Rookie Corner – 176 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 176

A Puzzle by Italicus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a new 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.

A very well constructed crossword from Italicus.  The theme was used well with the gateway answer not being too obvious as, with it, the remaining themed clues were easy to solve.  The grid was slightly unfriendly for the solver with 8 clues having less than 50% cross-checking letters.  However, with a themed puzzle, there is slightly more latitude offered to the setter with the design of the grid.  For a vanilla crossword, this would not be a grid that editors would encourage particularly as all eight answers have an unchecked initial letter as well.

There were a handful of comments on the clues where occasionally, the high attention to detail slipped.


7 Police bust on dodgy pub leads to reprimand (7)

UPBRAID – Another word for a police operation or bust follows (on) an anagram (dodgy) of PUB.

8 19’s tip (7)

POINTER – Double definition of a breed of dog and a tip or hint.

10 Sounds like Greek salad without the cheese is free (10)

UNFETTERED – A homophone (sounds like) a phrase that could mean without Feta (Greek salad without cheese).

11 Almost rejecting New York as a title (4)

EARL – Remove (rejecting) the letters NY (New York) from a word meaning almost.

12 Mythical 19’s remarkably secure about British retreat (8)

CERBERUS – An anagram (remarkably) of SECURE around (about) a reversal (retreat) the abbreviation for British.

14 Cut-down jeans were the right solution (6)

ANSWER – The answer is hidden (cut-down) in JEANS WERE.

15 19’s girl getting hot with me! (5,6)

IRISH SETTER – A four letter girl’s name followed by the abbreviation for hot and a word describing a person who creates crosswords (me – as in Italicus in this instance).

19 An ivory walking stick found outside home (6)

CANINE – A four-letter word for a walking stick around (found outside) a two letter word meaning home.

20 Happening to spot 19 in rare coin bearing Galba’s head (8)

OCCURING – A three letter word describing 19 inside (to spot … in) an anagram (rare) of COIN followed by (bearing) the initial letter (head) of Galba.  A small point but bearing means to carrying in its verbal sense and would therefore indicate a containment in an across clue.  More importantly, the correct spelling requires a double R not the single R given in the solution.

22 Stopper left in 19 (4)

PLUG – The abbreviation for left inside a three-letter breed of 19.

23 Fixing a dead bolt onto front of pleasure steamer (10)

PADDLEBOAT – An anagram (fixing) of A DEAD BOLD after the first letter (front of) of pleasure.

25 Soldier taking leave before November, for example (7)

PARAGON – A four-letter abbreviation for a soldier followed a two letter word meaning leave or depart and the letter represented by November in the Nato phonetic alphabet.

26/6 19’s fluid, but it’ll set in water (7,7)

PIT BULL TERRIER – An anagram (fluid) of BUT ITLL inside a brand name of bottled water.  Solvers would not have been helped by the incorrect enumeration of the first word which should be 3,4 not 7.


1 Glib speech defending Article 19 (7)

SPANIEL – A word for patter or glib speech around (defending) the two letter indefinite article.

2 Never rat about commandeering the odd bit of wood (4)

TREE – The odd letters (the odd bit) in NEVER RAT when reversed (about).  Odd bit on its own does not quite work – odd bits would be fine.  Some editors will not allow wordplay of solution as a clue structure.

3 Ale’s temperature maintained by 19, say (6)

BITTER – a five letter derogatory description of 19 around the abbreviation for temperature.

4 Remain true when husband goes on historic hunger strike (4,4)

HOLD FAST – The abbreviation for husband followed by a three-letter word for historic and a four-letter word for hunger-strike.

5 Handling problem with dentures artfully in front of Queen (10)

UNDERSTEER – An anagram (artfully) of DENTURES followed by the two letter abbreviation for the current queen.  In front of as a positional indicator does not really work too well in a down clue.  The definition would suggest an answer ending ING so is perhaps unfairly misleading.

6 See 26 Across

9 A violent exchange with second in duel (5,6)

CROSS SWORDS – The abbreviation for second inside a violent verbal exchange.

13 As off ones 2 as a 19? (7,3)

BARKING MAD – Another phrase meaning as off ones answer to 2d in terms of the answer to 19.

16 Female 19 holds record 19 (8)

SHEEPDOG – A three letter pronoun for a female followed by the breed of animal represented by 19 around (holding) a two letter abbreviation for a vinyl record.

17 Minute animal freaks out postal worker (7)

MAILMAN – The abbreviation for minute followed by an anagram (freaks out) of ANIMAL.

18 Requires guts? Run away! (7)

ENTAILS – An eight letter word for the guts with the abbreviation for run removed (away).

21 19’s old king capturing large island (6)

COLLIE – The name of the nursery rhyme old king includes (capturing) the abbreviations for large and island.

24 Graduate before having child (4)

BABY – A two-letter abbreviation for a graduate followed by a two-letter word meaning before (as in be home ???? midnight.

34 comments on “Rookie Corner – 176

  1. A total stalemate until we decided that we just had to sort out 19a. Once we had done that it all proceeded smoothly for the rest of the solve. Excellent fun and although we did not do a close study of all the ‘grammar’, there was nothing here that caused an eyebrow to even lift slightly. A well put together themed puzzle that we really enjoyed.
    Thanks Italicus.

  2. What a fun theme and generally some very accurate clueing! 10 made me smile and there were a couple of excellent pieces of misdirection in the definitions. I enjoyed 2, 19 and 26/6 amongst a host of great clues.

    Unless I am missing something you may be kicking yourself over one spelling later today: but knowing me I may well be missing something!

    Thank you Italicus, very enjoyable.

    And I can’t resist sharing here that I actually won the Big Dave Prize Puzzle this month :-) That adds to my haul of winning The Listener and The Magpie’s Prize Puzzle all in the same year – unheard of!! Hopefully I’ll be able to use the dictionary and pen prizes from the first two to solve the puzzles in the 3rd!



    PS Italicus, I have some notes I’ve made as I solved but which would spoil if I added them here. Feel free to contact via Big Dave to put us in email contact, if you’d like me to mail them across. But I won’t be offended if you don’t!

    1. Thanks Encota, would be very happy to read your notes. Will get in touch with Dave re. email address

  3. Doing my night owl bit again – couldn’t resist another Italicus puzzle!
    Nice theme here and I think Kath in particular will be delighted.

    Like Encota, I picked up on a spelling query and also wondered about a couple of answers that I thought were perhaps wrongly enumerated. Nevertheless, it was another excellent outing from Italicus – my top three were 10a plus 4&18d.

    Many thanks, Italicus, I shall go off to bed still smiling over 10a.

  4. Nice puzzle Italicus.

    It was good that you made the surfaces that referenced 19 (across) readable on the assumption that the solver didn’t know what 19 was going to turn out to be. I think that’s fine – a lot of good setters have habitually done that. The alternative makes it too easy to discover the answer to the gateway clue in reverse; although in the event I solved 19a quite easily after a bit of thought.

    I ticked 10a (nice pun), 14a (well-hidden), 15a, 25a, 26a/6d, 5d, and 18d – and overall the cluing was very fluent.

    I think there’s a typo in 13d – missing apostrophe.

    No quibbles.

  5. Thanks Italicus for a highly enjoyable puzzle, which I found quite tough in parts which frankly is always welcome on a Monday.
    This grid has very few intersecting first letters and I think this made for a stiffer challenge.
    Add me to the chorus of approval for 10a…. well done!

  6. Very enjoyable puzzle with a nice theme and pitched at just the right level of difficulty, I thought – thanks Italicus. I didn’t notice the spelling error before reading the comments above because I always have problems spelling that particular word.
    Top clues for me were 14a, 25a, 26/6 and 4d.

  7. Thanks, Italicus.
    Excellent puzzle with nice level of difficulty. My favourites were 1, 18, 14, 25, 26/6, and I thought 19 was also well judged – nice and deadpan, good surface, not a write-in, but not too hard. I got 19 after solving 3d, and realising what the definition was.
    No quibbles. The only clue where I thought you’d missed a trick was 23a, where you rather give it away with ‘pleasure’, when something like ‘pressure’ would have taken us away from the solution.

    1. I did think about using pressure for misdirection (it would also have removed the need for ‘front of’ ), but as a surface read, I can’t really imagine someone fitting a bolt on a pressure cooker!

      1. You’ve obviously not met my husband – the blasted pressure cooker absolutely terrifies me – who knows what he’s fitted to it by the sounds it makes. :sad:

  8. I thought this was absolutely splendid. Lots of fun and humor. I smiled the whole way through. I did solve 19 early on which certainly helped. I didn’t notice the spelling error either and had to look very closely to find it. I liked 10A, 25A, 26/6, 13D and 18D in particular. 5D surface gets a hat tip for the visual image it conjured up. Terrific job, Italicus.

  9. I didn’t find this an easy solve, especially the right-hand side, even when realising the theme, but some of the clueing was of the highest quality and it was immensely enjoyable, with excellent surfaces. Sadly it wasn’t immune from quite a few niggles which, for me, took the edge off an otherwise brilliant puzzle:

    20a – I couldn’t believe this slipped through the net!
    26a – The enumeration should be (3,4) according to the BRB.
    2d – I’m not convinced “odd bit” (singular) can mean all the alternate letters.
    13d – Apostrophe missing, as has already been mentioned.
    17d – As RD might say, an unindicated Americanism!

    The clues I really liked were 7a, 10a (my favourite), 25a, 1d, 4d, 5d and 18d.

    I firmly believe you have the potential to go right to the top, Italicus, please don’t let me down! Many thanks. Congratulations also to Encota, very well done.

  10. I thought this was excellent, Italicus. Shame about the missing apostrophe and the spelling mistake. Those apart, this was a joy from start to finish, although, as others have mentioned, it took a while for me to get on wavelength to get started.

    Assuming I’ve got the right answer, I can’t parse 26a/6d.

    In 20a, although I understand why you were forced to choose him, I did wonder if Galba was emperor for long enough to have any coins minted with his head on them! Unless I’m missing something, isn’t the use of 19 in this clue here a bit of “thesauritis”? In the world of synonyms, A=B and B=C doesn’t mean that A=C.

    There were lots of possible contenders for favourite, but 10a must take the accolade. Brilliant!

    Very well done, Italicus, and many thanks for the fun.

    1. Ah! Having just read Silvanus’ comment, I can see that I did have the wrong answer for 26a/6d. Having been misled by the wrong enumeration, I may have invented a new breed with piebald as the first word!

    2. Funnily enough, I did check and there are coins minted with his head on… though they are rare! I toyed around with Gaius and Germanicus, but settled on Galba for that very reason.

  11. I’m not usually a fan of crosswords where you have to solve one clue to work out what quite a few of the other ones are on about, but this enjoyable crossword had a lot of nice helpful ones to start with, including my favourite 10a

    I don’t think the spelling mistake spoiled things very much, not least because as Gazza says, you do have to think how to spell that particular word anyway.

    Rabbit Dave may like to know that I was on the verge of saying to Mr CS ‘is there such a 19a as a piebald….?’ but looked carefully at the then before speaking!

    Thanks to Italicus and, in advance, to Prolixic

  12. A hugely enjoyable puzzle with some great surface reads. I enjoy a puzzle that makes me smile and this one had me smiling all the way through. Thanks, Italicus – that was great fun. Should 23 and 26 both be two word answers? I was another who was wondering whether there was any such thing as a piebald variety!

  13. Great fun.
    Thanks to Italicus for this well crafted themed crossword.
    Lots of ticks.
    Really looking forward to the next one.

  14. Like everyone else I really enjoyed this one.
    Like CS I’m not very keen on crosswords where one clue has to be solved before it’s possible to get going on the rest of it but the relevant clue wasn’t too tricky.
    I didn’t notice the spelling mistake and scoured the clues several times before realising that it was in an answer – obviously didn’t spot it as I put it in.
    It took me ages to see the lurker in 14a – what a good one.
    It also took far too long for me to get 24d – I couldn’t make ‘before’ = ‘by’. How dim is that?
    I think my 26/6 is right but I can’t see why and although I have an answer for 13d I don’t get that one either.
    Lots of good clues – 14 and 15a and 5 and 24d. Out of loyalty my favourite should be 21d but, just for once, she’ll have to take second place because 10a really made me laugh.
    Thanks and well done to Italicus for the crossword and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic.

  15. Very good with some smiles along the way.
    All I would add to the above is that around the halfway point I was able to fill in several answers without even referring to the clue, although obviously I did cross check the parsing. The theme gave the game away in places. I also wondered if the central two answers, forming cross was a coincidence or not?
    Many thanks for a fun puzzle Italicus

  16. Dear all,
    first I’d like to thank you all for the incredibly kind comments! I’ve been walking around with a big smile on my face all day. Secondly, I’d like to apologise for the decidedly schoolboy errors. All I can say in my defence is that when editing I was so concerned about cryptic ‘grammar’,fair anagram and initial letter indicators, that I forgot to do the basics like check my spelling and punctuation! The old ones/one’s mistake is a personal bugbear of mine (or should that be bugbare? Or even bug bear?).
    As for the numeration, 26 was a genuine mistake on my part, but in 23 and 16, both a two word and a one word spelling seem to be acceptable, and as there were already quite a few two word clues I went for the latter (also, as a solver, I always find two word clues easier to get). Anyway I hope these things didn’t detract too much from the solve.
    Thanks to you all once again, and glad to read I gave you a few smiles along the way!

    1. just realised my mistake! Nothing to do with bearing and baring, but in the actual answer – How embarrassing!

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic and your confirmation that Italicus is doing a grand job!

    I know that you don’t often pop back in when you’ve posted your review but if you should chance to – or if someone else can tell me – what is a vanilla crossword and also – does ‘ones’ as used in 13d require an apostrophe or not? I noticed that you didn’t use one in your write-up of the clue but it looks so strange without one!

    Thanks again, Italicus, another most enjoyable crossword.

    1. Vanilla to me means something that’s a bit bland and unchallenging, so I think Prolixic is saying that this particular grid with all the unchecked initial letters would not be user-friendly for such a puzzle. He’s not saying that this puzzle is vanilla, though, as far as I can see. For 16D I would say an apostrophe is most definitely required!

    2. Maybe ‘vanilla’ refers to the sweet spot, what I call a Goldilocks puzzle, ie ideal?
      ‘One’s’ means that which one has, so yes, there should be an apostrophe in my book.
      My problem with 13d is that the phrase in question is ‘out of one’s tree’ or ‘off one’s trolley (or rocker)’, ‘off one’s tree’ is mixing metaphors I think. I may be wrong, though.

      1. By “a vanilla crossword” I think that Prolixic means one that has no special features such as a theme.

        1. I’ve not heard vanilla used in that sense before, but I’m sure you are correct.. Is it some kind of reference to ice cream?
          Thanks Gazza.

          1. The BRB says ‘ordinary, usual, plain’ (orig computer slang) probably coming, I should think, from the ordinary ice cream variety

            1. I certainly came to it via IT-speak. Originally a piece of software (or hardware even) without any extra “bells and whistles” was called “plain vanilla” – as in ice cream. Over time the plain got dropped and vanilla came to mean precisely that – not necessarily dull – just devoid of bells and whistles.

              IT jargon is now drifting into everyday speech but it doesn’t always work in the same way.

              The avoidance of “bells and whistles” in a development project reduces the chance of fatal error – ie a “showstopper” – in IT a project-wrecker – even though in musical theatre that would be a high point.

              Actually I thought this puzzle was quite well furnished with bells and whistles – although nothing to scare the horses.

              1. The IT world is responsible for hijacking and changing the meaning of a number of previously well understood terms, including my own professional descriptor of Technical Writer.

    3. Thank you everyone – it’s so good to know that there’s always someone around on the BD site to answer questions.

  18. Thanks to Prolixic for a most generous and helpful review. Just a couple of points where my intention was somewhat different to his interpretation:
    In 2 down I intended the definition for the answer to be ‘bit of wood’ (as in a part of a wood or even a piece of wood) and the instruction to use the odd letters as simply ‘taking the odd’.
    and in 3 down I used 19 with the meaning suggested in clue 19 rather than a derogatory description of its other meaning.
    Many thanks for all the tips and sound advice

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