Rookie Corner – 140 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 140

A Puzzle by JollySwagman

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a new puzzle from JollySwagman. 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.

One Jolly good crossword.  One of Jolly Swagman’s best.


1 He 1d 22a, going over Home, Home on the Range quietly (8)
PAGANINI – Reverse (going over) a word mean home twice, a three letter cooking range and the musical abbreviation for quietly.

5 A tip from The Master – he was 7 22a (6)
MADOFF – The abbreviation for a Master of Arts followed by a four letter word meaning to tip your hat.

9 It’s the year of the art gallery – write that down (8)
ANNOTATE – The Latin for “in the year of” followed by the name of a London art gallery.

10 Say cheese – out loud – that’s better (6)
GRATER – A homophone (out loud) of greater (better) gives a kitchen implement of which cheese is an example (say).

12 A try for South Africa – by the sound of it (5)
ESSAY – How you would write out SA phonetically.

14 Go immediately – extremely injured sapper needs first aid badly (9)
DISAPPEAR – An anagram (badly) of ID (the outer – extremely – letters of injured) SAPPER A (the first letter in aid).  Solvers, setters and editors will differ in their views of whether first on its own can indicate the first letter of a word.  The wordplay of A needs B to be rearranged does not quite sit correctly.  As the letters in sapper appear in the same order in the answer, perhaps “after relapse extremely injured squaddie needs to receive a bit of attention.”

15 Henry’s not on the wagon – he 1d 22a badly (3,3)
TED RAY – Remove the H from THE and follow it by a four letter word for a wagon.  The H is not in the “the”, the “on” seems wrong here.  The answer is probably known to anyone over 60.

17 Helps part of the media (7)
DAILIES – Double definition for cleaners and newspapers.

20 One month’s work for a swimmer (7)
OCTOPUS – The abbreviation for the tenth month followed by another word for work of music or literature.

22 See 7 Down

24 Went for a couple of drinks with a journalist (9)
SUPPORTED – A three letter word meaning to drink followed by the name of a fortified wine and the abbreviation for editor (a journalist).

26 Rodent is shy – offspring’s a bit short (5)
COYPU – A three letter word meaning shy followed by a three letter word for a young animal with the final letter removed (a bit short).

27 Charlie from China went to America – he 1d  bull 22a (6)
MINGUS – A four letter word for a type of china followed by (went to) a two letter abbreviation for America.  Another person where you probably need to be in your 60s to remember. 

28 Leader of the Quintette du Hot Club de France and what he did after the priest left – really struggled (8)
GRAPPLED – The leader of the Quinette du Hot Club de France was Stephan Grappelli and led the group.  Remove the name of an Old Testament priest from the surname and add the led to get the answer.  Unfortunately with the double L in the surname, this clue does not work.

30 Many writers thought you gentle once. You! So maybe mind the lip? (6)
READER – Triple definition, the first of how writers would address their audience as gentle ******, what you are probably doing and someone who needs to do this to lips to understand what is being said.

31 He 1d 7 22a – likes Elgar’s fifth variation’s string writing (8)
KREISLER – An anagram (variation) of LIKES R (Elgar’s fifth) followed by the name of a string on a violin and the letter that represents writing.


1 What Orpington females do when Prince Edward is around is the same as what Eric Cantona did at Leeds (6)
PLAYED – The abbreviation for prince and the diminutive form of Edward around what a hen (Orpington female) does.

2 Drink London dry (3)
GIN – A drink of which London Dry is an example.  

3 Get spruce from leading North American tree traders? Yes! (5)
NATTY – The initial letters (leading) of the fifth to ninth words in the clue.  Solvers, setters and editors will have differing opinions on whether leading can (on its own) mean take the initial letters of.

4 What de Gaulle said to Heath in 1966 is, 50 years later, of special interest (7)
NOTEDLY – How de Gaulle might have refused the UK’s entry to the EEC in 1966 (he would more likely have said Non, Ted) followed by the Latin for 50 and the abbreviation for year.

6 A glittering prize almost attained by one former Labour leader withered on the vine (9)
ATROPHIED – The A from the clue followed by another word for a glittering prize with the final letter removed and the first name of Mr Miliband, the former Labour leader.

7 ,22a: What Nero was doing while Rome burned – getting into a bit of depravity before he fled from the assembly (2,3,6)
ON THE FIDDLE  – An anagram (from the assembly) of INTO D (a bit of depravity) HE FLED.  I the “before” sits uncomfortably in the clue as it is not a positional indicator and simply adds padding to the clue.  I think the definition works as the answer to the question is he was …..”.

8 At his workplace essentially Boris’s hair is a strong point (8)
FORTRESS – The abbreviation for Foreign Office (Boris’s workplace) followed by the central letter (essentially) of Boris and another word for hair.

11 “Hand-me-down” is acceptable but in Rome it’s “pre-loved” (4)
USED – The one letter word for acceptable followed by the Latin (in Rome) for but.  There are two definition here.  Used in moderation, this is an acceptable cluing device.

13 What 5 did in his penthouse (5)
SPENT – The answer is hidden in HIS PENTHOUSE.

16 Make a film about the Queen first, mate (9)
REPRODUCE – Reverse (about) the two letter abbreviation for the current monarch before (first) a word meaning to make a film.

18 Set popular song (5)
INLAY – A two letter word for popular followed by a three letter word for a song.

19 It adds up to this: the Queen is married to a Tory who makes use of his power (8)
CONSUMER – A word for the result of adding up a series of numbers followed by the queen (again – twice in the space of three clues is a little lazy) after (married to) a three letter abbreviation for a conservative (Tory).

21 Sometimes it’s what a model does for an artist (4)
SITS – Answer is hidden in (some) TIMES ITS.

22 He supplied Queens racketeer? (7)
FEDERER – A three letter word meaning supplied or catered followed by (yawn) the abbreviation for Queen yet again and again (for the plural).

23 Listening to a beginner 7 22a may be a regular occurrence in Midsomer (6)
MURDER – A double definition of the experience of listening to a person learning the violin and what happened at least three or four times in the Midsomer area keeping Inspector Barnaby in full time employment.

25 PA system doesn’t 16 well! (5)
PANDA – Split and spell out both letters in PA (system).  I am far from convinced that system gives a fair indication of the wordplay required.

26 I say – it’s about time we had a practical joke (5)
CAPRI – I is the abbreviation for what the answer is an example of.  The single letter abbreviation for about followed by the date 3,1 on which practical jokes take place.

29 Dave’s valediction was very amusing! (3)
LOL – A lot of general knowledge required here.  David Cameron’s e-mail and text to a journalist were signed off (valedication) LOL with him thinking that the initials meant lots of love instead of their meaning of laugh out loud.

35 comments on “Rookie Corner – 140

  1. Quite a tricky puzzle.

    I do wonder whether you have to be a certain age to remember that 15a did indeed 1d 22a badly – funny the stuff you have to remember when solving crosswords. I’m also quite fortunate in that one of ‘my’ setters is quite fond of an Orpington and other similar ‘females’ so that one caused no problems at Just one question, is the word ‘bull’ supposed to be in 27a?

    My favourites include 26a, 1d and 22d but the gold medal goes to 23d. Thanks to JS and in advance to Prolixic

  2. This was a proper Toughie, especially the bottom half. Thanks JS – it was very enjoyable, even if some of the clues are rather verbose. I did remember 15a but I had to look up 27a and 31a. I don’t understand the last sentence of 30a.
    I particularly liked 12a, 25d and 29d but my favourite was 22d.

  3. Having struggled with this one for several hours and having barely solved half the answers, I decided to fall on my sword and seek electronic assistance for the remainder. Even then, I’m unable to parse fully a number of the solutions. If CS considers it quite tricky, I now don’t feel quite so bad! If there has been a tougher Rookie puzzle this year, I certainly don’t remember it.

    Of the ones I did solve myself, I much preferred the more concise clues and gave ticks to 1a, 12a, 20a and 26a. I did find it rather strange that the 1,7, 22 combo was not used instead of the rather long-winded introduction to 28a.

    As ever, JS continues to forge an individual style to his puzzles with lots of his trademark cross-referencing and interesting themes, albeit with somewhat obscure examples at times. For all this he earns my respect, but I can’t say that these sort of puzzles, and especially the lengthy clue constructions, are my cup of tea unfortunately. I do hope others will enjoy them more.

    Thanks, JS.

    1. Having seen at a glance the generally very verbose cluing I thought that this was unlikely to be my cup of tea and decided not to tackle this. Having read your comments, Silvanus, I feel I made the right decision!

      Like you, I hope others will enjoy this, and massive respect to JS for having the ability to set what is obviously a very challenging puzzle.

  4. I’m with Silvanus on this one with regard to the puzzles JS constructs – although well behind him in that I’m still at the ‘having barely solved half the clues’ stage!
    I will persevere, if only out of ‘bloody-mindedness’!

    1. Hear hear.
      When I start something I like to finish it. Except books unfortunately and this definitely looks like one.

  5. There’s a lot of ingenuity here, but count me in as another who found the number of verbose clues a bit tiresome. My guess is that JS is unwilling to let a good idea go. I know the feeling. But at some point, one has to realise that the clue is getting too unwieldy and find some other approach. What tends to be surprising is how much easier it is to write the next version of the clue – I’ve often wrestled with an idea for a clue for a day or two and then found that trying something else results in a fine clue in a few minutes.

    I’m not a fan of clues with extra definitions or extra wordplay, but I entirely accept that that’s a matter of personal style.

    As CS once pointed out to me – and I think it’s a phase all of us go through – one can try too hard to be cryptic. There are words which are so horrible to clue that you have to write War and Peace, but less is definitely more on the majority of occasions.

  6. Well done JS! quite the puzzle. I have a full grid, all parsed except 11d, NE quarter was last, and took me a while. Also took me a while to find the last 2 letters in 31a and the def in 26.

    23a works beautifully once you see the right definition split.

    I thought 4d was very clever.

    Also liked 1a, 12a, 2d (well the short clues stand out – this one is arguably samesidish but the surface carries it beautifully)

    The all-important 7/22a would seem to be better answered by 1d/22a, if the clue loses “doing” it works I think (I was thinking “What Nero was doing” gives 1d/22a, “what nero was” gives 7d/22a, or not?)

    The way I parsed 28a I am left with an extra L (since the leader in question has two L’s) – did I do something wrong?

    I also like 25d, concise and you manage to package quite a few tricks in there (maybe too many)

    21d personally i like the answer to be hidden on both sides – which is what you tend to see in the 17

    All great stuff – congratulations! Are you coming to big dave’s birthday bash?

    1. I don’t have any of the parsing of 31a Dutch, but I can say that I used to 23d a supposedly easy arrangement of his “Liebeslied” .

      I wondered the same about 28a.

    2. Re 28a – oops – you’re right – well spotted – that’s an error.

      Funnily enough GRAPPELLI was originally going to be the answer but I had misspelt it with only one L in the grid so I rescued it (sic) by making that small change.

      It looks like most people sailed right past that (as did the test solver) as the components leading to the answer are so compelling – one laboriously defined – the other a cruciverbal chestnut. What could possibly go wrong?

      Unfortunately the Lear jet’s on the blink again and I’m flat out flogging cherries so I won’t be able to make the do.

      Thanks for the rest of your post.

  7. I’m not personally normally a fan of themed and cross-referenced puzzles, but to be fair the key 7 22a clue gave itself up very easily – and as someone who previously 1d 22a (more like 15 than 31 it has to be said) the theme was certainly preferable to one based on, say, TV or film. And I always admire those who can put this sort of puzzle together though – my own attempts to construct a grid with some sort of theme have so far failed miserably.

    Like others I had to do a fair amount of cheating to get through this and there are quite a few I can’t understand/parse. Was hoping to find Yehudi in there – hadn’t heard of the fellow in 27a.

    In amongst the more wordy offerings there are some lovely little clues – 12a, 24a, 3d and 22d were particularly to my liking for one reason or another.

    I’m not quite so keen on “A tip from the master” seemingly turning round into “Master tip”, or at least that’s how I read it. Even in liberal clueing that seems a bit of a stretch.

    Thanks JS, and Seasons Greetings to one and all

    1. I think(?) that if you read ‘a tip from the master’ in it’s entirety as is, I think it can be satisfied by the answer as a phrase as is, if you know what i mean

  8. I think I still qualify as a Rookie, so as such all I like to do here is give encouragement to the setter and advise them to take all the advice on the board. This one has certainly sparked a wide range of reactions. Thanks JS

  9. Totally stuck in the SW corner.
    Will have to wait for the review.
    Don’t have 31a and 15a either.
    Bunged in the real name of the instrument in 22a which slowed me down for a while.
    Loved 8d and 20a although I have reservations about the ‘s in both.
    Liked 22d too but again the He seems redundant.
    Not too keen on the long anagram indicator in 14a.
    Haven’t checked if the italics in 1a exist but if it does it’s very clever.
    23d made me smile.
    Thanks to JollySwagman.

    1. The ‘s I think is meant to translate as ‘has’ – making it a concatenation indicator

      Ah, I forgot about 14a: do we need “immediately”? and with sapper being in the correct order and ‘needs’ a potential inserter, do we need the ‘badly’? “Go – extremely injured sapper needs first aid” is a lot snappier in my opinion

      1. Just realised that I forgot about the “first aid” but I believe it’s not acceptable to use this formula for denoting the letter.

  10. :phew: Too difficult for me.
    When I see CS and Gazza commenting as they did I know that I don’t need to feel ashamed of my total failure.
    I had a go at this one but I’m seriously allergic to any crossword that keeps taking me back to another clue.
    I have about a quarter of the answers but at this point I’ve decided that life is too short – a hackneyed expression I know but other stuff to do.
    Thanks to JollySwagman and, in advance, to Prolixic.

    1. there are many beautiful things in life that should never be neglected because of a overly fanatical attention to crosswords (he says)

  11. Well I thought this was dazzlingly good. What comes across is both your passion for crosswords and also your ability to imbue them with humour. There were some absolute crackers in there, including a rare triple-ticker for 1a and doubles for 9a, 20a (probably an old chestnut, but the first time I’ve met it), 8d (brilliant) and 22d. Bags of innovation all over the place and I have little doubt that you poured a lot of time & love into this one, so thank you and bravo!

    If I had to make a criticism (and I always feel compelled to do so, no matter how good a puzzle is) I’d say it seems to me as if you put the Art of the Crossword first, making the puzzle fun for your solvers second, and making your puzzle solvable by your solvers third. I suspect (without having looked) that some will have balked here and there…

    I personally got on pretty quickly with the NW and SE quarters, did the SW quarter at a second sitting, and chose to seek a bit of electronic help in the NE – although I now wish I’d resisted that temptation and had just come back to the puzzle tomorrow…

    So congratulations – I admire your passion and I do believe you carry the torch of Araucaria as well as anyone!

    And although I don’t really do super-long clues myself, I certainly don’t mind them.

    1. Thanks so much for those kind words – especially the bit about carrying Araucaria’s torch – for me he set the gold standard and is unlikely ever to be surpassed. The Guardian archive of his puzzles is an absolute treasure trove. They beg for money yet they give that away for free – I bet the Barclay brothers would have had it paywalled by now if it were theirs.

      Re para 2 – I’m not sure what my conscious aim is when writing a clue or a whole puzzle. Araucaria said something about this in the clip that the Guardian have on Youtube – that if you stumble across something that you find interesting or amusing it’s natural to want to share it with others – something along those lines. Whether it turns out to be hard or easy is by the way.

  12. ! got a bit less than halfway through and, like Kath, decided there was more to life than persevering with something that I wasn’t enjoying at all. I don’t like these particular kinds of puzzles and I’m not going to say any more because I got jumped all over last time. Each to his or her own.

  13. Thanks for the comments and for trying the puzzle.

    Surprised so many found it tough. Surely it was nothing compared with a 5-star Elgar – 4 stars maybe at the most – although objectively evaluating difficulty is a very tricky thing. Probably (as with most themers) if you twigged the theme early it made a big difference.

    Sorry about Ted Ray – yes – that’s rather dated – also the slip-up in 28a. I agonised over the Boris clue (8d). Obviously the puzzle was put together a while ago; would Boris still be in the job when it appeared? Close call re the “proxy wars’ speech just recently. Also the FO is now strictly the FCO – but dictionaries still support the old verison – probably because it is still used colloquially.

    In 31a I wasn’t sure whether feeding E in just as “string” (it’s the top string on a violin) was strictly fair – it goes into the anagram mix as being indirect it should have strictly been uniquely defined – eg top string – yet if it were aletter tacked on the end no problem – so I left that alone – in any case clues to themed answers probably should push the envelope a bit. BTW Kreisler did like Elgar’s string writing – it was he who commisioned his (now famous) Violin Concerto.

    30a is supposed to be a quadruple – “mind” and “lip” can both associate with “reader” – not sure if I made that clear in the annotation.

    Anyway – thanks again for your efforts and special thanks to BD for hosting and to our tireless Prolixic for the blog.

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – certainly needed your words of wisdom over the parsing of three or four of these!
    Whilst I’m not a fan of puzzles that cross-reference clues, I thought 1d was extremely clever and smiled over 23d.
    20a was probably my favourite.

    Thanks to JS and apologies for not really being on your wavelength – glad to see that others appreciate it far more!

  15. Thanks to Prolixic for the explanations.
    Still think that 27a and 22d are odd as the definition appears to be at the start and the end of the clue.
    Would love to hear what the convention is for these kinds of clues.

    1. I thought at first that you intended 11d but you’re right – “he” in 22d is a broad definition, after which you have a wordplay and a more precise definition – 11d also follows that pattern.

      I’m pretty sure Araucaria did that a few times – I distinctly remember his once running a clue which consisted of two wordplays and no “definition”.

      Here’s a clue from Guardian 27030 by a setter not unknown also in these parts:

      Obscure band beginning to blow old trumpet (4) for BLUR

      where the second definition isn’t even at one end.

      In general a lot of so-called rules are empirically derived – ie they’ve come from the observation that most things follow pattern X -so let’s make it a rule that everything should – which is also where the (now discarded) phlogiston theory came from.

      I think I would (normally) respect the convention that there should be a reasonable “definition” at one end or the other – as solvers we certainly rely on it quite a bit.

      In the puzzle here it’s just that I’m a naturally generous guy. If I were selling ice-cream from a van (I did that once – not very successfully) and you ordered a double 99, when I gave you three flakes instead of two would you go:

      ” ‘Oy – what’s that extra flake doing there?”

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