Rookie Corner – 171 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 171

A Puzzle by Shabbo

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Recently Shabbo wrote to me “You may or may not recall that we met at The George in May.  I was the one who was pestering you about what I needed to do to become a crossword compiler.”.  Well, I did remember, and had posted a picture of Shabbo with his wife in the Gallery. Here is his very first 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.

Welcome to Shabbo with a highly creditable debut crossword which had a nice balance of clues and a good range of difficulty to required to solve it.  There were a few minor issues with the clues of the sort that would be ironed out with test solving.


1 I might get fired if couple have dessert but no starters (3,5)
AIR RIFLE – A four letter word for a couple and a six letter word for a jelly, sponge, custard and cream dessert, each without their initial letters (no starters).  For the cryptic reading to work, the clue would be better if it read couple has dessert…

5 Join beginner in excitement (6)
SPLICE – The abbreviation for learner (beginner) inside a five letter word for excitement.

10 Overturn surprise result (5)
UPSET – Double definition.  Perhaps the two meanings are a little too similar as the surprise result is the one that overturns the expected result.

11 Fixing telephone after 22. is recycled (9)
ANCHORING – An anagram(is recycled) of the answer to 22 across followed by a four letter word meaning telephoned.  As others have commented, you do not need to include the full stop after the number in the clue.

12 Bond selector and intelligent straight man (5,4)
ERNIE WISE – The name of the computer that selects premium bond winners followed by a word meaning intelligent.

13 Composer becomes a sculptor after dealing with personal hygiene (5)
RODIN – Remove the BO from the name of a classical composer.  Dealing with personal hygiene could mean getting rid of BO.

14 Stop current advert for peacemakers? (6)
UNPLUG – Split 2, 4 this could be an advert for the United Nations.

15 The spirit of a German city church (7)
ESSENCE – A five letter name of a German City followed by the abbreviation for Church of England.

18 Pretend to have a change of heart on church revenue (7)
PREBEND – Change the T in pretend to a B (to have a change of heart).  You could increase the difficulty level here by feign having a change of heart.  The construction wordplay on definition does not read particularly will with “on” as the link word between the two parts of the clue.

20 Gateshead newlywed about to cross the river? (6)
BRIDGE – The name of a newly wed woman around (about) the first letter (head) of gate (gate’s head).  Not all editors would accept the construction gateshead.

22 Small number hold endless yearning for a snack (5)
NACHO – A two letter abbreviation for number holds a word meaning yearning with the final letter removed (endless).  Perhaps holding would maintain the cryptic reading of the clue A holding B gives the answer ratter than A hold B for the answer.

24 Redesigned and pre-dated a disaster (9)
READAPTED – An anagram (disaster) of PRE-DATED A

25 In France the world’s all about a number of drinks (9)
LEMONADES – The French for the world, preserving the ’s from the clue around the A from the clue.  About has been used a number of time as a container and contents indicator.  Perhaps more variety in the wordplay indicators would be better.  Whilst the all could be omitted, all about works subject to the comment about the repeated use of about.

26 Publication that is all about perception (5)
IMAGE – The abbreviation for that is goes around the shortened form of magazine (publication).

27 Type 15. (6)
NATURE – Double definition.  Perhaps it is a single definition stated in two different ways where a great degree of separation might be better.

28 Cockney lovers cling to each other in face of south winds (8)
MEANDER – Me and her without the H (Cockney lovers) before (in the face of) the abbreviation for South.


1 Charm left out of a dodgy haircut? (6)
AMULET – The A from the clue and a type of derided haircut (described in Chambers as ‘a hairstyle that is short at the front, long at the back and ridiculous all round’) with one of the Ls removed (left out).  Where there are two more more of the letters in the wordplay to be removed, some may like to indicate that only one of the letters is removed ‘Charm one left out of a dodgy haircut’.

2 Vibrancy of short break on an ecclesiastical building (9)
RESONANCE – A four letter word for a break with the final letter removed (short) followed by the ON from the clue and the abbreviation for Church of England.  CE is the name of the institution not the building in which its worship takes place.

3 Where a boxer who’s down might take a few seconds to recover? (2,3,4,6)
IN THE BLUE CORNER – The name of one of the boxer’s rest places in the boxing ring where he or she is attended to be seconds or helps and where where someone who is sad (who’s down) might be.  I agree that the clue would be sharper if it were “Where box who’s down needs a few seconds to recover.

4 Gathering topless tendency (7)
LEANING – A word for harvesting or gathering with the first letter removed (topless).

6 It’s off-putting when one country goes after publicity on misplaced Croats (15)
PROCRASTINATION – A two letter abbreviation for public relations (publicity) followed by an anagram (misplaced) of CROATS, the letter representing one and another word for a country.

7 I lift assembly with epic poem (5)
ILIAD – The I from the clue followed by a word for the Irish parliament or assembly reversed (lift).

8 Her Majesty is after motor mechanic? (8)
ENGINEER – A six letter word for a motor followed by the abbreviation of current queen.

9 Seem upset about church project (6)
SCHEME – An anagram (upset) of SEEM around the abbreviation for church.  There have been quite a few references to church so perhaps a little more variety in the indicators would be better.

16 Dark horse might be a bad dream (9)
NIGHTMARE – A five letter word meaning dark followed by a four letter for a horse.

17 Unfold drawing that shows no internal walls (4,4)
OPEN PLAN – A four letter word meaning unfold followed by a word for a drawing.

19 Laugh at hidden bits of nude riders (6)
DERIDE – The answer is hidden in (bits of) NUDE RIDERS.  The hidden here could have been omitted as “bits of” on its own would be a sufficient hidden word indicator.

20 Support ship that is joining old club (7)
BRASSIE – A three letter word for supporting underwear followed by the abbreviation for steamship joined by the abbreviation for that is.  As the abbreviation for that is has already been used, a different indicator should ideally be used.

21 Snakes and ladders?  Not initially (6)
ADDERS – Remove the initial letter (not initially) from the ladders in the clue.  

23 Company paid for astronomical event (5)
COMET – The abbreviation for company followed by a word meaning paid or settled.  I am not sure that the answer is an astronomical event, rather its appearance is the event.

22 comments on “Rookie Corner – 171

  1. Hi Shabbo,

    A great first puzzle with some enjoyable ingenuity – well done! I really liked 6d; LOI was 28a where I could see what you were attempting and wasn’t sure to begin with but on reflection really like a lot :-)
    For example, in 1a I love your inventiveness here. The surface is excellent; I think strictly ‘have’ needs to be ‘has’ in the wordplay. You can perhaps get around it with …couple’s having… instead – a great trick I learnt from others on this site when I first started to solve in times when you have an apparent singular-plural mismatch.

    I have a more detailed set of comments I’ve made as I solved, which I am more than happy to share with you by email if you’d like it, to avoid posting any spoilers here. Simply ask Big Dave to put us in touch if you do :-)

    I look forward to the next!


  2. A really good first puzzle – thanks Shabbo. Top clues for me were 14a and 19d. I thought that 3d was an excellent idea – you could make it a little sharper by omitting the first ‘a’ and having ‘need a second’ instead of ‘take a few seconds’.

  3. Hi Shabbo
    Very nice puzzle. I liked the concise, neat cluing.
    1a was an excellent first clue, and put me on your side for the rest. I ticked 1a, 1d, 7d, 14a for the definition, 20a, 25a and 13a for managing the unusual feat of getting the def in the middle, but actually, I thought just about all the clues were good.
    Apart from the repetition of wordplay devices (mainly ‘church’ and ‘about’) the only clue I took issue with was 28a. I think ‘Cockney lovers’ is a bit vague for what you have, and ‘cling to each other in face of’ is too wordy for what it is doing (i.e. not much).
    Thanks and well done

  4. Welcome, Shabbo. a very commendable debut puzzle I felt, with lots to enjoy.

    As Mucky has already mentioned, it pays to keep an eye on repetition of indicators, and “about”/”all about” appeared no less than four times, including successive clues at one point. In addition, “that is” in its abbreviated form, featured twice too. On the whole, the surfaces were pretty good with just a couple of exceptions.

    There were certain instances where good ideas didn’t quite translate into technically sound cryptic clues, but Prolixic will put you right on those. My ticks went to 10a, 14a, 17d and 19d.

    Thanks and congratulations on what I hope will be the first of many puzzles.

  5. Hi Shabbo,

    I started with 1d and thought what a brilliant clue and surface. I ticked almost every clue as being cryptically solid with good surface – that, I would say, is an excellent first puzzle. You also managed to avoid the difficulty trap – the puzzle is gentle with a few head scratchers, perfect. My last one in was also 28a – took me a while to see the lovers (and LEANDER was a red herring). second to last one in was 7d, because assembly was well used in surface. 18a was a new word for me and I had to search for it – there is no other way i would have found it with the central letter unchecked.

    I think 19d would be even funnier if you omitted ‘hidden’ – you don’t need it

    I was a bit confused which way around the definition work in 14a, and i wasn’t sure the answer to 23 was an event, though our observance of it might be. I didn’t think you needed the ‘all’ in 25a. Agree with has in 1a, luckily both in surface (I think couple is singular) and cryptically, and I think number is singular too, so you would have ‘holds’ in the surface of 22a, doesn’t affect the rest of the clue. And no need to put a full stop after cross-referenced clue numbers. And that is all that i can suggest.

    Well done on a class debut – hope to se more

    1. actually 22a let me rephrase that: cryptically, small number is a singular entity so the cryptic reading demands ‘holds’, which is what matters here. In the surface, I can’t remember if using number as a plural (which to me should be numbers) is strictly wrong, since it does seem common practice.

  6. Very well done, Shabbo. This was a lot of fun and an extremely proficient first offering. You have clearly paid a lot of attention to your surfaces with only perhaps 25a a bit iffy.

    I see Mucky has beaten me to the mention of your repeat use of some devices although I was going to defer to Silvanus to see if his repetition radar bleeped at the use of church in 15a & 9d even though the resulting abbreviations were different. However, I don’t think 2d works because CE is an abbreviation for a religious organisation and not an ecclesiastical building. I also thought that the two definitions in 10a were rather too similar. Those are very minor points and overall this was really good.

    My page was littered with ticks with 1a, 13, 3d & 7d earning two ticks each.

    Many thanks, Shabbo. I am looking forward very much to your next puzzle.

  7. Nice puzzle Shabbo – hard to believe it’s your first.

    Minor quibbles.

    The dots in 11a and 27a are not needed. A plain number is all that’s need when there’s only one orientation for the referenced clue- also across or down (or whatever the local abbreviation is) when there are both.

    10a – maybe a bit samebothsidesy.

    18a and 24d – it’s unusual to have so much of the answer showing in clue (except for hidden/embeds) usual a proxy (“sysonym” etc) for the required word is used.

    I particualrly liked 1a – I guessed the strategy required but it still took a while to fall.
    Also 14a and 28a.

    But there were gentle smiles and a nice medium level of difficulty throughout – which is what made for a pleasant solve.

    Thanks for the fun – looking forward to more.

  8. Quite a stunning debut puzzle, Shabbo, is this really your first attempt at compiling?

    You managed to avoid the usual Rookie trap of neglecting to polish the surface reads and pitched the difficulty just right for most of us.
    OK – there are one or two clues for which Prolixic may suggest a slight tweak but I think the same could probably be said for any of the DT back-pagers if one went through them with a fine-toothed comb.

    I had ticks beside 1,10,12,13,15,&18a plus 3&19d but then gave up as the list was getting far too long!
    Well done, Shabbo – definitely not at all ‘shabby’!

  9. A very enjoyable debut – I see others have picked out the things I might have done so I’ll just say thank you to Shabbo and in advance to Prolixic

  10. Very enjoyable, Shabbo , and your debut to boot.
    I liked a lot of the clues , 28a stands out .

  11. Very good debut.
    Only a few quibbles: Quite a few churches for a Monday and not too sure that the ecclesiastical building in 2d can be referred to as such.
    Interesting also to see the definition for 13a in the middle of the clue. Don’t know the convention but I am sure that I have seen it once or twice before.
    Good surface all round.
    Ticked 14a, 7d and 17d.
    Thanks to Shabbo.

  12. Many thanks to you all for your very kind words and for your useful comments. Glad that I was able to raise a few smiles.

  13. It’s a rare wander into Rookie territory for me today. I am pleased that I did. (Thanks for the tip Jane) The grid filled quite easily because the clueing worked. That is all it takes. I liked the nude riders hidden bits and the way to the weapon at 1ac. Ok the edges need sharpening but the big boys above will help there and of course Prolixic is ready with the finest of tooth combs. Every comment of his is worthwhile but pay particular attention to those in italics. An excellent beginning. Thanks Shabbo and in advance to Prolixic

  14. Not much to say that others haven’t said already. Splendid debut and I look forward to a second helping.

    Thanks to Shabbo for the fun and in advance to Prolixic.

  15. Welcome aboard Shabbo, that was anything but shabby. :)

    Great variety of devices – I think I was half way through before I encountered my first anagram, which is a welcome rarity in a beginner’s puzzle. I enjoyed Dutch’s comments above, which echo my own feelings about difficulty level. There’s been a lot talked about this subject in recent weeks on Rookie Corner and I think you pitched this very intelligently to appeal to as many people as possible. You may already have found your own voice, which is quite something.

    For those who love a Toughie, the likes of 12a, 16d, 17d and 21d will have been read and write experiences, but these sort of clues provide everyone with a foothold in the puzzle, so no bad thing unless you’re writing for a specifically toughie-type audience; then there was a whole swathe of well constructed, nicely pitched clues with super and often highly amusing surfaces – terrific, I have many ticks on my sheet. Finally there was a satisfying sprinkling of the innovative and inventive which were my favourites – 1a, 11a, 13a, 25a, 28a and 6d.

    Well done Shabbo. It seems clear you put a lot of effort into this – I look forward to the next.

  16. It’s all been said by now so just popping in briefly to add my applause. Congratulations on a great puzzle.

    Thanks, Shabbo, and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  17. A bit late to the party tonight so I think everything’s been said already – I really enjoyed this and don’t know enough about the finer points to do constructive criticism anyway.
    I liked 1 and 12a and 1 and 17d. I think my favourite was probably 13a because it made me laugh.
    With thanks, congratulations and a big :good: to Shabbo and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic for the review tomorrow.
    I’m sure I’m getting boring but I do always have to ask – where does your ‘name’ came from?

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, I was so pleased to see that you found only minor issues that needed addressing in this one.
    Hopefully Shabbo will feel encouraged to bring us some more of his puzzles.

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