Rookie Corner – 145 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 145

A Puzzle by Webb

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have another setter making his second appearance – this time it is Webb.  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 review by Prolixic follows:

Welcome back to Webb.  The wordplay here was, with a notable exception, fine and the definitions were clear and not as obscure as some of those in his first crossword.  Whilst comments have been made about some of the surface readings (and I agree that some of them could have been smoother or told more of a story), it is more important to get the wordplay right first and then to polish the surfaces.


1 While Hector’s staggering wide bolts in a straight line… (2,3,4,5)
AS THE CROW FLIES – A two letter word meaning while followed by an anagram (staggering) of HECTOR, the abbreviation for wide and another word meaning bolts or runs quickly.

9 …male Leonard briefly makes for Trojan queen (5)
HELEN – A two letter pronoun for a male followed by a diminutive form of the name Leonard.

10 Stud at a star dance from Brazil (5,4)
BOSSA NOVA – A four letter word for a stud followed by the A from the clue and a word for a type of star.

11 Insect page gets more attractive over time (4-6)
LEAF-CUTTER – Another word for a page (as in a sheet) followed by a word meaning more attractive around (over in an across clue) the abbreviation for time.

12 It’s kind of petty to break off end of assault… (4)
TYPE – An anagram (kind of) of PETTY after removing one of the Ts (break off end of result).  The definition is doing double duty here has it is also the anagram indicator.  This would not normally be allowed.

14 …wise raconteur covers for an age (3)
ERA – The answer is hidden in (covers) in WISE RANCONTEUR.  The ellipsis between the previous clue and the previous one does not really work.  In 1a and 9a there was a Greek legend connection but in this pair of clues there is no discernable connection or reason for the ellipsis.  I think that whilst “covers” works for a hidden word indicator, following it with “for an” changes the emphasis slightly and “Wise raconteur covers up/hides age” would be better.

15 Shy international socialist gripping public (11)
INTROVERTED – The three letter abbreviation for international followed by the colour associated with a socialist around (gripping) a five letter word meaning public.

18 Child ambassador, a character in every detail (2,3,6)
TO THE LETTER – A three letter word for a child followed by the abbreviation for an ambassador and another word for a character of the alphabet.

19 Secretary’s step to dance (3)
PAS – The abbreviation for a personal assistant (secretary) with the S from the possessive form in the clue.

20 Dead figure not graced by Queen (4)
NUMB – Another word for a figure or numeral with the abbreviation for the Queen removed (not graced by).

22 Western European‘s left posh visitor’s detailed guide at last (10)
PORTUGEUSE – The nautical term for left followed by the single letter used to represent posh, another word for a visitor with the final letter removed (de-tailed) and the final letter (at last) of guide.  I don’t object to the word “Western” being included as it is a help to the solver given the number of potential countries involved.  The ‘s could have been omitted.

25 Worker pursues without being rampant (3,2,4)
OUT OF HAND – A four letter word for a worker goes after (pursues) a phrase (3,2) meaning without.

26 Sailor’s given one bones in foot (5)
TARSI – A three letter word for a sailor with the s from the possessive included followed by the letter representing one.

27 Unites again about study with sound by a backing group (14)
RECONSOLIDATES – A two letter word meaning again followed by a three letter word meaning to study, a five letter word meaning sound or stable, the A from the clue and the reversal (backing) of a three letter word for a group.


1 Ancient Greek hero mounts nurse working part of leg (8,6)
ACHILLES TENDON – The name of an ancient Greek hero before (mounts in a down clue) a four letter word meaning nurse and a two letter word meaning working.  As the name of part of the leg is named after the Greek character, this was a little bit samey on both sides.

2 Distinguish between section following order to advance (4,5)
TELL APART – A word meaning section followed a four letter word meaning order and the abbreviation for advance.

3 Excited Hun I seduce’s castrated (10)
EUNUCHISED – An anagram (excited) of HUN I SEDUCE.  Comments have been made about some of the surface readings in the clues, with which I agree to an extent.  Correct wordplay is more important but in this clue, the wordplay is not a grammatical sentence.

4 Discredit from rising underground stem (5)
REBUT – Revere (rising) another word for an underground root or stem.

5 Pale women cast in August in Nice (6-3)
WASHED-OUT – The abbreviation for women followed by another word meaning to cast or slough off inside the French (in Nice) for August.

6 Front shown by topless appeal (4)
LEAD – Remove the first letter (topless) from a word meaning appeal.

7 Strong resin in depot’s stripped axes (5)
EPOXY – The inner letters (stripped) of depot followed by the letters give to the axes on a graph.

8 He had brasserie redesigned for sellers of sewing equipment (14)
HABERDASHERIES – An anagram (redesigned) of HE HAD BRASSERIE.

13 Isolated label brought up in tailored degrees (10)
SEGREGATED – Reverse (brought up) a three letter word for a label inside an anagram (tailored) of DEGREES.

16 Abstainers from drink of cha, say, meeting counts (9)
TEETOTALS – A homophone (say) of another word for tea followed by (meeting) a word meaning counts or enumerates.

17 Private Troy’s surgical work upon cryptic (3-6)
TOP-SECRET – The abbreviation for troy followed by a two letter word for surgical work and a word meaning cryptic.

21 Little bit about right for crafting church hat (5)
MITRE – A word for a little bit or crumb around the abbreviation for right.

23 Note colloquial father’s liberal ebbing and flowing (5)
TIDAL – A two letter word for a note on the musical scale followed by a two letter colloquial word for a father and the abbreviation for liberal.

24 Thick, bushy hairstyle shown by a strong trio regularly (4)
AFRO – The A from the clue, the musical annotation of strong or forte and the even letters (regularly) of trio.  As shown by has been used it could have been replaced by an alternative link word but there is, I think) more leeway with repetition given the limited number of link words.

27 comments on “Rookie Corner – 145

  1. We found this a very competently put together puzzle that was a pleasure to solve. For 1a we had put the answer in without sorting out all the bits and pieces which we enjoyed doing at the end. 3d was a word that made us wince in more ways than one.
    Thanks Webb.

  2. I’m afraid this was rather marred for me by a shortage of sensible surface reads. More clues along the lines of 18a would have made a world of difference to the enjoyment level.
    Liked the cunning device used in 12a but, there again, it needed slightly different wording towards the end to give it the ‘wow’ factor.

    Thank you, Webb – some good ideas there but please think more about the surfaces.

  3. Many thanks Webb. That certainly was a very accomplished puzzle.
    The user-friendly grid combined with the readily solvable long lights of 1a and 1d made it a relatively straightforward solve, but all very enjoyable and very smoothly put together. My favourite clues were 15a, 20a, 27a, 5d and 7d.
    Those ellipses joining clues together certainly make for some elaborate images! I agree with Jane that your surface readings are the area to work on for next time.

  4. I don’t remember your first attempt, Webb, but I thought this was very accomplished for a Rookie puzzle and I really enjoyed it. It was quite tough to pick a favourite from this excellent selection but I’ll settle for the glorious image conjured up by 1d.

    The cluing was generally precise and smooth. However I did feel that some of the surfaces were rather contrived, e.g.: 1a, 11a, 26a, 27a, 2d & 7d, and could have benefitted from more polish.

    I note crosswordland’s favourite hairstyle putting its third appearance in the past few days!

    I have only three specific comments:

    – 12a : I can’t quite make this work as it seems to me that “kind” is doing double duty as the definition and an anagram indicator.

    – 6d : I think is probably OK, although I’m not 100% sure that “appeal” and “plead” are absolutely synonymous; one usually says “appeal to” and “plead with”. Can anyone (Gazza?) draft a sentence demonstrating equivalence?

    – 16d : I was concerned that you had made up a plural version of an adjective, but on checking my BRB I found that your answer can be a noun as well.

    This was great, Webb. Many thanks and let’s have some more soon please.

  5. Hello Webb & thank you for today’s puzzle which I enjoyed solving.

    Most clues have high quality & accurate wordplay – well done!

    However, quite a few of the Surfaces need quite a stretch to make sense in their own right. Ones like 24d are good – where the reader is perhaps encouraged to picture The Three Degrees or similar. Others aren’t so clear.

    This might help? I ‘self-mark’ each of my clues during the creation process for (a) Wordplay accuracy and (b) Quality of the Surface – esp. does it make sense; does it tell a story? I use Low/Med/High for each. This helps bring to the top of my mind at least which ones most require working on. I then keep improving the ones that score lowly in either (a) or (b) until I feel they pass a (self-defined!) threshold. [I’m not saying mine are especially good – only that it helps me know where I stand before submission :-)] You might find this useful, esp. for the Surfaces – I’m sure you score highly in the Wordplay marking already.

    Hope these thoughts help & I look forward to the next!


    Some clue-specific quick thoughts – though I’ve likely missed some things:
    5d is there something better than ‘cast’ for ‘shed’ to improve the surface?
    13d wordplay is accurate; surface?
    25a ‘out’ is a bit ‘samebothsidesy’?
    17d Troy’s surgical – I’m missing something here. Is this a Head_Indicator?
    12a where’s the anagram_indicator?

    1. That’s interesting Encota. I do something very similar.
      I transfer all the clues to a Word document and then arrange them in order ‘Best to Worst’.
      Anything near the bottom gets re-worked.
      Repeat process until bored!

    2. 17d: I think T is the abbreviation for troy weight, ‘surgical work’ is needed for the next two letters…

  6. Welcome back, Webb.

    Whilst the wordplay in most cases appeared sound and well-constructed, I would have loved to have said the same about the surfaces readings. Therein lies the puzzle’s greatest flaw, unfortunately. Setters, especially novice ones, can often fall into the trap of being too close to their clues and, more often than not, it requires some objectivity to ask oneself “would someone actually say that?” or “could I ever imagine seeing those words written in a sentence?”. Too often, I’m afraid, the answer was a resounding no, with 1a, 9a, 26a and 21d being among the worst offenders.

    The surfaces aside, there were a few other points I noticed:

    12a – I agree with RD and Encota that “kind” is doing double duty as definition and anagram indicator.

    22a – I thought both “Western” and the apostrophised “s” in the second word were superfluous.

    In addition, “shown by” linked the definition and wordplay in both 6d and 24d. It’s also a good idea not to use ellipses unless the clues concerned do legitimately flow into one another. I didn’t feel your examples did.

    And now to the good ones! I gave ticks to 15a, 7d (being charitable to the surface), 8d, and my overall favourite, 5d.

    You have proved now in two puzzles that you have some excellent ideas, if you can give a lot more thought to the surfaces then I think you will make huge progress.

    Many thanks, Webb,

  7. As a junior apprentice to the land of Rookie crosswords I cannot make my mind up whether or not I enjoyed it. It seemed a bit contrived in places and several defeated me completely. However, all the little lights are filled so I just hope that I have guessed correctly. With this in mind I was pleased to read some of the comments above which confirmed my thoughts.
    Off the other other side where I hope to get on a bit better.

  8. Thoroughly enjoyable and perfect for a blue Monday. I know from a couple of failed attempts myself that achieving good surfaces is not an easy task.

    Well done Webb !

  9. many thanks webb, congratulations on this very enjoyable crossword. The perimeter clues went in easily which helped the solve considerably. I thought you were occasionally quite generous in your definitions which also makes things easier – that’s not wrong of course, as long as it’s intentional – for example, I thought Trojan queen (9a) was a giveaway and I didn’t think you needed the qualifications ‘from Brazil’ (10a), ‘Western’ (22a), ‘thick, bushy’ (24a) or ‘Ancient’ (1d)

    Pity ‘out’ occurs in clue and answer in 25a, and in 1d of course the part of leg is named after the Greek hero which means answer and clue are closely related (could just be me, but I also thought ‘mounts’ read a little strangely cryptically, since it’s already on top, i wonder if ‘nurse mounted by greek’ is any better – of course it’s brilliant in the surface)

    I didn’t think the link (for) works cryptically the way you’ve indicated your hidden clue (14a), better as just ‘covers an age’

    That’s the total of my scribbles, not bad really. Others have commented on surface and yes, that is the art for me (possibly the hardest part) and the difference between an ok clue and a great clue. Having said that, I quite like 8d, 24d, 6d, 3d, 1d, 20a, 19a, 18a, 12a, 10a

    Well done and thank you again

  10. I generally agree that working on the surfaces would be good, but on the basis of “Could I do any better?” I’m not dwelling on it. My thing was that some clues, especially 1A, were so obvious from the definition and enumeration that no effort was needed. I thought the axes part of 7D was cunning, and I loved 10A. Is 3D (ouch) really a word? Good job, Webb!

  11. Agree about the surface but it made such a change to solve a straightforward crossword.
    Just what I needed on a lazy Monday.
    Thanks to Webb.

  12. Surface readings, along with things such as numbers of anagrams, the grid and Ninas are all things that go straight over my head.
    Surface readings have been pointed out today so I do see what people mean but I’m with Expat Chris – “Could I do better?” No. “Would I even be brave enough to try?”. No.
    I enjoyed doing this.
    I got into a muddle with 8d – obviously an anagram but I had to have a couple of goes at it as I wasn’t sure whether we were talking about the kind of shop or the people running it – a pity there aren’t a few more of them around these days.
    As usual I missed the hidden 14a.
    I got 4d the wrong way round which to begin with screwed up 1a.
    I liked 10, 12 and 18a and 8 and 24d.
    With thanks and well done to Webb and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  13. Welcome back, Webb.
    As others have said, this was nice and solvable but the surfaces do need work. A puzzle can be fun by teasing out the wordplay, and this was, but it is often the surfaces that provide the laughs and the Ahas that can raise it a level. My favourites were 20a and 5d.
    Many thanks.

  14. Hello,

    Thanks for all your comments so far. When I first started to put this crossword together, my main aim was to use a grid that would have quite a few long words in it or would have several words for a solution (I tended to find during construction that this creates more problems and forces you to use words that you’d rather not use otherwise more often); the other was to avoid any Rufus-like clues like those that appeared in the first puzzle that I compiled for this section (Rookie Corner 129).

    Sadly, these goals seem to have come for many commenters at the expense of enjoyable surface readings, and I must admit that I probably tried to be more mechanical and straightforward with the wordplay than I was with the first puzzle. I hope I’m right in thinking that the balance is difficult to achieve and that not getting it right here is not something to worry too much about for now.

    I’ll deal with individual comments at this point – yes, the definitions are a giveaway at times (thanks to Dutch for this), but in my first puzzle there were comments about definitions being too loose, so this puzzle contains definitions that are as strict and as helpful as possible (perhaps too much so).

    Rabbit Dave – (SPOILER ALERT) Dutch is right about 12a, but I accept your point about 6d (I suppose an example sentence would be something like ‘He pleaded [for] forgiveness’ or ‘He pleaded his innocence’, never ‘He pleaded forgiveness’).

    Encota – (SPOILER ALERT) Dutch is right about 17d; because of the exhaustion of abbreviations for the letter concerned elsewhere, I was forced to construct a clue there (by sheer coincidence) with an abbreviation that tied in with the classical theme in the northern and western sides of the grid (1a, 1d, 3d and 9a). The wordplay in 25a was quite desperate – that needed reworking, to be honest – and 5d could be ‘cast aside’, but I see that Maize and Silvanus rated that clue highly, so I don’t know whether that was OK or not.

    Silvanus – the repetition of ‘shown by’ was lazy of me (I must have run out of alternative superfluous indications for where the wordplay begins by then) and I would agree that the clues with ellipsis and some others are slightly clumsily done – still, that’s what the as yet unwritten third puzzle will try to correct upon.

    Expat Chris (and also 2Kiwis) on 3d – yes, it is a word (a literary and figurative term, according to Chambers and the SOED), and yes, it does sound painful.

    From a quick tot up of comments on liked clues, I make 10a, 12a, 15a, 18a, 8d and 24d the stand out favourites (of these, 15a is my personal favourite – a marriage of the [vaguely] topical and a construction process where the words fit in just where you’d like them to go), which seems to confirm the way forward as far as clue construction is concerned.

    Thanks again to all commenters that I haven’t mentioned (including my fellow rookie setters), for all of the other comments which I haven’t addressed here – as with the last puzzle, they will be taken on board for next time – and to Prolixic for tomorrow’s review.

    Until the next time…

    1. Re 6D, Rabbit Down will hate this because it’s an “Americanism,” but “I plead the 5th” is a very common phrase over here!

      Thanks for all your gracious comments and I look forward to your next puzzle.

  15. Thanks Prolixic – much appreciated as ever. And thanks for putting much more clearly what I meant to say re. wordplay vs surface!

  16. Hi Webb

    Late to the party – normally I don’t look at the other comments before writing mine but on this occasion I have. I think most that needs to be said has been said already.

    I found it a very enjoyable solve. 1a announced what to expect (plenty of fun) and the rest delivered that in spades.

    On the question of surfaces there are a number of approaches. Some of the greats from the past ran a mixture – some surfaces bizarre – others a clear picture – usually nothing (sometimes everything) to do with the answer – but in most cases however bizarre the interpretation it would always make a parsable sentence – others aimed for a readable sentence with a clear picture for every clue. Even if you are aiming for the former I think you should probably aim for a higher rate of meaningful ones.

    That said the wordplays were pretty well all fun to unscramble and I wouldn’t want you to lose that aspect in the search for anything else.

    Many thanks for the fun – hope to see more.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic and for answering my query over 2d – I hadn’t realised that ‘a’ was an accepted abb. for advance.

    As always, I was most interested to read your comments. I do understand that correct wordplay is a priority but, from a solver’s point of view, I believe that a good surface should be considered of equal importance. Without the latter, solving becomes a rather dry and dull experience – not what I would think most of us are looking for in a crossword.

    1. Where does A for advance come from? Is it in Chambers. I have only ever seen A for “advanced” (D on the end) and Collins and Oxford online don’t even have that – not sure why not – obviously we have (or had) A-levels etc.

        1. Actually – a distrubutor (do they still have them?) on an old car might have A-R for Advance-Retard (ie of the spark timing).

    2. In my experience the driest and dullest setters (one in particular springs to mind but no names – no pack-drill) are those who slavishly follow a set of rules of the form “Every … must …”. The most entertaining and interesting challenge you and take you by surprise. In the case of surface readings the clues of Araucaria (the all-time doyen of this game) and other greats varied considerably.

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