Rookie Corner – 165 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 165

A Puzzle by Italicus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have a second puzzle from Italicus.  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.

Italicus continues to show his experience as a setter in various Italian publications with another commendable crossword.  The only comments are really only to apply polish to an excellent set of clues.


1 Some elements on the Left added to contentious climate (8)
METALLIC – The abbreviation for left is included in (added to) an anagram (contentious) of CLIMATE.  I am not keen on the structure definition on wordplay.  Perhaps “Some elements from the left…” would have improved the cryptic reading.

5 Prime Minister’s ignoring a little man like me! (6)
MYSELF – The surname of the current Prime Minister (preserving the S from the ’s) has the A removed (ignoring) and a word for a mythical little man is added to the end.

9 LA radio broadcast features original Ramones tracks (8)
RAILROAD – An anagram (broadcast) of LA RADIO includes the first letter (original) of Ramones.  Perhaps Ramones’ original tracks would have been a more precise first letter indicator.

10 Put right about couple (6)
REPAIR – A two letter word meaning about followed by another word for a couple.

12 Top ten finish for a gorilla, say (4)
APEX – The Roman numeral for ten goes after (finish for) the type of animal of which a gorilla is an example.

13 Horse prancing round dump in London? (10)
SHOREDITCH – An anagram (prancing around) of HORSE followed by a word meaning to dump something.   A minor point, but “in part of London” would be better.

15 One can’t catch rams without a pointer (13)
BUTTERFINGERS – A cryptic description of rams around (without) part of the body used to point.  Without as a containment indicator meaning outside or around is a common device but without in the sense of outside does not mean around.

19 Don has to trust bizarre description of teapot (5,3,5)
SHORT AND STOUT – An anagram (bizarre) of DON HAS TO TRUST.

23 Type of pollution found in River Test? (10)
INDUSTRIAL – The name of an Asian river followed by another word for a test or examination.

25 Ruler of national sporting body (4)
OFFA – The OF from the clue followed by the abbreviation for Football Association (national sporting body).

28 Dropped off journalist on the trail of a vampire? (6)
ABATED – The A from the clue followed by the name of the animal of which a vampire is an example all followed by (on the trail of) the abbreviation for editor (journalist).

29 Brief navy in Gulf capital (8)
FLEETING – A five letter word for a navy followed by the IN from the clue and the first letter (capital) of Gulf.

30 Former partner takes fit puff out (6)
EXHALE – A two letter word for a former partner followed by a word meaning fit.

31 Pigs nab heartless devil – a Romeo and a charlatan (8)
SWINDLER – A five letter word for pigs around (nab) the outer letters (heartless) of devil followed by the letter represented by Romeo in the NATO phonetic alphabet.  The first A in the clue is redundant and should have been omitted.  The second could have been omitted but the convention is that you can use the indefinite article as part of the definition.


1 Doomed? Charm or talisman offers a solution (6)
MORTAL – The answer is hidden in (offers a solution) CHARM OR TALISMAN.

2 T-bone steak gives heart to clan (5)
TRIBE – The T from the clue followed by a bone in the chest and the middle letter (gives heart) of steak.

3 Fat queen removed from food store (4)
LARD – Remover the regnal cypher for the Queen from a food store.

4 In Hove with a remarkably chivalrous character (7)
IVANHOE – An anagram (remarkably) of IN HOVE A.

6 Yankee sampling deli produce (5)
YIELD – The letter represented by Yankee in the NATO phonetic alphabet followed by an anagram (sampling) of DELI.

7 Beat up maiden in big top performance (9)
ENACTMENT – A reversal up of a word meaning to beat followed by the abbreviation for maiden inside another word for a big top.

8 Guff about the first shot outdistancing all others (8)
FARTHEST – Another word for wind or flatulence around the “the” from the clue and the first letter of shot.  Some editors will not permit first on its own to indicate the first letter of a word as grammatically, first shot does not mean the first letter of shot.

11 Airmen support golf or tennis player (4)
GRAF – The abbreviation for Royal Air Force (airmen) underneath the letter in the NATO phonetic alphabet represented by golf.  To maintain the cryptic reading, this should be airmen supporting otherwise the wordplay resolves as A support B.

14 A bird having sex (2,2)
AT IT – The A from the clue and a three letter word for a bird.

15 Violent scene in a bold HBO adaptation set outside Troy (9)
BLOODBATH – An anagram (adaptation) of A BOLD HBO around the abbreviation for Troy.  As a noun, some editors would not allow adaptation to be used as an anagram indicator.  It would have to be adaptation of… to be permissible.

16 Well-known Stewart king given overdose (3)
ROD – The abbreviation for King followed by the abbreviation for overdose.

17 Either way you look at it, it’s twelve (4)
NOON – The palindromic word (either way you look at it) for twelve o’clock midday.

18 Teatime teaser requires second guess (8)
ESTIMATE – An anagram (teaser) of TEATIME includes (requires) the abbreviation for second.  Again, a noun, teaser may not be accepted as an anagram indicator.  I am also less than enamoured with requires as a containment indicator.

20 Standard behaviour for a little boy (4)
NORM – Double definition, the second being the diminutive form of Norman.

21 Will be in debt, reportedly, but not too deep (7)
SHALLOW – A homophone of shall owe.

22 Harass the Spanish leaving Belgrade in disarray (6)
BADGER – Remove the Spanish for the from BELGRADE and make an anagram (in disarray) of the letters that remain.

24 Period of enchantment (5)
SPELL – Double definition.

26 Decorative touch makes French sick (5)
FRILL – The abbreviation for French followed by a word meaning sick.  The order of the clue definition makes wordplay seems to be the wrong way around.  It would be wordplay makes definition.

27 Thin blue paint evenly applied (4)
LEAN – The even letters (evenly applied) of BLUE PAINT.

35 comments on “Rookie Corner – 165

  1. Just what we like to find in Rookie Corner. Lots of clever clues, that had us head scratching but not for too long. 7d was our last one to sort out and was our favourite but have to admit a special chuckle when we twigged the wordplay for 14d and especially for 8d. We remember being a bit lukewarm on your last puzzle with a theme that we did not know but an unreserved thumbs up for this one.
    Thanks Italicus.

  2. Thank you Italicus.. A nice gentle start to Monday morning even if I could do without the earworm that I’m stuck with after solving 19a

  3. Really enjoyable with some good laughs – thanks Italicus. I’ll list 5a, 2d and 7d for special mention (I expect that 14d will be Jane’s favourite!).

    1. Yes! I think that one, in its various guises, will forever be referred to as MY clue!

  4. Welcome back, Italicus.

    The promise shown in your debut puzzle was more than replicated in this one, which I found very enjoyable indeed.

    The surfaces were generally excellent and concise, only 12a made me raise an eyebrow as being a little unusual. My printed page is littered with ticks, I especially liked 5a, 28a, 29a, 31a, 15d, 20d, 21d and 27d, but my overall favourite was 23a.

    Just one small quibble from this solver – for the cryptic grammar in 11d to work, the verb needs to be “supporting” rather than “support”.

    Another extremely well-constructed puzzle overall, a good balance of different clue types, humour and inventive wordplay that didn’t try to be convoluted, for which full marks from me. If you can maintain and eventually better this standard, I predict a very bright future. Congratulations and thanks, Italicus. Looking forward to the next one.

  5. Thanks Italicus for another excellent puzzle – very clear and consistent cluing throughout.
    I found it much easier than your last, and as a result, I think I enjoyed it less. What made it easy? Quite a lot of anagrams (9, I think – not necessarily excessive, but on the high side), quite a lot of helpful single letter indicators, and straightforward definitions. I suppose the Twin Peaks theme last time (which I liked) added to the difficulty, and no doubt you were right to avoid something similar.
    Lots to like, including 12a, 27d, 23a
    As an example of where I found the easiness a bit disappointing: 19a has a lovely solution containing words that are crying out for cryptic definitions (eg they’re two drinks, which would be easy to link with the teapot). However neat your anagram, it’s always a more mechanical type of clue.

  6. Well done Italicus, I thought this was a very good puzzle. i really like the way definition and wordplay come together in surface, e.g. Stewart king (though pity it can’t be stuart) – the best example of this is 27d, which is just lovely. I also liked Gazza’s favourites and 14d deserves a special mention, very nice.

    You’ve given me precious little to complain about. I thought 1a might try a bit harder to to define an adjective (e.g. Describing some elements..). I’m not sure that constructions like original Ramones and first shot really work (would need an ‘of’). E.g. for 9a, I might have preferred “… Ramones’ original track”. 18d is a nounal anagram indicator, something not everyone likes. Silvanus is right to suggest “supporting” ( the cryptic grammar wants supports which doesn’t work with the surface, so supporting gets you around that)

    I think this is pretty close to publication quality. The very few niggles are the kind of thing an editor would typically pick up and change for you. Congratulations. I look forward to your next one.

    1. ah, just realised stuart king and stewart king are both ok, was originally stewart – well done, nice, as mentioned.

  7. I think you nailed it with this one, Italicus. I have more clues with ticks beside them than ones without! Moving away from a theme which may or may not be familiar to solvers, has put this puzzle into a different league. Clever, inventive and a joy from start to finish.
    If really pushed, I would nominate 23a for the top slot but there are so many others in hot contention.

    Congratulations – I am so looking forward to your next one, hopefully in a higher slot!

  8. I agree with the previous comments. This was a supremely enjoyable puzzle, Italicus, and I have learnt a new meaning for “guff” – which is not in my BRB!

    My only very small quibble (in addition to that mentioned above for 11d) is that you have needed to include two spurious “a”s in 31a to make the surface smooth.

    My page was littered with ticks but my short favourite was 14d and my long favourite was 23a.

    Well done and thank you for the fun, Italicus.

  9. Hi Italicus.

    Given the professional style of the clues, and the wide range of clue types, solving this felt like taking on a polished daily broadsheet puzzle. It took me quite a while to get going as the top seemed to me the hardest part but I always felt I’d be able to unravel all, or most, of it once I got moving.

    Eventually I was left with all complete except most of the top 4 rows. Then I spotted 1d, from which that corner fell into place. But in a rare quibble I think the answer in 1d, in the sense you intend it, needs the suffix “–ity” to work.

    In the end I had to reveal 5a and 7d to get at the last few answers. 7d is excellent. Unfortunately I spent ages wondering how “gulf” worked in 8d before reading it properly….

    There are a lot of really good clues. I had big ticks against 15a, 19a, 23a, 28a, 16d 21d and 27d which I thought particularly good – I find writing convincing surfaces for this kind of clue quite tough.

    12a Another lovely clue. Being picky personally I think I’d have gone for “finish by” rather than “finish for a”, which I think is slightly more precise.

    18d, I’m not quite convinced by the wordplay but will leave that to Prolixic

    26d To me the wordplay reads the other way round i.e. French sick makes decorative touch – which paints a slightly different picture ….! Not the biggest sin though.

    Maybe one or two of the 4-letter clues are a bit weak – 17d in particular – but that would be my only general niggle. Overall I think it’s an excellent and enjoyable puzzle. Many thanks.

  10. Many thanks to all for our very kind words! Especially pleased to get the 2Kiwis on side! And glad you all got a few laughs out of it.
    As for the niggles, this is exactly why I am working on this site – it’s very easy to justify a clue you have written to yourself, so having several pairs of experienced eyes really helps.
    Hopefully, the review will be as generous as you have all been, and that the clue for 5a will be out of date by the end of the week!

  11. That was very enjoyable and not too hard.
    Lots of likes , particularly 1a, 5a, 15a, 31a, and 13a.
    25a is a new one on me, .
    Thanks Italicus.

  12. Very much enjoyed this, easily up to par. Lots to like with a nice variety of devices. Well done and thank you.

  13. As others have noted, there’s a lot to like here and not a great deal to object to. There were a few quibbles: I wasn’t keen on ‘on’ as a link word in 1a. I thought there were a couple of places (rams in 15a, big top in 7d) where a definition by example wasn’t indicated. I wasn’t sure about ‘sampling’ and ‘teaser’ as anagram indicators or the definition in 5a (does the answer mean ‘like me?’).

    Minor points, but since you’re already writing clues to a high standard, the only thing left to do is iron out the little wrinkles.

    Most clues elicited at least a nod and a smile, and I particularly liked 23a, 3d, 13d, 21d, and my favourite, 27d – a lovely neat clue.

    Thanks for the entertainment, and keep up the good work!

  14. Excellent, Italicus, well done. Not much more to add, my favourites were 23a and 21d. In addition to the ‘some editors…’ comments regarding ‘original Ramones’ and ‘first shot’ (I think only the Guardian of the nationals would accept this), I would add ‘in London’ to indicate a place in London. I think it used to be used quite a lot, but quite a few people dislike it, and it may not be accepted.
    I’m not convinced that the definition in 1a matches the answer, which is an adjective. ‘Like some elements’ would be more accurate. (Oops, sorry, just seen Dutch also said this).
    Minor points, though – very enjoyable (I did think it was going to be overrun with anagrams, but it was just I solved those first!)
    Thank you!

  15. An impressive puzzle – thank you Italicus!

    My small points of possible improvement that I made whilst solving:

    11d ‘or’ ?
    30a ‘takes’
    23a why ‘?’
    6d ‘sampling’ as an anagram indicator ?

    There are so many very professional clues that I’m finding it hard to list my favourites. How about 9, 19, 3, 21 & 27: they all had superb surfaces in clues with excellent wordplay.

    Loved it! Look forward to your next one.



  16. I really enjoyed this. Yes, a few minor points, but they are exactly that – minor – and easily ironed out. I have a very long list of especial likes, too long to include usually, but since you are a Rookie:-

    Going across:
    5a, 15a, 19a, 29a and 31a. 23a too: though it rings a bell, it is also brilliant.

    Going down:
    To start with, 1d, though the way I understood it I’d have preferred the lurker to offer the solution. I could think of a couple of ways to interpret that though and not sure I’m thinking the right way … I like it anyway. Also, 3d, 15d (though we’ve had enough of them in real life – would that they be confined to TV), 18d (I like the teatime teaser: shades of Countdown, though naturally I have a preference for the late night version of the teasers on 8/10 Cats does Countdown), 21d and 27d.

    Yes, 14d is forever Jane’s clue. Big smiles.

    Many thanks Italicus. Thanks also in abundance to Prolixic for the analysis.

    (P.S. Apologies if my writing is a bit wonky. We have guests and it would be rude not to supply moderate* libations.)

  17. Very accomplished Italicus. Grid fill, surfaces, definitions, humour, clue length, solvability (i.e. being pitched right for this slot) and enjoyment all get top marks. Bravo.
    Yes there are a few quibbles with the cryptic grammar – I think I’d agree with pretty much all of the points mentioned above – but the beauty is that these are all things which can be learned readily enough… I’m sure you’ve already read Prolixic’s guide to setting (if not, then it’s highly recommended) and then there’s Alberich’s site which has some brilliant articles on setting, link words etc. Very useful indeed.
    Very much hope you’ll keep going Italicus – I suspect there’ll be no holding you back!

  18. Many thanks, Prolixic – as always your review helps enormously over niggles that commenters have mentioned. I was pleased to see that Italicus earned a ‘commendable’ rating from you!

    Does Italicus set his puzzles for the Italian publications actually in Italian or are they aimed at ex-pats and English learners? Come to that, is Italicus British or Italian? Hopefully, he’ll pop back in and answer that for himself.

    1. Hi Jane,
      the publications I compile for in Italy are English language newspapers aimed at the ex-pat community (primarily the Italian Insider based in Rome). Although I lived in Italy for over 20 years, I’m actually from Brighton and am presently living in Spain. Well I think that´s enough biographical info to be getting on with – I wouldn’t want to ruin the mystique!
      If I may be so bold as to ask you a question, why is 14d your clue? ;)

      1. Hi Italicus,
        Thank you for all the info – it’s quite a relief to know that you are ‘just’ an excellent setter and not an excellent setter compiling puzzles in a foreign language! We have more than one commenter on the BD blog for whom English is not their first language and it’s mortifying when they breeze through a solve that some of us Brits are struggling with!

        To get the full gist of ‘my clue’ you need to know the wording of the original clue that sparked it all off. Sadly, I can’t quite remember it but I know someone who probably will. I’ve emailed to ask her and will get back to you on that.

        1. As predicted, she had the info at her fingertips!

          The clue was – Up to no good, looking up new moon. Answer – TITAN
          My attempt at parsing the reversal worked out as N – A – TIT for the split instead of N – AT – IT and my subsequent questioning on the blog resulted in much mirth which is always referred to whenever either ‘A TIT’ or ‘AT IT’ appears in a crossword. You’d be surprised how many times it does!

          One of our bloggers even came up with a suitable picture on one occasion………..

  19. Many thanks to Prolixic for an extremely generous review.
    I will try to take on board all the advice and suggestions for my next effort and hopefully see it published here in Rookie corner soon! Thanks again to everyone else for their comments and encouragement. It´s been a most satisfying experience.

  20. Prolixic. 15d: In the SOED, the primary definition for without (simply, the opposite of within) is: On the outside or outer surface; externally. Therefore it would be correct to write: The hard shell is without the soft part of the egg. So, it can and does mean “around” or “surrounding” – therefore valid as a containment indicator and used often by DT setters (plus many others) and allowed by editors.

    1. thanks for the clarification, as I was somewhat confused by Prolixic’s explanation of when ‘without’ is acceptable and when not, and I have seen it used in this way on numerous occasions in cryptics

      1. Yes, I’ve explained “without” as a containment indicator at least 3 times on here before, but for some reason the experts don’t seem to like it – but never substantiate why.

        Two other devices which are unpopular, but both perfectly valid and used by the setters often are:

        * Rook = castle.

        * Races in the clue = TT in the answer. We all know that, technically, they are mostly time-trials but the events at the IOM TT Races are officially and universally called “races”, and always have been.

        1. Hi Jose – I’m sure BD himself has a thing about ‘without’ being used as a containment indicator, but I can’t seem to find it on this site :(
          If you think ‘without the city walls’ – it means beyond, not either side of. At least I think that’s what he said!

          I agree with you on races/TT though, and also rook/ castle.

          Another interesting one is ‘house’ to indicate the star signs. Astrologically speaking, this is wrong, as houses, despite there being coincidentally 12 in number, have nothing to do with star signs.

  21. Due to a week or so of general chaos I’m just doing a catch up of all the crosswords that I haven’t been able to do on the right day.
    I loved this – really good fun and not too tricky for my scrambled brain.
    I liked 5 and 19a and 3d (because of the image conjured up!) and 14d and quite a lot of others too.
    Thanks and well done to Italicus for the crossword and thanks to Prolixic.

  22. A lovely holiday diversion. This was as enjoyable as any back pager and took about as long. Lots of smiles along the way. 5ac was the only bung in for which I needed Prolixic’s explanation. What does it say about me when I do not know the name of our current prime minister? I suppose that’s what comes from not watching television or reading newspapers. Well done Italicus and thanks for the puzzle. Ta to Prolixic too.

  23. Nice puzzle Italicus. Sorry to be so late – I printed it up when it first appeared but only just got round to doing it.

    Smooth cluing throughout – no quibbles from me – except maybe 8d – can “guff” really mean that or do we get there in two steps?.

    I ticked 5a, 15a and 19a but got smiles from quite a few others.

    Great stuff. Keep them coming.

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