Rookie Corner – 137 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 137

A Puzzle by MP

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

They said he wouldn’t dare set another puzzle – they were wrong. MP is back.  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 am assured that the recent problems with the website were not an attempt by MP to prevent a review of his crossword appearing!  This was a marked improvement on his first crossword though not without its own niggling points; but overall it was a good second coming.


9 Spoilsports dare racketeers (9)
PREDATORS – An anagram (spolis) of PORTS DARE.  The need to split spoilsports into two to get a wordplay indicator and anagram letters would not always be acceptable to editors.  More importantly, as the anagram indicator works in the imperative, it should be spoil, not spoils.

10 Party in first class defence (5)
ALIBI – The abbreviation of an old political party inside two letters that indicate first class.

11 More expensive direction (5)
NORTH – A double definition, the first being a slang expression not in Chambers or Collins indicating that the price is higher thought it would more correctly be used with “of”.  The second is a compass direction.  Perhaps the first part of the double definition is a little too obscure for use in a crossword.

12 Give support to balancing act (9)
HANDSTAND – A four letter word meaning give followed by another word for a stand.

13 More severe guide adopting force (7)
STERNER – A five letter word meaning to guide or direct includes an abbreviation for one of the armed forces.

14 Sporting a sporran courageously reveals hostility (7)
RANCOUR – The answer is hidden in (reveals) SPORRAN COURAGEOUSLY.  The “Sporting a” is padding that would not find favour with all editors as it does not contribute to the definition or the wordplay.

17 Cheerful and delicate (5)
LIGHT – Double definition.

19 Boob appears to hold itself (3)
BAP – The answer is hidden (to hold) in BOOB APPEARS.

20 Bencher who makes judgement about the night before (5)
REEVE – A two letter word meaning about followed by a three letter word meaning the night before.

21 Unsweetened ice with crab cocktail (7)
ACERBIC – An anagram (cocktail) of ICE CRAB.  The definition here is misleading.  Just because something is unsweetened, it does not mean it is bitter or sour, which is what the answer means.

22 Islanders suffering trances (7)
CRETANS – An anagram (suffering) of TRANCES.

24 Writer went ahead and wrote in (9)
PENCILLED – An implement used to write followed by a three letter word meaning went ahead. As others have already commented, there is a large degree of crossover between the answer and the first part of the wordplay which, ideally, should be avoided when setting clues.

26 Yes! Old sailors hunger (5)
YEARN – An old way of saying yes, followed by an abbreviation for the branch of the armed forces where sailors serve.

28 Reprove cook (5)
ROAST – Double definition.

29 Deliverance from short allowance after endless comfort (9)
SALVATION – A word for an allowance with the first letter removed (short) followed by a word for comfort with the last letter removed (endless).  Short as an indicator is usually used to indicate removing the last letter and not the first.


1 Turn bedrolls for a length of time (4)
SPAN – Reverse an informal Australian slang word for bedrolls.  It seems that the slang word may be of dubious provenance though it is given in Chambers. 

2 Container for one’s last container (6)
HEARSE – Cryptic definition of the vehicle that carried a coffin.

3 Laundry. But put back uses this (7,3)
WASHING TUB – A word for laundry followed by a reversal put back of BUT.  Again there is too large a degree of crossover between the wordplay and the answer.

4 Monk has no right to make trouble (6)
BOTHER – Remove the abbreviation for right from a word for a monk.

5 A daily gin in a south facing garden (1,7)
A SUNTRAP – The A from the clue followed by the name of a newspaper (daily) and another word for a gin (a device to capture something).  As a general rule, you should not use the definite or indefinite article as part of the solution unless it is a formal part of the answer.

6 Digs cricketer’s protection (4)
PADS – Double definition, the first being somewhere to live and the second being something to protect the cricketer’s shins and knees.

7 Garment worn by “The Lass That Loved A Sailor” without odd humps (8)
PINAFORE – The formal title of the operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan subtitled from the clue after removing the HMS (odd letters in humps).

8 Maybe a swift attempt to cross river (4)
BIRD – A word meaning to attempt something around (to cross) the abbreviation for river.

13 Leading svelte and lissome South Africans dance (5)
SALSA – The initial letters (leading) of the second to sixth words of the clue.  Perhaps leading characters in would have been a better first letter indicator.

15 One who pots greens (10)
NURSERYMAN – A cryptic definition of a worker who pots plants.

16 Hares morph into flightless birds (5)
RHEAS – An anagram (morph into) of HARES.

18 Eco-friendly approach leading to undeveloped land (8)
GREENWAY – A word meaning eco-friendly followed by another word for a path or approach.  As the answer is an Americanism, this should have been indicated in the clue.

19 Make fewer bets in revealing number (8)
BACKLESS – Split 4,4, the answer could mean make fewer bets.  The definition indicates a noun as the answer but the answer itself is an adjective.

22 Muddled clue embraces large cups for hug (6)
CUDDLE – An anagram (muddled) of CLUE includes a bra size.  The surface reading here is close to being meaningless.

23 Slowly a soldier gets into trouble (6)
ADAGIO – The A from the clue and the abbreviation for an American soldier inside a three letter word meaning trouble.

24 Cheeky return of intrepid insider (4)
PERT – The answer is hidden (insider) and reversed (return) in INTREPID.  I am not convinced that insider means the inside of something, rather an insider is a person who is inside, which is not the same thing. 

25 Hearty cheerio. Tara a bit (4)
IOTA – The answer is hidden (hearty) in CHEERIO TARA.  Four hidden word clues is probably over-egging the pudding.

27 Nil by mouth. Novice by ear. (4)
NONE – A homophone (by ear) of someone who may be a novice.  The clue fails as a fair definition as a novice is someone training to be a nun and would not become one until they have taken their vows, at which point they would no longer be a novice.  Depending on how you pronounce it, the answer may rhyme more with gone than the nun.

34 comments on “Rookie Corner – 137

  1. Have got it all filled in now but still got a couple where a bit more though needed on the parsing, 11a for example. We’ll leave the nit-picking to others but the main thing for us is that we could work it out and enjoy the process. A tick for both of those so we are happy.
    Thanks MP.

  2. Hi MP – nice solve – you made me work hard to finish the top left corner though.

    Straight in at the deep end as requested – and as indeed you did with 9a.

    9a – I’m happy with the unindicated split of the first word. All-time great DT setter Barnard was – but that leaves me with SPOILS as the anagram indication – I’d rather have SPOIL. The definition is a bit of a stretch at first sight – but fair I think.


    I think that was your biggest shortcoming – eg 3d – only one part of the answer – but a major one. A conventional 2-part wordplay-def clue needs each side to be well independent of the other. Those are much too close – likewise 24a and 3d. 11a – not sure – etymologically they come from the same idea (upwardsness) – but if the meanings live independently for long enough we probably don’t worry – so I’d call that one borderline.

    1d Only a wild guess gave me the synonym for bedrolls – the dictionary gave it as an Australianism – in 40+ long years here I’ve never heard it used. Dictionaries (Chambers being the worst) are full of alleged Australianisms which are either obscure, archaic, remote or non-existent – maybe someone fed them in as a practical joke. In general I think vocabulary is best drawn from one’s own head – dictionaries just used for checking.

    Foreign words etc are best indicated as such – unless we see them regularly in English.

    Maybe there’s another reading that I’m missing but that’s how I read it.

    Cryptic definitions (eg 2d) are easier for the solver if indicated with a question mark – but that’s not compulsory – and if one-sided they do need to be *really* cryptic.

    Down to fine points

    18d I thought “leading to” isn’t a very natural link for a plain double definition – more suited to a letter-fiddling wortdplay “leading to” a definition.

    19d Part of speech doesn’t quite match for me – although I could imagine that in the trade that adjective might be used a noun for items of that type – as indeed adjectives frequently are – so maybe that’s OK.

    But overall the cluing was very good – right down to the “minor” ones.

    I don’t do anagram-counting but I think you had a good mix of clue-types.

    Many thanks for the fun. Do keep them coming.

      1. You’re right – I think I was still thinking of my original incorrect attempt – or at least my scribbles hadn’t been updated. The clear answer to 28a put me back on the right track.

        1. you’re right on spoils (9a), it should be the imperative spoil. I misread the fodder as ‘sport dare’, which of course would give you a surface grammar issue

          1. And I chose to ignore your advice at 9ac on the test solve Dutch because I wanted to hear what others thought.

  3. I enjoyed this – thanks, MP. Needed a little help to finish a few in the very NW, and like the Kiwis I don’t understand 11a. My favourites are the four letter words.

    1. If your current answer is correct (not much else will fit and it should certainly agree clearly with one side of the clue) you’ll find the reason if you look it up in Oxford online (Collins doesn’t have it) – scroll down to adverb – there’s an example of its use there too.

  4. A Rookie Corner puzzle should fit in the time between finishing the Rufus and having to start the day job – tick
    It should have a good mix of clues – tick
    It should have at least one chestnut – tick
    A couple of clues should have a? by them – tick
    A couple of clues that I either don’t like or am not sure about – tick

    So MP you have ticked all the Rookie Corner boxes – although I would say for someone who isn’t keen on anagrams, there are a few!

    Thanks to MP and to Prolixic in advance

  5. Certainly fewer rough edges than your debut puzzle, MP, and several clues that were extremely well-crafted I thought. A definite improvement. Well done.

    I gave ticks to 8d, 13d, 19d, 23d and 24d. 24a and 4d earned half-ticks, as it was a pity that “writer” and “wrote” appeared together in the former, and “has no right” isn’t exactly true in the latter is it (what about the last letter?).

    Each of the recent graduates from Rookie Corner (Maize, Snape, Beet etc) has gone on record to say how much they have appreciated the constructive comments that solvers and other would-be setters have given them in this wonderful slot that BD has provided and I totally concur with that. I was disappointed to see this invaluable feedback dismissed as merely “nitpicking”.

    Thank you for an enjoyable solve, MP.

  6. Many thanks MP

    lots of clues I enjoyed, and I was pleased to see a few improvements have crept in since I last saw this. In particular i thought ‘leading to’ in 18d gave you a nice surface.

    My ticks are 11a, 13a, 19a, 20a, 4d, 8d, 18d, 23d

    Well done. I look forward to other comments and the review, but not as much as to your next puzzle

  7. Respect is due, MP, I really enjoyed this. A big tick for me was the general brevity without losing coherence of your cluing – only one over the eight!

    Your surfaces were generally smooth, with some nice humour and a good mix of clue types including, perhaps surprisingly for you, a few anagrams.

    Although a great student of the items in 19a, the answer was a new word for me.

    I agree with those who have expressed some doubt over the anagram indicator in 9a, and I thought, as well as the other examples of “sameness” given above by Jolly Swagman, the first part of 29a and the answer are too similar.

    But all-in-all I thought this was a high quality puzzle. Many thanks and well done. Bring on the next one soon please!

  8. Thanks MP, I’m glad to see you’re a recurring feature here. 4d was my favourite for its nice surface.

    I think JS has given a good overall write-up already, so I’ll instead go with a dissertation on double definitions. In 17a, “cheerful” and “delicate” are both perfectly good and fair definitions, and together make a perfectly good and fair clue. It’s hard to get any misdirection out of them though, because there’s no ambiguity in their meanings. For double definitions especially, where there is no wordplay with which to mislead, I feel no shame in trawling the thesaurus for a synonym which can work as a noun instead of an adjective, or which can have a second unrelated meaning in the surface reading. For 17a, for example, “fair” is a synonym full of possibilities – in the surface it can mean “equitable”, or “event with donkey rides”. Pair it up with a second unrelated definition and it’s job done, and in my opinion it would produce a more interesting clue.

    I’ve also got one entirely off-topic note – in case any would-be rookies want to have a go but lack software, I’ve put together an online crossword builder at which can assist with the grid fill.

    Thanks again to MP for the entertainment, and I look forward to the next one.

    1. Cyborg, you are a star – that is a brilliant thing to gift to the crosswording community. I’m sure it will encourage more additions to Rookie Corner.

  9. Apart from first thing this morning when I printed out the crossword this is the first time I’ve managed to get here today.
    All jolly good fun, I’d say.
    I don’t understand my 11a but will do as suggested by a previous commenter and look it up.
    I’ve never heard 19a meaning what it does here so that’s a new one.
    My favourite was 5d.
    Thanks and well done and :good: to MP and thanks in advance to Prolixic.
    Now to see if I can post this . . .

  10. Lots of fun to be had in here MP, so many thanks – I think we all like a bit of ‘Ooh Matron’ like 19a and 22d.
    As has already been said, the NE corner offered stiff resistance, and I mis-guessed 9a as ‘Peekaboos’ before seeing JollySwagman’s parsing above – tricky one, that.
    In 29a – that’s the first time I’ve seen short as meaning deletion from the start of a word, so I’ll be interested to read Prolixic’s view on whether to give it a yellow card or declare ‘play on’.
    Have to agree with JS on ‘samebothsideness’ – or etymological crossover if you’re being posh. It’s just more fun when the wordplay and definition (or two sides of a double definition like 17a) are brought together with a dash of unexpected surprise.
    And I’m sure you were only joking about the nitpickers thing – feedback is our lifeblood, n’est ce pas?
    All very enjoyable indeed.

  11. OK – I’ll have one more try at posting –

    Haven’t heard of the 1d bedrolls before – closest I could have got would have been a sleeping bag.
    Needless to say, I didn’t like 19a at all which put me in a grump over 22&24d!

    All the ‘nit-picking’ has just about been done but I would mention 27d – not a homophone to my ears, which I assume is what it’s meant to be.
    I did like a fair few, honestly! Best for me were 5,8,19&23d. 20d would also have made the cut given a different first word in the clue.

    Thanks, MP – good of you to brave the lions’ den again!

  12. So hard to get in here, it feels like a very selective club.
    Honored to be part of it.
    I really had fun solving and enjoyed the new styles of anagram indicator in 9a , of lurkers in 24d, 25d and 14a and of 5d of course.
    Most of my double ticks are in the down clues: 7,8,22,23 and 27.
    Favourite of all is 7d.
    Thanks MP.

  13. Well done MP, thoroughly enjoyable.
    Some of the comments above are beyond my pay grade, but I would agree with Jane above about 27d. Where I come from the answer rhymes with GONE, not NUN.
    Loved 19a, funny and clever. I was in Cornwall last week and regularly passed a mobile layby cafe promising ‘nice baps’. Thanks for the reminder!

  14. Thanks to BD’s Facebook post, I ventured in, and good to see things may be getting sorted out. How frustrating the past week or so have been for you! MP, I do have a couple of question marks balanced by a couple of “attaboy” ticks. Loved 7D, 22D and 19A. Good job I say. Keep ’em coming!

  15. The review is awaiting posting but I can only access the site from my mobile phone when I am not on my home broadband. I will add it once I can!

  16. Many thanks, Prolixic – although the thought of MP’s second coming worried me a little………
    Not knowing the Americanism at 18d I’d put in ‘Greenham’ thinking of Greenham Common with the ‘ham’ being an undeveloped actor – apparently not!
    Thanks again to MP.

    1. Hi Jane,
      I was hoping to see Green Man. MP passed by an opportunity for a bit of free advertising.
      Thanks to Prolixic for the analysis.

    2. We have a Greenway about half a mile from us. It should be green but it is churned up by trials bikes racing up and down it. A shame because it is quite pretty and the bikes discourage walkers. As I am so familiar with the term it surprised me that it was an Americanism. I remember the brave women of Greenham Common. I sent food parcels and stuff to them.

      1. We had the Parkland Walk between Finsbury Park and Crouch End. Used to be called a greenway too.

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