough hospital out of medicine (6)
EALING – drop the abbreviation for hospital from the start of a word meaning medicine or treatment.

23a  News: Apple fan from 30 left with a classic model iPod regularly covered by service (10)
REVELATION – the lady who lusted after an apple in 30a is followed by L(eft), A, a classic model of car and the odd (regularly) letters of iPod. Take a deep breath and then put all that inside the abbreviation for our senior service. Perhaps ‘of 30’ rather than ‘from 30’ would make the surface smoother.

25a  Lure Charlie over with a kiss (4)
COAX – string together the abbreviation for Charlie or cocaine, the abbreviation for an over in cricket, A and the letter that’s used as a kiss.

27a  Do the maths  exercise (4,3)
WORK OUT – double definition.

28a  Candle I lit for foreign country (7)
ICELAND – an anagram (lit) of CANDLE I.

29a  Unorthodox mass involving long piano-led hymns (6)
PSALMS – an anagram (unorthodox) of MASS contains an abbreviation for long and that’s all preceded by the musical abbreviation for piano. The abbreviation for long is not in Chambers though it is in Chambers XWD dictionary of crossword abbreviations.

30a  Origin of what’s inherited by relative (7)
GENESIS – a biological unit of heredity is followed by the abbreviation for a female relative.

Down Clues

1d  Caribbean capital halves trading places in public baths (6)
NASSAU – start with a word for steamy baths and change the order of the two syllables. I’m not sure that the baths are necessarily ‘public’.

2d Big hand or small? (6)
MINUTE – double definition, the first another description for the big hand on a watch or clock.
3d  Pound found in Zagreb, strangely, not Great Britain (4)
EZRA – an anagram (strangely) of ZA[g]RE[b] without the abbreviation for Great Britain gives us the forename of the poet Mr Pound.
Ezra Pound
4d  Take Ibsen play as possibly venomous attack (9)
SNAKEBITE – an anagram (play) of TAKE IBSEN.
5d  Cursed mariner I see following jack aboard (5)
JONAH – an expression of realisation (I see) follows the abbreviation for jack (in playing cards) and a preposition meaning aboard.
6d  Put on weight eating wings of every kind for starters then playing a series of video games (6,4)
DONKEY KONG – a verb to put on clothes is followed by the abbreviation for a metric weight containing the outer letters (wings) of E[ver]Y, the starting letter of kind and an adverb meaning playing or performing. Starters (plural) would normally mean more than a single letter but ‘for starters’ works fine to identify just one letter.
7d  Hungry, employment over, I got in debt to landlord (8)
ESURIENT – reverse a word meaning employment or operation then insert I into what’s paid to a landlord or property holder. I didn’t know this word but the wordplay is clear.

8d  Scientist‘s revolutionary film (7)
CHEMIST – charade of our usual South American revolutionary and a film or haze.

13d  Dance includes foolish error incorporating novice manoeuvre in the air (6,4)
BARREL ROLL – a formal dance contains an anagram (foolish) of ERROR which in turn contains the abbreviation for a learner or novice.
15d  That’s funny running! (9)
LOLLOPING – this is an all-in-one. The abbreviation used in textspeak to express amusement (not ‘lots of love’ as our ex-Prime Minister thought) is followed by a present participle meaning running with long bounding strides.

17d  The chosen job description for tea boy (7)
HEBREWS – split the answer 2,5 for a description of what a tea boy does.

18d  One giving evidence with nonsense sayings (8)
PROVERBS – someone giving evidence or demonstrating the truth of something is followed by the abbreviation for a slightly vulgar slang term for nonsense.
21d  Not like this, says leader of imperialists (6)
ROMANS – not italic but an upright typeface followed by the leading letter of ‘says’.

22d  Going out with old lover to have dangerous quantity of drugs with us (6)
EXODUS – string together the short word for a one-time lover, an abbreviation meaning to take too many drugs and US.

24d  Admit it used to harbour leader of 21 (5)
TITUS – this old leader of the 21d is lurking in the clue.

26d Holy books sent back containing Queen flier (4)
TERN – the reversal of the abbreviation for the newer set of holy books in the Bible contains our Queen’s regnal cipher.

I have a long list of likes including 14a, 1d, 2d and 21d but my favourite is 15d .


43 comments on “Rookie Corner – 123

  1. Excellent fun and much enjoyed. We twigged the theme about half way through and with a quick count up on completion found 15 that were part of it. We’ll come back to it later to sort out a few bits of the wordplay that we’re not quite sure of yet. That way we can enjoy it all over again.
    Well done and many thanks Arepo.

    1. And we did enjoy it all over again. 23a must be the Lego clue to end all Lego clues. Loved it, but the best of the lot and last one to yield was 21d.

    2. I think 21d was the last clue I wrote – I changed it at the last minute from something a bit more pedestrian. I felt I was taking a bit of a risk with 23a – I remember thinking “oh, some people are going to HATE this…” and well, I think some people probably did hate it, but I’m glad to see some people liked it too. :) Thanks guys!

  2. Overall: initially seemed very literary – a theme perhaps? Eliot, Pound, …
    23a Ho ho!! Agree with 2Kiwis re. the full Lego set being used here! Wasn’t sure whether to suggest dropping ‘from 30’ to slightly improve the surface but agreed with you to leave it in.
    18d Nonsense indeed ;-)
    Only spotted the theme with five left to solve. I’m hopeless at spotting themes!
    Full list of comments that I made whilst solving added below.
    Many thanks, very enjoyable!

    More comments:
    14a John – deceptive, nice!
    28 nice surface
    1d good spot
    4d thought there were two anagrinds here for a moment – clever
    16a lots of possibilities here? Ah, got it!
    15d like it!!
    30a beautiful surface
    23a Ho ho!! Wasn’t sure whether to suggest dropping ‘from 30’ to slightly improve the surface but agreed with you to leave it in.
    Only spotted the theme with five left to solve. I’m hopeless at spotting themes!
    7d One of those word meanings that I always feel I should know. Wordplay very clear though.
    21d bunged in – haven’t parsed yet. Oh yes I have – clever!
    18d Nonsense indeed ;-)

    1. Thanks Encota! Glad you enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure about the ‘from 30’ either (I had ‘from the beginning’ at one stage which might have been better) – removing it might have been unfair in such a complicated clue. I think Gazza’s remedy is best, actually.

      (I’ll never forget the meaning of 7d thanks to Monty Python’s superb cheese shop sketch :) )

  3. I got the theme quite early on which helped with the solve. I think 17d is my favourite out of quite a lot of good clues.

    Thanks to Arepo and, in advance, to Gazza

    1. Thanks CS! I wasn’t sure how spotting or not spotting the theme would affect people’s solving experience – I fearfully anticipated comments along the lines of “the theme jumped out straightaway which made it a bit of a fill-in”, or conversely “more or less impossible for those of us not fortunate enough to spot the theme”. Luckily it seems to have been helpful in the right way, which is what I was aiming for :)

  4. Welcome back, Arepo!

    Like CS, I also spotted the theme fairly quickly, and it definitely made this a slightly easier solve than your previous puzzle. It was still reasonably tricky in places however, but full of very clever and inventive cluing and a very enjoyable challenge overall.

    The anagram count was fairly high at seven, but just about on the right side of acceptability in my view and although a few of the clues were perhaps a little self-indulgent and verbose, they were also generally amusing and well-constructed. I did wonder if “short book” alone in 5a was a little unfair on the solver, given the millions to choose from! My one quibble from a setter’s perspective would be the overuse of “with” as a positional indicator. It is clearly a favoured Arepo device as I spotted it in five clues (12a, 23a, 25a, 18d and 22d), which is possibly something to watch in future puzzles.

    My single ticks went to 1a, 12a, 14a, 27a, 29a and the delightful 17d, but my overall favourite with two ticks was 8d.

    Many thanks indeed, Arepo, I look forward eagerly to your next one :-)

    1. I would agree with your quibble on 5a if it were it an isolated clue – but with the theme helping I thought it was OK. I.e. theme plus definition gives the answer well enough – then reverse engineer the wordplay part for confirmation. At least – that’s how I got it.

      Without the theme it would have been a toughie to solve cold.

    2. Thanks silvanus! Again, glad the theme helped in the right way and didn’t make things too easy.

      I arbitrarily have eight as my upper limit on number of anagrams per puzzle – don’t know where I got this from, but it seems about right.

      I thought I’d reined in the verbosity a little after catching some flak for it last time, but it definitely did seep in here and there. I think there’s a place for wordiness in clues like 6d and 23a where it tells a story, but yeah it’s definitely not to everyone’s taste.

      My thought on the short book in 5a was the same as JS – and the same applies to 16a, which otherwise would definitely have been too vague.

      Good spot on the ‘with’ – I clearly lean on it a bit much and I never realised! I’m already in the habit of noting all the indicators and fodder I use in a particular puzzle to avoid repetition, but I haven’t been doing that for freebie linking words like with and for – perhaps I should start.

      Thanks again for all the comments :)

  5. Quite an achievement to get so many themed answers in the grid…and one is a twofer! Getting the theme fairly early certainly helped. Some nice humor, too. Both 7D and 12A were new to me, but solvable from the clues. I think I’ve parsed 21D but I’m not absolutely sure. 14A was last in and I just couldn’t see it for ages. My favorites are 2D, 15D, 17D and 18D. Great job, Arepo!

    1. Thanks Chris – glad you liked it :) If only I’d managed to get John in as a solution I would have had a threefer!

  6. Thanks Arepo – very enjoyable solve.

    They used to say that every puzzle should contain a peach – for me that was 23a, the answer to which I built from the wordplay. Luckily I had 30a in at that point – so at that point I twigged the theme, which in turn helped with a few others.

    But that wasn’t the only good feature – the wordplay was interesting and varied throughout – tiddlers like 25a and 22d stood out I thought – also 4d.

    As a callow youth I was originally taught to try every clue in order before taking advantage of the crossing letters – in fact it seemed almost to be regarded as a sign of weakness of character to stray from that. I’m afraid I have. If I get an early across clue in I attack the danglers (ie those running downwards off it) straight away. That worked for me here.

    In the end the top right was the last to yield – specifically 12a was my last one in. I hadn’t heard of that (obviously I have now) but the wordplay built a reasonable guess which turned out to be right – so I was able to claim success – and in a reasonable time – not too hard – not too easy – just right.

    No quibbles at all from me.

    Once again many thanks for the fun.

    1. Thanks JS, glad you enjoyed it! I’m definitely the same when it comes to solving – an easy 1a or 1d always sets me up well for the rest of the puzzle. (And I always find grids with unchecked squares around the border inordinately more difficult…)

  7. Welcome back, and very well done.
    I thought this was really accomplished and entertaining,and spotting the theme helped with quite a few. I generally preferred the shorter clues, particularly 19a, 25a, 27a and 2d, and 1d was very clever, although it was a post-solve parse.
    Other comments are really very minor – I’d have preferred ‘lit up’ as in drunk to ‘lit’ as an anagram indicator but that is pretty much it, and I really enjoyed it, and it was a good level of difficulty for me. Many thanks.

    1. Thanks snape, glad you enjoyed it!

      I think ‘lit’ is fine on its own, but I must say it’s one of these words I really only come across in crosswords – I’ve never used it, or heard anyone use it, to mean ‘drunk’ in real life, so I don’t really have an empirical basis for this opinion :)

  8. A most ambitious theme, Arepo – I wonder whether you started out with that intention or whether it evolved along the way?
    New words for me at 12a & 7d and I’m not convinced that I’ve correctly interpreted 21d. As 2Ks have nominated it as their favourite, I have a suspicion that I may have missed something!

    My own tick list includes 11,27&29a plus 7,17&22d.

    Thanks Arepo – well done indeed.

    1. Thanks Jane! The theming was a conscious decision from the get-go. It wasn’t that ambitious to start out with – it was just ‘see how many Bible books I can fit into a grid’ and luckily it turned out to be quite a few!

  9. Still left with 7d and 17d and will have to wait for the review to get these two.
    Got the theme quite early with 1a, 30a as 22d but took a while to see the anagram in 14a (John’s song) as I thought 15d was “galloping”.
    Seen the nonsense in 18d before but certainly not in the DT.
    As Jane, I’m not entirely sure about the parsing of 21d unless it refers to ” when in Rome….”.
    Found the clues quite wordy but some did tell good stories like 23a.
    Thanks to Arepo.

    1. Thanks JL! Yes, I wasn’t sure how mainstream crosswordese the BS was – not surprised it’s outlawed in the DT, but I’m fairly sure I’ve seen it crop up in that vulgar hotbed of liberalism that is the Guardian cryptic…

  10. Hi Arepo,

    Excellent work on getting so many themed words into the puzzle – I’m not such a huge fan of the more verbose clues, but I’ll have to doff my hat on 23a for the complex yet fair construction. I didn’t have any quibbles with the clueing.

    I’ll go for 15d as my favourite.


    1. Thanks Sprocker! I think I got a bit lucky with the cramming in of the theme words – somehow or other I managed to stumble across a layout that worked well fairly early on, so it wasn’t as much work as it might look! Glad 23a met your approval if not your whole-hearted endorsement ;)

  11. Well I have to be honest and say most of this defeated me completely. I started fine in the NW corner at about 8.30 this morning, only having to wait for the crossers for 1d which remains unparsed. I immediately had a couple of ticks against 2 down. I thought the rest was going to be a stroll too.

    But from that point on various revisits during the day only gave me another 4 or 5 scattered answers, and when I eventually gave up and gradually revealed the rest I only kicked myself a couple of times – 8d, 19a, 22d and maybe 16a, although there are a lot of writers to sift through the mind if you have no crossers. Seriously lacking crossers there weren’t enough I could regard as write-ins to get going again.

    But there are a lot I just cannot parse, both the 5s (I can’t see a definition in 5d, never mind a wordplay); 6d I’ve never heard of and can not see how the wordplay works having looked up which part’s the definition. Haven’t come across the 7d word either but it is clued fairly enough. Flummoxed by 23a apart from the apple fan bit.

    Assuming 20a is a letter deduction I can’t see how the noun “medicine” equates to the verb form from which the deduction is being made. Can’t see a meaning of “lit” that justifies it as an anagram indicator (although I’ve got a feeling I’ve queried that one unsuccessfully somewhere before!) 21d, not sure: what I can see on the grid is “italics” – is that the same thing?

    17d should surely have some sort of qualification in it; aren’t there various peoples who claim to be the chosen ones and have God n their side, not just the answer here (like the cryptic definition though)? They can’t all be right.

    So I’m really sorry Arepo – I just wasn’t on the right wavelength for this, either wordplay or GK-wise. But I always take my hat off to anyone who can work over half of the clues into a theme like this – unfortunately I didn’t get enough answers to spot it, and one I did get (3d) I had no idea was anything other than the first name of Mr Pound.

    I’ve no doubt that the majority verdict i.e. that’s it’s an accomplished puzzle, is spot on. Thanks for sharing it. Apart from 2d as I worked through I also put a couple of ticks against 8d, 19a and 27a and I’m sure if I’d been more successful I would have added a few more.

    1. Don’t despair. Lots of us have days like that when we can’t seem to get a foothold and everybody else is off and running. It does make me wonder though. I’ve read comments before from Rookie setters who have difficulties solving. I would have thought that the opposite would apply, but apparently not.

      1. It’s because of difficulties solving I prefer setting I think – life’s much easier when you already know the answers! I have the same approach to quizzes.

        Anyway, thanks to Gazza for all the enlightenment and giving us Chapter and Verse (just about the only pun left after Kitty’s brilliant response….)

    2. Thanks for the comment Starhorse – sorry you had such a time with it! One thing I did just notice about the grid is its low connectivity – there’s only one way out of the northwest, so I can see how there’s a danger of grinding to a halt. But many’s the time when I’ve slogged through a puzzle only to read the comments online that are all along the lines of “well it would have been nice it the setter had injected a LITTLE challenge…” so I can relate!

      I see your point on 17d, but I don’t think the use of the phrase ‘the chosen’ as a definition implies that the setter is asserting the chosen-ness of the Israelites as literal fact – their alleged ‘chosen’-ness is well known enough that it passes. In the same way, I think cluing Mohammed as ‘prophet’ would be fine regardless of the setter’s, or solver’s, particular belief. But it’s a potentially difficult area and I did have to think quite hard about it!

      Thanks again for all the comments – hopefully my next one will treat you better.

  12. I printed this out and concealed it in a notebook to do in cheeky snatches throughout the day. Therefore this solver Judges difficulty only roughly, but found it not too evil and certainly much fun. Until the final corner, that is: in my experience, the NE is where the troublemakers lie. Maybe it is just that my energy Petered out. In the end, with a number of Lamentations, I had to consult my Bible – for once, the other one, though I did check a couple of bits in the usual one too.

    The theme was very cleverly incorporated and, heathen though I am, I cannot give it a Luke warm reception: I loved it. The clues were impressive and the wordy ones brilliantly put together. I’m finding it impossible to choose a favourite but have Marked 27a 29a, 8d, 15d, 17d and 18d. I am having a Job to parse 21d but since it has been flagged as clever, I will take a punt and pre-emptively crown that one king of the clues.

    Your best puzzle yet, I thought – well done, Arepo, and many thanks.

      1. Purr – thank you, Chris. Just a little playing with words. I had this Bible in front of me, a gift from late loving grandparents, and it seemed only right and fitting that I should put it to some kind of use. I expect I may soon be put squarely back in my place: I will need all of my wits to tackle the imminent Giovanni …

    1. Thanks Kitty – don’t think I have anything to add except thanks for the kind words and applause for an excellently constructed comment :)

  13. Thanks all for the comments, and thanks Gazza for the review! This was a very enjoyable puzzle to set and I’m glad to see it was enjoyable to solve as well (even if I do tend to prattle on a bit from time to time). As ever I appreciate people taking the time to comment!

    I’m interested in ‘long’ for L appearing in XWD but not Chambers proper. (I recall ‘boy’ for B got the same remark on my last puzzle.) I’m a bit ignorant about the significance of these reference guides, having mainly built up my knowledge of “accepted” abbreviations as I went along, so this is a general question for people who know about this sort of thing: how legitimate are abbreviations with this kind of half-recognised status? Are they considered 100% fair game as long as they’re in XWD or are they only in XWD to acknowledge the fact that because setters keep using them even though they “shouldn’t”? Or do no two editors agree?

    Anyway, thanks again – I’ll be submitting another soon-ish so it may not be too long before you see me again… :)

    1. The question of whether an abbreviation is allowed or not is a difficult one. I tend to accept any that are in Chambers, Chambers XWD, Oxford Dictionary of English or Collins. You need to consider the poor solver who has thousands of them to remember.

      As a general rule, try to only use those that can be found in Chambers. Even that is fraught with problems – for example D = Diamonds (as a card suit) but not Diamond, C = Clubs but not Club, W = Women but not Woman, M = Men is not there at all and neither is P = President.

    2. Not only are there differences between editors but editors themselves seem sometimes to be inconsistent, allowing “big hitters” to get away with more than others – unless that’s just the result of self-editing on the part of setters – it’s not always clear what’s going on. E.g. as a general rule it seems to be frowned on to justify an abbreviation – eg B for broadcasting, taken in isolation from BBC – but I’m sure I’ve seen big hitters use that sort of thing (less outrageous than that particular one) where a corker of a clue would otherwise have failed.

      B for Britsh surely started out like that – now it has dictionary support so that makes it OK – but I can’t think of an instance of B being used in isolation to mean British.

      The general rule seems to be that whatever the nominated dictionary is (if there is one) then if it shows that abbreviation it’s OK – otherwise not. But that’s rather restrictive as it might exclude a few really commonplace things – eg Collins doesn’t show P for park or D for drive – even though I see those every day in my car. It doesn’t even have R for reverse, which many manual cars have too on their gearsticks (Oxford has all those).

      With nominated dictionary support you’re bombproof – but that’s no help in borderline cases.

  14. Hi Gazza. I didn’t have time to attempt this puzzle but I did have a look at your excellent review this morning when I noticed your picture for 16a. This is a very common image which purports to show King’s College, Cambridge, but in fact the only part of that college it displays is the truly magnificent Chapel. The majority of the picture on the left hand side is actually Clare College.

    1. Thanks RD. I’m pretty sure I’ve used that picture before for King’s College so I’ll try to remember to use a different one next time (or at least to label it accurately).

  15. Thanks to Gazza for the review.

    I’ve realised that my problem parsing 21d came from having downloaded the AcrossLite version which doesn’t include formatting. Annoying, because I usually check, and I did think of typefaces.

  16. Many thanks for the review, Gazza – good of you to take so much time over the illustrations as well.
    I did wonder whether the ‘BS’ in 18d would pass muster!
    I’m still not a huge fan of very verbose clues – clever once you see how they work but definitely off-putting in the initial stages of a solve. However, this was without doubt a very accomplished puzzle and I shall look forward to the next offering from Arepo.

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