Rookie Corner – 135 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 135

A Puzzle by Deuce

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Deuce enjoyed the feedback from his first puzzle, so he has returned with a second one. 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.

It is difficult to know what to make of this crossword.  There are strokes of brilliance but, regardless of your cluing style, there was sometimes a lack of technical detail and too much repetition of wordplay devices.  The overall impression was rather like watching Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing.  It is fun to watch but some of the moves are not all there, particularly as we hit the down clues.


1/4 EU exit aspiration in disarray with heads of France and European Commission involved, all covered by bumbling Vice Premier (5,9)
CHIEF EXECUTIVE – An anagram (bumbling) of VICE around and anagram (in disarray) of EU EXIT H (aspiration) F E C (heads of France, European and Commission).  The use of aspiration to clue an H in an anagram is close to making this an indirect anagram. 

9 Extra mud I blended for cocktail (9)
ADMIXTURE – An anagram of EXTRA MUD I.

10 May predecessor be out of sorts about brief promotion (5)
APRIL – A word meaning to be ill or out of sorts around the abbreviation for public relations (brief promotion).

11 May take note, having first letters of font underlined with lines in bold style (8)
MANFULLY – The May from the clue about the abbreviation for note, the first letter of Font and Underlined and two LLs (lines in the plural).

12 It’s hardly enough, scratch surface with afterthought (6)
SKIMPS – A word meaning to scratch the surface (as you might with milk to remove the cream) followed by the abbreviation for an afterthought in writing.  I think the definition leads to an adjective but the answer is in the verbal form.

14 Pause to absorb energy and start afresh (5)
RESET – A word meaning to pause includes (to absorb) the abbreviation for energy.

15 Photographer’s mount (7)
SNOWDON – Double definition of the Lordly royal photographer and the highest mountain in Wales.

18 GP’s blurred lines before cardiac event starts (7)
SILENCE – An anagram (blurred) of lines followed by the first letters (starts) of cardiac event.  The musical abbreviation is not in Chambers but is in Collins.

20 Inspect carefully, end of chuckle is hollow (5)
COMBE – A word meaning to search carefully followed by the final letter (end of chuckle).

22 May be Gandhi or Idi Amin’s first northern invasion to heart of Congo (6)
INDIAN – the IDI from the clue and the first letter of Amin include (invasion) an N (northern) and followed by the central letter (heart of) Congo.

24 May be used to colour jeans evenly with shades of brown (1-7)
E-NUMBERS – The even letters of Jeans and the plural of a burnt brown colour.

26 Nothing in ceremony to take end of Johnson? (5)
BORIS – AN O (nothing) in another word for the Jewish circumcision ceremony (ceremony to take end!)

27 Run before tea upset Durham’s opener, after six balls scored too high (9)
OVERRATED – After the word for six balls in cricket add the abbreviation for run and an anagram (upset) of tea.

28 Confused memo about top half of cowl getting tangled in nun’s extremities, leading to mouth of Trappist saying this? (2,7)
NO COMMENT – An anagram (confused) of MEMO around the first two letters of cowl all inside the first and last letters of num followed by the first letter (mouth of) Trappist.

29 State of America unknown following heart of Ronald Reagan? (5)
NANCY – The middle two letters (heart of) Ronald followed by the abbreviation for North Carolina and a letter representing an algebraic unknown.  We have already have had “heart of” as a middle word indicator so ideally, a different indicator should be used in one of the clues.


1 Queen on 1st May in frantic search for winning people (8)
CHARMERS – A single letter abbreviation for queen and the first letter of May inside an anagram (frantic) of SEARCH.

2 Jab does this miss mine wildly around middle of round (9)
IMMUNISES – An anagram (wildly) of MISS MINE around the middle letter of round.

3 Two members of 13, banned by previous one (3,4)
FOX HUNT – An activity banned by the previous political administration comes from the surnames of two members of the current administration. 

4 European traitor abolishes pound and invokes article 50 as might be doing with second try? (10)
EQUALISING – The abbreviation for European followed by a word for a traitor with an L removed (abolishes pound)  around (invokes) an article and the roman numeral for 50. 

5 Had nice garden before May? (4)
EDEN – Double definition for the garden in the book of Genesis and one of the current Prime Minister’s predecessors.  I think that the “had” in the clue could be removed.

6 UK and Danes put in question or not (7)
UNASKED – An anagram (put in question) of UK DANES.

7 Probably dreaming about thing (2,3)
IN REM – A description of the sleep phrase when dreaming occurs and a legal term for a thing.

8 Lent freely, take a shilling from King? (6)
ENLIST – An anagram (freely) includes another letter for a or one and the abbreviation for shilling.  The take a shilling is doing double duty as part of the definition and part of the wordplay which would be frowned upon by many editors.

13 May team go against ten men, tussling to take second of trophies (10)
GOVERNMENT – The GO from the clue, the single letter used for against in legal case names, an anagram (tussling) of TEN MEN including (to take) the second letter of trophies.   Twelve anagrams in a crossword (thirteen if you count the double in 1a) is over-egging the pudding. 

16 Fish container upside down under freezer door for 20dn and co (6,3)
NUMBER TEN – A word for a freezer (something that makes you numb) followed by a reversal (upside down) of a contain in which fish are put after being captured.

17 Provided banquet about a saint? Yes, on this occasion (5,3)
FEAST DAY – A word meaning provided a banquet or catered around the A from the clue and the abbreviation for saint followed by a two letter word for saint.

19 May rival win, some lost final (7)
LEADSOM – A word meaning win (the synonym here is not exact I think) followed by the some from the clue with the final word removed.

20 Came before Queen and vacated occupation? (7)
CAMERON – The CAME from the clue followed by the single letter abbreviation for queen (already used before so a different indicator should have been used) and the outer letters (vacated) of occupation.  Although the whole clue is supposed to indicate the answer, it does not really work for me.

21 To regularly bring a bong around end of House? (3,3)
BIG BEN – The odd letters (regularly) of BRING A BONG around the final letter (end of) of house.  End of has already been used twice before as a final letter indicator.  The to is out of place here as it suggests a verb as the answer.

23 Hoax retracted having run with Independent leader column (5)
DORIC – Reverse a verbal word meaning hoax and include the abbreviation for run and the first letter (leader) of independent.  The abbreviation for run has already been used and should therefore have been clued differently.

25 Get over being rejected after loss how to change 13? (4)
VOTE – The answer is hidden (after loss) and reversed (rejected) in GET OVER.  I am not over enamoured with after loss as hidden word indicator.

23 comments on “Rookie Corner – 135

  1. Our hearts sank when we looked at the printout and saw all those words. Then we started on the solving and the further we got into it the more we found we were enjoying it. When we spotted the theme we thought there might be some things we did not know, but in the end it was only 19d that we had to look up on Google. Refreshingly different from what we are used to and we appreciated it.
    Thanks Deuce.

  2. Great puzzle Deuce – right up my street. If this had been published in any of the puzzle series I follow it would most likely have been (May have been :-))the high point of the week.

    9a and 8d had me fruitlessly scouring Mrs Bradford for cocktails and kings but you were in a higher league.

    I didn’t really have any major quibbles – although I didn’t understand (apart from the definition) 26a.
    12a might possibly have been rejigged to be a bit tighter.

    I ticked 9a, 3d, 4d, 5d, 8d 20d.

    8d some would gong out as having double duty on “take a shilling” but when you see how good clues like that can be I really can’t go along with that.

    I wondered what your approach to question marks was. You had quite a few.

    Personally I would have given 23d on to indicate the nature of the definition and dropped some of the other ones. You seem to have used them to indicate all-in-one (&lit) clues. For that some seem to use exclamation marks or just leave them uninidicated. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent approach across the various papers. I think I do question marks for crytic definitions – a hangover from quick crosswords – and that’s where either the whole clue is a CD or where it’s a two-part clue but the definition is cryptic rather than straight – and exlamation marks for a really special all-in-one or for a bit of a fudge.

    Anyway – that’s just a couple of minor points for the techies to chew over – not in any way a complaint.

    As for the puzzle – absolutely superb – many thanks for the fun.
    I hope you’ve started your next one.

    1. interesting point about question marks, JS. Alberich once advised me to use them if the definition was somewhat whimsical, which could be said in this puzzle of several of those with QMs – 29a, 4d, 8d, 20d, 21d…

  3. Absolutely brilliant Deuce – and great fun from start to finish.
    I have loads of ticks, and doubles by 11a, 29a, 3d, 4d, 8d, 20d, 21d and 23d.
    JS, there’s a Jewish ceremony which would help you with the parsing of 26a.
    Marvellous puzzle Deuce – a tour de force.

  4. An enjoyable crossword – well done on getting all those themed solutions in. The only thing I would say is that so many of your clues tend to the “War and Peace” end of number of words in a clue, where you need a bit of a lie down after reading before going back to work out how they work, especially the ones with nineteen words in them.

    thank you for the crossword – and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review

  5. Very entertaining with lots of laughs – thanks Deuce. I thought that 26a was absolutely brilliant and would have graced the Private Eye crossword. Others I enjoyed included 29a, 3d (excellent), 4d and 17d.
    As others have mentioned some clues are rather verbose and some of the surfaces don’t make a great deal of sense (e.g. 20a) but the whole thing is very enjoyable – I look forward to your next puzzle.

  6. Well I knew it would be right up Jolly Swagman’s street, but once again for me I found too many niggling flaws to make it an enjoyable solve. The setter’s self-indulgent cluing style isn’t appreciated by this solver at least.

    Like Deuce’s first puzzle, the anagram count was on the high side, but that’s forgivable for a novice setter. Whilst the theme was clever, and certain ideas were brilliant, too often I felt that they were poorly clued, with far too many clunky, verbose, ungrammatical or meaningless surfaces. The use of the current PM’s name to begin certain clues began being a clever device, but ended up being tedious from overuse.

    Repetition also featured strongly unfortunately, with “run”, “heart” and “Queen” each being used more than once, and “about” twice used as a containment indicator. “Take a shilling” is definitely doing double duty in 8d, sorry JS.

    The shorter clues were much the best in my opinion, and I gave ticks to 14a, 24a and the excellent 3d. Surprised that 20d seems to have earned plaudits when more than half the answer appears in the first word of the clue. A perfect example of a good idea that wasn’t well executed in my opinion. Surely “appeared” could have been used instead to justify a tick?

    Thanks Deuce, I think you have a lot of potential but far, far more discipline is needed at the editing stage I feel.

  7. Hi Deuce, a great puzzle! On the slightly more challenging side which suits me down to the ground. I’ve included slightly more detailed notes at the very end (includes Spoilers) – for those that don’t like such stuff please skip that part.
    You had two of the most convoluted constructions I can recall seeing for a long while in 28a and 1a, which made me smile (are you trying to outdo Mr. J. Swagman in some word count competition I’m not aware of ;-) ). Both are of course spot on with their accuracy – you’ll know that already but I had to check!
    23d’s indicator was a bit subtle but ok I think.
    29a – I’m slowly coming round to the ‘one of 50 states ideally needs a bit more indication’ camp (says the person who clued BI(smuth) as ‘element’ earlier in this series & received similar feedback!). Stones, glasshouses, yeah I know…
    My favourites (amongst many to choose from) were: 7, 20, 24, 17, 21, 11 & 26. And of course 4d- for a surface like that I’ll forgive any slight definition looseness – fantastic!
    Overall – loved it!!

    More detail…
    28a. anagram of W about X, all in Y, and then Z. Phew!
    23d having containing. Not so common but feels ok, I think.
    22a spent a while trying to shoe-horn INDIRA in. Nice feint (and/or stupidity at this end)!
    29a with 50 States to choose from there were lots of possibilities here!
    6d nice indicator!
    7d like it
    20d neat – haven’t seen this one before!
    24a clever surface
    17d great clue
    21d ho ho :-) Even without the wordplay this would be a great cryptic clue. And with it – genius!
    25d ‘after loss’ a bit generic, unless I am missing something (I probably am!)
    1a Or, to put it simply, anagram of [A plus a word for B and an abbrev for C] …all in another anagram of D (Flippin’ ‘eck!)
    4d For a surface like that I’ll forgive any slight definition looseness – fantastic!
    3d clever
    11a very good
    26a funny & painful at the same time
    8d double duty, I think, but very solvable so fine by me!

  8. I blew a bit hot and cold with this one. I found it full of promise at first, then got a little worn down, finding some surfaces unexciting and some bits a bit of a slog … but then perked up a bit and very much enjoyed some of the very clever touches.

    Difficulty-wise I didn’t find it easy, but I like a Rookie I can do without cheats and this ticked that box. As for quibbles, I only have a couple of question marks for Prolixic to answer tomorrow – and that’s very good going indeed, especially as my “quibbles” as often as not tend to prove unfounded.

    I liked 3d, and was wonderfully misdirected in 26a looking for four-fifths of a longer ceremony. Otherwise, my favourite clues are clustered in the SE: 24 and 29 going across, and 16 and 17 going down.

    Bravo, Deuce, and I look forward to your next one. Thanks, and also many thanks in anticipation to Prolixic for the review.

  9. Hi Deuce,

    Not entirely my cup of tea this one I’m afraid, as I’m not such a fan of verbose clues, but there was certainly a lot to admire, with some excellent misdirection. I can see above that JS really liked this, and as he definitely likes this style of crossword, great work on that.

    I’ve got a question mark on 12a as I’m not entirely convinced on the definition, and I’d probably have preferred the insertion of ‘after’ (or similar) before ‘invasion’ in 22a.

    I’ll go with 10a as my favourite as I spent far too long thinking of former PMs!


  10. I finally have a full grid, but like the 2Kiwis I had to Google for 19D. I have several question marks on the page that I’m sure Prolixic will explain tomorrow. Not this expat’s cup of tea either, though I did tick 15A and 29A. Thanks, Deuce.

  11. I really enjoyed this. It shows great ambition for a Rookie to come up with such a topically themed puzzle. There’s been one or two comments about clue length but with a little refinement your ingenuity will no doubt lead to some cracking clues in the future. Great stuff Deuce.

  12. Thanks Deuce, quite an effort, congratulations. The puzzle was tricky and enjoyable

    I had been thinking for some time that our PM would be a setter’s delight and I am glad you’ve taken up the challenge.

    I like concise clues and the first impression here is the verbosity, which to me detracts from the enjoyment. I find it hard to admire a long clue for its elegance.

    I didn’t understand the definition in 18a, I’ll probably kick myself. I hadn’t come across the 7d answer before, or the ceremony in 26a, but both are excellent clues. Like others, I enjoyed 3d as well. I also liked 29a – I think the state is ok, but it does involve parsing after seeing the answer and I’d be surprised if anyone didn’t do that – which is fine.

    my quibbles, in the hope they are useful to you:
    12a. Not sure why you have “It’s”, because that indicates a noun and I think the answer is a verb. “Is”?
    21a. I might be missing something, but I’m not sure what “To” is doing, apart from forcing an inelegant split infinitive in the surface – leave it out? – also here, the &lit indicates a verb but the answer is a noun – very nice idea though.
    5d – not sure what “Had” is doing – again, it indicates a verb – leave it out?
    1d – I think you can be more correct without losing anything by saying “first of May”
    4d – I find it inelegant to remove and then replace the same letter
    8d – I didn’t understand this until I read Silvanus’s comment – and yes – double duty unfortunately, a no-no.
    25 “after loss” is not quite enough of an instruction for me. “reveals” or “shows” or similar might slide into the def better

    that’s all – pretty good, really.
    Looking forward to the review and to your next puzzle
    Congrats once again.

  13. This one certainly seems to have garnered differing opinions and I’m sorry to say that I’m in the ‘not my cup of tea’ camp.
    Extremely wordy clues and poor surface reads always spoil a puzzle for me but perhaps we all look for different things!
    I did have ticks against some of the clues – 15&24a got my vote.

    Thank you for the hard work, Deuce – my apologies for being so negative.

  14. I’m having a bit of battle with this one – so far I have precisely six answers – my excuse is that I’ve been gardening all afternoon but actually I think it’s just beyond me.
    I’m going to keep trying either later or tomorrow but, in the meantime, thanks and congratulations to Deuce.

  15. For a rookie puzzle I thought this was absolutely brilliant. Both topical and testing. Yes somewhat verbose, but as others have said, experience will tighten this up. Loved it, thank you Deuce.

  16. Thanks to Prolixic for the review. 26a is even more amusing if you know what Johnson is a slang term for.

  17. Thanks all, and especially to Prolixic, for your comments. I think I agree with pretty much all of them. Too many anagrams, too many words, too many duplicate terms – all useful for me to remember for next time. And I’m delighted if (at least some of) you enjoyed it!

  18. thanks Prolixic especially for GP which is a new one for me.

    congratulations again Deuce, keep ’em coming.

  19. Rather a harsh preamble to the blog I thought. After “this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism” we get the gratuitous insult “rather like watching Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing”.

    In the event (like many a DT article) the headline isn’t matched by the content. MInor and indeed sometimes debatable issues such as repetition and the odd tweak needed here and there – a lot less for puzzles that are showered with praise.

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic and the explanation of the ‘H’ in 1a and the ‘GP’ in 18a.
    No wonder I’d got a query by 7d – I didn’t know the legal term for ‘thing’ and thought the two word phrase needed the addition of ‘sleep’ to accurately define the ‘probably dreaming’ part of the clue.

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