Rookie Corner – 141 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 141

A Puzzle by Drummond

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

It’s been a while since Drummond’s debut puzzle, but his second one has been worth the wait. 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.

A stunningly good performance from Drummond this week.  As all of the comments show this was greatly appreciated and certainly of a standard that deserved promotion to a Saturday slot.   Harldy anything that is worth mentioning in terms of cluing in light of such good clues.  Perhaps a slight overreliance on “up” as a reversal indicator on its own or as a compound reversal indicator but that really is about it.


1 Very noisy, drunk giant lets rip (3- 9)
EAR-SPLITTING – An anagram (drunk) of GIANT LETS RIP.

8 Knocks over empty postprandial drinks bottles (7)
TOPPLES – A five letter word meaning to drink heavily goes around (bottles) the outer letters (empty) of postprandial.

9 Worked in bomb disposal and came unstuck? (7)
DEFUSED – Double definition, the first being what someone in bomb-disposal did with an UXB and the second, whimsically, being the reverse of something amalgamating.

11 Give off form team an E (7)
EMANATE – An anagram (form) of TEAM AN E.

12 Individual choice (7)
SPECIAL – Double definition time, the first being a person assigned to a specific set of duties and the second being something that is exceptional.

13 Visitor starts to experience severe stomach cramps (5)
GUEST – The three letter word for stomach goes around (cramps) the first letters (starts to) of experience severe.

14 Aged brie, paté and apricot’s kernels for pensioner (9)
GERIATRIC – The central letters (kernels) of aged, brie, pate apricot.

16 Sheltered garden retreat in shed – small shed (9)
HARBOURED – Another word for a garden retreat inside the first SHED from the clue without the S (small shed).

19 At first, many nuns and novices abandon mendicant order (5)
EDICT – Remove the first letters (at first) or many, nuns and novices from mEnDICanT.

21 Starting to grow ganja? Discard all husks – it gets you higher (7)
NASCENT – The central letter (discard all husks) of ganja followed by a word for a climb (it gets you higher).

23 Pie-eyed, Els collapses twice – absorbing golf! (7)
LEGLESS – An anagram (collapses) of ELS ELS including (absorbing) the letter in the NATO phonetic alphabet represented by golf.

24 Exhaust brackets, striking top of sump, set alight (7)
DETRAIN  -A five letter word meaning exhaust goes around (brackets) the SET from the clue after removing the S (striking top of sump).

25 Recount organised, backed by judge (7)
NARRATE – Revere a three letter word meaning organised and follow this with a word meaning to judge or assess something.

26 Met with opponents, pitching for adjournment (12)
POSTPONEMENT – An anagram (pitching) of MET OPPONENETS.


1 Reformed bootlegger denied right to make amends (7)
EXPIATE – A two letter prefix meaning reformed or former followed by another word for a bootlegger (one who makes illegal copies of things) without (denied) the R.

2 Depending on carpenter to turn up on time? (7)
RELIANT – Reverse (to turn up) a six letter word that might fancifully (hence the question mark) describe a carpenter followed by the abbreviation for time.

3 Traveller – ‘I don’t know English – I’m not sure!’ (9)
PASSENGER – The word using in Mastermind when you don’t know the answer followed by the three letter abbreviation for English and a two letter word for a hesitation used when you are not sure of something.

4 In Germany and America it’s controlled by Asian banks (5)
INDUS – The IN from the clue followed by the IVR code for Germany and two letter abbreviation for America.

5 Big returns on cheese cloth (7)
TAFFETA –Return a three letter word meaning big or obese and add the name of a Greek cheese.

6 More cutting satire – it’s antique shows being sent up (7)
NASTIER – The answer is hidden (shows) and reversed (being sent up) in SATIRE ITS ANTIQUE.

7 Propped up, and might need rebuilding (12)
STRENGHTENED – An eight letter word meaning might or power followed by an anagram (rebuilding) of NEED.

10 Grate encases tiled outlet (12)
DELICATESSEN – An anagram (grate) of ENCASES TILED.

15 Smell Communist victory and I withdraw from conflict (9)
REDOLENCE – A three letter colour associated with communists followed by a word meaning conflict with the initial V (victory) and I removed (withdraw).

17 Italian eats messily or is stuffing too much in (7)
RISOTTO – An anagram (messily) of OR IS includes (stuffing … in) a three letter abbreviation for too much.

18 Open sandwiches tips of asparagus and cured ham (7)
OVERACT – A five letter word meaning open goes around (sandwiches) the first letters (tips of) asparagus and cured.

19 Overeat, being poor, large – but not bipolar? (7)
ENGORGE – Remove the letters (in order) of bipolar from bEiNG poOR larGE.

20 In court guards cut up rough (7)
INEXACT – The IN from the clue and a two letter abbreviation for court goes around (guards) another word for cut reversed (up).

22 Heads off to attend National Gala of Dance (5)
TANGO – The initial letters (heads off) of the third to seventh words in the clue.  I think heads off works as an instruction that the heads taken off these words form the solution.


28 comments on “Rookie Corner – 141

  1. A top quality puzzle we thought. A couple in the SE corner gave more fight than the rest, particularly 19d and 19a which were our last two to yield. A good level of difficulty and plenty of aha moments such as 7d where we thought we had sorted out an anagram and its fodder until we were proven wrong.
    Well done and thanks Drummond.

  2. Well done Drummond! a high level and flawless puzzle with many outstanding clues. Not easy, though. You are superb at working the wordplay into the surface, this is pro material.

    I particularly liked (or rather – I was completely stunned by…) 13a, 16a, 19a, 26a, 2d, 7d, 18d and 19d – great stuff!

    24a is almost but not completely working for me yet, I am likely missing something

    9a might be a little same-sidish. I’m not completely comfortable with ‘off’ (vs of) in 22d though I know it is used.

    17d I wondered if the answer is singular and the definition plural – hard to know with this sort of stuff, though the answer does have a different plural

    That is the total of my scribbles. Excellent. A magnificent creation, congratulations

    1. Ah, i see 24a now – i had swapped exhaust and sump to get part of the answer, and was using brackets to get E(xhaus)T – I don’t know if that is an intentional red herring, if so very clever (well it worked on me)…

  3. Excellent puzzle – thanks Drummond. The smooth surfaces are particularly impressive and you’ve managed to produce innovative clueing for some old chestnuts like 21a and 17d. It’s difficult to pick out individual clues from such a rich assortment but I’ll go for 16a, 24a, 2d, 3d and 20d with my favourite being the superb 13a.

  4. Welcome back Drummond, this was an excellent follow-up to your first puzzle, which was also of high quality I recall. I found the SW corner the most reluctant to yield.

    As Dutch says, some of the ways you have woven the wordplay to fit seamlessly into the surfaces are superbly clever – I particularly liked the containment indicators disguised as nouns, i.e. “guards”, “sandwiches” (although it should be followed by a comma), “cramps” and “brackets”. My only real quibble relates to the overuse of “up” as an indicator in reversal clues, namely 2d, 6d and 20d, when alternatives could have been utilised.

    Unsurprisingly I had plenty of ticks in evidence – 16a, 19a, 21a, 23a. 25a, 26a, 1d, 4d and 5d. I gave double ticks to the excellent 1a/8a combo, and to 19d, because I really love that sort of inspired construction.

    Many thanks Drummond, and huge congratulations on what you have managed to achieve here.

  5. Thanks, Drummond, this puzzle really shows some quality. The highlight for me was the big supply of devious inclusion indicators, closely followed by the big supply of devious subtractions. I also like that you’ve favoured scrupulously clear wordplay without adding any extra surface punctuation. I thought 25a and 20d were the best of a very strong bunch.

  6. Thanks Drummond – nice puzzle .

    At first sight it looked easy but I came to a halt for a short while midway through. I think found the bottom left corner the toughest.

    There were some nifty wordplays, well-buried in natural surfaces.

    I ticked 13a, 19a, 4d, and 19d.

    I don’t usually do anagram-counting but I counted five pure anagrams – which is the limit for The Times – so you’re within bounds for rulebook fanatics. Why they should give one paper’s rules general application is beyond me – actually I have noticed in the past people here over-counting – it’s pure anagrams that are limited. Compound clues where one component consists of jumbled letters don’t go into the count. Anyway – you’re in the clear there.

    In fact I didn’t have any technical quibbles at all. I put 7d in the frame for a samesbothsides rap but thought it OK on reflection – even though maybe not clued to the same standard as the rest of the puzzle.

    You’ve clearly got cluing tequnique mastered – well – it’s not that difficult really is it.

    The only suggestion I would make would be to put more ideas, allusions entertainment value in – that doesn’t mean OTT waggishness. Just something for the solver to go away with afterwards.

    Hard to put your finger on it. Most people have one or more favourite setters on the dailies and it’s nothing to do with whether they clue accurately or not – they all do – within their own context at least. It’s that extra something.

    That’s just a thought – and I wouldn’t want it to detract from a job very well done.

    Once again many thanks.

    1. For the record, Anax once informed us on these pages that the Times limit is 5 whole anagrams or equivalent, with partial anagrams counting half. So 10 partials would be a limit,or 4 partials with three fulls etc. But, as you say, this is not the Times!

  7. A stunning crossword – thanks Drummond.

    Your definition for 14a may earn you a few frowns! My last in was 24a and I haven’t completely parsed it. I was mislead by the off in 22d. It took me a while to parse 19d even though you used the same kind of device a bit – something hard to do, and evidently one of your strengths. Your main talent is to work everything in seamlessly to make smooth surfaces, but the wordplay is good and tight. This meant that I was slow to start but then made steady progress.

    I’m having trouble choosing a sensible number of clues to pick out for praise. Of the acrosses, I loved 8, 14 – 23 inclusive, and 25. With the downs, I have done better and managed to whittle them down to just three highlights – 3,17 and 18.

    Thanks again, Drummond – I hope we don’t have to wait as long for your next one. Thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review.

  8. Impressive! The only one I’ve not managed to parse is 19D, though I had to work hard at a couple of others too. Just a lovely, fun solve and,as has been said several times above, very smooth surfaces that make sense. My personal picks are 1A, 23A (for the visual image), 1D. and 7D. Congratultions on a fabulous job!

  9. Splendid stuff – another rookie ready for promotion to Saturday afternoon methinks

    Lots of clues I really liked but like others my top favourite is 23a

    Thanks for the lunchtime entertainment – I’m on leave now so all my crosswords are being done a couple of hours later than usual – and to Prolixic in advance for the review

    1. CS, I think you may be on thin ice with Kath by choosing a top favourite but I can certainly see your dilemma with so many high class candidates. But, hey ho, it’s Christmas and it’s a great crossword, so I think you deserve special dispensation.

  10. It’s a sign of a very good puzzle that no less than three-quarters of the clues (21/28) have been ‘liked’ by one or more of those commenting above.

  11. What a fabulous puzzle – congratulations Drummond!

    Some added comments:

    19a clever – great surface
    19d respect – a great spot!!
    20d superb
    3d another super surface and Wordplay
    11a the surface didn’t quite work for me here
    16a beautiful wordplay!
    22d good surface
    17d good
    18d cured ham – tasty!
    21a very clever
    7d is might/strength from same headword? not sure
    8a again, beautiful surface+wordplay combination
    6d surface very slightly stilted but still a fine clue
    24a LOI still waiting for the wordplay to dawn on me! I think I see some of it…

    Favourite is 19d.

    Quite brilliant.


  12. More praise from me, Drummond – this was both highly accomplished and thoroughly entertaining – many thanks.

    It seems to me that you put enjoyment for the solver as your priority – so there’s a fairly easy to solve anagram across the top with a terrific surface and then the tricks and misdirections throughout all give a ring of satisfaction, if not delight upon solving.

    I have single ticks by 8a, 11a, 14a, 26a, 1d, 4d, 5d, 7d (I went searching for a full anagram for way too long there), 15d (nicely worked), 17d, 18d and 20d.
    Double ticks were for that super surface in 1a, the perfectly constructed 13a and for both of the 19s – your devious subtractions, as Cyborg says, are quite brilliant.

    Still can’t fully parse 24a, although I have spotted the definition…

    Too good to be a Rookie, this was without fault – or will Prolixic find some, we wonder?

  13. Thank you all for your encouraging words. The comments on my first effort were an enormous help in filtering out some of my errors and indulgences (like calling Apaches ‘yanks’, what was I thinking?) and seeing where the wordplay was getting too convoluted. I’ve made a big effort to keep the wordplay simple and straightforward, but to disguise it with as much sneakiness as I can muster. I’m very pleased that it seems to have paid off.

    It’s fascinating to see which clues are liked and disliked – I was expecting some flak for the indicator in 21a, which felt a bit loose but was shoe-horned in for the surface – but so far nobody has objected to it. Similarly one of my favourite clues, 6dn has barely been mentioned – perhaps the surface could have used an extra polish.

    Anyway, thanks once again to everyone. I hope to have another one ready before the first cuckoo of 2017

    …and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

  14. Excellent stuff from Drummond!

    At the moment “the reformed bootlegger” is well ahead in the race for first prize …

    … but 19d may become my favourite – alas the penny hasn’t dropped yet!

    Lovely surface readings, a nice mix of clue constructions, not too many anagrams … what more can one say?

    Thanks, Drummond.

  15. What more can I say.
    Such a well constructed crossword, good surface, good wordplay and equally good workout.
    Thanks to Drummond for the fun.
    Another one of my stage appearance at the Duke’s was a Christmas spoof of “And then there were none” with Ian Ogilvy and Koo Stark where they made me play the very British Captain Drummond. Any relation?

  16. Stunning! It took me a while to get onto the right wavelength, but once I had done so this proved to be a challenging but very rewarding solve. This was way above Rookie class, Drummond, and you certainly deserve promotion.

    I have only two very slight niggles. Even before I read Kitty’s comment, I had circled the definition for 14a and put three question marks by it; and I thought the use of “heads off” as a device to take the first letter of the subsequent words was a bit clumsy. Those apart, everything else was spot on with excellent surfaces sprinkled with humour and a nice mix of clue types. You are certainly a master of insertion and removal, something I feel sure that Kitty would appreciate.

    Picking a single favourite is very hard, but I’ll settle for the wonderful 13a!

    Very well done, and many thanks, Drummond.

    1. I did pause at the “heads off” indicator for a second, but I think it’s fine if you read “off” in the sense of “it’s that Peter Kay off the telly”.

      1. Oh, Arepo. I’m not convinced, That is an awful use of English in my opinion, and I can’t find anything in my BRB which supports “off” meaning “from” or “on” as in your example.

  17. An excellent puzzle – well done! More or less every clue had me smiling and nodding as I filled the answer, whether it came immediately or after an extended period of musing – and that’s what you want really. You are clearly fond of the classic “verb-form containment indicator masquerading as a noun” device – 5 times by my count – which, if I am being uber-critical, did stand out as being a couple too many. But this is a pretty faint criticism, and there’s not really anything else to object to here. No complaint about the same (or at least similar) device popping up in 19a and 19d – pulling it off once is tricky enough, to do it twice, in a non-obvious way, in the same puzzle, is remarkable.

    As others have said, nominating favourites is hard in a puzzle of exquisite clues, but I’ll go with 11a, 16a, 24a, 25a, 3d, 15d, 17d, 18d and my pick of the bunch, 4d.

    Hats off to you – let’s have another one soon please!

    1. PS I think the amount, and quality, of misdirection in the puzzle is also worthy of mention. Whether it was intentional or not, it definitely enhanced the experience for me. So kudos!

  18. Glad I had a rare Monday evening free – this one has to be in Rookie Corner’s greatest hits. I see what Arepo means about the style of clue, but these ‘“verb-form containment indicator masquerading as a noun” ‘ clues were all expertly done. They reminded me, in style as well as quality, of Anax (not that I’ve ever completed an Anax puzzle) – he has mastered this type. Throughout the puzzle, in fact, the indicators, whether they be container indicators or anagram indicators or whatever, were all perfectly chosen to provide the most misleading and entertaining surface. Exactly as Anax does.
    Other than than there were plenty of ‘great spots’ for the wordplays.
    Pretty much all ticks.
    I really liked 23a, but did wonder if ‘twice collapsed’ might be fractionally better than ‘collapsed twice’ as the latter perhaps suggests an anagram of Els followed by another anagram of Els whereas the former suggest a complete mix. I may also be talking nonsense.
    Wonderful stuff, many thanks Drummond, and to Prolixic in advance.

  19. More praise coming from me as well, Drummond. The only slight issues I had were with a couple of surface reads – 19d in particular – and what felt like very similar clue constructs being used on several occasions. That’s just nit-picking though – it was a brilliant puzzle, well above general Rookie standards.

    From amongst a host of ticks, I singled out 13&16a plus 1&18d for special mention. I also really liked the ‘I don’t know’ in 3d.

    Many thanks and glad to hear there’s another offering coming from you in the new year.

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