Rookie Corner – 187 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 187

A Puzzle by Jaffa

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Rookie Corner – 187

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above Rookie Corner link.

Here is the latest puzzle from Jaffa. 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.

You may remember that we had a debut puzzle from Whynot a few weeks ago – I bumped into him yesterday, and he told me that he has a new puzzle in Newbie Corner on the 1 Across website, so why not solve it?

A puzzle by Whynot

Please try to leave him feedback on the 1 Across site.

A review by Prolixic follows.

Congratulations to Jaffa with a wonderfully themed crossword.  All of the across clues refer to lyrics in or the album identified by 28a.  There were, perhaps, to many oblique references to the undisclosed theme in the clues that made the process of solving a little unfair.  Despite this, it was quite an achievement to get the theme into all of the across clues without having too many unfamiliar words in the down clues.


8 Cressida Dick is starring (7,3,4)

TOPPING THE BILL – Cressida Dick is the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London otherwise known as the Old Bill.  The solution is from the track “Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite”.

9 This garment, worn by the fireside, may make you one of these (7)

SWEATER – A warm top worn by the fire would make you perspire and thus be the solution.  The solution is from the track “When I’m Sixty-Four”.  Bonus points as the garment in question was knitted by the fireside in the track.

11 Listen on board for clippers (6)

SHEARS – A word meaning listen inside the abbreviation for steamship (on board).  The solution is from the track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

12 Location in jet stream, once reportedly holy (9)

BLACKBURN – The colour of jet followed by another word for a stream.  I think that the addition of the words “once reportedly holy” are an unnecessary addition even if they relate back to the lyrics as the theme is hidden.  The clue works without them and they therefore could be considered unnecessarily misleading. [Setter’s note: “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”]

16 Uninjured doctor the French say it needed fixing(5)

WHOLE – The name of the time travelling Doctor followed by the French for the.  Again the “say it needed fixing” are not necessary to the wordplay and may be considered unnecessarily misleading.  Even if they relate to the track “Fixing a Hole” as the theme is a ghost theme, it is unfair to have an reference of this type in the clue.

20 Girl, sometimes welcomed we ‘ear, for her soothing nature (4)

VERA – A pun on the soothing ointment Aloe Vera as how a Cockney might greet her.  The solution is from the track “When I’m Sixty Four”.

21 Beef or chicken? (5)

CHUCK – A type of week steak or an informal name for a chicken.  The solution is from the track “When I’m Sixty Four”.

22 Familiar old PM going west in Nevada (4)

DAVE – The answer is hidden and reversed in (going west in) NEVADA.  The solution is from the track “When I’m Sixty Four”.  Bonus points for getting the last three solutions in order from the track.

23 House where contents may be found (5)

LORDS – Cryptic definition of one of the Houses of Parliament where those voting in favour are the “contents”.  The solution is from the track “A day in the life”.

26 Official’s moniker or poetic description of Ms Duffy? (5,4)

METER MAID – Another name for an traffic warden and an elliptical reference to the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy who wrote about gas meters instead of the Queen’s 90th birthday and who writes in poetic meters.  The solution is from the track “Lovely Rita”

31 Musical kings imprisoning knights yield legendary musician (6)

LENNON – The name of the US rock band “Kings of ????” includes the abbreviation (twice) for Knight (as knights is in the plural).  The solution is the name of one of the Beatles who wrote the theme album. A minor point but for the cryptic reading to work, you would need wordplay yields definition.

32 Embarrassed about recording company vote that improved old album (7)

REMIXED – The colour you go when embarrassed around the name of an old record company (whose Abbey Road studios were used by the Beatles) and the letter that is used when recording a vote.

34 Military musician, aiding the companionless, for at least 70 years (8,6)

SERGEANT PEPPER – A cryptic allusion to the line in the theme album and track released in 1967 where the line is “It was twenty years ago today” with an allusion to the lonely hearts being the companionless.  As this relies on a knowledge of the hidden theme, it is a but of a leap of faith to be able to solve this from the clue alone without the checking letters.


1 Code novice is a small person (6)

MORSEL – The name of the code consisting of dots and dashes followed by the abbreviation for a learner or novice.

2 Nice PA produces breathless state (6)

APNEIC – An anagram (produces) of NICE PA.  The answer is not given in Chambers or Collins.  It seems to the American version of the English Apnoeic so perhaps should have some indication as such – Perhaps Nice PA produces Trump’s breathless state.

3 A wooden feature secured at the altar? (4)

KNOT – You tie or secure this at the altar when getting married.

4 Possibly a feature of a fast Arabian’s head (4)

STAR – The answer is hidden in (possibly a feature of) in FAST ARABIAN.  The possibly could have been omitted.

5 Present maybe or just strained (5)

TENSE – Double definition of a for of verb to indicate the time of action and to be strained or tense.

6 Advanced technology is used in a successful recording with little reverberation  (2,4)

HI TECH – A three letter word for a successful recording followed by a word for reverberation with the last letter removed (little).

7 Liechtenstein exam about plants (6)

FLORAL – The IVR code for Liechtenstein followed by a word for a spoken examination.

10 Mimic early bird (3)

EMU – A word meaning mimic without the late (as in early = not late).  Where you need to get from early to not late, it might be better to say “presumably early” to indicate that there is something more to the wordplay than a synonym for early.

12 Slant of small girl with evil surroundings (5)

BEVEL – The shortened form of the name Beverly followed by the outer letters (surroundings) of evil.

13 Speaker who is more blonde but quiet (5)

AIRER – A word for more blonde without the F (quiet being not loud).  Again like the earlier clue, this would have benefitted from having “by implication quiet” to show that there is something more to the wordplay.

14 Short single male composer (4)

BACH – The abbreviation for Bachelor and the name of a prolific composer.

15 The colour of a French windmill? (5)

ROUGE – A mild cryptic reference to the French cabaret venue whose name translates as the Red Windmill.

17 American city expresses surprise after meritorious award (5)

OMAHA – The abbreviation for Order of Merit followed by a word that expresses surprise.

18 Paper boss brings in fellows to alter text (5)

EMEND – The abbreviation for editor (paper boss) includes a three letter word meaning fellows.

19 Pretender’s destination sounds like a colourful source of night time delight (4)

SKYE – The island to which the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie, fled across the sea and the place where you would see colourful lights such as the Northern or Southern Lights.

24 Verses supported by the Sally Army on the Black Sea (6)

ODESSA – A word for poems or verses followed by the abbreviation for Salvation Army.  My dislike of prepositional indicators makes me want to change this to place on the Black Sea.

25 Foreign noblemen grab gold but become angels (6)

DONORS – The plural for Spanish nobles includes (grab) an abbreviation for gold in heraldry.  The cryptic reading would be better as “Foreign noblemen grabbing gold becoming angels”

27 Stone target regularly seen in Thebes (3)

TEE – The odd letters (regularly seen in THEBES for the target used in curling.

28 Confusions arising from the outset of Ximenean clues but not downs (3-3)

MIX-UPS – A lovely defined clue indicating the reversal of the first three letters of Ximenan.  This clue does not really work for me.

29 Undoubtedly conveyancing details may be found here (6)

INDEED – Split 2,4 this describes the requirement for any conveyancIng document imposed by section 52 of the Law of Property Act 1925.

30 Mountains ‘eard to be connected to armies (5)

ANDES – A play on the pun that armies are connected to handies (with the Cockney pronunciation again applied).  Perhaps having used the Cockney trick once, another device should have been used here.  Perhaps a question mark or exclamation mark to indicate the pun could have been added.

32 Mystic symbol found at any number in French street (4)

RUNE – The abbreviation for any number in the French word for street.

33 Be depressed about loss of old penny from small bike (4)

MOPE – Remove the abbreviation for an old penny from the end of a word for a small motorbike.

46 comments on “Rookie Corner – 187

    1. Don’t you just love WordPress? When I checked it said “Missed schedule”. If it knew that, why didn’t it publish it? One of the problems for me is that the link still works even if it hasn’t been published – I’d have to log off to see the same as you do.

      It’s there now (or should be).

  1. Hi Jaffa – nice puzzle – lots to enjoy.

    I won’t nominate a favourite because there were so many good clues. Many which needed a leap of logic made it a fairly tricky solve – but great when one finally gets them – and I’ve a few still unparsed – maybe they’d come higher up the list when I finally twig.

    For one (if I’m right) I needed Welsh – plenty of Scottishisms (although there was one of those too in a way) in many puzzles – rarely any Welsh – probably the curse of Chambers – ie its Scottish roots.

    No quibbles from me – those that I parsed – can’t comment on the others
    Just this minute twigged 12d – had the wrong small girl before.

    Anyway – great fun – kept me busy for a good while. Do keep them coming.

  2. This is a cracking but pretty tricky puzzle with a theme. I was held up by writing the wrong first four letters (head) in 8a but once I’d got that sorted it all came together though I only got 34a from the checking letters and I don’t fully understand the clue.
    I particularly liked 12a, 20a, 23a and 10d (very subtle!). 30d is an old chestnut but probably needs a question mark.
    Thanks a lot Jaffa – do keep them coming!

  3. Hi Jaffa
    Sorry, I didn’t enjoy this very much. I had to do a lot of checking, and the large number of short clues I didn’t understand made it a bit of a slog. I’ve had a bit of a Google after finishing, and can see that there’s a lot in there that I should have spotted, and would have helped me along. But there are still a lot of clues I don’t really get.
    The ones I liked were 8a(favourite), 22a, 26a (though possibly fairer to give Ms Duffy’s full name? I don’t think you’d be giving anything away by doing so)
    I don’t understand:
    12a ‘once reported holy’ – the clue’s perfectly good without this bit, so maybe something thematic going on?
    23a Is the solution an example of ‘house’? I don’t understand the contents bit.
    34a 70 years? I’d understand if it were 50
    10d Mimic early?
    19d I found ‘colourful’ misleading, and don’t see why it’s in the clue
    Other question marks:
    2d – not sure you’ve clued the right part of speech. Also, though I’ve found it online, the solution is in neither Chambers nor SOED (not that that’s ever stopped me including a word)
    28d I think this is a construct-a-clue type of clue, where the solution is itself a clue to what is indicated in the clue. If so, I don’t think you need ‘but not downs’. ‘the outset of Ximenean clues’ by itself would give the solution (though only the singular). Nice idea.
    3d I had to reveal this. Why not just say ‘tied’? You don’t secure the solution at the altar
    I hope most of this is just me being a bit dense. Actually, I’ve just noticed that Gazza likes some of the ones I don’t understand. Oh dear.

    1. 12a relates to the song ‘A Day in the Life’ by 31a.
      23a Those in the answer say ‘content’ where those in the other place say ‘aye’.
      10d Early is ‘not ****’.
      19d presumably referring to the Northern Lights.

      1. Thanks
        I get the 70 years bit now, too (lyrics). Very clever, perhaps a bit of a leap for a clue?

        1. Thanks mucky. I understand the 70 years now and, having read the lyrics, I see that 11a is also part of the theme.

    2. I think 3d is OK. Secure is a synonym of tie, so “they tied the **** at the altar” or “they secured the **** at the altar”. I assume that the setter didn’t use “tied” because it would have made the parsing immediately obvious, thereby weakening the clue.

    3. 28d. This one is readily parsable, but I reckon that “confusions” is doing double duty as the definition and also anagram indicator for the first three letters of Ximienean.

    4. 2d. Apnea is listed in the SOED as an alternative spelling for apnoea. Aponeic is listed as the adjective, therefore apneic (albeit by extrapolation) seems OK to me.

  4. Welcome back, Jaffa.

    I found this tough too, I think it was the various “leaps of faith” required to get some of the answers allied to the unusual lack of anagrams that combined to crank up the difficulty factor. Overall I’m more in the Mucky camp than the Gazza one and I did feel that quite a few clues could have been made more concise and less wordy.

    I think one Cockney homophone in a puzzle is fine, but two is one too many, similarly two French words seemed to be overdoing it as well. The cryptic grammar in 25d needed “grab” to be “grabbing” and therefore the second verb needed changing too as a result. I have a few other parsing questions but I shall await Prolixic’s review to answer those.

    My ticks went to 1a (great start, although many solvers, especially our overseas ones, would need Google for this), 6d and 14d (maybe “half-cut” instead of “short” would make a more satisfying clue though?).

    Thanks very much, Jaffa.

  5. Jaffa’s notes say

    “If it isn’t obvious I’ve tried to make all the solutions of the Across clues to be from the lyrics of [the featured album], or to be loosely connected to it.”

    I’ll try and get the fuller explanations into the review.

  6. This was an enjoyable solve for me, although I didn’t realise that there was a theme until I noticed the relationship between 26a and 34a together. That enabled me to get 12a, which until then remained unsolved because I was unsure about the ‘holy’ bit. I particularly liked the triumvirate of 20a, 21a and 22a. Like Jolly Swagman, I had the wrong small girl in 12d at first. I have not been able to parse 26a as yet, nor can I make a link between 9a and the theme. Must dig out the source material!

    Whereas knowledge of the theme was a help, the puzzle was still solvable without such knowledge. Well done and thank you, Jaffa,

    1. I think I’ve got 26a parsed now (I didn’t know who Ms Duffy was, culturally barren that I am), and I’ve found the lyrical reference to 9a.

  7. Wow! That was very impressive, Jaffa, and might have been composed just for me. Back in the day I could play and sing every song from that wonderful album, and most of the words have stuck in my mind ever since. The only across clues I couldn’t identify with a specific lyric were 31a & 32a but they can obviously be linked with the theme anyway.

    From a pure crossword perspective it was a tough solve even with the help of the theme once it had become evident. I really enjoyed it but I expect it will prove to be a marmite offering. Although a lot of your clues were very wordy, the surfaces were generally very smooth which is a great achievement.

    I am not surprised to see that Silvanus has beaten me to comment about the cockney duplication!

    19d misled me as I was initially thinking it might refer to a lyric from a Pretender’s song!

    I learnt some new things. I didn’t know:
    – the Liechtenstein IVR code
    – that specific meaning of “contents”
    – 2d which was a new word for me
    – 1d could refer to a person
    – what 21a had to do with chicken
    but the BRB sorted them all out for me.

    My joint favourites were 8a & 34a, but 10d also deserves a special mention.

    Many thanks, Jaffa, and very well done.

  8. Thank you, as always, for your very detailed comments. I think RD that the word marmite was coming very much to my mind also.
    This is my first attempt at a themed crossword and when I started it back in June the airwaves etc. were full of the news of the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the album. Nostalgic thoughts of my last year at school are happily dominated by us playing the record almost continually in the Prefect’s Room until the Economics teacher next door, not unsurprisingly, confiscated our record player- obviously more of a Stones fan. I hadn’t realised, until the recent survey, that I’ve probably hit exactly the right demographic with this theme.
    I had hoped that the solution to 34a would be found in 1a to set people off on the right track but the best laid plans of mice and “crossword compilers” don’t, as I am discovering, always work out.
    I’ll comment again on any unresolved issues later on but some of you are excellent devil’s advocates on my behalf. Thank you very much indeed 😎

  9. Very enjoyable with some head scratching (such as 12a) probably because I did not consider the possibility of a theme.

    One clue remaining – 5d – the penny is stuck and refuses to drop.

    Favourite clue – 20a. I initially thought that she was a 26a. But then that penny dropped on the cockney element.

    Thanks to Jaffa.

  10. Not a fan of themed puzzles, personally, and I positively dislike referencing old names, actresses, films and so on. I don’t fit into the ‘average’ demographic, so much of this was wasted on me. Not your fault, by any means.

    Thought some of the wordplay was excellent, but the solve a little tiresome for the reasons given above. Certainly not because of the cluing, but overall this was never going to be my cup of tea, sorry.

    Many thanks all the same, Jaffa.

      1. Ah! Very good RD (altohugh that one had a couple of issues too, it would appear).
        Maybe I’m just under the weather… :cry:

  11. Really good but I’m jolly glad to read that others found it quite difficult too – it’s taken me ages.
    I didn’t get the theme until I’d almost finished the crossword.
    I have a few answers that I don’t quite ‘get’ although I think they’re probably right.
    Several of the clues made me laugh which, for me anyway, always increases the enjoyment – 20 and 21a in particular.
    I still don’t understand 10d – someone in an earlier comment said it was very subtle – too subtle for me.
    Thanks and well done to Jaffa for such a good crossword and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic who will, as always, sort out my problem answers.

  12. Good Lord Jaffa- quite the puzzle, which took me most of the day to complete. I had to start looking at lyrics, even though I thought I knew them….

    I also had heading for 8a, only corrected by googling.

    A lot of this is very subtle, possibly too subtle.

    I’ll try and make some comments I haven’t seen above:

    4d personal taste I think the clue is better without the ‘S head

    24d you do see this, but again my personal taste would be to insert place after army.

    A couple of shorts etc that did not mean just one letter – not sure how fair that is

    “But” features a lot, not wrong but not always necessary

    16a is interesting in that it seems to have two definitions. my view would be this is an ok device if it gives you a killer surface

    Some surface readings on the surreal side, eg 33d.

    A wonderful theme and clever to use all across clues. My preference is for a slightly more accessible solve, but the fact that I persisted and finished should tell you something.


  13. The time it took me to get 31a!
    Can’t believe it.
    Maybe thinking that 34a was some kind of preserve kipper didn’t help in the SW corner. Made sense at the time. These tins last for ever, the military was the famous P Reserve and Kipper is a musician. I swear. I looked him up.
    Didn’t see any of the references unfortunately and couldn’t fully understand some of my answers.
    Must have heard that album but couldn’t tell you the names of the songs let alone the lyrics.
    Thought also that Cressida was heading the bill at first. Soon corrected.
    Said hello in 20a. Made me laugh.
    10d also was fun.
    Thanks to Jaffa.

  14. Thank you once again. I’m sorry if you found this to be a bit difficult as that was not my intention. I personally find that I get so involved in the clues that it becomes difficult to remain totally objective and I’m usually left feeling that I’m insulting your intelligences by offering them to you – I guess familiarity of them does breed contempt.

    I’m sure everything will be explained thoroughly in the review tomorrow but here are a few observations.

    34a was hopefully going to be 8a (not 1a as I stated earlier) – mea culpa
    Disappointed to know that 30d is an old chestnut – I thought it was an original and insightful bit of clueing by me – I guess it must have been lurking in my subconscious somewhere waiting to emerge
    19d has an underlying red sky at night/shepherd theme going on
    10d – glad you liked this, I think it’s my favourite, partly because it’s only 3 letters long
    Jean-Luc’s “preserve kipper” made me smile – a truly wonderful flight of fancy, the sort my brain often takes me on

    And finally, I’ve been described as “subtle” twice – now that made my wife smile!😂

    1. never worry about chestnuts – they are to some, not to others, and I honestly believe that people will trust it is original. And how are you meant to know? I liked it. Some setters are superb at putting a new twist on old chestnuts – just saying, it’s fine.

      I was told my “This could create wet areas (3,5)” clue in my latest indy was a chestnut. Well, guess I thought of it again, I’d never seen it before…so just maybe some others haven’t either.

        1. 30d must be a very old chestnut because it isn’t found in any Telegraph or Guardian cryptics published since 2001.

          Several months ago I did a rough estimate in a blog intro of how many times answers have been clued previously. The answer turns out to be around 100, which must make it inevitable that setters are going to independently rediscover clue constructions that have been used before.

          p.s. There’s a typo (probably from auto-correct) in the explanation of 30d, where handles should be handies.

  15. Loved it – the theme was particularly well done!! Loved the starring role of 20, 21 & 22 across! I thought for a moment that they summed to 64, but that really would have been expecting too much. And I hadn’t realised how much material you had to choose from, until I tried in error to make KITE, HORSE etc fit. Would probably have been rather tricky without the theme, though!! Many thanks Jaffa, I really enjoyed this :-)

    1. Thank you. It was an interesting, but not easy, exercise following the theme. I think Mr Kite, hogsheads, sommersets etc etc all made an appearance at one time or another.
      I think I’ll be a bit more conventional next time to preserve my diminishing supply of brain cells 😂

  16. After further research I’ve managed to parse everything – also noticed that I didn’t need Welsh at all (that was 14d – but it got me there at the time) – also detected even more thematic connections – a thorough workout all right.

    1. I was going to ask – I have two or three Welsh friends but I don’t think I’m overly influenced by them. My wife however is Scottish so anything is possible there….😂 Your tenacity is commendable.

  17. Thanks, Prolixic, for the interesting review.
    I’ve actually never listened to the whole album, only the odd song – no wonder I was struggling.
    Can I suggest, for an alternative cultural toe-dip, today’s Independent puzzle, by Filbert (me)?

      1. Done now – took me a while, but very impressive. Some very nice definitions that make for great penny drops, and a very impressive theme. I recommend this

        Congrats again. Whoo!

    1. Well done indeed, Mucky, congratulations on becoming the latest Big Dave alumnus to grace the Independent.

      Why the change of pseudonym though? Did you feel that Mucky was a little too, er Mucky for a national daily?!

  18. Only just finished this because I was held up a ridiculously long time on 1 & 3D and 9a. I had to look up Cressida, though I did know Ms. Duffy. I enjoyed the theme, particularly 20/21/22, but my favorite, once the penny dropped, is 10D. Thanks Jaffa. that was fun.

  19. 12a would seem to be of the format definition + wordplay + very cryptic definition – an unusual construction. Omitting the wordplay would have made it impossible without knowledge of the theme. I like the idea and wonder if it would be more acceptable as “Location (once reportedly holy) in jet stream” which makes it part of the definition.

  20. Once again a big thank you to all of you who have taken the time and trouble to comment on my latest offering and I will try to learn from your wisdom. I think most issues have now been thoroughly discussed.
    A special thank you to Big Dave for making this all possible and for his comment – I feel very honoured and of course to Prolixic for his very insightful and fair analysis – less italics than I normally get and some of them even complimentary! I trust that BD or myself will not be billed for the legal advice offered in 29d 😂😂

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