Rookie Corner – 160 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 160

A Puzzle by Italicus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Italicus is a new setter and this is his first published puzzle in the UK, although he has had some puzzles published in Italy. 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.

A singularly impressive debut from Italicus.  The construction of the clues and the surface readings had been given a lot of care with only one or two minor comments on them.  The overall standard of cluing was high.  I agree with those who thought that the theme was a little too specialist.  Given the length of time since the series was broadcast, it makes it difficult to solve, even for those who who watched the original broadcasts.  Had it been produced at the time of the series or shortly after, it would have been fairer.


1 24a’s baddie gets left in a sticky spot (4)
BLOB – The abbreviation for left inside the name of the demonic entity that killed Laura Palmer in the series that forms the theme.

4 Has the power to lead wayward supporter to the light (10)
CANDELABRA – A three letter word meaning has the power to followed by an anagram (wayward) of LEAD and an item of clothing that supplies support.

9/13 Tough hero unready for 24a’s teenage temptress (6,5)
AUDREY HORNE – An anagram (tough) of HERO.UNREADY.  I think that after 20 years since the series, this requires too much knowledge of the solver.  It also includes one of my pet peeves, anagrams used to clue obscure answers.  Although perfectly valid as a form of cluing, the fairness is questionable as the solver can have too many possible solutions.  The first qualifying crossword for the Times Crossword championship had the name of a relatively obscure Russian poet clued as an anagram with rather unhelpful cross-checkers.  My own feeling is that this type of clue ls a little below the belt.  If you know the Russian Poet, solving the crossword is more a test of general knowledge.  If you don’t getting the letters in the right order is sometimes a matter of luck.  Neither path is an ideal way of testing crossword solving prowess.  I am not wholly convinced that tough is a good anagram indicator although Chambers gives it as an informal adverb word violently.

10 Sinister influence of posh girl on football manager, one concludes (8)
SVENGALI – The name of one of the England football managers followed by a posh three letter word for girl and the letter representing one.

11 Better off child, say, in poor part of city (2,3,4)
TO THE GOOD – A three letter word for a small child followed by the abbreviation for say inside an informal Americanism for the poor part of a city.

13 See 9

16 Retired clergyman gets brown outside the pub (6)
TAVERN – A reversal of the three letter abbreviation for reverend with a three letter word meaning to get brown from sunbathing around it.

17 Attempt to pinch an undergarment is seen as perversion (8)
TRAVESTY – A phrase 1,4 for an item of underwear inside a word meaning a shot or attempt at something.

18 Possible accessory to shooting keeps mum! (8)
SILENCER – The accessory put at the end of the barrel of a gun to muffle the sound of the shot.

19 Disposal of uranium added to 7’s misgivings (6)
BURIAL – An anagram (misgivings) of the abbreviation for Uranium and the answer to 7d.  Although unusual, misgivings in the sense of given erroneously may be supportable.

21 Regularly delve into an Argentinean’s biography (5)
EVITA – The even letters (regularly) of the third to fifth words of the clue (ignoring the spaces).  As the answer is the name of a person, I think that to give the definition of Argentinean’s biography is misleading.

24 Dance record makes a comeback following triumph on prime time show (4,5)
TWIN PEAKS – Following the first letter (prime) of time, add a word meaning a triumph or victory and a reversal of a type of dance music and the abbreviation for a record.

25 Put up with the popular press’s line (8)
INCREASE – A word meaning popular or trendy followed by a word meaning to press a line into a clothes.  Although the press’s could be omitted, it is technically a valid part of the wordplay and adds to the surface reading.

26 Invest one million in corporation selling offices (6)
SIMONY – The letter representing one and the abbreviation for million inside the name of a Japanese electronics corporation.

27 Added to occult legend surrounding the Nag’s Head (10)
LENGTHENED – An anagram (occult) of LEGEND around the “the” from the clue and the first letter (head) of Nag.

28 With heartless nonchalance, journalist portrays poverty (4)
NEED – The outer letters (heartless) of nonchalance followed by the abbreviation for editor (journalist).


2 Lion devouring British mother provokes walleyed reaction (7)
LEUKOMA – The three letter Latin word for lion includes (devouring) the abbreviation for United Kingdom (Britain – pedants please write to the setter) followed by a two letter word for mother.

3 A problem from the start with delivery? Swap sides! (5,6)
BIRTH DEFECT – A word meaning a delivery followed by a word meaning to swap sides (as in moving from one political party to another).

4 Freezing ones vitals in particularly scenic orgy (10)
CRYOGENICS – An anagram (particularly) of  SCENIC ORGY.

5/6 Director enthusiastically welcomed by CND upon return home (5,5)
DAVID LYNCH – Reverse the letters of CND (upon return) and include (welcomed) a six letter word meaning enthusiastically and the first letter of home.  I don’t think that H on its own is an abbreviation for home and there is no initial letter indicator.

7 Politician´s right to support bailout (5)
BLAIR – The abbreviation for right goes underneath an anagram (out) of BAIL.  Not all editors would accept the need to split bailout into a word and a wordplay indicator without further indication.

8 A soldier scales Luxembourg Cathedral with catlike ease (7)
AGILELY – The a from the clue followed by the two letter abbreviation for a US soldier goes on top of (scales) the abbreviation for Luxembourg and the name of a diocese or Cathedral in the East of England.

12 Pull faster to ward off going round the bend (7)
OUTDRAW – An anagram (off) of TO WARD around a type of bend used in plumbing.

14 24a character – a lone gunslinger (3-5,3)
ONE-ARMED MAN – Split (1, 5, 3) this could be a single person with a gun.

15 Burnt bodices and ran wild (10)
CARBONISED – An anagram (wild) of BODICES RAN.

18/23 CIA plane gets reassigned to 24a investigator (7,5)
SPECIAL AGENT – An anagram (reassigned) of CIA PLANE GETS.

20 Critically query article on modern times (7)
ASKANCE – A three letter word for query followed by a two letter indefinite article and the abbreviation for Common Era (moderns times).

22 Where to store film of a lost civilisation? (5)
INCAN – Split 2,3, this might be where a celluloid film is stored.

23 See 18

24 Housing original sculpture in gallery makes sense (5)
TASTE – The first letter (original) of sculpture inside the name of a London modern art gallery.

26 comments on “Rookie Corner – 160

  1. A big welcome and many thanks to Italicus. That was a puzzle filled with brilliant clues which will stretch all but the very best of us, I suspect.
    Personally, although I struggled with quite a few, I loved your confident setting style and was thoroughly entertained.
    The themed clues were my undoing, as I couldn’t be sure of most without internet help. One or two of the anagram indicators were similarly outside my normal ambit, but were gettable once I got on your wavelength.
    For me the standout clues were 4a, 11a and 5/6d which would grace any puzzle.
    Congratulations on a very impressive debut indeed!

  2. Welcome Italicus.

    As debuts go, this was up there with the best and I do hope this will be the first of many from you. Certainly there were several unconventional anagram indicators and the odd non-Ximenean construction, but the surfaces were excellent and I think you show tremendous promise.

    My favourite clues were 4a, 10a (two ticks), 21a, 26a, 28a, 3d, 8d, 15d and the 18d/23d combo.

    I remain unconvinced about the narrowness of the theme and its fairness to anyone unfamiliar with it. Although I enjoyed it at the time, looking back now it does seem like self-indulgent claptrap and it never lived up to its hype I felt. The wonder of hindsight!

    Many thanks and congratulations, Italicus.

  3. An excellent debut indeed.

    I never watched 24a but found that with a few checking letters, I didn’t need to Investigoogle to find the themed solutions as the clues were very helpful.

    Nice inclusion of a couple of ‘old friends’ – I’m not entirely sure ‘press’s’ is needed in 25a and I’m not entirely sure how I reached the solution to 20d. My favourite has to be 26a.

    Thank you for the crossword and in advance to Prolixic for the review.

  4. Impressive! I’ve never seen the show either but I have heard of it so with the first two checkers in place for 24A I was able to complete both the name and the director. Parsing came after. Like CS, I found that I didn’t need any further knowledge of the show itself to fill in the other references since the clues were so clear. I missed out on 24A. I did reveal letters to put me out of my misery and it’s a new word for me. Perhaps corporation was a bit too vague. I have a couple of answers I can’t fully parse, including 20D, but lots of ticks including 4A, 11A, 19A (made me smile), and 24A (clever!). Extremely well done. Please come back soon!

  5. This was an amazingly good offering for a debut puzzle, Italicus. It was nicely challenging and very enjoyable, with generally nice smooth surfaces. Like CS I have never watched 24a, but, unlike CS, I needed Google’s help with those clues. It is as Silvanus mentions a very specialised theme.

    Having just solved today’s back-pager, 17a provided a déjà vu moment. Some comments/questions:

    4a I think this is a great clue but it does raise the debate again if the answer can be used in the singular. In terms of common usage the answer is probably yes.
    9/13a Why is “tough” an anagram indicator?
    11a The word presumably meaning the “poor part of the city” is not in my BRB. I assume it is non-UK slang?
    17a Great anagram indicator!
    18a I can’t quite make up my mind if the definition “keeps mum” leads precisely to the answer. Perhaps a ? to replace the ! would solve this.
    26a My BRB says the meaning of the answer is the act of selling not the selling offices.
    2d My BRB and I both think that “wall-eyed” should be hyphenated.
    4d Why is “particularly” an anagram indicator?

    10a was my favourite but many others came into consideration, notably 4a, 21a, 28a, 5/6d, 15d & 18/23d.

    Well done, Italicus and many thanks for the entertainment.

  6. We solved this one at our usual time but chose not to put a comment up at that time as we realised we were not part of the target audience for the theme. We had heard of the 24a show but did not know anything about it at all. Our experience was then dominated by having to search through lots of internet pages for obscure pieces of information. This rather detracted from the appreciation and enjoyment of so many well put together clues. In the end we did manage to get it all sorted and parsed though.
    Thanks Italicus.

  7. This was very impressive and really well judged – everything needed a bit of thought, and nothing where a bit of thought wasn’t enough.
    I like the way you construct clues – the surfaces were excellent, and there was a consistent quality and style throughout that makes me think, even if you haven’t published any puzzles before, you must have written a lot.
    Like others, a few anagram indicators were surprising, and a few link words, but nothing that interfered with the solve.
    To pick a few out that I particularly liked: 11a, 15d, 4a (except that ‘to the’ at the end is needed for the surface but not the solution)
    On the theme:
    I think it’s a great subject for a puzzle theme, and it doesn’t dominate the puzzle, so any lack of familiarity is mitigated, and you have plenty of crossers and clear clues for the ones where knowledge is necessary (except for 1a, where I think knowledge or guessing is required).
    There seem to be three main ways themes are presented in puzzles:
    1. As you have here, with explicit reference, requiring general knowledge for some solutions
    2. With the theme in the solutions, but not in the clues
    3. With the theme in the clues but not in the solutions,
    or any combination
    I think approach 1 is the most risky, relative to enjoyment of the puzzle, as it’ll either put people off who aren’t familiar, or prevent them solving it at all if they’re not doing it online. With 2, those familiar get the pleasure of recognition, and the solve is not affected for everyone else. Here, for example, you might have had D*** and C***** as solutions without reference to 24a, and even 24a might have been split and clued separately.
    I was going to write this stuff last week, because I thought it applied to Deuce’s Dickens puzzle too – quite a few solutions that needed more than superficial knowledge of Dickens’ novels. Anyway, it’s meant generally, and not to detract from your excellent puzzle.
    Thanks, and congratulations

    1. Hi Mucky. Nice topic for discussion. I wonder at what point a themed puzzle like item 2. would be described as having a ‘ghost’ theme?

      1. I understand ghost theme to mean one which is only visible after you’ve solved a certain amount, or all, of the puzzle, and, if you’re me, often not even then until someone points it out.
        I suppose if you go down that route you have to ensure that there’s enough thematic material in the solutions to make it noticeable and worthwhile. In a 30 light puzzle, at least 10, I suppose? If you only have a few themed solutions – 6 here, I think – perhaps you need the explicit reference. Some things you just can’t get in without spelling it out, such as the temptress here. She first appeared when I was 16, and was ‘quite popular’ at school. Nice to see her again.

        1. I think I’d agree with that. My first puzzle on Rookie Corner had a ghost theme of the England cricket team, but to make it properly ‘ghost’ rather than ordinarily themed I had to split Buttler and Ballance over adjacent lights. It’s that element of hiding the theme that matters, I think.
          Then there’s Phi, who has such a reputation for ghost themes that it’s worth looking for them although there may only be four or five in the grid – book titles perhaps – and their author, say.

  8. I was completely torn when it came to rating the enjoyment of this one. Like 2Ks, I knew nothing about 24a beyond its name and spent ages trawling through the internet to find answers and there were a couple of obscurities in 26a&2d that also needed checking. Don’t think I’m ever going to get used to the PC versions of BC&AD!

    Having said that, I thought the surface reads were very good – particularly for a debut puzzle – and I have ticks by quite a few clues notably 4,25&27a plus 7&22d. As RD said, what a coincidence that 17a appeared in both of today’s puzzles.

    Thank you, Italicus – could we possibly have the next one without such a narrow theme!

      1. Apparently it’s “more appropriate for interfaith dialogue” to use BCE and CE. Maybe I should refrain from adding my own comment……….

  9. Enjoyed it from start to finish.
    One of my all time favourite show but couldn’t remember the characters. Must be 20 years ago now.
    Having no access to internet as my windows phone gave up on me last week, I had to come home to check if the answers for 9/13a and 1a were correct from the parsing.
    Loved 4a, 10a, 18a, 8d and fave is 21a.
    Thanks Italicus. Really had a great time.

  10. Thanks for a great puzzle Italicus. Lots to enjoy here and I did finally get a full grid although not everything parsed. 17a was my favourite.

  11. Many thanks to everyone for your incredibly kind and positive responses to this crossword. And thank you for taking the time, not only to solve it (with apologies to the non-24a fans!), but also for sharing your thoughts on it. It was great to get such direct and inciteful feedback. I will try to reply to those of you who had specific queries, but would like to wait to see the review by Prolix. Thanks once again for your warm welcome

      1. Thanks Big Dave, and of course a massive thank you to Prolixic for his extremely generous review and his fair and constructive criticism of the clues. It felt a bit like getting a very good mark at school! I must also apologise for misspelling his name in my last post, Sorry!

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I’m sure that Italicus will be very pleased by your comments.
    The anagram indicator that fooled me the most was ‘occult’ – must remember that one for the future.
    The clue that caused the most head-scratching was the 18/23 combo. Having spent so long trawling through internet pages to find the characters from 24a, I was convinced that I needed to find the name of a particular investigator – despite having realised I was dealing with an anagram. Rather a case of ‘can’t see the wood for trees’!

    Thanks again to Italicus – hope to see you again ‘ere long.

  13. Thanks, Italicus. I particularly liked the witty surfaces of 17a and 15d. 18a without “keeps mum” would have been enough. I think clues that give a simple definition and rely entirely on misdirection are some of the hardest to devise. One of my favourite compilers, Rufus in The Guardian, is fond of them.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Bryan, I wondered if 18a was meant to be a DD with “keeps mum” as the second definition, although, as I commented above, that doesn’t quite fit and would perhaps benefit from a ? at the end of the clue..

  14. An interesting theme considering a new series starts on Sky in just under 3 weeks time.
    A slight pity though that room could not be found in the puzzle for Laura Palmer.

    1. Shame indeed about Laura Palmer – she’s a spoonerism waiting to happen! Anyway, glad to know that someone else out there has heard that it’s coming back

  15. Great puzzle Italicus. I knew nothing of the theme but guessed my way past the main themed answers, with the help of the wordplay of course. I electronically researched (cheat? moi!) 9a/13a to confirm what I’d put in (it seemed an unlikely name) but was happy to find that I’d guessed right.

    Obviously I would have preferred a theme of which I knew maybe just a little (always a problem with themed puzzles) but otherwise I had absolutely no quibbles. You clearly have a good grasp of what makes a good clue – and there were plenty of smiles going along.

    Many thanks for the fun – hope to see more.

  16. My apologies for this very late comment.

    I totally agree that this was a very impressive debut. It was a very enjoyable puzzle. The clues I liked most were 4a, 10a and 18a.

    I must confess, however, that having established the answer to 24a from the wordplay, I looked it up on Google. This helped enormously, especially with 9/13a and it was most interesting to follow your clueing, Italicus.

    Congratulations to Italicus and thank you for the entertainment. Like others, I hope we see more from you soon. Very appreciative thanks to Prolixic for the excellent critique.

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