Rookie Corner – 132 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 132

A Puzzle by Starhorse

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have Starhorse’s 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.

I think we have our next graduate to climb the ladder from the Rookie Corner to the NTSPP (if he is tall enough to reach the rungs).  This was an impressive crossword with only some very minor points on the clues.


6 Fellow soldiers policing area (5)
MANOR – A three letter word for a fellow or male and the abbreviation for other ranks

9 Let loose each April, set off for the islands (11)
ARCHIPELAGO – An anagram (let loose) of EACH APRIL followed by a word meaning set off or depart.

10 Film of May finally being associated with a little cocaine? (5)
ROCKY – A four letter word for a cocaine crystal followed by the last letter (finally) of May. 

11 Chooses to be at home inside, like Billy? (9)
NOMINATES – The two letter word for at home inside a word followed by Billy for someone who has no friends.

12 Stolen furniture spotted in nurseries (7)
HOTBEDS – A three letter slang word meaning stolen followed by an item of furniture used for sleeping.

14 Filters out small amounts (7)
TRIFLES – An anagram (out) of FILTERS.

15 Extremely puerile, arrogant son – an awful, unwelcome character (7,3,5)
PERSONA NON GRATA – The outer letters (extremely) of puerile followed by an anagram (awful) of ARROGANT SON. 

19 Offensive lines in play by old boy (7)
OBSCENE – The abbreviation for old boy followed by part of a play consisting of many lines.

21 Present numbers about absences (2-5)
NO-SHOWS – The abbreviation for numbers about a word meaning to present or demonstrate.

23 Discover a canister’s damaged (9)
ASCERTAIN – An anagram (damaged) of A CANISTER.

25 Pugilist starts to box irresponsibly in defence (5)
ALIBI – The name of a great boxer followed by the initial letters (starts to) box irresponsibly.

26 Star of 10 reportedly fell near Staffordshire town (6,5)
DUDLEY MOORE – A word that sounds like (reportedly) moor (fell) after (near) a town that is more accurately (now) in the West Midlands.  Perhaps expecting solvers to know the local government shenanigans over the location of town is too specialist and it would have been fairer to say a West Midlands town to reflect the current status of the town.

27 Predator that’s not quite as impressive as an albatross (5)
EAGLE – The predatory bird that, in golf, is one shot more than an albatross.


1 Uncle misstating the rules of chess? (8)
PAWNSHOP – The place where you can hock goods (I’m going to the uncle) split 5,3 misstates one of the rules of chess where it is the knight that makes this manoeuvre.  One of the rules of chess would be better than the rules of chess.

2 Weapon wound around one hand the last to be surrendered (8)
SCIMITAR – Another word for a healed wound around the letter representing one and a four letter word for a hand with the final letter (to be surrendered) removed.

3 Wedding planner whose counterpart has more energy? (6)
FIANCE – One of the parties to a marriage, the counterpart who is spelled with an additional E (energy).

4 Provided sustenance for leaders of Kenya – even provided tent (4)
KEPT – The initial letters (leaders of) the final four words of the clue.

5 Instrument tenors bash randomly (6,4)
BASSET HORN – An anagram (randomly) of TENORS BASH.

6 Modifying drug (not Ecstasy), gradually to start with (8)
MORPHING – The name of a pain relieving drug with the final E (not Ecstasy) removed followed by the first letter (to start with) of gradually.

7 Can the Spanish change in America? (6)
NICKEL – Another word for a prison or can followed by the Spanish for the.

8 King’s relatives murder revolutionary after never-ending quarrel (6)
ROYALS – A three letter word for a quarrel with the final letter removed (never-ending) followed by a word meaning murder reversed (revolutionary).

13 Unnerve members of staff with post-match instruction? (5,5)
SHAKE HANDS – A word meaning unnerve followed by a word for members of staff.

16 Ignore end of verse after poet admits blunder (8)
OVERRIDE – The name of an ancient Roman poet includes (admits) a word meaning blunder followed by the final letter (end of) verse.

17 A very old shop initially stocks what’s regularly seen in orchard i.e. fruit (8)
AVOCADOS – The A from the clue and the abbreviations for very and old followed by the first letter (initially) of shop include the odd letters (regularly seen in) of orchard.

18 He approves when Sibyl hoards books (8)
ASSENTER – A two letter word meaning when followed by a word for a prophetess or sibyl include the abbreviation for the books of the New Testament.

19 Recently Italian dramatist returned behind schedule (2,4)
OF LATE – Reverse the name of an two letter surnamed Italian dramatist (Dario ??) and follow this with a word meaning behind schedule.

20 Expression, for example, in the middle of Wigan (6)
SAYING — A three letter word meaning for example followed by the in from the clue and middle letter of Wigan.

22 Take fruit – primarily melons and pears – seen at the bottom of small vineyard (6)
SCRUMP – After (seen at the bottom of) the abbreviation for small add the first letters (primarily) of melons and pears and include a word for a vineyard.

24 Bragged twice about win (4)
CREW – A single letter for about (circa) followed by a two letter word meaning about (twice about) and the abbreviation for win.  The abbreviation is not recognised in the Chambers or Collins but should be familiar from football results and the pools.

49 comments on “Rookie Corner – 132

  1. A really good fun puzzle that we thoroughly enjoyed. We have an answer for 26a that we are pretty sure is correct but we”ll need to give some more thought to how the wordplay works. Not knowing a lot about Staffordshire towns might be part of the problem. Our smiles started with 9a when the penny dropped but there were plenty more to keep the smiles there right through the solve.
    Thanks Starhorse.

    1. Ok, we’ve now found the town (thanks Mr Google) and sorted out the clever misdirection in the clue. Great stuff.

  2. Hi Starhorse

    Congratulations, loads of fun with plenty of originality

    I wasn’t familiar with the answer to 6a but found it in Collins, and I didn’t know the Italian dramatist but easily confirmed. My knowledge of drug slang let me down and it took me a while to guess & confirm 10, and then 26 really made the puzzle for me. I was confused for a while by “lines in play” in 19a though the answer was clear, but then clicked. Plenty of nice aha moments. Not an easy solve, there often seemed to be bits of alternative parsings to eliminate – all nice and devious

    Plenty of ticks 9a, 10a, 11a, 12a, 25a, 26a, 7d, 24d,… I expect people will have lots of different favourites because there is a lot to choose from

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Dutch

      Glad you liked that. My test solver did raise an eyebrow at “lines in play”; I decided it was just about OK, but it’s certainly a bit looser than some definitions. In a published puzzle I guess it might require a tussle with the editor!

  3. Thanks, Starhorse, and very well done. I think this was pretty much perfect – original, entertaining, great surface readings, a nice mix of clues, and some well hidden definitions. Like everyone else, I’ll pick the bait-and-switch 26a as my favourite, but every clue was a good one. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!

  4. Thoroughly concur with the praise above – this was a great puzzle Starhorse – bravo!

    I have ticks by fully 19 of the clues and no question marks or unsmiley faces at all – which is rare indeed for me, especially in a Rookie Corner crossword.

    There were a few gentler clues – like 14a and 4d to give us a foothold, a nice balance of clue types throughout the meat of the puzzle and then a satisfying finish with (for me) the tricky ones in the bottom centre – last two in being 26a and 24d. Had to look at the atlas for the former – which I had always thought was in Worcestershire – but both those two were excellent.

    Hard to pick a favourite, but I’d probably go for the entertainment value of 1d.

    1. Hi Maize.

      Thanks. The town in 26a is an interesting one. I think when I was young it was administered as Worcestershire, even though it was geographically an enclave in Staffordshire. But now it’s all under the ugly “West Midlands” banner. So I concluded that it is not wrong to say it is “in” Staffordshire guessing that if people were in doubt they’d look at a map.

      1. I too had to look it up, I thought it still was part of Worcestershire as well, but glad to be proved wrong.

        I remember that Worcestershire used to play the occasional cricket match there until the 1970s, but I think the actual ground, like Hastings and Southampton and a few others, is now buried under concrete.

      2. Starhorse, I thought that was why you had put “near” Staffordshire rather than “in”?

        1. Ah, it was “near” not “in”, of course. “In” would have implied that the fell bit was contained in the town.

          I did consider “old Worcestershire town”, but felt that was a bit obscure and also “Black Country”, but like West Midlands that sounds ugly. Perhaps BC would have been a better option. Anyway I appreciate the various views from solvers on these little quirks as much as the full review from Proliixic

  5. Hi Starhorse,

    I thought this was absolutely fantastic! Many, many congratulations. I really do love your style, especially as I think it’s not too dissimilar from mine (although usually yours are trickier!) and therefore I seem to be able to get on to your wavelength fairly quickly.

    My usual modus operandi is to tick the clues I like, but in this case I abandoned my plan when I realised I was ticking virtually every single clue, so high was the standard of the puzzle. I did give double ticks however to 11a, 15a, 26a (loved the misdirection!) and 8d.

    A couple of very minor quibbles – I’d be happier if 1d read: “Uncle’s misstating one of the rules of chess”, as I think “uncle” on its own is synonymous with the person rather than his place of work, and also the cryptic definition surely relates to just one aspect of chess, no? I hope that RD will back me up on that! It’s a lovely device though. In addition, I noticed “after” was used as a positional indicator in both 8d and 16d, perhaps the first example could have been changed to “following” instead? Otherwise, in my view this was as close to perfection as one would find in a Rookie puzzle, not that you’ll be submitting many more in this particular slot as promotion surely beckons soon methinks.

    Superbly entertaining, a great puzzle indeed, Starhorse.

    1. Thanks Silvanus. Yes, I see what you mean about “one of the rules”; I did have some debate with a test solver about whether uncle covered the business as much as the person running it, and decided it could. But I suppose I could have extended the clue as “Where uncle misstates one of the rules of chess?” But it rather loses its sharpness like that. I guess that this is the sort of thing real setters have to sort out with an editor.

  6. Starhorse, perhaps it’s no surprise when I say that I agree totally with Silvanus (although may I have the temerity to suggest “Uncle’s misstating a rule of chess” as an even briefer alternative to 1d?!)

    I took a little while to drop onto your wavelength, but once I had done so I enjoyed every moment of this. As others have commented the misdirection in 26a was brilliant. I got 26a before 10a and I spent ages running through in my mind the names of as many of 26a’s films that I could think of to try to solve 10a before the penny finally dropped with one of loudest clangs of the year.

    Wonderful stuff. Please keep them coming!

    1. Thanks RD.

      I’ve just answered the Silvanus point re 1d. I’m always open to suggestions of minor tweaks. Or major ones actually. As for 26a/10a, glad I managed to string you along for a short while but that you won in the end!

  7. Thanks, Starhorse, and congratulations on a fine puzzle. I thoroughly enjoyed this. It did take me a while to get started, and then I picked up speed. Lots to like. My list includes 19A, 6D, 13D and 22D (not that I ever did!). I’m sure I will be adding to that once I’ve done a little Google check. I do have a couple of question marks that the review will sort out tomorrow if the light doesn’t dawn later today.

  8. Very nice indeed. I think I’d have chosen a different word for the definition at 6d, simply so that the solution didn’t begin with the same letters.

  9. What a fabulous puzzle – thank you Starhorse! It took me three relatively quick visits to finish it (in between sorting other \’stuff\’) which made it a well-suited level of difficulty for me.

    Loads of really nice clues – including 24d, 9a, 11a, 1d, 6d, 8d and 16d, though I could mention more.

    I wasn\’t 100% sure about the definition in 16d – though can\’t really comment more without spoiling.

    I couldn\’t believe I took so long over 26a, especially as (a) I had the second word very quickly and (b) I\’d blogged about same person (amongst others) on the Listen With Others site earlier this month.
    Right and Left by Ploy
    Loved it!

  10. Don’t know whether anyone has seen this but former rookie Snape (who kindly test-solved this for me as it happens) has set today’s Independent puzzle, under the name of Eccles.

    I’m also pleased to say I had puzzle published on Alberich’s site last week.

    1. Thanks for the info, Starhorse, I’m pleased that Snape (Eccles) has had a second puzzle published by the Indy. Having had a hand in test solving it back in May, it’s always good to know when it finally reaches a deserved wider audience!

      I’m sure he’ll get a positive reaction like his debut one did.

      Well done to you too on having a puzzle published elsewhere.

  11. This one was right at the upper end of my solving ability – I enjoyed it a lot but it’s taken me hours on and off.
    Having grown up in Worcestershire I was in the “Dudley’s in Worcs” brigade but whatever – things change.
    I think that there are lots of traps and I fell into every single one of them – I’m still in some of them but I’m sure all will become clear tomorrow.
    I got completely stuck with several in the top right corner – I’ll blame my lack of general knowledge of films, drugs (the 10a kind) and policing areas.
    Too many good clues to mention all of them but I think my favourite was 11a.
    With thanks and congratulations to Starhorse and, in advance, to whoever does the review tomorrow.
    Just finally – I do have to ask – why are you called Starhorse?

      1. I’ll have to have a think about that . . .
        I do like to know why people choose their names. I went through a patch of asking everyone and the best answer (a lot of you will have heard this before but for those of you who haven’t) was someone who called herself ‘Nanagluglug’ – maybe not quite right but along those lines – who replied and said she called herself that because she is and she does! I loved it – made me laugh for days.

    1. Thanks Kath – the name? Well what else could a setter use but an anagram? I’ll leave you working on that one….

      As a matter of interest do residents of Dudley still consider themselves as being in Worcestershire, even though they’re not really?

      1. Thanks for replying – now there’s something to work on having finished your very good crossword.
        I spent a long time thinking that Alchemi was called that because he was something to do with alchemy – turns out he’s an anagram too – did I feel a twit when I asked him? :oops:
        As for the residents of Dudley – I have no idea – we lived right in the south of Worcs – very close to where BD lives now.

          1. Yes – got there ‘all by my own self’ (to quote our Younger Lamb – daughter) and just came to reply to you – brilliant – told husband and he said that I should see if there’s something else that it could be – I don’t think so.

  12. Great fun. Thanks to Starhorse.
    Had a bit of trouble in the bottom of the crossword thinking that the town was Stone in Staffordshire. So came up with Sharon Stone which didn’t make any sense. Then 22d fell and I thought Rodger Moore. But that’s not how you spell it. Oh dear.
    Finally came up with the right actor but couldn’t see the connection with 10a. Maybe there’s a film called 10. Have to check that .
    I think I remember the Italian playwright too. Have to check also as I think Trumpets and Raspberries which I saw with Griff Rhys Jones is by him.
    Thanks again for the super crossword.

    1. So it is, Jean Luc. Never seen it though.
      ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ on the other hand, must be one of the most performed plays in Britain – but invariably by students!

  13. We enjoyed this, and it was tricky enough for us to pool resources at the end having tackled most of it individually. The Italian dramatist was a new one on us. Other than that our main sticking points were the last few in the NW.

    Jane is disgusted with herself for missing the 10 reference since it was a film she thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t know it so was no help (why change the habit of a lifetime?). Very clever, but our favourite has to be 11a because it made us laugh.

    Lots of other lovely touches too, and some real d’oh! moments. Thanks Starhorse, and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review.

  14. Hi Starhorse – nice puzzle.

    Plenty to enjoy but it didn’t take me long to knock over – even though my first pass was only moderately productive.

    Only minor quibble for me was that 21a and 19d were a bit samebothsidesy.

    Others may quibble that Sibyl in 18d is a definition by example and thus needs indicating as such, But for me, in that instance at least, it was the first thing that sprung to mind (after dismissing Mrs fawlty – capitalised is presumably a specific person’s name – lower case maybe the issue doesn’t arise – but that wouldn’t work in the surface reading). Anyway – no complaint from me – except that I’d like to see all Classics totally expunged from crosswords altogether – but that’s just a general observation – not specific to this puzzle.

    24d took me a long stare to resolve the wordplay – very nifty – one of my favourites.
    I also ticked 6a, 12a and 26a but many others generated a gentle smile – solving satisfaction rather than humour mainly.

    All in all very well done.

    Thanks for the fun.

  15. Thanks for that JS. Some good and interesting points there that nobody else has raised. I sort of agree about the classics – I know very little of them in truth, and some setters massively overuse them. But I guess like anything else – sports, films, religion, music, geography etc. etc. – the odd snippet is fine.

  16. Many thanks Prolixic for the review, and to everybody for the various comments and suggestions for tweaks.

    I often wonder how the dictionary compilers select the abbreviations they include. How W for win, L for loss etc. have yet to be included baffles me. I was slightly surprised that Dario Fo wasn’t a familiar name. I definitely should have gone with Black Country to indicate Dud though.

    Thanks folks.

    1. Unfortunate timing that Dario Fo died between the puzzle being compiled and it being published, although I suspect his name will live on in crossword circles as a very useful two letter device!

      Congratulations on your impending promotion, Starhorse, Richly deserved.

      1. Especially now that the Foregn Office has become the Foregn and Commonwealth Office – so FCO rather than FO.

        In crossieland he may well become to poetry what Ernie Els is to golf.

      2. Sad to hear that. It’ll help the Times setters though, given their house rules. I wonder how long until he first appears in a Times clue?

      3. Oh dear, I hadn’t seen that (the death of Fo I mean, not the promotion!) Perhaps I should work Trump into my next one….

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic and goodbye to yet another of our Rookies. Hopefully you’ll be back to bring us some NTSPPs in the future, Starhorse.

  18. Unfortunately I lost my internet connection Saturday night and only got it back today. So all I can add is that I’m in total agreement with the tone of the comments and thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish. Rookie’s Corner seems to have really found its feet again in the last few weeks. So big thanks to Starhorse (great anagram) and Prolixic for his ever reliable review.

  19. Thanks Starhorse, really enjoyed this one. I thought the difficulty level was perfect – a nice challenge with some head-scratchers, but it all went in without any gnashing of teeth and with no mysteries by the end. It was a puzzle of great clues so hard to pick favourites, but let’s go for 11a, 3d, 8d and 24d, with extra-special mention to 7d. Congratulations, and thanks also to Prolixic as ever.

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