Rookie Corner – 185 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 185

A Puzzle by Raven

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Our latest Rookie goes under the name of Raven.  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 Raven.  This was a tough but generally fair crossword.  There were only a few minor points to pick up on, which is a good sign.


9. Close to absurdness while having bitter exterior? (9)
SARCASTIC – The final letter (close to) of absurdness) followed by a two letter word meaning while with a six letter word meaning bitter or cold around it (having … exterior).  Whilst the entire clue is mean to be a definition of the answer, I don’t think that the answer is necessarily close to absurdness.

10. Twang guitar string with tender hand (5)
DRAWL – The musical note to which one of a guitar’s strings is tuned followed by a three letter word meaning tender or sore and the abbreviation for one of hands.

11. Potential to insure a result in this game! (7,8)
RUSSIAN ROULETTE – An anagram (potential) of TO INSURE A RESULT.  I like the irony in this clue that the outcome of this game would be uninsurable.

12. Coat in spice, mostly (3)
MAC – Remove the final letter (mostly) of a type of spice.

13. Earthquake-prone city breaking up in descent, rebuilt underground (11)
CLANDESTINE – The abbreviation for a West Coast city in America prone to earthquakes inside (breaking up) an anagram (rebuilt) of IN DESCENT.

15. Noisy duet, end rendered discordant (7)
DETUNED – An anagram (noisy) of DUET END.  As one of the definition of noisy is turbulent, I see no problem with this as an anagram indicator.

16. Stages broadcast from Siberian locations (7)
STEPPES – A homophone (broadcast) of STEPS (stages).  The link word here is the wrong way around.  The definition comes from the wordplay.   The wordplay from definition does not quite work for me.

17. DJ is follower of Jesus’ example? (11)
TURNTABLIST – A cryptic reference to Jesus’s actions in the temple when he overturned the table of the moneylender.

19. Bow as current royal is received (3)
ARC – The abbreviation for alternating current includes (is received) a single letter abbreviation for a king or queen (royal).

21. Fine leg’s aggressive movement is indicator to expect quicker delivery? (5,5,5)
FIRST CLASS STAMP – A phrase (5,5) meaning fine followed by a word meaning an aggressive movement of the leg.

24. Legislate for staff retiring ahead of time (5)
ENACT – Reverse (retiring) a four letter word for a rod or staff and follow it with the abbreviation for time.

25. No enthusiasm to acquire aluminium – price too high (9)
OVERVALUE – A single letter meaning no or zero and a five letter word meaning enthusiasm includes (to acquire) a three letter abbreviation for aluminium.  I cannot find a dictionary that supports ALU as a three letter abbreviation for Aluminium.  The chemical symbol is Al.


1. Burnt powder linked to cannon’s retreat (6)
ASHRAM – A three letter word for burnt powder followed by a three letter word meaning to cannon or run into.

2. Written statements followed by censored alternative from lawyer (10)
PROSECUTOR – A five letter word for written statements followed by a three letter word meaning censored and a two letter word used to express an alternative.  I think that the modifier “statements” here is potentially misleading as, by making the wordplay more specific, it unfairly leads the solver away from the more general meaning of a piece of writing.

3. Homer’s epic missing central figure in write-up by artist (4)
DALI -Remove the middle letter (missing central character) from one of Homer’s epic stories and reverse the remaining letters (written up). 

4. Stage Shakespeare without opening that’s customary (8)
STANDARD – Another word for a stage or podium followed by another word for Shakespeare with the first letter removed (without opening).

5. A line sung in harmony (6)
ACCORD – The A from the clue followed by a homophone (sung) of another word for a line.

6. A sense of redundancy in youth? (10)
ADOLESCENT – The A from the clue followed by a phrase 4,5 that might describe the smell of the money you receive if you are redundant.

7. Bond returns, in flat cap! (4)
PACT – The answer is hidden and reversed (returns in) FLAT CAPIt is more usual for a hidden word not to be wholly contained within one word and part of another.

8. Leaving setter feeling superfluous and ignorant? (8)
CLUELESS – A cryptic definition of what might make a crossword setter feel superfluous?  This does not work for me as if a crossword does not have these, the settler is definitely required.

13. Cute tots in ridiculous make up (10)
CONSTITUTE – An anagram (rIdiculous) of CUTE TOTS IN.

14. Fierce wild mammal missing a chain (10)
IMPLACABLE – The name of an African antelope without (missing) one of its As and another word for a chain.

15. Cheap sale of alcohol lacks responsibility? (4-4)
DUTY-FREE – Double definition of where you might be able to buy booze cheaply and someone without any obligations or responsibility.

16. OAP seems like one could be 17? (8)
SPINSTER – A whimsical reference to one who spins records.  I don’t think that the definition OAP is a fair definition for the required answer.

18. Hairless, tailless, headless amphibian is unreal creature! (6)
BALROG – A word meaning hairless without the final letter (tailless) followed by a type of amphibian without the first letter (headless).

20. Ginger fuzz (6)
COPPER – Double definition, the second being a policeman.

22. Kiwi loses tail going North to migrate (4)
ROAM – Remove the final letter from the name for an indigenous New Zealander and reverse the remaining letters (going North).

23. Woman originally is head over heels for Spanish club legend? (4)
SEVE – Reverse (head over heels) a contraction of Eve (woman originally) Is.

42 comments on “Rookie Corner – 185

  1. We found time after delivering grandkids to school to sit down and tackle this. Suspect that Raven is not new to setting puzzles as we found this a competently put together Toughie level challenge. Still a couple to fully parse. We enjoyed working through it.
    Thanks Raven.

  2. Hi Raven

    That was very good – it certainly made me work hard – although it all made sense looking back.

    There were good clues of all sorts – especially noticeable were ones depending on twists of meaning rather than simply mechanical processing. 21a I thought was very good – I didn’t think 11a worked quite so well.

    I also ticked 13a, 21a 4d, 5d – probably a few more deserved one.

    Only minor quibble – I didn’t think “noisy” really did anything in 15a – “rendered” already suggests anagramming and the surface doesn’t really need it. Clean sheet aside from that.

    Thanks for the fun/agony. I’ll look forward to the next one – and allow a little more time for it.

  3. Well done Raven – that was certainly pretty tough and, as 2Kiwis said, it seems unlikely that this was your first puzzle. Top clues for me were 13a, 21a and 23d.
    I don’t understand 10a (which I only got from the checkers), I can’t see where the U comes from in 25a and ‘OAP’ in 16d doesn’t really work for me as a definition. I’d never heard of 18d but that’s my fault as Mr Google informs me that it’s a creation by an author whom I avoid like the plague.

          1. I missed that – that’s why I thought it was a not terribly good CD – actually it’s rather good.

  4. I too found this tough and the ‘struggle’ did affect how much I enjoyed the experience.

    I presume in 25a you are taking ALU as an abbreviation for aluminium but I can’t find it listed anywhere

    Thanks for the crossword and in advance to Prolixic for the review

    1. I spent some time trying to make AL (the chemical symbol for aluminium) work in 25a until I got enough checkers to indicate Raven was using ALU, and, as you say, that does not show up in any reference source.

  5. Hi Raven
    I thought this was the best puzzle I’ve solved here, for challenge and quality of clues.
    My favourites were 9a, 13a, 21a, 6d, 7d, 18d, 23d but it was clear you’d put the effort in for every clue.
    Thanks & congratulations

  6. Welcome, Raven.

    I found it tough too, but feel somewhat consoled knowing that others had similar experiences. I began this late last night, but only made limited headway (“once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary”), and needed a further longer session this morning to complete.

    The surfaces were first-rate for a debut puzzle, I must commend the setter there, and I would be amazed if this was Raven’s first-ever crossword, such was the evident quality. I thought a few clues were perhaps too ambitious, 17a and 1a especially, which I assume was meant to be an all-in-one as there’s no stated definition, but it didn’t really work for me. Like CS and Gazza, the extra “u” in the 25a abbreviation raised eyebrows, and like JS, I wasn’t convinced by “noisy” as an anagram indicator in 15a. I also thought 16a, 2d and 24a seemed the wrong way round, the first two being “wordplay from definition”, and the last “definition for wordplay”. 18d was unknown to me previously, but fairly clued.

    My ticks were numerous, namely 13a, 19a, 4d, 5d, 6d, 13d and 22d. (I’m surprised that Colin and Carol didn’t mention 22d!).

    Many thanks and congratulations, Raven. Unlike the Poe poem, it’s certainly not a case of “nevermore”, I sincerely hope you’ll come back with another puzzle very soon!

    1. I was OK with “noisy” as an anagram indication. I was reading discordant = detuned (which it can) so I didn’t need another one with “rendered” already there. Pushing “rendered” into the definition (which also works) leaves “noisy” as the only anagram indication.

      The clue works with or without “noisy”.

  7. Found it quite hard to determine the required definition in some of the clues – still looking for it in 9a – and have quite a few question marks eg the synonym used in 14d.
    16d is simply wrong!

    Such a shame as there were also some good clues – 21&24a plus 15&23d stood out for me.

    Thanks, Raven, I’ll be interested to read the review from Prolixic.

    1. Hi Jane,

      I took 9a (not 1a as in my earlier comment, apologies) to be an attempt at an all-in-one, hence the absence of a definition, but I don’t think it quite worked.

  8. Hi Raven,

    well done! A polished effort like others have said, and at the tough end of the spectrum.
    I liked 1a and 11a especially and many more. 5d. 10a. I’m wondering if you are a guitarist. Congratulations on an excellent puzzle.

    Some comments which you are free to ignore but maybe there is something of use:

    I though 11a was a beautiful anagram, very elegantly well hidden (some didn’t see it)!

    9a i saw as an all-in-one which reads very nicely, but somehow the definition isn’t quite nailed. Obviously for an all-in-one the whole clue needs to define the answer accurately, right part of speech, etc – although I’ll grant you that you can find some overly loose examples in the dailies sometimes.

    13a I parsed as LA inside an anagram of IN DESCENT: as such, I don’t think you need ‘breaking up’ in addition to ‘rebuilt’ – assuming underground is the def. Forget that, I’ve just realised it is the insertion indicator, not an anagrind, doh.

    15a I was happy with “rendered discordant” as the def and ‘noisy’ as an anagrind.

    17a has left me puzzled, i am not getting the ‘follower of Jesus’s example’ bit (and shouldn’t there be that extra s in Jesus’s?) – my ignorance I’m sure – something to do with round table?

    21a I was determine that Fine should become the initial F, so this took me ages. I didn’t think the definition was great, the idea is fine but the wording seems odd. indicator? expect?

    25a I too was missing a U here, with the chemical symbol for Aluminium being AL.

    1d took me a while to realise cannon could also mean to collide.

    6d nice clue, made me laugh, though ‘sense’ seems close to ‘scent’, so a different synonym might have helped

    7d the righthand side of the hidden reaches the end of the word, you won’t se that often in dailies – ideally should be hidden on both sides. The exclamation mark almost gets you off the hook, but not quite i think.

    8s lovely idea – though the answer is adjectival, and i struggled to substitute it for the definition – but i may be wrong

    15d here too, i struggled with the parts of speech (lacks – lacking might have been better) – and is it a sale? maybe, though I guess I think of the answer as an adjective.

    16d I agree that OAP and the answer are not the same thing at all.

    18d I didn’t know the answer

    23d i don’t know my golfers so i missed this. This is an interesting clue where each half has a tricky reference. I think if you know your golfers that this clue works fine, but sometimes a clue can become overly hard from having too many tricks.

    Hope that helps and thanks you again for a very impressive debut. I look forward to prolixic’s review

    1. Possessive apostrophe after a word, especially a proper name, ending in S does not have to be followed by S.

  9. Thanks to Raven for providing us with a Monday Toughie …. seems to be far too professional to be in Rookie Corner.

  10. Hi Raven,

    Many thanks for a challenging puzzle – it was certainly quite tough in places!! Most of the notes I made whilst solving have already been covered, though all apart from obvious spoilers (which I have deleted) are included below.

    I particularly liked 23, 2, 9, 10 & 18.

    You have some very inventive ideas here and I suspect you’ve either set at least a few already and/or have absorbed lots from a serious amount of solving?

    Hope these help. Great puzzle and I look forward to your next & to Prolixic’s review.


    PS If anyone doesn’t already solve The Listener thematic puzzle and wants to try one that isn’t an ‘ultra hard’, then I can recommend Sat 14th Oct’s No. 4472 as a good place to start.

    15a good
    13d good
    16a is ‘from’ linkword the wrong way round, i.e. Wordplay from Definition doesn’t feel quite right? ‘in’ might be better.
    13 ok
    11 felt pretty good, though I had the sense it could be slightly improved: is ‘game’ an appropriate definition, for example?
    5d don’t recall seeing it before but ‘sung’ as a homophone indicator feels ok;
    8d cryptic def doesn’t quite work for me
    25a is this ALU for Al(uminium)?
    16d? ginger= synonym? Not sure.
    21a Fine + leg’s aggressive movement. Clever elliptical (Oval?) surface :-)
    23d good definition +
    19a Is this a=as; c=current (like in ac); r=royal? Pushing it a bit, for me. Does Chambers back up all three? I may well be missing something here.
    22d ok
    1d cannonram – don’t quite get this one. I can see ‘cannon into’ = ram, I guess
    2d good charade
    9a clever
    6d doleredundancy synonyms? not sure
    10a lots of options (5 different strings)2 handsN synonyms for ‘tender’. good clue
    7d It isn’t ‘in’, it’s at the end of. Better would be something like ‘tight cape’, where all the letters of TCAP are contained within the phrase. You’ll be able to come up with better.
    17a didn’t know this word!
    18d love the wordplay
    16d not sure if defining the answer with OAP is accurate enough?

    Great fun!

    1. I assumed that 19a was AC (alternating current) ‘receiving’ a Royal (regina or rex) with ‘as’ included to improve the surface read.

      1. yes, as is the link – which did make me wonder how well it fit with ‘is’ in the cryptic reading, maybe ok.

    2. I thought cannon might be a reference to this:

      I’d like to stand up for the flat cap clue.
      Whenever anyone starts a hidden solution at the beginning or end of a word, they’re always picked up on it. But, whether or not it works as a clue depends on how you indicate that’s it’s hidden. Here, ‘in’ is quite general. Any string of letters in flat cap will do. The only reason for preferring the solution to be entirely within the hiding words is that it’s likely to be hidden better, but that should be judged on a clue by clue basis. I found this one quite misleading, because flat cap is a thing in itself.

        1. That’s a good point, Mucky, and I agree about the semi-lurker, it’s just slightly unconventional.
          There are a few definitions that are a bit loose, but overall pretty good effort I thought

        2. The issue with abbreviations is that there are many thousands of abbreviations that are used in a variety of contexts. When setting a crossword, the usual rule is that setters should use only those abbreviation that have made it into one of the standard dictionaries. I don’t think that ALU meets this requirement. In a similar way, D for down would be a natural abbreviation for crossword setters and solvers but is not in Chambers or Collins (I have not checked the OED). I have had one editor therefore be uncomfortable about using it.

  11. A bit of a struggle needing some electronic assistance with too many ‘leaps of faith’ – cannon/ram (9a), ginger/copper (20d), ALU for aluminium (25a).

  12. I came to this one late having been out for most of the day. I found it quite tough but, as others have said, it was very accomplished for a Rookie puzzle with really excellent surfaces.

    A few of the definitions seemed off beam: 9a doesn’t have a definition and doesn’t work for me as all-in-one; and I’m not convinced that the answers to 14d and 16d are synonymous with fierce and OAP respectively. I’m also not convinced in 1d that cannon = ram.

    Those comments aside, the rest of the clues varied from very good to excellent. I worked all my life for a company supplying the can industry and Alu was a normal abbreviation for aluminium. I also think ginger is OK for copper when referring to hair colour. I awarded double ticks to: 13a, 21a, 4d, 5d, 6d, 20d & 22d.

    Very well done, Raven, and thanks very much for the challenging entertainment. More soon please!

  13. Ouch. Just finished this at 6:00 PM EST on Monday and it was a slog. Some very good inventive clues here but I have several question marks on my page as well. No doubt all will be revealed tomorrow. Thanks Raven. Going to read the comments now.

  14. Thanks for all the feedback, it’s given me a clear direction for changes i need to make in clue construction

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