Rookie Corner – 138 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 138

A Puzzle by AKMild

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

It’s been over a year since AKMild’s debut appearance – now you can enjoy his second 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.

This was well constructed and fun to solve.  The main points to watch are frequent repetition of wordplay indicators and finding some smoother surface readings.  Otherwise, this was a creditable second appearance in the Rookie Corner.


8 Smart Kelvin takes Felicity to see a girl’s film (5,5)
CHICK FLICK – A four letter word meaning smart or trendy followed by the abbreviation for Kelvin and a shortened form of the name Felicity.  It is not strictly necessary to indicate the shortened form of a name but it could be done by saying “little Felicity”.

9 Peruse text on the present (4)
READ – The two letter word meaning on or about followed by the abbreviation for the current age.

10 Scanty Sue’s first to analyse (6)
SPARSE – The first letter of Sue followed by a word meaning to analyse a sentence.

11 Structural division on main road back in southern Belgium (8)
WALLONIA – A structural division in a building followed by the ON from the clue and a reversal (back) of a main road running south to north sometimes referred to as the Great North Road.

12 Sounds like gangster has elbow-room in outside passage (8)
ALLEYWAY – The first name of Mr Capone (Gangster) followed by a homophone (sounds like) of leeway (elbow-room).  Part of me feels that the homophone indicator should come before elbow room rather than gangster.   Perhaps “Gangster has elbow-room in the house’s outside passage.”

13 Broke purdah (4-2)
HARD-UP – An anagram (broke) of PURDAH.  Strictly, broke is doing double duty as the defined term and part of the wordplay which would not be acceptable for some editors. 

14 The two of us back cowboy movie (7)
WESTERN – A two letter word meaning the two of us followed by a word meaning back.

16 Investment in Caracas, perhaps (7)
CAPITAL – Double definition, Caracas being a definition by example.

19 Old classification for 18 (1-5)
X-RATED – A mildly cryptic definition of the film classification that is now known as 18.

21 Sheeran leaves building, to be replaced by Garfunkel – such cunning! (8)
ARTIFICE – Replace the first name of Mr Sheeran with the first name of Mr Garfunkel in another word for a building.

23 Irrigate desert to find aquatic creature (5,3)
WATER RAT – A word meaning to irrigate followed by a word meaning to desert or run away.

25 Picture house – Caroline’s first in Eastern Massachusetts (6)
CINEMA – The first letter of Caroline followed by the IN from the clue, the abbreviation for Eastern and state code for Massachusetts.  As first has already been used as a first letter indicator in 10a, ideally a differing indicator should be used.

26 Said thousand for a slip (4)
SKID – Replace the A in SAID with the abbreviation for 1000.

27 Taking in king within sailor’s choice (10)
ABSORPTION – A one letter abbreviation for King inside an abbreviation for a sailor and a word meaning a choice.


1 Church primate left for printing office (6)
CHAPEL – A two letter abbreviation for a church followed by a word for a primate and the abbreviation for left.

2 Starts to sing choral themes about ram – it’s most frightening! (8)
SCARIEST – The initial letters (starts to) of the third to fifth words of the clue about another same for the sign of the Zodiac represented by the ram.

3 Place for souls where War I and War II are often found? (10)
AFTERWORLD  – Literally where the words WAR I and WAR II are usually found when describing the two global conflicts.

4 ‘Vent’ means ducts that provide ventilation (7)
AIRWAYS – Another word meaning to vent followed by a word meaning means.

5 Sample of cask Olaf cheers! (4)
SKOL – The answer is hidden (sample of) in CASK OLAF.

6 A jolly short time providing protection (6)
ARMOUR – The A from the clue followed by the abbreviation for a Royal Marine (jolly) and a period of time with the first letter removed (short).  Conventionally, short is used to indicate removing the final letter.

7 40% state “short seabird and a crazy Roman” (8)
CALIGULA – 40% of the letters in a West Coast state of America followed by a seabird with the final letter removed (short) and the A from the clue.  To use the same word to indicate a letter removal in the consecutive clues is not ideal.

13 Former PM pockets money leading to concern for service provided by hospitals (10)
HEALTHCARE – The name of the old Conservative PM (Ted ……) includes (pockets) the abbreviation for pounds (money) followed by (leading to) a word meaning concern.

15 Designates funds for organ belonging to Evangelist, we hear (8)
EARMARKS – The organ of hearing followed by the second of the gospel writers (in book order) with the S (as in belonging to).

17 Boundlessness bound up in silvery tin if nickel-plated (8)
INFINITY – The answer is hidden and reversed (bound up in) SILVERY TIN IF NICKLE-PLATED.

18 Footballers, books and arsenic – end of my dream (7)
FANTASY – The abbreviation for Football Association followed by the abbreviation for New Testament, the chemical symbol for arsenic and the final letter (end of) my.

20 Up-to-date target, Noddy oddly (6)
TRENDY – The odd letters of target noddy.

22 Wimbledon, for example, may be vulgar (6)
COMMON – Double definition, the first being an area of land in Wimbledon.

24 Was up or used oars, we hear – that’s the way! (4)
ROAD – A double homophone (we hear) of RODE (was up) and ROWED (used oars).   As the indicator “we hear” has already been used, a different indicator should ideally have been used.

26 comments on “Rookie Corner – 138

  1. Lots of good wordplay here and I will single out 24d for special mention as it has a double homophone. Nothing too obscure but did have to think hard to remember the answer in 11a until I had sorted out the first letter. Good fun to solve.
    Thanks AKMild.

  2. I think polishing the art of relating surface reading to the answer would be a good future focus; there were two or three that were really good and a number of very oddball ones. I imagine, though, that this is an acquired skill for most setters. I think 21A has to be my pick. Thanks AKMild. Hope to see you back before another year passes.

    1. Thanks Chris. Definitely an area to work on, as surface reading was one of the areas on which I was picked up in my first puzzle. I think that I spent so long trying to refine the clues that they all started sounding ‘normal’ to me, but you’re right, some do seem a bit clunky.

  3. Hard to believe you’re a rookie AKM – that was very good.

    Many really well-formed clues. I particularly liked the way the indicators in 2d and 24 (“starts” and “we hear”) cast their effect over more than what it might seem at first sight that works very well to make the wordplay less obvious than it might otherwise have been.

    Only tiny quibbles – or points of technical interest.

    13a – brilliant find. Technically (this is really silly) analysing it as a conventional wordplay/definition clue “broke” is doing double duty. It’s not what some call a semi-&lit or semi-all-in-one. Ximenes included both those and full ones under the same heading but for some reason (or arbitrarily) whole surface wordplay/part surface definition doesn’t count – don’t ask me why. Like many a theologian I always ask the question: “What would Araucaria have done”. I think he would either have served it up exactly as you have – or else added a question mark – either to indicate that there’s something unusual going on – or else as an anagram indication – ie leaving “broke” free to serve only as a definition. Not many use question marks as anagram indications these days – no idea why – they use it (meaning “perhaps” presumably) to indicate definitions by example but rarely if ever as an anagram indication, even though Araucaria used it for that quite a lot – not sure if recently – his early anagrams were very lightly indicated.

    That’s a lot to say about two words but there it is. I think I would have played safe with either a question mark (as described above) or an exclamation mark.

    But it works so well it must definitely be made to survive one way or another.

    4d A bit samebothsidesy – it’s all about the same thing – maybe one side could have talked about airlines or something.

    6d Is this a fault or not? “Short” usually means “get rid of the last letter”. Logically it should be able to mean get rid of however many of the last letters you want (presumably not more than half) or indeed (as you have) trim the front. Logic and convention sometimes don’t agree. I’m not going to take sides on this specific one except to say that logic should normally win – otherwise we are back in a world of pre-enlightenment thinking – but if you want approval from the self-styled ximeneans (they are) you have to respect convention – theirs of course.

    15d I don’t think you really need “we hear”. The wordplay gives the exact letters needed without having to make any homophones. The solver doesn’t need an indication to strip out the spare apostrophe when entering the answer – that’s routine.

    Those quibbles are really minor – just technical really – I don’t think they would have held up any seasoned solver – or even a rookie one.

    Very well done. Please keep them coming.

    1. Thanks Swagman. Interesting analysis of 13a and I think that a question mark would have been a good idea, but I deliberately allocated double duty to “broke” otherwise I feel the clue would have been somewhat easy.

      I really struggled clueing 4d and changed it several times. I think it was probably my last clue and I was getting impatient by that time.

      6d – sorry, didn’t appreciate that “short” only applied to the end of the word, but that’s entirely logical as you say.

      15d – I included the “we hear” because of the differentiation between the noun and the possessive, and didn’t realise that it was superfluous.

      Really useful and encouraging feedback, thank you.

  4. Hi AKMild,

    I really enjoyed that!

    My favourites are the double homophone in 24d, the very nice (possibly controversial) double-duty in 13a and I really liked 3d too.

    There are perhaps four where the surface felt a bit strained/surreal/dreamy/obscure to me (18d, 2d, 26a, 7d) but they were very much in the minority so well done.

    I made a few other comments as I went through which I’ve included below though feel free to ignore. Very happy with all unmentioned clues too.

    I look forward to your next one!



    19a Good feint with ’18’ :-)
    21a Nice construction – scope to tighten slightly (maybe could do without ‘to be’?)
    25a simple. Wasn’t sure why you’d picked Caroline (I am probably missing something) – could change to something very American like Chuck?
    6d ‘short’ as a start deleter? usually an end deleter.
    18d that’s some dream ;-)
    17d nice spot!
    1d good alternate definition
    2d surface slightly surreal?
    26a nice construction – surface slightly obscure
    7d good construction; surface a bit strained

  5. Thanks, AKMild, I found it a very pleasant solve. That grid can sometimes leave nothing but vowels at the intersections, but you avoided that problem well. I think everything I wanted to say has been said, so I’ll leave it at: well done!

  6. My thoughts on this one very much mirror those of Expat Chris in that there are several instances where good ideas were rather marred by poor surface reads. 9,10,14&27a plus 6d were cases in point although I accept that this is just my opinion.
    You obviously can nail it – 12a&13d read so smoothly and there were some little gems amongst the more simple ones such as 23a&22d.
    I wasn’t overly convinced by either 26a or 7d but 20d certainly raised a smile. I well remember poor Noddy falling foul of the PC brigade!

    You commented to Chris that all the clues start to appear ‘normal’ when you’ve been working on them for a while – perhaps now is the time to get a fresh pair of eyes to test solve before you submit a puzzle for publication?

    Please keep at it, AKMild, I rather think you could shine in the future!

  7. Welcome back, AKMild.

    I have to confess I couldn’t recall anything about your debut puzzle in this slot last year, so thanks to BD’s archive for refreshing my memory.

    Like Expat Chris and Jane, I did wince a little at some of the surfaces, especially 2d, 7d and 18d, but there were equally some excellent ones too, so it was unusual to see such a wide disparity. I thought you managed to achieve a good balance of different clue types overall and I enjoyed the solve very much.

    My repeat indicator radar bleeped several times unfortunately, “first” in 10a and 25a, “we hear” in 15d and 24d, and duplicated instances of “find/found” and “provide/providing” also cropped up. It was a pity that “short” was also repeated in successive clues, albeit only one example followed accepted conventions. These repetitions could be avoided by better editing, or, as Jane says, a fresh pair of eyes to offer a different perspective.

    I gave ticks to 13a (although I agree with JS that a question mark at least should be added), 14a, 23a, 25a and 22d. I do wonder if “little” should be added before “Felicity” in 8a to indicate a diminutive or nickname form of the name, and I’m struggling to find anything cryptic in 19a. I didn’t care for the apparent contradiction in 17d, i.e. how can “boundlessness” be “bound up”?

    Looking back at your first puzzle, definite progress has been made, and it’s clear that you have a setter’s mind, as there were lots of good ideas and clever constructions. Experience will help to eliminate many of the rough edges in the future, I’m sure.

    Many thanks, AKMild.

  8. I thought that was really good and enjoyed it very much – I’ll leave the dissection to those who know what they’re talking about so that lets me out.
    I’ve never heard of 11a – geography isn’t one of my strong points but it wasn’t too difficult to ‘invent’ it and look it up.
    I didn’t know that 1d was a printing office but the BRB did and neither have I heard of 5d.
    I think I’m missing something with 26a.
    I spent far too long faffing around with 7d – dim.
    I liked 8 and 23a and 18 and 24d (once I’d stopped dithering about which way to spell my answer). My favourite was 21a.
    With thanks and congratulations to AKMild. Where did the name come from? Maybe it is your name.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Kath. 11a was in the news recently as it managed on its own to block the EU-Canada trade deal (although I’d clued it well in advance of this – months ago, in fact).

      26a is a simple letter substitution, although as others have mentioned, its surface reading is not good.

      My pseudonym is the name of the beer I was weaned on, brewed by McMullens of Hertford (although these days it does not contain the word ‘Mild’)

  9. Thanks for the continued feedback, everyone. Surfaces are a key learning point here, especially as I was told about them following my debut a year or so ago. Jane and Silvanus between them identify eight instances of poor surface reading out of the twenty eight clues, which is far too high a proportion! Some of you mention test solvers, which is interesting, since I did try them out on some experienced solvers. However, I think I need to try them out on some experienced setters, as all the solvers did was solve the clues rather than giving me a critique of them. Repeats seem to be something else for me to look at – I must admit I didn’t review the puzzle for these, and as Silvanus says, there were several in there.

    All very constructive and useful so far. Thank you.

  10. Well done, AKMild, I enjoyed this and it seemed to me, apart from the remarks made by earlier commentators about the variable quality of the surface readings, that this was a fine effort for a Rookie puzzle.

    I was bemused why Felicity should lead to the second word of 8a but Mrs RD told me that there was a character in Neighbours of that name whose used the answer as her nickname. I haven’t known many Felicities but they were all known as Fliss.

    Lots to like here, and my favourite was the short and sweet 13a.

    Looking forward to the next one.

      1. Oh, yes! That’s brought a smile to my face! Thank you, Jane.

        Nevertheless I don’t think I was aware that her real name was Felicity.

  11. Looking at the timeline on the thread proves that the rookie is always a feature that a lot of us await with anticipation.
    Not sure that I make sense but for me, it is part of my Monday highlights.
    Really enjoyed this one.
    Few niggles in 13a, 19a (the x), 7d (short) and 13d (money), largely overshadowed by some super clues.
    Triple ticks on 21a and 24d.
    Thanks to AKMild.

  12. I enjoyed this, didn’t find it too tough and had few issues with the wordplay. Better surfaces will come, I’m sure, and there were enough good images in there to keep me amused.

    My runaway favourite, getting the mock knighthood, is 21a.

    Thanks, AKMild. I look forward to the next one.

    Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for the review.

  13. Common sense did not prevail so I picked up my trusty pencil and staggered gamely down the road to disaster. I have letters in all the little boxes only tomorrow will tell how many of them are correct. Thanks to AKM. :phew:

  14. I’ve just returned from a weekend in Holland, I went to watch my daughter singing in her debut gig with her new band – was all great stuff. And I brought my father back with me, he’ll be here for 2 weeks.

    Well done AKMild, congratulations on putting together another puzzle. It was a pleasant solve. I particularly enjoyed the fodder in 17d (though ‘bound up in’ wasn’t as elegant as could be) and I liked 3d.

    Most comments have been made. For what it’s worth, from my perspective the double duty in 13a is an absolute no-no, I doubt any editor would allow it. The convention does seem to be that short suggests one letter missing from the end, and I agree with JL that money = pound = L feels like two steps, especially confusing since money can be abbreviated M. I wasn’t quite sure how 19 was meant to work, and I agree there is no need for a homophone indicator in 15d. However I have found all the answers (I think) so the puzzle was eminently solvable, which is a very good thing to have.

    Many thanks for sharing, Keep going, looking forward to the next one.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Dutch (and everyone else). When I started this (ages ago) I had in mind a mini-theme, of which 8a, 14a, 19a and 25a pertained, before I abandoned the idea as being too difficult. 19a was ‘themed’ and supposed to be a feint to an unrelated, ‘un-themed’ Down clue but if the feint is ignored then it’s just a straightforward non-cryptic clue.

      It’s really useful getting all this constructive feedback, because as the setter I’ve ‘lived’ with this puzzle for so long that its foibles have become invisible to me (a bit like some aspects of real life relationships!)

      1. well done on your mini-theme. Thanks to Prolixic’s excellent review, I now understand 19a – I had missed the 18 – your feint worked – and was trying to turn old into ex!

        congratulations again

  15. Since Big Dave sent out his SOS for fresh submissions for Rookie Corner with Puzzle No.123, we’ve had 15 crosswords from 14 different setters which is a fantastic response and shows how valued this part of his blog has become. All have been enjoyable in their own way and this one is no different. Others have raised constructive points to consider but for my part these did not prevent a very enjoyable solve. Thanks AK Mild.

  16. Thanks to Prolixic for the review and to Big Dave for posting. Thanks also to all of you who provided valuable feedback. I hope to submit another puzzle soon.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – fair and informative as usual although I must admit that I preferred AKMild’s answer for 12a!

    By the way, I know that you’re unlikely to be wrong but I thought Mark was the second gospel writer? When I was young, we had a game of ‘two-ball’ which involved the mantra – ‘Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, open the bible and pass it on’.

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