Rookie Corner – 124 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 124

A Puzzle by loonapick

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Prologue. 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

Loonapick did well to get all of the across clue and the clue to 1d to be TV series without getting obscure words in the down clues.  The clues themselves were well written though grammatical purists would have issues with some of the letter indicators.  Particular mention must go to 29a as an excellent clue.


1 Rod can return a Russian fighter to Georgia (8,5)
SPITTING IMAGE – Another word for a rod on which things are roasted followed by another word for a can and a reversal of the A and a Russian fighter plane and finally the IVR code for the country of Georgia.

8 Central Europe to get bigger (7)
ROSWELL – the central letters of Europe followed by a word meaning to get bigger.

9 Orally examined a student (7)
SCANDAL – A homophone (orally) of scanned (examined) followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviation for a student.

11 Belgium to do without bank (9)
BLACKPOOL – The IVR code for Belgium followed by a word meaning to do without and another word for a bank (as in a stock of money).

12 Chops both ends off vegetables (5)
ARROW – Remove the first and last letters of a type of vegetable (assuming you are referring to the bean variety as the squash variety is a fruit).

13 Last letter about Roman art (1-4)
Z-CARS – The last letter of the alphabet followed by the one letter abbreviation for about and the Latin (Roman) word for art.

15 Ploughed hectares (8)
TEACHERS – An anagram (ploughed) of HETCARES.

19 Chance to say thanks by text (8)
CASUALTY – A word meaning chance as in a chance or unarranged meeting followed by the text form of thank you.

20 As heard on the radio tower? (5)
DEREK – A homophone (as heard on the radio) of derrick (tower).

23 West invading bits of Lebanon and Israel (5)
LEWIS – The abbreviation for west inside (invading) the first two letters (bits of) of both Lebanon and Israel.  Some editors would only allow bit of to indicate the first letter and so bits of could only then indicate the L and I.

25 Unable to see, see (5,4)
BLIND DATE – Another word meaning unable to see followed but another word for see as in a romantic encounter.

27 Last in liquor still gets half cut (7)
REVENGE – The last letter of liquor followed by a word meaning still and half of the word gets.

28 In British Isles, zero gravity (3,4)
BIG LOVE – The abbreviation for gravity inside an abbreviation for British Isles and another word used in tennis for zero.  The abbreviation BI is not recognised in Chambers for British Isles.  Whilst B on its own can be an abbreviation for British, I is not an abbreviation for isles but for Isle (singular).

29 Walk, kick, etc? Nothing’s missing (7,3,3)
STEPTOE AND SON – A word meaning walk followed by a word meaning kick and an expression (3,2,2) meaning etc from which one of the Os has been removed (nothing’s missing).


1 Second club game leads to brief success (6)
SCRUBS – The abbreviations for second and club followed by the abbreviation for Rugby Union and the first letters of brief and success.  A pernickety point but one that may be picked up on, but the abbreviations for cards are always given in the plural c = clubs, h = hearts, d = diamonds and S = spades.

2 Representative examples of attitudes to batting (9)
INSTANCES – Split (2,7) this might describe the attitudes to batting.

3 Just show everyone your quick bottoms (5)
TWERK – The last letters (bottoms) of the first five words of the clue with the whole thing providing the definition.

4 Hold Chanel’s only essence (6)
NELSON – The answer is hidden in (essence) of CHANELS ONLY.

5 Abused protected non-amateur (8)
INSULTED – Remove the abbreviation for amateur from a word meaning protected.

6 A sudden rush of pain overcoming very first chap (9)
AVALANCHE – A word for pain goes around (overcoming) the first letter of very and a man’s name.  Some editors would not allow xxxxx first to indicate the first letter of a word as grammatically it does not mean the first letter.  The first of xxxxx or xxxxx’s first would be acceptable.

7 Ethnic leaders design elaborate regal entrances for chief (5)
ELDER – The first letters (entrances) of the first five words of the clue.

10 Fresh towels for bottom (6)
LOWEST – A anagram (fresh) of TOWELS.

14 Seasoned racers beginning to develop judgement along the way (4,5)
ROAD SENSE – An anagram (to develop) of SEASONED R (the R being the first letter – beginning – of racers).  Like 6d, some editors may not allow racers beginning but would allow racer’s beginning.

16 Lifts voters’ tax for conservative (9)
ELEVATORS – Another word for voters has the C (conservative) replaced by the abbreviation for value added tax.  As noted in the comments, the word play leaves two Ts in the answer.

17 One preparing fish to weigh snapper’s tail (6)
SCALER – A word meaning to weigh followed by the final letter (tail) of snappers.

18 Protection from pointed attacks? (4,4)
STAB VEST – A mild cryptic definition of something to protect people from knife attacks.

21 Likely to involve one in scandalous libel (6)
LIABLE – An A (one) goes inside an anagram (scandalous) of LIBEL.

22 River always runs between two points (6)
SEVERN – A word meaning always goes between the abbreviation for South and North.

24 Normally part of turbulent sea view, that is missing (5)
WAVES – An anagram (turbulent) of SEA VIEW after removing the abbreviation for that is.  The whole clue elliptically defines the solution.

26 Instruction to the hungry archaeologist? (3,2)
DIG IN – A cryptic definition of an instruction to eat and what an archaeologist does.

27 comments on “Rookie Corner – 124

  1. This one needed three of us, the third one being Mr Google and he had to work very hard. We eventually managed to get a full grid but are not sure about 20a yet.
    Thanks loonapick.

  2. Nice medium-difficulty puzzle Loonapick. I was fearing something tougher with the Araucaria-style preamble – your “undefined” makes more sense than the usual “not further defined” but from practice we know what to expect. I was a while spotting the theme – after the first few I thought it was weaponry – then a familiar one gave it away – but there were quite a few I hadn’t heard of.

    A couple of queries I had (which may be down to my misinterpretation):

    6d I didn’t understand how “first chap” gave Alan – I was expecting Adam
    16d After swapping VAT for C I’m left with a T I don’t want.

    Aside from that no quibbles at all.

    14d has a nice misdirectional other possibility of interpretation. Not sure – you might cop a “some editors” on “racers beginning” for R. I’m perfectly happy with it, the Telegraph’s all-time greatest setter Douglas Barnard (book listed in Prolixic’s blurb) would have been happy with it on the basis of ignoring all punctuation – even respecting punctuation an interpretation of juxtaposition can justify it – but some like to quibble for quibbling’s sake – so we’ll see.

    Initially I thought 20a was a misspell of the German detective series (which sounds the same – but it’s never been shown in the UK) but Mr Google put me right on that.

    Nice solve overall – quite a few original twists (eg GE – the country, for Georgia – when one usually expects GA – the US state).

    Many thanks for the fun.

    1. Thanks, JS

      6d – the first relates to the first letter of very, rather than the chap.

      16dn – oops, you’re right. It’s little errors like that that stop me from sending puzzles to the papers!!

      14dn – having read that comment, I now wonder if 6d works?

      1. Hi L

        Thanks for the clarification on 6d – I think that’s good misdirection – ie I automatically fell for V=very when V = “very first” is (logically) equally valid – but unexpected.

        You set the trap – I wandered right into it.

        I’ll pay on that one.

  3. I’ve just started this and guessed the theme after four across clues. I don’t know if that’s going to help me much, though. Like the 2Kiwis, I’m at a disadvantage here.

  4. Hi Loonapick,

    I enjoyed this one. I made a few notes as I solved, which I include in detail below. I think JS has covered the top two points I had already.
    A test solver would almost certainly have spotted 16d for you & I always think its those last few tweaks that can really make a difference to the final polish of a crossword.
    Some great clues here – well done!


    Some Gory Detail…
    29 lovely wordplay & surface combination
    17d weigh: – does the singular work here as a synonym, not sure
    9a good clue – like it.
    3d ho ho – clever
    10d good surface
    27a surface not quite perfect but still good
    23a great surface & use of bitS
    28 Word order for wordplay is pushing it slightly, though ok & good variation
    2d fine
    12 & 15 great clues
    1a accurate
    7d nice surface
    11a is that last 4 letters back(wards) or synonym for BANK – not sure? I think I prefer the former
    8a haven’t heard of it as a prog but assume right
    6d very first chap – nice/deceptive!
    12a not heard of this one though wordplay got me here
    24d very inventive – I like it
    SE corner to go…
    16d Is there one too many Ts here, or am I missing something (probably!)
    28 new one on me
    21d the usual ‘a for one’ debate – it’s ok by me
    19a does the first ‘synonym’ quite work here?
    20a I’d forgotten this one entirely. Good clue.

      1. 19a: I think the first synonym is fine – casual = chance (Collins Online) and also in the BRB (Thesaurus) as in a “chance” meeting.

    1. Jose has covered casual and scale.

      11a – pool and bank are synonymous in my opinion.

      8a – an American sci-fi series that introduced Katherine Heigl to the world.

      12a – currently available on Amazon Prime, but also appeared on Sky, as did 28a (possibly also on Channel 4?)

    2. Thanks Jose and Loonapick – I think I’ve (a) largely shown my ignorance of the subject matter and (b) not thought hard enough about some of the synonyms – you are both entirely right. I wasn’t aware of the verb of ‘to scale’ meaning to weigh and the rest is idiocy on my part. Still loved the puzzle!

  5. In view of the comment above the puzzle, I decided to attempt as many Down clues as possible initially, which I would suggest is a good way to tackle it for those who might be struggling. After a few such answers, 1a then became evident, from which I guessed the theme, although I must admit that four of the themed answers were unknown to me and required Google’s assistance.

    I thought it was cleverly assembled with some excellent clues, just a couple are defiantly refusing to be parsed in full. I’ve given ticks to 23a, 14d, 21d and 26d, with a double tick to 29a, and the answer is also a long-time favourite of mine. I did feel that there was a tendency to overuse first and last letter indicators, particularly in the Down clues, but I do congratulate the setter on managing to avoid using the same words twice! It was a relief to see from JS’s comment that I was not the only one foxed by 16d, it’s a very easy error to make as a setter and one I’ve made myself in the past.

    Many thanks, loonapick, this was fairly tough in places but an enjoyable challenge.

  6. Very impressive – thanks loonapick. I tackled the down clues first which proved to be very useful in getting the across answers, many of which I’d never heard of (it’s not like the old days when we only had three channels!). I had a question mark against 16d (but I see that’s now been answered above) and I still haven’t got 20a.
    I liked 19a and 10d but my favourite is 29a.

  7. Thanks, Loonapick, for a fun puzzle with a great grid construction.
    I didn’t read the preamble before jumping in – only when I got 1d (my third one in) and wondered how it could be an all in one clue (!) did I think to check. I’m not sure if C=club is allowed – clubs definitely is, but in bridge bidding (which I’m presuming is where the abbreviation comes from, rather than just cards in general) 1C = 1 Club just as 2C = 2 Clubs, so it is harsh if not.
    Opinions on first letter indicators do vary. 14d and 6d are perhaps pushing it – it’s safer to use adverbs and possessive phrases if you want to please everybody. (Is there a phrase where x beginning means beginning of x? Race start can be start of race, I suppose… can we have beginning too…?) I did like 14d though, particularly for the definition. I cheated to get a couple in the bottom half. 20a I had never heard of, and was possibly a bit difficult with only 2 unhelpful crossers.
    I wouldn’t worry too much about 16d, mistakes happen, test solvers should pick it up. I think it is good you don’t have too many anagrams, as they are often the easiest way to come up with a good ’emergency’ clue when something like this happens. 16d has plenty of options in this regard.
    Like others, 29a was my favourite. Thanks again, and I look forward to the review.

  8. Well, I have an almost full grid. Just 20A remains unsolved and I have no inkling. I got the theme early after 9A and 23A (the giveaway) went in, and it was helpful to a small extent. Good job there were some real oldies in there, but most I’ve never seen though was aware of through Netflix, and some I’ve never heard of at ll. I’m not sure that I can honestly say I enjoyed it, but for me as an expat there was a certain satisfaction in working through it. My favorite (big laugh) was 3D. Thanks Loonapick.

    1. For 3d I thought that ‘slack’ rather than ‘quick’ would have made the surface a bit more amusing. :D

      1. I considered slack, but given that speed is essential in that particular manoeuvre, settled on quick instead.

  9. Obviously don’t watch enough TV – possibly live in the wrong country for some of them anyway! There were certainly eight I’d never heard of and I think only three that I’ve ever watched. Perhaps it would have been fairer on solvers if the theme had concentrated on a specific genre?
    Haven’t come across 3d before (thanks, Mr. Google).

    Quite a few that I really did enjoy – 29a obviously takes the top prize but I also ticked 5,14,21 & 26d.

    Thank you, Loonapick – an interesting challenge.

    1. Thanks, Jane

      A specific genre? It was hard enough to get the ones I got into the grid.

      To be fair, I went for programmes that appeared in a book called “1001 TV Shows You Must See Before You Die”, and almost all of them are in there.

      All of them have appeared on British TV (if you include satellite channels).

  10. I was all set to write a stinging review until I got 13a, which after 1a pennies began to drop and I finally read the introduction.
    Thanks Loonapick.

  11. Got the theme more or less straightaway off the back of 13a, so it wasn’t too tricky a solve. I thought the theme was very impressively pulled off – though I think it would have been nicer without the sticky-out 1d.

    Any quibbles? Let’s see… The ‘bits’ in 23 are a tad imprecise for my liking and I’m not convinced by 26d. Didn’t notice the mistake in 16d and actually had it down as one of my favourites before I read the other comments! Ah well.

    Still missing 20a and 28a (the latter I think I’ll feel silly when I finally see it). Haven’t parsed 19a and I don’t quite understand 2d – I think it’s a cricket thing that I’m not sure about.

    Special mention for 8a, 25a, 3d, 5d, 21d; my favourite I think is 29a. Great puzzle overall, thanks and well done!

  12. Totally agree with Jane.
    I really think a theme should be narrowed to one particular style of programme rather than “as seen on TV”.
    That made it harder than it should have been as the clues were undefined.
    Gave up on a few even though I found the parsing quite fair.
    29a favourite.
    Spotted the little mistake in 16d.
    Thanks to Loonapick.

  13. Thanks for the review, Prolixic.

    I have seen BI in cryptics before, which is why I used it. On the “bits” issue, I have seen that used to indicate 2,3 and even 4 letters, so thought it fair game here.

    I take the points about letter indicators coming after the source word. I’ll try to do better in future, likewise with the sloppiness of 16dn.

  14. Sorry to have missed the party, but I thought this was great.
    Obviously a really accomplished grid fill but the clues were well above Rookie standard, I thought. However, from what BD says perhaps you’re needed more for Monday mornings than Saturday afternoons, so the move will doubtless have to wait. At least you’ll not have to wait so long to see your puzzles on line though!
    Loads of favourites already mentioned by others and a couple of quibbles (23a, 16d) also fully discussed. Just to say, re your having seen ‘bits of’ beforehand that whereas in law precedence is all, in crosswords we can always ignore precedence if it’s a convention we don’t like!
    I loved the puzzle Loonapick, many thanks.

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Nice to see you back and hope you enjoyed your time away.
    Last bits of parsing now cleared up – both rather silly. Missed the Latin reference (again) in 13a and was still looking for a word meaning ‘cut’ to split in half for the last couple of letters of 27a.

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