Rookie Corner – 154 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 154

A Puzzle by JollySwagman

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Puzzle number 9 from JollySwagman today – and our latest new setter next week. 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.

Some very good clues and a very well interlinked theme from JS this week.  I suspect a promotion is due to the NTSPP.  I don’t know if JS sets clues in order with all the across clues and then the downs, but most of the (admittedly minor) comments are in relation to the final set of down clues, almost as if in the rush to reach the finishing line, the attention to detail slipped slightly as he neared the end.


1 Film coaches working in the shed (13)
TRAINSPOTTING – A six letter word meaning coaches followed by a seven letter word describing the work a gardener may be doing in the shed.

8 Clergyman will be beheaded soon (4)
ANON – Remove the first letter (will be beheaded) from a five letter word for a clergyman.

9 What chamber orchestra’s principal player has between legs? (5)
CELLO – A four letter word for a small chamber followed by the first letter (principal) of orchestra.  Depending on the composition of the chamber orchestra, the principal player may be the musician who plays this instrument.

10 Follow the rules and you might get this award one year later (4)
OBEY – A three letter abbreviation for an award followed by the abbreviation for year.

11 18 VIII’s second – 2 – one’s been annulled (6)
BOLEYN – The surname of the King’s second wife; her first name is the answer to 2d with the I removed (one’s been annulled).

12 What 5 is avoiding sleepers are doing (8)
CRASHING – Double definition of what the tank engine tries to avoid that those asleep in bed are going.

13 2’s down train doesn’t go fast! (9)
SLOWCOACH – The name of the train in the tank engine series that pulls Annie.

16 Being mad for G&S they’ve got a box? (5)
FROGS – An anagram (mad) of FOR followed by the G&S from the clue to complete the phrase as mad as a box of ……

18 5’s friend, big, 7 and tender, once played for Arsenal (5)
HENRY – Double definition of one of the characters in the tank engine series and Thierry ….. who once played for Arsenal.

19 Arranges for 5 and 18 to entertain the Queen (9)
ENGINEERS – The description of the characters named 5 and 18 include (to entertain) the two letter abbreviation for the current queen.

22 The taps are old – we might be pushing it (8)
HANDCART – The description applied to taps on a sink (describing their temperatures) followed by an old way of saying “are”.

24 Here chickens and Australians sit around discontentedly … (6)
ROOSTS – The diminutive name for kangaroos followed by a reversal (around) of the outer letters (discontentedly) of sit.

27 … that’s when I start to adore this part of the world (4)
ASIA – A two letter word meaning when followed by the I from the clue and the first letter (start to) of adore.

28 Out of retired leaders everyone liked Blair – in Balls’s book. That’s a good one! (5)
BIBLE – A reversal (retired) of the initial letters (leaders) in the fifth to ninth words of the clue.

29 Pot – and where to wash one (4)
SINK – Double definition, the first by reference to a game of snooker.

30 What 18 VIII had plenty of? Possible idea – it’s headless spouses (7,6)
ADIPOSE TISSUE – An anagram (possible) of IDEA ITS POUSES (headless spouses).


1 Old King Cole comes back inviting Gigi in – initially for a dance (5)
TANGO – The abbreviation for old and the name of the singer (… King Cole) reversed (comes back) including (inviting … in) the first letter (initially) of Gigi.

2 One of 5’s best friends is musical (5)
ANNIE – Double definition from the tank engine series and the name of a musical.

3 Lacking the necessary bottle to be a member of this party? Then it’s out of the question (2,3,2)
NO CAN DO – A whimsical description of a party without any tines of beer to give the definition.

4 Playing a 9 with biceps – not PC (6,9)
POLICE CONSTABLE – An anagram (playing) of the answer to 9 across and A BICEPS NOT.

5 Cook wanted. More might be really useful on the railway (6)
THOMAS – Triple definition of the travel agents, a Tudor lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted humanist and one of the character in the tank engine series.

6 I start to rig up an old steam locomotive (4,5)
IRON HORSE – The I from the clue followed by the initial letter (start to) of rig and a phrase (2, 5) meaning up or riding.

7 Go bowling? (5)
GREEN – Double definition, the first being the colour of the light that indicates go and the second an areas where bowling takes place.  A minor point, but using an adjective to describe a noun is not my favourite clue type.  Bowling on its own is not a synonym for the definition.

14 A 7d has one but it may deceive (3)
LIE – A golfing term for the slope or condition of part of the golf course known as a 7d.

15 On reflection a 7 conflict over barren land – but it was once considered great (5,3,1)
WORLD WAR I –  Reverse (on reflection) another letter representing a or one, a word meaning the same as 7d (in the sense of new or fresh) and a word for an argument or conflict and put this around (over) the outer letters (barren) of land.  This conflict was known as the Great War.  Perhaps conflict about barren land would have been a better containment indicator here as over in a down clue is better used as a positional rather than a containment indicator.

17 Margaret catches a fish (3)
GAR – The answer is hidden in (catches) MARGARET.

20 The National has Lear returning with entertaining players (7)
ISRAELI – A single letter representing “has” as a contraction followed by a reversal (returning) of LEAR all inside (with entertaining) the Roman numerals for the number of players in a football team.  A minor point but the definition is not really “The” national but “a” National.  The clue might have been better without any article.

21 Possibly shoots at a bomb exploding overhead (6)
BAMBOO – An anagram (exploding) of A BOMB above the initial letter (head) of over.  Definition at wordplay does not really work.  Perhaps “with” would have been better here.

23 Where ratings get confused (2,3)
AT SEA – An elliptical definition of confused by reference to where ratings may be found.

25 The band drinks here (5)
OASIS – Double definition of a (not the) Brit-pop band and a watering hole in the desert.

26 10 points – perfect? (5)
TENSE – Spell out 10 and add two points of the compass.

42 comments on “Rookie Corner – 154

  1. It took me a whitle to get started but once I’d sorted the two themes, it all went in with enough time to complete the puzzle, comment here, and be ready to start the day job, which is what I ask for in a Rookie puzzle

    I did like having the two themes. I have lots of clues with *s by them, including 11a, 18a, and 5d. Hard to pick one for the gold medal position so I’ll go for 18a as my Across favourite and 5d as my Down favourite

    Thanks to JS and in advance to Prolixic

  2. My heart always sinks a bit when I’m confronted by a puzzle liberally peppered with interdependent clues but I know it’s a device much favoured by JS.
    In the event, it was easier than I’d anticipated, despite 5d being amongst the last to fall. Still wrestling with the full parsing of a couple – will keep working at it.
    Podium places went to 16&22a plus 3d. 1&8a also elicited a smile.

    Many thanks, JS – enjoyed this one far more than I expected to at the outset.

  3. I think I’ve done all of Swaggie’s puzzles and this was definitely the one which gave me least trouble to finish. I really enjoyed it and thought that 26 was extremely good.
    Many thanks

  4. This all came together more readily than I thought it was going to at first, helped by the two overlapping themes. Thanks to JollySwagman for an enjoyable puzzle. I particularly liked 1a, 29a and 15d but my favourite is 22a.

    1. I’m having more difficulty than usual (and it’s usually pretty difficult) getting the Indy puzzle on line to respond (using MS edge on W10).
      Is it just me?
      Huge congratulations to Silvanus

      1. You seem to have to jump through multiple hoops to get the Indy puzzle printed out but I’m glad that I persevered because it’s excellent with a good assortment of clues. Many congratulations to Silvanus.

    2. Thanks for the heads up, CS. I’m very sorry that it sounds as if I’m adding to your eventual workload!

      1. Silvanus. Have just printed out, solved and enjoyed your Indie puzzle. Congratulations.

  5. A wonderful puzzle. I thought the two themes were beautifully interwoven and the quality of the setting was up there with the very best. I liked all of the clues, but if I had to pick any favourites, they would probably be 8A, 19A, 29A, 30A, 23D & 26D.

    Many thanks for enlivening my morning!


  6. I have been looking forward to this, since Big D announced it a couple of weeks ago and having seen some of your fairly wild clues on the Guardian blog.
    It was all huge fun. I don’t think there was an off clue in the whole puzzle, and too many likes to list.
    My favourite was 30a, because it was so well constructed and beautifully unexpected.
    Thanks for the entertainment

  7. My thoughts are encapsulated by Jane’s first three sentences exactly.

    Very cleverly constructed and plenty to smile at. My overall favourite was 29a.

    With the two themes in mind, I couldn’t help thinking that, having had so much 30 later in life, 18 would have benefited greatly from a Fat Controller.

    Many thanks to JS, and in advance to Prolixic for the review.

    1. Ditto (except that I got 5d quite early on).

      Love the Fat Controller, Silvanus, :good:

    2. Re Fat Controller. Yes – that would have been good – no show without Punch etc.

      I thought of trying to squeeze him in as an answer but it would have needed too many changes to a gridfill that had already gone through quite a few revisions.

      I didn’t think of squeezing him into a clue instead – that’s a point worth remembering for themed puzzles generally – as long as it doesn’t give the game away too easily.

  8. Jane has summed it up for me too, except my favourite was 22a. A few still to parse fully – don’t quite get ‘go bowling’?
    A good puzzle which I enjoyed, thank you JS.

  9. Thanks to JS – I’m new to the site and enjoyed the puzzle. Still trying to completely figure out a couple, but got to the solution anyway!

    Enjoyed 3 and 16 – both raised a smile.

    Thanks again!

  10. More solver-friendly this time around. I like that. Clever to weave two themes in the same grid. I do have a couple of question marks that I’m sure the review will resolve. I did like 23D and 16A in particular. Thanks, JS.

    Was I the only one looking for Percy?

  11. It was nearly our bedtime when we eventually managed to access the puzzle so very late with our comment this week. I got 1a very quickly but even with that it took me a ridiculously long time to twig 5d which was one of my last ones in. My brain must have decided it was past my bedtime. Found it more accessible than other JS puzzles we have done with plenty of good fun along the way so really enjoyed it.
    Thanks JS.

  12. Very enjoyable.
    Loved constructions like “I start to rig up” in 6d, the lateral thinking in “arranges for 5 and 18” in 19a, “the taps are old” in 22a and many more.
    Lots of big smiles in 16a and 30a.
    Great anagram in 4d.
    All in all, a real winner IMHO.
    Thanks to JS.

  13. Hi JS,

    I hope you’re enjoying all this lovely praise, I agree agree with it. I managed a full grid in reasonable time with only a few unparsed – this was by far the most tractable JS puzzle I’ve done (a good thing, really adding to enjoyment). The two themes were a real plus, they get you hooked as a solver. I got them early on which helped. I did think (not a criticism, just a thought) that it would be really cool to bring them together with some kind of killer clue somehow (apart from 18a), but i know how hard it is including a theme at all, so no complaints there.

    I have ticks against 1a, 19a, 22a, 24a, 27a, 29a, 30a, 4d and 26d.

    I agree with Baerchen that 26d in particular is superb – the brevity adds a lot.

    My quibbles and parsing blanks:

    8a – these days beheaded is emotive, but perhaps it fits into the theme.

    9a – is this really cryptic? I may be missing something.

    11a seems to me the wordplay doesn’t clue the answer – some connecting link is needed

    13a def seems verbal while answer is a noun? if I parsed correctly, that is. I started wondering why it wasn’t “2d’s”, I wonder how many others did that

    16a I’m missing relevance of definition – actually i had the wrong answer

    28a – with the wordplay as clear as it is, not sure you need a second sentence.

    5d I think I get most of this, several references, but i may be missing something or i’m not sure how exactly it hangs together

    7d a stretch dbe, i thought, but probably ok

    15d wordplay works for me but I don’t get the def – really, by who? perhaps I am missing common historical terminology

    20d missing part of wordplay

    21d not sure “at” is working right

    23d not sure what kind of clue this is – i know you like to defy categorisation

    Many thanks again for the enjoyment and congratulations on a lovely puzzle

    1. Hi Dutch – glad you like it – and thanks for going into such detail.

      In answer to some of the queries (I hope Prolixic will give you his independent view on these) – but just to tidy up:

      8a – I agree – but we can’t escape that it’s what happened to Thomas More, who is alluded to elsewhere – and the king in question was quite keen on it too.

      9a – I agree that the surface more or less suggests the answer but there’s a wordplay there too – starts with a word for chamber.

      11a True – you have to follow what the basic wordplay gives you to get the other name (hopefully well known) of the lady in question, which then matches the definition – that being everything up to the first dash.

      13a The last three words make a descriptive verb-phrase to which the answer can be logically prefixed – some people attribute these (or at least their allowability) to Azed who allowed that – but not (eg) adjectival phrases which point (however compellingly) to the answer.

      16a – There’s an expression that connects the answer with frogs and boxes.

      28a – I agree that “book” could key the answer alone – but adding (via the next sentence) “good” narrows the field. Obviously in the surface it means “You have to be kidding” which I hope adds some levity – but it’s good if additions like that can be justified in the cryptic reading too.

      5d There are three “definitions” there. The last one quotes a phrase frequently used in the alluded to series of children’s books.

      7d A double definition – but both are associations – rather than synonyms – hence the “?”.

      15d Before the second one came along the first one was thought to be unrepeatable and was generally referred to as “The Great …”

      20d Maybe you need the number of players in the games which are the UK’s two sporting obsessions – neither being Rugby Union – contrary to what the DT may lead you to believe.

      21d “At” is used as a link there. I think “at” is OK for that (in either direction) – ie meaning “here you’ll find”. Others I think may not.

      23d It’s just a double definition – but with a linking word (get) between the two parts.

  14. I don’t want to be grumpy here but I am – having the attention span of a gnat all the jumping around backwards and forwards and round about makes me go giddy.
    Being faced with a crossword with ten of the just over thirty clues taking me back to another one is more than my brain can handle.
    Having said that I thought there were some really good clues and I enjoyed what I could do.
    I have one gap in the bottom left corner (but have an answer and can’t see why) and an almost empty top right corner – well, four gaps.
    I loved 1 and 30a and, just for personal reasons, 2d.
    Thanks and sorry to sound so negative, JollySwagman – it really is another case of “Oh, just me again” as others have fared considerably better than I have.
    Thanks also, in advance, to Prolixic.

    1. Not at all Kath; couldn’t agree more re the somewhat irritating cross-referencing – PITA

  15. Hi JS,

    Lots to enjoy here! Loved your usual wit in 28; also liked your approach in 22. And loads more I could mention. Plus where so many puzzles nowadays seem to have only a low word count available per clue (either to meet style rules or simply because of lack of newspaper page ‘real estate’) it’s a joy to have some of your longer clues, especially as every word has its purpose – with minimal ‘fluff’.

    Many thanks! And thanks in advance to Prolixic. Oh, and congrats Silvanus, brilliant news!! I haven’t tried it yet (I’ve been setting all day and just catching up) but will do so now!


  16. Many thanks prolixic for the enlightening review, esp. 16a (I don’t think I’ve ever heard that expression, learn something every day), the players in 20d, and the wordplay I missed in 9a

    I thought there was also wordplay in 13a, S + LOW + COACH, which i saw only after thinking the “2’s down” construction (rather than 2d’s) looked strange

    1. Had a good laugh mixing Silvanus clue 4a in the Indy and 9a from JS.
      How about: What player has between his legs in cubicle even more near the door.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Like Dutch, I had missed the correct wordplay in 9a and I was also grateful for your help with the full parsing of 15&20d.

    The inclusion of ‘wanted’ in 5d threw me completely – can someone enlighten me?

    Thanks again to JS – this was a far more solver-friendly puzzle.

    1. Hi Jane

      “Wanted” just indicates that that’s what you (the solver) *want* for an answer – similar in behaviour to “that’s” “it’s” etc. Obviously it’s mainly there to help the surface reading to make sense; in the cryptic reading it’s just a pointer – usually to the definition – sometimes to the wordplay.

      1. Thanks, JS – so obvious now that you’ve pointed it out. I also spent a while thinking of Pete and Dud, despite the slightly different spellings – perhaps that was your intention!

  18. Thanks to Prolixic for the explanations.
    Glad to see that only a few minor adjustments would make this crossword perfect for publication.
    Thanks and congrats to JS again.

  19. Thanks all for trying the puzzle and for commenting.

    That one seemed to go down quite well – possibly mainly because it was on the easier side.

    Another comment appeared (there have been many before) indicating a dislike of cross-referenced clues in puzzles. I can sort of understand that they can look a bit daunting at the outset and it can seem as though they make the solve harder but they can actually help too – eg here VIII and a reference to headless spouses must surely suggest Henry VIII and you can backtrack from that and get the answers to 18a and then maybe 5a long before you’ve digested the wordplays.

    In the event I think that here most people got in easily enough without having to resort to that sort of dodge.

    I was saving a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label as a prize for anyone who spotted the Thomas More connection between 8a and 5d. Nobody did (or at least they didn’t say so) so I’ll just have to sup it myself.

    I don’t know why this puzzle turned out to be easier than my previous ones – it just came out that way – although I could see a few gimmes which I might have changed for a tougher audience but which I left alone on purpose – and I was surprised to find that I’ve now done nine; just about my entire output has appeared here.

    I like puzzles to be in some way or to some degree “about” something – well Araucaria was (and still is) my hero and most of his were; many also extensively cross-referenced in the cluing. That doesn’t mean nothing but themed puzzles – and even when themed the theme doesn’t have to be done to death. Consequently I struggle to get gridfills that I’m really happy with. Cluing them up I find fairly easy – but you never know what the sum total of the clues will turn out to be until you actually do them – sometimes cross-referencing possibilities occur by chance as you go along.

    Of course it’s a lot easier these days with software support. You have to take your hat off to the setters of old (eg the sixties) who worked their marvels by hand in pre-allocated grids.

    This one started as an abandoned attempt at making a gridfill based on Thomas the Tank Engine. When BD sent out an appeal for more puzzles I took a second look at it and clued it up with a few revisions. The possibility of a pivot into another theme based on the name Henry (which in the end I was pleased with) came later.

    Thanks to Prolixic for the review (and the promotion hint) and to BD for hosting.

    I don’t have anything in the pipeline at the moment but winter’s not far away here so as soon as the muse visits I’ll get to work again and send something in for BD to use wherever he wishes.

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