Rookie Corner – 207 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 207

A Puzzle by Shabbo

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Shabbo has waited patiently for this, his third, puzzle to be published. 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 back to Shabbo.  This was a well construction crossword – a pangram (using all of the letters of the alphabet) without using obscure words.  There was a good variety of clues with only some minor edits that would be required to polish this to a high standard.

The commentometer reads at (4/28) or 14.3%.


1 Exact retribution for Geneva massacre (6)
AVENGE – An anagram (massacre) of GENEVA.  Whilst you can have wordplay for definition, the structure definition for wordplay does not work particularly well.

4 Accommodating island retreat is after name change (8)
AMENABLE – After an anagram (change) of NAME add a reversal (retreat) of an Italian island.

9 2 somehow lost old record books (6)
NOVELS – Remove the abbreviation for old and a type of record from the answer to 2d and make an anagram (somehow) of the words that remain.  As the letter to be removed are not in the order set out in the clue, some editors would require an indication of this.

10 France shelving controversial process (8)
FRACKING – The single letter IVR code from France followed by another word for shelving.

12 Game the French dominate (4)
RULE – The abbreviation for Rugby Union (game) followed by the French masculine for “the”.

13 Mixes drink at fund raising event (6,4)
JUMBLE SALE – A seven letter word for mixes followed by a three letter word for beer (drink).  The link word with wordplay at definition does not work particularly well.

15 Legislative body clears up a pot problem (7,5)
APPEALS COURT – An anagram (problem) of CLEARS UP A POT.  Whilst the solution is not a legislative body in the Parliamentary sense, its rulings have the force of law and it legislates on disputed decisions from the lower courts.  Some editors would not allow a noun as an anagram indicator.  If it were used in an adjectival sense, it would be better to place it before the letters to be rearranged – in the same way as you would have a problem child.

18 Bowl containing an old railway snack (6,6)
DANISH PASTRY – The an from the clue goes inside (containing) another word for a bowl and this is followed by another word for old and a two letter word for a railway.

21 Change two characters in soap for Chinese, perhaps (10)
EASTERNERS – Change two of the letters in the name of a BBC soap opera set in Walford.  Perhaps a little more precision about the letters to be replaced would be helpful for the solver.

22 Monarchist embraces bow (4)
ARCH – The answer is hidden (embraces) in MONARCHIST.

24 Sarcastic press won’t get fat on this! (8)
IRONICAL – A four letter word to press (as in clothes) followed by a phrase 1, 3 that would describe something that is low calorie.

25 Look after soldiers at inspection (6)
REVIEW – The abbreviation for Royal Engineers (soldiers) followed by a word meaning look.  Again there is the wordplay at definition issue.

26 Sexy secretaires shared spaces (3,5)
HOT DESKS – A three letter word meaning sexy followed by another word for the type of furniture of which secretaries are an example.  Whilst the wordplay has been questioned, I could quite see Tim Wannacott describing a piece of furniture as such.

27 In the middle of trading hydrofoil for small boat (6)
DINGHY – The answer is hidden (in the middle of) TRADING HYDROFOIL.  Editors might require middle to mean the exact middle, not off-entered in the hidden word.


1 Sailor is given ordinary rum (8)
ABNORMAL – The abbreviation for able seaman (sailor) followed by a word meaning ordinary.

2 Covers French on bicycle with plastic sheet at the start (8)
ENVELOPES – The French for on a bicycle followed by the initial letters (at the start) of plastic sheet.  As has been pointed out, the correct French construction is A Velo.  Where possible, you should maintain the correct French construction.  I have had clues rejected where I have used UN French word where the French word is a feminine noun and would therefore require UNE.

3 Top award secured twice in Bordeaux (4)
GOLD – The element / colour whose abbreviation (in two forms) appears twice in BORDEAUX.

5 Screen legends spoil ten colleagues (4,8)
MARX BROTHERS – A three letter word meaning spoil followed by the Roman numeral for ten and another word for colleagues.

6 Conflict‘s outcome is unclear (7,3)
NUCLEAR WAR – A reverse anagram where the solution, read as an anagram clue would give the answer UNCLEAR.

7 Sound control of union party (6)
BRIDAL – A homophone (sound) of a form of control for horses.

8 League’s rubbish without United as high fliers (6)
EAGLES – An anagram (rubbish) of LEAGUES after removing the abbreviation for United.

11 Challenge once ready in Germany? (8,4)
QUESTION MARK – An eight letter word meaning challenge followed by the name of the currency used in Germany before the advent of the Euro.

14 Brown sugar or brown eyes on the radio (10)
CARAMELISE – A seven letter word for brown followed by a homophone (on the radio) of EYES.

16 Bird scaring is heartless (8)
STARLING – A nine letter word meaning scaring without the central T (is heartless).

17 Where to find pavement artist’s work, incidentally (2,3,3)
BY THE WAY – A cryptic definition of where a pavement artist’s work would be seen with a straight definition as well.

19 It’s the high point in a dozen, I think (6)
ZENITH – The answer is hidden in DOZEN I THINK.

20 Old car key has nothing on radio technology for starters (6)
ESCORT – A three letter word for a key on a computer keyboard followed by the initial letters (for starters) of ration technology.  As start has already be used as an initial letter indicator, perhaps a different indicator could have been used here.

23 Distribution halved for food store (4)
DELI – Half of the word DELIVERY (distribution).

53 comments on “Rookie Corner – 207

  1. That was a lot of fun. Clever clues all the way through and a pangram to boot. Had a lot of trouble trying to decide which ones we liked the most but decided to settle for 13a and 18a.
    Well done Shabbo, thanks.

  2. As the 2Kiiwis said – that was fun, but, as usual, I missed the pangram. I have a list of 8 clues that I really liked including 13a and 18a, like the 2Kiwis, and 3d and 11d. As a double lurker, 3d is probably my top pick.

    However, I did think that 21a and 20d were a little weak. 21a for having to rely on checkers too much and 20d for having to identify the type of key.

    Hearty thanks and very well done.

  3. Nice puzzle Shabbo – easy (just) side of medium for me. I haven’t tackled the rest of my Monday workload (sic) yet but I bet this turns out to be the best.

    Nice mixture of clue types including some quite original ones.

    18a was my favourite, also 24a, 8d , 11d and 14d were very good.

    Many thanks for the fun – a very smooth piece of work.

  4. Enjoyable puzzle at just the right level of difficulty – thanks Shabbo. Top clues for me were 18a, 3d and 11d.

  5. Very good, enjoyed that. My faves are much the same as has already been mentioned; 13a, 18a, 3d & 11d.

    Agree with Senf that an indication of which letters change/move in 21a would have been helpful.
    To my mind there is a slight twist of grammar for the end of 24a, interested to see what Dutch has to say.

    26a took a while as I didn’t have my reading glasses and read it as secretaries; if that was intentional, it had me fooled for a while so very good. I even momentarily thought it might be a typo. D’oh!

    Many thanks for the entertainment Shabbo.

  6. Welcome back, Shabbo.

    Like your previous puzzles there was much to enjoy with a good range of different clue types, although there are still a small number of niggles to work on in order to convert a good crossword into an excellent one in my opinion. The two instances of “at” used to link the wordplay and definition (13a and 25a) jarred for me, and my repetition radar bleeped with “start” and “starters” both used as initial letter indicators. Although the surfaces were generally very good, I wasn’t convinced by 2d, and, much as I liked the alliterative nature of 26a, I’m not sure that writing desks can be “sexy”. I didn’t like the construction of 14d, with “brown” used twice, admittedly once as a verb (definition) and once as a noun (“adjective”).

    My ticks went to 10a, 12a, 15a, 18a, 1d, 3d, 8d, 11d and 16d.

    Many thanks, Shabbo. I’m sure that you’ll get a pretty good score from Prolixic’s commentometer.

  7. You had suggested that you might try a pangram next time out and you definitely nailed it – not an obscurity in sight!
    I do like your style and I’ve squashed a lot of clues onto the podium – 10,12,13,15,18&24a plus 1,3,8,14&17d.

    Just a few niggles:-
    There were a couple of dodgy surfaces – 21a & 2d spring to mind – and I certainly heard Silvanus’ repetition radar bleeping over the two ‘starters’!

    I wondered whether you could have omitted ‘as’ from 8d to improve the surface read and I thought perhaps you should have used an alternative to ‘middle’ in 27a – the answer isn’t actually hidden in the middle.

    Most enjoyable thank you, Shabbo, I’m looking forward to your next one.

    1. Yes, I noted 27a too but didn’t mention it.

      ‘In the middle of downgrading hydrofoil for small boat’ centralizes it.

      1. He could have used ‘process’ in place of ‘middle’ – reads quite well, I thought.

  8. Thanks Shabbo
    Lots to like, all pretty sound, though I seem to have a few more doubts than earlier commenters.
    I have 13a, 18a, 12a ticked with favourite 7d.
    A couple of quibbles: what you have for ‘on bike’ I think is wrong (should be ‘a ****). I’ve had a quick look and found the same question asked here
    It looks like it’s one of those things that people occasionally say, but is still considered a mistake. Whether or not it’s ok, I’d say crossword French should be basic and unambiguous.
    In 15a, your solution is not a legislative body, since it doesn’t legislate.
    My other point is not really a quibble, but did significantly affect my enjoyment of the puzzle. There were quite a few clues where your wordplay doesn’t really take you away from the solution, 14d, 1d, 25a in particular. In 5d, 26a and 11d your wordplay synonyms are further from the solutions, but the wordplay still splits where the solution splits. I much preferred 13a and 18a.
    In 21a I thought it was a shame you used ‘characters’. Soap is a useful cryptic word because you mean television but solvers are meant to think cleaning product. You’ve removed the doubt by using characters. Maybe ingredients would have been better.

    1. Re 2d:

      Thanks for the link – but it just contradicted what you were saying:

      j’aurais dit “à vélo” mais les 2 se disent.
      Je sais bien qu’on dit couramment “en” vélo

      Even though one suggests à is more correct (I am certainly more familiar with à bicyclette) but either way it doesn’t matter.

      You can apply “French” to the two words separately – bracket-spraying (algebra sytyle) we used to call it.
      I agree about clues needing to “take you away from the solution” – also that ideally both sides of a clue should be independent too. Obviously the exceptions prove the rule but they are very special ones. I thought that but didn’t comment on it because quite a few fairly prolifically published setters are guilty of that from time to time.

      1. Does it? What I said was ‘I think it is wrong’. Then I acknowledged that according to the link, people say it. The link also says ‘people say it, but it’s still a mistake’. En doesn’t mean ‘on’ by itself, so your algebra point is wrong.

        1. I think I’m with you on this one, Mucky, though I’m no expert at French. It reminds me also that a while back I was buying a ticket for a train in Calais and asked in my best schoolboy French if it was ok to take my “bicyclette” on the train. The clerk agreed I could, but obviously found something funny. Later in the day, someone used Shabbo’s word and I decided the French perhaps don’t use bicyclette any more. On the other hand, I might have said “sur le train”, which for all I know is comical. I did wonder whether others doing the puzzle would know the relevant word. Jean-Luc can probably give us the correct French, but use of foreign languages ought to be both basic and correct.

          Also agree about “legislative”. Should be “judicial”, shouldn’t it?

          1. Actually I think “legislative body” is OK, even though the setter has regretted it here later – for two reasons.

            1: legislative – although normally used to refer to legislative assemblies, such as the House of Commons can also mean: to do with the law.
            2: In common law jurisdictions (such as the UK) courts, especially higher ones do *make* law.

            So I buy it – and give it extra marks for being a bit cryptic. Like others I certainly wondered about it at the time – that (above) is the conclusion I came to.

            1. I don’t agree, and I don’t think judges would either. It’s an important part of the system that legislature, executive and judiciary are separate. The judiciary doesn’t “make” law, it interprets it. Those interpretations then set precedents for future interpretations in similar circumstances. Judges are very careful to avoid “making law, “in fact. The Lords were recently expressing anxieties about part of the legislative transition away from European law (specifically, how rulings of the European Court of Justice made during the transition period should be treated when hearing relevant English cases) and demanded amendments specifically so that judges were not put in the invidious position of seeming to “make law”.

              Inexactitude in definitions doesn’t improve them to my mind, just makes them more difficult. Not the same thing.

          2. We were told at school that the French appreciate the effort made to speak French, but being laughed at is pretty common. I was on holiday with a friend who always tried to get ‘the au lait’ (sorry, can’t be bothered to sort the accents out) in a cafe, and was repeatedly (and I think wilfully) misunderstood. In one place he was shown to the toilets, in another taken to a table by the telly (tele). The most blatant mockery was a couple of guys who started chanting ‘Ole’ back at him.

            1. “the French appreciate the effort made to speak French”

              More that they despise no attempt, isn’t it, and may simply ignore English spoken at them whether or not they understand it (in contrast to the Dutch, say). Obliquely related, there’s a news story today about a French waiter claiming his dismissal for rudeness was unfair because he was just “being French”.

              I should defend the ticket clerk in my anecdote, as there was no mockery: I just noticed fleeting amusement register on her face. I also think she would have been quite content to use English, which seems only right, given where she worked.

              Having read in full the French language link you supplied, it seems clear that “en velo” is widespread but resisted by more conservative elements, just as innovations in English are by many, sometimes earning them the soubriquet (whether justified or not) of ‘grammar Nazis’. However, the point stands that one has to be very careful when introducing foreign words in crossword clues.

          1. Yes, and “en train”, I think?

            Noticed after I wrote the comment that Shabbo has already replied and seems confident of his French.

            Tried to edit it, but my android Firefox freaked out.

            We all seem to to have got the answer anyway.

            (Interesting bit of synchronicity that we were exchanging words in French somewhere else earlier!)

          2. Are you suggesting that because we say ‘on the bus’ and the French say ‘en bus’ that en means on? It doesn’t follow, as I’m sure you realise.
            I didn’t mean to hold myself out as an authority on French usage. No doubt your (and Shabbo’s) French is better than mine, though mine used to be not too bad, and also to a large extent learned while schlepping round France on a bike.
            As a crossword point, though, I’d say the fact that there’s a question mark about its usage means it would be best left out of the clue. It didn’t matter for solving, of course – the velo part was enough.

            1. “Are you suggesting that because we say ‘on the bus’ and the French say ‘en bus’ that en means on?”

              Of course not.

              En (translated to English) can mean lots of different English prepositions, depending on the context.

              As demonstrated “en” *can* mean “on”.

              That’s all you need in a crossword clue.

              If you then say:’I thought “en” usually meant “to” ‘
              the setter is entitled to reply :
              ‘Yes but “en” *can* mean “on”‘ and maybe demonstrate why.

              In which case the setter has beaten you – so just pay up.

              “Usually” doesn’t come into it. If it did crosswords would be very boring – and trivially easy.

              1. I don’t accept you have demonstrated that en can mean on. You’ve given an example of en being located in a French phrase where on is located in an equivalent English phrase. All that shows is that in French you describe someone who is travelling by bus as being in the bus, whereas in English we happen to say they’re on the bus. You can’t isolate parts of expressions and say, therefore x=y.

        2. Oops – timed out while editing – second try.

          Using the “wrong” preposition is a giveaway of a non-native speaker in French as indeed English.

          “Wrong” there of course means the one in common usa. We normally say “different from” Americans “different than” – so which one should we use in international English? They can be fairly arbitray as far as meaning goes – and they change over time.
          Many eastern languages don’t have them at all.

          Working in Luxembourg once, and wishing to improve my French so as not to fall into that trap I went into the local French librairie hoping to buy a slim volume with which to perfectionner my French – the only one they had was called La Preposition Juste – it was three inches thick – it looked to have been there for a while – not exactly flying off the shelves.

          1. “Using the ‘wrong’ preposition is a giveaway of a non-native speaker in French as indeed English.”

            Dunno bout the latter — journalists seem to use whatever preposition takes their fancy these days, especially in locals. I find it infuriating but the fact is, languages change and maybe that’s the problem here: standard usage may be changing from à to en.

            (Btw, I wanted to ask you: how exactly did you track down thst Rufus clue I inadvertently duplicated in my recent puzzle here?)

            1. Re Rufus clue – I can’t remember offhand but you can dig up a lot of old clues by googling and limiting to a blog site – off course not all blogs show the actual clue – but quite a few do.

              There’s no shame in doing a clue which turns out to be the same as one that has gone before – how many ways can ALLIANCE or DALLIANCE be clued without reference to one another? – although ORCHESTRA never seems to run out of original approaches.

              1. Some people put the cart before the horse …

                There was a startling starling in a Graun Prize the other week too. Someone on 225 pointed out that:


  9. This was very enjoyable, Shabbo. I solved 5d & 11d quickly which alerted me early on to the possibility of a pangram. As Jane says, you achieved this with only a couple of dodgy surfaces which is very creditable.

    Regarding Silvanus’ comment about 14d, Brown Sugar and Brown Eyes are both songs so capitalising them would disguise the verb and prevent the duplication from jarring slightly.

    Do you need “is” in 1a?

    Gazza has nailed my podium choice with the excellent trio of 18a, 3d & 11d, the last of these taking my vote as favourite thanks to its brilliant hidden definition.

    Well done, Shabbo, and many thanks for the fun.

  10. Some nice clues and surfaces in a not-too-hard puzzle, here. I missed the fact that it’s a pangram but that’s not something I’m on the lookout for.
    I have to compliment Shabbo on 11d which was my LOI – a clever bit of wordplay/definition which has caught me out before and nearly did this time!
    For 20d, some might query the use of “old” in the clue but that’s not my problem!
    3d was pretty clever too, and nicely maintains the ‘French’ theme seen in several of the clues. Not sure whether Prolixic will agree with this, let’s wait and see…
    Other clues – well mostly they didn’t really stand out, for me. I look for something a bit more adventurous – but perhaps that’s just me!
    Thanks to Shabbo for a good effort.

  11. Hi Shabbo,

    What an excellent puzzle – congratulations!

    My favourites (lots to choose from) are 10a, 12a, 13a, 8d, 11d, 16d & 17d – all top notch! 22a was perhaps a bit too easy?

    And I’m slightly bemused by a ‘Sexy secretaire’. Perhaps might prompt the remark, “Cor, look at the legs on that”, or similar ;-)



  12. Fun all the way through. Took me a while to parse 3D. Very clever. Too many ticks to enumerate so I’ll just say thanks for everything, Shabbo!

  13. Many thanks to you all for your very helpful comments. Criticism, both positive and negative, is always welcome. Hopefully I will listen, learn and improve! With hindsight, the legislative body in 15a is clearly wrong. I loved the suggestion to capitalise the two songs in 14d – wish I’d thought of that! The hidden word in 27a is clearly not in the middle – thanks, Jane. Again, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I now think 21a is the weakest clue in the puzzle. I won’t add to the French debate at 2d save to say that I think it is OK, if somewhat colloquial. Many thanks again to you all. Your feedback means a lot to me.

  14. I liked this, although have to admit failing on the crossing 24a and 14d. Even after revealing 24a, which I like, I was still stumped by 14d, 5 vowels as crossers left me flummoxed.

    I think there is a slight issue with 14d in that the wordplay doesn’t specify whether you want the normal –ize ending or the –ise version. (Suzy Dent on Countdown always claims that –ize endings are the older ones, though it seems counter-intuitive to most of us).

    Favourite was 11d, and others I particularly liked were 13, 5, 7 (nice definition), 17 and 18. Others have commented on 3d, so it’s clearly brilliant – but too brilliant for me, got it only from the definition.

    I liked having a few easy ones – especially having one at 1a. I think there are 3 hidden aren’t there?

    Unlike Silvanus I’m not too concerned by repetition (I’m sure he must be Nicholas Parsons in disguise) but I’m less happy about “problem” in 15a. I don’t have an issue with using nouns to indicate anagrams as such, but I do feel there needs to be a feeling of change or movement e.g. “development” or “ reconstruction” which I don’t think “problem” gives – but fair enough, that’s just a personal thing.

    I agree one or two surfaces could be improved – isn’t it ever so? – but most are excellent.

    Overall an excellent puzzle and well done on managing a pangram (which I missed of course) without any obscure language or requiring specialist GK, and on a grid where all words had at least 50% crossers.

    1. It wouldn’t have been a pangram if 14d had been spelt with an “s”. That gives you a very good excuse for missing it! :wink:

      1. I spelt 14d with an “s” and it was still a pangram! How did you spell 19d I wonder? ;-)

        1. :oops: Typical of my very scruffy writing 19d looks like Lenith!

          I originally spelt 14d with an “s” and changed it after I’d finished as I made the assumption that Shabbo was intending a pangram!

      2. Thanks for trying to get me off the hook RD, but I did have all the pangram letters! I just didn’t notice, or rather didn’t think to look for it.

    2. re 14d

      I have yet to come across a pun/homophone clue in which the required spelling is indicated. Do you have an example of such a one?

      1. Obviously not JS, ’tis impossible, although if the ambiguous letter is a crosser it will work itself out. It doesn’t really matter here, though it might in different circumstances (e.g. Laccaria’s comment below).

        1. Yes – I accept that the original quibble would certainly be valid for eg a Prize puzzle – except that the pangramness (which needless to say I didn’t spot) of the puzzle resolves it.

          Obviously a pun/homophone clue can never be that precise – an anagram (or other letter fiddling) clue typically would.

    1. Me too, but I can’t a;ways be bothered to change it if spell check corrects it to -ize.
      A bit like period – it’s valid English for a full stop but folk usually assume it’s purely N American.

      As my English master drummed into me – Language constantly evolves, so the true definition of a word is it’s usage. (quiz, gay etc)

    2. That’s fine, but don’t ever set an ambiguous spelling (with the ambiguous letter uncrossed) in a Prize (or is that “Prise”?) puzzle! The poor adjudicators will be tearing their hair out, deciding who qualifies for a prize and who doesn’t…..

    3. Re -ize/-ise, I refer you to 1a (and 1d) in my own first Rookie (173)! Suzie Dent goes by Oxford. Anyone who has a (non-verbal) “thing” for Suzie should search YouTube for “Suzie Dent’s Special Spot”, btw.

      Really enjoyed the puzzle, which was in my ‘Goldilocks’ zone too. Really nice to kick off with a gentle anagram with perfectly meaningful surface. I agree some other surfaces weren’t so great, but many were really good. “Brown sugar” was a nicely misleading def, but “brown eyes on the radio” clunked (colour doesn’t come across well in audio!), although song titles as suggested by Sylvanus would have worked very well. I noticed you used ‘on the radio’ elswhere as indicator too (aught).

      11 was the star clue for me and my LOI.

      Thanks for the fun.

  15. Lovely way to start the week, Shabbo. I found the puzzle do-able and enjoyable without having to overcome any obscurities. Had to think carefully to parse 3d, but the penny finally dropped – very clever.


  16. A very good point, Laccaria – that had not occurred to me! I had also not realised (or should that be realized?) that the poor solver was left with all vowels in the five checking letters as Starhorse has rightly pointed out. Oops – sorry!

    1. It probably happens quite often, and I seem to be the only person who had a problem bringing the word to mind so clearly not a big issue.

  17. Prolixic,

    9. “Remove the abbreviation for old and a type of record from the answer to 2d and make an anagram (somehow) of the words that remain. As the letter to be removed are not in the order set out in the clue, some editors would require an indication of this.”

    I think you may have been unfair to Shabbo here. 2d Is ENVELOPS (sic) and an old (type of) record is an EP. Those letters appear in order in 2d (but not consecutively):

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. It always intrigues me to learn about some of the conventions that editors insist upon – especially when solvers have found the clues easy enough to solve as written!

  19. Only getting to this today. Really enjoyed this puzzle from Shabbo, not easy but not too difficult either. Goldilocks would like it😊. I can never pick out one setter from another, and I would not have known this was a rookie puzzle without the heading. Well done.

  20. A puzzle that looked daunting at first but which grew on me and proved very enjoyable. I failed to notice the pangram. Thanks, Shabbo, and I don’t think it’ll be long before we see your name on a NTSPP.

    Prolixic, I thought at first 1a was a case of the questionable ‘definition for wordplay’ but then decided that ‘for’ was part of the definition.

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