Rookie Corner – 150 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 150

No Prizes by Mucky

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Because of continuing problems with the site, I have uploaded this week’s puzzle to the Crossword Info site.  There will be no downloadable versions available (for Crossword Solver or AcrossLite), although a pdf may be printed from Crossword Info.  Update: All the usual versions are now available.

This week we have another setter making his debut in Rookie Corner.  Mucky tells me that his alias is a nickname he was given at school, loosely based on his surname.  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:

That was about as tough as they come in the Rookie corner.  The wordplay when unravelled was fair but I felt that some of the definitions and requirement for general knowledge of what happened in horse race some 60 years ago was a stretch.


9 Smashed ace? Punier serving only best for him (9)
EPICUREAN – An anagram (smashed) of ACE PUNIER

10 Argentinian scored (i.e. God helping) (5)
DIEGO – The answer is hidden in (helping or portion of) SCORED IE GOD.

11 It’s ‘Exit’ for Cornwall, if 50% (all extremists) for devolution (5)
DEVON – Half of the outer letters (50% all extremists) of DEVOLUTIONMy main observation on the crossword is that some of the definitions are stretched beyond what is fair in some cases even allowing for cryptic licence.  This is one of those definitions.

12 Man United with desire for no score draw (4,5)
LOVE MATCH – The word used in tennis for no score followed by another word for a draw or game between two sides.

13 Rich are horsing about – a week’s Polo? (4,3)
HIRE CAR – An anagram (horsing about) of RICH ARE.

14 Awful bellyflop’s first mistake, instead of finishing run (7)
RUBBISH – The first letter of bellyflop followed by a four letter word for a mistake all replacing the final letter (finishing) of RUN.

17 Standing for office, losing nomination initially, and finally wishing you hadn’t? (5)
RUING – A word meaning standing for office with the central NN removed (losing nomination initially and finally (first and last letters)).

19 Oh, come on, 2! (3)
GEE – My best attempt is what you might say to a horse (called Silver – Lone Ranger) to get it to move on with the subsidiary parts loosely meaning the answer too.

20 Cheeky move‘s slight adjustment, losing a rook instead (5)
TWERK – A work meaning a slight movement with the abbreviation for rook replacing the A.

21 Go through with Alice’s transformation to alien? (7)
ENFORCE – To transform Alice to Alien you have to put an EN FOR CE.

22 No time for dishonesty – work steadily for peanuts (7)
CHEAPLY – A word for dishonest with the T removed (no time for) followed by a word meaning work steadily.

24 Remoaner‘s endlessly regretful, having only spun European integration (4,5)
SORE LOSER – A word meaning regretful with the final letter removed (endlessly) includes (having) a reversal (spun) of a word meaning only and the abbreviation for European.  I think that having is a weak containment indicator but can be justified with I am having / eating a meal.

26 Enjoy losing race from this position? Unlikely (3,2)
LAP UP – If you were in this position in a race (so far ahead) it is unlikely that you would lose.

28/3 Winston, when intimate and divested of habit, just not managing it (5,3,2,5)
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR – A word meaning intimate and how you would describe Winston Churchill without his trademark smoke (divested of habit).

29 Mention individual city in US warzone hell (9)
NAMECHECK – The postcode for city of London inside a three letter word for an American war zone and a four letter word meaning hell.


1/13 No profit from flogging this 11 8, say (4,5)
DEAD HORSE – Cryptic definition that is based on your knowing a 1950’s trivia piece of knowledge which may be considered unfair for younger solvers.

2 Having lost one leg, he went for gold in second, getting this (6)
SILVER – Cryptic definition of the Treasure Island pirate leads to the solution.

3 See 28 Across

4 What 11 8 did in front of Queen Elizabeth’s huzzy (6)
FELLER – Another piece of general knowledge about the obscure horse followed by the regnal cypher for Her Majesty.  The definition is not a word known the the dictionaries consulted.

5 Almost entirely inexperienced, having one all-encompassing object (8)
UNIVERSE – A word meaning inexperienced without the final letter (almost entirely) includes (having) the letter meaning one.  Having has already been used as a containment indicator so a different one would be better here.

6 First lady’s other half is a crazy revolutionary (4)
ADAM – The A from the clue followed by a word meaning crazy reversed (revolutionary).

7 See 15

8 Up north finally, dip in mountains here? (4)
LOCH – The final letter of North followed by another word for a pass or dip in the mountains all reversed (up).  The whole provides a stretched definition of the solution.

13 See 1

15/7 Having recovered, fickle lady abused me in text: ‘Try again, loser!‘ (6,4,4,4)
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME – A word meaning having recovered followed by another word for a fickle lady and an anagram (abused) of ME IN TEXT.

16 Sentimental about forgotten stick game (5)
HOKEY – A game played with sticks with the abbreviation for about removed (forgotten).

18 One new alternative to entertain perhaps – fire anyone who’s not the boss (8)
INFERIOR – The letter representing one (another repetition of wordplay) followed by the abbreviation for new and a two letter word meaning alternative inside which (entertaining) you include an anagram (perhaps) of FIRE.

19 Wild shots, for which no prizes (8)
GUESSING – What completes the phrase “No prize for …”

22 Thin layer of protection which Romeo carries (6)
CHROME – The answer is hidden (carries) in WHICH ROMEO.

23 Defeated seed played without professionalism, knocked out (6)
PIPPED – A three letter word for a seed followed by the PLAYED from the clue without the LAY (without professionalism knocked out).

24 Are losers in a rut? No end of a rut (4)
SUCK – A word meaning in a run without the T (no end of a rut).

25 What’s left of Bruce? (4)
LEES – A word meaning what belongs to Bruce by reference to the surname of the martial arts expert.

27 Lakeland’s top predator (4)
PIKE – Double definition.

47 comments on “Rookie Corner – 150

  1. We found this very hard work and eventually gave up with 10 answers that we did not get. We revealed letters to get these and there are still a few where we can’t justify the answer, 4d for example. Appreciated the clever wordplay in lots of the clues, eg 21a and we had several chuckles and Doh moments but overall it was just a bit ‘hard for hard’s sake’ for our taste in a Rookie puzzle where we have no guarantee that it has been test solved and edited.
    Thanks Mucky. We appreciate your effort and apologise for not being more positive.

    1. 2Ks, I’m not surprised that from the other side of the world you found the wordplay for 4d elusive. In the 1956 Grand National a horse whose name was the answers to 11 8 did a bellyflop and fell just short of the winning post. Although I’ve never heard of it, I assume “huzzy” is a slang expression for husband or fella/feller.

      If you can reciprocate with the explanation for 21a which I can’t unravel at all that would be much appreciated!

      1. Thanks for posting the link. I had one lined up but wasn’t sure of the appropriate time – perhaps first thing this morning would have been a good idea!
        When I was setting the puzzle I was also writing quiz questions, and the horse/event is standard knowledge, if not a gimme, for regular quizzers (in the UK). Apart from the reference in 14a, I also had a clue for 24a that used 11 8, but the puzzle was never meant to be about the one event, so it got binned. Sorry to those for whom it’s meaningless; have a look at the video, though – it’s still extraordinary

        1. … as are the names of the owner, the jockey and the horse that went on to win. Less well-known are the names of the winning owner and jockey.

      2. Huzzy: you were right to assume that about huzzy, since that is what I meant by it. However, I was clearly wrong to assume the same thing, since the only dictionary reference I can find to it is as a variation of hussy (housewife, among other definitions). I have used (and heard) huzzy to mean husband many times, so I’m a bit mystified by its not being a word, but no excuse for not checking properly. Insert ‘bloke’ for ‘huzzy’

  2. Well, I have a completed grid but, and it is quite a big but, I have more than a few question marks by clues where I’m not entirely sure either how I got the solution or in some places whether the wordplay works to give me that solution. I did like 2d but I can’t decide whether the ‘getting this’ is superfluous.

    Sorry Mucky but I think this one falls into the ‘I’m writing a cryptic clue, I must make it really complicated and almost incomprehensible’ kind of crossword that for me anyway takes away a lot of the fun. I wouldn’t say it was 28/3 but I’d definitely say 15/7

  3. Phew – that was tough. Thanks to Mucky for a real brain-stretcher with some very inventive clueing. The bottom LH corner held me up for ages (not least because I was convinced that 25d was an Australian word for ‘left’ – d’oh). I particularly liked 21a, 24a, 26a, 2d and 23d (and 11a, of course). I don’t understand how huzzy in 4d means the answer and I think I must be missing something in 19d.

    1. I agree with you re 4d. 19d is referring to a common phrase used when something is unknown but fairly obvious, I think?
      Do I get put on the naughty step for that…? Hope not.

      1. I agree with you about 19d. The naughty step/corner is only open on Saturday and Sunday prize crossword days and for the MPP so don’t worry – you’re still a free man.

        1. :yahoo: Someone agrees with me. That’s a first (apart from Jane’s “Why does ‘a tit’ mean up to something?”).

          PS – Thanks Jane for 21a, I didn’t see that either.

  4. I got slightly further than the 2Ks but I ground to a halt with or six or seven remaining, all in the bottom half, which I thought much tougher than the top.

    Had the surfaces not been as good as they generally were, I think I might have echoed CS’s final comments, but I actually thought many of the clues were frustratingly close to being excellent, so for me it was very much a 28/3 puzzle overall. There were several deserving of unqualified ticks however, and I gave those to 22a, 28a/3d, 6d, 15d/7d, 18d and 23d. The near misses I thought were 10a, 11a, 12a, 26a and 2d. I also can’t adequately parse quite a few others.

    Lots of promise in evidence, and I’m glad to say I enjoyed the tussle much more than other recent very tough Rookie puzzles. Well done, Mucky, I’m sure you’ll benefit greatly from Prolixic’s review.

    Congratulations to BD on achieving the landmark of 150 Rookie puzzles with yet another new setter.

  5. Thanks to Mucky for quite a stiff challenge (something provided neither by Anto, Rufus nor Vigo given the Monday brief).
    I finished the puzzle, which I enjoyed, but I cannot parse three of my answers.
    Plenty of excellent clues and ideas here but, as an experienced solver of, and frequent commenter on, other puzzles you’ll know that some of the techniques you have used would attract a raised eyebrow or two.

  6. Time constraints meant I reached for electronic help from fairly early on … but I’m pretty sure I’d have needed some of that if I’d had all day. I still have a few holes, and will take another look when I get home this evening. I enjoyed what I’ve managed so far.

    My picks are 17a, 26a, 6d and 16d and I liked 12a’s quirky “Man United” and 20a’s cheeky move.

    Lots of promise here – I’m really looking forward to your next one. Thanks, Mucky. Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for the review.

  7. Have all the spaces filled but, like others, I’m not too sure about the intended parsing of some of them.

    I didn’t find this one particularly enjoyable as I felt it relied quite heavily on the use of slang terminology which wasn’t easy to work out if you were unfamiliar with it – certainly a couple I hadn’t come across before. Fortunately, I did remember the 28/3 phrase from a previous discussion on the blog!

    There were signs of some good ideas there, Mucky – perhaps put the vernacular aside next time?

  8. Dear puzzlers,
    Thanks all for trying the puzzle. Sorry if it was more a trial than a pleasure. As baerchen said, I comment on others’ puzzles (I post as catarella, here and on the guardian website) and if there’s something I don’t like in a puzzle, I generally say so. I don’t want to get away with unfair clues that I would gripe about myself – if there are some here, it is because I can’t see the difficulty from close up. If there’s anything in particular you find objectionable, please don’t hold back.

  9. Hmm…I actually really enjoyed a great deal of this, though working out some of the solutions required more than a bit of 19D and working backwards. Ones I particularly liked –10A (my favorite), 20A (though not the mental image), 26A 15/7D, and 23D Had to look up 11/8 to find the answer and still can’t make the connection. 29A was spoiled for me by the use of the (American, I think) abbreviation with no indicator of such. I did reveal letters for 24D and have absolutely no idea how the clue works. Anyhoo, Mucky, overall I thought it was a pretty good first outing and look forward to the next one.

    1. Chris, I thought it was my job to complain about unindicated Americanisms :wink:

      In that context, the answer to 16d falls into that category!

      1. Oh, I dunno…what about that “right foot in” dance? Anyway, in the U.S. (in my experience) 16D usually mean something a bit weird, not something sentimental. I know, I know…the BRB says otherwise, but….

        1. Isn’t the weird thing more “hocus pocus”?

          The dance is certainly not sentimental! Interestingly I see that the dance has a slightly different second name in the US – “pokey” could add a whole new dimension to the moves involved …

          1. Hocus pocus? I don’t think so. That’s more magic, isn’t it? Funny about the U.S. variation. I can assure you I have never danced that particular dance!

  10. As ever, I am pretty much aligned again with my soul mate Silvanus on this one. I got there in the end, but it was a very tough challenge which I mostly enjoyed, particularly the top half. I found the SW corner particularly difficult and still have several unparsed answers. It’s quite reassuring to learn that such luminaries as CS and Gazza also struggled a bit.

    Well done, Mucky, and thanks for the challenge. I thought there was a lot to like here with generally smooth surfaces and some very clever ideas.

  11. I enjoyed this one, clever and varied – even though it did take ages and I had to cheat on one or two which I can’t entirely parse.
    Several penny-drop moments which for me is the sign of a good puzzle.
    Less keen on a couple of slightly clunky lego clues; can’t remember which ones they were, didn’t print it out. Also, I find cross-referenced clues a pain to do online.

    Many thanks to Mucky and bloggers.

  12. Some tough clues; some real gems; some I struggled with (& still a couple I can’t fully parse). Took me three goes to complete, with the SW corner being the last ones to go in. My favourite (like Expat Chris) was 10a. I also loved the definition at 13a and the wordplay at 21a, and 29 was pretty deceptive!

    There’s some technical points that Prolixic will most likely point out – e.g. double duty in 22a and 17a’s single/double deletion – but generally it felt pretty good, though perhaps slightly over-complicated in places. I hadn’t heard of 11/8 but liked how it linked up otherwise unconnected clues.


  13. I thought that was really tough and almost didn’t even try having read the comments from the 2K’s, CS and Gazza who never find things difficult.
    Anyway, curiosity got the better of me so I had a go – it’s taken me nearly all day, on and off and I still haven’t finished it.
    I can’t do two in the bottom right corner and another in the opposite one and have several that I don’t understand.
    I’d never have got 4d without RD’s help – thanks to him. :smile:
    I’d never have understood what 21a had to be without Jane’s comment – thanks to her, too. :smile:
    Like LbR I don’t like lots of cross-referenced clues – I’m too impatient but I know that’s my problem.
    I liked 11 and 20a and 18 and 27d. I think my favourite was 2d.
    With thanks and congratulations to Mucky – I’m guessing your surname is McKay, or a slightly different spelling.

  14. I somehow managed to paste the review into the wrong section of the blog so it has appeared slightly earlier than anticipated. Hopefully it won’t turn, Cinderella like, into a pumpkin at midnight 🎃

    1. Hi Prolixic – Re 25d: ‘lees’ is the sediment (left) when brewing alcohol, related to ‘Sur Lie’. What’s left/of Bruce.

  15. Well, I was apprehensive after a quick glance at the comments, but breezed through what I thought was a superb top half. A grinding halt followed, and I don’t have time to finish,but enjoyed what I did do. I got 1/13 from the def, and would say 11/8 was one of the most famous horses in that race’s history (perhaps alongside Red Rum and Foinavon), perhaps helped by who the jockey was. I liked 10,11, 13and 17 (and others), but my favourite was 12. I think some of the slightly weaker ones I didn’t solve.
    Well done,and thanks, and to Prolixic for the review.

  16. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Seems that I did OK with the parsing (eventually) with the exception of 14a – should have consulted the BRB for the ‘error’. However, as I couldn’t find either remoaner or huzzy in there, I’d already decided that Mucky was singing from a totally different hymn sheet!
    21a stood head and shoulders above the rest for me.

  17. Tough solve that one M but well worth the effort.

    Letters in all the holes and (eventually) convinced of why.

    29a had me foxed for a while – two EC’s – I was looking at the wrong one.

    A twist in every other clue – hard to get traction but once under way with the benefit of forewarning (and crossing letters) progress wasn’t too slow.

    Minor quibbles:

    I thought 19a needed to be said twicew (or followed by up) to encourage the relevant animal to “come on”. Without the 2d reference it might have been interpreted as an expression of doubt in both the clue and the answer.

    Too many good’uns to isolate the odd ones with ticks.

    A clear demonstration of your potential for producing future hours (literally) of agony and amusement for us all, which I hope we shall in due course see.

    Many thanks for the fun/agony.

  18. Thanks, Prolixic, though I still don’t understand 24D. I can see that ‘stuck’ without the T gives me ‘suck’ but how does suck equate to ‘are losers’?

      1. Thanks. I find it hard to keep up with British slang these days. I get used to one new one and ten more come right along behind!

        1. Suck was the one I thought was actually American. I can only hear an American friend saying it, though she has an English huzzy – maybe she’s copying him

  19. Great review – thanks Prolixic – and several clues where I hadn’t properly parsed them. Some clever clues – well done Mucky!

  20. Many thanks to Big Dave, and to Prolixic; you’ve pretty much nailed all my intentions.
    25a: What’s left of Bruce? I meant ‘What’s left’ to be the definition of lees (dregs) with of Bruce meaning ‘of Bruce Lee’ and so Lee’s
    19a: My dictionary (SOED) has for gee ‘Expression of discovery, surprise’ for Oh, ‘A word of command used to a horse; go on, go faster’ for come on, and ‘A horse’ for Silver
    4d: apologies for huzzy
    I take the point about definitions being stretched too far. I suppose, to be honest, that was my aim (the stretching, at least, not the too far), as I generally enjoy puzzles where the definitions have to be dug out.
    Trivia: fair enough. My thoughts were that having got 11 8, you’d have to look it up if you hadn’t heard of it (and it is an online puzzle), and the only facts necessary were that Devon Loch was a horse, and fell. Unfortunately I compounded the annoyance by putting a non-word in the same clue.
    Thanks to everyone for their time and generous comments.
    2Kiwis: you’re dead right in your comment about having no guarantee. It’s something that often affects me solving unknown setters’ puzzles
    Expat Chris/Rabbit Dave: I don’t think I realised that I was using Americanisms. I’m mainly using online dictionaries, and I’m probably not distinguishing carefully enough between sources. I’ll try and pay more attention to that in future.
    LetterboxRoy: I’m with you on Lego clues; I think there are some here because I was trying to shoehorn too many into the ‘losing’ theme. As for cross-referencing clues, I know they’re not universally popular, but I like them
    Snape: I’m pleased you liked the Man united clue
    All of your ticks together cover 18 clues, which I am very pleased about. It’s been most enjoyable as well as chastening. If I’m allowed back, I’ll endeavour to ease off.

    1. Looking forward to your next one!

      Re. online dictionaries, I find Chambers 21st Century dictionary & Collins Online both very useful, though rely ever more on Chambers 21stC, Thesaurus and the Oxford Dictionary of English (ODE) via WordWeb on the PC and the brilliant Chambers app on the iPad. I’d include URLs except it appears to upset some of the very necessary virus checking processes on this and other sites. [As an aside ‘Listen With Others’, the support & therapy site for any Listener crossword solvers amongst you is back up and running as of yesterday, thanks to some great work by the technical folk]

      Hope this helps,


    2. You don’t need to avoid Americanisms for me. I live in the U.S. and use ’em all the time! RD is another matter though. My only concern with using the abbreviation for Vietnam was that I didn’t think it was commonly used outside of the U.S. military.

  21. Didn’t manage to finish it but enjoyed what I managed.
    Knew both expressions in 1/13 and 28/3 and the horse in 11/8.
    Failed on 15/7 though and most of the SE.
    Instead I got distracted by 2d as Robert Louis Stevenson was living in Hyeres when Treasure island was published and his one legged editor came to visit him here. He loved our town so much and said some great things. He even wrote his poem Requiem here which features on his grave along with a couple of books.
    I was so encapsulated that I forgot to get back to the crossword.
    Just for that I shall award it full marks.
    Thanks to Mucky and to Prolixic for the explanations.

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