Rookie Corner – 157 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 157

A Puzzle by Clueso

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

As we enter the fouth year of Rookie Corner it occurred to me that one of the most satisfying aspects is that, like Clueso, most of the setters follow their debut with a second puzzle – and then …   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.

Clueso returns with a second crossword.  The difficultly level here has increased with a lot more complex wordplay.  However, the more complex the wordplay, the more precise you have to be with the cluing to maintain fairness for the solver.  I have therefore been a little more pernickety about some of the comments on the clue.  There were a number of clue where the first letter indicators would not be acceptable to all editors.

The cluing was of Toughie standard and there were some inventive touches.


1 Fifty points scored for unravelling head girl’s large jumper (8)
BULLFROG – The part of a dartboard where you score fifty followed by an anagram (unravelled) of FOR and the first letter head of girl.  Depending on your editor head on its own to indicate the first letter of a word will not be acceptable.

6 Headcount includes Australian but excludes American – cheats! (6)
COZENS – A six letter word for a headcount includes a two letter slang term for Australian and omits the two letter abbreviation for America.

9 Shrink-wrapped nourishing starter in place of porridge (4)
JUNG – The first letter (starter) of nourishing inside (wrapped … in place of) a three letter slang word for a prison or porridge.  Editors may not accept the definition linked to the wordplay by a hyphen as in “shrink-wrapped”

10 Bollards! No left turn. Other cars keep heading into them. (10)
ROADBLOCKS – An anagram (turn) of BOLLARDS without one L (no left) includes the initial letters heading of “other cars keep”.  The singular heading should be in the plural if you want to indicate the first letters of two or more words.  There is no real definition here.  At a generous stretch, the whole clue could just about be taken as a semblance of the solution but I am not convinced!

11 After losing original member and reforming, Quarrymen at age to form rock band now (10)
QUATERNARY – An anagram (reforming) of QUARRYMEN AT after removing the M (original member).  The answer is a reference to the current geographical era.  Some may not like original but as a noun, original can mean an origin.

13 Director’s first title cut roughly (2,2)
OR SO – Remove (cut) the last letter of the first name of Mr Wells, the film directors.  I cannot see how first title leads to removing the N.

14 Baseball team is outside pub with alluring young girls (8)
NYMPHETS – The name (3,5) of a Baseball team around the abbreviation for public house (pub).

16 Part of the air “Oh To Be Heard” (6)
OXYGEN – The gas whose chemical symbols sounds like (be heard) of “Oh to”.  The be heard reads ungrammatically in the cryptic reading of the clue.

18 Supercilious, suspicious Poles came first (6)
SNIFFY – The abbreviations for South and North (poles came first) followed by a four letter word meaning suspicious.

20 Most short passes youngster, overlapping, passes back (8)
NEEDIEST – A four letter word meaning passes goes inside (overlapping) a four letter word for a teenager that has been reversed (passes back).  Overlapping is a bad choice of containment indicator.  If something overlaps it cannot be wholly contained.

22 Leaders will always drink if runner’s course is dry (4)
WADI – The initial letters (leaders) of the second to fifth words of the clue.  Like head some editors would require “leaders of” to maintain the cryptic reading of the clue.

24 Have good air quality (10)
TELEVISUAL – A cryptic definition of someone who looks (air quality) good on TV.

26 “MK Dons sat back – a bloomer” – Manager (10)
TASKMASTER – Reverse (back) the MK and SAT from the clue and follow this with the name of a flower (bloomer).  The dons here is padding and is unfairly misleading as it suggests a containment indicator that isn’t required.

28 Something for soldiers to dip into, if not hard boiled (4)
YOLK – A cryptic definition of the part of the egg into which you can dip slices of bread.

29 Parts of accounts kept away from some auditors (6)
ASIDES – A cryptic definition of stage whispers or lines spoken only some of the listeners or auditors.

30 First day in junior school ages kids (8)
PRETENDS – The first letter of day in an highly misleading definition of the ages at which people go to junior school.  As they leave at the age of 11, this clue needs attention.  As D is a recognised abbreviation for day, you could omit the “first”.


2 Negative forecast? First umbrella’s put up by American native (9)
URUGUAYAN – A reversals (put up) of a three letter word meaning a negative vote, a five letter word meaning forecast and the first letter (first) of umbrella.  Regardless of your view on first as an initial letter indicator, it has already been used in 30a and a different indicator should ideally be used.

3 Get a fag on for mild high (5,2)
LIGHT UP – Double definition.

4 Rights are in short supply (5)
RARER – Put the are from the clue inside two abbreviations for right.

5 Indian state has ball in net, offside (3)
GOA – Remove (off) the abbreviation for left (side) from a word describing a ball going into the net.

6 Little boy in uniform tending flag? It’s a niche. (9)
CUBBYHOLE – A three letter word for a little boy in uniform followed by a word (perhaps a little abstruse) meaning tending hole in golfing terms.

7 Probably the last in the list of subjects learning about our Kingdom… (7)
ZOOLOGY – The subject that might be last alphabetically in a list of school or university subjects.

8 …Kingdom around which are various points with weapons… (5)
NUKES – Three points of the compass around the abbreviation for United Kingdom.

12 …weapons stored here – a laser complex without name (7)
ARSENAL – An anagram (complex) of A LASER around (without) the abbreviation for name.  Does without mean to surround.  Opinions differ.

15 Spying tea brewed by Africans (9)
EGYPTIANS – An anagram (brewed) of SPYING TEA.  Ideally you should have definition [given] by wordplay rather than wordplay by definition (for Africans) would have been better.

17 Leaving Strasbourg at last, Englanders horribly beset by problems (9)
ENSNARED – An anagram (horribly) of ENGLANDERS after removing the G (Strasbourg at last).

19 Danger in having been given food felt all over (7)
FRISKED – The one line version of the crossword gives FLICKED as the solution which must surely be incorrect.  A four letter word meaning danger inside a three letter word meaning having been given food.

21 I, the new Le Pen, entering with panache (2,5)
IN STYLE – The I, the abbreviation for new and the LE from the clue include (entering) a three letter word meaning a pen or enclosure.  I would have been happier if the “the” could have been omitted from the clue.

23 Group, mad as The Dead Presidents (5)
ADAMS – An anagram (group) of MAD AS.

25 Taken as an example Minister returns on edge (5)
VERGE – The abbreviation for “for example” and the three letter abbreviation for a minister all reversed (returns).  I am not too sure about the construction definition on wordplay as a clue structure.

27 This on shoulder, rather than pat on back? (3)
TAP – A reversal (back) of the PAT from the clue.  Again, I would be happier if the “on” were omitted from the clue as “on back” does not indicate a reversal.

26 comments on “Rookie Corner – 157

  1. Well that delightful pangram kept us challenged and amused for quite some time but eventually it all came together. Too many good ones to single out just one for favouritism. Plan to work through it all again later to make sure we have got all the subtleties of wordplay sorted.
    Thanks Clueso.

    1. Have now been through it all again and are left with a question or two. We can’t understand the justification for the letter that needs to removed from the director in 13a, How the last four letters of 6d equate to flag in the clue to give the answer we have which, incidentally, is hyphenated in BRB. And finally it appears that ‘in’ is doing double duty in 4d. Still it was a pleasure to appreciate many of the clues all over again.

  2. Definitely challenging and I enjoyed some bits more than others – 1a, 9a, 18a, and 7d all have *s
    Took me quite a while to work out the parsing of some of them.
    30a surely the junior school ages go beyond the number in the solution?
    6d Like the 2Ks, I don’t see how the last four letters of 6d mean flag
    23d I can see that there is a group called The Dead Presidents but surely the solution is just a singular president??

    Thanks to Clueso and in advance to Prolixic

      1. Thanks Gazza, that makes sense now. How did we not see that. You would never guess what activity one of us had been doing this morning before coming home and tackling today’s puzzles.

  3. This looked a little daunting at first (probably due to the length of some of the clues) but it all became clear and revealed some excellent clues – thanks Clueso. I particularly liked 14a, 16a, 26a, 30a, 2d, 6d and 19d.
    I’m not sure that constructs like ‘head girl’ and ‘original member’ are valid ways of identifying first letters. I think the ‘have’ in 24a should be ‘having’. Some of the words in the clues could be omitted to make them more succinct, e.g. ‘the’ in 21d.

  4. I’m not a fan of either long-winded clues or meaningless surface reads – 26a being a prime example of the latter – so this one had rather lost me before I started.
    As others have said, there were certainly some goodies to be found – 1,9&13a plus 6d got ticks from me – but ones like the convoluted 20a left me cold.

    Sorry, Clueso – I thought you had some really clever ideas but I struggled to appreciate your style of construction.

    1. Wholeheartedly agree, Jane. Maybe this one just wasn’t for me – too many hoops and niggles.
      As you say; some clever ideas, but also some that perhaps weren’t very neatly refined. I like neat and tidy, personally.
      Thanks Clueso, I do appreciate the clever wordplay, but as Proximal once pointed out to me; the simplest [wordplay] clues are often the best.

  5. Welcome back, Clueso.

    I warmed to this puzzle much more than your previous one, it could be that I’m becoming more used to your style. I also found it very challenging, the top half especially, and there was much to admire in terms of clever wordplay and innovative construction. My reservations with certain of the clues seem to match Gazza’s, and in addition 15d was “wordplay by definition” rather than the reverse convention.

    There was a distinct improvement in the surface quality I felt, and even Jane would have conceded that 26a does make sense if her football knowledge was on a par with her ornithology ;-)

    My overall favourite was 9a. I think the setter can feel justifiably proud of an excellent puzzle. Many thanks to Clueso and, in advance, to Prolixic.

    1. I did look up the MK Dons (suspected it was football related) but still don’t think the clue is particularly well crafted.
      Unusual for us to be at odds over the standard of surface reads!

      1. Hi Jane,

        I agree that 26a is not the best of Clueso’s surfaces, but I do think a legitimate case can be made against it being “meaningless”!

        We are indeed usually on the same page when it comes to surfaces, and I know that you and I believe more firmly than many how essential they are to a good puzzle. Long may that be the case!

  6. I’m sorry to say I found this a rather unrewarding slog, and very unusually for me I gave up with about half the answers entered. I am glad that others appear to have enjoyed it, and I recognise how much effort has gone into it. It’s just not to my taste, and I am with Jane rather than Silvanus regarding many of the surfaces.

  7. I have half a dozen to go and am losing the will to live. This is not say I thinks its a bad puzzle. Who am I to judge? There were a couple I particularly liked. It’s just too convoluted for my taste and the surface readings could use some work. Still, I’m not giving up just yet…

  8. I give up – I really can’t do this and don’t have enough answers to give me any kind of way in to the rest of it.
    I have three possibilities – a) I’m losing my marbles; b) I’m on the wrong wavelength or c) it’s just too tricky for me – I’ll settle for either of the two later ones. Oh dear!
    Of the few answers that I did manage to get I really liked 18a.
    I look forward to the review and, in the meantime, thanks to Clueso for well and truly putting me back where I belong – i.e. bottom of the heap.

    1. None of the above. It’s just a bit of a lumpy puzzle. Most of us seem to think so, one way or another.
      Check greenhouse for marbles, just in case.

  9. Thanks to everyone for their comments and apologies to those who felt it was too hard and that I had wasted their time. Noted. Back to the drawing board, I think. Thanks to Prolixic for his detailed notes which are going to be very useful. Tricky blighter, this setting malarkey.

    1. While I agree with some of the comments I must say that I admire you for even attempting to set a crossword.

      As someone once said, “keep persevating”!

  10. Curious as to why that particular baseball team in 14A would be familiar to a primarily UK-based audience. That’s one of the clues I missed, by the way. Not a baseball fan by any means, but when it comes down to the wire and I have to support one side, I’m a home team gal so I favor the Washington Nats.

    Anyway, as a general comment, I couldn’t set a crossword to save my life and I admire those who take the plunge, but I do write for a living so a fondness for words is something we have in common. In my business, the golden rule is “know your audience”. I think that’s an important point to bear in mind when starting out. And since my business is construction, I’d also say start with a solid foundation and build on it. Good luck with your next puzzle, Clueso. I look forward to hopefully doing better next time.

    1. Hi Chris,
      Can’t speak for everyone here but I know absolutely nothing about any baseball teams so this clue was solved purely by getting the checkers in place and thereby being able to take a guess at which ‘pub’ was required, which only left 3 letters missing! The ‘Y’ was obviously a great help.

      I heartily concur with your remarks regarding setting crosswords and I think most of us feel bad about commenting adversely on a Rookie puzzle. However, I doubt that any of those Rookie setters would appreciate us being less than honest and they only have to look at what some of our erstwhile ‘juniors’ have gone on to achieve. We were quite possibly a little brutal in our assessments of some of their earlier efforts as well!

      1. I have been feeling bad. And having just read my last sentence, it doesn’t come across anything like I intended. It reads like a (badly worded) criticism of Clueso and that’s not what I intended. What I wanted to say was that hopefully I would be able to do better at solving since I never did finish and I got a couple wrong to boot. Another golden rule that I should have paid attention to myself: don’t write when tired. Now I feel really awful.

  11. I did this rather late last night.
    Sorry to say I used the reveal button fairly liberally towards the end. It’s not so much that I was stuck, more that I had been put off by quite a few loose clues.
    The ones I liked were: 20, 26, 29, 17, 21
    The ones I wasn’t so keen on were mainly those with first letter indicators that I thought were insufficient (quite a lot), and those with iffy definitions – the air quality being my least favourite, but also question marks by 4, 22 & 30.
    I’m always caught out by the device in 9a.
    Thanks, Clueso and Prolixic

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – it cleared up the couple of parsing issues I hadn’t managed to unravel, namely 6a & 2d.
    Yet again, you have gone to a considerable amount of trouble to explain the whys and wherefores of your comments – I think we all learn a lot from that, not just the Rookie setters concerned.

  13. Thanks to Prolixic for sorting stuff out.
    Having read all the hints I now know that I would never have got any further than I did if I’d kept going for ever – this one was way beyond me – my problem and not anyone else’s.
    I hope that Clueso isn’t feeling discouraged – I am full of admiration for anyone who can set a crossword and it would be a shame if he or she was put off doing another one so thanks to him or her.

  14. Hi Clueso. Sorry to be so late to your party. I did the puzzle when it first came out and enjoyed it greatly. Folk round yesterday and I binned all the completed puzzles that were lying around – take us as you find us followed by frantic tidy up etc – I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

    I do recall at least one tick and a mental note to say that I could have ticked many others but wasn’t actively ticking.

    I never came to a standstill but you made me work right to the end.

    No issues as I recall.

    Many thanks for the fun.

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