Rookie Corner – 181 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 181

A Puzzle by Alan

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

I met Alan at an S&B meeting in Nottingham, and solved one of his puzzles on the train home. This puzzle is available on fifteensquared, along with a couple of others, all of which were originally handed out to attendees at S&B meetings in Nottingham and Macclesfield.  Today we have a new puzzle as his debut in Rookie Corner.  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 the latest recruit to the Rookie Corner.  Judging by this first crossword, I suspect his tenure here will be a short one given the standard of this crossword.  Perhaps the main thing to concentrate on is the surface reading of the clues so that they read a little more naturally.


1 See 9

5 Don’t lag, avoid grounding (4,2)
KEEP UP – Double definition, the second in relation to the buoyancy of a boat.

9/1 Theresa May and Dr No are confused with my cozy mystery series (8,3,5)
ROSEMARY AND THYME – An anagram (confused) of THERESA MAY DR NO MY.  The use of the names of people real and fictional gave an added bonus to the crossword.  It did mean that the longer clues had to rely exclusively on anagrams.  Cozy mystery is an American term for the type of detective series, the British equivalent would be cosy mystery.

10 See 16 Down

12 First mate at Trump-less contract meeting (5)
EVENT – The name of Adam’s wife (first mate) followed by the abbreviation for No Trumps in bridge (Trump-less).

13 Co-driver, a reptile, with service cut for everyone (9)
NAVIGATOR – The name of a close relative to the crocodile (a reptile) with the ALL (everyone) replace by the first three letters (cut) in Navy (service).

14 Prevent release of oxygen, arrest yours truly on way back (7)
EMBARGO – The chemical symbol of Oxygen followed by a four letter word meaning to arrest or snatch something and a two letter word for the setter all reversed (on way back).

15 Old woman wraps up one-day cricket century a little bit (7)
MODICUM – A three letter word for an old women (or any mother of whatever age) around (wraps up) the abbreviation for One Day International (one-day cricket) and the abbreviation for century.

18 Tight 35 writer’s gone crazy (7)
THRIFTY – An anagram (crazy) of THIRTY FIVE after removing the I’VE (writer’s gone).

21 Silly smile going around starts to explain my latest unexplained fault (7)
GREMLIN – A four letter word for a silly smile around the initial letters (starts to) of My Latest.

23 Wicked moneymaker aboard shuttle service is a part of this (9)
BADMINTON – A three letter word for wicked and a four letter word for the institution that prints or coins money and a two letter word meaning aboard.

25 A sweet stabbing (5)
ACUTE – The A from the clue followed by a four letter word meaning sweet.

26 Little nipper to eavesdrop (6)
EARWIG – Double definition, the first being the name of a small insect with pincers.

27 Musical note is a constant lesson, by the sound of it (8)
MINIMISE – A five letter word for a musical note followed by the IS from the clue and the letter that represents the natural logarithmic base.  Generally is is not a good idea to have wordplay followed by a clue that is defined by wordplay.

28 Cost a grand covered by honoured lady (6)
DAMAGE – The A from the clue and the abbreviation for grand have a four letter word for a titled or honoured lady around them.

29 Mailed envelope takes nearly a week (8)
SENNIGHT – A four letter word meaning mailed an envelope around (takes) a word meaning nearly.  I think that this clue works if envelop is not used as the containment indicator otherwise it would need to be envelopes as a verbal form.


1 See 19

2 Make legless brides dance round setter (married)? (9)
DISMEMBER – An anagram (dance) around a two letter word for the setter and the abbreviation for married.

3 Pet recovered from R. Thames (7)
HAMSTER – An anagram (recovered from) R THAMES.

4 Warmonger stripped and shot in battle (7)
MARENGO – An anagram shot of ARMONGE (the inner letters (stripped) of WARMONGER.

6 Silence in valley, on reflection, is spoken for (7)
ENGAGED – A three letter word meaning to silence inside a reversal (on reflection) of a four letter word for a valley.

7 Grape vine cut at each end and placed in pan (5)
PINOT – The inner letters (cut at each end) of VINE inside (placed in) a three letter word for a pan.  Alan was right to keep grapevine split as grape vine.  Whilst some editors will allow setters to have un-indicated lift and separate clues to require the solver to mentally split grapevine to read grape vine, this is usually in the context of the wordplay alone.  It is rarer to all a word to split so  that the definition and the wordplay are part of one word, even if hyphenated.

8 Show off model puzzle (5)
POSER – Triple definition.

11 Gove naked with, er, gamete (4)
OVUM – The inner letters (naked) of Gove followed by another verbal hesitation similar to er.

16/10 Nicola Sturgeon is crazy about gravity dyes (9,6)
COLOURING AGENTS – An anagram (crazy) of NICOLA STURGEON around the abbreviation for gravity.  This is probably the best example of where the surface reading could be greatly improved.  There is also a repetition of crazy as an anagram indicator.

17 If you do this you could get team a sweet or savoury mass (9)
MINCEMEAT – A reverse anagram.  The solution split 5, 4 could give TEAM as an answer.

19/1 Nigel Farage plays with T. Emin in case of dispute (7,9)

20 Once the half-time monster (4)
YETI – The old English word for the followed by half the letter in time.

21 Real dope found on university head in Europe (7)
GENUINE – A three letter word for dope or information followed by the abbreviation for university, the IN from the clue and a letter representing Europe.  A common mistake but E is the abbreviation for European not Europe.

22 Dodging 5 across in racket reversal (7)
EVASION – A reversal of a five letter word for a din or racket around the Roman numeral for 5 and the abbreviation for across.  Interestingly given their use in crosswords, A for Across and D for Down are not recognised as abbreviations in Chambers or Collins.  Some editors will therefore not permit them.

23 See 24

24/23 Amber Rudd and union leader cooked dough made from semolina (5,5)
DURUM BREAD – An anagram (cooked) of AMBER RUDD U (Union leader).

32 comments on “Rookie Corner – 181

  1. Alan has obviously had some experience at writing cryptics to be able to present such a well put together fun puzzle. We enjoyed the long anagrams using names of well-known people. We’ll be interested to hear solvers’ opinions on whether the definition for 27a is legit. Lots of candidates for favourite but we’ll opt for our last one in 18a.
    Thanks Alan.

    1. Re 27a – you’re obviously referring to Azed/Crowther’s slogan about a “precise definition”.

      One person’s opinion – and sloppily expressed since the “definitions” spoken of are rarely definitions in any normal sense of the word.

      Surely the last five words make what’s required obvious enough.

  2. Absolutely brilliant. Clearly written by someone who understands the ins and outs of cluing. There are a few indications of that. I’m sure you are well aware of eg the fine line relevant to 18a (personally I think you’re on the right side of it – others may quibble) – also the separation of “grape vine” into two words in 7d – although you could have had some fun with “grapevine” – with or without a split indication.

    All the clues worked fine for me but I had to work hard at a few.

    8d – a novel model – but my friend Mr Google assures me it’s kosher.

    22d I had a diffrent interpretaion that nearly worked before twigging the correct one – nice misdirection there.

    I ticked 12a, 18a, and 22d but I could have ticked lots of others. Novel twists of meaning appeared in so many clues that I just had to stop ticking. I particularly liked the numerous topical personalities included in the clues. This nearly always leads to a lot of big anagrams but I’m happy to pay that price.

    Very enjoyable solve packed with lots of great ideas.

    After this you’ll have trouble topping your own act – but please do try.
    I’ll look forward to seeing the result.

  3. If this is the Alan I think it is, then he’s definitely set more than one crossword.

    I enjoyed this one but have three clues with ?s by them which I’ll need Prolixic to explain fully in the morning.

    Thanks to Alan – I’m sure you’ll be back again soon’ and, in advance, to Prolixic.

  4. Thank you for your comments so far, 2Kiwis and JollySwagman – much appreciated.
    You make a good point about 27a MINIMISE, which has wordplay and a cryptic definition but no ‘precise definition’. This was intentional and in the nature of an experiment, ‘legit’ or not. I haven’t (intentionally) taken any liberties like that in other clues.

  5. Congratulations to Alan on a fine debut with lots to enjoy. My ticks went to 18a, 23a and 17d.
    Well done on getting all the political names into the clues – the problem is, for me anyway, that they all involve longish anagrams. I’m in the ‘not keen on the 27a definition’ camp. I take it that 8d is meant to be a triple definition – if so then “show off” needs to be hyphenated. I don’t like ‘envelope’ (as a noun) as the containment indicator in 29a.
    I look forward to your next puzzle.

  6. Hi Alan,

    Thank you for sharing a fine crossword! Bottom right corner went in last. I love some of your inventiveness, with 22d probably my favourite cluing technique and 18 being particularly good too; plus 2d having an amusing surface to the clue. Some good ‘themed’ anagrams throughout as well.

    As for 11d: well, I’ve had more pleasant images from a clue’s surface ;-)
    There are a few where the wordplay is absolutely fine but the resulting surface is a little convoluted – 15a and 20d, for example. This might be the area where the least effort will result in the biggest improvement to your puzzles.

    The notes I made as I went through are appended below – hope these help, else feel free to ignore them! I really look forward to your next one as I always enjoy tough-but-not-too-tough puzzles …


    As an aside I have my first Enigmatic Variations (EV) thematic puzzle in the Sunday Telegraph this coming Sunday (1st October) and would really appreciate any feedback you have on it, if you’ve the time &/or inclination!


    Notes on ‘A Puzzle by Alan’
    7d good clue
    15a wordplay is fine; surface could be improved
    23/24. good anagram; didn’t know this substance exactly, though it makes sense.
    23a nice definition
    20d again wordplay is fine; surface?
    28a good
    26a didn’t know this def
    12a ok
    2d ho ho!
    6d again, good wordplay
    13a I am being thick – what is the ‘for everyone’ for?
    14a again good wordplay
    4d I’m never 100% sure of the order of the vowels in this one but luckily remembered right this time!
    18a took me a while to work out what 35 meant! I like it.
    22d clever!
    29a ‘envelope’ vs ‘envelops or similar required here in surface/wordplay – reads slightly oddly? Maybe more simply: “Mailed taking nearly a week once” would solve the (a) Container-and-Contents indicator part by using -ing and (b) provide an ‘archaic_indicator’ for the definition? Hope that makes sense :-)

  7. Hi Alan
    Thanks, nice puzzle. I didn’t quite finish – not getting 27a, but as JS says, you’ve made it obvious enough, so my fault (although there were no helpful crossers)
    You obviously know what you’re doing with the construction, so no comments on that – I thought 4d, 8d, 29a were very well put together.
    In 22d, (and perhaps this is what JS is referring to) I had the first 4 letters of the solution as ‘5 across’, and was then stuck for how to complete the word until I had the crossers, at which point I realised I had taken the wrong approach. I wonder if you were aware of this? I can’t decide if it is good misdirection or a slightly unfortunate coincidence.
    What would have lifted it for me is a bit more attention to surfaces. In quite a few of the clues, it seems like you’ve identified your wordplay elements and just glued them together without taking the extra step of making it all fit together. Eg ‘gravity dyes’. Why have you used ‘gravity’ here? Are gravity dyes a thing? If so, apologies. Otherwise, choosing another way to clue the last G wouldn’t have left you with something that doesn’t really make sense. German, to take a simple if rather dull example.
    (Does Europe = E? I thought it was European)
    What a good idea for your setter name – wish I’d thought of that.

    1. Concerning 22d EVASION: VA = ‘5 across’ was an intentional misdirection (it’s not for me to say whether it is good or not). If I had really intended to refer to 5a KEEP UP I would have said ‘5’ [because there is no 5 down]. ‘5’ and ‘across’ lead directly to VA.
      Not sure what you mean about my setter name. It’s my real name – is it yours too?

      1. No, I’m James. I just meant good idea to use your actual name. I find going under a pseudonym a bit embarrassing, but maybe I should just have chosen more carefully.
        EVASION: I’m fine with 5 across being an intentional misdirection, in that it doesn’t actually refer to 5 across. What I thought you might be unaware of, and where I was tripped up, was that EVAS is given by ‘KEEP UP’, i.e. ‘save’ going up. I had the E and A crossers, thought it must be some sort of evading word, put in EVAS from KEEP UP, and then couldn’t decide between ION and IVE for the rest, since, unsurprisingly, neither fitted the clue.

        1. Thanks for explaining that. I completely missed that possibility, so it ranks as what you call an unfortunate coincidence.

  8. Welcome, Alan.

    Not for the first time, I’m not on the same page as JS, as I saw things somewhat differently!

    There were plenty of good ideas and not much that I could see that was technically wrong, but many of the surfaces were a major disappointment for me and made the solve far less satisfactory and enjoyable as a consequence. More excusable of course if this was a first-ever cryptic, but less so, as it appears, for someone who has compiled a few previously.

    I would cite 14a, 15a, 25a, 6d, 11d and 20d as probably the surfaces that jarred the most. My repetition radar bleeped with “crazy” twice used as an anagram indicator, and I’m not sure that you’ve got the right definition for 21a. The answer is something imaginary that is said to cause an unexplained fault, not the fault itself. Against that, I gave ticks to 26a, 4d and 8d, which I really liked.

    So my advice would be definitely to work on the surfaces next time, as you’ve clearly an eye for a good clue construction, and I’m sure that would produce a much better end-product.

    Thank you for the entertainment, Alan.

  9. Hi Alan,

    I remember your Jumbo puzzle in Nottingham, it kept me quiet for a while.

    this one was very entertaining with the anagrams of politicians, well done.

    The other comments have gone into a fair amount of detail, no need to repeat them. I hope you enjoy the feedback and I look forward to your next one!

  10. I’ll take this opportunity now to respond to the comments to date, in which there are a couple of themes showing through as well as quite a lot of helpful detail.
    I have composed six cryptics in all, three of which I shared among small audiences at two recent Sloggers & Betters events. (They were blogged on fifteensquared.)
    This is the one crossword I had most difficulty with. I smiled wryly at Encota’s point concerning surfaces:
    “This might be the area where the least effort will result in the biggest improvement.”
    If only! Surfaces are what take the MOST effort. There were some surfaces I could have improved given more time, and contributors comments are well taken, but others that have been mentioned are ‘as good as it gets’.
    I liked Encota’s suggested improvement to my clue at 29a SENNIGHT, although I still think it was valid to use the word ‘envelope’ in the way that I did..
    ‘gravity dyes’ in 16/10D wasn’t good. Anything else, as long as it indicates ‘G’, would have been better.
    E = Europe in 21d GENUINE was an error. My only excuse is that I’m not the first to have committed it!
    All comments to date have been much appreciated.

  11. Well done, Alan, on a great Rookie debut even though this was not your first puzzle. I did enjoy it with some very inventive cluing and nice twists, although I share the feelings of others about several of your surfaces (which I agree with you are probably the hardest part to improve).

    My mother always drummed into me the difference between minced meat and mincemeat so I was a bit surprised by your reference to savoury in 17d, but my BRB does support mincemeat for both sweet and savoury.

    Is cozy necessary in 9/1? If you think it is, why not cosy?

    18a was my favourite.

    Thanks very much for the entertainment to brighten a miserable Monday morning.

    1. I didn’t know the word ‘cozy’ until I put this crossword together. Rosemary and Thyme is an example of the sub-genre of crime (or detective) fiction called the ‘cozy mystery’. There is a Wikipedia article on it.

  12. Generally good with some nice twists (5 across = VA for example). I particularly liked 7d, 4d & 22d. Cleverly themed, too.

    However, I’m not convinced by 27a as others have noted, and I don’t get 9/1 or 12a but I may well be missing something (a brain, for example).

    The dreaded ‘surface’ can be either a soggy bottom or the cherry on top of a clue; sometimes hard to see the difference until it’s published and picked apart.

    A good puzzle overall which I enjoyed, thank you Alan

    1. Rags
      – Alan has explained 9/1 in his reply to me above.
      – 12a is Adam’s mate followed by the Bridge abbreviation for No Trumps.

      1. Thanks RD – I hadn’t seen Alan’s response when I posted re 9/1.
        12a – How dim of me is that? (Don’t answer!) Never played bridge so didn’t give it much thought. I have the wits of a prawn at times.

  13. As is so often the way, I’m in complete agreement with Silvanus over this one. I would also add that, whilst a theme can sometimes add to the enjoyment of a puzzle, to use the same construct for almost every relevant inclusion rapidly becomes tiresome for the solver. I found myself thinking ‘oh, not again’.

    It’s very apparent that you have some good ideas, Alan – I particularly liked 23a – perhaps it’s now time to concentrate more on surface reads?

    Thank you for sharing this one with us – I’ve no doubt that Prolixic will give you some worthwhile pointers for the future.

  14. I completed the puzzle, though I did not particularly enjoy the solve and I found the surface reading of several unsatisfactory. Also, I’m not a fan of the answers to multiple clues split all over the grid or overly long anagrams. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid. Perhaps next time.

  15. To all contributors

    This has been a good experience so far. What I’m particularly impressed with is the quality and tone of the comments from all contributors to this blog. There are different ways to make a point, but a respectful tone, as here, works as well for me as (presumably) for all my predecessors in Rookie Corner.

    Prior to Prolixic’s review I would like to pick up on two threads that I couldn’t fail to notice running through this blog, as I hinted at in my comment @10: (1) the theme and (2) the surfaces.

    The theme was of course planned into this crossword, as was the way of implementing it. It is something I would have enjoyed a lot if I had been the solver and not the setter. I accept of course that not all of you liked it – or the ‘overly long’ anagrams.

    Good surfaces don’t always come out as I would wish – even after working on them. I was less lucky with this crossword than I was with my previous one (blogged elsewhere) and my next one (not yet published). Even so, I would not have submitted this crossword if I wasn’t satisfied with any clue. Sometimes compromises have to be made, and I accept that some surfaces are not as smooth as you or I would like. In hindsight, assisted by some of your comments, I would change some of the surfaces that you were presented with.

    I agree with much of what’s been said here, and you have all given me a lot of food for thought. There are other comments I’d like to make, but they are best left until after I have seen the review.

    Thanks to all.

  16. The grid being what it is, I started solving the SW, then the NE, then the NW and became really stuck on the SE.
    Hope I didn’t make your head spin.
    Failed on 27a and 29a as these were the only two clues that I couldn’t parse. Along with 18a which I kind of understand… but not completely.
    All that to say that I really enjoyed the crossword and that, on the whole, it made sense to a little Frenchman.
    The long anagrams with the names of the politicians were very clever.
    Thanks for the crossword.

  17. Many thanks to Prolixic for the review – much appreciated. Having read through it, I believe that the few points about my wordplay that have been queried are now answered.

    I would now just like to give a few final comments for today. [It’s actually Tuesday now, but you know what I mean.]

    I submitted this crossword not as a step to becoming a professional setter but simply to give pleasure to people who like to solve the sort of cryptic crosswords that I like to solve on most week-days. I haven’t achieved 100% success with this aim – nor did I expect to.

    Surfaces have been mentioned quite a lot, and I have already highlighted the one that I particularly disliked myself: 16/10D where I have G = gravity, which is sound wordplay-wise but contributes to a lousy surface. Not surprisingly, Prolixic agrees.

    I haven’t seen ‘cosy mystery’ before, only ‘cozy mystery’ (I am British, by the way, and have never been to the US), but both comments I have had on this are acknowledged, and ‘cosy’ would have been a sound, and better, choice in the clue to 9/1A.

    Some solvers were not overjoyed with my experiment at 27a, which had no ‘precise definition’. I might repeat the experiment some time, but not in a hurry. Also, I now have a better clue for 29a SENNIGHT thanks to this blog.

    Many thanks to all. I will revisit the blog on Tuesday, probably around 11 am and then late afternoon, to read any further comments that might be added.

  18. Thanks as always for the review, Prolixic – particularly for the explanation of the ‘I’ in 15a. I didn’t know that a one-day cricket match is necessarily an International.
    I’m sure that Alan’s confidence will be boosted by your favourable comments – I shall be interested to tackle his next offering and may simply have to accept that his style is outside of my particular ideals of crossword enjoyment!

    1. Jane
      Thank you for your comment – and your previous one.
      I won’t try to predict whether you will enjoy my next offering – it might depend on what you mean by my ‘style’. Having multiple thematic clues constructed in a similar way is not an aspect of my style – just something I have used in one other crossword besides this one. My next crossword (and I don’t know yet where or when it will be aired) is ‘plain’, that is, unthemed, and there is a good chance that it will be more to your taste.

      1. Good of you to reply, Alan. I hope your next crossword appears here – I’d like to ‘have another crack at you’ as it were!

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