Rookie Corner – 164 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 164

A Puzzle by AKMild

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Another fine puzzle from AKMild this 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.

An excellent crossword from AK Mild with a Nina around the outside the grid.  There were only a few minor comments on the clues itself and a lot of attention had been given to the surface readings.


8 LED on Gameboy’s first format is a peripheral device (6)
DONGLE – An anagram (format) of LED ON G (Gameboy’s first).  If format is being used as an imperative verb, it should ideally go before the letters to be rearranged – perhaps “Format of LED on Gameboy’s first peripheral device”.  As a noun, some editors would not allow it as an anagram indicator.

9 Aim to be lifted from sudden death (3)
END – The answer is hidden (lifted from) SUDDEN DEATH

10 Was an agent, beheaded for being more than one colour (4)
PIED – A word meaning was an agent (or acted covertly) without the first letter.  You have to be careful at the moment with beheaded as an anagram indicators.  A year or so ago, with beheadings taking place, it was an emotive indicator.  As you don’t know when a puzzle will be published, it is better to be safe than to be sorry.

11 Require tenancy agreement to include clear heading where one might put one’s points (10)
NEEDLECASE – A four letter word meaning require followed by a five letter word for a tenancy agreement inside which (to include) the first letter (heading) of clear.

12 Queen since many a year (4)
ERAS – A two letter abbreviation for the Queen followed by a two letter word meaning since.

13 Certain trade union backtracked to provide development area (6)
UTERUS – A reversal (backtracked) of a four letter word meaning certain and an abbreviation for trade union.

16 Walk out with cockney head to get something fruity for tea (4,4)
DATE-LOAF – A word meaning to walk out with (as you would with a girl or boyfriend) and the Cockney word for head.

17 Risks South Africa getting overcome by tough sanctions at first (7)
HAZARDS – The IVR code for South Africa inside (overcome by) a four letter word meaning tough followed by the initial letter (at first) of sanctions.  The use of first as an initially letter indicator occurs a number of times.  Ideally, you should use different wordplay indicators.

18 Not the real thing, and endlessly sub-standard, but could still be used to clean up (7)
SHAMPOO – A four letter word meaning not the real thing followed by a word meaning sub-standard with the final letter word removed (endlessly).

22 Lieutenants, for example, volunteer to be outside in charge at the end of exercises (8)
OFFICERS – A five letter word meaning volunteer outside the abbreviation for in charge followed by the final letter (end of) exercises.

25 Artist is on time – that lady’s sooner (6)
RATHER – The two letter abbreviation for an artist who is a member of the Royal Academy followed by the abbreviation for time and a word meaning that lady’s.

26 Companion leaves spanner for architect (4)
WREN – Remove (leave) the abbreviation for companion from a six letter word for a spanner.

27 Bachelor does not have humble character, so becomes a familial pariah (5,5)
BLACK SHEEP – The single letter abbreviation for bachelor followed by a word meaning does not have and a word meaning a humble character.

30 Short string for Castor or Pollux, maybe (4)
TWIN – Remove the final letter (short) from a word for string.

31 A girl is born among feminine equals (3)
NEE – The answer is hidden in (among) FEMININE EQUALS.

32 Left wing, main site of a biblical parting gesture (3,3)
RED SEA – A colour describing those who are left wing followed by another word for the main or water.


1 Tore apart systematic means of learning (4)
ROTE – An anagram (apart) of TORE.

2 Ancient interjection brought forth by, say, a Democrat (4)
EGAD – The abbreviation for say or for example followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviation for Democrat.

3 TV presenter slid gently into lifeless state (8)
DECEASED – The three letter name of one of a duo of TV presenters followed a word meaning slid gently into.

4 Traipsed randomly after I left explosive devices (7)
PETARDS – An anagram (randomly) of TRAIPSED after removing (left) of I.

5 Most rum is stored right away, blended to include first distillation (6)
ODDEST – An anagram (blended) of STORED after removing (away) the abbreviation for right and then including the first letter of distillation.

6 Stimulant I’m lit about, getting as high as I can go (5,5)
UPPER LIMIT – A five letter word for a drug used as a stimulant followed by an anagram (about) of IM LIT.

7 Big blog host gets into an inverted state (6)
NEVADA – The host of this site (Bid blog) inside the AN from the clue all reversed (inverted).

14/23 Musical number outlining couple’s four o’clock order? (3,3,3)
TEA FOR TWO – definition and a mild cryptic definition.

15 Setting things straight about a lack of high tension in electrical discharge (10)
REALIGNING – A two letter abbreviation for about followed by a word for an electrical discharge during a thunderstorm with the abbreviation for high tension removed (a lack of).

19 Origins of honour and respect after killing in ritual isolation (4-4)
HARA KIRI – The initial letters (origins) of the third to tenth words in the clue with the whole clue providing the definition.

20 Theatre misses out on lyric poem (3)
ODE – The name of a theatre or cinema without (misses out) the ON from the clue.

21 What a shepherd may do to write? (3,1,3)
USE A PEN – A cryptic definition.

23 See 14

24 Declining, being British eccentric (6)
EBBING – An anagram (eccentric) of BEING B (British).

28 Coal scuttles regularly throw dust (4)
HODS – The even letters (regularly) in THROW DUST.

29 They might follow one, especially if they’re private (4)
EYES – The word that followed private (as in private detectives who might follow you).

28 comments on “Rookie Corner – 164

  1. This one presented us with the huge problem of which clue to choose as favourite from so many candidates. The development area for 13a produced probably the biggest penny drop moment so maybe we will go with that one. Excellent fun from start to finish.
    Thanks AKMild.

  2. ….. and a nice NINA which informed me that I had put in the wrong first word at 6d.
    My favourite was 21d.
    Many thanks AKMild

  3. Like the 2Ks and Gazza, I found this very enjoyable and most of the surfaces read well, although it did seem that a few, like 11a, 18a and 22a, were overly verbose, but that’s something that can be rectified with practice.

    I also ticked 13a (perhaps a question mark at the end?), as well as 26a, 27a, 3d, 4d and 29d.

    Unfortunately my repetition radar picked up “first” used three times as an initial letter indicator (8a, 17a and 5d), and “leaves/left” used as a deletion device in both 26a and 4d. I also used “beheaded” in one of my early puzzles, but Prolixic recommended its avoidance and I suspect he will make the same point in your case.

    Overall this was a very good puzzle, congratulations and thanks AKMild.

  4. Extremely enjoyable – another of our Rookies who is coming along in leaps and bounds. It never occurred to me to look for a Nina until Gordon pointed it out – very clever to arrive at that one without the need to resort to any obscure words in the grid.

    As Silvanus mentioned, there were a few somewhat verbose clues, but overall I thought the surface reads were good. 15d looked extremely scary at first sight and anything that sniffs of IT, 8a in this instance, always unnerves me. However, both were quite doable once common sense prevailed.
    I found it to be a relatively straightforward solve although I did struggle to get ‘chamois’ out of my head at 18a and spent a little while thinking of the wrong sort of spanner for 26a.

    Very hard to pick a favourite – 13&17a are both well in contention for the honour – but the huge giggle of the day came from 21d.

    Many thanks, AKMild – you did us proud.

  5. I also had the wrong first word for 6d, probably the same one as Gordon as it fitted very neatly. A very accomplished puzzle which avoided obscurities despite the extensive Nina. I liked “development area”, “humble character”, “parting gesture” particularly. Well done AKMild

  6. An enjoyable puzzle thank you AKMild – with a Nina that even I saw – mind you I always feel this particular grid does cry out for a Nina if one can be managed.

    My last one in was the ‘development area’ and my favourite was 32a – although 16a is making me want to check the cupboards to see if I’ve got the ingredients!

    Thanks in advance to Prolixic too

  7. Well done AKMild!This was really fun to solve. Like Jane, I tried to work with chamois for 18A, and I’ve never heard of the 8A thingy but I did get it sorted out in decent time. Of course, I didn’t spot the nina until I read the comments above. Extra credit points for that. Biggest laugh for me was 13A but I also especially liked 2D for the mental image it conjured up.

    1. Yes – I forgot to give a mention to 2d – glorious expression. I reckon there’s also a good clue lurking behind ‘gadzooks’ – another of my favourites.

  8. I think it’s all been said already but that doesn’t usually stop me from blathering on for a while so here goes.
    A really good crossword that I enjoyed a lot – another great example of how a puzzle doesn’t have to have us all tearing our hair out to be good fun.
    Like Jane 8a gave me IT blindness and 15d gave me physics blindness – well, I think it sounds a bit like physics but managed both of those after a few deep breaths.
    Very few anagrams.
    Needless to say I missed the Nina – nothing new there – still can’t see it which makes me think I may have got something wrong.
    I liked 17 and 27a and 3 and 7d. My favourite, and almost last answer, was 13a.
    Thank you and well done to AKMild for a good crossword to do on a damp day in Oxford and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic.

  9. Superb, AKMild – that has to go down as a strong candidate for the best peripheral Nina ever, mirroring the peripheral squares from the game which inspired it as it did.
    Wise choice to begin it in a corner which then allowed you to start words with a U rather than have them finish with a U. The words which still had to finish with O, A or I were all perfectly accessible and the whole grid fill beautifully executed.

    The clues themselves were all highly accomplished and good fun too. Nothing to keep a reasonably experienced solver occupied for very long, but given how polished everything is, I’m sure that was deliberate to enable as many as possible to enjoy it.
    Many fine clues, but top of my list is the artfully realised 19d – very nice.

    And coming back to that peripheral Nina – can anyone think of one better?

    1. What do you mean can anyone think of one better – I haven’t even found the blasted thing yet!
      I’ll try again – so sorry to be such a failure – :sad: and :roll:
      Back later.

  10. Thanks everyone who has commented so far. Your comments and suggestions are very welcome. I have tried to use feedback from my previous three Rookie puzzles to improve, and this time I was particularly working on surface readings, so apologies if the verbosity of a few clues was not to your liking. I am a fan of the Private Eye crosswords by Cyclops, the clues to which can sometimes be quite wordy but which are usually quasi-humorous in their surfaces, which I admire.

    Looks like I need to work on repetitions and perhaps allow a few more anagrams in the next one.

    The Nina was originally thought out for a themed puzzle, but I found that once it was in there were few theme-relevant words beginning or ending with the Nina letters. But for the Nina, the first word in the answer to 6d could be different from the one I intended, as some of you have found.

  11. Great fun. Thanks.
    Ticked the same as Gazza plus 31a as I liked the feminine indication.
    Look forward to the next one.

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I sense that we have another Rookie who will be flying to the next level before too long!

  13. Quite a bit to be admired. However I would argue that the puzzle needs a preamble to alert solvers to resolve the discrepancy at 6 down.

    Speed limit works as well in the space. However NINA’s are largely in-jokes for the cognoscenti. Most crossword solvers don’t know what they are, and most wouldn’t dream of looking for anything. I often take the Monday puzzles for some of my bridge club grannies and I reckon most would have put the ‘wrong’ answer in the grid.

    Again with my slightly grumpy hat on, am I the only one who is getting fed up with constant drug references in puzzles? I’d like a bit more creativity for indicating certain letters.

    Those said, there were lots of things to make me smile and some good constructs.

    Maybe a preamble telling solvers to ‘look around to resolve a down discrepancy’ would help.

    1. I’m a granny…of teenagers no less…and speed limit never occurred to me. I think it’s a guy thing.

    2. Never occurred to me to put ‘speed’ and that was before I’d even noticed the Nina

      1. Me neither (and I’m a bloke).

        Such instances when a cryptic clue fits definition, wordplay and also crossers in two different ways are as rare as hen’s teeth, and I don’t think setters look out for them any more than solvers do.

        Although the grid did rather scream Nina, I wonder if our setter considered adding a title for the puzzle, to further point it out?

        1. Just occurred to me that the concluding words of 1 across are ‘peripheral device’ – so maybe you did signal the Nina after all!

  14. Credit to AKMild for the subtlety of 21d; not only is it a cryptic definition, but it is also a homophonic indicator of where the female sheep are located. Respect.
    Many thanks to Prolixic for the review.

    1. Completely unintentional, Gordon, so I can’t really take any credit. Well spotted, though!

  15. Thanks to Prolixic for the review and for the suggestions. Noted about ‘beheaded’ – the point is unfortunately well illustrated by another of my clues which refers to explosive devices, which of course I wouldn’t have used had the puzzle been set following the horrible events of last week.

    Thanks to everyone who has commented, I am much encouraged.

  16. Super puzzle which I enjoyed yesterday when away from blogland. It’s all been said now but still want to add my thanks and congratulations. While I’m here I may as well add myself to the tally of those who didn’t think of speed limit for 6d.

    Thanks to AKMild – do come again soon – and to Prolixic for the invaluable analysis.

    P.S. If it’s a new phenomenon to have many drug references, it’s not that new, certainly not in the Telegraph. When I introduced cryptics to Mr K he was surprised and amused by the amount of drug terminology DT readers were expected to be familiar with.

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