Rookie Corner – 155 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 155

A Puzzle by Jaffa

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we welcome our latest Rookie setter – what do you think about his puzzle? 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:

The future’s bright, the future’s orange!  A good debut puzzle from Jaffa.  There were some areas where the clues could be polished to give better surface readings and there were rather a lot of deletion clues.  Two of the clues seemed to lack anagram indicators which is a bit of a slip..  Otherwise, the basics were all there and there were some very good definition such as “heater from Cuba” and “strapped for cash”.


1 JDS’s literary meadow slip (7,2,3,3)
CATCHER IN THE RYE – An elliptical definition of a book by J D Salinger that might fancifully refer to a cricketer (slip) in a meadow (or what might grow there).  This is one of those clues where the wordplay is evocative of the answer rather than a precise definition of that answer.

9 Top band gives shock (5)
UPSET – Split 2,3 this might describe the group or band at the top.

10 Priestly garb of old GB having lost its charge (3)
ALB – Remove the name of a charged particle from the old name of the island of Great Britain.  As a technical point, the words to be removed are not a charge, they are the particle that carries the charge.  

11 Brock, not right, gives sign (5)
BADGE – Remove the R (right) from the animal known as a Brock.

12 To lose gold from a mistake is a human trait (3)
ERR – Remove a two letter word for gold in heraldry from a word meaning a mistake.

13 Encourage noise? I left for a formal dinner (7)
BANQUET – Remove an I from a phrase 3,5 that may mean to encourage noise (defined negatively as outlawing silence).  Perhaps I may leave would be better.  Four clues in a row that require a deletion can make a puzzle seem unbalanced so it is better to try and vary the wordplay devices.

14 Red admiral or Redgrave? (7)
VANESSA – Double definition of a butterfly and an actress whose surname is Vanessa.

15 Despite no real argument initially they’re for the 2nd amendment (1,1,1)
NRA – The initial letters of the second to fourth words of clue.  As a general rule, try not to have abbreviations for solutions to clues.

17 A town passage (7)
READING – Double definition of a Berkshire town and another word for a passage or section of a book that might be spoken.

19 Support for metric unit in software (7)
PROGRAM – A three letter word meaning support for and a metric unit of weight.

21 Self confidence therefore not right (3)
EGO – Remove the abbreviation for right from the Latin word meaning therefore.  As R for right has already been used, a different indicator should be used here.

23 Poseidon’s chopper (3,4)
SEA KING – A cryptic definition of a naval (Poseidon’s) helicopter (chopper).

25 Bolster mixed seafood (7)
LOBSTER – An anagram (mixed) of BOLSTER.

27 Ship’s hearts are this (3)
OAK – Another evocative clue.  Hearts of ***, that describes a resolute person.  There were three naval vessels named heart of ***.  I am not sure that this clue quite works.

28 Scratch musical arrangement (5)
SCORE – Double definition of a scratch or groove and a musical arrangement.

29 Ringer losing left end measures noise level (3)
BEL – Remove the final (end) abbreviation for left from a word meaning a ringer.

30 To prevent notice less 500 (5)
AVERT – Remove the Roman numeral for 500 from a word describing a notice.

31 So is stomach acid upset by this type of activity practised by one who may be strapped for cash (15)


1 Vintage from Sark perhaps leads to people skilled in words like you now (15)
CRUCIVERBALISTS – A three letter for vintage wine, the abbreviation describing the island of Sark and a word meaning people skilled in words.  I don’t think that the “from” works in the clue here.  The surface reading could be better.

2 Southern home of the devil? (8)
TASMANIA – The part of the Southern Hemisphere noted for animals described as ****** devils.

3 It’s hot elsewhere realising players ambitions for Park Lane and Mayfair (6)
HOTELS – The answer is hidden in (realising) in HOT ELSEWHERE.  I don’t think that realising works as a hidden word indicator.  It is better to try and not have a hidden word clue that starts with all of the letters of one of the words.  Again, the surface reading is not that meaningful.

4 The back line action necessary to solve 31 (9)
REARRANGE – A four letter word meaning back and a five letter word meaning line.  The definition would require *********ment rather than the answer.

5 Arrest former pupil who made his fortune out East (5)
NABOB – A three letter word meaning arrest followed by a two letter abbreviation for a former pupil.

6 Heater from Cuba used as hat north of the border (8)
HABANERO – The name of a type of hot chilli pepper from Cuba.  The second part of the clue is slightly misleading as it is not used as a hat but has the name reminiscent of a hat.

7 Element which can cause a glow from the Royal Academy (6)
RADIUM – The abbreviation for Royal Academy extended fancifully to indicate from there.  I don’t think that this really works as a clue as the final part of the word is not really indicated, even fancifully by the clue.

8 Choose backward men and a Pole, about to leave Canada, for on/off attraction (15)
ELECTROMAGNETIC – A five letter word meaning to chose followed by a reversal (backward) of an abbreviation for soldiers or men, another word for a type of pole that has left or is about to leave Canada.  Given the definition, the answer should end ISM.

16 Coal pits with nothing in them yield description of twelve good men (9)
APOSTOLIC – An anagram (unknown indicator) of COALPITS containing an O (nothing).  I am not sure if yield is an anagram indicator or a link word.  As an anagram indicator it would need to be yielding. Only 11 of them were good!

18 Short time less time leads to places of constant temperature (8)
ISOTHERM – An anagram (unknown indicator) for SHORT TIME after removing the abbreviation for time.  Again there does not appear to be an anagram indicator.

20 Curb grant to endow again (8)
REINVEST – A four letter word meaning curb followed by a word meaning grant.  Perhaps a different indicator for the second part of the clue that is not quite so similar to the definition would be better here.

22 A river lake, not in the U.K. but overseas (6)
ABROAD – The A from the clue and another word in the Fens for a reach of water on a river.

24 A solution, not sharp, scoring greater than 7 (6)
ALKALI – The definition of a solution that has a Ph greater that 7.

26 A detective puzzle (5)
REBUS – Double definition of Ian Rankin’s detective and a type of puzzle.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner – 155

  1. It all went together smoothly for us without too many hold ups. We put ticks beside 2d because it relates to our part of the world but the biggest tick went to 6d. A Cuban heater indeed and then clever wordplay.
    Thanks Jaffa.

  2. Congratulations on your debut. My favourite was the definition in 31 – one who may be strapped for cash- very good

  3. This might be Jaffa’s debut here but I don’t think that this can be his/her first crossword as it all flowed so very nicely with some clever wordplay. I had the same favourites as the Kiwis and Beet.

    Thanks to Jaffa – hope you come back again soon – and to Prolixic in advance

  4. An enjoyable puzzle that all went together quite quickly. Looks as though the general consensus is going to put 31a plus 2& 6d at the top of the pile – same choice for me and I would also give a mention to 17a.
    As is often the way with Rookie puzzles, some of the surface reads needed a bit of polishing.

    Many thanks, Jaffa – hope to see more from you in the future.

  5. Hi Jaffa
    Well done and thanks. Clear definitions meant it all went in pretty smoothly, with no checks/reveals needed.
    Some good ideas – I liked the town passage, the devil’s home, the solution not sharp, old GB
    There were places where you were a bit loose with your word play/grammar I thought:
    1a) I like ‘meadow slip’ as a cryptic indication, but the rest of it isn’t a definition by itself. If you meant the whole as a cryptic definition, I’m not sure it works. I think, once you have deciphered the cryptic nature of a CD, it should read as a literal description of the solution, and this one doesn’t (though your other cryptic defs I thought were good)
    6d) I like ‘Cuban heater’. However, I think the rest of it is a (perfectly good) cryptic indication for a synonym of the solution, rather than the solution itself, which I think makes it an unfair clue. If your solution was (6,6), something along the lines of ‘Get hot with this hat north of the border’ would be fine.
    8d) I think your solution is an adjective, whereas your definition is a noun
    18d) I’m not sure ‘leads to’ is sufficient as an indicator
    A few other quibbles, but no doubt Prolixic will pick them all up.
    You occasionally were a bit over-generous/wordy with your definitions, perhaps. (eg 22d, 8d (‘about to leave Canada’)
    ‘Strapped for cash’ v good. It was actually the solution in a Guardian (Arachne) puzzle last week with a clue related to your solution. You’re obviously thinking along the right lines.

  6. Well done, Jaffa. I thought this was great – an amazingly good Rookie debut. It was good fun, nicely challenging and, as others have said, very polished.

    It’s extraordinary to see a couple of things crop up again so soon by coincidence. The priestly garb and old GB in 10a have appeared in the past two or three days, and a whole puzzle was devoted to the theme in 3d.

    I needed Google to help me out with the Red Admiral and to check out the 2nd amendment. I still haven’t quite managed to parse 1d, 7d & 8d fully and I look forward to Prolixic’s explanations tomorrow, to whom thanks in advance.

    Lots to like here, but my short list of goodies is 23a (for the imagery as much as anything else), 31a & 6d.

    Many thanks, Jaffa, and let’s be seeing some more from you soon.

  7. Welcome, Jaffa.

    Everyone has been characteristically generous thus far, and far be it from me to deviate from that, but I did feel that there were a number of areas that could have benefited from greater attention at the drafting stage:

    1. Anagrams. To miss one anagram indicator in a debut puzzle is possibly forgivable, but I don’t think I’ve seen two missing before (as in 16d and 18d). It’s also a good idea not to opt for anagrams when fewer than half the letters in the fodder require rearranging (25a), as this poses virtually no challenge for the solver.

    2. Lurkers (Hiddens). As the name suggests, there should be an element of disguise or concealment, and in 3d the hidden word was at the start of one of the words in the clue, not in the middle.

    3. Repetitions. Before submitting a puzzle, it’s a good practice for a solver to check whether he or she has used the same device more than once, or whether a particular form of words has been overused. For example “gives” and “leads to” were each used twice as linking the wordplay to the definitions, and deletion indicators such as “not right” and “less” were also repeated. Just under a third of the clues contained a deletion instruction of some sort.

    4. Surfaces. Sometimes the hardest element for a novice setter to nail, but it’s often useful to read one’s clues in isolation and ask “would someone actually say that?” or “would I ever see that written down anywhere other than a crossword?”. 10a, 30a, 8d and 18d were probably the worst offenders in that respect.

    My favourite clue was one of the most succinct ones, 26d, although, in common with several others, it would have been even better without the indefinite article. 31a was clever and has gained several votes I notice, but I don’t think I could ever tick a clue consisting of nineteen words!

    There is certainly much promise in evidence here, Jaffa, and I’m sure that the experience and feedback will make your next effort a lot more polished. Well done on your debut.

  8. Excellent debut puzzle. 1A and 15A went in without any cogitation required. Still working on parsing 1D. In addition to 2D, 6D and 31A, I also checked 24A, which I thought was clever. Well done Jaffa! Hope to see you back here before too long.

    Since I’m currently in a wrangle with the DT about my subscription, and they are notoriously slow to respond, this may be the only puzzle I get access to this week so it was doubly enjoyable on that basis!

  9. Congratulations on a fine debut, Jaffa.There are some really good touches here but as others have said some of the surface readings need a bit of work. I particularly liked 23a and 6d.
    I had to Google the significance of Canada in 8d and, if the information I’ve found is correct, it’s ‘already left’ rather than ‘about to leave’.

  10. Thanks Jaffa, an enjoyable puzzle with some great touches, congratulations on having put this together. Gazza has totally confused me with his Canada comment and there are a few other references that I think sailed over my head, so I am keen to see Prolific’s review tomorrow.

    I agree with most of the comments, in particular the lack of anagram indicators in 16d and 18d – the repetition of ‘leads to’ – though in 1d it seems to be used for concatenation, which doesn’t feel ideal. 3d not sure ‘realising’ works as a hidden indicator (and yes, ideally the h in the answer wouldn’t be at the start of a word in the clue)

    Some more parts-of-speech mismatches, seems to me 31d has type of activity as def which is nounal while the answer is not, similarly 4d action is a noun but the answer is not, 8d has been mentioned.

    some ‘samesidey’ clues, in 12d the mistake and the answer are very close and in 20d, grant and endow are very close – doesn’t make it wrong, just less satisfying.

    25a, the anagram is less satisfying because the last 4 letters don’t move

    some wordiness, esp. ‘by this type of activity which is practiced by’ – all you need is ‘characteristic of one strapped for cash’ or similar.

    I liked ‘encourage noise’, ‘scratch musical instrument’, ‘strapped for cash’, ‘arrest former pupil’, ‘heater from cuba’, 7d, ‘detective puzzle’, all great stuff

    Well done, an impressive debut, congratulations

  11. A welcome rare Monday free to attempt a Rookie puzzle. Welcome Jaffa.
    I tried to post this morning, but got a blank screen and loss of comment, resulting in a short period of slight grumpiness.
    I did enjoy the puzzle, though, and found the RHS much more tricky than the left, and had to reveal a couple of letters to help me finish. I haven’t parsed quite a few.
    I agree with the comments made so far – I did give 16d the benefit of the doubt though, taking yields as the anagram indicator.
    I noticed a couple of coincidences too, but different ones to RD. There was a clue related to 1a in the Everyman puzzle yesterday – so I was wondering if there was an anniversary related to this – and Arachne had a recent clue: Short dominatrix may have done this (8,3,4).
    I would take care to try to be a bit more succinct. I don’t think there is anything wrong with long clues, but unnecessarily long clues should be avoided. In 31d, you have a great anagram, and a good idea, but the def could surely be shorter, as could several others.
    I would also look at surfaces, as has been mentioned. This will come with practice, as will being more ruthless when your first wordplay idea doesn’t have a plausible story that fits in with the definition. Say 16d again – not nonsense, but there is no real way a coal mine could give a description of people,
    I will reiterate Silvanus’ last two sentences, though – plenty of good stuff, and I look forward to the next one. Many thanks.

  12. I did this in the wee small hours and had more to say then. However, now that I’ve got around to commenting it has all been said. I thought it a good level of difficulty for a first puzzle and had few quibbles. I did notice the abundance of deletions and the echoes of recent crosswords (including strapped for cash, which was a definition that for some reason had already found its way to my consciousness). My favourite is 2d.

    Much enjoyed – thanks Jaffa. Are you a cake or a biscuit?

  13. A bit crusty and a bit stale Kitty!

    Thank you for all your advice. I’ve tried to reply twice at some length and lost both sets of comments into the electronic ether. Probably my fault. I’ll try again tomorrow

  14. Losing comments seems to be a common problem here. It’s happened to me a few times, if I take too long typing. However, I’ve found if I just click on the ‘go back one page button’ my comment is restored, unposted, and it always works the next time. I also always copy it to clipboard before posting, just in case.

    1. Thank you for the advice. I think my comments, like my crossword, were too wordy and I got timed out 😂
      I’m away from home at present which limits me to my iPad but that’s no excuse for not backing up my comments 😩

  15. It is quite humbling to see the amount of time and detail that so many of you have devoted to comment on my first foray into Rookie Corner and the encouragement given. Thank you.
    It has been an interesting experience. I could quibble with one or two points but overall the comments are very fair and I accept the errors that were made by me. I think my main fault was to construct the grid, write a set of clues but not then spend time polishing them or looking at them collectively to establish a fair balance of type of clueing and wording.
    Mentioning two clues specifically. Praise for 31a is nice but I did confess to BD from the outset that there was a degree of plagiarism in it, not from the Guardian of a few days ago, but from the DT over a year ago – you obviously can’t keep a good clue down! As a retired Chemistry teacher 10a troubled me from the outset and I don’t know why I didn’t reword it. Using ion to represent charge is very sloppy science. I thought I’d got away with it but obviously nothing slips by Prolixic!
    I shot myself in the foot by inserting four three letter words into the grid to make it more connected. Then producing three out of four deletion clues for them wasn’t my finest hour, especially as I was aware of criticisms of previous crosswords being too reliant on too many anagrams. Doh!
    Many thanks again to all of you but especially Prolixic for his analysis and Big Dave for his encouragement to dip my toe into the murky waters of compilation. I discovered this website over two years ago when I complained to the DT Crossword Editor that an answer “bicarb” wasn’t an acid and was told that this had been the the subject of much discussion on something called Big Dave’s Blog so I looked and have been here ever since. Perhaps sloppy science has its uses after all!
    I am, quite rightly, slightly cowed but not totally discouraged. The secret is to learn from your mistakes I suppose. To quote a one time American politician – I’ll be back 😎

  16. Many thanks Prolixic for the great review and enlightenment around Canada – very disturbing – where’s it going?

    I imagined 7d referred to the chemical symbol – all the more likely now I know Jaffa is a retired chemistry teacher

    1. Russia I think, if Putin allows it entry😂
      Yes, with my chemical background, Ra (well, RA) screams Radium at me and I didn’t think any further clueing was necessary but perhaps it was.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. In particular for the extra info. about Canada and Ph levels!

  18. Apologies for this rather late comment.

    I did enjoy this puzzle a good deal. It was fun, and I rather liked 1a although I didn’t pick up on the cricketing allusion. 31a was also very good, even if it was a bit of a plagiarism! I also particularly liked 23a, and 24d.

    On the negative side, I did feel there were rather too many deletions.

    Many thanks to Prolixic for the excellent review. Despite having the answers, I couldn’t parse 10a and 8d. I didn’t know that my answer to 6d was a chilli. That’s a great clue! That missing anagram indicator in 18d had me foxed: I had the answer but didn’t twig on that it was an anagram. Stupid of me, perhaps. So much appreciation for the enlightenment.

    Congrats to Jaffa for a really good debut. Well done!

    1. Humble apologies about the missing anagram indicators in 16d and 18d. I hoped in 16d that “yield” was sufficient but in 18d “leads to” is, I admit, er…..misleading?
      I’ll have to put it down to the inexperience of “youth” – well, at least in compilation term🤣

  19. Bringing up the rear here I am – probably way too late but whatever.
    I didn’t have time to look at this on Monday and haven’t got round to it for the rest of the week either.
    I’m sure it’s all been said although I admit to not reading all the earlier very wordy comments.
    I needed a couple of explanations from the review.
    All I can say is that I enjoyed it a lot so well done to Jaffa.
    My favourite by a long way was 31a. I also liked some of the simpler clues such as 14 and 17a and 2d.
    Thanks and well done to Jaffa and thanks to Prolixic for the untangling.

  20. Hi Jaffa. Sorry to be so late to your party – I’ve had a few IT problems.

    Lots to enjoy here. I thought the style of cluing was very reminiscent of a lot of 60s puzzles so I adapted to that and didn’t have any problems – eg the lightly (or not at all) indicated anagrams in 16d and 18d – people nowadays are used to a more explicit indication – but it’s a shame if that scares setters away from subtle ones.

    7d – I thought it was a clever idea (I read it as relying on the naming of elements after somone or something by appending -IUM) but that left me scartching for the D – not sure how that could have been accomodated.

    As a debut puzzle this really was pretty good (in fact it was pretty good by any reckoning) so please keep them coming.

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