Rookie Corner – 139 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 139

A Puzzle by Dill

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Dill returns with her second Rookie Corner 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.

Dill returns with her engines revving with a great crossword.  For her second appearance this was a very good puzzle with lots of variety and inventive cluing.  Apart from a couple of points on the clues, the comments are all minor ones.

To get so many brands of cars and types of cars into the grid and the wordplay was an impressive feat.


1 Frisk a sailor to find tuna (8)
SKIPJACK – A word meaning to frisk or jump followed by a four letter word for a sailor.  The “a” could have been omitted from the clue.

5 Spies on one American state to flush out a plant (6)
ACACIA – A single letter meaning one followed by a two letter abbreviation for a West Coast state of America followed by a three letter abbreviation for the American counter-intelligence agency.

9 Ruses are deployed to restore confidence (8)
REASSURE – An anagram (deployed) of RUSES ARE.

10 Announce reigning Olympian originally lacked determination (6)
HERALD – The name of one of the Greek Goddesses of Olympia followed by the initial letters (originally) of lacked determination.  I have corrected the spelling in the clue.  Olympian should technically have a capital O.

12 Trumpet sounds OTT, so needed recomposing (5)
TOOTS – An anagram (needed recomposing) of OTT SO.  A minor point but anagram indicators like this work better in the present tense.  “so needs recomposing” would work here.

13 The declaration that I have no faults is flawed (9)
IMPERFECT – Split 1’1, 7, this would be a declaration that someone has no faults.

14 Upmarket secretary to Fitzgerald’s a dish (6)
PAELLA – The abbreviation for an upmarket secretary followed by the first name of the singer Fitzgerald.  Technically, as Fitzgerald is a definition by example of a person’s name, this should be indicated but with well-known personalities where apart from Scott there are very few alternatives, this is a nicety.  I think “upmarket secretary” adds to the clue’s surface reading and is a valid description of the required part of the answer so gets the thumbs up from me.

16 The President’s old but he’s still kind of green (7)
LINCOLN – Double definition of an old US president and a kind of green.  Again, whilst the old is technically superfluous to the clue, it is strictly accurate and provides a useful function in the surface reading of someone being long in the tooth and still inexperienced.

19 I heard he paddled to Morocco and Portugal – way to go! (4,3)
ROAD MAP – A homophone (I heard) of ROWED (paddled) followed by the IVR codes for Morocco and Portugal.  The “he” in the clue is padding and should have been omitted.  “Paddled, we hear, to Morocco and Portugal – way to go” would have worked equally well.

21 ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ is oddly subtle (6)
BUSTLE – An anagram (oddly) of SUBTLE.

23 Crab with an upset tummy’s relative to an infection (9)
CARBUNCLE – Reverse the inner letters of crab (with an upset tummy) and follow it with the name of a male relative.  I think wordplay to definition works as in do this to get that.  I was less keen on the surface reading on this clue.  Again the “an” before infection could have been omitted.

25 Light hit the moon from the terrace (5)
PATIO – A three letter word for a light hit followed by the names of one of the moons of Jupiter.

26 Playful Venetian heiress picks up a racy model (6)
PORTIA – A homophone (picks) of Porsche (a racy model).

27 A god surrounded by prayer for abundance (8)
PLETHORA – The name of the Norse god of thunder inside another name for a prayer or urgent entreaty.

28 Artist has a go with the queen (6)
TURNER – A four letter word for a go or shot at something followed by the regnal cipher of the current queen.

29 Worshipper is smeared with a mixture of red oil (8)
IDOLISER – An anagram (a mixture of) RED OIL goes around (smeared) the IS from the clue.


1 A fairy has a hand in malice (6)
SPRITE – The abbreviation for right (a hand) inside another word for malice.  Again, omitted in the indefinite article can sharpen the clue – “Fairy has a hand in malice” is punchier.

2 Main aorta pounding for an old girlfriend (9)
INAMORATA – An anagram (pounding) of MAIN AORTA.

3 NY team overwhelms the south for laughs (5)
JESTS – The name of an New York football team around (overwhelms) the abbreviation for south.

4 Wow! 28’s first seen on the road in 1962 (7)
CORTINA – A three letter word for wow followed by the first name of someone whose surname is the answer to 28a.

6 Lost a point driving around in Glen’s car looking for open spaces (9)
CLEARINGS – An anagram (driving around) of IN GLENS CAR after removing one of the Ns (lost a point).

7 Case of the church harbouring an informer (5)
CRATE – A three letter word for an informer inside the abbreviation for the Church of England.

8 Examining a German Mark can lead to Goering (8)
AUDITING – The name of a German car brand (a German mark) followed by another word for a container or can and the first letter (lead to) of Goering.

11 Short work for gangster to uncover a gem (4)
OPAL – A two letter abbreviation (short) for work followed by the first name of Mr Capone (gangster).  One of only two major comments on the crossword is that I don’t think that A for B works as an instruction for A + B.

15 The story about Tom’s endless night-time activity could be stretched. (9)
LIMOUSINE – A three letter word for a story or untruth around a word describing what cats do when trying to catch rodents with the final letter removed (endless).

17 Inspector General lacking in his duties to make sacrifices (9)
OBLATIONS – A word meaning duties has the initial letters of Inspector General removed.  As I was using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer on Sunday Morning, the word came readily, “who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world…”  I cannot find an abbreviation for Inspector General as IG in Chambers but it is given in Collins.

18 Two street drugs make a man mad (8)
CRACKPOT – Two slang names (street) for types of drug.

20 Gather the old devil’s swapping a knight for a pawn (4)
PICK – A four letter word for the devil has the N (knight) replaced by a P (pawn).

21 An insect died because it was hung over (7)
BEETLED – The name of an insect followed by the abbreviation for died.  The answer could be descriptive of overhanging eyebrows.

22 Having a sexy appearance could generate boastful talk (3,3)
HOT AIR – Double definition.

24 It’s less common when a king’s parked in the back end (5)
RARER – A single letter abbreviation for a king inside (parked in) another word for the back end of something.

25 Arrangement of 27 without a little horizontal flower part (5)
PETAL – Remove a shorted form of horizontal from the answer to 27a and make an anagram (arrangement) of the remaining letters.  My other major comment is that HOR is not given as an abbreviated form of horizontal in either Chambers or Collins so the deletion should have been indicated differently.

42 comments on “Rookie Corner – 139

  1. We are pretty sure we have got 17d from the checkers and definition but have not as yet been able to make any sense of the wordplay. Something to come back too. Started off at a fast rate in the NW but slowed considerably when we got to the SE. Lots to keep us smiling.
    Thanks Dill.

  2. While waiting for the printer to produce this crossword, I wondered to myself how many other solvers of a certain age (or in my case sisters of a certain age) are also singing the relevant song from the Herbs TV Programme. I did say to the boss today’s Rookie puzzle is by Dill and he burst into song too ! :D

    I’ll be back in due course when I’ve solved the crossword

    1. As well as the Dill song, the Constable Knapweed one has always stuck in my head for some reason too!

  3. Thanks, Dill. I enjoyed this – I had a very fast start but then slowed down towards the end. My last answer was 10a where I spent some time trying to think of Olympic champions before the penny dropped with a loud thud, so that one is my favourite. I also liked 16a, 25a, 8d and 15d.
    I think that you could streamline some of your clues by omitting articles (e.g. “a” in 1a, 5a and1d, “the” in 13a and 15d and “an” in 2d).

  4. A delightful puzzle – many thanks Dill! And I could almost hear Ms Weir saying 21a as I read it!

    I found the ‘Eastern’ side of the puzzle much harder – I had almost filled the other half in before getting more than a couple here.

    Some very witty clues and some nigh-on perfect surfaces: re. the latter – 9, 14, 16, 28 & 29 in the Across clues alone (and I’d pick out 7, 8, 18 in the Downs, if you are asking!).

    In 23a, I wasn’t sure if ‘to’ was a linkword? I’m not sure but I don’t think that is recommended (I may of course be reading it entirely wrong). I’ve a few more comments that I can email across if you’d like BD to put us in touch – hard to include them here without entirely spoiling.

    Generally to a very high standard indeed – I really look forward to the next one.


  5. Hi Dill,

    I certainly warmed more to this one than your debut puzzle, even if it did take me twice as long to solve! I felt the level of difficulty was quite challenging in places.

    There were many examples of very clever wordplay and some great invention, although I tend to agree with Gazza about rationing the use of definite and indefinite articles.

    I gave ticks to 1a, 5a, 9a, 27a,1d, 7d, 15d, 20d and 22d. Double ticks went to 16a and 21a. A few didn’t quite work I thought – 25a was a nice idea, but it’s wordplay from definition, whereas it should be the other way round. The verb in 21d was new to me, but “was hung over” jarred as the definition, despite its huge benefit to the surface. I felt 8d should have a homophone indicator for “mark” as the usual spelling is “marque” in this context.

    I concur entirely with Encota’s closing comments, it was of a very high standard and I also look forward to your next. Congratulations, Dill.

    1. Hi Dill & Silvanus,

      Re. 25a’s direction, how about something like, “Terrace shown by moon after light hit (5)”. The light seems to be going in a more plausible direction as a bonus!


  6. Nice one, Dill, although I have to agree with Gazza and Silvanus regarding the use of definite and indefinite articles.
    I didn’t know that definition of 21d – don’t like it much either!
    Lots of great clues to choose from but my personal favourite was the simple 20d followed by 15d.

    Here’s to your next one!

  7. Wow Dill, that’s quite a crossword. I too finished the left side rapidly and slowed down enormously on the right hand side, esp NE. 10a was my last one in as well, and a superb clue it is (though it has a typo). 6d was obviously an anagram but it took me ages to get the right fodder.

    You do like your articles – I don’t think that is incorrect, but it adds to word count. I can see it helps to streamline surfaces to an extent, though solvers are used to not seeing articles. It can also be quite deceptive, not sure if that is intentional. I spent some time trying to use AN in the wordplay for 21d, for example.

    Also you like adjectival qualifiers that add to the surface but are not strictly necessary (e.g. upmarket in 14a, old in 2d, street in 18d) again not incorrect, it just adds to word count (not that your clues were excessively long)

    Some extra words i did worry about, e.g. he in 19a which I think is only there for the surface and is not used cryptically. By the way well done in that clue, you had me wondering where the second A came from, had to go look things up.

    Having said all that, you’ve managed to achieve wonderful, poetic surfaces – excellent. I particularly enjoyed 9a, 10a, 23a, 25a (double tick), 26a (though I think if I pronounced it quite like that it would seem affected), 1d, 4d (although i wondered if you needed a no unifier – e.g ’28 that’s first seen…’), 7d, 15d – pretty good going!

    I wasn’t keen on a little horizontal, also in surface, but i think that is just taste. 13 uses the same root in wordplay and def, which is not wrong but less satisfying. I wasn’t sure for (11a) works as a concatenator, but others may think it’s fine. There, that covers all of my scribbles

    A wonderful puzzle with lovely surface readings, a big congratulations from me!

    1. And now Gazza says there’s a theme – so I have had to go back and have another look. Not sure I got it right, but I think I see 15 or so related words (some partial entries, some involving a letter change) – pretty good going getting all that into a grid – and maybe there is more.

      That has lifted your puzzle to an even higher level, well done!

  8. I noticed the theme when I’d filled in the, much easier than the rest, NW corner and it certainly helped me with the last few in the much harder than the rest, NE corner

    I think others have made all the points that I would have done so I’ll just say thank you for the nice start to Monday morning

  9. Thank you all
    I am as green as an unripe tomato so your feedback is important
    My teenage son would not frefer to his latest love interest as an inamorata.. So fo me it is old speak
    Looking forward to furhter comments ( good or bad!)

  10. Very well done, Dill. I really enjoyed this and echo the comments of previous bloggers. It proved to be quite a challenge but well worth the effort, and I too found the right hand side much tougher than the left with the wonderful 10a my last one in and favourite. I thought 25a was particularly appealing too, even though there were so many good clues that it seems a bit invidious to mention just two.

    I originally wanted to put “patara” for 15a as I had the great pleasure about 30 years ago of staying in the same country inn outside Ross-on-Wye as Tara Fitzgerald, who was beautiful, charming and utterly bewitching.

    From my experience (although I will freely defer to Kitty’s far greater knowledge in this respect if I am wrong), I wouldn’t have said that Tom’s specific activity in 15d is limited to the night-time (not “nightime”!!).

    I still can’t fully parse 17d, but I will keep trying.

    Many thanks, Dill, for such a high class puzzle.

  11. This is a great puzzle, in my opinion.
    The clues for 10,15 and 25a are top-notch.
    Very well done indeed, and thank you to Dill. I can honestly say I enjoyed this crossword far more than Punk’s puzzle in today’s Indy which has a similar, albeit more overt, theme.

  12. Thank you and well done to Dill – I’m always amazed how clever the Rookie corner crosswords are – it’s hard to believe that the setters haven’t been doing it for years.
    I started off really well with this one then slowed down rather a lot.
    There are a few of my answers that I don’t quite ‘get’ but I’m pretty sure they’re right – tomorrow will sort them out.
    I hadn’t spotted a theme – I still haven’t – I’ll have to have another proper look later.
    I can’t do 10a which is bugging me as so many others have said that it’s brilliant.
    The clues that I particularly liked included 16 and 21a and 15 and 18d.
    Thanks again to Dill for stopping me doing all the stuff that I should be doing but don’t want to and, in advance, to Prolixic.

    1. Hi kath
      I misspelt the first word if that helps. But in any case working it out beats doing the ironing in any case

      1. Thanks – that’s not misspelt – to me it’s a typo which is easily done – and I still can’t do it and I still haven’t spotted the theme. I’m obviously having a dim day. :sad:

        1. With 10a bet you’re thinking that announce is a homophone indicator as we did at first. It’s not. It is the definition.

          1. Thanks K’s – yes, you’re right – I was. And guess what – I still can’t do it. Definitely seriously dim today. :sad: :sad:

              1. Thanks for the offer but possibly not as I suppose it wouldn’t be fair on others – apart from the fact that most others seem to have got it. Oh dear, yet again.

  13. Super crossword.
    Only needed to check the BRB for the meaning of 21d and 23a (love the upset tummy by the way).
    Biggest penny drop moment was in 15d. I love these kinds of definition.
    4d made me laugh although the second part might be missing the indicator of a definition by example.
    10a is just great and I ticked many more like 25a and 17d.
    Thanks Dill. Great job. Would love to see more.

  14. I liked the inventive wordplay in this. I found the NW quite easy, then slowed down considerably for the rest.
    I particularly liked 10a, 4d, 8d, 15d, 25a.
    Clues I didn’t like so much were the ones which seemed to have too many redundant words: e.g. 6d ‘looking for’, 21d ‘because it was’, ‘flushing out’ and others. I couldn’t quite parse the paddling clue – perhaps an indicator missing?

  15. Off topic, but……In case anyone hasn’t seen it, Elgar (as Enigmatist) has set this month’s Guardian Genius puzzle

  16. Theme? What theme?

    I still have three to go…10A, 8D and 15D. Feeling kinda dim at this point.

  17. Hi Dill – nice puzzle – trickier than it looked at first sight.

    Observations and quibbles that I noted – in clue order:

    10a – typo obviously – you have to be careful of typos because they can also be used intentionally as a cluing device – ie a similar typo can carry into the wordplay. Aside from that I thought it a very good clue and gave it a tick.

    13a I put in the frame for a samebothsides rap – but on balance I think it’s OK. The observation that the same letters (with different spacing and punctuation) can have exactly opposite implications is well worth using irrespective of derivations.

    19a “he” is strictly spare – with a different homophone indicator it could have been dropped – but in some cluing approaches it doesn’t matter all that much.

    2d double-tick

    8d tick

    15d double-tick

    21d the “hung over” meaning was new to me and if it comes from the literal meaning that makes it a bit samebothsidesy – otherwise fine.

    22d tick

    A general observation (which I’m fine with) is that you used indefinite articles a lot to make very smooth surfaces. Most setters are fine with this in noun-noun translations based on the “dictionary excuse” – ie you look up a bare word (eg dog) and you find “a canine animal …” (ie complete with article) – Ximenes did it also with definite articles but that is rarely found these days unless the translation requires it – eg “the Queen” is much better for ER than just “Queen” – try substituting them in sentences.

    Some setters avoid it altogether. Obviously there are many different valid approaches to this game so you have to pick the one you want.

    Many thanks – it was an enjoyable solve and took just about the right about of time to do.

  18. Thanks to all of you ,and Prolixic, for your comments! I did strive to have pleasant surfaces but too often at the expense of crisp, cryptic grammar. Several of you pointed out that I over-seasoned with articles for example. You are quite right and I need to tighten that up. But I am encouraged to keep going!

    See you all soon!

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – always so much to learn from your comments.
    Your idea of a definition for 21d was far more acceptable than the one I came up with online!

  20. Thanks Dill, and to Prolixic for the review. This was very enjoyable, and well clued in the main – only minor quibbles. I didn’t like the etymological overlap in 13a, and the type of definition in 4d and 15d is not up my street, but others liked it a lot – can’t please all the people all the time and so on. But having said that, given that they both fit in with the theme (which I must admit I spectacularly failed to notice), I guess I’m more inclined to let it slide. A couple didn’t quite work for me grammatically – “picked up” might have been better than “picks up” in 26a. The issue of excess words was one that stuck out to me too – but it’s been mentioned.

    I enjoyed 10a (tricky!), 12a (not normally a fan of abbreviations as part of anagram fodder, but this one worked very nicely), 28a, 1d, 7d, and the “German mark” in 8d. 20d was my favourite.

    Thanks for the fun – hope to see you again soon!

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